Saturday, May 30, 2009

pb balls

These are a taste of childhood to me - my parents were into health food in the 70's and 80's way before it was trendy. We didn't eat sugar or bleached four, my mom used ground turkey instead of ground beef, and she convinced us (pretty easily) that plain natural yogurt was "ice cream." Our pizza crusts were whole wheat and our birthday cakes were carob.

So what did we eat for snackies? These puppies!

I asked my mom the other day exactly how she used to make them, and she couldn't remember anything other than peanut butter and raisins. When I saw this recipe in More with Less, I figured they were pretty similar to our childhood ones, and after I tasted just one, I was transported back to hot Florida summers, picking weeds, telling my mom they were flowers, and watching as she put them in water in a pretty vase.

You'll need:

1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. dry milk solids (aka powdered milk)
1 c. uncooked rolled oats (I used old fashioned)
plus I added some raisins

Do this:

Stir with a wooden spoon until it all gets too thick to mix anymore, then dig right in with your hands and mush it all around. Roll into balls. I halved the recipe and it still made 16 little balls. Store 'em in the fridge for a nice hot-weather treat.

Of course you could make these with your kids helping, but I wanted to have them ready before my little guys woke up from their naps. If you have a cranky bambino after naptime, these little numbers will put a big smile on his face! Guaranteed.

What did you used to eat for snacktime as a kid?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

grits casserole

You can't really say Florida is part of the Deep South, but since all four of my grandparents were born and raised in Georgia, and both my parents were born and spent part of their childhoods there as well, I guess I'm partly Southern in my taste in food. I wasn't raised on fried chicken or anything like that, but we did have grits mixed with scrambled eggs for breakfast sometimes, and New Year's Day never passed without black-eyed peas, cornbread, and greens.

When I found this grits and cheese casserole recipe several years ago (in More with Less), I had to try it. It's comfort food at its best (for me, anyway). With my own addition of sauteed onions and bacon, it ups the tasty factor even more.

I served it tonight with zucchini slices that I sauteed with the leftover bacon fat, a bit of olive oil, some minced garlic, sliced ripe tomatoes, Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt, black pepper, and a splash or two of lemon juice.

For the kiddiewinks, I just used my immersion blender to mix the casserole with the veggies into a thick porridge that I called "cheese soup". It went down like a treat.

For the casserole, you'll need:

4 c. water
1 c. grits (I had exactly that amount that K and S sent me a while back - thanks again, guys!) - the recipe actually called for hominy grits but I didn't have any of those
1/3 c. margarine
2 c. shredded cheese
1 t. Worcester sauce
6 drops hot pepper sauce
1 t. salt
3 eggs, beaten
I also added some black pepper, and 1/2 an onion sauteed with several chopped pieces of bacon

Do this:

Bring water to a boil, add the grits and stir for 5 minutes, cooking on low, not forgetting to stir so that everything doesn't end up in one huge yellow clumpy mess. Add the rest of the ingredients and then pour it into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with paprika, and then bake at 275 F/135 C for one hour.

Our family gives it a 9/10.

Hope y'all enjoy it, too!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

no-waste lunchies

If you take a packed lunch to work or school, then here's a good post for you today over at Sustainable Is Good.

Good stuff! (Obviously.)

german potato salad

I've been waiting for my foreign-food source, FBC, to get some wheat germ back in stock again, and so last week one of their very nice and helpful employees, Caroline, called me to let me know they had some at last. (Thanks again, FBC!)

Well, anyway, it turns out that Caroline is from Chicago (great city!) and she was telling me about a famous German restaurant there called The Berghoff. Apparently they make really great homemade beer and root beer, and just hearing the word "German" got me thinking about the German potato salad my mom used to buy for me from the deli at Publix when I went shopping with her as a kid. (She also bought me pickles, olives, kiwi fruit, and King's Hawaiian bread, and then I was a little person in eating-heaven!)

So I immediately had to do a search for some German potato salad, and found this recipe that turned out really well - even toddler Joel scarfed some down. (I'm pretty sure I've made a similar recipe before, I just can't remember exactly which recipe or when it was. No comments from the peanut gallery, please.)

The only problem I had with it was the fact that it called for "4 potatoes", which seems really random to me - no weight, no size, no variety, just "4". Anyway, I used 9-10 small Japanese potatoes and it all worked out.

I tried it warm, as the recipe said to do, then room temp, and then cold, and I have to say, I really liked it room temp the best - it seems like the flavors really stood out more that way. Oh, and I also halved the amount of sugar in order to let the vinegary-ness shine through. It did.

Served with grilled sausages (I have a tiny grill "drawer" attached to my stove that worked well for this) and grainy mustard, along with a salad, it was pretty tasty! It's a bit of a PITA to make for a weeknight (because of the time, number of steps, and then amount of dirty dishes it made), but I definitely would make this again for a special occasion!

BTW, if you're wondering what the pink stuff is in the potato salad, it's actually Japanese bacon, which doesn't ever seem to brown, no matter what you do to it. It tastes fine, it just doesn't get crispity-crunchity.

Here's wishing you all the German potato salad success in the world, with crispy brown bacon to boot.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

kirin free "beer"

It ain't Guinness, but it's not bad. (Guinness glass leftover from a small case of beer I got for Stephen for Valentine's Day, which included two glasses.)

Maybe other places around the world have 100% alcohol-free beer, but as far as I know from the adverts, this is the first time Japan has had it.

After seeing this advertised on TV and in the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) magazine as a great alternative to drinking and driving, I was pretty surprised when I looked for it in the refrigerated beer section of the supermarket and couldn't find it. I asked one of the guys who worked there, and he trotted me around the store to the room-temperature soda section. Hmmmm. Kinda defeats the purpose, don't you think?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

scrambled green eggs (sans the ham)

Recently Matthew's favoritest book is Green Eggs and Ham (he pretty much knows it by heart), so I surprised him tonight with green eggs for dinner! No artificial dyes, just a puree of spinach, cooked carrots, and cooked green beans that he actually watched me blend with the immersion blender before putting it in with the whisked eggs, milk, diced cheddar cheese, dash of nutmeg and Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt.

We read the book before dinner (Mama's cunning plan) and so he was all prepped and ready when I brought the food out. Every bit disappeared.

Little Brother Bean was not so happy about it after he had his first bite. He's been devouring the guacamole I made the other day (on bread, crackers, or just on a spoon), and I think that's what he expected it to be.

Stephen had the idea to take it away, transform it with tonkatsu sauce, and bring it back in a different bowl. The plan worked and Joel ate every bit of it.

espresso kit-kat

I can't get enough of the Kit-Kat in Japan these days - from the jasmine tea flavor to some strawberry cheesecake ones that a friend brought from Yokohama recently (sorry, no photo for those).

And now in espresso flavor!!! Mmmmmmm.

Do they do Kit-Kats in different flavors in your neck of the woods? If so, what's your fave?

apple and pb

Organic salty creamy peanut butter scooped up on cold sweet apple wedges for an afternoon snack - it doesn't get any better than that! (My British hubby thinks this is just another of my odd American traits, but his loss, right?)

And I was just reading the other day that zenhabits agrees with me - they listed this healthy combo as a great way to boost your energy in between lunch and dinner.

Maffa-Bean doesn't care about anybody else's opinion on the matter, but he eats these like a crocodile going after a wildebeest (we've been watching "Planet Earth", can you tell?).

So come on and 'fess up - what are your favorite mid-afternoon snackies?

Friday, May 22, 2009

curried lentil kabocha soup

Whoever knew brown slop could be so tasty? I'm here to testify that it is - and my two little beans hoover it like it's going out of style, so you know it's good stuff.

I got the original recipe from Vegetarian Times, but I've adapted it to what I've got (semi-)readily available here in Japan. Do as you please, but please do make this soup.

Here's my version.

You'll need:

1 cup brown (puy) lentils
1/4 - 1/2 kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), cubed but left unpeeled
About 4 cups water
1 can coconut milk
1 bay leaf
2 cubes bouillon
Minced garlic and ginger to taste
Curry powder to taste
Salt and pepper (you guessed it) to taste
1 onion, chopped

Do this:

Put some brown rice (genmai) in the rice cooker, set it on the brown-rice setting, and let her rip. It takes (a lot) longer to cook than the white stuff so make sure you leave enough time for it. (So so so sorry, but the pic above shows it served over white rice - that's the second to the last time I made it. Please forgive the inconsistencies.)

Boil the lentils, coconut milk, water, bouillon, bay leaf, and kabocha pieces until everything's nice and squishy. In the meantime, saute your onion, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, and curry powder in a splash of oil until it's soft and well, soft. Throw it in your big pot with the rest of the gang.

Take out the offending bay leaf, stick your immersion blender right down in there, and go to town. You might wanna add a little extra salt, too.

Serve it over that rice (which is finally finished) and watch it all disappear down happy, frantic gullets.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

guac + cheese twists = bliss

I HEART guacamole and can't get enough of it. Ever. If you want to know how I mix up a batch, see my post last year when I made Mexican burgers smothered with it.

Recently I've discovered that the really yummy Australian spicy oven-baked cheddar cheese twists that I can get at Costco go exceedingly well with a nice cold bowl of guac.

More-ish. Totally.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

salad topping - sweet taters and kabocha

This is so so easy, and something I learned from my friend Aya when I was visiting their home for an evening meal one time. Just finely chop some kabocha (Japanese pumpkin - leaving the beautiful dark green skin on) and some sweet potatoes (I usually peel mine, but you don't have to). Throw them in a pan with some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and saute till tender. Let them cool a bit and then garnish a salad with their beautiful yellow and orangeness. I like mine with a creamy goma (sesame) dressing.

Served above with a slow-cooker Mediterrean dish called Chicken with Olives, a very simple name that belies its amazing flavor.

Monday, May 18, 2009

jasmine tea kit-kats

I just love trying out new kisetsu gentei treats (seasonal - only available for a short time) here in Japan. Things come and go like the wind, and as soon as you find something you like, it's guaranteed to disappear overnight (like my beloved kimchi onigiri with salty Korean nori seaweed wrapper that 7-11 used to carry). You have to grab for all the gusto you can, while you can.

So when I ran into 7-11 yesterday to pay some bills, I just happened to pass through the chocolate section and see these jasmine-tea delights. And I had to buy a packet to satisfy my curiosity. MMMMMMMMMMMMM. Just like the back of the box says, the fragrance of the tea adds a fun kick to the chocolate.

Only in Japan! (As far as I know - correct me if I'm mistaken.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

lemony-sunshiney shortbread

Biting into one of these puppies is just like harnessing some sunshine, and I betcha can't eat just one (which is why I'm sending most of them with Stephen to work tomorrow).

Here's the recipe - I also added a hint of vanilla and an extra splash of lemon juice to the dough. I got the idea to search for a lemon shortbread recipe as I was eating Lemonist, my favorite storebought cookies, the other day. They come and go in the shops, so I wanted to conjure up some of my own similar ones to chomp on when a dreaded dearth occurs at the co-op.

Wish I'd gotten a picture of my little helper in the kitchen (who, by the way, loves licking the insides of squeezed-out lemons!).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

yogurt soup

His 'n' hers

We're celebrating summer here in Japan already, and for a nice cool refreshing drink, the Maffa-Bean and I threw together a yogurt "soup" (aka smoothie-type substance) for our afternoon snack today.

Just threw in some frozen blueberries, dried cranberries (next time will plump them up a bit first), a squeeze of honey, a splash of purple veggie/fruit juice, and plain natural yogurt. Blitzed it all with the immersion blender, quick as a wink.

"Nice soup!"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

slow-cooker chicken curry

I guess it took a knock on the head and the trauma of accidentally smushing the gas meter lady behind the door yesterday to really get me inspired to do more food blogging. I woke up this morning with a deep primal urge to do a post on Mamatouille, and I usually try not to argue with primal urges. So here I am.

(Chisa, this one's for you. Thanks again for coming to the curried birthday party! Just goes to show that even just-turned-one-year-olds have good taste as they gulp down the ethnic food.)

Comes by way of a 2004 Everyday Food magazine. Thanks, Martha darling.

You'll need:

2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I substitute the equivalent amount in chopped breast pieces)
2 medium onions, halved and then thinly sliced
16 thin slices peeled fresh ginger (I buy it already grated so just dump a big bunch in)
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (ditto for garlic puree)
2 packages frozen peas (10 oz. each)
2 t. coarse salt
2 T. curry powder
1 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
toasted cashews for garnishing

Do this:

Get out your husband's long arm or your stool and precariously reach for your slow cooker that is perched on top of your fridge at the back, next to the 2-year-old-and-nicely-mellowing homemade plum wine. Wash your hands, roll up those sleeves, toss in the chopped chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, coriander, and cumin, and fling it all around in there with your hands. Then add the salt and mix some more. Cover and cook on high about 4 hours (don't open the lid during this time).

Then stir in the coconut milk and peas and leave for about 20 minutes. If you want, you can use forks and shred the chicken to bits at this point, or just leave it bite sized. Garnish with cashews (if you can wrest them from your ravenous preschooler) and fresh coriander leaves (if you have these available in your neck of the woods).

Good with gingered carrots.

Eat. Enjoy. Maybe burp if you're feeling so inclined. Pat your tummy and say "Yummy!"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

grandma's bean / nobue's apple sweet-potato cake

I guess this is old news now (given that Grandma and Grandpa went back to the UK almost 2 weeks ago), but while they were here, G and G helped us celebrate our younger Beansprout's birthday a bit early. Joel turned one on May 1, and as with Matthew's train cake, I made a cake and Grandma decorated it with fondant icing she brought in her suitcase.

Because Joel is a Bean, I did a search for any kind of bean cake I could find - not that beans would necessarily be in the cake, but I wanted a cake to look like a bean. I found this image from the Beansprouts Cafe's website, and Grandma based her decorating on it. (Beansprouts Cafe, by the way, is a way cool organic-foods place for kids that just happens to be in Middleton, Wisconsin, where my parents moved last year to be closer to my sister and her family. My mom dropped in to the cafe for a smoothie one time because it's only a few minutes' walk from home for her. Can't wait to take my own beans there at some point.)

I made an apple sweet-potato cake based on my friend Nobue's recipe (at the end of this post), and it turned out very moist and not too sweet - yum!

Here's Grandma hard at work:

For the cake, you'll need (and I doubled these amounts for an 8-inch/20 cm springform pan):

  • 130 g flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/3 t. baking powder
  • 17 g sugar (about 1/8 cup)
  • one egg
  • 2 T. honey
  • 50 g butter (about 1/4 cup)
  • 70 cc milk about 1/3 c.)
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1.5 sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed, and nuked in a bit of water till soft, then drained
  • I also added a pinch of salt, about a teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, 1 c. raisins, and 1 t. vanilla
Do this:

Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F, combine all ingredients, pour into a greased and floured 8-inch/20-cm round pan (or equivalent size in another shape), and bake for about 30 minutes. Easy!

Thanks, Nobue, for the recipe, and thanks, Grandma, for decorating it so cutely! Joel loved it.