Tuesday, September 30, 2008

with parsley also comes...

So with the rest of my Italian parsley, I used it to try La Fuji Mama's recipe.

The sweet potatoes are in season here. The ones that I bought were long and skinny.

I rinsed then cut the potatoes into half and then fourths. (La Fuji Mama's recipe suggests peeling them, but I left the skins on)

Since I didn't have garlic powder or dried parsley, I grated some fresh garlic and sprinkled it on with some freshly chopped parsley.

This recipe is delicious. Salty and sweet--salty from the seasoning, sweet from the sweet potato.

Since I was going to cook the sweet potatoes in the oven, I figured why dirty another pan or pot, so I drizzled some EVOO, salt and peppered some chicken and put them on the side of the sweet potatoes.

For the last 7 minutes, I put everyone under the broiler.

The chicken skin got really crispy....yum.

The fries didn't get crisp but they were cooked and delicious. I'll try her method for crispy fries another time.

Since I usually just steam my sweet potatoes, this was a nice change.

Monday, September 29, 2008

little treasure

As I was walking to the train station on Saturday, I passed by a house in our neighborhood that has several kuri (chestnut) trees. Most times when I pass by, the kuri are either not ready and fall off the tree as green "sea urchins", or they are dried brown "sea urchins" and the birds have already taken whatever chestnuts were inside.

On this day though, I didn't see any "sea urchins", just this.

A perfect chestnut. Just lying there.

I looked around to see if anyone had dropped it or was watching me, then I picked it up and put it into my bag and went on my way.

When I came home, I thought, "now what do I do with my treasure?"

I looked in a basic cooking book and it said to peel the chestnut, soak it in water then add them to be cooked with rice. Another method was to just leave the shell on and boil in water.

I didn't have enough to make a rice dish with and I couldn't see boiling water just for this one chestnut, so instead, I peeled the chestnut up until the furry skin, then threw it into a steamer basket with some sweet potato and steamed them for 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes, I gingerly peeled the fuzzy skin from the chestnut, the chestnut fell apart...but it was really sweet and delicious.

It was definitely a delicious little treasure.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

happy 3rd birthday!

It's this blog's birthday today, I usually make cupcakes or something to celebrate, but I've been eating a LOT of sweets lately, so I thought I would celebrate with a mosaic of some of my favorite pics from this year.

Thank you for reading our adventures, we are having fun here. Sure, we have bad days in the kitchen as well as in "real life", but for the most part, our days are good, we're happy and we are glad you are a part of it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

from parsley comes...

The weather has been gradually getting cooler. Not humid as much and bearable. The plants apparently appreciate the cooler weather too because my Italian parsley got really bushy.

After the downpour on Friday morning, I decided to seek out lunch and go grocery shopping.

Since I had potatoes, I thought I would use part of the parsley for potato salad.

Cooked 3 small potatoes until tender then peeled them and cut them kind of chunky. Cut a bit of onion and grated it.
Sliced some cucumber thin and added salt and let them sit for 5 minutes then rinsed and squeezed them.
Added 2 slices of crispy bacon, broken up into bits.
Added 1 tablespoon of sweet pickle juice, 2 teaspoons mayo and several tablespoons of Penzey's Green Goddess dressing*
Chopped up a little handful of parsley.
Mixed well and chilled until dinner.

*I got part of the Penzey's Green Goddess dressing mix from my mom when I was home earlier this year. The mix is easy to put together, just some vinegar, water and yogurt or mayo. I used yogurt. We've been enjoying this dressing with cucumber and carrot sticks.

From my rice connection, I also received some eggplants (thank you!), so I decided to use them and some carrots in this recipe. My food processor is really teeny so it took me several batches to blend the soup, and there were some chunks that missed out on the food processing, but it was great, especially with some toasted sesame bread.

For dessert, I melted some dark chocolate to drizzle pour over some haupia...whew! that was a lot of food, but it was all good.

Satoshi is at work today, so it is just another day at home for me, hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Friday, September 26, 2008

french fair

Thursday was the start of the French fair at Takashimaya Osaka, which I read about in a magazine. (About this time last year, I was checking out their Spain fair.)

The fair was featuring Fauchon eclairs for the first time in Kansai, macaron and chocolates by Michel Belin and a father-son MOF (which is the highest distinction in France)--bakers of Art de pain, as well as other condiments like Maille mustards, wines from France and knick knacks like postcards and accessories.

I got to Takashimaya at 10 to 10 a.m and noticed there was a line for a direct elevator to the 7th floor (the event floor), so without thinking, I jumped in line.

Looking around at the people in line though, I noticed that they were mostly elderly women. I turned and asked the lady next to me what she was standing in line for, she said that she was part of a fan club and was waiting to buy tickets to a Kabuki production.

She asked me what I was standing in line for, I said, "eclairs". Her face turned puzzled and then I told her that Takashimaya was having a French fair. She said, "oh". I asked the man lining people up what the line was for, he said, "tickets for the Kabuki production".

The lady looked at me again after hearing what the man said and told me in a whisper to just stay in line and ride the elevator up.

When we got to the 7th floor, everyone on the elevator was shuttled to the ticket counter, I on the other hand, walked in the opposite direction.

Have you ever entered a Japanese department store when it first opens? Everyone and I mean, EVERYONE, bows and says Ohayoo gozaimasu (good morning) or Irrashaimase (welcome) to you, like you are royalty or famous. Anyway, since I was the first one on the floor (because I took the direct elevator), there was this odd silence and as I passed the different areas of the fair, everyone bowed and said "good morning" to me (very embarrassing, actually!)

It was a L-O-N-G walk through the greetings and bowing, but I finally made it to the food area and found Fauchon. (Did you know they make, fill and decorate each one by hand? I saw a mini documentary of the factory in Japan which makes these eclairs.)

They had regular sized eclairs running 473 yen to 578 yen a piece (about US$4.73-5.78) and a mini set for 1260 yen (about US$12.60). I decided to buy the mini set because it was the best way to taste several.

In the mini set there were 5 mini eclairs:
bleu blanc rouge (blue white red) specially made for the fair--vanilla custard with bits of fresh strawberries

au chocolat--rich chocolate ganache (no photo as it found its way to mouth before I could take a photo of it)

au the a la pomme (red with yellow dots)--filled with Fauchon apple tea flavored cream

leopard cafe--filled with chantilly & coffee cream topped with white chocolate and a thin leopard print chocolate

eclair kokushifururu (didn't know how to translate this)--the regular sized one has 3 different creams inside (orange, violet & rose), but the mini only had one cream--orange.

Isn't the chocolate ladybug on top, cute??

My favorite would be the kokushifururu because the cream tasted like earl grey more than orange and the cream of the bleu blanc rouge because the fresh strawberries was a nice addition.

Next to the eclairs were macaron! I decided to get the box of 5 also 1260 yen (about US$12.60)--(they didn't have a handout list of what these were, and I didn't have time to write them down, so I am listing them as what I thought they were)

hazelnut (beige)--hazelnut cream
choclat (dark brown)--ganache
framboise/amande (red/white)--raspberry gel filling
citron (yello)--lemon cream
pistache (green)--pistachio/coconut cream

A couple of counters away from Fauchon was Michel Belin. He is a chocolatier in Southern France and has 3 shops (2 in Albi & 1 in Toulouse). He was mostly selling chocolates but he also had macaron. I got 3 at 241 yen a piece (about US$2.41 each).

violette--this one was filled with griotte (morello cherry) and pear puree made into a gel

rose--loved this one the rose flavor from the cream filled my mouth as soon as I bit into it. It was fragrant like bulgarian rose, but not overpowering or perfumy.

salted caramel--this one surprised me because there was actually gooey salted caramel as the filling!

As I made my way out of the fair, I stopped at the Art de Pain counter. This father & son team of bakers have a shop in Strasbourg, Alsace and both were named MOF. Their breads are the hard type. I picked up a sesame loaf, 525 yen (about US$5.25). This loaf was huge! (I couldn't pick it up with the flimsy plastic thongs they had and needed assistance from a worker at the counter) The thing I like about it is that there are 3 corners which means you get 3 "ends".

We had part of this for breakfast today, the bread was thick, chewy and filled with sesame seeds. With a smudge of cream cheese and some fig jam...it was delicious way to start the day.

Even with the delicious start, the weather is dreary today--rainy with some thunder and lightning...think I'll curl up with a book.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

what I did...

I wanted to share with you what I did with a can of coconut milk.

Earlier this year, I found some tri-colored tapioca at the gourmet supermarket. When I saw this, I immediately thought of coconut pearls, the dessert you get at some Chinese restaurants in Hawaii.

I love this dessert. It is sweet and coconutty. Most times when you get this at the Chinese restaurant, the bowl is ice cold and so is the "soup"...delicious.

I googled and found a recipe on the Internet. It sounded easy. It was, once I prepared the tapioca.

Get this, the package said I could boil the tapioca for an hour or soak the tapioca overnight then boil them to the softness that I wanted....I chose the boiling for one hour.

Doesn't the tapioca look like candy? I loved the colors. (This was my first time with tapioca, is it supposed to have a chewy center? It reminded me of mochi.)

So, with the can of Chaokoh coconut milk, I decided to be oinky and make two desserts out of them (because two is better than one!).

the first...coconut pearls...the second...haupia.

Haupia is a coconut pudding served in Hawaii. My favorite combination is haupia with chocolate, preferably with a flaky crust...yum!

Here's both recipes if you'd like to give them a try.

Coconut pearls adapted from the Internet (makes about 6: 1/2 cup servings)

1/2 cup tapioca, follow package directions
1-1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup coconut milk

After cooking your tapioca, get the "soup" ready.
In a pot, add the water and sugar and heat until sugar dissolves.
Add the milk and warm.
When warm, turn off heat and add coconut milk.
Chill mixture and tapioca separately for at least an hour.
Add tapioca just before serving, as it will turn mixture bitter.
Serve as is or with diced fruits like honeydew or cantaloupe.

Haupia adapted from "Sam Choy's Sampler" (2 "Sam" portions or 8-10 "Kat" portions (about 2 teaspoons each))

1 cup coconut milk
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt

Mix everything in a pot until sugar is dissolved.
Heat on medium stirring constantly, use a whisk to make sure everything is incorporated without lumps.
When the mixture begins to thicken, turn off heat.
You can serve warm or chill for at least an hour.
Good with fruits too.

NOTES: For the coconut pearls, the original recipe states not to boil the coconut milk as it will make the "soup" very oily. The haupia is the real deal! beats those NOH haupia packets. Overall, both recipes were delicious, easy and fast!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

autumn equinox

Yesterday was Shunbun no hi (Autumn Equinox). Satoshi had the day off. I checked to see what we did last year on this day. It turns out we went to Cosmos no Sato.

We called to see if the cosmos were in full bloom, they were, so we went to check them out.

The bus ride was still a woozy one, but the weather was nice and we got to spend some time with nature.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

potato chips

I love potato chips, but the oil that most companies use aren't really good for you (that is probably why they taste so good!)

Anyway, I was reading La Fuji Mama and she was making sweet potato fries in her oven. Since I didn't have sweet potatoes (though I will try her recipe soon), I decided to try making potato chips in mine.

I sliced two "danshaku" potatoes thinly (note: be careful and don't nip the tip of your finger with the knife or in my case, finger nail...yipes! thank goodness there was the finger nail protruding...)

Dry potato slices and coat well with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Arrange on broiler pan or piece of foil. I then sprinkled some salt and some Herb de Provence.

Stick into 220 C (425 F) oven for 30 minutes.

Makes a great snack or nice accompaniment to a salad.

NOTE:Growing up in Hawaii, I only knew of red potatoes, russett and yukon gold. In Japan there are several varieties of potato, the ones mostly seen in the markets are danshaku and may queen. The may queen variety is mostly used in stews and curries.

It is another holiday here, Autumn Equinox.

Monday, September 22, 2008

rice connection

After my rant about food scandals here, I had lunch with some of my beading classmates.

We were talking about the food scandals and two of my classmates (who are related through their husbands), shyly admitted that they don't have a problem with rice because they grow their own!

I was envious of this, but happy that there are people out there who can enjoy rice without having to worry if it has been tainted with chemicals or mold.

So on Saturday, an errand arose out of the blue and I met up with the classmate that grows her own rice....she and her husband had just cleaned the harvested rice which is called seimai, and she gave me a ziploc bag of freshly cleaned rice!

Last night, I washed several cups and pre-set my rice cooker for breakfast this morning.

I usually don't make "white rice", always add in extra grains for fiber or add in some genmai (brown rice), but I thought since we were trying my classmate's rice we should try it "plain"....delicious.

The grains seemed a bit smaller than the rice I buy, but still delicious and much appreciated.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

rainy foodie sunday

Sunday was forecasted for rain but that didn't stop Satoshi and I from checking out Toji--a temple near the JR Kyoto Station which has a open market on the 21st of each month. As soon as we arrived in Kyoto, the rain was coming down really hard. By the time we walked to Toji (it is about 10 minutes), we were soaked (even with umbrellas)! Still, there were tons of people at the market. There were so many stalls filled with fresh fruits, vegetables and many vendors cooking up yummy "fast foods" like takoyaki, taiyaki and yakisoba.

On the property there is a 5 story pagoda and many halls filled with artifacts and large statues of buddhas. Very nice.

One of the places we got to visit was Kanchiin, this had a spectacular garden. Luckily we were inside when another heavy shower decided to pass over.

A few doors down from Toji, is a small mochi (rice cake) shop, called Toji mochi. This place has been in business since 1910. From September to April they grill the mochi out in front of the store.

We got a yomogi mochi (210 yen about US$2.10) and the Toji mochi (a soft daifuku filled with smooth sweet bean paste 130 yen about US$1.30) The yomogi mochi was delicious hot off the grill and the Toji Mochi was nice and soft...both were great.

Toji mochi
Tojimonmae-machi 88
Minami-ku, Kyoto
Phone: 075.671.7639
Open 7:00-20:00
Closed every month on the 6th, 16th & 26th

It was lunchtime so we headed to JR Isetan in the JR Kyoto station. They were having a Hokkaido fair so we went to have lunch at the sushi shop. Satoshi had the seafood chirashi (2415 yen about US$24.15) and I had the matsu nigiri (1680 yen about US$16.80). Satoshi enjoyed all the different seafood and my nigiri was just right.

As we wandered around the fair we also bought a potato curry pan (201 yen about US$2)...spicy and a half of a potato inside...delicious. Oh and those inari sushi in the upper left corner were part of my dinner.

It was a great foodie adventure despite the random downpours.

I wanted to show this HUGE pile of an (sweet bean paste) that I saw at a taiyaki stand...yum!

Hope you have a great week.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


The weather has cooled down quite a bit. We had some humidity, but it was due to the typhoon that passed by. Luckily, we got off with just a little rain and some wind. There are still some semi (cicada) chirping just to remind us that summer isn't quite over yet.

I usually don't buy iceberg lettuce, but since I wanted to make this recipe, I needed iceberg lettuce for the lettuce cups.

I couldn't believe that it was 380 yen a head (about US$3.80)! I don't ever remember it being that high before.

In fact, I think the last time I bought iceberg lettuce it was only 198 yen (about US$1.98).

So, instead of paying an outrageous price for the lettuce, I bought butter lettuce which was 158 yen a head (about US$1.58).

Since the lettuce was too soft to wrap the filling, I just chopped it up and made a warm salad out of it. (apparently, the last time I made this the lettuce was too puny to make cups out of, so I made a warm salad out of it too.)


I wanted to show you these "vintage" matches.

Awhile back I was talking to my MIL and asked her if she had extra matches, she said "yes, I do".

I told her, if there are several that you don't want, please give them to me as I was running out and most places do not give out matches anymore (I usually use matches to light my incense cones or incense sticks, plus I wanted to get rid of some of her pack rat clutter.)

To my surprise, she gave me a box filled with about 40 matchboxes! The other night, while I was rummaging through the box of matches that she gave me, I was surprised at how many looked like they were from the 1960's or 1970's, and they still work too....

Satoshi's working today, so it is just another day at home.

Friday, September 19, 2008

funny fish story

Wanted to share with you a couple of funny fish stories (well I thought they were)
Funny fish story #1:

Do you like fish? I do, if it doesn't have bones to take out while eating and especially if I don't have to clean it...I know I'm a wimp.
Anyway, the other day my MIL gave me some guji (aka-amadai = type of snapper) to bring home for one of our dinners.

So, the next day, I was ready to rinse and put the fish into the oven, but when I ran my hand over the skin, I realized it still had the scales on....sigh.

I took out my fish scaler (which has been waiting for me to use it ever since I bought it) and started to scale the fish.

Scales were flying everywhere...ack!

I stopped and debated...should I just cook the darn thing with the scales on??...blah, no....

So, I ran the water and began to scale the fish under the stream of water. No scales flying into my face or onto the kitchen walls. (after sharing this story with some housewive friends they suggested that I place the fish into a plastic bag and scale it in there...makes sense! maybe next time...maybe not)

After the fish was scaled I salted it and put it into the oven and had dinner....delicious.

When I went to take a bath, I happened to look in the mirror, I had fish scales in my hair, on my face....sigh.

Oh well, at least the fish was gutted and the insides cleaned. (Thanks MIL!)

Funny fish story #2...this one happened before Satoshi and I got married.

He had received a cooler bag from a friend and put it into his trunk. Out of sight = out of mind so he had forgotten about it.

Fast forward a week. He pulls the cooler bag out of his trunk. Ewww the stench!

Rotten fish! He looks at me and says, "can we eat it?"

Me: "um...no!"...sigh

He threw the fish into my parent's garbage (which they ended up washing after he left).

My mom says to my dad, "THAT is going to be your SIL..."

My dad says back to my mom, "yours too!"

The stench in the car lasted several weeks, you couldn't ride in it without the windows rolled down.

To this day, we talk about that fish story.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

stop it!

Ever since moving to Japan in 2001, there have been various "food scandals"...

supermarkets swapping labels on their beef during BSE (mad cow disease), saying it was beef from Australia when it wasn't, just so that they could get government funding.

a restaurant re-serving tempura that was previously served to another guest before but because the guest didn't eat it, they "re-fried" it and served it to yet another guest.

fish shops selling unagi (eel) that they said were of a particular "brand" name in Japan but were actually from China.

restaurants serving "brand" name beef but were actually selling a lower class beef.

thousands of tainted, moldy rice from overseas, mixed with regular rice and sold at a major markup as Japanese rice to shochu makers, senbei (arare) makers, sweets (mochi) makers, carehome and school cafeterias. The media thinks that we all may have eaten some of this already...blah!

actually there are more incidents, but this post would be too long...

I just have one thing to say to you people who cheat and cut corners in order to make a quick buck, and this includes you, the government who are using some of these tactics apparently in order to fund the re-tirees you have still on the job..."STOP IT!"(and I'm being nice by just saying it like this)...would YOU eat what you are trying to pass off onto me?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

kyoto shibori and sweets

On Monday, it was Keiro no Hi (be kind to elders or Grandparents day), a holiday for Satoshi, so we spent the day with my MIL.

She had been wanting to check out an exhibit at the Kyoto Shibori Kogeikan. Shibori is a form of tie-dye. Kyoto shibori is done on silk and there are different techniques. Not many artisans are left. In fact, most do shibori as a hobby rather than a job.

The exhibit that my MIL was interested in seeing was an interpretation of the Go-zan Okuribi (farewell fire on 5 mountains). The 6.5 meter (21 foot) wide by 3 meter (9 feet) high piece was done by about 40 artisans (mostly aged 70 to 80 years of age) over 2 years, all in their spare time. It was a very powerful and beautiful piece. (photos weren't allowed, so if you can get down there, it is best to see it for yourself, the exhibit runs until 10/31/2008).

Kyoto Shibori Kogeikan
Goikeminami hairu, Aburanokoji dori
Nakagyoku, Kyoto
Phone: 075.221.4252
Admission: 500 yen (about US$5)

Since we were near Nijo castle, I remembered a sweet shop that Shar had told me about which she had seen on a blog. We called and found out they were just up the street, so we walked over to Nijo Wakasaya.

This tiny shop had all kinds of sweets, especially sweets with kuri (chestnut).

I wanted to buy the sweet that Shar had shown me, a kudzu (arrowroot) powdered sweet that when hot water is added it turns into a thick soupy treat. This was called Furou-sen. It came in zenzai flavor (adzuki), matcha & plain kudzu (arrowroot). (I got one of each flavor and I'll post about this when we try it.)

We also bought their fuku-guri. This was a whole chestnut wrapped in white an (sweet white bean paste) then a thin shiny kudzu layer and keshi (poppy seed) to make it look like the outside of the chestnut....delicious.

While waiting for them to wrap up our purchases, they served some konbu shiso tea (seaweed perilla) and some sweets (half a fukuguri and halves of yakiguri (chestnut paste that is wrapped with a thin manju (steamed cake) with marks to make it look like it was roasted).

In the shop, they also had these beautiful displays made from sugar to ooh and aah at.

333-2 Nishi-daikokucho
Ogawa-hairu, Nijo dori
Nakagyoku, Kyoto
Phone: 075.231.0616
Open 8:00-18:00 M-S, Sun & holidays 8:00-17:00

From Nijo-wakasaya, we walked along Karasuma boulevard until we reached the Kyogashi shiryokan (a museum of Kyoto sweets). I had been wanting to check this place out for awhile, luckily, my MIL was interested in going there too. She had heard about a display of Tales of Genji sweets and was interested in seeing it.

The exhibition was a bit sparse, but the wooden molds that form sugar sweets were interesting to see.

Again, no photos allowed, so I'll just show you the sweets we tried after looking at the display. For 700 yen, (about US$7), you can choose your sweet from the showcase and it is served with matcha.

I chose kikyo. It is supposed to look like the flower (platycodon grandiflorus--balloon flower). It was delicious and had a sweet white bean paste filling.

Satoshi chose the suzumushi no utage (which is literally cricket's party). It was a nice pastel purple with some pastel yellow. Inside was sweet bean paste.

My MIL chose koborebeni (I think that was the name), which was a sweet bean paste covered with bits of brightly colored bean paste.

The matcha was bitter and helped to showcase the sweets.

The sweets were made by Tawarayayoshitomi, a well-known sweets maker in Kyoto. They also have a shop right next door to the museum (just in case, you want to take more sweets home...)

285-1 Muromachikashiracho, Kamidachiuri agaru
Muromachidori, Kamigyoku
Open: 8:00-17:00, closed Sundays

285-1 Muromachikashiracho, Kamidachiuri agaru
Muromachidori, Kamigyoku
Phone: 075.432.3101
Closed Wednesdays
Open 10:00-17:00
No admission

At the museum they were showing a book which explained different Japanese sweets. It is written in Japanese for children, but easy enough for me to understand. The tsukimidango are usually eaten while viewing the full moon during jugoya (or the 15th night). In Kanto, tsukimidango are round white mochi and are 15 stacked in a pyramid, but in Kansai they form it to resemble sweet potato and put the an on the outside.

And as for the mitarashi dango, in Kyoto it is given as a form of offering (without the sauce) at the Shimogamo shrine during festivals. Each stick has 5 "rice cakes", the theory behind this is because each to represent your head, arms and legs (I guess you are giving yourself??).

On the other hand, the mitarashi dango you find in Tokyo, will only have 4 "rice cakes" to 1 stick, the reason was that they used to sell "rice cakes" for 1 "mon" (a form of old Japanese money) per "rice cake", then when the 4 "mon sen" was introduced (another form of old Japanese money), the confectioners put 4 on a stick as it was easier for people to buy.

I hope to learn more from this book and maybe be able to pass some of it on to you. It was a great holiday with some culture and lots of sweets.