Thursday, August 28, 2008

natsuyasumi

We're taking our natsuyasumi (summer vacation) a little late this year. Here is a collage of where we are off to (using pictures from our trip in 2006).

See you in about a week.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

would you like s'more?

Since I had marshmallows leftover from my rocky road experiment, I went looking for graham crackers to make s'mores.

Growing up, my brother and I would sometimes go camping with our cousins and after dinner over the slowly burning coals, we would toast some marshmallows for s'mores.

The sandwiched warm marshmallow mixing with the now melty milk chocolate and graham cracker...yum.

Though I was reluctant to try a Japanese brand, I bought some graham crackers at the neighborhood co-op.

On opening the package, I found that they were harder than the graham crackers I was used to.

Next for the "coals"....I turned on my gas stove and stuck a marshmallow on a wooden chopstick.

Gosh, I hadn't does this in ages!

Immediately I heard a "whooosh"....the marshmallow was aflame...I quickly blew on the flame to put it out.

I turned down the flame and tried to toast the marshmallow again.

Boy this was tough! After getting it slightly toasted burnt, I decided I should stop before I burned the whole marshmallow.

I put it onto the dark chocolate pieces and covered them with another cracker.

Not the same, the cracker was definitely too hard.

Oh well, at least it satisfied my sweet tooth.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

foodie sunday

I had been waiting for the "Sex and the City" movie to make its way to Japan. Finally, this past weekend it did. I was happy that it would be played in English with Japanese sub-titles and not voiced over in Japanese. I hate when it is voiced over, so much is lost in the translation. (I actually laughed out loud in some places by myself.) I loved the movie and was amazed that Satoshi sat through it with me. There is a movie that he wants to see so I'll sit through that with him soon.

Our Sunday started off with Satoshi going to vote. We recently had a mayoral and city council election. Whenever it is election time, I make sure that Satoshi goes to make his voice count. I once told him, "if you don't vote, you cannot grumble". From then on, he goes to vote. Did you know that they have to write the name of the person they are voting for on a piece of paper and I think the ballots are counted by hand...how ancient is that??

So, after voting, we went to Per Caffe Bianco to try their breakfast. Because they open at 9:00 (most places open later), it was a perfect place to have breakfast before catching the bus to the movie theatre.

We both decided on the english muffin breakfast (200 yen about US$2). This comes with one english muffin, a poached egg with marinara sauce, salad and fruit.

Of course, I cannot go to this cafe without ordering a cappuccino (500 yen about US$5)...

Today was an elephant. Actually I thought it looked more like an elephant after drinking some of it, I'll post that photo on Flickr.

We then caught the bus to see the movie. When we got there, the movie that Satoshi wanted to see had already started and the next showing would be at 15:00, so we decided to get seats for "Sex and the City" instead. Since we had some time we wandered around Carrefour (a french megamart). I love wandering their food aisles.

After the movie, we caught the bus back and Satoshi took a little nap.

When Satoshi woke up, it was dinner time. We went through our mental list of places to eat at, but nothing stood out. I suggested we try the Hiroshima-yaki place we saw across the street from Grill Nana. Satoshi gave the "thumbs up" and we were off.

Pinieru was tiny, only 8 seats. As soon as you walked in, there was an "L" shaped griddle counter and the owner behind it. We ordered a Hiroshima style modan-yaki (700 yen about US$7) and a mixed seafood yakisoba (800 yen about US$8).

The yakisoba was the easiest to cook and came first. It had lots of noodles, seafood and cabbage and it came with two sunny side up eggs.

The Hiroshima modan yaki took longer to cook, but was the real deal, not like the one I had a few days ago. A crepe-like outside with cabbage, green onion, yakisoba noodles, pork layered underneath. (Hard to see from the photo because everyone was watching me take the photo and I wanted to hurry and snap it. I would have wanted to take a closer shot but was already embarassed.)

When it came time to put the sauce on top, the owner asked us if we wanted mayo on it. I didn't, but Satoshi did, so she put mayo on half the okonomiyaki.

We enjoyed the food there, but felt a bit out of place, most of the other customers sitting around the griddle knew each other and were chatting about this and that.

After dinner, we walked home for dessert.

Remember the blackout ice cream? Well, I told Lori in the comments that it tasted like rocky road without the almonds and marshmallows...Since that kept replaying in my head, I decided to actually put some almonds and marshmallows on top. Mmm...rocky road.

I hope you had a great weekend.

Pinieru
2-3-6 Iguchido
Ikeda, Osaka
Phone: 072.761.6464

Monday, August 25, 2008

my new friend

I'm not sure how we got to be e-mail friends. (sorry!)

We e-mail each other quite often and she often gives me links to interesting pages that she finds.

One day she mentioned that she wanted to find some Hello Kitty musubi molds and the die-cut punches for nori (seaweed) for the Hello Kitty and friends faces.

I went out to the closest Sanrio store and found the molds, but couldn't find the die-cut punches. What I did come across were some sheets of nori that were pre-cut with the faces. I picked that up instead.

I sent them to her and she loved them.

My new friend Shar is very crafty.

As thanks for the molds, she sent me some of her creations. A cute tee and tote bag, along with a baking pan and poke mix.

She has a link if you are interested purchasing a durable tote bag. She handpaints each creation. Shar says to get your orders in soon because she'll be overwhelmed by Christmas and she has many craft fairs to attend during the Fall.

Thank you Shar! I hope to meet you the next time I'm home.

UPDATE: the link mentioned above did not work as of 2011, so I disconnected it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

sol

Are you watching the Olympics? It is being shown all day until late into the evenings here. I surprised myself by "watching" that long opening ceremony and have been watching most of the events that the Japanese are in.

Olympic coverage in Japan means that they show only what the Japanese participate in. (This goes for MLB too, just the scores for the teams that the Japanese players are on are broadcasted.) For the Olympics, different channels have the rights to broadcast different events, so it helps that our television's screen can split in half.

Anyway, Japan was playing USA for the bronze in baseball, though the game was exciting, my stomach was growling quite loudly, so I stepped out to get some groceries and lunch.

Every time I've passed this place, it was before their opening time but it always smelled so wonderful and spicy.

SOL stands for "spice of life" and they make Indian-style curries. This tiny place only has 6 seats and they have a take-out window.

Today as I was making my way home with my groceries, I decided to buy my lunch from here.

They don't have an extensive menu and there is only 1 guy working the counter and making the naan. (I think he is the owner too)

If you order from the window, be prepared to wait, especially if you order naan. The guy makes the naan as it is ordered and it takes time to bake.

I ordered the chicken curry (spice level: medium) 300 yen (about US$3). The portion is small, the size of a cup of soup, but delicious and spicy.

I ate all the chicken and potatoes (there was actually quite a lot of chicken) first and sopped up the sauce with the naan (200 yen about US$2).

Everything was good, I want to go back and try their vegetable curry. I've also seen keema curry on a sign as I've passed by, but I don't think it is an everyday item because it wasn't on the menu today.

If you don't like naan, you can order turmeric rice for 200 yen (about US$2) or a bigger portion of turmeric rice for 300 yen (about US$3).

Since our neighborhood is near a university, most of the eateries are quite reasonable to cater to the students and their supposedly low budgets. (I have a feeling this was why the menu was in English also.)

SOL
5-2-17 Segawa, Ootori building 1F
Minoo, Osaka
Phone: 090.9885.1842
Closed: Tuesdays

UPDATE: Japan lost and USA got the bronze. Oh and you media dudes, stop interviewing these players "right" after they get off the field (especially if they lost), you ask them "how do you feel?" They lost the game, they aren't going to tell you they feel great...

I especially loved the one broadcast where a grandma was watching her grandson in Judo. The media dude tried to interview her in the middle of the excitement, she pushed the mic away and gave the media dude "the eye". Then after her grandson received the gold medal, she exclaimed into the media dude's mic that "she was so happy". The media dude then asks her, "how do you feel?" She bit his head off and told him, "I just said I was happy!" That will teach you media people to listen to what is being said to you...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the past couple of days

After seeing Kirk's post on Chicago style hot dogs on Tuesday morning, I went out to find something close to it for lunch, but came up empty.

I did find a Hiroshima style okonomiyaki (550 yen about US$5.50), though. This was filling, lots of cabbage and yakisoba in the middle, but I was disappointed with the outside. Usually, Hiroshima style okonomiyaki has a thin crepe-like outside, this one was really eggy and thick. (Osaka style okonomiyaki has cabbage and other goodies mixed into the batter, so it usually turns out to be a thick fritter of sorts.)

Next to the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki were these taiyaki (120 yen about US$1.20). Taiyaki are baked in these tai (sea bream) molds and filled with an (sweet bean paste). This was disappointing too, the outside was really thick...more outside than bean filling.

Oh well...

On Tuesday night, I made the pancakes from the set that Satoshi received, for our breakfast on Wednesday. I also added a couple of handfuls of fresh blueberries into the batter.

I don't think the maple syrup in the set was 100%, it had a coffee flavor and was kind of watery, not the thick syrup that I was thinking of.

I also wanted to make candied bacon, but couldn't find the brand of bacon I liked at the store, so I just served it with some ham and the Darjeeling tea that came in the set...delish!

Thursday's breakfast was the leftover pancakes (from the mix I made 6, the bag said 4), ham, asian pear, leftover succotash & herb tea. This was the other tea that was in the set. The most outstanding flavor was mint, though the label said blue mallow, citrus peel and hibiscus (I think the label was wrong). It was still a good tea and breakfast.

After breakfast, Satoshi left for Tokyo and I had a lesson. After my lesson, I wandered around Takarazuka's Hankyu Department store. This store isn't as big as the main one in Umeda but they do have a food area.

I picked up this bento for my dinner at Yonehachi--750 yen (about US$7.50). I like this place because their rice is okowa and you can choose which ones you want. Just pick out the bento and tell them what okowa to fill the empty areas with. Some bento have 3 empty spaces, some 2. They had 4 choices of okowa and I chose the chestnut okowa and the shiso chirimen (perilla & whitebait) okowa. The main dish was a tofu "hamburger" (though it had no meat in it)...very filling.

Friday morning, I had another lesson, so I had my breakfast at Starbucks. Cranberry pancakes (the last time Starbucks had blueberry).

Lunch was at my favorite cafe, Per Caffe Bianco, as I was interested in seeing what kind of art would come with the iced cappuccino. There was no art, but they still make you feel special by putting it into this champagne glass.

Satoshi came home late last night and brought home these ningyoyaki (literally baked dolls) Like the taiyaki, it is baked in tiny molds the difference is that the outside is castella (an eggy sponge cake) and filled with an (sweet bean paste), the taiyaki outside is more like a waffle...delicious.I liked the packaging very festive. I think this is a picture of a matsuri (festival) in Asakusa. The house like thing that the people are carrying are called mikoshi. Mikoshi are tiny shrines. Different parts of Japan have different types of mikoshi. If I'm not mistaken, carrying the mikoshi gives you good luck and helps your wishes come true. Many men do this to wish for their wives health and households safety and children do this to wish for good grades and good health.

Remember the tomato that I threw into a pot?....looks like we'll have tomatoes soon! (hopefully before autumn rolls around)

It is Saturday, the candidates for our city council and mayoral election are out in full force, it is raining and gloomy and Satoshi is off to work.

Friday, August 22, 2008

sufferin' succotash

Sorry, I couldn't resist putting that as the title.

When I saw this recipe on Healthy & Gourmet, I knew I had to try it. Why? I've never eaten succotash before. I've only known succotash from Sylvester and Tweety cartoons.

It turns out it is like a bean salad (you can see a more detailed explanation on Healthy & Gourmet's post)

For the dressing, I didn't have red wine and added white wine vinegar instead (I know it probably wasn't a good substitution). Anyway, I made a mistake by adding too much, but it was still tasty. In place of the key lime, I used sudachi.

I also added veggies that I had, canned corn, okra, carrots, red onion, tomatoes, soybeans & garbanzos. I threw everything into a plastic container and poured the dressing on, then let it chill before eating. I think the acid from the lime and vinegar "cooked" the okra because the slime from the okra was quite heavy.

I loved the rosemary pecans, it gives this dish a nice crunch. Pecans aren't readily found here, I buy them at Down to Earth in Hawaii and bring them back. I also didn't have dried rosemary and used a little from my lanai.

This would be a great dish for a picnic or party. It is especially nice when you don't want to "cook" anything, just keep the nuts separate until you are ready to eat.

p.s. this was dinner on Wednesday. Satoshi is away on business so my kitchen has been closed...stay tuned to what I've been eating.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

blackout ice cream

What "blackout" goodies have you had?

I've actually had a blackout donut from the Doughnut Plant in Tokyo. The Doughnut Plant is a New York donut shop that has a shop in Tokyo.

According to Jasmine's post, the blackout of 2003 affected parts of Canada and New York.

The "blackout" goodies you see around commemorate it.

I tried David Lebovitz's Philadelphia style chocolate ice cream, but I used dark cocoa powder and 60% Ghiradelli chips. I didn't have a blender to blend the mixture, so I just tried to make sure that everything melted before putting it into the refrig.

The results..."blackout" ice cream (well, sort of). I don't think I chilled the mixture long enough, I got more of a melted blackout ice cream.

It was still rich, creamy and VERY chocolatey. I found some lavender crumbs in a container in the refrig, so I put some on top.

I liked the crunch from the crumbs mixed with the rich chocolatey goodness...yum!

By the time Satoshi came home a couple of hours later, it had firmed up a bit but was more like the consistency of a ganache.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

blueberry lemon muffins

Yesterday I posted about making ice cream. Well, I also went onto Amazon Japan to "review" the Japanese recipe book in Japanese. I gave it 1 star and basically wrote in Japanese what I did in English. (Actually, I wasn't going to even give it a star.)

Well, apparently "they" don't like less than 3 stars...they deleted my review! This actually has happened before, we had bought a book from a secondhand seller through Amazon Japan and I remarked that it had looked like it was taken from the library, it still had the dewey decimal label on the spine of the book!...well, the secondhand seller didn't like my review and harrassed me by sending me e-mails to change my review and the seller also e-mailed Amazon to the point where they deleted my comment...definitely no freedom of speech here!

Anyway, let's move onto something cheery...food!

What to do when you are in a pinch to have something fast for breakfast? I usually make scones or make muffins.

This past Saturday, I needed something quick for our breakfast, so the day before I made muffins with some blueberries and lemon that I had in the refrig.

I used this recipe as the base (minus the nibs & tea) and added 60 grams of fresh blueberries and the zest of one lemon.

The results were a great muffin, not too sweet, not too sour, just right.

With the juice from the lemon, I made some lemon fizz.

Maybe breakfast was a bit overkill with the lemon and blueberry in both the muffins and the fizz but it was quick and delicious.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

making ice cream

Last year, I was chatting with my friend Kazumi and we were talking about ice cream makers. I was asking her what brand was the best and told her I was thinking of buying one.

She told me that if I didn't mind, she was cleaning out her garage and noticed several appliances that she hadn't used in awhile, so if I wanted a second hand ice cream maker, I could have one of hers.

I immediately said "yes, please!" After our conversation, it was some time before we got together again, so it was awhile before I received the maker from her.

After receiving the machine, I immediately thought that I should try making vanilla ice cream, as that is the most basic flavor.

Of course, when you get a new gadget, you have to get a new cookbook, right? I purchased David Lebovitz's book, "The Perfect Scoop", it was raved about all over the blogosphere last year. I also found an ice cream recipe book which doesn't use eggs in Japanese.

The reason why I wanted to try an egg-less recipe for my first trial was that I didn't have the confidence of not overcooking the eggs for the custard.

So, I tried the egg-less recipe in Japanese. The method required you to beat the fresh cream with sugar until you got peaks. Then add in some milk and pour the mixture into your ice cream maker.

I didn't like this version at all. First, it was more like ice milk than vanilla ice cream because it didn't call for any vanilla. Next, it was gritty and didn't hold its shape at all (it melted after snapping this shot). And lastly, while beating the cream with the sugar for the amount of time suggested, the cream started to separate. (insert pouty face). So after mixing it with the amount of milk and then putting the mixture into the ice cream maker, there were streaks of oil from the cream, leaving an ugly residue on your spoon as well as in your mouth....blah.

Another thing I didn't like about this book was there was no indication of how much ice cream you would yield if your followed the full recipe...sigh.

So, a couple of days later, I tried David's method for Philadelphia style vanilla ice cream.

His version called for heating cream with sugar and some vanilla from a vanilla pod. I halved the recipe since my maker only makes 1/2 a liter and used part of the Lifou vanilla which I bought on our trip to Noumea last year.

This version also called for vanilla extract. After heating the cream and sugar until the sugar dissolved, I added the milk and the extract. Then I chilled the mixture.

After several hours, I put the chilled mixture into the maker and came out with a creamy vanilla ice cream. This was delicious!

Satoshi had tried the first attempt and was surprised when I told him that I made the second version too. (He thought I had bought it.)

I'm so happy I bought David's book. I will probably take the Japanese recipes and adapt them to this vanilla ice cream recipe. I also hope to try a custard version...hopefully, I'll get up enough courage to.

Monday, August 18, 2008

okuribi

In Kyoto, at the end of Obon there is a big event called Daimonji (literally big chinese characters). During this event, they burn a character or picture into the side of 5 mountains around Kyoto, called gozan no okuribi. The wood that they use to light up these mountains are from various temples. People who visit these temples write their wishes onto these sticks and the sticks are carried up the various mountains to be burned.

When these sticks are burned, we send our ancestors off back to "their world", the fire is called okuribi because you are sending your ancestors off with a fire to light their way.

Every year, Satoshi's family temple has a special service. Everyone gathers early to pray and then the priest prays in front of each family's grave. After all the prayers are done, you can watch the okuribi. (You could see Kyoto Tower from the temple and the skies were a pinkish-purple.)

Most years, the service and Daimonji is held during the week, this year since it fell on a Saturday, we were able to participate in the special services. After the services, we went back home to see part of the okuribi from my MIL's house. (The mountain in the background is where the hidaridaimonji (left-big chinese character) is burned).

At 8:00 p.m., the first mountain is lit, this is called Daimonji and a chinese character which means large is lit.

Then at 8:15 p.m., the next mountain is lit and this is the Hidari-daimonji (left-chinese character). This character looks exactly like the Daimonji but it is on the left-side of Kyoto.

There is also a picture called Fune (or boat), this is lit on yet another mountain.

There are two more characters, Myoho & Ho, but we couldn't see these from where we were.

It was a great event, neighbors coming out of their houses, chatting with one another.

There was a sento (public bath) nearby my MIL's and they let us climb up onto their roof to see the Fune & Hidari-daimonji. They also said that we could come earlier next year to see the Daimonji.

It was a humid day and at one point the rain came down in big drops. There was thunder and lightning. We wondered if they would be able to light up the mountainsides with all that rain.

In the end, the skies cleared and we were able to send off our ancestors, as well as my FIL, safely.

On Sunday, we noticed that the skies had changed seasons. Hopefully it will get cooler from now.

Have a good week.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

pukka

Whenever I hear the word "pukka" my first thought is of Jamie Oliver and his wild phrases.

Awhile back, I saw this line of tea made by a company in the U.K. at the gourmet supermarket, but I didn't buy it because I still had some other teas around.

Then, in June, the Japanese foodie magazine that I subscribe to had a giveaway. Just answer their questionnaire and choose a present from their list. I don't always enter their monthly giveaways, but it just so happened that they were giving away this tea. So, I filled out the questionnaire and sent in my entry.

Last year, from the same magazine, I also won this Cuoca Chocolate Tasting Set.

Fast forward to today. As I was walking back to our apartment, I saw a man standing in front of our door. I was kind of leery at first, but realized it was the home delivery guy and rushed to catch him in the stairwell.

After signing for the package, I looked at the package but couldn't remember what I entered for, I was quickly reminded when I opened the package.

What a great surprise...I can't wait to try these teas!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

confiserie labhart

My friend Kazumi told me about this place awhile back. She said that the patissier is originally from Switzerland.

While I had this place on my list of places to check out, before I could get around to, she gave me a poundcake the other day.

The poundcake was dense, buttery and when you chewed on the cake, there was the popping of fig seeds.

Delicious.

This shop is in Eastern Osaka, so I don't know when I'll actually be able to check them out, in the meantime I'll enjoy this poundcake. Thank you Kazumi!

Confiserie Labhart
20-26 Asahimachi
Higashi Osaka, Osaka
Phone: 0729.81.3528

Friday, August 15, 2008

chill!

I told you about writing in blue to create a "cool" image.

Well, in the Summer, the Japanese also put their "cool" foods into clear, glass dishes.

By putting the food into a clear glass dish, they create an "icy" feeling. Some restaurants also put the dishes into the refrig to really chill it.

Last night's dinner was reisei somen. Reisei means "chilled", somen is like a Japanese angel hair pasta, although it is a little salty. I used this recipe, but used whatever veggies I had in the refrig (okra, bell pepper, cucumber, red onion & tomato). If you do use somen, do not salt the water you will be boiling the noodles in.

Hope you are keeping cool where you are...have a nice weekend!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

funny foodie wednesday

Today Satoshi had the day off. Our day started off with leftover chocolate bread made into a bread pudding. I put fresh blueberries onto the bottom of the ramekin then layered bits of chocolate bread in. Then I added a scrambled egg, some milk and cinnamon and baked the whole thing for 30 minutes. It was nice way to start the day.

Then we were out and about. I wanted to go to the DIY store but we weren't in the mood to walk, so we rode the train to Nakayama. (We actually have a DIY store nearby but we would need to walk at least 15 minutes to get there and the sun was blazing today.)

The DIY store is about 5 minutes walking from the Nakayama train station, so we quickly got out of the heat and walked around the DIY store. They didn't have what I was looking for, but did have an 18 roll pack of TP (toilet paper) at a really reasonable price, so we ended up buying this instead.

As we walked out of the DIY store, we noticed a Western-style restaurant, Oazo. Since it was almost lunchtime, we decided to check out this place. Satoshi ordered the B Lunch (1200 yen about US$12) this came with a hamburger, fried fish and fried shrimp, salad and potato salad. It also came with a little plate of rice.

I ordered the Fried Shrimp curry (900 yen about US$9). I also added a salad and drink for 450 yen (about US$4.50). The curry was really spicy, but I was disappointed. Fried shrimp curry by their standards means 1 fried shrimp cut in half to look like 2...sigh.

After lunch we decided to walk the aisles of the supermarket next door. We were surprised at how big the market was and how empty it was. We decided to have dessert and picked up some ice cream from their frozen section.

I had the crunchy mac nut brittle ice cream bar from Haagen-Dazs. The vanilla ice cream had bits of caramel mixed in. The outside was milk chocolate with mashed brittle. It was delicious.

The funny part of this foodie day happened at dinner.

I had a lesson so I met Satoshi in Umeda afterwards. We went into a restaurant that we've never been to before.

The menu was mainly appetizers so we ordered several off the menu.

While we were waiting for our food, I began to "really" look at the english that was written on the menu.

After I pointed out all the mistakes to Satoshi, we were laughing out loud. Like the first photo says, "combustion eggplant and egg-tofu salad of shrimp". Be careful, it may explode...actually it should read, Roasted eggplant with tiny shrimp egg tofu salad.

"Grilled mix seafood--Italian Basil source"...should be sauce instead of source.

"Oven ware of the scallop Kirkpatrick style"... now "yaki" can mean ware as in "chinaware" but in this case it should be baked... "Oven baked scallops Kirkpatrick style"

"shrimp and the ethnic dust in oil saute of the mushroom" we didn't know how to really translate this but "ethnic dust"??...yipes.

"Seafood Paeria (It takes 30 minutes a little in time)"---Paella....does it really take 30 minutes?

"Spicy Grass Bread Crumb Burning condition Province style of a lamb"....first of all Province is way different from Provence and if you are burning it, we don't want it. We didn't know what to make of this.

Anyway, I could go on and on, so take a look for yourself...we did order a few things from the menu but were disappointed with the sparse amounts of food that were served for the prices they were charging. We'll never go back to this place, we did leave a bit hungry, but we did have a good laugh.

Oazo (which means Oasis in Esperanto)
5-10-25 Nakasuji
Takarazuka, Hyogo
Phone: 0797.82.1401
Open 10:00-22:00