Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Good Food. With lots of pics...

Do you like to cook? Some people really love cooking, where as some people not so much. Meanwhile some people are really good at sewing and that's their passion. Some people love to bake. Some people's passions are gardening. And while many of us are good at quite a few things and have a wide range of interests. We usually have 1 thing that is really our "favorite" of the bunch. : ) I'm not crafty and don't want to be. I don't sew (unless you count sewing name labels on my kids things that are necessary/required at school) I don't crochet. And I'm not frankly interested in sewing or crochet at all. Like if the subject were brought up, I'd be bored out of my skull. And that's okay. If we were all the exact same on this earth...it would make for a very boring earth. hahaha. : ) I however really enjoy cooking. I find cooking relaxing and fun. I like it a lot. And hey, that's okay, that's my thing.  And yes I do have other interests too. Like my treadmill, travel, my kids, my family, going to the movies, good TV, organizing my home, cosmetics and skincare, hanging at the beach in summer or wave pools. etc etc. And yes, I have friends who love sewing and crochet and I admire their skills, but it's not something I'm into at all and never will be. Where as many of my friends like cooking and some really dabble in cooking, I do have 1 friend, we've been friends since high school and she hates cooking. She dreads it. And that's okay too. : ) I love cooking all sorts of different types of cuisine. Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Tex-Mex, BBQ, Japanese. American. The list goes on. I love perfecting a dish until I know it's absolutely perfect (for me). Flavor is right on. And I enjoy all the tries/attempts it took to get there. I also love watching my love ones... enjoy the food I made for them. Watching them take their first bite. Watching them chow down and asking for seconds. That to me is like...a mom version of a touch down TRULY! I love that feeling. Probably dorkiest thing I have ever said. But that's okay. : ) Anyways, what have I made for my family lately? Here's some pics. Homemade from scratch refried beans. Boiled a pot of beans all morning. And right before I went to get Noah from school, I refried them real quick and covered them. Turned the stove off and came back in 7 minutes. And finished up the last minutes of supper that night.    

We had taquitos (crunchy rolled corn tortillas with rotisserie chicken breast from Costco, this is so flavorful it's perfect wrapped inside. Topped with sour cream, lettuce and cheese with a side of homemade beans and rice. Bran and Noboru eats 3 taquitos plus side dishes. But Noah and also my limit is usually 2 taquitos each. A very filling dinner.

Fresh fruit is booming and plentiful this season. We have been eating bunches and bunches of grapes every week. Fresh watermelon and fresh cantaloupe weekly too. For breakfast, lunches and dinners. We just honestly add fruit for every meal. My area of Japan has tons of fruit and melons especially cantaloupe and watermelons are super cheap... since I live right at the edge of Chiba and Ibaraki. And Ibaraki melons are well known for being delicious sweet and plentiful. For where we live they are super cheap. : ) 
Another night, I made cheesy gratin potatoes baked in the oven of course. These are always a hit around here. And I made fried chicken and we had steamed veggie and we also had salad as well.

I bought and snapped this pic... during Golden Week. But, my breakfasts are the same exactly....day in and day out. I have yogurt 5 days a week. That's just my morning thing. And I have toasted croissant with peanut butter and a sliced banana on top. Besia sells a croissant 4 pack for 98 yen or 99 yen. That 4 pack lasts me 4 days. And usually on my 5th day I'll have a slice of bakery bread toasted with peanut butter and banana. But yep, my breakfasts are cheap and healthy. I like knowing exactly how many calories are in my weekday breakfasts. Weekends are for nice leisurely indulgent breakfasts but weekday breakfasts are fast and basic. : ) This flavor of Greek yogurt is coconut and pineapple, it's really good, tastes very tropical. : )

Homemade pizza night happened one Friday.

The dough is resting for the day. : )

Baked in a 450F degree oven... the crust is so crisp and delicious. Yummers. : ) 

We had salad and pizza for dinner that night. Before we kicked off a family movie night at home.

Homemade chicken and cheese enchiladas. Right about to go into the oven. I make them in the day right after lunch. Make the Spanish rice in the day too (right after lunch) and leave covered on the stove. And the enchiladas I wrap in tin foil and place in the fridge. As soon as the kids get home. I whack this into the oven for 30 minutes. Since the kids have homework to do right when they get home and Bran showers usually right after he gets home. By the time they get done with all that. Dinners totally done. 

Fresh out of the oven that night.

Ready to top with some sour cream and chopped up lettuce.

This, I showed already. I had this pot roast in the oven slow cooking all day so it would be "fall apart" tender. Made a huge amount of mashed potatoes. made gravy and green beans. Branden loves pot roast, so I knew this would be the perfect...welcome home...after coming back from Kyoto. : ) 

Branden had seconds, Noah had a second serving. Noboru had 3 servings. These guys love pot roast. : ) We had just enough for about 4 sandwiches the next day. : )

This was such a killer sandwich. In fact I should make pot roast next week, just so we can all enjoy some sandwiches the next day. : ) 

Chicken parmesan happened too. And love how leftover hot dog buns become the perfect garlic breadsticks. So soft and perfect for garlic bread. If you're in Japan, you may want to try that. : )

This homemade pasta from Costco, I was showing the package to you in this pic.

This right here reminds me... of my family Sunday dinners growing up. Reminds me of Christmas time too... granted we never had chicken parmesan for Christmas dinner that was more a regular night... type of dinner. But my aunties and my mom always made homemade manicotti for Christmas. Christmas dinner to me... equals homemade from scratch Italian dinner.  So yeah this pasta....I am so glad we can get this pasta at Costco in Japan. This meal is so filling. I usually make this on a Friday or Saturday. In fact I am making this very meal... this Saturday. Noah usually on Saturday's is riding bikes or his RipStik outside with his friends. And by 4pm you can surely smell the many breaded... chicken parmesan baking in our oven on top of some sauce. You can smell it from outside. All the kids from our neighborhood know...delicious yummy food smells, dinner smells or cookies or brownies...just something is always baking or cooking at our house. By the time Noah gets in by 4:30-5pm at the latest, he is so ready to eat. : )

This night. American style fried pork chops, butter fettucini noodles, broccoli and we had salad too. Again, I like my kids to come home. They come home from school always... absolutely famished/starved. Even though I pack them a very filling lunch daily. And to see them tuck right into a nice big meal like this right away. Just makes me so happy. And we had fresh sliced and cubed watermelon for dessert this night.

A nice hearty beef stew. I had defrosted it in the fridge the night before. That morning, I diced up the beef in cubes and skillet fried and then boiled that beef for the entire day, while cleaning my house. Around 2pm-ish after the beef was indeed fall apart tender. I added the mushrooms and onions and potatoes and boiled for an extra 45 minutes. I then turned off the pot and added the roux. And at 3pm, it was ready, but Noah didn't get out of school until 3:45pm. The rice had beeped it was ready. And I went and picked up Noah from school. Bran has been riding his bike nearly every single day since starting the 9th grade. So he now rides his bike home. As soon as both kids were home and hubby was home, I very quickly reheated up the stew it took barely 5 minutes and during those 5 minutes I added a generous handful of frozen green beans to the top of the stew. Plated up everyone some hearty beef stew. We had another big dish of fresh seedless grapes in the center of the table for after stew...so everyone could munch on after our dinner. It was a darn good dinner that night. : ) 
Chopping up some peanut butter cups. You know what that means. : )

Peanut butter icecream happened one weekend. So super good and what a fun way to celebrate the weekend being here! With some peanut butter cup icecream.

Fresh corn on the cob is also so plentiful right now. Every night that we need a separate veggie...for example...when we have like fried porkchop, pulled pork or karaage or grilled chiken we have fresh corn as our veggie now. Because it's just in season right now and will be... all summer long. Again for our area of Japan we live in, fresh corn is super cheap too and the quality is so good, the corn is almost sweet.  Hard to explain but it's SO good. Pictured here were 4 ears of corn. I was peeling/shucking 1... when I remembered to take a pic. 

Also we also go through quite a bit of frozen veggies too. This pictured here...this amount.. will just last 1 full week. Why? Because we frankly eat lots of veggies. Skillet fried potatoes with corn niblets are so good. Ever had them? Yum. : ) Zucchini and corn niblets skillet fried in a dab of butter (calavacitas) ever had these? These are also so good and if you have a fresh chili to add to your zucchini and corn dish all the better. For weekend lunches or whatnot we go through tons of veggies around our house. : ) Always something cooking around here. : )  Anyway that's what's been cooking here at our house lately. : ) 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Weekend family fun! Going to the movies to see Zootopia at Ikspiari! Kua'Aina for dinner and bringing home a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts...

Saturday, May 21st, the fam-bam and I went to Ikspiari to go and see Zootopia (in English) and to go out to dinner at Kua'Aina after the movies. We bought 4 sodas (1 for each of us, pictured) and 2 large popcorn's (1 for the kids and 1 for us to share) I also brought 3 Snickers bars (1 for each of the boys and 1 for Noboru), 1 chocolate covered raisins (for me) and 2 Dars chocolate mint boxes/packs (1 for the kids to share and 1 for Noboru and I too.) We still had chocolate unopened in my bag after the movie, we didn't need that much. Plus considering we had dinner afterwards and the popcorn's...but yeah glad to have brought more... than what was needed than to.... not to have brought enough. : ) Phew. : ) 

Zootopia. In 2D, we don't mind if it's in 2D or 3D just... as long as it's in English. : ) 

Waiting for the movie to start. This movie theater was pretty packed with folks wanting to see it in English versus the Japanese dub. We were early, but yep the movie theater was packed after about 5 minutes after I snapped this picture.

We went to Kua'Aina after the movie. The movie was *so* good by the way. Everyone picked a cheeseburger combo with fries and sodas. And I picked my favorite teriyaki chicken sandwich with onion rings and a guava juice. What an awesome delicious dinner! 

Apparently Krispy Kreme is celebrating their 10 year Japaniversary! Yep 10 years since they've been in Japan! 

We brought home a dozen donuts. We each picked 3 each. I picked 2 glazed and 1 with chocolate and rainbow sprinkles. I always think the new flavors look delicious, but nothing to me...ever beats the original regular ones. So 2 glaze for me and 1 chocolate with sprinkles. We each had 1 donut that night for dessert and we each enjoyed our others the next day! Yum! All in all, what a fabulous weekend that was. Going to the movies to see Zootopia, Kua'Aina afterwards and to come home with a box of donuts to boot! Couldn't ask for a better weekend than that! : ) 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Branden's 9th grade class trip to Kyoto...

Branden on his way to Kyoto! It was his 3 day trip. In Japan 9th graders take a 3 day trip. Most every junior high school in Chiba prefecture sends their 9th graders to Kyoto and Nara. Nara is just a day trip but they sleep in Kyoto for the 2 nights. Noboru meanwhile grew up in the big bustling city of Osaka, so his city school took their 9th graders to Nagano (countryside, very gorgeous rural parts of Japan with beautiful mountains) and they loved their trip because they were seeing something different than what they were used to seeing coming from the city of Osaka. And vice versa. Branden's class is from rural Japan, so they enjoyed spending their 3 day trip in the big city of Kyoto. And plus there is so much to see there. Many touristy areas. So in a nutshell, either country mouse goes and plays city mouse for 3 days or city mouse goes and plays country mouse for 3 days. Just depends which part of Japan you live. : ) 

Visiting the deer in Nara!

Branden said he and his classmates said this reminded them of the movie Spirited Away. 
This is a funny story! A month ago, there was a note saying how the school would be sending all the kids suitcases to Kyoto by Kuroneko...for those of you outside of Japan a better explanation would be... think along the lines of UPS or FedEx. That way the kids could be more hands-free and be able to sight-see without having to lug their suitcases all the way to Kyoto and back. Noboru jokingly said..."the kids today are so pampered, in my day we lugged all our suitcases to and from Nagano by ourselves... it would be unheard of in those days to ask anyone to ship/mail them!" Hahaha. That cracked me up! : ) And look at this pic, how Kuroneko delivered it back to us. All nicely wrapped by Kuroneko in plastic...so Branden's suitcase would not get dirty or get any rain drops on it. Hahaha. : ) Kids from today ne~ It's a different generation now days from Noboru's days.  
Some of the souvenirs Branden brought back! : ) 

Branden bought me this cosmetics bag. He brought back everyone in our family a gift. One for Noboru and also one for Noah too. : ) 

As a 9th grader, final year in middle school/ JHS.  All the kids bought these. You can read what it's for on the paper in English. One says for "passing examination" and the other says for "successful study" Awww. : ) Branden being in his final year at JHS has been studying tons and he had a big exam the other day and he told me that he kept these in his pocket during his exam for luck! : ) 

He bought this for Noah. He told Noah, "you're too young and don't need to pass any entrance exams, so I didn't buy you the charms I bought for myself. But I didn't want to leave you out either so I bought you this one, it says "victory"." I imagine this is what most tourists....foreigners purchase. Because it's a safe charm to buy (not many American tourists would need a "hope to get into high school charm" since we don't have that system") I thought it was very thoughtful..and it was cute he bought this for Noah. Because as he said....Noah being a 5th grader doesn't have a huge exam to take. So this was the "safest" charm to buy for Noah. Noah was so happy to just receive anything. And he did love the colors of it...a beautiful purple and green on this victory charm. And it's now hanging on Noah's randoseru (elementary school backpack) They are both good brothers to one another. : )

Cheesecake for us all to share. The senbei (rice crackers) up above were so hot. Hotter than jalapenos even! The hottest curry senbei we have ever eaten hands down. We ate them and they were so super tasty... but geeze louise were they hot! : )  So good... but beware... super hot. : ) 

Noboru's gift. Bran bought him green tea cookies. Noboru likes green tea. 

Various other things, inside the tiny brown paper bag is a necklace he had engraved with something written on it. All of his classmates had bought engraved necklaces this trip.

Noboru enjoyed these green tea cookies so much. All in all... Branden had a fantastic time. He said the kids all barely slept. They just talked and talked and had such fun. He took so many pictures. He took so many videos. He had just the best *best* time. : ) 
Noah and I picked up Branden the day he arrived. He arrived around 4:45pm that Tuesday. He was happy...happy he went... but also happy to be home too... he told us all his stories. And I also knew he would be missing "mom's home cooking!" So I made sure to make one of his favorite meals Tuesday. I made a huge pot roast and it was fall apart tender and so juicy and flavorful. I made a bunch of mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans. The 4 of us ate supper. Branden had 2nds! He was definitely hungry. : ) Which made me happy.

He ate right away and then took a very long hot shower. Though they did shower obviously during their trip nightly at their hotel. But after his shower... he put on his pajamas and he went to sleep. He crashed right away... he was so exhausted. The kid... went to sleep by 6:50pm. And he didn't have school the next day. The 9th graders had the next day off. And he slept until 9:30am! Noah meanwhile had school. But Bran woke up, he came down. he ate breakfast. He brushed his teeth. I offered him McD's or a pot roast sandwich for lunch, we didn't eat it at that time we just barely finished breakfast... but I wanted to plan....if we were gonna stay home or if I should get ready to go out. He picked a pot roast sandwich. I picked that too. 

I packed Noah to school that day with a delicious tender pot roast sandwich on bakery bread, lettuce, tomato and provolone cheese too and some fresh fruit. So while Noah had a pot roast sandwich at school. With some delicious fresh fruit for lunch. Branden and I did have lunch around noon. And we had pot roast sandwiches and some chips. After lunch his friends Line messaged him and Bran went over to Genki's house. Where he and 2 other friends just hung out (4 in total). He came back home around 3pm and he and I went and picked up Noah from school. : )  Anyway that is Branden's 9th grade trip in a nutshell. : )