Sunday, March 22, 2009

bread girl

If I had my druthers I'd eat carbs all day every day. I'm not much into meat, though when my blood sugar gets low, give me some chocolate, a glass of OJ, and some PROTEIN (usually in the form of a glass of milk, some cheese, or crackers and peanut butter).

Anyway, we usually go out on the train somewhere on the weekends (if you've got little boys this is a must because the trains in Japan are super clean and always right on time), and one of our favorite stops is the Kurakuenguchi station. A yummy bakery, Roggen Meyer, just happens to be right across the street, and of course we just have to go in and grab a few bits and pieces for lunchies by the river.

They don't have my to-drool-for (bite-sized and glazed) lemon donuts anymore, but they do have this amazing chocolat orange pastry now that Stephen and I both adore (pictured below). The bitterness of the orange peel on top just goes perfectly with the not-too-sweet chocolate and pastry.

And the sakura (cherry blossom) mochi anpan (rice paste and sweet red bean paste) pastry (pictured above) is perfect for munching by the cherry-tree-lined river (the trees have just started blooming now). The sakura blossom adds a nice salty flavor to the cloyingly sweet red bean paste in the pastry. You just gotta try it. Come on over!

10-minute couscous salad

When you've got leftover couscous and a Japanese eggplant (nasu) that need to be eaten (and pronto), who do ya call? Leftover Busters! (That's moi, btw.)

OK, so here's what I did:

  • Couscous was already cooked and waiting in fridge. I dumped it in a glass bowl.
  • Chopped the eggplant and half an onion, threw them in a pan with some olive oil, minced garlic from a jar, and salt and pepper. Sauteed on very high gas till browned, stirring most of the time.
  • Whisked together equal parts olive oil and vinegar, along with some salt, pepper, and a bit of dried oregano.
  • Cut some mini tomatoes into wedges and added them to the bowl, along with a couple of splashes of lemon juice.
  • Added the pan ingredients plus some frozen chopped parsley (I buy it fresh when it's on sale, chop it, and freeze it till I need it). (If I'd had some mint leaves and some feta I would've thrown some of that in, too.)
  • Voila !
  • Salad in an instant.
  • And we loved it.
  • OK, I'll stop the bullet points now.
  • Bye.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

pb and dark choco shortbread

Kim's Kantan Cooking has done it again: Got me drooling over something she made - and so I made it, too (original recipe here)! I read her post this morning (I think) and I couldn't get it off my mind. All the ingredients were pantry staples I have anyway, and then I just added some 60% cacao chips (bittersweet) I got from Costco a few weeks ago. Talk about a match made in tastebud heaven! Even hubby, who's not a huge peanut butter fan, raved about them and went back for more. I'm gonna have to send them to work with him tomorrow or I'll eat ALL of 'em. Oh wait, I've got a neighbor friend coming over in the morning so I'll share some with her. (I have to think of ways to divvy these puppies out or breastfeeding or not, I might not fit in my trousers anymore.) With just peanut butter, sugar, flour, and butter, you'd think they might be a bit mundane, but NO. Try 'em and see.

I'd never made shortbread before, and this is actually one of the easiest desserts I've ever put together. We're going to lunch at our friends' home on Friday and I think I just might have to make some more...

UPDATE: Forgot to tell y'all that I only use PB without sugar in it (organic creamy with a little salt) - I think the saltiness really added to this. And I used butter with salt (not without). Also, I used about 1/3 c. sugar instead of 1/2 c. because I was adding chocolate. That's it!

Monday, March 16, 2009

moroccan kefta

If you haven't made Kayotic Kitchen's kefta yet, do so AT ONCE. I just bookmarked it a couple of days ago and happened to have all the ingredients except the flat-leaf parsley (which was easily procurable at a moment's notice - expensive, but accessible).

I knew as soon as I saw it that the exotic blend of spices would grab my tastebuds and never let go - and I was right. We ooh-ed and ahhhhh-ed over this - and our three-year-old even ate some!

What I did differently:

  • Didn't use a chili pepper - just added some extra cayenne.
  • Used my new microplane grater (thank you for the lovely White Day present, Stephen!) to grate some of the Vietnamese cinnamon that I won.
  • I also used the grater to zest one of the lemons I used for the recipe and I added the zest into the meatball mixture, then used half a lemon in the sauce instead of a whole.
  • Didn't have any powdered ginger so used all fresh.
  • Used 300 g (about 3/4 pound) of meat instead of a whole pound and just adjusted accordingly.
  • Served it on couscous with a side salad (splashed with grapefruit dressing) and some kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) baked with lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley (recipe here - originally from Coffee and Vanilla).
This is not a weeknight meal because of the time intensiveness of it (did bits and pieces at a time on a Sunday), but man alive, this is GOOD stuff. Gimme gimme gimme some more!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

birthday muffins / cupcakes / "raisins cake"

Whatever you want to call them, they're yummers. Matthew turned THREE two days ago (can't believe it!) so I wanted to make his favorite dessert ("raisins cake" - ie. banana bread studded with raisins). I added a birthday twist - banana quickbread-turned-muffins-turned-cupcakes-with-peanut-butter-frosting. (Adorable "Happy Birthday" plate courtesy of his godmother, Holly.)

I've been experimenting for years with banana bread (ie. quickbread ie. basically banana cake) and I've got it down to an art now, though I do keep adding little extras every time, and this birthday batch was no exception.

The original recipe comes from my grandma's Cooking in Circles book (as did my tuna croquettes the other day), but as with all recipes in my possession, I'm in a state of constant tweakiness. Just can't leave 'em alone.

So here's how I did it this time. (Makes 12 muffins plus one mini-loaf.)

You'll need:

2 c. sifted flour (can use 1 c. white and 1 c. whole wheat or whatever your favorite combo)
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs, well beaten
1 t. baking soda
3 bananas, mushed and smushed
1/2 c. cinnamon chips (thanks again, Kim!)
1 c. raisins
1 t. yummy homemade vanilla extract (if you're lucky enough to have received a jar of it from Kat, like I did the other day, then you're vanilla-blessed)
3 T. plain, natural yogurt
2 T. molasses

Do this:

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Oil your muffin tins and your one mini loaf pan. Cream your butter, sugar, molasses, vanilla, and yogurt, and then add salt and eggs. Add the flour and then the mushed and smushed bananas. Stir in the raisins and cinnamon chips - not overmixing - and then fill your tins about 2/3 full. Chuck 'em in the oven and check after 15 minutes or so.

Let them cool a bit, remove from the pan, and then allow to come to room temp before frosting with this amazing Ina Garten peanut-butter creamy delectable lick-the-beaters icing (using prized imported confectioners' sugar from Kim). Half an icing batch will do you just fine for the 12 muffins/cupcakes/raisins cakes. Add some raisins on top for extra sweeeeeeetness and just because your newly three-year-old loves them.

Happy birthday, Maffew! You're my special little raisin cake. Mama looooooves you!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

tuna croquettes and purple cabbage slaw

OK, so these are loosely (and I mean very loosely) based on a salmon croquettes recipe from my grandma's church ladies' group cookbook, Cooking in Circles, published in Orlando in 1972 (second edition 1989). I started making these back in college when I was doing student teaching and living in an apartment with my roommate ("MSA" - married student apartments, though that was B.S. - before Stephen). That was the same kitchen where I killed my first (and only) mouse with peanut butter on a trap (hey, it was getting into my Mexican cornbread mix - whaddya expect? - nobody messes with my cornbread). (Oh gosh, and I just had flashbacks of doing some mountain driving one evening to go see a sunset and my sweet roommate in the passenger seat couldn't hold down her salmon croquettes. Poor dear. But don't let that stop you from making these. See, these puppies are made from tuna and the ones she ate had salmon. It's an entirely different kettle of fish.)

So I've made these with salmon, mackerel, or tuna, and since the latter's the least expensive, that's how I do it recently - and they're pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

Serve with purple cabbage/apple slaw for a nice crunchy-tangy accompaniment.

For the tuna cakes you'll need:

  • canned tuna (of course)
  • flour
  • beaten egg
  • panko (or cornmeal)
  • grated carrots
  • finely diced onion
  • minced garlic
  • salt and pepper
Do this:

Saute your carrots, onion, and garlic in a little bit of oil and allow to cool a bit. In a big bowl, mix the tuna, enough flour to meld everything together, beaten egg, salt and pepper, and the sauteed veggies. If you're using cornmeal to coat these babies, just go ahead and shape your patties, then roll each one in cornmeal. Or if like me, you don't have any cornmeal on hand anymore but you do have panko, then just dip each patty in some beaten egg, then roll in panko and fry them all up in a pan with a thin layer of oil.

Or you can bake them if you're feeling healthy today.

I wasn't.

But then, I'm breastfeeding and I need extra calories.

(That's my excuse, anyway.)

These are great with cornbread on the side (again, you'll need cornmeal for that, won't you), and little ketchup smiley faces on the croquettes don't hurt either. Wish I'd thought of that.

adorable blog

Apparently Mamatouille is adorable - thanks, Ivy!

And I want to share the cuteness - I'm sending this award along to

Friday, March 6, 2009

crunchy double-fried tofu with chinese chicken-ginger topping

An American chick. In Japan. With a British hubster. And two little US-UK beans who think they're Japanese. Watching a Chinese meal being prepared on the tube by a Japanese chef. It all makes perfect sense.

Globalization. It's all about the cooking shows.

And I had to make this meal. I just had to. It even had my husband's coworkers drooling over it the next day when he took some for lunchies.

If you can do Japanese, just go to Oshaberi Kukkingu and click on February 25 for this recipe.

And if you're not Japanese-literate, have no fear. Mamatouille's here!

Just grab yourself some fried tofu (the kind I bought in small blocks said it was microwaveable, but I just can't imagine that - bleck!), whack it in a pan with some oil (about 1/2 inch deep), and fry on both sides till crispy. Drain on paper towels.

And in the meantime, you'll need:

200 g ('bout half a pound or so) ground chicken
2 t. grated ginger
1 t. sake
1 t. sugar
salt and pepper
2.5 T. soy sauce
3/4 c. water
cornstarch or katakuriko
sliced green onions (the original recipe says 8 onions but I just used about 1 cup pre-sliced)
1 t. sesame oil

Do this:

Fry the ginger and the chicken in a little oil, then add the sake, sugar, salt and pepper to taste, soy sauce, 3/4 c. water plus cornstarch or katkuriko mixed in a little extra water, and when it's all thickened, add the green onions (I saved a bit for garnishing) and sesame oil. Give it a stir and serve it over the crispity crunchity tofu!

Yummy with a bowl of rice and a side of daikon (long white Chinese radish), cucumber (long skinny Asian kind), and tomato pickles based on David Chang's recipe for superfast salt-and-sugar pickles. (These are not great left over so don't make too many! But don't let that deter you from creating these gems and devouring them on the spot.)

And for dessert, grab yourself an anko (sweet red-bean paste)-filled yomogi daifuku (rice paste mixed with mugwort leaves). Mugwort doesn't sound that appetizing, but believe me, it is!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

girls' day and a meal for the mama-girl

It's Girls' Day here in Japan and apparently nanohana (rapeseed) is served on sushi to celebrate the occasion (as a friend told me the other day). I just threw it in a stir fry (inspired by BURP!'s red-cabbage concoction I saw the other day) with some other fun veggies and devoured it with some salmon (baked in soy sauce, mirin, sake, and minced ginger and garlic), sweet potatoes (microwaved, sliced, and sprinkled with salt and pepper), and a fusion Japanese/Mediterranean salad.

Nanohana hanging out with the red (i.e. purple) cabbage...

I tossed in some renkon (lotus root) that was already sliced for me (love it). (Don't worry about the expiration date - I made this over a week ago and it was still in date! Phew.)

It was a really simple stir fry: carrots, renkon (lotus root), nanohana (rapeseed), onions, and red cabbage sauteed in oil, mirin, and soy sauce, then served with a sprinkling of seven spice.

A bit of fusion fun: avocado, tomatoes, and silken tofu, marinated in a Japanese onion dressing.