Ueno Market

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Japanese Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and other grilled treats

Hopping off the JR train line at Ueno Station is recommended for any visitor to Tokyo, Japan. Ueno offers a concentration of world class museums and ancient Buddhist temples, many of which are accessible along the walking paths of beautiful Ueno Park. Today we explored an open air market in Ueno Park, and we were not disappointed!

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Japanese kindergarteners, looking spiffy in their school uniforms, were visiting Ueno Park on a field trip. So adorable! So well behaved! They melted my heart with their shy smiles.

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Aren’t these grilled fish interesting? At 600 yen (approximately $5.30) they were a fair price, especially considering that Ueno Park hosts many tourists.

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Non-food wares were expensive, but still fun to peruse. Aren’t these bonsai trees beautiful?

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Dango, a traditional sweet treat made from crushed rice, was delicious. At only 100 yen (approximately $0.89) for five bites, this was a very economical snack. It reminds me a bit of the Korean Garaetteok we made here at Crowded Earth Kitchen a while ago, with the addition of a delicious soy-based glaze.

Next time, we’ll feature photos from the fantastic Tokyo National Museum, also located in Ueno. Our world is small… have big fun!

 

 

Tokyo Food Tour! Tsukiji Fish Market

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It’s hard to miss the main entrance to the Outer Market in Tsukiji!

Located in central Tokyo, Tsukiji Market is the largest fish market in the world. It’s so large, it’s actually one of the largest food markets of any kind in the world! The Inner Market is where tons (and tons and tons) of hundreds of varieties of fish and seafood are sold to wholesalers and restaurant owners during the early morning hours. The Outer Market is where the action is if you’re a tourist. It’s here, in the Outer Market, where people from all over the world can sample and purchase a seemingly endless variety of products, from fresh and dried fish to exotic spices to every ready-to-eat food imaginable.

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One of many shopping lanes in the Outer Market

Tsukiji Market is a must-see for anyone visiting Tokyo. It is truly a feast for the senses! While you need to taste and see and smell the kaleidoscope of offerings to fully appreciate Tsukiji Market, these photos will give you an idea of Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Octopus Senbei

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Crispy octopus chips for sale at Tokyo Solamachi

My travel companions and I spent a rainy day at Tokyo Solamachi, an enormous shopping mall/entertainment complex attached to the Tokyo Skytree. If you live in the US, think Mall of America but more of a feast for the senses!

There it was… a cheerful red and white storefront prominently advertising something called “Octopus Senbei.” My understanding was that senbei were rice crackers… but these were clearly, definitely, octopus! How Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Kappabashi-dori

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Just outside of the Asakusa neighborhood lies Kappabashi-dori, Tokyo’s “Kitchen Town.” The hundreds of shops which line Kappabashi-dori sell everything, and I do mean everything, a serious home cook or restaurant owner could possibly need.

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Kitchen wares from floor to ceiling!

 

Some shops sell a bit of everything, with deals to be found for those willing to shimmy through narrow aisles, crouching low and reaching high. Some shops sell exactly one product, such as restaurant chairs or noodle strainers!

If you spend an afternoon on Kappabashi-dori, you’ll be sure to find something you never knew you needed but you surely can’t live without. It’s a must-see Tokyo attraction for a traveling foodie like me.  🙂

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This shop sells everything you need to open a Chinese restaurant. 

Happy traveling, and happy cooking!

Top Ten Affordable Kitchen Gadgets (Great Gift Ideas!)

kitchen gadgets

Here you have it – the Crowded Earth Kitchen “Top Ten” list of affordable kitchen gadgets we simply love. There are no status symbols on this list… if you’re looking for a TV show food processor that costs more than many people pay for rent, you’ll need to look some place else.  We’re pretty frugal and low tech around here. Check out the “old standbys” that we use often and highly recommend!

1) CANNING SUPPLIES.  Cooks who learn to preserve food through simple, hot water bath canning save more money than cooks who don’t. Investing in a few basic canning supplies will pay off quickly!

Granite Ware 0718-1 Enamel-on-Steel Canning Kit, 9-Piece

2) A STOCKPOT.  You can get away with saucepans and little one-quart pots when you’re living on ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese, but when you get serious about cooking, you need a stockpot.  Yes, you do.

Excelsteel 16 Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot With Encapsulated Base

3) AN IMMERSION BLENDER. I resisted this for a while, and tried ladling soup back and forth from a stockpot to a standing blender. The first time I burned myself, I stopped being (quite so) cheap and bought an immersion blender.

Conair Cuisinart Smart Stick CSB-75BC 200 Watt 2 Speed Hand Blender (Brushed Chrome)

4) A BUNDT PAN. I don’t have a huge assortment of baking pans, but I do love my Bundt pan. I use it for everything from delicious, light sponge cakes to decadent pecan rolls. The shape looks fancy – anything baked in a Bundt pan makes a great buffet centerpiece!

Cuisinart AMB-95FCP Chef’s Classic Nonstick Bakeware 9-1/2-Inch Fluted Cake Pan

5) A FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKER. Best… coffee… ever! Just add coffee grounds and boiling water – this couldn’t be any easier. It works with tea leaves, as well.

SterlingPro French Coffee Press –8 Cup/4 Mug (1 liter, 34 oz), Chrome

6) INDIVIDUAL RAMEKIN DISHES. These are great for serving appetizers and desserts.

Norpro 6 Piece Porcelain Ramekin Set

7) OIL FREE, MICROWAVE POTATO CHIP MAKER. I wouldn’t have believed it if my mother didn’t buy one first to try it out, but this little gadget is amazing! You can make awesome snack chips out of potatoes and other vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, you name it) without any added fat. How cool is that?!

Joie Healthy Microwave Potato Chip Maker / Slicer / Cooker (Colors May Very)

8) Silicon Mat for Macarons. After several trips to France, I have developed a borderline obsession with macarons. These silicon mats are perfect for beginners, and are less than $5! Recipes coming soon…

1 X Silicone Macaron macaroon Baking Sheet Mat Muffin DIY Chocolate Cookie Mould Mode – 48 Capacity

9) Ninja Master Prep. This blender is absolutely fabulous, and completely affordable! For approximately $30, this blender will do everything from quickly pureeing soups to effortlessly crushing ice. How cool is that?

Ninja Master Prep (QB900B)

10) 17-Piece Tools and Gadgets Set. Look, Everybody needs these things in their kitchen, especially if they’re just starting out. Whether you need to stir, whisk, ladle, peel, measure, scrape, open, or grate, this set does it all.

KitchenAid Classic 17-piece Tools and Gadget Set (Black)

There you have it… a short list of Crowded Earth Kitchen favorites! What’s your favorite gadget in your kitchen? Feel free to comment below!

Early Holiday Gift Special!

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Forget what your English professor told you – life stories are not written in college.

Madeleine LaBlange, Annie Anderson, and Audrey Navarro shared formative years as roommates at Chicago’s Catholic haven for women, the historic Abbott College. If only they could have predicted the collisions between their carefully crafted life plans and the realities they discover beyond campus…

Madeleine harbors dreams of becoming a concert pianist while Dr. Reynold Fenwick, her mercurial graduate school mentor, harbors fantasies of Madeleine. Will pursuing her dreams be worth the cost? Will an evening in Budapest change her life forever?

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Audrey leaves her religious, restrictive parents behind and aims for Chicago’s downtown skyline, dating recklessly and staring down each grueling workday one Chicago Dog at a time. Will an island respite lure her away from her corporate future? When she finds herself in the arms of an unexpected lover, will she have the courage to stand up for her own evolving sense of self?

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Helping Children Become Adventurous with Food

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Mom:  “We’re going on a field trip today!”

Child:  “Cool. Where?”

Mom:  “A grocery store!”

Child:  [Insert unimpressed stare right… about… HERE.]

Mom:  “Wait, this will be fun – you get to pick things out!”

Child:  “We never get to pick things out. Well, almost never.”

Mom:  “No… you mean you don’t get to throw a bunch of over-processed nonsense into the cart. Today, you get to pick things out.”

Child:  “What’s the catch?”

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Oh, they know me so well!  Recently, I took my children on a field trip to a local Asian supermarket. They were given a few simple instructions. First, they needed to walk through the entire store – every aisle, every refrigerated case – and simply look around.  Second, they needed to select two items with which they were completely unfamiliar to take home and try. Third, The total cost of each child’s two items needed to be less than $5. Fourth, everyone needed to try at least one small bite of what everyone else picked. As expected, rule #4 put a slightly evil glint in my oldest child’s eye…

We. Had. A. Blast!

Half-Pint, my youngest, selected Hello Panda cookies and a small jar of preserved kumquats. Half-Pint’s reasons? The Hello Panda cookies looked “happy” and the preserved kumquats were in an orange jar. Half-Pint likes the color orange.

The Pickle in the Middle picked out a small taro root (“It looks like a hairy potato!”) and two Chinese bakery items. The taro root only cost a few cents, and so The Pickle in the Middle made a good case for a third item.  😉

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Bakery Items

My oldest, oh so eager to share with siblings, went straight for the durian – a fruit made famous by it’s terrible, awful smell. It was a bit expensive, so my oldest stayed with one item.

Since my children were clearly inspired to try new things, I added a few items of my own to our shopping cart. In addition to experimenting with the items already mentioned, Crowded Earth Kitchen will soon feature recipes using tamarind, green papaya, lemongrass, and Chinese barbeque sauce. Stay tuned!

The moral of the story is that children will try new foods if grown-ups make it a game and give them some control. Even if it means eating something that smells like… well… that’s another post for another day.