Monday, July 31, 2006

the last day of july

Today is the last day of July. The sound of summer, here in Japan, is the screeching/chirping (actually I'm not sure what to call it) sound from the semi (cicada). Now, coming from Hawaii, I'd never seen a bug as big as a cicada (except for the flying cockroaches that we have in Hawaii), or as noisy. Talk about noisy! If you want to sleep in, and are a light sleeper, forgettaboutit! These guys get up at the crack of dawn...

Satoshi says that they live only for a week or so. In that time, according to Cicada Mania, they are mating! Some sound more like a space craft hovering or a sprinkler watering the lawn, some even sound like the milk steamer on an espresso maker! Satoshi says that it is the male cicada that is making the noises--trying to get the attention of the female cicada.

One summer, we had one perched on our glass window and the whole window shook! The photo of the cicada was taken back in 2002.

Changing the subject, I had some leftover penne & farfalle from the party the other day--so, I decided to try a new recipe from "The Silver Spoon": Penne All'Arrabbiata (page 295). It was a really easy recipe.

Here it is: 6 T oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 fresh chile, seeded and chopped
1 pound 2 oz. canned chopped tomatoes, drained
3 cups penne lisce
1 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt

Heat the oil in a skillet, add the garlic cloves and chile and cook until the garlic browns, then remove the cloves from the skillet. Add the tomatoes to the pan, season with salt and cook for about 15 minutes. Cook the penne in a large pan of salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain and tip into the skillet. Toss over high heat for a few minutes, then transfer to a warm serving dish, sprinkle with the parsley.

Enjoy!

Notes: Read the recipe thoroughly--I didn't, and didn't drain the tomatoes--talk about dangerous splashing when the tomatoes met up with the heated oil! Yipes...Still, it was really delicious!

Have a nice week!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

foodie staff party

This was the first time we had 7 people (adults) over to our cute apartment. Some staff members of Satoshi's department are readers of this blog. I'm not too sure what kind of food they had in mind, but they were excited to come over and have dinner.

I didn't get to take many photos (was busy cooking and tending the "bar"), so I'll talk about what I served and show you the dishes that I served it on. Most of these dishes are made by a company called PTS International. The name of the plates is called"Westbury Court Lyrical Blooms". I couldn't find a website for these dishes, but did find one for replacements on Replacements.com. I bought these just before moving to Japan. It was a nice investment.

Starters: Layered Bean Dip. This is Satoshi's favorite. Ask him what he wants to be served at a party that we throw and this is the first item out of his mouth. Tortilla chips fit nicely in this bowl. This dip is very easy to make, put a layer of refried beans at the bottom of your serving dish. Next add a layer of chopped onions. Mix a scoop of taco mix into a container of sour cream, add this to the layer of chopped onions. Next add layer of chopped tomatoes (seeded), and layer of chopped black olives. Add your favorite guacamole or sliced avocados to the olives and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Serve with corn chips.

Blackened Ahi (Maguro). I put cajun seasoning on the outside of the maguro and fry in a pan with some oil for 5 seconds on each side. I'm glad I got this plate just before moving to Japan too, it is definitely a hit at parties.

Main Dishes: Steak with roasted onions. I grilled steaks and roasted onions. The onions were really easy to make, just drizzle olive oil, and grind some pepper and salt on top. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes.

Pork Ginger. This is another easy dish. Marinate the pork overnight in 1-1/2 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. sake (rice wine) and 2 Tbsp. shoyu (soy sauce). Add some minced ginger. Minced garlic optional. Cook well and top with chopped green onions.

Pasta salad: Farfalle (bow-tie pasta) and Penne with chopped salami, tomato, red onion, carrots, capers, red bell pepper. Salad dressing was the lemon-oregano vinaigrette that I previously posted about here. I actually wanted it to be all Farfalle, but the supermarket that I shopped at before the party, didn't have any :( Still, I think it turned out well.

Dessert: Apple-blueberry crisp. I found some fresh Oregon blueberries at our supermarket and added them to this recipe from International recipes.net. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was a nice ending to the party.

His staff came bearing gifts, too.

A new toy for Satoshi-this gadget adds gas to the beer as you serve so that it can give the "coming from the tap" feeling. Of course, Satoshi hates to read manuals--so he let his staff figure out how to put the gadget together...

Arare (rice crackers) from Funahashiya, a well known maker of tea sweets.

And a gelatin dessert called Goro from Taneya.

Notes to self: invite a little less guests (or make it pot luck) to enjoy self, food and conversation more....

Hope you had a nice weekend!

Friday, July 28, 2006

party for one


There are two chores that I dread during the summer, ironing and vacuuming. I usually vacuum every Friday and today was no different, except that the beads of perspiration were profuse! blah!

I usually don't drink alone, but it was REALLY hot today. (The high was 34.3C (93.7F), the humidity, which I swear was 150%, made it even hotter.) I was somehow craving for Yebisu's black beer and plus, Satoshi had another tsukiai (drinks and dinner with clients), so he didn't need dinner. I bought some ready made gobo (burdock) salad and sweet and sour chicken with veggies. The salad was really good, it had a lemony dressing and a lot of black pepper. And I like anything sweet and sour.

I really like this black beer, maybe because it is kind of chocolate-y.

Hope you are keeping cool where you are!

omiyage

One thing that is popular in Japan is gift-giving. Whenever you go on trips around Japan, there are many souvenir shops. Most rest stops along the highway strategically position their toilets at the backs of their shops. This is so that you'll have to look at their wares before going to use their potties. Most of these shops have food items and trinkets--so, there is always something to bring back for a family member or friend or for yourself.

This custom is also followed whenever Japanese go abroad, too.

Take for example these chocolates Satoshi received from staff members in his department who went to Europe. These chocolates are by Lindt, Storz and Milky Way.

Japanese also love to give take-home gifts at formal parties or events--kind of like the goodie bags we used to get at birthday parties when we were kids.

Here are some things that Satoshi received when he attended two Australian and New Zealand airline parties.

A Jurlique Rosewater gift set.

A bottle of 2005 Chardonnay by Penfolds in SE Australia. This wine is in their Rawson's Retreat line.

And a bottle of 2005 Sauvignon Blanc by Palliser Estate in Martinbourough, New Zealand.

Hope you enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

angelina (part 2) & beads stitch

Today was my beads stitch class. I missed the first class because we climbed Mt. Fuji. Not to worry though, I'm kind of separated from my other class mates because of missing a month (when I went home to Hawaii in April). Here's my project, a daisy chain bracelet. My teacher was surprised because no one ever finished it in the two hours!

Today, I also received my certificate which verifies that I passed the sterling silver crochet classes and certifies me to teach classes.

Since I was in Umeda, I stopped in to get a mont blanc from Angelina. This version was a little different from the ones I've tasted though, there was a meringue-like bottom, cream center and the standard chestnut "frosting". When I bought it, they put in a little ice packet, to keep the contents cool, but it was so hot and HUMID today that the mont blanc kind of melted. Still, it was really good and not really sweet.

One more day until the weekend, we're having Satoshi's department over for heavy pupus...gotta start cleaning up....

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

reisei pasta

Oh my goodness! The rain has stopped but the humidity here is unreal! I cannot even fathom what the people on the mainland U.S. are going through with no electricity.

Tonight, Satoshi has tsukiai (drinks and dinner with clients), so here's my dinner which I found at a department store: reisei pasta made by RF1. Reisei means cold dish. RF1 is a company which makes different kinds of salads and other pre-made foods. You can usually find them in the basements of most Japanese department stores (f.y.i.--the basements of Japanese department stores are where all the pre-made and fresh foods are sold!)

This salad was delicious, it had cappellini (angel hair pasta), slices of pumpkin, okra, beans and fruit tomato (a Japanese type of tomato which is sweeter and a bit higher in acid than regular tomatoes). The dressing was a tomato cream type, which I didn't care too much for. I think it might have been nicer with something lighter like a vinaigrette. That is the downside to buying pre-made things here in Japan--most times you have no choice as to what type of dressing.

I also bought some fried squid rings and a shrimp patty. These were really good also and the shrimp patty was full of nice, plump shrimp! The shrimp patty had a choice of tomato sauce or tartar sauce, I chose the tomato sauce.

Hope you are keeping cool where you are!

Monday, July 24, 2006

trying to beat the heat (part 3)

We've been having rain and humidity...ugh! But have been fortunate not to have had the flooding and landslides as Kyushu did over the weekend.

I've been trying at all costs to find ways to avoid standing near the stove. Here's what I've come up with...


An instant okayu (gruel) made with 10 different grains made by DHC. This company is also in the U.S. and has a wonderful skin care line. It is kind of like oatmeal and appears a lot as a breakfast item--except in Japan, we top okayu with nori, tsukemono (pickled veggies) and pair it with grilled fish. Just stick this bag into a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes and you have part of your meal! Okay, it is instant, but at least you only need to stay near the stove for 5 minutes...

Furofuki daikon (well boiled turnip, is the definition in my book, but I think it has more imagery of bathing since the Chinese characters for this dish are for bath--furo). This dish is really easy to make.

Slice your turnip into 4 cm. slices and make a cross at the top (be sure not to go all the way through). This is to let the stock soak through and it makes it easy to eat with chopsticks.

Next, get some kombu (kelp) and fish shavings, like bonito and soak in boiling water for about 30 minutes until your stock is formed. Add your sliced turnip. Add 1 tsp. shoyu (soy sauce) and 1 tsp. mirin (sweet rice wine) and boil everything until soft (about an hour).

The next step is the only one which you need to stand near the stove (10-15 minutes tops!)....The sauce on the top is a miso (soy bean paste) base. Put 5 tbsp. of miso, 3 tbsp. of sugar, 2 tbsp. of sake (rice wine) and 2 tbsp. of mirin (sweet rice wine) into a small pot or pan and stir on low heat, with a wooden spoon until smooth--be sure not to burn the sauce!

Store leftover turnip separately from the miso sauce.

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

meiji's chocolate covered almonds

Ugh, the humidity today was so thick here that I swear you could cut it with a knife....

Here's something new...Meiji's lastest chocolate covered almonds.

This version is made with a crunchy chocolate shell around the almond, then a layer of dark chocolate & lastly coated with cocoa powder and crispies.

It was so good that the contents didn't last for very long...

Have a good week!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

matsuyamayushi

I'm always on the lookout for evironmentally safe cleansers.

When I was in Hawaii, I bought the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day brand, which I wrote about here. This brand's dish cleanser is really good, plus the lavender fragrance is really nice too.

Another one that I came upon is made in Japan by a company called Matsuyamayushi. Yushi is the Japanese word for fats & oils. (On this company's letterhead it even says Matsuyama fats & oils company.)

They have a dish soap and detergent which I've tried, but didn't really like. I guess because they are environmentally safe, they don't have the oomph that is needed to clean dishes and clothes.

What I do like is their skincare line and bath/hand soaps and salts. Their skincare uses lavender and sage. The herbal water (toner) really smells great and works well too. Plus, the refills for the skincare line, come in disposable pouches, so all you have to do is refill the glass containers that you get with your original order.

I recently bought some of their bath salts and took it on one of our trips, filling up the bath tub and adding these salts made the whole room smell nice!

They also have a yuzu (citron) line of products like lip balm and hand cream. They really smell wonderful and really softens your hands and lips.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 21, 2006

sexy

Got your attention, right?

This is the name of the dark chocolate bar from New Tree. This company is from Belgium and it is a 73% cacao with ginger shavings in it.

The name, “ NEWTREE” means a new (“New”), approach to nutrition (“Nutrition”) as well as the use of natural plants and ingredients (as implied by the word “Tree”) in foodstuffs.

The shavings of ginger in this bar is very spicy, to the point of kind of burning your mouth and throat and the chocolate is very good. I think I'll try another flavor the next time I'm roaming the aisles.

Some of the Belgian bar namings are a bit different from the American ones, but the contents seem to be the same. Oh, and the packaging looks a bit different too.

Here is the link to the Belgian website: www.newtree.be, which can be viewed in several languages.

Here is the link to the American website: www.newtree.com

Thursday, July 20, 2006

what kind of donut are you?

I came across this neat survey on Jasmine's blog, Confessions of a Cardomom Addict.
What kind of donut are you? I'm the one below...

You Are a Powdered Devil's Food Donut

A total sweetheart on the outside, you love to fool people with your innocent image.
On the inside you're a little darker, richer, and more complex.
You're a hedonist who demands more than one pleasure at a time.
Decadent and daring, you test the limits of human indulgence.

angelina

I was near Umeda last night for an English lesson. Afterwards, I decided to roam around on the sweets floor of the Hankyu Department store. I came across these macarons by Angelina. The original store is in Paris. Located on the rue Rivoli, this tea salon was established over 100 years ago. The name, Angelina, comes from the owner, Antoine Rumpelmayer's wife.

The macarons were delicious! Here are the flavors: green = pistachio, yellow = mango, white = vanilla, pink = raspberry (framboise) & brown = chocolate w/chestnut (chocolat maron).

In Japan, they are known for their mont blanc. I can't wait to try it!

Hope you are keeping cool and dry where you are!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

taco rice


It has been raining the past couple of days, to the point where there have been landslides, flooding and some loss of lives.

Because the weather has been so bad, I've been kind of reminiscing about past vacations.

Do you have a dish that reminds you of a favorite vacation spot?

Mine is taco rice. It reminds me of our trips to Okinawa. Okinawa's weather is usually very sunny, HOT and humid, but there is always the ocean to gaze at.

Whenever we go to Okinawa, I try to get my fill of taco rice. I have previously posted about taco rice (here).

This dish was introduced to Okinawa by the Americans and the Okinawans have put their own twist on the dish.

It is really easy to make and you don't have to worry about the shell getting soggy because there is no shell, all the fillings are on top of rice.

Ooh, the sun just came out! :)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

rain rain go away...

The weather has been awful. It has been raining off and on, which doesn't help dry all the laundry that I had after our climb...sigh!

Changing the subject, I've started eating Dagoba's Mon Cherri bar. It is a 72% cacao with cherries, cranberries and vanilla. It is a very good dark chocolate, but I'm a little disappointed though since there aren't many cherries or cranberries and you can't really taste the vanilla in it.

I've read on their site that they will come out with covered nibs soon--will be on the lookout for these and their singles (small squares of dark chocolate).

Hope you are keeping cool & dry where you are!

Monday, July 17, 2006

umi no hi

Today is Umi no hi (Ocean Day). It is a national holiday and Satoshi has the day off. It has been raining with lightning and VERY LOUD thunder--off and on for the past couple of days.

Since we didn't have a chance to get to the ocean today, I thought I'd share with you a photo of a mambow (sunfish), on a recent trip with my family to the Osaka Aquarium.

And a photo of Manzamo in Okinawa, which was taken a couple of years ago. It is a beautiful area but, this cliff was actually a site where many Okinawans plunged to their deaths for fear of being captured by America during the War.

Lastly, I wanted to share a way to keep cool. Have a bowl of cold soba (buckwheat noodles). This version is called oroshisoba. Oroshi is the term for grated. You can put whatever toppings you wish--I served our soba with wakame (kelp), chirimen jakko also called shirasuboshi (dried young anchovy), thinly sliced nori (dried seaweed), oroshi daikon (grated turnip) and an umeboshi (pickled plum). The sauce called tsuyu--in the cup, is diluted a bit with water for dipping.

Have a good week!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

snacks & goodies

Ugh, the weather has been so hot the past couple of days. The temperature was about 35C (95F), stepping out of the house smelled like a sweaty locker room and felt like when you open the oven door....blah!

But enough about that...the nice thing about having family come to visit you, is not only being able to spend time with them, they also bring you nice goodies.

Like this trek mix from Trader Joe's. I really like Trader Joe's and wish there was one in Hawaii. But, it also keeps the excitement alive for going to one in the continental U.S. I brought most of this on our climb.

A huge bag of Hershey's Extra Dark miniatures. I've posted about the chocolate bars previously,(here).

A bag of dark chocolate dipped mac nut shortbread cookies from Big Island Candies.

A bottle of mom's bread and butter pickles. These are great on tuna sandwiches! If I ever venture to try making these, I will definitely share the recipe!

A bottle of mom's strawberry guava jelly. Strawberry guava is a type of guava in Hawaii, there is no actual strawberry in the jelly.

And a box of cookies from the Honolulu Cookie Company.

I also wanted to share some of the food finds from our recent journey.

A shiomame daifuku (salted bean rice cake stuffed with salted beans and sweet bean paste) found in a little shop called Kikyouya in front of the Ootsuki station. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of the inside, but it was really soft and delicious!

Kikyouya
1-2-1 Ootsuki, Yamanashi
Phone: 0554-23-2011
http://www.kikyouya.co.jp/

A cocoa daifuku (rice cake stuffed with cream and chocolate bean paste). This was found at a little shop called Miyazakiya near the Gotemba station. They also have a cafe daifuku which has coffee flavored bean paste, but we didn't try it. My mom didn't care for this one, but my dad and I enjoyed it!

Miyazakiya
1991-2 Shinbashi, Gotemba
Shizuoka
Phone: 0550-82-1629

The hotel we stayed at in Hakone served us a juice made from Wasei mikan. Mikan is a type of mandarin orange. It was very light and refreshing.

Hope you are enjoying the weekend--we have a three-day weekend here!

p.s. I forgot to mention in my last post that I uploaded all of my pictures of our climb onto my Flickr album, under Travel.