Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Muffin

Some Halloween-related events are scheduled for this weekend in this town. The one I joined last night was a big costume & dance party :) From 11:30 pm to 3:00am, I kept chatting and dancing! (Details here.) I slept in this morning and now I’m craving for miso soup….(Miso is said to be a good alkalizing food which is good for you when you have a hangover.)

Anyway, I felt the urge to make something using pumpkin this weekend to celebrate Halloween. As you can probably imagine, I’m a bit tired of pies recently, so pumpkin pie was not my choice. Instead, I baked some cute Pumpkin muffins yesterday.

The recipe is from my favorite muffin book, ” Itsudemo Muffin – Muffins & Quick Breads” by Asa Shiokawa. This is a real nice book. What’s so nice about the book is not only the recipes included but also the PHOTOS!! The photos of muffins/quick breads in this book look so nice with a great effect of the natural sunlight and shade. Oh how I long to be able to take photos like them and post to my foodblog!!

Now, this is the kind of pumpkin we have here:


It tastes very sweet and its flesh is (almost like sweet potatoes or chestnuts) not as moist as the pumpkins you usually use for pumpkin pie, I guess. This kabocha is very good for this type of pumpkin muffins, because about 2/3 of the pumpkin called for in the recipe is not pureed but added to the batter as pumpkin chunks. And the chunks give a little snap of pumpkin flavor, which goes really well with the salty pumpkin seeds on top.

See the orange-colored pumpkin chunks inside?

The recipe says the muffins would be good with cinnamon butter, too.
I’m usually a coffee drinker, but today, with these muffins, I felt like having hot cocoa.

So, Happy Halloween!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Supposed to Be Appetizingly Green, But...

Bacon and Basil Spaghetti

The basil in my balcony garden started turning yellow recently and I thought it’s time to make basil paste (before they all turn yellow). Though I do not have a food processor, I have this traditional and useful equipment

to make the paste with great fragrance that I can enjoy for several weeks (or maybe a couple of months?). Yes, primitive. But this gives me some work to do to kill time when I have nothing else to do, so it's OK. I only make a small amount at one time anyway.

Other than spaghetti, I love potatoes or fish meuniere (is this French, BTW?) with basil paste.
It’s too bad that the beautiful green color of the paste didn’t show much in the photo. Honestly, it was so appetizingly green!!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Sake-Steamed Asari (Asari no Sakamushi)

Asari no sakamushi

I’m not sure what their English name is (maybe littleneck clams?), but we call them Asari in Japanese.

This is what I had for supper tonight, and here’s the recipe, if anyone is interested.

Sake-Steamed Asari
Asari clams (amount…. See the photo. Sorry, I forgot to weigh them)
1 1/2 Tblsp sake
a pinch salt
a little minced scallion
(a pinch minced ginger ---- optional)
(a pinch minced garlic ---- optional)
(a little soy sauce ----- optional)
(a dash white pepper ---- optional)

Wow… aggressive!?

Soak Asari in salt water for several hours (I did overnight) to remove sand. Wash and put in frying pan set on medium heat. (Add minced ginger and garlic with a little water, if desired.) Cover with a lid. When some start opening (you can hear), add sake and salt (pepper and soy sauce, if desired). Cover again. When all Asari opened, sprinkle minced scallion and serve immediately.
I squeeze lemon or sudachi over Asari just before eating.

Many recipes on the net seem to use minced ginger & garlic and soy sauce, but I personally like the simpler seasoning when using fresh Asari and good Sake.

I guess you can add sake right after you put Asari in frying pan, if you like it that way. I wait until some of them start opening just because my mom told me so, and don't know why it's necessary. (Maybe she doesn't, either.) :P

If you like it in a Western style, use wine instead of sake and add some butter, then sprinkle minced parsley instead of scallion.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sour Cream Pear Pie

Sour Cream Pear Pie

Pears are my most favorite fruit. Ever since I tasted a tiny, expensive piece of pear tart (with canned pears) in Japan long time ago, I’ve been in love with the fruit. One of the happiest moments of my stay in the U.S. was when I found a pile of green pears at a local supermarket, and at a low price!! I envy all the folks who can eat fresh pears whenever they want!!!

We do have nashi in Japan, which were called “Japanese apples ” in a supermarket in Miss, IIRC. Our nashi with round shape and brown skin taste a little different from American pears and not commonly used in baking sweets. *

These days, a kind of pear called “La France” is available in Japan, but it’s still a little different from the kind I loved in the U.S. (and rather expensive). The good thing is that, unlike our nashi, the “La France” is suitable for sweets like pies, cakes and tarts….

So, today, I tried out the recipe of “Sour Cream Pear Pie” in the Women’s Circle For Cooks on the Go (1992) that I mentioned before. This one looked so attractive to me because it uses sour cream, not custard cream like many other pies. I couldn’t imagine what the taste would be like with the sour cream, so I just HAD TO try it. I didn’t have an unbaked pastry shell from the store, so I made a tart shell from the orange tart recipe. Placing the sliced pears on top was my idea, but maybe not a good one, because it took longer for the pie to get done.

After tasting …

Well, the taste of baked pears with the cream is wonderful. The only thing is that before I take a bite, some kind of distinctive smell bothers me a little. I don’t know if it’s from the pears or the sour cream….

I guess I like custard cream better for this kind of pie.

* I didn't know this before, but looks like our nashi is also used for pies and tarts a lot these days. I found many recipes on the net. Sorry! :P

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Crystallized Ginger?

Crystallized ginger?

Yesterday I made something like what you call crystallized ginger, following a Japanese recipe of candied(?) ginger. I’m not sure if what I made is the same as your crystallized ginger, but it is indeed sweet and has pretty strong ginger flavor, so I’m happy with the result. Can’t wait to use some for baking!

I’m posting a few photos from a “local specialty fair” that I went last Sunday.

Yomogi(Japanese mugwort) pancakes with anko (sweet soybean paste) inside

Dried fish from my hometown: Kinmedai(Bigeye) and Kamasu(Red barracuda? Peto?)

Miso-dengaku (Tofu and konnyaku with miso)

You can see some more photos from the same fair here if you are interested.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Is My Tamagoyaki Burning?

* There was a mistake in the Niku-miso recipe. The correct amount of minced ginger is 1 teasp. It’s fixed now. Very Sorry. :(


Here you go! Today is my personal "Is My Tamagoyaki Burning? (IMTB)" day, and I’m posting 2 Tamagoyaki recipes for pinkcocoa and those who might be interested.

this is probably close to the way they do at most Japanese restaurants. When you use good amount of dashi soup stock like this recipe, the tamagoyaki will be softer and fluffier (and of course tastier!), which means more difficult to roll. You’d definitely want a tamagoyaki pan in this case. (The tamagoyaki pan can heat the bottom and sides of the tamagoyaki at the same time and shapes it into a nice box-like shape.)

There’s an easy way out, though, like most of the things in life. Here’s how we do it in my family. BTW, this was the very first time in my entire life that I used a measuring spoon when making tamagoyaki. I tried to measure some ingredients so that I can write a recipe out of what my mom taught me when I was in elementary school. Yeah, it’s my mom’s way, so I’m warning you: It IS a little “different.”

Tamagoyaki (Sweet)
3 eggs
2 1/2 or 3 teasp sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 teasp dashi powder
1 1/2 teasp water
2 to 3 drops of soy sauce .... Do Not add too much!!
1 pinch Ajinomonto …optional)

Dashi powder … Maybe you can omit this if not available .....

How to cook: Basically follow the instruction in the page linked above. Just one thing to add: it helps to use kitchen towel soaked in veg. oil to apply the oil before pouring in the egg mixture 2nd and 3rd time.

(Sorry, I roll the other way around, so looks like the egg mixture is on the wrong side in my photo.)

Tamagoyaki with minced scallion and dried baby fish (Savory)
3 eggs
1 pinch salt
1/2 teasp soy sauce
1 to 2 Tblsp dried baby fish
2 to 3 Tblsp minced scallion
(dash Ajinomoto …. optional)

scallion and dried baby fish ..........................................

Instruction: same as above.
You can omit dried baby fish if not available, or substitute with something else.

You can actually play with tamagoyaki, adding whatever you like and inventing your own versions. I added some nori (dried, paper-like seaweed) to the savory one. See the ones in the photo on top with dark lines inside? Honestly, I didn’t like the taste of this nori in Tamagoyaki very much.

Another thing I tried:

Niku-miso (ground meat seasoned with sugar, soy sauce, ginger and miso) rolled in the sweet tamagoyaki.

And here’s the recipe for the Niku-miso, in case someone gets super-curious.

Nikumiso obachan’s version
100 to 150g ground meat (beef and pork)
3 shiitake mushrooms, minced
1/3 carrot, minced
1 pinch salt
2 to 3 teasp sugar
1 dash dashi powder
1 Tblsp mirin (rice wine)
1 1/2 Tblsp Sake
1 1/2 to 2 Tblsp Miso
>1 teasp minced ginger root
1 teasp soy sauce

In a frying pan, heat a little veg. oil. Sautee the meat and minced vegs. Add salt.
Add other seasonings. (When adding Miso, dissolve with Sake and Mirin in a bowl first and add into the frying pan.) Heat until the water evaporates.

This niku-miso really comes in handy when I’m too tired to cook. I can just spread some of it on warm, cooked rice and eat a bowl of rice without any side dishes. Pretty helpful on my lazy days.

So, Pinkcocoa, I guess the seasonings you have there are different from ours. Please make necessary adjustments and enjoy making this Japanese-style omelet!

(* I didn’t make all these tamagoyaki at one time today, so don’t worry. I can't use that many eggs at one time.)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Orange Tart

Orange Tart

My chocolate cake was finally gone yesterday, so I was all ready for something new today. Something that uses some fruit and doesn’t require too much whipping. Actually I could take a break from cakes for a while.

Today, in my good old Women’s Circle for Cooks on the Go (1992), I found an attractive pear pie recipe. But the pears (La France) I bought this morning were as hard as rocks. So I decided to give them some days to get ripe, and instead picked an orange tart recipe on the net.

I couldn't wait 'till I finish photo-taking

This was actually my very first time making the tart shell myself. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected. To my relief, nothing was really difficult or too complicated about making this tart, and this time I didn’t even have to size down the recipe.

The taste wasn’t exactly what I expected --- it was a little too light. Maybe I should have used more grated orange rind or used orange liqueur though it wasn’t included in the recipe, and added more sugar to the filling. The filling was made from almond powder, eggyolk, butter and sugar, but I guess I like custard filling better.

Still I should say that I had a lovely tea time today.
Oh, the flowers in the photos are Japanese knotweed. They’re blooming just everywhere now, and my Japanese friends would probably laugh at me for using them for tea-time decoration.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

My Herbs are Back on the Balcony

After spending one gloomy day in the bathroom yesterday, they are enjoying the sunshine now.
These are photos of my herbs that were not included in my previous posts (except the dill).

See? They're bigger now!

Is it a stupid idea to grow rhubarb in such a small planter?

Looks like this is the kind that hugs the ground.

Mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley or Japanese honewort)
This one grew from the root of mitsuba that I bought for cooking.

Chinese spinach (under the newspaper)
A friend of mine gave me the seeds of Chinese spinach a few weeks ago. I have no idea what they're going to look like or how to eat them. Currently covered by the newspaper until they sprout. Oh, j
ust ignore the baseball guys on the paper. : )

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Recent Japanese Entries

The rain and wind is getting worse outside. The typhoon TOKAGE is supposed to hit us this afternoon, and I'm waiting for a call or an email from the office telling me "NO WORK TODAY." In the meantime, I'm going to post some Japanese dishes I made recently. After I bake/cook something fatty or very sweet, I usually rest my stomach with our traditional meals.

This was my supper last night.

The fish is Kamasu (red barracuda). The sticky-looking thing in the bowl is grated Chinese yam seasoned with dashi and soy sauce. We pour this over rice to eat. Supposed to be very nutritious.


poured over rice

Daikon simmered with yellowtail.

I usually use ara (part of the fish that are usually thrown away, like head and bones. Cheaper and tastier.)

Satoimo (Japanese taro or aroid?) simmered with ground meat (beef and pork).

I used the ground meat to clean the freezer, but it made the whole thing too greasy. I definitely should have used ground chicken.

....... No phone call/email yet. Am I going to have to ride a bicycle in this rain and wind?!!???

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Van Houten Beat the Soy Milk

Chocolate Italian Cream Cake without Italian Cream but with Chocolate Soymilk Frosting

A tireless effort has been made to find a way to use up the soy milk that I don’t like. What I was looking for was a recipe of very sweet cake or muffins that calls for milk or buttermilk. I can replace the milk/buttermilk with the soy milk, right? And the cake/muffins should have a strong flavor that hides the taste and smell of soy milk completely. So the idea I found was:
Chocolate cake recipe that calls for buttermilk .

Fortunately there’s a small can of Van Houten cocoa in my kitchen. It was given to me as a present last spring. I know cocoa is very good for health, but I’m a coffee drinker (or a caffeine addict) and don’t drink cocoa very often, so there’s still a lot left in the can.

I don’t remember if I told you this before but whenever I try recipes, I reduce the amount to half, because I live all by myself and I'm the onlyl one to eat up whatever I make. My friends here are always, ALWAYS on a diet, or what they call puchi(petit)-danjiki (short-term fasting ?) which is popular in Japan now, so they would NEVER share the dessert I make. I understand the effects of fasting when it’s done properly, but the way my friends are doing is like just stop eating for several days, without taking any vitamin or other supplements, then hog bunch of fatty junk foods all day, and go for another round of fasting…. I really doubt if this is doing them any good.

Anyway, I reduced the amount of the ingredients as usual, then the amount of soy milk I needed was just 1/2 C. Hmmmm…not much, but better than nothing, of course. I wondered if I could use some more soy milk in frosting, too. Then Uncle Phaedrus answered me with this
recipe of chocolate buttermilk frosting. Also not much, but better than nothing.


The cake turned out much lighter than I expected and it was good because the frosting was pretty sweet.
And more than anything: No smell or taste of the soy milk AT ALL! (^^)b

I’m very satisfied with the result, but I don’t think I can eat much at one time.
Besides, I’m going to need some extra workout this week, I guess ;)

.... and still I have some of the soy milk left.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Avocados on Sale

Avocado and Shrimp Salad

Avocados were on sale today!

I made Avocado and shrimp salad with Italian dressing. (Yeah, I still had some frozen shrimp left from the terrible soy-milk champon night.)

With the rest of the Avocado, I tried the idea that I got from
OsloFoodie's site  recently and was dying to try out. 

Avocado in evaporated milk with honey

This combination was something I could never ever think of myself. Yummmmmmmmmmy! :)

Childhood Memories ...

Lunchbox that makes me feel nostalgic...

I went for a sketching excursion yesterday, and this was the lunch I brought with me. This time I didn't want to spend too much time on it, so I went for something quick & easy and also very popular when I was a kid.

See the artificially-colored, bright-red fish meat sausages? Don't they look really bad for your health? I never buy this kind of sausages any more, but in my childhood, kids (including myself) were crazy about them, especially when they were shaped like these:

Tulips, crab and octopus

Gee, I still remembered how to do this!
In my elementary school days, I practiced this quite a lot when I packed lunch for my younger sister's school excursion. We also loved to have the crab- and octopus-shaped ones in our yakisoba (stir-fried noodles).

About other things in the lunchbox:
Tamagoyaki (fried eggs or rolled omelet): Usually kids like it sweet, but my mom's mother sometimes made savory one for me. The eggs are seasoned with salt, soy sauce and MSG but no sugar, and chopped scallions (often with dried baby fish) are added. It's important to fry thoroughly until it looks slightly brown in order to bring out the natural, subtle sweetness of the soy sauce and eggs. I made the savory kind today.

The cucumber stick in chikuwa (steamed and grilled fish cake ): This always comes in handy. No seasoning necessary, and looks kind of nice in a lunchbox.

And for making this kind of rice balls, I never use plastic wrap. These are the typical ones my mom always made in my childhood, and at that time, plastic wrap was probably already invented but not yet popular in my hometown. So, the image of this kind of rice balls was imprinted in me without the plastic wrap, and now I just can't relate them in my mind.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Yummy Biscuits!


This morning I tried the biscuit recipe that Santos kindly posted for me in her comment : ) The recipe looked really simple, so I had no idea how it would turn out. But look! It was EXCELLENT!!! Too bad they fell a little while I was preparing to take photos. When they just got out of the oven, I went “Hooray!!”

They were so light and fluffy. (I used self-rising flour.) Next time I might try adding some buttermilk powder.

Thank you, Santos. This sure made my day!! :D

Obachan's Bloopers (2)

Champon-style ramen noodles in soy milk soup

This is wha I made yesterday. Just from looking at this photo, it’s hard to tell what was actually wrong, but the problem was the taste.
This is how it went wrong….

I like soy milk very much, but a few specific brands only. When I went to the nearest supermarket the day before yesterday, they were out of my favorite brands of soy milk. There was no choice, then. I bought the one I’d never tried before, and I regret that I did. At home, after I tasted the soy milk, I yelled out “Oh No!” and had absolutely no idea what I should do with the 1000ml carton. To me, the taste was just awful.

Perhaps the best thing to do would be using it for cooking and baking. I remembered that I once made "wonton in soy milk soup" before, and it was very good. At that time I used my favorite brand, but if in a soup, different brand shouldn’t matter too much, I thought. So I came up with an idea that takes care of this soy milk and other leftover vegs in the fridge, plus the noodles that were on sale on that day: Ramen noodles in soy milk soup with stir-fried seafood and vegetable on top. Yes, something like "
Champon noodles,” the local specialty of Nagasaki prefecture in Japan.

I made soup using instant chicken-consommé, seasoned it kind of heavily with salt and pepper, then poured in some soy milk, directly from the carton. The taste was nothing marvelous but still OK. Then I poured some more, trying to use it as much as possible so that I can get rid of it sooner. It was another big mistake of mine. When I tried to pour, too much soy milk came out from the carton at once and I couldn’t stop it. It ruined the soup completely. I didn’t taste consommé, salt or pepper. All I could taste was the soy milk that I didn’t like!! I did everything I could think of to fix it, and it got better at the end… but the amount of soup almost doubled. Even with the stir-fried seafood and vegetable on top (I made them rather spicy), and some hot sesame oil I added just before eating, the strong smell and taste of the soy milk bothered me all the way.

And still I have some of the soy milk left…………… sigh. Maybe I should use it for some kind of very sweet dessert, with bunch of spice and/or flavoring extracts.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread cake

Well, time to make use of the ginger and lemon from the Sunday market, and of course, the Manuka honey!!

I found a recipe of gingerbread cake at this site, RoseWave Recipes.   
There were some other gingerbread cake recipes, but the lovely design of this site was too attractive as well as the recipe itself. The only problem was that I didn’t have any crystallized ginger at home. Actually I have never seen such a thing around here. But I didn’t want to give up this recipe, so I decided to go for a rather risky experiment.

Now, the reason why I wanted to bake a gingerbread cake was to try the Manuka honey for baking, so I was definitely going to use the Manuka honey instead of the molasses. Other changes: I decided to omit crystallized ginger and use more fresh ginger to compensate for that, and add some grated lemon rind in the cake. With this many changes, the taste could be completely different from the original recipe, I thought. To stay on a safe side, I reduced the amount of each ingredient to one-third of the original amount to bake a small cake. The only exception was minced fresh ginger root --- I doubled the original amount.

This kind of experiment is so thrilling, don’t you think? The waiting time after putting the batter in the oven seemed like forever, but finally, the cake was done. I knew I was supposed to wait until it cooled, but I couldn’t help cutting off a tiny piece of the warm cake and taking a bite right away. It was just so sweet, without much of the taste of ginger or lemon rind. Then I thought ... maybe lemon sauce with butter and egg yolk could be too much with this cake which is already so sweet? Should I make something lighter? Something like…. Lemon yogurt sauce?

So, time for another struggle. I mixed yogurt, a little sugar, lemon juice, sour cream and whipping cream, adding a bit of this and then a bit of that, tasting after each addition. Still it looked too thick, so I ended up adding some milk to make the sauce runny and smooth.

The result of the experiment? Thumb up! :D
After the cake cooled down, the flavor of the ginger and lemon got stronger, and the sweetness got somewhat milder. To my relief, the cake tasted good with the sauce, though I wasn’t sure if that was the best match.

Later I found on the net that I could make something similar to crystallized ginger at home. Next time, after I make some home-made crystallized ginger, I’ll try this recipe again following the recipe with no changes this time, and also try the lemon sauce, too. ----- Exciting! -----

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Special Lunchbox

My special lunch

When the weather is gorgeous like this, I can’t resist the urge to pack my lunch and eat it outside. Sometimes I grab just anything in the kitchen, and other times I feel like packing a very special lunch, taking time for preparation. Today I felt like the latter. So here’s what I brought to the park which is a part of the Castle Garden here in this city.

Bamboo sheath lunchbox and wrapping cloth

This retro-looking lunchbox is again from the 100-yen shop. Bamboo sheath was said to be widely used in Japan in the past (maybe until 50 to 100 years ago?) to wrap rice balls to bring to work. Now we use plastic lunchboxes, but the retro-looking ones are still available. I don’t think they’d look good at school or in the office, but perfectly appropriate for picnicking.

I made 3 kinds of rice balls. For the pink ones, I used seasoned salmon flakes --- one of those ready-made toppings to sprinkle on rice. The color of the green ones came from the minced Takana pickles that I mixed in. The last kind had a bit of Korean taste. I seasoned minced carrots, shiitake mushrooms and ground meat with kochujan, then mixed with the rice. Pretty good and spicy, but would have been better if I used kimchi instead of the carrots and mushrooms. In the past I didn’t make much of the idea of using saran wrap for making rice balls, but I changed my mind recently. This way you can hold the rice balls without getting sticky rice on your fingers when you eat. (Or you can use chopsticks, of course.)

A close-up

The tiny taro potatoes were microwaved, salted, then sprinkled with green laver. This was an idea I got from a women’s magazine, but they didn’t taste as good as I expected. Maybe I microwaved them too long. Then, the small fried eggs. What you see in the center is minced scallions with the kochujan-seasoned stuff I made for the rice balls. What was a hit this time was the rolled chicken with dwarf French beans(?) in the center. I just love the way it looks when sliced. The dwarf French beans could have used more seasoning, but the garlicky teriyaki sauce I made to season the chicken was a big success.

I was lucky that almost no one, except one young couple playing catch in the same park, was there to watch me taking so many photos of my lunchbox. ; ) I wanted to include some lovely autumn flowers in the photos with my lunchbox, but it was harder than I thought. Maybe the couple were watching me and laughing, but they at least didn't show that to me. Thanks, guys.