Tuesday, October 28, 2008
You can see the 100yen shop maple leaves I found. I was pretty impressed by the quality. I really just wanted something a little festive for the guests who were mostly Japanese.
The spread was pretty good. I cooked a turkey, stuffing, turnip puff (made with daikon) and carrots & celery. Masa made mashed potatoes, Japanese pickles and french onion soup. Tomoko brought a great pumpkin pie and some lovely cornbread (Lori's recipe). I kind of miss the pumpkin pie my mother makes but I will make that at Christmas.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
We woke up at 5:30 to eat and get ready to board the gondola at 7:00. The first thing I did was to walk out the door to enjoy the crisp morning air. It was the most satisfying breath I had taken in years. There was mist over the mountains and it was beautiful.I went back in only to discover that they were actually going to fire up the camp stove inside to boil water for cup ramen and coffee. I wonder what the staff would have said. I know that is a define safety no-no. You can see the vending machines in the background in the picture.
We boarded the gondola and took the ten minute ride that saved us an hour of hiking. I then decided that I would give the mountain a go in my sandals. I did the whole ascent in my sandals and changed into hiking boots before the chains. I was struck by the beautiful green at the top. The plants are quite different from the Rockies in Canada and I kind of felt that I was in a different world.
Technically the hike wasn't tough but mentally it was excruciating. We went the day after a typhoon which made for a pretty difficult descent. The way up was great and I felt like I could have gone on forever.
We then started our descent backtracking along the narrow top of the ridge between the twin peaks, Tomanomimi (トマノ耳) and Okinomimi (オキノ耳). I am afraid of heights, not so afraid that I can't do things like that but I find myself being overly cautious and slow. This was the first kicking of the ego. You can't tell from the picture but the terrain is quite steep.
The trail also had several sets of chains to help the climb, it really was half rock climbing. Given my fear of heights, dangling over the edge of a little cliff on the the top of a mountain ridge was not appealing. I felt a sense of accomplishment because when I used to hike regularly when I was younger, I would always avoid the chains like the plague. This was my small success for the day.
Once we finished with the ridge I breathed a sigh of relief as we were going to take the trail that branched off into the trees. I have always loved trails through the trees. We got less than a hundred meters before we encountered our first steep rocky, mossy (and still very wet from day before's typhoon) section. I had a bad experience a long time ago with slippery terrain and these rocks brought back bad memories. The trail turned out to be like that for the entire length save the last two hundred meters. I believe this was the first time that I have ever thought "Will this ever end?" while hiking. I am pretty content in the mountains and usually enjoy most trails - even after the stressful ridge I was good to go.
This last descent, which took at least two hours, destroyed my ego (which I don't mind now) and left me feel like I was going to sprain my ankle with every step. I discovered about an hour and a half in to this descent that my sunglasses with brown lenses actually made the rocks look wetter than they were. I had kept them on because the light on the trail was kind of grey from the mist and brown lenses make everything look better. I felt a bit foolish because I had been hiking fairly slowly because I was worried about the rocks. The change is perspective had good timing because I needed more confidence near the end to balance the thoughts of ankle sprains.
We finally got to the parking lot at the end of the trail. We had a twenty minute walk back to our parking lot. That also felt like the longest walk of my life. My feed were killing me because I was too lazy to ditch my hiking boots and go for my lovely Chacos that I had brought for that exact purpose. I have always had a policy of not wearing hiking shoes anywhere but the trail. My feet have never liked shoes and once a hike is done I can think of nothing but freeing my feet. The rest of my body felt great actually. After a tough part of a hike is over I don't usually have residual angst or tension, I go back to enjoying myself.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
2 1/4tsp dry yeast
2tbsp vegetable oil
sugar, cinnamon and slivers of butter
- In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water and then add the yeast. Let sit in a warm place until foamy. Mix salt and oil in to yeast. Mix flour in one cup at a time.
- Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour).
- Punch dough down and knead for a few minutes. Roll out on a slightly oiled surface until it is a large, thin rectangle. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and add slivers of butter here and there. Roll up and slice into 3/4" pieces. Put on baking sheet or in a pie pan. Let rise for about thirty minutes. After fifteen minutes, preheat the oven to 175 Celsius. Bake for about 15min or until golden on top and sound hollow when knocked on.
5 small potatoes
1 bunch asparagus (substitute any vegetable you like)
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Wash potatoes and slice thinly almost all the way down to the bottom. Place the potatoes in a casserole dish. Crush the garlic into the butter and drizzle over potatoes. Try to get the butter between the slices. Cover and microwave for seven minutes. Baste the potatoes, add asparagus (cut into bite sized pieces) and toss with butter in bottom. Cover and microwave for another three or so minutes.
The leftovers make excellent hash browns the next day - and the potatoes are almost fully sliced already for you.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
We bought a massive package of red seedless grapes - 1kg in fact. They lasted 36hours. I had bought a nice salad/fruit bowl from Ikea and wanted to put the grapes in it making the grapes accessible for over-grazing. It is challenging to find red seedless grapes in my parts of the woods because Japan grows other very delicious varieties.
I also bought a wooden salad bowl from Costco. It is massive and beautiful. It's from the Emeril by Wedgwood. Interestingly enough, the price I bought it for was 1/3 of what the shopping sites from home have it set as.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
1 lb. carrots (I used five Japanese-sized carrots)
1 1/2 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
3 tbsp. mixed pickling spice
Wash and scrape carrots. Cut into thin sticks. Cook carrots in boiling water until almost tender. (Can add salt if wanted.) Drain. In pot combine remaining ingredients with 1/2 cup water and bring to boil. Place carrots into hot sterilized jars. Pour over carrots and seal. Makes about 2 pints.
After making the first pickles I just played around with the Japanese cucumbers. Here is my recipe:
4 japanese cucumbers
1 1/4c vinegar
1tbsp dill seed
Slice the cucumbers thinly, put them in a bowl, cover with a heavy dish and let sit for 30min.
Add rest of ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Rinse cucumbers and put in steralized jar, cover with liquid and seal. Let sit for about a week.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
The recipe was originally published in one of Jamie Oliver's (The Naked Chef) cookbooks.
Measure out 1 kg of strong white bread flour and 1 level tbsp sea salt onto your work surface. Mix 14g of dried yeast (I used 10g of instant yeast), 1 tablespoon of castor sugar and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in about 650ml of tepid water. There is no need to let the mixture stand if you use instant yeast.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and trickle in the liquid. Using a fork, draw the flour in towards the liquid. When all the liquid has been incorporated into the flour, knead until you have a soft, smooth and springy dough. Roll the dough into a ball. sprinkle some flour on top. This recipe yields about 6-8 medium-sized pizzas.
Place the dough in a warm place to rise until it has doubled. This should take about an hour. Once the dough has risen, knock it back, that is, gently knead it so you push out some of the air.
Divide the dough into 6-8 portions, and you can either freeze your portions, put them into the fridge for later, or use the dough immediately. It's best to roll the pizzas out about 15 minutes before you intend to cook them.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll each portion of dough out as thin as you can. I didn't attempt a toss, but I did manipulate the flattened dough from palm to palm until they thinned out further. Play with your favourite topping (less is more!), drizzle on some good olive oil, a bit of sea salt if necessary, and freshly ground black pepper.
I topped one pizza with some blanched asparagus, lots of mozzarella, some asiago, oregano, black pepper, salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I baked the pizza at 220C for about 10 minutes.
I'm very excited to try this sometime this week. Then I'll have pizza dough ready for a variety of uses.
Changes to the recipe: millet instead of quinoa (I thought I had the latter but it was infact the former), regular flour (I didn't have bread flour), vegetable juice instead of tomato (I couldn't find regular tomato juice)
Anyway, the dough has to rise 8-12hrs in the fridge so pics of the finished product will have to come tomorrow. It is actually a much brighter color than it looks in the photos.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
2 large peaches dash of cinnamon dash of ginger
1/4c butter 1/2c rolled oats 1tbsp bran 1tbsp brown sugar dash of cinnamon dash of ginger
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Mix the filling ingredients together and put in glass baking dish. Put all topping ingredients in a small bowl and mix like pastry. Put over the filling and press down a bit. Bake for 30min and let sit at least 10min before serving to allow tapioca to absorb extra peach juice. Serve with ice cream if dessert or alone for breakfast.
Peaches in Japan are pretty bland but the crisp tasted like a little bit of home. I really miss my mom's apple crisp because the like the peaches, apples are also on the bland side in Japan. Japanese fruit growers seem to favor large, beautiful but tasteless fruit. I'll take the deformed, flavorful ones any day.
Friday, August 1, 2008
The new Zest Premium burgers use Angus beef, ground upon ordering, grilled to perfection and topped with locally-sourced veggies and our homemade Zest sauce. They're fresh, natural and juicy, the way a burger should be.I had a burger, fries and a drink for 1070yen which is decent for a good burger. They seem to have two locations in Tokyo, Korakuen and Hiroo, if you wanted to check them out.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I immediately felt a connection with what he had to say and was inspired by a couple of quotes:
"I go for distance instead of time," he says, "to where I'm sweating and tired as far away as possible from where I started."
But doesn't he worry about having enough gas left in the tank for the return trip? Nope. "The return trip is always easier," he says. "Think about it. One, you can anticipate the road you've already traveled. Two, when it's time to eat the hay, the horses get home no matter how tired they are. Third, you're past the hump. You're in. Each step gets you closer to sitting down and relaxing."
"I tell myself, Okay, you're going to run as far as you can today, then run back, and you have as much time as you want."I tried the run until you are really tired and then turn around method tonight and I ended up running twice as long and far as I normally would have. I also ran through the city instead of the river valley and ended up exploring as I ran. I got pretty close to a state of flow at the pace where I feel I can run forever. I ended up running from my apartment to Nishi Kawaguchi station. The total distance was 6km and I kept up a slow steady pace. It will be a good start to training for the Toda Half Marathon.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Fast Cabbage Vinegar Pickles
1/2 head of cabbage shredded or cut into small pieces (your choice of size)
2tbsp sushi vinegar (or regular rice vinegar mixed with a bit of sugar)
1tsp soy sauce
Put the cabbage into a glass bowl and sprinkle with salt. Scrunch the cabbage over and over until it becomes limp. This should take only a couple of minutes. Rinse the cabbage well, return to bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, water and soy sauce. Pour over the cabbage and serve. You can make this ahead of time and keep on the table or in the fridge.
Top Six Drinks
- Water - the only beverage I enjoy any time, any place- especially during and immediately after a workout or when I first wake up in the morning.
- Lemon water - cool but not cold, in a nice water glass with a stem, drunk while sitting on the couch
- Peppermint tea - when the tea is cold on a hot day
- Hot tea - with a bit of honey - drunk on a cold day when the room is cold and I can warm my hands on the mug while reading a book
- Sangria at Bar ChitChat - drunk while chatting with friends but only if there are no smokers near
- Blue Raspberry Slurpee/slushie - While driving on a hot day with the windows down and music blaring - especially on highway 21 between Fort Saskatchewan and Sherwood Park or highway 15 between Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton
Monday, July 28, 2008
When I got out of the subway station, I noticed that the sky was looking a bit pinky and orangy but didn't seem spectacular. On the way to the dry cleaners is a park/baseball diamond and as I looked across the park, I spotted a great sunset. It literally made my day. I stopped and had a nice pause and snapped this pic with my cell phone.
I continued on only to find the dry cleaners closed because they are closed on Monday; a fact I had forgotten. I was not bothered the slightest bit because I got to see the sunset on the way home.
I don't usually get home just at the right time to see the sunset. The view from our fifth floor apartment also includes aspects smog which detracts from the overall effect. I think there are two good places to view a sunset: one, on ground level and two, from the top of a mountain.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
That cookbook inspired me to pick up a new cookbook that my mother gave me recently. I had only flipped through in and must have seen lots of recipes with ingredients that I cannot buy in Japan because I hadn't picked it up since I first looked through it. I started to look through and found lots of interesting recipes with anecdotes from Premiers and other government types. The cookbook was created to raise money for the 2007 WD Workplace Charitable Campaign by Western Economic Diversification Canada. There are tonnes of recipes that I can make and a lot that remind me of home. I can't wait until winter to try a lot of them out. There is an onion salad that looks good. I don't actually like onions but I think my onion-loving husband and his family will enjoy it. If I can handle the smell, I will make it and post the recipe and pics.
You can find it here via an online. The site is in Japanese. It appears they make a white version as well. I will definitely be checking it out.
Friday, July 25, 2008
1 bunch mizuna (potherb mustard) - cut into 1.5" pieces
1/4 yellow bell pepper - chopped into small pieces
1/4 red bell pepper - chopped into small pieces
1/2 small carrot - grated (optional)
50g cheese (your choice - I like goda)- grated
1-2tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2c Japanese caesar dressing (it tastes nothing like real caesar dressing - it's closer to a ranch/blue cheese mix)
Mix all the cut veggies together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine dressing and balsamic vinegar. Pour dressing mix over veggies, add cheese and toss. Serve.
1 small onion - diced
1 clove garlic - minced
3 slices bacon
1/2 bunch spinach - chopped finely
2tbsp soy sauce
Preaheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Cook the bacon, onion and garlic together in a frying pan until onions are translucent. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat. In a bowl whisk the tofu with a bit of water until it looks like a pudding (it doesn't need to be really smooth). Add soy sauce, basil, oregano and flour and whisk together. Add cheese, mix and stir in veggies. Pour into a lightly oiled glass pie pan and smooth out the top. Bake for about thirty minutes.
Dip tip - you can use tofu instead of sour cream in dips to make them fairly healthy. Just blend it in a blender for a nice smooth texture. I usually make ranch dip or french onion dip (using オニオンコンソメ).
1 pack tofu (firm is best)
2-3tbsp yakiniku sauce (Japanese style Korean BBQ sauce)
Rince off the tofu. If using individual bowls, cut the tofu to size and place in bowls. If you use a large serving bowl, put the whole piece in as is. Top with kimchie and yakiniku sauce. Serve.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
4inches of day old baguette - crusts removed
3 ripe, juicy tomatoes - deseeded and peeled
1/2 japanese cucumber - peeled
1/8 yellow bell pepper
1/8 red bell pepper
1tbsp red wine vinegar
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tsp sea salt
extra fresh ground salt & pepper for seasoning
Throw all veggies and bread in the blender and then blend until smooth. Add everything else and blend for a few seconds to mix. Refrigerate for 8hrs to overnight.
Last night I looked through some old pics from last year and found a real winner. I have always appreciated great t-shirts. I just happened to be born in 1981 so I felt a personal connection to that shirt.
Today I also discovered an interesting cookbook "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day". I discovered the book while checking out Dragon's Kitchen which seems to have loads of good baking recipes. I'm pretty excited for when the weather cools off a bit and I can try some of the recipes. I've asked my sister to send it to me with my birthday stuff so theoretically from September I will be posting beautiful bread on this blog. They will be much smaller because my oven is the size of a tiny microwave.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Today brightened up at dinner time. Below is a pic of Masa's dinner. I played around with spinach linguine, zucchini, bell peppers, butter and Jane's Crazy Mixed Up Salt. I am in love and have discovered my new favorite pasta. The rest of the food includes: yogurt & cucumber salad, green beans with mayo and leftover chicken wings that were baked in Yoshida's BBQ sauce. Overall a good meal.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunshine tea uses sunlight instead of hot water to steep the tea. It takes time to steep but saves energy. You don't need to boil water and if you are making ice tea you don't need to put hot water in the refrigerator.
All you need to do is put a couple tea bags in a lidded glass jar of water and place it out in the sun for a while. When making black tea, I also added some lemon slices. I don't drink black tea anymore so today I'm making peppermint herb tea.
Our next project is a desk. We (most likely I) will refinish the desk so that it matches the rest of our furniture. We found a nice solid wood desk that was pretty worn but has the potential to look great. It should take quite a while as we don't have an electric sander. I will spend an hour here and there on the balcony with some sandpaper and hopefully finish it by mid August.
Friday, July 18, 2008
My current Favorite Classical Pieces
1. Bach - Mass in B Minor
2. Bach (Vanessa Mae Version) - Toccata &Fugue
3. Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata
4. Beethoven - Symphony #9
5. Mozart - Requiem
I have now switched to listening to Vanessa Mae on Youtube.