Strawberries

It’s strawberry season in Japan! The markets in Tokyo are currently filled with perfectly ripened and packaged strawberries. They look so good, that you almost do not want to eat them. Haa – not a chance!

I made a quick smoothie with a few strawberries, oranges, banana, and plain yogurt. Yum…

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Rustic Pizza

What do you do when you feel like having pizza for dinner, but when you look in the pantry – you do not have all the necessary ingredients to make pizza? “Order in!” is what several people would probably say. I decided to improvise and make do with the ingredients we had available. This turned into a great way to use up a few remaining vegetables we had sitting around.

We did not have yeast at home, so I decided to make the crust from a breadstick recipe. This gave the crust a thin, rustic texture which we enjoyed. Our oven in Tokyo is extremely small, so the recipe is tailored to fit a 9×13 inch pan.

Be creative with this recipe! Use the recipe as a general guide, but I recommend opening your refrigerator and using what you have on-hand for ingredients.

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Rosemary and Cornmeal Pizza Crust (1/2 recipe – perfect for a 9×13 pan)

¾ cup all purpose flour

¼ cup corn meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (or ½ tablespoon dried rosemary or your favorite seasoning)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons cold butter

¼ cup milk

1 egg white

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F
  2. Combine the flour, corn meal, baking powder, sugar, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
  3. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Stir in milk and egg whites to flour mixture.
  5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute.
  6. Roll out into the size of your sheet pan(s).
  7. Pre-bake the crust for 10-15 minutes or until the edges of the crust just begin to turn golden brown.

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Pizza Topping

2 teaspoons olive oil, separated

½ large onion, sliced

2 small Japanese eggplant, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 asparagus spears, chopped

2 thin pieces of pancetta, chopped (omit for vegetarian version)

1 can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Salt

Pepper

Grated cheese

  1. Pour 1 teaspoon olive oil into a pan over medium heat.
  2. Slice the onion and place into the pan.
  3. Cook the onions until they are soft and golden brown.
  4. Remove the onions from the pan.
  5. Pour 1 teaspoon olive oil into the pan over medium heat.
  6. Chop the eggplant, garlic, and asparagus.
  7. Cook the vegetables in the oil just until they begin to soften.
  8. Remove the vegetables from the pan.
  9. Chop the pancetta and place into the pan which was used to cook the vegetables.
  10. Cook until golden brown.
  11. Pour the tomato sauce into the pan that which was used to cook the vegetables.
  12. Add the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes.
  14. After the crust has baked, pour the tomato sauce over the crust.
  15. Evenly spread the sauce over the crust.
  16. Sprinkle the cooked onions, vegetables, and pancetta over the sauce.
  17. Sprinkle grated cheese over the pizza.
  18. Return the pizza to the oven for 10 minutes.

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Rosemary and Cornmeal Pizza Crust (full crust recipe)

1 ½ cup flour

½ cup corn meal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

4 tablespoons cold butter

½ cup milk

2 egg whites

The recipe for the crust was inspired by a recipe for Rosemary and Polenta Bread Sticks.

Seijin no hi

Seijin no hi (Coming of Age Day) is celebrated as a national holiday on the 2nd Monday in January. The celebration is held for young adults as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. In Japan, the age of adulthood is 20 years old.

Shawn and I were told it was common for those turning 20 during the year to visit the shrine and dress in traditional Japanese attire. We decided to go to the Meiji Shrine to observe the festivities. There were a number of events taking place at the shrine – one of which, we believe was a wedding.

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Our Japanese teacher informed us the hats worn by the people are called “eboshi”. Eboshi are worn by Shinto priests or lay persons visiting the shrine.

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Remember Summer…?

I know it’s been extremely cold in the upper-midwest for the past several days, so I wanted to remind everyone what summer looks like! Last summer, we visited the Munsinger Clemens Gardens in St. Cloud. Hopefully these photos will warm you up a little bit!

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Snow Day!

Once again, I am behind on posting photos. Before I share photos we have taken over the past few weeks, I wanted to share a few images I took TODAY!

It snowed all morning in Tokyo…

As kids were walking to school, they would scoop the snow from the cars to make snowballs. Notice how everyone has a snowball?

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A few pictures from our garden…

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Super Tasty Chili

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In Minnesota, chili was always the perfect dish to make on a cold and snowy Sunday afternoon. While we don’t have snow in Tokyo, the temperature is still cold enough to make you crave some home-cooked chili!

In order to make chili while living in Tokyo, you have to be prepared to go on a little scavenger hunt. Finding the correct (and affordable) ingredients is not impossible! You just need to know where to shop for the ingredients.

Yamaya is an excellent store to purchase imported food and wine at very reasonable prices. If you can plan ahead, The Flying Pig is another great resource to order familiar foods at good prices.

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Chili

2 pounds ground meat (ground beef, chicken, or turkey work well – use your favorite)

1 ½ cups onions, diced

9 garlic cloves, chopped

5 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 4-ounce can green chilies, chopped

1 14 ½ ounce can low-sodium chicken broth

1 12-ounce bottle (or can) beer

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

4 16-ounce cans beans, rinsed (kidney, garbanzo, black beans all work well – use your favorite)

Directions:

  • Place the ground meat in a large pan and cook over medium heat. Break up the meat with a spatula while it is cooking.
  • Drain the excess grease from the pan.
  • Add the chopped onions and garlic to the meat. Cook for 10 minutes or until the onions begin to soften.
  • Add the chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, green chilies, chicken broth, beer, and tomato paste. Allow the mixture to come to an even temperature – approximately 20 minutes.
  • Place the beans in a colander and wash off the liquid from the can.
  • Add the beans to the pan and cook for approximately 1 hour over a low heat.
  • Stir occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking to the pan.
  • Add more red pepper flakes or chopped jalapenos depending on how spicy you like to make your chili.
  • As you can see from the photo above, this recipe makes a generous amount of chili! The chili freezes really well and makes a perfect meal when you don’t feel like making dinner during the week.

This recipe was inspired by the Halftime Chili recipe I found several years ago on Epicurious.com. I have adapted the recipe over the years to fit our tastes.

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New Year’s Day – Part 2

In addition to visiting the Meiji Shrine on New Year’s Day, we also stopped by a temple in our neighborhood. This was a peaceful contrast when compared with the popularity of the Meiji Shrine.

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Once it was dark, the lanterns took on a completely different appearance. The hand-painted details and colors really stood out.

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