Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Chicken asparagus rollsIMG_0226

The distance frustrates me sometimes. I desperately tried to get to the hospital where my father was admitted yet he was gone before I could say good-bye…my only consolation was that I made it to his funeral._DSC1365

My father led a simple life. As the oldest of 8 children, he and my mother practically raised his two 20 and 22 years younger siblings even though they were newly-weds. He was a hard working man and frugal though he often loaned money generously without expecting repayment. Once when I was probably 8 years old he made me and my brothers sit squarely on a tatami mat and was ready to strike us with a yard stick for something we did wrong but he could not carry it out. That’s the only time that he showed his frustration that I can remember. He was glued to the television to watch sumo wrestling every season and pretended not to hear my cry of wanting to see some other channel. Oh how I missed cartoon shows during that time._DSC1374

Family outings were rare while growing up but when we did, he always bought makunouchi (幕の内) bento at the train station to have it on the train ride. He hated to waste anything and ate every last bit of rice. This hand crafted bento box I bought at Senganen (仙巌園) in Kagoshima city where I took a lone trip after the funeral. I packed the bento with my father in mind…Japanese style omelet, boiled spinach, pumpkin tempura, chicken asparagus rolls and radish pickle…not quite makunouchi style but he would eat the whole thing I’m sure._DSC1360

Ingredients and how to – This is modified version of Harumi Kurihara’s recipe

  • Boneless and skinless chicken breast ( I made 4 rolls with 1/4 pound of meat).
  • Asparagus 1-2 stalks. Peel and cut off the hard end of the stem._DSC1340
  • Soy sauce 1 Tablespoon
  • Mirin 1 Tablespoon
  • Sake 1 Tablespoon
  • Seven spices
  • Oil 1 Tablespoon
  1. Place asparagus in a shallow microwave safe dish with 1 tablespoon water and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside.
  2. Remove the white sinew from the breast. If the thickness is more than inch, slice it in half. Sandwich meat between two sheets of plastic wrap.
  3. Pound meat with wooden roller to flatten.
  4. With the meat still between the plastic sheets, roll out the meat to thin it even further to about 1/4 inch thick._DSC1347
  5. Put asparagus at the edge of approximately 5 inches length of meat and start rolling as tight as possible. Cut the asparagus sticks out from meat._DSC1349_DSC1350
  6. Mix soy sauce, mirin and sake in small bowl. Heat oil in nonstick skillet at medium heat. Brown the meat all over. Pour the sauce in the skillet and coat meat with sauce. Note: soy sauce mixture burns quickly so pay attention here. Other flavor suggestion; tentsuyu, sweet chili sauce and teriyaki sauce are also good.
  7. Sprinkle seven spice chill powder over it if you like._DSC1352_DSC1369

After the service and taking care of a few family matters, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my time in Japan. I decided to go to Kagoshima because of easy access now that the new bullet train can take us there from Fukuoka in about 2 hours. I wanted to be alone and needed time to think. Enormous Senganen was serene. I walked the compound aimlessly for three hours ignoring the arrows that marked the route. It took me an another 30 minutes just to hike up to the top of Senganen. The view of the active volcanic Sakurajima from there was worth the effort I must say. IMG_0225IMG_0228 The road my father took was ordinary, even insignificant perhaps. I don’t think God loved him less however. He is now reunited with my mother in the next life, embracing his brothers and sisters who had gone before him. I truly believe that. IMG_0214The butterfly graced my head and rested at my feet for a second.IMG_0212IMG_0211IMG_0196IMG_0216Some area of the property was used for the shooting of NHK’s epic drama ’AtsuhimeIMG_0202IMG_0203IMG_0208Exhausted I took a break at tea house. The warabi mochi set was 500 yen but  the kind waitress charged me 150 yen less because I declined green tea and brought me a glass of water instead. IMG_0220This photo is not focused but I wanted to include it. I thought it’s really neat. IMG_0236IMG_0213IMG_0207Shift in wind caused volcanic ashes to fall heavily at this point.  Time to wear the mask which was provided at the gate.IMG_0290

I took cover in ‘Kiriko cut glass store’. Although they were intricate and beautiful, very expensive. A lady at the store explained the whole process of making Kiriko and its history. I started to feel sorry for her but who could afford a 300 dollar glass cup? Definitely not me.IMG_0238 My legs are hurting by the time I got back to the hotel. I relaxed at the hotel’s hot spring. In fact, all of Kagoshima city has access to hot springs, it is possible to  to go any hotel or inn to use their hot spring facility for anywhere from 300 yen to 3000 yen ($3 to $30).

After three days in Kagoshima, I headed back to Fukuoka. I started to get melancholy that my trip is ending. My cousin and her boyfriend picked me at the hotel near Hakata station and drove me to the Fukuoka International Airport after treating me to dinner (for the 3rd time) and shaved ice. It was actually better than Matsumoto. My cousin is a really good listener.IMG_0316


My husband’s birthday was yesterday. Still suffering from the jet lag, I didn’t feel up to the celebration for which I totally felt bad…luckily my good husband was very forgiving. Our neighbors baked cookies for him. Nice presentation!_DSC1356

I baked him a carrot cake – new recipe, wrong size cake pan. The taste was good though. No time for marzipan carrots deco. which was good thing, he is anti marzipan person. Happy Birthday!_DSC1383_DSC1384







Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Urban Legend

Oishii Cookie

_DSC1336Nipponnin is out of the country for a couple of weeks so you have to put up with me (her husband) as her substitute. I first started making these cookies many years ago when I heard the story about how we got the recipe. The story went that someone had these cookies for dessert and asked about the recipe. When she was told that it would cost her “two fifty” she assumed two dollars and fifty cents so told them to go ahead and add it to her bill. When she saw her credit card statement and found out that it was two hundred and fifty dollars, she made sure it was published on the internet so no one else would be ripped off. I am not so sure about the story but they are good cookies. I’ve changed it slightly from the original I had so here is my version.

Equipment needed – blender


  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 package chocolate chips
  • 2 1/2 cups of rolled oats or steel cut oats

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

  1. Put the oats in the blender and process until it is ground into fine flour.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars.
  3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. Beat in the vanilla,
  5. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, soda and oat flour.
  6. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture.
  7. Add chocolate chips.
  8. Drop rounded spoonfuls of the batter on an ungreased cookie sheet.
    If you prefer you can also roll into balls.
  9. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until golden.
    Here is what the dropped ones look like:

    And the ones rolled into balls look like this:
  10. Remove to wire rack to cool.
  11. Pour a glass of cold milk and enjoy.

So you don’t forget her I thought I’d include a picture of her along with a painting she is working on._DSC1287

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Tarte aux figues A.K.A. Fig Tart

_DSC1266Undertaking this complex tart was intimidating. But a long weekend was ahead of my husband and I, so, time was on our side. I just needed a bit of patience._DSC1238

The original recipe is from the owner of Coeur en Fleur (meaning Like a Flower), a pastry and bakery shop in Yokohama, Japan - Masaru Okuda – He actually wanted to be a movie director but life threw him some curveballs along with lucky breaks so he is now a decorated pastry chef and author of several cookbooks._DSC1242

This not-pre-baked tart lacks crispiness and I may do it differently next time. I didn’t follow his steps exactly because of missing material and ingredients but I believe I captured some sparkles.

Making of the Jewel

First step - Make pistachio paste (or use store bought paste)

  • Pistachio nuts approximately 150g – shelled and soaked in warm water for 10 minutes.
  • Olive oil 1-2 teaspoons
  1. Drain the soaked water and dry nuts with paper towel. Squeeze nuts with your thumb and pointer finger, soft inner skin should slip right off. _DSC1174
  2. Put nuts and olive oil in a food processer and stir until it becomes a gritty paste. Note: if you like smooth paste you may use mortar and pestle. 
  3. Cover with plastic wrap. Keep it in the refrigerator until needed.

Second step – Make almond pistachio cream

  • Butter 100g at room temperature
  • Powdered sugar 100g divided in half
  • Almond powder 100g
  • Corn starch 10g
  • 2 eggs beaten, at room temperature
  • Pistachio paste 90g. See above
  1. Sift together almond powder, 50g of powdered sugar and corn starch. Almond powder is tough to sift, use large mesh sieve for this. Set aside._DSC1190 
  2. Cream butter and rest of 50g of powdered sugar with whisk in a large bowl until well mixed; 2 minutes.
  3. Add almond flour mixture in two stages to creamed butter, whisk well.
  4. Add egg in 4-5 stages to butter mixture. Mix well each time. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  5. Add 90g of pistachio paste and mix well. Cover and put back in refrigerator until needed

Third step – Make Chocolate tart shell_DSC1131

Necessary equipment – thermometer

  • Butter 85g at room temperature
  • Powdered sugar 55g
  • 1 Egg beaten
  • Weak Power flour 150g Sift with cocoa powder three times
  • Cocoa powder 20g
  1. Cream butter in a large bowl slowly, whisk but not whip so that you don’t incorporate air into the butter. Add sugar and mix well.
  2. Warm the egg in double boiler style to 35 C. (I used a metal bowl that sits on a size smaller pan with an inch of hot water - water should not touch the bottom of metal pan).
  3. Add warmed egg in 4 to 5 stages to butter mixture. Mix well each time._DSC1140
  4. Add flour mixture to butter/egg mixture in 2 separate batches. Combine well with spatula until you no longer see the flour. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours or more._DSC1144


Forth step – custard cream

  • 400cc milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 Tablespoons cake flour or weak power flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoon butter
  • Vanilla
  1. Put milk, egg yolks, flour and sugar in a large microwave bowl. Mix well.
  2. Microwave for 5 minutes at 50% power. When it’s done mix well with whisk. Do this 2-3 times whisking each time until creamy but not runny custard.
  3. Add butter and vanilla and mix well till butter has melted.
  4. Strain through sieve for smoother texture. Place plastic wrap directly on top of custard and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Video instruction is here.

Fifth step – Fit shell in a tart ring

Necessary equipment – 18x1  inch tart ring ( I used 20x8 inch ring), cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Important tip – if you feel the dough is getting too soft put back in refrigerator.

  1. Take out tart shell from refrigerator and  put on the hard surface sprinkled with little bit of flour.
  2. Bang dough with side of wooden roller, change the direction several times, flatten to half inch thick.
  3. Roll out and cut enough to cover diameter of ring plus inch larger perimeter of ring. Place the cut out dough on the prepared cookie sheet and rest for 30 minutes._DSC1205
  4. Fit dough in the ring and mold into an inch up the side of ring with your finger. Cut off excess with knife. Prick with a fork all over.

Sixth step –Construction and baking process

Necessary equipment's – pastry bags, 1/2 inch round tip

  • 6-7 figs for filling plus 2-3 for decoration. Skinned and cut in wedges filling, slice thin for decoration_DSC1161
  1. Take the almond pistachio cream out of refrigerator 10 minutes before this process. Heat oven to 320F. Put cream in the pastry bag with round tip.
  2. Squeeze out half of the cream out to make a spiral fashion onto the unbaked chocolate tart shell.
  3. Lay wedge cut figs on top of the almond cream._DSC1214
  4. Squeeze rest of cream on top of figs and spread out evenly with a spatula._DSC1216
  5. Bake for 1 hour. When it’s done, put it on the wire rack to cool then remove ring.

Final Polish decoration 

  • Syrup (50g of sugar, 50g of warm water mix well)
  • Fruits
  • Apricot napaju (1 Tablespoon of apricot jam, 2 tablespoon of warm water; mix well )
  • Pastry brush
  1. Brush surface of tart with syrup.
  2. Put custard cream in the pastry bag with round tip and squeeze bag to create spiral design.
  3. Decorate with fig and other desired fruits.
  4. Brush fruits with apricot napaju so that fruits will shine like precious stones and prevent from drying out._DSC1260

I did not have enough figs to decorate entire top though, I have some delicious late comer strawberries and seedless grapes from our garden. I decorated it having a image of a fancy necklace in mind.IMG_0015_DSC1166

I love, love tomatoes… The tomatoes in our garden are still quite green. It is now questionable that they ever get fully ripe before weather gets cold. Neighbor brought us beautiful tomatoes and summer squash from their garden. Nice!_DSC1120 Several days later,  we spied heirloom tomatoes at town’s Thursday market. These were also fantastic! $2 per pound but the seller give us discount._DSC1125Last Sunday at church, a lady member brought some tomatoes to share._DSC1265

My tread mill was temporarily dead. I walked for 4 miles OUTSIDE. I conquered the hill (?)!IMG_0125I stopped for a free snack.IMG_0123I was tempted but I left alone those pears (?).IMG_0127Sign of Fall is starting to show already…IMG_0124 Amazing alley of color! I almost started singing Armstrong but I was panting too much. Really prett…IMG_0126…yeeek!IMG_0101

Open house for a young man leaving for two year missionary work. HIs destination – Cancun Mexico. Hola! I brought a Charles’s gluten free cake there. Buena Suerte (Good Luck!) Amigo!IMG_0128

My husband made a loaf of bread_DSC1179_DSC1188…for Organic Bee-Nut Butter, we bought it at Thursday market.IMG_0109Nut butt(er)! As I’m saying, not bad!