Tuesday, October 31, 2006

happy halloween!

It is Halloween, well, for most of the world. Japan doesn't celebrate it like America does, although they are slowly coming around to the idea.

I decided to make a rich, chocolate-y dessert for the occasion, and what better than something by Pierre Herme?

Of course, I don't have the culinary skills to make most of the recipes in this book, nor the tools or kitchen space, so I chose something within my range...Chocolate Rice Pudding.

Here is the recipe: from "Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme" written by Dorie Greenspan

3 3/4 cups (935 grams) whole milk
1/2 cup (100 grams) Arborio rice
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
7 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, melted
1/2 cup (60 grams) moist, plump golden raisins

1. Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and add the rice, sugar and salt.
Bring to the boil, stirring frequently--don't walk away, because milk boils over quickly--then lower the temperature so that the milk is at a slow, steady simmer. Stirring now and then, allow the milk to simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through. (The timing depends on your rice and the strength of your simmer. Because you're using Arborio rice, the rice, when properly cooked, will remain ever so slightly al dente, meaning it will be firm at its center.) About one-quarter of the milk will have boiled away, and that's fine.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and using a heatproof spatula, stir in the butter. When the butter is melted and incorporated, pour a little of this hot mixture into the melted chocolate and stir gently. Now scrape the chocolate into the pot and stir it into the rice mixture, stirring in ever-widening concentric circles and stirring only enough to combine the ingredients. Stir in the raisins and then spoon the rice pudding into a serving bowl or individual cups. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pudding to create an air-tight seal and, once the pudding reaches room temperature, put it in the refrigerator to chill.

Notes: I couldn't find Arborio rice, so I bought this brand, Alce Nero, everything was written in Italian, but I think it was a type of rice that could be used for risotto.

Also, I couldn't find golden raisins, but found these "ruby raisins" from Iran. I surfed the internet and found that they are called "red raisins" in the U.S.

This dessert is very rich. I think the next time I make this, I'll put it into smaller cups. The chewiness of the rice and raisins add a nice texture to it--enjoy it with a strong cup of coffee or espresso.

Keeping with the Halloween theme....this actually wasn't a Halloween costume, but I wanted to share with you what I looked like when I went with a friend to Kyoto a couple of years ago.

For a fee, you can dress up like "maiko" (geisha apprentices) and walk around--some people think you are actual "maiko" and want photos with you, it is definitely a great experience, especially trying to walk in these shoes and trying to take off all the make-up afterwards--they paint part of the back of your neck too!

Have a safe, but fun Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2006

curried sweet potato soup

The days are still quite warm here, I'm wondering if the leaves will be able to turn color this year, or will they just dry up and fall off...hmm.

I wanted to share another book which I read about in a review in the Australian Gourmet Traveller--actually, it was for the bigger version, "Soup Kitchens", I realized this after looking at the book I had bought.

"Little Book of Soup" is filled with recipes for different kinds of soups by the U.K.'s greatest chefs and food writers. Most of the recipes seem quite simple. Plus, the royalties benefit homeless charities such as the Salvation Army and Centrepoint.

In it, I found a simple recipe that is perfect to show off autumn's gifts here in Japan.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup by Jill Dupleix (from "Little Book of Soup")-- Serves 4
1 kg. orange fleshed sweet potato
1.2 litres boiling water or stock
salt and pepper to taste
400g canned white beans
1 tsp good curry powder or more
2 tbsp fresh parsley or coriander leaves

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into small cubes. Put in a pan, add the boiling water or stock, salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the sweet potato is soft.

Drain the beans and rinse. Add half the beans and curry powder to the soup, stirring well, then whizz in a food processor in batches, being careful not to overfill the bowl.

Return to the pan, add the remaining whole beans, and gently heat. If too thick, add extra boiling water. Taste for salt, pepper and curry powder, and scatter with parsley or coriander.

Notes: In Japan, I have only seen the purple skinned type sweet potato, so that was what I used. Also, I couldn't find canned stock and didn't have time to make my own, so I used consomme cubes. I thought that this soup might be too sweet with just water, so I made it with the stock version. My food processor is a "cute" little thing, so whizzing took awhile, but this soup came out great! I served this with some salt and peppered zucchini and onions and a flax seed roll.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

"la dolce vita"

I first read about this book in a book review featured in the February 2006 copy of Australian Gourmet Traveller and knew I had to get it.

The author, Isabel Coe, grew up in a Swiss-Italian family. She tells delicious stories of her grandmother and mother's childhoods as well as her own which revolved around their love for chocolate, good food and family.

Just reading their tales and the recipes that are also included in this book brought a smile to my face.

It is a fast read and if you love chocolate as much as I do, you will definitely love this book!

Friday, October 27, 2006

black bottom cupcakes

Since I had some cream cheese leftover, I wanted to find a recipe to use it up.

I found a rather simple recipe on Leite's Culinaria, called Black-Bottom Cupcakes by David Lebovitz.

Here is the recipe: Black-Bottom Cupcakes from David Lebovitz' book, "The Great Book of Chocolate". Makes 12 cupcakes.

For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, regular or reduced fat, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
2 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the filling:
1. Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Set aside.

Make the cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350F (175C). Butter a 12-cup muffin tin or line the tin with paper muffin cups.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.

3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.

4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine.

5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

Notes: I don't think I had 8 oz. of cream cheese because my filling was very liquidy--either that or because it had been in the freezer, maybe the consistency changed after defrosting. Anyway, I ended up with a marble-y top, not the cream cheese filling in the center.

Another thing that I made a mistake with was the cocoa powder.
The only one I could find was a dutch processed one, Droste. (the nun/nurse on the package is quite scary looking...)

For the coarsely chopped chocolate, I used Dagoba New Moon bar which was a 74% cacao and because it was exactly 2 oz.

Also, I baked the cupcakes for about 30 minutes.

Still, the cupcakes came out moist and delicious! I'll definitely have to try this recipe again!

bead stitch & crochet

Yesterday was my beads class. Here are a couple of projects that I finished.

This cute little doll can be worn as a brooch or pendant. I crocheted the skirt and assembled the arms, legs and head.

This other project was made with a herringbone stitch--kind of a "W" shaped stitch.

At the ends of the lariat, I attached venetian beads and swarovski crystals.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

hoisin sauce chicken

The other day, I posted about finding hoisin sauce at the gourmet supermarket. This is what the bottle looks like--just in case you were wondering.

I decided to make a dish that my mother would sometimes make for our Sunday dinner get-togethers.

She would sometimes bake ribs and sometimes chicken thighs with this marinade.

Since I couldn't find ribs, I decided to try making this dish with chicken wings. I didn't have her exact recipe, but found a similar one in a cookbook that I did have. It came out almost like hers. And the aroma that filled the kitchen was mouth-watering!

Because the chicken would have strong flavors, I served it with a warm salad of zucchini, shiitake, asparagus, red onion and tomato, seasoned with just salt, pepper and some olive oil.

Be sure to have lots of rice on hand, you'll want to pour some of the gravy onto it! (at least that's my favorite way to eat this dish...)

Here's the recipe: Hoisin Baby Back Ribs from the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort Ohana Cookbook

5 lbs. baby back ribs
1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, sliced + 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 T. sake (rice wine)
Cilantro for garnish

Cut racks into individual ribs or, if you prefer, 3 or 4 rib sections.
Place in a large pot and cover with water.
Add slices of ginger.
Boil gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Drain ribs and discard ginger.
Combine sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, grated ginger, garlic and sake.
Marinate the cooked ribs in this mixture for 4 to 5 hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat broiler.
Place ribs in a roasting pan and broil for 15 minutes, turning, if necessary.
Ribs can be put on the grill just to glaze.
Garnish with sprigs of cilantro.
Serves a crowd.

Notes: For chicken, I didn't do the boiling part of the recipe, instead I just marinated the chicken overnight. Also, I cut the sauce portions in half, because there are only 2 of us. I baked 10 chicken wings in a 325F(170C) oven for 30 minutes then under the broiler for 20 minutes.

TIP: For a simple way to marinate, I usually put everything into a ziploc bag with a tray under it and turn the bag over and kind of massage it every so often--the tray is there just in case the marinade drips out, saves cleaning up the refrig if it should spill!


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

bagels (part 2)

Here's today's breakfast.

Our "mini" bagels with cream cheese, salmon, sliced red onions, capers and some ground pepper. The zoom lens on this digital camera makes it seem like a normal sized bagel...I thought it may be too small, but it was just right-- for me! I think Satoshi may still be hungry....

I found a nice surprise out on my lanai (or veranda as the Japanese like to call it)...late blooming lavender!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I was inspired by Cream Puff's bagels and decided to give it a try myself. Yesterday, after getting all the ingredients together, I realized I had run out of yeast...sigh.

Today, I bought yeast but added too much water and ended up with a super, sticky, pasty mess....sigh.

On the last try....flax seed bagels!... but these guys are REALLY small--only about 4 inches wide (maybe this is the size we should be eating?).

I'm wondering if it had to do with the container I put them in to rise in....Anyway, the insides look alright, so I guess we'll have them for breakfast tomorrow :)

Monday, October 23, 2006

minced chicken with lettuce cups

I want to thank everyone for your concerns. Most of my family and friends emailed me to say that they were okay--a bit shaken up and with no electricity for almost a whole day, but safe...whew!

Today it rained off and on--kind of a lazy, hang in bed and read day....

There is a dish that I have been wanting to try to re-create...minced pork with lettuce cups. It tastes like the inside filling of moo shu pork with lettuce to wrap the filling instead of the thin bread-like ones.

One ingredient in this dish is hoisin sauce--which I finally found in the gourmet supermarket! Hoisin sauce is a type of Chinese barbecue sauce. In Hawaii, my mother used to bake ribs and chicken with it...delicious!

I surfed the internet for a recipe and came up with one, which I adapted to get the flavors that I had in mind.

Here's the original recipe: Martin Yan's Lettuce Cups
Makes: 2-4 servings
8 ounces ground turkey (or minced chicken)
1 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoons dry sherry or rice wine
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoons minced ginger
6 dried black mushrooms
1 small carrot, cut into l/ 4-inch cubes
1 small zucchini, cut into l/ 4-inch cubes
1 cup diced water chestnuts
12 leaves small iceberg lettuce, cups
hoisin sauce
3/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
Asian chili sauce (optional)

1. Place meat in a bowl with oyster sauce; stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Soak mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid.
3. Trim and discard stems. Chop caps.
4. Place a wok over high heat until hot.
5. Add cooking oil, swirling to coat sides.
6. Add ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
7. Add meat, stir-fry until meat crumbled and no longer pink (1-3 minutes).
8. Add carrot, zucchini, and water chestnuts; stir-fry for 30 seconds.
9. Add mushrooms and reserved mushroom soaking liquid.
10. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
11. Add sherry/wine and sesame oil; cook until heated through.
12. If using, add walnuts and toss to coat.
13. To eat, spread hoisin sauce on a lettuce cup, spoon in meat filling, wrap in lettuce cup, and eat out of hand.
14. For spicier palates, top with Asian chili sauce.


Notes: This was just what I was craving!...I used minced sasami (minced chicken breast) and added 1 teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice powder and 2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce to the oyster sauce marinade. Some people do not like minced turkey or chicken, by all means, use minced pork. Also, I did not put hoisin sauce onto the lettuce cup before eating. And instead of walnuts, I toasted a handful of pine nuts--unfortunately, I forgot to sprinkle them on top before I took the photo! I served this with an egg drop soup and multi-grain rice. It was messy goodness!

I also wanted to introduce you to an American clothing company, Life is good! They make t-shirts and other casual clothing. I never knew about them until I found them in a shopping mall in Osaka!

Each shirt has this little character on the back, too. Cute!

Life is good(most of the time!)...I wanted to make bagels today, but after measuring out some of the ingredients, I found out that I ran out of yeast! (darn!)...So, I will have to get some more before I can post about it....Enjoy the week.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

aramaki (part 2)

In May, we went to the Aramaki Rose garden, which I posted about (here). Well, since the weather has been so nice, we decided to check out their autumn roses.

I packed us a bento (boxed) breakfast. Shiitake mushrooms with butter, tonkatsu (pork cutlet) sauce and okra.

Tamagoyaki (rolled egg) and asparagus wrapped with thinly sliced pork, multi-grain rice, tsukemono (pickles) and sliced apple.

I also brought some coffee.

There weren't as many roses as in the Spring, but it was still nice to sit and eat our breakfast in the garden.

In the community center next door to the garden, they were making taketonbo (bamboo dragonflies), it is a T-shaped toy which is shaved to form a propeller, you hold the thin rod between your hands and by rubbing your hands against each other in one swift motion, watch the toy take off!

There was also a little parade on the way to this rose garden, it was the area's Autumn Festival. The mikoshi (float) was pulled by many people and since the "wheels" are made of wood, these men had to pull at the mikoshi to make it turn.

Hope you are enjoying the weekend!

Friday, October 20, 2006

while roaming the aisles

Remember I wrote about Cocoa Bon? (here) Well, they also make jelly beans. This one is called "Cosmo" after the cocktail, Cosmopolitan. I had seen an article about these in a magazine here and was interested in trying it. They aren't bad, although I thought it could be a bit more on the tart side, seeing how it should be taste like a cranberry martini...at least you won't get a hangover if you eat the whole thing!

Did you know that Toblerone makes a dark version? I didn't, well, not until I found it while roaming the aisles...I was actually looking for a Valrhona bar for a recipe and came across it instead. I had never tried Toblerone before and was glad I did, dark, bitter chocolate with honey and almond nougat, delicious!

Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

moroccan veggie soup

Remember I made a Moroccan Spiced Squash & Carrot soup? And posted about it (here)...

Well, for last night's dinner, I decided to use the seasonings for the Moroccan soup and added more veggies.

Here's what I added: sweet potato, okra, cabbage, carrot, zucchini, onion, beans and a can of chopped tomatoes.

The weather is still pretty warm during the days, but this soup really hit the spot.

chocoholic cookies

The other day, Ellie of Kitchen Wench posted about these "Chocoholic Cookies" Now, being a chocoholic, this peaked my interest.

I looked over the recipe, it seemed fairly simple, so I rounded up the ingredients and gave it a shot.

The only difficult part about this recipe was beating everything by hand. I know, I could have used an electric mixer, but I was a little too lazy to take the mixer out..Oh well.

NOTES: First off, I cut the recipe in half--I don't have a big oven and there are only the 2 of us.

Next, I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chips for melting and as chips and added a handful of trailmix which consisted of dried cranberries, almonds and cashews--I smashed the almonds and cashews with my garlic smasher and chopped the cranberries.

The halved recipe yielded about 12 cookies, but I guess it would depend on what you use to scoop the dough.

These cookies are rich and chocolate-y! And the chocolate aroma that permeates the whole room is heavenly.

Thanks for sharing this recipe, Ellie!

Monday, October 16, 2006

world bread day 2006

World Bread Day '06 Today is World Bread Day.

I saw this post on Jasmine's blog, Confessions of a Cardamom Addict. It seems that Zorra of Kochtopf, is hosting this event, but was actually started by the UIB (International Union of Bakers and Baker-Confectioners)--they even have a website for this special day (here).

What we need to do, is either make or buy your favorite bread then post about it.

I decided to make my own bread.

Here is the recipe I use for my basic bread (from the yeast packet box):
300g (3 cups) flour
6g (2 tsp) dry yeast
40g (4 1/2 tablespoon) sugar
30g (1/2)beaten egg
175cc (3/4 cup) water
5g (1 tsp) salt
45g (3 1/2 tablespoon) butter
beaten egg to wash the top
flour for kneading and handling

1. In a bowl, put the flour, yeast and sugar and mix lightly to combine. Add the egg and water.
2. When everything comes together, put out onto a floured board
3. Press down on the dough with your fists to take out the air
4. Knead and fold the dough about 100 times, repeating steps 3 & 4.
5. Sprinkle some salt
6. Work in butter by spreading it as you fold and knead the dough.
7. After about 20 minutes of kneading, the dough should be quite thin when pulled apart.
8. Cover and let rest in a warm place for 50-60 minutes. The dough should rise about 2-3times the size.
9. After the 50-60 minutes, poke the dough with your finger and the dough should stay put.
10. Cut the dough into 40-50g pieces (about 12)
11. Round the pieces in your palms
12. Let rest for another 10 minutes, covered.
13. After the 10 minutes, roll out into a triangle.
Roll from the bottom to the tip.
14. Place the rolled tip on the bottom.
15. Let rest for another 40 minutes, covered.
16. Wash the tops with the rest of the beaten egg.
17. Heat your oven to 200C(400F) and bake for 8 - 13 minutes.

Notes: If you want to add a filling, do it at step 13, when rolling up.

I added sweet potato with cinnamon, sugar and sesame seeds to half of the dough. Steam the sweet potato and cool before adding to the dough.

The other half, I added chocolate chips and the rest of the cinnamon, sugar and sesame seeds.


p.s. There was a huge earthquake just off the coast of the Big Island in Hawaii, this morning, which affected all the islands. I hope all of my family and friends are okay. I heard that the power has been off for most of the day, hang in there! And I hope to hear from all of you soon!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

yakitori with kuri gohan

We've had some excitement over the past couple of days.

Late Wednesday night, Satoshi had chest pains and was admitted to a nearby hospital, they did some tests and it was determined that stress and cholesterol were the culprits. I was so relieved that it wasn't a blocked artery or a heart attack! He has been taking it easy this past weekend and will be back to work on Monday. Can you believe that he actually wanted to go to work on Saturday?

Anyway, I made us some lightly simmered chicken for dinner yesterday, I've made this before and posted about it (here), since there was a lot of gravy left over. I decided to thicken it up and use it to coat yakitori (barbecue chicken on skewers).

I also made yaki kuri gohan (roasted chestnut rice) with roasted chestnuts and added them to our rice just before cooking in the rice cooker. I bought the chestnuts pre-peeled and roasted them in the oven for about 30 minutes--15 minutes on each side. I then washed 2 cups of rice and added a tablespoon of zakkokumai (multi-grains), 1/2 tablespoon of mirin (sweet rice wine) , a teaspoon of shoyu (soy sauce) and a teaspoon of salt, plus the 2 cups of water that is needed to cook the rice in the rice cooker.

I got the recipe for the rice from this book "Soshoku no susume-Aki (Autumn)" by Makuuchi Hideo. His books are very interesting and recipes relatively easy to follow. Plus, all the recipes are scaled for two people! He believes that our diets should consist of 50% grains (rice), 30% veggies, seaweed and potato, 10% legumes and 10% animal products (mainly fish). While I haven't tried all of the recipes yet, I am slowly making my way through them.

(Sorry the photo didn't come out too good.)

Here's dinner....yakitori, yaki kuri gohan and horenso salad (spinach salad). The rice was chewy and chestnuts tasty. The store bought yakitori was jazzed up with the homemade sauce.

Have a good week!

p.s. I recently got this plant called kimono keito (feathery cockscomb), very pretty colors and fluffy! I think these flowers can be dried.

Friday, October 13, 2006

autumn, here I come...

With leftover yarn, I decided to make a scarf. I tried to last year, but didn't have much crocheting technique then. This year's scarf came out way better.

I think I'm ready for autumn...