Tag Archives: New York

Strawberries here, strawberries there!

5 Jun


My girls were excited to see that the strawberry plant in our garden had a ruby colored fruit. My older one excitedly showed me the ripe berry.

We carefully brought it into the house, rinsed it, and she and her sister took tiny bites together, savoring the sunny sweetness.

The best part?

The next day was an excursion to Golden Earthworm Organic Farm in Jamesport, NY – a farm locally known for their organic CSA offerings in the metro New York area. What were we doing?

Organic Strawberry Picking of course!





Papa zipped through the patch, while Baba carefully filled her basket with perfectly colored, shaped, and sized berries. The little one quickly became distracted, and picked wands of dandelion fluff – and I inwardly laughed – my three year old, spreading dandelion seeds as she blew the balls of fluff into the air. My older one carefully examined each berry, picking those that were beautifully red, but small in size.

It was a beautiful day in the strawberry patch, despite the clouds that had covered the sky, earlier in the day.

We stopped at our favorite restaurant on our forays to the north shore of Long Island – The Lobster Roll


Papa and the girls enjoyed the clam bake, Baba the fried oyster roll, and I had my once-a-year decadent fried soft shell crab roll.

The strawberries were shared with Nanna, Auntie K, Uncle K and Lala at daycare. We enjoyed them fresh, with a little milk and sugar (Baba’s request) and I took the remaining berries and made a jam, by cooking the berries down with sugar and lemon juice.

What fun we had…


Lingering end of summer bento

27 Sep

Pizza Day is on Tuesday this week, so my schedule is a bit off. 

For Monday, here was my daughter’s bento:

Baked chicken drumstick – seasoned with a little poultry seasoning and soy sauce

Carrot sticks and yellow cherry tomatoes (the garden still producing, but winding down)

Blanched watercress and edamame tossed with soy sauce + rice vinegar + sesame oil + sesame seed + olive oil dressing.

Multi-grain Onigiri with center of okaka (seasonedkatsuobushi), wrapped in nori


We spent a whirlwind weekend in Montauk this past weekend – where we zipped out to Sun ‘n’ Sound in Montauk where we tagged along to Papa’s good friend’s fiancée’s family reunion.  Despite the gray and drab day preceding the weekend, we were able to enjoy an absolutely gorgeous sunset in the evening.

Sailboat silhouette against sunset, Sun 'N Sound, Montauk

On the way back home the next day, we stopped at Hank’s Pumpkintown to let the girls run around in the play area, munch on a roasted corn ear, enjoy a ride around the pumpkin patch in the barrel train, and pick pumpkins.

I lamented the fact that my scheduling didn’t allow us to stop at Lobster Roll – a.k.a. Lunch or Clam Bar due to timing – but there’s always next year… (or a random road trip!)

Rogue Matt’s Wild Cherry, beets, quail eggs for lunch

12 Sep

As you may recall, last year, I made the newbie mistake of planting 10 cherry and grape tomato plants.

Needless to say, after being overwhelmed by red, yellow and orange marble-sized tomatoes that proliferated until the first frost, I swore up and down, I would only plant two cherry tomato plants. 

On the other hand, I’d plant countless pole beans this year, as these would probably be a bit more manageable.

A blog of how to avoid the “Jack and the Beanstalk” syndrome will soon follow.

This year, I was poking around the garden with my head-lamp lighting a little conical way through the dusky garden, I discovered I had pockets of tomato breeds I had not planted in the garden THIS year. 

One of them was a random Matt’s Wild Cherry plant that had deliciously red fruit clusters, perfect for picking.  Most likely this plant had regenerated itself from a rogue tomato dropped in a random patch between the herb pots LAST  year.

The issue I had with these adorable tomatoes were their inability to keep fresh for longer than a day.  The sweet and intense fruit have very delicate skin that split once they are picked off of the stem – so they were very difficult to store until I stopped at Makinajian Farm to see they simply clipped the tomatoes, including the stems, and packed them into containers.

For Saturday school, I packed a cluster of these rogue tomatoes (including the stem), and expanded from there:

Boiled quail eggs (conventional)

Roasted beets

Onigiri (1:1 mix of white and multi-grain rice) with okaka filling, the rice pre-seasoned with sesame seeds, and some unseasoned flakes of katsuobushi, wrapped in nori

Sliced Armenian cucumbers

Age-kama with burdock from Miyagi Prefecture – my little attempts to try to support the regional economies devastated by the tsunami caused by the 3/11 Tohoku region earthquakeAge-kama is surimi or fish that has been pounded and processed into a paste, and then cooked – whether extruded, or molded into shapes and steamed – and then deep-fried.  Many times, MSG is used as an ingredient – fortunately, the age-kama I bought did not include it in their ingredient list.  Is it a healthy item?  I think in small quantities, it’s a nice treat to have as a side in bento on occasion.  These were cut into cat shapes.

First day of “English” school for Fall 2011

7 Sep

It’s hard to believe we’re fully into the swing of things again.  There was that faint, crispness in the air this morning, hinting of gorgeous autumn colors to shortly follow.

Today is my older daughter’s first day back at school.  We now refer to our schools based on languages spoken – English school during the week, Japanese school on Saturdays.  Either way, a bento will be packed!

In honor of the first day, I thought a little twist on the usual standby quail egg would make her smile.

Here’s what I packed:

Grilled chicken wing and drummette – pre-seasoned with Trader Joe’s 21 Spice mix and soy sauce.  I disjoined the pieces to fit them into the bento box.

Boiled quail egg with beet sliver mouths, and black sesame seed eyes and nose

Blanched soy beans – Makinajian Farm had organic ones!! It’s very hard to find these domestically and organically grown

Roasted beets cut into hearts and stars.  Chioggia beets for the stars, regular beets for the hearts

Sliced Armenian cucumbers (conventional)

Onigiri made with 1/3 white, 1/3 brown, 1/3 multi-grain (quinoa, millet, pearled barley, wheat berries) steamed rice.  Center filling is okaka, (shaved bonito with a little soy sauce to moisten) wrapped in nori.

I included a small container of cherries – but not sure if she will be able to focus on eating her lunch today. 

Hopefully we have a good start for the new school year!


Tuesday lunch – home stretch

14 Jun

Tuesday bento includes:

Baked Turkey-oat-flaxseed-carrots-celery-onion-broccoli rabe meatballs *these sound more intimidating than how they actually taste.  Meatballs (Meat-o-ballies per the girls) are a favorite in our house, since they are portable, easy to eat, and I can make dozens of them and freeze them for consumption at a later date.  The oats and flax seeds add crunch to the meatballs, and I put all the vegetables through the food processor.  I like knowing they are a pretty complete mini package of nutrients.

Blanched broccoli

Roasted beets – cat shapes

Boiled quail eggs

Onigiri with shiso (perilla) seasoning – my daughter had asked for purple rice – we get this often at the Korean restaurant we lunch at on Saturdays – but since I’m not sure how to make it, I figured the shiso rice would have to do.  I’ve been searching for recipes and more information on this rice, but the only things I’ve come across so far, is that it most likely is called ogokbapThe ingredients sound very similar to the usual multi-grain mix I make; however, I haven’t figured out what makes the rice purple.  I’ve eaten it at Cho Dang Gol in New York City (YUM) as well as Hahm Ji Bach  I have a gripe for each of these places.  At Cho Dang Gol, unless I physically hold back my rice bowl in which the rice is served from, the wait staff try to whisk it away without offering me any nurungji.  Granted, I understand it’s an acquired taste, and many non-Koreans may not like the toasty, comforting “tea” made with the crispy browned bottom bits of rice mixed with hot tea – HEY! I like it.  Leave my bowl!  At Hahm Ji Bach, it appears unless you are 1) Korean, 2) order a certain amount or 3) your four-year old daughter gives “pllleeeease” eyes, the waitstaff will tell you they don’t have “purple” rice.  I ran into this the last time I went for lunch, and was a bit annoyed.  Granted, my daughter and I only order a haemul pajun (seafood savory pancake) and some jigae (hotpot) dish to split, there’s no need to discriminate our rice choice based on our order size!!  I can’t handle a full barbecue session at lunch! Oh well.  I’ll have to find out the correct Korean name for “purple” rice and try to negotiate for it…


Bento for June 2011 Undokai (Sports Day)

13 Jun

For my daughter’s Japanese School Field Day (Undokai) on Saturday, I packed four types of onigiri, vegetable sticks and hummus, mini sausages with patterns, boiled eggs, fresh fruit – and for my non-onigiri eater, ham-Jarlsberg-Mayo-lettuce on brioche.

Saturday’s weather was a bit gray, chilly, and drizzly.  We met up with my daughter’s classmates at Cunningham Park, where in my childhood, I had also attended Field and Softball Day.

It was fun to watch the children, split up between red and white teams, and participate in Rajio Taiso (literally, Radio Exercise).  When I attended weekend school, we would all gather in the school gymnasium, listen to the familiar piano-introduction for the tape-recorded music signaling the start of the routines.  It was nostalgic hearing the slightly warble-y tune, and watching the children exercise – many of them simply imitating the older students – to warm up for the event.

My daughter participated in a group dance wearing a helmet which the mother’s made with cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil, with little metallic pipe cleaners curling outward, as well as a running race, an obstacle race where the children ran to a clothes-line with anpan clipped to the string – they grab the anpan and race to a parent waiting for them with a hula hoop.  The parent-child team hops into the hoop, and then run to the finish line.

I packed:

Four types of onigiri – center of umeboshi, okaka (katsuobushi + soy sauce), mentaiko, and a filling made with sauteed blanched and chopped kohlrabi leaves mixed with katsuobushi (shaved bonito), seasoned with soy sauce, mirin and sesame seeds.  The umeboshi onigiri rice was pre-seasoned with red shiso (perilla) Yukari seasoning.  Normally, one wouldn’t use mentaiko for a filling, but I was too busy to grill the shiozake (salted salmon) so I decided to improvise.  Each flavor had a different shape – the umeboshi was easy to identify with the rice mixed with the purple-y shiso flakes; the okaka was tawara (rice barrel) shaped; the mentaiko was shaped like a disk, and the kohlrabi leaves were triangular.  Each one was wrapped with a strip of nori.

Mini sausages – I scored several, as well as attempted to make gerbera shapes that Makiko Itoh presents beautifully in her blog – but I forgot to split the sausages lengthwise, so the flowers did not come out right.  I explained to my family, they were improvised – and just to pretend they were pretty pattered sausages… (they looked like accordions).  I boiled the sausages to heat through, and allowed them to cool.

As for home-made items … my boiled egg menagerie.  I was happy to see they molded well. (from top left to right: Star, heart, rabbit, car, fish, bear)


The other bento items were easy – carrots, celery, green pepper and cucumber sliced and served with hummus, and fresh fruit – grapes and watermelon.

Papa didn’t fancy onigiri for lunch, so I made ham and Jarlsberg and mayo on a delicious brioche with some lettuce leaves, fresh from our garden. 

My brother and his wife braved the chilly drizzle to cheer on their niece – and to spoil the little one with hugs and kisses. 

An interesting experience – the parents had received an email from the school regarding reminders for attending Undokai.  One interesting point was stated in a vague, but direct sentence. 

“There may be ice cream trucks that arrive during the event.  Please remember, this event is considered a class event, and we appreciate you keeping this in mind.”

There was a Mister Softee truck that circled the area, slowly, in hopes the approximately 100 children and family members would be drawn in by its jingle.

Amazingly, not a single person broke out of the event to buy his wares. 

I must say, (and I think my husband secretly must agree) I was pretty impressed…

June bento – summer’s arrived!

1 Jun

My daughter wasn’t happy with her sandwich yesterday.  She scrunched up her nose and said, “Mama, no sandwich.” 

That’s OK, I told her. 

I thought to myself, I’ll just have to pack her an onigiri with shiozake filling – my hands happily anticipating the rice-ball making session in the morning…

With the warmer weather, I didn’t want to pack anything heavy.  Hot weather can turn off an appetite pretty quickly.

Today’s lunch included:

Onigiri with grilled shiozake (salted salmon) filling.  I sprinkled a little salt on my hands after I wet them prior to forming the onigiri.  Wrapped up with nori.  The salmon is basically a fillet that has been salted and in a way, air-dried and almost cured by the salt – though the taste is unlike gravalax or lox (eaten alone, it’s VERY salty…).  I purchase the fillets and grill on the gas grill – I cooked it indoors once, and created such a pungent (read = fishy) smoke storm in the house – my cats went wild, and my husband was not pleased.  

Roasted beets in star shapes – in honor of the starfish this past weekend

Boiled quail eggs

Blanched sugar snap peas and grape tomatoes

Since I’ve gotten the hang of making onigiri, I’ve brought them on several occasions – including the 2011 Japan Day Festival in Central Park (New York City), to the beach.  I’ve yet to introduce pickled plum, or umeboshi, which is certainly an acquired taste.  They are mouth-puckering-ly sour, salty, faintly fruity pickles that are often used as a filling for onigiri. My maternal grandmother used to prepare them at home – and growing up, until her passing, we always had homemade umeboshi to eat.  My mother said, recently, she never had to purchase umeboshi because her mother always made them, so she wouldn’t know which brand or what type to purchase at a store – and that comment tugged at my heart a little bit. 

I miss her umeboshi too!