Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Is The Last Post On This Blog

The Last Look at Obachan's Kitchen
(I took this shot with my cell phone camera
right before I left my apartment for good.)

Dear Readers,

I arrived at my parents' house safely this afternoon. There's a lot to tell you about the move and how I'm feeling here now, but I'm dead tired. For now, I just want to tell you that I made it alive and I still have access to the Internet.

So, I'll see you soon when I start blogging on another blog. Keep your eyes on this post and I will link to my new blog soon. Very soon... because I'm going to need a lot of support from you to face my new challenges. Honestly, I'm so confused and almost scared when I think about adjusting here.

But anyway, thank you very much for your support. I really enjoyed sharing my life with you all.

See you soon. Good night! :)

Hey! Thanks for waiting.
Finally my new blog is ready. Go check out:

See you there! :D

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Okara Quiche With Broccoli

Okara Quiche With Broccoli

I tried out a couple of okara recipes in the beginning of this month, but I wasn't going to post about them because I didn't think many English speaking people knew okara, and also because I wasn't too happy with what I made. However, the other day I heard from someone who was looking for some okara recipes, and I thought this would be a good chance to post about my not-so-successful experiments. (And more than anything, I was sick and tired of packing and cleaning every day and wanted to post about something just for a change.)

First of all, what is okara? It's soybean pulp that remains after soy milk is squeezed out from the beans. (More details here.) It looks like this...

... and it is very cheap here in Japan. (Maybe in other countries, too?)

Perhaps the most popular way to cook it is to stir-fry it with chopped vegetables and season it sweet-salty with things like dashi, soy sauce and mirin. It's a traditional dish called unohana.

But many young women here are so into inventing more Westernized okara dishes or "okara sweets" these days. Okara is considered to be a great food for weight watchers because it is nutritious, low-cal, filling and rich in fiber.

One example of such Westernized dishes is okara quiche. I guess using tofu for quiche sounds familiar to people outside Japan? Well, it seems that you can use okara in place of tofu. But in that case, okara needs to be moistened with soy milk or something until it becomes close to drained and crushed tofu.

So I tried out this tofu quiche recipe, using okara in place of tofu (and added shiitake mushrooms, too). But I started feeling kind of stupid while adding soy milk to okara... "What's the point in separating soy milk from soybeans first and then putting the soy milk and strained lees back together? Why not use tofu then?" And I sort of lost interest in the experiment and didn't add enough soy milk. Then the quiche turned out terribly dry! Hahaha... But with the taste of the cheese, it was edible, at least. :P

Later I learned that tofu and "okara+soymilk mixture" were not the same thing. What is it that the mixture has but tofu doesn't? Fiber, and the nutrition contained in the skin and germs of soybeans, they say. Mmmmm... that's convincing. So okara dishes/sweets are worth experimenting, maybe? :)


Okara Cookies

Okara Cookies

Following the okara quiche experiment posted above, I tried out a few "okara sweets" such as cookies and pound cakes. And there were good ones like "okara and azuki cake" and "okara and fruit pound cake" (both in Japanese). They have favorable reviews and I did like the taste of those cakes. At the first bite, I agreed with some of the reviews that said "I like the texture of okara cake better than that of regular cakes made with flour. It's moister and fluffier." However, after chewing several times, I went, "Wait a minute..." When it was about time for regular cake to melt and disappear, I felt plenty of fiber still filling up my mouth and I had to make conscious effort to swallow it. It wasn't terribly unpleasant, but I wasn't too crazy about that.

Then I found some cookie recipes that called for powdered okara instead of fresh okara. These days "okara powder" is available as a baking ingredients in Japan, and actually you can make something very close at home.
Fresh okara

Homemade Okara powder (Instruction here in Japanese)

To make this, you spread okara on lined baking sheet and bake it in the oven and then mill it in a food processor. The recipe says that this okara powder can be frozen and keeps for about a month.

I thought that with this powder, I would have less problem of the fiber remaining in the mouth, and I was right. This okara cookie recipe (Japanese) is my current favorite, with a texture somewhat similar to coarse shortbread. But I'm still working on it to make it lighter and crunchier. (I'm thinking about using maple syrup so that the dough would come together more easily and adding just a little baking powder to make it lighter.)

Okara Cookies with Black Sesame Seeds

The original recipe didn't use black sesame seeds, but I like it this way.

AHHHHHHHHHHHH I shouldn't be doing this. I've got to pack, and clean! :O


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Flooded But Tasted Good

Cherry Pie

I used EXPENSIVE canned dark cherries, and maybe I shouldn't have added the juice in the can. But this filling recipe called for it and I was unusually(?) obedient today. Haha...Then when I peeked into the oven after 20 minutes or so, about half of the surface of the pie was covered with cherry juice that came out from those heart-shaped holes. It didn't look too good, to be honest. (I cropped off the flooded part from above photo.)

The pie tasted good, though. For the crust I used this recipe again.


My English grammar teacher used to say that the adjective "favorite" does not have a superlative form so you cannot say "most favorite," but who cares. Now she is my "most favorite obachan" on the face of the earth. I watched her performance on Youtube more than 15 times today, let me tell ya. It's empowering!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tomato Spinach and Tuna Salad

Tomato and Spinach Salad with Tuna Dressing
(I can't see much tuna in this photo, though)

Mmmmm... I think I like this salad better than the cabbage and tuna salad I posted about before. For this one, lemon juice is the key. The original recipe is here (in Japanese).

I'm feeling a little down today. I started practicing driving at a driving school yesterday because I haven't driven any cars with manual transmission for more than 15 years. My hometown I'm moving into has no public transportation except a few buses a day, thus almost everybody needs to be able to drive there. And yes, my parents' cars have manual transmission. That's all they have. Fine. So I didn't mind going to a driving school at all. There's no way I can practice on my own anyway.

But Gosh! It was amazing how I forgot everything and lost almost all my driving skills! I thought it would come back right away once I started, but I guess that only applies to younger people... AHHHH... The instructor was nice. He tried to find something I was doing right, but the poor guy was obviously trying very hard and I felt almost sorry for him...

Oh well. Maybe I'll do better with the clutch next time. I should be able to do it -- Even my mom can do it. Why not me?


Monday, April 13, 2009

Could Be My Last Time To Eat Delivered Pizza

"Chicago Pizza"

Phew! F-I-N-A-L-L-Y it's over!
I was really stressed out yesterday, being buried under empty cans, bottles and nonburnable garbage that had accumulated in my kitchen in the past years. If you heard a scream from the direction of Shikoku Island, Japan yesterday, it was me. :P

Today I got up early and took recyclable and/or nonburnable garbage to the designated place. Starting at 6:30 am, guess how many trips I had to make between the place and my apartment. And every time I thought it was almost done, I found a couple more things that needed to be thrown away. It seemed endless. Really.

But thank goodness, nothing lasts forever. At last my agony (for the day) came to an end. At 8:30 am, I took a shower and felt so relieved.

After that, I went to the bank and landlord's office, and in the afternoon I renewed my driving license. Yes, a productive day, and a darn hot day.

So I'm really exhausted. Oh, absolutely no cooking tonight. Hot shower, garlicky seafood pizza with beer... then I'll go to bed early. I think I deserve it.
Nigh-nigh. :)

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Soft French Bread (Malt Flour Added)

Well, you can't tell if this bread is better or worse compared to the one I baked before without malt flour because I didn't show you inside of the bread then, right? Only I can tell the difference, I guess. Hahaha...

OK. Being as fair as possible, I say that this bread is better than the previous one. The crust tastes better and the texture is better. (Still I cannot be 100% sure that malt flour made that difference, though. It could be that I did a better job kneading this time, or the temperature and the moisture in the kitchen was better this time.) To be honest, I wanted my bread to have much bigger holes, but that will be my next step. Next time I'll make sure to take photos of the whole bread AND the slices.

Yep, I have been preparing for the move to my hometown. The moving day is settled: that's April 30th, the last day of this month. There's a long list of "Things to do," including a couple of doctors' appointments, hanging right next to my laptop, and a few of them are already crossed out.

Every day I sort out my stuff, sitting hours in the dust, which is a REAL fun thing to do in the middle of the pollen allergy season for a person allergic to house dust and house dust mites in addition to cedar pollen. :P Every day I wear two masks, take medicine that dilates blood vessels (for Meniere's ) and another medicine that shrinks blood vessels (for the allergy), and always keep nasal spray in the pocket. A Kleenex box and garbage pail are set in each room and kitchen because I got tired of bringing them around. And I curse myself for not having been more tidy in the past years... :(

But I'm getting things done, little by little. Sorting and cleaning will be a big task until next Monday, the "Big Trash Day" -- the only chance I can throw away big, nonburnable stuff for free of charge --, but after that, I'll be able to take it easier.

Last week I spent several days at my parents' place and measured here and there in my prospective room so that I can figure out what furniture to bring there and what to throw away. It is a nice Japanese style room where my grandma used to live and I love it very much (though dad says it will be really hot by the window in summer). I can't wait to show you the room! :)

OK. I should get back to the cleaning. Today I'm going to open the box of knicks and knacks that I have been keeping since before the Great Hanshin Earthquake...
Why am I so terrible at throwing things away???


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Test Batch

Small Double-Crust Apple Pie

Following the trans-fat free margarine I posted about the other day, I finally got trans-fat free shortening, too! :D Now I have enough stuff to replace butter with and I can enjoy cooking/baking with MUCH less concern about cholesterol and trans fat! (But I'm not giving up butter completely. I think butter flavor is crucial for some sweets ...)

Organic Trans Fat Free Shortening by Daabon

Yes. This stuff IS expensive. But it has a long shelf life and it doesn't have to be kept in the fridge (which means it is not going to take up much space in my fridge), so I don't mind paying nearly JPY 1,000 for this amount (680 g).

For this test batch, I used this pie crust recipe. And it turned out perfect! I was like, "Yes! This is the light and flaky pie crust I have been dreaming of!" Next time I'm definitely going to use my bigger pie plate.

And this is another thing I ordered at the same online shopping site: malt flour.

They say this is pure malt flour with no additives, and that's the reason why I ordered this product. So, there'll be a test batch of french bread with malt flour added, and also a test batch of something else, too... ;)