Sunday, January 26, 2020

Making Futomaki To Celebrate Setsubun


My mom was Japanese.  That meant that half of our family lived in Japan.  And lucky for me and my sisters, we spent entire summers living in Japan.  Because of that, I get so homesick for my second home, when summer arrives each year.  I miss our family and friends, the lifestyle, the celebrations and the food that we eat as we celebrate.  Although, we can't travel to Japan for every holiday, we can celebrate and keep the traditions alive in our homes here in the US.  One of our favorite holidays is Setsubun because we can eat one of favorite foods, futomaki.

Setsubun is celebrated one day before the start of spring, which in Japan is February 3.  One custom that is practiced during this holiday is throwing roasted soybeans.  You throw beans inside the home, usually at a family member who is wearing a demon mask and running around the house, to chase away any demons.  After the bean throwing, you have the bean eating.  Everyone eats the amount of beans that corresponds with their age.  Without revealing my age, I can tell you that if I had to eat that many beans, I would never be able to eat the delicious futomaki after!  So, needless to say, we skip , this part of the celebration.

After the bean throwing fun, comes the eating!  I would like to share our recipe for futomaki.  It is called ehomaki when made to eat for Setsubun and should contain 7 fillings.  The 7 fillings represent the Seven Deities of Good Fortune.  They can be any filling you choose.  Our recipe has only 5 but you can add shrimp, imitation crab meat or a number of other ingredients if you want your roll to be officially Setsubun ready.

There are a couple of things you need to know first though before you make and eat your own futomaki, if you are making it to celebrate Setsubun.   You must keep the roll whole and not sliced like you would see it in your favorite sushi restaurant.  If you slice your roll, you will be slicing away good luck.  Next you will have to face the lucky direction which this year was east northeast.  (You can find the direction of the year and more information about Setsubun here.)  Then you will eat your futomaki in silence as you contemplate the events of the past year and look forward to enjoying the new year.  If you eat your futomaki correctly, you will have good fortune.



-------------------------------------------

Futomaki
(makes 4 rolls)


Ingredients:


Yaki sushi nori - roasted seaweed 

Prepare the following ingredients:

1 cup uncooked rice (I use genmai but short-grain Japanese white rice would make a better roll) - makes 3 cups cooked
Cool rice.  Mix 2 Tbs. sugar, 1/3 cup rice vinegar and a dash of salt in a medium bowl.  Add and gently mix in cooled rice and set aside.

Soak mushrooms in 1 1/4 cup water.  Do not discard water.  After mushrooms soften (about 30 minutes) squeeze out excess water from the mushroom into the water they were soaking in.  You should have about 1 cup of water.  Add 2 Tbs. sugar, 1 Tbs. mirin and 1 Tbs. soy sauce to the water.  Pour the flavored water into a frying pan.  Slice the mushrooms (discard the stems) and add them to the frying pan.  Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally and watching carefully, until there is no more water left in the pan.  Set cooked mushrooms aside.


Tomagoyaki
Break 4 eggs into a bowl and mix together with 1/2 Tbs. mirin, 1 tsp. sugar and 1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt.  Spray frying pan with Pam or use a small amount of oil if you prefer.  When pan is heated, add a thin layer of egg, rotating pan to spread egg over entire bottom of pan.   When egg is almost cooked, but still wet, fold one edge of the egg over about an inch or two and and keep folding until the egg ends up on the opposite side of the pan.  Add another thin layer of egg and when egg is cooked as before, fold the folded egg over the new layer of egg.  Continue cooking the egg in this manner with the remaining egg.


Allow tomagoyaki to cool, then slice into approximately 1/2 inch wide and the length of the seaweed sheet.



Kampyo
One 2.1 oz package of prepared kampyo.  You can find this in the freezer or fridge of your favorite Japanese supermarket.  If you find dried kampyo, or prefer to use it dried, follow the same cooking directions for the mushrooms to prepare the kampyo for your roll.

Slice the pickled radish to about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch thickness and the length of your sushi nori (seaweed sheet).

Cucumber
Slice the same as the takuwan.



Place the sushi nori on a bamboo mat made for sushi rolling.  Spread rice over your seaweed sheet to about an inch from the edge of the top and bottom of the seaweed.  Place the prepared ingredients side by side on top of the rice.


Now you are ready to roll your futomaki.  It is very hard to describe how to roll sushi and I haven't made a video to demonstrate this technique.  I would like to direct you to where I was directed by DIL Nicole.  Yuko and Noriko from Japanese Cooking 101 helped me roll my first futomaki!  Go here for their tutorial.

Enjoy and Happy Setsubun!


The post was featured at:

Pretty Pintastic Party

Monday, January 13, 2020

Dublin, Ireland - Visiting The Guinness Storehouse And More



For Day 3 of our unforgettable vacation in Ireland, we planned a road trip to Dublin.  We had a number of reasons why we wanted to visit the capital and largest city in Ireland, but the number one reason the hubbies had for wanting to travel three hours from our cottage in Doolin, was because the Guinness Storehouse would be the reward when we finally got there.


When we got to Dublin, we headed straight for the Guinness Storehouse and parked in their parking lot.  We were able to leave our rental there for the day and walk to everything else we had on our "to do in Dublin list."

We entered the storehouse across the street and used a kiosk to purchase our tickets which entitled us to the tour and a free pint of Guinness.  We were surprised to find out that the receipt we got for buying our tickets also had a coupon for a free pint!

Once inside the building, we started our self-guided tour and, learned all about the history and the brewing of Ireland's most iconic beer.


The many interactive and hands-on displays made the tour very interesting and fun.


We spent about 2 hours exploring all 7 floors of the storehouse.


We were all excited when we got to the floor with the tasting rooms, especially JT!


We were even more excited when we reached the Gravity Bar on the top floor where we all traded in our coupons for a refreshing pint of Guinness.  Guinness tastes different in Ireland.  I never liked the taste of the beer the few times I've had a sip or two, but I really liked it when we had it here.


After our pints we were off to see our friend's daughter who was attending college in Dublin.  Mako, who lives in Japan, contacted us when she found out we would be in Ireland at the same time as her.  We made plans to meet her for lunch.


She picked out the pub, The Brazen Head, when we told her we wanted to eat traditional Irish fare.

`

I had the Honey Mustard Glazed Bacon & Cabbage which I knew by now, that I wouldn't see any  bacon on my plate, I would see ham.  Soko had the Beef & Guinness Stew.  Both of our meals were delicious.  We enjoyed the atmosphere of the pub and especially enjoyed the company.  We agreed that Mako made an excellent choice when she picked this place.


After lunch, Mako and her friend, Kohei, led the way when we told them we wanted to see the Temple Bar...


and the Ha'penny Bridge.


We wanted to do Rick Steves' recommended O'Connell Street Stroll with Mako and Kohei but it started to rain and we had to get back to the Guinness parking lot, anyway, before it closed at 7:00 pm.   I was able to snap a quick picture of the Daniel O'Connell Statue (with a bird sitting on his head!) and then we headed back.  


We had a little bit of time to peek our heads into a couple of stores and stop to take pictures in front of a couple of Dublin's gorgeous churches on our way back.



Christ Church Cathedral

Saint Catherine's Church 
(Had to take a picture here when I saw the name of the church!)

We got back to the Guinness Storehouse with enough time to run up (we actually took the elevator to the 7th floor this time!) to the Gravity Bar to have one more Guinness, enjoy the panoramic view of a beautiful Dublin evening and take one more picture...


It took a few sips, but got a half-way decent picture of Sandie with her beer moustache, because that's what you do when you're drinking a Guinness in Ireland!




This post was featured!

Scraptastic Saturday Featuredsm

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

It's Christmastime In The City - Week 2


It was time to head west after checking out Wilmington, NC, Charleston, SC and Myrtle Beach, SC. on our quest to find "Christmastime in the city."  The first week of our adventure was so much fun and we were excited about Week 2.

We were offered a free room at Harrah's Cherokee Hotel in Cherokee, NC.  We take these offers even though we know it will cost us something after we visit their casino.  It definitely costs us less than if we had to pay for the room though.  We were frequent guests for many years of the Harrah's chain when my mom was around and soon got these offers.  Now that Mom has passed we don't go that often but we will take advantage of the free room as long as they keep offering them to us.  This gorgeous hotel is in a perfect location to enable us to get to Tennessee which is someplace I knew we could find some of the best holiday displays.  It takes just a little more than one hour over the Great Smoky Mountains to get there from Cherokee.

Week 2

We have been to Cherokee, NC and know that it is a touristy area, similar to Gatlinburg, TN, but on a much smaller scale.  Both cities have many shops that sell beautiful Native American created goods, the ice cream parlors and the zip line adventures.  I wasn't sure what to expect in Cherokee but was hoping for the town tree.  The city did have a few nice light displays but I couldn't find the town tree.  To tell you the truth we were so impressed with and really enjoyed the hotel's holiday displays that I decided to highlight the hotel.  (Although Cherokee didn't have enough to highlight their city, they did have my favorite light display!)

Harrah's Cherokee, NC

Harrah's Cherokee Hotel is so huge that it is almost a small city in itself.  There is a bowling alley  along with the spa, hairdressers, game room for the kids, one indoor pool and one outdoor pool, many restaurants and lots of shops ranging from high-end to gift shops.  Almost every shop and restaurant decorated for the holidays and there were Christmas trees everywhere!


This huge, beautiful tree was the first one we saw when we first walked into the hotel.


We found this one on the second floor near the high-end stores.


This tree was smaller to fit into one of the many lounge areas throughout the hotel.


Many of the shops at the hotel made room to put a tree in their store.  This one decorated their tree with the ornaments they were selling.


This store had an upside-down tree.  I have seen a couple of these type of trees this year, but I really don't understand them at all!  Somebody please tell me why we want to turn our Christmas tree upside down.  Does it have anything to do with Stranger Things?


I have also been seeing lots of these, the snowman tree!  We found this one behind the hostess stand at one of the restaurants.  I love these trees...

and this display!


Which tree did these giant balls fall off of we wondered?

We really had a great time on our Christmas tree hunt at the hotel.  I think we probably counted at least 15.  Now it was time to venture out of the hotel and into the cities.

Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg was the city I was the most excited about seeing this second week.  We were just there in September and the fall displays around the city were some of the best I've ever seen.  I was sure that the scarecrows, haystacks and pumpkins would be replaced by snowmen, snow and poinsettias.  

We were not disappointed.  There were displays around every corner, decorations around every storefront  and "a feeling of Christmas" everywhere.


The entranceway into each small shopping area off the main street were so festive and inviting that we had to go into each and every one of them.


The downtown shops in this very touristy area are so charming and at Christmastime they are even more so.




I just had to sit for a picture at one of the many photo ops that were scattered all over the town.  I helped an adorable family of 7 take their picture here.  


We love Gatlinburg, TN because of this fun downtown area and the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.  We will definitely be back one day soon.  On our way out of this wonderful city, we saw their gorgeous, gigantic town tree.


Our next stop was the city of Pigeon Forge.  I had heard that their light show was not to be missed.  We had to see if all the hype was true.

Pigeon Forge, TN

The city was so lit up with more than 4 million lights that I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they could be seen by the passengers in the airplanes flying above.  This festival of lights was called Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights.  There were light displays on the sides of roads that you could enjoy as you drove by them and then there were clusters of themed light displays in outdoor malls and parks where you got out of your car to view the displays.  


We went to Patriot Park where there were light displays with an Americana theme.  We loved the armed forces displays.


Most of the buildings in the city were all decked out and covered with thousands of lights including the Smoky Mountain Opry and the Pigeon Forge Information Center.



There were many displays scattered around the city that celebrated Pigeon Forge.  This one was a tribute to their southern charm.


Something I read said to look for the critters who live in the Smoky Mountains to be wandering around the city.  We found the bear family.


And also to look out for the many pigeons around town.


Are these pigeons?  I'm not sure but they were the only birds I saw so I hope they were!

Murphy, NC

Murphy is a city we discovered in the western part of NC on one of our vacations in the area.  We were looking for a place to eat and it brought us here.  It is one of those small town, USA spots for sure.  The whole town spans about 6 blocks and you can walk from the post office to the court house, to city hall, the library and police station, church and to anywhere else you need to go in a matter of a few minutes.  We were curious to see how festive this area would be for the holidays.   


The first thing we noticed when we drove into the city of Murphy was their Christmas tree.  It was placed perfectly in the center of town.  This was a good place to park the car.  We weren't going to need it to get around this tiny, adorable city.


The church and other buildings were decorated simply but you knew they were celebrating Christmas in this city.




Every lamppost was decorated and most of the storefronts were too.




 

We love this small town.  Besides for being able to walk around the entire town in less than 30 minutes, there is a shop that sells the best olive oil in every flavor imaginable.  We grabbed a couple of last minute stocking stuffers there.  And the people here are so friendly.  Not only do you get a smile and nod, you also get a "How y'all doing today" as you pass them on the street!

We had lots of fun exploring all of the cities and we felt the joy of Christmas everywhere!  I mentioned that Cherokee, NC didn't have much but they did have my favorite.


The real reason for the season.

Wishing you the very merriest Christmas and a happy and healthy new year!

*********************

We had such a fun time finding Christmas in the city in a few amazing cities last year.  This year we had a chance to visit Savannah, Georgia and have made an update to this post by adding our visit to yet another amazing city!

Christmas 2018

We had so much fun joining our grandson on his first road trip last week.  It was a big trip for a 7 month old but he seemed to be having a great time.  His trip started with his first ride in an airplane.  That got him and his family to our home in NC.  From there me and Soko joined them on a road trip that included a stop in Savannah, Georgia.  We had been wanting to visit Savannah for a long time and we were excited that we would be there in time to enjoy their holiday decorations.

We checked into The Kimpton Brice Hotel and in the middle of the lobby we watched as someone was putting up a hanging Christmas tree.  I love those trees!  I couldn't wait to see what it would look like once it got hung and decorated.  When we came down to the lobby the next morning for coffee and tea, the tree was done.


After enjoying the coffee and tea, we headed out to have brunch on Savannah's Riverfront.  The Kimpton was in a great location and we were able to walk a couple of blocks from there to get to River Street.  This street is lined with shops and restaurants and plazas and plenty of benches to relax on.  There were many festive decorations to enjoy on this street.




We knew we would find a Christmas tree somewhere along the Riverfront and we did.


We also found a really cute Gingerbread House.



Nicole found a yummy drink at River House Seafood and...


Me and Shea found Santa Claus!


After our walk on the Riverfront, it was time to see Savannah's Historic District.  We walked along streets that were lined with beautifully decorated lampposts.  


On our must-see in Savannah list was City Market.  We were sure we would find holiday cheer here and we did!


The City Market's Christmas tree was gorgeous.


Our favorite Christmas decoration in this city, though, was the beautiful Christmas tree in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.


We found so much holiday cheer here in Savannah, Georgia and we had fun finding it.  We really enjoyed our visit here.

Stay tuned for our blog post on the many other sights we found and enjoyed in this special city!

This post was featured:

Scraptastic Saturday Featuredsm