I Moved! …Won’t You Join Me?

I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my readers, those of you who stumbled across my blog Googling a recipe, those who have left comments for me and I’ve had the privilege to get to know and become friends with, family and friends who pop in to see what my family and I are up to…

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your continued support!

When I first started this blog, Bebe Love Okazu, my primary objective was to organize and share recipes that I grew-up with and archive aspects of our life so that my Bebe could learn more about her childhood and our family.  I never anticipated ever moving from this humble little space, nor meeting new friends through blogging, and least of all, having readers (other than my mom) who were interested in what I had to share.

I admit, it wasn’t an easy decision for me to build a new blog site and move to a new “home”. (You can read more about this in my Confessions post here.) Thanks to my friend Jean of Lemons & Anchovies for inspiration and introducing me to Amy of Kimchi Mom. Amy patiently and kindly replied to countless emails back and forth, ultimately giving me the courage to make the leap and redesign my blog, if only to be able to blog in a beautiful new space that I could call my new “home”. Thank you, Amy. I’d love to return the favor one day.

Forgive me if I sound like an Academy Award Winner!

Before I introduce my new blog home, I would like to thank my childhood bestie, M, for the huge favor of designing the logo, icons, and for creating the look and feel of my new home. You rock, babe! Thank you, Aya-chan, my dear sister-from-another-mother, for calling in a favor to MK for countless techy skills that built the foundation of my new home. Thank you, Hideki, for taking gorgeous food photos that help my new blog look all pretty and fancy! I hope you like your  NEW Photography Page on my new home. Thank you, to my buddies S and O, for your incredible amounts of patience (I know I’m difficult), HTML skills, and for creating my dream home.

* * *

For those of you who are currently SUBSCRIBED to my blog via email and receive an email notice any time a new post is published, in order to continue receiving your email update, please kindly re-subscribe at my new home by following any of the “Subscribe by Email” links available throughout the new site. If you are subscribed here, you will no longer receive any email notifications. My apologies for this slight inconvenience.

Without further ado, won’t you join me at my NEW Home? :) I have a new dessert post waiting for you. See ya THERE! Just follow the red brick links!

Judy

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Nothin’ Fancy Quesadillas

I haven’t wanted to cook much, and I’d like to blame my cooking “slump” on our recent heat wave, but the fact that we have the A/C blasting practically all day long, doesn’t really give me an excuse not to cook in our ice-box-home. :)

Last week, when I was putting Bebe E to sleep, we were lying down after I read her a few stories, and she said to me, “Mommy, will you make me tomato soup.” I said, “Sure sweetie, I will make you tomato soup one of these days.” She then replied, “Because I really like Nordstroms tomato soup.”

Yes, if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, we’ve probably ordered one too many bowls of tomato basil soup at Nordie’s cafe. BUT I must admit, it’s pretty amazing and by far, one of my absolute favorite soups!

Aside from my Bebe’s request for tomato soup, which I haven’t gotten around to making (recall cooking slump), any other given day, if I ask Bebe E what she would like to eat for lunch, four out of seven days, she will say, “quesadilla”. (We don’t eat quesadillas four times a week but definitely at least once or twice a week.)

So today I’m sharing with you Bebe E’s favorite lunch: quesadilla. Nothing fancy, right? Well, my daughter is a whole ‘nother level of diva at times. This is how our conversation about lunch goes:

Bebe E: “Mommy can you please make “heart” quesadilla.”

Me: “What do you mean sweetie?”

Bebe E: Using both hands, with her index and thumbs she tries to make a heart shape to show me what she means. “I don’t want “triangle” quesadilla anymore.” Note, when I cut the semi-circle quesadilla into pieces they become triangles. “I want heart quesadilla.”

Me: “Ok, so you want me to make you heart-shaped quesadilla.”

Bebe E: “Yes.”

Me: Thinking to myself, where in the world does she get this stuff? “Sure sweetie, I can make you heart-shaped quesadilla.”

So there you have it. Heart shaped quesadilla. Other days she will tell me she wants “diamond” quesadilla or “circle” quesadilla. Her favorite, however, seems to be “heart” quesadilla.

Are you wondering what happens to the scraps after I cut quesadilla shapes? I usually eat them as I’m trimming the quesadilla pieces with my kitchen shears. :) Don’t want to waste food, you know. Sometimes I will end up making a quesadilla for myself too! There’s something comforting about warm gooey cheese all wrapped up in a nice flour tortilla.

Nothin’ Fancy Quesadillas

  • Low-fat finely shredded cheese blend (monterey, jack, cheddar, etc.)
  • Uncooked flour tortillas (available at Costco)
  • Large pan
  • Kitchen shears
  • Shredded chicken, optional
  • Guacamole for Bebe, optional (recipe here)

1. Heat pan to medium heat. Gently cook the tortilla on both sides.

2. Before the tortilla gets crunchy, spread some cheese on half the tortilla, fold over and cook for another minute until the cheese melts.

3. Allow the quesadilla to cool just a bit. Using kitchen shears, cut quesadilla into desired shapes: diamonds, hearts, circles, squares. :)

4. Serve with Guacamole for Bebe.

Note: If I have leftover shredded chicken (Costco rotisserie chicken) I will put some chicken in the quesadilla.

Sashimi

Whenever my husband and I enjoy a simple dinner of sashimi or temaki sushi at home, I am always reminded of my Jiichan (grandpa), and my Baachan (grandma). (Photo: Halibut or Fluke, also known as hirame in Japanese.)

Although my paternal grandparents moved to Japan before I completed elementary school, over the years, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with them during my trips to the “land of the rising sun”. While I spent a decent amount of time traveling across Japan and seeing its many wonders, often my visits centered around spending time with family and relaxing at my home away from home. As a child, the Japanese snacks and frozen treats were always something to look forward to, but as I matured, the food became increasingly important during my trips to Japan. While I’ve dined at high-end restaurants and enjoyed phenomenol traditional Japanese multi-course kaiseki ryori, fine desserts, specialty tempura dinners, as well as off beat vegetarian mountain cuisine (feel free to ask me about this) and hole-in-the-wall joints for ramen and okonomiyaki to die for, what I remember the most about my trips to Japan is the endless amount of fresh sashimi that my grandparents always ate, practically on a nightly basis.

Regardless of the season during which I visited my grandparents, an abundance of sashimi (in addition to many cooked dishes) was always available on their dinner table. I look back now, and appreciate how fortunate I was to enjoy such lavish sashimi dinners almost nightly, in the comfort of my grandparents home. (Photo: Hamachi or yellowtail.)

In my youth, I never appreciated sashimi  and considered cooked ebi (shrimp) or blanched tako (octopus) the closest things I would ever get to eating sashimi, but as we all know, our tastes mature with age. I am no different.

It must have been in high school where I began trying different sashimi and sushi at the encouragement of my parents… Then, during my first job out of college working for a Japanese company, I was fortunate to travel to Japan for work, and I came to know the true meaning of fresh, extremely high quality sashimi and sushi… A sushi – sashimi snob was born… Then there was the era of earning enough money to try many sushi bars in my former playground of Los Angeles and indulge in fine sushi dinners… (Photo: Pre-sliced, assorted sashimi sourced from a local Japanese market.)

Today, sushi is reserved for when my husband and I occasionally dine out (without the kids) and sashimi is something my husband and I enjoy at home. However, the kids don’t eat sashimi, so I am always a bit hesitant to make a sashimi dinner for us as I am then required to make a secondary dish for the kiddies or provide a temaki spread complete with many cooked ingredients and vegetables. It’s not something we eat regularly.

However, whenever we do enjoy a nice sashimi dinner at home, I am always reminded of my grandparents and the time I’ve spent in Japan or the simple sashimi dinners my Mom prepared in my youth.

Sashimi

  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Yellowtail
  • Mackerel
  • Snapper
  • Salmon
  • Scallops
  • Squid
  • Octopus
  • Abalone
  • Kaiware radish sprouts, thinly sliced daikon (radish), or thinly sliced cucumbers for garnish
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi

1. Use any of your favorite fish or seafood for sashimi. Always select fresh sashimi with vibrant fresh color and clear liquid, if any, from a reputable supermarket. Sashimi should not smell “fishy”, but rather, like fresh fish. The flesh of the sashimi should be resilient and “bounce back” so-to-speak if pressed. It should never be mushy or seem stagnant. Most Japanese supermarkets clearly identify sashimi-grade fillets of fish versus those that are meant to be cooked.

2. If the sashimi is not pre-sliced, always use an extremely sharp knife. (My Dad has the sharpest sashimi knives ever and he maintains them meticulously.) Slice the fish against the grain in one single motion of the knife, pulling the knife towards you. Never slice the fish in a “see-saw” back and forth cutting motion as this ruins the delicate flesh of the sashimi.

3. Arrange sashimi on a plate and garnish with kaiware daikon sprouts, thinly sliced daikon   (radish) or thinly sliced cucumbers. Serve with soy sauce or specialty sashimi soy sauce (often thicker and sweeter than regular soy sauce) and wasabi.

Obon & Festival Food 2012

The 2012 Olympics in London have concluded. It was a GREAT two weeks! Congratulations to all the olympians. Bebe E likes to refer to the athletes as “the champions”. They most definitely are!

Just as the Olympics have come and gone, so have most all of the Obon festivals in our area, much to Bebe E’s disappointment. This past week when we were visiting my parents she asked if we had Obon practice that night. Unfortunately, our routine Obon practice came to an end and culminated in Obon odori (dancing) at the WLA Obon Festival not too long ago and we will need to wait another year before we can enjoy the festivities once again. This didn’t break her spirit however, as she occasionally still graces us with her impromptu bon dancing in the house and asks me to “sing the Obon music, Mommy” so that she can dance to it. (Photo above taken at OCBC Obon.)

I haven’t worn a yukata (Japanese summer kimono) in ages, but this year I dressed-up with Bebe E because she was so excited about Obon dancing and wearing a pretty “kimono dress”. The yukata that Bebe E is wearing is my childhood yukata that my maternal grandparents sent from Japan. My Mom told me that I never wore it. I’m SO happy that Bebe E was excited about dressing up and that she wanted to wear my “vintage” yukata. Love her!

I never danced much at Obon when I was Bebe E ‘s age, nor as I got older, despite the fact that my Bachan (paternal grandmother) was an odori sensei (classical Japanese dance instructor). I was always too shy to dance in front of so many people. In high school and college my friends and I occasionally would jump into the Obon odori lanes (yes, because there are usually so many people dancing, we are required to stay in lanes) for fun, but now that I’m older, it’s important to me to share with Bebe E as much of the Japanese culture that I experienced growing-up. I’m happy she is having so much fun. Next year, we will try to attend more of our local Obon as a few of my besties and their families seem to visit quite a few over the summer. For more history about Obon, see my recipe post on Okinawa dango (Japanese donuts).

What I always loved about Obon as a child was playing the carnival type games. Bebe E is the same way. Now that I’m older, I enjoy going to eat, especially knowing that by purchasing dinner at the Obon, we’re supporting the temple.

At WLA Obon, our buddy M-kun volunteers his time and grills the beef teriyaki.

Both the beef teriyaki and chicken teriyaki plates are seasoned really well and is simply served with rice and salad.

Bebe Dada and my Mom enjoy the sushi combo with inari sushi (otherwise known as “footballs”; sushi wrapped in sweet fried bean curd) and futomaki (“fat” sushi roll stuffed with various ingredients such as egg, spinach, dried fish, and vegetables, but never includes raw fish). Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of the sushi before we started eating.

A favorite of mine are what I call Japanese wontons. These are similar to the wontons my Mom made for us growing-up, and differs slightly from the Chinese Wontons that I also love.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of one of my favorite Obon dishes at the WLA Obon, the char-siu (pork) udon. It’s flavor is reminiscent of homemade udon soup, and differs from the udon soup we have come to enjoy at some our favorite local udon and soba noodle restaurants. Oh well, I’ll try and remember to take a picture next year!

At most Obon festivals you will find Japanese taiko drum performers. I never played taiko drums, but my brother and sister-in-law were both key members of their taiko group in college and I often enjoyed their performances. If you’ve never experienced a taiko performance it’s definitely something I recommend seeing at least once. My husband and I had a small group of local taiko drummers perform at our wedding reception. We loved it!

Bebe E was fascinated watching the WLA Taiko Group perform at Obon. At first the loud and very deep sound of the drums intimidated her but she quickly relaxed as she began to enjoy the music of the amazing big drums. Next year we will need to arrive a bit earlier so we can catch the entire show.

Last but not least, Bebe E was very excited about Obon dancing. After all, that’s what we practiced every week for four weeks! There she is, dancing in her lane.

We promised Bebe E that she could try her first snow cone during the dancing intermission. After all, snow cones at Obon are a must! She asked for blue and red flavors.

Aside from Okinawa Dango (Japanese donuts) which they haven’t sold at the WLA Obon in a few years, my favorite dessert is the imagawayaki. This is a dessert that is often found at matsuri  or festivals In Japan. It is a cake-like batter that is cooked in a type of waffle iron and is traditionally filled with sweet red beans known as azuki. I’m not a big fan of azuki, so you can imagine my excitement to find imagawayaki filled with chocolate or blueberries or vanilla cream! Even better – – – ordering a chocolate chip filled imagawayaki with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side! It’s the best!

It was a good Obon season celebrating friends, family and loved ones.

We’re looking forward to Obon odori (dancing) practice next summer!

Happy Summer!

Judy

Japanese Hamburger: Hambaagu or Hamburg?

It’s day three of the 2012 London Olympics and I’m slightly at a loss for words. Perhaps it’s exhaustion from our busy weekend (which I will happily share in a separate post), or because our DVR wasn’t working Sunday night when I couldn’t stay up to watch swimming, or perhaps I’m feeling a bit off because my left knee is having unusual joint issues. Instead of my weekly gym date with my BFF Monday night, I opted to be a couch potato, rest my uncooperative knee, watch the Olympics and look through my inventory of un-posted, yet not forgotten food photos.

It’s been a while since I shared a favorite childhood dish so I am sharing my Mom’s Japanese hambaagu (that’s Jenglish for hamburger). Japanese hambaagu is a classic Japanese family dish. I’m certain that every (non-vegetarian) kid in Japan has eaten hambaagu at one time or another. It’s one of those dishes you find on the menu of every family restaurant or kissaten (cafe) in Japan, or a Japanese-American home in the U.S.

Oh, and just a sidebar, but if you go to a Japanese restaurant in the U.S. and they have “hamburg” on the menu. It’s not misspelled. It’s another term for referring to Japanese “hambaagu”. Gotta love Jenglish!

The only difference from the hambaagu recipe posted below and the one my Mom used to make for us is that I use ground turkey meat, instead of ground beef, and I let the hambaagu steam just a little. Japanese hambaagu is a Japanese version of an American hamburger, yet without the bun, mayo and vegetables. A more accurate translation of the Japanese hambaagu, is meatloaf. Yes, I think hambaagu is more like individual meatloaf patties.

My Mom serves hambaagu with gohan (rice), miso shiru (miso soup), a cooked vegetable such as broccoli or cauliflower, and a salad. For our hambaagu sauce, we usually made it ourself, which was a mixture of our preferred amount of ketchup and okonomiyaki sauce or tonkatsu sauce. My Dad prefers his hambaagu with black pepper and mayonnaise. He likes to keep things real!

Mom’s Hambaagu

for the patty:

  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 slice bread (I use “shokupan” – Japanese sandwich bread)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Salt and pepper
for the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup okonomiyaki sauce (or tonkatsu sauce)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons ketchup

1. In a medium bowl combine all ingredients for the hambaagu patty. Using your hands, mix until well-incorporated.

2. Make patties about 3/4 inch thick and 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

3. Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a large pan with lid. Cook patties for about 5 minutes on each side. Pour a little water into the pan, just enough to cover the pan, and close with lid to steam the patty (about 2 minutes) until the water evaporates.

4. Mix sauce ingredients and serve, or use ketchup, soy sauce or other condiment of choice.

Friday Catch Up & Farewell

This summer is flying by. I have so much to share on my humble little blog, yet so little free time to sit and journal as I would like. (Photo above: Newport Beach at Sunset)

Bebe E is still enjoying her swimming lessons and tomorrow marks our last day of soccer-for-tots.

As I write, the Olympic ceremonies are on TV in the background, and there’s less than an hour left before Friday comes to an end. Instead of a recipe I am sharing a few highlights of our summer thus far…

I love the Olympics and I’ve been eagerly awaiting July 27, 2012. I’m excited about the Opening Ceremonies and the games to follow.

My Bebe emulates all that I do. She asks me if it is OK to use my grey board because she needs to take pictures of the “food” she cooked in her (play) kitchen. She usually snags a prop: bottom right corner is an interesting Japanese soup I wanted to share (another time).

An unlikely cute cupcake that we came across at one of Nene’s swim meets. It was garnished with a killer whale and the frosting was dusted with sparkly blue edible glitter. Thanks to Sea World and the library book, “Gilbert the Hero”, our Bebe can easily recognize killer whales.

We went to the OC Fair and Bebe E experienced her first Fair ever. We shared a turkey leg, roast corn and funnel cake. We didn’t eat chocolate covered bacon, fried Snickers, or fried Twinkies. We didn’t go on the giant ferris wheel because, a) I’m afraid of heights; b) the overprotective mother in me wouldn’t allow Bebe E or Nene or even Dada to ride it. Instead we enjoyed the baby pigs, baby chicks and the coin toss where Bebe E won a little stuffed angel fish.

We saw some very large vegetables at the OC Fair.

I will always be a Los Angeleno at heart, and always root for the Dodgers, not the Angels. Earlier this month, I went to my first Dodger game in years. Aya-chan made fun of me for taking a picture of the guy sitting in front of us, but it sums up everything about the game (kind of) – GO L.A.! – and, he maintained his annonymity.

Lovely garlic fries at the Dodger Game. SO stinkin’ good. That’s Aya-chan’s beer if anyone is wondering… you know I hate beer!

We visited the pandas, koalas, lions, gorillas, elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros, monkeys, polar bears, flamingos, birds, zebras, and many other animal friends at the San Diego Zoo. On this trip, the camouflaged sleeping koala bears were Bebe E’s favorite.

I like Hello Kitty, and many of the Sanrio characters that I grew up with. Yes, I’m $% years old and my toddler likes Hello Kitty, but it’s ok for grown-ups too. Found a set of Sanrio Pez at Marukai (Japanese supermarket). It was cute, but I didn’t buy it.

Yogurtland and Sanrio are in cahoots to make us eat more frozen yogurt. Every two weeks they release a new character spoon. Hello Kitty spoon (with head cut-off in picture) – collected at least four of these spoons – CHECK.

Tuxedo Sam spoon (with head cut-off in photo) – collected only two spoons, note to self: go back for a few more – CHECK.

I treated Bebe E to her 1st Starbucks drink: a non-coffee ice blended vanilla, with only half a scoop of vanilla powder. She was allowed to drink about 1/3 of this before I confiscated it and finished it off. She said, “mmm, Momma that’s yummy!” Yet, almost every other day, she asks me if I will treat her to a “pick-me-up” Jamba Juice. Her Nene (big sis) likes to order Pomegranate Pick-Me-Up. As is the usual pattern of wanting to do everything her Nene does, she asks me for a “pick-me-up” Jamba Juice. This request is usually followed with, “please Momma, I’m a good girl.” Love her, she is a good girl, but no Jamba Juice.

To me, summer is obon season. Last weekend we briefly visited the OCBC obon festival but much of the food that we like was sold out. Bebe E wore her little yukata and she and I danced for just a few minutes before we played the “kingyo sukui”, goldfish game and the obon came to a close.

Obon is a time to remember those who have passed and celebrate their life.

Bebe E likes to draw and paint. Recently, she drew a picture of Casie (my doggie that now keeps my parents company) because we talked about how Casie might be lonely, and how I worry about Casie sometimes because she isn’t with me. I told Bebe E that Casie is also my bebe, even though she is a doggie, and that Casie is like my daughter too. When we visit Casie, Bebe E likes to say to me, “there’s your other daughter, Mama, and I’m gonna make sure she is O-K.” Casie, in my Bebe’s eyes…

My parents lost their dog, Stella, which they adopted from a family friend who couldn’t take care of her anymore. Stella passed away the afternoon of July 4th. I didn’t tell Bebe E that Stella passed away, given we lost her beta fish “Cookie Monster” last month. It was hard enough explaining to her why Cookie had to “go away”. When we finally visited my parents and she told me she was going to feed Stella and Casie, I had to tell her that Stella had to go away too. For a few weeks Bebe E would ask me why Stella and Cookie had to go away, but I taught her that we can close our eyes and think of our memories (Dada taught her about our memories) and that she can find them in the sky at night, when she looks up and sees the stars. There is one star, just for Cookie, and another star, just for Stella. I told her that they are happy and we can look up and find them looking over us, anytime. She seems to be OK with this and occasionally asks me if we can look up at the stars.
Farewell little Cookie Monster and farewell little Stella. Rest in peace.

Photo credit: Hideki Ueha

Sauteed Celery

Last week marked our final obon odori practice. (Read my post on obon.) As was our weekly routine for the past month: Bebe E and I attended practice with my Mom and our friends, Bebe E would enjoy a popsicle during the break, we would miss the second half because of bebe-bedtime, and then she and I would spend the night at my parents home to avoid having to drive late at night.

On the evening of obon practice, each week my Mom would prepare dinner for us. Last week, she made a very simple celery side dish that I absolutely couldn’t get enough of. Celery is one of those vegetables that is unpopular at my house so I usually sneak them into dishes such as spaghetti, stir-fry, or soup but no one really loves it the way I do. My husband eats it because I’ve cooked it in a dish, but if he had the choice, he wouldn’t eat it. The girls are the same way, although Bebe E enjoys it in her soup and will ask me what it is, nod, then happily eat more.

If, however, I prepared a side dish simply of celery, no one would eat it but me. Which is why I never make celery as a side dish.

You can imagine how happy I was when I sat down at my parents dining table last week to find a plate of sautéed celery. I fed Bebe E a few bites but she’s sensitive to black pepper and she didn’t care for the stringy texture of the celery. Oh well, maybe she’ll grow to like this one day. After all, she didn’t like her first bite of natto (fermented soy beans), but she’s loved it ever since she’s had her second bite!

This sautéed celery recipe is the kind of dish that doesn’t really need a recipe because of it’s simplicity. No added herbs, no garlic, no fancy ingredients.

My Mom’s Sauteed Celery

  • 3 – 4 stalks of celery
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Canola oil

1. Devein celery. Slice celery into 2-inch strips.

2. Heat oil, add celery and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until celery is cooked through. Serve immediately.

Thanks for dinner, Mom, and thanks for the yummy sautéed celery!

As for the Japanese obon festival, the season is slowly winding down as most of our local temples have held their obon. We visited the Orange County obon festival over the weekend but unfortunately we arrived late to discover that most of the food we wanted was sold out. The good news is that Bebe E got to dance for a little bit.

On our way home, Bebe E asked us why she didn’t get a popsicle after she danced. Laughing, we had to explain to her that the popsicle was a treat that was provided only during break at our practices, but not at this specific obon festival. I wonder if the popsicle is the reason why she wanted to go to obon practice?!?

Good times!

Cheers,

Judy