Friday, November 23, 2007

being thankful

Thanks for all the great comments you posted about on the last entry.

I had a post all ready for Thanksgiving, but have had all the energy sucked out of me.

See, our place was broken into last night. I came home to part of the door broken and the door locked. I rang the doorbell thinking that Satoshi had come home and locked me out.

The cops think that I may have scared the guy out.

Luckily, only some of our jewelry and $$ were taken and no one was hurt. I'm really thankful for this.

Still, I'm freaking out. Hope to be back to normal soon. Take care.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

suigetsu park

Tuesday started off really sunny, so I went walking. For lunch, I stopped in at MOS burger and tried their yakiniku (marinated and grilled meat) rice burger. The thing I like about MOS burger is that they make everything after you order, so nothing is sitting out under a heat lamp. This "burger" has no bun, the rice "bun" is grilled with some soy sauce and then the lettuce and yakiniku is added. Delicious! It is quite small, so if you have a big appetite, you may need to order something on the side.

After lunch, I walked to Suigetsu Park. It is about a 5 minute walk from MOS. We've gone here in the past and I've posted about the park here, here, here and here. There weren't any momiji (maple trees) in the park, but the sakura (cherry trees) had wonderfully colored leaves that had already fallen to the ground.

While walking through the park the weather turned quite overcast and gloomy, I was afraid of being caught in a shower, so I walked home, it was still nice to be out and about.

p.s. Today is Ii fufu no hi, tell your sweetie or significant other how much you love them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

li hing vinaigrette

I've written about li hing in the past. It is a local favorite in Hawaii.

When my Aunty was getting things together for her trip to Japan, she asked me what I wanted. I asked her to buy me some li hing powder.

She was nice to bring the powder and also some dried mango and dried cranberries with the li hing powder on it. (Thanks Aunty!)

I recently saw a recipe for li hing vinaigrette which is apparently being served in Alan Wong's restaurants and in the first class on Aloha Airlines.

The recipe is quite easy. I was leery of putting a raw egg into this, so I subbed the raw egg, lemon juice and salt with mayo.

Anyway, this is a very tangy dressing and great on a salad.

Li Hing Vinaigrette adapted from Alan Wong's
1 tablespoon li hing powder
1 tablespoon ume paste (pickled plum paste)
1/8 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons evoo
1 dollop of mayo
several grinds of pepper

Combine everything well. Use on salad.

NOTES: Although I subbed the egg with mayo, I think I may try it with the egg just to see if there is a difference. This dressing was quite salty, so use sparingly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

making my own sunshine

I had several unfinished drafts, so I put them together for this post.

The weather has been sunny then turning cloudy or just plain cloudy and cold. I was feeling blue with the dreary weather, I guess people from Hawaii do need sun...so I made some sunshine.

Last week, I tried the recipe for Creme de Chocolat on the side of the Spicy Mariebelle cocoa can. It was really easy to make, just measure the cocoa and add the amount of water and follow the rest of the instructions on the side of the can. After the two hours, I made some whipped cream using what little cream that I had in the fridge. The creme de chocolat was quite stiff and reminded me of ganache. It was just enough to soothe my sweet tooth. Plus, the chili in the chocolate gave it a kick--coffee went nicely with this.

Yesterday, I made my own bark with some chocolate and trail mix. I tempered the chocolate then stirred in the trail mix. The chocolate was dark but not a very high percentage, so it was a little sweet. And the trail mix was a little salty, so it matched nicely with the chocolate.

Take a bite and you get powdered sugar all around your mouth.

Put the whole thing in your mouth and a little powdered sugar goes down the wrong pipe. You let out a little cough and powdered sugar goes everywhere.

Flaky, buttery with the crunch from the nuts paired with a glass of ice-cold milk...the ultimate treat.

These are my memories of this cookie. My mom uses toasted macadamia nuts in her version.

Melting moments, Russian tea cookies, Snowballs...whatever you call these cookies, I call them delicious.

I cut up some yomogi (mugwort) bread and added some dried figs to make a warm and fuzzy treat. (We actually had this for breakfast.)

Whew, that was a lot of sunshine...I'm feeling better, how about you?

Monday, November 19, 2007

foodie kind of weekend

Saturday, I met Satoshi and his friend for dinner. Since the time we were meeting at was quite late, I stopped in to have a little snack to tide me over until dinner.

This dessert from Afternoon Tea, was perfect. Not too sweet. A two layer terrine made with half chestnut paste and half sesame paste, topped with a scoop of chestnut ice cream. 3 cinnamon rusks, a peeled chestnut and a dollop of cassis puree. With some warm Earl Grey tea, it hit the spot.

While waiting for Satoshi at the station, I noticed this huge line. It was for Beard Papa. (I think I mentioned whenever you see a line it is usually for a good thing?) The aroma of these cream puffs will definitely make you want one or a whole box. I've tried the ones in Hawaii but they don't seem to match up to the ones here. I think these people were standing in line for the new flavor, roasted sweet potato custard.

Yesterday, we visited some areas known for their fall foliage. We've visited these places last year and the year before. It is always a new experience. The first place was Katsuoji. This temple is located above the Minoo koen (Minoo park). They are doing major renovations and the foliage was so-so.

The second spot was Sanshikisaido. This is actually along a busy street, but the trees always look like they are on "fire". Last year, when we visited, it was raining. This year, we were lucky to have some sun.

Lunch was at a little shop called Shimizuan. I had their zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles served on a bamboo tray). It came with these huge musubi and also a raw quail egg.

I gave the egg to Satoshi since he was having sukiyaki (thin slices of beef, veggies and tofu simmered in a shallow iron pot, the cooked food is dipped in raw egg before eating.)

We have a holiday coming up this Friday, hopefully the weather will be cooperative and we'll be able to check out Kyoto.

Have a great week.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

culture shock

The other day I went to the market and saw all these people crowded around something in the produce section. When you see a crowd or line in Japan, you know something good is happening (usually anyway).

I went closer and realized that they were stuffing mikan (mandarin oranges) into plastic bags. I looked at the sign and it said tsumehoudai (all you can pack) 300 yen (about US$2.50).

I've seen this on television at many Tokyo supermarkets. The store puts an item on special and gives you a really low price for what you can stuff into the bag they give you. Some of those people on the television stuffed 60 weiners into their bags or 20 carrots. Sometimes it is a timed event, like a half hour or 10 minutes, so most people are in a frenzy trying to get the most of the items into their bags.

So I grabbed a bag and tried getting into the crowd. Those older women and men are brutal! They were blocking the boxes of mikan and really stuffing their bags. I thought the mikan would smash the way they were stuffing them in. You could hear chatter amongst them and one woman was saying how someone had stuffed 19 into their bag so she wanted at least that much.

The produce guy felt sorry for me and let me take my mikan from his cart, I felt each one as I put it into my bag and took 12. (6 days worth of mikan for our breakfasts.)

When I went to the check-out, the lady at the register said, "you can fit about 6 more into your bag". (If you look at the photo, there is still some room at the top. The top of the bag also had a "handle", so there are two holes near the top.)

I told her I didn't want to buy too many and have them spoil before we could eat them.

Then the lady in back of me put in her 2 cents..."yeah, you should get more and put more in"

After paying, I could hear the cashier and the lady that was in back of me continuing on their conversation as to how I could have put more into my bag.

It was a great way to get a lot of mikan for a low price, but I don't think I want to go through that again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

pumpkin nib muffin

Thanksgiving is coming up, though we don't celebrate it here. And if you look at the decorations at most stores, they are all set for Christmas. (some actually had Halloween and Christmas decorations up at the same time and they started selling O-sechi (the boxed meals for New Years) at the beginning of October!)

My Aunty and her friend are visiting, we'll be meeting up next week, and we just received a box from her, mostly with stuff that my mom gave her to fill the box with, but it was filled with all kinds of goodies.

One of the gifts from my Aunty was a cookbook. It is from her friend's church and has a collection of all sorts of recipes. (Thanks Aunty!)

For Halloween, I wanted to make some kind of pumpkin treat, but didn't get around to it and have had the can of pumpkin puree sitting and waiting for me.

And with Thanksgiving coming around the corner, the blogosphere is filled with pumpkin/squash recipes and delicious photos of them too.

So, as I flipped through the pages of the cookbook, a recipe caught my attention. "Kara's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins". Perfect. Pumpkin + chocolate + muffin = yum! Plus, it sounded easy.

I didn't have pumpkin pie spice and wasn't about to buy some, but that's the good thing about the internet, I found several recipes online and luckily had the spices to put some together.

The recipe called for chocolate chips, but I only have the Ghirardelli 60% chips and they are quite large (see the big black blob?), so I put a handful of these chips and added several handfuls of nibs. (If you don't have nibs, but have the smaller chocolate chips, add 3/4 cup.)

They came out great! Very moist and the spices just right. It doesn't beat mom's pumpkin pie, but it is still comforting.

Here's the recipe if you'd like to make up a batch for your holiday brunch or gathering.

Pumpkin nib muffins adapted from "Flavors of the World"

Mix the following in a bowl:
1 and 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (recipe to follow)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Whisk together in another bowl:
2 large eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin puree
1/2 cup melted butter (about 100g)

Stir in 1 handful of chocolate chips and 2 handfuls of nibs into the egg mixture. (If you don't have nibs, add 3/4 cup chocolate chips)

Fold egg mixture into dry ingredients. Scoop into lined or greased muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350F (180C). Makes 12 muffins.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

minoo koen

3 stations away from where we live is Minoo Koen (Minoo Park). It is a 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) walk from the train station all the way into the park to the Minoo waterfall. We have walked to the falls during different times of the year and it is always a nice way to enjoy nature while getting some exercise.

On Wednesday, the weather was really nice, so I took my camera and walked the trail to the waterfall.

Though the leaves weren't all beautifully "painted", there were still a lot of people picnicking. And enjoying their bento (boxed lunch). Made me wish I had brought some lunch with me.

Growing up in Hawaii, we don't have the change in seasons, so Autumn, Winter and Spring are very exciting seasons for me.
I'll post more of my photos on Flickr. Hope you are enjoying the fall foliage where you are.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

katsuura

Sunday was spent exploring the port area of Katsuura. There is a large maguro (tuna) market, which boasts the largest catches of maguro in Japan. You can see rows upon rows of maguro in the early morning. Since we missed this, I got the photo off of their site.

There were many vendors selling freshly caught maguro.







As well as dried ika (squid).

And as you walked around the shopping arcade, it was decorated festively with maguro cut-outs.

Many fishermen were busy fixing their nets or chatting with their friends.







And many boats had returned to the harbor.





We were able to buy a tekkadon for Satoshi's lunch freshly made with part of the morning maguro catch. Tekkadon is sushi rice (vinegared rice) with slices of raw tuna on top.

My lunch was meharizushi, a local favorite. Large leaves of takana (Chinese mustard cabbage) are salted, rinsed, then used to wrap up rice balls.

It was a nice lunch on the train as we made our way back to Osaka.

p.s. I wanted to also show you some of the omiyage (souvenirs) that we picked up for ourselves.

Maguro which is seasoned and cooked with ginger is a nice pupu (appetizer) or great side dish. I put the smaller bits into Satoshi's musubi the other day.

We also got two kinds of ume. One from Godaikan and one from a street vendor near Sandanbeki.

Hope you enjoyed our adventure as much as we did.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

nakanoshima

After our wonderful tour, we rode a ferry to an island in the middle of the Katsuura port to our hotel, Nakanoshima (which means the island in the middle).

This hotel is built around a mountain, so to get to different parts of the hotel, you sometimes need to go a-r-o-u-n-d.

The first thing when we did after we checked in was go to take a look at their observation deck. It was a 450m walk up, down and around on a trail to the top of the island. Here you can see the Bay of Katsuura. The islands in the bay are called Kii-Matsushima because it resembles the islands in Matsushima Bay in Sendai.

Also at the top is a little area with an ashiyu (foot bath), here you can take your shoes off and soak in the hot, sulfur smelling water. They also had little stones sticking up so that you could stand up and press on different pressure points on your feet.

From the top of the hotel you could see the men's rotenburo (outdoor bath). Luckily (or unluckily) no one was in there at the time. The women's rotenburo is covered by the corner of the building. When I was in the outdoor bath I had to duck down quickly as a boat passed right in front! Yipes!

In one of the lobby areas, they had a model of the whaling boats that were used to catch whales. Several of these boats would corral around the whale as someone harpooned it. The painting in the background shows the fishermen harpooning a whale.

This was our view from our room. It was also the parking area for the hotel's boats.

Dinner was again a kaiseki meal, but after the delicious meal we had at Godaikan, this wasn't anything special, in fact, everything had been put out way before, so most items were cold.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

nachi katsuura

From Shirahama, it is about an hour and a half train ride to Kii-Katsuura.

The weather on Saturday was just like Friday, windy and overcast. From the JR Kii-Katsuura station, we hopped into a taxi and asked the driver to take us on a tour of the Nachi-Katsuura area. In many areas, you can get a taxi to take you on guided tours, they are a little more expensive than the local tours, but the taxis usually can take you through back roads to get closer to the sights than the buses.

Our first stop was the Meoto Sugi. (Meoto means husband and wife, sugi is cedar). These trees were about 800 years old.

In 2000, they had their first wedding ceremony performed between the two trees. It is thought that the couple that marries between these trees will love each other for as long as these trees have stayed together.

These trees are part of the Daimonzaka (which literally means large gate hill), it is the part of the pilgrimage route to Kumanosanzan (Kumano Grand Shrine), about an hour's drive from where we were. During the Heian period, many people used to make the pilgrimage from Kyoto to Kumanosanzan using this trail. Recently this trail, Kumanokodo (Ancient road of Kumano), was named a World Heritage site.

You can feel the history as you walk up the gradual slope and uneven rock stairs. And on both sides of the path are huge cedar trees watching over you all along the way.

At the top, there is a little plateau. This is where our taxi guide met us and took us to the next spectacular spot.

From the parking area, you need to walk down several flights of rock to the Nachi o-taki (Nachi waterfall). This waterfall is 133 meters high (436 feet) and 13 meters across (42 feet), it is the largest in Japan and is also a World Heritage site. It was an awesome sight.





After oohing and ahhing at the waterfall, we jumped back into the taxi and he took us up to Kumano Nachi Taisha (Kumano Nachi Shrine). This shrine is dedicated to the god of desires fulfilled.

On the property is a natural spring. A cupful of this water is supposed to give you 10 extra years. These people were taking the spring water by the liter!

After Satoshi and I had our cupful, we stopped in a little shop on the property for a little bite to eat.

From the shrine, you can see the falls. Even though the weather wasn't too cooperative, it was still beautiful to see the falls and experience the trail.