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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.


(makes 4 rolls)


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, 1/4 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.  Turn mushrooms over a few times.  After mushrooms soften  (about 30-60 minutes) remove them from the water.  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 on medium high heat, stirring occasionally and watching carefully, until there is no more water left in the pan.  Set cooked mushrooms aside.

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 width of the seaweed sheet.

One 2.1 oz package of prepared kampyo.  You can find this in the freezer or fridge of your favorite Japanese supermarket.  There is no more preparation if you buy it this way.  If you can only find dried kampyo, or prefer to use it dried, cut the kampyo to the width of the seaweed and then 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 width of your sushi nori (seaweed sheet).

Slice the one cucumber in half lengthwise.  Cut the half piece of cucumber into 4 pieces.  Trim the seeds off the cucumber slices.

Place the sushi nori on a bamboo mat made for sushi rolling.  Spread 3/4 cup of 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!

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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.  

This was the weather we were expecting as we were planning our February trip.  We prepared for rainy and cold to be the forecast every day but amazingly we had more sunny and beautiful days than rainy ones.  We all packed boots, raincoats (I wore mine over my jacket) and umbrellas, which fell apart in the wind the first time we tried to use them!  I also brought long underwear tops, hat, gloves and vest and wore all of it most days and surprisingly, for me, felt very comfortable in the cold, except for the one brutally cold, windy and rainy day!  It didn't seem to bother the rest of the group, though.  

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 hurried back to Guiness for a quick drink and the parking lot before it closed at 7:00 pm.  

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!

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