Category Archives: Family Stories

My Old Rice Cooker

My Old Rice Cooker

I’ve been eating a lot of black rice lately, because Dr. Oz said I should.

It’s amazing how a kitchen appliance, like my rice cooker, can bring back so many memories. I purchased it on my Tokyo honeymoon (to ex-hubby) in 1987.

When we split in 1993, I chose the rice cooker and he got the fax machine. My old cooker still makes the most perfect rice.

I wonder how that fax machine is doing?

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On Being Thankful.

As most Americans prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow,  I’ll be arriving in London en route to visit my dad in Bridge of Weir, Scotland.

Of course he and my stepmum don’t usually celebrate turkey day, but we’ll gather in their village kitchen and cook a Scottish/American feast together. I know, for sure, there will be some sort of turkey and glorious HAGGIS BALLS (equal parts stuffing & haggis mixed together) that I love to make year round.

In Bridge of Weir, Scotland with my dad 2002For a food fanatic like myself, Thanksgiving is absolutely the best time of the year. Not just because of all the tasty bites, but also a time to exhale, be grateful and reach out to family and friends.

Back in April, my mother passed away and I had to fly to Miyako Jima (near Okinawa, Japan) to take care of her funeral and estate.

The trip was absolutely dreadful (except for a few delicious moments) but it would have been worse if we hadn’t reconciled the year earlier.

My mom and I hadn’t spoken for over ten years, until two years ago when a friend of mine, over lunch at Jitlada (my favorite Thai restaurant), demanded I call my mother. If it weren’t for my friend, I’d never have found peace and comfort of knowing my mother a bit better. She had retired from the business I abhorred (more later), and was just a funny, old lady I chatted and laughed with long-distance.

My dad and I were also estranged for many years (international divorce and spending ten years in a children’s group home can do that), and it took decades for us to want to be in each other’s lives again.

Although it wasn’t always easy (I used to hold on to anger)… IT WAS definitely WORTH IT. I fly back to Scotland to visit him once a year now, and I’m so grateful for every moment together.

If there’s someone in your life you’ve been waiting to call or visit, please stop and JUST DO IT.

Life is short. There’s always time to heat up the leftovers tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving. Love, Jo

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Sunny Spot

An old Virgin Islands Clipping I've said for many years!When I was twenty-two years old, I had the ridiculous pleasure of living in the Caribbean for a few months. It was 1986 and my then-boyfriend Perry (a newly licensed pilot) scored a winter job flying for Air St. Thomas / Virgin Air (no connection to Sir Richard Branson). The small island-hopping airline was based in the U.S. Virgin Islands on St. Thomas, so we made our home above the hills in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie.

Our apartment in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 1986Our upstairs apartment had a large kitchen (Perry did most of the cooking back then), and just one other room with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the island.

Mr Wayman, our landlord built a ramp near the back door so our dog Warhol (who moved with us from the mainland) could run up the side of the mountain. We loved our tiny bit of paradise.

Always a photo buff, I spent most of my time photographing and getting to know the island. I loved pretending to be a “local” for those few months, and on Perry’s days off we would rent a small boat and head to the nearby British Virgin Islands.

Me at 22. At the beach, St. Thomas 1986Our favorite spot was Sidney’s Peace and Love in Jost Van Dyke Island’s Little Harbor, just 7 miles northeast of St. Thomas. Once docked, I would pick out a live lobster from a trap near the shore and the cook would grill it on the spot. Perry always ordered barbecue chicken (he didn’t like seafood) and we BOTH drank heaps of rum at the attached open-air bar. It was “serve yourself” at Sidney’s, and also “total the bill” yourself if you weren’t too drunk. An honor system that you just didn’t mess with in the Caribbean.

Heading to the beach. St. Thomas

My favorite shop on St. Thomas was called Sunny Caribbee, where I picked up island spices, oils and trinkets for the kitchen. There was an elementary school nearby and I loved listening to the students pounding on steel drums in the afternoons.

We left the Caribbean when Perry was offered a job with United Express, the commuter division of United Airlines. He now lives with his wife and kids near San Diego. (More about Perry here)

Walking into Roy Choi’s Sunny Spot for the first time made me smile from ear to ear. I flashed back to 1986 and was suddenly transported to my carefree, twenty-two year old, vagabond self.

After several visits (including dinner and brunch) I still get that happy feeling when I walk in the door. It’s a mini-holiday, a few hours of vacation. A delicious and less expensive trip to the sunny Caribbean, that’s for sure.

Sunny Spot, Venice
Don’t Worry… Be Happy!

Sugar Cane Fried Pig's Feet at Sunny Spot
Sugar Cane Fried Pig’s Feet

Muh-F*K*N Mofongo at Sunny Spot Venice
Roy Choi’s take on Mofongo! Muh-F*K*N Mofongo: Plantains, Bacon, Garlic, Black Pepper

Cocktails at Sunny Spot Venice!
LET’S PARTY!
Left: Fleur-De-Lis: Gin, Hibiscus, Honey, Chartreuse, Lemon
Middle: Death in the D.R.: Dominican Rum, Lime, Honey, Absinthe, Champagne
Right: Dry Harbour: Pot Still Rum, Lime, Absinthe, Habanero Pineapple Shrub

Cuban Torta at Sunny Spot Venice
Cuban Torta: Pork Terrine, Prosciutto, Provolone, Pickled Jalapeño, Mustard

"What A Jerk" Wings at Sunny Spot
“What A Jerk” Wings: Double coated, double fried

Bridgetown Swizzle at Sunny Spot
Bridgetown Swizzle: Barbados Ru, Averna, Falernum, Lime, Angostura

Diablo Prawns at Sunny Spot
Diablo Prawns w Rum Glaze, Garlic Butter & Herbs

Yucca Fries at Sunny Spot Venice
Yucca Fries w Banana Thai Basil Ketchup

Jamaican Roasted Lamb at Sunny Spot
Jamaican Roasted Lamb w Lettuce Wedges & Pickled Mango

Whole Roasted Red Snapper at Sunny Spot
Whole Roasted Red Snapper w Ginger Oil, Cilantro, Chili Vinegar

The Silver Goblet at Sunny Spot
The Silver Goblet: Coconut Ginger Sorbet

House-Made Caramels at Sunny Spot Venice
House-Made Caramels w Maldon Sea Salt, Toasted Cashews

The back room at Sunny Spot, Venice
The “bird cage” table in the back dining room

The back room at Sunny Spot, Venice
Dinner in the bird cage: Me, Peter, Evelina & Greg

Savory Festival Bread at Sunny Spot (Brunch Menu)
Brunch Menu Festival Bread w Goat Butter, Guava Jam & Rum Honey

Brunch at Sunny Spot
Brunch Menu Bloody Mary: Vodka, Dirty Sue, Tomato, Jamaican Jerk Spice

Brunch at Sunny Spot
Brunch Menu Banana French Toast: Rum Coconut Whipped Cream, Caribbean Spiced Maple Syrup

Brunch at Sunny Spot
Brunch Menu Sunny Spot Egg Plate: Korean Style Baked Eggs, Jerk Seasoned Potatoes, Mo Jo Glazed Grilled Pork Belly

Brunch at Sunny Spot
Brunch Menu Eggs, Sausage & Grits: Fried Eggs, Jerk Sausage Patty, Anson Mills Grits, Maple Syrup

Brunch at Sunny Spot
Take a seat!

Sunny Spot Venice!
Sunny Spot

More photos at Sunny Spot

More photos of the Caribbean

Sunny Spot
Website
822 Washington Blvd
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 448-8884

An old Virgin Islands Clipping I've said for many years!

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ALL YOU CAN EAT Fried Chicken!

What: All You Can Eat (AYCE) Super-Crispy Fried Chicken

Where: Chef Roy Choi’s A-Frame in Culver City

When: Every Saturday & Sunday, 12-3pm

Cost: $18 per person (including two side dishes)

Beer: Add endless Hite lager for $10 per person

AYCE Fried Chicken at Roy Choi's A-Frame
Roy cooks his KILLER chicken legs and thighs sous-vide, using rice flour for extra crispy breading. Personally, I was thrilled the platter was without breasts. Gimme them juicy thighs (and legs) anytime!

AYCE Fried Chicken at Roy Choi's A-Frame
Sides: Zucchini/Cabbage Cole Slaw and “Supermarket” Deli-Style Sweet Potato Salad.

AYCE Fried Chicken at Roy Choi's A-Frame
Two awesome dipping sauces for the chicken are included: Lemongrass Creamy Dip and Housemade Tonkatsu.

AYCE Fried Chicken at Roy Choi's A-Frame
My favorite of the two salads was the Zucchini and Cabbage Cole Slaw. I eat low-carb when I can and the flavors of the slaw were just like my grandma’s potato salad… sans the carb-loaded spuds. Of course my sweet-toothed Peter loved the Sweet Potato  Salad.

AYCE Fried Chicken at Roy Choi's A-Frame
And YES, I know fried chicken has carbs. I’m telling you… these are WORTH IT.

AYCE Fried Chicken at Roy Choi's A-Frame
The inaugural AYCE Fried Chicken day (July 14) was a HUGE hit! Many thanks to Roy Choi & Natasha Phan for organizing the food crawl last week! Both food and drink were hosted.

A-Frame Website
12565 Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA.
(310) 398-7700

A-Frame on FaceBook

Follow Chef Roy “Papi” Choi on Twitter

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” Arnold H. Glasgow

Please check back for Sunny Spot & Chego posts!

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Home to Scotland

I’ll miss Peter and the dogs, but I’m so excited to get back to Bridge of Weir this week to visit my dad, step-mum and little brother. Not surprisingly, my favorite moments are always in the kitchen with my father, and on this trip we’re going to focus on traditional Scottish recipes.

In Scotland with my dadRumbledethumps is a traditional dish from the Scottish Borders. The main ingredients are potato, cabbage and onion. Similar to Irish colcannon, and English bubble and squeak, it is either served as an accompaniment to a main dish or as a main dish itself.

Cullen Skink is a thick Scottish soup made of smoked Finnan haddie, potatoes and onions. Lacking the traditional ingredient, any other undyed smoked haddock will suffice. This soup is a local speciality, from the town of Cullen in Moray, on the north-east coast of Scotland. The soup is often served as a starter at formal Scottish dinners.

Clapshot is a traditional Scottish dish that originated in Orkney and may be served with haggis, oatcakes, mince, sausages or cold meat. It is created by the combined mashing of potatoes and swede turnips (“neeps and tatties”) with the addition of chives, butter or dripping, salt and pepper; onions in some versions.

Stoved Howtowdie with Drappit Eggs: Boiled chicken with poached egg and spinach.

Chappit Tatties: Mashed Potatoes with little finely shredded onion or chopped chives (optional).

Up Yer Kilt!Skirlie is a traditional Scottish dish. It is eaten on its own, used as a stuffing for a mock-sausage, the mealie pudding, or used as a stuffing for chicken (most commonly) or other fowl. Oatmeal was a staple ingredient of the Scottish diet, it absorbs other flavours and is filling, so it was found in many dishes of Scottish cooking. Skirlie was used to ‘pad’ out a meal in which meat would have been scarce. In the North East it is eaten with mince as well as with chicken. It is still a much loved dish in Scotland today.

Scotch Eggs: A Scotch egg consists of a shelled hard-boiled egg, wrapped in a sausage meat mixture, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. Scotch eggs are commonly eaten cold, typically with salad.

My dad didn’t have Scotch Eggs on his list, but I’m going to make sure we make a wee batch! Of course I’ll share details and photos upon my return.

Cheers! Jo

 

About Bridge of Weir

“Haggis Hunt” (a bit about my dad)

Food descriptions via Wikipedia

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My Sister and My Mother

Back when my ex-husband was flying 747′s for Evergreen International, I read an article about owner Delford Smith, and was moved by what he said about his sons growing up in an affluent family. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it was something akin to: “My kids didn’t have the advantage of growing up with disadvantages I had as a child.” That really hit home for me, and I often think about how lucky I am to have had such a “different”, at times very difficult, childhood.

Dancing with my big sister Janet, OkinawaThe first eight years of my life in Okinawa were pretty idyllic. Living on a tropical island, even though we were in close proximity to the Vietnam War, was simple and carefree. My older sister Janet and I both went to American schools, because our dad was an American citizen working for the U.S. Navy.

Since both our parents worked nights (our mother ran successful “Hostess” clubs), there were many evenings where I was in Janet’s care. I can’t imagine leaving a 7 and 10-year-old alone night after night, but that’s just the way it was back then. Luckily, we spent many afternoons with our oba-chan (grandma) watching her make tofu (which she sold at market) and caring for her pigs (which we ate).

Our Parents, Okinawa (early 60's)I don’t have many memories of my mom being a “mother”, but I’m so grateful that I had oba-chan and my sister. If it wasn’t for oba-chan’s nuturing and love, I think both Janet and I would have turned out much differently. During World War II, she adopted our mother, along with many other war orphans on the island. Our oba-chan was just a phenomenal woman.

The shock of divorce is never easy on children. Break-ups are rough, but when my father got custody of myself and Janet, we were suddenly on an airplane (just us little girls) flying across the Pacific to live with our grandparents in America.

My Sister JanetWe didn’t want to leave Okinawa, but looking back, our father made the best decision he could have made at the time. Okinawa had been under U.S. possession since 1951, but reverted back to Japanese control in 1972, the year our parents were divorcing. Our dad was simply afraid that he would have no rights as the American parent in a foreign land.

Janet and I settled in San Marino, California with elderly grandparents who tried to “Americanize” us immediately. We had visited them before when we were younger with our mother, but those were only quick trips. Our dear grandfather tried to make us more comfortable by treating us to Chinese food once in awhile (heck, he tried… it was “Asian”), but our grandmother did not NOT like the “Okinawan” part of us at all. Let’s just say that she and I never became close.

Scotland Visit 1980After our parents divorced, our father was transferred to Scotland (his mother was from the Maxwell Clan), where he re-married and still lives today. As you can imagine, we had some rough patches during the past 30+ years, but as adults we moved past the blame and the pain. “Life’s too short”, is something we say over and over again.

Now, I absolutely adore my dad, step-mother and younger brother Greg, and will be visiting them again in Scotland this summer. But as a young girl I had some major “daddy issues” that I couldn’t even admit to until a few years ago. Janet, who was older (and wise beyond her years), fared much better.

My Sister JanetOur first year in America was rather turbulent, but mostly just confusing. Even though our grandparents (who became our legal guardians) did the best they could, they eventually placed us in a children’s home nearby. Janet and I always felt like the “lucky ones” though, because at least we got to spend every holiday with our grandparents, away from the “home”. We both lived there until graduating from high school. Janet “served” (as we joked) seven years and I struggled through ten. Looking back, it really wasn’t THAT BAD. We had a roof over our heads and plenty of food.

With my Oba-chan, MyLastBite.comMy relationship with my mother is very complicated. I’ve travelled to stay with her several times over the years, and although the visits were exciting, they definitely lacked any real warmth. I’m sure the disconnect is there because she never “mothered” me as a child. She was busy working, and helping to put food on the table, so I don’t blame her for that. The truth is, after we moved to America the only person “mothering” me was my sister. When my beloved oba-chan died, I didn’t feel the need to visit Okinawa on a regular basis anymore. I didn’t need to, because my sister was then, and is now, my mother.

When I look back at family photos of the two of us, the most notable thing I see is that my big sister is always looking out for me… literally. Of course back then, I was the baby sister, but even as adults she still wraps me tightly in her arms. Janet was always determined to take care of me, and as a kid I was just as determined to escape her big-sister clutches. Thankfully, she never gave up on me, because I was NOT an easy kid, teenager or even young adult.

With my big sister Janet, MyLastBite.comI had planned on writing this last year before Janet’s birthday in July. Then again for Thanksgiving when we celebrate a family feast at her house. Christmas would have been a perfect time to share her awesome “Christmas Chili” recipe, and March 18th is the anniversary of our move to America, but that came and went as well.

Through all these years, the only consistently good thing I have had in my life is Janet, and I’m so grateful we had the “advantage of sharing so many disadvantages” together. It’s taken a lot of tears to get these words on paper (plus a wee bit of courage), and there’s no way I could have conveyed how much my sister means to me, without sharing a bit of our story.

Happy Mother’s Day, Janet. I know it’s early, but thank you for always being my wonderful sister, and my mother.

(Originally posted 4/12/10)

My Sister Janet
Sisters

My Sister Janet
Janet & her husband Paul and oldest son Camron

My Sister Janet
Janet with her kids Cody, and twins, Kindal & Chace

My Sister Janet
Janet (at right) always the “mother”. And yes that’s me with the two bottles!

A yearly, family tradition is to gather on Christmas day at Janet’s house for her awesome turkey chili. The recipe:

Janet's "Christmas Chili"4- 15oz. cans of White beans
2-15oz cans of Black beans/drained
4-6 cups of cooked chicken breast diced
4 onions minced
2-4 cloves of garlic minced
4 cups of broth
2 cups of white wine
1 small can of jalapenos
1 –7oz. can of diced green chiles
2 Tablespoon Oil
Juice of 3 freshly squeezed limes
½ – ¾ cups of chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Cumin

Sautee the garlic and onions in the oil

Combine all the ingredients **except the wine, cilantro and limejuice into large pot or crock-pot, simmer not boil.

Add the wine, cilantro and lime juice before serving.

Janet’s Notes:
These amounts are basic…I add more garlic for my family!
The chili is thicker and tastier the next day, so make plenty!

My Sister Janet

More photos of Janet


Mentioned above:

Visits to Scotland

History of Okinawa

Okinawa Military History

My ex-husband Perry

Evergreen

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Haggis Hunt


Up Yer Kilt! In the summer of 1980, my sister Janet and I traveled to Scotland to visit our father, stepmother Mandy and baby brother, Greg. It was the first time we ever experienced the Scottish side of our family (our mother is Okinawan), and our dad made every effort to instill a sense of clan pride.

Our paternal grandmother hailed from the Maxwell Clan (in fact, her maiden name was Maxwell), and Dad had the family tartan and crest on display for us when we arrived. After just a few days in picturesque Bridge of Weir village, my sister and I proudly stood ground with our dad, arguing that the Maxwells were much braver (and smarter) than the Anderson Clan (Mandy’s family).

Scotland Visit 1980It was also on that trip that we had our first taste of black pudding (aka blood sausage) and of course, haggis. Janet and I hated both of the infamous Scottish delicacies back then, especially the haggis.

Like most first-time visitors to Scotland (especially children), we were told that a haggis was a small animal we would be hunting in the Highlands. Similar to “snipe hunting” in the U.S., a haggis hunt would always end with us “just missing the critter run away”.

JUST WHAT IS HAGGIS?
From Wikipedia: “Haggis is a dish containing sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for three hours. The haggis is a traditional Scottish dish memorialised as the national dish of Scotland by Robert Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis in 1787. It is traditionally served with “neeps and tatties”, especially as the main course of a Burns supper.” (see link below for more info)

Scotland Visit 1980

Looking back, it was probably a very good thing that Janet and I didn’t know what haggis was, because I’m sure we wouldn’t have tried it. My baby brother, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough haggis and black pudding. I would just laugh when he’d crawl up on my lap, and cheerfully grab a leftover piece of black sausage from my plate. Mandy said that it was “full of iron and great for babies” but I still didn’t want to eat it. My little brother grew up to be a brilliant, 6′ 4″ musician, so my loss I guess!

As my palate grew a bit more sophisticated, I fell in love with black pudding or as the French call it, “Boudon Noir”. One of my favorite bites from a recent dinner at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon was indeed the plump and zesty black sausage. If you’ve never had it, black pudding is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled.” (via Wikipedia, link below)

Scotland Visit 2002There were more memorable meals to come during that first visit to my father’s village. Janet and I both gasped when Dad first showed us how to suck bone marrow out of his slow-cooked oxtails. And at a formal Scottish dinner (with men in their best dress kilts), we were introduced to mutton and “Scotch Broth”, which was made with neck of lamb.

I’m a little embarrassed to say (as a proud 1/2 Scottish lass and all), that even to this day, lamb (especially mutton) is not a favorite. There have been a few rare occasions when I could stomach it, but that was usually when it didn’t taste like lamb at all. Bone marrow, on the other hand, is on my “last meal before I die” list.

Cans I bring home from ScotlandAs for Janet, it wasn’t long after that trip that she gave up red meat altogether. Her choice was mostly to do with eating healthier, not an aversion to Scotland’s (sometimes) arduous cuisine.

For many Christmases after that first visit, our dad would send Scottish care packages to us in Los Angeles. We loved the pure butter shortbread cookies, and McVities chocolate covered digestives, but we NEVER opened the cans of haggis included. I still keep an old can on my kitchen shelf… as decor only.

I’ve returned to Scotland many times since 1980, and my favorite Scotland, MyLastBite.commeals are always those prepared by my dad. But on each visit, we gather at a local restaurant (built in the 1700′s), called “the Huntsman” for a traditional Scottish meal. And as always, my dad insists that we “soak up the culture”, which means there will be either haggis or black pudding on the table.

When I took my nephew Cody to Scotland a few years ago (for graduation), his grandpa (my father) was giddy with anticipation when two plates of haggis were placed in front of us at dinner. Of course I had eaten it on previous visits, so all eyes were on (then 18-year-old) Cody while he slowly took his first bite. After he swallowed and proclaimed that, “HAGGIS IS AWESOME”, my dad (who was shocked) gave him a pat on the back and proudly smiled.

Recently, I thought it would be fun to search out haggis locally in Los Angeles. I’m always boasting about how we can get “any type of food” in L.A., so why not haggis? After a few minutes on google, I decided it best to ask Jonathan Gold via his L.A. Weekly Food Column:

Burns Night 2009

Dear Mr. Gold:
I’ve only eaten haggis with my dad in Scotland, and loved every bite. Is there a proper, classic haggis (along with neeps and tatties) in Los Angeles? Never been to Tam O’Shanter (sort of feels like “cheating”), but it’s about time I search it out locally. Thanks for any help!
–Jo S.

I love Jonathan Gold and was thrilled when he answered my question. He had several suggestions on haggis hunting in L.A., including Tam O’Shanter in Los Feliz or Buchanan Arms in Burbank (link to full article below). The truth is, I would eat anywhere (or anything) he recommended so I quickly made a reservation for “Burns Night” dinner at nearby Buchanan Arms.

Burns Night Supper Menu 2010
Cocky-leeky Soup or Salad

With choice of:
Fish & Chips
Haggis, Champit Tatties & Bashed Neeps
Bangers & Mash
Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

Dinner & Show $25
Desserts $4.95

Burns Night 2009
Cocky-leeky Soup (leeks, onions, rice, chicken) Basically a tasty chicken soup with extras!

Burns Night Supper 2010
Haggis, Champit Tatties (mashed potatoes) & Bashed Neeps (turnips) If you like corned beef hash, Haggis is similar but much more course in texture, and of course the flavor is “sheepy”! I wouldn’t eat it often, but it’s sort of a “must do for Scots”, at least every once in a while!

Burns Night Supper 2010
Bangers & Mash: Choice of plain bangers, or deep-fried bangers and gravy. Of course we went for the deep-fried bangers, and THESE I could eat every day, twice a day even. I’m going back SOON just for this!

Burns Night Supper 2010
Crispy coating, crispy banger skin underneath, and a nice pop when I bit into one!

Burns Night 2009
Sticky Toffee Pudding We were both LOVING this and found out they were sold next door in the freezer section! I’m not a big fan of sweets, but this was just so spongy, buttery and… sticky good!

The awesome Ploughboys!
The Ploughboys perform music from the British Isles; Scotland and Ireland, as well as world beat and original compositions. The members are the Romano Brothers, Peter & Mark, fiddler Howard Chu, bass guitarist, Rich Cashman, and Mark Haber, licensed bodhran player. (info via website, link below)

Burns Night 2009

Burns Night 2009

Burns Night 2009

As we were leaving Buchanan Arms, Peter noticed the market next door! I went a little crazy buying some of my favorite treats, including chocolate covered digestive cookies, Flake bars and sticky toffee pudding!

We had a wonderful time, but next year we’ll do it just a little bit different. For those of you who may be interested in going to Buchanan Arms for Burns Night next year, some notes:

1) Don’t reserve too early. The restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived at 6:30, and we were at our table before the band (who were fantastic) set up their gear. The food came quickly (so did the booze!), but by the time the music festivities finally got rolling, we were whisky & lager filled (happy, full and tired!), so next year I’ll reserve a table after 8pm.

Burns Night 20092) Request a table in FRONT of the band or near the front doors. Our cozy table was to the side of the band near the bathroom, and at first we didn’t mind because we were really having a good time (thanks partly to pre-dinner Scotch!), until we noticed that the space around us was also for “standing room” only. After eating our meal, we hoped to relax at the table and enjoy the music, but it was just too crowded, and no other tables were available. We left before the traditional “Address to a Haggis” (where the haggis is paraded around with bagpipes, while someone recites the Robert Burns Poem), which was a shame because Peter had never experienced it. But we’ll be back next year…

Until then, I’ll be looking forward to visiting my family again in Scotland this summer. It’s the 30th anniversary of my first visit there, and I can’t wait to celebrate with a good old plate of haggis (and black pudding too)!

Buchanan Arms
Goofing around in the garden, MyLastBite.com2013 W Burbank Blvd
Burbank, CA 91506
(818) 845-0692
Website

Dining Date: 1/23/10

All my Burns Night photos on Flickr

My Scotland photos on Flickr

Cody & I in Scotland & London

Jonathan Gold’s “Ask Mr. Gold: Address to a Haggis”

Jonathan Gold’s Restaurant Reviews on LA Weekly

Wikipedia Links: About HaggisRobert BurnsBurns Night SupperHaggis HuntingBlack Pudding

More about the PloughBoys I really liked the band’s kilts!

Glasgow, Scotland MyLastBite.comMaxwell Clan Tartan

Secret Scotland (fun website!)

Fox & Hounds Pub, The Huntsman (our family favorites)

Interesting article about the U.S. Haggis Import Ban

Check out Deep End Dining’s Photos & Video of Burn’s Night

My brother’s website http://IamGreg.com (he really is a brilliant musician!)

More about my wonderful family on my “About” page.

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Smokin’ Hot

My nephew Cody, who turned 20 on Valentine’s Day, has always found immense joy in his food. He’s one of those people who can’t help but express the sheer deliciousness of each bite he takes, usually with a moan or an “oh my gawd, you HAVE to taste this”.

With Cody in Okinawa, MyLastBite.comWatching Cody eat is one of my favorite activities, second only to sitting down and actually sharing a meal with him. Always a “happy-go-lucky kid”, Cody has grown into a happy, grateful and very caring young man. Of course my sister Janet and her husband Paul get most of the credit for being great parents, but I appreciate how hard Cody works at it too. Not surprisingly, he’s also a terrific big brother to the twins.

I’m proud to say that just last month, he passed his first two exams for EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) training. He’s following in his firefighter dad’s footsteps, and I’m looking forward to visiting Cody at his own fire station someday. When he’s not out rescuing people or putting out fires, he’ll definitely be cooking up a storm in the station kitchen!

"Not Your Grandma's Thanksgiving" MyLastBite.comEvery year we celebrate Thanksgiving at my sister’s house, and usually after we’ve finished our turkey feast, Janet brings out the “Thanksgiving Box of Questions”. Basically it’s a stack of Thanksgiving-themed quotes or questions that we each have to read aloud to each other. This year, Janet pulled a question card that read “Say something you appreciate about the person sitting to the right of you”. Her eyes started welling up as she looked at her big, handsome son, then she said, “I appreciate Cody because he ALWAYS says ‘I love you mom’… even if he’s in a bad mood, or if we’re disagreeing on something… he never misses a chance to say ‘I love you’.”

Cody with the twins, MyLastBite.comTwo years ago, for his high school graduation gift, I asked him if there was some trip he’d like to go on with his Aunt Jo (that would be me) and Uncle Peter. He said he really wanted to visit his grandpa (Janet’s and my dad) in Bridge of Weir, near Glasgow, Scotland. Cody had visited his Okinawan family before, back when he was just three years old, but this would be his first trip to visit his Scottish side of the family… the Maxwell Clan!

I was really excited to plan the trip because it meant we’d get to spend some quality time together. If you have teenagers in your life then you probably know how busy they can be with after-school jobs, friends and girlfriends. This trip was a gift for Cody getting good grades, but it was also a really special gift for me. My husband decided to stay home so it would just be “Cody and Aunt Jo’s Great British Adventure”, and it was. Thanks again Peter!

Before I even booked our flights, I started emailing and calling Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” restaurant in London. I wanted to make sure we could get a reservation during our brief stop in England. Cody and I are both big fans of Jamie Oliver, and it was Cody who, as a little kid, first introduced me to the “Naked Chef”. A celebratory dinner at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant sounded like the perfect first night in England.

We arrived in London on June 21st and after checking into our hotel, hopped on the Tube and easily made our dinner reservation. Fifteen’s tasting menu was fantastic, and it was an excellent start to our British food adventure.

Our dinner at Fifteen Restaurant, London

Fifteen Restaurant London, MyLastBite.com
A little Jet-lagged but excited to be at the restaurant!

Fifteen Tasting Menu, MyLastBite.com
The Fifteen Tasting Menu

Cody & Carpaccio at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Peroni Beer (in the UK, you can drink at 18!) and Carpaccio of Buccleuch Beef (hung for 28 days) with minted marinated asparagus, oregano from Jamie’s garden, wild rocket and pecorino.

Scallop Crudo at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Scallop crudo, pomegranate, coriander, deep-fried ginger and yuzu

Pasta at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Papardelle “fatte in casa” with a Scotch beef ragu, freshly grated horseradish

Salmon at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Char-grilled line-caught wild salmon with peperonata, beet leaves and basil pesto

Pete Gott's Pork at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Pan-roasted shoulder of pork from Pete Gott’s farm (cooked in milk, sage and Amalfi lemon) with turnips and rainbow chard from Thurrocks Farm
Panna Cotta at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Vanilla Panna Cotta with English Strawberries and Biscotti

Lemon Tart at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
Lemon Tart with Roast Apricots and Lime Creme Fraiche

With my nephew Cody at Fifteen London, MyLastBite.com
A fantastic “Fifteen” dinner experience!

More Fun Eats in London

Wagamama! MyLastBite.com
Wagamama in Camden Town

Wagamama! MyLastBite.com
Chili Beef Ramen (Noodles in spicy pork and chicken broth topped with grilled sirloin steak, fresh chillies, sliced red onions, bean sprouts, coriander, spring onions and a wedge of lime) at Wagamama in Camden Town, London
Wagamama! MyLastBite.com
Cody with Chili Chicken Ramen (Noodles in spicy pork and chicken broth topped with grilled chicken breast, fresh chillies, sliced red onions, bean sprouts, coriander, spring onions and a wedge of lime) at Wagamama in Camden Town, London

The best Sausage Rolls, MyLastBite.com
Killer Sausage Rolls!

Delicious Sausage Rolls, MyLastBite.com
Cheap and delicious breakfast on the go.

Late Night Indian Dinner in London, MyLastBite.com
A Late night Curry! Garlic Naan, Chicken Korma at Connoisseurs Indian Tandoori 8 Norfolk Place, Paddington (near our hotel).

Late Night Indian Dinner in London, MyLastBite.com
Kingfisher Beer and Pappadums at Connoisseurs Indian Tandoori.

We had two days to spend in London before flying up to Glasgow. I had been to London more than a dozen times over the years, so it was easy for me to give Cody a “turbo-charged” sightseeing tour. We did all our travel via the Tube (cabs were too expensive!), including visits to Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Camden Town, Portobello Road and of course the great Food Hall at Harrods.

On our second morning in London we had planned to tour the Tower of London after breakfast. Unfortunately, we decided it would be fun to drink Guinness FOR breakfast and ended up racing through the tour in about ten minutes. But later in the afternoon, we slowed down enough to ride the spectacular London Eye. At over 440 feet, the Eye is the largest ferris wheel in Europe and we had beautiful views of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

Family Dinner Scotland, MyLastBite.comArriving in Scotland was very emotional for me. I hadn’t seen my dad in a few years, and Cody was the first of my sister’s kids to visit their grandfather. I knew it was going to be an unforgettable visit, especially if I could get my dad and his grandson in the kitchen together. Whenever I visited my dad in the past, I would always talk about how Cody loved to cook, and how someday it would be so great to see them cooking together. It was a silly little dream of mine, and I was happy to see it come true.

Our visit to Scotland couldn’t have gone better. We did so much in the week we were there, and the best moments were when we slowed down to enjoy a meal together. Whether it was my dad’s heart-warming comfort food, a Scottish feast at the pub or a deep-fried snack at the chip shop… we definitely got to eat the very best of Scotland!

Blood Pudding! MyLastBite.com
Breakfast in Scotland. My dad made sure Cody tasted everything, including the notorious “Black” (or Blood) Sausage /  Pudding!

Delicious Haggis! MyLastBite.com
Chieftan ‘O’ The Puddin’ Race – Haggis with Bashed Neeps and Champit Tatties (which was absolutely delicious!). At the Huntsman Restaurant, Fox and Hounds South Street, Houston, Scotland

Scottish Salmon, MyLastBite.com
Scottish Salmon is the WORLD’S BEST. At the Huntsman Restaurant, Fox and Hounds South Street, Houston, Scotland

Paul's Chip Shop, MyLastBite.com
Deep-fried Sausage and Chips at Paul’s Chip Shop in Renfrewshire near Bridge of Weir Scotland

Paul's Chip Shop, MyLastBite.com
Deep-fried PIZZA at Paul’s Chip Shop in Renfrewshire near Bridge of Weir Scotland

Paul's Chip Shop, MyLastBite.com
And let us not forget the infamous deep-fried Mars Bar!

Cooking in Scotland, MyLastBite.com
Cody cooking with his grandpa

Let's EAT! MyLastBite.com
Ready to eat (and lovin’ his new found Scottish heritage!)

St. Andrews Golf Course, MyLastBite.com
As a graduation gift, my dad and stepmom treated Cody (who loves to golf) to a day at St. Andrews! In Photo: Greg (my younger brother), Cody, Jo.

Cody's in St. Andrews, MyLastBite.com
Ready to tee off!

Edinburgh Scotland, MyLastBite.com
A wonderful day in Edinburgh (castle in background)

Scotland, MyLastBite.com
6/29/07 Cody and Jo (channeling “Braveheart”), goofing around in my dad’s garden on our last day in Scotland. The entire trip was an amazing food and family fun adventure!

Happy Birthday to my Smokin’ Hot (firefighter-to-be) nephew, Cody!

More photos of Cody & family here

Mentioned Above:

The Twins (Cody’s younger brother and sister)

Bridge of Weir (village where my dad lives)

Fox and Hounds (fantastic traditional Scottish food)

Fifteen Restaurant, London England

The London Eye

Tower of London

Wagamama

Thanksgiving Box of Questions

The Bazaar by José Andrés

“Smokin’ Hot” Written by Jo Stougaard ©MyLastBite.com All Rights Reserved. No usage allowed including copying or sharing without written permission.

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Filed under Eating Out, Family Stories, Food Stories (written by me)

Wonder Twins

On Wednesday evenings I cook dinner at my sister Janet’s house in San Dimas. It’s the only night of the week when all the kids are home for dinner, and it’s the one night a week I get to spend some quality time with my family. I usually grill up some flat iron (or flank) steak and serve it with bacon-wrapped baby potatoes or some other bacon-wrapped side. The kids love steak and bacon, but it’s definitely a treat in my sister’s very healthy household. She always provides the veg and salad, and the kids help me prepare dinner after homework.

At the beach, MyLastBite.com

Janet has four kids and is an incredible mother.  I don’t have kids (except for my three dogs that I treat like kids!), so I’ve always made an effort to be a part of their lives. Cody is 19 and is currently training to be an EMT and firefighter like his dad. Camron is 22 and lives nearby. The twins, Kindal and Chace are the kids that I spend the most time with now, and today the twins are turning thirteen!

My two passions in life are food (obviously) and music, so those are the things that I’ve always shared with the twins. As I posted in the “About” section of the blog, a few years ago I started the “Chef Monkey” cooking club just so I could spend more quality time with my niece and nephews. Up until a few months ago, we held regular classes at my sister’s home, but now with the kids after-school schedules so overbooked (soccer, basketball & homework), we hold the club during the summer months only.

Chef Monkeys Cooking ClubThe Chef Monkey club motto is “We Cook Because We Can… Duh!”. A fun and important part of the club is making up songs to help the kids (and us grownups!) remember food terms. I still sing the “Mother Sauce Rap” when I’m making a pot of Béchamel or any of the five classic French “mother” sauces: Béchamel, Veloute, Español, Tomato, and Hollandaise.

The Mother Sauce Rap:

Béchamel is white
It’s so easy to get right

Cooking Fun, MyLastBite.com

Velouté is made with stock
The flavor really rocks

Español is brown
It’s used all over town

Tomato sauce is easy
Sometimes we make it cheesy

Our favorite Hollandaise
It’s just lemon, butter and eggs

This is what we call…
the Mother Sauce Rap 2, 3,  4…
The Mother Sauce is Wrapped… Out!

Chef Monkey Cooking Club, MyLastBite.comOver the years the kids cooked for firefighters (at the fire station!), volunteered at a women’s shelter, and catered special “Panini Night” fundraising events. This past summer we held a “Chef Monkey Cooking Camp” at Alexandria House, a transitional residence for women and children. The Chef Monkeys got to share their joy of cooking with kids less fortunate, and at the end of the lesson we enjoyed the meal together. It was amazing and we plan to do again next summer.

When the twins were five I started teaching them how to play guitar. My husband Peter taught me, so I would learn a few chords then show the kids. I’ve played piano and written songs since I was five, but guitar really changed my life and I loved sharing it. When Chace learned to play the drums, we started a band and called it “Kitten’s Whip”. The name was because of Kindal’s fiery attitude. Nicknamed “Kitten”, she has always had that “rebel rocker” thing going, even as a toddler. Chace has always been the calmer one, and he would often roll his eyes at his twin sister (he still does).
Kindal, MyLastBite.com Chace, MyLastBite.com The Rock Show, MyLastBite.com

Rock Show Poster, MyLastBite.comFor the twin’s fifth birthday, Peter and I held a “Rock Show” in our back garden. They performed to the Monkee’s “I’m a believer” and Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me”. The twins didn’t actually play guitar for that “gig”, but had a great time being on “stage”, singing to all the fans. We had tour posters, t-shirts and a packed garden full of friends cheering them on in the “audience”. It was crazy but the kids loved it! Two years later, Kitten’s Whip was on stage at the world-famous Whisky-a-GoGo.

The Whisky, MyLastBite.com

The gig was for my 40th birthday and it’s something we thought was “once in a lifetime”… until January 8th, 2007 when we played on stage at the Troubadour. This time it was for Peter’s 50th and we opened for his band, Rubylith. The twins were just turning eleven and the whole family joined in for this gig. Kindal on guitar and vocals, Chace on guitar and vocals, Cody on drums, Camron on base, myself and Janet on guitar, with her husband Paul acting as our stage “security”. Even our brother Greg flew in to play keyboards with us. He lives in Scotland with our dad and came in for both the Troubadour and Whisky gigs.

Poster for Troubadour, MyLastBite.comWe played two songs at the Troubadour show and it was important to me that we all play our instruments on stage (no cheating!), and also that we put on a good show for Peter and his friends. Band practice was held every week at my sister’s house and it was hilarious. Week after week of Poison’s “Nothing but a good time” and Motley Crue’s raucous version of “Smoking in the Boys Room” would sometimes turn into a chorus of “we are never going to get the timing down!”. We did, and it was fantastic fun.

The Whisky, MyLastBite.comI remember being in the dressing room before I went on the Whisky-a-GoGo stage (for my 40th). Kindal came in and I asked her if she was nervous, because I was getting nervous. I mean… this was the stage where I used to see “X” and Motely Crue perform when I was a teenager. At just SEVEN years old, she looked up, smiled and said “No way. I’m not nervous… I’m just really excited!”. That changed my attitude right then for the Whisky gig, and also at the Troubadour show. We practiced those two songs for an entire year, got on stage, and NAILED IT. It was awesome.

We still play music together regularly. Besides the electric guitars, the twins each have an acoustic and a drum set. Kindal even writes her own songs and Chace backs her up when they perform for friends. Needless to say, whenever I spend time with the kids we are either cooking or playing guitar… usually both.

The Troubadour!, MyLastBite.comOver the years, friends have asked “are you trying to get signed?” or  “are you trying launch music careers for the kids?”. Living in Los Angeles has many benefits, especially with Uncle Peter’s job (he’s a VP at a movie studio). So that means the kids get to attend movie premieres every so often, and we get to rent out a legendary nightclub for a special evening, but it also means that no one believes you when you say “we’re just doing this for fun”. It’s not about playing on stage and trying to be “famous”. For me it’s about the precious time we spend together… the weekly visits, working together, learning together, laughing, struggling, then coming together at the end and delivering.

Almost 13! MyLastBite.com

Whether it’s cooking with the twins or playing music with the twins, they both fill me with so much joy and love, that I never missed having my own children.

So on this, their thirteenth birthday I want to say… thank you to my super, fantastic wonder twins. Thank you Kindal and Chace for always being so good to your crazy Aunt Jo.

Here’s to many more years of music, cooking and wonderful adventures together.

Happy Birthday! xoxo

Update: Photos from the twins 13th Birthday Dinner at “Claim Jumper”!

Marisa & Chace, MyLastBite.com
Chace with his date, Marissa

Tony & Kindal, , MyLastBite.com
Kindal with her date, Tony

Teen Feast, MyLastBite.com
A Teen Food Fest

Digging in, MyLastBite.com
Chace… attempting death by chocolate!

Cake Finished, MyLastBite.com
he survived (with help from Tony) !

Kindal, MyLastBite.com
“I’m not telling you what I’m wishing for!”

Kindal & Ilana, MyLastBite.com
Kindal and her best friend Ilana…. who is also an original “Chef Monkey”!

Wrapping it up, MyLastBite.com
Wrapping up the evening…

13, MyLastBite.com
Chace & Marissa

13, MyLastBite.com
Tony & Kindal

Tiny Chef Monkeys, MyLastBite.comMore Photos on Flickr

Chef Monkeys

Kitten’s Whip

Rubylith (Peter’s band)

Alexandria House

Whisky-a-GoGo

Troubadour

Chef Monkeys on YouTube

Our birthday gift to the twins: Dinner at Michael Mina in San Francisco!


” Wonder Twins” Written by Jo Stougaard ©MyLastBite.com All Rights Reserved. No usage allowed including copying or sharing without written permission.

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Filed under Family Stories, Food Stories (written by me)

The Key to Red Meat

By Jo Stougaard

I love SPAM.

There… I said it. The salty mystery meat has been an absolute favorite my entire life.

With my big sister Janet, MyLastBite.comFrom 1964 to 1972 I lived in Okinawa, Japan. This was during the Vietnam War, and our family struggled through the usual war food rationing. We rarely had fresh meat unless we were visiting our Obachan (grandma) in her village. She slaughtered pigs in the same area as she bathed us, which was out back behind her kitchen. Obviously this should have made me uncomfortable eating pork, but it didn’t.

Back at our home near the Navy base, my older sister Janet did a lot of the evening cooking since both our parents worked nights. I used to jump for joy when she would pop off the key from a can of “red meat” (as I called it). I would wait impatiently as she would slowly wind the sharp metal around and around… as gelatinous SPAM juices would squeeze over the top and onto her little fingers.

Sugar cane in the backyard, MyLastBite.comJanet usually fried up thin slices and served them with white sticky rice. Our house was next to a beautiful sugar cane field, and dad had built a little picnic table and chair near the edge of our property. I remember being so happy with my bowl of “red meat” and rice, listening to the workers chopping the cane in the distance. Sometimes, before it got too dark, Janet and I would jump the small concrete fence and steal a sugar cane or two. We would laugh as the workers chased us with their machetes! Out of breath we’d hide in our garden shed and hurriedly slice the ends of the cane, chewing and sucking out the sweetness.

Dinner time wasn’t always so perfect. I remember one evening when Janet wasn’t home and I was left alone. I tried to open a can of SPAM by myself but the little key BROKE. There was nothing to grab the little “starter” tin ribbon. I remember smashing the can against the edge of the kitchen counter, but only the juices escaped. My fingers were cut from the sharp edges. Thank goodness we had our friend Chef Boyardee in the cupboard that night.

Throughout my adulthood, when I felt a little blue or wanted to recall those days in Okinawa… I would simply go to the market and grab a can of SPAM. Not the “light” or low sodium version. It has to be original “classic” SPAM. The problem with this was that I would eat the entire can of SPAM in one or two sittings. I mean heck, it’s opened in front of me (no more darn key!). It’s crispy, greasy and just so tasty!

So along with my Okinawa memories of Moon Beach, Naha and Koza Village, I would also become flush with a sort of sodium overdose, burning eyes and severe bloating. As I got older, of course, I cut back on my beloved SPAM. Maybe eating it once a year, usually with my sister’s kids on a special occasion.

Spam Single!Then a few weeks ago, as I walked up the canned meat aisle…. I stopped dead in my tracks. There next to my beloved cans of classic SPAM were individual portions of my favorite mystery meat! Bless you Hormel for embracing moderation in your packaging! One easy open pouch of a “SPAM Single” has a 3 oz. slice (instead of the 12 oz. can). Just zip off the top and toss into a hot frying pan.

The single portion is just enough for me to savor my childhood… without bloating until my eyes burn.

So is the key to red meat the key to my happiness?

Whatever brings you joy, don’t you think?

==============

My Recipe for Spam Baked Pasta (It’s a family favorite and the kids love it!)

Ingredients:

1 can of Spam, sliced into thin pieces and fried

1 lb of pasta cooked (in unsalted water) and drained

5 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1 cup chopped red onion

1 teaspoon each hot red pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, pepper

Instructions:

Spam

Slice spam and grill or fry until browned.

Bechamel Sauce
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat butter until melted.

Add flour and stir until smooth.

Over medium heat, cook until light golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat milk in separate pan until just about to boil.

Add milk to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth and bring to a boil.

Cook 10 minutes and remove from heat.

Stir in Parmesan cheese.

Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mayo Onion Sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon each hot red pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, pepper
Mix all ingredients together and place in a pie plate or any baking dish.

Bake until golden brown on top, approximately 30 minutes.

Lower heat to 250

Mix Mayo Sauce with Bechamel sauce and add spam & pasta.

Bake in oven to warm through, then add cheese to top and broil top for a few minutes.


Okinawa – The Island of Pork

http://www.spam.com

http://www.okinawa.com

“The Key to Red Meat.” Written by Jo Stougaard ©MyLastBite.com All Rights Reserved. No usage allowed including copying or sharing without written permission.

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Filed under Family Stories, Food Stories (written by me)