Thursday, April 30, 2009

odds & ends

It is the end of the month which means that I need to clear out some photos.

Taste Delight's Maple Leaf Cream Cookies. Maple syrup flavored cookies with cream centers. Pulling them apart reminded me of Oreos, I loved the maple syrup flavor. The cream center wasn't maple syrup flavored, if it were I think it would have been too much.

My Smoothie's Superfruit acai smoothie, a product from Sweden have these great design boxes, the box folds up after drinking.

According to the outside of the box, the smoothie has 19 acai berries, 1 apple, 1/2 banana, 14 raspberries, 52 blueberries and 9 blackberries all in this tiny box. I loved the taste but didn't like the pulp, almost made me gag, I'm such a wuss.

Sekai no Kitchen's Tiramisu Latte, was very almond extract-y (is that even grammatically correct?) and combines marscapone and espresso. I don't think I would drink this one again.

Lipton's extra shot Chai....this one was more on the clove side, not sure if I would get this one again.

Dean & Deluca's Bretagne Caramel Walnut Ice cream....delicious. Lots of walnuts in caramel ice cream.

Awhile back, I bought these hotate (scallops) which were grilled at Daiei, 150 yen (about US$1.50) a stick. I also picked up some tako (octopus) and then made a donburi (bowl) with rice, lettuce, the hotate and tako, a little kim chee and yuk-hoe sauce, a fast delicious dinner.

I was surprised at how small the filet-o-fish at McD's is...it was the size of my palm! This sandwich reminds me of my grandma.

When we were growing up we would catch The Bus with my grandparents to Ala Moana shopping center. We would eat lunch at McDonald's and my grandma would always eat the filet-o-fish.

I recently defrosted some homemade portuguese sausage and paired it with kim chee fried rice for a quick weekend lunch.The month flew by so fast!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

kinkan muffins

Have you ever received something that you didn't quite know how you were going to use or eat? Well, last year, we got some bottled food items from my MIL.

One was this bottle of kinkan (kumquat) which were bottled in a sweet syrup. Of course, with them sitting in their box, they were "out of sight out of mind" until Monday, when I realized the expiry date was rolling around the corner...fast!

I found a recipe in a cookbook I have for muffins. Instead of the earl grey tea and nibs in the linked recipe, add 60 grams (2.11 ounces) of the kumquats (by the way, the recipe I was looking at used a moistened type candied orange peel). I used most of the bottle, deseeded and minced it up and put them into the batter. I also reserved several sliced kumquats for the tops.

The muffins came out great, light and delicious. I thought it would be bitter because the skins of the kumquat are a little bitter, but it was just like eating candied orange peel--the kind with the granulated sugar on it. I guess with it being packed in syrup it helps take away the bite. With the rest of the kumquats, I'm thinking about putting it on yogurt in the morning.

This was an excellent way to use these up.

Satoshi is off today, it is a National Holiday, Midori no Hi (Greenery Day) and the day is also the Emperor Showa's birthday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

starbucks

I recently came across Starbucks new macaron...matcha (green tea).

It was good. A little bitter from the green tea, there was green tea cream in the center.

It went nicely with a dark mocha frappuccino.

Monday, April 27, 2009

eating "local"

Last Monday, after my dentist appointment, I went into Hanshin department store to pick up something for lunch.

I also needed some celery so I went to their produce area. Now, I don't usually shop for produce at the department stores because they tend to be on the pricey side.

Surprisingly, they were having a sale and everything was rather reasonable and an even bigger bonus was that the items on sale were grown in Japan.

I found a bunch of celery for 298 yen (about US$2.98). Usually when I buy celery, they have 1 stalk packaged and it is usually 158 yen (about US$1.58)...so I was excited to pick up 3 stalks for the 298 yen.

The zucchini was of good size too and were 2 for 298 yen (about US$2.98). Usually when I buy zucchini, they are scrawny and cost 298 yen for 1.

Lastly, the asparagus were unbelievably cheap also...189 yen (about US$1.89) for 11 stalks. Usually they only have 3 woody local stalks for ranging between 158 yen and 198 yen (about US$1.58-$1.98).

When I went to pay for them, the cashier said to me, "how shall I cut it?", pointing to the celery. I told, "just cut it in half." She immediately pulled out a produce knife and cut it in half, this actually surprised me.

The good/bad thing about shopping at the department store was that they wrapped everything in this brown paper, though I guess it was better than a plastic bag.

I've already used some of the celery and one of the zucchini for 3 bean salad and vegetable soup.

And I've used the asparagus with some eringi and shimeji mushrooms for a stir-fry with a little butter and tarragon. We've also eaten the leftovers for breakfast with a sunny-side up egg on top and toast.

I also tried Ellie Krieger's "Grilled Zucchini Roll-ups with Herbs and Cheese". This was delicious, only problem I had was getting the zucchini slices thin.

Though we aren't truly eating local, we are eating more items from Japan. Have you been eating local and/or more items from your country?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

anpan

Recently I've been eating anpan for my afternoon snack. I've tried making it myself, but since the weather isn't warm enough to start baking bread, I've been buying my anpan.

What I usually do is buy two different kinds, cut them in half eating one of each half then saving the other halves for the next day's afternoon snack.

From Bigot (pronounced bee-go), I tried the yuzu (citron) anpan 105 yen (about US$1.05) and sakura (cherry blossom) anpan 126 yen (about US$1.26).

The yuzu had bits of citron mixed in with the sweet white bean paste. The bread was sweet like brioche but a bit dry.

The sakura had a nice sweet and salty cherry blossom flavored bean paste and the bread was also sweet like brioche and like the yuzu anpan, the bread was a bit dry.

From Anri, I tried their chestnut anpan 126 yen (about US$1.26) and pumpkin anpan 126 yen (about US$1.26).

The chestnut anpan was filled with lots of chestnut paste. The bread was sweet and very soft.

The pumpkin anpan was filled with lots of pumpkin paste. The bread was also very soft and sweet.

The thing I liked about these anpan was that there was a lot of filling and it didn't seem like they used the sweet bean paste.

And from Kokoroniamai Anpanya, their matcha (green tea) anpan 105 yen (about US$1.05) and kurumi (walnut) anpan 105 yen (about US$1.05).

The matcha anpan was filled with a green tea cream mixed with a little sweet bean paste. The bread was also very soft and sweet.

I was disappointed with the walnut...it was just a walnut roll, I thought there would at least be sweet bean paste inside but there wasn't anything in the center.

All the ones with fillings were delicious. The walnut was good as a roll but like I said disappointing as an anpan.

What have you been eating for your afternoon snack?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

on the lanai

The weather during this time of year has its good days and bad, but for the most part they are good.

The temps are great, though you need a light jacket or sweater on those windy days. I love being able to take my naps and sleeping at night with the windows open, not having to worry about humidity. (oops I said the "h" word...)

Recently on my lanai, I noticed my green onion had a flower getting ready to bloom. Before it could do so, it was so top heavy, it creased itself literally to the point of hanging on by a thread.

I cut it off and put the flower into some water. It started to bloom.

I also noticed this rather large strawberry in my planter and hope no birds do before I can pick it. Most of the strawberries that I have been picking are so tiny but this one is actually quite large. I should pick it soon...

Awhile back after seeding a raw red bell pepper, I threw the seeds into a pot outside. I think it is beginning to take (crossing my fingers that it is and not something totally different). It will be so cool to grow my own peppers since I am addicted to them as of late.

I noticed that the clover I planted started to bloom also. Satoshi had received these packets of clover seed, so I sprinkled them in two pots and just kept watering them every so often.

There are 3 plants I have inside the house. (If you look at the last photo) During the winter the one with the big leaf and the one hiding under it were actually brown because I had them outside, I think they like more "tropical" surroundings.

So, I pruned them and brought them indoors...they are looking good, though the one hiding under the leaf needs a bit more time. The one in the glass container is a coffee plant, I am crossing my fingers when I re-plant it that it takes. My first coffee plant died with the cold of winter.

I missed Earth Day the other day, so this post is kind of a make-up for it, hope you celebrated the Earth on Earth Day!

Today is the start of Golden Week here, some people will have 16 days off! (some taking vacation, while other have to take mandatory leave due to the economy) though we aren't planning to go anywhere as Satoshi has to work during the middle of it. Just as well though, most places will be packed with people that are out and about. (We are planning a short visit to Kyoto to spend some time with my MIL on some of the days that Satoshi is off though.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

yamaya

First off, I have to get this out of my system. I ordered a book from Amazon Japan, paid for it and it was to be delivered yesterday (Thursday). Satoshi had the day off, so we did some errands. We came back and I saw the package sticking out of our mail box at the entrance to our building.

Now, our mail box has a trap door that the mail deliverer can slip things in, but most times you would not be able to fish things out unless you open the door with the combination.

So, the delivery guy shoved the package into the mail box and because the door has that trap door area, the package went in, but refused to come out....

I pulled at it, tried to wiggle it out. I even opened the door with the combination but was afraid I was going to break the trap door. In the meantime, Satoshi had gone upstairs, not knowing what was happening.

After 5 minutes, I finally got the package out by wiggling it out of the trap door. The package was badly scraped and it seemed that it was scraped from it trying to fit into the mail box, then from wiggling it out of the trap door. Luckily though, my book wasn't damaged. Still, I called to complain. I was so mad, I almost spoke in English. The woman at the call center apologized, took my delivery number down and told me they would warn the delivery guy. While I think it was good that it saved him/her another trip to deliver the package, saving time and gasoline, I think they should have used more common sense...sigh..Thanks for listening, I feel better...let's move onto something nice...

After posting about making my own cappuccino, my friend Mari, wrote in the comments about a shop that she likes going to called Yamaya.

I checked out their website and realized that I had passed by this place before, thinking they were "just a liquor shop". And I also realized that Tamakikat had taken me to her Yamaya in Kyoto awhile back. (Actually, I kind of thought she did and emailed her to double check...)

The best part is that the store in my neighborhood is just a 30 minute walk away! (I am glad this store isn't closer otherwise I may be there everyday!!)

So, Wednesday, I picked up my lunch at Abientot then walked down to Yamaya.

Of course, I had to walk every aisle.

I bought some Terra chips 298 yen (about US$2.98), Solleone garbanzo 168 yen (about US$1.68), Black Wych beer 498 yen (about US$4.98), Olitalia EVOO 480 yen (about US$4.80), San Paolina diced tomatoes 78 yen (about US$.78) and Valle del Sole whole tomatoes 78 yen (about US$.78).

I couldn't believe how cheap the canned tomatoes were, I never find them under 100 yen in the local supermarkets.

I had seen this beer on Rowena's Flickr page. Yesterday, Satoshi and I tried the beer and the chips. I liked the beer, it had a hint of chocolate and was a little bitter. The chips were good too, kettle-style, thick and salty...mmm!

This place had a lot of great items and was cheaper than the gourmet supermarket that I have been shopping at. And the beans were in a box rather than a can. A recent can of beans that I bought had half the amount of beans that this box version had and was more expensive!

I want to bring Satoshi with me the next time so he can help me carry some wines and beer.

Thanks again for the tip, Mari!

Yamaya
4-1-27 Makiochi
Phone: 072.720.5058
Open 10:00-22:00

Hope you have a good weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

palet d'or

On days when I have French, I try to eat lunch at places that serve French food or give a French atmosphere. I figure at least for one day, I have a day to "immerse myself" in French.

I also listen to my French language CD while getting ready for class.

The pronunciation is still hard for me and I get confused at times, but at least the lessons are beginning to get more interesting.

So, Tuesday I had lunch at Palet d'Or. I've written about them before, mainly to have dessert or their chocolates, but I recently discovered that they started serving lunch.

They only have an assortment of panini. I chose the Normandy (proscuitto and camembert). The sandwich comes with a cup of soup and a salad.

Tuesday was rainy and dreary, so the warm potato soup really hit the spot.

After lunch, your meal comes with either chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), coffee, tea or herb tea. I chose the chocolat chaud. If you chose coffee, tea or herb tea it came with 2 chocolate bon-bons.

After eating the meal, I was actually quite full so I was happy that the chocolat chaud was just a demi-tasse. It was rich, creamy and a nice way to end the meal.

The best part of this was that it was only 1000 yen (about US$10)...I'll be back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

kotan ramen & ig cafe

Sunday, before going to the Zoheikyoku, I met Satoshi in Umeda after his German class for lunch.

I had read on a Japanese blog, about a ramen shop that served the gyoza (pot stickers) on top of their ramen. They call it what else??...Gyoza Ramen.

So, we met at Kotan ramen to try their gyoza ramen.

After ordering, the food came out pretty quickly.

4 pieces of gyoza are placed on top of the shoyu-based or miso-based ramen. The gyoza is crispy, the filling is spicy. Spicy like the kim chee gyoza I make, but there are no kim chee bits in this gyoza, just flecks of chili.

It was a great lunch. Shoyu-based is 670 yen (about US$6.70) and miso-based is 690 yen (about US$6.90). Satoshi ordered miso and I ordered shoyu. Really reasonable and delicious.

After doing some walking after the Zoheikyoku, we went to the Ig Cafe. I've had lunch here before but wanted Satoshi to experience this place.

Since it was the weekend, it was packed with people! Luckily we were able to get a table right away.

Satoshi ordered the gelato and coffee 1580 yen (about US$15.80). Vanilla and chocolate gelato and a raspberry sorbet. He said these were delicious.

I ordered the maple waffle set 1500 yen (about US$15). This came with chocolate sauce, maple syrup, vanilla ice cream....and whipped cream plus 3 confiture (vanilla milk jam, strawberry jam & a pistachio orange jam). In addition, it came with a drink of your choice. I chose an iced latte.

The good thing about this dessert was that if you wanted more waffles you could have seconds. I didn't, but would definitely get this again. My favorite topping was the chocolate sauce, it was dark and delicious. Plus, you could dip the fresh fruits in it like a fondue.

I think our lunch and dessert definitely made up for the bad experience at the Mint.

Kotan Ramen
Whity Umeda, near the Izumi Hiroba
Phone: 06.6312.8086
*there are many shops around Osaka

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

zoheikyoku

Every year after the majority of sakura (cherry) trees have bloomed, the zoheikyoku (Mint of Japan) has their cherry blossom viewing. The types of trees that the Mint has are the double cherry, which usually blooms later than the single type.

From what I understand there are 3 Mints, the main one in Osaka, and smaller ones in Tokyo and Hiroshima.

The first time Satoshi and I went to this cherry viewing was pre-blog and a really bad experience.

For one thing, they make you walk one way through the property. Not knowing this at that time, we had walked through the crowds of people that ran parallel to the Mint--through the food booths and games that you usually see at festivals in Japan, and ended up at the exit to the event. The security guard told us if we wanted to see the blossoms we would have to turn around, go back through the crowd and start over...ugh!

So, after that experience, we never went back to check this place out...until yesterday.

It was a really sunny day...to the tune of 27C (80.6F). We followed the line of people to the Mint and were corralled through the walkways of the property to view the blossoms.

Throughout the walkways, they had security guards blasting us with their megaphones, telling us "not to stop to take photos or stop to look at the blossoms, but enjoy yourselves".....WT?! (picture of one of the mood breakers) Of course, most of us just ignored them and snapped away...

Within the 560 meters of walkway there are 126 different species and 348 cherry trees. (They also have a museum, but it wasn't open while we were there.)

Every year they pick a species as "the tree of the year", this year was the "hirano-nadeshiko", which I wish I could show you a photo of, but the signage was bad so we couldn't figure out which tree it was and of course, I couldn't "stop to photograph" it....sigh.

So, despite the bad taste in our mouths with this event, we got to see some beautiful cherry blossoms for the last time this year.

They only have this event for a week and are also open in the evenings for night time viewing...though I think we've had our fill of these types of viewings (the kind where everyone is at) and will probably stick to those places where we can view the blossoms at our leisure and maybe with more elbow room. I'll post more photos on Flickr.

Zoheikyoku (Osaka Mint)
1-1-79 Tenma
Phone: 050.5548.8686
located near the Tenmabashi station

Monday, April 20, 2009

bialetti + illy = delicious

After seeing Giada use her espresso pot on her show, I immediately went and got one from Amazon the last time I was home.

I purchased the Bialetti Moka Express espresso pot which makes 6 espresso cups (there are different sizes to choose from) which when you pour into a cafe cup comes out to 2 cafe cups. Just follow the directions and within a couple of minutes you'll have freshly brewed espresso.

The good thing about this espresso pot is that there are no filters to throw out after using, you just throw out the coffee grounds then rinse out the pot (Well, you do have to take the pot apart to rinse but no other major work involved.)

I am using Illy's caffe macinato which after googling, I found out is more ideal for espresso machines than the stovetop espresso pots....meh, it still brews a good cup!

Add some frothed milk and voila! Cappuccino. I have also chilled the brewed espresso and added milk for an iced version. If you want to save money on expensive coffee drinks, this is definitely a great way to do so.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

addicted to...

Recently I've been addicted to roasting red peppers and then combining them with caramelized onions, eringi, a cheese and olives.

I wash the red peppers then put them into a 220C (425F) oven for 40 minutes. I've seen recipes which instruct you to coat them with oil before baking, but I don't. The oven does all the work and all I have to do is wait to peel them (oh, I do turn the peppers over halfway through). The peppers get so sweet and tender!

Last week, one dinner was a veggie wrap. I steamed some thinly sliced cabbage, then on a tortilla I added the cabbage, some caramelized onions, kalamata olives, feta cheese, roasted red pepper and eringi mushrooms....mmm.

For yet another dinner, it was my first time making a savory tart.

With a defrosted puff pastry sheet, I cut it in half then pricked it with a fork leaving a border.

I added goat cheese, caramelized onions, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers and eringi. I baked it for 30 minutes in a 200C (400F) oven.

As I was eating the tart, I wondered why I hadn't tried making this before...it was so delicious!

Flaky pastry plus that combination of flavors that I am hooked on at the moment....yummy! I paired it with a green salad and it was a simple, yet delicious dinner.

And on yet another night, we had goat cheese, eringi, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and red leaf lettuce toasted on a tortilla like a pizza.

Toasting the tortilla in the oven, the edges get really crispy....mmm.

Is there a flavor combination that you are hooked on at the moment?