Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Blueberry tart with almond cream fillingDSC_4695

What for? I questioned, slightly annoyed with my son’s inquiry last week- Can we use (my) oven now? He wanted to bake a frozen pizza. “Pi…zza? My voice high pitched at the end as if he was asking something of enormous favor. “Are you serious? No way! I haven’t used it yet. I should initiate the Oven debut and I’m going to make fabulous whatever the very first time”…that was truly my reaction in my head but his cute little friend from Japan stood right beside him, they were hungry. I gulped down my pride and I managed to squeeze out the word  “o…k.”

Last Saturday, we moved a few items back in the kitchen. That process took so long because of my ever changing mind. I order my husband around –put it there, no, not there, never mind it won’t fit, how about over here?, little bit to the right , ah…that is too much, I said little bit. We both exhausted and puzzled why we have more stuff than we packed. My son’s friend from grade school came over the evening. We baked Papa Murphy pizzas in (my) oven for supper. Rats.

Oh goodies! I found bowls and a food processer. I should be able to make something fantastico! The crust of this tart is like a good sugar cookie. It’s not difficult to make but needs a little patience. Any fruit probably would do. Though I love strawberries on top the best, I made blueberry tart this time because all I had in refrigerator is blueberries. Talk about poor planning and you shouldn’t start making something great before checking refrigerator first.

Today’s fruit tart-blueberry

Ingredients for crust  Makes one 9 inch tart pan ( I made in 8-1/2 inch shallow round dish)DSC_4657
  • Unsalted butter 1 stick or 113g chilled but not frozen.
  • Powdered sugar 60g
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Cake flour 200g sifted
  1. Put butter, sugar in food processer. Using pause button combine well.
  2. Add flour when butter gets small and mix well.DSC_4662
  3. Add egg yolks and combine well.
  4. Wrap in plastic and let rest in refrigerator for an hour. DSC_4663
  5. On the flat surface, dust with some flour then stretch the dough with rolling out large enough for tart pan. Remove excess dough. Prick bottom in several places with folk. cover and let rest for 30 minutes in refrigerator. DSC_4674
  6. Preheat oven to 385F.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool on wire rack completely.DSC_4677I made cookies with left over dough.

Ingredients for Almond cream fillingDSC_4669

  • Unsalted butter 60g
  • Sugar 50g
  • Corn starch 1 Tablespoon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Almond powder 60g
  • Vanilla essence 1 teaspoon
  1. Preheat oven to 355 F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter until light in color with whisk.
  3. Add sugar continue to mix well.
  4. Add corn starch, eggs, almond powder and vanilla essence. Mix well with each addition.
  5. Spread almond cream in cooled tart crust. If the bottom crust is has bubbled up and is uneven, pop with tooth pick first before adding almond cream.
  6. Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.DSC_4681

Ingredients for jam topping

  • Seedless raspberry jam 5 tablespoons*
  • Water 1 tablespoon
  • Unflavored gelatin 1/2 teaspoon
  1. Put jam and water in microwave bowl and mix well. Gently cover with plastic paper. Microwave for 2 minutes with 50% power.* If using seeded raspberry jam, strain seeds with strainer.
  2. Sprinkle with gelatin and dissolve.
  3. Spread on top of almond cream filling. Decorate with your choice of fruits Chill until set.DSC_4684DSC_4688I brushed with warmed apricot jam for shine (optional).DSC_4690Sprinkle powdered sugar on top if you like.DSC_4694DSC_4697

I think I’m in love with my new kitchen or at least I’m in the honeymoon stage. I spent hours arranging and cleaning. In the middle of night and when I’m wide awake, I have urge to go in the kitchen and shine up the new refrigerator. My husband would say, don’t worry the kitchen would be there in morning. Now we have a laughable bank account though, how lucky I felt for the ultra quiet dish washer or roomie sink that actually fits big pasta pan in. Things can’t make you happy I know but for a short while I will indulge in things that make me smile and be grateful.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Silver Spoon

Monja yaki もんじゃ焼き

DSC_4648I really enjoying reading ‘Silver Spoon’ Japanese manga (comic book) by my favorite author, Mari Ozawa. The series first started in February of last year and I now have volume three. The story is about an incredibly handsome high school senior whose father passed away three years earlier, then his mother became ill and was hospitalized. He now faces the challenge of taking care of his pre-teen brother and sister. Although his experience in the kitchen is limited, he quickly develops his skill and love for cooking. This manga includes recipes in each episode. Here I tried one and it was fast, easy and mighty fine!DSC_4555

History of monja is sort of hazy. The picture of what seems like making monja appeared in Hokusai manga (北斎漫画)in 1819 but it doesn’t tell who started it. Likely the origin of monja come from when people wrote moji (文字-word) with batter in a skillet to amuse themselves  thus moji-yaki (文字焼き-baked character) became monja- yaki. The manga ‘Silver Spoon’ explanation is very simple- press ingredients with flat side of spatula like monja so that called monja-yaki. Monja-yaki is quicker to be ready to eat than its close cousin okonomi-yaki and both are crowd pleasers but this is gooier and untidy.DSC_4565

Today’s monja-yaki for about 4 peopleDSC_4542

  • All purpose flour 1 cup
  • Dashi stock 3 cups-I used udon tea bag style dashi steep in very hot water.
  • Worcester sauce 2 Tablespoons
  • Vegetable oil-1-2 teaspoon
  • Thin sliced pork side 1 pound
  • Half head of cabbage thinly sliced
  • Spicy cod roe, mentaiko (明太子) 2-3 cut in chunkDSC_4545
  • Mochi-Japanese rice cake cut into chunks
  • Sliced cheese 2-3 (optional)
  • Eringi (king oyster mushroom) 3-4 chopped
  • Agedama or tenkasu (あげ玉-fried tempura batter pieces), available in the refrigerator section of Japanese market. This inexpensive item makes a big difference in texture.DSC_4550

Other ingredients suggestion: Squid, green onion, shrimp, shiitake, ham, bacon


  1. Make batter: In a large bowl, combine flour, dashi stock and Worcester sauce. The batter is very watery but don’t be alarmed.
  2. Put all ingredients except cheese in an another large bowl then add one ladle full of batter and combine.Note; I did in two batches because I did not have big enough bowl.DSC_4553
  3. Heat griddle over medium heat then oil the surface with a paper towel soaked with oil
  4. Put half of the vegetable mixture onto the griddle and stir fry until cabbage is wilted.DSC_4559
  5. Make a well in the cabbage mixture and pour batter (about a couple of ladle full) in the center of the well. Note; The batter may have separated, you need to mix it well before adding. DSC_4562DSC_4563
  6. Start incorporate cabbage mixture and batter. Press with monja spatula.DSC_4564
  7. When the mochi is soft lay a slice of cheese on top.
  8. Enjoy with okonomi sauce and mayonnaise if you like.DSC_4567DSC_4572

My son’s friend is here visiting from Okinawa, Japan. I feel sorry for her that she has to endure the chaos of construction, dust and all. We made a day trip to Cannon Beach. It’s the opposite spectrum to beaches in Okinawa-windy, cold and nobody swimming.DSC_4600DSC_4618 DSC_4623


Today around 3 PM painters came to touch up a few areas. Do you know what that means? I think kitchen is done except the microwave trim kit which is still a no-show. DSC_4630DSC_4631DSC_4640DSC_4634DSC_4643

The main character said I cook because I want to see happy faces-That is so deep.

Bonus Information-Ookiya (大木屋) in Tokyo is voted the best as monja-yaki restaurant.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Tofu brownies


Which bowl? asked my husband, when I told him to get it. Good grief! We only have two bowls that are not in the box and can’t you see, I’m using one already! Never mind, I will get it, I snapped. Not being able to use the kitchen for a few weeks has brought me to the the breaking point. Calm down-I remind myself- this is exactly the reason I was born in modern age not pioneer era. Won’t it be nice when we get our kitchen back? said my husband. Sometimes a glass is half-full personality gets on my nerves. You betcha! More than you will ever know, just don’t ask me to go camping with you.

I start expressing my desire to redesign our kitchen to my husband about two years ago. Why? Is something broken? was his reply. Born and raised on a farm, he lived a simple life. The house he grew up in did not have dishwasher, clothes washer nor dryer. My mother-in-law washed clothes in big round tub and hand cranked to squeeze water then hung to dry outside. They had milking cows and churned cream to make butter. Eggs collected from hen house was so fresh that it was hard to remove shell from boiled eggs. It took a while but I was persistent as suggested by the tune of what Laura wants, Laura gets. I campaigned hard and made promises like I will be a happier cook in a new kitchen(?).DSC_4449 Butter churn, paddle and mold-We received as keepsakes after my mother-in-law passed away. It still smells like butter and many precious memories. 

Back to the bowl story. I wanted make this brownie recipe adapted from Setsuko Pastry LLC in Seattle. One problem- you need a food processer. I have one but this is reoccurring dilemma,-where is it? Ah…Darling, can you mix this very fast like a food processer? In that bowl?

Ingredients for Tofu brownies use 1- 3x8 loaf panDSC_4426

  • Chocolate 1/2 cup I used semi-sweet baking chocolate. Break into small pieces and put in a glass measuring cup.
  • Milk 1 Tablespoon
  • Soft tofu 8 ounces or half package
  • Sugar 1/2 cup
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon of all purpose flour, corn starch and cocoa powder (I used unsweetened). Mix in a small bowl.
  1. Heat oven to 350F I used toaster oven and it came out OK.
  2. In a glass measuring cup with chocolate, add milk then microwave 20 seconds at a time to melt. Set it aside.
  3. Put tofu and sugar in a food processer and mix until smooth.DSC_4428
  4. Add egg and chocolate mixture. Mix wellDSC_4429
  5. Sprinkle in the flour mixture and combine- do not over mix.
  6. Pour in the prepared loaf pan and bake for 25 minutes or until no longer jiggles. DSC_4434
  7. Cool, wrap in plastic wrap and chill.

Chilled tofu brownie has a soft, fudgy, slightly weird texture. It goes well with fruits like strawberries.

I hope you had a Happy Easter. Our Easter dinner was mostly store bought this year. I roasted potatoes and made blueberry sauce for ham. Making hard boiled eggs take too long because of weak heat source so I made poached eggs for salad instead.

DSC_4383Paper grass is just for decoration of course.DSC_4374DSC_4419DSC_4404Kumato –brown tomato has unique flavor and color.DSC_4395DSC_4409DSC_4460These two plates from Crate and Barrel have the same name as me.

Outside is looking more Spring like each day.DSC_4339DSC_4340DSC_4343DSC_4351Asian pear tree has way too many flowers. We need to thin it in a few weeks.DSC_4346DSC_4357Bees are working hard pollinating Asian pear tree. DSC_4358 

Kitchen project is on the way to the finish line.DSC_4335DSC_4390The back splash was put on in one day.DSC_4391DSC_4389DSC_4453DSC_4451DSC_4463The budget busting refrigerator.DSC_4458

I hope our kitchen is done by this weekend.