Food + Health + Music

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Food

I have a confession to make: I can’t cook.  There has been much time spent on Pinterest drooling over the beautiful creations that people pin, and I have thought about attempting to make some of them, but then I just get discouraged because I actually barely know how to cook anything.  I went to a university where they provided food for us, and actually, we didn’t really have access to cooking appliances.  Anyway, I’ve got a little time off from work this week and next, and so my goal has been to actually cook using recipes.   I bought a Better Homes and Gardens healthy cooking magazine and wanted to try the Seven-Grain Salad with Roasted Pepper, Feta, and Mustard Dressing.  Because I live overseas and do not have access to specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods, I had to try to stick to the recipe as best as I could.  It’s listed below:

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups seven-grain pilaf mix

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon coarse ground brown mustard (I did not use this because I couldn’t find it)

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I couldn’t find this, so I substituted with chipotle pepper)

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped cucumber

1/3 cup chopped roasted red sweet pepper (I used fresh sweet pepper)

1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives

1/4 cup snipped fresh herbs, such as dill, mint, and/or parsley

1/3 crumbled feta cheese

It turned out decent for the substitutions I made, considering this was my first attempt at actually following a recipe and having to create a sauce myself.

Health

So while not ready to go full-on Paleo Diet just yet, I am definitely trying to change what I eat.  I would really like to lose a few stubborn pounds that have been hanging on for a few years and tone up.  Pinterest really is my weakness–it makes finding different workout routines so easy!  I really like to do distance running, but I tend to just get in the habit of one or two routines and not really changing things up, which doesn’t help my speed-work too much.  Long, slow distance only trains the body up to a point and then you just plateau.  Hopefully by adding different calisthenics, weights, and interval cardio, I can improve my speed for my distance runs.

Music

I finally gave in and might be going down the path of Hipster tendencies (gasp) by branching out and expanding what I’m listening to.  I really like listening to all different types of music, with a few exceptions, but as of recent I’ve definitely been leaning in the Hipster musical directions.  A few albums I’ve downloaded recently of note are:

Wild Nothing/ Nocturne

To be quite honest, a lot of these groups sound very similar to me, but I really enjoy the Dream Pop sound.  It’s easy listening for mornings driving to work or just relaxing.  I’ve been listening to this album a lot as of recent; for anyone that likes easy listening I recommend this album.  And to read a much better review please check out BBC’s review of the album.

Foxes/ Echo, Warrior, Youth (EPs/singles)

I don’t know why, because even though British singer Foxes seems like initially “another female singer/songwriter,” her music is really interesting.  It is pop, but it just has a different sound.  Youth is almost like something that would be a dance song in a club, but it’s still different.  I hope she releases a full-length CD in the near future.  Really like her stuff!

Delta Rae/Carry the Fire

This is my FAVORITE new album I’ve downloaded.  I love blues-inspired, southern-rock-esque music.  Bottom of the River is a very powerful song, but my number one on the album is Morning Comes, the tale of an every-man and the obstacles he faces in his daily life.  Although different in sound, I think Mumford and Sons fans might like this one.

Hopefully this coming week I’ll have more dishes to share, and hopefully no disasters!

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Yokohama bar and restaurant reviews + first Goukon!

Have been quite busy as of recent, so I do apologize for the lack of updates.  I am affiliated with Uncle Sam–I’ll put it that way–so sometimes I am bogged down with my job.   This weekend was quite busy, Saturday I went up to Yokohama Chinatown (again), with my friend A., and met up with my friend R. who is here as part of an international college student forum, hosted at the Japanese National Defense Academy.  12 of us had the “party room” at Koukarou Shanghai Cuisine, and although a bit cramped, it was comfortable.  We had a set menu of Chinese dishes, and I would say the food was moderate in quality.  It wasn’t an excessively expensive place, hence perfect for a gaggle of college students.  It’s a very small place, with three stories.  The top floor is the so-called  “party room.”  For one person, the set course is 1980 yen.  We had chili shrimp, dim sum, spring rolls, fried squid, a chicken and cashew nut stir fry, a beef stir fry, and a few other dishes.  I’d give Koukarou 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Our group, minus A., representing Japan, the United States, Tunisia, Great Britain, and South Korea;

While those staying at the National Defense Academy had a curfew and had to be back by 2200, A. bid them goodnight and decided to have a drink or two.  A. recommended a bar, Windjammer.

The exterior has a nautical feel, and the inside is fashioned to look like the inside of an old British ship.  Trip Advisor has a few reviews by others who have visited.  The drink menu is quite large, and the bartenders are more than willing to make something if it is not featured on the menu.  To top it off there are live jazz performances.  I would give Windjammer 5 out of 5 stars, for ambiance, music, drink menu, and excellent service.  Definitely worth checking out if you are in Yokohama.  And if that doesn’t quite fit your bill, across the street is always the British pub located above the Greek bar/restaurant!

I have yet to try either of these fine establishments; that is a post for the future!

Sunday evening I traveled back up to Yokohama to meet up with a Japanese friend of mine.  She had invited me out, and we met up at the station.  We went to Umeko no ie, a designer restaurant notable for its umeshuu, or plum wine.

I followed A. into a room, on which one side of a table sat five young men, and on the other side, four young women (I made the fifth).  The wheels of my brain began to turn and I realized that this looked like something I had heard about, and it truly solidified when we were all asked to give an introduction of ourselves.  I soon realized I had been invited to a “Goukon,” which is a popular form of dating in Japan.  It is like a group blind date.  Usually a few members of the group know one another, and an appropriate number of men and women are invited so that the numbers match.  The men were all current students at the National Defense Academy; two were Navy, two were Army, and one was slated to be an Air Force pilot.  The women consisted of myself, my friend A., a Chinese exchange student R., and two other friends of A’s.  I had been interested in attending a goukon, so was pleasantly surprised to have been able to have had the experience.  Umeko no Ie is pricy, but it also gets 5 out of 5 stars.  The food, drinks, service, and ambiance are of high caliber.  I would recommend this restaurant if in the area (it’s a chain, so I believe they are located in Tokyo as well) and if you have an affinity for plum wine.

All in all busy but pleasant weekend, met quite a few people from all over the world and had the opportunity to try a few new places.  Until next time!