Monday, March 28, 2011

Champion of Breakfasts


On weekdays, my husband wakes up at 5:30 AM to go to his usual basketball game. I wake up when I hear the sound of the garage door opening at 7:30 ish, the sign of his return. On weekend, his rigid body clock won’t let him stay asleep past 6:30. I, on the other hand, am very flexible and could sleep in till 8;30 or close to 10:00 AM. He makes his own breakfast – staple is Canadian bacon and fried eggs plus milk (on weekdays after he drinks my home made vegetable juice). Because he has more time on weekends, he may make bread, corn bread or cinnamon rolls and I love waking up to the smell of bread baking in the oven. He otherwise asks what I want to eat questions soon after I wake up but my brain is still dead and my stomach not yet functioning. “I ,,, don’t know” is my usual answer follow by “whatever”. We don’t have a box of cereal at this moment but we buy when our kids and grandchildren come to visit. I may serve them that first to keep them occupied while he makes something yummy.  If I request natto (fermented soy beans) over warm cooked rice, he right away stirs with a egg yolk for me ( you should rest natto 20 minutes or so before eating) then he starts making his own breakfast. We sit down together but eat different breakfasts. I love being an empty nester. I’m selfish to some degree and spoiled by my husband I admit but this mellow time is like small gem of happiness. When company comes then it was like fresh air that break our routine and that is also nice (sometimes).

I saw a Japanese health television show 6 or 7 years ago and this drink was featured. Tall glass of the vegetable juice fulfill day’s green intake they clamed which I wish to believe but have doubts. Anyway I started making it most mornings. I don’t measure anything so some days it is more bitter than others. My husband and my daughter tolerate the taste and my son runs the other way. The key is to drink as fast as you can.

Vegetable Juice for two

  • 1 medium size carrot, do not peel, scrub with vegetable brush or tawashi then slice about 1/8 inch. DSC_0103
  • 16 to 20 grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes washed.
  • 2 big handfuls of spinach.
  • 1 kiwis skinned and quartered.
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup soy milk. On the television show, they used milk.
  • About 3 tablespoon yogurt (optional).
  • About 3 tablespoons of honey (optional).
  • 3-4 ice cube-this is a must item. It makes the drink cold and taste less.
  • A pinch of salt.
  1. Put sliced carrots in a small microwaveable bowl, cover with wax paper and microwave at 50 percent power for 1 minute.
  2. In a blender, put everything on the lists including the cooked carrots and blend on high speed for 30 seconds then lower the speed and blend for about 1 minute. Serve immediately. The juice is more like smoothie, just not very sweet.


Baked eggs with bacon and spinach

DSC_0021This is dressed up version of bacon and egg with a twist. I love it!

4 servings

  • 6 slices bacon. I used apple wood-smoked bacon
  • 5 ounce baby spinach
  • 4 crumpets or 2 whole wheat English muffins, split horizontally. Toasted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400F.

  1. Put 2 or 3 paper towels on a plate. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels. Pour off drippings from skillet and reserve in a small bowl.DSC_0006
  2. Add spinach to the pan, sprinkle with pepper and toss over medium heat for 30 seconds.DSC_0007
  3. Brush four 1 cup ramekins with drippings.
  4. Place 1 toasted crumpet or 1 English muffin half, spilt side up in each ramekin.
  5. Divide spinach among ramekins then crumble bacon over, dividing equally.DSC_0011
  6. Make well in center of each ramekin using the back of a spoon.
  7. Gently crack 1 egg into the well.DSC_0012
  8. Drizzle 2 tablespoons cream over each egg.
  9. Sprinkle pepper but not salt. bacon gives salty taste already.DSC_0015
  10. Bake eggs until whites are just set but yolks are still runny. 12 to 15 minutes.

We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast Inn at Astoria, Oregon several years ago. It was a nice place but they serve breakfast at 7:00 AM to 8;30AM. I never understood why they serve this early. As though we have to go to work or something after breakfast. We never gone back to the place but I absolutely love the town. Full of charm and history and home of Goonies! and several really great eateries.

Speaking of  restaurant, Tuesday night (March 29th) more than 50 restaurants here are participating in Bro and Rosen’s relief effort to benefit earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. Average of 10 to 20 percent of their Tuesday profit goes to Mercy corps. Beast restaurant is donating 100 percent (Wow!). So just by eating one of  the restaurant, you are donating to the effort. There were several concerts and fund raising events this past weekend and I am so grateful for their generosity. The only thing left is for me to pick a restaurant to eat out Tuesday. That is so easy to be involved in this great cause.

P1000216This is one of the breakfasts we had at an inn we stayed at in Japan last year.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gaelic Breeze

Celebrating St.Patrick Day

DSC_0022My part Irish husband likes (most) everything Irish. Especially Irish music. Like Gaelic Storm, an Irish music band. We went to their gig once and he has all of their CDs. The Corrs, which we also have gone to their concert.

Irish folk singer Jean Redpath and Enya her highness, he likes them all. At 6 o’clock on Saturdays he listens to “The Thistle and Shamrock”, a radio show . He sometimes imitates the host Fiona Ritchie’s Irish accent and laughs at himself. We have an Irish named son who was due in the early part of April but came two weeks early in March. For all of the above reasons, we won’t miss celebrating  St. Patrick’s Day.

DSC_0035My low maintenance, easy to please husband requests corned beef for dinner. We went to get nitrate free corned beef from employee owned Season’s Market. They have many locally grown fresh produce which I am pleased with. This corned beef does not come in a package but rather the store cures it themselves and they gave us brine juice too. I simply pressure cooked the corned beef and skinny potatoes in the brine. I made roasted kale salad with sundried tomato and almonds. For dessert he made creamy orange ricotta tart. It does not go well with Irish theme and he wished to make the OTHER cheese cake but I need to get rid of leftover ricotta cheese fast so I overrode him. I told him to put a couple of drops of green food coloring to make it like an Irish dessert but he intentionally forgot to do so. But what is Irish dessert anyway?

Roasted kale with sundried tomato and almond saladDSC_0055

  • Olive oil about 1/4 cup
  • A bunch of kale washed and pat dry with paper towel well. Remove tough stems and tear in pieces. Kale will shrink when roasted so buy plenty.
  • Soft sundried tomato - came in little pouch - if it’s hard and dry, soak in warm water to soften it.
  • Sliver almonds about 1/2 cup
  • Salt 1-2 teaspoons
  1. Heat oven to 375 F
  2. Put kale on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, rub kale with olive oil and coat well and sprinkle salt.
  3. Roast kale for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add slivered almonds and sundried tomatoes continue roasting for additional 3-4 minutes. *Keep eye out to not burn the kale or almonds.
  5. Sprinkle freshly grind pepper over it if you like.

* Roasting time will vary depending on your preference. I like crispy texture so I keep it in the oven longer but it is hard to eat crispy kale with fork so I use with my fingers. Roasting tomato is optional. You could just add after kale is roasted.

Creamy orange ricotta tartDSC_0075

For crust

  • 1 cup cookies (ground in a food processor) – 35 vanilla wafers, 25 chocolate wafers or 9 whole graham crackers
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted.


  1. Heat oven to 350 F
  2. Put your choice of cookies in a food processor and finely ground them.
  3. Add butter.
  4. Using pulse button, mix all together until the crumbs are evenly moistened.
  5. Press the crumb into the 9 inch spring form pan starting at the bottom then up the sides firmly.
  6. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.
  7. Cool on a rack.

Orange Ricotta Tart

  • 15 oz. container whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 cookie crust
  1. Heat oven to 350F
  2. In a electric mixer, combine ricotta and cream cheese at medium speed for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add sugar,flour and salt continue beating until well blended.
  4. Add the egg yolks,orange zest and orange juice and beat at low speed until incorporated.DSC_0065
  5. Use rubber spatula  to scrape the filling into the crust and spread the filling evenly.DSC_0066
  6. Bake it in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. The filling may jiggle but will firm up when cooled.DSC_0068
  7. Chill the cooled tart in refrigerator for 3 hours.DSC_0074

DSC_0060We dressed in green and had this simplified version of Irish meal. We welcomed this little silly tradition to have a fun time. I know people in Japan are still suffering and my thoughts are going back there all the time. My friend in Utah participated with bunch of people to have a huge garage/bake sale last weekend to fund raising effort to Japan’s earthquake victims.They made over $14,000. That is so neat! An another one planned for this weekend in Sandy Utah. I’m also thinking of ways to help out besides just donating money.

I received many phone calls and emails from American friends who inquired about my family in Japan. One friend delivered a bouquet of flowers to me. A neighbor brought a plate of cookies to show their empathy. We were also invited to dinner. My family was not at all affected by earthquake or tsunami but I‘m so touched by people’s kindness. I feel very lucky. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


New twist to old tonkatsu (pork cutlet)


I’m still in awfully sad mode from watching too much CNN news about earthquake in Japan. It seems like each passing day, things get worse. When I eat, I can’t help but feel guilty. When I’m comfortable in my cozy house, my thoughts are over shadowed by images that I just saw - people wet and cold with hopeless stare or voiceless cry.

Is it human nature? Or just me? When you feel helpless or stressed, you crave for something familiar or some food that puts you in a good mood? I will go for something sweet when I feel down. Other comfort food is something fried. With cooked rice of course.

This is my favorite method to cook cutlet ever since I saw it on a Japanese TV show a few years ago. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant that developed the recipe but the store got quite popular. Cheese in the middle is also good instead of plum and shiso leaves. Pork itself has a bland taste but the plum‘s salty flavor gives it the right kick and fragrant shiso leaves makes it perfect. If you like cilantro (I don’t), you can substitute it for the shiso leaves.

Kim katsu

  • Thin shabu shabu pork - 8-10 slice per cutlet, I used just one package for 4 cutlets.
  • Pickled salted plums - 1 for each cutlet, I used honey pickled plum (はちみつ梅*)take the seed out and chop to make paste but it doesn’t have to be smooth.DSC_0079
  • Shiso leaves - two leaves for each cutletDSC_0083
  • Flour
  • 2 eggs - scramble in a shallow bowl
  • Panko - 1 cup or more in a shallow bowl
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat about 2 inches of oil in a skillet over medium heat (340F).
  2. On the kitchen counter, spread plastic wrap and dust with a small amount of flour.
  3. Lay the first layer of thin pork and keep laying one on top of another for 4 or 5 layers. Make sure fat side alternate one side to another.DSC_0086
  4. Spread plum paste on the layered pork.DSC_0088
  5. Put two shiso leaves on top of plum paste.DSC_0090
  6. Add another 4 or 5 layers of thin pork, pinch the edges all around for a good seal.DSC_0093DSC_0095
  7. Salt and pepper - I prefer white pepper.
  8. Coat the pork cutlet with flour and dust off excess. DSC_0096
  9. Dip in the egg then coat with panko. Press panko into the pork so that it will stick better.DSC_0099
  10. Deep fry at medium heat until golden brown and crispy.DSC_0102
  11. Put fried cutlets on a plate with  2 sheet of paper towel on to remove some of the excess oil.

Eat while it’s hot. You can use store bought tonkatsu sauce if you like.DSC_0107

*It does not have to be honey pickled plum but regular pickled plum may get salty. Choose ones that are large and soft so it is easy to make paste.

Even though it seems hopeless, I saw footage of a man rescued from rubble 96 hours after it happened. I also saw a group of children laughing and playing at one of shelters. It gives me sense of relief that people are resilient and they can be strong, if they choose to do so.

Coincidently, katsu (the Japanese word for cutlet) sounds the same as another word katsu ( which means to win or victory). I hope for them the best. I pray that they can overcome.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Tonight this little sliver of moon reflected my feelings – a ray of hope in a dark time.DSC_0151

My husband came home from basket ball practice yesterday morning at little after 7:30. He told me to turn the TV on. He told me that there was huge earthquake in northern Japan and that our daughter and her family are evacuated. I could not comprehend what he was saying, what has an earthquake in Japan got to do with my daughter in Hawaii? I tried to ask him but he jumped in the shower so I turned the TV on and I was horrified to see the devastating images of the earthquake. I called my Japanese friend who is from Sendai and now lives here in Oregon - no answer, just voice mail. My husband got out of the shower and watched news with me for a while. At some point I understood about the tsunami and why our daughter evacuated.

I was in Japan for my uncle’s memorial service in 1995 when the Kobe earthquake hit. The service was held in Kyushu (southern island of Japan) a day before the earthquake and relatives came from Osaka and Nagoya. They drove home late that evening. Some relatives were waffling whether to stay one more night in Kyushu and drive home the next day but all decided to leave, that decision may have saved their lives. The next morning, the freeway bridge which they traveled over collapsed from the earthquake. My worried husband called me from the States. My son then 8 years old was asked by teachers and friend’s parents who know that I was in Japan about my safety so much that he got really concerned. His class made me a ‘Thinking about you’ card and gave it to me upon my return.  I usually travel in Japan by bullet train but this one time, I decided to go to Fukuoka and Narita by airplane. Because of this catastrophe, the government shut down the train operation for a time. Many stranded travelers came to Fukuoka airport. I was really lucky that I already had a ticket. I was able to come home as planned.

When this magnitude of natural disaster happened, I was on my knees with my prayers. Through out the day, I was thinking about my daughter and her family and friends in Japan and their families and of course my family. Fortunately I was able to reach them and they are all OK. I had many things planned for yesterday but my apathy crept in and I accomplished nothing. I warmed up left overs for dinner and my husband took me to Starbucks for a salted caramel hot chocolate which was not on the menu any more but the barista agree to make for me. With the hot cup in my hand and bite of Red Velvet Whoopee pie, I felt blessed.


Reading my daughter’s food blog with no food pictures that night made me warm and grateful. My friend finally called to say that her family’s home had damage and they were forced to live in tent for now but they are safe. Imagining how cold they are in that make shift tent, my heart aches for them. I don’t understand what the meaning of this is but I was on my knees again thanking God for many blessings and hoping sincerely for their quick recovery.

Monday, March 7, 2011

King of Bread


Bakery shop in Gotanda (五反田), Tokyo

IMGP2127When a Korean drama ’King of bread-Kim Takku’ hit the airwaves in June of  2010. This was a very dramatic story about a boy set in the 1970’s(?). It was so popular in Korea that it gained 49.3% rating. Despite being born of out of wedlock, with positive attitude this boy conquered many obstacles and with the help of strangers and loved ones he became a master of  bread making. I couldn’t help but cheer for the boy and became fascinated by the process of making bread. Japanese also makes wonderful bread. It seems like there is a bakery in every block in Japan. My husband always want to go in and just CHECK what is available in each store. He never comes out empty handed though. We totally visit Japan for this reason only,,, I stand corrected, two reasons-cake shops.IMGP2132

I dare not say my husband is king of bread but he is a darn good bread maker. He tried this recipe a few times and improved it each time. The latest was he baked in the oven rather than bread maker  - it is now an inch closer to bread available in Japan. In Japan organic multi-grain bread is gaining popularity, yet Japanese still like soft white (not so nutritious) bread. I like sandwich made of this flexible moist bread or thick cut toast with butter.

Milk LoafDSC_0098

  • 540 g Bread flour
  • 60g cake flour
  • 10g dry active yeast
  • 30g buttermilk powder
  • 80g sugar
  • 9g salt
  • 1 egg
  • 250g milk
  • 150g heavy cream

Put the bread flour, yeast, cake flour, buttermilk powder, sugar and salt into the bread maker. Next add the egg, milk and cream. Use the dough setting to create the dough for this bread.

Remove from the bread maker and let rise until doubled in size.DSC_0070

He used half for making scones (that is what he calls fry bread).DSC_0076DSC_0077DSC_0078DSC_0081DSC_0086DSC_0088

The other half he formed into a loaf and put in a bread pan (9x5x3).DSC_0092 After letting it rise, he brushed the top with cream and baked in a 340F oven for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. DSC_0094DSC_0139

Writing this post makes me homesick and I’m looking forward to visit Japan as soon as my banking account allows it. I will prepare to get fat there too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Relics of Valentines

Chocolate Pudding

DSC_0003DSC_0008The Bernard chocolate shop where I get quality unsweetened cocoa powder is located in down town Lake Oswego, Oregon. At Valentine’s Day time, they sell heart shape chocolate shell filled with chocolate of your choices. Available in dark or milk chocolate they have small, medium and large size shells. With my purchase of dark, medium size one, you could get 20 pieces of chocolates in it. I took it to my husband’s office on Valentine’s Day following the Japanese girl tradition. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is the only day that allows girls to confess their love to boys and so they give the boys chocolate thus popular boys get tons of chocolates. Then on White Day, March 14th, boys give girls cookies showing their feelings in return. I heard that in Korea, boys and girls who didn’t get anything, eat black noodles on the April 14th holiday called Black Day. Who came up with this stuff? Actually it is a brilliant marketing ploy!  Anyway, a week later, my husband brought the chocolate shell home. Oh thanks hon!  As I was thinking of creative ideas of what to do with left over Valentine, I had an ‘Aha’ moment (I watch Oprah sometimes. Unfortunately, I don’t get see the whole show because soon after I sit down on couch to watch I doze off). How about making short rib with chocolate sauce? (just kidding). Why not make chocolate pudding with this? I have Mark’s ( wonderful chocolate pudding recipe somewhere. Mark is like a celebrity food blogger. He has huge number of followers and friends, wow factor photos and most of all, he is a top 3 finisher of Food Buzz Challenge which is no easy task. My daughter (little foodies) did this same challenge and made it to round 7 out of 10 rounds. His chocolate pudding is relatively easy to make and not too sweet. It is a keeper for me. I made a tiny change to his recipe to fit the way I work around my kitchen. DSC_0126DSC_0137

Chocolate Pudding

makes 6-8 servings

  • 5 extra large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 5 ounces dark chocolate (70%)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Put egg yolks and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and beat at medium high speed until the eggs are shiny pale yellow color (about 2 minutes).
  2. Add corn starch and cocoa and whisk until the mixture is smooth.*
  3. Put milk in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it’s steaming and there are small bubbles coming up around edges but not boiling.
  4. With mixer running at low speed, carefully so not to splash the hot milk, slowly drizzle the milk in along the edge of the bowl, until mixture is smooth. DSC_0102
  5. Rinse the pan and put the mixture back in the pan over medium low heat. Stir constantly with a heat-proof silicon spatula, scraping the bottom of the pan so the pudding doesn’t burn, until the mixture is very thick. Remove from heat.
  6. In a large bowl, break the chocolate into small pieces. Pour the milk mixture over the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is melted and combined. DSC_0108DSC_0109
  7. Add cream, butter and vanilla to the chocolate mixture and mix well.

Serve the pudding warm or cold. Will keep in refrigerator for up to a week in an airtight container.

*Note;It’s not necessary but I prefer sifting cornstarch and cocoa powder together before adding to mixer.

More than 10 years ago, my friend from Nagasaki came to visit me for a week. She and I drove to Cannon Beach and stayed at The Bernard Inn one night. This quaint, charming bed and breakfast inn was not on the beach but has a peek of ocean view and was very clean which to me is important. At the breakfast, we gathered around round table with other guests. One couple, husband and wife introduced themselves to us as the owners of chocolate shop ‘Bernard’. Bernards at Bernard? What a coincidence! I was already a regular customer of that store then and was excited to meet the owners. Once in a while when I go there to get cocoa powder I see them at the store working side by side with other employees. I hope for their long success and cheer for great chocolates.DSC_0121

Not on the Valentine's Day but Saturday before that, we had dinner at Castagna to cerebrate . French/ Italian restaurant on Hawthorne Blvd. This is our first time since change of executive chef. Chic decor and very small potion but elegantly presented and splendid flavor food- ok, my duck was so- so, there is room for improvement, we were not disappointed. On Valentine's Day, my classy husband sent me red roses. We’re not rich but fortunate to afford some luxury in our life. That makes me feel rich and I am grateful for the blessing. Certainly eating good food puts me in a good mood.


PS- Honey, I thank you in advance for delicious Godiva cookies on White Day.