milestones and okonomiyaki

It’s been a week of milestones in the Frels household.

Within a single week, we celebrated 10 years as a couple and 6 months as parents. And with only a little bit of effort, each milestone was recognized with its due significance.

On April 20th, we enlisted our friend Mary Anne to spend the evening with Lilia so we could commemorate our 10-year dating anniversary. [Yep, we’re officially that old.]

While Lilia was giggling at gorilla noises and sleeping soundly in her crib, we were enjoying a meal of homemade french fries and pan-seared scallops [in honor of our first date] and listening to the sounds of Wagner as performed by the Colorado Symphony at Boettcher Concert Hall.

We’re not ones to put too much weight on anniversaries, but we felt 10 years together warranted something weird and bold like The Ring Without Words — a performance we had been looking forward to for more than a year.


Four days later, we found ourselves living with a six-month old and making okonomiyaki.

Back up. Context…

We are those bizarre parents who counter every “it goes by so fast” remark thrown at us with a big, fat “NOPE.” Those first three months of parenthood were definitely the longest months of our lives, and the following three months were no cake walk either.

That said, we acknowledge we have at last approached a hard-earned groove of parenting whereby time is being measured by days and weeks rather than hours. It is also defined by incredibly fun activities like sitting up, peak-a-boo, scooching on the floor, uninterrupted nights of sleep, and [finally!] new foods. Her love of sweet potatoes and avocados is infectious, and her “assistance” in the kitchen is a blast.

It is because of this engaging half-year turning point that we are once again enjoying flavor experimentation in the kitchen. So what better way to celebrate it than by making something completely out of the ordinary?

Enter: okonomiyaki and our dear friends, Joe and Lindsay.

You might remember Joe and Lindsay from our adventures in Aspen a couple of years ago. We were first introduced to them while they were living abroad in Japan and have fond memories of FaceTiming with them in D.C. while pursuing our first [somewhat failed] attempt at okonomiyaki. We never forgot that hilarious international cooking fiasco and thought we would use their visit to Denver as an excuse for a re-do.

Their arrival on the 24th — on Lilia’s half-year-iversary — was met with absolute joy and excitement. That’s because even though Joe and Lindsay live in Fort Wayne, IN, every reunion with them is guaranteed to involve good food, good drink, and good company. Case in point:

Not only did they stop by the Asian market to pick up the essentials, but they also helped guide us through the intricacies of okonomiyaki and the many variations the dish can take on. It was one of the most interactive and fun evenings in the kitchen we’ve had in a long time, and it was further enhanced by conversations about faith and travel and tastes of some of our favorite sipping souvenirs from Greece.

Six hours into their visit, and we still weren’t ready for them to leave.

We didn’t plan on Lilia’s six-month milestone to coincide with Joe and Lindsay’s arrival, but the fortuitous nature of both was nothing short of magical. And sure — Lilia may have been long asleep during our okonomiyaki masterclass together, but we hope she will eventually come to appreciate the magic of having loved ones gathered around the table. It’s the type of magic we have no doubt she will experience over the course of many family milestones to come.

[She is a Frels after all!]



Okonomiyaki is essentially a savory Japanese pancake, and the best thing about it besides its amazing flavor is its flexibility. The name “okonomiyaki” literally translates as “grill how you like”, meaning each person is able to add his or her own fillings according to preference. The only requirement is minced cabbage, otherwise the options are limitless. Our favorites include a combination of shrimp and pork alongside shredded carrots and minced bell pepper, though other possible fillings range from calamari, scallops, ginger, and Yakisoba noodles to corn, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and pickle relish. The ingredients below will make one personal-sized yet very filling pancake, which can then be repeated based on the number of people joining in on the okonomiyaki feast.


Makes one (1) personal-sized pancake
* Denotes ingredients you will most likely need to purchase from an Asian cooking supply store
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. water or dashi [made by simmering water, *kombu, and *bonito flakes together]
  • 1/4 c. rice crispies or tempura crumbles
  • 3/4 c. cabbage, minced
  • ~ 1/4 c. cooked shrimp [calamari or scallops can also work]
  • ~ 1/4 c. cooked pork [ground pork, kielbasa, pork belly — whatever you want!]
  • ~ 1/8 c. [1 oz.] carrot, finely grated
  • ~ 1/8 c. [1 oz.] bell pepper, finely chopped
  • *Okonomi sauce [Otafuku is a common brand]
  • *Kewpie [Japanese mayo]
  • *Bonito flakes
  • Green onions and/or dried seaweed flakes
1. Heat grill pan or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Coat with vegetable oil.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour and egg together with a fork until well combined.
2. Add in water and gently stir until combined. Stir in rice crispies.
3. Add cabbage and fillings of your choice [e.g. sausage, shrimp, vegetables], ensuring batter still stays together.
4. Pour batter onto hot pan, forming a 3/4″ thick pancake. Cook uncovered about 4 minutes on each side until dark golden brown.
5. Remove from pan and baste with Okonomi sauce while warm. Drizzle Kewpie in zig-zag lines on top and finish with a garnish of Bonito flakes and green onion.


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