Posted in Cooking, Little things I love about Japan

Yasai!

One of the biggest pros of moving to Japan has been the availability of fresh vegetables- yasai in Japanese.  If you live in a country where it was never an issue to get fresh veggies then you may not be able to understand how I feel.

When we lived in Saipan where most everything was shipped in-fresh vegetables were a luxury. There were some things that were grown on island but most were starchy like taro, some varieties of sweet potato, tapioca. You could get Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, head cabbage, carrots, and sometimes okra. Potatoes, onions and garlic could be found easily although many times the onions were half spoiled already.

We ate a LOT of Chinese cabbage. I got really tired of Chinese cabbage.

There was not a whole lot of variety and some vegetables were so ridiculously expensive that I didn’t even bother to buy them. Our diet was pretty routine and unappetizing.

But here! Wow! I remember the first time we ventured into the farmer’s market-called Bikkuri-ichi-we were surprised! Bikkuri actually means “to be surprised” in Japanese. It was almost sensory overload for us and I remember buying way too much because it was so cheap and there were so many different kinds of vegetables!

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Since living here I’ve learned how to cook simple and eat more naturally without a lot of added spices. As I said before I now never add salt to anything I cook. I use very little if any sugar and the sugar that I do use is natural brown cane sugar.

So anyhow-that’s probably boring to most. I am going someplace with this post.

I was following a fitness coach on YouTube- an expert on fitness and nutrition for the over 50 crowd. I was enjoying her stuff until I saw a post that she wrote about her morning routine. Her breakfast was a cup of coffee with a scoop of chocolate protein powder.

That’s where we parted ways.

I thought-what is it with this generation and packaged foods? Why would you preach nutrition and push chemical loaded junk? Why not just eat REAL FOOD? I guess I just don’t get that.

Is it laziness to cook? Are people so “busy” that they can’t do the basics? I’ve found such joy in preparing our meals now. Yes- I’m busy as my last post detailed but it makes no sense to me to sacrifice my health for convenience. Cooking does not have to be complicated. I’ve also changed my mind about food. I view it differently now-I view food as fuel.

This was my fuel haul today:

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This was our dinner tonight (not a glamour shot):

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I cut-up and grilled eggplant until it was nice and brown and then I simmered it in chunky tomato sauce. The only thing that I added was garlic and a tiny bit of kombudashi. After a few minutes I dumped it into a baking dish topped it with cheese and spinach leaves that I had massaged in basil pesto and baked it until the cheese was melted and a bit brown. It was delish and so simple. We also had pork ginger (hubby needs his meat) that we ate wrapped in lettuce leaves. I boiled bean sprouts seasoned them with vinegar, sesame oil and kombudashi. We also had boiled spinach topped with sesame seeds…drizzled with just a bit of low-salt citrus soy-sauce. Hubby had his white rice.

Super simple but nutritious cooking.

A couple of days ago I was in the supermarket and I decided to take a good look at the products in the rice isle. I saw what looked like oatmeal so I asked the clerk about it and she told me it was mugi – barley.

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She explained to me the different ways you can eat it so I bought some. When I got home I “googled” cooking barley and wow, I am so glad that I bought it! I used to whine over not being able to get oatmeal here. Well, I can get it at Kaldi Coffee (import store) but the price is crazy and they don’t always carry it.

So far I’ve eaten this like oatmeal AND as a rice replacement. Both ways were delicious and it didn’t give me gas like oatmeal does. Super! I read that it is actually more nutritious than oatmeal. I’m sold. I love it.

This was hubby’s bento today (I packed the rice is a separate container):

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The older I get the more I realize that one of the most valuable things I have is my health. If I’m honest I have to say that when I don’t eat well-when I eat too much sugar, fat or packaged foods (which I rarely ever do anymore) I feel terrible. We have also cut our salt intake to about 6 grams a day.You might think our food tastes bland-on the contrary! NOW I can actually taste the vegetables instead of tons of salt! And snacks / sweets-I rarely ever buy them. Once in a while I’ll have a small slice of strawberry cheesecake (the slices at 7-11 are so tiny that I don’t even feel guilty) or a strawberry-filled mochi. Sometimes I even buy dark chocolate-but I’ve come to realize I have much more energy and feel so much better when I fuel up on good, whole foods.

If I can do it anyone can.

Author:

Loving life in rural Japan-writer,gardener,hiker, photographer,crochet artist, chief cook and bottle washer!

6 thoughts on “Yasai!

    1. I really did….lol…I buy this basil pesto that is soooo good… 🙂 I use it sparingly because it’s a bit salty but I thought it would add a nice flavor -so…I massaged the spinach leaves with it. 🙂

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  1. A few months ago I embarked on an autoimmune paleo diet. Lots of vegetables, and mostly at home preparation. It’s been good, although it certainly was a change! Love the surprise market!

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    1. How are you doing with it? We eat mostly vegetables now. I do eat some meat. My favorite is roasted lamb rack when the ” surprise” meat section carries it. We also eat fish. But really our diet consists of mainly vegetables. Now I’m also eating barley as my grain. I rarely eat bread anymore. I’ve realized that in the past my poor eating was related much of the time to my emotions. Not too long ago we had a BIG issue here- family stuff- I was really upset and ate an entire bag ( 6 pieces) of raisin-butter rolls in about an hour- I shocked myself!

      I felt TERRIBLE after that physically and mentally and I prayed for direction and help. I’m finding it so important to notice my emotions and eating habits- this has helped me change.

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      1. I like it. It has NO grains, nuts/seeds, dairy, eggs, legumes, or nightshades; but meat, fish, most vegetables, and spices from leaves, roots, and bark are all OK. After symptoms are cleared, you start adding foods back in, one at a time. I lost weight without exercising more than usual or counting anything, haven’t been hungry, and have learned a lot about what creates problems for me. All in all, I recommend it. But a person has to be in the place of really wanting to get well to make such drastic changes!

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        1. Wow! That’s wonderful! I’m so glad your health is improving! I’ve been doing pool walking / pool strength training and have seen results in weightloss and muscle gain. Pool exercising is amazingly deceiving in the it looks like ” nothing” but if you do the exercises correctly with good form they are just as good if not better than doing gym exercises- without injury to joints!

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