This Week’s Menu: Eating In Japan


One of my all-time favorite meals in Japan: vegetable tempura and zaru soba. No soba for me this time though.

Because we take off on our Japan adventure in a few days there was no sense in making a menu this week. The mission continues to be making sure everything perishable in the fridge gets eaten before we go. We had to postpone a couple of days from last week’s menu in order to use some things before they turned on us, so tonight we’re having lumpia, rice and coleslaw (to use up the last of some cabbage) and tomorrow we’ll be having the homemade fishcake sandwiches we didn’t get to have last week. YaYu has a track meet on Thursday afternoon/evening, and Brett will be taking leftovers along for himself and YaYu, and I’ll figure out something here at home. We obviously won’t be going to the farmers’ market, but as it turned out our favorite farmers won’t be there either – they’re going home to Thailand for two weeks..

The past few days we’ve been thinking and talking about what we want to eat while we’re in Japan. We’ve come up with a few must-eats for this trip:

Tonkatsu – Brett and I will probably share an order.
  • Ramen: YaYu LOVES ramen, and she didn’t get to eat this the last time we were in Japan. So, we have promised her we will stop at a ramen stand and she can eat her fill.
  • Tonkatsu: This is a very tender pork cutlet coated in panko crumbs and fried, served with finely shredded cabbage and rice, as well as a delicious sauce. I will skip the rice, but think otherwise I’m good to go with this dish.
  • Curry: Our grandson wants to take us to his favorite curry restaurant, designed to look like an old train car. Other than the rice, curry is low-carb, so I’ll just ask for my rice on the side (and skip it).
  • Sushi: The real deal. I plan to order chawan mushi though, a savory custard with shrimp that’s served at sushi restaurants, and also some sashimi.
  • Tempura: Again, this is one of those things that just tastes better in Japan. I love vegetable tempura!

Here are some things I sadly won’t be eating this time in Japan:

  • Rice: No rice means going without one of my favorite Japanese meals, katsudon, a breaded pork cutlet cooked with onions and egg, and served over rice.
  • Hato Sabure: I know we’ll buy some of Kamakura’s famous “bird cookies” to bring home, but none for me this time. Maybe Brett will let me take a bite from one of his.
  • Bakery goods: This one is going to be difficult, as Japan has incredible bakeries, and I will especially miss not having the world’s most delicious raisin bread that I was so looking forward to (it comes from the bakery across the street from our son’s condo). I’ll also have to skip having one of the amazing almond cookies from Chinatown.
  • McDonald’s teriyaki burger and yogurt shake: These are the only items I’ll ever eat from McDonald’s, and only in Japan. Not this time though.
  • Crepes from Harajuku: I’m making a sad face right now as I write this, but Brett said I can have a bite of his.

I know I will be telling myself, “Come on, you’re in Japan – enjoy yourself!” but I also know now that I would pay dearly for any of them so hopefully I’ll be able to resist so much temptation.

The Sakura Blossom Creme Frappuchino and Latte was this year’s special flavor, and today (3/14) is the last day they’re available. So sad!

We’ll also miss by a couple of day this year’s special cherry blossom Frappuchino at Starbucks. They create a new flavor every year, and this year’s looked especially good. Oh well.

This Week’s Menu: Slim Pickings

Hiyashi chuka usually is made with ham, but I’m substituting shredded chicken this week

I cannot get over how empty our refrigerator is already. It’s actually kind of depressing because when I open the door all I see are a big pitcher of water, a few eggs, a little bit of cheese, a small amount of salami, and a whole lot of condiments. That’s pretty much it. YaYu has been wandering around wondering what there is to eat, although I did bake a chocolate cake yesterday so there would be something for her and Brett to snack on.

Thankfully there is plenty to eat in the freezer, and combined with some produce from the farmers’ market we should make it through until we leave next week. We will have to stop by the store this week for some more yogurt, a dozen eggs, and some hamburger rolls that I thought we had but don’t, but otherwise everything is on track to have the refrigerator officially cleaned out the evening before we leave.

The noodles with pork sauce we’re having on Friday is really just Snake Alley Noodles without the shrimp. YaYu doesn’t care for shrimp, but otherwise loves the recipe so I said I’d make it and call it something else. When her sisters are home though she’s going to have to pick the shrimp out once again.

  • Tuesday (this evening): Teriyaki chicken meatballs; zaru soba; sautéed bok choy (no soba for me – sob!)
  • Wednesday: Three-color salad with chicken (hiyashi chuka) – just chicken, egg, tomato and cucumber for me
  • Thursday: Barbecue pulled pork sandwiches; cole slaw (no bread for me)
  • Friday: Noodles with pork sauce; sautéed bok choy; fruit (no noodles for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Baked chili rellenos with enchilada sauce; yellow rice (no rice for me)
  • Monday: Homemade fish cake sandwiches; cucumber and tomato salad (no bread for me)

We’ll be doing a minimal amount of shopping this week at the farmers’ market, just picking up some cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, papayas and bananas, all things we can finish before we leave on our journey.

This Week’s Menu: Starting the Clean-Out

Fried panko tofu cubes. I make mine about half the size of these ones.
Fried panko tofu cubes. I make mine about half the size of these ones.

We’re starting the segue into “cleaning out the fridge” mode this week, trying to use up everything we have on hand before we leave for Japan. A few things can be put into the freezer while we’re gone, but most everything else that’s in the refrigerator now, other than condiments, will have to be eaten. The goal is to leave the refrigerator as empty as possible when we leave mid March.

We have one package of tofu left, and I’m looking forward to having the fried panko tofu cubes again this week. They were a big hit the last time we had them – the outside is nice and crispy, and the tofu inside becomes very creamy when cooked. Our dipping sauces will include teriyaki, barbecue, Thai spicy mango, Bulldog (Japanese-style Worchester sauce) and one of YaYu’s hot sauces. I might put out some catsup too.

By the way, the creamy red pepper alfredo sauce that YaYu made last week was AMAZING. Thank goodness we doubled the recipe, because I could sit and eat it with a spoon right out of the pan. I’ve been enjoying it on eggs, over leftover meatloaf, and with roasted vegetables. YUM!

Here’s what’s on our dinner menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; roasted carrots
  • Wednesday: Leftover steak and zucchini stir fry; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Leftovers (first track meet of the season; B & Y won’t get home until after 8:00 p.m.)
  • Friday: Fried panko tofu cubes with assorted dipping sauces; sweet & sour cole slaw
  • Saturday: Thai-style pork stew; steamed jasmine rice; cucumber salad
  • Sunday: Zucchini frittata; salami; garlic bread (no bread for me)
  • Monday: Grill ahi tacos with fresh mango salsa; yellow rice (no tortillas or rice for me)

Purchases at the farmers’ market this week will be minimal, even if there are still tempting things to be found, like cauliflower and broccoli. Looking at the list all I can see that we have to buy is zucchini,but we will also probably also buy some papayas, bananas and bok choy as those will definitely get eaten before we go.

This Week’s Menu: So Many Choices

Fettucini with creamy red pepper alfredo sauce
Fettucini with creamy red pepper alfredo sauce

This week’s menu was slightly more difficult than it typically is for the unusual reason that right now our fridge, freezer and pantry contain an embarrassment of riches, almost like we have too much food, and therefore too many choices. I go through this every month right after we do our Costco shop – there is almost too much to choose from, or at least it seems that way. Definitely a first world problem, I know.

Creating a menu when there are so many choices uses a somewhat different thought process than when supplies and choices are more limited. First of all, it requires less creativity. But still, there are questions such as: What should be used first? Will this or that be more useful later in the month?

YaYu asked if she could make dinner on Friday – she found the recipe for vegetarian red pepper alfredo sauce online and wants to try it. She doesn’t know yet if she’ll be able make the fettucine from scratch – it will depend on how late track and tennis practice finish.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled Italian sausages with sautéed peppers and onion; ciabatta rolls (no bread for me)
  • Wednesday: Mapo dofu; steamed rice; sliced cucumber (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Meatloaf; roasted potatoes; gravy; steamed broccoli (no potatoes for me)
  • Friday: Fettucini with creamy red pepper alfredo sauce; grilled zucchini; bread (I’ll have the alfredo sauce over zucchini)
  • Saturday: Leftovers (YaYu will be at her swim team banquet)
  • Sunday: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs (we’ve all been craving this again); steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Monday: Grilled flank steak; onion rings; coleslaw (no onion rings for me)

We have everything we need on hand, so no trips to the store this week. We won’t be able to go to the Kapaa market on Wednesday, but Brett and I have decided we will try to head down to the Friday farmers’ market at the stadium. It’s a small market, but they have good prices and we should be able to get papayas and bananas there, and maybe find a few other things.

This Week’s Menu: Breakfast, Lunch and Leftovers

Melissa D'Arabian's slow cooker pork carnitas
Melissa D’Arabian’s slow cooker pork carnitas

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lunch here at Casa Aloha is easy to sum up: 97% of the time it’s leftovers. YaYu takes leftovers for her lunch at school almost every day, and Brett and I also try to eat what’s leftover in the fridge for our lunches as well. If there are no leftovers, Brett will fix himself something like celery with peanut butter, or a sandwich of some kind. I might have some cheese and fruit these days, or a bowl of soup and fresh vegetables of some kind.

Brett almost always has a bowl of oatmeal every morning with either yogurt or soy milk and some fruit. For YaYu, he makes different things, like eggs and bacon or taquitos or maybe a bowl of rice with some leftover meat on top – anything that’s hot and filling. He’s had to be a little more creative lately, and there have been more frequent repeats now that she’s not eating any dairy. Either Saturday or Sunday morning, YaYu fixes herself a big bowl of ramen, always with added greens and some other kind of protein. I’m currently rotating through three different breakfasts: Greek yogurt with berries and a sprinkle of granola; a fried egg and fruit (and sometimes a slice of bacon), or a whole, fresh papaya and a spoonful of peanut butter. I used to always have cereal for breakfast, maybe an English muffin with peanut butter and jam, but what I’m having these days is working well – I’m rarely hungry before lunch.

Our only rule about breakfast has always been: anything goes. The girls used to get things like pizza or stuffed peppers or waffles with berries and whipped cream for breakfast, but that’s when I was cooking for the three of them. YaYu doesn’t care for pancakes or french toast or bagels and such, and I can’t have them any more, so those things don’t get made or offered these days. That’s not a bad thing – on the whole we’re all eating healthier at breakfast now.

Anyway, here’s what’s on our dinner menu this week. Almost everything is guaranteed to produce plenty of leftovers 🙂 :

  • Tuesday (this evening): Valentine’s Day Dinner: grilled lemon chicken; sliced cucumber and tomato salad; French bread for Brett (YaYu will be at a Kiwanis dinner)
  • Wednesday: Tuna noodle casserole; fresh fruit (tuna salad for me)
  • Thursday: Roast chicken; stuffing; gravy; steamed broccoli (no stuffing for me)
  • Friday: Asian chicken salad
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs, bacon, toasted English muffins, fruit (no muffin for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker pork carnitas; tortillas; shredded cabbage; tomatoes

Our food stocks are starting to get low, but Brett and I are doing our big monthly Costco shop on Thursday. We’ll pick up cucumbers, tomatoes, bok choy, papayas, bananas, and broccoli if we see it at the farmers’ market this week.

Also, to make the lemon chicken I marinate boneless, skinless chicken thighs all day in a mixture of 1/3 cup lemon juice, 3 TBSP dried basil, 1 TBSP olive oil, and 2-3 cloves minced garlic. It cooks quickly when we grill because the lemon juice partially “cooks” the chicken and makes it very tender. The marinade is also great with chicken wings.

#Kauai: Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand

Banana Joe's is located on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway, just north of the Kilauea turnoff
Banana Joe’s is located on the mauka (mountain) side of the Kuhio highway, just north of the Kilauea turnoff.

My all-time favorite Kaua’i treat, without hesitation, is a banana frostie from Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand, located in Kilauea, on the north shore of the island. The frostie is made by pushing frozen, local bananas through a Champion juicer, and the result is a cool, creamy ice-cream like treat that’s pure fruit and deliciousness. Every bite tastes like Hawai’i. Pineapple frosties are also available, or you can get a combo of both pineapple and banana. Frosties made from summer fruits such as mango are available in season. Frosties come in one size, and are $4.50 each.

Banana frostie - yum!
Banana frostie – yum!
Banana Joe's offers a wide selection of Kaua'i-produced treats as well as local produce and drink.
Inside the Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand.

Besides the frosties, the stand also offers smoothies made from local fruit, and sells a variety of locally made products and drinks as well as a wide assortment of local fruit and produce. If you’re visiting the island it’s a great spot to pick up some local products to take back home.

Banana Joe himself!
Banana Joe!

The best part for me of visiting Banana Joe’s, besides the frosties, is that I get an opportunity to chat with the owner, Joe Halasey. He’s a genuinely warm,friendly guy, and we share a love of Japan, so always have plenty to talk about and catch up on.

The Chocolate Shack, located next to Banana Joe's and in front of the entrance to the Chocolate Farm Tours.
The Chocolate Shack, located next to Banana Joe’s and in front of the entrance to the Chocolate Farm Tours.

A new feature that’s popped up since our last visit is the Chocolate Shack, located right next to Banana Joe’s! We’ve known for a while about the Chocolate Farm Tours that are offered, but now you can purchase chocolate bars made from Kaua’i grown cacao, drinking chocolate and other chocolate treats right at the source. The three-hour tours are offered several times a week, and include an all-you-can-eat chocolate tasting experience at the end of the tour! WenYu and I already have plans to (finally) take one of the tours this coming summer.

Kaua'i Mini Golf and Botanical Garden is a popular attraction on the island, for both visitors and locals alike.
Kaua’i Mini Golf and Botanical Garden is a popular attraction on the island, for both visitors and locals alike.

The Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand is also located right next to the Anaina Hou Community Park, which contains the Kauai Mini Golf and Botanical Gardens, a popular Kauai attraction, along with many other things to see and do. Located in the Park is also the head of the Wai Koa Loop Trail.

Whether you live on Kaua’i, or are just visiting, you owe yourself a stop at Banana Joe’s! It’s a purely Kaua’i experience.

This Week’s Menu: Not Much of a Baker Anymore

Yellow butter cake with vanilla buttercream
Yellow butter cake with vanilla buttercream

I used to love to bake, but these days, not so much. The main reason is that it’s hot here, and running the oven only heats things up when we’re trying to stay cool. Frosting melts in the heat, and baked goods spoil quickly Besides, there’s no  longer a houseful of people to eat what I bake, even more so now that I cannot have starches and carbs are limited.

Orange bundt cake with orange glaze
Orange bundt cake with orange glaze

I still bake things from time to time though, depending on the weather. We’ve been having cooler weather for the past couple of months, so I’ve been dragging out my mixer more than usual lately. Mostly I’ve been baking cakes, but I’ve also made some fruit crisps, cobblers and brownies. For many of the cakes, I’ve been using a box of cake mix as a base, and then adding to it to make something special. When I can find cake mixes on sale for $1 or $1.25 each (a great price for here; they’re usually $2 – $3) I’ll buy a few to keep on hand. A devil’s food mix becomes a triple chocolate bundt cake, a yellow mix turns into a butter cake or an orange bundt cake with orange glaze. My frostings are always made from scratch – a fresh buttercream is a snap to make.

Triple chocolate bundt cake
Triple chocolate bundt cake

And, I don’t get any of it! Sad!

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches; coleslaw (no sandwich roll for me)
  • Wednesday: Tofu and broccoli with spicy peanut sauce; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Grilled chicken & apple sausages; couscous; sautéed greens; grilled zucchini
  • Friday: Slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs; steamed rice; fruit
  • Monday: Lumpia (Filipino-style spring rolls); sautéed bok choy; steamed rice (no rice for me)
Beautiful cauliflower at last week's farmers' market
Beautiful cauliflower at last week’s farmers’ market

Lots of rice this week – YaYu will be very happy! I love that our rice cooker can do as little as a cup of rice. That’s enough for Brett and YaYu, and leaves some leftover for her lunch the next day.

We’ll be picking up lots of bok choy tomorrow at the farmers’ market, as well as greens, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, papaya and bananas. If cauliflower is available again this week, I’ll get some more of that and will fit it in some where.

If anyone would like the recipe for any of the cakes, let me know and I’ll put it in the comments.

This Week’s Menu: So Far, So Good

builtburgerLet me start out by saying that I feel terrific! I can’t believe how much better I feel without starches/carbs in my diet. Seriously, I had no idea the change would be this dramatic, and happen so quickly.

At the end of last year I developed Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and ended up on medication; I have a gastro endoscopy scheduled for next week. The medication made a difference, but I still was suffering at night, once it started to wear off, and the pain often woke me up and kept me up at night. But, while I’m still taking the medication, the nighttime symptoms have completely disappeared! I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep every night since I dropped the carbs (by the way, I have no symptoms for anything more serious than GERD, and the doctor doesn’t think it’s anything more than a condition of aging, but ordered the endoscopy just to make sure).

The best part for me though is that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I’ve been fine going without rice, or bread, or any other starch. Who knew? I think this is a diet adjustment I will have no problems following.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening: All natural beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; steamed green beans; onion rings (none for me)
  • Wednesday: Mabo nasu made with tofu; steamed rice; sautéed bok choy
  • Thursday: Chicken, pineapple and green pepper skewers with pineapple-mandarin sauce; steamed rice (the recipe calls for fish, but I’m substituting chicken. Also, no rice for me)
  • Friday: Grilled hamburgers; onion rings (no bun or onion rings for me; I’ll have tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Snacks for dinner: deviled eggs; deli roast beef; cheese & crackers, fresh vegetable tray; fruit (no crackers for me)
  • Monday: Spaghetti with marinara; grilled Italian sausages; sautéed greens; garlic bread (no pasta or bread for me)

There turns out to be more beef than usual for us this week, but that’s temporary. We’ll need to pick up cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and bok choy and other greens at the farmers’ market this week. Otherwise everything is in the pantry, fridge or freezer.

This Week’s Menu: And Yet Another Challenge

Pork lau lau
Pork lau lau

When I saw my doctor last week for my annual check-up, one of the things we discussed was my weight. In spite of exercise, careful monitoring of what and how much I eat and so forth, I continue to gain weight. My labs are all good, there are no metabolic issues other than I’m an aging female, so he directed me to give up all carbs to see if I can’t turn things around.

Yup. No carbs. That was the only thing he believes will make a difference at this stage of my life.

So, besides eliminating all dairy from YaYu’s diet, I also have to remove all carbs from mine, or keep them as low as possible. The doctor does not want me on a high meat, high fat diet either (like Atkins); rather, I’m to have more fruits and vegetables, and some lean protein, but nothing with added sugar, and no refined starches. I can still enjoy a small drink of wine on Friday and Saturday evenings. But that’s it. Not being able to eat lettuce is going to make things difficult as well as I can’t add in more salad to fill me up.

Next week Brett and I will be doing our monthly Costco Big Shop, and we’re currently going over our list, eliminating some items, and adding others. It is going to be a very interesting (and I believe difficult) month or two while we adjust to the new dietary realities around here.

So, with all that “on my plate” now, here’s what I’ve come up with for next week’s menu:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Slow cooker kalua pork (which didn’t get made last week); rice; cucumber salad (no rice for me, and we’ll pick up a small container of mac salad for Brett at Pono Market)
  • Wednesday: Chicken meatball, pineapple and green pepper kabobs; vegetable lo mein
  • Thursday: Slow cooker chicken with rice soup; bread (I’ll make the soup with regular rice versus brown rice, and will take out my portion before the rice is added as it cooks quickly; no bread for me)
  • Friday: Leftovers (final swim team spaghetti dinner for YaYu)
  • Saturday: Roast chicken; mashed potatoes & gravy; green beans; greens (no potatoes and gravy for me)
  • Sunday: Omelets with sautéed greens & bacon; bread; fruit (no bread for me)
  • Monday: Lau lau (fish, chicken and/or pork wrapped and steamed in ti and taro leaves); rice; coleslaw; fruit (no rice for me)

We’ll be stocking up on veggies at the market, definitely cucumbers and greens, but I hope we can also find broccoli. I also want to buy papayas, to have for breakfast.

Looks like times are going to get even more interesting!

This Week’s Menu: A New Challenge

Kalua pork & macaroni salad
Kalua pork & macaroni salad

YaYu put her foot down last week, and said no more dairy. She has never really cared for milk or other dairy products – OK, she loves ice cream – but ate them in limited amounts whenever they were included something I prepared. Her doctors have suspected lactose intolerance over the years, but never really gave us a firm diagnosis, and only suggested she take Lactaid. Recently though she has become more uncomfortable than ever after consuming anything dairy, and last week said she was done with it – no cheese, no milk, no yogurt, no ice cream – nothing dairy.

So, I am going to have to change the way I cook and what I cook. It’s going to be quite the challenge as YaYu is somewhat of a picky eater, and turns up her nose at many dishes the rest of us enjoy, even if they don’t contain any dairy. But, I will do my best. I’m open to any suggestions and ideas any of you have. She LOVES spicy food.

WenYu is still with us for a few more days this week, so I’m still making a couple of dishes that contain dairy. YaYu loves cheeseburger pie enough that she said it was worth taking Lactaid, and she won’t be home for Friday’s dairy-rich soup and sandwiches.

Here’s what we’re having:

  • Tuesday (today): Pork & pepper stir fry; steamed rice
  • Wednesday: Cheeseburger pie; tater tots; coleslaw
  • Thursday: Kalua pork; macaroni salad; steamed rice; cucumber salad
  • Friday: Tuna melts; clam chowder; carrot sticks (swim team spaghetti dinner for YaYu)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs; bacon; English muffins; fruit
  • Monday: Potstickers; steamed rice; Asian-y coleslaw

We’ve used up all of this month’s food allowance other than a few dollar (which will be spent on eggs tomorrow), so everything will be made from what we have on hand. We thankfully have plenty of produce on hand, so we don’t need to go to the farmers’ market. And, with WenYu leaving, leftovers will begin appearing on the menu again.