Home Cooking: Zucchini Frittata

(Photo credit: Real Simple magazine)

Mid-September always meant the last of the zucchini when we had a garden, sad because our plants always provided so much and because zucchini was a favorite summer vegetable. Thankfully zucchini is now available year round in supermarkets, and here on Kaua’i we’re fortunate to find it almost all year at the farmer’s market, both the green and yellow varieties. I pick some up more weeks than not as Brett and I love it, especially roasted or grilled.

This long-time favorite recipe comes from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book and uses quite a bit of zucchini so it’s a great recipe if you’re being overrun, and it’s delicious both hot and cold. A frittata is nothing more than an Italian egg-based dish similar to an omelet or quiche, and it can be either simple or enriched with additional ingredients including meats, vegetables, herbs. It’s easy to make, and can either be baked or started in a skillet and finished in the oven. Along with some good bread and a salad, a frittata makes an easy and low-cost meal.

Getting as much liquid squeezed out of the zucchini is crucial to getting this frittata to set set up properly. Our method for squeezing out the liquid it to put the grated zucchini in a clean cotton dishtowel, roll the towel up lengthwise, and then twist the ends in opposite directions (over the  sink, or outside if that’s not possible). One of the girls usually helped me with this task when they were at home, but these days Brett helps me, and between the two of us we’re able to get a tremendous amount of liquid squeezed out using this method.

By the way, what I remember most about growing zucchini was that in spite of checking our plants every day and harvesting what was ready, I could often go out the next morning and discover a squash the size of a baseball bat! Did it grow that big overnight, or was it just well hidden and I missed it ??? It was one of the mysteries of the garden that I never could figure out.

ZUCCHINI FRITTATA

8 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 3 pounds)

1 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp butter

2 TBSP finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, finely minced

6 eggs

2 TBSP milk

1/2 tsp crumbled oregano

1/2 tsp crumbled dried basil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

dash of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Squeeze as much liquid out of the shredded zucchini as possible – try to get it as “dry” as possible. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet (preferably non-stick) and sauté the onion and garlic for around 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and cook over moderately low heat, stirring often, until the zucchini is just tender. If any liquid still collects in the pan, pour it off.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, milk, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, hot sauce or cayenne and 2 TBSP of the Parmesan cheese. Add to the zucchini mixture and pour into a well-greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Top the mixture with the rest of the Parmesan cheese and bake in a 350° oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the cheese has browned on top

OR

If you are using an ovenproof skillet, you can add the egg mixture to the zucchini in the skillet and cook everything together, stirring often, until the eggs begin to set. Sprinkle the frittata with the remaining Parmesan cheese and place the pan under the broiler or in a 500 degree oven and cook just until the top is lightly browned. (This only takes a very few minutes, so watch carefully).

Let the frittata stand for a few minutes before slicing. The frittata can easily provide six servings. It can also be garnished with tomato slices or a sprinkle of fresh herbs, or with sliced olives, if desired.

Home Cooking: Vegetable Side Salads x3

Wilted cucumbers (photo credit: almanac.com)

Because of my lettuce intolerance, other than bland (but cool and crunchy) iceberg lettuce, and an occasional spinach salad, I cannot eat a green salad. No romaine, no bib, no mache, no endive, no other leaf lettuces can pass my lips without unpleasant results. The rest of my family enjoys salads though, so we have grown lettuce in the past and I have made lots of tossed salads for them, but I have always had to avoid them. My parents never got it when I was young, that my avoidance of salads was more than not liking the taste of lettuce, that lettuces other than iceberg actually made me sick, so I was often stuck at the table until I “finished my (romaine or other variety) salad.” What that meant was that I became very good at hiding salad in my clothes or napkin, or at passing it over to my sister or a brother.

I’ve always loved vegetables though, so was always happy when there was something other than a green salad being served. When I began cooking for my own family, I often made vegetable side salads so I could enjoy them right along with the rest of the family (who also all like vegetables). We still enjoy these salads frequently, but especially in the summer.

The wilted cucumber salad comes from Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest. It is easy, versatile and inexpensive, and the cucumber slices are a nice addition to a variety of sandwiches as well as being enjoyed on their own. I always make a big jar of this to take camping as they kept well (but usually were eaten fairly quickly). The three bean salad is an old standby from years ago (I can’t remember where I got my recipe), and again is inexpensive and easy to make. I often look for cans of beans on sale when I go to the market to have them on hand, and the type of beans used in the salad can be varied depending on what you have in your pantry. The cauliflower salad recipe comes from my grandmother, who lived on a farm and cooked with what came out of her garden. I never really enjoyed this salad all that much when I was young, but when I found the recipe one day in my mom’s recipe file I figured out why: Mom always made it with Miracle Whip, which I didn’t (and still don’t) care for, instead of the sour cream the recipe calls for. With sour cream, it is cool, crunchy and completely yummy.

WILTED CUCUMBER SALAD

Make at least a day ahead so that the cucumbers can fully “relax” and absorb the marinade. When the marinade is first poured over the cucumbers it won’t seem like you made enough, but as the cucumbers wilt, the marinade will fully cover them. These can keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, although they never seem to last more than a few days at our house.

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar (rice vinegar works well too)

1/3 cup water

4 TBSP sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

4 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

black pepper to taste

2 TBSP minced fresh dill (optional)

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan; heat just to the boiling point, then remove from heat. Layer the onion and cucumber slices in a medium-large bowl, and pour the hot liquid over them. Cool to room temperature, then add pepper and dill (if using). Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and chill until cold.

Classic three-bean salad can easily accommodate four beans if you prefer! (photo credit: food.com)

THREE-BEAN SALAD

The canned beans listed below are for the “classic” salad, but can be varied, although there should always be either a green bean or yellow (wax) bean. I have used garbanzos, white beans, and others, depending on what’s on hand in the pantry.

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup cider vinegar

3/4 cup sugar (or less, to taste)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 can each, well-drained:

  • wax beans
  • green beans
  • kidney beans

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup finely chopped green pepper (optional)

Combine oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper; stir until sugar is dissolved. Place beans, onions and pepper in a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. marinate for at least 8 hours before serving. Can be eaten cold or at room temperature.

CAULIFLOWER SALAD

3 cups finely chopped raw cauliflower

1 cup seeded and diced fresh tomato

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 tsp cider or rice vinegar

1/3 cup sour cream

salt & pepper to taste

Mix together the vinegar, sour cream and salt and pepper. Combine cauliflower, tomato and celery in a bowl; toss with sour cream mixture and chill well before serving.

Home Cooking: Caramel Pecan French Toast

(photo credit: Allrecipes)

And now for something completely different . . . .

This recipe favors those with a sweet tooth, or with a desire for an occasional special sweet treat.

Brett’s all-time favorite breakfast item whenever we go out for breakfast is French toast. If it’s on the menu, in any form, from plain to stuffed, I know it’s what he’ll order. I found this decadent recipe on a B&B recipe site a few years ago when I was looking for a stuffed French toast recipe to make for his birthday. There were an incredible number of French toast recipes to choose from, but knowing Brett also loves caramel sticky buns (me too) when I saw this one I knew I had to give it a try.

It’s a surprisingly easy dish to put together. Although the recipe calls for a baguette, I used a brioche loaf from Trader Joe’s and overlapped the slices somewhat to get them to fit in the baking dish. I think challah would also work well. I also substituted Lyle’s Golden Syrup, made from cane sugar, for the corn syrup. Lyle’s comes from England and can be purchased from Amazon.

This French toast really does taste just like a sticky bun. Reviews over the years have included “The best thing you’ve EVER made for breakfast” and “I want this for my birthday cake next year.” Although it’s too much for Brett and I to have on our own these days, I do plan to make it next time our family is all together again, whenever that eventually happens.

CARAMEL PECAN FRENCH TOAST

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 TBSP light corn syrup or golden syrup

1 cup chopped pecans

36-40 1/2 slices baguette-style French bread, 18 2-inch slices of French bread or a 8 slices of a heavier white bread

6 beaten eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 TBSP granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, stir together brown sugar, butter and syrup. Heat and stir until the butter is melted and the brown sugar dissolved. Pour into a well-greased 9″ x 13″ baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the pecans. Arrange half of the bread slices in a single layer over the sugar mixture and pecans. Sprinkle with the remaining pecans and top with the remaining bread slices.

In a medium bowl, blend the eggs, milk and vanilla, then slowly pour over the bread. Press lightly with the back of a large spoon to make sure all the bread is moistened.

Stir together sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, then sprinkle over the bread. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.  Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. To serve, remove individual servings with a wide spatula and invert onto serving plates. Makes 9 servings.

Home Cooking: Chinese 3-Color Salad (Hiyashi Chuka)

This 3-color salad has beni shoga (red pickled ginger strips) in the middle as well as ham, egg, cucumber, tomatoes, and bean sprouts.

My recipe for this pretty, easy, and delicious cold salad is nearly 40 years ago, and comes from a friend who took a Chinese cooking class when we were stationed together in Japan and then generously shared the recipes with me. The salad, which is called three-color salad in Chinese, is called hiyashi chuka in Japanese, “chilled Chinese.” It is a summer staple in Chinese restaurants in Japan, served during the summer when it is too hot and humid to cook. Neighborhood restaurants there often offer home delivery, and on hot, steamy evenings when we lived off-base, it was a wonderful treat to call the restaurant down the street from us and have them bring this salad to us.

Hiyashi chuka is one of our family’s favorites, and our girls all informed me when they were young that I had to make it frequently for them. The salad can either be made in individual portions with the dressing added individually, or as one large salad which is mixed with the dressing after being brought to the table. The desired effect either way is to present a colorful composition that can be visually enjoyed before eating begins.

Vermicelli threads or bean thread noodles

In Japan, the salad is made with raw ramen noodles called chukamen (instant ramen does not work for this), but my friend’s recipe called for rice vermicelli or mung bean noodles, sometimes called cellophane noodles. They are easy to prepare and don’t require cooking, only soaking in hot water. They can be found in the Asian section of many markets, at Asian markets, or can be purchased online. Toppings for hiyashi chuka can be varied, but the idea is to have at least three different items in three different colors. Traditional toppings include thin omelet strips, julienned or shredded cucumber, and julienned ham or Chinese barbecued pork. Shredded, chilled chicken breast also is delicious. Mung bean sprouts and julienned carrot can also be added, and in Japan, sliced tomatoes are usually included as well. Two types of dressings are traditionally served with this salad, either soy sauce or sesame flavor; the recipe below includes the soy sauce dressing. 

I bought this julienne peeler when we were in Switzerland – it makes short work of the English cucumber for this salad!

3-COLOR SALAD

The ingredients here make enough for two or three individual salads. The salad dressing should be enough even if the salad ingredients are doubled for a larger salad.

Salad:

  • 2 1/2 oz. rice vermicelli, rice sticks, or bean threads
  • 1 cup thinly julienned ham or Chinese barbecue pork slices
  • 1 English or Japanese cucumber, seeded and thinly julienned or shredded
  • 1 egg
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Dressing:

  • 3 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Blend the dressing ingredients together and chill. In a large bowl, pour boiling water over the vermicelli and let soak for at least 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water, and then squeeze out extra moisture. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut  the softened noodles into 2″ pieces. Beat the egg with the salt; heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet and make a thin omelet with the beaten egg – do not fold the egg. Remove the circular omelet from the pan onto a plate or cutting board and let it cool, then slice into very thin strips. To assemble the salad, put the vermicelli onto a plate or shallow bowl and top with alternating wedge-shaped sections of egg, ham, pork or chicken, and cucumber (add in wedges of other ingredients if using). Keep the salad chilled until ready to serve. At the table pour the chilled dressing over the salad and toss just before serving, after diners have had a chance to admire the colorful composition.

Note: You can cut the dry vermicelli before soaking, but it’s a very messy operation, with noodle pieces flying all over the place. YaYu prefers to have her noodles left uncut, but they’re too long for Brett or I to handle.

Home Cooking: Coleslaw Three Ways

Coleslaw, in any form, has been one of our family’s all-time favorite salads for as long as I can remember, even when our children were little. Because of my lettuce intolerance, it’s always been a great way for me to enjoy a salad as well. Back when we lived on the mainland I always has a bag or two of pre-shredded cabbage on my shopping list because it was healthy, convenient and inexpensive (99 cents or less for regular coleslaw, $1.20 or less for angel hair slaw, which was less than buying a whole head of cabbage). All I had to do was open the bag and rinse off the cabbage, whip up a dressing, add a few additional ingredients, most of which were pantry staples, and we had a cool, crunchy addition to our meal.

The following recipes for traditional, “Asian” and sweet and sour are still our three favorite ways to eat coleslaw, and all three are based on using a 14-oz bag of pre-shredded cabbage. These days I shred my own cabbage as a bag of the pre-shredded stuff is at least $5.99/bag (or more). Locally grown cabbage often shows up at the farmers’ market, and we can occasionally get heads of Hawaii-grown organic cabbage at Costco, but if not I can usually find something affordable at Safeway or Big Save.

Because we enjoy coleslaw so much, I hope that some of you will share your favorite recipes with me as we’re always ready to try something new!

TRADITIONAL COLESLAW

An incredibly easy and delicious recipe.

1 14-oz bag shredded cabbage for coleslaw

grated carrot (optional)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (2 TBSP more if you like a “wetter” coleslaw)

1 TBSP sugar

1 TBSP cider vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Blend in mayonnaise until mixed well with cabbage. Sprinkle sugar over the coleslaw, then vinegar, and mix into the salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let coleslaw sit for about 15 minutes before serving for flavors to mingle.

“ASIAN” COLESLAW

There are probably a hundred variations of this cabbage salad, none of them truly Asian, but this is the best one I’ve tasted. I sometimes add shredded leftover chicken and serve it as a main dish.

1 14-oz bag shredded cabbage for coleslaw (angel hair coleslaw preferred)

1 bunch green onions including green tops, thinly sliced

1 pkg. oriental- or chicken-flavored ramen, flavor packet set aside

2 TBSP sesame seeds

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/3 cup light olive or canola oil

3 TBSP rice vinegar

1 TBSP dark sesame oil (optional)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Combine the cabbage, onions, sesame seeds and almonds in a large bowl. Break apart the uncooked ramen noodles into small pieces and toss with the cabbage. Just before serving mix together the oil(s), rice vinegar, salt, pepper and flavor packet from the ramen and blend well. Pour over the cabbage and toss to mix well. Serve immediately so the ramen stays crunchy.

SWEET AND SOUR SLAW

This yummy recipe comes from Jane Brody’s Good Food Gourmet. It goes well with grilled meat, and curry or Thai-flavored dishes. The recipe makes quite a bit, which is great for potlucks, but I usually cut the recipe in half for my family.

1/3 cup rice or cider vinegar

1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy is OK)

3 TBSP brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBSP soy sauce

1 tsp dark sesame oil

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or 1/2 garlic chili sauce (optional)

2 14-oz bags shredded cabbage for coleslaw

1/2 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Blend together the vinegar, peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, soy sauce and sesame oil; set aside. (If you would like to add a little kick to your salad, add red pepper flakes or the garlic chili sauce.) About an hour before serving, place the peanut butter mixture in a large bowl, and add the cabbage, about 2 cups at a time, tossing the ingredients after each addition. Cover and chill the salad for an hour, tossing it every 20 or so minutes. Just before serving, add the chopped peanuts and toss once more. (This is quite a “wet” slaw; serve with a slotted spoon).

Home Cooking: Grilled Mediterranean-Style Lemon Chicken and Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean lemon chicken thighs right off the grill (I am not a food stylist!)

Grilled lemon chicken and the accompanying salad is one of Brett and my all-time favorite summer meals, and in fact, I almost cannot imagine serving the chicken without the salad or vice-versa (although I did this last week as we had a lot of vegetables to use up and I roasted those instead).

This chicken recipe comes from a childhood neighbor. Babe, as he was called, was famous for his grilled chicken wings, and my sister was able to get his “secret” recipe from his daughter only after Babe passed away. These days I usually substitute boneless, skinless thighs for the chicken wings because wings, while tasty, can be fatty (which we don’t like) and admittedly messy, and because, once again, we prefer the flavor of thigh meat. There is no reason though why an entire cut-up chicken, or just chicken legs or breasts could not be marinated and cooked, if desired. The lemon juice in the marinade sort of “pre-cooks” the meat a little, and the chicken becomes extremely tender when it’s grilled.

The Mediterranean-style quinoa salad recipe also comes from my sister, and we think it complements the lemon chicken perfectly. Quinoa is very easy to prepare (if you have a rice cooker, it’s even easier). I add the raisins and dried cranberries to the quinoa while it’s still slightly warm as it helps to soften them, and then add the rest of the ingredients when everything has cooled to room temperature.

GRILLED LEMON CHICKEN (“BABE’S WINGS”)

2 pounds chicken wings (drumettes preferred) or boneless, skinless chicken thighs

juice from 6-8 lemons

1 1/2 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP dry basil

2 tsp crushed garlic

salt & pepper to taste

Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken and refridgerate for at least 8 hours, turning the meat frequently (I usually use a big Ziploc bag). Prepare barbecue grill (medium coals) and grill chicken until done, about 5 minutes total on each side, longer if you’re using larger cuts. It can be served hot or cold, and is delicious either way.

(photo credit: Elle Republic) I don’t add orange segments or carrot to the salad but you could!

QUINOA SALAD

4 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature

3/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP cider vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

Add raisins, cranberries, red onion, chopped parsley and chopped mint to quinoa and mix to combine. Toss with olive oil and vinegar; add salt & pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving to let flavors blend. If possible, add the raisins and cranberries when the quinoa is still warm to “plump” them.

Home Cooking: Patty’s Killer Noodle Salad

One of the many things I love about warmer weather is putting main dish salads back on the menu. Of all the salads I make, Patty McNalley’s Killer Noodle Salad is our family’s hands-down favorite. The recipe for this Thai-influenced salad came from The Oregonian back in 1997; it won first prize in some contest they held and after tasting it I know why. Wow! 

The first ingredient listed is chuka soba. These are dried chow mein noodles produced in Japan, usually sold in 6-ounce packages. If you cannot find chuka soba, spaghetti can be substituted, but I personally think the flavor of the chuka soba is better. None of the other ingredients are difficult to find, and many are things I keep on hand in the pantry. This salad is a great way to use up cilantro, or those last couple of carrots in the produce drawer. The spiciness of the dressing can be adjusted by either leaving out the crushed red pepper or chili sauce, or by adding more (we personally like it kind of spicy).

The original recipe does not contain any meat, but if I have leftover chicken on hand I’ll add it to pump up the protein.  Shrimp is a delicious addition as well, and firm tofu works well too (just be sure to let it marinate in the dressing for a while so it soaks up some of the flavor). Leftover steak or roast, thinly sliced, would also work nicely.

Killer Noodle Salad was also my favorite dish to take to potlucks for two reasons:  There were never any leftovers, and I always got asked for the recipe!

By the way, back in the day in Portland I complained that while all our local supermarkets carried chuka soba in their Asian food sections, they charged anywhere from $2.50 to $2.75 per package, which I felt was too expensive. Savvy frugal shopper that I was I instead bought them at local Asian markets or at Cost Plus World Imports, where I could find the same product for less than $1.00 per package! But here I am in Hawai’i now, and these days I’d be thrilled if I found the noodles for $2.75 a package in our local stores. I did find some for slightly more than $2/package on Amazon, but those and most other brands (including my favorite) won’t ship to Hawaii for some unknown reason.

PATTY’S KILLER NOODLE SALAD

12 ounces chuka soba noodles

1 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil

1/3 cup rice or white vinegar

Juice and grated peel of one fresh lime

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 2 tsp garlic chili sauce

2 TBSP sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup peeled, grated carrot

3/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1/2 chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil and cook noodles according to directions (chuka soba cooks quickly, about 2-3 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water and let cool in collander.

In a large bowl, combine sesame oil, vinegar, lime juice and grated peel, soy sauce, red pepper flakes or chili sauce, sugar and garlic. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Toss carrots, peanuts and cilantro into dressing (chicken or tofu should be tossed in now; if using shrimp it should be added just before serving).

Cut through the noodles to make them manageable lengths, then toss the noodles in the large bowl with the other ingredients. Chill the salad for at least one hour to let flavors mingle and toss again just before serving. If it seems a little dry, you can add a tiny bit more soy sauce and vinegar. The salad can be served cold or at room temperature.

When I took this salad to a potluck, I would thinly slice a lime or two and make a ring of the slices around the edge of the bowl or platter – very pretty!

Food Shopping on Kaua’i – 4/13/2020

What was supposed to be our first “regular” food shopping trip on the island turned out to be anything but regular. I took YaYu along with me since she’s been complaining about not having snacks as well as some of her favorite foods. We ended up buying a few things for her that weren’t on our list, but I’m hoping those will last for a while.

We began at Costco, and as well as purchasing food we also picked up two non-food items while we were there: a new beach towel ($9.99) for YaYu to use as an exercise mat (she works out daily), and a memory foam mat ($14.99) to go in the kitchen so standing isn’t so uncomfortable while we wash dishes. Total spent at Costco: $168.81 ($161.31 + $7.50 tax). 

Our second stop was Safeway, mainly because it was located next to Costco and made for an easier trip. Safeway is the most expensive grocery store on the island, but they have an incredible selection and their stores are usually well-stocked – you can pretty much always find what you need there, and there’s almost always a lower-cost store brand. Also, their sale prices can be better than in other stores. For example, we found Breyer’s ice cream on sale for $4.99/package while at Big Save it’s currently $8.99. Total spent at Safeway was $59.00 ($56.34 + $2.66 tax).

Below are the items we bought this week. I would love to know how these prices compare with what you would pay for similar items.

Dairy: We bought a half-gallon of 1% milk ($3.99), and two packages of Breyer’s ice cream, lactose-free vanilla (for YaYu) and peach cobbler.

Pantry Items: Chicken broth ($3.49); sweet chili sauce ($3.99); rice vinegar ($3.19); stirfry sauce ($5.99); fettucini ($1.50); a small container of Parmesan cheese ($2.99); 1-pound box of sugar ($3.29); 5-pound bag of sushi rice ($4.99); case of 24 packages of Sapporo Ichiban ramen ($12.99). Everything except the ramen came from Safeway. Three of the very few items Safeway was out of or low on were flour, sugar, and yeast – people are baking!! The sweet chili sauce is a dip for wonton chips, and the stirfry sauce is made locally and doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup.

YaYu Things: Besides the Sapporo Ichiban noodles (her favorite), YaYu also picked out a tub of red pepper hummus ($6.99); a 4-pack of Portuguese sausages ($9.49); a container of kimchi ($6.99); and a bag of dried mango ($12.49) when we were at Costco.

Snack Items: A big bag of Kettle Himalayan salt potato chips ($5.99); a bag of wonton chips  ($9.99); roasted cashews ($15.49); a bag of manapua (steamed char siu pork buns) ($13.99); and a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake ($5.99). The potato chips and cashews are pretty much for Brett, the wonton chips are (mostly) mine, the manapua are for Brett and me, and coconut cake is for Brett’s birthday next week. Everything but the cake should last for two to three weeks. The manapua are made in Honolulu, and the “One Ton” wonton chips are made in Hilo, on the Big Island.

Beverages: One case of Diet Coke (my vice) ($11.29 + $1.44 deposit); Fever Tree ginger beer ($15.99 + $4 deposit) for Brett and YaYu; a bottle of pinot noir for Brett ($10.99), and Kirkland Pinot Grigio ($5.99) for me. We had bought the Kirkland pinot grigio in the box but discovered it takes up too much room in our small fridge so I switched back to regular bottles.

Produce: two jumbo yellow onions ($2.96), and a half-price container of celery sticks ($1.99). We don’t use much celery, so the sticks were a better value than buying a regular bundle of celery.

The refrigerator is still stuffed, so I have made a command decision that other than picking up our CSA bag next week there will be no food purchases (and we may go without the CSA bag as well). I had intended to buy a Costco meatloaf and mashed potatoes to have this week, but it is going to have to wait until there is more room in the fridge and I can justify spending the $$ on it. I feel like I really need to get a handle on our food spending here as it’s currently so out of whack. We did so well with our budget in Japan but are struggling with it here and now. I know we’ll get there, but for now it’s very frustrating.

Food Shopping in Japan, Week 9: What We Bought, What We Spent

Can you guess what these are?

This week’s food shopping was a little different in that Brett and I did it yesterday (Sunday) instead of today (Monday). We’ll be over at our son’s all day tomorrow helping out with the grandkids, and knew we weren’t going to feel like shopping afterward, so decided to stop and do it on our way home from a day out visiting temples. Of course, what we didn’t count on was being exhausted as we were following our outing! A big difference we noticed was how crowded the store was on Sunday compared to Monday. Also, the shelves are still empty of all paper goods, alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.

The total for our Tokyu shop this week was ¥6350/$59.72. We also stopped in at Kaldi for a couple of things and spent an additional ¥1238/$11.64, for a total of ¥7588/$71.36 bit. Everything we bought fit into two shopping bags this week, and my hero, Brett, carried everything home. The dollar has improved slightly against the yen compared to last week, so what we paid in U.S. dollars was a little less.

Here’s what we bought yesterday:

Dairy: Just the usual: Nonfat milk, nonfat yogurt, and a 10-pack of store brand Yakult. There were no changes in their prices from when we first bought them. Brand-name Yakult was back in stock, but a 5-pack cost more than the 10-pack of the store brand (¥200 vs ¥148).

Meat: A package of sliced pork for stir fry (¥256/$2.41), ground beef for tacos (¥399/$3.75)), and three chicken tenders (¥273/$2.57) for chicken and vegetable soup with dumplings were our meat purchases this week. 

Produce: Lots of produce again this week! We got a giant stalk of celery (¥178/$1.67), cherry tomatoes (¥322/$3.03), two cucumbers (¥57/54¢ each), five bananas (back to ¥198/$1.86), two kiwi fruit (still ¥198 each), a head of broccoli (¥158/$1.49), two boxes of strawberries (expensive – ¥498/$4.68 each – but they have been missed), four tiny green peppers (¥98/92¢), and red (¥178 also ) and yellow (¥198/$1.86) peppers for the stir fry, and an avocado (¥158 also).

Pantry items: We needed rice, and Tokyu had these small bags that were less expensive than the rice we bought at Seiyu when we arrived. The bags came in four varieties grown in four different places in Japan with four different prices,. We chose the least expensive (¥590/$5.47) since we know absolutely nothing about Japanese rice. The other pantry item was CookDo sauce for stirfried pork and peppers.

Beverages: I got three bottles of 16 Tea (still ¥88/82¢ each), and Brett got himself a bottle of ginger ale (also ¥88). If the ginger ale and one of the tea bottles look like their missing something, it’s because we were so parched when we got home we both opened up our bottles before we even entered the apartment!

Miscellaneous: Band-aids (¥318/$2.99) and dishwashing soap (¥128/$1.20) – we were almost out of both.

Kaldi Coffee Farm: We enjoyed the sakura mochi ice cream so much that we bought four more (still ¥150/$1.39 each), and I also grabbed a bag of frozen blueberries (¥590/$5.55). The entire bag was only slightly more than a tiny box of fresh blueberries at Tokyu (¥547/$5.15) that had only around 30 blueberries in it and contain at least five times as many berries. We also meant to pick up a bottle of maple syrup but forgot so we’ll get that next week.

We didn’t even look at prepared foods this week as a) we have a ton of leftovers right now in the refrigerator that have to be eaten, and b) we are going to have sushi later this week from one of the sushi stores down the street from us. They both have an amazing selection, so we plan to get a nice variety and will also count it as our dining out for the week.

This week I have a mystery for you! Can you guess what the three items at the top of the post are? Here’s a clue (maybe unhelpful): although one is pink, one is white, and one has a grilled top they are all the same. 

Only four more weeks of food shopping left in Japan – the time is flying by.

Food Shopping in Japan, Week 8: What We Bought, What We Spent

Sign of the times: a big bottle of hand sanitizer to use before entering Tokyu.

Today’s weekly food shopping experience was one I hope not to repeat. No, the store wasn’t weird or anything, and prices were OK, but because Brett was over at our son’s I did the shopping on my own . . . and it was HEAVY! Carrying all of it home, up the stairs, and getting it put away on my own about did me in! I thought my arms were going to fall off, plus it was warmer than expected so I was perspiring heavily and my glasses kept slipping off my nose the whole way home. I’m sure I was quite the sight.

Of course, I have no one but myself to blame. I didn’t need nor buy much at Tokyu this week and spent ¥5673/$55.18. However, Kaldi Coffee Farm had a few more jars of the Smuckers peanut butter back in stock, “on sale” for ¥537/$5.24 per jar, so I bought five of those, as well as a few other things that were back in the store. The total spent at Kaldi was ¥4374/$$42.68. Prices for everything were more today because the dollar has been falling against the yen this past week, and if it continues to drop life is going to have to get leaner for us in our few remaining weeks in Japan.

Here’s what I bought (and lugged home) today:

Dairy: I bought our usual 1-liter carton of nonfat milk, a half dozen eggs, one nonfat plain yogurt, but also got a package of grated cheese, and two 10-packs of store-brand Yakult. The grated cheese was ¥368/$3.58, but was the largest amount for the lowest price. The Yakult-drink was ¥148/$1.44, making the two ten-packs less than one brand name Yakult 10-pack (the choice was also made easier because there was no regular Yakult available). I sure hope it tastes as good.

Meat: The only meat purchased this week was three packages of sliced ham, for the slow cooker ham and cheese casserole. It was on sale for ¥188/$1.83 each. Each package contains six slices of ham.

Produce: I bought five bananas, two apples, two kiwi fruit, an orange (for another olive oil orange cake), a bag of shredded cabbage for coleslaw, two potatoes (for curry), one BIG carrot (for curry), and two cucumbers. The kiwi fruit was expensive (¥198/$1.93 each) which is why I only bought two. They had some for ¥88 each but they were all as hard as rocks and would be very sour so I passed. The cabbage was also ¥198, but everything else was the same as last week.

Bread: We usually never buy bread, but I needed sliced country-style bread for the ham and cheese casserole, and slider-sized buns for barbecue pulled pork. I didn’t notice until I got home, but the buns have a small amount of margarine inside (!!), but since I have no idea how to return them we’ll open them up and take out the margarine before adding the pork! The loaf of bread was ¥228/$2.23 (on sale) and the buns were ¥148/$1.48 per package.

Prepared foods: I bought two packages of (expensive) katsudon (pork cutlet with onion and egg over rice) for ¥498/$4.84. We have both been craving it and will reheat for dinner. For my lunch today I picked up a package of three garlic chicken wings and a small container of potato salad for ¥436/$4.24.

Miscellaneous: I am now hooked on 16 Tea, so picked up two bottles (four servings). At Tokyu it’s just ¥88/85¢ per bottle; at a convenience store a bottle costs ¥140/$1.36.

Kaldi Coffee Farm: I was so happy to find a few more jars of the Smuckers natural peanut butter (no added sweetener) even if the price is exorbitant – we love peanut butter! The flour tortillas (¥300/$2.92 per package) are less than the price of one package at Tokyu (¥687/$6.68). Some of the cheese will be used for the ham and cheese casserole, and we’ll have some with our wine this weekend. I also bought Kaldi’s highly-rated sakura mochi ice cream (two for ¥300) for a sweet treat. 

I promised some photos of the Tokyu store, so took a few pictures of their seafood section today. First, it’s HUGE, probably ten times the size of the typical seafood section in an American supermarket, and the largest department in the entire Tokyu store. Besides shelves and coolers that wrap around the back of the store, there are also two big islands out on the floor for more, things like clams, prawns, octopus, squid and so forth. Every variety of seafood (and freshwater fish) you can imagine can be found here. Fish and other seafood are a huge part of the Japanese diet though, so it makes sense that a store would carry such a big variety. It’s not inexpensive though and even though we like fish, the only thing we’ve ever purchased is frozen shrimp.

So, another ¥10,000 and some change spent this week, our entire budget amount. I think we are now completely stocked up until we leave though, and hopefully, our weekly shops will be less going forward. We may go over to Hardy Barracks once more to see if they’ve gotten in any more Diet Coke, but until the Easter Brunch at the New Sanno Hotel that will be our last trip to any one of the military bases or facilities in the area.