Archive | June, 2013

We Made It! First Week In Japan

19 Jun

Well, after one week, I think we’re almost all settled in. Traveling here was quite the trip, and we almost didn’t even live in Thursday and skipped right into Friday. It was pretty weird. But overall, we made it here without a hitch. Will virtually zero Japanese, we’ve been able to get around the airport (which, to its credit, has a lot of signs in English and a great information counter with English speaking services), get our apartment, grocery shop and buy everything we need, and Brent is traveling via train and bus to work every day.

But how did we get here? Well, we left on Wednesday and flew to San Diego and waited for our connection to Japan. We got lucky, so we were told, because we got to fly in the new 787, or “Dreamliner,” a humongous plane that I certainly did not expect to be as giant as it was. I’ve only flown on normal planes for no more than about four hours…so this 10 hour flight and behemoth of a plane was quite the treat.

Glimpse of the plane

Glimpse of the plane

This was just our section…there was an entire “first class/ business class” in front of us, and an entire section behind us. It had four seats in the middle rows and two seats across on the sides. Basically, it was huge. and fancy!

DSC02706
There was a screen in front of every seat, with a remote control on one side and a game controller on the other. You could watch a bunch of movies, shows, play games… it was crazy! I got to watch that weirdly violent Hansel and Gretel movie, as well as the classic Annie Hall. Brent played a video game and basically slept the entire time when they weren’t feeding us…which was half the time. They stuffed us with (really good) food!

Brent got a "special" meal - low sodium. and special treatment from the flight attendants!

Brent got a “special” meal – low sodium. and special treatment from the flight attendants!

Muchin'

Muchin’

This is so. much. food. and this doesn't show the ice cream they gave us later!

This is so. much. food. and this doesn’t show the ice cream they gave us later!

Showing off my chopstick skills with some watermelon

Showing off my chopstick skills with some watermelon

I’ve never been on a flight where the flight attendants were actually attentive. They offered us as many drinks and snacks as we wanted, were heating up baby bottles for people, helping people get luggage down, just anything you wanted! They were so sweet. We got to try some Japanese beer (they were really excited that we wanted to try it) and were always offering us more. We felt pretty special.

So we landed and then had to exchange money and find out how to get to our hotel – both of which Brent handled fabulously.

We headed to the Hilton near the airport, and then basically fell asleep at 7pm. I was up for about 24 hours and only “lived” for a few hours in Thursday before falling asleep and waking up on Friday!

Friday was busy. We had to wake up super early to go back to the hotel and catch a bus to Yokohama so we could get our keys. The man who worked with us actually drove us to our apartment (about an hour), and one of Brent’s colleagues met us in our town and took us to lunch, which was our first official meal in Japan. Brent then went to check out the train/ bus situation and get a tour at his work, while I was left to set up our apartment.

kitchenette

kitchenette

From the sleeping loft

From the sleeping loft

We have 2 futon mattresses up in a little cozy loft space, like a tree house hangout.

from the sliding door

from the sliding door

microwave/fridge/bathroom door.

microwave/fridge/bathroom door.

I love our little apartment. It’s cozy and cute, and only a block away from the shopping center which is obviously my hot-spot.

We will be exploring more soon, and a few people have offered to take us around and show us some good “touristy” spots near our home. More to come really soon – including some recipes and food pics!

Getting ready for Japan!

7 Jun
This is just the first of many posts of our Japanese journey. I hope you will follow us!

We were very lucky to be invited to Brent’s colleague’s home tonight. Takashi and his lovely wife Riyo hosted a little “Good Luck” party for us and Riyo prepared some really, really good Japanese food for us and gave us some tips for our stay.Takashi works for Nissan but is at the University of Wisconsin right now working with the Nissan research group that Brent is a part of (and how we got this great opportunity in the first place!).

The four of us eating our okonomiyaki!

The four of us eating our okonomiyaki! (photo credit: Riyo)

Riyo made okonomiyaki, a mix of cabbage, green onions, special flour, eggs, and pork belly (bacon) with any other added meats, topped with sauce, mayonnaise, shredded bonito (fish flakes) and seaweed powder. The easiest way to describe okonomiyaki is a Japanese style “pancake,” or fritter, that we would eat here. Riyo included shrimp and calamari in ours, and also gave me the recipe – I cannot wait to eat this again.

One of the finished okonomiyaki

One of the finished okonomiyaki (Photo credit: Riyo)

I was also a bit obsessed with their electric skillet/wok that let her prepare our food right at the table – I need one of these!

Brent trying his hand at flipping - it took a bit of finesse!

Brent trying his hand at flipping – it took a bit of finesse! (Photo credit: Riyo)

also made a salad of lettuce, nori (seaweed), and sesame oil, and we finished with a fruit jelly in an impressive bowl.

Watermelon bowls are the best kind of bowls

Watermelon bowls are the best kind of bowls (Photo credit: Riyo)

It was nice to chat with them tonight; we got a taste of what we might be experiencing, and they told us some places we should visit while we’re there! I’ve got to start planning for that now.

Roasted Red Pepper, Goat Cheese, and Basil Pasta

5 Jun

I grew up with sauce in the jar. This sauce was exclusively used on spaghetti noodles. I literally grew up thinking that spaghetti was the only pasta people ate. It’s like other shapes didn’t exist and sauce only came out of a glass jar. One could not make their own sauce, one could not deviate from thin, long pasta.

Then, I left home and discovered about 500 different pasta shapes and bought and used them all. I loved them- radiatore, fusilli, rigatoni, and the really unusual shapes like the flute shaped campanelle.  I asked my mom why we always had spaghetti noodles and she simply said, “I like spaghetti.”

pasta

I forgot what this pasta shape is called!

Mystery solved.

Once I got myself a food processor, the door then opened to sauce making. This sauce is modified from the lovely Pioneer Woman, with a bit of variation with goat cheese. It’s extremely simple and all it takes is a bit of sauteeing, a bit of pureeing, and just a touch of melting. It’s full of bright flavors; the sweet peppers get a fresh kick from fresh basil, and a touch of tang from creamy goat cheese.

beautiful ingredients

beautiful ingredients

Side note: I made this for my brother and I on a whim when he came to visit. I used an old nonstick pan that decided to absorb the dishwasher liquid. Our whole meal tasted like soap and I almost cried. So obviously I had to make it again.

scrumptious sauce

scrumptious sauce

Roasted Red Pepper, Goat Cheese, and Basil Pasta
Adapted from pioneerwoman.com
Yeilds: about 4 cups (serves 4-5…but could go further. I love saucy pasta.)

  • Pasta of your choice (it’s okay if it is spaghetti!)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 whole large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar (15.5 Ounces) roasted red peppers-drained and chopped roughly
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste (we don’t cook with much salt around my house)
  • Splash of heavy cream (or more, indulge yourself!)
  • 2 or 3 ounces of goat cheese
  • Chopped fresh basil (as much as you want!)

Preparation Instructions

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until starting to soften. Add the chopped red peppers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until hot.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Carefully transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor or blender. Place on the lid and puree the pepper mixture until totally blended (there will still be some texture to the peppers.)

Heat the other tablespoon butter back to the skillet over medium heat. Pour the pepper puree back into the skillet. Add the broth, salt, and pepper, and stir until heated. Splash in the cream and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if you need to. I continued to cook mine longer until it began to cook down and thicken.

Add the goat cheese (crumbling for easier melting) and the basil, stirring until cheese incorporates into sauce.

You can toss pasta with sauce or spoon on top, whatever you choose.