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!