Happy New Year 2015

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The New Years Eve rituals continued at the Lavender and OLiVE household, starting with assembling the Osechi boxes on the New Year’s Eve at the in-law’s house. We started earlier this year at 9:00 a.m. instead of the usual noon so we could be home in time to prepare for the NYE party with our friends at home.

I took a bunch of photos this time around so I can compile them into one photo book for memory and record. Here are the photos and a short description of each dish:

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Kaki to Daikon no Namasu (柿と大根のなます):

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Matchstick daikon radish and persimmon marinated in vinegar.  This is a new menu added to Osechi this year, thanks to abundant crop of the fruit in grandmother’s backyard.

Renkon no Umezu Zuke (レンコンの梅酢漬け): 

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Thinly sliced lotus roots marinated in plum vinegar.

Kuri Kinton (栗きんとん):

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Mashed chestnuts and yam cooked in syrup, with chestnut on top.  It’s very similar to the Italian dessert, Monte Blanc, and very lovely.

Kawasagi no Nanbanzuke (かわさぎの南蛮漬け):

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Fried wakasagi marinated in sweet vinegar.

Tataki Gobo (たたきごぼう): 

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Pounded burdock roots cooked in dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.  Yes, as the name indicates, these poor little branch-looking burdock sticks are pounded with a rolling pin into submission, but don’t fret, they come back as delicious vegetable dish.

Kouhaku Namasu (紅白なます): 

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Shredded carrots and daikon radish marinated in sweet vinegar.  It’s very similar to the persimmon and daikon sunomono, but the vegetables are shredded much thinly than its red and white cousin.

Tazukuri (田作り): 

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Dried sardines cooked in soy sauce.

Koromame (黒豆):

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Another type of Kuromame (黒豆):

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Soy beans cooked in brown sugar.

Okara (おから):  This is my favorite dish in Osechi, and I don’t know the proper name of this dish!

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Okara mixed with marinated mackerel, radish, and carrots.  This is pure deliciousness.

Kikka (菊花):

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Chrysanths flower made out of radish.

Kouhaku Kamaboko (紅白かまぼこ):

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Red and white fish cakes.

Daikon to Samon no houshomaki (大根とサーモンの奉書巻き):

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Smoked salmon rolled in paper thin radish marinated in vinegar.

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There’s an art in packing each item in the ojyu, or Osechi box.

The top layer is called “ichi no jyu” and typically contains nerimono (fish cakes, etc.)

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The second layer, or “nino jyu,” contains seafood.

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The third layer, or “san no jyu” contains “nimono.”

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So, after we were done with Osechi packing, we headed home to prepare for the shabu shabu dinner party we were hosting. It has become a ritual for the four of us to enjoy shabu shabu on the NYE. Last year, we only make it to 10:00 p.m. before everyone passed out, but we actually make it past midnight this year!

I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015!

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New Year’s Eve 2012

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I may not have been a Santa’s little helper this year — slaving over a stove for holiday meals or baking up a storm like I usually do during this time of the year — but I was definitely an Osechi elf on New Year’s Eve! I spent a few hours on Sunday and an afternoon on Monday to partake on this annual ritual, as part of the Osechi-making crew!

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I got to take on a few new tasks this year. I got to help make lotus flowers, crane-shaped potatoes, roll a freshly-pounded mochi, and other fun tasks – quite a promotion from last year. I was amazed at the detail that goes into each individual item. Osechi is definitely a work of art, and it makes me appreciate this traditional Japanese New Year culinary ritual even more.

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We wrapped things up around 6:30 p.m. and Kevin (who joined us after he returned from work) and I headed to my parent’s, then to his friend’s, for a quick Osechi drop off.  We got home an hour later, and commenced our ghetto New Year’s Eve party with Domino’s pizza and hot wings. We toasted to the New Year with a bottle of apple cider. By the time the world welcomed the arrival of the New Year, we were peacefully passed out on a couch in a living room, waking up just in time to wish each other another happy, healthy, and prosperous 2013 together.

Wishing all of you a wonderful 2013 filled with good healthy, peace, and love! Thanks for your continuous support of the Time for Dinner blog, and looking forward to sharing more fun times together in the new year!

Happy New Year 2012!

There is a Japanese term kuidaore, which loosely means that you eat until the inevitable collapse. “Kui” means “to eat,” and “daore” is “to collapse.” I think the term originated in the streets of Osaka, a part of Japan where food is religion.

Anyway, that’s what I did today at home to celebrate the new year in a true Japanese fashion – indulge, surfeit and yes, ultimately collapse on my parents’ sofa!

One of the rituals that I look forward to every New Year’s day is a Japanese singing show called, “Kohaku Uta Gassen,” or simply “Kohaku,” that airs on New Year’s Eve (from about 7:00 p.m. to 11:45 p.m., giving 15 minutes for the countdown) on NHK, Japan’s equivalent of PBS.

The name of the show literally translates to “red and white (kohaku) song (uta) battle (gassen),” and female singers / groups (red team) and male singers / groups (white team) complete for the coveted winner’s flag. This is a way so many of Japanese families end the year and welcome the new one. I loved watching this as a child growing up in Japan, as it was a rare occasion that I got to stay up late and not get in trouble.

Since my fiancé and I were out on the New Year’s Eve (and we don’t even have TV), I watched the taped show at my parents’ house today. I skipped most of enka (old people songs) and just jumped to J-Pops and K-pops. Some of the Korean groups that made the appearance were pretty amazing. I must admit that most of Japanese groups can’t sing but they make up for it by the pure entertainment factors, with crazy costumes, lolita sex appeals, and extravagant dances. And speaking of outrageous costumes, Lady Gaga made a recorded performance as well, which I thought was pretty cool of her.

Passing down the torch … from the year of the rabbit to the year of the dragon!  Job well done, bunny … well done.

New Year’s Eve 2011

I spent the afternoon of the New Year’s Eve helping my fiance’s family pack osechi ryori. This was my second year participating in this event and I still can’t seem to improve. I’m still very slow … but I’m learning!

I made a mistake of partaking this on an empty stomach, and ended up eating a truck-load of food there, including three freshly-pounded mochi (rice cakes) with azuki (sweet red bean paste), oshizushi (mackerel sushi), breakfast burrito, and small bites here and there.  Kinda feeling guilty because a small, such innocent looking mochi has as much calories as a bowl of rice!  Eeek.

Then, we were off to Staple Center to cheer on the LA Kings. I can’t believe this was our first game of the season, considering we used to go to so many in previous seasons. We met up with some of my finace’s hockey friends, and my pals Kerry and Carmela, also huge hockey fans. It was so nice to catch up with them! By the way, the Kings beat the Canucks, 4-1! Yippee!  Oh yeah, and I had chicken tenders with fries, bites of my fiance’s nachos, and a glass of red wine. redface

We returned home in time for the countdown and had ochazuke, instead of a traditional noodle. Since we don’t have TV, we had to rely on our partying neighbor to figure out when 2011 ended and 2012 began.

I leave you this post with a quote my Facebook friend, Jerod, posted on his page: You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.

I hope you all had a wonderful 2011, and looking forward spending another great year filled with good health, love, and prosperity with you!

Cheers to a Wonderful 2010!

I was one of those kids in school — perhaps not so atypical — who loved starting a new semester, not necessarily because of the school work, but because of new school supplies. I loved the smell of freshly sharpened yellow pencils, still perfectly squared pink rubber erasers, and those fresh pages of a brand new spiral notebook. New supplies symbolized a fresh start, a level playing field, a new hope, and a belief that this time, it’ll be different – that I’ll do every assigned homework, make lots of wonderful new friends, and have the time of my life. It was time for a brand new me!

But we all know how that ends. After a couple of weeks, the notebooks start to look raggedy, my dog starts eating my homework, and I am still invisible to the cute boy I had a mad crush on. In a matter of days, I was back to the old, self-loathing, nerdy self! redface

New year’s day is the adult’s version of a new school year, where hope is very much alive and expectations are high. When the ball drops at the stroke of midnight of the day’s eve, all the nitty gritty things that bothered us suddenly disappear into the past and we are welcomed to a new world where nothing negative exists. I think I’m too jaded now to make any New Year’s resolutions (what a cliche) but I still have a little bit of optimism left to believe that this new year, and perhaps the new decade, will be the best time of my life. And maybe this year, I may finally blossom into the woman that I’ve always meant to become.

Happy New Year, everyone, and may this year be the best time of your life! I leave you with the beautiful pictures of Osechi Ryori (above), traditional Japanese food that we enjoy on the new year’s day, courtesy of my boyfriend’s talented family! (Click here to learn more about the food and each of the dish’s meaning.)  Cheers to a wonderful 2010!  🙂

Happy New Year! Traditional Japanese Osechi Ryori

I go back and forth about the idea of making New Year’s resolutions. A part of me (about 95% of me) thinks it’s pretty lame. Come on, what makes me believe that I’m going to finally overcome something that I could not do or stay committed for the last 364 days, simply because it’s the first of January? On the other hand, the optimistic part of me (which admittedly rarely peaks its head) likes the whole ritualistic aspect of starting the year fresh. So I compromised and decided to make a “To Do Checklist” for 2008 instead. Those are more realistic, action-oriented, hopefully obtainable goals, and none of the “I’m-going-to-lose-50 lbs.-by-April” crap.

1. Knit a cable knit bag.
2. Pack my own lunch as frequently as possible.
3. Visit 10 new restaurants.
4. Never go to sleep angry and tell loved ones how much I love them every day.
5. Start Etsy business.

Easy enough? We’ll just have to see (sorry, they weren’t really food related except for two)!

Well, here’s a New Year’s ritual that I can 100% appreciate – osechi ryori. The first picture on top is from last year (New Year’s 2007), courtesy of my boyfriend’s family who prepared this beautiful boxed edible art for us. The rest are courtesy of my mother who slaved away in the kitchen the last two days to bring her family the Japanese New Year tradition this year.  Thank you, mom!  I love you!

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Nimono — one of my favorite dishes of all time!

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Burdock (gobo) Kinpira

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Takosu (octopus marinated in vinegar .. yum) and tazunoko (herring roe .. eeewww)

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Mashed yam and chest nuts

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2008 bring good health, happiness and friendship to you and your loved ones .. and of course, good food!