Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A quiet and cozy little 3 day weekend! : )

So how was every one's 3 day weekend? I know for you some of you in America, with it being Columbus Day and all on Monday (not all states celebrate it, I don't think ?), and even for us in Japan, we also had Monday off, as well. Different holiday for us in Japan though. : ) Anyway catching up with everyone now about what we did during our 3 day weekend. Short answer? Not much just stayed home for the most part unless you count swim club. Anyway let me catch up with you guys real quick anyway. : ) Well, as you know the kids had off Thursday because of the typhoon. It wasn't too major, but it gave us a nice day at home. : ) Friday the kids went to school, business as usual. They were all happy for the weekend to be here though, and so was I. Noah had swimming last Friday, and he also had swimming the following day, on Saturday. Anyway, the pic up above was taken on Saturday. I did my weekend (boring) task of washing the kids uniforms (PE for Branden and both uniforms for Noah) Dried them in the house in the dryer except for Noah's jacket that I let dry outside. And then washed up the kids shoes in the washer and hung them out to dry for all day Saturday, which is what was pictured.
Noah playing in the backyard. And drying some stuff ( I rarely dry towels or blankets in the dryer at home, unless it's raining because they dry really quickly outside anyway, clothes I always do though.) One navy blue thin fleece blanket (Ikea). Branden's Spongebob towel that he uses at home. LOL. The blue and white stripe towel is my towel. Noah's Thomas swim club towel because like I said, he swam the day before on Friday. And it was dried actually before he went to swim club on Saturday, thank goodness. And B's swim towel he uses at swim club, the larger Spongebob towel on the far left.
A few of Branden's friends came to play Saturday, from around 10:00am to lunch time (noon). We meanwhile had lunch and I pulled all the towels into the house from outside, folded them. Packed Noah's swim bag. And at 1pm, this Saturday we headed to swim school, kids wore Crocs to swim club, well because B's sneakers were still hanging outside until after we came home from swim school.
His swimming is getting good. Watching him every week, and where we can actually see the progression, from week to week or month to month. It's amazing.
He's really comfortable in the water. Anyway during all this time, I had my pizza dough rising at home. Yup, I quickly made the dough that morning and let it rest all day. Kneaded it a bit here and there.
As soon as we got home, I preheated the oven to 450F degrees. And it was time to roll out and add the toppings to our pizza. Branden always does the pepperoni and Noah does the mushrooms and they both add the extra veggies to the smaller pizza's.
Noah loves helping, same as Branden does. It's fun for kids to eat something they helped make! : )
We listened to my ipod as we put the pizza together. The four of us, enjoyed our fresh hot pizza.
Now that the weather's been getting cooler, I have been buying a lot more ice cream lately. And this week I bought a big tub of neopolitan ice-cream. Both the boy's wanted all 3 flavors. Noboru just took the strawberry and I just took the chocolate. Hubby quickly took a shower with the boys and then I took a shower by myself. And we went downstairs, popped some popcorn and threw in the Monster's Inc. DVD. Within 30 minutes Noah zonked out and hubby carried him upstairs to his bed. Branden watched it to halfway point before he too, fell asleep. And Noboru carried him to his bed as well. So, we popped another bag of popcorn because it was almost gone by now. And we threw in Obsession. It was a good movie. Noboru liked it. We were both not really tired so, we figured, what the heck. And threw in Passengers. I liked it. Actually all of Saturday was really nice, from the kids playing with friends, swim school, the pizza, and ice-cream and even the movie with the kids and the movies with ourselves. We enjoyed Saturday a lot. : ) Granted no big bells and whistles type Saturday but a nice simple family weekend is my favorite anyhow. Good Saturday, good Saturday. : )
Sunday morning, and I did 1 load of regular clothes and then 1 load of towels. Seen hanging is the 2nd navy blue thin fleece blanket. Yup, we have 2. Noah's Thomas swimming towel because he swam Saturday. Two towelket's (B's is the Stitch and Noah's is the other one, I also packed them up away for next Spring/Summer) and the yellow and white striped towel is hubby's. Yes, I know, I wash towels around here pretty much every single day.
Sunday didn't really do a thing except the 1 load of towels (pictured above) and 1 load of laundry and folded those. Oh yeah, I did bake a batch of homemade cookies from scratch. Some Heath toffee and pecan cookies. I also brought out 6 cookies to Branden's friends since they were playing in the backyard on Sunday. Some good friends of his, Like Saya-chan, Nozomi-chan, the boy who wore the Champion shirt during the Ponyo dance at B's undokai, that kid, and Branden are really good friends, he comes to play with B almost every single day. Branden also played with Genki Saturday and Monday but not on Sunday, maybe he couldn't play that day. Anyway sorry getting off topic here, recalling all the kiddos. : )
Sunday night, we had cutlet. Kids and I had chicken cutlet, and as for the hubby, I made him, tonkatsu. We had steamed veggie and also a salad with goma. Noboru washed both our cars on Sunday afternoon, and after the wash job, he waxed the MPV and gave a clear coating to my little red car. Besides the laundry and the cookies, I basically just lazed around and watched TV all day and evening long. Big fluffy pillow, and a blanket. Sunday night after supper. We set a bath. A really nice hot one. Sunday night, I went first, we usually take turns. Then, hubby and the boys went up and soaped up and then soaked. Good grief the kids came out warm from the bath and with pink cheeks. Slipped on their jammies. The kids went to sleep a little bit after their bath. And Noboru and I stayed up watching something on satellite.
Monday a day off for the kids from school. I had no towels to wash that day, lol. But, I did wash the bedding for B's bed. His Ikea duvet and duvet cover hang nicely outside get nice and dry and fluffy from the sun. His flannel sheets however, I dried in the dryer upstairs. Noah's bedding will be washed Tuesday. And mine and the hubster's will be Wednesday.
Monday Noah playing in the backyard. With no school or Kumon, both kids played their hearts out, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The last, last order came from Gap. Kids don't need a single thing now. I just went and picked up some winter hats for them.
I love coming from Denver. And when I saw this Denver Nuggets long sleeve, I had to get it for Branden. And the other shirt, I liked the colors, the bright yellow numbers on the blue. And 1 hat and a pair of mittens that can be folded down for short gloves. I forget the actual name of those, but you all know what I mean, I hope.
Two hats for Noah and a pair of gloves. And these hats were ordered before I went and found Noah had the hats from B. So, in this case, I just wasn't fast enough sorting Noah's closet and so he ended up with extras. Oh well, I'm not perfect, I make mistakes too. : )
Now, while I share pics of what I make and stuff. I rarely give recipes on here. However, the last time I made niku jaga on my blog (a few weeks ago) I got a lovely comment from someone asking for my niku jaga recipe. I quickly replied and said, sure I'd be glad to give the recipe. And then, I am sorry to say, with the things leading up to the undokai and all the PTA meetings etc. I got busy. Things got crazy and the recipe sadly didn't come. I've felt like an absolutely heel ever since. So, in any case. I didn't forget and I am a girl of my word. So, when I did my weekly shopping this week, I made sure to make niku jaga this week, just so I could get this recipe out to you. So, this is for you lovely commenter. : ) Things you will need. Niku jaga basically means meat and potatoes. And for the most part, everyone I know uses beef. My MIL taught me to make this with beef. But I use her basic recipe but I make mine with pork. So, you can do either way, pork or beef. Also, I said this once before on here but I really feel it's true.... if you ask 100 women in Japan their recipe for niku jaga, you will probably end up with 100 different recipes because this is such a recipe that varies from family to family. But in any case, here's mine that I didn't invent or anything, lol. I got it from my lovely MIL. Okay so what will you need.

1 medium to large-ish size onion
Pork 350grams to whatever you think is best, I'm embarrassed to say, I use about 1000 grams of pork. I wince at even saying this, but it's true. And to be fair, I live with 3 guys though and they are VERY hearty eaters all of them.
Potatoes, use about 7. But again it also depends on the size of the potatoes. if they're smallish size I use about 7, which is what's in this picture.
1 bag of frozen green beans. Though you could very easily substitute for fresh. For me though, I buy my green beans and broccoli frozen for 98 yen a bag and so it's just cheaper for me. But again either way.
And the last ingredients you will need for this recipe are:
Mirin 2 tbs (tablespoons)
sesame oil (just a tiny bit to fry the onions with)
Shoyu/soy sauce 1/4 cup
sugar (I use Japanese sugar versus the granulated kind I bake with) 2tbs
Just a bit of sesame oil in the pan. Warm up the oil and fry up the sliced onion.
When it starts going limp and looks a bit translucent is when you are done with the onions. You could take out the onions and set them aside if you prefer, but how I watched my MIL, is she just pushed her onions aside and got on with it. So, lol, that's what I do too. I leave my onions in the pan. But I do push them to a side.
I cut off any last bits of fat off my thin pork slices. Again though, if someone likes it, and prefers it, that's fine too. Again it's what each person likes. However they wanna do for their own family. Meat choice is totally up to you. There's no set in stone, "you do this or it stinks" type rule. : ) And again if you wanna use thin sliced beef that's fine too. I just use the thin pork, though that's just me. Oh and I also leave my potatoes whole because with boiling pork it needs a longer boil time, and if I diced them they could be mash by the time the pork was done, so to hold onto the shape, I keep mine whole. It's just something I learned the hard way from making this dish throughout the years.
I put the pork in there and I did not add any oil, any sesame oil in there is barely a dot leftover from the onions and that's okay. Because if you use too much sesame it turns out gross. So just pork was added and whatever remnants or dots of oil leftover in the pan from when I did the onions is fine.
I then flip the pork. Again with beef it's okay to just get a pink color and then start the boiling but with pork it really has to be thoroughly cooked. Let it get good and cooked on the other side.
Then I get a fork or chopstick and start seperating each slice of pork, one by one.
And flip a few more times.
At this point, I lower my heat and now my heat is on very low and I add 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
And in it goes.....
Then add the mirin and sugar.
Toss in the potatoes.
And fill up with water. How much water do I add? There's really no clear cut, pulled out of a recipe book type answer. At least not coming from me at least. : ) Again my MIL taught me this and she taught me to add enough water to cover the potatoes just so the potato tops are poking out basically. So, fill with water until it covers about 70% of the potato and you should be fine. Again, this recipe is a family recipe and that must be how my mother in law's mom taught her and her mother before her taught her all the way back down in the family tree. If you've ever heard the phrase, "just eye balling it" When I would watch my MIL cook this, and I lived with her for about 5 month's or so before, so I learned many recipes from her. It never ceased to amaze me, how she could just cook stuff without measuring instruments and just "eye ball" her whole meal and it always came out perfectly. Of course though taste it for yourself and make adjustments however you like. After making this for a while you will aquire your own style and perhaps know how much water you like as well. But I pretty much stick to the covering my potatoes to about 70% of the way measurment. : )
Cover with lid. And again if it were beef in there, it would be done super fast. But with pork it takes time especially if you want it really really tender. I let mine get to a boil and then I bring the heat down to medium and I let mine boil for about 30 minutes. I do check it after 20 minutes though, taste the pork, if it's not tender enough for me, I let it go another 10 minutes. By the time the 30 minutes are over it's usually really really tender. And the smell of this cooking in the house? OMG! Smells so good.
Okay so the 30 minutes of boiling are done. This looks yummy and see how the potatoes look really soft they would have surely been boiled to smithereens if I had cubed them. That's why I leave mine whole. meats tender, everything smells lovely. Almost done...
I add my whole bag of frozen green beans at this point. I know exactly how long it takes for them to be cooked. Just like 2 minutes tops. I still want the bright green color from the green beans. I cover with a lid for 2 minutes.
And then it's done. It's a very basic recipe, but sometimes the most basic understated recipes are really the best ones though, right. : ) This one's a keeper. I make this at least once a month in the Fall and Winter time.
When I serve everyone, everyone gets 1 and a half potatoes. Lots of pork and onions, a little broth. It's perfect for a cool night, everyone usually wants seconds. It's not a fancy shmancy meal, but it's perfect for a busy mom with a husband and kids to feed and who doesn't have a whole lot of time to be slaving away in the kitchen. : ) And while it's boiling, I can go check emails. Make sure my older son is getting his homework done okay. Then go check the niku jaga, then go peek on my littler son and see what's he's up to in his room. What he's creating with his Anpanman lego's. Basically I don't have to be glued to the stove, if you know what I mean for the most part it boils on it's own. And it's all in one pot, so it's an easy clean up. And I appreciate that a whole lot too. Anyway, I hope this helps. : )
Tuesday the 13th (yesterday), Noah would be needing an obento. However so would Branden. Because Branden was "supposed" to have the town undokai this past weekend, however since it was canceled for a few reasons. But because of that, Tuesday was the day the kids would have off. However since the undokai was the one called off, they reinstated school for Tuesday but the lunch ladies had the day off already. So, we were all emailed to send our kid's to shogako on Tuesday with a lunch and a drink. So, Monday evening, even though we had dinner already, I chopped up 2 chicken breasts stuck them on skewers and put some yakitori sauce on them a sprinkling of pepper and wrapped in plastic wrap. Tuesday morning is when I started quickly making 2 obento's. As well as breakfast. Tuesday morning, I was like a fast moving blur in my kitchen.
And here is what they took to school for lunch. Branden's hamburger shaped obento is indeed bigger, well because he is older and bigger, eats more and stuff obviously. : ) So, Branden had 3 bigger yakitori on a bed of white rice, some steam veggie and even a steamed flower shaped carrot. Yup, I have a veggie shaper, lol. A few fries, B also had a string cheese and a homemade health toffee and pecan cookie, some diced apples and 2 jelly's. Noah had the same but on a smaller scale, he had only 2 yakitori and his yakiroi were a bit smaller and a pinch shorter as well, since he's smaller. LOL. Less rice, less veggie but he did get a carrot flower. Diced apples and 2 jelly's. But since his yochien does not allow dessert, no cookie for him. : ( B also took his thermos, with tea and lots of ice. Tonight, Branden has swimming. But other then that, we will probably just have a quiet little night as well. Have a nice night everyone! : )