Friday, October 31, 2008


I feel like I've covered a lot of pumpkin this month, Pumpkin soup & pumpkin seeds. I guess it's what happens when your husband comes home with 2 pumpkins & you realize that you still have 2 more in the pantry. Of course we had the ever faithful Maine Pumpkin Bread & I even tried a Dorie Greenspan pumpkin muffin that I'll post the recipe of, soon.

Well, this post is coming from awhile ago but I just thought I'd throw it out there for all the aunties & uncles who like to see pics of the little munchers doing their best to be cooks. This pie took roughly 3 days to complete as I did it one section at a time (I'm kinda busy):

1) Pie dough
2) Rolling out Pie crust & cutting boiling pumpkin
3) Creating pie filling & baking & EATING!!
If any one is interested this is a great pumpkin pie recipe that I posted before (with a pretty gnarly picture, before I discovered the "hot spot" in my oven) But in any case a REALLY good recipe that I highly recommend if you want a baked pumpkin pie. If you want something even lighter than this though try this Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. That one is even lighter.
Enjoy the pics!
Someone was truly pleased with herself for smashing the pumpkin. "Are you ready yeeeeeet?". An essential step to keeping things under control when you cook with kids.....pull out ALL ingredients & utensils before hand. There's no greater surprise than leaving kids alone for 30 sec. and seeing what as yet unknown form of damage they can do to your cooking project. Mixing egg into pumpkin....Travis: "That looks like Ban-tans poo!" Lani: "Trrrraviiiiiiiiiis!"
Adding the honey! Look at Erika's left hand. She always has a hard time keeping it still when she tries to consecrate on doing something w/ her right hand.
Mix Mix Mix!! between chunks of pumpkin we were bribing him with. Actually I think he's crying cuz' his sweater is the color of "Ban-tan Poo", I mean, Pumpkin!Now for the cream & spices. Oooh, look whose the serious chef!
Ryan mixes like a pro!
Now for filling the pieWow, that kinda hurts your eyes to look at! Lets have a smile, please! And a little of the LO pumpkin on a cracker to appease the hard working chefs. It's into the oven we go!
Travis: "Mommmmmmy, why can't we eat it NOW?"Mommy: "Because when it's done it won't look like baby poo!" And it's a wrap! We ate it at room temp and it was great. Even better the next morning cold with some hot Macha-ole. (But don't tell the kids!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ban-tan's Birthday Cake Project

Howdy-ho & Welcome to the wild & wolly world of cooking with Al'. Where the fun never ends & the noses just keep on running (for some unexplainable reason) Where we hang on to our sanity the way a skinny Japanese man in a suit hangs on to his umbrella in a typhoon. Where chaos is not an occurrence but a lifestyle. Where blissfully cooking while #6 pries knobs off your oven & #5 tries to eat uncooked rice because #1 who is supposed to watch them is taking forever washing her hair, and self sufficient #4 & 5 are only quiet because they don't want me to know they're trying to reboot my computer before I can see they hung it & and #2 is stuck doing homework -- is a "good" day. (Hey, that was one sentence! Try reading it out loud, I dare you!)

Ahhhh....yes, that's the life for me.

But I promised a few someones the pic's of Ban-tan's Birthday & cake & I shall deliver. (Not "actually" deliver

So here it is. The day before it was Ban-tan's birthday, after a long day at home w/ the kids, when DH finally came home we set out to do some shopping. (With all the kids of course) And it went a little something like this........

....Yeah, we ride in style. (And terrorize all the customers with our crazy driving skills) I'm hoping no one understood when they careened carelessly through the isles shouting, "We're the Jamaican bobsled team!!!!" (don't ask)

It was at this point I decided that I was not going to make or decorate a cake, but would act in a matter appropriate for a good Japanese housewife.......& BUY a cake (for 2ooY, no less, you can only imagine the quality & content) & let the girls ice it. BRILLIANT!

They finished their school in record time (we should ice a cake every day) & started to work......

As you can see this was no simple cake decorating experience. I've gotta hand it to them, it's like some kind of a sudden cram class on defensive maneuvering while icing a cake. They would take turns, one playing D the other working on the cake. Mind you, this was their first time icing a cake as well. Plus, I made them whip the cream themselves. (that sure took long enough)

It's survived so far.

But Hunter makes a quick lunge for it from the back. Not fast enough....Ashley saves the day!

And now for piping. I tried to keep instructions to a minimum, "hold, aim & squeeze"

Not bad for a first timer. Aww....isn't that just so cute?
And a little more around the bottom, & we're done! I couldn't afford to take pics of the girls with the cake as certain small people were throwing all caution to the wind & making last ditch attempts to throw themselves (with tongues extended) headlong into the whip cream bowl.

Yes, he was enthralled by the cake & the fact that it seemed to be all his.
And did a dandy job of munching it down.

"That's why they call me Muncher!"

.......and they all lived happily ever after!

(At least they did till Mommy got tired of their "sugar-high" psychotic behavior & sent them all to bed.) THE END!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Penguin Chicken

This close to all my kiddies hearts. Though it had a pretty humble beginning. Back when I lived with my bohemian sister & her baldie Canadian DH. And (if you can believe it) I went through a spell where she cooked lunches & dinners everyday. WOW! Thank you, Elaina!

Well, anyway, one day she was asking me what she should make for dinner with chicken. And wanting to make something new I blindly handed her a recipe that I meant to try but never got around to. (Also if it turned out to be a dud, it would be her dud, eh-hum, sorry, Elaina!)

I’m not even sure where I found the recipe. The odd ingredient is mayo in the batter. Trying it was also a little bit of an “inside” joke. See, this cutie pie here....

......My niece, Shelly, has a strong aversion to Mayo since she was an embrio. And my sister & I thought it would be fun to see what her reaction would be once she found out. (As she also loves chicken).

Surprisingly, she didn’t seem too phased, she loved it & so did all the kids. Now how the name came about I don’t know but after a few times (if I remember correctly) one evening Shelly dubbed it “Penguin Chicken”. (Please don't ask about the relevance) And we’ve been calling it that ever since. I think it tastes better that way too. Theres something heartwarming about a self named food dish. I’ve tweaked it around a bit but the basic concept of mayo batter/bread crumb combination is still the same & I think it works out great on either breast or thigh.

So here's the plan:

1 c Bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp paprika

3/4 c mayo
1/4 c milk

Of course you'll need about 500g of penguin (I mean, chicken, either breast or thigh)

Mix the dry in one bowl, mix wet in another. Dip in wet, then dry. Place them on a greased baking tray. Bake at 180 c for 20 min (if using chicken breast) or 30-40 min if using chicken thigh.

Ooooh, you can just tell that Chicken breast is really soft & the crumbs are crunchy munchy!!

Now, If I may preach at you for a moment. I don't mean to be snotty about this but PLEEEEASE try to serve chicken breast right away, esp. if you pre-cut, as it looses it's moisture like that. "Cardboard chicken, anyone?" Like, HOT OUT OF THE OVEN. Really, I mean it. I've had plenty of splended looking/smelling chicken meals RUINED because I waited too long to serve it. It makes such a difference. It's still surprising for me when people say how "tender" chicken breast is. It's really just about timing, & heat. So be a friend & serve it HOT!

Oh & another nifty thingie my sister discovered.... if you end up with extra crumbs, just throw it on the pan too, & once the chicken's off the baking tray, scrape off the crumbs & use them on a tossed salad. IT'S GOOD STUFF!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

While you're there.....

Maybe it's just me..... but I'm hearing about a lot of pumpkin cooking these days. I implore you to turn your gaze towards this awesome recipe for pumpkin seeds. Now, I know I've claimed certain recipes are 'idiot-cook proof ' but this one would pass even the most extreme idiot cook's test.
Go ahead, find me an idiot & he ( could be a "she") will definitely be able to pull this one off as long as they have 4 simple ingredients:

- Oven
- Pumpkin seeds
- Olive oil
- Salt

I mistakenly gave some of these to my kids & their friends when they were on a feild trip at the aquarium & I was chased around the whole day for "summmore punkin seeeeeds....pleeeease?". But alas they mysteriously disappeared after I fould a dark corner & scarfed them down before I was assulted furthur. Oh, the Power of the mighty Pumpkin Seed!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

What'll it Be?

With Thanksgiving & Christmas closing in fast, lemmie know what kind of recipes you'd like to see up here. Nothing worse for holiday cooking than browsing around trying to find a new recipe at the last minute, and worse yet, actually TRYING it! I guess that's why I stand by my "old reliables". Though I've discovered some pretty nifty little new favorites that I'll be adding for sure.

Or (as my dear Daddio would say) we could just all "sit on a rock & eat hard boiled eggs".

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin & Garlic Soup

I've been wanting to post about this soup for sometime. I discovered this at the end of winter last year so I only made it once & then again recently and my judgement is......

This soup is a winner!

I would say this is a manly soup (whatever that means). If your man likes a rich/nutty/sweet/near barbequed taste, then -- this soup you must try!

Even my "pumpkin-wary" husband went totally berserk over this soup. With a little home made bread, this would dress up any dinner, real nicely. So stop being a "kabocha wimp" & do it, NOW!!
Again, this is from the cookbook "Masterclass in Italian cooking". Unlike some of the other recipes, the ingr. are simple & instructions very basic. Again my embellishments in blue.

1 small pumpkin (750g/1 lb 10oz)
6 cloves garlic (I used only 3 as the kids didn't go for the garlic taste as much as DH & I)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 med onions, chopped (1 is passable)
2 celery sticks, chopped
1/4 c rice (I use a little less, @ 3 tbsp, Japanese rice is a little more glutinous so it was too thick with 1/4 a c.)
7 c vegetable or chicken stock (or use 4-5 chicken bullion cubes)
Salt & pepper to taste

And here goes the assembly. WELL, don't just stand there!! Grab your kabocha, friend!!!

Use 2 tbsp of olive oil & toss UNPEELED garlic & chopped pumpkin on a baking tray. IMPORTANT: Keep them away from each other for even browning, on all sides.
Just lop the end off the garlic & leave whole. Grill at 200c (400F) for about 20-30 min. Or till just golden brown.
Purrrfect. Be sure to pop the garlic out of their skins. Saute up onion & celery (didn't have it this time) in the other 2 tbsp of olive oil for about 10 min.
Throw in onion & rice in the simmering chicken stock, simmer for about 15-20 min. Add pumpkin & garlic & simmer for another 5-10. Throw it all in the blender & blend away, baby!!
Taste & season! Yes, it tastes as good as it looks. (unless you make immature remarks about it looking like baby poo.....for shame)
I even threw in a little bit of milk to thin it out even further (when I used the full 1/4 c of rice) & it was just soooooooo good, I would be terribly tempted to splash a dollip of cream & Italian parsely when serving.
OK, you have permission to lick the bottom of the bowl, I know I am going to!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tofu Toppings Rock My World!

Who doesn't like tofu anyway?

I've always felt like it gets a bad rep. In foreign countries people label it as the "fitness freak's" food, and here in Japan it seems like it's the "poor man's protein". In actuality it can really be dressed up & made over to be something really spectacular. And not only healthy but genuinely delicious, not to mention pleasing to the eye. Wait till I show you my dressed up Pesto Tofu. (Awwww, grow up, it is NOT gross!!)

So, awhile ago I put up a basic age-dofu recipe, but this baby is my own personal tofu favorite. And if you aren't lucky enough to have these ingredients available to you...........I feel your pain. I think I would go crazy if I couldn't have authentic Japanese ingredients available at my fingertips. So if you're far away from home & miss some good old fashioned Japanese food, this is what I'd feed you.

Is it just me or is tofu a girly thing? Well, if you are a tofu queen, then treat yourself to one of these every once in awhile. A truly healthy indulgence. I would nearly pick this over beer & chips (nearly): Here's the dealo:

One Pack of silk tofu, drained & rinsed, gently

1 small pack of fish flakes (don't get the flakes for making dashi, which are much more coarse)
a small bit of shoga, grated (ginger)
1-2 leaves of shiso, halved & thinly sliced(beefsteak leaves)
1 bud of myoga, chopped (wild ginger root)
2 stems of ko-negi (chives)
nori cut into thin strips
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (just stir them over low heat in a frying pan for 1 or 2 min, cool)
Straight tsuyu

Gently layer everything in the order given on tofu & serve with tsuyu. The key is to chop everything very finely & stack it carefully. (I think that what makes this feel like a delicate, girly meal) Serve immediately & cold!

Myoga is a really wonderfully flavored little thing. (pictured on the tray between the ko-negi & shiso)
It's taste is like a really mild almost fruity version of ginger, with out that bite that ginger root gives. I Looooove it.

I guess technically, this would be counted as a summer meal but I just can't help it, it's really classy stuff.
Well, it's "itadakimasu" for me!!

PS: sometimes you can find a package in the tofu section with 3 or 4 of these toppings already chopped in a pack for 100 Y or so. But of course the fresh is best.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Now, about my birthday

Honestly I’m a bit in shock that so many friends & family remembered me. I was almost feeling a little like I was in the twilight zone and 16 again when phone calls were a near hourly occurrence. Thank you for your emails & calls & silly e-cards & prezzies.

I’ve been putting off talking about my new mixer & other birthday prezzies. I guess I just didn’t want to be like the kid you see at the birthday party, holding up his prized gizmo 2 inches from your nose shouting at eardrum piercing decibels, “Heeeey, YOU GUYS, YOU GUYS, LOOK what I GOOOOOOOOOOOT”. We all know what it’s like to dutifully have to produce an “oooh" or unenthusiastic "cool” to help fuel their moment of sheer euphoria as you painfully watch them run to the next poor guy & repeat the same process again & again and again.

Well…..see I don’t want to be that kid. So I’m trying to be calm about it. But really I almost feel a little horrible for having put up all those pics of things I’d like for my birthday, as people seemed to have taken me seriously and gotten me them. (Thank God I decided against putting up a picture of that Lactating female buffalo)

Thanks, Nina, for the Pears. I wish I could say I was moderate & reserved in my consumption….but…yea….you know how it goes. I just scarfed those down at night, when the kids were in bed. (No, not all in one night, two nights at least!)

Thanks for the wooden spoon, Daddyo! I don’t know what I’ve been doing without one. I don’t know about you but some things are just meant to be cooked with a wooden spoon. Soups, sauces, cereals & custards to name a few.

Thanks soooo much for the sharpening stone, Vesna! Gosh golly, my 100Y store stone hit the trash can instantly. Yours was the first Birthday present of the day and at 6:45, when Josh gave it to me I was in the kitchen, in my (now non-flammable) bathrobe sharpening my knives. And….you wouldn’t believe how sharp they were!!! I could literally cut a tomato by dropping the knife on it. Hee!

And thanks, Dear Husband of Love, (who never hearkens this blog's doorstep) for the mixer. I honest to God never thought you’d ever do anything like that. I still see that thing on the counter top & feel so happy about it, that I have to go run (hoisting it, heavy as it is) to everyone over at the breakfast table, screaming, “Hey, YOU GUYS…..LOOKIE WHAT I GOOOOOT????”.

Ungodly long PS:
Now about that mixer, a few ppl have asked me what I use it for & I did want to say a little some-some about it. I know I’ve survived cooking without one and could've continued just fine. I guess the truth is that the hours spent, kneading dough, mixing cake batter, beating egg whites, mashing potatoes, whipping cream, blending hamburger meat, & mixing cookie dough ---do seem to add up. I’m not a stranger to using whisks, I’ve always preferred whipping cream & meringue by hand but these days it’s become a matter of time. But esp. when catering or preparing for dinner parties or other events it sure is nice to have something that can do the heavy work for you. While you work on something else.

Now about the kneading.....I really truly love to make bread. I have always been a traditionalist when it comes to kneading. I'm the dork extolingthe bread making experinece & the virtues of kneading by hand. I love the feel of dough in my hands & the slowly changing texture from gooey to elasticity. I love the smell & everything else about it. But I’ve found that I make bread less & less these days, mainly because I can’t seem to find a good 10 minute slot of time to get my hands & counter top dirty. There’s always some huge “kid-related” emergency to attend to. That's one of the main things that really was appealing about the Kitchenaid mixer.

And yes, I made my first loaf of bread in it a few days ago. Welsh Caraway Bread, and lookie!
For real! It’s a LOAF OF BREAD! I know it sounds retarded but I haven’t had the greatest luck with breads in a loaf pan the last few times I’ve made it. I hadn't used my bread pan in ages. I think it was the "Curse of the Jamaican Dumpling" or something. But this baby was gorgeous!

And, I did the dishes while the mixer kneaded away for 10 minutes. That just really warmed my heart, in a big way. We’re hoping to get a big old 30 kg. bag of whole wheat & make our own bread more regularly.

Well, don’t get me started on bread. I got a lot of foodies I want to post about but not much time. I’m thinking to just post more links & less yappity yap. So, Till next time, Ciao!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

German Chocolate Cake

This is the cake Lani wanted for her 11th birthday. Just so you can get what kind of caliber kid she is, she wanted it because it's her Grandpa's favorite cake. (for real!) What a sweetie!

I've been using this German Chocolate Cake recipe from the last several times I made it and used this Icing recipe with very good success.
The drizzling of the chocolate down the sides just was the clincher for me. It looks like one of those "big bang" cakes that just happened when you took some flour/chocolate/coconut & walnuts & just threw them together & have a goopy wonderful mess of chewy buttery frosting & chocolate delight.

I don't make this cake very often as it's pretty pricy & time consuming but the result is VERY rewarding. And in case you ever are a couple notes:

- Use Butter in both recipes.....soooo much better than margarine. (or at the very least, in the icing)
- Cut down the sugar to 1 1/2 c not 2 in the cake, and down to 2/3 a cup in the icing
- Cut a round stencil of wax paper to put on the bottom of the baking pans for easeir removal.
- Toast the nuts & coconut flakes before making the icing.
- Also, Evaporated milk is hard to find in Japan but take NO substitutes (you'd find it in the creamer/coffee section of the supermarket)
- Pecans are near impossible to find (at a reasonable price) so walnuts work pretty well instead.

Well, short & sweet.

OK....Alright now, stop licking the screen & go eat something healthy!