New Year’s Traditions Oshogatsu and Osechi-Ryori 2014

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Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you enjoyed some time for reflection, tradition, family and friends during the holidays and carry that hopeful good cheer throughout the year. The first of the year is a special time for my family. We share in the traditions of Japanese New Year or Oshogatsu and since I’ve been little, we’ve had a family gathering eating traditional and some non-traditional foods together as we celebrate the New Year, over food, fun and togetherness.

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These traditions are very important to me. They remind me of my childhood, especially of the times when I used to stay with my Bachan from Christmas until New Year’s. Bachan would spend days preparing different dishes, allowing things to simmer and pickle, while cutting vegetables into different shapes and making food I’d only see on New Year’s Day. Though some of the dishes on the table today are not the same as the ones we had when I was little, I try to incorporate some of those traditional dishes into the Jūbako Japanese stackable decorative dishes and we have a large spread of food and invite friends and family over.

 

Here are my last three years of Osechi-Ryori: 2011, 2012, 2013, and my 2014 addition.

 

Menu

 

Beef and Chicken Teriyaki with homemade teriyaki sauce

Chicken Yakitori with peanut sauce

Char Siu-Style Sliced Pork

Sweet Asian Fried Chicken Wings (mom’s contribution)

Pork & Shrimp Wontons (mom & dad’s contribution)

Bachan Jello (mom’s contribution)

Inari

Grilled Salmon

Grilled Sake and Mirin Shrimp

Kinpira (sato shoyu gobo and carrots)

Tazukri (candied, dried sardines)

Kamaboko (pink and white Japanese pressed fish cake)

Namasu (pickled carrots and daikon)

5-Sided Carrot, 5-Sided Daikon, Kombu (rolled seaweed), Shiitake Mushrooms, Satoimo(taro root), Renkon (lotus root), Takenoko (bamboo shoots)

Ozoni (New Year Japanese soup) (Konbu, Carrot, Kamaboko, Shiitake Mushroom, Imo [taro root], Renkon [lotus root], and Mochi in Seasoned Homemade Dashi)

Twice cooked Artichokes with soysauce mayo

 

I hope each of you had a blessed and beautiful holiday season and have a peaceful, joyful and thankful new year!

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Thanksgiving 2013

 

After a week of working hard, teaching yoga and witnessing the effects of the holidays on children in my classes, it was really interesting to see the shift in their attention and mood, as well as in their parents’ or caretaker’s moods. When the holidays come up, energy is either very low or extremely high and temperament can be extremely unpredictable. It’s been a good beginning of the holiday season, as I remember to carry a heightened sense of awareness, a commitment to staying with change and constantly reminding myself to embrace the present moment in my teaching, practice, and life.

 

I am so grateful that I was able to take time to cook a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for my family. Sometimes we don’t really get to all spend very much time together but it’s always nice to share the holidays with my family because they mean so much to me. I took on the cooking. We had our traditional spread of dishes and mom and dad took care of some of the other big items so my oven didn’t have too much wait time between sides. Granny, Maleeya and my sister did an amazing job with decorations and clean up. It’s always a team effort with everyone and I’m so grateful for my awesome family. My brother and sister-in-law brought a delicious pumpkin pie for all of us to share.

My kitchen is a place for me to be completely in tune with what ingredients, ideas and delicious dishes that are produced and I love that. Though I’m not cooking as much as I used to, Thanksgiving was a nice reminder of what I can still do in there. Dinner was ready in no time at all and all of us were able to sit down and eat without too much excess running around. It was Amaya’s first Thanksgiving and Maleeya had a great time feasting on pumpkin pie and everything else we normally save for special occasions. It’s so wonderful to have my little nieces here with us to celebrate our family traditions and make new ones for them to share in.

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving with their families and friends. I am so grateful for everyone that has shared their time and love with me on Thanksgiving and to all of you! May the season of gratitude carry you into the rest of the holiday season and throughout the New Year!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Menu

Roasted Turkey with Lemon and Herbs

Granny’s Stuffing

Roasted Zucchini and Cauliflower Gratin

Roasted Asparagus

Sausage and Spinach Sautéed Kale

Candied Spiced Yams with Roasted Marshmallows

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Roasted Apple, Pineapple and Golden Raisin Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

Candied Yam Bread Pudding with Fresh Whipped Cream

Mom and Dad’s Contributions

Honey Ham

Green Bean Casserole

Pumpkin Muffins

Bachan Jello

Spinach Dip

Granny’s Deviled Eggs

Auntie Linh and Uncle Kyle’s Homemade Pumpkin Pie

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-Unrivaledkitch

Turning 30 a month later, Brandon’s Birthday!

This blog was to memorable not to post but it is a month late. Oh well better late than never!

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We’ve celebrated birthdays all month long and just about everywhere this summer, which always keeps me busy and on my toes thinking of new ideas and different dishes to make. Having my dad’s birthday at the end of August and Brandon’s birthday on September 7, I’ve been keeping pretty busy in the kitchen. I’m so grateful that my yoga practice and teaching have been taking a great amount of my time and with the start of the new school year (I teach primarily children’s yoga with some senior and adult classes as well), it’s been a really great transition period for my life. I’m glad I can still find time for fantastic meals with my loved ones, because it’s just so important to me to always keep us all at the table together, enjoying delicious and freshly prepared meals.

Brandon’s birthday fell on a Saturday this year, which, for a chef, is the busiest day of the week, but when he could finally muster up a day off, we got together with my family for a Japanese-style sushi and rice bowl dinner. I thought of this awesome little party idea because I wanted everyone to be a little interactive with their food. I didn’t want Brandon to have to cook at all since he cooks practically every day, but I wanted him to be able to put together some sushi, have a beef bowl, and enjoy and relax with a fun dinner. So I drew up this idea at the Japanese market, Mitsuwa, in Venice. There are some really amazing things at that store; all the Japanese ingredients I need to pull off a perfect meal, which is sometimes difficult to find in the valley.

I chose different ingredients that we could all enjoy and make into little sushi rolls with small pieces of nori and ingredients such as salmon and tuna sashimi, imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, umeboshi, ginger and wasabi. I cooked thinly sliced beef in sake, mirin and soy sauce with sliced nori, kamaboko and thinly sliced egg to create my Bachan’s signature beef bowl and made beef and pork wontons with bamboo shoots, scallions and shiitake mushrooms, as well as tonkatsu (panko breaded and fried pork cutlet) and chicken katsu to enjoy. I scooped large bowls of hot Japanese rice for everyone and we made our own concoctions and combinations to enjoy. I love interactive family style food!

I always find that making these dishes connects me with my Japanese heritage and keeps these wonderful traditions that I learned from my Bachan, in our family. Japanese food takes amazing ingredients and lets them shine all on their own with little effort, but lots of care—I love that. I’m so glad I could share these traditions that are so dear to me on such a momentous day: Brandon’s 30th birthday! I’m very grateful that I could make such a special meal for you and to cook for you because you are always so busy cooking for everyone else. Happy Birthday, Brandon, I love you!

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Because I like to cook and eat my own food… My Birthday Dinner and My New Niece Amaya

 

My 28th year is here and I believe it will be (and has been) one of the best years of my life. I’ve undergone and am still undergoing a great transformation in my life—learning so much about myself, my relationships with others, my yoga practice, my cooking, and overall my whole life and I’m so grateful for this beautiful chance to be myself.  My birthday was on August 20th and it was a beautiful day filled with yoga. Teaching seniors, kids and practicing yoga with incarcerated youth really puts life into perspective. I’m so amazed by the people in my life, especially my yoga students who are more like my teachers than my students because they always show me something new, sometimes challenging, and exciting about life.

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I’m so lucky to have my whole family be so close to me and so supportive of my choices in life— I know a lot of people may not be so lucky. My sister and niece made me a gorgeous card, breakfast and lunch, and hung balloons from the ceiling for a most festive atmosphere. My mom and dad bought me the most heartfelt card and some awesome new yoga clothes, seeing as I can never get enough of those. My brother and sister-in-law sent me the funniest card and sweet gift. But I’d have to say my brother-in-law and sister gave me and our family one of the most precious gifts of all: my new niece, Amaya Sayuri, who was born on 8/15, just one day after my mom’s birthday. Both my grandmas sent me wonderful cards with lovely messages of love. More than anything, I’ve felt the most love in my life and it feels really amazing to be able to share that love with everyone.

 

Brandon never fails to impress me with how amazingly well he knows my taste. He made the most gorgeous farmers’ market basket for me with all types of delicious fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and a beautiful big bouquet of lilies that just blew me away. Also, a really great planner to keep me organized in all my endeavors and such a sincerely thoughtful card. With everything he has to do, all the hard work he puts in every day at his demanding job, he makes me feel special in a way no one else ever has and I love him so much for it.

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What I wanted for my birthday is what I always want—to be around the people I love and share food with them—and that’s just what we did. Brandon and I made a delicious meal for my family using my favorite white platters, large serving bowls and fancy family-style plating for all of us to enjoy the delicious items that Brandon bought at the Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market.  My family jokes that I always want to cook for my own birthday, but like I always tell my sister, “I enjoy making and eating my own food” and if Brandon helps me, it’s even better. My brother bought me an ice cream cake and Maleeya sang me happy birthday about 20 times.  I’m so glad we could all celebrate together, be together and see our family grow and expand our love to our new little addition.

 

 

 

Menu

 

Roasted Mushroom Marsala Cream Grilled Pork Chops

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Herb Grilled New York Steaks

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Heirloom Tomato Summer Salad with Mozzarella, Cucumbers, Basil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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Grilled Purple Baby Artichokes with Garlic and Olive Oil

 

Sautéed Rainbow Chard with Italian Sausage

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Steamed Broccoli and Peas

Roasted Squash and Heirloom Purple Bell Peppers

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Sesame Cider Coleslaw with Scallions and Fresh Peas

 

Herb Focaccia

 

 

 

Thank you to everyone who journeyed with us on this very special day in my life and welcome beautiful little Amaya.





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Cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

 

 

 

Baby Sister’s Baby Sprinkle!

My sister and brother-in-law are having another baby girl! News to some, but not to others and low and behold she’ll be joining us maybe this month. My sister’s due date is August 27th and secretly, I think my sister is going to try and hold out til September 1st, because we already have so many August birthdays. I don’t really think that I, my mom and my dad would mind sharing our birthday month with baby sister…well, not too much! But whenever she gets here, she’ll be greeted with the most love and anticipation. Last weekend we had a small last-minute gathering in Huntington Beach, about 50 miles away from where we live, but cooler (which is a must for a pregnant woman) and also where my grandma lives. Seeing as the valley can get temperatures over 100 degrees, I don’t think my sister wanted to risk having the sprinkle out here.

I’m so grateful to my mom, dad and grandma for helping me put this little event together to share our love and celebrate our soon to be newest member of the family. I’m a second born daughter, so I know what it’s like to be a baby sister and I’m so excited for her to come out and drive us all crazy! I cooked for the event and we had a Pan-Asian inspired Hawaiian-themed little Luau for baby sister. Thanks to everyone who made this day special, stress-free and all about my little niece number two.  Maleeya is going to be such an amazing big sister I can’t wait to see how they get along. If it’s anything like me and my sister, they’ll love each other and sometimes want to kill each other at the same time–the way all sisterly relationships should be. I love my sister so much and I’m so glad that my nieces will be able to have the kind of relationship, friendship, and love that we have for each other.

Menu

Coconut Cilantro Green Curry with Button Mushroom, Bean Sprouts and Potatoes

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Braised Pineapple Soy Sauce Chicken Legs

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Spam Musubi

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Chicken Katsu with Japanese Curry

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Beef Teriyaki with Ginger and Garlic

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Tangerine, Mirin and Dijon Skewered Vegetables

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Assorted Fruit and Macaroni Potato Salad

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Veggie Fried Rice with Snap Peas

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Chinese Chicken Salad with Crispy Wontons, Red Peppers, Scallions and Mandarin Oranges

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-Unrivaledkitch

Sweetsalt Toluca Lake, CA

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I like a great lunch. I think lunch can be overlooked and underwhelming a lot of the time because we don’t put much effort into it. I can understand that because I do it myself.  My normal lunch is probably some leftover something that I made for dinner the night before, so on this particular occasion I felt like having a nice lunch on a beautiful summer afternoon with my boyfriend, Brandon. Normally we debate where we should go and if we’re out by me, I usually have to pick because he’s not too familiar with the area (though I must admit that he’s getting much better).  I remembered my brother mentioning that Sweetsalt was good so we decided to check it out. We went in around 11:30 for lunch, which is early to beat the crowds, because that place seems to pack them in.

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The décor is antique and rustic with larger communal tables at the back to seat larger parties and smaller seats in the very small café-style restaurant. Sweetsalt is an order-at-the-counter style restaurant and they bring the food out to your corresponding number. We looked over the very fresh and trendy salad and sandwich choices, which all looked interesting and delicious. We picked the pear and pomegranate salad with chicken and the short rib brioche sandwich with a side of truffle potatoes and an iced soy latte. The pear and pomegranate salad was really refreshing and lite. The chicken was chopped and tossed into the salad and nicely complimented the sweet dressing that allowed the bitterness of the arugula to disappear a bit. Our sandwich was delectable; the short rib was tender and juicy. The meat had a very pronounced bourbon or whiskey flavor and was a little heavy on the black pepper, but the buttery brioche bun helped to mellow those flavors. They put a little side salad of mixed greens lightly dressed, which added freshness to the sandwich. Our truffle potatoes were again a bit on the heavy black pepper side, but cooked well. The café is really a very sweet and dainty place to have a bite to eat, enjoy coffee or pastries, and friendly company.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

El Patron Reseda, CA

 

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We had multiple Father’s Day celebrations for my dad this year. I’ve been working quite a bit, so we braved the restaurant scene that weekend so we would have more time to be with family instead of cooking and cleaning. My dad is such a special person that we can’t help but celebrate him often. So amongst our other Father’s Day celebrations, I got to spend a little time with my parents and grandma at El Patron restaurant in Reseda, CA.  Being in the valley, I’d say we have a great selection of Mexican food choices and El Patron is one of them.

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Our service was very good from beginning to end; our waiter was engaged and very friendly.  As we looked over the extensive menu, I was impressed to see new and different items on the menu that aren’t traditionally on Mexican menus. They have many vegetarian options for people with dietary restrictions and a kids’ menu as well. The atmosphere is family-friendly, but they have a large patio and bar for the adults.

When we finally figured out what we were going to order—after talking and splitting a pitcher of margaritas—we decided on the Molcajete Cielo, Mar y Tierra (sky, sea and land), which is a large mortar with slow simmered sauce with cactus, tomatoes, shrimp, chicken and steak with cheese and fresh tortillas. The dish served two people, but maybe even could have served three. My mom and I really enjoyed the delicious molcajete, which was easily the highlight of our dinner. The portion and ratio of meat and shrimp was impressive, having served a very ample portion of each protein. My dad ordered fish tacos, which had a really nice piece of fried fish in each one, but they weren’t the greatest fish tacos we’d ever had. My grandma had the chile relleno and carne asada taco combination. The chile relleno was better than I’ve had in a long time; the egg was fried perfectly and the pepper wasn’t too spicy. All of the entrees were served with beans and rice as well as a sweet corn cake.

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We had a fantastic meal together celebrating not only my dad for Father’s Day, but also having one last celebration for my grandma’s 80th birthday. I‘m so grateful for my amazing family and all the time I get to spend with them is so precious. I hope everyone had a wonderful time celebrating their dads. 


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Cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

 

 

 

Republic of Pie North Hollywood,CA

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North Hollywood is an up-and-coming area with a little strip of Lankershim Blvd. adding its artsy vibe to an otherwise forgettable area. I work with Lankershim Elementary School teaching preschool yoga, so every now and then, I like to look for new places for coffee or lunch. One afternoon, after Brandon and I walked around the Studio City farmers’ market, we decided that after all that walking we would head over to Summer Canteen for a late lunch. Since Summer Canteen is located in the same area of North Hollywood that Republic of Pie is, we headed over there to pick up some pie. My sister has been wanting a good slice of pie for a while now, so I decided to pick a couple of pieces up and check the place out.

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Republic of Pie is a lovely little cafe that’s both quaint and stylish. The décor is antique and precious with a stage for coffee house open mic night and couches for comfortable hanging out sessions with friends or your newest novel. The pastry cases offer a variety of styles of savory and sweet pies as well as other delicious baked goods like homemade oreos, lemon bars, vegan energy bars and much more. We looked over the pies and decided on blackberry peach pie and banana cream. I also took a lemon bar to go as well. The pies came out perfectly packed and expertly sliced.

 

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Along with your pie, they have a full line of espresso drinks and teas for your enjoyment. Both pies were delicious. The blackberry was extremely fresh and the pie crust was perfectly golden and crisp. The banana cream was layered with cream, banana pudding and a layer of sweet brown sugar crumble; it was very rich and decadent. The lemon bar was good. But for my taste, I enjoy them to be a bit more tart than sweet. Overall, the whole place was cute and welcoming and the pie was fantastic. You can take a look at the bakers in the baking room making all the delicious goodies by hand.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

Caffe Luxxe Brentwood,CA

 

 

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I’m extremely lucky. I wake up every morning and remind myself of how truly amazing life is. It just feels like the things that are going to happen will. As I sit in a coffee shop in Brentwood, waiting for my next kids’ yoga class, I just feel fortunate to be me; whatever that means and whatever it doesn’t mean.  We are so fortunate in life and sometimes that gets away from us and that’s okay. But coming back to our gratitude is a huge piece of my life and my practice. Caffe Luxxe is a beautiful little artisanal coffee shop pouring some of the finest espresso I’ve ever had. I ordered a latte, which was made with the perfect amount of everything. The espresso is unbelievably good. The bitter crema at the top of the latte mixes so well with the sweet whole milk and subtle smoky flavor of the roasted beans.



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Their latte is the perfect temperature for drinking and the milk is completely fluffy, but dense at the same time. I do lots of my writing these days in coffee shops, between classes. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. I like to use the time as reflection periods and quiet time, though coffee houses are rarely quiet—it’s just something I need in my life.  As I sit along the street and cars zoom by, life doesn’t seem so fast, but is so perfectly imperfect and I can appreciate that sometimes a cup of coffee is just what you need to appreciate the little things that make life so special.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch

 

 

Hook Burger Burbank, CA

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In a very commercial shopping center in Burbank is this little burger joint: Hook Burger. I haven’t had a hamburger in a long time and something seemed to be calling me to have one at this particular time. Hook Burger, whether they like to admit it or not, is part of the whole gourmet burger places popping up all over the place but they say they’ve been in the burger scene for 35 years on their website, claiming to have the best burger. I don’t necessarily think they have the best burger, but it’s pretty good.

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The style of service is order at the counter casual, which is nice for a quick bite to eat at lunchtime. I had a salad there before, which was pretty delicious, but I decided that today I’d have the burger and see what it was all about. I chose the hickory bacon burger, which was topped with bbq sauce, crispy fried onions and bacon on a very fluffy, yet still crusty white bun with shredded lettuce, tomato and mayo with a couple of pickles on the side. Visually, the burger was beautiful and it tasted pretty great as well. I think it had just the right sauce to bun ratio, which is something that I look for in a burger, so it’s neither too dry nor too wet. The beef patty was very juicy and cooked well, but the beef wasn’t extremely flavorful. I had a side salad to accompany my burger. It had balsamic dressing and was extremely simple with just cubed cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and a few slices of raw red onion served over mixed greens.

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The service was very friendly, both at the counter and when they bring you your food. For $6.25, the burger is a good value for the money and a deliciously heavy lunch that I’m glad I had the rest of the day to burn off.

cheers

-Unrivaledkitch