Favorite Summer Dish: Hiyashi Chuka

Favorite Summer Dish: Hiyashi Chuka

What I like about this dish is you can get everything from the local grocery store. Mirin might be a stretch for some stores, but since it’s used in the marinade for the chicken it’s not the end of the world if you don’t use it.

I didn’t have beni shoga on hand (pickled ginger). DO NOT confuse beni shoga with sushi ginger! The taste is a bit different. In an absolute pinch you could probably use it, but I just omitted it, despite me actually having sushi ginger in the house.

Traditionally this recipe doesn’t use karaage chicken (fried chicken), but it looked too good not to try. This dish is normally served cold, so the warm chicken made a neat twist. Also, use this opportunity to make extra karaage for your bento! It’s one of my favorite meat dishes to use since it’s bite size and tastes good at room temperature. I usually use chicken breast for a bit less fat content, but if you are a fan of dark meat then certainly use the thighs! The flavor is really delicious with the marinade.

Making the egg sheet and cutting/frying the chicken was the most “labor intensive” part. AKA, this is an easy recipe to make. It’s also pretty cheap and filling.

I could go into detail about how I made this, but I followed runnyrunny999’s recipe.

Game Review: Animal Crossing New Leaf

Game Review: Animal Crossing New Leaf

Title: Animal Crossing New Leaf

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: Community Simulator

Single/Multi Player: Both

Story: You move to a new town and SURPRISE! You are the mayor. Keep your townsfolk happy, interact with NPCs (non-playable characters) and online friends either by visiting each other’s towns, playing games on Tortimer Island, or viewing house layouts through your dreams. Unless you set the time on your DS to be different, whatever time and season it is in real life, it is in the game. Depending on the time of year different bugs and fish are available.

Difficulty: easy

Replay Value: high

Graphics: clean, cartoon, cute

Soundtrack: Fantastic! From the relaxing music that plays in the evening, to rocking out with K.K. Slider in the club.

Personal Review: Where to begin. I personally had no idea my character was going to be the mayor of the town. What a treat! If you have played any of the previous AC games and was on the fence about this one, just do it. Seriously. The amount of things you can do in this game compared to the ones in the past is night and day.

To begin, you are able to search through a variety of maps to decide which layout best suits you. Then you get to pick where you want your house to be. Also, you are able to easily build new cobblestone bridges, expand the museum, and add benches, camp sits, street lights, and signs just by using bells.

Two words: Tortimer Island! Here it is always summer time and full of rare bugs and fish. You can even put on a wet suit, swim out into the water and dive for more sea creatures. You cannot take anything from the main land to the island. However, anything you catch on island can be brought back (through a holding bin, not your pockets).

In town is a new store called Re-Tail. It’s like a consignment shop and takes place of Nook’s. Here you can put items up for sale for the town folk or your friends to purchase. The people in your town will often be inside the shops you go to. Don’t worry, Nook is still in business, but as a loan collector! His nephews run the original looking store (which grows in size as time goes on) which is located at the northern section of town. This is a new area for Animal Crossing and is home to the Club lol, the Dream Suite, Abel Sisters, Gardening Store, Museum, and more! There is also an area where you can visit entire neighborhoods featuring other people’s homes.

As you play along, it seems more and more things unlock for you to experience. For example, one of my town members suggested a totem pole would “look cool” in the area. So the option became available for me to start building one. The villagers will donate their won money towards community projects, but a bulk of the cost will come from your own pocket.

I can ramble on and on and on about this game. There really is a lot to it but it’s simple to play and personally addicting. I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to ask away in the comment section below.

Why no perfect score? If you want to play in a different season (winter, spring, etc) you need to change the time in the game or on your DS. Doing this sudden change will cause large amount of weeds to grow and you can lose neighbors who you became good friends with. Luckily with the new island option (where it is always summer) at least you are never without copious amounts of bugs and fish to catch for money. In the past during winter there wasn’t much around (especially bugs), so money was usually tight.

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5

Playing With New Bento Accessories

Playing With New Bento Accessories

left: fish/miso cakes, wasabi shumai, fish of soy sauce, feta stuffed olives
middle: cabbage/radish/cucumber/black sesame salad, bear with ginger dressing. rice dipped in furikake and rolled in nori.
right: grapes and frozen strawberries.

Tuna tofu miso mini burgers: From this recipe, you can make these in advance and freeze them. Love keeping these and these meat and tofu burgers on hand in the freezer. Makes bento making super convenient (I tend to be very lazy).

Wasabi pork shumai: from the local Asian grocery store’s freezer section, these have a fantastic (not too spicy) wasabi flavor. I like dipping them in soy sauce, which is provided in the fish sauce container.

Feta stuffed olives: here they are again! Presented in a mini silicone baking cup. Cupcake wrappers make baran. If you haven’t heard of baran before, you may have seen the plastic green grass that keeps food separated. They come in array of styles and colors. But to keep things easy to clean, cheap, and environmentally friendly, I prefer the reusable and dishwasher safe silicone cupcake cups. They come in many sizes and colors.

Salad: cabbage, cucumber, radish, carrot, and black sesame seeds (for color contrast). As I’ve stated before, I like to use cabbage over lettuce for salad most of the time because it stays crunchier during the day. I even sometimes put the dressing on top in the morning. In the lower left corner of the salad is some ginger dressing in a bear container.

Rice rolls: I honestly don’t know what to call these, except DELICIOUS! I picked up these rice molds to make bento size rice balls and onigiri. These rice rolls are wrapped in nori (seaweed) and the ends dipped in umeboshi (sour plum) furikake. They take a bit more time than just throwing rice into the container and dumping seasoning on top, but it’s a lot more fun to eat.

Frozen strawberries and sliced grapes: since I was using this smaller bento container, I missed out on dessert. True, I could have used less tuna patties (I actually didn’t eat them all), but my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. Decided to toss this treat in its own container and throw it in my purse. I ate it as a snack during the day at work. I don’t eat these bento in one sitting.

Filling Bento

Filling Bento

left: kiwi, avocado, cherry tomatoes, beets, cucumber, bell pepper, swiss chard with sesame oil and seeds.
right: pork patties with katsu sauce, kabocha (buttercup squash) simmered in dashi stock, rice with scallions.

I know I know, another HUGE bento. This is my lunch, dinner and snack. Fresh from grocery shopping. I was inspired to try things I have never tried before. Thanks to the hubby for this awesome bento book. The new items for me are kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and collard greens.

Kiwi slices: just as you see.

Avocado: topped with salt, pepper, and shichimi (somewhat spicy pepper found at the Asian grocer).

Cherry tomatoes: once again, have these on hand if you are making bento on a regular basis. They are fantastic, pretty, and healthy space fillers. Also they go great with the avocado (think guacamole).

Red bell pepper slice: just filling some space here with tasty stuff. I  made stir fry the night before and didn’t use all the peppers. Bento bonus!

Whole mini cucumber: my newest addiction. I keep these in the fridge and snack on them all the time!

Beets: pre-packaged marinated in balsamic vinegar. These are very tangy, almost sour. Great texture and delicious.

Collard greens: recipe from Just Bento. Something I’ve never had before and it’s pretty tasty! Very healthy and I like being able to make it as spicy as I want.

Chicken tofu patties: my personal favorite, as you can make these in advance and freeze them. Recipe is from Just Bento. Sitting on top of a piece of romaine lettuce. I personally recommend putting anything oily or coated with sauce on either a piece of lettuce or cabbage leaf. Not only to keep things from dripping and sliding around onto your other food, but i honestly like eating it. Make a little pseudo lettuce wrap by putting a few leaves underneath. They are fantastic on their own, or you can pack a little sauce of soy, katsu, or sriracha.

Kabocha: I was really surprised to find this at my regular grocery store. It’s a winter squash, so you might see it pop up as fall arrives. It has a sweet flavor and a very nice texture. Not fibery or too squishy. I used the recipe from Just Bento.

White rice: Nishiki brand white rice with scallions and black sesame on top.

Game Review: OSU!

Game Review: OSU!

Title: osu!

Platform: PC

Publisher: Peppy

Genre: Online Rhythm

Single/Multi Player: Both. You can “battle” against others or in teams for highest score on a beatmap. The community is fantastic, helpful, and plentiful. The game is played worldwide so no matter what language you speak, there is a good chance you will be able to converse with someone from your native tongue.

Story: None

Difficulty: Selectable depending on the song: Easy, Normal, Hard, Insane.

Replay Value: While you technically never beat the game, you keep coming back to it even in small bouts of play.

Graphics: Depends on the beatmap. They are created by the player community and vary from very low to high. There are free skins you can download to make the layout look pretty much however you want. I think I’ve spent more time searching for songs and skins than actually playing the game.

Soundtrack: That all depends on you! All songs are completely free to download and you can have thousands. So technically, I’m going to say the soundtrack is amazing.

Personal Review: I’m a sucker for rhythm games. Dance Dance Revolution runs in my blood and soul. I found this to be a bit of a challenge at first but you quickly get used to the flow. My personal recommendation would be to use the modifications within the options of the game and have the computer play through the song for you so you can see how the beats are laid out. Also, stick with songs you are familiar with at the start.
The difficulty varies on a huge scale, from extremely easy to the most insane thing you can think of. Here is a video of me playing a normal beatmap, a hard beatmap, and another hard beatmap. These hard beatmaps were some of the “easier” ones I found. There are other songs that are “hard” difficulty that I am unable to do right now.
Now, if you really want a show, check out Cookiezi is a world famous Osu player. His videos blow my mind. One of my favorites, and arguably one of the most difficult songs in this game is The Quick Brown Fox. Even if you don’t ever plan on playing this game, give this a watch. I can guarantee you’ll be at least slightly impressed. White Wolf is right up there with Cookiezi if you are afraid of running out of amazing Osu videos to watch.

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5

Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks Bento

Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks Bento

Left: rice with plum furikake (seasoning), karaage chicken, cabbage and tofu salad with dressing bottles and sweet red peppers.
Right: cheese, ham and cheese rolls, kiwi, nectarine, Hello Kitty gummies, Triscuit crackers, carrot, bean salad.

Ok, so this may not be the “all healthy bento” that you often see, but I had a long day ahead and wanted variety. This was NOT consumed in one sitting. Cheese and crackers were a snack, kiwi and nectarine were another. Carrots, bean salad, and ham/cheese roll ups were lunch. The rest was dinner with the gummy candy being dessert.

White rice with furikake: My staple, Nishiki brand rice with umeboshi flavored furikake on top.

Karaage chicken: This is Cooking With Dog’s recipe. I’m honestly not sure how well this freezes, but I usually make a decent size batch using chicken breast (instead of thigh) and use it the next 3 days. No sauce needed for this stuff. It’s delicious all on its own.

Salad: with tofu, black sesame seeds, and beni shoga. Beni shoga is pickled ginger, not to be confused with sushi ginger (which you commonly see in grocery stores). On either side of the salad are two mini red peppers (not spicy). I love these for bento. No prepping needed, just throw them in and they look nice. Also two cute bottles of ginger dressing.

Cheese: I know it seems redundant with having the ham and cheese rolls as well, but this was the last of the man and wanted to fill some space. Happened to have some cheddar cheese, so I sliced some up. Like the random piece of cheese below the kiwi? 😛

Ham and cheese rolls: these are pretty popular in bento boxes. They are cheap, easy, and look nice (not here, but usually they look nice). I used this provolone cheese which didn’t roll up very nicely without breaking. Oh well. It was tasty!

Fruit: kiwi and nectarine.

Hello Kitty gummy candy: placed into a silicon cup. This was my unhealthy sugary guilty pleasure.

Triscuit crackers: put these in to have with the cheese as a snack. They ended up loosing some of their crunch from being locked up in the fridge in a container full of moisture (the fruit and bean salad). Oh well.

Carrots: a nice, colorful, healthy, and crunchy space filler.

Bean salad: I love love love the pre-made items from the grocery’s deli. They are usually cheap, and always delicious. It’s a huge time saver and there are usually many healthy choices.

Lazy Bento

Lazy Bento

Left: cucumber, mini zucchini, avocado, grapes, feta stuffed olives.
Right: chicken/tofu patties (frozen after making a large batch), cherry tomatoes, edamame salad, seaweed salad, broccoli salad.

Ok, so this is a pretty big bento. This was my afternoon snack and dinner.  With most of my bentos I rarely pack anything else other than maybe an apple. I really wanted a bento but really did not feel like cooking. Went shopping the day before and picked up a few pre-made salads and fresh fruits and veggies. The patties were made a few days ago and frozen. Seriously do yourself a favor and find recipes that freeze well so you can easily put together a nice bento for yourself.

So here it is…the extremely lazy bento.

Sliced veggies: mini zucchini and cucumbers, and celery. Find mini versions of veggies if you can. They are cute, fit in bento nicely, and it can feel like you get more.

Avocado: my latest addiction. I have at least one every day. Here it’s just split in half with some lime juice on top to keep it from turning brown, salt and pepper. It’s a nice, creamy contrast in texture next to the crunchy veggies.

Blueberry stuffed raspberries: Don’t know why I did this or where I’ve seen it before. Don’t care because it was tasty! Both types of berries were on sale so I picked them up. As much as I enjoy deco bento (decorated bento), I don’t have the time, patience, or materials (ok, so it’s mostly patience). So whenever I can add some flare, I do it.

Grapes: just grapes.

Feta stuffed olives: told you. I love this stuff. It’s everywhere!

Pork patties: Using Just Bento’s recipe, I chose just pork. I’ll bet finding some type of mold and making these into different shapes would be fun. Like I mentioned above, do yourself a favor and if you are tight on time or just get into lazy moods, learn some recipes that freeze really well so you can just grab and go. Making bento shouldn’t be a yucky chore. Do what you need to do to make it easy and fun for yourself.

Cherry tomatoes: again with the mini veggies. Get them. Look at that color pop! Bento is about fun and healthy meals!

Edamame salad: the local grocery store makes a killer pre-made edamame salad at the deli for crazy stupid cheap. I think one container (you’re looking at a bit less than 1/2 a container here) is $2-3.

Seaweed salad: another pre-made goodie from the local grocery store. It was by the deli where they sell sushi. It’s actually very tasty and has an interesting texture.

Broccoli salad: I said this was a lazy bento. Here is yet another pre-made item from the grocer’s deli. It was my first time trying it and I absolutely loved it! Light, crunchy, and delicious.