Saturday, March 12, 2011

Earthquake here 3/11

We are okay! We are WAY south, far from the major devastation. We are under tsunami watch and we do live near the coastline. It is midnight and I hope that I can bring myself to get some sleep at some point tonight.

But I just sat staring at a picture on the news of the tsunami hitting Sendai. In the foreground of the pictures sat calm and order. Nice rows of crops, cars parked in perfect lines in parking lots. Houses in their rightful place with yards and trees around them. And just inches away is the wall of the water bringing chaos and destruction. In just moments all that order and structure would be destroyed.

I can't help but feel that this reflects the internal condition of so many Japanese. On the outside by all appearances, they have it all together. Everything is orderly and calm. But on the inside, so often there is chaos and really broken hearts and shattered spirits rest on the inside, just inches away from that peaceful exterior.

Only God can heal a nation like this, both spiritually and physically. My deepest and loudest prayer is that this kind of tragedy will open up the Japanese spirit. That hearts would break and pour out. That many would stop hiding behind that hard, rigid exterior. That a flood of true emotion and repentance would break forth, and by God's power and grace, he would bring healing and put it all back together again!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicken Egg Stew

So a couple months ago we were at a friends house (Hi Kiko! love ya) and she made this awesome stew. I was totally hooked when I saw her cracking eggs and putting them on top of the stew to cook at the end! SOOOOOO yummy! She said it is an Ethiopian dish she found in a cookbook a long time ago. She doesn't even follow the recipe anymore, so I asked how she makes it and then came home and started working up my own version.

I searched for a dish like this online, but couldn't find anything exactly like it. So I'm just gonna name mine Chicken Egg stew. It comes with the chicken and the egg, although it is also yummy with sausage weiners which is originally the way Kiko makes it. I'm also calling it chicken eggs cause my precious Daddy used to call eggs "chicken eggs". I never realized until much later in life how funny this term is for eggs. Nobody specifies that they are chicken eggs when talking about them, but shouldn't we!? There ARE all kinds of eggs out there! My Dad was a riot! Miss him so much.

Anyhooo, this was our dinner tonight. Are you beginning to wonder if the only thing I cook is stewed type stuff with lots of chopped up veggies??? I have a lot more up my sleeve, but the cold season is coming to an end and I LOVE these types of stews and it is the best way to get lots of veggies in my kids, so I have been cooking this way a lot lately. I hope to add some more variety into sharing what I cook with you soon. Especially more Japanese stuff!

First you will need...

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 Tbsp cooking oil

3 cups celery, chopped

2 onions, diced

2 carrots, diced

salt and pepper

1/2 tsp Paprika

1/2 tsp Parsley

dash of Cayenne pepper (I would add much more if we weren't feeding little ones, so add more if you like spice!)

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/2 tsp Coriander

salt and pepper to taste

2 cubes buillion

2 cans diced tomatoes

Begin chopping the veggies. I started with my onion...

Then I remembered I forgot to put the rice on to cook. This is a tragedy if you realize it too late! So I paused to wash rice...

rinse and repeat, just like shampoo and conditioner!

Pop it in your handy dandy automatic cooker thingy

Push the button and do a little jig to the fun little tune it plays for you

and go back to chopping your veggies!

Next up, carrots! Same as you may have seen before, we want to dice them up and this is how I do it...

Make several slices along the length of the carrot

Roll it to the side and repeat again.

You'll get a grid like cut like this...

Lay her down there, and chop away!

Repeat all the way up the stem and try to run off the little munchkin that always shows up to steal when carrots are being chopped. Today she tells me, "Mommy, I'm a wabbit!" So cute!

now begin chopping the celery while trying to prevent too many carrot pieces from being stolen!

Distract the thief with your stealth tactics! Show her how pretty the base of a stalk of celery looks!

"Ohhhh Mommy, it looks like a rose!" Continue to distract by discussing how awesome God made the things around us.

Employ the thief, who now becomes your new assitant to chop some more veggies!

She's gonna be a professional chef one day! I just know it!

Chop up some garlic! (Facebook won't give me pictures of garlic from my past album at the moment, so now you know I cheat and don't take pictures of the same thing every time, LOL!)

Now giggle with your assitant as she continues to practice her newfound skill of lighting the stove and JUMPING every time the flame shoots out! I LOVE how far back she stands when she is doing this, LOL!

Ask your assitant to pour some oil in the pan and then turn your back for just a second to put something in the sink, then turn back around to "Mommy is this enough?" with six gallons of oil in the pan! Figure out later how to put some of that oil back in the bottle! LOL. Switch to another frying pan and borrow a little of the 6 gallons from the other pan. Then stash the other pan somewhere so it won't show up in all your pictures!

Heat garlic on low heat in the frying pan until it begins to sizzle.

Realize at this moment you didn't get pictures of the chicken being cut into bite size pieces cause you were too busy making sure no little fingers got cut off in the process. So add your chicken that was cut up earlier into the oil and brown it on the outside!

This beautiful collection of goodness should be waiting nearby.

Dump it all in and stir fry till veggies are tender.

Give a little darling a cup of milk! Marvel at how adorable he is! Don't marvel too long and forget about the 6 year old with fire behind you!

Once veggies are tender pour in the two cans of diced tomato. I always fill one can about 1/3 full with water, transfer the water back and forth between the cans to get all the good tomatoey yummines off the sides of the cans, and dump that on in the stew as well.

At this point add the two cubes of boullion and all the spices.

salt and pepper

1/2 tsp Paprika

1/2 tsp Parsley

dash of Cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/2 tsp Coriander

salt and pepper to taste

If you like even more heat, I wouldn't hesitate to add some red pepper flakes or more cayenne and Paprika. Pepper is YUMMY in this too, so don't be shy with the pepper if your family can take the heat.

Have your trusty assitant take a few shots, like one after the spices were added while waiting for it to come to a boil.

and one of you covering it with a lid and turning down the flame for this to simmer for about 10~15 minutes.

Stir occassionaly and then after about 10 minutes taste and adjust the flavor if needed.

Now, with the back of a ladel, press into the stew and create a little bowl for a chicken egg to rest.

crack one chicken egg and slide that little feller into the spot you created for him.

Do the same with an egg for each member being served. Master Kiko had SEVEN eggs in her stew the night we were at her house!

cover that with a lid to cook. I set my timer for 5 minutes cause we like our eggs on the runny side. If you like a firm egg yolk, I'd go with 8 minutes or even more.

Now arrange some rice on plate like this. Create sort of an ant hill type of shape here so the stew and egg can be served in the middle and won't run off!

When the eggs are done, carefully ladel out some stew and the egg into each rice hill!

Mine don't look so pretty, I tried really hard to make it look all professional and the harder I tried the more it seemed to fall apart!

I placed each plate on the table as I finished it, and I turned around to see Kai already in his seat and digging in before I'd served everyone and called them to the table! He LOVES this stuff!

There you have it, Chicken egg stew

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Easy EASY cookies in Japan...

So since I moved to Japan, I have never been able to get my American cookie recipes to work. Something about the flour here. I cheat and do it with American cake mix. My cake recipes don't work with the flour in Japan either, so I keep the cake mixes on hand. I order them a case at a time from the Foreign Buyers Club in Kobe.

So tonight we whipped up a batch. Enjoyed some for ourselves and took some over to the neighbors, who have now started the Japanese thing of exchanging little gifts back and forth. I took her some pie, she brought me some cute little hand towels for the kids, I took her some cake, she brought me some of the most delicious cherry tomatoes I've ever eaten, and tonight I took her some cookies! This is how you start a ministry to your neighbors ;P This back and forth exchange will probably go on now forever. and one of the things I LOVE is that Hana LOVES it! She loves cookie and she loves giving away what she cooked! This is like the beginning of a little ministry for my girl!

My basic recipe for cake mix cookies is 1 bag of yellow cake mix, 2 eggs and 1/3 cup of oil. Then I add whatever my little heart desires at the moment. I chop up a dark chocolate bar (chocolate chips are too expensive here and too hard to find), throw in some nuts, or some dried fruit, etc.

Tonight I wanted to add oatmeal. I was craving oatmeal cookies. So here is how Hana and I made the cookies tonight (sorry no pictures, I figure you have seen a cookie before, lol)

1 box of Yellow cake mix (I used supermoist butter Betty Crocker)

2/3 cup oatmeal

2 eggs

1/2 cup oil (if your mix is NOT the supermoist buttery kind like mine was, you could use butter instead of oil, if your living on the edge!)

Dump all that into a bowl together and mix it up, until it takes on a cookie dough consistency. Then tonight we chopped some walnuts and also added about 1/3 cup of dried cranberries. You could add any kind of dried fruit, nuts or chocolate you want. I bet this would be yummy as white chocolate macadamia nut! Or just white chocolate (I love white chocolate).

So add in the extras, spoon it out onto a cookie sheet (or the little tray that comes with your convection oven in Japan). I cook my cookies on top of these handy little professional baking mats that I discovered a few years ago thanks to my brother the almost professional chef ;P

These cookies will not spread out, so I spoon them on the sheet and then press them down and shape them to the thickness I want before baking.

Bake at 190C for 10-12 minutes. Allow them to cook for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cook. Or before you eat about ten of them hot and gooey and then deliver the rest to the neighbors!!!

THAT's how you make good cookies in Japan!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Sloppy Moes

This is a sloppy joe sandwich. I don't know much about the rest of America, but if you grew up in the south THIS is a classic meal! I remember eating it most at my grandparents' houses. It is yummy!

Well, that was way back in my younger years. I had all but forgotten about sloppy joes until early on in our marriage when I brought home a few packs of the seasoning from America and it became a big hit with first my husband, then his parents, and then his parents' whole church! We made it for lunch one Sunday for everyone in the church and they were all raving about it! Many of them took it home as left overs and came back the next Sunday raving about how awesome it is over rice!!! LOL!

I had no idea how to make it from scratch, and wouldn't have had a clue where to start without those seasoning packets. Then one evening many months ago when I was making my dry curry recipe, I decided to toss in a can of tomato sauce. I tasted the recipe BEFORE adding the curry and it was DEVINE! It was identical to what I remember a sloppy joe tasting like. So my home made version of sloppy joe was born. However, I call it "sloppy moe", because it is a sloppy joe with a whole lot "moe" in it! That is, more vegetables! I try to get veggies in my kiddos anyway I can!!!

Let's get cooking! You will need...

300 grams ground pork or beef (about 1/2 pound) I used pork this evening

2 cloves garlic

1 large onion, diced

2 large carrots, diced

6~8 bell peppers, diced (yields about 2 cups)

2 cans of diced tomato (400 grams or 14 oz)

1 Tbsp oil

1/3 cup worcestershire sauce

2 cubes of buillon

1 Tbsp of soy sauce (not pictured)

salt and pepper to taste

Take your two cloves of garlic and remove the peel

Then finely chop that up and set it aside for later!

Now we are going to dice the bell pepper just like we did in my dry curry recipe.

Slice them right down the middle

Pull out that spine, seeds and the stem on top leaving as much of the bell pepper as possible.

Slice it into long sticks like this, a.k.a. julienne it!

Then rotate it 90 degrees and chop away!

place all that aside in a bowl and lets shed some tears dice an onion.

We've done this several times recently in my recipes. Lop off the top, peel the outside and cut it in half down the middle (root to stem). Lay it on its side, then cut from root to top making narrow slices all the way across the onion leaving the root in tact.

Now rotate that onion 90 degrees and slice again for a nicely diced onion!

place all that diced onion aside in a bowl and lets move on to the carrot.

I like to make several slices down the length of the carrot this way.

Then roll the carrot on it's side so the slices you just made are now laying horizontally. Then cut again in the same away, along the length of the carrot.

This is what you should now have...

Now if we chop across the slices we just made, you magically get some nicely diced carrot.

repeat that process all the way up the stem of both carrots

Now we are ready to begin cooking!

Place a frying pan over low heat with about a Tbsp of oil.

Pour the garlic in and allow it to slowly warm until the oil begins to sizzle.

Now dump in all the ground meat, turn up the heat and brown it

Pour in all the veggies and stir fry on high heat until they are tender.

Dump in both cans of diced tomato, two cubes of boullion, 1/3 cup of worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and let this cook well till all those flavors are married together and harmonizing better that the Gatlin Brothers! (DON'T tell me you don't know who the Gatlin Brothers are!!!!!!! Go look it up - NOW. Look on you tube! For the love of country music, go listen to All the Gold in California!!! If you don't this recipe won't taste very good!)

Taste it and adjust the flavor. Sometimes it may need a little more salt and pepper. Tonight I added about a Tbsp of soy sauce and it added the perfect finishing touch!

Cook this down until much of the liquid is gone and it is sloppy joe consistency (i.e. it'll all stay in the burger, and won't make a runny soggy mess of the bun)

I had some dinner rolls form Costco so tonight we had them like tiny little burgers, I think they call these "sliders" in the states at many restaurants? Did I get that right?

One just looks way too lonely...

THERE, that is much better. Only most of us went back for seconds and thirds. Hana and Kai were just eating the sloppy moe filling alone by the end of the meal.

I threw in a coke to try to really feel like I was back at home. Only things is, Granny always only had Pepsi at her house. And Memaw always only had Dr. Pepper. But my sugarpie went out and bought that coke especially for me, so it was PERFECT, since we are at HOME... in Japan!