Tag Archives: Shirasu

Heading towards end of May bentos

5 Jun


Thankfully, my girls love their vegetables and fruits. Late spring/summer starts bringing a variety of veggies and fruit that can be enjoyed raw, or with minimal preparation.

Tuesday included a bento packed with:
Grilled chicken (drumstick, de-boned)
Blanched broccoli and asparagus
Cauliflower pickle in lemon juice, soy sauce, salt, pepper, sesame oil for fragrance
Cucumber slices
Mini multi-grain onigiri with okaka center, nori belt

Wednesday included:
Savory omelette with broccoli and shirasu
Blanched asparagus spears with soy sauce, lemon juice and olive oil drizzle
Raw, red pepper slices – my older one adores these sweet, crunchy, slices. The little one is a bit more cautious, but more often won over by her sister’s enthusiasm, and quick pace of munching through them – the only evidence remaining are her hands and face faintly stained by the pepper juice.
Cauliflower pickles
Mini multi-grain onigiri with okaka center


Thursday was pizza day, due to the shortened week in observance of Memorial Day.


Post spring break 2012

30 Apr

My daughter’s spring break zipped past, and unfortunately, my work schedule did not allow me the luxury to take the much-needed and desired time to slow down and to catch up with her.

I managed to take a very quick day off on Friday, and we (the girls and I) enjoyed a day without rushing about. We also had a “special lunch” at Takumi restaurant, where the daily specials included Ten-don (Steamed rice topped with tempura, battered and deep-fried vegetables, seafood and meat) with a side of hot soba in soup, as well as a ramen special.

Saturday’s bento included:

Baked turkey hambagu, a.k.a. small, individual portioned meat loaf topped with a sweet savory sauce of ketchup + Bulldog sauce + HP sauce (2 tbs each, mixed well).  I include vegetables, such as onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic, which are minced in a food processor, and mixed well (by hand) into a pound of ground turkey.  I take palmfuls of this meat mixture, and mold them into small meat “loaf” rolls, and bake in a 350 degrees oven for 30 minutes, covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for the last 10.  I baste them with the aforementioned sauce, reserving a tiny bit to add a fresh coat at the very end.  If the meat mixture is too runny from the vegetables, I will sometimes adjust with a handful of steel-cut oatmeal, cooked multi-grain rice, or whole wheat bread crumbs.

Sliced red peppers

Carrot sticks

Onigiri with okaka center

The rest of the week steamed ahead.

Monday included:

Broccoli tempura

Boiled Trader Joe’s cocktail pups, scored

Carrot sticks

Sliced red pepper


Tuesday was a similar lunch day with:

Trader Joe’s cocktail pups

Red pepper slices and carrots

Blanched watercress, liquid squeezed out well, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, tossed and flavored well with soy sauce, rice vinegar and katsuobushi  or shaved bonito flakes

Multi-grain onigiri with okaka center, with a nori belt

Wednesday morning, I realized I had forgotten my daughter’s lunchbox at daycare – hence the random tupperware made do.

Whole wheat ziti with marinara sauce and sautéed onions

Celery and carrot sticks

Blanched watercress and shirasu omelette

1/2 of a honey tangerine which my daughters have both fallen in love with.  I found them in a bin at Makinajian Farm, where the label listed it as “Mic’s favorite!”  If the co-owner loves them, they must be good.

Thursday lunch included:

Blanched watercress, liquid well squeezed out, seasoned with okaka.  I try to make sure to drain any extra liquid to try to minimize the potential for messes.

Carrot sticks


Multi-grain onigiri with okaka center, nori wrap.

Friday was pizza lunch!!

Traditional, easy, natto-aboabo-shirasu dinner

11 Apr


I’m fortunate, in that my girls love natto, shirasu (baby sardines, steamed right after they are caught), as well as avocado slices over steamed, multi-grain rice.

My little one deftly picks up her rice bowl with her left hand, and expertly picks up a clump of rice, and pops it in her mouth. She then thoughtfully chews, and tells me, “Mama, I like natto!”

My older one carefully picks up the avocado slices, clockwise, and tells me, “I love abo-abo!” *They have called their respective blankies “Minuh’s” and they call their beloved avocado, “abo-abo.”

My parents watch this exchange over Skype, amused, and tell me how wonderful it is to see them enjoying such traditional food despite living outside of Japan.

I’m simply thankful it’s a quick, easy, healthy meal I can pull together in a few minutes (as long as the rice is ready!).

Savory sardine pasta sauce

9 Jun

There’s something addictively delicious about this tomato sauce accented with  sardines and capers.  The sauce is rich in flavor and texture, and each bite is complex – robust, tangy, salty, with an undercurrent of sweetness from the onions.

I can see you, reader, pause, and either a) wince, furrow eyebrows, and wonder, “What is SHE talking about?” or b) knowingly smile, and nod, agreeing that you and I are in the sadly under-represented sardine lover’s club.

Sardines often elicit a wrinkled nose, or a “Oh, that’s so disgusting” response resulting from either a poor first encounter, a lack of a proper introduction (or opportunity), or a negative childhood experience.  The sardine’s fishiness is an acquired taste, and either takes some getting used to (take a leap of faith, I promise it’s worth it!) or it’s something you simply may not enjoy.

Growing up, (as do my daughters) we ate dried sardines (niboshi), baby sardines (shirasu) and grilled sardines (iwashi), most often served whole.  Whole grilled smelt (shishamo) were also often eaten as a special treat – so for me, it’s important to honor this (and other) humble fish in any way possible for myself, as well as for my family.

I drizzled olive oil into a pan, heated it up, and added a palmful of minced garlic, and a medium onion minced.  I sprinkled it with a little salt, and cooked until the onion was translucent, and the oil, fragrant.

Into the cooked onion and garlic, I added a can of well-drained sardines (in water), breaking it up with a wooden spoon, as well as handful of capers, and cooked over medium heat.   (If you have a tin of anchovies, you can also add a few filets – I tend to be heavy-handed with anchovies, but two or three pieces might suit your taste)

I added a pack of Pomi brand chopped tomatoes (they are in Tetra paks, and not canned – supposedly no BPA leaching), and mixed everything together, and reduced heat to low.

Once the sauce thickened, I served it over whole wheat rotini pasta, and garnished with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.  Of course, add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Welcome 2011, Year of the Rabbit!

3 Jan

Firstly, Happy New Year!! May the year of the Rabbit bring serenity, fulfillment and happiness!

I’ve unburied myself from the holiday event on-parade, survived the relentless chase of events accompanied by the thump-thump-heart beat of stress and anxiety with every ring of the cash register (or the click of “complete purchase”) and feeling like a sailor trapped between Scylla and Charybdis.  (a la The Police song too)…  Like critters crawling out from the nooks and crannies of a beach at low tide – I scuttled out of my little corner of security to venture back into the daily routine.  Actually, I ventured out, stretching out toe by toe, last night, as I put together my daughter’s lunch for today.  I thought I was ahead of the game as I cooled her steamed beets, placed the silicon cups into the lunch box, and smiled how peaceful this morning was going to be.


My head spun.  I started hyperventilating.  I recalled putting her cleaned and dried water bottle into the lunch box, zipped it closed, and putting it… WHERE?  I paced through the house.  I opened cabinets, cursing at myself (inwardly) wishing I had actually remembered AND SET IT OUT last night!  I felt like the character in Munch’s The Scream and I almost knelt down on the kitchen floor and flopped about in a moment of childish tantrum.

Then my memory nets snagged a vague recollection.  Amidst the scurrying, bustling, and frenetic hustle-bustle of wedding-birthday-birthday-birthday-birthday-Christmas Eve-Christmas Day-Boxing Day-New Year’s Eve-New Year’s Day chaos, a subliminal roadmap to the lost lunchbox.  I remembered the metallic click of doorknob as I shut it, feeling triumphant I had found a suitable place for… the lunchbox.

I continued climbing on the kitchen chair set aside each high cabinet, and opened and closed the cabinets that I could reach and rifle through.  How in the world could I have lost a bright red lunch box the size of a toolbox?!


It was hiding in the food pantry, the victim of over-zealous organizing and cleaning – perhaps it was my husband who banishes clutter to the netherworld where one is lucky if we could find anything, or perhaps in my quest to try to prove that I could stomp past both Scylla, Charybdis and whatever other chaotic maelstrom year-end was throwing at me I had an outer body experience, BECOMING my husband for that brief episode of frenzied cleaning.

Today’s lunch is (and due to chaos looking for the box, I neglected a photo… sorry)

Steamed beets, cut into heart shapes

Rolled omelette with chopped broccoli and shirasu (boiled baby sardines)

Sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes

Osekihan, or steamed glutinous rice with red beans, left over from Japanese New Year osechi

One note – what I DO have, is our first attempt at roast goose.  We ordered this 10 lbs beauty from Makinajian Farm, and I was pleased at the outcome.  I researched, read and stressed over the preparation of goose – and each article, commentary and blog pointed to the importance of draining the fat.  Fortunately, I have a roasting pan with a raised rack, and it worked perfectly. 

I rinsed the goose with water, then dried the surface with a paper towel.  I trimmed the fat from the skin, and wherever visible.  I saved these in a pan, and set aside for cooking other items.  I set the oven to 400 degrees to preheat.  I then salted the outside, and placed two cut onions, two celery stalks and an orange into the goose.  Dried tarragon and rosemary stalks were tucked inside, around and on-top of the goose.  I took a sharp knife and pricked the skin – this was the advice given to me by ALL sources – to drain the FAT!

After the goose browned (and smoked and sputtered – about an hour in the oven), I lowered the temperature to 300 for the next hour, and put an aluminum tent, tightly around the goose.  I religiously checked and poked the goose skin, and had images of dangerously delicious roasted potatoes and vegetables crisped in goose fat dance across my head.

After a total cooking time of 3 hours, I took the goose out, and was satisfied.  The skin was golden, crisp, fragrant, and the smell of roasting goose was dizzying.  Although the goose had to compete with roast lamb and roast pork tenderloin (this will have to be another blog discussion in itself) – it was one of the most delicious roasts I’ve ever eaten.  Darker than turkey, but not as dark as duck – I was sold. 

Now if I can only fight off my husband’s obsession with Turducken for this coming holiday season… (I can’t find one that’s organic, and I like supporting my local farmer!)

First snowfall of the season

14 Dec

Flurries have been teasing us for the past few days, but nothing resulted in significant accumulation.  Morning flurries have the girls staring upwards, their eyes open wide, their mouths smiling as they wave their mittened hands to try to touch the flakes of snow.

Last night I met my husband at the driveway as he was returning from taking the trash cans to the curb.  Snowflakes fell rapidly, blanketing my car – yet, my initial thought was that all would be gone before the morning commute.  The snow sifted to the ground and danced about, little tendrils of white as the wind blew across, and I hustled back into the warmth of the house.

I opened the blinds this morning, and saw about an inch and a half of light, powdery snow on the ground.  I started my morning routine, including waking the girls up with the “WOW!  Look at ALL the snow!” call.  My older one, usually a very non-morning grouch popped up, and peeked out of the window.  “Mama, I want to do this, ” she exclaimed, and imitated making a snow angel.  My heart tugged a bit since I knew this most likely wouldn’t be possible with my schedule – but I promised we’d do it, if not today, on another snow day.  My little one ran happy circles in her room, excited by everyone else’s excitement, and at the gorgeous white landscape outside her window.

Today’s lunch is:

Steamed beets, sliced

Whole wheat pasta spirals with sautéed mushrooms, onions, celery, mixed with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese

Rolled omelette with shirasu and blanched spinach, seasoned with a little sea salt

Mini hotdogs (conventional) cut into an octopus and a flower

Glorious Hump Day in December ~

8 Dec

After a relatively calmer day at work, I got home, got dinner on the table for the girls, and did the daily dinner bribe routine.  Whether the prize be TV, book or animal crackers – the little one mechanically ate like a machine, while the older one (must be the lack of nap) whirled through her daily routine of drama, tears, defiance, and resignation. 

I then bathed both, snuggled with both on the couch and watched a quick episode of Anpanman on NHK, and put them both to bed.  They both have handmade blankies sent over lovingly from my mother, and they love to snuggle in bed with these each night. 

The little one drops off to sleep in her crib, and the older one is massaged all over by one of our feline bakers, who motor-purrs each evening prior to her settling down next to her.

I then tackled lunch.

Applegate turkey bologna rolled with chikuwa (conventional)

Whole wheat pasta and TJ’s foursome vegetable salad with olive oil, soy sauce and ginger dressing

Omelette wrapped with blanched spinach and shirasu (baby sardines that are caught, salted, and frozen for sale – of course I defrosted and cooked!)

Celery sticks

I might have to gather all my strength and energy to defrost that pound of frozen ground turkey and think of some good, protein ideas.  I’ve also seen some interesting ones in a Japanese cookbook (for budget-conscious housewives) written by my mother’s dear friend, Hiroko Urakami, who has also written this cookbook:  Japanese Family-Style Recipes.

I got the chikuwa idea from the bento guide that my parents sent over.  I’ve got to continue reviewing the recipes for more ideas!