Monday, January 30, 2006

for "locals" only?...nah!

Do you try to keep tabs on your home ground? I usually try to check in on the islands twice a week through the Honolulu Advertiser's website.

On Sundays, my favorite is "Deb Aoki's bento box" in the "Island Life" section. Deb Aoki is an illustrator from Hawaii now living in L.A.

"Bento" means "lunch". In Hawaii, a "bento" can sometimes consist of all kinds of different foods from different cultures. This comic strip showcases all of the diverse cultures we have in Hawaii.

Having grown up in Hawaii, reading this comic strip always puts a smile on my face, bringing back all kinds of memories and I sometimes catch myself laughing out loud. Here are two places to find her on the internet: Deb Aoki's blog &Deb Aoki's Bento Box on the Advertiser.

The other is "Taste/Recipes" also in the "Island Life" section. This is usually updated on Wednesdays. This section sometimes gives recipes of local dishes , local foods and food cultures.

Check 'um'dat

Sunday, January 29, 2006

foodie kind of weekend (sort of...)

Before I start this post, I'd like to say, "Kung hee fat choy!" (No, I'm not swearing...really) This is how we say "Happy Chinese New Year" in Hawaii...The Year of the Dog begins today.

My foodie kind of weekend started on Friday...Satoshi had the day off. We decided to roam around in an area near Kobe called Okamoto.

In college, I studied at a university in Okamoto with a study abroad program for 9 months. Before studying abroad, I couldn't speak Japanese at all (In fact, a conversation teacher at the U.H. (University of Hawaii) told me, in my 3rd year, that I should change my major because I was never going to be able to speak Japanese!). I am really grateful to this program and my host-family because they gave me the confidence I needed to speak Japanese (boy, would I like to "talk" to that teacher now!!).

Lunch was in an area called Motoyama-nakamachi. We ate at a place called "Sekai no gochisoo Palermo". Sekai = world, Gochisoo = feast, treats...Worldy Treats Palermo. The chef of this restaurant travelled the world and enjoyed the foods in different countries. He serves from what I can tell, authentic cuisine. The restaurant is really small and he has NO wait help, so be prepared for really SLOW FOOD...when you actually get your meal though, it is worth the wait. Everything tasted really good. And when you order, be sure to order the "nan" (I think this is an Indian version of bread)...this restaurant has spinach flavored nan which is really delicious. (Sorry, I didn't take any photos, I'm still a bit shy about going out to eat and "whipping" out my camera to take a photo of my meal...)

Sekai no gochisoo Palermo
3-3-21 Motoyama-nakamachi
Higashinada-ku, Kobe,
Phone: 078-431-5021 Closed: Wednesdays

Next door to this restaurant were 2 Italian restaurants that also caught our eye...we'll definitely make a couple more trips back!

From Okamoto, we caught the train to the next station over called Konan Yamate. I read about this cake shop on my host-sister, Tomoko's website. The shop is called Peri-tei. It is located in a quiet neighborhood.

When we got there, there were 6 or 7 women ordering different things to take out. The shop has only 12 seats, so if you want to eat your cake there, you may have to wait for a table. Satoshi and I chose the cakes we wanted to eat from the showcase (and be prepared to take a while to is VERY impressive!) After oohing and aahing, we finally made our choices. We sat down and ordered our drinks. Satoshi chose coffee and I chose Earl Grey tea.

This is what we chose...Satoshi: strawberry rolled cake. Kat: strawberry tart.

The rolled cake was so FLUFFY and light and the tart was really good and flaky (I don't like crusts that are on the hard side).

And isn't the way they serve their tea, cute??

3-2-1 Moriminami-machi, Villa Cuore 1F
Higashinada-ku, Kobe
Phone: 078-431-3963
Closed Mondays

After our tea break, we decided to walk a bit back to Okamoto. While walking back we realized that the shop was actually really close to Okamoto and we actually could have walked to have dessert!

In Okamoto, we stopped at a bread bakery called, Backer Bursch. I think it means "baker brothers". This bread bakery specializes in hard type breads but they also had some quiches and scones too. This is what we got for our breakfast. A slice of french bread with mentaiko (chili pepper spiced pollack eggs), a plain scone, a mushroom quiche and a vegetable/ham quiche. They were all very tasty, although the girl who was working the register wasn't too friendly.

Backer Bursch
1-13-22 Tanakamachi, Motoyama Urban Life 1F
Higashinada-ku, Kobe
Phone: 078-413-1251
Closed Tuesdays, TAKE OUT ONLY

On Saturday, we were invited for dinner at my host-family's home. Since studying in Okamoto, I have kept in contact with my host-family over the years. In fact, I consider them to be my family in Japan. During this New Year holiday, we were all quite busy so we decided to get together at a later date...that day was today. My host sister and her husband were kind enough to pick us up at the train station and took us to my host mom & dad's home.

My host brother and his family live nearby and they came over too. My host brother's children are getting bigger and more talkative and his wife is expecting their 3rd child! There was a LOT of food and lots of chattering. It was a great evening. My host brother's wife gave us this hanjyuku (half baked) cheesecake by La Cote d'Azurlwhich is one of her favorite french pastry shop in Ibaraki prefecture, her hometown. This cheesecake was really light and tasted delish!

La Cote d'Azurl
19-26 Higashi Arai
Tsukuba city, Ibaraki prefecture
Phone: 0298-58-3094

Today, we went to Kyoto's International Conference Facility. Satoshi's brother works for a kimono designer, Saito Sansai. He and about twelve other designers had a fashion show to show off their designs and to try to encourage more people to wear kimono regularly.

In Japan nowadays, kimono is considered a form of formal wear, so it is mostly worn to weddings, funerals and to other special events. Satoshi and I never went to a "fashion" show, so we were amazed at how they showed off their works. Loud music with an asian flair, flashy lights...I tried to take photos, but some of the models would spin so my pictures are a bit blurry...still, it was a great experience.

One thing we (I) do before we go anywhere is search the internet for places to eat...Today's lunch was a couple of stations away from the International Conference Facility at a restaurant called

Yamabiko (yamabiko in Japanese means echo). This place is known for it's gyu-suji curry udon. "Gyu-suji" is the muscular part of beef that is stewed until they become really soft. "Udon" is a wheat noodle. Satoshi ordered the gyu-suji curry udon and I ordered the shrimp curry udon...boy, was it temperature hot and spicy hot...I have a burnt tongue as was really good and of course, SPICY!! Really warmed us up...Satoshi had actual beads of perspiration running down his face!!

Yamabiko 122 Tanakamachi Nishinotoin Higashi hairu, Marutamachi
Nakakyo-ku, Kyoto
Phone: 075-231-5477
Closed Saturdays

After lunch, we walked back to what I call the main area of Kyoto called Shijo. My friend, Kiyomi, had told me (a couple of years ago) about a cafe that had great desserts called Au Grenier D'or. Ever since she told me about this cafe, I've put it on my list of places to try and it has been featured in several magazines. This place was REALLY small, and REALLY busy! At one point there were 20 people standing in front of the showcase!

We were lucky to get one of the 6 tables and chose our desserts. Satoshi chose a chocolate millefeuille (layered puff pastry) and I chose parisbrest, it was a puff pastry filled with cream and nuts. It was really light and fluffy. Satoshi had a bit of a hard time eating his because the chocolate was kind of hard, still he said he enjoyed it.

I also got some chocolate pralines to take home.

Au Grenier D'or
527-1 Nishikikoji Agaru, Sakaimachi
Nakakyo, Kyoto, Phone: 075-213-7782
Closed Wednesdays

Sorry this post was REALLY long, but I wanted to share everything with you...We had a delicious and fun 3-day foodie weekend.

Hope you enjoyed yours.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

all about my cookbooks

I was tagged by Zoubida of Kitchen Culture to meme about my cookbooks (I think this is how you use the word "meme") .

I THOUGHT I didn't have many, but when I actually sat in front of my bookshelf...I have 18 in English and 82 in Japanese!

Thinking back, I don't think I really cooked anything until Satoshi and I started going out. Sure, I used to bake cakes from box mixes. And at one time, envisioned becoming a cake decorator. But, when you are still in school, your goals tend to change...A LOT...I think I went from cake decorator to interior decorator to translator at the U.N....who would have ever thought I would become a housewife and blogger too! :)

Oops...back to the meme...

1. How many do you own?
18 English ones & 82 Japanese ones

2. Which is the one you bought most recently?

It is a cookbook written in Japanese by a bagel company called Bagel & Bagel. This book gives recipes and ideas on how to make bagels and how to dress them up.

It is the 2nd book written by them. (I have the 1st one, too.) And am tempted to try making some bagels soon!

3. Which is the one you read most recently?
As soon as I buy a cookbook, I usually read it like a book. Looking at the recipes and of course if the cookbook has great photos, ooh and awe at those.

My mom gave me a cookbook this past Christmas which celebrated the 100th anniversary for her church. It is called "Wisteria Delights" and is filled with a lot of local Japanese style & local style dishes of Hawaii.

4. Name 5 which mean a lot to you. This was a toughie...I mean, they all mean something to, I'll try to narrow it down to goes...

My Okinawan cookbooks...having found long lost relatives in Okinawa 2 years ago, I was interested in learning more about my roots, culture and the kinds of foods they have, especially since the people of Okinawa seem to have the keys to living long and healthy lives.

The series of cookbooks by Orange Page...these were the very first cookbooks that I purchased...although some of the ingredients were hard to come by in Hawaii (plus, I couldn't read everything), when I moved to Japan 5 years ago, I found that I could cook more the recipes because the ingredients were readily at hand. (Although, I can't read ALL the chinese characters (kanji), I can get by...a girl's gotta eat, right??)

The "Recipes Please" series...these cookbooks were created by my mom's friends. They have a variety of local Hawaiian dishes, dressings and desserts...definitely necessary when craving local style foods.

Recipes from my Grandma &'s not a cookbook (and I had to pry them out of my Grandma), but they mean a lot to me because when I make some of these foods it reminds me of my Grandma, Mom and Sunday dinners at home.

Recipe for mabo tofu...this also isn't a cookbook either, but it means a lot to me because a friend shared her original recipe for mabo tofu with me...this recipe also means a lot to me because it was one of the first dishes I made for Satoshi.

Now, I'd like to tag Rowena of Rubber Slipper in Italy and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

tsukiai & crochet

What a long day today was...I had my bead crochet class.
We made this napkin holder.

And this necklace was a project that I wasn't finished with by the end of our last class.

Last night and tonight, Satoshi had "tsukiai" parties with co-workers. "Tsukiai" means association, and they do this by going drinking. Last night's "tsukiai" was a farewell party for some co-workers and tonight's "tsukiai" was a welcome party for new co-workers...why they couldn't put the two together is a bit odd to me. Ask Satoshi and he'll tell you that "tsukiai" is the MOST IMPORTANT LAW of being a company worker (salary-man as they are called here)...yeah, yeah...go drinking, but be able to wake up in the morning and don't fall asleep in the "furo" (bath)!

Anyway, since he didn't need dinner last night, I decided to make myself something simple, baked rotini with pesto cream sauce. It came out pretty good and I put together a salad to go with it.

After my class today, I popped into the Hanshin Department store. If you've ever gone shopping in a Japanese Department store, you'll know that in the basement they have their prepared foods and grocery section (for you aisle roamers out there this is the place to roam!). I went to check out the prepared area for a bento or something for dinner. I went to one of my favorite vendors, Mamehachiro. I like this vendor because they use a lot of beans in their dishes. I bought a seafood kakiage donburi. Kakiage is a kind of tempura. Tempura is usually shrimp or vegetables that are separately battered lightly and then fried crispy. Kakiage are different ingredients mixed together such as shredded carrots, sliced onions, green beans, corn which are lightly battered together then fried. Donburi means bowl. It was very filling.

I also bought myself dessert, ohagi. Ohagi is mochi rice that hasn't been pounded into mochi (rice cakes) yet, then is covered with "an" sweet red bean paste. This ohagi had a strawberry in it (sorry the picture is a bit blurred). It was very good and not too sweet.

I didn't have time to take a nap so I'm kind of hanging a bit...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

while roaming the aisles of the supermarket

My breakfast this morning was Tofu Salad (Satoshi's was Pasta Carbonara). My family in Hawaii has this for dinner sometimes and we sometimes make it to take to pot-luck parties. Usually we put canned salmon, onions, tomatoes and lots of watercress, bean sprouts and a cut up block of firm tofu (soybean curd). I made it a bit simply with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, carrots and tofu. The dressing I used was the same dressing I used when I made my seared ahi-avocado salad.

Do you like to roam up and down the aisles of the supermarket? I do!! A nice thing about the upscale supermarkets in Japan is that they bring in products from all over the world. I really enjoy seeing new items at the supermarket.

I was first introduced to this brand of tea, BOH (I think it's pronounced "bow") about 2 years ago when I received it as part of a Christmas gift from my host-sister, Tomoko. The tea that she gave me was a black tea called Cameron Highlands. This brand of tea is grown in Malaysia. As I roamed the aisles of the supermarket today, I came across a new line of this brand called, Seri Songket Collection. Because the Cameron Highlands was good, I decided to get one from this new collection. I chose the Lemon and Mandarin flavored tea (because it sounded really good and mainly because it was the flavor that was ON SALE).

I had it with lunch today, and it was really good! A very light lemon and mandarin orange flavor--it doesn't over power the tea. On the box it says to drink it black(or as the Japanese say "straight") and hot or over ice with a slice of fruit.

Another tea brand that caught my eye while walking the aisles of the supermarket was Janat. I've seen this tea being sold at our favorite cafe, so I was happy to find that it was also ON SALE at the supermarket today.

According to what I could read on the internet in Japanese, before the French Revolution, there was a commerce trader named Dores--his grandson , Janat Dores started Janat Tea in 1872. On the tin, it says Paris, but I couldn't seem to find a website in English or in French (not that I can read French). So, it may be that this is product can only be found in Japan...hmm...the tin is really cute though, it has 2 cats on it.

The tea I got is called Moon Valley (no. 1030), it is a Darjeeling tea with a hint of muscat (grape). I tasted this tea during my afternoon tea and it was really good, a hint of sweetness, but the main flavor of Darjeeling wasn't lost.

With tea this afternoon I had a "yukiichigo" which means "yuki" (snow), "ichigo" (strawberry). My aunty came upon this dessert while roaming around the train station shopping arcade near her hotel when she visited us 5 years ago. The one we had back then was really light and fluffy. There was a piece of sponge cake at the bottom, a strawberry in the center and whipped cream around it (sorry the picture is a bit dark). The whole thing was wrapped in a very thin mochi (rice cake).

I found this version, again while roaming the aisles of the supermarket...I bought it and envisioned the same light and fluffiness of the first "yukiichigo" I had, only to be disappointed because the cream wasn't whipped--it was actually a bit on the heavy side (definitely PMS-ing...)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

eat your beans!

When mothers tell their children to "eat their beans", I don't think they had this in mind...dessert today was an "ichigo daifuku". "Ichigo" means strawberry, "Daifuku" is a thin mochi (rice cake) filled with sweet bean paste. This daifuku version uses cannellini bean paste that is sweetened, called "shiro-an"--"shiro" means white and "an" means sweet bean paste. In Hawaii, a lot of "shiro-an" is made from lima beans. Anyway, the strawberry goes into the middle, then is wrapped in the sweet cannellini bean paste, then the whole thing is wrapped with a very thin mochi (rice cake)...still, I'm eating them, aren't I?

For dinner tonight, I was inspired by Michele's blog, Oswego Tea, to re-create her dish, Pasta Carbonara because One, it looked so good and Two, I just had to find crispy bacon (plus three, I think I have PMS...). Her recipe is no longer online. For some reason or other, most of the bacon here is like thin sliced ham and no matter how long you cook it, it doesn't get crispy.

So, this is the results(kind of dark photo, sorry!) tasted ooh-la-la!! Thanks for the idea, Michele!

p.s. Satoshi will be having this for breakfast tomorrow morning :)

Monday, January 23, 2006

a "local" favorite & salmon

It snowed last night (yeah!!). Not as much as Tokyo got over the weekend and not even enough to stay frozen--but a couple of centimeters.

I walked through the flurries to a neighboorhood bread shop called Little Mermaid to buy my lunch...they also have a Japanese version of malasadas.

Malasadas are a fried donut without a hole that is covered with sugar. It originated in Portugal(some areas of Portugal also call them "filhos").

In 1878, when the Portuguese immigrants came to Hawaii, one of the things they brought with them was their family recipes for malasadas. Malasadas were made on Shrove Tuesday (sometimes called Fat Tuesday in other areas)--the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. They were your "last" indulgence before Lent when you were supposed to give up things for 40 days. Portuguese cooks used up the eggs, butter and lard that they had in their pantry, since Lent also meant abstinence from animal products.

In 1952, Leonard’s Bakery was founded--this was the first business to sell malasadas in Hawaii. Since its founding, malasadas have become a local favorite. Go to any carnival or fair on the island and you’ll find a malasadas booth--and if they are good, a very long line.

In recent years, another version of the malasadas has emerged in Hawaii--the puff-a-sada. It is a combination of cream puff and malasadas, it is the same fried donut without a hole covered with sugar, but inside is a custard pudding fillings such as vanilla, chocolate and haupia. Haupia is a hawaiian-style coconut pudding.(by the way, the combination of chocolate and haupia is also out of this world!!)

My favorite malasadas in Hawaii is from Champion Malasadas. The baker worked at Leonard’s then left to start his own business. I think Champion Malasadas is better than Leonard’s because it stays fluffy, even when it gets cold. Leonard’s tends to get really flat. If you're in Honolulu, here's the address:

Champion Malasadas
1926 S. Beretania Street
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays: 6:00-19:00
Sundays: 6:30-19:00
Closed on Mondays

Getting back to Japan's version of the malasadas called "An Donut", this version has what else, but "an" or "anko" in it. "An" is made with adzuki (red bean) and is cooked until very soft, then sugar and more water is added and the mixture is cooked until it becomes paste-like. This sweet bean paste is then put into the center of little balls of dough and fried until it puffs, then it is coated with sugar. I really like this "an donut" made by Little Mermaid because it reminds me of Champion Malasadas back home.

For tonight's dinner, I made Grilled Salmon with Mustard Sauce (sorry the picture is a bit dark...). I got the recipe from "The Healthy Kitchen" by Andrew Weil, M.D. & Rosie Daley. I pared the recipe down a bit since I only made enough for 2. I also added the sauce in the last 5 minutes of broiling.

The original recipe below serves 4.

4 salmon filets
1 lemon, cut in half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill OR 1 tablespoon dried dill
1 handful chopped fresh basil

Rinse filets under cold water and pat them dry. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 the lemon over the filets and season with salt and pepper.

Pre-heat grill or broiler.

Prepare sauce: Whisk together mustard, olive oil and dill in a small bowl. Add the basil and the juice of the other 1/2 of lemon, mix well.

Grill the fish on high heat or broil until desired doneness, do not overcook!

Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

The fresh herbs in combination with the Dijon mustard and lemon were great!!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

dark chocolate shopping

Today Satoshi and I went to a shopping complex called Minoo Visola. It is about 10 minutes from our place by car, 20 minutes by bus. There was a new movie that Satoshi wanted to see and it was playing at this shopping complex. The movie was "Uchoten Hotel"...I guess my Japanese proficiency isn't too great because I thought the previews of this movie were a lot better than the movie itself, while Satoshi, on the other hand, enjoyed the movie.

When we got to the shopping complex, we bought our tickets and realized we had some time before the movie. We decided to walk around Carrefour. Carrefour is actually from France and is the worldwide leader in hypermarkets. Hypermarkets are a combination of department store and supermarket. The aisles are really wide like America's supermarkets, you weigh the food you want to buy and can actually "touch" it before buying (they aren't already pre-packaged like most Japanese supermarkets are) and they have all kinds of foods from all around the world--especially from France.

Since we don't go to this shopping complex too often, I decided to check out the candy aisle as well as the Italian and Mexican shelves...let's just say, I could stay in the grocery area for a LONG time...

While roaming the aisles, I found a LOT of dark chocolates (which I "had" to buy) from different chocolate makers....From the top, left to right: Monbana Chocolatier (France), Chocolatier Rademaker (Holland), Cemoi Chocolatier (France), Sarotti & Rausch (Germany)....can't wait to try them!!

Have a great week!!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

cafe copine plus

I had an English lesson today. Satoshi had his German language class. After his class though, he had to go to the office to settle some details for a customers travel itinerary.

So, after my lesson, I went to Umeda to have lunch. I went to one of my favorite places, Cafe Copine Plus. The reason why I like this place is: they have good food and they don't allow smoking. This cafe is located in the Daimaru-Umeda Department Store. Recently, a lot of department stores have banned smoking in most of their restaurants and cafes (yeah!!).

I had the daily plate lunch (in Japanese, they call this the "higawari" (daily) "wan" (one) plate lunch) Today's menu was grilled chicken and weiners with veggies. The sauce for the chicken and veggies was a balsamic one and grainy mustard for the weiners. Under the chicken was a little scoop of potatoes au gratin. There was also was a green salad and green beans mixed with corn and tuna. Plus, two pieces of baguette (which you could have seconds of...)

It was quite filling...but I also had dessert...a "tonyu" (soy milk) pudding wrapped in a thin "mochi" (rice cake) , strawberry sorbet and a cafe latte.

After Satoshi finished his work, we got together for dinner at an Italian restaurant called Buco di Muro. (I forgot all about taking pictures, so I guess we'll have to go back again!!) ;)
This place has wood burning oven, so you know pizza was GOOD! We ordered grilled veggies, a pizza with salad on it and a bacon spinach carbonara. Boy, were we stuffed!

Hope you're having a great weekend.
Take care!

Cafe Copine Plus
Daimaru Umeda Department Store 5F (UPDATE:2011 this cafe is no longer in Daimaru)
Phone: 06-4798-7720

Buco di Muro
Chayamachi Applause Tower B1
06-6377-5567 (UPDATE: 2012 this restaurant is no longer at this address)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

seared ahi avocado salad

Tonight's dinner was seared ahi-avocado salad. "Ahi" is the Hawaiian word for yellow-fin tuna (the Japanese name for it is "maguro"). This salad is one of Satoshi's favorites. It is very quick and easy.

When we lived in Hawaii, a different version of this is dish is often served as an appetizer in many bars and restaurants--the ahi is usually tartare style and layered with chopped avocado and tomatoes, then drizzled with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mayonnaise and served with little baguette toasts. (I sometime make this version when entertaining his friends, or sometimes for dinner)

Before searing the ahi, I sprinkled some cajun blackening spices onto both sides of the fish. Then on a heated pan, I put a little olive oil and then put the fish on...(make sure you don't leave the fish on for more than 5 seconds on all sides.) Take it off the heat and slice. (sear the fish just before serving or else the fish may turn color with the air)

In my salad I put green leaf lettuce, sliced red onion, carrots, tomatoes and red bell pepper.

The dressing I made is similar to Sam Choy's creamy oriental dressing.
Here's Sam's recipe (from "Sam Choy's Sampler"):
Makes 4 cups
3 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Whisk everything together until well blended. If the consistency is too thick, whisk in a few drops of water at a time, until you get the consistency you desire.

Here's Kat's version:
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoons vinegar
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
*put everything into a shaker and shake until well combined.

When I served the salad, I put a tablespoon of the dressing (for one serving), then drizzled a little mayonnaise on top and sprinkled some fresh ground pepper...I think my version of the dressing may be a little more low-cal.

p.s. another version: you can also mix some wasabi into some mayonnaise and drizzle...


entrance exam season

It's entrance exam season in Japan (I think the tests are held in February & March)
In Japan, to enter a college is much harder than graduate from it. It used be that graduating from a prestigious university would set you up for the "good life"--with a job at a good company for life...But recently, this is turning out not to be so true, with "ristora"(down-sizing), it seems that where you graduated from has no precedence when the comany down-sizes.

During exam season, snack companies in Japan have come up with a way to cheer on these students and since Japan is such a superstitious country, to cash in on the profits...Here are a couple of snacks with puns in them to promote and cheer on the passing of entrance exams.

Calbee's Curl: a kind of chip similar to Cheetos in katakana it is written "ka-ru"...on this version though, it is in the form of an "omamori" (good luck charm) and wishes for the student to "u-ka-ru"(pass the test).

Tohato's Caramel Corn: this is like caramel flavored cheese puffs sans the cheese with katakana it is written "kyarameru ko-n" but on this version, it is in the form of a "daruma" (tumbling doll) and is called "kanaeru ko-n"--"kanaeru" means for something "to be granted". The daruma is considered to be a good luck charm. You color in one side of his eye and make a wish. When your wish comes true, you color in the other side.

Nestle's KitKat: like the KitKat in America, only it is flavored with "sakura"(cherry blossoms).
In katakana, KitKat is written "kitto katto", but on this version it is pronounced "kitto katsu" (certainty to win/pass). The cherry blossom design is symbolic of the entrance ceremonies held during April (the cherry blossom season). Also, cherry blossoms in full bloom is symbolic of passing the exam. They say "sakura saku" (the cherry blossom blooms = passing the test).

During this time, many students and their parents are on edge, so be careful with what you is bad luck to talk about or to say things like "ochiru" (to fall), "suberu" (to slip), "korobu" (to fall down), all of these are considered to jinx the test takers chances at passing.

Good luck to all you test takers out there!!

gosh, what day is it?

Sigh...The days have all meshed together...I wake up in the morning(although sometimes I still think it's night since it's still dark) and wonder, "gosh, what day is it?" That's what happens to me when Satoshi works on the weekend and doesn't get any time off during the week.

Since the bus accident on Saturday, Satoshi has had to work late. He's been coming home at about 12 every night (which means the "kitchen" has to stay open...Yes, he eats "dinner" when he comes home!) He was actually supposed to be off today, but has to go into work because the injured people are returning to Japan today.

Every morning, I make him a "musubi" (rice ball) with different fillings in it such as "ume" (pickled plum), "furikake" (seasoned dried condiments to sprinkle on rice), "shake" salmon flakes, or some type of "tsukemono" (pickled veggies) which he brings to the office to snack on in the evening (at about 7 or 8 at night). Then when he comes home, I feed him a salad or some soup and then it's bedtime.(I try not to serve anything too heavy otherwise he won't want to eat anything the next morning.)

During the week, I wake up at 6:40 and start preparing breakfast. I try to serve "dinner" foods for breakfast because Satoshi can't really eat dinner at dinnertime (plus, with only having a salad the night before, he's kind of starving). Satoshi's alarm usually goes off about a half hour after I wake up and he doesn't get out of bed for another half an hour (it's worse in the winter for him, plus he has bad sleep habits since he doesn't go to sleep at the same time every night).

After he leaves for work, I do chores around the house. (Although, if I'm feeling kind of low on energy, I go back to sleep) Then I get ready to go out for my grocery shopping. I usually shop everyday, picking up little items to add-on to our meals. At the same time, I usually pick up something for lunch. Usually I buy a sandwich or "okazu" (side dishes) to eat with rice. Then after lunch, it's Kat's nap time (this nap can last for 3 or 4 hours sometimes), but considering I wait up until midnight (sometimes later...), it is definitely necessary! I don't know how Satoshi does it because he doesn't get to take a nap!!

Hopefully this weekend will be a restful one for the both of us.

For those of you in cold areas, I wanted to share a picture of some hot cocoa by Cafe Tasse. I got this the last time I went to Hawaii at the Honolulu Chocolate Company. Just add heated milk to the contents...It was really rich and really hit the spot!

One more day until the weekend!! :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

new addition (to the cookbook shelf...)

I wanted to use up the pesto that I made, so today's breakfast was an omlette with chopped onions and pesto in it, tomatoes on top. Plus, a scoop of rice, and sliced apple.

While on my walk to the grocery store, it began to drizzle, I "happened" to be near a bookstore, so I ran in....This is my new addition to my cookbook shelf ,(I counted and have 80 Japanese ones and 18 English ones. I am a sucker for the kind of cookbooks which have "good enough to eat" photos in them.) a book about dark chocolate confections called "Otona no Valentine", which means Grown-up Valentine. It is written by Shigeno Sawako. In Japan, bitter or dark chocolate is considered to be for adult or grown-up tastes (otona no aji). The recipes look rather simple, but the photos!!

Wouldn't you be sold if you saw something like this? (I "bought" it; hook, line and sinker...)

A little early tidbit about Valentines Day in Japan. The girls give the guys chocolates on Valentines Day (unfair if you ask me..) There is the "honmei" (real feelings) and "giri" (obligation) "choco" (they shorten the word for chocolate to choco here). For example, you would give your boss "giri" choco (unless you like him...), but give a guy you really like "honmei" choco. A lot of department stores bring in high quality chocolates and chocolatiers from around the world during this time of year (Girls, this is the time to buy your own high quality chocolates!! reason why in a minute....) If the guy likes you back, then on March 14, they would give you something white, like white chocolate(eeww!...although diamonds are sort-of white aren't they??), this day is called "White day". (As you can tell, I'm not a big fan of white chocolate...)

I wanted to show you some of my kitchen appliances. My kitchen is a really "cute" space. Only 1 tatami mat (a little less than 1.62 sq. m. (17 sq. ft.)) big. My counter space is the size of an 8-1/2" by 11" piece of paper in the U.S. or an A4 size (210mmx297mm) sheet in Japan.

Some of you have seen some of the interesting appliances (because you've visited) that I have in my kitchen, but for those who haven' is my "easy-bake" oven. Too small for a 9"x 13" pan to go in and bake nicely. The element only heats in certain areas of the oven. Round pans bake well (because the turntable is turning evenly below the element...Square pans can fit but, there is a ledge which props the pan higher than it should be, thus burning the side closest to the element.) The other functions, such as fish grilling, yakiimo(roast sweet potato) and popcorn are great!! And it is all programmed into the key pad on the side, just press the food you are cooking and the time and way of cooking is set for you (no thinking! only trouble is if I try to cook somewhere else, I won't really know the time or how to cook the food!!).

Next, is my refrigerator. I love this one best...because you can open it from the right side.

And open it from the left side....I also have a plastic sheet in front of the refrigerator shelves to stop the cold from escaping when opening the door.

Monday, January 16, 2006

on a walk to the grocery store

On my morning walk to the grocery store, I came across this bright, yellow flower. (I shop at different stores, so my route varies from day to day.) In winter, everything is so drab, and most of the trees are bald, but this yellow flower really caught my eye. Luckily, I had brought my camera, so I took a picture of it. When I got home, I searched the internet and found out the Japanese name for it is "Robai". It is originally from China and is scientifically called Chinmonanthus praecox (try saying that 3 times!) It is also called Wintersweet. The flower looks very waxy and the petals are quite transparent (kind of like when you leave your lettuce too close to the back of your refrig and it freezes a bit), the fragrance from this flower is very nice and rather powerful, you can smell it from quite a distance away!

As I continued walking, I noticed there was something being dried on the side of the road. In Japan, there aren't very many sidewalks, so we usually have to "share" the road with cars, bicycles and mopeds (although the cars, bicycles and mopeds don't really share...) As I got closer, I realized that this was "katsuo" (bonito) flakes. There is a soba (buckwheat) noodle shop nearby to where this was being dried, so I figured what they were doing was; after taking "dashi" (stock) from the bonito for their soup, they were drying the flakes to re-use for stock another day. (I don't know if that is why it was out there, but it isn't too sanitary...)

While shopping at an upscale grocery store in my area, I came across these cereal bars made by Waitrose. Waitrose is apparently an upscale grocery store chain in the U.K. Awhile back I bought ginger cereal bars made by the same company. It had lots of ginger pieces in it and was really spicy, but really good! These cereal bars are good, one has bits of lemon and the other has bits of apricot in them, plus they are covered with dark chocolate (a definite plus!) or continental plain chocolate as they call it.

Breakfast today was soba (buckwheat) pasta with pesto and tomatoes.

I've been in sort of a soup mode. The weather has been really cold the past couple of days. The areas along the Japan Sea Coast have still been getting the brunt of the snow and some people have been literally trapped in their homes for the past week or so. Close to 100 deaths have occurred due to people trying to shovel the snow off of their roofs and falling off while doing so. I hope the country can help the people in these areas soon, their food supplies are dwindling fast!!

I decided to make some soup for dinner. Here's my soup recipe (actually, no real measurements, just threw stuff into the pot!)

Kat's "ad-lib" veggie soup
1/2 cup beans (soaked for 1/2 a day then boiled for an hour)
1 carrot , diced
1/2 zucchini, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1/4 cabbage, cut up (kind of chunky)
1 enringi mushroom, diced
1 can cut tomato
1 Tablespoon beef consomme
1 Tablespoon pesto
handful of parsley, chopped
1 cup pasta (uncooked)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cups water

Start by putting the oil into a pot and coating the onion, carrot, zucchini, enringi.
When the onion gets a bit transparent, put in the 4 cups water.
Add the cabbage and boil until all are soft.
Add the consomme, pesto and can tomatoes.
Skim off the scum that forms on the top.
Add the chopped parsley and pasta.
Note: add whatever veggies you like (or have), this soup is really easy to make and fast!
P.S. this was the inside of the Babbi wafers...(sorry my teeth marks are on it...) the wafer was light and the dark chocolate-- yummy!!