Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A kind of breakfast recipe

I was hesitating to put this recipe here since it really has nothing to do with Japan. But whatever, I eat it in Japan, therefore it's relevant.

I wake up super crazy early for my job (5:30 people!). So I'm not really much in the mood for doing anything, the easier breakfast the better. I came up with this recipe off of several different ones that I'm sure some of you have come across.

It's super flexible, so have fun with it!

Ok, so basically it's oatmeal, but I don't cook it. Now, I think oatmeal is not a raw food (correct me if I'm wrong, so even though I don't cook it, it's not raw). Anyway, the basic idea is to soak oatmeal for at least an hour or two possibly over night. Then rinse it and drain it for about 10 minutes. Then add any fruits, nuts, or dried fruits you want. It's good with a nice crispy green apple. But apples and fruit in general is super expensive here and I'm also lazy to chop stuff. So I kind of ran with that basic idea...

I start soaking my oatmeal while making dinner. That way if I'm not to tired I can prepare this whole thing the night before, otherwise I just let it soak overnight. I soak it with a few dried fruits, especially ones that might benefit from plumping back up like blueberries and cranberries. Then I rinse and soak it, the same as above. Then I add it to my food processor with a couple bananas and sometimes a tablespoon or so of peanut butter and process. I like to leave mine a little chunky. Then I pour it into a container. Add nuts or other fruits or dried fruits and mix. I often add sunflower seeds and walnuts. This keeps in the fridge for about 3 days! So there you go, I have three days breakfasts made in less than 10 minutes. Then in the morning I just scoop out as much as I want and since it's been pretty cold, I stick it in the microwave for just a little bit (40 seconds). The bananas make it sweet enough that I don't need to add any sugars. And I get in a couple fruit servings as well as some good Omega 3s. Also, it keeps me full throughout most of my morning.

There are some many other ways you could make this, like adding a fruit jelly or flax seeds. I also had some left last Friday, so for dessert I added 1 Tablespoon of cocoa powder and about 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup and instantly had a 'healthy' dessert!

Alright, I'll try to post something more relevant to Japan next time.


Friday, 4 December 2009

AR blog

For those of you who can read Japanese, there is a new animal rights themed blog that you should get out!

Here it is!


Thursday, 3 December 2009

Uniqlo Heat Tech NOT vegan

I have like 4 new posts in mind and hopefully, I'll get to at least a few of them in the next few weeks. They just mostly require my lazy butt uploading pics.

Anyway, I wanted to let vegans out there know about something very NOT vegan. I think it's pretty much impossible to avoid hearing about the new Heat Tech shirts by Uniqlo. I've heard that these shirts really are warmer than anything else.

A little background for people reading outside of Japan. Japan has pretty much the worst winters ever and make me wanna die. And I'm from Wisconsin, so that's saying something. It's not that it is ridiculously cold, in fact, it only gets below zero (in Celsius) for January and February. Recently it's been about 8 degrees Celsius getting up to 14 if it's sunny. That's a range of 45-55 Fahrenheit. But there is NO central heating, so basically inside is the same temperature as outside. In addition, there is no insulation or double-pained windows, so sometimes it feels like a wind is blowing right through them. The heaters most used are these oil powered death machines. They result in at least a few fires and deaths by carbon monoxide every year. But these are only in the main rooms, so no heat in the toilets, hallways, bathrooms, etc...The electric ones cost a fortune to run and so I usually just leave it on for a few hours to fall a sleep and just before getting out of bed. Try changing clothes when you can see your breath! I work at a public school and we can't turn our heat on until the hallways reach below 10 degrees (50 Fahrenheit) at 8 in the morning, which hasn't happened yet. So I typically wear 3 shirts to school. I'll increase to 4 in January and February, as those are the coldest months. Anyway, you get the idea, it's really freaking cold here in a very different way then in North America.

So the whole point of that was, you can see why these heat tech shirts are very popular, the thought of only needing 2 shirts and not having so many layers on that I can't bend my arms was very attractive.

Last weekend, as usual, Uniqlo was having a big sale (Uniqlo only has sales on Sat. and Sun.). I picked out a basic long sleeve heat tech shirt and got in line. The materials of the shirt are pretty typical, polyester, nylon, rayon...So my boyfriend and I are wondering what makes them so amazing. On the back of the bag the shirt comes in, they have a big thing about heat tech and how it was made and how it works. About halfway down, he spots the word 「ミルクプロティン」 "milk protein". We were both like WTF? I put the shirt back and we left. We told one of our vegan friends what we saw because he'd already told us he bought one. He was so angry, so he called their toll free line and asked about it. And they do indeed use milk protein in the production of their heat tech line, but of course assured us that people with allergies could still wear them (haha!). So weird!

Just wanted to put the word out there that Uniqlo's Heat Tech line is NOT vegan for others who may easily miss it on their packaging. Uniqloのヒートテックはビーガンではないです。ミルクプロティン入ってるので。

So I guess I'll still be dressing like that kid from a Christmas Story this winter.

"I can't put my arms down!"


Wednesday, 1 July 2009


Sorry, no recipe for the ramen yet. I'll try to push him on it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm living with my boyfriend now and working a new job. Now that I share my dinners with another person, I very rarely have leftovers, especially if he's cooking because Japanese food never has leftovers. My new job also has a much longer commute than before, from 15 minutes by car to 1 hour by bike, train, and foot. But I wouldn't trade that for anything. I love using public transportation! I've lost some much needed weight, I can relax, catch up on Democracy Now! and Vegan Freak podcasts, and my company pays for it all! Anyway, I swear I'm going somewhere with this...So all these things combine lead to me not having any time in the morning to throw together a lunch nor leftovers to eat, so I have to be very diligent about making a bento everyday for myself and more recently I also make one for the boy (he makes dinner, I do bentos).
If you remember a while back, I posted about bentos and how I make Japanese housewives cry with my bento making skills. Well, I've gotten a bit better. They still aren't the crazy-on-crack bentos you've probably seen. I don't make any cute shapes out of any of my food, I don't use decorated plastic dividers to separate the food, and I don't cut my seaweed out to make faces on the rice. My bentos are focused on getting a full, nutrient packed bento.

I thought I would show you a bunch of them so that you can feel inspired to make your own.

This was one of the first ones I made. It included fresh blueberries, black beans taco filling (I think), corn with sesame seeds and sesame oil, white bean hummus, gyoza with soy sauce in the little animal bottle, and fresh carrots. On a side note, my coworkers freaked out when I was eating the raw carrots. Japanese people DO NOT eat carrots or very many other vegetables raw. They were shocked that you CAN eat them raw.

A bento from the same week. As you can see, I'm still eating the fresh blueberries and carrots with sesame, in between them is the black bean taco filling as well as taco seasoned seitan, more of the white bean hummus, and roasted eggplants. I had raw carrots and cucumbers in a separate container.

This bento included some leftover yakisoba, canned fruit, sliced aburage, and a big salad with the little blue animal dressing. That day I also brought a separate container of roasted red pepper hummus and carrots.

This bento included marinated and fried shiitake, fu and green peppers in an ankake sauce, broad beans with chopped umeboshi and a bit of soy sauce and mirin, marinated red cabbage, and koyadofu prepared to be like minced chicken over rice.

This bento had more of the red cabbage, a few cherry tomatoes, roasted eggplant, cucumbers with umeboshi, and a big thing of yakisoba.

This one was boiled cabbage, roasted eggplant, breaded and fried tofu, tomato and red onion salad, soba noodles in a peanut sauce (I reheated them at work), and snap peas.

Starting in the back is half a chickpea cutlet, piece of koyadofu, cucumber and umeboshi salad, boiled and steamed vegetables, boiled pumpkin, roasted potatoes, and rice with shiokombu (salted kombu seaweed). The bento is sitting on one of the cloths I use to wrap my bentos. They are called furoshiki, but this one is just an old handkerchief.

A very Japanese bento containing, strawberries, stir fried veggies, boiled pumpkin, steamed carrot, fried kabu (turnip), spinach with sesame, then rice with sesame and seaweed furikake.

Look at our bentos in love! haha!

Just some notes on how I prepared the bentos...I use reusable silicone cups to separate the foods, usually people just use disposable foil cups. I also use 2 kinds of sauce containers; the little animal ones that can only hold sauces with no seasonings (they don't come back out), and one that I unfortunately don't have picture, but it's bigger holds any kind of sauce or dressing and squirts them out like a ketchup bottle.

For the recipes, I use a few books. This one and this one are in Japanese, but great, simple, and quick recipes. For foreign recipes I use a bunch of different books. American style recipes often make enough for a whole meal and leftovers, so when I make one of these recipes it can last me the whole week by putting a few things in each day. For examples, the roasted potatoes, chickpea cutlets, and breaded tofu were from the Vegemonicon. The hummus recipes were from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan.

I also said that Japanese feminine bentos were a little small for my liking. And this is true in some ways. The bento you're seeing here is a pretty standard one and it leaves me satisfied and then starting to get hungry by the time I get home for dinner, so I usually want to eat dinner by about 6. I could definitely eat more and some days I take a small container with fruit or my rice or a salad. But this bento is also good for portion control, it doesn't let me overeat at lunch, but gives me just enough to keep me going through the day. I also recently realized that I'm supposed to be putting the rice in the black part on the bottom and the other foods on the top. So I imagine that way may leave you fuller, but I have no interest in eating that much rice. Plus my divider cups don't even fit in the top part with the lid on. But Japanese people love their rice.

So overall I'm happy with my bento. I may consider buying one a little bigger like the blue one above, but it just requires me to make so many foods. I spend at least a little time each night preparing 1 or 2 bento foods that will last me at least a few days, so the foods are constantly rotating. It's much more tiring than I would like it to be, but I don't have much choice. I have to wake up at 530 to get ready for work (and I am NOT waking up earlier to make a bento), I get home at 530 and need to be in bed around 10 to really function. So I just feel like my nights are really short and I'm just repeating the same routine every night: eat, cook, clean, watch a show, shower, sleep. I guess this is what it's like to be an adult. I can not fathom how people do all this and have kids or get to the gym. It seems shocking to me right now.

Alright, I hope you enjoyed a tour through my lunches. I'll have more to show in the future.


Tuesday, 9 June 2009


Hello! I know it's been ages. I'm still alive. Life has been both busy and static. Sarah mentioned I would have news of an animal. Unfortunately, the dog we were hoping to adopt didn't work out. But he went to a great home with little kids to spoil him and keep him busy. When the time is right for us, we'll invite a dog into our family.

I also moved in with my boyfriend and his family so that we can try to save some money for once. Although, we are using most of that to go to the states this summer. I also moved to a new school. I'm doing the same job, just somewhere else. I enjoy my new school MUCH more.

Alright, I guess that's it for updates...onto the food!

So you may remember us mentioning Cafe Proverb on this blog a time or two. It has been our favorite vegan restaurant for ages. Well, recently, they have made a lot of changes. First, a lot of the staff was changed. Then they added cow's cheese and cow's milk as options to replace the soy cheese (which was never vegan because of casein) and soy milk. This struck us as annoying and completely unneccesary. They clearly have a strong customer base, they are packed every time we go. Then more recently, Sarah went and they've added honey to some of the main dishes. So we are starting to give up hope for them. The owners own another cafe in Tokyo that is far from vegan, but the Kyoto one was sold to them on the condition that they keep the space a vegan one (it was previously Cafe Peace).

Our favorite dish there is the veggie soymilk ramen. As either a vegetarian or vegan for the majority of my time here, I've never had a chance to have real, restaurant style ramen. And let me tell you, it is very different from the packaged, instant stuff you may be thinking of.

Last week, my boyfriend had a craving for this ramen and since we aren't as interested in going there anymore, plus saving money for our trip to the states, he tried to recreate this dish. And let me tell you. It was spot on!!! We've already had it twice.

Unfortunately, he doesn't have a recipe for it, but I'll try to give you a basic idea soon. For now, the food porn shot to keep you coming back.

The pretty pre-diggin in picture.

So you can get a look of the noodles.

By the way, can anyone tell me if you can even get vegan ramen noodles in the states or elsewhere. The thing to look for is eggs. Both are sold here. In Japan they are sold in the cold case, fresh and usually very cheap.


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Fun with Peanut Butter

Recently I've been really loving my peanut butter. People who don't like peanut butter are just wrong. Embrace the peanut butter, fools!

Here are two really easy and delicious recipes using peanut butter for all you non-fools.

Mick's Awesome Satay
(from my lovely Vietnamese/Aussie friend Mick)

You will need:
Peanut butter
Lemon juice
Soy sauce
Garlic, chopped (or garlic powder is ok if you're feeling lazy)
Chilli (I use Sriracha hot sauce)

Mix equal amounts of the first four ingredients (I tend to go a little easier on the sugar) and add garlic and chilli to taste. That's it!
For one person, I'd use around a tablespoon of the first four each. Just taste it as you mix and adjust to your own preference.

This satay can also be thinned out with water or coconut milk. Mick told me that if you cook it, the flavours will mellow apart from the garlic which will intensify. It's good for dipping chopped vegetable sticks in, or summer rolls, or poured over cold noodles. I made a gado gado inspired plate with it too and it was goooood.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Put Your Banana in my Peanut Butter" Smoothie
I wanted to eat a banana pb sandwich but since vegan bread is pretty much impossible to find in Japan, I made this instead. This is a one person serving but of course you could make a big batch and share. Or not share. That'd be better I think.

You will need:
1 banana
1 teaspoon cocoa
1 teaspoon Inka/coffee replacement/instant coffee (optional)
1 BIG teaspoon of peanut butter (or why not go crazy and just chuck a whole tablespoon in that bad boy)
250 ml aprox. non-dairy milk (cause cow milk comes out of cow's nipples and you don't need to be drinking that)
Sugar/maple syrup/sweetener to taste

Blend all your ingredients together and add sweetener if you need it. If you are using instant coffee granules it might be a good idea to dissolve them in a little hot water or milk first. You can of course add crushed ice to this or more milk if you want it thinner. My best results were when I used vanilla soy milk and a very ripe banana.

Well, that's it. Easy, huh? I should warn you that the satay sauce is really addictive and since it's so quick to make, you might find yourself with a little peanut butter belly if you're not careful, haha.

"If you can't control your peanut butter, you can't expect to control your life"
- Bill Watterson (author of Calvin & Hobbes)

-- Sarah

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Hisashiburi PunkYou! (Update and a simple recipe)

ごめん!It's been a really long time since we updated but we are not dead! Nope, just busy with lame-o English teaching jobs and the drama of life as a adult (blah, why did I ever want to grow up?....)
Anyhoo, both Pamela and I have some happy animal-related news to share. I'll only give you mine for now as I'm sure Pam will be bursting to tell everyone her awesome story personally!
.... I adopted a kitty! Her name is Maneki. Her name is kind of a joke since she is a "neko" (cat) and a "maneki neko"(Beckoning Cat) is a good luck sculpture in Japan. She was actually my friend's cat but he is moving to Osaka soon to live in a typical single "1 room" apartment in a very non-animal friendly building. Yeah yeah, I know, I don't understand why anyone would move to a no-pets building when they already have a pet but unfortunately, like many people I suspect, my friend didn't really think about his decision to adopt as seriously as he should have. Anyway, she lives with me now and I'll give her the best home I can.

Here's a picture for all you cat fans:

Aside from that, my life has been busy but not all that interesting to you! Spring is finally here and the ume (plum) blossom has come and gone which means it's less interesting, but far more famous cousin, sakura (cherry blossom) is on the way. Soon it'll be time for hanabi (flower viewing parties) and sakura-flavoured everything (including potato chips and kitkats). I went to see the ume blossom at Osaka castle park with my boyfriend a couple of weeks back. He bought me an awesome little ume bonsai tree which I enjoyed watching bloom on top of my TV for a couple of weeks. It also gave me an excuse to play with my Blythe doll and get her to do some modelling. Usually I don't like dolls but since she's dressed as a squirrel and my nickname is Squirrel, I thought she was pretty awesome. Also, she has red hair which is pretty sweet.

Here's my little bonsai and a coquettish Blythe shot for you:

And now that I've bored you all with that, here's a very easy but tasty Japanese recipe for you to try!

Sauteed Eggplant and Green Peppers with Miso
This simple traditional side dish goes well with a bowl of rice, pickles and a tofu main. Apparently eating eggplants in the hot sweaty Japanese summer helps to stimulate the appetite. But I don't usually have any problems with my appetite, haha.

You will need:
4-5 Japanese eggplants
3-4 green peppers (I used 5 small Japanese piman but the usual bigger kind is good too)
4 tblspoons sesame oil
2.5 tblspoons miso (you're choice but I used a mild red miso and it worked well)
1 tblspoon sugar
2 tblspoons mirin
2 teaspoons sake
2 teaspoons konbu dashi

1) Cut the top stems off the eggplants and cut into round slices about 1cm/half an inch thick. Soak the slices in water for 5 minutes then drain.
2) Remove the seeds from the green peppers and cut into small bite-size chunks.
3) Heat the sesame oil in a pan and saute the eggplants over a fairly high heat. Add the green peppers and saute some more.
4) When the vegetables are have softened, add the miso paste and sugar. Stir and saute until the miso starts to burn a little and stick to the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the mirin, sake and dashi and cook on a medium heat, stirring often, until the liquid has almost all cooked off.

That's it for now but I still have to post about Japanese sweets. And I've been working on a BBQ wings recipe recently which hopefully I'll be able to share soon. I also have some chocolate pictures to show off and an awesome microwave brownie recipe too so...... I'll try my best not to slack off!

-- Sarah

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Wonders of Udon

Udon is a funny sort of pasta. I think it has to grow on you. Don't think of it like you would other pastas, just think of it in the general noodle category. When I first tried it, I thought it was too soft and thick and generally gross. I can now safely say after 4 and a half years I am officially converted and now choose udon over soda in the soba udon debate.*

Udon (and soba for that matter) are always vegan and since there is always a soba or udon shop anywhere you'll go, udon is indeed the wonder food for vegans in Japan. Now the broth is a slightly trickier issue. There are various ways that udon is served and you never really know unless you ask.

Even different areas of Japan have their own way of serving udon. However, if you find yourself at a chain shop, you are most likely to find bonito stock (カツオだし)used in the soup. But seriously, just ask, you'd be suprised. But my advice is to pick up a small bottle of soy sauce, ponzu (check it's vegan), or vinegar, or all of them and carry it in your bag or car. I find this most helpful for the chain ones or when I'm too scared to ask. Also, be wary of soy sauce dashi because it is soy sauce mixed with fish stock.

You can easily make a very filling meal out of just a simple bowl of udon. Udon shops usually offer grated daikon, sesame seeds, kitsune (a fried piece of tofu, the same one used for making inari-zushi) and green onions for topping the noodles.
So this long explanation is to tell you about my recent roadtrip to the Udon capital of Japan: Kagawa Prefucture on the Island of Shikoku.

Kagawa is famous for their udon. There's even a movie about it. Many of the shops are run by families that have been doing it for years. Luckily, traditionally udon in this area is vegan (still, as always, double check). They serve the noodles simply with soy sauce and vinegar to 'allow us to more thoroughly appreciate the taste of the freshly made noodles'.

During our tasting tour of Kagawa we visited two udon shops (both of which happen to appear in that movie, we learned later). Be warned most of the udon shops in Kagawa, especially the great family owned ones are only open a few hours for lunch.

The first was 谷川米穀店 (Tanigawa Beikoku Shop). This was the first place we went. We heard of it through a guidebook and chose this one because they specifically don't use any broth, ever.  We arrived about 1:30, so the main rush was over. They are only open from 11-2 each day, but after 1 they usually stop making the noodles. The noodles were made right there behind the counter in this small restaurant. They owners were very friendly, telling us that they've been making udon for about 40 years. They also promised that if we come back in the morning when the noodles are freshest, they will be even better. So we took them up on the offer arriving at exactly 11. The place was packed and there were at least 10 people waiting in line in front of us. Luckily, udon is the kind of food you just slurp down and move on, so the line moved fast. They were right about the noodles, the udon was definitely even better made fresh. It was great to see the whole operation at work. The father and grown son took turns rolling out the dough and adding the noodles to the boiling pot. The mother, grandmother, and staff filled the bowls, set them on the counter, and collected the money. I forgot to mention! Udon is dirt cheap. A big size bowl was 240 yen (less than $3). It was quite the experience and I highly recommend you get to this shop, if you are in Kagawa.

The second shop we went to, 小縣家 (Ogataya) is also from the guidebook. This one isn't a family style establishment, in fact it looks like they are in the middle of constructing a big addition. And the udon was all of uniform size, implying it wasn't hand made right in the shop. But it still tasted good and they gave us our own daikon radish to grate! Their udon is served with just a slightly thinned out soy sauce. You can also buy the udon their to take home for all your jealous friends and family. We also really enjoyed this place. Plus it's always fun to grate your own daikon! Also, this is also one of the few shops that operates for dinner, one of the reasons we chose to go there. They are open 9-6.

(We went back the next morning to get more udon to take home.)I highly recommend a trip to Kagawa, if only for the udon. We hope to make a trip back when it's warmer and visit some of the neighboring prefectures to do some swimming.

*If you've spent any length of time in Japan, you have most likely been asked 'do you like soba or udon better.' And most foreigners choose soba, probably because it's more similar to 'pasta' that we think of from Italian dishes.