Sunday, November 28, 2010

mmm…クリーム シチュー...

october 003

Oh my goodness. Cream stew is probably one of the most delicious things ever. It’s not really Japanese fare, but I really never ate it until I came to Japan. I know that you can buy little cubes of roux for the stew in the grocery stores here, but they have a ton of salt and lord knows what else in them, so I prefer to make my own roux. It’s easy peasy and I know exactly what goes into my lovely stew. I am pretty terrible at guessing the quantities of the ingredients, since I basically go by how much will fit into the tiny pots I have, so I haven’t included any real measurements… ahem.

You will need:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • 5 or so new potatoes, well washed (I never peel the skin off of potatoes, but if you’d like to, go for it!)
  • *optional* napa cabbage
  • 2 or 3 boneless chicken thighs, cut into nice bite-sized chunks.
  • milk (I use low-fat milk, but whatever you like or have around is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon-ish of butter
  • 2 teaspoon-ishes of flour
  • cooking oil (I use grapeseed oil)
  • water


First, add a tiny bit of oil to a nonstick pan and add your chicken and make sure it is cooked through all the way!! Then, remove the chicken and set it aside for later. In your pot, start sweating your chopped up onion with a tiny bit of oil (I like a large diced onion, not teeny tiny pieces) until translucent. Then, add your carrots, roughly chopped, and the new potatoes, diced. Add enough water to cover the whole shebang and let it come to a simmer. In the meantime, steam your broccoli in the microwave. I put mine in a little dish with a tiny bit of water. This way it gets cooked, but doesn’t turn soggy. Set this aside, maybe by the chicken.
Once your potatoes, carrots and onions have come to a simmer, cook them until you can easily put a fork through the carrots. The new potatoes shouldn’t take too too long to get cooked through all the way.

In a separate pot, start melting your butter and add the flour. Whisk it in until there are no lumps, but the mixture is thick. This is your roux. Then, add a ladleful of the water from the pot with the potatoes and dissolve your roux in this. Then, using a slotted spoon, start adding the carrots, potatoes and onions to the pot with the roux. Then add your chicken and broccoli. Once everything is in, add a little more of the potato/carrot water and pour in the milk until everything is covered. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently. You don’t want to break up the broccoli, but you want to make sure the roux is evenly distributed so that everything becomes thickened – so it becomes kind of… stew-ey.

Let this simmer and thicken. If you find that your stew isn’t thickening, you can always add a little more flour. Don’t forget to add salt and pepper to taste. The butter has a little salt in it, but without a little salt + pepper the stew can be a little bland.

Finally, in the words of the greatest of the greats, miss J. Child: Bon Appétit!!

★ ★ ★

This is a really nice fall/winter dish, and can be modified with vegetables you like. Sometimes it’s good with mushrooms, which would be added at the end, with the broccoli and chicken. It is good even with cabbage (I like Napa cabbage myself) boiled along with the potatoes and carrots. You could even possibly add small pastas to this, but since the stew is pretty thick, I don’t find it necessary.


Sunday, November 21, 2010


Kusaki Dam 031

Last weekend, Kevin, Eric, and I went on the Watarase River Valley railway to a tiny little station called Godo up in the mountains. We went for a nice walk/hike to Kusaki Dam and got to enjoy lots of local scenery. Despite the fact that Japan has been heavily forested and its rivers diverted and dammed and developed, it still continues to be a beautiful place.

Kusaki Dam 001

I randomly picked Godo station to get off at, because It has the same characters as Kobe (神戸). Weird, huh?

Kusaki Dam 014

Kusaki Dam 036

Kusaki dam. It was surprisingly big!!

Kusaki Dam 043

Kusaki Dam 063

Kusaki Dam 074

On our way back to Godo, we walked past a house that had chicken coops and pheasants right out front.

Kusaki Dam 084

Maybe you can see Kevin off to the right there… right before he decided to take a swim in the river.

Kusaki Dam 085

Monday, November 15, 2010

プリティーお弁当 #3!

November 027

The colors aren’t as nice as I’d hoped, I have such crappy lighting in my apartment >.<; but here’s pretty obento #3! I took this bento for school this past Friday. I really like my star cupcake wrappers. They are made out of silicone, so you can use them over and over and over, AND they totally make my bento 500 times more adorable than usual.

Now for the contents!

mini hamburgers w/ siracha sauce
green beans simmered in soy sauce/broth
Japanese-style pumpkin
steamed broccoli

Friday, November 12, 2010

The L.L.

November 018

L.L. stands for Language Lab, which is what this classroom used to be, probably 20 years ago. There are tape recorders built into each desk, along with individual microphone headsets. At the front of the room is a large control console, complete with a monitor system and master recording panel. I turned on the control console and found a display not unlike that of one of those old apple computers my elementary schools had in their computer labs when I was in like.. 2nd grade… that had 18 amazing colors on the screen. I guess the sad thing is that nobody knows how to operate this thing anymore, and even if they could, the students have absolutely destroyed the tape recorders in the desks and more than half of the headsets are missing or broken. Teenage ennui will always ultimately lead to destruction.

November 016

The LL is on the 4th (and top floor) of a separate building that was added to the campus of our school about…20 years ago. There’s a windowed connecting hallway that spans the distance between the main building and the building where the LL is. It’s wickedly cold because it’s all glass and old windows, but it offers a nice view, which is especially nice in the morning and mid-afternoon. Especially around 3:25, when I go for cleaning. The light hits the mountains in an especially nice way that calms me down after a long day.

November 015

I tried to decorate the LL a little bit. My predecessor had left up a lot of the posters and flags and things from the ALTs before him, and a lot of them had to do with New Zealand and the now totally defunct exchange program from about 10 years ago. My first week consisted of cleaning out all the garbage and tearing down all of the old posters. I made this poster for the window between the prep room (which is also our club room) and the actual classroom. Unfortunately 90% of my kids don’t know what it means… but I like it and it’s going to stay up as long as I’m here. There are also some maps and things like speech schedules that I have hanging on the walls, but I like looking at this during my classes when I get frustrated to remember why we need to learn how to speak each others’ languages.

November 019

Of course, the LL isn’t the pristine learning environment that I make it out to be. It’s pretty dirty, like… 20 million years of dust, on the shelves and things… it has a musty kind of smell, sometimes there are dead birds that I find out on the veranda, and then there are nice little things that my students write on the desks. I really like the one that says OCだるいよー。

November 021 November 022

Here’s a nice view from the front of the room. This is what I get to see every day at work.

November 023

The light coming through the pine trees next to the building along the riverside at 3:45 is surreal. I can never see the river because of the trees, but I can always hear it. Nobody comes in the entire building for any reason other than my class, and the band uses the big tatami rooms on the ground floor for practice, but other than that… there’s not much happening here, and it feels so lonely and neglected compared to the rest of the school. Anyway. It’s my classroom.

November 025

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

till we meet again, cupcake.

November 011

The home economics club at my school invited me to make cupcakes with them last week. We made the cake part on Thursday, and then, since the cupcakes had to cool, we did the buttercream icing and sprinkles on Friday. The cake (which was devil’s food) was slightly dense, and the buttercream wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped. Despite these couple of flaws, making the cupcakes was all good fun, until it came time to actually eating them.

I guess American-style sweets just aren’t popular in Japan. I was really surprised that the students in particular didn’t want to eat them… or take them home. One of the teachers even said that she hated American food, but for American food, these were OK. I was a little bummed out by this turn of events. In any case, I got to take home a couple of cupcakes. Since the home ec. club money pays for the ingredients, I felt kind of bad taking a lot, so I said I’d take two and give two to the music teacher, to say thanks for letting me use the piano all the time.

So. there goes my idea of opening up a cupcake shop in Tokyo. I guess cupcakes just aren’t a crowd pleaser here. Oh well. More for me!

November 010

Sunday, November 7, 2010


November 012

These are easily the cutest things I’ve ever eaten. The owl is so so so so freaking adorable.

hee :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

プリティーお弁当 #2!

November 007

Ok. well. Maybe it wasn’t especially pretty, but it was especially tasty.

The contents!

carrots & broccoli steamed with butter & honey (yes!)
tuna that was pan.. fried? maybe? I dunno... with a little bit of soy sauce
white rice made with dashi and a little sprinkle of dried parsley

I also took a mandarin orange, but it didn’t make it for the photo shoot.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Disneyland 003

The best part about going to Tokyo Disneyland in a typhoon is that you don’t have to wait in line for very long for rides!!

Disneyland 011 Disneyland 006

Shin-chan and I planned on going there Halloween weekend, and when we heard there was going to be a typhoon, we decided to go anyway. I had never been to Tokyo Disneyland (and it’s been a veritable lifetime since I’ve been to Disney World) and I had been itching to go, ever since I found myself in Kanto and within very close reach of the happiest place in Japan.

Disneyland 015 Disneyland 016

I got this sweet leopard-print Minnie hat, and had a FANTASTIC time!!!

I want to go to Disney Sea for the next typhoon!!