Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sweet Seasons / December 2006 - Camellia -


Sorry! I cheated. You all know that I didn’t post this entry on Dec. 31, 2006. On that day, I was about a hundred kilometers away from my PC and busy cooking all day. But I made it a rule here to post a wagashi entry on the last day of every month, so here it is ;)

I know. I chose camellia for Dec in 2005, too. Here’s another one. Enjoy! :D

*Wagashi by Shingetsu


Saturday, December 30, 2006

With Best Wishes for the Coming Year...

Obachan's End-of-year Tomato Stew...?

I don’t think anyone remembers this post from 2004, but yes, this is a comforting, nutritious fridge-emptying dish that I typically make at the end of the year. It has become almost like a ritual before I leave my apartment to spend New Year’s Day at my parents’ house with my parents, my sister and her husband and kids.

It’s such a nice, sunny day today and the steam coming up from the soup is really comforting me now. (Hope you can see it in the photo.) It's a perfect lunch to have on the day before my busiest day of the year.

Well, this is my last post here on this blog this year.
Thank you for your support and friendship in 2006. Hope you keep coming back in 2007.
I wish you all a happy new year!


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

With Leftovers...

Open Sandwich with Tomato, Cheese and
Leftover Key West Chicken

To be perfectly honest, the chicken tasted better this way...

Temari-zushi with Leftover Smoked Salmon

For those who are wondering... Temari means Japanese traditional balls that kids bounced in olden days... if I'm not mistaken. Here's a photo (but these balls on this site must be some artwork by famous craftsman, not meant to be used for kids' play, I guess).

Inside these sushi balls were cream cheese and avocado -- my favorite combination. And as I wrote before, I like smoked salmon better with sushi rice than with crackers. So I was very happy with this attempt. The only problem with this sushi was that the capers on top kept falling every time I tried to dip the sushi in soy sauce.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

My Christmas Dinner 2006

** Merry Christmas **

My Christmas Eve this year was again very peaceful and relaxing. Early in the evening, I had a nice chat with a friend of mine at a coffee shop in town. Then I came home and enjoyed this Christmas Eve dinner alone until… what time? I don’t remember exactly… But I'm sure it was past midnight when I finally went to bed.

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The menu wasn’t too different from last year. I started with Freixenet Cordon Negro again, because I HAD TO watch tiny bubbles rising in the glass in the candle light. It is an important part of my Christmas ritual now. After the small (178 mL) bottle of this sparkling wine was finished, a very affordable white wine accompanied the dinner.

Canapes on Ritz crackers. Same idea as last year, but this time I had to learn a lesson. Since I didn’t feel like going through all the agonies again, I bought a small jar of chicken liver paste at the store. And I hated its taste! Never again… Also, I learned that I like smoked salmon better with rice rather than with crackers. (You’ll see what I made with leftover smoked salmon soon.) The mentaiko paste, which sounded so tempting when I read about it on the net, turned out to be too salty for me, so I mixed it with tofu-avocado dip later. Well, I’ll know better next year.

Shrimp & avocado salad and vegetable sticks. The celery sticks were good with tofu-avocado dip, but I liked them with mentaiko paste, too.

Now, this was something new this year -- Key West Chicken. The recipe is here. There was only one chicken breast in my fridge, so I HAD TO make this dish successfully if I didn’t want to have a Christmas dinner without a main dish. I read the recipe reviews more carefully than usual, and I was glad that I did, because that saved my chicken from being too salty. I doubled the amount of lime juice and honey (but not soy sauce), marinated the chicken for 6 hours, and had a success (I wouldn’t say a great success, but it was pretty good.)

My cookies this year: Gingerbread people, thumbprint cookies with cherry jam and one of my staples, matcha cookies.

But what I liked the best was this: Sablés au Citron à la Fleur de Sel… something I cannot even pronounce. ;P I wanted something with citrus flavor to balance out the flavors of other cookies, and this recipe looked ideal especially now that I have the famous Fleur de Sel. (Thanks, LPC!!) :D You know, the recipe is from Chocolate and Zucchini, and chika of She Who Eats tried it out and loved it. How could this fail? And the result was, of course -- GREAT!

These Christmas tree cookies were just something I whipped up. I mixed the leftover matcha cookie dough with plain cookie dough to make “marble” dough. With the icing, don’t they look like snow-covered forest? (BTW, what do you call these tiny silver bits? Argent?)

I baked two kinds of cakes for my Christmas dinner this year -- fruitcake and orange pound cake. The fruitcake wasn’t bad, but I didn't notice as much rum flavor as I had expected. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the rum I used was a leftover from a long time ago. The orange pound cake was my last-minute addition: I just added grated orange rind and orange curacao to whatever pound cake recipe I found on the net. It made a good contrast with the fruitcake, I think, both color-wise and taste-wise.

I hope everyone had (or is having) a wonderful Christmas time. :D


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Warm Wishes from Obachan

Place mouse on the photo to open the box. Click photo to enlarge. ;)

Thank you, dear readers, for visiting my site and taking a look at my humble creations. Though I don’t say this often, being related to you like this through blogging means so much to me.
To express my appreciation, I made a cookie gift box for you again.

Enjoy, and
Have a Very Merry Christmas!



Thursday, December 21, 2006

Something Warm for Late Night Supper

Despite the obvious signs of global warming, it’s finally getting cold here in Kochi. My late night supper tonight was a bowl of instant ramen noodles in very thick soup and with lots of vegetables.
Mmmm… warm... :)

Here in Japan, we are experiencing the worst outbreak of norovirus now. I've been avoiding buying packed bento recently.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Xmas Fruitcake... Baking

Yep, now my Christmas fruitcake is in the oven. Same recipe (but halved the amount of molasses) and same procedure as last year.

Next step is going to be making bunch of Christmas cookies, which will take place by next weekend. I’m going to spend the rest of today hunting recipes for holiday cookie recipes. Looks like they didn’t have the virtual holiday cookie recipe swap this year? Oh well, there are still plenty of recipes in cyberspace to choose from. I’m thinking about picking 2 or 3 recipes in addition to my staples: big soft ginger cookies and matcha cookies.

OK. Now it's done!

Obachan's Christmas Fruitcake 2006

It’s going to be brushed with generous amount of white rum and stored in my fridge for about a week.
Mmmmm.... can't wait to taste it! :)


Friday, December 15, 2006

Hey, What Do You Think about My Very First Lemon Meringue Pie?

Lemon Meringue Pie

Yes! I gave this a try this afternoon to use up the lemon curd that I made the other day. My very first lemon meringue pie! What do you think?

I've been wanting to make a pie with meringue looking like these. Well, at my very first try, my meringue didn't turn out as artistic as those photos, but still not too bad, I guess. And just as I expected, the combination of lemon curd and meringue is oh so very good! ;)


Monday, December 11, 2006

Menu for Hope III - Check Out the Prize from Kochi, Japan -

Now, again, it’s that time of the year for us to come together for a good cause and have fun! :) Menu for Hope – a world-wide, annual fundraising campaign by foodbloggers – is taking place again this year, this time to raise funds to support the United Nations World Food Programme. As we did last year, interested readers can buy online raffle tickets for the (food- or wine-related) prizes donated by foodbloggers all over the world. Each raffle ticket costs $US10. For more details of this year’s Menu for Hope campaign, visit these sites:
* Helen’s site (host site for Asia-Pacific region)
* Pim's site (Worldwide prize round-up)
* Donation page

So what am I donating this year? OK.
The prize from Obachan in Kochi, Japan for Menu for Hope III campaign is … drum roll…. A Wagashi-making kit! (Prize code: AP16) :D

This WAGASHI (Japanese sweets) MAKING KIT contains:
- Mochiko (Unsweetened Rice flour) x 1 pkg
- Shiro-an (Sweetened white bean paste) x 2 pkgs
- Flat picks and serving plates (for serving wagashi)
- Japanese paper (can be used for serving wagashi)
- Cookie/vegetable cutters: Maple leaf, cherry blossom, ginkgo leaf and plum blossom
- English recipe for:
1. Ichigo daifuku (Strawberry and sweet bean paste in rice cake)
2. Nerikiri

Now, I’m going to post the recipes here on this site, too, in order to inspire the readers. (I mean, if you have no idea of what they look like and how easy/difficult to make them, how can you get inspired?) If you want to give these a try, but cannot buy the ingredients where you live, don’t hesitate! BUY A RAFFLE TICKET for this prize! ;) Even if you can find similar ingredients in your neighborhood, they may not be exactly the same as what I use, thus may not guarantee a success when you tried out these recipes.

Moreover, this kit contains the vegetable cutters that obachan has used like this and this and this and this. Don’t you want to try the same thing? Plus, there are other small things in this kit to give your wagashi an extra Japanese touch when they are served. So why wait? Buy raffle tickets and win this prize! :D Again, visit Helen's site to see what you should do.

Ichigo Daifuku Recipe

Nerikiri Recipe

*I'll probably keep revising these recipes, making corrections, adding tips, etc. And the winner of this prize will receive the final (which means the best) version of the recipes in the kit.
Of course, the winner should get what's best.


Ichigo Daifuku Recipe

* Menu for Hope III campaign finished on December 22, 2006. Thank you very much for your cooperation. :)

This is a small-sized one that I made using only half of a strawberry for each

Click here for the recipe

Ichigo Daifuku (strawberry and sweet bean paste in rice cake)

Ingredients: (makes about 10 )** 
150 g unsweetened mochiko (rice flour)
170 ml water
about 10 strawberries
Shiroan*(sweetened white bean paste), 20 to 30 g for each
* can be substituted by azuki-an (red bean paste)
** Adopted from the recipe on the package of Maeda Shiroan

Wash strawberries, remove stems and pat dry with paper towel. Cover each strawberry with shiro-an (20 to 30 g each), stem-side down. Leave the tip of strawberries uncovered like this. It will show nice red color through the rice-cake skin.

In a microwavable bowl, mix rice flour and water and knead well. (It may be easier to mix the flour and water in a plastic bag and knead, so that the mixture does not stick to your hands while kneading, then empty the bag into a microwavable bowl.) Often daifuku/dumpling recipes say that the dough should feel like your ear lobe, but microwave method requires more water, so don’t worry if your mixture turns out very soft. Cover with plastic wrap, not too tight so that steam can escape, and microwave for 4 to 5 minutes (with 500 W microwave). It may be better to take out the dough after 2 minutes, stir well, cover with plastic wrap again and microwave 2 more minutes.

With my microwave, 4 minutes in total seemed enough. If your dough looks a little yellowish and plastic-like when it comes out of the microwave, it is overdone. (Photo: dough that just came out of microwave)

Stir well (with a wet pestle, if available) until the dough is glossy, soft and elastic, as in this photo. A strong arm helps a lot here.
* They say that you can freeze this rice-cake dough, but I’m not sure how long it keeps well in the freezer. Could be about a month????

* I updated this part. This is easier and safer. Using a wet wooden spatula (or something similar), scrape out the hot dough onto a flat surface heavily floured with corn/potato starch. Let it spread flat and, while it is warm, cut into desired number of pieces with a dough cutter or something, also dusted with corn/potato starch. Dry your hands, dust well with the starch and shape each piece into a ball.

Flatten and stretch each of the small balls of dough into a thin disk, and wrap a strawberry-bean paste ball wit it. (Place the tip of the strawberry in the center of the disk.) Pinch the edges tight to seal. (Flour fingers well so that the rice cake won't stick, but try not to get much flour on the edges to be sealed together.) The sealed part should be the bottom of the daifuku. Shape into a ball.

Ichigo Daifuku

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Nerikiri Recipe

* Menu for Hope III campaign finished on December 22, 2006. Thank you very much for your cooperation. :)


Click here for the recipe

350 g Shiro-an (Sweetened white bean paste)
10 g rice flour
12 mL water
10 g white sugar
Food coloring
* I understand your concern about the food coloring. More and more Japanese confectioners use natural colors of fruits/vegetables to color wagashi these days. They use the juice or knead steamed vegetable into the dough. From what I read online, some use, for example, beets for red color, egg yolk or pumpkin for yellow, matcha for green, purple potatoes for purple, etc. This time I used store-bought red food coloring, but use what you feel comfortable with. If you come up with a good idea, please let me know.

Heat sweetened white bean paste in a pot over a VERY low heat, stirring vigorously. It’ll turn soft first then somewhat come together, maybe in 4 to 5 minutes?? The paste is done if it does not stick to the skin when you touch it with the back of your hand. * I do not recommend using microwave for this procedure, because once you overdo it, there’s no way to fix it. Plus, you’ll need to use a pot later to heat the dough again anyway, so it'll be easier to start with a pot.

In a microwavable bowl, mix rice flour, water and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for apx. 30 seconds. (When I want to make whighter nerikiri dough, I reduce the amount of water a little and stir small amount of egg white into the water before adding it to the bowl.)

Stir well until it turns white, glossy and elastic. This is called gyuhi, which is practically similar to the daifuku skin.

Take 20 g of the gyuhi made as above and add to the bean-paste. Keep stirring vigorously over VERY low heat (for 3 to 4 minutes??) until the dough becomes a little softer and more elastic than the bean paste, but not sticking to your fingers.

After the dough cools, keep it wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying up.
* They say you can freeze this nerikiri dough, but again I’m not sure how long it keeps well in the freezer. When I tried, the dough was perfect when thawed at room temperature after keeping it in the freezer for 1 week.

You can color dough with food coloring and play with different color combinations. Be careful not to make the dough too mushy when coloring it. Also you can make the dough into different shapes using molds, cookie cutters, etc.

One technique:
Make small balls of shiroan (the yellowish one in the photo), pink-colored nerikiri dough and white nerikiri dough. Wrap an with pink dough. Then wrap the pink dough with thin white dough.


The pink color should vaguely show through the white skin. Make incisions using knife, fork, spoons, etc. so that the pink color would show in the cuts. My hunch is that something made of wood may be better than metallic utensils.

Another technique:

Put pink and white dough together. Smudge the borderline with a finger.

Flatten the dough and wrap shiro-an ball with it. Shape into a flat ball and smooth the surface.

Make incisions. I used the flat wooden pick that will be included in my wagashi-making kit.

Two types of flowers I made using this method.

More techniques for making color gradations are introduced here and here (text is in Japanese only, but the photos are pretty self-explanatory.)

And if you didn’t like what you made, just put everything together and, using plastic wrap like this, squeeze it into a small chestnut or onion shaped ball with an interesting color mixture. ;)

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