Jan 15, 2021

My Grandma’s Sushi Vinegar Recipe + How to Make Sushi Rice

I've been mentioning my grandma's sushi vinegar recipe over on Facebook for months now. My aunt sent it to me, and it was mind-boggling, because the original recipe called for a whopping 5 pounds of sugar and 6 cups of rice vinegar. My grandmother made a lot of sushi, so it probably didn't take her that long to go through the jug of sushi vinegar that recipe made, but there was no way I was going to commit to making that much. 

When I scaled the recipe down, I found it on the sweet side, so I made a few adjustments. I've been very happy with this version, which I store in a mason jar in the fridge. It would probably keep for years, but I make chirashizushi - bowls of sushi rice topped with sashimi and other accoutrements - about once a week. The amount of sushi vinegar produced by the recipe below lasts three to four months in my house.

Grandma’s Sushi Vinegar 
Makes approximately 2 cups

10 oz granulated sugar (I use organic sugar, which lends a brownish color to the final product, but the rice is still white)
1 1/2 cups rice vinegar 
2 tablespoons kosher salt 

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely and store in a glass jar in the fridge. 
A sideview of my jar of sushi vinegar (looks like it's got about one week's worth left) and the 8x8 glass pan I use to mix the vinegar and rice.

To use: For each cup of cooked rice, use three tablespoons of sushi vinegar. Transfer the rice to a shallow dish with a flat bottom (a wooden bowl like this one is traditional, but I just use a glass baking dish). Gently pour the sushi vinegar over the rice, then combine with a rice paddle, using cutting motions to cool the rice, taking care not to smash it. Cover with a damp dishcloth until serving so the rice doesn’t dry out. (Note: I only cook rice in a rice cooker, so I can't give you directions. I have this one, which I got last year and love.)


A bowl of sushi rice topped with hamachi (yellowtail), shredded egg, shredded nori (dried seaweed), and wakame (reconstituted seaweed). I put a cherry tomato in there to break up the dark colors, but it really doesn't belong. 😂



Dec 22, 2020

Happy Holidays!


I've been surprised that even though we can't have any family gatherings this year, the holiday season has still been quite busy. I feel like things are winding down, though - gifts have all been sent and delivered, holiday cards are (mostly) all in the mail, and of course, decorations have been up for a while. (I joined this year's early decorating trend and got the tree up just before Thanksgiving, which I've never done.)

I'm sure I'm not the only one ready to put 2020 in the rear view, but in the meantime, I'm going to try to make this year's Christmas a memorable one, or at least, an enjoyable one. For me, of course, that means good food, so I'm sharing my menu plans in case you need some ideas. 

Tonight, we're having just appetizers, so I'm trying my hand at a new stuffed mushroom recipe and sausage balls, which are apparently a southern staple. I'll also be making this fruit dip and Ina Garten's pan-fried onion dip.

On Christmas Eve, we'll have filet mignon, cheesy pull-apart garlic bread, cauliflower puree, and some kind of potato dish, quite possibly these scalloped potatoes. (I'm skipping Wednesday, when we're having a super easy meal of baked ziti, using frozen sauce, because I have a busy day of orthodontist appointments and a school Zoom meeting.)

Our Christmas breakfast will be this breakfast casserole and some kind of bread (I'm leaning toward this monkey bread). Christmas dinner will be a copycat Honey Baked ham, streuseled sweet potato casserole (there's a small one in the freezer from Thanksgiving), roasted Brussels sprouts, and some kind of bread, probably better-than-Domino's garlic bread.

Of course, there will also be gifts, Zoom calls, and hopefully lots of family time.

I wish you and your loved ones the happiest, healthiest, safest holiday season. Thank you for being a part of the CFO family!

If this is a sad season for you, please know that you are not alone. There are many reasons to be struggling at this time of year. If you would like me to pray for you, please feel free to leave a comment, reach out on social media, send me an email, or use the contact form on this page.

Nov 30, 2020

QVC Holiday Shopping Guide + FIVE Chances to Win a $100 QVC Gift Card

This post is sponsored by Sivan Social and contains affiliate links. All comments and opinions are my own, honest opinions. Read my disclosure policy here.

One of the first things I learned about my mother-in-law more than twenty years ago was that she loves QVC. At the time, I'd heard of QVC and knew it to be the shopping channel on TV, but I didn't know much else.

It wasn't long before I learned that they sell, well, almost everything.

Over the years, I've been the lucky recipient of countless items of clothing, shoes, jewelry, lotion, and even food! I've also made my own purchases, including my most favorite pair of shoes, which are sadly no longer available (because I'd totally get a second pair).

 

As I write this, I'm wearing a camo-pattern Cuddl Duds Fleecewear Stretch Button Front Blazer Cardi (currently available in Fig Heather and Animal print, on clearance for just $19.98 - it's so soft!). I've been the happy recipient of many Cuddl Duds items, and lately, I've been loving the goat-milk lotion and soap by Beekman 1802.

 

QVC has become one of the stores I regularly turn to when I don't know what gift to get for someone. Here are just a few of the items I think would make great gifts this holiday season:

For the ladies in your life, QVC has a huge selection of name-brand beauty products, including Philosophy, Clinique, tarte, and more. You can get the Urban Decay Stoned Vibes 4-piece Holiday Hall of Fame set for just $24.50, Clinique's Detox & Defend set for just $19.50, or a 3-pack of Fizz & Bubble Large Bath Fizzies in Birthday Cake for just $18 (fun stocking stuffer!). But, since the pandemic has made it risky to visit nail salons, the best gift might be the Stedi-Pedi Home Pedicure Folding Platform with LED Light for just $24.33:



Alternatively, who doesn't love jewelry? QVC has SO MUCH to choose from. My mother-in-law has gifted me many pieces over the years, and I can say that they're all excellent quality. While you won't find heirloom pieces that will make a jeweler swoon, you can find something for every style and taste. There's a nice selection of gift ideas for under $25 and cute Disney jewelry, but my taste admittedly runs toward the expensive yet simple, so I want to highlight the Affinity Diamond Snowflake Necklace, which is a pricey $1,709.10:



The category my mother-in-law gifts to me most often is fashion, and I actually have favorite brands. My jeans are all from Denim & Co., and my favorite jackets are Cuddl Duds (one of the major benefits of living in Southern California is that I rarely need a heavy coat). So imagine my delight in discovering that Cuddl Duds makes pants and socks! And given that my current favorite thing to wear is Cuddle Duds fleece, these Cuddl Duds Fleecewear Stretch Lounge Pants ($32) are going on my holiday wishlist:


There's also the Cuddl Duds Ultra Plush Velvet Fleece Pullover Pajama Set ($33.98), which has got to be perfect for winter:


And if you need a stocking stuffer, QVC also has this adorable set of 3 MUK LUKS Jojoba Infused Shearling Ankle Cabin Socks ($22.12):



Finally, I like to give consumable gifts to older folks who don't need more "stuff." QVC has a huge selection of food items, from big names like Cheryl's, Junior's, and Harry & David. But you'll also find unusual items, like Small Batch Organics (granola), Claxton (fruit cake), and Liberty Orchards (fruit & nut candies). In fact, the Small Batch Organics Granola Bark Sampler ($39.29) would make a fantastic gift for a foodie:



Best of all? Savings.com is giving away FIVE $100 QVC e-gift cards!


Enter for your chance to win here, and check out the official rules here. Good luck!

Nov 21, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving! (a CFO update + my holiday meal plan)

I know Thanksgiving isn't until Thursday, but I'm starting my prep today by taking the turkey out of the freezer to begin defrosting. So I wanted to say a heartfelt THANK YOU for reading and following CFO.


This site has been through a lot since I started it in June 2005. That's right, CFO is 15 years old! There have been so many iterations, and you might have guessed from the dearth of posts lately that I'm trying to figure out what the latest version should be.

Rest assured, CFO isn't going anywhere. It's as much my baby as my two children. But like my children, it changes. Last year, I turned away from deal blogging, though I still love good deals (and I've got a post coming up that'll share some). After a year in which the world (and I) have changed a lot, I'm still trying to find the right voice for the CFO of right now.

I've decided that the best thing I can do is give myself grace, and I hope you'll give me grace also. I'll be around, but not on any set schedule, to share things I think you'll find interesting. And I'll try to stay active on social media, especially Facebook, where I enjoy sharing links.

In the meantime, I wanted to share my Thanksgiving menu, and the plan I have for preparing it. As a bit of background, I'm cooking for two families this year (we'll be delivering a meal to the other family).
  • Aunty Toki's Cranberry Sauce (this is my great-aunt's recipe, which I'll share at some point - I have to unearth it first!)
  • Pumpkin Magic Cake (I don't want to make a pie, which no one really loves, but I wanted something pumpkin for dessert, and I plan on topping this with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice, so it should be pretty)
There will also be some kind of salad (of the bagged variety), and I'm contemplating one more vegetable, like sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts.

Here's my timeline:
  • Saturday: Take turkey out of freezer
  • Monday: Brine the turkey according to the recipe
  • Tuesday: Cut the sweet potatoes and bake cornbread for the stuffing
  • Wednesday: Remove plastic wrap from turkey, cook the sweet potatoes (up until the baking), bake the cake, and make the cranberry sauce
  • Thursday: Roast the turkey, bake the sweet potatoes, and make and bake the stuffing
I have two ovens, which is what makes this plan possible, although I'm considering baking the stuffing in the slow cooker. If you've done this, how'd it go?

Again, Happy Thanksgiving, and THANK YOU for reading CFO!

Oct 20, 2020

One Way to Thank Delivery Drivers

 This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO's full disclosure here.

When the pandemic first hit and widespread quarantining was ordered, everyone began getting more things delivered. My family already got a lot of deliveries, but since I wasn't going into stores, we ordered even more.

It didn't take long to start seeing cute ideas for how to thank delivery people like UPS and FedEx drivers. There were lots of signs, and people even put out snacks and drinks that drivers could grab. This Instagram post went viral (I saw it everywhere). At a time when stores couldn't keep toilet paper on the shelves, it seemed especially generous.

Because of how our house is situated, I didn't feel comfortable putting out a box of anything. But I wanted to do something. It took a couple of months because I couldn't get individually wrapped wipes for a while, but I finally started posting this on our front door:

I use free thank-you cards from Shutterfly, write a short note of gratitude, and use double-stick tape to attach individual packets of wipes. Then I use masking tape to attach the card to the front door.


Not all delivery drivers take a wipe, but they go pretty quickly. I hope it brightens their day and comes in handy.

The wipes pictured are Wet Ones Tropical Splash, which have a scent reminiscent of sunscreen. They're antibacterial, which I figure is a good thing for delivery drivers. Before I could get the Wet Ones, however, I was using Giovanni Mixed Scents Sanitizing Towelettes, which come in Grapefruit, Lavender and Peppermint, and smell amazing. They also look more upscale thanks to the silver wrapper. I can't help but wonder if they'd actually be preferred, even though they're "sanitizing" and not antibacterial. (There's a 10% off coupon when you Subscribe & Save at Amazon right now.)

When the wipes have all been taken, I start over with a new card. Fortunately, Shutterfly has had lots of free codes so I've been able to stay stocked on cards. (I post codes on Facebook if you're interested.)

Do you do anything to thank delivery drivers?

Oct 7, 2020

How to Make Yourself Do Stuff (When You Don't Feel Like Doing Stuff)

Today, we're revisiting a post about ways to leap into action from January 2019, because I'm feeling sluggish. I can easily identify the causes for my feelings, all pandemic-related.

I've mostly been cooped up in the house. I've barely seen my friends. I haven't seen my parents (and I'm an only child). My children are home, so in some respects, it feels like all I do is make meals and do dishes and laundry. A substantial part of my sluggishness relates to house-cleaning.

We've talked about the sixth month wall, and the way through it seems to involve a lot of self-care. In my case, that means a lot of down time - reading, playing video games, cooking, and even crocheting.

But the house isn't going to clean itself. Masks aren't going to sew themselves. These posts aren't going to write themselves.

So I'm turning to tips I shared last year that have helped pushed me into motion in the past. I might not get everything on my to-do list crossed out, but it's a win if I get even a few of them done. I hope they help you, too!

Quick Ways to Leap into Action
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- Use the 2-minute rule and start by doing an activity that takes 2 minutes or less but helps you build momentum. For example, if you need to make dinner, start by doing something that takes less than 2 minutes, like washing the lettuce for the salad. (Read more about the 2-minute rule at JamesClear.com.)

- Listen to upbeat music. We all have our favorites, but some of mine include Timber, Can't Stop the Feeling, Fix and Shut Up and Dance.

- Pair another activity. Let yourself do something you want to do with something you don't feel like doing. For example, I listen to my favorite podcasts while I'm vacuuming.

- Do some jumping jacks, pushups or yoga. Sometimes all you need to do is get the blood flowing.

- Just do one thing. This is similar to the first tip, in that hopefully you'll build momentum, but even if you don't, at least you got one thing done. For example, I often tell myself I just have to clean the downstairs bathroom - it's small, so it takes less than ten minutes, but I always feel like I really accomplished something when I'm done.

- Call or text a friend. Sometimes we just need some encouragement. Kids are actually pretty good at this, especially younger ones. I'm finding that teens are a whole different story. But once your child encourages you to do something, you really can't say no.

- Enlist a buddy. Usually this means someone who lives with you, like your spouse, roommate or child, since they're right there and can do an activity with you. But friends who aren't in your immediate vicinity can work too - maybe you can both vacuum, and then report back to each other. (If you're now thinking that my least favorite things to do involve cleaning the house, you'd be correct.)

- Think about giving a gift to your future self. Sometimes knowing how happy you'll be in the future that you accomplished a task now is enough to get you going.

- Keep a running to-do list. Crossing things off a to-do list is gratifying, sometimes disproportionately so.

- Think of three things you're grateful for. Nothing changes improves an attitude faster than gratitude. Remembering the good things in your life can give you a huge energy boost.

How do you get yourself going when you feel lethargic?

Sep 29, 2020

Getting Past the Sixth Month Wall

 About a week ago, I stumbled on a Twitter thread by Dr. Aisha Ahmad, who said, "I *always* hit a wall 6 months into a tough assignment in a disaster zone."

She noted that we are six months into the pandemic, and "at best, we are only 1/3 the way through this marathon." She then offered suggestions for how we can get through this:

It's all very reassuring, especially since lately I've felt - not depressed ... more weary. Now I have hope and faith that in a few weeks, I'll feel more like myself. And hopefully you will, too!