Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Golden Honey Granola

One day I woke up and thought, "One often puts honey in granola but its taste is overshadowed by all the other things." One of my favorite breakfasts is butter and honey toast. Mmmmm. So, I thought, "I wonder if I could make granola that yummy?"

Those who have read some of my other granola recipes will wonder if this qualifies as granola - the recipe is THAT different. And super simple. And takes NO strange ingredients. Well, at least none that I think are strange, though maybe not those used in "regular" granolas. Here goes!

Golden Honey Granola

Dry Ingredients

2 1/2 cups WHITE oats (I use the "real" ones from Costco. Old fashioned.)
1/2 cup WHITE flour. Yep - different from other granolas.
1/2 tsp. WHITE salt
1/3 cup WHITE sugar. Stay with me here!
1 tsp. baking powder - Really! (It gives the granola a light crunchy texture.)

Wet Ingredients

1/4 cup melted butter (or margarine)
2 Tbsp. honey
1/3 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. Combine the wet ingredients and add to the dry. Mix well. Spread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 140C for 1 hour - stirring every 10 minutes after the first 30. Makes about 5 cups of granola. We prefer this granola without any fruit or nuts. The "WHITE" ingredients help the wonderful flavors of butter and honey to shine through. You know, if I HAD vanilla essence, I might add a teaspoon of that too and see how it tastes.

I'd love to hear how you like it!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Milk Chocolate Granola

For some reason, as I was creating granolas of various flavors, I felt that I MUST make a chocolate granola. As usual, I pursued the Internet for recipe ideas.

The first one just added small chunks of chocolate to a regular granola. I tried it. Jun picked all the chocolate pieces out, ate them and declared breakfast to be over! So...that wasn't going to work.

Then I tried a recipe based on unsweetened cocoa powder. It is pretty tough to maintain a balance of enough sugar for the cocoa and not using too much sugar for the granola. didn't pan out either.

Then I thought of the Cinnamon Chip Granola recipe I had come up with and remembered that I had chocolate chips in my fridge. Well, I did then. We finished them off. Sad face.

They were semi-sweet chips. I cut them up, added additional sugar to my basic recipe and used some Hershey's Chocolate syrup a friend who was returning to the States sent me. This recipe (as were all the others), was pronounced GOOD by Jun. But, she likes chocolate. Ryu, my husband, on the other hand was not impressed. And, to be honest, it didn't make me burst out into song either.

So, this past week I decided to try once more. If THIS recipe didn't work - we would be forever Chocolate Granola-less.

And this recipe was eaten three times by Ryu - voluntarily. Jun loved it. We are out and it is Thursday. It's supposed to last till Saturday.

That being said, try it. You might like it. Honestly, I haven't burst into song over it, but I'm humming. If you use a less sweet chocolate, you might want to consider increasing the brown sugar to compensate...or not! Also, you will notice the basic recipe is quite close to my other granolas. It makes small clumps that stand up well in milk, as my friend Abigail noted, but that don't break your teeth, as my Mother noted!

Milk Chocolate Granola

Dry - mix these dry ingredients well in a large bowl

2 cups/180 gm oatmeal (I use old fashioned oats from Costco)
1/2 cup/60 gm whole wheat flour
1/4 cup/20 gm wheat germ
1/4 cup/35 gm crushed all bran cereal

Note - you are looking for a rough total of 1 cup of flours in addition to the oats. I currently have flax seed meal (from the US) - so add some of that. I have used corn flour, corn meal, and have seen a recipe using rye flour - which...hmmm. I have also crushed up genmai cereal flakes in my coffee grinder and used them in place of other flours. So, use what you have!

1/4 cup/35 gm brown sugar (you may want to increase this if you use a less sweet chocolate.)
1 tsp/5cc cocoa powder - I use this to add a bit of color!
1/2 tsp/2.5 cc salt
1/2 cup/70 gm chopped milk chocolate - I used bar chocolate we just HAPPENED to have in the house. Cut about 1/2 of it rather finely and chop the other half more coarsely for some BURSTS of chocolate in your granola.

Wet - Mix these ingredients together before adding to the dry ingredients

1/4 cup/60cc oil
1/3 cup/80cc cold water
2T/30cc Chocolate Syrup. If you don't have it - use honey or Karo Syrup or ???

Stir the wet and dry ingredients together well, using your hands is a good idea. Spread the granola out on a cookie sheet (you might want to use oven paper or foil...or not) and bake at 140C/275F for 1 hour. I stirred it rather frequently after the 30 minute mark because I didn't want the precious chocolate to burn! It didn't!

I tried this granola with raisins. Killed the chocolate flavor. I tried it with peanuts. Same problem. Maybe chocolate flavored raisins? HAHAH!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cookie Scoop

I have been interested in getting a cookie scoop for a long long time.

When I was a kid I loved to mix up the cookies, but hated using the two-spoon process to put the cookie dough on the cookie pans. I turned the kitchen over to my Mom for that and went outside to play. She always did a great two-spoon job.

Now that I have my own home - OK, I've been on my own since High School, but... - I make cookies for the fans at my house! It is so fun that Jun loves cookies. Must be the taste of Mother's Love - or the sugar. Hmmm. Anyway, I have been doing the two-spoon process all the while pining away for a cookie scoop.

On various trips back to the States I have looked for the right sized scoop - whatever that is - and FINALLY found one on my trip this summer. My parents' smallish town has a very very well stocked kitchen store. I paid over my $14 for a cookie scoop - is this NOT expensive? - used it once at home and, when packing to come back to Japan forgot it!

A couple of weeks ago my folks sent a package of stuff I'd ordered and threw in my cookie scoop too! Today I mixed up a batch of cake mix cookies and got out my cookie scoop. I had cookies on the pan in nothing flat.

Then I began to think. (My husband often tells me I think too much.) Each and every cookie is the exact same size. With the same amount of dough. The same shape. They'd be the same color too, if my oven was a bit more uniform in heating. And scooping out the dough really took so little time, the cookies could not be called a labor of love at all. Well, the fact that I started with a cake mix might have made you all wonder about the love, but cake mixes are spendy here, so the fact that I did use one was an expression of love - oh, and thanks to my friend for giving it to me!

So, I'm in a quandary about the cookie scoop. It is the process of baking that helps me relieve stress. That helps me use some creativity. It isn't the end product, though if it is good, I'm happy. It isn't exactly the ease of it, though this blog is called "kantan" (easy) cooking. Being able to do the two-spoon process well was kind of an initiation into adulthood. Anybody can use a cookie scoop.

But, I must admit, I DID pay $14 dollars for it. And it was really easy. And kind of fun. And...well, we'll see if I put it in a box when we move next, or pass it on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Biscuits - Drop, Oil

This blog is really for EASY cooking - not fancy, but stuff Ryu gives the "umai" (delicious) vote to. These biscuits fit that role. I am not a biscuit maker. If you have read any of my other posts, you will perhaps remember that I do not like to cut shortening or butter into flour. I have a pastry cutter and CAN do it if necessary, but will go to great lengths NOT to do so. Also, big old cans of Crisco are not available to me and butter is too spendy for daily consumption. However, a student received many many bottles of oil for a mid-summer gift. She and her husband are not great oil consumers, so she gave me a bunch of them. I don't use oil in much of my regular cooking, is FREE!

Then, I found this recipe for biscuits - using oil. And they are sufficient if you like drop biscuits. If you are dead set on cut out ones, don't try this recipe - though the original recipe says you can roll the dough out between pieces of wax paper - why try to do the impossible???

As this recipe is not the same as the one Betty Crocker has on her web site, I'll post it all here:

Baking Powder Biscuits - Drop, Oil

1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil

Heat oven to 450F or 230C. Mix dry ingredients together. Combine milk and oil and dump into the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until all is moist. Avoid over-mixing. Using a spoon, drop the batter into a greased cookie sheet (I never grease mine.) Bake until golden brown. 10-12 minutes (cooking time depends on the size of your biscuits - so check on them.)

Source: Betty Crocker's Cookbook, New and Revised Edition, Copyright 1978. Baking Powder Biscuits page 194

In the original recipe, the oil is shortening and is cut into the flour mixture.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bread Crumb Cobbler

Our family is more or, as was THIS day, LESS bilingual. On the "less" days, that seventh sense is really important. If someone is tired, this seventh sense is usually out of service and strange things happen.

I was on a bread baking binge this winter. Yes, it is now fall again. Months later, and finally this post is applicable! Finally! My husband KNEW I'd been baking bread. Our minuscule kitchen was covered in flour. He'd been EATING the bread! How could he not have understood me when I gave him the shopping list and asked for...

OK, let me back up a tiny bit and give you a tiny Japanese language lesson so you won't think I was totally crazy! We put the word "ko" before or after things/people/animals to make them small. Like "dog" is "inu". A puppy is..."ko inu." Pretty cool, huh? Many women's last names end in "ko" - like an endearative. (Was that English? Oh well.) In the kitchen we have items that have been ground up and are called "something something 'ko'". Like flour is "mugi ko."

Now, I suppose there are tons of different kinds of flour in the US too, but I never had to feed a family there so never thought about it. But, here the flour that I usually buy here is definitely NOT bread flour. And I needed bread flour. The word for bread is "pan". I asked Ryu to buy me a bag of "pan ko." Now, doesn't that make sense to MOST OF YOU OUT THERE? OK, I know some who speak Japanese are howling in their green tea, so I'll let the rest of you kind folk in on the joke.

Ryu came home with a HUGE bag of Bread Crumbs. Yep. And I KNEW this, of course, the heat of the moment spaced right out - "pan ko" means ground up crumbled bread. Thus began the 1/2 year long search for ways to use up this huge bag of bread crumbs.

I always suspected that they could be used as a topping in dessert but never experimented to figure out how. Then, just yesterday evening - when I was FINALLY down to a mere 3/4 cup of bread crumbs, I ran across this recipe when I was drooling over individual pie slice pans. I made a 1/2 batch of it - see above at the mere 3/4 cup of bread crumbs remaining - and it was so so wonderful!

Let me tell you why it was wonderful. Cobbler is basically a fruit pie filling with no crust on the bottom and one of a few crusts on the top. The first common crust is a standard pie crust. My Grandma Mary used to make this. I couldn't understand why someone would go through the torture of cutting shortening into flour for a mere cobbler! My Mom (she'll surely correct me if I'm wrong), would make the drop biscuit type top crust for cobbler. This is fine if you can actually get the fruit done and the biscuits neither soggy or burnt. The third type of crust that I am familiar with is the oatmeal crust. Frankly it is usually too something. Too sweet, too...something.

So, that is why this crust is so wonderful. It is TRULY crunchy! It was way too sweet, but THAT can be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The recipe states that you can use prepackaged "panko," which I understand is on sale in most supermarkets in the US now, or that you could use fresh bread crumbs. You may be scratching your head at the oxymoron of fresh bread crumbs, mother in law makes them when she makes pork cutlets. Grab your fresh bread and a cheese grater and give it a try! I think a "crunchy" bread with nuts and stuff in it would really add to this topping! Mom - why don't you try it and let me know?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Red Tomato Chutney

You may or may not remember that I made chutney for the first time last winter. And we loved it! It is a Pear and Peach Chutney with ginger root in it that makes it nice and HOT! It is great with curry and rice!

So, when my friend at Shinshu Life published a recipe for red (vs. still green) tomato chutney, I was really enthralled! Just looking at the color made me want to rush out and make it. However, Shinshu Life cooking is based on their wonderful and HUGE gardening enterprise. My balcony garden, on the other hand, was recycled early on in the summer, and replaced with flowers. So, when I compared prices of "real" (fresh) tomatoes with canned, canned won out. Here is my version of Shinshu Life's school textbook's Red Tomato Chutney:

Red Tomato Chutney

2 cans whole peeled tomatoes - I roughly cut them up with a pair of kitchen shears
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pickle spice wrapped in a mesh cloth - cloves are the ticket, I think!
1 cup sugar

I threw all of this (EXCEPT THE SUGAR) into a saucepan and boiled it till the liquid was reduced by about 1/2. About 20 minutes. Then I added the sugar and boiled it for about 20-30 minutes. Ryu (my husband), isn't a real vinegar fan, and found this to be a bit sour at first, so be sure to adjust the sugar to your own taste. This made 2-3 cups of chutney. The color is so rich and the flavor so robust! I love it!

We weren't sure what to eat it on but it would work with yogurt - REALLY! and cream cheese and crackers. It is also great with chicken and white rice. I think we will be finishing it up tonight! Mmmm! Thanks for the inspiration, Heather!

Cinnamon Chip Granola

I have created so many wonderful posts about newly created recipes. Posts describing the process, the root of the recipe, the delicious discovery. Only to actually taste the creation and have to chalk it up to "practice." As I stood in the shower this morning smelling the delicious aroma of cinnamon wafting out of my kitchen - 2 feet away - I asked myself, "Self, will this be another post and recipe that will be tossed into the pit of experience? Or, will this really be one you can print?" And, as Jun and I chowed down this granola at lunch, I am so so happy to say that THIS one is a keeper!

I have been trying to make a REAL Cinnamon Granola. One that tasted like cinnamon. I made one recipe and put a Tablespoon of precious cinnamon in it with a little extra sugar. Think of cinnamon sugar toast without the sugar. YUCK! Of course, we ate it, but... So, this morning when Jun and I finished the last of the Peanut Butter Granola and I reminded myself that my supermarket no longer stocks peanuts (think small store, but not THAT small, friends), and I would have to trape around looking for another store that sold them, (Seriously, how can a store stock selling PEANUTS?) I decided it was time to try a new recipe again. (Last week's Chocolate Granola try was just that, a try. No printable post!) So, I happened to remember that I had cinnamon chips in my fridge just looking for a use. (They are WONDERFUL in scones, have to cut butter into flour. That, is a labor of love at our house!) It turned out sooooo good!

The "base" of the recipe is a lot like my Peanut Butter and Gingersnap Granolas. If it isn't broken, don't fix it, I say. And, it makes lovely chunks which satisfies the child in my house, (Jun). The only caveat is that I get the mini cinnamon chips from the US. I THINK I've seen some in Japan, sold by the tablespoon, but am not sure.

Cinnamon Chip Granola

2 cups oatmeal (I use old fashioned.)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/8 cup crushed all bran
1/4 cup flax seed flour (Truly, you could substitute any flours for the wheat germ, all bran or flax seed. This is a truly flexible recipe!)
1/3 cup mini cinnamon chips (I've put the link to King Arthur Flour's chips.)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix the dry ingredients well and add:

1/4 cup oil
2 Tbsp. honey
1/3 cup hot water
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir to combine well. Use your hands if you like. Spread out on a baking sheet. Use "oven paper" if you have it as this granola sticks more than some others. I never have oven paper, however, and survive! Bake at 140 C for 1 hour. I'd probably stir it after the hour and then let it cool in the oven. I didn't stir it today and had one huge LOVELY chunk! SMILE! It breaks up easily, however and Jun was happy! Store in an air tight container. Serve with raisins - if you like! Incidentally, I was surprised to find that many Japanese don't like raisins. Who knew?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

THERE! By THAT name, perhaps people who WANT to make these cookies can actually find a recipe to do so!

This recipe is called Peanut Butter Cookies in my "Old-Fall-Apart-Cookbook" Favorite Recipes of the Great Northwest. Anyone who has EVER made a peanut butter cookie knows it is round, light brown, and has fork marks making an x across the top! These cookies are NOT Peanut Butter Cookies! I am shouting!

And, I CANNOT make these cookies successfully. Again - one more point AGAINST DNA, and FOR ... what was the other ... Nurture!

My Mom and niece make them regularly. Successfully! The problem is not in the recipe! Well, not now that I called my Mom and asked HOW she made those cookies, and what "full boil" really means! The problem is in ... my favorite things in the world - substitution and scrimping!

I have tons of old fashioned oats from Costco. I use them for making granola. This recipe calls for quick cooking oats. I don't have any of those and am not really sure WHERE to get them in my town. So, I used the old fashioned kind. Big big looser. Took the batch to church. No one actually said it tasted like they were eating chocolate covered horse food, but...

The next time I decided to toast the oats before using them. I was too embarrassed to take this batch to church - burnt the oats a bit - so they tasted like chocolate covered burnt horse food.

So, as Japanese cornflakes seem to be harder, thicker and crisper than US ones, I decided to use them instead. This was the worst substitution yet. Though they may be a bit crisper, I bought the cheapo store brand, and I ended up with soggy, tough chocolate covered cornflakes. ARGH!

So, unless someone has a good way to make old fashioned oats into quick cooking oats, I may have to put off making this recipe till I find the "real" thing. Or, until I think of another option. Seriously - don't you think this recipe would be good with slightly broken up salty pretzels? Mmmmm?

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies (Peanut Butter Cookies)

contributed by Mrs. Fred T. Mellinger, Portland, OR page 168

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter (we use margarine)
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 Tbsp. cocoa
2/3 cup peanut butter
3 tsp. (1 Tbsp.) vanilla
3 cups oatmeal

Combine sugar, butter, milk and cocoa in saucepan. Bring to a full boil. (Full boil means a boil you can't stir down. Then I counted to 10.) Remove from heat and add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal. Spoon onto waxed paper. Cool. Yield 3 dozen.

From my experience, one should not skimp on any of the above ingredients (sugar, peanut butter)! Also, from my experience, if making a substitution for the oatmeal, one might just want to start with a half batch!

I tried other recipes like this one that had less peanut butter. They tasted more chocolaty, but didn't set well. This really tastes like peanut butter chocolate fudge with oatmeal in it. If you make them right.

Remember, I am waiting for your ideas about a better substitution for the quick cooking oats!!!
NOTE: I DID try to cut those oats up in my blender/mixer thingie before trying again. And they were much much better. If I had quick oats, I think they are still best, but "blended up oats" worked just fine! Thank you for the suggestion!

HEY! I might use the chocolate/peanut butter mixture as frosting on my birthday cake this Friday!!!??? What do you think??
NOTE: I DID use the "chocolate sauce" part for frostening on my cake! It turned out great! I made 1/2 batch to "frost" a single 8" layer that I cut in half to make two layers. And you don't need a knife!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sesame Dressing

We had only been married a little time before Ryu told me he liked Chinese food also. Wow! Learning to make Japanese food as well as Chinese - I recruited his help. We bought a Chinese cookbook at the 100 yen (Dollar) store and have used it and used it!

This is the Sesame Dressing for one of the dishes (whose name I can't remember or READ!)

The cookbook is Bon Cook #23 Chinese...Something. The recipe is on page 48.

Anyway, this is Ryu's dish to make, but, we are on a chicken eating frenzy, so I am always looking for ideas. The other day I decided to boil a chicken breast, tear it into shreds, steam some green beans and cut them in half, and pour this sauce over it all. We were ALL (meaning, Jun too!) in heaven!

Sesame Dressing

3 Tbsp. White Sesame Seeds - grind these up in a food mixer you can later add wet ingredients too for ease in preparation. (I'm sure you could use black too. We used roasted white ones.)
3 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Vinegar
1/2 tsp. Sesame oil
1/2 tsp. rayu (very hot oil. We leave it out when Jun is eating with us - ALWAYS - though we love it!)

After grinding up the sesame seeds, add the rest of the ingredients and blend well. This is the first time I used our food grinder/mixer. Ryu does it by hand. Do as you wish, but I will always use our cheapo frustrating mixer after this! So easy!

This is great over chicken and pork. Also, over steamed veggies like broccoli, green beans or spinach. It would also be great over a salad or chilled tofu! Of course, you can adjust the flavor/sweetness to your liking, too! Try it!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

This summer I have been playing with making frozen yogurt. It began with wanting a lemon dessert and having no lemons! I had a small can of lemon pop, mixed it with a small carton of yogurt and froze it! A great sherbet! Even better when I added sugared crushed raspberries!

From there I (and Jun) forged into uncharted territory - for us. The latest recipe-less yogurt was banana, cinnamon, peanut butter yogurt. As strange as it sounds - it was healthy and pretty good.

However, the time had come to start Googeling Frozen Yogurt recipes. And chocolate was the flavor we NEEDED! I found a cooking blog called Chocolate and Zucchini. I like both of those, and, actually, my grandmother used to make wonderful chocolate zucchini bread and it was just like cake, but...I wasn't sure what I'd find here - frozen yogurt with zucchini?

But, no! She has a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Frozen Yogurt.

However, her pantry and fridge are a little more exotic than mine. I would love to try the REAL ingredients, are my humble substitutions.

Good quality bittersweet chocolate - the remaining box of too bitter chocolate in the cupboard supplemented by some of those semi-sweet chocolate chips I am hoarding.

Creme fraiche or heavy cream - Jun kindly allowed me to use some of her milk. It is 3.6% milk fat. That's about has heavy as our kitchen gets.

Raw cane sugar - I suspect I could find this in Japan, but haven't. I used regular old white, cheap, moist sugar.

Good quality unsweetened cocoa powder - I hoard this too, but I used my Hershey's cocoa. That's as good quality as we get here.

Sea salt - Ummm. Not sure where ours came from, but Ryu bought the cheapest he could. Now I have a whole kilo of wet (a pain to use and unable to be shaken) salt. (Actually, now that I think of it, I forgot the salt! Oh well!)

Natural Vanilla Extract - Good old imitation here, though would LOVE some of the real thing!

Greek Yogurt - Well, I have no idea what makes yogurt Greek, and have only seen Bulgarian yogurt here - and I'm sure it isn't Bulgarian, though Kotoshu has been on some of the commercials for it and HE's Bulgarian. Instead I bought the cheapest low fat yogurt at the store. I hate to eat it, but don't mind it in my yogurt concoctions. However, first I drained it (thanks for loaning me your coffee maker/filter, Ryu) to make it a bit thicker.

I used a cooking method I thought was easier. I combined the yogurt and vanilla in the freezer container. I put the dry ingredients in a small sauce pan and made sure the cocoa was lump-free. Then I added the milk and stirred constantly over very low heat. When the chocolate was about 1/2 melted, I took it off the heat and kept stirring till it was all melted and mixed in well. Then I poured it slowly into the yogurt while Jun and I stirred.

The blogger, Clotilde Dusoulier, gives good advice on how to be sure the frozen dessert is sweet enough and how to make it without an ice-cream maker! Good common sense advice!

I made half batch, as we are only three. Each time we stir it, we taste it. And we love each taste so far. I hope there is some left for dessert tonight!

I will be visiting this food blogger often, I think!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mexican Chicken

My husband commented on my "strong arm" in the arena of cooking this week. This means, I've made some things that he likes and that fill him up!

I thought of waiting and measuring and all that stuff to give you this recipe, but...this is Kantan (simple) Cooking, so - here is the recipe in its simplicity.

I need to add that it was inspired by this recipe for Mexican Burgers that we LOVE and often make in little meatball sizes for obentos and dinner!

Mexican Chicken

2 whole skinless and boneless chicken breasts cut in bite-sized pieces
1 splash of milk
1 Tbsp. or so of taco seasoning - if you have it
1 bag of flavored taco chips. We get them for 100 yen at the convenience store. Crush them up into tiny pieces.

So, take the pieces of chicken, throw them in a bowl. Salt them a bit. Splash with some milk (2 Tbsp?) Add the taco seasoning, and mix it in well. Put it in the fridge if you have time, and let it set for awhile for the seasonings to soak into the meat.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Roll each piece of chicken in the crushed taco chips and toss into an oven safe pan. If they need to be layered - that's fine. If you have chips leftover, sprinkle them over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken is done.

I "garnished" this with well drained yogurt - fake, but yummy, sour-cream like topping, and chopped green onions. I could see some salsa over it as well, or tomatoes and shredded lettuce. If one had cheese in the fridge, I'd sprinkle a bit of that over the chicken before baking and Mmmmm.

Very SIMPLE - but, it's summer, and the hubby loved it, and I don't want to forget about it. My Japanese Mama friends' reaction? Very good and "You COOK with taco chips???" I love to shock them as often as possible.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mugicha - Barley Tea

When I first came to Japan I was not yet a coffee drinker! Late bloomer, I know! So, when I was offered a nice cold glass of barley tea...I suddenly wasn't all that thirsty after all. My dislike of barley tea was quickly realized and I alone was given a goblet of delicious orange juice with a straw while everyone else drank mugicha out of water glasses. How embarrassing!!!

Well, I learned to drink coffee and mugicha as well. I often made mugicha for my students. I'd get to church and realize students were coming in 5 minutes and there was nothing cold for them to drink. So, I'd throw a tea packet into the pitcher, add water, and shake! The water changed color, but not flavor!!! Gross, but it worked in a pinch. Now our pastor makes sure there is always plenty of mugicha in the fridge! THANKS!

A friend recently taught me a new way to make the "BEST" mugicha. I must confess that I am lazy, so never have followed the recipe to its completion, goes:

One packet of mugicha in a mug. Pour boiling water over it and let it sit for one minute.
Add the packet to a pitcher of water to make one liter of mugicha. Take the bag out after one hour. HA! Then add a bit of instant coffee. Wa la! Excellent mugicha, I'm told. I never take out the bag and have no instant coffee in the house, so... I also like weak mugicha, so use one packet for two liters! However, I do use the one minute hot water method. Much better than shaking!

Last week my friend told me of another mugicha recipe. If you make your mugicha right - it is supposed to be 3:10. 3 parts mugicha and 10 parts milk. Our weaker mugicha works better at 1:1 (half and half). This sounds kind of gross to those of us who take our mugicha STRAIGHT! No sugar and never any milk or lemon. However, this milk mugicha tastes like coffee au latte! Add some sugar syrup, and, a nice no-caf coffee tasting drink!

Any other "strange" ways of doing mugicha???

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cleaned the Freezer - Ended Up With a Cake!

I am, as I assume most people are, pretty good at cleaning out the fridge for a few last meals before going shopping again. After our trip to the US, I fed the family out of an empty fridge for nearly a week!

But yesterday, I cleaned the freezer! And ended up with a cake! I usually at least start with a recipe when I bake. However, yesterday, it was all bits and pieces of leftovers, a quick defrost, a quick stir, and a quick bake! Mmmm.

I started with a cup or so of chocolate chip cookie dough I froze before going home to the US. Just couldn't find it in my heart to heat up the kitchen for the few cookies it would make, so there it sat in the freezer. Then I ran across a 1/2 cup or so of pureed pumpkin I cooked and blenderized when pumpkin was on sale...a while back. There were two halves of bananas - left over from Jun's lunches. Peeled and wrapped in wrap and frozen for a baking day.

As I was mixing this combination up, I noticed that the chocolate chips had mostly melted in the defrosting process, so I now had chocolate cake. Hmmmm. Maybe more chocolate chips? Nope, as I was reaching for the chocolate chips, my hand touched the cinnamon chips! Well, as chocolate goes great with pumpkin and bananas, so does cinnamon go with chocolate, pumpkin and bananas! So, I added a handful of cinnamon chips. Then, as the pumpkin was not sweetened and I had some ginger sugar also taking up space in the freezer, I dumped a bit of that in too.

Turned the oven on to 170, oiled the round cake pan and threw it all in. 25 minutes or so later, we were gifted with the moistest yummy cake!!!

It was so fun to try something crazy for a dessert when I usually only do it for "meal" food!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Preemio Award

My friend, Abigail, gave me the? a? Preemio Award the other day. Recipients are supposed to write seven things about themselves. As this is a cooking blog, I will attempt to entertain you with seven silly things about cooking/food and me!

  1. Carrots - WHAT is it with CARROTS here in Japan??? First, they are kind of short and really big around. Second, they go bad in my fridge in a day or two - ROOT VEGETABLE!?!??! Third, according to my husband, they should not be cut into rounds (wagiri), but should be cut into the equivalent of short carrot sticks. This makes them sweeter he says...the crazy thing is - it does. I don't even really LIKE carrots - but, don't tell Jun or Ryu!
  2. Ginger - I am a GINGER freak, I think. This last trip to the US, I caught a terrible cold. AND...had NO candied ginger to fend off the germs! As I was getting well, I found some ginger candy at a health food store. And, was introduced to this website - the Ginger People.
  3. Strange - I LOVE strange RECIPES. For me, STRANGE is a reason TO make something new, not to avoid it. Sue just posted a recipe for body powder. Vicki posted a recipe for soda bread you cook on the griddle. Abigail posted recipe for okonomiyaki made using top ramen. How STRANGE - to me, at least, and FUN! (I made the soda bread and okonomiyaki!)
  4. Spurts - I cook things in spurts. I am currently in the Granola Making Spurt. I made up two recipes - Peanut Butter Granola, and Gingersnap Granola. Too yummy. I am in the process of making a Chocolate Granola recipe. I bought some healthy flours to put in granola while I was in the US this trip. I can really FEEL all those fiber things cleaning the cholesterol out of my veins. Really. I'm serious! SCRUBBING!!!
  5. Lettuce - I didn't grow up on lettuce. We were a canned/frozen corn, peas, and green bean family with some broccoli and carrots thrown in for good measure. I do remember the occasional beet, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts - YUCK! But, we weren't adventurous vegetable eaters. Ryu isn't either. Lettuce - adventurous? Well, I seem to not like raw veggies all that well. We have thrown away more heads of lettuce than probably any other veggie! But, I bought some again yesterday. We'll see.
  6. Cookbooks - Jun and I like to read Cookbooks. Not to find something to make, but, because they are interesting. I especially like old ones with old fashioned recipes. Jun especially likes my cookie ones with pictures! I USED to collect cookbooks. Now I live in a tiny tiny apartment, so we read and reread the good old ones!
  7. CONFESSION - the REAL reason I started to cook - as a kid - was because in our family we have the Golden Rule that is THE BEST! If you cook dinner, you don't have to do the dishes - nor clean the kitchen. I HATE to do dishes - so cooking was a wonderful golden trade off. My mom was happy too, as she was happy not to cook, and had two other kids to do the cleaning! HAHAHA!

I'd like to tag the following three women because I enjoy their blogs and wonder what THEY cook on a weekday night.

  1. Tammy in Ukraine
  2. Sue at Living and Learning
  3. CG at Okaasan Mommy and More

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Furikake - Sprinkles for the top of your white rice!

My husband likes furikake. Actually, furikake is the savior of many Japanese housewives, or housewives of any nationality, or I guess anyone at all, who make obentos. These sprinkles add so much flavor, color, fun to the white rice part of a lunch.

We have been buying furikake for years. It has yellow chunks that are supposed to be egg. Hmmm. And dried seaweed - nori. Well, I hate the stuff. I think all the yellow chunks are are lumps of sodium with no health benefit at all.

So, when I was at church last week, and a lady was showing me the furikake she had made and said it was easy - my ears perked up. Her suggestion, my friend Kaoru's help, and an idea or two from the internet turned into this furikake. The hubby loves it! YEAH! It is NOT cheaper than the purchased sodium, but, it is worth it.


50 gm. tiny white fish (raw, not dried)
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 cup bonito flakes (not packed!)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. mirin

In a dry frying pan, "dry" the fish out. Then add the sesame seeds and bonito flakes. When the sesame seeds start popping a bit, add the mixture of soy and mirin. Then, stir over low heat till all the moisture is absorbed/evaporated. Won't take long. Store it in an airtight container in the freezer! It doesn't get hard, even when frozen, and lasts a long time - or not - if you serve it on lunches every day!

I also heard you can use dried radish or daikon leaves. I just got a batch today to try. I will also cut up some of the tons of dry seaweed sheets we have been given and add that next time I make it. Hubby also bought some dried shrimp he wants in a furikake. A friend just told me she cuts up konyaku and uses it in furikake. So, I guess the ideas are endless. And, though the fish is a bit expensive (we paid 350 yen for 50 gm. of fish), the other ingredients are CHEAP! I might even dry out some scrambled eggs for my own version of the purchased stuff!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reason #2 Why I Will Never Be A Great Cook

I was trying to blend some homemade pumpkin the other day in the tiny/cheap blender I bought when I realized that mothers in Japan MAKE their baby food because it isn't available in the stores in the single food types for the beginners. My cheap streak, kicked into overdrive by sleep deprivation, resulted in a small/worthless blender. Somehow Jun was fed during those formative months, but...

I realized I will never be a good cook because I don't own, and really don't plan to own, any cool kitchen equipment, and if I do buy anything, it will be second hand or cheap because I am CHEAP! ARGH! I've dreamt of food processors that blend butter and flour, but I have a pastry cutter - my splurge. I've dreamt of mixers with dough hooks, but I've found recipes that don't take much kneading. I've dreamt of juicers, but then I'd have to buy fruit - and I'm too cheap for that usually. Our ceramic lemon juicer is adequate. I've dreamt of a hand-held electric mixer to make cakes, but a former co-worker showed me I could make them (from a mix) just fine with a fork. And, if I had something to whip cream, well, I couldn't just buy the pre-whipped stuff, could I? And, I don't like whipped cream all that well either. How's THAT for talking myself out of equipment? Now, I have heard of a "silpat" that is popular for baking things. I have no idea what it is. Kind of a re-usable oven paper, I think. But, I am even too cheap to buy oven paper - I grease and flour my pans when necessary. What was that, Mom? Heavily grease and lightly flour?

I would like another set of measuring cups - with the 2/3 and 3/4 sizes included. A 3/4 tsp. would be nice too. Oh, and I DID splurge on a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients for Japanese recipes. I LOVE scales and tape measures and thermometers. Am I crazy?

So, most of my recipes call for more elbow grease than perhaps their counterparts would. But, hey, THAT kind of grease tastes like Love - Right?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gingersnap Granola

Growing up, our breakfasts were pretty standard. To us, anyway. For example, pancakes were NOT a special dish saved for Saturdays and Sundays. We had pancakes ALL THE TIME! When I went to a friend's house and saw they got RAISIN Bran, I was just too jealous. We only had Total. We had hot oatmeal and scrambled eggs often too. But, breakfast was rarely "special." (Sorry, Mom!)

It was in the very early 70's that I was introduced to granola, at a friend's house. Hot and homemade right out of the oven for breakfast! YUM!

The Peanut Butter Granola is the first granola I've ever made. And, boy have I been making it. (Ryu bought some baby chocolate chips to add to it!) But, one day, I suddenly had a hankering for Gingersnap Granola. You know, that hard and crunchy gingersnap cookie? But for BREAKFAST. Not to say I don't eat cookies at breakfast time, but...wouldn't it be great to eat them LEGALLY?

I searched the web over and found a very few number of Gingersnap Granola recipes. But, they gave me a start. I've worked on revamping this recipe, and NONE of the tries has been bad! Well, I guess there IS one bad thing about the recipe. Unlike the Peanut Butter Granola, it is a bit more clumpy. JUST right for eating with one's hands as a snack. I could eat this for every meal and snack all day! Too yummy!

Jun started off calling the granolas I made, "Mama Made It Cornflakes." Now she calls the Peanut Butter Granola - the "White Granola," and the Gingersnap Granola, the "Black Granola."

Gingersnap Granola

2 cups oatmeal - I use the regular old ones.
1 cup of various flours (whole wheat, corn flour, corn meal, crushed up All-Bran Cereal, crushed up Genmai Cereal (a whole rice flake cereal - I crush the cereals in my hubby's coffee grinder!))
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp. ground dried ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix the above well, and heat your oven to 140 C. Around 250 F.

In a small saucepan, warm the following ingredients:

1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. molasses (kuro mitsu works great)
1 tsp. vanilla

When the "wet ingredients" are warmed, pour over the oat mixture and mix well with your hands. Squeezing and squishing to mix it all in well. Spread the mixture out as thinly as possible on a baking sheet. Bake for one hour at 140 C. Stir every 15 minutes after the first 30 minutes. When it is done, it will still be soft. This is your chance to carefully break up any big chunks, and let it cool. Then add:

1 cup raisins (I tried almonds in this recipe as well as dried apricots. Jun and Ryu wouldn't touch the "orange things", and the almonds overpowered the ginger, so...I stick with the raisins!

Store it in a dry place in a zip-lock bag...or whatever!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homemade Powdered Sugar!

Who knew you could MAKE powdered sugar!?!?! Living here in Japan, where powdered sugar is sold by the Tablespoon, I pass over any recipe requiring it. Today I stumbled across a site that has a RECIPE to MAKE powdered sugar - using potato starch (katakuriko) that IS available here in Japan. So - here it is!

Passover Powdered Sugar

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rice Krispie Egg Treats

When Tana sent the big box of yummies, there was a hug box of Rice Krispies included. While trying not to hoard them, I have been holding out on using them till I found the perfect idea. And...Easter came! We invited our friends over to celebrate. Their little girl is about six months younger than jun. I wanted to decorate and hide eggs, but...didn't want the mess in my living room of decorating without a kit. So, I decided we would use Rice Krispie treats instead.

I used the standard recipe for

and spread them out on a pan a bit larger than recommended, so the Treats were about 1/2 inch thick. I pushed them down pretty firmly, as I wanted a firm cookie-like Treat.

The next morning, I printed off an egg shape from the internet and Ryu used the kitchen scizzors to cut the Rice Krispie Treats into egg shapes. They were the PERFECT size.

I bought a jar with 6 different kinds of sprinkles in it...some time ago. Jun was SO eager to use these sprinkles. I thought the kids could put them on the RK Treats and they would stick. Luckily I tried this out before the party. They didn't stick! But, then I barely moistened the top of the RK Treat with water, and the sprinkles stuck fine and the Treats quickly dried out! They turned out GREAT! See the pic below!
Incidently, I use this same recipe with cornflakes, granola, choco krispies (sold in Japan), and other cereals to make treats. But, having the regular Rice Krispies was a treat as they AREN'T sold here!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Menu 2009

A Japanese friend was asking how we celebrated Easter this year. She is a Japanese Christian, but our church really doesn't have a lot of traditions around Easter at this point, so she really didn't know how to celebrate.

So, I told her I'd post on the blog here about the menu part of our celebrations. For all reading, this is not necessarily a traditional Easter spread!!! But it was special for our day, easy to make, and yummy! I'll get recipes posted as soon as possible!

  • Italian Sausage and Cheese Bread (instead of ham and scalloped potatoes!)
  • Hot Cross Buns (A TRUE Easter food - the cross symbol reminds us of the cross Jesus died on! Thanks for the inspiration, Heather!)
  • Raspberry and Blueberry Clafoutis - can't wait to read THAT recipe, I'm sure!
  • Strawberry Jello (jelly) with a ton of strawberries and a bit of banana in it. - I grew up on this!
  • Rice Krispie treats cut in egg shapes for decorating - I'll post some tips and pics.
  • Mugicha - barley tea, and Iced Tea

It was a simple menu because I could make it all the day before, and just enjoy our friends.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Peanut Butter Granola

Thanks to Tana for the idea of peanut butter and oatmeal! When I ran across this recipe for PB Granola, I didn't run away screaming! I really changed the recipe to fit my oven and larder (or any larder in Japan - I think.) Jun LOVES it! My Japanese friends at church all want the recipe, and their kiddos loved it too. So, I guess I'd better write it down before I forget it! I SURE want to make it again and again!

My Mom wasn't awed at the idea, but ... this isn't your standard C____ granola. It is easy on the teeth! Crunchy and tasty. I like the fact that you can adjust the sweetness/saltiness, etc. to fit your likes. You could even substitute other grains/flours if you wanted.

Peanut Butter Granola

2 cups regular oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup crushed genmai flakes (a whole rice cereal flake. Could use a bran cereal.)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/6 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine the above in a large bowl. Heat the following BRIEFLY, stirring til blended.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour the PB mixture over the oats mixture and mix well with your hands - till it is all coated and wet. Put the mixture in a broiler pan and bake at 130 degrees C or 250 F for one hour - stirring every 20 minutes. Turn off oven and leave granola in closed oven till cool.


1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried other fruit (I used dried cranberries.)

Store in an airtight container. This made just enough to just fill my oven pan in my tiny oven. Around 4 cups or so. Next I will have to make this into granola bars for on-the-go snacks!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Reason #1 Why I Will Never Be A Great Cook

Lately, as I have been cooking or baking, it has come to my attention, once again, why I will never be a great cook.

I absolutely HATE to touch most "raw" foods. Raw meat is at the top of my "hate to touch" raw foods. And chicken is at the top of that list.

I also dislike getting my hands dirty baking...anything. So, while I will roll the occasional cookie into a ball, and lightly knead the rare scone or biscuit...when I was introduced to a batter yeast bread that I don't have to TOUCH, I was so happy. (More on THAT bread soon!)

This dislike of dirty hands keeps my gardening nice and simple too. Gotta use that shovel!

Wonder where this "dislike" came from?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies (With Chocolate Chips)

Ryu didn't grow up on American cookies and cakes. Poor guy! Probably why he was as skinny as a rail when I married him. But he loved my chocolate chip cookies! So, those were the cookies I made. Then, and I don't remember why, he asked for a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. So, I tried. I added peanut butter to the chocolate chip cookie recipe. Nope. Then I added chocolate chips to the peanut butter cookie recipe. Nope. Ryu was "happy," but I was not satisfied.

Then, a few weeks ago when I was looking for an egg-less peanut butter dessert (and found the lovely recipe for Peanut Butter Shortbread), I also ran across this recipe. And, it is the winner, hands down! I love it. Ryu loves it. Jun? She just likes cookies!

I made the cookies according to the recipe. I bought "coffee sugar" to roll the cookies in, but lost it as soon as I brought it home. Oh well, I'll be making these cookies again! Also, I had a cosmetic debate. REAL peanut butter cookies are rolled into balls and then imprinted with a criss cross of fork tines. These aren't REAL. So, I first dropped some dough into some regular (wet) white sugar and flattened it out gently with the bottom of a glass. Then, I rolled the rest of the dough into balls and rolled them in sugar and flattened them out too. I kind of liked the look of the "dropped" cookies. Kind of rustic. But, Ryu loved the ones I rolled into balls. Something about the uniform size and shape.

This recipe is a keeper! (As long as you have a nice big quantity of peanut butter!! Thanks, Tana!)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rice Cookie Idea? Anyone???

Being the wonderful housewife that I am, I often have leftover rice in the rice-cooker after dinner. As many of us here in Japan do, I'm sure, I wrap up the bits and put them in the freezer to save for pilaf, lunches, etc.

As yummy as those dishes turn out - especially when it is Ryu making them - I truly think that this leftover rice could be used as an ingredient in cookies. Maybe in place of coconut? oatmeal? OK, those are my only two ideas. I think it would result in a chewy "mochi" cookie.

What do you think? Do you have a cookie recipe using rice? If so, DO SHARE! The only one I've found calls for blanched almonds, flaked coconut, egg whites...well, those things are not part of my larder or my idea of Kantan Cooking!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Soboro Bento (Lunch)

I originally thought that the name of this lunch was the same word used in Japanese for "not doing what you should be doing. Goofing off!" Turns out it isn't, but they are close. The simplicity of this obento is perfect for those days when I'm just not up to making a cutsie obento. O.K. I'm never into making cutsie obentos. So, this obento is great when Jun and I have to eat in PUBLIC with PEOPLE we KNOW! And, I have received compliments on the way it looks and the way it tastes. So there.

A retired male student, who is the new cook in his family, was afraid I would let Ryu starve - especially when I told him about the lunches I fixed, and gave me a cookbook on making lunches. No pictures. As I "read" this recipe to make sure I got all the important points for you, I noticed it said that "if you put something sweet in a lunch box, it helps the eater to relax." I didn't say I understood it. I said it said it. I always DID like a cookie in my lunch bag, though!



100 gm. ground chicken
4 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sake (surely white wine or water would suffice?)
2 tsp. sugar

Mix it all well (the meat is still raw!). Then cook it in a fry pan till the meat is all broken up into TINY pieces and much of the sauce has cooked down.


1 egg
1 tsp. water
dash of salt
dash of sugar

Mix it all up. Heat up the frying pan. Use a tad bit of oil if you need to. Pour in the egg. Grasp 5-6 chopsticks in your hand at once (that's what it SAYS in the book!) and stir away at the egg. This cooks it while breaking it up into TINY pieces like the meat. I have been known to use a small metal whisk for this job with adequate results.


This obento should have three colors - that's how to WOW people. Any green veggie will do. I tend to use my spinach with gomae recipe.

Now, (for those new to obentos) put rice in the box (Tupperware stuff works too.) Then divide it into thirds and cover with the three toppings. I always double/triple the recipe as needed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

English Muffins

What a baking frenzy evening we had last night! In our tiny kitchen, cookies and English Muffins at the same time. What a MESS! And, oh, so yummy!

I was inspired to try some yeast products this weekend by Heather and her crumpets, and Coffeegrl and her Artisan Bread. I hope to also make those crumpets, artisan bread as well as bagels! I've made bagels and crumpets Japan...many many years ago. I look forward to trying them again. And, the artisan bread? We'll see if I can do it.

Along with the yeast products, I plan a batch of oatmeal banana chocolate chip cookies and a batch of scones 1/2 with candied dekopon, 1/2 with candied ginger with ginger sugar on top. Mmmm! I wonder how long my energy and frenzy will really last!

On to the English Muffins. I decided to try these because my crumpet recipe describes crumpets as kind of a non-turned over pancake or kind of like an English Muffin. And I thought - ENGLISH MUFFIN? I've never thought of making those. I found a few recipes, and chose this one because the picture looked so yummy! With one little change, we had great English Muffins for breakfast this morning. Ryu said, "They look like English Muffins!" Well, there you go!


This recipe called for two beaten egg whites. HAHAHAHA! I don't own a mixer and beating egg whites must have a purpose greater than mixing them into bread with a ton of flour. So, I substituted those egg whites with a whole egg and that was that! Worked fine.

Here is another interesting recipe for English Muffins from Alton Brown at the Food Network (in terms of the cooking method). However, I don't have cooking rings or tin cans to use in their place, so...I did the cookie cutter method above. But, this recipe looks like it takes less time, so next time...I'll probably try it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chocolate Kaki-no-tani

"Kaki" means "persimmon." "Tani" means "seeds." That is the shape of these rice-cracker snacks. Kind of like a crescent moon. They are traditionally brushed with a spicy soy sauce mixture and...fried? baked? cooked, anyway. And, often combined with peanuts.

The first time I had these - covered in chocolate, I couldn't imagine THAT spicy with chocolate. And they are SOOOO delicious! Crispy, but with enough chocolate to melt in your mouth! Tooo good. I buy mine at Lawson's Convenience Store. 105 yen. 236 calories. Must be fried.

For snack time, I combine one of these packages with some of the regular ones with peanuts, and add some raisins. Japanese trail mix! HAHAHA! I've served it to guests. Hmmmm. I AM hospitality challenged!
Please share YOUR favorite snack - from the convenience store! I'd love to try it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Peanut Butter Shortbread

I try to make good things last for a long time. I like delayed gratification. I've saved some things so long, they were no longer any good. So, I am trying to change my spots!

I received a four pound jar of peanut butter (see Scotcharoos), and am determined to enjoy it rather than hoard it. Jun had a peanut butter sandwich yesterday and loved it. Today, we had a meeting for Mamas at church, so I decided to try another peanut butter recipe. I was out of eggs, so this was perfect!

Peanut Butter Shortbread

The site is called Peanut Butter Lovers. They have ALL kinds of peanut butter recipes! I'll have to try a few more, I think! Entrees too!

Abigail saw this recipe and "tweaked" it with .... CHOCOALTE! Click HERE to see her version!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mystery Picture

Everytime I make this item and lay it out on this white plate, it reminds me of "fugu." Scroll down to see the picture of fugu sushi.

What do YOU think it is?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cooking Blind

I'm always looking all over the house before I fix dinner these days. Without my reading glasses - one of the 4-5 pairs I have hiding from me - I can't even see recipes I've written out or directions on the backs of packages.

So, it was with comic relief that I realized I didn't NEED glasses to use this flavor pack from Tammy in Ukraine. As it is all written in Ukrainian or Russian, it wouldn't really matter how many pairs of glasses I found, I still wouldn't be able to read it!

It is supposed to be for veggies, Tammy said, but I sprinkled it over pork too. It has a salty chicken consume-like flavor. Soooo good!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Last fall, our last (and first, I think) overnight visitor of the year, Tammy from Ukraine, practically twisted my arm until I got signed up for Facebook. Already a bit busy with blogs and life, I didn't expect to find it so fun! Blast after blast from the past blew me away during the first few months. One friend from college, that I got reacquainted with, Tana, uses the SAME Cooky Cookbook that my family has ALWAYS used. One note led to another, and...she sent me a wonderful box...
filled with yummy ingredients...

to make these SUPER DUPER yummy bar cookie-like snacks! Please forgive my poor photography, and documented inability to melt chocolate and butterscotch chips! The results were great, in spite of my downfalls! In fact, my hubby, who "doesn't eat much sweets" said that these were too wonderful to be homemade and should need to be purchased in a store! YATTA! (Means "yay" for me!!!)

Jun loved the making of the Scotcharoos...

And, couldn't get enough of that GREAT CEREAL! Sugarless and milk-less, to go with her clothes-less state of dress.

Now, for those who might live in a place where some of these ingredients are hard to come Japan, I'll give you some ideas for substitutions at the end! So, read on!


In a saucepan, melt:

1 cup sugar

1 cup Karo syrup

When it reaches a bare boil, remove from heat and add:

1 cup peanut butter

Stir tell melted and blended.

Pour over, and mix into:

6 cups of Rice Crispie cereal

Press firmly into a well buttered jelly-roll pan, with a well buttered spoon/spatula.


1/2 pkg. chocolate chips

1/2 pkg. butterscotch chips

Spread over the top. When set, cut and EAT!

Now, I am not sure if Karo syrup and Japan's "gum syrup" are interchangeable. I kind of think that "gum syrup" is too watery. So, if I were doing this with ingredients I could find in Japan, I would take two packages of marshmallows (in the candy section at the super), and melt them with a bit of butter in a deep fry pan When melted, I'd mix in 1/2 cup peanut butter. I'd semi crush a box of cornflakes, and mix it all together. I'd probably use a well buttered round or square cake pan. Then, sighing sadly at the lack of butterscotch chips, I'd buy a few milk-chocolate bars at my local convenience store, melt them, and "frost" the top of the cookies. It wouldn't be exactly the same,'ll give you the chocolate peanut butter, crunch, YUM!, without waiting for the next trip home, or without breaking the bank finding the imported ingredients here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Candied Citrus Peel

This is the first winter that I have ever "candied" anything. As I have noted elsewhere, I am totally addicted to the candied ginger I've been making and try to ALWAYS have some in the fridge. I really think it is helping Jun and I through the cold season, as we have some a couple of times a day for "dessert". The other day I had a sore throat and took a spoonful of the HOT ginger syrup that was a byproduct. It really really helped!

But...other than ginger, I have been doing some citrus candying too. The first was yuzu. (Please click the link and scroll down to the SECOND picture. It looks much yummier!) A very popular - and pretty expensive (over $2.50 per piece of fruit at my market) fruit. was SOOOO wonderful.

Next, I tried lemons - as they were on SALE - two for a dollar. Those peels were quite hard to prepare, and, though it turned out alright in the end...maybe I won't make this again.

Last week, our friend Kaoru, who plays with Jun on Friday afternoons while I teach a bit, brought dekopon. Click the link for a picture. The peel smelled sweet and orangey, so I took a bite of the raw peel. "THIS," I said, "needs to be candied! It is DELICIOUS." So, I proceeded to do so. And...Let's just say I was shocked to see how expensive these also are in the store, as I so wanted to make MORE AND MORE of it. (three for 6 dollars).
Here's a nice out-of-focus "soft image" of the Candied Dekopon!

Here is my basic method of making

Candied Citrus Peel

  1. Peel the fruit

  2. Use a spoon or paring knife and scrape/cut away all of the white membrane

  3. Cut the peel in thin strips

  4. Boil the peel in a bit of water for 5 minutes (to take away some of the natural bitterness)

  5. Drain and rinse the peel

  6. Return peel to pan, and add the same amounts of sugar and water. 1/2 cup or 1 cup. (The syrup from the yuzu was OK to use, but the Dekopon was too bitter, so don't make too much and waste sugar, I say.)

  7. Bring sugar, water, and peel to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, and keeping an eye on it. Don't let it boil hard, but don't let it stop simmering either.

  8. Cover a cooling/baking rack with a mesh cloth/net (check your laundry section at the 100 yen store), and fish out the peel pieces and drain/cool on the rack. Let sit for 30 minutes.

  9. Roll each piece (using fingers as they are cold) in sugar (I use Japan's wet sugar), and place on a dry rack/net, or a plate.

  10. Let air dry for 1-3 days, of course sampling them daily to see if they are the "firmness" you like. Also, turn them over each day if they are on a plate.

  11. Store in a covered container in the fridge (don't know if you have to, but...I just do.)

This stuff is way too good! My Japanese FIL, nephew, and husband all loved it. Picky men that they are! And Jun keeps asking for it...but we are clean out!!! Sad smile.

Do you "candy" anything? If so, what? And, what method do you use????

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Did It!

Thank you all so much for your comments on the cakey vs. chewy cookies! I took your (and my) advice and made chewy oatmeal cookies for the first time in years! I am so so happy. Jun is too!

I searched the web for Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. As I read through the comments on the recipe I chose, many people commented that it was the same recipe that is on the Quaker Oatmeal Box top. I checked the box top recipe I have used unsuccessfully, and, is the same recipe, though the name of the recipe on my box is Vanishing Oatmeal Raising Cookies.

Well, as the copied recipe said they were supposed to be chewy, I took heart and did the following:

  1. Made 1/2 batch. (Abigail - I grew up in a household where cookie recipes were always doubled. Here in Japan, I always halve mine. Not because I can't get rid of them, but...the oven size. I can get 9 cookies in mine at a time, but...who wants to bake cookies all day.? I have refrigerated or frozen extra dough, though.) On to the cookies!

  2. Actually measured the margarine instead of guesstimating it.

  3. Packed the brown sugar in the cup instead of lightly sprinkling it in.

  4. Packed the wet white sugar in the cup too.

  5. Mixed the sugars and margarine by hand - well, the whole thing by hand, actually!

  6. Was shocked that the pack of 6 eggs that Ryu bought are advertised as "various sizes", and chose a smallish/medium egg. Nearly 1/4 cup of egg.

  7. Used regular Japanese flour. Hmm, I should take a pic of the bag.

  8. Used US Arm and Hammer baking soda

  9. Carefully measured the other ingredients and mixed well.

  10. Preheated my oven for 170 instead of 180 (Keiko-san, I hope you are preheating your oven when you bake cookies!)

  11. Kept peeking at them to see when they got barely brown. (Thanks for the advice, Sue.)

  12. Remembered that they will cook for a bit on the pan when they get out, so let them sit for about 2 minutes before removing them to the rack. (I always hit 'start' on my oven while I am doing this, so the oven doesn't cool off between batches.) They came off the pan much better/cleaner than at other times.

  13. And, they are CHEWY!!!!!

Here's the recipe. My cookies are flatter and...look chewier.

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cookie Theory: Cakey vs Chewy

Keiko, who sent me the wonderful homemade soap, sent me an e-mail asking about cookies. She has tried to make cookies using American recipes and Japanese ingredients, and those that should have been chewy were cakey. Keiko-san, I have had the same problem, as I know other bakers here in Japan have had (Illahee!!!)

So, here are some questions for Keiko and other bakers. PLEASE leave a comment with your answers. Maybe we can figure out the problem together.

  1. Keiko asked if it was the difference in flour. I originally thought this too. However, Illahee's mom brought her a bag of flour from the States, and chewy was still cakey! So, let's leave the flour out of it for now.
  2. Sugar - American recipes call for granulated sugar. Do you use it when you make cookies? I don't! If you use the "wet" white sugar (like I do), when you measure, do you pack it into the cup, or just kind of shake it in lightly? I shake it in lightly. you reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls for - adapting to Japanese friends and family members' taste buds? I do.
  3. Eggs - An egg in an American recipe should be 2oz. volume - 1/4 cup. Eggs come in all sizes here. I made a cake recently that called for 3 eggs. Ryu had bought XXL. I should have used 2 instead of 3. What size of eggs do you use? I think Medium would be 1/4 cup.
  4. Leavening - Baking powder, baking soda. Do you use Japanese products, or American brands? I use US Soda, and Japanese baking powder. I'm not sure if there are differences in their 'power' or not.
  5. Fat - butter, margarine, shortening, oil. All are different, according to the websites I looked at, and produce a different shape of cookie. Bottom line, butter seemed to be the ingredient of choice on the web. What do you use? I used to use butter, but have switched to margarine recently. Shortening is tough to find, and recipes using oil are few and far between.
  6. Salt - this won't affect the cakey/chewy-ness of your cookie, but I thought I'd ask. I find Japanese table salt - the non-wet kind - to be nearly twice as salty as expected. I often reduce the salt by 1/2 for a normal taste, ie - NOT FOR HEALTH! How about you?
  7. Mixing - do you use a mixer (hand or stand), or mix by hand? I mix by hand. Besides the fact that I don't own a mixer (I make cake with a fork or whisk!), a friend used to use her stand mixer to make chocolate chip cookies, and I thought they were too cakey! Too much air got mixed into the dough before baking. So, I mix by hand. What do you do?
  8. Oven - well, size is really not an issue, in that most of us have the tiny, microwave sized ovens. But, have you ever used an oven thermometer to check the temperature in your oven? I haven't. I always guess at the right temperature. I guess 170C. for 350F. I am NOT precise in checking this. Also, my oven does temperatures in 10 degree increments, so I am a bit limited in terms of exactness, were I to become more careful. How about you?
  9. Time - Chewy cookies need to be nearly underbaked. The web says that if they are browning, they are over done. Once you take them out of the oven and off the pan, they continue to cook till their internal temperature lowers to the temperature of the room. So, how do you tell when to take your cookies out?
  10. One "trick" I read on the net was to drop the pan of cookies (top side up) on the floor when you get them right out of the oven. This knocks the excess air out of them, and they are chewy. I'm not sure the older woman who lives in the apartment under us would appreciate this, however.

The cookie I have not been able to make chewy vs. cakey, is an oatmeal raisin cookie. Have you ever eaten the ones at Freshness Burger? They import them from the States. I WANT to make and EAT lots of those kinds of chewy oatmeal raisin cookies.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Imo Kenpi

Knowing the danger of Japanese snacks on the waistline - and other parts of the body - I am pretty picky about the snacks I choose. Not that they need to be healthy. Just so delicious that it is reasonable to blow caution to the wind.

There are various versions of this snack. You can use real sweet potatoes and make a sauce to pour over them, or you can pay a buck, have them deep fried and crunchy with sweet stuff on them and...they are OHHHH so delicious. This particular brand's is the perfect balance of sweet and salty. I can, and have, eaten the whole bag. You know, before Jun wakes up from her nap, because they aren't all that good for her. The things a Mama must do for the kiddo!

So, if you live in Japan, TRY THEM! I bet you'll like them too! (Yep, you can get them at 7-11 or Itoyokado.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Potato Salad

My friend, Megu, asked for an American Potato Salad recipe. Not like Japanese potato salad, with fruit in it (which my mother absolutely loves, by the way), but one with pickles and eggs in it - like I happen to make! I hope it reminds you of your university days in the States, Megu! The day she asked for a recipe, I had been pondering how to use the last three potatoes and the egg in the fridge! Great inspiration, Megu!

Potato Salad

3 potatoes (in Japan I always use the Mekuin? ones because they are so easy to peel and don't dissolve in the water.)
1-2 hard boiled eggs
2 Tbsp. yogurt or mayo (we never seem to have mayo, but my Mom uses it!)
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard straight out of the bottle
2 heaping Tbsp. relish (you could cut up sweet pickles, or you could buy relish, or you could make my homemade relish. Mmmmmm.)
2 Tbsp. pickle/relish juice.

Peel and cut the potatoes up into large chunks (6 pieces or so per potato). Boil them in salted water. This is also a "point". Potatoes and eggs need a lot of salt, but not too much. A recipe book I consulted recommended 1/2 tsp. salt per cup of water. I tried it, and it turned out perfect. At the same time, boil your eggs. Now comes a major difference between American families' potato salad, I'm told. Some people cut their boiled potatoes into big chunks. Others mash them. I use a potato masher, but only crush each piece of potato and boiled egg once with them. So, they are in small chunks.

Mix the dressing ingredients together and toss the salad gently. Refrigerate before serving.

When Ryu tasted my Mom's potato salad, he said, "Yours tastes just like it!" So, I guess it is an authentic American recipe! HAHAHAHA!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chocolate Crinkles

This was a childhood favorite. From that Betty Crocker Cooky Book that Jun loves to read, also! I love the way they look in the picture. Dark chocolate with white splotches. They are fun and yummy to make. And, they don't take shortening, which is harder to come by here in Japan! However, they do take powdered sugar which, at your local supermarket, is usually sold by the Tablespoon. So... I happen to have some powdered sugar left over...from a long long time ago, that I want to use up. I used some last week when I made cinnamon butter, and it seemed alright. So, I will make these for Ryu for Valentine's Day!

Check out the picture! Yummy!

Chocolate Crinkles

Feb. 17 Update! I made these cookies for the first time in forever. I should have read the recipe. The dough needs to be refrigerated before baking. But, I started the cookies at nap time on Valentine's Day. Finished them up after dinner. And, we were a little disappointed. So, I put them in some plastic storage boxes and Ryu took a box to church the next morning - and they were WONDERFUL! I just had two more for Mama's snack time, and they just keep on getting better and better. I guess as a kid, they never lasted this long. But, they get moister, and chocolatier and yummier with time! Some people put chocolate chips or walnuts in them. Ohhhhh! Sounds so so good!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mabo Dofu

An expat mom here in Japan was asking for ideas to expand her cooking repertoire. She has four children and, I'm sure the easier, the better. I have one child, and that is ALWAYS my motto! PP (Pre-parenthood), Ryu and I liked to try different foods out and then try to create them at home. His Dad is a Chinese food fan, and we enjoyed trying some of his favorites. I found a Chinese cookbook at the 100 yen store, and we have tried MANY of the recipes and adapted them to our tastes and made them EASY to cook.

This is a hot (according to the amount of spice you put into it) dish using ground meat and tofu. We serve it over/beside rice. A nice winter dish! You can also substitute egg plant for the tofu, and have a nice summer dish!

Mabo Dofu

200 gm (1/2 pound or so) of ground meat. I use chicken.
1/2 tsp. garlic finely chopped (or out of the tube! I love Japanese spice tubes!)
1-3 tsp. tobanjan This is where the heat comes in. It comes in a small jar and is red. Helpful? Please start with a little and work your way up. I probably only use 1/4 tsp. I'm not as into hot as Ryu is. And, with Jun eating from the same pot, I leave it out now and Ryu adds rayu to his serving.
2 cups bouillon soup I use two cubes and 2 cups of water
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. sake
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
300 gm block (again - 1/2 pound or so) of the harder kind of tofu (momen)

Fry up your meat with the garlic and tobanjan. Add the soup and other flavorings and bring to a boil. Cut the tofu up into large dice sized pieces. Add to the pot, and wait for it to return to a boil. At this stage, I sometimes turn it off and continue with other things - like folding laundry or taking care of Jun - who is into puzzles and dancing in her kimono, lately. My theory is that this "down time" gives the flavorings time to soak into the tofu. But, do as you like. It is only a theory. However, if you use eggplant, I think this extra time is very necessary for the eggplant to get nice and soft and soak up the soup!

Then combine 2 tsp. cornstarch/katakuriko (potato starch) with 2 Tbsp. cold water. When it is mixed well, pour slowly into the hot tofu soup, and stir till thickened.

Garnish with a little chopped green onion and a quick sprinkle of sesame oil.

I have also been known to add boiled and squeezed spinach to this dish, green peas, frozen corn, grated carrot, etc. Also, Jun likes it before it is thickened, as a soup.

Serve over rice. Nice and yummy on a cold day!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The World's Worst Muffins!

I had exactly 2 1/2 bananas in the kitchen and thought I'd make banana muffins for breakfast the next day. I remembered the chocolate banana cake/bread I used to make, and so I replaced 1/2 cup of the flour with cocoa. Treasured cocoa. Cocoa I brought back from the States. COCOA! Cinnamon goes well with chocolate and bananas, so I added 1/2 tsp. or so of that. Then, the big bag of raisins was calling my name, so I put in a handful of those. Raisins go with chocolate and bananas. RIGHT?!? All the time I was blogging in my head about the wonderful muffins I had made.

I added the liquid and eggs and stirred. It was more of a dough than a batter. Stir till moistened was a lot of work and then I chipped the dough out of the bowl into the muffin tins that Jun had so kindly fit paper liners into. I popped the pan into the oven and looked at the recipe again. Yes, I had reduced the milk like they said to do when adding bananas. Yes, I had done it all right....EXCEPT FOR THE OIL. Which I had forgotten.

The muffins had been in the oven for less than a minute, so I grabbed them out and scraped the already warm dough out of each of the paper covers. Then I added the oil. It took FOREVER to mix the oil into the dough, and even then it really wasn't a batter.

As I was re-filling the newly lined muffin tins, I noticed the top 1/4 of the narrow rubber spatula I was using was missing. Oh, NO! "Help me find it before it gets in a muffin," I prayed. Just as I popped the muffins BACK into the re-preheated oven, I found the tip of the spatula. "I'll just give Jun a quick taste of the batter," I thought. One taste was all Jun needed. This should have been a sign. A neon sign. But, no, I just kept on baking muffins. Well, twelve or so in all, anyway. In my tiny oven, that is a two pan job.

And waited with anticipation for breakfast the next morning. Oh, my goodness! They were so terrible! Not only was the texture an embarrassment to the word "muffin," the flavor! YUCK! Apparently 1/2 cup of precious-brought-from-America-and-horded cocoa needs more than 1/3 cup of sugar to make it yummy. Much more, my husband and I decided!

These muffins had, as we say in Japanese, "an adult flavor", meaning a kid wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole. And, no one in my family really likes "adult flavors".

So, knowing there were leftovers, Ryu got up early the last two mornings and made his toast/salami sandwich before I got up to serve the muffins. I brought them to church today and fed them to my students. No one asked for the recipe. YUCK! (However, Jun did eat a whole one. Shows how hungry she was, huh!?!?)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ginger Jam

I brought some Candied Ginger to church the other morning and a friend said she had just seen a recipe for ginger jam on NHK - our national TV station. Eagerly, I DEMANDED to know the ingredients. And...that is exactly what she gave me. I am not sure if the amounts are in US cup sizes or Japanese, and I have no idea of the proper way to make the jam. I looked on the Internet in English and Japanese. I couldn't find NHK's original recipe, but here is what I did. is HOT and ohohohohoh so yummy! I've had it on toast and in yogurt. It could also be made into a tea.


100 gm ginger root
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)

Scrape the peel off of the ginger root with a spoon, and use a ginger-grater to grate it very very finely. Throw away any left over stringy things.

Throw the ginger in a saucepan with the honey and lemon juice. Simmer till it is the consistency of jam. Probably around 30 min. Don't let the heat get too high, and stir occasionally.

Japanese jam recipes don't call for pectin or other jelling agents. I don't know if this makes our (Japanese) jam less healthy because we simmer the heck out of the berries and fruit to reach jam consistency...or more healthy because it is just berries/fruit and sugar/honey. Hmmm. But, as I can't get the jelling agents easily - Japan style it is.

I did notice many other ginger jam and jelly recipes on the English Internet. Some add fruits such as pears or apples to the jam. This sounds yummy to me, as I love to use the ginger syrup, left over from the candied ginger I made, with a spoonful of applesauce in a cup of hot water.

I think I am just TOO into ginger root. But, if you have another way to use it...PLEASE share!

Sue, I hope it helps your hubby get over his flu! No fun!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brownie Pudding

I realized I have enjoyed "experimental" or strange recipes for quite some time. This is one of those I found as a kid still at home. You make a nice brownie-like batter, spread it out in a cake pan, and then pour hot water all over it! Pretty wierd and fun, huh? I hate to tell you the end of the story, if you love to make NEW things, so, stop reading here if you don't WANT to know how it turns out. It ends up with a brownie on the top and chocolate pudding on the bottom!!! YUMMY!

Here is the link to the recipe. Try it, especially if you have some vanilla ice-cream handy!


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sweet-Hot Lotus Root

Well, I didn't go to the veggie store the other evening, and the sweet and sour cabbage was refused by Jun and Ryu. Ryu had ochazuke (rice with powdered tea and seaweed, etc. on top with hot water!) So, I felt the need to redeem myself with dinner last night. Jun and I made the cold trek to the drug store for diapers and the veggie shop for...veggies! Right outside the door, where the sale items are, were lotus roots! 45 yen per 100 gm.! I know, those of you outside Japan are just not impressed, but...I bought about 200 gms worth because I remembered Abigail had made a yummy sounding lotus root side-dish. This was my first time to buy or fix lotus root (that I can remember), and it was easy and fun to make.

Sweet-Hot Lotus Root recipe

I also sliced up some carrots to put with it for color and...because they are carrots, and carrots are supposed to be good for you!

Well, Jun took one uncoerced bite and pronounced, "kore, oishii!" (This is GOOD!) Later, when Ryu got home, he echoed Jun's opinion, and I have a fun recipe to continue to make with lotus root! Thanks, Abigail!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cooking Dreams and Plans

My delight in making new things usually gives me 50% satisfaction with the end results, but I love to just TRY stuff. So, in the near future, I am going to try to TRY these things:

  1. lemon curd - I just had it today at church. I LOVE it!
  2. chestnut soup - I read about it in an airplane magazine on my trip. I don't really love chestnuts any way but roasted, but...I love to try new things.
  3. dill pickles - well, I tried them once, but...I need to try again.
  4. dinner rolls - again, tried once, but...the yeast was from before Jun's birth. She's 2 1/2.
  5. the perfect egg nog cookie. Have an idea I want to try.
  6. a baked breakfast oatmeal - like a cookie in a dish, they say. Hmmm.
  7. I still have some Christmassy recipes I didn't try out at home. Like Abigail's cranberry rice pudding. I brought the dried cranberries back from the US.
  8. Ryu found the recipe for and made Happosai from our 100 yen Chinese cookbook. I'll try to post his way of making it. EASY!
  9. My mother-in-law's daikon and carrot salad with yuzu/sugar/vinegar dressing. One of my favorite Japanese New Year's dishes. Of course, she never measures, so...
  10. Oh, and Ryu says the candied citrus that I made thinking it was yuzu really is yuzu. I began to doubt myself, but, boy is it good. I'll post that recipe soon too!
  11. Oops, I forgot to mention the fennel cookies I've been planning for for months, and...
  12. The peach cobbler muffins my nephew and I came up with this past vacation!

Tomorrow, our lives return to "normal" for a few weeks, so...I'll be back! HAHAHA!