Thursday, December 30, 2004


Toshikoshi-soba: Wishing you a long life.

This is what we eat on New Year’s eve, but I’m posting it a little earlier. On the 31st, I’ll be at my paretns’ house which is apx. 100km away from my PC.

It’s our custom to eat soba noodle soup (better not be instant one like this) on New Year’s eve, and it is called “toshikoshi-soba." Toshikoshi means “to say goodbye to the passing year and welcome the new year.” Since soba noodles are long, they are associated with ”long life,” and by eating them we wish to stay healthy in the coming year. (Don’t ask me why it has to be soba and not udon or ramen noodles which are also long.) You have to finish eating toshikoshi-soba before midnight.

I’ll eat real toshikoshi-soba at my parents’ on the 31st, and I guess my sister is going to be in charge of making it.


Well, this is going to be my last post of this year.
To all readers: Thank you so much for visiting my site this year.
It has been a great year because of you.

I wish you and yours a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!!

I’ll be back on Jan. 3rd, 2005, with bunch of pics of our traditional foods for the New Year’s day :D

(If interested, visit my another blog to see my New Year's template :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tomato Stew

Tomato Stew with lots of vegs.

Now it’s the busiest time of the year for me. I’m leaving for my parents’ house tomorrow afternoon, so I need to get a lot of things done before that. For that reason, my meals these days tend to be one-pot dish which is also a good “fridge-cleaning” dish. This is the perfect example. I made a huge amount of it and re-heating it over and over ;)

Monday, December 27, 2004

To Rest My Stomach - Chirashizushi & Butajiru -

Chirashizushi (uncaked sushi) and Butajiru (Pork miso soup)

Maybe you’re thinking that after all those cooking/baking for Christmas, obachan must be taking an easy way out? You’re absolutely right. My dinner last night was Chirashizushi and butajiru, and I used an instant chirashizushi mix in retort pouch.

This instant chirashizushi mix used to be for 4 servings, and I always hesitated to buy one worrying about having too much leftovers. Now they have a smaller unit (one serving) :D
I'm sure I'll be buying it often.

All I had to do to make this sushi was mix cooked rice with the ingredients in the pouch and top with the nori (dried seaweed) strips which also come with the instant ingredients. I didn't even prepare kinshi-tamago (shredded thin egg sheet).


is also called tonjiru ("buta" and "ton" are different pronunciations of the same chinese character representing "pork," and "jiru" means soup.)
This is my favorite miso soup. For me this soup is easier to season than other kinds of miso soup. Usually, when used light-tasting ingredients only, like tofu, daikon etc., the flavor of dashi and miso has more importance in the taste, so you need to use the right amount for the delicate teste of the soup. But when with pork, the meat seems to determine the taste mostly and you can’t really fail---unless you use ridiculously too much or too little miso.

It was a quick and easy meal after coming back from a bowling game yesterday ;)


Ingredients (1 cup = 200cc) 3 servings
3 cups water
(1 tsp instant dashi (fish stock) powder…optional)
1 Tbsp sake
3 1/2 to 4 Tblsp miso paste
80g thinly sliced pork
1 yam or potato
30g carrot
50g daikon radish
(1 tsp salad oil…optional)
(20g burdock, shredded … optional)
(a little konnyaku, diced… optional)
Some minced scallion

Peel and cut daikon radish, carrot and yam (potato) into icho-giri or ginkgo leaf shape. (Scroll down and see "cutting vegetables".) If using burdock, shred like the“sogi-giri” as shown in the same site. Cut pork into bite-size. Heat salad oil in a pot and sauté the meat and vegetables. Add water and dashi powder. (If you like lighter taste, skip sautéing and just put raw ingredients in the water to boil.) Bring to boil. Skim off the scum that rises to the surface. Add sake. When ingredients are cooked, reduce or turn off the heat and dissolve miso into the soup. Turn the heat up very briefly and remove from heat as soon as it starts boiling. Do not boil too long after adding miso to the soup. Sprinkle minced scallion on top and serve.

My mom doesn't saute the ingredients, so I usually don't do that, either.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

My Christmas 2004

I had fun….! :D
And I want to share with all of you the fun I had on the day of Christmas this year.

Main dish -- Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Potatoes
To be honest, this was a little disappointment. Though I didn’t put so much, the lemon made the whole dish a little too sour. And the chicken wasn’t very juicy like the one I cooked for Thanksgiving. But I liked the fragrance of rosemary and garlic. Served with buttered rice and lettus & tomato salad.

Now the sweets...

Gingerbread people and maccha cookies

Thumbprint cookies with Cherry Jam in the Center

Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies
Very moist and not too sweet. My favorite.

And Fruitcake!!
I like this... maybe because I didn't put any ingredients that I don't like. Will try again next year!

My Christmas Dinner 2004
These dishes are actually much smaller than you may think from the way they look in the photo, but they were indeed all over my small Kotatsu table. This sure made me feel like a very rich woman.
It was wonderful to have dinner with the candle light.

And here it is...

The Gingerbread house!
I learned a lesson this year... Some decorations should be done before assembling.

Well, thanks for reading and

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season.

*** Merry Christmas ***

Friday, December 24, 2004

On Christmas Eve

Wanna take a look at the Christmas template for my another blog ?
(For 24th and 25th only. Don't forget to scroll down;))

So much for the Christmas template. It's just snowing there now. Thanks for visiting :)
New Year's template will follow soon.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Macou's Bagel Cafe

I forgot the name of this bagel sandwich, but it was good.

Today is a national holiday here and I was stupid enough to forget about it and decide to do end-of-year gift shopping today. Even in this underpopulated city, it was so crowded everywhere I went. I got so tired and didn’t feel like preparing lunch after going back to my apartment, so I bought this at my favorite bagel place, Macou’s Bagel Café. There they make you a bagel sandwich with the bagel of your choice. My choice was “super onion” bagel today. I love the combination of smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel. But my No.1 favorite is cream cheese on a toasted “cinnamon raisin bagel.” Hmmmm….

Oh, BTW, they have Yomogi bagels at Macou's. How about that ;)

Macou's Bagel Cafe
Ohashi-dori Minami, Kochi city
Open:10:00 - 22:00
Closed on Wed
1 min. walk from "Ohashi-dori" tram stop

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Takikomi Gohan in Donabe - Japanese Pilaf cooked in Claypot -

Tori (chicken) Takikomi Gohan (Japanese-style Plaf)

This post is now being modified.
Please wait until I post it again with better instruction and more information.

** Thank you for your patience. **

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Baking for Christmas

How’s your Christmas baking going? From Monday on I’m going to be busy with both daytime and night-time work, so I did the biggest part of the baking this weekend.

So, I got this much done. I’m not making too many cookies this year, but ***** I gave gingerbread house a try!! *****Here’s what I did.

1) Maccha (ground green tea) cookies

I’ve worked hard to make my own maccha cookie recipe this year, and this is as far as I got. No more maccha cookie experiments for the rest of the year! I got tired :(

What was so difficult? Well, I once tried out a shortbread-type “maccha cookie balls” recipe I found on the net, and I liked them. Then I got this crazy idea of making tree-shaped maccha cookies for Christmas, and started making changes to the recipe. I didn’t want to lose the shortbread-like texture, but at the same time wanted to cut them into shapes with cookie cutters. So this recipe is what I came up with… the best I can do at this point.

Maccha (ground green tea) cookies
85g butter
40g sugar
100g flour
1 1/2 to 2 tsp maccha (ground green tea)
20g almond powder
1/2 tsp cornstarch
Less than 1/8 tsp baking powder

Cream butter, add sugar and mix well. Sift all the dry ingredients together and add to the butter& sugar mixture. Mix well and pat into a ball. (It’s very dry so you need to really press with hands.)

To make maccha cookie balls … Rest the dough in fridge for apx. 15 min. Preheat oven to 170C. Shape dough into small balls, roll in granulated sugar, place on cookie sheet and flatten a little with finger. Bake for 18 to 20 min. (or until the cookies are set) at 170C and if not done, bake for additional 4 to 5 min. at 140C. (Do not brown.) Garnish with icing or powdered sugar.
* Cake flour is recommended.

To make Xmas-tree shaped cookies … Put dough in a plastic bag, pat and roll out to 6 to 7mm thick, keeping the dough inside the bag (so that the dough won’t stick to the rolling pin or your hands.) It’s pretty dry and cracks easily in the beginning, so keep patting and pressing until the dough gets a little greasier and holds together better. After resting the dough in the fridge for apx. 15min, cut open the plastic bag and cut out the dough (on the cut-opened plastic bag) with a slightly floured cookie cutter. I always use plastic bag like this because this way I don’t need to flour the dough and rolling pin, which means less risk of making the cookies harder.
* All-purpose flour is recommended.

About the maccha…For baking, I always use the maccha that my mom gives me. She teaches tea ceremony and gives me old leftover maccha that she doesn’t want to use for practice any more. This maccha is probably more bitter than the green tea powder available at stores for baking. So with her maccha, I felt 2 tsp. was the maximum I could take… if used more, it would be too bitter for me.

2) Gingerbread house
This is my first time ever, so I planned carefully. I made templates beforehand and followed the recipe step by step. The only change I had to make was replacing molasses with dark syrup and honey, because I can’t find molasses anywhere around here.

I wished someone would have told me that the template would stick to the dough if placed directly on it…

I didn’t know the gingerbread dough would swell that much. When the slabs came out of the oven, there were absolutely no straight lines anywhere! So I cut off the edges with a nife.

When I tried to put roof slabs on, I realized that they were too small!!! OMG, I didn’t think about the thickness of each slab when I made the template!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!! :O So I had to bake bigger roof slabs.

The name "cement icing" made me laugh, but it actually is cement.

I also made some gingerbread people out of the dough left.

Hope everything stays OK until Christmas…

Friday, December 17, 2004

Featuring Grits

Since some of you may not be familiar with, I decided to feature GRITS today.
This site tells you how grits are made (and much more, too)

And this is how it looks.

Grits (Hominy Grits)

To make grits, you stir some into boiling water in a sauce pan (add salt) and cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Instant ones are much easier to make; all you have to do is empty packet into a bowl, pour boiling water and stir. Some people like it sweet and serve with brown sugar, cinnamon, etc. and others like it with butter, cheese and ham/bacon bits.

I learned to eat grits when I was in Mississippi, U.S.A. My first experience was instant grits with bacon, and it was my late-night meal. It was something I’ve never tried before, and I loved it. Later I had a chance to eat grits at my friend’s house as breakfast, and that’s something I can’t forget. The combination of warm grits and cheese, scrambled eggs, salty sausage and black pepper…. I know, I know. It sounds pretty unhealthy, and it must be unhealthy if you eat it every single morning. Here in Japan now, I only indulge in that habit apx. once a month.

As I commented once before, I’ve been (on and off) working on using grits in Japanese-style cooking. This is experiment #1 I did yesterday.
I boiled and finely minced some of the spinach I got at the office, and mixed into pancake batter with some cooked grits. Then I folded the pancake in half with a little anko (sweet redbean paste) inside.

Grits pancake Japanese-style
It was OK, but the pancake was a bit too chewy, and tastewise, I didn’t see any benefit of adding grits. Could have been better without grits, maybe?

Here’s experiment #2. Cheese Grits Casserole.

This is a legitimate recipe printed on the package of Albers quick grits. The only experimental part was adding boiled spinach and bacon bits. (See, I’m trying hard to consume the green vegs.)

I reduced the amount of cheddar cheese quite a bit, but other than that, I basically followed the recipe, and added spinach and bacon at the end.
It was good. Much better than the pancake. But looks like some water came out from the spinach and it made the casserole rather soggy. On the other hand, I thought it’d taste definitely better if baked in a pie crust. So next time, I’ll try to improve on that.

But the next time shouldn’t be anytime soon. Think about all the ingredients --- butter, cheese, egg, evaporated milk and bacon --- gee, I cannot have this combination too often.
I’d better not.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lazy Day

Pan-fried Chicken with Orange Sauce

Today was my complete day off. I felt kind of heavy (maybe because of the allergy medicine ?), so I decided to postpone my grocery shopping and stay in my apartment all day. It was easy to decide what to cook today because I knew the chicken and leftover orange half in the fridge needed to be used ASAP. My choice was pan-fried chicken with orange sauce --- pretty straightforward combination, don’t you think? I didn’t follow any recipe…I didn’t even google on the net for a recipe. All I used was salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, orange (slices and juice), butter and dried herbs, and it turned out OK.

Yesterday someone brought bunch of green vegetables (from her own vegetable garden, I guess) to our office to share. This was my share of the vegs.

My supper tonight was very healthy miso-soup based nabe with lots of greens, pork and atsuage (deep-fried tofu.)

Yeah, I admit that I pretty much goofed off today. The only productive thing I did was taking off almost all the leaves/flowers/flower buds from my blueberry. I had to do so because my dear blueberry is now affected by leaf rust :( Hope it'll survive this winter and bloom again in the coming spring.

Well, so, I got rested, had lots of vegetables, and I’m going to bed early tonight. I should be full of energy and feel like a brand-new person tomorrow morning (hopefully.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Oden - Japanese Hotchpotch -

It’s getting colder day by day. Time for a nice hotpot dish.

Oden (Japanese hotchpotch)

Oh, don’t ask me how I seasoned the soup. I used instant oden soup mix. :P As you might have guessed, I got lazy tonight. Oden doesn’t require much preparation if you use instant soup mix and buy ready-made ingredients. All I did for this was some peeling and chopping. Well, I had a long day today….

My favorite ingredients are egg, daikon and potato. Things like sausage and mini-cabbage roll are not traditional ingredients, but I like them in oden.

Monday, December 13, 2004

My Very First Attempt - Christmas Fruitcake -

Being inspired by the post by chika about baking fruitcakes for Christmas, I’ve decided to bake one myself this year. This is my very first attempt and I’m so excited! I know it’s probably too late, but it’s just a personal experiment… no one else but me will eat this cake, so what the heck! I’ll just give it a go and enjoy chopping up nuts and dried fruits :D

These are what I have at hand. I'll see what I can do.

I’ll let you know the result on Christmas day!


There’s a saying in Japan: “Women are like Christmas cakes.”

It’s a Japanese custom to eat cakes like these for Christmas. It’s almost a “must.” Except those who love to bake one at home, most people buy Christmas cakes at stores. The cakes still left unsold on the 26th will be given a big discount. So what they mean by calling women “Christmas cakes” is this: Women are worthless after 25 (years old) --- no one would be interested in them.

When I told this to a woman from England several years ago, she got really furious. She said to me, “If someone called you a Christmas cake, don’t think that’s a Japanese Christmas cake… Think it’s our Christmas cake.” Then she explained that in her hometown they bake Christmas cake way ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for more than a month to let it mature because it gets tastier with time. And the cake is welcomed any time other than Christmas. I couldn’t imagine what kind of cake would be like that. The only cakes I knew at that time were pound cake, sponge cake and chiffon cake, and I couldn’t imagine any of them staying good for more than a month. Later I found out that the cake she was talking about was fruitcake.

Since then, I thought about baking a Christmas fruitcake myself several times, but I couldn’t decide to actually go for it. I didn’t like fruitcake so much in the first place. I ate a store-bought fruitcake once and didn’t like the strong taste of brandy at all. After my first bite, I didn’t know what to do with the rest of the piece. So this year, again, I thought about baking one, and couldn’t make up my mind until it was almost too late. But when I saw the word “adjust” in her post, I thought “Yeah, why not?!”

This year the idea of “a cake that gets tastier with time” attracts me more than before. (Maybe it has something to do with my age ;P) I want to see what it’s like for a fruitcake to “mature” … I want to see it actually happen in my own kitchen. Also I want to know if I can see myself as ”that kind of Christmas cake” and if I like the taste of the cake. After all, it’s fun and even empowering to choose my favorite ingredients and make adjustments to make “my favorite fruitcake that tastes better with time.” If I see women as brightly decorated Japanese Christmas cakes that are valued for certain period of time only (i.e. only when they’re young and fresh), I have no other choice but feel helpless.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Deep-Fried Oysters - Kakifurai -

Kakifurai (Deep-Fried Oysters)

This is my favorite winter dish. It doesn’t warm me up like nabe or stew, but oyster season is winter, right? So I call it "winter dish."

My first encounter with deep-fried oysters was probably school lunch at our elementary school, IIRC. I’m not sure if they were furai (coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried) or tempra (batter-fried) , but anyway, I hated those miserably small, poorly seasoned oysters with no lemon squeeze or tartar sauce. And they were COLD. Y-u-c-k!! I thought I would never be able to eat oysters in the future. (That was along time ago, though. These days kids have incredibly improved school lunch at elementary schools.)

Now I don’t remember when and how I changed my mind. Somehow, somewhere, I ate wonderful warm kakifurai with a squeeze of fresh lemon and tartar sauce. It completely changed my idea of what oysters taste like, and since then kakifurai has been one of my favorites.

BTW, I’ve never tried raw oysters in Japan yet (because good ones are very expensive!!) but I had raw oysters with grated horseradish many times in Miss. Raw oysters and corona beer with a wedge of lime!! What a combination! But I miss that so much now....

Friday, December 10, 2004

Grits and Thoughts on My Eating Habits

Instant Grits with Scrambled Eggs and Sausage Bits

I haven’t had grits for more than 2 months, so this morning I went for it. Actually, the sausage in the photo was the one I regretted buying. It was a big, cheap sausage on sale, and tasted so cheap with very cheap spiciness. I just wanted to finish it somehow and mixing with grits was a pretty good idea.

This morning I thought that maybe it’s time to think about changing my eating habits a little. I have been having Western-style breakfast for more than 20 years. The reason is that I’m a caffeine addict and HAVE TO have a cup of coffee with breakfast EVERY morning. For me coffee is good with almost any kind of Western breakfast, but not with rice and miso soup. So almost every morning I had a toast with margarine, thinking that it was healthier than using butter. I even replaced butter with margarine when baking sweets.

Last year I found an article on the net about how terrible trans fat is, and since then I quit using margarine and switched to butter. But I’m not 100% happy about using butter all the time. Especially now that my daytime work is an office work instead of the manual labor at a noodle factory (which I did until last year.) How I wish that they start making trans-fat free margarine in Japan!!

So the new eating habit I have in mind is taking a break from butter at least 2 days a week (not limited to breakfast). For my breakfast I might use soft margarine in a tube once or twice a week (I heard soft margarine is slightly better than stick margarine) and have rice-and-miso soup breakfast at least once a week. I’ll have to find a way to somehow enjoy coffee after Japanese-style breakfast. Maybe I should go back to my old habit of eating oatmeal for breakfast more often.

Yeah, I become a little more health-conscious than usual at this time of the year. Flue season and allergy season are coming soon, you know, and the Izakaya is going to be extremely busy with bonenkai (end-of-year parties). My blood pressure was top of the normal range at the end of last year. Hope I can survive this toughest season of the year again...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Cookies with a Japanese Touch - Miso Cookies -

Miso Cookies

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? That’s exactly why I wanted to give it a try ;)
I found 2 miso cookie recipes on the net:
Marukome’s recipe and another one with peanut butter. This time I wanted to have it in a real Japanese-style, so I chose Marukome’s recipe. This one is very simple --- almost too simple --- so I couldn’t resist the temptation to give it just a little twist.

I divided the miso cookie dough in half: the first half for plain miso cookies and the rest for an experiment. As soon as the plain ones came out of the oven, I took a bite and found that they taste rather light. I didn’t recognize miso flavor so much at the first bite, but after eating one whole piece, I felt the mild miso taste filling my mouth, with the taste of butter and sugar. Not bad. Not bad at all :)

Though plain ones tasted good, I wanted something more. Now what could I do with the rest of the dough? I thought about it for a while and divided the dough in half again.

1) The first half of the dough was colored with pureed purple sweet potatoes. (Yes, I still had some left in the freezer...) The cookies turned out in lovely light pink, but the taste was even lighter. I should’ve sweetened the puree more beforehand.

2) With the other half of the dough, I tried to enhance the sweetness and give a little spiciness with special toppings.
What I prepared was granulated sugar+ ichimi (Japanese chili powder) mixture and granulated sugar+sansho (Japanese pepper) mixture.
These toppings successfully added some extra flavor to my miso cookies :D

Just to make the photos look nicer with another color, I added some green tea cookies left in my cookie jar. I’m still working on this green tea cookie recipe. These ones don't taste the way I wanted. Give me some more time to work on the recipe....

OK. Here's some pics showing how I played with these Japanese style cookies. (I wanted them to look like photos in "Guidebook of Kyoto" or something, you know. )

(Click above 2 pics to enlarge)

Want to see where this beautiful maple leaf came from? Check this. It's my little present from Kochi, Japan :)

*To tell you the truth, this post was written last month. I waited to publish it until the maple leaves around here turn colors and their photos are posted on my another blog.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Pay Day Dinner - Salmon Meuniere -

Salmon Meuniere looking good ;)

Actually my pay day at the Izakaya is the 5th of the month, but it was Sunday, so I got paid on Monday.

I thought about buying a big piece of meat, but ended up with this. And I’m glad that I did :D This salmon was pretty good, except that the label on the package said “all bones and scales are removed,” but there were bunch of them still left. Anyway, the taste was very satisfactory.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Daikon with a Chinese Touch

Mapo Daikon???

My boss gave me another B-I-G daikon from her mother’s veg. garden. Yes, the good, juicy kind that I enjoyed very much as Buri daikon the other day. This time I tried something different.

Basically my idea was making something similar to Chinese mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐 but with briefly boiled daikon in place of tofu. Usually ground meat is used for mapo tofu, but I had none so I used thinly sliced pork instead. Yeah, it turned out very far from mapo tofu after all, but I did put quite a bit of tou ban jan, sesame oil and some oyster sauce, which gave this dish a good Chinese touch. The crispy, juicy and spicy daikon was very good with cooked white rice ;)
And I still have more than half of the BIG daikon left….

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Weekend Brunch - Potato Pancakes -

My favorite brunch for weekend. So easy to make if used instant mashed potatoes. I could have these pancakes for breakfast on weekdays, too, but I love them rather garlicky so it’s better be weekend morning ;)

I had potato pancakes for the first time when I was invited to my friend’s house in Miss. for some kind of family gathering (not Thanksgiving.) They piled up potato pancakes on a big plate, and I fell in love with them the moment I took a bite.

Yummmmmmmmmmy :D

It rained all day today so I didn’t get out of house at all. All I did today was blogging (worked on the template of my another blog) and eating. This was my supper, gyoza nabe.

Nabe (Japanese hot pot dish )

Yeah, those are the gyoza that I didn't use when experimented on the hanetsuki-gyoza the other day.

Eating gyoza nabe hearing the pouring rain outside…Not bad. Especially when it's with warm sake ;)