If you’re like me, you like to do things right and well. You may think you don’t have time to cook for yourself — but you do. The  key is strategizing before you start cooking — at least, the first few times.

You also need to learn to use one or more of the following tools: your oven, a slow cooker, and/or a pressure cooker. There’s really no reason you can’t teach yourself, other than your own fears. Hopefully, I can help talk you through any of those that you may be having.

The simple truth is this: real food comes from your heart and soul and hands as you put ingredients together. Ingredients. Not prepared foods. If you make your food yourself, you are the one controlling exactly what goes into your food. If you have dietary restrictions, you already have some idea how important this is.

Don’t view it as a chore. View it as a strength.

Sure, you can make mac n’ cheese from a box; anyone can, especially with that microwaveable stuff. But doing it from scratch tastes a bazillion times better, and you can control exactly what goes into it. Want some veggies in the mix? Add them. Don’t want boring cheese? Don’t put it in. Want to cut down on the fat? Tinker with the fatty ingredients, lessen amounts, omit some altogether, or do whatever you like that tastes good and gets you where you want to go. Gluten-free? Use gluten-free pasta. Want whole wheat or some other grain? Use it! There is absolutely NOTHING stopping you — and that’s just playing off mac n’ cheese.

But I’m not going to walk you through mac n’ cheese today. I merely wanted to start from a familiar example. Today, I’m going to take you through my reworking of one of my favorite snacks, the perennial Japanese bento (that’s a lunchbox, for those who aren’t inclined toward Japanese food) favorite known as kinpira vegetables.

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