Surprise Cake

The highlight of my Spain experience was meeting Maria. She is one of those people that you instantly fall in love with. The ones you know nothing about but want to spend all day walking with. For the last two days, I have been staying in her home with her, her husband, two children and second cousin. Having recently started following my blog and reading that it was my birthday of late, but I did not have a cake for it because I was up high in the air somewhere, she and her lovely cousin organised this. A surprise cake – which happened to be the most delicious cake I have ever tasted. In the words of Linda Grayson, “there is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” Thank you Maria for showing such selfless love to a complete stranger and for sweetening my year.

It’s My Birthday

And I’m off to Spain! But I wanted to tell you about my first (of hopefully many haha I joke I joke) birthday presents. First, THIS incredibly humbling blog-post by fellow blogger, Laura.
Second, pictures from my birthday eve, spent with a very special family. One who gave me their home, bicycle, fresh vegetables and unconditional love for an entire month then threw me this dinner and gave me these presents and money (osenbetu). I felt so embarrassed, I should have been doing that for them! But I am so joyful to have shared in the joy of such an evening on a birthday far from home.
Last, this message from Jose. I request PAELLA! Hehe, see you guys V V soon!

Easy Vegan Mexican Rice

Last night we had a little get together for D’s birthday. He’s the JET (that’s the program I’m here with) ALT (assistant language teacher) that’s been in Mimasaka “city” for the longest between him, A and me.

I am so thankful for D. If it wasn’t for him, I would have had to do a lot more biking around to find where I can purchase pretty plates, pay utility bills and buy avocados. Though if you can remember/have been following for that long, I still did A LOT of initial biking/adventuring around. But in all seriousness, D has been amazing and I would have had an even harder time surviving this place without his friendship and ability to speak both Japanese and English. Ari-ga-to brother.

Anywho, D is from Jamaica but since I don’t know anything about Jamaican food other than the incredible Jamaican banana fritters he made us once (sweet, savory and cinnamony all at the same time), I opted for Mexican cuisine seeing as it’s relatively easy to throw a Mexican/taco night.

From my previous experience of Mexican nights in Japan thus far…A and I stuck to the basics, mince, guacamole, chopped veggies, sour cream, jalapenos, shredded cheese and of course, tortillas. But this time, I also made a super easy/lazy but healthy “Mexican” vegan rice (below). For dessert/cake we simply topped a chocolate brownie with plain yoghurt and strawberries.

2 cups long-grain brown rice
1 onion, chopped small
2 cups frozen mixed carrot, peas and corn
1 can of preservative-free pinto beans, drained
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp hot chili powder
salt and pepper

First, cook rice as per packet instructions – this is probably the trickiest part… try not to over-cook like moi.

In a large pan, fry onion with a little oil until golden.

Add mixed veggies and stir-fry for 5-10 minutes.

Add everything else, pinto beans, tomatoes, turmeric, cumin, chili, salt and pepper and cooked rice then mix to combine.

Cook for a further 5 or so minutes or until everything’s steamin’.

Eat as a side-dish, as a main-dish or stuffed inside a burrito.