Things That Make You Go *Drool*

What does a month of food pictures look like?  Keep reading to find out!

I know many of you are just as busy as I am, and I know many of you have had those times where the pictures just pile up.  This morning as I was uploading new pictures to my computer I realized I have a ton of unposted random food pictures.  These span from Christmas break (Ryan and I were both off work for 1 week) through last week.  There are plenty of goodies for me to share with you.  Some are home cooked creations, while others are awesome Japanese treats.  

So without further ado, here are things that make you go *drool*...

First up are some meals using one of my favorite veggies-broccoli.  First is a broccoli and cheddar (I am on a massive Tillamook cheese obsession right now) omelet with some potatoes on the side.  In the Azores the breakfast potatoes were almost always from our neighbors garden, but here in Japan these are harder to come by.  Just the other day the commissary manager was explaining that Japan has restrictions on some foods that come in, so potatoes are left to be only Japanese, which is fine with me, but they don't have regular white potatoes (again fine with me, I love the sweet potatoes, but sometimes you just want some variety, especially plan potatoes for breakfast) for hash browns, so we got excited when we saw they were carrying the Ore-Ida frozen breakfast potatoes.  It made for a very tasty meal.  I will also confess this was my very first time ever making an omelet in the true omelet fashion.  I have never had one stay intact when folding it over before.  Turns out, it was not as hard as I was making it out to be.  Patience and handling with care resulted in some beautiful omelets.
Next up was out New Years Eve meal.  We stayed in.  We usually stay in.  This is the one night of the year where everyone gets crazy, so it's just a little safer to stay out of everyone else's way.  It is an easy lesson learned from living in Las Vegas.  I did the strip once because you really just have to try it once, but after that it was either stay in or head to the movies with friends, and face towards the strip at midnight to catch the fireworks.  So, for this year, we stayed in, and watched movies, and I cooked dinner.

I love spaghetti squash, so I was happy to find some in the commissary, and really happy to see they were not super huge.
I cut mine in half and baked in the oven.  I know there are a few ways to do this, but I usually do it this way, so that's what I stuck with.
Next up was cuttin' up some broccoli.  I really bought it for the omelets, but I knew there would be left overs, and I couldn't let it go to waste.
Also for my "spaghetti sauce" I used some canned tomatoes.  I always try to buy a no added salt product.
Then the squash was ready to be scooped out.
I love this squash!  Seriously, it does not get any more fun than this.
Looks just like spaghetti!
My sauce was made with garlic, broccoli and tomatoes.
Then I just served it on top of the squash.  It was awesome!  Even more awesome was that Ryan really enjoyed it!  Plus, I loved it too.  
Next up is homemade pizza.  I must say, one thing I don't miss about the Azores is the humidity and temperature of our place.  I was so excited to actually see dough rise again.  I was starting to take it personally, so I was glad to know it wasn't me, it was just the house.
Lesson learned, no need to make the largest dough from the recipe.  We decided it was too much just a tad to late and wound up with a super crusty pizza.  But, it was tasty, so of course we still ate it.
Sauce time.  We often make our own sauce, but this was a bit of a last minute decision so we just used some jarred sauce.
Fresh mozzarella on top.  We were hoping they carried buffalo mozzarella like we could get in the Azores (it was imported from Italy), but no such luck.  At least they had some other mozzarella we could use.
Then we added some garlic on top, and it was ready to go.
Out it came, and we enjoyed a nice cheesy, and crusty, pizza.
Next up are some Japanese baked goods that we picked up at a bakery at the mall (in the grocery store, which is also at the mall, which I really love).  Here for New Years Day and the week after they have major sales.  By major sales I mean everyone, and I do mean everyone, goes to the malls and stores to go shopping.  They sell grab bag deals, where you can get a full outfit in a bag for a good price, and just about everything not in a bag deal is on sale 30-70% off.  Trust me, it was crazy, and there is no way to explain this.  You really have to see it for yourselves.  

As we were leaving the mall, we noticed the bakery line was about 5 times longer than usual.  How could we resist!  I don't think there was anything truly special about the bakery that day, it was just that the mall was at least 5 times busy, so more people probably just wanted more baked goods.  But we weren't going to sit this mad house out, so we grabbed some goodies and waited patiently in line with everyone else.

Here is what we found:

This is a melon roll.  The green on the outside is actually separate from the inside, which is really just a white bread roll.
In addition to the plain roll inside, was the not so plain banana cream.  Yep, banana cream inside a melon flavored roll.  You know what?  It was really good!
Next up is a blueberry loaf.  You may think on first glance this is like a crumb cake, or at least cakey, but it wasn't.  It was actually a loaf of white bread, with blueberry filling.  Almost like someone put the jelly on for you, but better.
This was the strangest one we picked up.
No idea what was inside, but it was cheesy, buttery and/or eggy.  All I know is that it was good!
I could get into some serious trouble in the Japanese bakeries.  They make some really good stuff.

Next is my Hanukkah present from my dad and step-mom.  They sent us many goodies.  Thanks!
We headed again, on a not as snowy day, to Aomori.  This time we checked out the mall.  I was excited to find St. Marc Cafe, which we had across the street from us when we went to Tokyo.  We decided to sit down, enjoy some coffee and snacks.  I ordered a latte, and I am trying so hard to remember what flavor this is.  All I know is that it was really good.
We both got chocolate croissants because you just don't say no to a chocolate croissant as it is being pulled out of the oven, especially when it's their signature treat.  I will casually mention that portion sizes in Japan are smaller in the US, so in the US this regular Japanese sized pastry would probably be referred to as a mini-croissant.  For me, I think this is just the right size.
I ordered a shrimp sandwich.  I have no idea how this happened,  but I checked at one end under everything to make sure there was no meat, but by the time I got halfway down the sandwich I tasted something funny.  I looked and discovered the half I did not check had some kind of strange mustard, which appeared to have some ground meat in it.  Well that was the end of that sandwich for me.  I was even careful, as I have been for years and years of not eating meat, and I checked, but someone did a sloppy job of adding the spread and it was only placed apparently on one side.  Oh well!  Now I will make sure to always check both ends!
Ryan ordered this?  Not sure what that is?  Either were we, but we discovered it was close to a stuffed French toast.  It was filled with apples and cinnamon.  Very yummy!  Plus, they used real apples, which around here means extra yummy because Aomori is the apple capital in Japan.
Wanna see something funny?  Check out this burger promo they have going on at McDonald's in Japan.
Let me make a confession.  I had never had a chili dog before.  Why?  Probably because I never liked hotdogs, and I stopped eating them and most other meat by the time I was 11, so I never had a chili dog. One weekend while we were walking through the commissary, Ryan got a craving for a chili dog.  Since you can't just go somewhere and get a chili dog in Japan, you need to make them at home.  So he quickly grabbed the essentials: some hot dogs, chili and buns.  I had already picked up some veggie hot dogs (which I think spurred his craving), so I was excited when the light bulb went off.  I remembered spotting vegetarian chili by Hormel with the other chilis.  I will say that I never look in that section, but one day out of curiosity, I did stop.  I wound up looking at some food labels, and noticed they had a vegetarian option, and it was low fat (I think maybe 99% fat free), and I thought, other than the sodium, that it sounded pretty good.  So flash forward to Ryan's craving.  I immediately ran to the chili aisle where we was debating his options, and I pronounced "I can have a chili dog too!", to which he stared at me for a second, and then I proceeded to grab the veggie chili and show him my veggie hot dogs.  I was very proud of myself for my awesome idea.  This way we could both eat the same thing for dinner (actually it was lunch and dinner by the time we got around to the meal).

I started off with some veggie hotdogs, which I won't lie, are definitely an acquired taste.  Like I said, I never really liked hot dogs, so I have been eating these since I was a teenager.  The taste has grown on me.
We even turned them into chili cheese dogs using some Tillamook cheddar.  So what did I think of my first chili dog?  It was awesome!  I will definitely be doing this again, and next time I will be using whole wheat buns, which I discovered the commissary carries after we made these.
Next up is another Japanese baked good.  It was a bun filled with vanilla cream, almost like a pudding.
This was a roll filled with chocolate, similar to the one above.  It was really just like eating a chocolate pudding filled roll, but tasted much better than that sounds.
Last up is another melon flavored bun.  Melon is a big flavor in Japan, and other Asian countries too.  This had a melon cream filling.
We picked up some Japanese goodies to send in gift packages to friends and family back home, but while we were getting things for them, we picked up a few things for us to try.  One of those things was this Meltykiss candy bar in run raisin flavor.  I am not kidding, this thing was strong!  I may have gotten a little tipsy off this.  Also, to mention one more thing about the Japanese and portions on food, I loved that this candy bar was individually wrapped inside.  In the US when you open a candy bar, the whole thing is unwrapped at once, but with this, when we opened it there were 4 (or maybe it was 6?) individually wrapped sticks.
Last week Ryan had a bad day.  It was pretty bad.  The dentist fixed the wrong cracked filling, and by this I mean he didn't fix the one that was cracked/lose.  Yes, the dentist drilled on the wrong tooth and refilled the wrong tooth.  I'll just leave it at that and say that really sucks.  So when he came home he asked if we could bake some cookies.  Of course!  Homemade cookies always work to cheer you up.  For something a little different we used the chocolate chunks instead of chips.
Yum!  They certainly did the trick.
Plus, while the cookies were backing, I had a nice veggie and bean soup on the stove.
Yum! Yum!
The soup was great, and the cookies were awesome for dessert.

So, there are all (ok, mostly all) my drool worthy pictures for the month of January.  As you can see we had a lot of good eats, mixed between home cooked and bakery bought goodies.  It's hard to pass up some of the Japanese treats because we are still relatively new here and I just want to give everything a try.  I just try not to go overboard, but thankfully Japanese portions are smaller and they are not fans of added sugar.  I just try to keep it to a reasonable amount, and split things as often as possible because I am really just looking for a little taste so I can try things.

QUESTIONS:  What was your most drool worthy food during January?  Have you ever had a chili dog?  What is one food that is usually non-vegetarian that you have created in a vegetarian form?  Do you ever get the urge to bake cookies when you have a bad day?

Thursday Thoughts: What are Yours?

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

Today I am going to do something a little different.  I have a great topic for Thursday Thoughts, but I want to make sure I have enough time to invest in writing my post that I do the topic justice, and this week I am just too busy.  Not only did I start my first class for a doctoral program, I started teaching a class too.  It is a busy time for starting up with classes at many schools, and with Kaplan I am teaching 2 classes, which started a few weeks ago, so as you can see I have a lot going on.  But I do have an awesome topic of something that I really want to share my thoughts on.  While I am working on getting that ready for a future Thursday Thoughts post, I wanted to check in with each of you this week and see what was on your mind.  So feel free to share with me your thoughts on this Thursday.  Doesn't have to be anything major, just share your thoughts on any topic you want, about anything that has been on your mind.  I look forward to reading them.


No Blizzard Can Stop Us: Aquarium Trip

Yes, you heard me correctly.  No blizzard can stop us.

Over Christmas vacation, Ryan and I decided to go to the Asamushi Aquarium, which is about a 90 minute drive on a good day.  When we left the base we thought all was good because it wasn't snowing too bad.  We didn't know what the weather would be like over in Aomori City, but it is right on the water in the Bay, and it tends to snow more there, but still, snow is snow, right?

So we get on the road and all is well.  At least at first.  Then the snow picks up and the roads are not well plowed.  But the good news is that you drive slow and use the markers on the side of the road as a guide.  Well, all is going well until you reach the mountains.  What happens at the mountains you ask?  Oh, that's easy.  You drive through them.  Yep, right through them.  Tunnels.  One of these tunnels is by far the longest tunnel I have ever been in in my life.  The tunnels are actually a great relief from the heavy snow this time of year, but once you come out, you are smack in the middle of the mountains and it really looks like you are in a movie.  People drive through there all the time, and the road gets plowed, but for us, not being used to the snow, we were picturing a Hollywood movie where you get lost in a white out and stuck in the snow.  Yeah, I won't lie.  We watch too many movies.

We knew that driving cautiously would pay off, and did just that.  So it may not have been as crazy as a Hollywood movie, but it was definitely not something we were used to and probably seemed worse at the time that it really was.  Although I will say, it was pretty rough at times.  I believe in the US, that is what we call a Blizzard!

We arrived at the Aquarium just over 2 hours after leaving our house.
The snow stopped just long enough for me to actually take a picture.  If it had let up just a few minutes longer I would have tried to take a picture in the other direction where we had another one of those Hollywood moments.  We were driving in and Ryan mentioned that the foggy area to the left must be the ocean.  Then in a quick sweep of the wind, the fog lifted and we realized we were in fact riding along the water and then we saw it.  We saw it, and it was like nothing I have ever seen before.  Out in the Bay was a giant tree covered rock, coated in white fluffy snow.  A tiny island.  Just far enough from the land that it would make it difficult to swim to shore if for some reason you found yourself trapped out there.  Yeah, it seems a little dramatic, and I am sure in the summer this is a beautiful and not scary at all sight, but on this day, in those weather conditions, it was eerie.  It was eerie, but in that beautifully haunting kind of way.  It was breath taking.  And then it was gone.  Hidden.  The fog rolled back in and we set our sights on locating the aquarium.
Given the weather conditions, it was definitely not busy.

Walking in you are first greeting by some very large turtles.  Pretty neat!

Then we had a big decision to make.  Lunch before or after the otter feeding.  We had just under 30 minutes before the feeding, so if we wanted lunch it was now and fast, or wait.  I am not kidding, after just over 2 hours in the car (yeah, we made a stop along the way at a convenience store and may have gotten a snack), we were famished and lunch now was the final answer.  They only had the cafe for lunch, so quickly made a decision and waited for our lunch.

Ryan had the curry.
It came with a salad...
and a soup.
I had the fried shrimp.  Shrimp is not the right word for these.  Prawns (yes, there is a difference between prawns and shrimp), but oddly, these were more like lobsters.  They didn't look like lobsters, but these were large and I hate to use the word, but they were meaty.  It was impressive for a dish ordered in an aquarium cafe.
Since we are in Japan, you can bet this dish came with rice.
Once we were stuffed, we made a mad dash for the otter feeding.  The 3 "shows" they have daily are the otter feedings, dolphin feedings, and dolphin show.  They have them a few times each day.  We wanted to make sure we saw all 3.  Since the animals are mostly so cute, I left the pictures a little larger than I usually have them here.

First was the otter feeding.  This little guy was so cute.  He floated on his back and ate the little squids tossed at him.  I know it's tough to see in the picture, but trust me, he is cute.
Right after, the trainer moved over to the penguins and fed them a little.
While that was going on I headed back to get a closer peak at the cute otter.
Can you spot him?  He's down at the bottom.
Then I got a little closer to the penguins.
Next up were the sea lions.  My camera is not good enough to capture them when they move so quickly, but I did try.
Then we moved around to some of the other exhibits and displays.  I couldn't resist this little salamander guy.  I hate slithery, crawly things, like snakes and little lizards, but I found this guy to be exceptionally cute, hiding in the little hole.
Then we looked at the big fish tank.

Lots of funny looking fish around.  Remember, we are in Japan so some animals we have here would not be found in US aquariums, and some of the fish we are used to seeing were no where to be found at Asamushi.
So, from the looks of things, this is the largest squid, at least we think.  It showed where they found it.  Needless to say, this is not still living.  I think it was from years and years ago.
Then we entered the Sea Promenade.
You get to walk in the glass tunnel and the fish swim all around.
Including the big ray.  This thing was HUGE!

Plus lots of pretty colored fish.


I love this picture.  Great shape and coloring.

These were neat too.

Eels!  Yuck!  I have seen these in the wild before (different kind of eel, but still an eel).  This reminded me of The Little Mermaid (the Disney version).

Crazy little squid thing.


Very crazy blue colored jellyfish.
Here I am chillin' with the happy aquarium mascot.  
Couldn't even begin to tell you what this is.  Really crazy looking though!


Not sure what this is, but it looks a little prehistoric!
Then we headed off to the dolphin, which came just before the dolphin show.  I thought this sign was awesome (and yes, a tad on the really funny side).  They tried, so I give them credit for that.
This is where the dolphins are for the feeding, and then it connects through to the tank where they have the show.
So cute!
Alright, this was the moment we were waiting for.  Obviously everyone wants to see the Dolphin show. 

I hope it does not offend anyone, and if you feel questionable about the status of dolphin shows in Japan (after seeing The Cove), please do not keep looking at the pictures.  I personally feel confident about the treatment of the dolphins in this region and I can't speak about what goes on in the area where they filmed The Cove because I have no idea.  Like I said before, I may agree with the topic or focus of a documentary, but I don't always agree with everything stated in the context used in documentaries.  So, until I actually see proof that this aquarium mistreats animals and has questionable ways of obtaining their dolphins for shows, I will continue to go to my local aquarium, and perhaps others in Japan as well.  I understand this is my personal decision and some of you may choose the opposite if you were here.  This is not really what I want to focus on, but I don't want anyone thinking I didn't consider the welfare of the dolphins in light of the movie The Cove.

So, back to the dolphin show!  I am not going to deny that the Japanese love ocean creatures.  Japan is made up of islands.  Many cities are along the water.  Sea creatures are cute.  It is a way of life here.  So, dolphin shows (just like in the US) are a popular component to the aquarium.
Here they come!
So cute!
Here is the trainer, getting them ready for a trick.
Nice jumps!


More jumping
Scootin' along the water.
Jumping over a rope.
Through the hoop.
Touch the ball.
A final set of jumps.

Check out that height!  Awesome!
It was a fantastic show, and a fantastic aquarium, especially for a smaller city.  I was glad we went, blizzard or not.  Too bad it took another 2 hours just to get home!  I know we definitely plan to go back. Probably when we have visitors.  It's a fun place to go and not too far away.

QUESTIONS:  Do you have an aquarium near you?  What's your favorite part of the aquarium?  Have you ever tried going out during a blizzard?  Do you like the snow?