Saturday, November 30, 2013

Food adventure - Mayo takoyaki

Okay guys, I'll be honest, there's a newly-opened Japanese square at our local mall and we could not just walk by without checking it out. No way, not us! And somewhere in that crazy square of brimming heads and tiny tables, this little fast food joint was calling out to us.

Behind the glass display, they were creating these little tako balls by hand. I gotta admit, I love open kitchens. I could stand there all day and watch them pour in the flour mixture and layer on baby octopus, fish flakes, tempura scraps, finely chopped pickled ginger and green onion. They use 2 metal skewers to keep turning and rolling till everything comes together into a ball. Fascinating.

We'd just had lunch but after that round of grocery shopping, we were ready for a little snack of Mayo Takoyaki. Behind the kiosk are these teeny tiny tables where we could park ourselves to savor our newfound snack.

Seriously guys, the space between the tables are so-oo superduper narrow I literally had to hold my breath as me and my J.Lo butt squeezed, actually scraped the table on my way in. Embarrassing! If I'm going to be eating here more often, Imma have to lose some weight, haha!

Okay, so here we go. I made it, whew! I'm finally balancing myself on that tiny little chair possibly with my butt cheeks overflowing on both sides, I don't know. Not a pretty sight. I couldn't bear to look and I sure hope no one noticed! Man, who knew eating a takoyaki could be such a barrel of laughs!

The Macha Honey Lemon is quite a tasty variation to plain green tea (macha). If the taste had been stronger, I would've liked it better though. But I appreciated that it was cold.

The tako comes heavily drizzled with Japanese mayo and topped with chopped green onions. You also get 2 severely malnourished wooden skewers to eat with. Man, look at those skewers, they're the skinniest I've ever seen.

But who cares, they do the job. You use one skewer to cut the tako ball in half, then use both to lift it to your mouth and pray you don't splatter it on your shirt. My first thought was to use the skewers as chopsticks but I didn't think they could take the weight.

Okay, here you see the pink bit of baby octopus in the one I've cut in half on the lower right. I think they also have the shrimp, and unagi (eel) versions. The tako ball itself is light and fluffy with all these chewy bits inside and the mayo gives it a bit of a sweetish tang. Quite the yums.

So tell me, dear friends. would you try this? What have you tried recently that you've not tasted before? Or what food have you've heard about and would love to try?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey friends, just dropping in with a quick note to say how thankful I am of each and every one of your visits and comments. Although this blog is still fairly new, I've been thrilled to have you all come around and visit with me. I make it a point to visit you all back though I admit sometimes I do get swept away by the whirlwind of motherhood.

I know I'm just a little late here but it's been a very busy day. I hope you all are having/had a great Thanksgiving over good food and family. Love you all.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Basil Chicken Fettucine

Hey everyone, here comes another easy-peasy weekday meal that you can whip up in a jiffy. I know we're all getting busier by the day. Thanksgiving is next week, can you believe that? Between now and Thanksgiving, I won't have much time to do any fancy cooking so the less prep time, the better.

My daughter made this Basil Chicken Fettucine recently and it was a big hit. I thought I'd share this quick and easy recipe which is perfect for a weeknight dinner or weekday lunch.

Here's what we used but feel free to vary the amounts to your liking:
  • Spinach fettucine for 3
  • 1 large chicken breast, sliced
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • A blob of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Boil the fettucine till al dente/according to the instructions on the packaging.
  2.  Meantime, in a skillet on medium, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Add in the chicken and butter. Saute till the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Add tomatoes and basil, and saute till tomatoes are slightly softened.
  5. Finally add cooked fettucine into the skillet and toss to mix.
  6. Season to taste and you are ready to serve.

So easy, right? It literally takes like 20 minutes to put together. I like to add broccoli, carrots or spinach too. So yummy and healthy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to get stuff done like a pro

Not that I'm a pro or anything. I'm a pro-crastinator, that I am. But I couldn't very well put that in the title, could I? But now you know. I've got a list longer than Santa's, believe you me, and I'm chugging along in starts and stops hoping I'll wake up one morning and the elves would've done their jobs and there'd be precious nothing left for me to do.

Hey, wake up! This is real life. If it's one thing I do well, it's procrastinate. For realz. So now as I look at all the stuff I still need to get done, I'm getting a little overwhelmed here. And I don't overwhelm easy, as a rule. So I console myself that I'm not the only one. Am I? Please tell me I'm not.

And so I thought I'd talk about how I juggle the crazy number of balls I have up in the air.

1. Make lists like crazy

You already know this. I've made lists on my smartphone. They didn't really work out. I'm more of a scribbler. I prefer to scribble on pathetic scraps of paper. It doesn't matter as long as you have an actual physical list you can see, you will have a mental picture and won't lose track of what you need to do as easily. That really helps.

2. Bite size, please

I tend to take it a step further and break down the complex tasks into chewable sizes so when it comes to crossing items off my list, it'll look like I got a lot done. Okay, so I need to trick myself into thinking I accomplished more than I really did. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Truth is it gives me great satisfaction to cross items off and watch that list shrink before my very eyes (provided I'm not adding on more items than I'm crossing off, that is!)

3. Grit your teeth and prioritize

Since my list includes many things I'm doing for a bunch of other people aka my kids, it makes prioritizing stuff a whole lot harder. I don't try to do everything at once. That would be foolish. I number everything according to priority. Obviously those numbers change, quite a bit. So renumber them and juggle as best you can.

4. Kick some butt

Some of us think we're superwomen. I'm guilty of that. I always think I can get things done quicker and better than anyone else. My tag line: Don't worry, I'll handle everything. Then one day, I looked around and noticed 3 not so little me's sitting around that I can recruit and train to work for me.

Excellent! Time to delegate, peeps. See, I never thought to delegate. But you know what, those kids we have sitting around on the computer all day, those kids can be put to work. The tasks may take a little longer or may not be done to your high standards, but that's okay, they are inexperienced now but they will learn.

5. Give yourself a pat on the back

My teens are pretty good at helping out. I wish I'd recruited them earlier. They're fast learners and more capable than I dared to imagine at first, and they work for free. Score! That said, I believe in praising and rewarding my crew for a job well done. Not that I mind a little reward myself after all that running around. So I treat everyone to their favorite eats, hang out and just chill afterwards.

So tell me, are you one of those lucky ones that the elves love to visit, or are you (like me) busy as a bee now that the holiday frenzy is gaining on us? Feel free to share whatever tips you have or that have worked for you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rainy days and Mondays

Hey guys, how did your weekend go? Mine was pretty quiet. We stayed home. I wouldn't have had it any other way after last week which was, as weeks go around here, pretty fast and furious.

Also it's been raining some, well, a lot. I appreciated getting to sleep in a little over the weekend after running around like a crazy woman all week. The idea of lying in bed and listening to the rain is a welcome one. Well, these days, we're getting thunder and lightning for dramatic effect.

I like the cooler days. It brings a fresh, new outlook to things, as if everything's been washed nice and clean and ready for a new start. Colors are more vivid, nature sounds clearer and today being a Monday, the sunrise was brilliant and I'm hoping it'll chase away those dreaded Monday blues.

I'm going to keep it short as I jump straight into another crazy week. I can't wait for things to get less hectic. If you have a minute, tell me what, if anything, do you like/not like about rainy days and Mondays.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My workout story and philosophy

Hey friends, things have been non-stop around here as you can tell from my somewhat sparse postings of late. I missed my workout today but in my mind, I'm picturing myself working out. Does that count? Oh, well, whatever but since we're on the topic, I thought I'd share my story of how I got started working out.

Up till about 8, maybe 9 years ago, exercise wasn't in my genes. Six teams of horses couldn't get me to lift a finger, let alone drag myself to the gym which is a 15-minute drive away on a good day. But I'd just left my job at the time and I had some time to kill and I thought, heck, let's see if there's anything fun to do at the gym, and basically, I just never looked back.

It still brings a smile to my face when I think of my noob days when I didn't even know how to work the treadmill and had to ask for help. So embarrassing! Well, walking was fun for a while. I progressed from km to km and I was feeling like a hero by the time I could do 3 km at a stretch. I started brisk walking but never got into running. That's so not my thing.

And that's been my philosophy, pretty much. If I don't like an exercise, I won't do it. There's lots of workouts to choose from, so I figure why push myself to do something I loathe or that isn't fun? Personal trainers may not agree but that's how I roll.

Speaking of which, a gym buddy of mine signed up with a personal trainer which made me contemplate the idea. Should I? Could I? tolerate the bashing her trainer was giving her? Umm, nah, I'm not much for a strict, structured routine or for paying someone to kick my butt. I'd rather kick my own butt, thanks, it's cheaper LOL.

These days, I do a bit of everything. A bit of yoga, a bit of pilates, a bit of strength training, whatever. I get bored easily so I'm always changing up my workouts and if something looks interesting, I might just try it. I kinda like to surprise myself and keep my muscles guessing. So on any given day, I'm just doing whatever springs to mind.

I love working out, it's fun and the endorphin rush is well worth every drop of sweat. It makes me feel like a champ every. single. time. So tomorrow, I'm getting back to the grind. Fo'shizzle. It's go, go, go!! No more excuses. End of mental workout.

Okay, your turn. Do you work out or want to? What got you started? What's your workout philosophy? Would you hire a personal trainer? Can't wait to hear what you have to say.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Homemade salmon sashimi salad

Hey there guys, let's talk about me and my sashimi for a minute. My love for sashimi goes back quite a ways. It took a while though for me to get to liking it. As you can imagine, chewing on a piece of raw fish wasn't the most natural thing in the world for me LOL. Anyhoo I got past that and now I love it! but I will only eat salmon sashimi, not tuna, not white fish. Don't ask me why :)

My teens are big fans too which means we could rack up the bill pretty fast for the amount of sashimi we would need to order for a meal. So it's not like we can have this every day. The cheaper alternative is simply to make my own copycat version.

So let's get on with my take on the salmon sashimi salad that we enjoy so much.
  • A heap of iceberg lettuce (as much as you like)
  • A heap of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Half a carrot, finely shredded (not in the picture because I ran out)
  • A box of salmon sashimi, about 8-10 slices
  • One lemon
  • Roasted sesame dressing
I get the salmon sashimi from my local Japanese grocery store. They come in a box, sliced and ready to eat. You should refrigerate it until you're ready to eat. I usually eat mine on the same day. I mean, it's raw and I just want to play it safe.

My local Japanese grocery store also sells roasted sesame dressing in bottles. They must go pretty fast because I can't always find them when I need them. So I tend to buy an extra bottle to keep as a spare when I see it.

Anyhoo all that's left to do is to toss the lettuce, tomatoes, shredded carrot in a big salad bowl. Top with salmon and a big old squeeze of lemon juice. Shake a generous amount of roasted sesame dressing over top. Toss everything together and you're ready to eat.

This exotic twist to a regular salad makes a really nice change for an exotic potluck when you have guests over. The slightly sweet, nutty tang of the dressing goes so well with the veggies and salmon. Best of all, we get to enjoy this at a fraction of the price we would pay at the restaurant.

Share your sashimi story. What do you think - love it, hate it, would like to try it?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Two quick stops, Carmel and Monterey

As we were leaving Gilroy the day after our visit to San Francisco, I couldn't resist making a lunch stop at Carmel. To me, it's one of the finest places for seafood, and by seafood, I mean clam chowder. The drive into town on that day in late spring was picturesque, as always...

... with quaint little shops like this lining both sides of the street. The shops are cute but I think it's the sunny tree-lined sidewalks that I'm more drawn to.

After lunch, we were hoping to take a leisurely drive down The 17-mile Drive to see the ocean. But first, we passed by lots of beautiful houses like this one and wondered if we might spot any of our favorite celebs out there. Driving through Carmel, you see flowers everywhere in all colors, it's like driving through a garden.

As it turned out, you now have to pay to enter The 17-mile Drive. I didn't know that. The last time I was there, it was still free. So we decided to skip it this time, and continued our drive to Monterey. This is the place where we always come to buy souvenirs. Seriously, how many souvenirs do we need from just Monterey alone?

And of course, no trip to Monterey would be complete without a walk down the pier to gaze out at the Pacific Ocean. I could spend hours sitting on a bench listening to the waves crash onto the rocks below and watching the gentle movement of the sea.

I wish we could've stayed longer but we had a long drive back to Fresno. Trust me to be still thinking about that clam chowder we had at that little Italian restaurant in Carmel (it's a shame I can't remember the name).