Friday, January 30, 2009

The Best Place on Earth

For those of you who have never been to Japan, this is a look at what you are missing. And most of this food I bought at a convenience store. "WHAT?" you ask? Yes, the food there is pretty much gourmet. Tasty salads, fancy desserts, unique sandwiches, breads, rice concoctions, everything beyond your imagination. It was nice to be home.

Breakfast on day 1. A pasta salad containing thin sliced pork, julienned daikon radish, red cabbage, corn, and creamy sesame seed dressing with spaghetti; a Japanese rice ball with edamame, buchwheat tea, and a little cheesecake.


While you're there you can't miss the noodle shops. Best stuff ever. I got the leek noodle soup. (aka ねぎラーメン)
A typical bakery in Tokyo train station:
some impressive close-ups:
sausage in a tortilla
sausage baked in a black sesame roll
breaded fried sausage with tonkatsu sauce (yes, we Japanese love sausage)
cheese boule
sunny-side up toast

(you probably think the fried egg looks weird, but I'm telling you, it's the new "it" thing in food these days, and the Japanese have been doing it for a LONG time! So amazing!
edamame bread
fried piroshki bread (above and below)

This was some good food I ate at my grandma's house in Sendai
rice cakes in seaweed
rare cheesecake (beautifully presented in a traditional woven basket)

At the grocery store I found this:

some beautiful sweet dumplings at Sendai train statin:

And THIS is a cream puff! Perfect fluffy, crispy pastry with a smooth pastry cream inside. I've never found anything like it outside of Japan, and in Japan they are so readily available.

another rare cheesecake, but this time with a strawberry topping and spongecake bottom

another convenience store meal:
mikan gelatin, a variety of rice balls, barley tea, and "snow strawberry" (a strawberry swallowed by cream and spongecake and wrapped in a thin rice cake dumpling)--amazing!

here's a rice ball with a fried pork cutlet, also known as tonkatsu:

the snow strawberry:

breakfast on our last day in Japan:
fried egg and bacon on a butter roll

Japanese style grilled chicken sandwich

here's the whole table. Amazing. I should have taken a picture of the chocolate truffle pastry on the far right. It was the best thing I've EVER eaten.

caramel cream bread

Of course, we went out to eat Indian curry. I had the vegetable curry and chicken curry. All you can eat naan. I was stuffed.

At the airport I had my favorite yakisoba pan (Japanese fried noodles in a butter roll).

And onion cheese bread.
Japan is a food-lover's paradise. Seriously.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

perfect for a cold day like today

It has been snowing like CRAZY today ...
So I decided to pull out our leftovers, and I was sure glad I made pasta e fagioli soup last night. It was the perfect meal for sitting in a warm house and watching the gorgeous white snow falling outside. I'm glad it's Saturday and Blake doesn't have to drive to work in this ...

I baked some wheat bread in my bread machine and it was really good, too. (Lisa, I just made the "honey white" bread recipe in the firm bread section of the book, and substituted 1 C of wheat flour for the bread flour and used extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. It was really moist, I think you'll love it.) I toasted it so it would soak up the bread better, and it was great.

If you want to make this soup and can't find Ditalini pasta, you can subtitute with stellini (little star shaped), orzo (rice shaped), or tubetti (little tubes). You definitely want to stick with a really small pasta for this recipe, though. The pasta expands so much that it wouldn't be very enjoyable with a big pasta.

Pasta e Fagioli
serves 6~8
3~4 slices of bacon, chopped medium
1 onion, chopped fine
4 garlic clvoes, minced
1 t dried oregano
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28 ounce) can diced/petite diced tomatoes
2 (15.5 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3-1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth
2-1/2 C water
8 oz Ditalini pasta (1-3/4 C)
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
2 ounces Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 C)
extra virgin olive oil for serving
  1. Cook the bacon in a large dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Stin in the onion, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, beans, broth, water and 1 t salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the pasta and cook until just slightly underdone. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle individual bowls with grated Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

unique cookies

For Christmas, I got this amazing cookie book from my brother and sister-in-law in Japan. I've been wanting new inspiration for new cookies for my etsy shop, and I have found it! This book is incredible, and I find myself studying it everyday. And I really mean STUDY. (If only I could have had this kind of focus in college ...) The only challenge has been having to weigh everything in grams instead of using measuring cups, but I bought a gram/ounce kitchen scale at my favorite place, IKEA, so I've converted a couple recipes. And just the design of the book is gorgeous ... Ah, I love Japan.

Thanks so much Kory & Yukari!
This was my favorite idea so far. I thought it was so unique and beautiful and oh my gosh delicious! You can find black sesame seeds at any Asian food store (or here) But you can also use white sesame seeds (make sure and toast them if they aren't already), which you can find pretty much anywhere. I found raw ones for really cheap at Sam's Club.

black sesame butter cookies
makes about 2~2.5 dozen(I've converted the measurements for you)
3/4 C unsalted butter (1.5 sticks), softenened
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg
2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 C +1 T black sesame seeds
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides periodically. Add the egg and mix until light in color and thoroughly combined.
  3. Turn the mixing speed to low and slowly add dry ingredients. Mix until combined. This is a sticky dough, so don't think you need to add more flour.
  4. Add the black sesame seeds, and mix with a wooden spoon.
  5. Take about 1 T of dough and roll into a ball in your hands. Place on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet and press down with 3 fingers until they are about 1.5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with a few more black sesame seeds, and press them in. (the sesame seeds get buried in the dough a little, so I think it looks better to add just a few on top)
  6. Bake at 350° F for 12~14 minutes. Keep an eye on the cookies to make sure they don't brown too much. You want a very light color on them.
and p.s. I've only eaten 2, for those of you who are concerned about my New Year's resolution and want to point out my speedy failure:)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I think I can ...

This year I am really going to do it and lose the rest of the baby weight. That's my New Year's resolution. My problem is how much I hate being hungry! So I've been reading up on tricks to eating filling food that's not high in calories but packed with nutrition. And of course tuna, almonds and lentils are a few of the super foods that everyone talks about. So here's my salad made up of arugula, tuna, lentils, tomatoes, red onion, sliced almonds, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil. The colors make it even more appealing.
And I'm FULL!

Monday, January 5, 2009


We were at Meijer on Saturday for some groceries for the week, and Ella started getting really cranky while Blake was looking for a vacuum replacement belt (horrible vacuum accident last week while we were trying to fulfill the New Year's resolution of keeping our house cleaner). So I took Ella on a little walk to try to get her to fall asleep in my arms. While walking around the aisles, I discovered a clearance section and found the happiest deal ...
70% off? It's the small size, but I don't even care! You don't pass up a deal like this! Silpats for under $4? I HAD to get them. SO excited to put them to use for an order from my shop today.