Tag Archives: family

Thankfully FUN.

Last year I flew to Scotland to celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad and step mum at our home in Bridge of Weir, a beautiful village near Glasgow. Having lost my mother earlier in the year, I just wanted to make an extra effort to be with my father for the holidays. We hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving together since we lived in Okinawa, back in the early 1970s. It was a wonderful celebration combining Scottish ingredients with American dishes (note: haggis stuffing).

My sister Janet organizes our family Thanksgiving here in Los Angeles. Not only is she a fantastic cook but she goes ALL OUT with a yearly theme for the day. Recent celebrations have included Greek, Caribbean, Southern and even a British Thanksgiving.

This year? Well, we’ve come up with a fun retro idea for 2014 that I’ll be sharing on instagram and twitter on Turkey Day. Or check back here at the end of the month for photos and a recap.

If you’re feeling less than excited about the usual Thanksgiving gathering, think about adding a theme to the day. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just a few ingredient changes (see below), inexpensive table settings and a trip to the thrift store if needed. Don’t take it TOO seriously… it’s all about having fun.

Photos from previous “theme” Thanksgiving meals:

Greek/Mediterranean 

Greek Thanksgiving 2010
Table setting (Greek)

Greek Thanksgiving 2010
Greek Thanksgiving Menu

Greek Thanksgiving 2010
Appetizers: Pita, Hummus and Saganaki Fried Cheese topped with plum and arugula.

Greek Thanksgiving 2010
Blue/White “Greek” Attire: My nephew Camron and his wife Jennee

Greek Thanksgiving 2010
Opa!

More photos from our Greek Thanksgiving

Southern

Southern Thanksgiving 2009
Southern libations!

Southern Thanksgiving 2009
Southern Thanksgiving Menu

Southern Thanksgiving 2009
Table setting (Southern)

Southern Thanksgiving 2009
Fried Green Tomatoes of course!

Southern Thanksgiving 2009
Uncle Peter carving the turkey (in his Southern overalls & bow tie!)

More photos from our Southern Thanksgiving

British

Thanksgiving 2012
Thanksgiving booze (British Theme)

Thanksgiving 2012
Menu (British Thanksgiving)

Janet (my sister) w her 3 sons: Chace, Cody and Camron. Thanksgiving 2012
My sister Janet and her three sons, Chace (left), Cody and Camron. Lots of plaid for “British” theme…

Kindal & Janet (my niece & my sister) Thanksgiving 2012
Janet and her daughter Kindal

I made Haggis Balls too! Thanksgiving 2012
Haggis BALLS (stuffing and haggis)

Lots of Scottish pride! Thanksgiving 2012
Great Scots! My husband Peter (left) and little brother, Greg.

More photos from our British Thanksgiving

Caribbean

Caribbean Thanksgiving 2008
Caribbean Thanksgiving Menu

Caribbean Thanksgiving 2008
Caribbean table setting

Caribbean Thanksgiving 2008
Bacon wrapped pineapple

Caribbean Thanksgiving 2008
Limbo of course!

Caribbean Thanksgiving 2008
Group shot (Caribbean Thanksgiving 2008)

More photos from our Caribbean Thanksgiving

Again, it’s all about sharing laughs and gathering around the family table. Enjoy and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

P.S. My favorite way to use up leftover stuffing? >

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Filed under 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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Filed under Family Stories, Little Bites

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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Filed under Family Stories, Travel

Guinness Steak Pie

Jamie Oliver’s
Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie with a Puff Pastry Lid

If you’re searching for a St. Patrick’s Day supper recipe (or a hearty meal to warm your spirits), this is a delicious alternative to the traditional pot of corned beef and cabbage, especially if you’re a “meat pie” lover like me.

Steak & Guinness Pie, MyLastBite.com

The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s terrific cookbook “Jamie at Home”, which coincides with his show on Food Network. The episode with this recipe is called “Pastry”, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

This dish is now a St. Paddy’s Day tradition in our house, and it’s always a hit with friends and family.

My changes to the original recipe are noted in orange.

Ingredients

Olive oil
3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
1 oz butter plus extra for greasing
Steak & Guinness Pie Photo 2, MyLastBite.com2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery trimmed and chopped
4 field mushrooms peeled and sliced
2 1/2 pound brisket or stewing beef cut in to 1 inch cubes
a few sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 can of Guinness beer

(Instead I used 2 bottles ofGuinness Draught, 11.2 oz size bottles)
2 heaped tablespoons of flour
7 oz freshly grated cheddar cheese
2 sheets of ready made good quality all butter puff pastry
1 large organic free range egg, beaten

(I also added 1 chopped Jalapeno for heat)

Steak & Guinness Pie Photo 3, MyLastBite.com

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large ovenproof pan, heat a glug of olive oil on a low heat. Add the onions and fry them gently for about ten minutes – try not to color them too much.

Turn up the heat add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery, jalapenos and scatter in the mushrooms. Mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of slat and a level teaspoon of pepper.

Steak & Guinness Pie Photo 4, MyLastBite.comFry fast for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in one bottle of Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about one (1) and 1/2 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and give the stew a stir. Put it back in to the oven and continue to cook it for another hour or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich dark and thick. (I added another half bottle of Guinness at this point).

Jamie notes: “A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the hob (stove top) and reduce until the sauce thickens.”

Remove it from the heat and stir in half of the cheese, then season carefully and leave it to cool slightly.

Cut about a third of the pastry from the block. Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll both pieces of pastry out evenly with a floured rolling pin to the thickness of a pound coin.

Butter an appropriately sized pie dish then line with the larger sheet, leaving the edges dangling over the sides.

Tip (pour or spoon) the stew into your pastry lined dish and even it out before sprinkling the remaining cheese over it.

Guinness Steak Pie

Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg.

Guinness Steak Pie

Cut the other rolled sheet of pastry to fit the top of the pie dish and criss-cross lightly with a sharp knife. Place it over the top of the pie and fold the overhanging pastry on to the pastry lid to make it look nice and rustic.

Brush the top with beaten egg then bake the pie directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes until the pastry is cooked puffed and golden.

Guinness Steak Pie

Serves 4 to 6

Guinness Steak Pie

Jamie Oliver’s Official Website

“Jamie at Home” on Food Network

If you have the U.K. version of the book “Jamie Oliver at Home”, it’s on page 342.

I use this Gram Conversion Calculator

Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Originally posted Mar 13, 2009

13 Comments

Filed under Recipes

Rum Cake

I rarely make desserts. I don’t bake cookies over the holidays or even like sweets all that much. Every few years I’ll make a tasty bread pudding with whiskey cream, using the last of the Glenmorangie Scotch I’ll have brought back from Scotland (while visiting my family). I know I can buy Glenmorangie here in the U.S., but there’s something about my dad tucking it in my overstuffed suitcase, the night before I’m heading home, that makes it more special.

There is one little cake that I do make each and every year, and that would be the classic Bacardi Rum Cake (I KNOW, more alcohol!). My sister and I loved when our grandma would make it for the holidays, because it was so “grown-up” tasting with the aromatic Bacardi glaze. 

I’ve always called my version “Spring Rum Cake” because I top it with powdered sugar and pretty edible flowers. My husband Peter loves when I surprise him with it every year, and instead of dessert he likes it in the morning with coffee.

This Sunday is Easter and I’ll be making it over the weekend for sure. Luckily for me, my good friend Afaf recently gave me a gorgeous bottle of Depaz Blue Cane Rum, so I’ll use that instead of the classic Bacardi. The recipe is super easy and always a crowd pleaser.

Rum Cake for Easter, MyLastBite.com

Rum Cake Ingredients:
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 18 ½ oz pkg butter cake mix
1 pkg Vanilla Pudding 
4 eggs
½ cup cold water
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup of your favorite dark Rum

Glaze Ingredients:
1 stick of butter
¼ cup of water
1 cup sugar
½ cup dark Rum

Topping:
1 Package of Edible Flowers
Powder Sugar

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Nonstick spray bundt pan
Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan
Mix all cake ingredients together
Mix on high for one minute.
Poor batter over nuts.
Bake 1 hour

Meanwhile make Glaze:
Melt butter in saucepan.
Stir in water and sugar.
Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Off the heat, carefully stir in the rum. 

After removing cake from oven, cool in pan then invert onto a serving plate.

Using a toothpick or fork, prick holes on top for glaze.

Next, drizzle glaze over top of cake. Go slowly so the glaze sinks in the cake.

Add powdered sugar and arrange fresh flowers on top.

Mentioned above:

My dad in Scotland

Glenmorangie Scotch

My sister

Afaf

Peter

Depaz Rum

Bacardi Rum

Note: The lovely “Sunflower” cake pan I use can be purchased on Amazon

Rum Cake on Foodista

5 Comments

Filed under Recipes

Guinness Steak Pie

Jamie Oliver’s
Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie with a Puff Pastry Lid

If you’re searching for a St. Patrick’s Day supper recipe (or a hearty meal to warm your spirits), this is a delicious alternative to the traditional pot of corned beef and cabbage, especially if you’re a “meat pie” lover like me.

Steak & Guinness Pie, MyLastBite.com

The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s terrific cookbook “Jamie at Home”, which coincides with his show on Food Network. The episode with this recipe is called “Pastry”, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

This dish is now a St. Paddy’s Day tradition in our house, and it’s always a hit with friends and family.

My changes to the original recipe are noted in orange.

Ingredients

Olive oil
3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
1 oz butter plus extra for greasing
Steak & Guinness Pie Photo 2, MyLastBite.com2 carrots peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery trimmed and chopped
4 field mushrooms peeled and sliced
2 1/2 pound brisket or stewing beef cut in to 1 inch cubes
a few sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 can of Guinness beer

(Instead I used 2 bottles of Guinness Draught, 11.2 oz size bottles)
2 heaped tablespoons of flour
7 oz freshly grated cheddar cheese
2 sheets of ready made good quality all butter puff pastry
1 large organic free range egg, beaten

(I also added 1 chopped Jalapeno for heat)

Steak & Guinness Pie Photo 3, MyLastBite.com

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large ovenproof pan, heat a glug of olive oil on a low heat. Add the onions and fry them gently for about ten minutes – try not to color them too much.

Turn up the heat add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery, jalapenos and scatter in the mushrooms. Mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of slat and a level teaspoon of pepper.

Steak & Guinness Pie Photo 4, MyLastBite.comFry fast for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in one bottle of Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about one (1) and 1/2 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and give the stew a stir. Put it back in to the oven and continue to cook it for another hour or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich dark and thick. (I added another half bottle of Guinness at this point).

Jamie notes: “A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the hob (stove top) and reduce until the sauce thickens.”

Remove it from the heat and stir in half of the cheese, then season carefully and leave it to cool slightly.

Steak & Guinness Pie Photo 5, MyLastBite.comCut about a third of the pastry from the block. Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll both pieces of pastry out evenly with a floured rolling pin to the thickness of a pound coin.

Butter an appropriately sized pie dish then line with the larger sheet, leaving the edges dangling over the sides.

Tip (pour or spoon) the stew into your pastry lined dish and even it out before sprinkling the remaining cheese over it.

Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg.

Cut the other rolled sheet of pastry to fit the top of the pie dish and criss-cross lightly with a sharp knife. Place it over the top of the pie and fold the overhanging pastry on to the pastry lid to make it look nice and rustic.

Brush the top with beaten egg then bake the pie directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes until the pastry is cooked puffed and golden.

Serves 4 to 6
Jamie Oliver's Steak & Guinness Pie

Jamie Oliver’s Official Website

“Jamie at Home” on Food Network

If you have the U.K. version of the book “Jamie Oliver at Home”, it’s on page 342.

I use this Gram Conversion Calculator

Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry

9 Comments

Filed under Recipes

Sri Siam Café [4]

My friend Laur invited me to lunch yesterday and suggested we go to Sri Siam Café, our favorite, local Thai joint. She wanted me to meet her niece Sherry, an intensive care nurse visiting from Chicago. I was totally fascinated with all of her exciting hospital stories, especially about the time she got to hold someone’s lungs during surgery (she said they felt “spongy”). Obviously it wouldn’t be appropriate lunch conversation for everyone, but for three gals with iron stomachs (sitting there filling ourselves with fiery Thai goodness), it was perfectly lovely.

Spicy Basil Seafood at Sri Siam, MyLastBite.com
I ordered the Spicy Basil Seafood with pan-fried Squid, Mussels, Shrimp, Sole, Peppers and Chilies. The dish came with rice and an eggroll and is not on the regular menu. Look for it on the “All Day Special” menu. $11.50

Succulent Grilled Chicken at Sri Siam, MyLastBite.com
Sherry ordered the Succulent Grilled Chicken over Egg Noodles. $5.95 (#91 on the regular menu)

Panang at Sri Siam, MyLastBite.com
Laur ordered the Panang Chicken cooked with Red Peanut Curry Paste and Coconut Milk. $6.95 (#66 on the regular menu)

Thai Chili at Sri Siam, MyLastBite.com
Beautiful Thai Chili Sauce on the table

On each visit I’m trying to taste a new dish, but the one thing I have to order EVERY time is the Crispy Rice Salad with Sour Sausage (Nam). It’s tangy, spicy deliciousness!

Sri Siam has over 100 dishes listed on the regular menu, plus ten dishes on the “Specials” menu. If none of those delights interest you, then you can always check out the “Off Menu” items listed here (you may need some help with the translation).

Sri Siam Café
12843  Vanowen St.
North Hollywood, CA 91605
818 892-6262

All my Sri Siam Photos on Flickr

Sri Siam Café  Website

Dining Date: 2/26/09 (Visit #4)

Visit #3 to Sri Siam (with photos)

Visit # 1 & 2 (with photos)

Sri Siam Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Eating Out