Bento: Pasta with Eggplant Basil Sauce

Bento: Farfalle Pasta with Eggplant Basil Sauce

Main: Farfalle pasta with an Eggplant Basil Sauce.

Sides: Rosemary-olive focaccia and insalata caprese.

Fruits/Vegetables: Pineapple chunks and broccoli.

I ran across the recipe for this eggplant and basil sauce years ago, in my student days. Back then I used to cook for just me, so anything I made was guaranteed to generate a lot of leftovers. It made it so that I only cooked things I loved, lest good food go to waste just because I didn’t care for it.

I made this sauce often, and like most recipes that get made dozens of times, it’s been adapted and changed so much that it’s hardly even the same dish. Through all those times, though, I’ve always used either farfalle or campanelle pasta. There’s just something about those shapes that brightens up any meal.

Served with insalata caprese and homemade focaccia, this is one of my favorite meals.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Breasts

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Breasts

This recipe is my new favorite way of preparing chicken breasts. Preparing the marinade takes no time at all, and the chicken cooks quickly. It turns out that the smoky, peppery taste is almost exactly like the chicken I make for my Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken), with a lot less fuss. I’ll have to try making Chicken Makhani with the leftovers from this recipe.

If you prefer to not have tons of leftovers, halve the recipe below. The batch I made fed three adults and left enough to prepare two bentos, not to mention the makings of another night’s dinner.


  • 1 cup greek yogurt (regular yogurt is fine, too)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts


  1. Mix the yogurt, cilantro, olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts of any excess fat and score them deeply with a sharp knife. This will help the marinade flavor the chicken all the way through.
  3. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl one at a time, and turn to coat them thoroughly with the marinade.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 6 to 10 hours. (This batch was left in the fridge overnight.)
  5. Heat a large pan on medium heat, and add one or two chicken breasts, being careful to not crowd the pan. Cook for 4-6 minutes on each side, until cooked through. In my case, I found it helpful to turn the head down a little and cook the chicken with the cover on. Try not to overcook the chicken.

Serves 8.
Adapted from: Simply Recipes’ Moroccan Spiced Grilled Chicken Breasts.

Bento: Baked Ziti & Focaccia

Bento: Baked Ziti & Focaccia

Main: Baked ziti and rosemary & red pepper focaccia.

Sides: Roasted brussles sprouts and sautéed zucchini with tomatoes.

Fruits/Vegetables: Cherry tomatoes, blueberries, and pineapple chunks.

This is the kind of meal I love on cold days. Today is overcast and gloomy, the kind of day you want to eat something that makes you feel warm all the way through. Thankfully, the menu plan called for a bento made with the baked ziti leftovers in the fridge.

There’s nothing quite as nice as fresh-baked bread with a meal, so I started a batch of focaccia dough last night and let it do its second rise overnight in the refrigerator. I got up earlier than usual this morning to pull the dough out and let it wake up too. Then I shaped the loaves, proofed them, and baked them, while assembling the rest of the bento.

The plan called for orange chunks with today’s bento, but I picked up some perfectly ripe and sweet pineapple at Costco (of all places) last night, so I substituted that instead. Other than that, this bento was prepared exactly as planned.

Bento: Singapore Street Noodles

Bento: Singapore Street Noodles

Main: Singapore street noodles.

Sides: Sweet corn and sautéed peas.

Fruits/Vegetables: Apple chunks and red grapes.

We make Singapore Street Noodles almost every week, and it’s one of those dishes that never really gets old for us. As with many strongly spiced dishes, it’s even better the next day. As a happy coincidence, when you make it the way we do, bulked up with veggies, it’s also delightfully low in calories. I like mine with a squeeze of lemon, a(nother) dash of Sriracha, and a pinch of Sunny Singapore Seasoning.

Today’s bento came together in a jiffy. I am really enjoying having gotten back to the menu planning. We went exactly one week without one and it was awful. Meals took forever, bentos took forever, and my nerves were constantly frazzled. Now? I just glance at the menu plan in the morning, and I know what to make. It leads to less waste and a much happier cook.

Bento: Rajma and Rice

Bento: Rajma and Rice

Main: Rajma.

Sides: Basmati rice and palak aloo (spinach and potatoes).

Fruits/Vegetables: Blueberries.

Snack: Blueberry yogurt.

Rajma is one of my favorite Indian dishes. It’s a simple curry of red kidney beans in a tomato sauce. When I was a child, it was one of two dishes we routinely had for our “special” Sunday dinners. These days we cook Rajma almost every week. (The up side to being the grown-up in charge of cooking is that you get to make your favorite foods as often as you like.)

It’s taken me a long time to learn to cook Rajma and adjust it to my tastes. I like for the sauce to be creamy, and I like the flavors to be hot, sweet, and sour. It’s that sour flavor that’s proved the trickiest to get right. In India, we use tamarind paste, but it used to not be widely available in the US. Over the years, I’ve tried all kinds of substitute souring agents like beer, balsamic vinegar, amchoor (dried mango powder), lemon juice, lime juice, etc., but in the end, it was tamarind paste that did the trick. Sometimes the substitutes just won’t do.

This bento is relatively simple because I served a heavy breakfast this morning and intend to serve a relatively heavy dinner. I like to vary light and heavy meals when I’m planning our weekly menu so that we’re not overstuffed some days and practically starving on others. I’ve found this to be one of the biggest benefits to planning a weekly menu. When I’m winging it, I wind up serving very similar dishes multiple times in a row, or go too light or too heavy, etc.