cooking

Culinary Inspiration

Posted in baking, cooking, meals, recipe on June 18th, 2012 by Betsy – 1 Comment

Sometimes I need a little creative inspiration so I turn to other blogs for ideas.  I thought you might enjoy some recipes I’ve found recently that are/look yummy and of course can be made gluten free.

Pulled Chicken Barbecue (Eat, Live, Run)

Summer Corn Salad (101 Cookbooks)

Feta Cheese & Roasted Red Pepper Dip (6 in the Morningside)

BLT Corn Salad Wraps (Joy the Baker)

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas (Gluten Free Goddess)

Spiced Tomato Gratin (101 Cookbooks) *I think I would add fresh parmesan to this one

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars (Smitten Kitchen) *Just make sure you use certified gluten-free oats.

Almond Butter Cookies with Chocolate (Gluten Free Girl)

What are you excited about cooking this summer?  What are some of your favorite “go-to” blogs for recipe ideas?

Summer Cooking Ideas

Posted in cooking, recipe on June 22nd, 2011 by Betsy – 4 Comments

Running out of dinner ideas?  Are you in a “cooking funk?”  I feel that way sometimes…that’s when I find myself eating sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts three nights in a row.

Here are some recipe ideas to get your creative juices flowing (and your stomach rumbling):

Roasted Beet Salad

summerbeetsalad

Pesto

summerpesto

Egg Strata with Turkey Sausage

summerstrata

Salmon on the Grill

summersalmon

Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas, Spinach & Pecans

summerchickpeaquinoa

Tomato Pie

summertomatopie

Summer Squash Casserole

summersquash

Peanut Butter Crispy Treats with Nutella

summernutella

Peach & Blueberry Crisp

summercobbler

What are you making in your kitchen this summer?  I would love your ideas to bring some creativity to my kitchen.

Happy Cooking!

101 Cookbooks’ Quinoa with Currants, Dill & Zucchini

Posted in cooking, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetarian on June 15th, 2011 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

quinoabowl

Last weekend I hosted a baby shower for my friend, Meredith, who’s expecting a little boy in August.  My jobs for the shower included making gluten-free blondies and a quinoa salad.

quinoablondies

Last summer I made this quinoa salad for another baby shower, but when I saw the following recipe on Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, I couldn’t resist.  I love random ingredient combinations and this recipe fits that description.  I was a little nervous about the dill in the salad but I really enjoyed it, especially with the feta cheese.

I tripled the recipe below since I was making it for a crowd.  There were plenty of leftovers too!

quinoapresents Quinoa with Currants, Dill and Zucchini (from 101 Cookbooks)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup dried currants (you could use dried cranberries too)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated
  • 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds*
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Feta cheese, crumbled

quinoashreddedzukes

quinoagreenonions

quinoacurrants

*To toast sesame seeds, I put a dry pan on medium heat on the stove top, added the sesame seeds and toasted for about five minutes, tossing a couple of times during the cooking process.  They will brown and start to smell yummy.  That’s how you know they’re ready.  Toasted sesame seeds are quite possibly my new favorite thing!

quinoasesame

For quinoa: Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add most of the green onions, a pinch of salt, and cook until onions soften, a couple of minutes.  Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grains toast a little bit, about 3 minutes.

Add the water, currants, and remaining salt.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, decrease heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked, about 15 minutes.  (Even with tripling the recipe, I didn’t need to cook any longer so you might want to check on it after about 10 minutes.)

While quinoa is cooking, zest the lemon and squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into a small bowl.  When quinoa is cooked, remove pan from heat.  Stir in zucchini, lemon juice and zest, most of the sesame seeds, and most of the dill.  Add salt as needed.

Put quinoa into a serving bowl.  I refrigerated it for awhile before adding the feta cheese.  Add as much feta as you’d like.  (When eating leftovers, I’ve been adding a little more.)  Refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature.

quinoabowl This dish is great if your hosting a shower, summer cookout or any other warm weather event.  It would go perfectly with this grilled chicken.

Enjoy!

PS: My friend, Mary Stuart, made this amazing (GF) popsicles, with cool flavors like mango, watermelon mint, and blueberry lemon.

quinoapopsicles

Spring Pesto

Posted in cooking, recipe, vegetarian on May 11th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

basil final

Last summer I wrote “An Ode to My Food Processor.”  As sad as it was to say goodbye to my mini-food processor, we upgraded to the next level.  This past weekend we broke out the new, bigger, shinier, and improved food processor, to make one of our favorite recipes: pesto.

basil process We were particularly excited to make pesto because we’ve been growing our own basil.  I have many dreams of being a farmer, but sadly our backyard doesn’t have great sunlight.  In attempting to develop our green thumbs, David and I are growing basil, rosemary and thyme in pots.  And boy are they growing.  (I don’t think we can take any credit for it though…mother nature’s pretty amazing.)

basil plant

This was our first time to really dig into the basil and we had enough leaves for a beautiful batch of pesto.  We used it for pesto chicken pasta with tomatoes and chicken.

Cook’s Illustrated’s pesto recipe involves roasting garlic and some other involved steps.  It was late Sunday afternoon and I wanted to make the batch quickly, so I bypassed the complicated parts and just through all the ingredients into the food processor.

basilfinal3

Simple Pesto (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basil leaves tightly packed
  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Salt & pepper

Place all ingredients into the food processor and mix until smooth, or about a minute.  You may need to stop occasionally to scrape down the sides.  It’s also good to taste as you go.  I ended up adding a little more olive oil and parmesan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If you’re making the pesto ahead of time, transfer pesto into a bowl and put saran wrap tightly over the actual pesto so that air can’t get to it, causing it to lose some of its beautiful bright green.

basil proces2

We grilled bone-in chicken breasts on the grill and cut them up.  (You can also cook boneless chicken breasts on the stove top but I found the flavor of the grilled bone in to be far superior.)  Cook pasta according to cooking instructions.  Once cooked, drain immediately and transfer pasta to a bowl.  Add chopped baby tomatoes, chicken, and pesto.  Toss gently until pasta is covered with pesto.  Dig in!

*We used bionaturae gluten-free spaghetti for this dish.  It’s one of my favorite brands.

basil final2

Enjoy!  What do you like to make with your food processor?  We definitely don’t use ours enough and I would like to put it to more use.

Wild Rice Casserole & Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day

Posted in baking, cooking, recipe, vegetarian on May 3rd, 2011 by Betsy – 3 Comments

One of my favorite foodie writers is Heidi Swanson, creator of the blog, 101 Cookbooks.  I love her photographs, recipes and writing style.  I feel like she and I would be friends…if she knew me.   All of Heidi’s recipes are vegetarian, yet filling and full of flavor.  In the past, you’ve seen me make her Brussels sprouts and chunky lentil soup, two of my all time favorites.  One of my most tattered, well-loved, cookbooks on my shelf is Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking.

swansoncover

For the last year, I’ve been following on 101 Cookbooks that Heidi was hard at work on a new cookbook.  Of course the moment it hit shelves, I ordered a copy of Super Natural Every Day: Well Loved Recipes from my Natural Foods Kitchen from Amazon.  Heidi’s personality and flavors are pervasive throughout the book.  The formatting and style is similar to her first cookbook, but she organizes it differently and of course, the recipes are new.  Because she cooks vegetarian, Heidi uses a lot of unique grains and flours, which appeals to the gluten-free girl in me.  While not everything Heidi makes is GF, it’s easy to navigate around those pages and even the recipes I can’t copy verbatim, I find to be inspirational in my own culinary endeavors.

Last week I had my “Fight Club” over for dinner.  This group of girls that I meet with weekly has played a huge role in why I love Atlanta so much.  It’s hard to believe that 18 months ago, I didn’t know any of them!  Since it was a Ladies’ Dinner, I decided this would be the perfect time to break out Super Natural Every Day. I also knew that I wanted to use the grill and didn’t want to be running back and forth between the kitchen and the back yard.  Heidi’s wild rice casserole stuck out to me because all of the prep can be done ahead of time and then it just bakes in the oven, leaving me to do my thing on the grill.

swanson2

The wild rice casserole involves quite a few steps along the way and some chopping but it’s worth the work.  AND, when your guests arrive, you’ll no longer be laboring away, but looking relaxed and ready to sit and chat with friends, not slave over the stove.

This yummy recipe makes rice flavorful and adds depth to a grain that, in its most traditional state, can be so bland.  I didn’t change a thing about the recipe and it turned out really well.  I might add a little more salt, but other than that, it was delicious.  And, even better the next day, and the next day, and the next day, for leftovers!  The cottage cheese, sour cream and gruyere cheese complement the rice but also don’t overpower it.  You don’t feel like you had a sour cream and cheese casserole with rice, if you know what I mean.  While this is a hearty dish, it doesn’t feel ‘wintry.’  In fact it was perfect for a spring night on the porch.

Wild Rice Casserole (from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook)

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice and/or brown rice (I used a combination and I really liked the different textures)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped  fresh thyme

swanscheese

Preheat oven to 350 with oven rack in top third of oven.  Rub a medium to large casserole/baking dish with butter or olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, mustard and ½ teaspoon salt.

In a large skillet over high heat, combine the olive oil and a couple pinches of salt.  Stir in the mushrooms.  Stir them once to coat with olive oil, then let them cook until liquid is released and evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Continue to cook and stir every few minutes, until mushrooms are browned.  Add the onion and cook until translucent and tender, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.  Remove from heat.  Add cooked rice to the skillet and mix.

swansononion

Add the rice mixture to the cottage cheese mixture and stir until well combined.  Put entire mixture into your casserole dish.  Cover with 2/3 of the cheese and cover with aluminum foil.

swansprecook

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove tin foil.  Cook for another 20-30 minutes until cheese looks brown but not burned. Top casserole with remaining cheese and thyme.  Serve warm.

Enjoy!  What’s your favorite Heidi Swanson recipe?

swanson2

Birthday Celebrations

Posted in baking, cooking, recipe, travel on April 1st, 2011 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

The day before the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, I celebrated my (yikes!) 29th birthday.  As I spent the day feeling special, and well loved, we had no idea that in less than 24 hours, natural disaster would occur.  It’s a bit eerie to reflect on my birthday and how wonderful it was and how unaware we were, but I’m thankful we didn’t yet know what was to come.

bday cake2

The morning started in the best way possible, with gluten-free chocolate chip pancakes.  The commissary on base sells Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix so Alden stocked up.  Chip didn’t want any of this nonsense of sugar at breakfast, but Rob, Alden and I enjoyed the yummy pancakes.  At home we use Pamela’s for pancakes, but Bob’s worked really well too.  They were a little thick but Pamela’s can be that way too.  (I prefer my pancakes to be thick and cake like as opposed to thin and crispy.)

Birthday morning hug from Chip

Birthday morning hug from Chip

Rob took Chip to the zoo on my big day so Alden and I had a lovely morning out, shopping at Homes in Yokosuku.  We bought bento boxes, chopsticks, nautical striped shirts (just make sure to buy two sizes bigger) and pencil cases.  Pete accompanied us and did very well on his first shopping spree.  We swung by the naval base on the way home to buy wine, People magazine, M&Ms, and other necessities.

For my birthday dinner, Alden made the most delicious chicken tikka masala.  I’ve mentioned before that chicken tikka masala is one of my favorite meals, but I’ve never made the dish from scratch.  Alden used the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated and even put her fish grill to work for cooking the chicken.  Tikka is actually the perfect Japan dinner because it doesn’t require an oven.

bday tikka2

Alden did all of the work and served us a delicious, yummy dinner.  Perfect.  The only thing that made the evening better was dessert!  Alden’s friend Lauren, who lives on base (translation: has an oven) made me a gluten-free birthday cheesecake.  I had only met Lauren once before but she spent an entire morning making me a cake.  Her kindness meant so much to me and the cake was such an unexpected treat.  Needless to say the cheesecake was divine.  Lauren used pecans in the crust which really added a nice texture and distracted from the often dense, gluten-free baking mix.  She used Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for the filling.  (I’m going to get the actual recipe for the crust and filling from Lauren and will report back to you.)  We enjoyed our cheesecake while watching Top Chef. Perfect!

Pete & my birthday cake

Pete & my birthday cake

And, as if all of the festivities weren’t enough, Rob and Alden gave me a wonderful birthday gift.  My very own ramen bowls, chopsticks, and chopstick holders.  It’s fitting that the bowls are decorated with rabbits as 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit, marking my historic trip to Japan and the birth of my nephew Peter “Rabbit.”  (Get it?)

bday bowl

Thank you, Alden, Rob, Lauren, Pete and Chip for a wonderful birthday and a great trip to Japan.  I wouldn’t take it back for anything.  Seriously.

PS: After the earthquake, tsunami warning and evacuation, Alden and I decided we should be eating cheesecake at every meal.  So true.

Birthday Chicken Tikka Masala (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients:

Chicken Tikka:

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 serrano chile (ribs & seeds removed), fresh minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 20 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

For the chicken, combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl.  Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing so it sticks to the chicken.  Put chicken on a plate and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes.  I a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger.

For the sauce, heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until simmering.  Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add ginger, garlic, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala.  Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cream and return to simmer.  Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from oven’s source of heat) and heat broiler.  (Note: for those in Japan, cook chicken in fish grill.)  Using tongs, dip chicken in yogurt mixture, coating chicken in a thick layer of yogurt, and put on wire rack of oven in a foil rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan.  Broil chicken between 10 and 18 minutes, when the thickets parts are 160 degrees.  Flip chicken halfway through cooking.

Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce.  (Do not simmer chicken in sauce.)  Stir in cilantro, taste, add needed salt, and serve.

A great recipe that is naturally gluten-free, tested by Cook’s Illustrated’s test kitchen, and delicious.  Enjoy!

A Celiac is Coming to Dinner…Yikes!

Posted in advice, cooking on February 1st, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

Did you invite someone over to dinner before realizing they have celiac?  Woops!

Are you terrified by the thought of cooking for someone with a gluten allergy?

Do you avoid having someone over to dinner because they have celiac and you’re not sure how to cook for them?

Don’t worry!  You can do it and it’s not too hard!

One of my favorite easy GF meals: bone in chicken breasts on the grill, salad and green beans

One of my favorite easy GF meals: bone in chicken breasts on the grill, salad and green beans

Here are some tips to help you if you’re cooking for someone with celiac or a gluten allergy:

  1. Ask questions: If you have any questions or confusion, don’t be embarrassed to ask.  Your guest would rather you go ahead and lay it out there than wait until the dinner and realize that he or she can’t eat what you’ve made.
  2. Learn about gluten: What the heck is gluten anyway?  It’s a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  It isn’t carbs.  Potatoes, eggs, cheese, and corn are all gluten-free.   Risotto, rice and quinoa are gluten-free too.  White flour does have gluten, even though it doesn’t specify ‘wheat’ in the name.
  3. Clean up your kitchen: Make sure that cutting boards, pans, knives, etc. are really clean.  This doesn’t mean you need to disinfect your whole house and throw away every bit of gluten in your pantry, but just make sure your utensils are clean, and won’t potentially contaminate your dinner guest.  Also, avoid using foods in your pantry that might be contaminated with gluten, such as peanut butter or mayonnaise, from dipping the knife into the container after it has touched bread.
  4. Hidden glutens: Gluten can be tricky…some brands of chicken broth have gluten (I stick with Pacific brand that states it’s gluten-free.)  Other items with hidden glutens include soy sauce (some brands are gf but most contain wheat), some sausages, oats (unless certified gluten-free), some salad dressings, and even some spices that add wheat (all McCormick spices are gf).
  5. Read Labels: Ingredient labels can be really helpful, especially when they clearly state gluten-free.  Companies that label items gluten-free make it so much easier and simpler.  (Maple Grove Farms of Vermont labels all GF salad dressings GF so I always buy their dressing.)  I tend to avoid labels that list 50 ingredients, with words that I can’t pronounce.  “Modified Food Starch” is another potential gluten disaster.  If the label specifies ‘potato starch,’ then it’s fine.
  6. Keep it simple: You don’t need to create a gluten-free lasagna or bake brownies from scratch.  Meat and vegetables are naturally gluten-free and delicious.  Olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and garlic are all gluten free.  Grilling can be a yummy and simple gluten-free option. (Just make sure you clean off your grill, so there’s no contamination.)  Check out Gluten Freedom’s recipes for some simple and easy meal options.  And for dessert, there’s always Breyer’s or Edy’s ice cream (just no cookie dough or cookies ‘n cream.)
  7. Enlist your guest: Your dinner guest would love to bring something to add to the meal.  Take advantage of this for a side dish or dessert.  We gluten-free eaters are so thankful to be included in a dinner party or food-oriented get together that we want to contribute and make it easier on you.

On behalf of all of us that have special food needs, thank you for hosting us in your home!  We know it’s not easy and we’re thankful for friends and family who happily invite us over.  If you’re really not into cooking, you can always ask us if there’s a restaurant that would be tasty and gluten-free.  We’re happy to offer ideas and don’t want food to get in the way of spending time with people we love.

What questions do you have about entertaining someone who is gluten-free?  Looking for any recipe ideas?

Reflections on Cooking & Dining in Japan, and World Travel as a Celiac

Posted in advice, cooking, Restaurants, travel on January 20th, 2011 by Betsy – 5 Comments

Thankfully, I stayed healthy the entire time I was in Japan.  Pretty impressive for my first trip outside of North America since my diagnosis.  My sister-in-law, Alden went to great lengths to make sure that I had plenty of food options in their home (rice cakes, peanut butter, Chex, M&M’s) and she even researched dining options out.

At work in the kitchen.

At work in the kitchen.

There is something a little sad about no longer being able to be a culinary adventurer when I travel.  I miss being able to say “Sure, why not?” when something is put down in front of me.  Now there is lots of research to be done, questions to be asked, and restraint to be used.  I have never been tempted to eat gluten or break my diet.  I remember how miserable I was when during the height of my illness so no piece of pizza or cookie is worth purposefully feeling crummy.  In Japan, I was pitifully unadventurous in my cuisine, when dining out.  For the most part, I stuck with cucumber rolls, pickled plum and shrimp sushi, with my GF soy sauce.  Nothing fancy but still yummy and at least felt a little “Japanesey”.

Just because I couldn’t partake in all of the sampling fun, didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy watching every plate go by me on the sushi conveyor belt at a restaurant.  And one of the highlights of the trip for me was going to a department store in Tokyo and taking in all of the sights in their version of a ‘food court.’  Did I know what anything was?  Nope.  Were any ingredients listed?  None in English.  Could I try it?  No.  But that’s ok.  Glass case, after glass case, full of beautiful dishes was still a sight worth seeing.

Just a taste of a Tokyo department store food cart.  No Sbarro here.

Just a taste of a Tokyo department store food cart. No Sbarro here.

At home we ate delicious “ovenless” meals, and one night we even made our own version of ramen, using rice noodles that Alden thoughtfully purchased.  We followed Gluten Free Girl’s recipe for Spontaneous Pork Ramen.  We made a few changes, but for the most part stuck to the original recipe.  It was yummy!  I was particularly proud of myself because I navigated the Hayama grocery store, solo, to pick up some of the ingredients for the dinner.  You should have seen me trying to identify pork and bok choy with no English for guidance.

We spent our last two days of the trip in Tokyo, and on our final night, we went out to an amazing dinner at Nobu.  That name might sound familiar to you because this high end restaurant has locations in New York, San Diego, Dallas and other cities.  I brought my card that explained celiac/gluten in Japanese and the folks at Nobu were very receptive.  (They even made a photo copy of the card and brought me back my original copy!)

Nobu

Nobu

At Nobu, we shared some veggie rolls and for my entrée, I ordered the salmon, which was delicious, and one of the most perfectly cooked pieces of meat I’ve ever eaten.  The dish came with a mango salsa rice and the flavors complimented the salmon perfectly and uniquely.  The staff was so attentive, clearly explaining everything to me, my options and what substitutions they would make.

nobu

For dessert, we shared the trio of crème brulees: green tea, brown sugar, and black sesame.  The crowd favorites were brown sugar and black sesame.  Green tea seemed a little too much like spinach.  (Side note: green tea is a very popular flavor in Japan.  Hagen-Daas even makes a green tea ice cream.)

Our dinner at Nobu was the perfect finale to our Japan trip.  A beautiful, delicious meal that kept me healthy.  Success!  While I left Japan without trying many of their staples, I boarded the flight back to the States with a full, and healthy, belly.  You can’t ask for more than that!

Gluten-Free Week at the kitchn

Posted in baking, cooking, reading on January 19th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

It’s ‘Gluten Free Week’ at thekitchn.com.  This website, full of great recipes is focusing this week on all gluten-free recipes and food conversations.  Click here to learn more.

TheKitchn_logo

One of my favorite posts from the week is “Cocoa to Cornstarch: Are these 10 ingredients gluten-free?”

I always want to applaud a mainstream foodie website or magazine for giving attention to gluten-free eaters.

It’s always “Gluten-Free Week” at Gluten Freedom!

Things I Didn’t Know Until I Went to Japan…

Posted in cooking, travel, Uncategorized on January 7th, 2011 by Betsy – 7 Comments

-       Throwing away trash can be stressful.  In Japan, sorting trash is taken very seriously.  You must separate your trash into one of five different categories.  In order to do this properly, you must sometimes take apart the particular piece of trash.  Tea bags were particularly confusing: paper, tea, string, yikes!  If you mess up your trash sorting, the trash man will leave your trash with a nasty note for all of your neighbors to see.  Each day of the week belongs to a different ‘type’ of trash.  But, at least the trash man plays a nice little tune from his truck as he drives down your street.

-       Heated toilets…amazing. Why hasn’t the U.S. thought of that?  Yes, there are heated toilets and lots of special buttons to press.  Think bidet but fancier and more useful.

-       Japan has gorgeous beach towns.  Rob and Alden live in Hayama, and their house is a 5-minute walk from the beach.  Even in December, you can find people fishing, scuba diving, and wind surfing.  The people in the town do have an odd obsession with Hawaii though.

hayama

Hayama

-       Extra-hot skim latte, please. There’s something comforting about enjoying Starbuck’s in a foreign land. (I know that’s terrible, but I have to admit it.)

Even Chip likes trips to Starbucks.

Even Chip likes trips to Starbucks.

-       Emperor Hirohito loved fish.  The man responsible for the bombing of Pearl Harbor was obsessed with classifying fish and sea life.  You can visit his old palace and see some of his own finds.

-       Carp are huge and ugly fish.  I think they’re the squirrels of the sea.

carp

-       Japanese love Patagonia and puffy jackets.  Even though it was a balmy 60 degrees in December, you would have thought we were gearing up for a blizzard based on what people wore.  In Hayama, Patagonia seemed to be the hottest trend.  Shoot.  I left my Patagonia gear at home.

-       Tokyo Traffic=no fun…traffic is traffic and no matter what country you’re in, it still totally stinks.  The scenery might be different, but it’s still traffic.

-       Convenience stores make for a great lunch spot. Sure, we’ve all seen the 7-11 “All-Beef Big Bite” but we don’t typically seriously consider getting a pre-packaged lunch at a convenient store.  Lawson’s, a popular Japanese convenient store (ignore the fact that the name is English), sells delicious lunch options: Rice balls, sushi, and mini Haagen-Das.  

-       I am a giant.  Pretty much everyone and everything in Japan(well, except for the huge Buddha in Kamakura) makes me feel huge.  Even the grocery store shelves only came up to my shoulders.

Daibutsu: At least he was bigger than me.

Daibutsu: At least he was bigger than me.

-       American children have rockstar status: Going anywhere with my adorable nephew, Chip, meant that he would get oohed and aahed over.  The Japanese love him.  (I love him too!)  Japanese people are always prim, proper, and silent, especially when on public transportation, but the minute they see Chip, they light up, smile, and chatter away.

chip 2

Chip's pretty darn cute.

-       Ovens are overrated. Since Rob and Alden live off base, they don’t have an oven, just like their Japanese neighbors.  We ate delicious food during our trip, including noodles, chili, beef stew and other yumminess.  Who needs an oven?  Alden has even learned how to make skillet pizza and lasagna.  Very impressive.

That may look like an oven, but it's not...

That may look like an oven, but it's not...

This is just a glimpse of my amazing trip to Japan.  I have more details to share with you.  Unfortunately on Day 1 of our trip, my camera decided to go on the fritz.  It was heartbreaking.  Fortunately, my mom is a professional photographer, so I’m ‘borrowing’ from her photo collection from the trip.