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Reflection on 2012, welcome 2013

17 Jan

Dear reader – it is hard to believe 2012 swept through and out so quickly. The latter half of the year sped up so fast, especially once Superstorm Sandy blew through the metro-NY area, ravaging the local area. Then the holidays commenced, after a salvaged Halloween, with Thanksgiving starting the year end holiday chaos.
My role as co-class mother at Japanese school certainly did not help with my time allocation and management…

Yet, for a brief moment in 2012, time stood still as the report of the horrific Sandy Hook school shootings came to me, as I was rushing from work to the company holiday gathering.

Uncontrollable tears welled. My heart ached as the news reporters, at time, crying themselves, spoke of the innocent lives lost.

Twenty innocent, hopeful, inspirational spirits were viciously taken – with their six teachers trying to shield and protect them. A mother, whose love of a son couldn’t possibly foresee the horrific and tragic outcome of her hobby collection… As much as I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking of these innocent children – the ages of my oldest daughter, being mowed down by the violent and senseless act of a troubled man. I wanted to scream, “what have you done?”….knowing millions of voices would be piercing the same thick blanket of pain, disbelief and horror in the same manner, with no end result.

I do not pretend to understand the indescribable pain and suffering these families and friends are feeling. I do not know what it is like to bury a child, and I pray that I never will.

Perhaps those of us left behind in this world are given an assignment, a legacy, to inject hope, positivity, humanity, humility into a society rapidly losing ground to a world focussed on instant and material self-gratification, the numbing of our emotions, our sensibilities?

I have seen a beloved friend grieve the loss of her soulmate on 9/11. She grieved for many years, and although she has found happiness, I know that day will always remain in her heart. This incident brought me back to the emotions brought upon watching my girlfriend’s heart broken journey. My heart goes out to those affected…

May 2013 bring positive healing to a wounded and grieving world.

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Dinner splurge

16 Oct

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On occasion, I’ll sneak out to the local Japanese food store, Shin Nara Foods, and pick up a chirashi sushi which can be conveniently split into two generous servings for the girls.

Their favorite is ikura or salmon roe – little orange bubbles of flavor popping in their mouths.

Comfort is a bowl away

16 Oct

After watching a mouth-watering episode of their favorite cartoon, Anpanman featuring a character flying in a ramen-bowl, the girls asked in unison, “We want men-men!”

Didn’t have ramen, but a bowl of udon in soup, topped with turkey soboro, blanched hakusai or Napa cabbage, sugar snap peas, blanched carrots, narutomaki and cooked egg will just have to do!!

A weekend classic for the girls of the household…

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Fall bentos, school year 2013!

16 Oct

I do not know where the last few months have gone. Between the dizzying daily routine of work, followed by the relentless wheel of routines, I found myself shocked to be mired in the middle of October.

I have been packing bentos for both girls these days – with little time for decompressing or downtime. A few evening were spent on the laptop at the kitchen table, battling the desperate attempts of my cat Spencer, to settle down in my lap as I feverishly tapped away at keyboards and calculators.

This year, both girls are at the same school, and often have an opportunity to eat together.

The little one loves onigiri, while the older one prefers raw vegetable slices and sticks.

Edamame is a definite hit with the older one – the empty pods in a neat pile, while the little one sends her beans intact.

Quinoa has joined the repertoire – I gently wash, and simmer the grains in a stock – vegetable, chicken, dashi, or in some cases, roasted red pepper and tomato soup!

Raw cauliflower and turnip slices, pickled in soy sauce, rice vinegar and ginger are often requested.

A dear friend’s husband caught porgy – and I found creative ways to cook the delicious fish – grilled, baked, porgy fish cakes, porgy omelette, porgy chowder… The porgy fish cakes do make appearances in the girls’ bento.

Grilled chicken wingettes and drumettes are always a hit, as well as turkey meatballies – the poultry always sourced from our beloved Makinajian Farms. I have packed them simply seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice, while other times, with a sweet-savory ketchup/HP sauce/Worcestershire sauce glaze with the meatballs, or a teriyaki glaze for the wingettes.

Below are just a few samplings of recent bentos… And more to come!

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(porgy fish cakes!) … and I technical glitch where I can’t seem to figure out how to rotate this photo!!

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A new week starts!

21 Sep

The little one started school on Monday, and happily marched into her classroom with her blue backpack. A side note for the backpack – it hung on the back of her door this last year as inspiration for her to potty train… And it worked!

The new preschoolers were given a modified school period from 9:00 – 11:00 the first week – so unfortunately for her, there was no bento box to be unpacked at school. When A found out about this, she was disappointed, but I made sure to have a smaller bento for her to eat in my car en route to daycare in the afternoon – I had modified my work hours for this first week.

This week’s bento pictures are those of H’s – next week, the little one will also have a bento as well!

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Monday included:
Boiled egg in heart shape
Bunashimeji, Edamame, carrots and kohlrabi simmered in dashi
Roasted beet hearts
Onigiri with okaka filling
Grape (more of a space saver)

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Tuesday included:
Grilled chicken drumette and wingette
Agekama cut into a cat shape
Onigiri with grilled, flaked, salmon
Edamame in the pods – I don’t know if you are aware of the difficulty of finding domestically grown, organic edamame? Fortunately, Makinajian Farm has been selling baskets of these healthy treats, and I’ve been buying them by the pound, blanching and squirreling them away in the freezer, as well as serving them as a healthy snack for the family. Must try to capture a bit of this goodness to enjoy as long as possible!

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Wednesday included:
Boiled egg in star shape – I included a small packet of kosher salt, folded in an aluminum foil envelope for H to sprinkle over her egg.
Celery sticks
Rice noodles, tossed with a ground turkey soboro sauce. The turkey soboro was made by sauteeing a pound of turkey with a little canola oil until crumbly, and then I add a cup of dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin, a clove of minced garlic, and grated ginger – a peeled, fresh, ginger piece about the size of a dime. I cook this mixture over low heat, and after the liquid boils away, I remove from heat. I reconstitute Thai rice noodles (a half package of noodles from the Thai Kitchen packet – about 4 ozs, dry) in hot water until tender. In a separate pot, I heat a teaspoon of sesame oil, add two heaping tablespoons of the ground turkey mixture, and toss the noodles with the mixture until the noodles are well coated. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and toss well with the noodles.
Grilled salmon fillet

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Grilled turkey drumette and wingette – soy sauce, pepper and rice vinegar seasoning

Whole wheat pasta, tossed with left over olive tapenade, marinara sauce with a dash of cracked fresh black pepper

Sliced green pepper slices from the garden – they somehow survived my negligence this summer…

Black seedless grapes

Bunch of Matt’s wild cherry tomatoes that regenerated on their own in the garden…

Next week will be the little one’s debut for bentos!

First Day, back to school!

5 Sep

The summer came, and left. Fortunate or unfortunate… Work kept me incredibly busy, not a moment to relax and to enjoy the warm sun…

Today was H’s first day of Kindergarten. I included her favorites for her back to school lunch:

Sautéed, scored, mini dogs
Edamame, blanched
Roasted beets in heart shapes
Savory tamagoyaki with shirasu center
Whole wheat spirals with a turkey-tomato-olive tapenade sauce
Black seedless grapes

H enjoyed this summer, attending summer camp – her school rents the campus during the non- summer months. She slipped right onto the bus, and came home, excitedly telling me about her new pencil case.

Can’t believe how quickly time flies….!

The little one starts pre-K at the same campus next Monday. It will be double time for mama, come the 10th!

I hope to gradually catch up with my summer entries… Although one look at my wild, weedful vegetable garden makes me think otherwise…

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Last Japanese bento for May

5 Jun

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Today’s lunch for Japanese school included my daughter’s favorites.

Grilled chicken wing and drumette
Carrot sticks and red pepper slices
Blueberries
Whole wheat pasta spirals tossed in marinara sauce with sliced grilled sausage and sautéed onion slices.

I broke away from my usual onigiri routine – I confess – I was exhausted, and hadn’t gotten my wits together to make rice after our strawberry picking trip.