Saturday, September 30, 2006

odds & ends

It is the end of September...just thought I'd post about some things that I haven't had a chance to.

Pretty chopstick rests from my friend, Mihoko. Her computer was acting up, so she decided to "write" to me by snail mail and she was nice enough to enclose these pretty rests. (Thank you!)

If you like to travel then this book is for you. I first heard about Bill Bryson from Rowena & Bea--I think they had commented on one of his books. He fills his book with lots of history, trivia and fun narrative. I've bought some of his other books and can't wait to read them!

My mom recently sent this cookbook to me. It is a collection of stories and recipes taken from the Honolulu Star Bulletin's column: "By Request", written by Betty Shimabukuro. The stories are great and the recipes pretty straight forward. Can't wait to try some of these!

As I said before I saw this book on Nordljus' blog, it is a collection of interviews of and recipes by Australia & England's finest foodies. A recurring theme throughout the book is how each enjoys food simply--when you take a look at the recipes that they share most are very simple and sound really good. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on this one.

My student, Yoshimi gave me these millefeuille from Reman (Thank you!). These delicate, flaky layers of pie crust have cream and chocolate in between each layer, then is dipped with milk or sweet chocolate, the top is a toffee with almonds. Millefeuille means a thousand leaves. Delicious!

Bigot's macarons. He is a French baker in Ashiya, a ritzy suburb area in Hyogo prefecture. The ganaches in these were very sweet. Clockwise: dark pink = vanilla, dark brown = chocolate, white = vanilla, yellow = lemon, lt. pink = raspberry, lt brown = coffee, green = pistachio & beige with cocoa powder = hazelnut.

Hope you are enjoying the weekend! Tonight's dinner is pizza...stay tuned!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

happy 1st birthday!

Today, this blog turns one!

I can't believe how fast time flies. I want to thank all of my blogging foodie friends who have helped me learn more about the blogging world, while also inspiring me to try new recipes or new things (like baking bread, making madelines) that I probably wouldn't have had the courage to try had it not been for their enticing posts and delicious photos!

For the special occasion...I made some cupcakes (actually a day ahead)

I was inspired by Jasmine's post and it was a good chance to use the muffin tins I got from my mom, plus, I thought if I made cupcakes instead of a whole cake, I could freeze most of them (unfrosted, of course) and we could enjoy them at a later date.

I used up the cake mix that I had bought for Satoshi's birthday (the cake mixes here come with two in a box). I was in the mood for a buttercream frosting and found a "copy-cat" recipe for Magnolia's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. Though I have never actually tasted a cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery in New York, it is on my list should I ever get to the Big Apple.

Here's the recipe: Makes enough for one 2-layer 9-inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.

3. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.

4. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.

5. You may not need to add all of the sugar.

6. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.)

7. Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

8. Enjoy!

NOTE: I actually cut the recipe to a fourth, frosted 6 and froze the rest of the cupcakes. Also, I only used 80g of confectioners sugar. This frosting is really easy to make, if you can get your hands on confectioners sugar, I never realized how hard it is to find a large amount of confectioners sugar here until this recipe! Warning: this frosting is really sweet so you might have to tweak the amount of sugar to your liking.

Here's to another year of delicious foodie travels and other adventures!

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

new "roommate"

We have a new "roommate" of sorts...a gecko. In Japanese they call them "yamori" and in Okinawa are considered "omamori" or good luck charms.

I didn't really mind it--we have lots of them in Hawaii, but this guy was HUGE!

I woke Satoshi up so that he could catch it to put it back outside, the gecko leaped at him, which made Satoshi and I scream...

It is still in the house, I wonder if it will do the dishes?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Remember I wrote about this Chocolina chocolate? I tried the one on the left, it was a 67% cacao with rose buds, but I didn't like it much because it tasted a too perfumy.

The one on the right is a 65% cacao with pumpkin seeds. This one was great! There are LOTS of pumpkin seeds in it and the chocolate is really creamy.

Hope your week is going well.

Monday, September 25, 2006

sweet potato salad

Part of tonight's dinner was a sweet potato salad. I combined carrots, red bell pepper, red onion and steamed sweet potato with a scoop of plain yogurt, a little squeeze of mayo and some grinds of pepper.

I have a steamer basket that fits into my one and only big pot, it makes cooking sweet potato, corn, and beans a snap!

A little trivia...Sweet potato is in Japan is called satsuma imo. Satsuma is the old province name for the Kagoshima area and imo is potato. In the Edo period, most of the rice crops failed and a famine swept across Japan. Only the people in Satsuma (Kagoshima) were found to be in good health. They realized this was due to their eating lots of sweet potatoes. After the famine subsided, the government had everyone in Japan plant sweet potatoes as insurance against famine.

This salad was nice, not too heavy because of the yogurt and all of the flavors of each ingredient shined, I'm eating a bit early because I have a lesson tonight.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

getting ready for fall

Not to jinx myself again, but it is getting cooler especially in the early morning and evening.

Since Satoshi had to work today, I had some time on my hands. I did a couple loads of laundry and made myself this brooch. I crocheted the outer "petals" with some mohair yarn that I bought last year at the 100yen ($1) store and added beads to the top part of the pin--then sandwiched the flower in between of the shower pin.

I think I'm ready for fall!

Have a nice week!

Friday, September 22, 2006


Gozasoro is a Japanese confection that is cooked between two metal molds. They put a thin batter on one side add the bean paste filling, then put batter on the other side, just before the batter hardens, they put the two sides together and flip several times while cooking until golden brown.

There is another version of this called "taiyaki". It is in the shape of a fish called "tai" (sea bream), "yaki" means to bake or grill, and filled with the sweet bean paste. The untraditional version has chocolate or custard inside.

Satoshi received these Gozasoro from his University baseball club "sempai". Here is Wikipedia's definition of it, (here).

In order to heat it up, I put it into the toaster, I made a mistake and put it in for about 6 minutes. The outside got really crunchy and tasted wonderful!

Tomorrow is another National holiday, Shubun no hi (Autumnal Equinox Day or the first day of Autumn). I know, it is Saturday, but for some, they actually go to work on Saturdays, so the observance of this holiday is not on Friday --which would be how America would observe it.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

meme #2

Liz, of Good Stuff wrote me to ask me for my answers to a meme that she had been tagged for, just to see what kinds of answers I could come up with.

The theme of this meme (does that rhyme?) was to talk about how each item had affected you.
1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food "personality" (chef, writer, etc)
6. Another person in your life

Here goes....

1. Basil. Gosh, I never knew how much I liked the smell of it or the taste of it, until recently. Plus, after inheriting my mom's food processor, making pesto is so EASY! I know, I just posted about pesto, but I really love it! And pesto is so easy to use--I toss it with hot pasta or add it to an omlette, spread it on bruschetta.

2. Tempura style renkon (lotus root). I don't know why, but growing up, I just could not eat lotus root, whether it was in local Hawaii-Japanese style stewed veggies or Chinese style stir fries, but after trying it tempura style in Japan, I was hooked! I love it now, especially if there is a bit of curried hamburger sandwiched between two pieces of lotus root, then fried tempura-style. I think this discovery has made me try the foods that I used to dislike as a child. I used to not be able to eat shiitake (mushroom), but can now eat the fresh version although I still dislike the dried version.

3. Every meal at a restaurant or home is a new adventure for me. Although, I have my favorites, there are times when I try a new place and find a keeper.

4."Okinawa Program" by Wilcox, Wilcox & Suzuki. At the time, I was researching my roots and wanted to learn more about the Okinawans. They are the longest living in the world and I wanted to find out what their dietary secrets were, plus, get to know more about Okinawan culture. I now love most of the cuisine of Okinawa.

5. I really enjoy Jamie Oliver, his recipes are straight forward and not too complicated. Perfect for a novice in the kitchen like me. Plus, his accent is nice to listen to--although a lot of the times I don't understand what he is talking about.

6. My mom, grandma and aunties, I know I was only supposed to pick one...they have all contributed to the foodie that I am. I think growing up I was exposed to a lot of hands on opportunities to help cook and bake, which now that I have time on my hands being a housewife, I have a chance to try new recipes and broaden my "repertoire".

Thanks for asking me to participate, Liz! It was very thought-provoking and fun!


It's been awhile since I've done a meme...Ellie, from Kitchen Wench, has tagged me for one:

I am thinking about: what to eat for lunch and then what to eat for dinner.

I said: "ki o tsukete (be careful)" to Satoshi as he left for work today.

I want to: have a house with a huge kitchen with an island and real ovens :)

I wish: the humidity would go away and I can get on with autumn stuff :)

I regret: all the stupid stuff I did when I was "younger", but try to learn from the experiences.

I hear: the garbage truck picking up everyone's stuff.

I am: sleepy, Satoshi came home close to 1AM last night (this morning).

I dance: when no one is looking

I sing: only if I can remember the words.

I cry: gosh, almost at anything sad, tragic or if I have PMS.

I am not: going to lose the 10 pounds that I want to lose if I keep eating.

I am: doing laundry.

I write: down what I eat everyday, it is supposed to help you look at your diet, but chocolate seems to be there a LOT.

I confuse: a lot of words in Japanese that sound alike.

I need: to hang the laundry that is finished and put my face on so that I can go and get me some lunch!

I tag: Rowena, Bea, and Bourgogne, but only if you want to participate, and hey, if I didn't tag you and you'd like to participate, please do!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Morinaga's Renaissance is an amaretti cookie with a creamy milk chocolate covering, followed by cashew nuts and a semi-dark chocolate coating. They are individually wrapped so they are perfect for sharing :)

Remember the Kit Kat I posted about? I was surprised that they wrap them so that you can eat only half at a time...although I didn't...

It is election season here in Japan (didn't they just have one??) Anyway, this guy in the Minshutou (social liberal party) decided to roam around and speak through the speaker atop his car, using the surrounding building to bounce his speech off of, at the peak of Kat's nap time! (He was lucky he was INSIDE the car!)

The definition of urusai given by Sanseido's online dictionary is annoying, troublesome, tiresome. And if you use it in a sentence as in, Urusai! it means "shut up", "leave me alone" and "what a nuisance"! That would sum up my feelings....

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Well, I jinxed myself by telling you that the weather had gotten cooler. There is now a typhoon passing over Japan and making it VERY uncomfortable...sigh. I just hope the places that got hit by the tornado will be able to rebuild quickly.

Tonight's dinner was farfalle (bow-tie pasta) with homemade pesto, I added fresh tomatoes and grated some parmigiano reggiano and also had a green salad.

With a food processor, pesto is the easiest and fastest thing in the world to make!

Hope your week is going well.

Monday, September 18, 2006

banana sundae

What to do when entertaining 5 children aged 14 to 4?

Let them make their own sundaes.....

I cut bananas and melted chocolate, then scooped ice cream, they chose their toppings and put it on themselves. It was a nice chance for them to dollop or drizzle chocolate, and/or strawberry sauce.

I think they enjoyed it!

keiro no hi

Yesterday, we had 2 families, all the husbands work together for the same company, come over for a party. We usually get together for Christmases and other occasions. One family has 4 children--an unusual amount by recent Japanese standards, the standard is 1.5.... The other family has one child. It is so nice to watch these children grow, and boy, can they all eat!

We got to sample this New Zealand beer called MOA, which we received from Satoshi's staff members awhile back. This beer was a bit fruity, but smooth. Their website also introduces a dark beer and ginger beer which sounded good too.

We also had lots to eat and drink and I think everyone had a nice time.

Changing the are a few more chocolates which I discovered at a neighborhood convenience store...
A bitter version of Nestle's Kit Kat.

Glico's almonds covered in 70% cacao.

And Morinaga's chocoball has a special edition--Bitter chocolate covering the crisp shell and peanuts.

Today is a National holiday, Keiro no hi (Respect for the Aged Day). It is a day to thank the elderly for their contributions to society over the years and to celebrate their longevity. I think in America they have a day around this time of year called Grandparents Day. I sent my grandma a postcard and told her how much we loved and appreciated her--if you still have grandparents, tell them how much you appreciate them!

Have a great week!

Friday, September 15, 2006

odds & ends

Well, I think I have grumbled enough about the heat and humidity this year...I will now put it away until next summer.

The weather has taken a 180 and gotten cooler! The chirping of the cicada has been replaced with chirping of suzumushi and korogi (types of crickets)....Ahh...autumn...we can finally sleep with the windows open and the a/c off! In Hawaii, this season is non-existent.

I enjoy taking autumn/winter clothes out of the closet and putting the summer ones away. In Japan, this is called koromogae. Lots of good stuff (foodie stuff and visual stuff, like the colors changing of the leaves) can be found in autumn.

Autumn also brings all kinds of chocolate-y goodies...Meiji's Fran is a pretzle stick type chocolate. This year's autumn version is called "extra". The pretzle is chocolate, a coating of whipped dark chocolate, and a coating of 70% cacao and nibs....there are only 12 may not want to share....I didn't!

Meiji also makes a candy called Cho-pan. The name comes from Chopin the composer and pan (dish). These dark chocolate cups hold a chocolate ganache and a flaky cocoa pie crust-like topping...there are only 4 cute little dishes of chocolate...definitely not for sharing!

Another non-sharing chocolate is Glico's Mousse Pocky. Another pretzle type chocolate with whipped mousse-like dark chocolate on the pretzle sticks.

I bought this bar awhile back...Hachez, a German chocolate, their Cocoa d'Arriba is a 77% cacao. I thought it would be really bitter, but it was actually really creamy.

Also bought awhile back...Chocolina is an Austrian chocolate made with sheep's milk. The dark with rose buds (left) is a 67% cacao with real rose buds in it. I didn't like this one too much because it was really perfumy. At first, I was a bit leery about buying this one because I thought that the sheep's milk might be a bit smelly, but it tastes great except for the rose perfuminess. I can't wait to try the one on the right, it is a 65% cacao and has pumpkin seeds in it.

Wednesday, Satoshi had a business meeting in Nagoya. I asked him to bring home some chicken wings from a place called Furaibo. This place fries the chicken then dips them into their special sauce...delish! I never noticed this on their website before, but they have franchises here and there in Japan and even in California! If you are in the L.A. area, you may already know about this....

He also got me Kuri Dainagon, a cake filled with adzuki beans and kuri (chestnuts), very light, fluffy cake that is not too sweet.

Yesterday was bead stitch class. Here are a bracelet and earrings that I made using the brick stitch. Somehow while weaving this one, I made a boo-boo--turns out the teacher loved my originality!

And a pearl bracelet using the right-angle weave.

We have a 3-day weekend here--although Satoshi has to work on Saturday.

Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

pigs in a blanket

The weather here has cooled a bit, but the humid...ugh, is still lingering...

Today, I continue to experiment with the recipe for butter the previous experiment I added Italian seasoning to the dough and today have added a hot dog.

We used to have something like this on our school lunch menu and it was called "pig in a blanket" (I think this is self-explanatory), but it never tasted as good as this one!

Monday, September 11, 2006

kyushu-miyazaki & kirishima

This weekend we traveled to Kyushu. Kyushu is the third largest and southernmost of the major islands of Japan. We landed in Miyazaki prefecture.

Driving along the sea coast reminded me of Hawaii mixed in with the Pacific Coast Highway in California...The weather was nice but VERY humid, which made it really uncomfortable.

The first place we visited was Udo Shrine. This shrine is located on the coast of Nichinan. It is about a 15 minute walk from the parking area to the shrine, so wear sensible shoes!

After saying some prayers and walking around the shrine inside of the cave, you can purchase 5 clay pebbles for 100 yen (about $1) to wish for something.

Guys must throw their pebbles with their left hand and girls with their right. Your target is this little pool of water which sits on top of a large rock with a sacred rope encircling the pool. As you throw your pebbles, make a wish.

If it lands in the pool, chances are you'll get your wish...Satoshi got one of his pebbles into the pool, I wonder what he wished for....

We then moved on to a little town called Obi. This town is built surrounding the ruins of Obi castle.

I tried my hand at Shihanmato (archery), for 300 yen (about $3) you get 10 arrows and free instruction. The origins of Shihanmato is over 400 years old. It is called Shihanmato (which means 4.5 targets) because the peasants (me) received permission to use a bow requiring the target to be 4 shaku and 5 sun--old counting measurements. (about 136.35 cm) away.

This was tough, you have to sit on your knees, this is called seiza, they give you a little stool to rest your bum on, but basically, you are still on your knees.

Take aim....

and fire! I don't think the samurai would want me in battle with them....

For lunch, we tried a food item that Obi is known for called Obi-ten--a fish paste cake that is fried. It was a bit sweeter than most other fish cake that I have tried, but it was delicious.

I was impressed with all the huge sugi (cedar) trees in the area.

I was also impressed with the manners that the children of Obi have. They actually stop their conversations to say "hello" to you, something you will not see in the big cities. There was a billboard in the middle of town which stated that everyone should greet each other. The gist of the sign stated that by saying greetings such as "good morning", "thank you", "excuse me" and "I'm sorry", to each other, the town can be a better place for all. I think more places in Japan and the world need something like this.

We then made our way to Kirishima. Along the way you'll notice that there are a LOT of sugi (cedar), lots of lumber mills and flooring companies.

Kirishima is located in Kagoshima prefecture--on the western side of Kyushu. This area has a LOT of onsen (hot springs). We stayed at the Kirishima Hotel. Satoshi's friend, whom he met through his company's baseball team, works as General Manager there.

The hotel property has over 30,000 cedar trees on it and their bath facility is one of the largest I've ever seen. It was nice to go in and out of the different baths. Satoshi had a nice time bathing and also reminiscing with his friend about this and that.

Kirishima Hotel
3948 Takachiho
Makizono-cho, Kirishima-shi
Phone: 0995-78-2121

Kyushu is also known for satsuma imo (sweet potato). They have many treats and shochu (spirits, the bottle on the right) made from this potato.

I also bought some shoyu (soy sauce, the bottle on the left) from Obi. It is called Obi no murasaki. Murasaki is the name for the color purple and also what they call shoyu in sushi bars.

There was also a cheese manju made by Hiroya, this manju (steamed bun) is filled with cheese and butter, very rich and not too sweet.

2-9-24 Matsuhashi
Miyazaki city, Miyazaki prefecture

We have another 3-day weekend coming up this weekend. Hopefully I'll have some adventures to talk about.

Enjoy your week!