Tag Archives: travel

great buddha

10 Things I Love about Japan

It’s hard to believe I have been in Japan for 9 days now!  We are heading out to Thailand tonight so thought I would share a few of my favorite things in Japan:

1.  Japanese People:  I have never met a more kind and welcoming group of people.  They go out of their way to help direct you when you are looking for directions. (Not that I ever got lost! Ha! ;) )  One gentleman stopped what he was doing, took out his iPad and looked up the direction of the train station for me.  They bow–a lot! :) And always greet you when you enter a store or restaurant…immediately. Super nice. Super friendly.

Japanese people

2. Bamboo Forests:  For me, this was my favorite experience. I found being around the tall bamboo was quite peaceful.  I enjoyed the Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura outside of Tokyo where I enjoyed a wonderful Matcha Green Tea amongst the bamboo.tall bamboo

Matcha Tea at Hokokuji Temple.

Tea at the shrine

Russ and I also enjoyed the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama in Kyoto too. So tranquil.russ bamboo

3. Tea time:  Whether it was just a cup of green tea with a meal or a zen moment with matcha tea in a temple, you can’ t help but feel a sense of calm and peace take over with a cup of green tea in hand.

4. Packaging and presentation:  The Japanese have a beautiful way of presenting their wares whether it be candies or silk scarves…everything is just so! The food is also beautifully prepared and presented.  Uniforms are common in the school aged children heading to school and in restaurants or hotels. candy

5. Rice crackers:  I just love the many varieties that are available!rice crackers

6. Matcha ice cream:  Where else can you get green tea ice cream?  I couldn’t eat a whole cone…but happy to share with my guy!

7. Tempura: Like nothing you have experienced in the States.  So light and tasty.tempura

8. Shrines: It’s somewhat overwhelming how many shrines there are in Japan.  My favorite included:   Hokikuji Temple,  Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Hase-dera in Kamakura. And if in Kamakura, a must see is the Great Buddha.

Loved this Great Buddha!great buddha

The Golden Temple is world-renown. Here it is on our visit…snow topped!golden temple

The grounds of the Hokokuji temple were exquisite and pristine. rock pile Hokokuji templeSo pretty.Stairs to the Hokokuji Temple

If you are looking for peace and zen…this is your place!Stone walk Hokokuji temple

9. Rickshaws:  Russ and I took one of these cart rides for a little spin through Kyoto’s bamboo forest.  Super fun! And warm…which was nice on this snowy day in Kyoto!rickshaw

10: Monkeys: Arashiyama Monkey Park was very cool.  Take a steep 20 minute hike up the hilltop to see the wild monkeys.  These guys were quite amazing to see.monkey

And lastly, an honorable mention.  My 11th favorite top thing in Japan….heated toilet seats. It’s a nice feature.  Just sayin’ Ha! :)

As for the food here…it’s been a mixed experience. Some meals have been stellar…and some downright scary (at least for me).  I like to know what I am eating…and with the language barrier and some of the unusual foods eaten here…I will admit I was a bit nervous about indulging. I wish I was a bit more daring…but with a sensitive belly…it’s hard to be!

Off to Thailand!

 

 

Japanese garden

Japan: Not All Who Wander are Lost.

Hello from Asia.

travelRuss and I are in Japan!russ and II am grateful that I married someone with a taste for adventure. We just got here on Saturday evening so I am just getting adjusted to the time difference, the food, and the train schedule. Tokyo is a very clean city and the people here have been so gracious and kind.

Traveling always provides a new and fresh perspective for me. Time to  focus more on all that I am grateful for in my life. Clarity of mind to think about my hopes and plans for the future. Being abroad in a country far from home with a very different culture also encourages me to step outside of my box and try new things.

<My pictures this post are taken from my iPhone…so not the best quality…but wanted to share some of my trip with you!>

The Japanese gardens are quite beautiful here.

russ on bridgeRuss worked today, so I did a little exploring.  I took the train to Asakusa, the home of Tokyo’s oldest shrine.  I was proud of myself…I didn’t get lost! Ha! :)

shrine

There was a service going on…so I took a pic from the outside looking in…inside of shrineOutside the shrine was a large vessel with smoking incense.  Visitors wave the smoke to toward their faces as the smoke is believed to have healing power.

smokeWhen in Japan, there are many shrines to peruse and lots of shopping to be done ….so… that is what I did! I walked around the Nakamise Shopping Arcade and then walked to Kappabashi Street full of vendors selling pottery, cooking knives and other interesting shops.  I found the cutest cookie cutter in the shape of a spoon I had to have. 

Rice crackers are for sale everywhere and come in all shapes and sizes.rice crackers

I found these little rice crackers dressed up in kimonos…had to have them too!rice cracker people

I got a little daring and got a little sweet pastry from a local merchant.  Not sure what it was….but it tasted good.  Ha!

Getting food that I like has been a little tricky for me.  I am very glad I brought supplies from home including small individual Barney’s almond butter, Nature’s Path Gorilla munch trail mix I made up with Gorilla munch, peanuts, gluten free pretzels and a few chocolate chips, and Go Macro peanut butter granola bars.  :)  Just a few of my favorite products for on the go!

For my friends in New England, stay safe and warm.

images-4

 

 

 

 

Road Trip: Nashville, TN & Asheville, NC

Russ, Brennan and I are exploring another part of the country.  It’s school vacation week and we are ready to relax!

First stop, Nashville, Tennessee!  music row

Now, when I say relax….I should say, ‘our way to relax’ because we tend to be very active on vacation.  Day 1 involved renting bikes and exploring parts of the city we may not have seen walking on foot….including a trip to the ‘American Picker’s’ television show’s store, Antique Archaeology.

We love this show….so we were quite excited to see the store.American pickers

Bike rentals are new to Nashville and I think it’s a great way to get exercise and view the city.

biking: pickers

We also roamed around the streets and checked out all the ‘honky tonk’ bars, shops, old store fronts…lots of cow boy boots and hats!Shoes shops

Lots of old buildings too, like this one…Acme farm

The food in Tennessee was seriously rich and often fried…so we fit in a few runs and included some stairs to work off our dietary indiscretions. running stairs

Then we road tripped –about a 5 hour drive to Asheville, North Carolina.Asheville collageAsheville is known for the Biltmore estate, great cultural vibe and breweries.  We of course, did a little beer tasting.  The little red door above was a little mouse door just randomly placed on a brick wall …how cute is that?

But the highlight of our trip was our zip lining excursion. We visited Navitat, a great zip lining adventure located right in the mountains.boys zipping We completed 11 zip lines and walked across some wobbly bridges. bridge Yes, I am afraid of heights…but somehow like I like these ‘out of the box’ activities.

Here I am repelling off the platform.  kate repelling

It’s been a great week away.  No recipes to share this post as I am away from my kitchen!

But as we have tried to stay focused on our vacation and time together, it has been extremely difficult in the aftermath of our home city of Boston’s recent devastating events.  I was born in Boston, attended college in Boston, and did my hospital training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the many Boston hospitals that cared for many of the bombing victims.  

Please pray for the city that I am proud to call home.Image 6

 

Cooking School: Making Spring Rolls!

This past week, I joined my sister Dee in Miami!

Dee was the recipient of the President’s Award from her employer which included an all expense paid trip to Florida.  This was a very prestigious award and the company provided 4 days of the royal treatment.  The best part… I was invited as Dee’s guest!  Yes, I am one lucky sister!

We had the luxury to select two excursions as part of our experience in Miami.  My top choice was to enroll in a culinary class at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, a beautiful and historic landmark in Southern Florida.  The cooking class was a kick and exceeded my expectations.  I love cooking and hoped to learn a new trick or two.  Our fabulous teacher and chef was Jeannette Stefan-Ozga… here she is with my sister Dee!

There were about 15 of us present for the class and we were divided into 4 groups: Team Spring Roll, Team Crab Cake, Team Asparagus and Team Tuna.  I really wanted to be on Team Spring Roll as I had never cooked anything using spring roll wrappers.  Plus, I was intrigued by the recipe! 

Here I am with my teammates.  Team Spring Roll rocks!  We worked very well together and made a mean spring roll. Check these beauties out….

For those of you on a gluten free diet or low FODMAP diet, these rice spring roll wrappers are a wonderful way to enjoy an Asian style spring roll without wheat.

Team Crab Cake made an amazing crab cake, which was crispy on the outside and light, fluffy and flavor-infused on the inside.  To create this great texture, the crab cake mixture was dipped in flour, egg and finally the breadcrumb mixture and then cooked up in a skillet with oil. [Unfortunately not FODMAP friendly :( ]

Dee was on Team Asparagus, here they are… They sure like they are having fun, right? 

Team Asparagus made a delightful phyllo dough asparagus dish with parmesan and prosciutto.  Here the rolled asparagus awaits their trip to the oven.

My sister Dee and her teammates did a wonderful job plating their phyllo dough rolled asparagus…beautiful, right?

One of the little tricks we learned in class was how to curl up sliced scallions and turn them into little curly-Q’s.… cut scallions in small strips and drop into ice water.  The small green threads curl right up.  Adding the curly-Q’s onto your plate for decoration looks very cute!

Here is our  GREAT group…we had so much fun! 

NOW that I am back home with my family (Yay, I missed everyone!) and I now know how to use rice spring roll wrappers, I thought I would create a heartier spring roll.  My daughter Chelsea was home thankfully so she gave me a hand with this project.

First we used this little gadget to julienne cut the veggies, this is simply called a  julienne peeler. I learned how to properly use one of these gadgets at my cooking class!

I cut up some carrots, cucumber and summer squash.  To infuse color into the spring roll, use primary the julienned skin of the summer squash and cucumber rather than the mushy white center. [I learned this trick at my cooking class too!]

Then I briefly marinated some chicken breast and cooked it up with some Asian seasonings and sesame seeds.  Whipped up some rice stick noodles and then hydrated the spring roll skin in hot water which just takes a minute. Here Chelsea is about ready to roll the cooked chicken, noodles and veggies…

How deelish does this spring roll look?….YUM!

Here’s my recipe!

Asian Salad and Sesame Chicken Spring Roll [FODMAP-friendly]

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced in 10 even strips
  • 2 TB and 1 tsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1-2 tsp sesame seeds (I used a mix of black and white)
  • 1 TB peanut oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and ends trimmed
  • 1/2 English cucumber, end trimmed
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash
  • 3 TB fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 oz rice sticks (about 1/3 of 8 oz container) [I used kitchen scissors to cut out portion of noodles I needed and reserved the rest for another recipe.]
  • 10 spring roll wrappers

Instructions

  1. Marinate chicken by placing strips in small glass bowl and drizzle with 1 TB reduced sodium soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp ginger and sesame seeds. Set aside to marinate for about 15 minutes.
  2. Julienne carrots, cucumber and summer squash keeping each vegetable separate-slicing primarily outer skin, not mushy center using julienne peeler.
  3. Add peanut oil to medium skillet over medium heat. Lift chicken out of marinade with fork to allow marinade to fall back into bowl. Add chicken carefully to skillet. Cook until chicken is cooked through about 6-8 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Make dressing for carrots by mixing 2 TB cilantro, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp rice wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp sesame oil. Drizzle over julienned carrots in small bowl.
  5. In large saucepan, boil water in preparation for rice sticks. Cook according to package directions.
  6. Drizzle 2 tsp. sesame oil over noodles and set aside.
  7. Hydrate spring roll wrappers by adding individually to large bowl filled with very warm-hot water. Remove from water when fully pliable and place on plastic cutting board.
  8. Place chicken, noodles and veggies near edge of wrapper and roll up burrito-style.
  9. Create light dipping sauce with remaining 1 TB soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp rice wine vinegar and sprinkling of cilantro to taste.
  10. Cut spring rolls on diagonal and enjoy.
  11. (Recipe based on the Biltmore's Vietnamese Summer Roll recipe)
http://blog.katescarlata.com/2012/05/28/cooking-school/

 

 

 

 

Destination: Puerto Rico

Russ and I headed to Puerto Rico for well-needed down time.  Why Puerto Rico?  We wanted to visit a tropical location that we have never visited.  We also wanted to get there on a non-stop flight.  Puerto Rico fit the bill and exceeded our expectations.

First, the people of Puerto Rico were very friendly and seemed to be always laughing.  I like that!

You have got to love the colors in Old San Juan.

So beautiful, right?The old town center was so quaint and had such visual appeal.

The highlight of our trip was an excursion we signed up for to go zip lining in the rain forest.  Hmmm….I did not know that part of a relaxing vacation required putting on a helmet!

We just signed up and really were not sure what to expect.

In fact, I really did not expect to be scaling wet slippery rocks up a waterfall.  This was not on my “relaxing” down time plan….but we had a blast!

Seriously….did I sign up for this?

After the hike, we were treated to one of the tour guide’s Aunt’s home cooking.  How cool is that?

Including an assortment of appetizers…I particularly loved the little corn meal fritters on the right.  So yum!

Empanadas, fried batatas (Batatas Fritas) and sorullitos (corn meal fritters).

We also visited a local farmer’s market….because that’s what nutritionists do on vacation.{or maybe that’s just me!}  Russ is so good and always goes along with my fun plans….

We found all sorts of local produce…

and…this looks cool but not sure what it is!??

and even found some aloe.

And of course, we drank rum from a coconut.  

We also acted like tourists and visited The Castillo de San Cristóbal,  a Spanish fort that was built to protect the city of San Juan from outside attacks. This San Juan national historic site is definitely worth a visit.

Very cool place and it’s amazing that it was built in the 1500’s!

Great sites.  (Including that cute guy,right?)

I love this sculpture that represents the legend that a prayer procession of the women of San Juan, led by the Bishop, praying for salvation of their city during a British siege of San Juan ultimately led to the British turning away from the attack.

Puerto Rico is  island is full of culture and although a part of the US, is so rich in it’s own culture…you really feel quite far away.

Walking the beach, relaxing poolside, exploring and even zip lining….Puero Rico delivered.

But as always, it’s great to be back home.

 

 

Proud to be an American

If you feel like getting a little boost to your patriotic attitude, take a trip to Washington DC, the nation’s capitol.  My last visit to DC was back in my college days and it was a quick drive through at best.  This trip, I was  taken away at all the monuments, parks and overall feel of Washington DC.  I think my patriotic meter may have went up a bit!

The first evening  my husband Russ and I took a stroll around the federal triangle.  We saw the White House up close, well, at street view, which was a first for us!  It’s huge…and I noticed a veggie garden on the property-I wonder if it’s Michelle’s?

You can’t miss the Washington monument stretching up toward the sky.  It looks quite majestic and reminds me of the many historical events that have occurred outside on it’s lawn.

Next stop, the Lincoln Memorial. I had visited this memorial on my first trip and found it still to be equally majestic.  Russ was blown away at this memorial.  Did you know the back of the US penny has a picture of the Lincoln Memorial?

I had to fit in the goofy tourist pic too!

Next, we stumbled upon the Vietnam memorial.  I was moved by the many lives that were lost in this tragic war.

Of course, we had to eat and we located a very cool restauraunt. The restaurant was called Founding Farmers which has a field to plate theme and the food was incredible.  We ordered this skillet corn bread with our salad.  Unbelievable!

That piece with the globs of butter MUST be Russ’ piece! HA!  This bread was served with a side of whipped butter and honey. YUM!

Day 2. I had more writing to do and worked my tail off on a nutrition project all day!  I have a writing deadline next week so I have to stay focused. But we ended the day with a drink at a DC hot spot! First stop, The POV at the W hotel on 15th St.  My nephew Ryan provided this recommendation and it was a fun place to stop for a drink with a GREAT view of the  Washington Monument and the White House.  We could even see the secret service men on the roof of the White House.  Cool.

To work off our drink and dinner, we took a very long stroll  to the Jefferson Memorial.  When we arrived a youth group was singing Michael Jackson’s song, Man in the Mirror.  A perfect song that reflects how we all individually can make a difference in our own lives and that of others.  I got a little teary…I will admit it, but it made for a  special moment for me at this Memorial.  Thomas Jefferson played in important part in our country’s history.  He was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and founded the University of Virginia.  He was the third president of the United States.

It was a beautiful evening in Washington DC and I am glad we took advantage of the warm weather. After the Jefferson Memorial, we headed back to the Metro to return to our hotel room.  I can’t wait to come back soon and explore the Smithsonian museum complex with my kids…hopefully soon!