Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas foodie pics

A cheese & ham scone with a pinch of dried basil.

Sweet corn bread. Sweeeeeeeeet!!

See this for “Al’s Messed Up Stuffing" recipe. Yes, well, it definitely looks like messed up stuff. See the goma? I would have to say, that goma is essential & lovely all at once.

Pear & Almond Tart. Oh Joy! My first try at a short crust. First time making a tart in general & I really did nearly eat the whole thing. That’s like, a 10” around tart pan.

In the foreground is husband’s 2nd love fresh mozzarella & tomato salad. We’re looking into getting a female lactating buffalo on Yahoo!Japan Auction so that we might be able to produce mozzarella daily. The negotiations with our neighboring home, (Bayside) is still in the works concerning her grazing in their back yard, please keep it in your prayers.

A classic winter dessert. A "serve warm" pear & raspberry cobbler. The raspberries are sweet & tart & the pears are creamy & mellow. This cobbler has a unusually crispy, buttery topping that goes perfect with a little ice-cream melting on top & a dollop of whipped cream...and you're set for a great Christmas dessert. Or at least, Elaina is, apparently!! I don't know what happened, one day she was a purely rational sweet mommy & the next she's having bouts of grabbing & shaking my arm & talking about "THAT COBBLER". I'm alarmed! I try to avoid saying the word "raspberry" or "cobbler" for fear of sending her off. Please don't show her this post!

And that's all the foodie pics I have for today. I've been ambushed by friends for the New Years and will post more about that momumental event later.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Basic Pie Crust

Kari, I hope I'm not too late. Here's the most basic pie recipe. The key is 1) keep all the ingredents cold. Use ice water, if at all possible use shortning, or unsalted butter, but if you don't have that then you can use margarine, but have it be COLD!!! 2) Minimal handling, just mix in the water till it's just mixed in, bring it all together (if its really dry & won't hold togetherthen add the 4th tsp of water), put it on the floured surface. I prefer to do it on some saran wrap so that I can lift it into a pie plate easier.

1 1/4 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c shortning, or unsalted butter
3 or 4 tbsp ice water

cut the shortning into the flour & salt, use your fingers till it looks like bread crumbs. Use a fork to mix in water. Mix till it's like larger chunks of dough. Bring it together, chill in the fridge for 20 min. Flatten on floured surface & roll out with rolling pin. (Start at the center & roll out). Poke holes with a fork in the bottom & sides to prevent cracking.
If you want a "pre-prepared" crust bake at 180c for 10-12 min or until golden. You can check out the Irish creme pie post for a cookie crumb crust.

Hope it works out good.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope it’s been a good one. I imagine we were the only people on this side of the world that actually celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day. I may not have gotten to do this, maybe next year, but I had a spelendid Christmas. Wonderful pictures shall be forthcoming. It was great, and at times even relaxing. (No, that was not a joke) I had my children stay in their room till 9:30 so I could get up & get some Word, coffee & start on a nice Brunch of:

Maine Pumpkin bread
Cheese & Ham scones
Eggs, toast & sausages

My wonderful son Travster stayed asleep till 9:30 if you can believe it. Why can’t every day be Christmas day? We had devotions around the table with the kids & then delved into the presents. I am trying to remember why we got Travster a mike stand. It’s lethal no matter how he uses it. If it’s not a mike stand it’s a bass, if it’s not a bass it’s a sword/whipper-snapper, taiko sticks, machine gun, etc….Oh, well! The men-folk took the kids out of the house so I was left in the kitchen alone. (Nya ha ha ha, could it really be?? Shouldn’t there be a baby trying to yank off the oven knobs, or a small child cracking eggs on the countertop?)

What a relaxing Christmas cooking experience. And just incase I forgot the Lord loves me, he did even supply me with wonderful ingredients, my favorite fruit, 12 pears for 300Y. I tried a French Pear & almond Tart recipe with (get this) Apricot jam for the glaze. You will only understand this if you receive provisioned goods from the PC. I mean, it’s written right there, “Apricot Jam & Lemon Glaze”. Words fail me to describe this tart, I nearly ate the whole thing, just because I was doubting my own tastebuds, marveling the whole time. "Did I actually make this? Is it allowed to taste so good?" Mascarpone cheese (thank you Kari) and Espresso coffee & maker (thanks Mike & Aich) for Tiramisu. I just had a fun time in general with my unusually short menu:

-Turkey, (Niki I followed your good example & stuffed the turkey with an orange, pear, onion, 2 cloves of garlic, bunch of fresh rosemary, bay leaves & sage, thank you for teaching me the "way")
-stuffing (see recipe below)
- gravy
- raspberry sauce (it was a great substitute, since I could NOT find cranberries anywhere this year, not even COSTCO, and the color…..ahhh, don’t get me started on raspberries, I'm still polishing off the rest of it with my toast, wait till I get my hands on an ice cream, nya ha!)
- minuscule amount of potatoes for those white guys,
- cornbread,
- tomatoes & mozzarella salad,
- jello & punch for the kids,
- pear & raspberry cobbler,
- pear tart
- Tiramisu.

As for my favorite part of Christmas dinner it most definitely is the turkey sandwiches & turkey soup the day after. And if you haven’t had your Christmas dinner yet, here’s my stuffing recipe for you which I have decided is my favorite until I try out yours. The list of ingredient can be shortened by using either not both varieties of bread nuts & dried fruit. But please, please don’t nix the apples. Whether you’ve had Christmas dinner or not, Merry Christmas & a Happy New 2007


2 c whole wheat bread
4 c white bread
1 c onion
¾ c celery (leaves & all)
2 ½ tsp sage
1 ½ tsp rosemary
½ tsp thyme
1 apple chopped
¼ c raisins
½ c dried cranberries
¾ c turkey broth or stock (can use chicken bullion)
¼ c pecans
¼ c walnuts

Toast the bread cubes in the oven for 10 min at 180c. Sauté the chopped onion & celery for 10 min. in butter, COVERED! Add apple & sauté for another 5. Toss all ingredients into bread cubes in a large bowl. Stuff turkey or bake, covered for 1 hr at 175c (or the same temp. as you’d cook your bird) And that’s it

Friday, December 22, 2006

Screaming Amy's Holiday in the Boonies!

Yes, that's right my very own sister, is here from LA for the Holidays. My kids deemed her "Screaming Amy" quite awhile back, as they have 2 Aunties named Amy & the name stuck. She is the one of the "screaming" variety. "Aaaaaaaaaaaaa.......RyRy.........Eeeeeeeeeeeee...You're soooooo cute!! (repeat with other 4 children) " Well, you's all very loving. She showed us some of her movie & TV work, it's weird to see what she does. And she's good too. Always the dramatic one.

Here are some pics of the last time all us sisters were together (Jan 2005) nearly 2 years ago. I have to preface these pics & say...well...gee...what is there to say. Except I hope none of them get sore about me posting them. Chala & I have to be the most awful models ever. And I shudder to imagine that Dad is probobly scheming to take yet another "family picture" this year. I love you, Dad!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Pies Part 2

As promised (to most likely a one person readership) my second installation of "Christmas Pies". Here are yet more fun-loving ideas. Not all pies but tried & proven.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie:

Ewwww....Look at that kitchen. My dad will faint dead away! No, the Baysidian Kitchen does not look like that anymore. Yes, there are indeed 8 pies in the above picture. Long story, got paid to make them. Hey, is that the first picture of me? I look awful, that 1 year old nursing look!

I referred to this in my "Christmas Pies Pt 1". It is my most beloved Pumpkin pie recipe. It must be something about growing up in Japan that makes you pretty impartial to using vegetables in desserts. As in Japan it seems like nothing is too horrible to try. Spinach, carrots, renkon, & God forbid, the “forbidden fruit” goya. Ewww!! Back to reality, this is a light non-bake pumpkin pie. It can be made the day before which is a real plus & makes Christmas dinner prep. all the less stressful.

Pre-prepared cookie crumb crust (or plain baked crust)
1 envelope gelatin (2 1/2 tsp)
1 tbsp water
2 c cooked mashed pumpkin
1/2 c granulated sugar (or 1/3 c honey)
4 egg yolks (beaten)
1/2 c cream
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 egg whites
another 1/4 c granulated sugar

Dissolve gelatin in the water, @ 10 min. Mix pumpkin, sugar & soft gelatin add egg yolks, cream & spices & cook until thicker (about 10 min?) Cool slightly beat egg whites with 1/4 c granulated sugar till stiff. Fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour into prepared crumb crust chill till set (2 hrs). Top with whip cream. Other additional toppings could be pumpkin seeds, walnuts, mint leaves. ENJOY!!

Mom's Cheesecake:

This is called "Mom's" not because she made it but rather because the way to my mom's heart is through a giant piece of this no-bake cheesecake. I get almost irritated at the predictability of her asking for it for every birthday, & every Christmas & every time I make a dessert. I want a bit more of a challenge. Don't ask me why she likes it so much cuz' it's so simple it's crazy. As a matter of fact it's from that "family produced" cook book series. You know the colorful ones. It's in the pink "Dessert" one. So for anyone who doesn't have that cookbook, (I don't) here's how it goes. It calls for 1/2 c sour cream but as you all in Japan know, that costs as much as 3 containers of yogurt, so just use 1 c yogurt One thing you ABSOLUTLEY do need for this recipe is a blender. I've tried it without. Huge lumpy sorry mess!! Don't do it!

1 cookie crumb crust
1 envelope gelatin (2 1/2 tsp)
3 tbsp cold water
1 egg
1/3 c honey
1 8 oz (250g) cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c yogurt
1/2 c sour cream

Dissolve the gelatin in the water. Put the egg, honey, cheese, vanilla & yogurt (& sour cream if you're using) blend till...well....blended. Nuke the gelatin for 10 sec. or so till dissolved, but not boiling. Blend into the cheese mixture. Pour into crust & chill till firm. Top with berries. Better yet cherry pie filling (yes, another arm & leg in Japan) the picture above is blueberry pie filling, try strawberries, canned cherries, canned peaches, frozen raspberries, frozen blueberries. I did a topping with raspberries that went really great with it. Blend 1 c (defrosted raspberries) in the blender 1/4 c sugar & 1 tsp gelatin softened in 4 tbsp water & dissolved in the microwave (10 secs) blend in the blender & cover the top with it.
Don’t get me started on Raspberries

And that's it for today folks. Happy Christmas baking!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Recent Pics.

Here are some recent goodies. The good photos are from Mark's camera & the lousy ones are from Josh's keitai.

Look at that stud-muffin! Ry is 5 now. And it's not every day he looks that contemplative. (Didn't I just say this about Trav? ) What a dude!!

Erika on her park-time with U. Merk. She's constantly getting stuck, falling over, eating something horrid, getting muddy etc... I think she had climbed the stairs of the slide up to there.
Ah yes, the whole gang/mob/tribe/team or what have you. That was a cold family day where we did some Christmas witnessing & went on an "exploring" drive with daddy (aka: we won't get grouchy when daddy gets us horribly lost)
Ah yes, this is the "Guitar Cake" for Trav's 3rd Birthday on the 3rd of Dec. As you can see, Travis has reverted to the chicken smile & no longer has eyes. I discussed with him what kind of cake he wanted, the runners up were: "Blues clue paw print, "T" for Travis, Mike playing drums (No, GOD!!!) Uncle STEM playing guitar (MAKE IT STOP!!) or a guitar" Somehow we convinced him he wanted this one. He liked it well enough, though it's got like, 3 1/2 pokey strings.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Numbers of the day

- 10 mouths fed
- 9 year old girls with convincing arguments of why they shouldn’t have to…..
- 8 braids I fixed on my daughters braided head
- 7 is what time I almost started my Word time
- 6 6 & 6 is the song Travis has been singing all day
- 5 children were just put in bed.
- 4 hugs I’ve gotten today
- 3 loads of laundry, which I did with inspiration.
- 2 meals that I did with mediocrity, & not deciding till the last minute Libra style
- 1 letter of apology that I wrote today to a friend that was way way overdue
- 0 kids with broken bones

Thing I’ve done today that I hope I won’t have to do again tomorrow (WARNING: excriment story follows):

Today Travis stepped in what had to be the biggest pile of poo on this side of Chiba. No doubt by a champion Great Dane with a healthy digestive system and his consciousless master. Did you know that there is a 50,000Y max fine that you can receive for leaving your pet-poo around? At least here in Chiba! Maybe a better incentive like having the owner wear special shoes with poo smell imbedded would motivate. Apparently he stepped in it just because “I could not see if dat was poo, so I did step in it to check & it was really poo…..waaa…..I have poo on my shoes…Unco Mark!!” I took care of the unpleasentries & oh how I wished shoes were disposable along with his socks & pants (I kid you not) or that I could say his shoes were falling apart anyway, but NO they weren’t falling apart in fact they are fairly nice, or – er, were fairly nice. Yes, if you need your shoes covered in something, anything, ask my son. I guarantee a stellar performance. I hope to God he doesn't have this same attitude about other things in life, "But Mommy, I just wanted to see if dat was really a cliff & so I did fall down du cliff". Sigh!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Happy Birthday Niki!!!

Happy Birthday to a wonderful friend & an even more wonderful Sagg. I will have to say that you give me hope that my dear Sagg son may turn out OK. It's wonderful to know that you made it through your 25th year (& all that that implies) I don't have a huge long post but I do have a lot of love for you & admiration for your willingness to follow the Lord wherever He's leading you. Thank you for being my friend. I'm praying your year will be filled with lots of love, fun, & men. (or just one man, if he's man enough for you) I love you!! XXXXXX Kisses of love ----- Alisa

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Pies Part 1

I’m really itching to get some recipe in here, what’s food blog without food? I’m a little short on recent pictures as I can’t figure out how to move pictures off my phone & onto the computer so for now I shall now amuse you with ideas for possible Christmas desserts. You may discover soon enough that I’m not a cake person but a pie person. (No offence cake people, I love cake people too!)

Now for your cooking pleasure I shall list some regular pies (well, regular at festive meals) in what I hope will be an enjoyable series of Christmas dinner recipes. These are in my “Al’s-cookbook-of-science” cookbook.

Fresh Pumpkin Pie:

I know My pic is not that great but believe me it was a great textured pumpkin, baked but not dense. Well besides my Pumpkin chiffon pie recipe which I consider the best pumpkin pie recipe, this is the 2nd best pumpkin pie. And definitely the best baked one. The honey gives it a great "shine", so it's a real pretty cake (unless you have a “hotspot” in your oven like I do, see the pic.) & VERY wonderfully fragrant & spice filled. Use a small kabocha or about 500ml of mashed kabocha.
1 medium pumpkin (kabocha)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 premade 9 inch single crust pie
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup honey, warmed slightly
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Cut pumpkin in half, and remove seeds. Lightly oil the cut surface. Place cut side down on a jelly roll pan lined with foil and lightly oiled. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) until the flesh is tender when poked with a fork. Cool until just warm. Scrape the pumpkin flesh from the peel. Either mash, or puree in small batches in a blender.
In large bowl, blend together 2 cups pumpkin puree, spices, and salt. Beat in eggs, honey, milk, and cream. Pour filling into pie shell.
Bake at 400 degrees F ( 205 degrees C) for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from edge of pie comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Honey Crunch Pecan Pie: (the title will take you to

Yes, I know what you're thinking, does it involve a certain story regarding "eschewing the evil?" Thanks to Costco I have made this for a few C’mas dinners. Some N.American brethrens’ heads did indeed spin.

Note: I nix the white sugar & you can use mizuame for corn syrup. (does anyone remember the “golden syrup that we had a ton of way back? That stuff was awesome for this. And don’t forget to cover your crust or it will burn

Sweet Potato Casserole: (This fills a 9x13” casserole dish, for a good size group (16-)

8 med. Size sweet potatoes mashed
2/3 c butter
2/3 c milk
1 ½ c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs beaten
Mix till smooth & put into a greased casserole.

1 ½ c brown sugar
1 c flour
2/3 c butter
1 ½ c pecans

Crumble butter into flour & sugar & mix in nuts. Sprinkle over potato mixture & bake for 25-30 min in 175c oven.

This is not exactly a pie but it very well should be classified as one. Very quality. Again calling for the elusive pecans (if you’re in Japan) but walnuts will do fine. Simple ingredients. And if you want to spice it up a bit more add some cinnamon & nutmeg. Serve it warm with ice-cream & whip cream & you have yourself a dessert if I do say so myself.

And there you go! That's all for now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Post from Lani, Ashley, Ryan (A Parent time Project)

(Ashley:) This is our brother Travis, he's very surprised at the camera.

(Leilani:) He just turned three.

(Ryan:) That's our room.

(Travis:) Mommy, look at Travis' tounge.

(Leilani:) This is me peeling the cucumbers for dinner. I'm peeling them "naked". I call them that because I'm peeling off all the peels. I'm helping my Mom in the kitchen. I usually help set the table. My favorite job is to fill up the water pitcher.

(Ryan:) This is our thanksgiving night and Grandpa came over to visit with us. And he brought some chips. The best thing was the cake, I mean pie.

(Mommy:) Actually it was a cobbler, Ry.

(Ashley:) I set the table for this dinner and it was a lot of fun. When I finished setting the table I went up to watch a video. And then I heard a "ding-dong", then Ryan & I ran downstairs & we saw Grandpa at the door. The focaccia was my favorite part of the meal, not including the cobbler

(Lani:) After dinner we watched a fun movie. In the picture Travis is squinting his eyes...

(Ashley:) tight that he can't see the camera.

(Ashley:) We're visiting the museum in Aoba. We saw a picture of Charles Darwin. He's famous for Evolution. We're pointing down because we don't believe in evolution.

(Lani:) We believe in creation. That God created the World. (Can you underline things, Mom? I want to underline "God")

(Ashley:) We hope you like the blog. Hee hee hee!!

(Lani:) Eh-hum....We also had a lot of fun at the museum.

(Mommy:) OK, go brush your teeth! I'll show you the post when you're done.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mr. Trav Trav

My dear Son Trav will be 3 tomorrow. Whew! If you know him you'll have to agree with me that this is a major feat. He was my largest baby (4.2kgs) & 10 days early. Certainly the most active (from the womb) and adventuresome. Heck, I mean this in the best of ways but he's a Sagg, that should say a lot. He's great with figuring out any kind of equipment. He's curious & likes to experiment with things he finds, very active & gets into no end of trouble. Off the top of my head & to name a few, in the last month or so he's:

- Locked himself in the ofuro to squeeze out the toothpaste he doesn't like
- Drawn on the walls
- In hopes of a bath smeared himself with conditioner & filled up the bath
- Cleaned the toilet & surrounding area with the plunger
- Plugged & washed his own slippers in the sink after peeing on them
- Put Deodorant on every inch of his body
- Cracked his own eggs
- Stuck cars in the CD player

Travis is constantly has something that he's obsessed with & the obsession changes on a VERY regular basis. Observe: From the time we came to this house a mere 3 months ago, he's gone through the following very serious obsessions

- Blue's Clues (Can't get enough of Steve, dutifully answers every dumb question Steve asks)
- Beginner Bible Video (Must watch the opening song & all the following corny songs)
- pretending everything flat is a skateboard (Rule of thumb if it has wheels ride it, if it is flat jump on it till it breaks)
- guitar obsession (pretend everything is a guitar & jump on mommy's bed with it)
- Steve (STEM) obsession "Mommy I want to nisten to Steve music, du Enaina song"
- Present obsession coming out of the "STEM" phase & passing quickly into the "New Worlds to Discover" phase. This one is particularly scary as he walks around the house going, "So what's wrong with 666? Listen to this" or "Now I'm going to introduce you to Jennifer we're going to sing the next song together". I REALLY thought we were done with the whole "New Worlds" dance steps but obviously TIV is here to stay!!!

Well, there's too much to say about this little nut but I'll keep it short. I'm so grateful to the Lord for protecting him. He's had so many accidents but no real long lasting damage. He's not hurt anything or anyone too badly, so that's nice. And above all, though he's terribly wild & has boundless energy he is still (at times) a very loveable & gentle man. And honest too, YIKES! "Mommy, I just hit Erika, nike dis" (Shows me exactly how) "Mommy, I just dropped du cup out du window, nike dis" (Shows me how he deftly hurled the mug out the window) When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, "Umm I think maybe candy." ????? I tried again "Mmmmm (mumble mumble)" "What did you say Travis?" (Big silly smile)"Maybe I want Moneys" OK, one last time, "Is that it, Trav?" "Ummm....I just want a happy birthday".

Now that, I can try for. Happy birthday Trav Trav! We nuv you!

PS. Sorry no pics looks like Blogger is having some outage problem)

Friday, December 01, 2006

For a certain brother-in-law: Spicy Peanut Chicken

You asked for it a million times, I almost got to forget about it again. Just make it for once & tell me how it turns out. OK? A nice sort of "Asian" tasting meal, not too adventurous for the gaijin tastebuds. I would have to say the peanuts make me think it must be somewhat Indonesian, just PLEASE don't go claiming that it's Chinese or Japanese though. So here it is for the Million & oneth time. :

SPICY PEANUT CHICKEN (serves about 6)

1/4 c chicken broth (or if you're in Japan you can even use dashi)
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp shoyu
1 tbsp white vinegar (apple cider is fine but sake vinegar is the best)
1/4 tbsp red pepper (adjust that to your abused or pure tastebuds)
1-2 tbsp oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thigh cut into 1/2" pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger root
1 bell pepper cut into 1/2" pieces
1/3 c dry roasted peanuts (fry them in a pan with a few drops of oil for 1 min or so, DON'T BURN, gawd awful taste, ewww)
2 medium green onions (ko-negi) sliced (a few tbsps for garnish)

Mix the first 6 ingredients together in a bowl & set aside. Heat wok or pan over high, fry chicken, garlic & ginger in oil about 3 minutes till the chicken is cooked through, (drain the extra liquid if you don't want the sauce to be too thick) add bell peppers & stirfry for 1 min. Add the broth mixture, stir & cook @ 1 min. till the sauce is thickened. Stir in peanuts, sprinkle with negi. And it's DEKIAGARI!!!!


I’ve made or eaten some things that I’m itching to blog about. As for the rest of my life you will find is fairly hectic. Pressured but not Stressed! Well, at least that is the goal. Yesterday thanks to my jolly in-law “Marky-Mark” S.O & I were able to have a “rest-morning-day”. (See, where I live, that is as good as it gets when your sister has just had a baby, your husband is busy & it’s 2 ½ aduts with 6 kids, cooking, dishes, clean ups & lets not forget…..LAUNDRY!)
I choose to spend the evening drinking a bottle of sparkling wine that was hangaku & I dearly loved every drop, including the rather large drop I spilled on my favorite blanket. We watched the movie “Casanova” & I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a soppy, ridiculous, man-fest, but had rather a somewhat humorous plot.
So after foolishly wasting 2 hours of my rest-morning sleeping in (Gasp, shameless!!), I biked to the store & picked up a loaf of still warm freshly baked French bread from the bakery & found some fresh Mozzarella that was also hangaku. (gotta love these Chiba folks) So I slapped together the S.O’s favorite breakfast of: cappuccino, eggs, French bread, tomato & mozzarella with basil, freshly ground pepper, salt a touch of balsamic vinegar & lets not forget THE OLIVE OIL. Ah yes, the olive oil. If my husband could choose one condiment to be the only condiment he could use for the rest of his life it would be OLIVE OIL. Not just any olive oil but EXTRA VIRGIN. “A little French bread with your olive oil, my dear?
What then? 1 hr of reading or rather listening to Word, 1 hour of napping with Erika & we had 2 hrs left over for going to the “2nd hand Costco Store” & a little Nativity-scene-globe-music-box-glittery-light-thingie for the kids, in as much as we have zero Christmas decorations. A quick stop at the MASSIVE warehouse-like restaurant & kitchen-ware store in Soga, where I got a much needed heavy bottom 2L pot. (THANK YOU, GOD) And we’re back in time to take the kids for round 10 of who forgot to flush the toilet.
In other news, my kids now know what a blog is & that I have one. Today at lunch Ashley said, “Mom, the crust on this casserole is so nice, you should blog about it!” Cutie!

Monday, November 27, 2006


Well, I’ve always been a bit in denial about Thanksgiving. I never really understood about Thanksgiving dinner & Christmas dinner. Which is bigger? Which one do you go “all out” for? BOTH? It confuses me & no one seems to have a reasonable explination. We do have a small bird in the freezer that we got on sale at Costco (REALLY small: 2.5 kg) I’ll pull out once I’m over my outstanding cold & have any energy.

But for now it would only seem appropriate then that we should have ODEN for dinner on Thanksgiving. I shall now expound on the wonders of Oden.

Clears throat & jumps upon soap box:

Oden is what separates Japan’s 7/11’s from the US’s. Oden is what you eat at your Obachan & Ojichan’s when you go for Oshogastu. Oden is what my Mother in law wishes was never invented. Orignating in KANTO area (that’s right all you Kansai folk) It used to be called dengaku & was just a fish dumpling on a stick dipped in miso, not much to look at. Soon they were just calling it “den” then gave it the honorific “O” at the beginning, I guess to show that thy REAAAAALLLY liked it on freezing cold nights. And didja know that in Osaka they sometimes call it “Kanto Daki” (see…see, told you, we started it). And I do it the Kanto way, where all the ingrediants are simmered together to blend the flavor as opposed to quickly so that each item retains it's own flavor in the Kansai way.

So here’s what I did to get my Oden last night. First off I shall tell you the list of ingredients I used last night. (Please don’t faint for the length) The good thing about oden is that you can stick nearly anything in it. Well, OK, not celery, but squash, turnip, carrots, potatos are fine too. Gobo, renkon, agedofu & any kind of chikuwa or fish cake. Any gaijin daft enough to put beets in it will have to learn the hard way though.

- 100 g. Gyusuji (I’m not sure what this is called in English, but it’s the really fatty cut of beef, tough as rubber unless it’s simmered for hours)
- Dashi (4 cups)
- ¾ c shoyu
- ¾ c mirin
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 daikon
- 3 cakes of konyaku
- 2 packs of chikuwa
- 12 hardboiled eggs, peeled
- 4 larger sato imo (country potato, boil for 5 min & peel & cut)
- 4 pieces of konbu (It was actually konbu for making my dashi but it worked just as good for oden, I thought. Don’t tell my Obachan)
- 4 potatoes peeled cut & pan fried for 5 min w/ oil
- 2 prepackaged “oden” kamaboko & other oden fillings (S.O got these for 200Y each at the “cheep veggie store”)

OK, 3 years ago my sweet & eccentric neighbor lady told me that the secret to good oden is gyusuji. So that’s where you start.

- Gyusuji: Fry up the gyysuji & put it to simmer in about 6 c of water in your LARGE pot, for at least 2 hours
- Daikon: Peel & cut your daikon into 1 inch slices & boil till tender (knife goes through clean)
- Konyaku: another lesson I learned the hard way, you have to get the bad taste off the konyaku by washing then liberally shaking salt on both sides & rubbing it on the cutting board for about 30 sec. each side. Cut into triangular shapes
- add 4 cups of dashi & shoyu, mirin & salt to the gyusuji stock, mix & bring to a boil. Don’t be alarmed. It won’t smell like oden first off. The first time I made it I was feeling doomed at this point. It’s the ingredients that give it the “oden” taste.
- first ingredients in should be daikon & konyaku & konbu, simmer on low with the lid off for ½ hr
- add the rest of the ingredients & simmer on low for at least 90 min.

And it’s Dekiagari!! Bring it to the table & let everyone take what they like. Serve with libral amounts of karashi (mustard paste) & shichimi (7 spice) This recipe was quickly consumed by 5 adults & 5 kids who were under the impression that it was their last supper.

If you’re not in the country where they have a whole section of the supermarket dedicated to Oden fillers then I guess you’ll have to settle for a turkey dinner. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dylan James

Ohhhh.....Look! It's Dylan James McNair. Awwwww!! In this first picture he's saying: "I'm a McNair, YO!! You better reconize! Respeccccct YO!" Below is when Dylan screen test for LOTR, Gandalf the Grey. They said he needed more faicial hair. Oh well.
Ah yes! This picture really captures his "Rider" side. Don't you think? I can't blame Shelly for wanting to squish him with love. Sort of like Michael & and the Rabbit story. (Only Baysidians will understand this one)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Irish Creme Pie

I’m posting this for a lovely Frenchy friend of mine. This one has become a staple on my Christmas dinner menu. I got it from my very first cookbook. And check out his twin brother, Grasshopper pie. Enjoy!

Irish Crème Pie

1 cookie pie crumb crust (for extra touch use Oreo cookies, discard the filling)
½ cup of milk
30 large marshmallows
1/3 cup Irish Crème
1 cup whip cream (US. Measuring cup 250ml, not Japanese 200ml)

-Melt the marshmallows in the milk in a saucepan till melted. Cool in the fridge till the mixture makes a “mound” when dropped from a spoon.
-Mix the liquor into the marshmallow mixture
- Whip the cream & fold the cream in
- Fill the pie crust & chill

I suggest freezing the pie & then pulling it out about 5-10 min. before serving. Top w/ cream for extra heavy look, mint? Ichigo? Chocolate bark? Or nothing at all

Grasshopper Pie:(don’t ask me why, it’s just mint flavor) add 1/3 c. crème de mente. Top with chocolate shavings or bark. If you’re a choco-mint fan you can add some finely chopped chocolate. Truffles are best as they’re softer & don’t compromise the soft texture of the pie.

Cookie Crumb Crust for good measure:
In case you don't know how. Simply put cookies in a ziplock bag or plastic bag. Roll with a rolling pin or a sturdy mug works till they're crushed fairly fine. You need about 2 c (USA cup) of crumbs for one 9" pie. Melt 1/4 c. butter/margarine & mix into the crumbs press against the bottom & sides of the pie plate. Use the bottom of a spoon or your fingers. Bake in a 200 c (400 f) oven for 10 min or less (till golden brown). If you're using oreo cookies I wouldn't go by the "browning" though.

My 2 Day Breath of Air

This was one of the most needed & restful breaks I’ve had in a long time. In fact I can’t ever remember unwinding so fast & finding my “center”. Yes, I won’t wax poetic ,but words like: meditate, reflect, breathe, realize, heal – do tend to come to mind.

Highlights in no particular order:

- Lani’s reaction when she realized that her friend-of-a-boy from “OC camp” was there. Priceless! And that feeling for me of knowing she’d be having a heap of fun on her “family day” was in itself relaxing

- A room of 30 or so parents & kids eating pasta that Leika & I made, like they’d never seen a “noodle” before. It was cozy, warm, noisy & deliciously chaotic, the pasta was great. It does always seem that a slapped together meal comes out better than one meticulously planned.

- And the parmesan cheese (highlight in itself), grated but the REAL DEAL none of this craft 100% parmesan nonsence. It melted into the pasta beautifully, I was taken back. And the taste was in a word AUTHENTIC! Thanks Leika for letting me help!

- Watching Leika making "kurimu shichuuuuu". I felt so lazy but very cozy watching someone else cook. I loved that she msyteriously would add more and more to it. Broccoli, Mushrooms, Milk. And it was very good cream stew.

- Getting to tell my kids that we would indeed stay there ANOTHER night.

- A certain dance by Stever & Aiki that I shall say no more about (except that I won’t be able hear the song without borrowing a few of your moves.) And will certainly not be mature enough to "not mention" again.

- A walk at dusk with an old friend. Thank you & I hope to do it again in 2 years! And thanks to my husband who suggested it. Whatever on earth holds me back from talking to the ones I love?

- NOT being worried constantly that the kids were borred or getting into terrible mischief when I was away.

- Interprative dancing to SOE #7 on top of a certain hill in the middle of the morning. I’ve come to realize that somewhere along my path I dropped dance & movement, that's a sad day, but all too easily happened, and it's been months. And to dance like no one’s watching no less, to music no one could hear anyway; and all you “straight-hairs” won’t get this but -- letting your hair down (not figuratively) & dancing around gave me an incredible sense of freedom.

- Tirzah lending me her extra sheets that she brought like a good mommy should always do, when I convayed my horror at forgetting to pack a single one. (and I'm pretty good at inventing for emergency's sake, but you can't fake sheets)

- Windy just happening to give me extra diapers for my Monster who seemed to repack his backpack with an electric guitar & toss the diapers out before we left.

- Sitting in the kitchen with a few other parents before the dinner rush & just….well, honestly just sitting there.

- Travis hogging the attention of a group of ladies while we were in our van & mobbed while waiting for someone to come. I felt like the traveling freak show with my children screaming “STEEEEEM” like cornballs. And Travis doing & saying what he knew would mortify me. Sigh! Yes, I do love him but REEEEALLY!

Well, all in all it was just what I needed, and I am thankful for every moment of it, as I do believe I shall take up dancing like a stark raving lunatic again. Just not on a hill, if I could even find one.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Close Encounter of the Childbearing Kind. (AKA: how close can you get to seeing a baby be born)

I’ve always lamented that I’ve never been to a birth…well, besides my own. Now I can keep lamenting. Yesterday, was the closest I’ve ever gotten. My brand new nephew was born yesterday (Nov 17th, 10:37am, 3.7kg) I dove out of the van & walked into the midwife’s house, knocked on the birthing room door & what do I see but my sister looking all smiley & particularly un rumpled or phased other than a euphoric smile, sitting there with a brand new squishy baby. I came in literally 1 minute after he was born. Shucks! I missed it! But I sure am thrilled it was that quick. Here’s a description of their labor. I called on the way there & talk to Mark.

Me: Mark, how’s it going? We’ll be there in 15.
Mark: (Sounding like he’d gotten less sleep than normal) She’s OK, she’s doing good.
Me: Is she in transition yet?
Mark: I dunno, just a sec. Honey, are you in transition yet? (Pause) She said she needs to push, yeah, I think she’s in transition.

What a swell guy! Well, I’m an auntie twice over. And pictures will be forthcoming. As is traditional the pictures directly following the birth should be taken from odd angles & of useless objects like the zabuton, an elbow of the baby, or the midwifes left foot, something about the excitement of the moment seem to produce the worst pictures imaginable, or none at all.
As for me, I was just thrilled to be at my favorite midwife NOT having a baby for once. All the kids are excited & all the parents are drinking extra coffee of tea or what have you. Thank you everyone for your prayers, they worked wonders. And thank you so much Nina for coming over in our hour of need, which sadly was 3 in the morning. Travis asked me this morning if "Nina, my friend" was going to be with him today. Thanks Dad for driving us all around. It did give me the good old cozy feeling of having you there for us when we need you. Thanks Grandma Merry, for coming over. The kids are really thrilled to have you here. Pictures of Mr. Mark Jr. coming soon.

Pictures c.o.Mark (baby pics coming soon)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A sweet note!

Ashley lead me to my room after dinner & I found this note on the wall along with a spotless room that had been vacuumed & the laundry folded. (Thanks Mark, for helping them)

I don't think my kids will ever understand how much little things like that mean to me till they're parents. Sweetnesses!

In case you didn't get it, this note was written after an obiviously trying school day for all parties involved.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Potty training & TEMPUUUURRRRRRRA (and no this is not about the two at once)

Ah, yes! Travis quickly pee’d his way through 7 pairs of training pants today. Mark’s patience is ever magnificent. He doesn’t seem easily phased & just goes for the next pair of trainers. Praise God for patient men! The funny thing is Travis will stay dry longer if he’s running around naked than if he’s in a diaper.

I used the worlds worst tempura batter recipe today, I’ve never used tempura batter with egg, & this recipe called for putting the dry ingr. into the wet, IT DIDN’T WORK, DON'T DO IT! Well, that & I was really not eager to deep fry. It is my second time deep frying since I came here and with the shoddy tempura batter it just felt wrong. Somehow it felt so yucky! It pleased the hungry masses good enough. Oh & LNF, if you make avocado tempura the texture is quite like ebi-tempura but a really good quality not overcooked soft ebi, without the ebi taste, not bad. I was quite pleased with that, at least. But horrified to see how much tempura people eat, I was sure I had O.D-ed but oh-no, they at it ALL! I can’t stand to think of it. I must shower myself now.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A few pics

Here are some random pictures:

Trav in “Handsome-Bandsome-Boxer-Briefs”.

Seriously, I don’t care what it is as long as it motivates him. He’s taking a longer time than my other kids to potty train. Thanks Aich for the underwear. They’re his favorite & he really is devastated to see them ruined. “But Mommy…..I just didn’t tell you that I had to” (This is only funny if you know what Travis sounds like when he talks)

Eurika! Don't she look like some kind of rodent?

This lady just started walking today. Well she could take a step or two since about 3 wks ago but today when no one was looking she just decided to walk off. Splended really! Well, for today it’s splendid. By tomorrow we’ll all be wondering where in the house she is.

This is what Travis does not look like. A pensive, contemplative & sensitive youth. As a matter of fact I think this is studious look is positivly PS-ed.

Ah, Yes & here is Urka with her favorite "Uncle Mark", OK, it's her only Uncle Mark.

Dear Uncle Mark managed to scare away the neighbor mothers who saw him ride into the park on this day & thought he was a weirdo because he sat at the picnic table waiting for us to show up at the park in the van. Poor fella. We talked to them later & Aich called him over to say hello & put their fears to rest. Typically Japanese they appologized for even thinking that he could be a weirdo. Gee, I'd say good for them for being alert. I'd be scared of Mark too if I didn't know him.

And that's all for now! Oyasuminasai.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I See Pies of Green

When you get a box of avocados you know you have a time limit before they’re useless. So when we got ours I got to searching & learned a few new things on avocados.

1) Hass Avocados (the kind that we got) are the best for guacamole
2)Did you know some Native American tribes in the Southwestern US added avocado to their mix of adobe? Nasty!
3) You can freeze avocados for guacamole (just mash the avocado & add lemon, the rest of the ingredients go in when you take it out to defrost)
4) If you’re not a guacamole fan then this recipe for Avocado Salsa is great & a little easier on the creaminess that guacamole offers.
5) Avocado milk shake is still my favorite use of avocado (blend: 1 avocado, 1 frozen banana, @ 3/4 c. of milk, a shake of salt, 2 tbsp honey, tsp lemon & ½ c ice)
6) Avocado pie is pretty good, I dare say!
7) beer batter fried avocado will be my next avocado conquest

Yeah, you heard me, avocado pie! I tried it & most of us liked it. I searched various recipes & they generally all have the same basic ingredients. So I fused a recipe together & here it is. It’s ultra creamy. A few people said it almost tasted like banana??? Don’t ask why. The only one of my kids who didn’t like it was Ashley. Her subtle criticism was, “Mom, really nice CRUST!”, thanks Ash. It’s a sort of summer pie I’d say, but fun & surprisingly good. Try it…you just might like it.

Avocado Pie:

1 (9-inch) prepared crumb crust
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (lime would’ve been more exotic I’m guessing)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (that’s about 2 ½ tsp gelatin)
3 medium-size very ripe Hass avocados*
1 (14 ounce/390g.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (to top pie with)

Mix gelatin with lemon juice & wait 5 minutes till soft. Mash avocados with condensed milk (or blend if you have a blender, I don’t right now) Microwave lemon/gelatin for 30 sec. till dissolved add to avocado till blended. Fill pie shell & chill for at least 2 hrs till set. (I would also bet that it would taste even better frozen?) Serve topped with whip cream. El yummola!! Ole!!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Who Put the Cardboard in the Chicken (Sorry Mom)

Something about chicken breast just gives people the willies. Which is a shame, when some of the best chicken recipes I have are white meat ones. But we've all had our share of "cardboard chicken" experiences, I know I have! My siblings in particular can relate.

We had a dish that Mom made that we actually called "Cardboard Chicken", as a matter of fact mom eventually called it that too. "Alisa, where is the cookbook with the Cardboard chicken yatsu". When we finally got it sorted out so that she was using thigh for the "simmer for 20 minute recipe" we'd all say, "Mom, this is the best cardboard chicken you ever made". And it really was! What a Legend. I love you, Mommy!

I would say that once you loose your fear of cardboard chicken syndrome, chicken breast is great. Chicken salad: marinate, grill, plunge in ice water, slice & serve. Well, not exactly the season for summer salads, but still. I'm not ashamed to say I like to use my breasts. :)

I'm using this Fajita recipe that I found awhile ago at, I like it even though it calls for shoyu. (something about american's adding one asian ingrident & calling it a "asian fusion" is really annoying) And obviously I don't have lime (gotta pray some in, like the box of lemons we have) but my secret-weapons-of-science: liquid hickory smoke, (handy dandy & only $1.99 in the US) & 1tsp of cumin, that really is the "ticket" to this recipe. It comes out great when you really fry the meat on high heat so that it sorta sears & burns. I'm not going to do tortillas today. Too much school to do with the kids & my head aches. But beloved S.O. got red & yellow paprika & we got lots of provisioned avocado which I already turned into guacamole this AM. So I'm mildly inspired & will try to throw together something healthful.

Tomorrow it's Ashley's 7th birthday.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My blog, My time!

Hey, welcome to my blog. I'm a pretty busy mom so I won't get to this very often but I hope you enjoy it. Truth be told..........I like food. I like to cook & I like to eat.

I started out wanting this to be a strictly food blog, but that would be selfish seeing as I don't have time to update my family & friends (yes all 2 of you) about the rest of my life. I have a feeling this blog will be 40% food related 40% kid related & 20% about the rest of my life.....Laundry! (Yikes, I hope not!) And if you're expecting posts of pictures of kids, food, the mildew around the ofuro & other such noteworthys, then you've come to the right spot, unfortunately I have a pitiful excuse for a camera but I won't complain.

So, I'll start us off on the right note, shall I? See....get it........BREAD!! S.O. & I had a sakura picnic this year that was rivaled any other before. With only 1/5 of our offspring in tow, we dined on french bread, paremsaen cheese & rather glorified greek salad. Hope you enjoy!