Catching up on island food and Ryan’s B-day (back in July)

I am so, so, so, so behind these days with posts, and I even found this post that was saved, but I never finished writing, way back from the summer.  I thought I would go ahead and get this done now, or else decide it was just time to move on.  Plus, it is snowing here, so I could use a little Azores sunshine to brighten my day.

This is a picture from my favorite soup and salad place on the island.  Sadly, I just found out this place has closed.  I just can't believe it.  She was always so busy and had the best food, but she told some of my friends that business was suffering and she could not keep up with the expensive rent.
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Another place we tried out before we left was Fox's Pizza.  I had heard about it many times, but never went, and I knew before we left the island I would need to check it out because I wanted to write about it on my Living at Lajes website.
Nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to the pizza, but it was good and I definitely recommend this place.
I love this picture.  This is the main square in Praia da Vitoria, which is the second largest town on the island.  It isn't too far from the base, and was only about 5 minutes from where we lived.  One day I noticed they repainted the pizzeria/cafe on the corner to a nice shade of pink. 
I love this cute little walking street.  It may not be the longest in the world and it may not have any stores you have ever heard of, but it was cute and charming, and was always nice to stroll up and down.  In fact, I always felt right at home hanging out in town.
This was another place I needed to try before leaving the island.
I loved the colors in side.
Here is a galao, which is espresso and milk, similar to a meia de leite, but a little bigger.
I tried the omelet and fries here.  It was really good, so I have no idea why I hadn't tried it out sooner.
Another random meal I enjoyed before leaving the island.  This is a shrimp kebab.
Ryan had a nice steak.
Now, and this is the time when I can really have a good laugh about this, so this Caneta.  We went here once at the first start of our 2 years on the island.  It was good and we went for lunch.  I took pictures, but it was before I started this blog, so when it came time for me to add this on my Living at Lajes website, I thought it would be easy.  Nope!  I could not find the pictures.  So, the only logical answer was to go there for Ryan's birthday dinner.  It was a bit of a drive from where we lived, so we just never went back.  But I was on a mission.  You may be wondering why this is so funny.  Well, I was going through all my old pictures and updating my Facebook albums, when there, in a very, very random location, was a folder labelled Caneta.  I managed to drag and drop it to a spot where it shouldn't have been.  I can't believe after just over 2 years, those pictures magically turned up.  But that is definitely OK because we needed to go back and Ryan had to try the kebab because he was told it was amazing.
They have a nice courtyard there, but we went inside and ate in the upstairs restaurant.
We started with bread.  This place even served the corn bread, and this was where I first tried it.  I loved the island corn bread, but not too many restaurants would serve it.
We had the fresh island cheese and pimento spread.
Olives!  I miss these since olives are not too big in Japan.
Here is the inside.  Very quaint, and definitely has the traditional island feel.  
Here I am with Ryan, about to enjoy his birthday dinner.
This is the kebab everyone raved about.  It is huge steak chunks on a skewer and when they serve it they place butter at the top and the hot metal melts it so it drips down the beef.  I am not a meat eater, but for people that like meat, this seemed to be wonderful.  This is what everyone told us, and in fact, Ryan did enjoy it.
It came with a side of fruit and French fries.
I had the boca negra, which was my favorite fish on the island.  It always came served as the whole fish, so I learned after a while how to eat it like this.
Since it was Ryan's birthday we did indulge in dessert.  This was the ice cream burrito.  Basically like a crepe wrapped around ice cream and smothered in chocolate.
I had stracciatella, which is basically chocolate chip ice cream.  
Of course no Azorean meal is complete without a coffee beverage.
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It was a great last birthday meal on the island.  It was hard to believe that just 2 years before we have just gotten to the island.

I have a few more pictures to share, just so I can say I finally posted them.  The first is from the American celebration.  They showed American movies and served American food.  It was really interesting to see that they were having this kind of event.
There was one restaurant that my friend Alexandra and I stumbled across when I made a wrong turn one day.  It wasn't so much a wrong turn, I guess, it was more like I had to turn around so I turned down this street and found this place.  We made sure to go back another day and try it out.  It was a very small, house like establishment with only a written menu out front.  They had a little lunch buffet, so I think that is why we never saw a menu.
We started with bread.
We also had some fish soup.
The buffet looks like it was good before everyone ate everything.  We got there a little late, and of course there was very little left of everything.
One of my very last days there, my friend Alexandra and I went to the beach so I could get in one final swim in the Atlantic before I moved all the way over to the Pacific.  There was a cafe that we passed by all the time and never went in so we decided we had to check it out before I left. 
It turned out to be so cute and the owner was so nice.  We couldn't believe we hadn't been in there earlier.  Well, at least Alexandra could go back.  She is still on the island and has just under another year left there.  Perhaps the military will reunite us at the same base again!
Well, that is it for now.  I am sorry I have not been able to keep up with posting, but I have been a bit (and by bit I mean insanely) busier than usual.  I actually have more island pictures to post, so they will probably get interspersed with Japan stuff from time to time.

QUESTIONS:  Is there anything you are behind on doing?  Do you have a favorite cafe?  Is there any place you have been meaning to go/try but for some reason keep putting it off?

Vegetarian/Vegan Potluck for National Nutrition Month

Here at this base we have a group for a vegetarian and vegan recipe swap.  We share recipes, meal ideas, and I am there to give nutrition advice as needed or answer questions that others (mostly those that are new to vegetarian diets and meals) may have.  We decided that it would be great to get together for a vegetarian/vegan pot luck.  I decided to get things started, I would host the first get together, and since it just happened to be the first weekend in March, this was perfect timing for National Nutrition Month.

Everyone was instructed to prepare their favorite dish (or 2 or 3!) and then provide me with the recipe so I could calculate out the nutrition information and compile a cookbook.  Foods were to be vegetarian or vegan friendly.  I had a hard time scheduling around everyone's schedule, and there were a few conflicts, but in the end we had 4 families attend.  Hopefully next time we will have a bigger turnout.

Here's what was served at the potluck:

I made a Very Veggie Bean Soup.
And I made my raspberry lemonade tofu pie!
There was a broccoli and cauliflower bake.
This is a tofu pot pie with a pumpkin crust.
It was really good!
These are molasses ginger cookies.
This is a vegetarian gumbo, with tofu.
It was so good!  It was served with rice, and then hard boiled eggs on the side, so you could add them if you wanted.
Last up is a vegan chili, served with fritos and other toppings.
Everything was so good and I think we all had a really good time at the get together.  All foods wound up being vegan, with optional dairy and egg on the side, so that was really neat.  We had so many good choices.  It was a great way to share some healthy, meat free recipes and celebrate National Nutrition Month.

QUESTIONS:  If you were invited to a vegetarian/vegan potluck, what would you bring?  Have you done anything to celebrate National Nutrition Month?  What was on your plate today?

Japanese Cooking Class and Other Activities

Since I live in Japan, I figure I should take advantage of the opportunities that I have here and learn as much as possible about the culture.  One thing I like to do is sign up for at least one free culture class on base each month.  Here is a little about the activities I have done over the past 2-3 months.

First was a cooking class.  The main ingredient was mochi.  You may be familiar with mochi.  It's a pounded, glutinous Japanese rice cake.  My guess is that you are familiar with having this as more of a dessert or sweet treat, possibly filled with red bean paste or similar.  Well, there is also what I call the cooking form of mochi.  I wish I really knew more about this, but from what I gather, this is used as an ingredient and is a bit different.  It's definitely a pounded rice cake and very, very dense.

For this class we used it as part of a soup, and then enjoyed it heated and basically plan.  For the soup, we started by cutting up some veggies.  Here we have carrots and lotus root.
These are fried tofu skins.  They are sold like this in the store and are used by stuffing them.  In this case, we stuffed them with mochi.
Here is the mochi.  It probably looks different from what you have seen called mochi, at least for me, it is different.
See, we stuck it inside the tofu skin.
Then we used toothpicks to seal it shut.
More veggies, and I am really sorry, but I have no idea what this is.
Then we started boiling the broth along with some pieces of the tofu skin.
Then we heated some mochi over the stove top.
Next up we cooked some mushrooms, which were to be used with a steamed custard that our teacher whipped up in just minutes.  I should point out that our teacher is a fantastic cook and is the owner of one of the most liked restaurants in town.  She owns a steak house which, from what I gather is hibachi style cooking.  I am hoping to go there sometime soon.
I thought these were cute.  They are seasoning packets and they have fish on them so they make fish broth.
Here you can see the mochi filled tofu skins are cooking in the soup.
Here is our teacher starting the savory egg custards.
She cooked them in just minutes.  This is definitely new to me.  I have never seen it made this way.  Have you?
Here it is steaming.
In the meantime the mochi was still getting hot and somewhat gooey.
Then we added some greens to the soup.
Ok, since the soup was not vegetarian, I just watched that part, and then they gave me some plain mochi, which I ate with soy sauce.  Not bad, but very, very chewy.
Here is the finished soup.  I think just about everyone that tried it really enjoyed it.
Then she served the custards, which were garnished with mushrooms.
So, these next 3 pictures aren't really from a cultural class or activity on base, but I had to share.  I guess going to the mall could be considered a cultural activity, right?!?!  We always look at these desserts, so one night we went ahead and bought the sampler box.  Fantastic!
The main reason was that we wanted to try the chocolate lava cake.  It was so good.  True to Japanese fashion, this was not too sweet.
Any guesses what these are?
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These are hot coffee drinks from a vending machine.  Actually, they are from the vending machine in our building.  It's kind of funny that you can get hot beverages from vending machines, especially where you live.  I like it!

Next up for classes was a kimono dressing class.  The process of dressing traditionally, in a kimono, is not easy.  In fact, it is very complex.  For this class we were shown how to dress in yukata, which are cotton, summer kimonos.  I actually have one at home, so it was good to learn how to put it one.  The regular kimono is similar, but it comes with a few more pieces, I think (including undergarments).  

Here are a few pictures of me in the yukata.  Pardon my hair, it was later at night so it's pulled back, but pretty much all over the place.

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It was really fun and they had a huge turn out.

The last class I have to share for right now was Koto class.  Koto is a traditional Japanese 10 string instrument, similar to a harp, and it turns out originated in China.  We went to the teachers house and she gave a group of us a lesson.  It was a lot of fun.  I am definitely interested in taking more lessons. 
Here I am, ready to play.

Here is our class after we all had fun learning to play koto music.
Needless to say, I am having a blast living in Japan and learning all about Japanese culture.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever had mochi?  Do you play a musical instrument?  Have you ever made a steamed custard?