Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Obachan's Christmas Wreath 2008 (With Cookies)

I wish you had a wonderful Christmas time. :)

It's Dec. 27th today and I'm adding some photos to this belated Christmas post @ an Internet Cafe, AGAIN. (No, not the one I posted about the other day.) Looks like Heaven thought that I haven't suffered enough in 2008 -- My ADSL connection got upset a couple of days ago, and went dead right after I posted this entry with only two photos yesterday. So I had to come here to email the technical support of my ISP anyway, and I decided to upload these photos as well, because I really think these are better than the two dinner photos I posted yesterday.

Obachan's Christmas Tree 2008

I felt like a small tree this year and it was a right choice, I guess. The tree was again one of those Daiso 100yen stuff. The cookies were home-baked and not a great success. Well, you can't expect much when baking cookies in a cheap toaster oven without temperature control, you know.

I was worried that it might take hours to make this wreath without a glue gun, but it didn't take too long. :)

And here comes my light fruitcake.

It was not as soft as I wanted, to tell you the truth, and that was my fault. This year, I wanted to tie the cake with ribbon with no wrapping -- as in the photos above -- and I didn't want the cake to be too wet because it would mess up the ribbon. So, though the recipe told me to make syrup and brush the cake with it until it is used up, I didn't follow the instruction; I only brushed my cake with rum a couple of times. What I got as a result was a rather chewy cake which wasn't sweet enough. I think I'm going to mature it some more, this time following the recipe's instruction.

Carrot Cake (Baked in my Electric Rice Cooker) with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yes. It worked. I mean, theoretically it should be possible to bake cakes in an electric rice cooker. It cooks rice by heating its inner pot. Then the batter in the heated inner pot should be "done," too, eventually. Some Japanese websites even dare to say that for baking certain types of cakes, electric rice cooker may be more suitable than oven because inner pressure and temperature are controlled more precisely. I doubt it, though. Anyway, for me, using a rice cooker for baking a cake was not as care-free as using an oven, and the texture of the cake was more like steamed cake than oven-baked ones. But I should say that the result was quite satisfactory.

This is how the carrot cake looked when it came out of the rice cooker.

And with cream frosting and decoration ...

See inside?

Oh, I got the carrot cake recipe here, if you're interested.

* Let me add a little warning if you're interested in baking cakes with electric rice cooker. I did have a satisfactory result, but I don't necessarily recommend this unorthodox use of the rice cooker, unless it "officially" has a baking function.

To make this cake, I poured batter into the inner pot and pressed the start button. When the rice cooker beeped for the first time, the cake was not done yet, as expected. I switched on the rice cooker again right away to let it cook some more. (Be careful. Some "smart" rice cookers take it as abnormal heating and give you an error message.) The cake was still not done yet at the second beep. I pressed the start button again to let it cook for 10 to 15 more minutes and manually stopped the cooker.

So it's a bother, isn't it? Besides, many websites warn that baking cakes somewhat damages the teflon coating of the inner pot. I assume that recent electric rice cookers with a baking function must have special program to keep certain temperature for longer (than regular rice-cooking) until batter will be done, and also have heavy-duty teflon coating on the inner pot.


And my cookies. Only two kinds this year: gingerbread cookies and shortbread cookies.

And my creations looked like this altogether...
(Maybe I could make a postcard out of this?)

And the dinner photos...

Obachan's Christmas Dinner 2008

Yes, I managed to make this Christmas dinner, after all. Despite some challenges, I didn't give up and enjoyed a Christmas dinner. After the dinner, I kept nibbling on desserts for hours, enjoying the sparkling wine, wishing the moment to last forever...

Dear readers,

Thank you so much for your support, especially for the past couple of weeks when it looked like things were going worse and worse.
I'm so lucky to have you as my friends.

*** Merry Christmas ***

- obachan -

Monday, December 22, 2008

And As If It Was Not Enough...

Guess what. Heaven told me, "No baking for this Christmas."
My oven-cum microwave just broke. The baking fairy inside of me got pissed and just left. How can this happen to a foodblogger? A couple of days before Christmas!!
What did I do to deserve all these?

If there hadn't been that door lock incident, I might have rushed to a discount store to get a new (least expensive) oven-cum microwave. But... now I can't afford it. You know why.

Well, good thing is that Christmas fruitcake was already baked about 10 days ago. And I managed to bake one batch of gingerbread cookies this morning before the oven broke. So I will do my best with what I've got for my Christmas post this year. Now I'm going to look for some pan-fried or deep-fried chicken recipe...

Dec. 23rd

Hey, thanks for your support and advice. :D
After recovering from the shock, I realized that I do have a cheap toaster oven which may be used for baking cookies. (Of course, I would have to manually turn the baking dish around several times and use alminum foil properly to prevent burning.)
Also, if I decide to bake another cake in addition to the light fruitcake that is maturing (hopefully) now, yes, my electric rice cooker can bake certain types of cakes.

So things are not as bad as I had thought. My baking fairy is still in a bitchy mood, but she's back now, at least. :D

Today I have the whole day off. I'm going to forget about my work or the fact that I have to work on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, and just have fun baking and making a wreath.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Yeah, I Know. It Was My Fault. But...

"Western" breakfast at an Internet Cafe

This photo was taken at 7:02 am this morning. Why did I go to the Internet cafe that early? Well, tell you the truth, I didn't "go" there early this morning. I'm still at the net cafe and I've been here since 11 pm last night. Right. I didn't sleep at home but slept here. See the pink blanket they let me use? The reclining chair was very comfortable -- could have been more comfortable than my bed, actually.

No, no. It's not that I got kicked out of my apartment and became one of the "net cafe refugees" in Japan. But I might be one soon. What happened? I lost my room key and couldn't get into my apartment room last night.

It was just unbelievable. Yes, I'm not the most careful person on the face of the earth, and do something stupid like this once in a while. But WHY did it have to be yesterday?! Yesterday morning, I had to work terribly hard. I completed almost legendary workload all by myself and got already exhausted at around 11:00 am. But I had to wash dishes again at lunchtime, too, which was also a hard work because it was a very busy day even though it was a weekday. I was almost unconscious while at work at night, being completely exhausted from the manual labor. All I could think about then was hot, relaxing bath and nice, hearty soup dish with a little drink because I didn't have to work next morning. Nabeyaki udon was my choice -- with special toppings such as prawn tempura, kamaboko, egg, maitake mushrooms, even small oysters!-- and mizuna from my balcony garden.

I looked at the clock at every five minutes and finally it was time to go home. I bought all the necessary ingredients at a supermarket on my way and went back to my apartment. That was when the tragedy started.

I checked the small pocket of my bag -- that's where I always keep my room key-- but found nothing in there. Wait a minute. I looked everywhere in the bag, but still couldn't find it. OK. Calm down. It's gotta be here somewhere, because I didn't take it out today. I took a deep breath, sat down on the steps in front of the apartment door, and emptied my bag. Still no key. Checked all the pockets of my clothes... but still nothing. OMG!

So instead of relaxing in the hot bath or enjoying hot udon noodles, I rode my bike in the cold wind to visit all the places I went yesterday: a convenience store, my locker at the workplace, the net cafe where I had a snack before night time work, the language school I work at night... Of course I couldn't find the key.

Finally I gave up all the wonderful plans for that night and decided to stay overnight at an Internet cafe. They have a special night hour rate, and at this particular net cafe, all the food is 50% off this month. And they serve breakfast for free. Not bad, huh?

So now, I'm posting this to kill time until the landlord's office opens at 9 am. I'm going to ask them to let me use the master key to get into my room. And after that, I might have to change the door lock to be safe, which would cost me a fortune! OH WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN? Yeah, I know. It's my carelessness that should be blamed. But...AHHHHH!!!

Yeah, OK. Let's see the bright side of things. The bright side of this was -- uh -- the blanket was very cute.

11:10 am

Thanks so much to those who already left caring comments after reading above. And here's more to jerk your tears (... of laughter, I guess).

At 9 am, I called the landlord's office from the Internet cafe. But I was told that they only take care of the paperwork on behalf of the owner of the apartment who lives in a different prefecture, and they don't keep master keys; the owner does. And what I should do was calling a locksmith and having the door lock replaced to be safe, then bringing one new spare key to their office so that they could send it to the owner. Sigh. B-I-G expense! But no other choice. Feeling down, I used the restroom at the cafe, then the toilet flooded on me...

Now, I called a locksmith, went to the bank to get money, got back to my apartment and had the lock replaced and paid for it. Then I brought the new spare key to the office as I was told, and there was no one in the office. Yeah, right. Things will go like this all day today. The horoscope must be warning me NOT to do anything or go anywhere today. If I ride my bicycle, I might hit an old lady crossing the road, and if I go shopping, the particular thing I want would be sold out at everywhere.

OK. Fine. Then I'll go for a domestic pleasure. I'm going to take a hot bath now and after that, make nice nabeyaki udon which I missed last night. How could these go wrong? I don't know. They might, somehow. But I really REALLY need some comfort now!

1:30 pm, same day.

Look! Nabeyaki udon... Finally.

Dear readers,

I took a nice hot bath. Now it's a warm, sunny afternoon. I'm eating this nabeyaki udon as I watch my laundry drying on the balcony. So comfortable and relaxing...

Everything that happened last night and this morning seems like a bad dream. Maybe after I had a good sleep tonight, I would be able to laugh about the whole thing from the bottom of my heart. Now... let's go for hot tea and dessert... :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How I Wish...!!

Light Christmas Cake 2008

Oh, why can't photos capture the aroma and let viewers enjoy it? See this cake? It has just come out of the oven, and I really, really wish you could smell it. IT'S HEAVENLY! I don't know about the taste yet, but this cake does smell much better than any other fruitcakes I have baked before.

This year, I used this light fruitcake recipe. Oh, of course I didn't make this huge batch; I reduced it to one-fifth. I picked the recipe after long hours of googling because the texture looked nice in the photo and it is the type of cake that you mature for weeks brushing with liquor over and over. And as you can see in this post, I used Myers's rum to soak the dried fruits this year and it was the key. The moment I opened the jar to use the soaked fruits today, I knew that I had made a right choice. It smelled already wonderfully then, and the aroma was even better when the cake was almost done in the oven.

So, about two more weeks to mature it? Gee, I can hardly wait! :D

Here's another thing I should be working on to get ready for Christmas:

Obachan's Prospective Christmas Wreath 2008

This photo may look better than the wreath I'm going to make...
(The vine is from Daiso 100yen shop, BTW.)


Monday, December 08, 2008

Broccoli Chicken Casserole on a Productive Day

Broccoli Chicken Casserole

I didn't have to work in the morning today (Thank Goodness!!) and I was going to sleep in this morning. But the stupid alarm clock woke me up early -- well, no, I'm the stupid one who forgot to set it off last night -- and I spent good 30 minutes in bed thinking about what I need to do today. Then I realized that it is the second Monday of the month today, which means it is the "big trash day" when we can throw away things like recyclable non-plastic trash (cans, bottles, cardboard boxes, books n newspapers, etc.) , old furniture and electronic wastes. The day comes only once a month, and since this is December, I would have to carry over big trash from 2008 to 2009 if I'd miss this chance today.

So I jumped out of the bed and grabbed the plastic bags full of empty cans and bottles to bring them to the designated place. I tell you what-- I never like riding a bicycle before breakfast. But it was a kind of emergency situation and there was no other choice because we are supposed to take our trash to the designated place only between 6 am and 8 am.

After the busy start of the day, I had breakfast, did my laundry, paid the rent (which I was supposed to do at the end of last month :P), went two supermarkets to look for a bigger garbage pail for the kitchen and picked nuts near someone's graveyard(!) for my Christmas wreath. Pretty productive so far, isn't it? Wait. That's not it. I have some more plans for the afternoon and evening, too.

And this casserole was a quick and easy lunch for me today. It was quick because I used store-bought white sauce. Although I put some breadcrumbs in it, the casserole turned out rather runny and it was more like what we call "guratan (gratin)" here. Well, I don't know... What's the difference between gratin and casserole anyway? I thought gratin was runnier than casserole but I may be wrong; they may be just different names for the same dish?

Anyway, now I'm stuffed with warm and cheesy food, and I'm ready to get some more things done before my work tonight.