Monday, April 25, 2011

Blogger Trouble

We got a new camera a few weeks ago and have taken so many great pictures with it. Unfortunately, Blogger will not upload any of my pictures--and I've been trying daily for a week! here are a few recent pictures. For some reason, these are the only ones that would upload properly with Picasa, which is also giving me trouble. Any web photo publishing help would be much appreciated!

Cash at Risturin Park:


The Arcade in Takamatsu. I thought it was so fitting for a mall in Japan to have a giant floating squid on the ceiling next to a mural of an oni (demon):
and traditional Japanese archer:

This picture is messed up but shows my crazy, dramatic not to interrupt her precious Lego time:

Other recent items of business with our fam:
Fox--just got called to 2nd counselor in the Branch Presidency. A testament to the fact that in Japan, you get highly praised for speaking 2 words in Japanese. Fox can speak in full sentences, so he has people tricked into thinking that he is completely fluent. He is completely worried. Please pray for him!

Amy--is diligently following her exercise program (blah) and making veggie burgers--yay for protein! I am loving the wonderful ladies I get to teach every week and am very grateful for my American friends here! In desperate need of a good book, though. I have never been able to re-read books, but it looks like I might have to try.

Cash--is warming up to preschool. As parents, we were asked to make sure we put something in his bento everyday that he doesn't like, so that he can learn to like it. So, this week, we are working on onigiri! We are never allowed to send him to school with anything sugary. Preschool this year is not about academics--it is about independence. So, the kids feed the schools' bunnies, water the plants, brush their teeth after eating, clean their plates, pick up the school, etc. It is really neat.

Cosette-- now gets to go to Mommy and Me Mondays for a few hours at the preschool where Fox teaches. We went today, and it was awesome. All the toys are wood, and they have a half-hour Japanese storytime. The teachers will only speak to Coco in Japanese, which she likes, since she likes to repeat words she hears. She also gets points for trying new food--today's snacktime was kinako mochi (sweet glutinous rice cakes topped with toasted soybean powder) and she went for it! Then, of course, all of the children stand on stools and wash their own bowls and wipe the tables down. 2 year olds! She is also finally handling nursery without her parents! Hooray!

We were very blessed to be able to have Easter dinner with our friends the Jacksons, who had a ham and jelly beans and everything! We hope everyone had a Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

First Day of School!

How cute is he?? Today was Cash's first day of preschool (here, they call it kindergarten). Here he is all decked out in his school unifrom!

With Daddy right before the opening ceremony. Preschool here is from ages 3-6, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 2 pm. Wow. We are only putting him in a few days a week for a while to see how he does. He is the only foreigner, but everyone at the school is so sweet to him and tries to use English with him when they can. This is pretty much total immersion in Japanese for this boy, and he is excited to learn! Go Cashy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cooking in Japan--Snacks

Above is a picture of what snacking in Japan is like. The other day, we were out and about, and I got hangry (hungry/angry--yes, this is a real thing). Fox knows what to do when this happens--feed me quick! So, I told him to run into the store and get me a healthy snack. This is what he brought out: a sandwich filled with strawberry jam, strawberry whip cream, and oh yes, a strawberry candy bar. If that's not a reason to move to Japan, I don't know what is!
Seriously, this place is the land of snacking, and most of it is junk food. The key to Japanese people staying so thin is that all of the snacks are in single serving packages (at full-package prices!). We snack a lot with toddlers, so here are some of our favorite, not-too-junky snacks here:

Snackwiches--what I call that thing in the picture. Oh man, these are good. Fox and I love them, but the kids think they're just okay. My favorites are strawberry and mochi (pounded, sticky sweet rice) and sweet potato and butter(which I can't find here anymore!). They sell ham and egg salad snackwiches, which aren't refrigerated here. That kind of weirds me out.

Senbei--most kids' favorite snack. Rice crackers that can be savory like soy flavor or sweet like caramel. My kids eat these like crazy when I buy them, but I don't buy them often because they are gone in minutes. Such a simple thing to get excited about. I love them, too!

Tamagoyaki--Sweetened omelet wrapped around rice, cucumber, and something else I can't recognize. Yum! I crave this all the time. They go half price at the co-op at 5 pm, so you know where to find me then!

Onigiri--Probably the most popular snack in Japan. This is a triangle of rice filled with something, usually ume (plum) or salmon or tuna, covered in nori. I have to say that it is my goal this year to be able to snack on these. I can still only take nori in small amounts. Coco loves these!

Snack bread--probably unhealthy! We buy chocolate chip breadsticks and the occasional melon pan in a rush. Cash loves choco-pan: white bread rolls filled with chocolate pudding. Yep.

Healthy snacks--apples and peanut butter, carrots and hummus (garbanzo beans can be found here!), yogurt, any fruit, popcorn, smoothies, edamame.

Chips--Fox's favorite snack. He buys Doritos, but sometimes forgets to read what flavor he is buying. The other night he brought home "Corn Crab Cream Gratin" flavor. You can also buy Pringles here. Coco likes shrimp chips, and I love the pizza chips covered in fake cheese and basil here. Good thing they're expensive or I would buy them a lot more!

Playgroup granola bars
--When we have oatmeal here, I make these a lot. They are so good. I add chopped chocolate.

Banana muffins or pumpkin bread. I use kabocha squash for the pumpkin and reduce the sugar a lot.

Inari zushi--Sweeted pouches of fried tofu filled with sushi rice. Yummy!

I like how tea time is kind of observed here. People love to buy a doughnut and a cup of tea and sit and chat. Also, custard and cream puffs are really popular here, as are flavored milks and yogurt drinks.

Yep, I'd say we have the snacks down!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cooking in Japan--Dinner

This list is a work in progress! I love to try new recipes but only do it about once a week. Luckily, most of the recipes I've tried have been good. Ditto on the Japanese cooking--I am still learning to work with a lot of new ingredients while making do without my usual American ingredients. When we moved here, we brought a stash of lentils, black beans, and split peas, so I am leaving those out of this list, since they can't really be found here (although you can order black beans from Costco).
A lot of these recipes have chicken that you can substitute with tofu. Fox usually only eats chicken.

Chicken Pot Pie Crumble
-- This is really good and a great freezer meal! It doesn't call for pie crusts or cream of chicken soup, which you can't get here. Perfect!

Spaghetti, meatballs, and green beans--A popular meal with the kids, and you can get everything here for pretty cheap. The meatballs we get are called "chicken dango", so I think they are a mixture of tempura batter and chicken. The kids love them!

Pizza--Of course! Here is the crust recipe I use, but I add only 2 Tbsp. of oil. We make variations--Barbecue Chicken Pizza (bbq sauce can't be found here, but you can order it or make it from scratch) with chicken, sauce, and green onions. I like Pesto and Roasted Red Pepper pizza--pesto for the sauce, and I roast the red peppers on our fish grill. Red Peppers are cheap here! The kids like ham and pineapple.

Cajun Chicken Pasta
--I brought our cajun seasoning, so this is an easy, quick recipe. I swap out the lemon pepper and tomatoes for sun-dried tomatoes (from my precious stash!--they're hard to find here)or red pepper and green onions. I also have the recipe but keep the noodle amount the same, since I don't like it drenched in sauce like that.

Corn and Potato Chowder
--Super cheap and super yummy! The boys love theirs with bacon on top.

Thai Peanut Saute
--I love this recipe, and I just found the chili sauce here. Yay! I add tofu and make it less spicy. I really like this cold, too.

Orange Chicken
-- If you have some uninterrupted time in the kitchen, this is a really good recipe. It will be inhaled!

Teriyaki Chicken bowls--Super easy recipe: 3/4 cup soy sauce, 3/4 cup sugar, some grated ginger and garlic or garlic powder. I pour it over frozen chicken breasts and bake and baste and serve over hot rice.

Yakiniku--This is basically thin steak sauted with onions and green peppers. About 1/4 each of worcester (what it's called here but worcestershire sauce) and soy sauce dashed on top when cooked and then serve over rice. The thin steak here is already sliced up, so I guess if you buy the thinnest steak and slice it up, it would be equivalent.

Chicken Penne Pesto--Another super quick and yummy chicken pasta dish! I found pesto here...hooray!

Tomato soup and grilled cheese--Allrecipes has good tomato soup recipes. We are big soup people!

Tuna stroganoff: Cash's favorite dish! I use plain yogurt in place of sour cream. I don't have an exact recipe--just cook noodles and make a roux w/ tuna and cheese, if you want. Add garlic powder, chopped celery, spices, etc.

Hamburg and mashed potatoes: Hamburg is a popular Japanese food--like a mini-meatloaf.

Cream stew: This is another version of Japanese curry rice, but it is a cream roux and you throw in whatever vegetables you want. Really yummy!

We also do: potato soup, curry rice, yakisoba, Italian chicken or fish (just marinated in Italian dressing).

I am realizing now that I need to be eating more tofu and fish. I'm still trying to find a good fish without too many bones here. Every grocery store here has a gigantic fish section that is quite overwhelming! Sometimes the fish are still alive, lying on their open packages, and sometimes the crabs are alive and moving. It really freaks me out.
Tofu here is 35 cents a block. Hmmm...any good tofu recipes?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cooking in Japan--Lunch

Okay--lunch is probably the hardest meal of the day for me. We are usually out playing and then come in hungry and ready for a quick meal. So, this is something I definitely need to work on. But, here's what we do so far:


Udon--Okay, first of all, we live in the smallest prefecture in Japan, Kagawa, which is home to almost 700 udon shops. Can you believe that? Our prefecture is famous for its udon, and in our small city of Kanonji there are probably close to 50 shops. One right next door to us, in fact! Not all of the shops are good, though. Generally, the "dollar" shops are gross. A good way to find a good shop is to ask a local--they will tell you where to go. Usually the good ones are hidden away in a back alley and are always crowded.
The kids beg for Udon, the thick white noodles in a mild fish/soy broth served with green onions. We love kitsune udon, which is served with thin slices of sweetened, fried tofu. Yum! If you get it in a shop, you'll pay close to $4, but we buy the fresh noodles from the store and serve at home for around 50 cents a bowl. Udon can be found in American grocery stores sometimes, but you'll be paying almost $4 as well. Here is a good recipe for homemade udon if you are in the U.S.
When Cash was 7 months old, he could eat a whole bowl of udon, and his appetite for it has only grown. He asks for it almost every day!

Yakisoba-- Yakisoba is another good, cheap noodle dish. The noodles are stir-fried with cabbage, onions, and carrots. You can throw in whatever protein source you want, too. I love yakisoba! I have found it in several Utah grocery stores, so I wonder if it is carried in a lot of stores in the U.S.?

Sandwiches--of course! Grilled cheese, tuna, and peanut butter and honey are what we usually have. Peanut butter is expensive here, but you can order it from Costco or find it cheaper at restaurant supply stores.

--This is my favorite lunch ever, but my family is less than enthused about it! Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake that you can put whatever you want in. Most people put octopus, but I leave that out. I just do cabbage, shrimp, and green onions if I am doing it Osaka-style. I love Hiroshima-style, but it takes a while to prepare, as it has a big omelet on the top and yakisoba noodles sandwiched in between. Then, you spread mayo and okonomi sauce on top, and it is super yummy!

Chicken nuggets and fruit--Yep, I give my kids chicken nuggets. Ack! They are pretty cheap here, and the kids love them. A very quick lunch!

Quesadillas--You can easily make your own tortillas or order them from Costco. Japan doesn't really sell real cheese. Instead, it sells bags of white, mixed cheese, which I'm sure is just some form of processed cheese. It's good, though I can't read the ingredients!

Curry rice--This is a popular lunch and dinner. You buy blocks of curry-roux and simmer them with potatoes, carrots, onions, and whatever protein you want. We use chicken or tofu. The curry blocks can be super spicy or super mild. We always buy the apple and honey curry blocks and occasionally throw some diced apple into our curry. Very yummy! You can also mix leftover curry with udon to make curry udon, which is really good! You can find curry roux in any Asian section of a U.S. grocery store.

Macaroni and cheese--You can buy macaroni noodles here, so my genius hubby stowed away 24 packets of the cheese mix when we left (and left my mom with all the noodles from the boxes--sorry, Mom!). We are rationing our precious supply of cheese powder, since macaroni and cheese has to be ordered here and it's almost $3 a box!

Yep, I definitely need to work on my lunches! Yesterday, I had a plain bowl of rice and a cup of cooked edamame. Very rushed. Any good lunch ideas?