Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tuesday Morning & Honey Nut Scones

I don't know about you but I may just turn this into a "bickie & breakie" blog. Breakfast is my favorite meal to make, esp. on our "Family Day". Nothing like waking up at an ungodly hour to have a quiet moment or two, then slapping on the headphones & going to work in the kitchen.

These are my Honey Nut Scones, without the nuts. (though there were plenty the breakfast table.)

Again taken from Dorie Greenspan's book. The original recipe is called "Honey Nut Scone" but I didn't have the nuts so I put in raisins, and it worked great. I tell you, that "whole wheat" taste makes you feel like you're in a little house on a certain prairie. Goooood stuff.

If I may for a moment address the issue of "BUTTER". It really deserves a post of it's own, but I don't have the time. BUTTER, is not MARGARINE! OK?? It's sad that the price went up about 20% or more, but when things like, scones, pie crusts, or cookies call for really ought to try BUTTER. I'm not trying to be snobby about it but if I couldn't afford butter I'd just as well not make it at all and wait till I've saved up my juu-yens, OKEY-DOKEY!

Here's an experiment: Open a tub of Margarine & put it out in your come no buggies, animals or creepy crawlers are eating it? HMMMMM??? Well, I buy a 500g. block at Chiba Sogo for about 800Y and take loving care of my "yellow gold".

1 large egg
3 tbsp honey
1/2 cup cold whole milk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I used raisins)

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together the egg, honey and milk in a small bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the "DRY'S" in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have flakes, pea-sized pieces, and crumbs.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the dough just comes together; it should be wet and sticky. Stir in the chopped walnuts.
While the dough is still in the bowl, use your hands to gently gather and knead the dough about 8-10 times. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a 1-inch thick round disk. Using a sharp knife, cut the disk into 8 wedges, and place the wedges on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes (better to time for 15 and check them), until the tops are golden brown and firmish to the touch. Transfer to a rack and cool.
Makes 8 scones.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Night Snack

I just had one of those greatly fulfilling cooking experiences that leaves you warm & fuzzy. Everyone needs a cooking “pick-me-up” to combat the many generic meals, the never ending lettuce washing & endless potato peeling. Everyone needs to step out of their cooking “comfort-zone” & find sucess in that little something that’s so ridiculously simple yet you’ve never quite mastered it.

One such night was tonight. If you’re a parent you should know that the make or break question of the night is usually “WHAT’S FOR NIGHT SNACK”. So tonight after touring the kitchen with my expectant two year old, we found…..a few molding mikans, an empty basket where the bananas were & a “He expects it of me” theme song going in the back ground.

So, I’ve been wanting to try out a recipe I saw on TV awhile ago. Every once in awhile I like to check out what’s on the total of TWO BS cable stations. (And by BS…you know I mean BS, right?) Well, yada yada ya… a sound bite……Asian New….Lebanese cook……rice pudding……fading memory & poor attention to minor details such as measurements…..etc etc…

CONFESSION: I always turned up my nose at rice pudding. And you should really, if you’ve grown up in Japan. I mean, come ooooon! I have a pretty compact list of things that make me cringe, twitch & shake in that “two-year-old-spaz-attack” style. And if you must know, Disneyland, giant stuffed animal people & the thought of rice pudding are at the top of my cringe list. Well, I still feel a little ashamed to say so but I wanted to try it. So with the help of my faithful su-chef I went to work. This took approximately 15 min, from start to finish. This barely fed a questionable group of 7.

Step 1#: Find yourself a 2 year old daughter, put her on a clean counter. Give her something to hold to make her feel useful. And be prepared to explain each item as it is produced & added.

Step 2#: Heat up 2 c. of milk + ½ c of water, and drop in 4 slightly crushed cardamom pods in a saucepan. (Get your 2 year old to say “cardamom pods” over & over again real fast!!)Step 3#: When your milk is hot add in some honey….umm…..somewhere around 3-4 tbsp.

Step 4#: VITAL STEP: find a rowdy 4 year old who keeps trying to pick up his 8 year old sister & do contemporary dancing with her & act as if having him add roughly 3 cups of cooked rice to the milk & stir it, is indeed, VITAL! Step 5#: Heat the mixture till nearly boiling then fish out the cardamom pods & pour the lot into the blender. Warn the two bug-eyed pre-schoolers of the horrors of them trying to push the blender button without putting the lid on first. PUT the lid on. Let them blend it for about 15 sec. About the only “key factor” I recalled from the guy I saw on TV, was….don’t over-blend.
Step 6#: Open a can of coconut milk. Think of a dumb coconut song to sing with your kids. Let them have a lick. Warn again of the terrors that befall naughty children who try to stick their finger into opened cans. Pour mixture back into saucepan & add coconut milk & heat through.

Step 7#: Pray for patience as you are assailed by 3 older children seeing how close they can get their nose to the sauce pan without singeing their hair. Send all to grab spoons & sit down & serve it up.This little girl was very pleased with herself. I believe she was under the impression that she made it.This little boy could've cared less, he promptly fell asleep right in his bowl.

Well, there you have it. It was fun & I felt good about it. The original recipe was meant to be eaten cold but we didn’t have time for that. How did it taste? I suspected I would like it, (maybe that’s why I stubbornly clung to denial over the whole concept) and of course it was great. The “tsubu-tsubu” factor was good, I think it helped me to not have to see whole ACTUAL grains of poor Japanese rice, I would’ve felt too guilty. It was rich, thick, creamy & had a subtle fragrance of cardamom that just made you want to lick the bowl clean. (I’m ashamed to say some (gasp!) did)

Again, surprisingly leading the gang ‘moochers’ was my significant other who, in rather rare form, seemed to think it was really the “cat’s pajamas”. All in all, I’m happy to say that I MADE rice pudding.


So, after making pancakes for 14 years, I finally am pleased with the way I makem'. Some minor adjustments & I believe my pancakes can stand on their own two.....well....feet.

Let's go! The key to my pancakes is, NEVER MEASURE. But I'll estimate & we'll all have a good time. BTW, it was my rest day so I could afford to take my time & snap a few more pics than normal. Itte miyo.......yatte miyo!

You'll need 3 bowls. One LARGE. Divide six yolks from whites (use the two smaller bowls) SEE!
Now if you have a 10 year old daughter who wakes up at 7:00, get her to mix about 1/4 c of sifted sugar into the yolks. Mix it good!

Next, have a toddler in an oversized T-shirt mix 5 cups of milk, a tsp of vanilla and 5 tbsp of oil into the yolks. Let her spill quite a bit on the counter so she can get to clean it up.

Now, for the dry. Sift a lot of flour into the big bowl.......oh, darn, I never measure this part. It was something around 700g. of flour probobly about 6c. ?? Well, start with too little & you can always add more later. Along with the other "drys", 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt. Look at that! That just makes me so happy-feeling! And it's just waiting for some little hand to smash it down, isn't it? Now, make a well in the center & start adding the egg/milk mixture, mix it little by little.

This part is awful fun. Stick to the middle & the flour will slowly pull away making it thicker & thicker.
So, it should end up looking something like this. And you know it's thick enough if it leaves a "mound" when dropped.
Remember your egg-whites? BEAT THEM!! That's right, till you have hard-peaks.

Fold the whites into the batter, and don't get finiky about the blobs of white, they're good for mixing into the batter towards the end And then it's cooking time!

I know this will be hard for you impatient cooks but -- Keep the heat low & don't put too much batter in the pan thinking you're saving time, or you'll end up w/ burnt on the corners/raw in the middle problem. Don't flip till you see the bubbles. See the bubbles?

Now flip! Ain't that purty.

You get a nice brown rim from the oil on the pan, but of course, we stuck oil on in the batter so, who needs more right? Well, the folks who like it a little crispy around the edges.

Now make conversation w/ your toddler least she get board! And try to go swimming in your gigantic batter-bowl.
And the early birds get the worms. (that came out wrong)
And Voila!! That made about 30 something pancakes! And there ain't no better way to start the day!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Refresh the Page

Sorry, I got tired of seeing those awful looking potatoes. They just look so homely! So here's some pics to brighten your post-typhoon day! All but the "Laner" picture come from an excursion the kids had a few weeks back, nothing like fun w/ friends & sleds. Have a good one.

Laner-bananerrrr!Trv hitting the slopes. The poor "guard-men" gave up trying to stick to the rules of "5 & under go with their moms." "R-U KIDDING?" (There were about 8 kids under 5 & only 3 moms there)
Ryan, doing his hysterical laugh.
Yet more romping around.
A little too much romping around. A post "sled-in-the-face" picture. He got a black-eye. But somehow it seemed to suit him so well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quick Fix #3 -- Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

This quick fix is not really so quick, but it sure is good & simple. An easy enough recipe to remember, fairly simple preparation gets rewarding results. I only have two words for you ----- FRESH ROSEMARY!!!

That’s right, PLEASE go fresh & for very little effort you’ll score big points in the kitchen. Rosemary grows fine in nearly any weather (prefers hotter weather & sandy soil) but get a baby & in a few yrs it’ll grow to be a bush. AMEN!? A big plus is that it doesn't require daily watering. (great for forgetful moms!)

I love these potatoes cuz’ they’re a great alternative to the tedious & primitive practice of “deep frying” (ewww....bygones) but still gives my little audience something to drown in ketchup. (Did I just say that? God forbid!)

Here are the players (btw. My recipes feed roughly a party of 10):

- enough potatoes to fill up a 5 l. pot. (peeled & sliced into 3 cm. cubes)
- large bunch of rosemary (about 10 sprigs, 5 cm. long, diced stem & all)
- 1/3 c Olive oil (roughly but you can use more or less)
- 1 tsp salt
Cook potatoes till tender but NOT dissolving. (Please, just do that one thing for me?) Strain & leave to cool a little. Put olive oil in baking tray. You may need two trays? Set oven to 175c. Mix potatoes on the baking tray (to coat with oil) sprinkle salt & rosemary. Bake for 1 hr, mixing (GENTLY, please) once or twice. The aroma of the rosemary will send your household into a crazed dash for an early dinner. SERVE STEAMING HOT!!

You can match these with so many dishes from classic burger or meat sauces to a side dish to any good Italian meal.

FORGET ME NOT: Time is essential, this won’t work on high heat cuz’ you’re rushed for time, so plan ahead. It takes about ½ hr to get the potatoes, peeled/cut/boiled & in the oven.

HEALTHY TIP: Leave the peels on, believe it or not they taste even better in my opinion with the peel & retain a whole lot more nutrition.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Quick Fix #2 -- Parmesan Chicken

And that, my friendlies, is a classic-hurried-smudged-keitai-frantic-last-minute-dinner picture of the afore mentioned chicken. Poor thing deserves a better name.

Howdy ho! This one is soooo basic & soooo easy that it’s one of the first recipes I learned about 10 years ago. (Gawd, I’ve been cooking for that long?) If you’ve had “cardboard chicken experiences” look no further & you’ll be converted. A great quick fix for company. And I’ve been asked the recipe many times, (I know it sounds corny, but it’s true!) So here goes……

1 kg of chicken breast (each breast sliced into 3 pieces equal in size)

1 ½ c bread crumbs
½ c parmesano cheese (no, I don’t mean the REAL kind, the “Kraft” kind)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper

½ c melted butter, or olive oil (more or less)

Come on, just look at the ingredients & you can figure out how to pull it off. Dry ingr. mixed, chicken dipped in butter & dusted w/ parmesan mix. Grease baking tray, bake it at 180c for 15-20 min. Out it comes serve IMMEDIATELY & eat it while it’s hot.

Left over tip: this goes great in a sandwich, slice it thin, throw in a little cheese & tomato & you’re all set!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


"The sun is just rising on a chilly spring morning. The stooped wrinkled old ojisan sits on a stool deep in the dark bamboo forest, a spade in his right hand a flashlight in his left. In his lap is a bottle of shoyu & a pair of wooden hashi. A large half full dirty knapsack lies at his feet. He’s patiently waiting & watching for a bamboo sprout to poke it’s dark furry head out of the soft earth and no sooner does he spot a lump forming on the forest floor than he shuffles into action. Out comes the bamboo shoot and off comes the fuzzy layers of covering. He cracks off the tip of the soft, white flesh, covers the crisp tender layers in shoyu & washes it down with a sip of hot ocha."

I wanna be a farmer!!

A friend of ours who is a farmer told me this is what his father would do in the spring. I don’t know if it’s true but by golly it made me want to be a farmer. If you haven’t ever had fresh takenoko you’re missing out on one of Japan’s most popular spring delicacies. Once our friend gave us a whole garbage bag full of these that he picked from the bamboo forest behind his house. Each one weighed about a kg or more.

I enjoyed a BBQ with a dozen or more varieties of food with takenoko in it. From takenoko rice, to foil wrapped takenoko barbequed & served with butter & shoyu.

I am of the neurotic variety that loves peeling food, so peeling the 50 or so layers of bamboo was no problem. My one & only CAUTION is that you pre-boil it for at least 2 hrs before using, to get rid of the sour taste.

Now, that is sheer beauty!

So sweet husband of love, brought one home one day, & I did indeed become giddy with happiness & unashamedly danced the dance of happiness in the kitchen. And to ended up doing something that would appall any tomato loving Italian (Shield your eyes Jr.) I made takenoko pasta! Oh, come on, it was great. At least I loved it! And the kids loved that for once I was letting them put shoyu on their pasta. (OK, there! I said it, I let my kids put shoyu on their pasta!) And the traditionalist pasta loving hubby liked it too.

I’ll review the ingr. but the procedure is in line with a most primitive pasta making process, so go figure:

¼ c EV olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, sliced
2 dried red peppers, sliced
500 grams of takenoko, parboiled (FORGET NOT!!) & cut into 2” strips
1 bunch of green garlic stems
2 bunches of mushroom
2 tbsp shoyu (yea, you heard me!)
1 small can of Anchovies (believe that!!)

1 kg of pasta

So briefly you do the “olive oil/garlic/pepper” thing. Then separately the fried takenoko/garlic stems/mushroom” thing, adding the olive oil/shoyu/few tbsp of pasta water at the end. And lastly tossing it all with the noodles. And by golly if I had shiso I swear, I would’ve added it too & topped it with slivers of nori. Can everyone say WAAAAFFFUUUUU-Italia-ryori!!!!

Here are few other takenoko ideas if you happen to get your hands on a heap.

- Add it to miso
- Plain fry it with butter & salt or shoyu
- Add it to a stir fry
- Slice them thin & tempura it
- Cut them in half, wrap in foil & barbeque it like potatoes
- Add them to rice when you cook it (add a little butter & salt/shoyu & mushrooms)

Well, we could go on all day but I wanna post this before spring is over & the cute little baby bamboo turns into a forest. Ciao!