31 January 2009

Fancy Dinner For Me...

Tonight I was excited to try a new recipe. Alas, I didn't time it well, so everyone was sitting and ready to eat while it was still in the oven. Out of desperation, I served the following:

*pan-fried tofu
*white rice
*steamed broccoli
*cottage cheese
*Red Bull for Aogu
*milk for the kids

It's just as well that I did, because when the

*halibut "en papillote" with a mint-cilantro chutney

was ready, I learned that Aogu was full of tofu and doesn't like cilantro. Right. I can't wait to eat this dish again and again for the next couple days, since I'm not interested to try and force my kids to eat it either (though they might surprise me?). I know that sounds sarcastic, but I'm actually not kidding, because I thought it was delicious. It would probably be even better if one actually used halibut; all I had were some cheap "whiting fillets" that I pulled out of the freezer. So if this process can make them taste good, imagine how great a proper piece of fresh halibut would be!

So I guess this recipe won't go into our regular rotation, but I'll write it out here anyway in case you want to try it. Or maybe I can make it sometime when friends are over. I had some chutney left over and I put some of it on my broccoli, which was another great option.

Halibut "en papillote" with a mint-cilantro chutney
from Indian Home Cooking

4 skinless halibut fillets, 6-8 oz. each, about 1 inch thick
2 tsp. salt
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp. garam masala

mint-cilantro chutney
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 bunch scallions, white parts only, trimmed
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into large pieces
4 garlic cloves
3 fresh hot green chiles, stemmed and seeded
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup cream cheese
3/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
juice of 1 lemon

Sprinkle the halibut all over with 1 tsp. of the salt and lemon juice and refrigerate 10 minutes (I didn't refrigerate because my fillets were frozen). Rinse and pat the fish dry on paper towels. Stir together the yogurt, garam masala, and remaining 1 tsp. salt. Pour over the fish and refrigerate 45 more minutes (kept it on the counter). Meanwhile for the chutney, combine the ingredients in a blender and process until well blended (I used the food processor, I thought the blender would frustrate me).
Preheat the oven to 450. Cut a piece of foil about 15 inches long, spray with cooking spray and set a fillet on. Cut the fillet in half horizontally and make a sandwich with 1-2 tablespoons of chutney in the middle. (I didn't cut my fillets in half because they didn't seem thick enough; they were long and skinny so I cut them across the middle and made sandwiches that way) Fold the foil up around the fish, then fold and roll the sides to completely seal the package. Do the same with all the fish, then line them up on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes (I let them go for about 15 minutes and they still weren't done, so I opened the foil packages and baked for 8-10 more minutes. I think it took so long because my fillets were frozen?).

30 January 2009

Parent and Child

Aogu had a dinner request tonight; he asked for oyakodon (parent and child dish). Along with that, we had
*cucumber sticks with ranch dressing
*mixed vegetables (leftover from the beef-wrapped veggies)

This is Japanese home cooking at its finest, and fastest: it's a dish of chicken, eggs (get it, parent and child?!) and onion simmered in a sauce and served over a bowl of rice. If you've been interested to make a Japanese dish but too intimidated to actually try, this is a great place to start, though you will have to gather some things you might not have in your pantry.

Oyakodon from "okazuichinensei"
Serves 2

1 large chicken breast
1 onion, chopped
3 eggs
1/4 tsp. "dashi" powder
1 Tablespoon each of the following:
sugar, cooking sake, mirin, soy sauce

Cut the chicken and the onion into bite size pieces. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk. Heat 3/4 cup water in a smallish flat pan (straight sides are better) and when it boils, add the dashi powder, then the sugar, sake, mirin and soy sauce. When it boils again, add the onion and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer until white on both sides. Lower the heat and pour in the eggs. Steam with the lid on for 1 minute or so, and then take the lid off and let cook until the eggs are set to your liking. Serve over bowls of white rice.

29 January 2009

Dear Manufacturers of Rice Noodles,

Don't you know that these days, the American palate is becoming ever so slightly more sophisticated? We now not only know what "al dente" means, we actually like it. You may incorrectly think that your product is primarily for some kind of Asian subset of the American public. These people grew up around rice noodles and just know what to do with them, you say to yourselves. No need for our preparation instructions to be accurate.

Um, sirs and perhaps madames, you are sadly mistaken. So please, if you know that your noodles will be al dente after three or four minutes in boiling water, do not write "6-8 minutes" on your packaging. I now feel confident enough in my cooking to know that the *rice noodles with cabbage and chicken that I prepared tonight would have been perfectly delicious, if only you would have admitted that Americans such as myself are up for a little resistance in their pastas, be they rice or otherwise.

There's no way for you compensate me for the time I spent laboring on this dish. Plus, I have to admit that my kids liked it. But I do feel the least you can do is label your packaging accurately.

Mushily yours,

28 January 2009

Here's the Beef, Wrapped Around the Veggies

Tonight's dinner, clockwise from bottom left:

*white rice
*bean sprout, carrot and cucumber salad with tahini dressing
*miso soup with wakame and tofu
*"gyuniku no yasaimaki" or vegetables wrapped in beef
(this was a first attempt and I think it came out pretty well--explanations, recipe etc. will come later)

27 January 2009

Something Old, Something New

Is this the reason why I wander in a forgetful stupor lately? I'm the poster child for "opposite of calorie restricted," though of course it's all in name of pregnancy. Yes, I know that eating for two actually means only an extra 300 calories. But was that per day, or per meal...?!

Thank God, there's a big exception to Aogu's rule of distaste for leftovers, and that is what he had yesterday, curry. Phew. Because though I went to the market yesterday and collected all sorts of ingredients to make a variety of interesting dishes, there was one I was missing today. Energy. I could not get excited about being in the kitchen cooking. Yesterday's curry was a lifesaver.

I did put together the salad that is pictured here and it differs from the recipe in one important way: I used spinach instead of escarole. I don't know if I've ever had escarole, but I wasn't able to buy it at the market I visited yesterday. Rather, I picked up a five pound bag of Popeye's fave and decided to try and work with it. I'm glad I did, it was delicious. Tonight's menu:

*Japanese style curry with chicken, onion, potatoes, carrots
*white rice
*spinach salad with pickled onions
*Healthy Choice fudge bars for the kids

26 January 2009

More More More

As in, more soup, more pizza and more curry...

Wait, maybe that last isn't a "more," at least not yet for this year. Who knows why or how I got twenty six whole days into this year--made it to Chinese New Year, even--without once making curry? For shame!

When I say "curry," you may form random images in your head, but this is what I see:

This is a typical box of roux for Japanese style curry. Inside the box are the blocks of curry flavored goodness--and all kinds of preservatives, I imagine--which allow you to take what was going to be a typical stew and make it deeply delicious, quickly.

Curry and rice is pretty much my husband's favorite dish, so this morning, knowing that the kids and I were going to be out at a friends' place tonight, I made a quick pot. And you know a thing has to be quick if I'm willing to tackle it in the morning before taking Koji to school. Full disclosure: we were 20 minutes late but I don't blame that on the curry. I blame that on the stinking Lego Star Wars Imperial Dropship that just had to drop on the floor and scatter its pieces right as we were trying to walk out the door, sending Koji into 20 minutes of Histrionics. It was awesome.

Getting back to the point, Aogu had curry and rice for dinner. I made a VAT of the stuff, so you'll be hearing about it here again soon. Meanwhile, as mentioned previously, the kids and I were at a friend's house, where I made

*vegetable soup, ever so slightly inspired by the Weight Watchers recipe. It wasn't even ruined by my accidental use of the "WAY past expiry" chicken broth base that I dug out of my friend's fridge. That is, I still feel fine?! We also had
*pizza...you observant folks will notice this was our third time in four days to enjoy pizza for dinner. Good thing we REALLY like it...
*cupcakes left over from the party yesterday

25 January 2009

Another Bowl of Soup

Technically we had this for lunch, not dinner, today, but it's the only thing I cooked this weekend. And it turned out well, so I want to remember it. "This" and "it" was tonjiru, which literally means "Pig Soup". It's miso soup, but with pieces of pork and a much wider variety of ingredients, which makes it suitable as a kind of main dish. I've always liked it and never made it, until yesterday. Now that I've tried my hand at it and realized how easy it is, I hope to make it again soon!


very vaguely inspired by this recipe from the website of Orange Page, a Japanese cooking magazine--the following is written as I made it and NOT as Orange Page instructs
Serves 4-5

1 pound or so of pork belly (I actually had a piece that weighed almost two pounds, but I trimmed off most of the fat and was left with about half of what I started with)
2 thumb sized knobs of ginger, minced
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 daikon radish, peeled and sliced
4 red potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
4 stalks celery, sliced
8 "baby bella" mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
6 green onions, white parts only, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
120 g (about 1/2 cup) miso

The Orange Page recipe called for adding the ingredients in stages and basically simmering everything to death, but I thought it would have a bit more flavor if I cooked it up like a stew. So I sauteed the pork and ginger together until the pork was nicely browned, then I added about eight cups of water, brought it to a boil, skimmed off the foam, and dumped in the carrots, daikon, celery and potatoes. After that simmered for 20 or so minutes and the potatoes were soft, I added half of the miso and let that cook in at a simmer for another 10 minutes. Next, the mushrooms and onions went in, simmered for 10 minutes, and finally, I stirred the rest of the miso. When I ate this, I put a bit of rice in the bottom of my bowl first, but that goes without saying, because I do that with almost every soup!

Next time, I'd like to add even more ingredients: definitely gobo (burdock root), maybe shiitake mushrooms instead of baby bellas, tofu and/or abura-age (fried tofu), and if I'm really feeling brave, maybe even some konnyaku?!

As for dinner, we ate at Micah's birthday party, and living up to my trend for the weekend, once again I forgot to take the camera along. Therefore, I have no photographic evidence of all the fun the kids had with various Bakugan themed activities. I also can't prove to you that the kids ate
*hot dogs
*macaroni & cheese
*fruit salad

and the adults had

*vegetable soup
*clam chowder
*chinese chicken ramen salad
*fruit salad

We all had
*cupcakes, vanilla or chocolate and
*vanilla ice cream

Thanks for the fun party, Cheryl Lynn! This is the second day in a row I've had to give you credit in a post!

24 January 2009

Weekend is for Pizza?

I guess it shouldn't surprise me that I forgot to take my camera to the fun housegroup get together we just had at church. There were several other things I wanted to take along, and in all the hustle of gathering them up, the camera got left behind.

We were at church from about 4 to 7 with everyone in our group. Everyone brought something. My contribution was:

*spanokopita (from the freezer, before that, from Costco)
*angel food cake sandwiches (I had an angel food cake in the freezer. I sliced it thin and made three types of sandwiches--date spread, white chocolate, and hazelnut chocolate. Aogu thought it was too sweet, but everyone else, including me, thought it was a pretty good idea)
*peppermint popcorn (I made this last weekend too, and it was so good that I decided to make it again. Recipe below!)

We also had:
*green salad with chicken, chinese noodles and chinese-style dressing
*pizza (from Sam's Club)
*chocolate chip cookies
*apple juice for the kids
*root beer for Aogu
*water for me

Peppermint Popcorn from Best American Recipes 2004-2005 (if you click on this link, you'll see this book hasn't held its value very well!)

3 quarts unseasoned freshly popped popcorn, about 3/4 cups unpopped
(NOTE: I have NO idea how to measure a quart of popcorn, but I've found that 2 cups unpopped, prepared in my Nostalgia Electrics popcorn popper, which Cheryl Lynn gave me for my last birthday!, is the best amount)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Melt 1 stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup light corn syrup

Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 tsp. of peppermint extract (I used 20 drops of peppermint oil--probably a little excessive, but I like mint). Pour the mixture over the popcorn and stir well.

Spread the popcorn onto two cookie sheets with rims; bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Let cool completely, then store in a tightly covered container.

23 January 2009

Once is Good, Twice is Better

This afternoon through tonight, for the second time this week we were at a friend's house for dinner and karaoke. This time dads weren't invited, as most of them were at work or out of town or both. So, four moms, myself and all the corresponding kids (10 of them) gathered for a very extended play date.

But this blog is about dinner so I'll get right to it. My friend's husband was out of town (remember, he was our chef the other day) so we ordered some Italian food from Marino's Pizzeria in Arlington Heights. It doesn't seem to have great reviews on line, but it was fine for us, because we didn't have to make it. Actually, I did make two things:

*banana peanut butter muffins
*southwest tuna salad
(pictured above)

From Marino's, we had:
*cheese and pepperoni pizza for the kids
*eggplant parmigiana
*cavatelli with meat sauce (oops, I wanted cavatappi!)
*spaghetti carbonara
*mugicha (barley tea) for me and the kids
*Corona for the rest of the ladies
*ice cream
*raisin sandwich cookies
(these are not exactly what we had, but a pretty good representation)

Southwest Tuna Salad
(recipe from the back of a Target tuna pouch)

8 oz. lettuce (romaine or another non-wilty type is best), washed and torn
7 oz. pouch tuna
1 cup black beans (I used the ones I cooked up the other day, canned would be fine)
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheese

For transporting this to my friend's house, I mixed all the ingredients together but the lettuce. I incorporated the lettuce (which wasn't just lettuce, but actually a salad leftover from the night before, so tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and celery, also a red pepper I diced in, were bonus ingredients) just before we ate. As for the amount of lettuce, if you don't have a scale, it's tough to know how much 8 oz. is. I weighed my salad and it was actually 14 oz. Even with 14 oz. of salad, I still felt like the rest of the stuff overpowered a bit. Next time, I would add even more salad, or maybe reduce the amount of ranch? In any case, my friends all really liked this salad, even though it wasn't so Italian, and I think you will too!

22 January 2009

In First Gear

When Aogu's out of town, then my drive to cook goes from "turbo" to "sputter". So it's with much gratitude that I admit my friend Linda gave me the noodles that were our main dinner dish tonight. I'm also grateful that my friend Kim and her kids were willing to join us for such a hodge podge dinner.

*Linda's noodles, a Chinese stir fried noodle and chiken dish, in honor of Chinese New Year
*gyoza (potstickers) from the freezer
*spanakopita (spinach and cheese phyllo dough triangles) from the freezer
*steamed broccoli
*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in
*salad for me

21 January 2009

Late, Late, Late

For some reason--maybe because Aogu left this morning on a business trip?--I was dragging all day today. I couldn't get out of bed, then I couldn't get us out of the house, then I couldn't get myself out of the lounge room at Koji's school to go to the gym, etc. So even though I knew I had invited three friends over for dinner tonight, I didn't have--make?--time to straighten up the house for them, or make them a proper entree as I had planned. Fortunately, they all made contributions and we came up with the following:

*Thai Basil-Chicken Soup, leftover from the other night
*green salad of spinach, tomatoes, celery
*mashed butternut squash
*cheese and garlic biscuits
*cranberry juice, water

The only thing worth noting, other than the fantastic company of my friends, was the random-frozen-fruits-pie I made for dessert. It's not worth noting because it came out so perfectly; in fact, it was a bit burned because I had the oven on 450 for the biscuits and I forgot to adjust it down to 375 for the pie. Still, I couldn't helped being a little bit impressed that the pie I threw together with a box crust and some frozen fruits (white & yellow peaches, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple), then a half bag of cranberries from the freezer when the frozen fruits weren't enough, was pretty tasty! You'll just have to take my word for it, since I didn't take a picture.

20 January 2009

Boring, but I'm Full

Earlier today, I was considering the problem of dinner and had the idea for chicken tacos. I got some black beans going and mentally rehearsed how I was going to stir fry the rest of the rotisserie chicken with some garlic, onions and taco seasoning. That's exactly what I did, but somehow, it was blah. Oh well, I really didn't try that hard, so accordingly, I'm not that disappointed.

At least we had a good smoothie to drink. We don't usually drink smoothies with dinner, but I had promised them to the kids earlier in the afternoon and never got around to production. Of course, I would have just tried to pretend that we weren't going to have smoothies today after all, but two certain people have great memories and wouldn't let me forget what I said...

*chicken tacos on flour tortillas with shredded cheese, lettuce and salsa
*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in
*black beans
*smoothie of frozen mixed fruits, vanilla yogurt and cranberry-raspberry juice

19 January 2009

Using Pantry Items

Does a dinner count as a "panty item" dinner if I have to go to the market anyway? I wanted to make a Thai style chicken soup with the rice noodles Jenny gave me and the rotisserie chicken I bought at Costco the other day. And there was a good-looking recipe in the January issue of Good Housekeeping. But I didn't have all the ingredients...so since Koji didn't have school today, I dragged the kids to the market for what I was missing.

And now that I've made and eaten

*Thai Chicken Basil Soup with
*steamed broccoli
*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in
*cranberry juice for Aogu & the kids
*water for me
*nashi (Asian/Japanese pear)

I have to say that my trip to the market was well worth it! As for the recipe, I'll try to save myself a bit of time by linking to the GH version here. But I'd better note the changes I made:

I omitted the crushed red pepper, because I don't have any and didn't realize on my trip to the market that I needed to pick some up. I probably would have left it out anyway because I wanted the kids to be able to eat the soup. The poblano chile must have added some kind of flavor to the soup, but it certainly didn't make it spicy. Aogu and I found that a bit of shichimi sprinkled on just before eating really made the flavor of the soup take off. My lips were on fire when I was done, but that was fine by me!

I used soy sauce instead of fish sauce: Aogu doesn't care for fish sauce, so this is a standard switch for me in any SE Asian recipe calling for fish sauce. I used powdered boullion for the chicken broth, mainly because I'm trying to get rid of what I have so I can switch to home made stock all the time (we'll see if I can live up to that or if it's too much work...). I initially only added two cups of water because I prefer a chunky soup, but once I added the rice noodles at the end, I found that I needed more water and ended up putting in two more cups for a total of four cups of water, rather than three.

The recipe doesn't clearly specify chicken that is already cooked, but because it instructs you to cook the soup for "one minute" after adding the chicken, I think it's safe to assume pre-cooked? I didn't use thighs, I used breast meat that I pulled off my rotisserie chicken. I also stir fried in 1/2 pound ground turkey with the onions, etc. at the beginning.

Don't know what it is about rice noodles, they must just soak and soak any liquid they are near; by the time I was clearing up the kitchen and put away what was left of the soup, there really wasn't any liquid in the pot, just noodles! I put them away, idea being that I will add broth as I'm ready to eat the noodles. The less opportunity they have to soak, the better!

Oh, I also threw in some sliced mushrooms, around the same time I put in the chicken broth. And some bean sprouts, right at the end with the noodles, which I cooked for three minutes rather than one. I thought I was better off going with the package directions, which said boil for three to four minutes. Good grief, I just realized that all my blathering about the changes I made was way longer than if I had just typed out the recipe and noted what I did in parentheses!

In conclusion, this is great soup. I am looking forward to making it again, and maybe next time I won't have to go to the market?!

18 January 2009

Off the Hook + Karaoke = Excellent Evening!

We were invited to a Koji's school friends' house tonight for dinner and karaoke. Another family joined the party, so we had dinner with six adults and six kids, but none of it was made by me!

Actually, I did make and take dessert:
*upside down plum cake
*Rich & Chewy Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
*peppermint popcorn....
but I failed to take a picture!

This was dinner, all made by the man of the house, Wataru-san:

Appetizers: On the right, cheese and prosciutto, tuna salad and some kind of stewed pork, which we were invited to spread on french bread (Aogu said the pork made the bread taste like nikuman. On the left, a kind of gratinized oden. I don't usually care for oden; the smell of it stewing for hours on the counter at the Seven-Eleven near my apartment in Higashi Kurume years ago put me off of wanting to put it in my mouth. But this was very good!

Salmon salad, topped with soft boiled egg (onsen tamago) and a soy dressing. Again, I'm not a soft-boiled egg fan, but Wataru-san's version somehow worked. Or maybe I was just impressed with his onsen tamago maker?!

A Japanese-style ratatouille, which featured some kind of pig intestines. I was eating along happily enough, until I understood what I was eating...even afterwards, I managed to eat several pieces. But I also pushed a couple aside and focused instead on the soy-pickled garlic that was also included. I am going to run out tomorrow and buy a jar of peeled garlic so I can pour soy sauce over it and make some for myself!

After an extended break for a couple of hours of Wii karaoke, we wrapped things up with this rice dish. It was cooked with Pacific saury; lots of shiso was folded in and it was tasty! Last but not least, though least pictured, was the dessert I mentioned above. Actually, we ate the popcorn and cookies while we were singing, so our official dessert course was the plum cake with Trader Joe's soy ice cream and strawberries.

All in all, this evening was a superb, delicious break from cooking dinner. Wataru-san, gochi sou sama deshita!

17 January 2009

Catching Up

Late, late Wednesday night, I remembered that I had volunteered to bring soup to CBS the next day for lunch. Good thing the recipe I had in mind was for a slow cooker!

This recipe for Lentil Stew with Butternut Squash is from the January 2009 issue of Good Housekeeping. The only thing I changed was the amount of salt & pepper; after the stew had cooked for 8 hours, I found the flavor to be a little weak or maybe a little too sweet for me, so I doubled up on the salt & pepper, which was perfect. As I was serving it, I was also very generous with the parmesan cheese. And of course I served it with rice. The ladies seemed to like it, though the Italian Wedding Soup and Creamy Vegetable that other friends brought were fierce competitors as well...not that it was actually a competition.

Back to the present: when I came back from the gym this afternoon--you heard me right, I went to the gym TWICE this week!--at 5 pm, everyone was hungry and I needed dinner on the table fast. The pressure worked on me and I had it on the table in about 35 minutes.
*fried rice; we call it "chahan" and you can find instructions below (I won't be so presumptuous as to call this collection of notes an actual recipe)
*potstickers; we call them gyoza, and these are frozen gyoza. Gyoza is one of those things I've never really taken on in a "homemade challenge". I've been at a gyoza-making party but didn't come away terribly inspired because I wasn't very good at it. In any case, gyoza requires dipping sauce. Mixing it up is Aogu's job. It's made of soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili oil (ra-yu).
*water for me
*raspberry iced tea for Koji and Aogu, leftover from lunch at Costco
*lemonade for Izumi, same as above
*Asian pears--actually, these said "Japanese pears" on them so we couldn't pass them up when, as mentioned, we were at Costco earlier today.

Fried Rice
(Chahan) recipe adapted from "Okazu Ichinensei," one of the two cookbooks that Aogu brought into our marriage; the mabodofu recipe I wrote up the other day is also from this book, or did I already say that?
Serves 4

cooked rice, reheated in the microwave--leftovers from the day before are better than freshly cooked
2 eggs, beaten
green onions
other vegetables that strike your fancy--today I threw in some orange pepper
ginger, minced fine
sesame oil
soy sauce
salt, pepper

Heat up some sesame oil in a wok or large skillet with straight sides. Pour in the beaten eggs and let cook until almost set (don't scramble them). Set them aside on a plate.
Put some vegetable oil in the skillet and stir fry the vegetables and pork. I used thinly sliced pork belly today, but in the past I've also used pork chops that I scissored into little pieces. When the pork and vegetables are browned, transfer them to another plate.
Add more sesame oil to the skillet and stir fry the minced ginger until fragrant. Pour in the microwaved rice; cook and stir until the ginger and sesame oil are uniformly distributed and the rice isn't clumpy at all. Return the vegetables and pork to the skillet and stir them into the rice.
Make a space in the center of the rice and pour in soy sauce (the original recipe calls for only 2 tsp. but I've found that's not enough, so I usually dump and taste). When the sauce boils, mix it into the rice. Return the eggs to the skillet and stir them in, breaking them up as you stir. Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce, salt and pepper to your liking.

16 January 2009

Too Cool for School

Literally, this is what happened to us today. For the second day in a row, Koji's school was cancelled, not because of snow, but because of extreme cold. Yesterday's "high" was somewhere around zero, and today was only two or three degrees better. That's the actual temperature I'm quoting, not the wind chill, which was 20 or 30 degrees under that.

So I didn't feel very energetic or motivated today, but because we ended up not going out at all, making dinner was the least I could do. We had:

*sukiyaki; it was a stove top version because I was too lazy to get out the tabletop grill and let everyone cook their own. It was thinly sliced beef, tofu, burdock root, carrots, mushrooms and bean sprouts simmered in bottled sukiyaki sauce. Next time I'll try making my own sauce, but this time, I was happy to get that bottle out of the fridge. I found this a great way to get the kids to eat vegetables. I wasn't suprised that Koji ate carrots, but both of them ate bean sprouts, which I haven't seen before.
*rice, mostly white with a bit of brown mixed in
*butternut squash & tuna salad
, adapted from a recipe I cut out of a magazine from a Japanese grocery delivery service three and a half years ago and tried for the first time today; find it below
*cranberry juice

かぼちゃのツナサラダ (For English, Scroll Down)
ツナマヨネーズ (適当にツナとマヨネーズを混ぜて作る)
かぼちゃ 200g (実際使ったのはその倍ぐらいのButternut Squash)
枝豆   80g
玉ねぎ  4分の1 (2分の1を使った)


Pumpkin (or Butternut Squash) and Tuna Salad
tuna mayonnaise (mix about 1/2 of foil packed tuna with 1/3 cup mayonnaise)
1 lb. butternut squash
1/4 lb. edamame
1/2 onion
salt, pepper

Cut the squash into bite sized pieces and microwave for about 4 minutes (I microwaved the squash first and then cut it, but it didn't cook evenly, so next time I'll try it this way).
Squeeze the edamame out of their pods. Slice the onion thinly and sprinkle with salt. After it's become a bit transparent, rinse, then wring out excess water.
Combine the squash, edamame, and onion in a bowl. Add the tuna mayonnaise, mix, then adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.

The recipe for the cookies I mentioned yesterday:
Rich & Chewy Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

15 January 2009

Two Out of Three

In the last 24 hours, I made the following:

*butternut squash lentil stew
*cranberry white chocolate cookies
*pasta with alfredo sauce, broccoli, orange pepper and Spam...

The last was for our dinner tonight. Do I really need to have you guess which one wasn't very good?! More info, explanations and recipes coming up tomorrow!

14 January 2009

"Chinese" Again

*mabodofu (Japanese version)
*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in
*bean sprout, cucumber, and carrot salad with tahini dressing (recipe below)*milk
*frozen fruit with whipped cream

マーボー豆腐 (for English, scroll down)

しょうゆ 大さじ3
砂糖 小さじ1
みそ 大さじ1。5
水  カップ2分の1

豆腐 450g(1Pound)
ひき肉 225g (0.5Pound)
しょうが、にんにく 小2かけづつ
長ネギ  1本
ごま油  大さじ1
豆板醤  大さじ1


Serves 4

3 T soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 T miso paste
1/2 cup water

Other Ingredients:
1 pound tofu
1/2 pound ground meat (I used turkey)
2 cloves (or thumb sized pieces) of garlic, ginger, minced fine
1 leek
1 T sesame oil
1 T tobanjian ("broad bean chili paste")

1. Set a wok or other large skillet over medium high heat, add the sesame oil and stir fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant.
2. Add the leek and stir fry another 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the meat and stir fry until meat is browned.
4. Pour in the sauce and mix; add the tofu and incorporate gently (at this stage, remove the kids' portions, if cooking for kids)
5. Add the tobanjian to the adult portion that remains; heat and stir. If sauce isn't thick enough, dissolve 1 T of cornstarch in 2 T of water and sprinkle over. Cook and stir until sauce is satisfactorily thick.

Tahini Dressing from Simply in Season
was originally made for and used on this beet salad, which was raw julienned beets, raw julienned carrots, a handful of chopped parsley and this dressing.
Today's veggies were bean sprouts (soaked in boiling water for one minute), grated carrot and julienned cucumbers. This version either didn't have enough time to absorb the dressing's flavor, or the veggies needed to be drained more. In any case, it tasted better with a little sprinkle of salt.

In a jar with a tight lid, shake together:
125 ml (1/2 cup) tahini
125 ml (1/2 cup) oil (I used half sesame and half canola; olive is also an option)
60 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
60 ml (1/4 cup) soy sauce or tamari
60 ml (1/4 cup) water (use more or less water to reach the consistency you like)

13 January 2009

An Apron Can Feel Like a Superhero Cape

Yesterday, one of Koji's teachers slipped on ice and fell. She hurt her head pretty badly and wasn't able to be at school yesterday or today. This morning one of the other moms told me about it and suggested that we make dinner for her. I was game but I was also determined to actually get myself to the gym for the first time in four months. So, I did that (and I'm still patting myself on the back for it, even if it was a 30 minute walk on a treadmill, that feels infinitely better than the NOTHING I've been doing) and then headed home. At that point, I got a call from the other mom. She was at the market, wanting to pick up something for the teacher and asking again if I wanted to help. Sure! I said, I'll make a salad and/or something.
As I abandoned my plans for taking a shower (hey, it's winter, and these occasions are what deodorant is really for, right?) to start cooking, I felt really happy and a little bit heroic. I realized that cooking for others, especially others who aren't in a position to cook for themselves, is very gratifying. Then again, any small amount of heroism in the deed is likely reversed by the fact that I kept half of the food back for our dinner?! Here's what I made:

*pumpkin chocolate chip bread (but I turned it into muffins)

*waldorf salad of celery, apples, walnuts and chicken
*Japanese-style cucumber salad with wakame and hijiki

You would think after all that cooking mid-day I would be happy to call it done, and that's what I was planning to do. But when I went to dole out dinner, I knew that the above--minus the pumpkin muffins, I'm saving those for breakfast, even if they do have a bit of chocolate in them--with the addition of

*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in
*pan-fried chicken tenders
(left over from those I browned for the waldorf salad)

was great for the kids, but somehow lacking for me, oh, and Aogu too, I guess. You see, I suddenly I got a hankering for some dal. That sounds crazy, it's not like Indian food even goes with any of the other things I'd prepared (with the obvious exception of rice, of course). I lay the blame squarely on Baby Spice! This whole pregnancy I have craved foods with more spice, more heat, more complex flavor; in any case, bland will not do. This dal, though quick and easy, really hits the nail on the head. And surprise! Izumi loved it! I might have to make it again tomorrow...

Simple Lentil Dal with Cumin and Dried Red Chiles
from Indian Home Cooking
serves 4

1 cup lentils, picked over, washed and drained (the recipe recommends pink lentils, or "dhuli masoor dal," but I used yellow lentils, which are mentioned as an acceptable substitute though they may take longer to cook)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
4 cups water

Bring the above to a boil in a large saucepan. Skim well. Turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Add more water if necessary. Taste for salt and add more if you need to.

Ladle about 1/2 cup of the lentils into a small bowl and mash them with a spoon. Return the mashed lentils to the pot and give the dal a stir. Then continue cooking at a simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to thicken.

Tempering Oil
2 1/2 T canola oil
1 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
2 whole dried red chiles
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

For the tempering oil, heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until they turn a light brown color, 1-2 minutes. Add the whole chiles and cook, stirring, about 30 more seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cayenne, and sprinkle in a few drops of water to stop the cooking. Stir half the tempering oil and all of the lemon/lime juice into the dal and simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Transfer the dal to a serving bowl and pour the remaining tempering oil over the top. Serve hot.

12 January 2009

The List

More than a week ago, as I was getting going with this "blog dinner" project, I made a list of main dish ideas and corresponding ingredients that I would need to buy. It all seemed so organized, but the truth was, I had just been to the market a couple of days before and I was reluctant to head out again so soon. Turns out I didn't save myself that much work; what with having Japanese/Asian tendencies in my cooking, but also liking to bake and make pasta (that sounds like I like to make it from scratch, um, no, I mean cook with pasta), I can NEVER get every last ingredient I need in any one store.

Finally, tonight, after a trip to Costco a couple of days ago, another stop at my favorite local market the next day, and a final venture to a Korean market this morning, I was actually in position for using The List. Phew.

*shrimp in chili sauce for Aogu and me (recipe below, scroll down for English)
*natto for the kids
*rice, mostly white with brown mixed in
*wakame soup with green onions and sesame seeds
*beet and carrot salad with tahini dressing for me--I didn't think the kids would like it and I wasn't in the battling mood, which I need to be if I want to try and compel them to eat something unusual. None for Aogu, because he had some for lunch.
*milk for Aogu
*cranberry juice for the kids
*water for me
*mochi with sweet red bean paste for Koji
*1/2 clementine for Izumi


えび 300g
長ネギ 四分の一本
にんにく、しょうが  ひとかけづつ

酒、しょうゆ、片栗粉 小さじ1づつ

鶏がらスープ 100cc
塩  小さじ二分の一
酒  大さじ1
ケチャップ 大さじ3
酢、オイスターソース、砂糖、豆板醤  かく大さじ1


Shrimp in Chili Sauce (found on the internet sometime ago, sorry I can't give credit)

300g (about 3/4 lb.) shrimp w/ no tails
1/4 leek
2-3 cloves garlic peeled and chopped fine
1 thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and chopped fine

Combine this with one teaspoon each of cooking sake, soy sauce and cornstarch. Let sit for a few minutes, and in the interval, chop and stirfry any other vegetables to add in a bit of sesame oil(I added mushrooms today).

Throw the shrimp in the pan and toss until half-cooked.

Add the following sauce:
100 cc (about 1/3 cup) chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T ketchup
1 T each of: rice vinegar, cooking sake, oyster sauce, sugar and tobanjian (broad bean chili paste)

Cook and stir, adding peas if you like, until the peas and shrimp are heated/cooked through and the sauce has thickened a bit. If the sauce doesn't thicken, sprinkle another teaspoon of cornstarch over and stir in. Cook for another minute. Serve with rice.

11 January 2009

Sunday Shortcut

This afternoon I was out at a friend's house, helping to host a baby shower for another friend. Here's the cake I made for the party:

It was a carrot cake, but a la Cooks Illustrated, which made it a "Spiced Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean-Cream Cheese Frosting," to be exact. I made the cake yesterday and the frosting this morning; then I put the cake together and quickly made lunch for everyone--our Sunday lunch usual, mac n cheese--before I ran out to help set up for the shower. So by the time I got home, though everyone was clamoring for it, I didn't feel like making dinner.

Nevertheless, I managed to pull this together:

*skillet quesadillas with "mexican blend" pre-shredded cheese and taco-seasoned ground turkey
*green salad
, leftover from the baby shower
*cherry tomatoes
*canned refried beans
--yuck, next time I better make my own?!
*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in
*jarred salsa
*carrot cake for the kids and Aogu
; I had already partaken at the shower

Bad picture; I thought it would be funny to include the Lego pirates that we had to share the table with in the photo, but I didn't realize until I uploaded it that the Lego guys are in focus and dinner isn't.

One funny thing about the carrot cake, before I put the recipe here for posterity: I was very careful to ask my friend what she would like in the cake other than carrots. Once I went looking for a recipe, I realized the possibilities are limitless as far as things one might add; for example, coconut, pineapple, raisins, nuts, etc. I checked in with her and she said yes to nuts and raisins. Great. Except that I became so involved in following along with this recipe I was trying for the first time, I completely forgot to make any additions! I tried to make up for it by decoring the top of the cake with pecans and raisins, but I don't think it was quite the same thing.

Another note to self: next time you make this cake, bake it just a few minutes longer. And experiment with a bit less ground flaxseed; no one commented but it tasted a little too healthy. Oh, and as mentioned in the recipe notes, even though it's a pain, consider chopping the carrots a bit finer after they come out of the food processor. That would have made it prettier and easier to cut.

Spiced Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean-Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes one 13 by 9-inch cake (though I made two eight inch cakes and next time I would consider making three for thinner layers)

If you like nuts in your cake, stir 1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans or walnuts into the batter along with the carrots. Raisins are also a good addition; 1 cup can be added along with the carrots. If you add both nuts and raisins, the cake will need an additional 10 to 12 minutes in the oven.

Carrot Cake
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 pound medium carrots (6 to 7 carrots), peeled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil or safflower, or canola oil (I was alarmed by this amount of oil, so I did one cup of oil and 1 1/2 cups of ground flaxseed...but then as mentioned, I felt that tasted a little too healthy. Something to adjust next time.)

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 vanilla beans
8 ounces cream cheese , softened but still cool
5 tablespoons unsalted butter softened, but still cool
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar (4 1/2 ounces)

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13 by 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment and spray parchment.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, cloves, and salt in large bowl; set aside.
3. In food processor fitted with large shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); transfer carrots to bowl and set aside. Wipe out food processor workbowl and fit with metal blade. Process granulated and brown sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With machine running, add oil through feed tube in steady stream. Process until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape mixture into medium bowl. Stir in carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.
4. For the frosting: Using a paring knife, halve and scrape seeds from 2 vanilla beans. When cake is cool, process cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds in clean food processor workbowl until combined, about 5 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners' sugar and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
5. Run paring knife around edge of cake to loosen from pan. Invert cake onto wire rack, peel off parchment, then invert again onto serving platter. Using icing spatula, spread frosting evenly over surface of cake. Cut into squares and serve. (Cover leftovers and refrigerate for up to 3 days.)

10 January 2009


Tonight, at Koji's school, we had an "omochitsukitaikai". This is a kind of New Year's tradition in which sticky rice is pounded into rice cakes; if you want to get all the details, then read about it here

Here's Koji, pounding mochi.

Izumi and Aogu pounding mochi, or maybe Izumi is busier choking on mochi?!

I was sporting my brand new "announcement" shirt. Thanks, Mom!

Aogu and Izumi eating mochi; that is, Aogu ate enough for both of them and Izumi decided she didn't care for it much. That's my girl! I don't like it either...it's a texture thing.

Koji liked it fine though, and polished off three pieces of mochi filled with sweet red bean paste.

So the pictures up top are the traditional way to prepare mochi, but actually, you can make mochi in a breadmaker, and that's what the ladies in the kitchen did all night long. I usually like to help in the kitchen, but tonight I didn't set foot in there! Sorry, friends...I'll be the first one in there when we have a different menu...

So tonight's dinner was:
*mochi for Aogu and Koji, some with nori (thin sheets of dried seaweed) and some with sweet red bean paste
*more Costco pizza for me and the kids, because of course they had to eat again when we got home
*yogurt for the kids
*clementines for the kids
*chicken and rice soup from a can, doctored with some frozen spinach for me
*coconut cake with canned chocolate frosting for me; I've now decided that I don't like canned frosting. It can join mochi on my YUCK list.

09 January 2009

For the First, But Probably Not Last, Time This Year, Costco Saved Me

Aogu had plans to go out with a friend tonight. Phew...this afternoon I made an EPIC trip to Costco as we suddenly ran out of every possible paper product all at the same time. Diapers, tissue, toilet paper, paper towels, flushable wipes, check and check and check and check and check!

As I was saying, Aogu had plans so I didn't feel like I had to produce anything fancy for dinner. Fortunate, as I absolutely did not have the energy to so, anyway. And I was in possession of a $3 off coupon for a Costco take and bake pizza. Problem solved.

Tonight's dinner for me and the kids:
*Costco take and bake cheese pizza with sauteed mushrooms and ham added to half--that's where I took my slices from
*cucumber spears with ranch
*cranberry-raspberry juice

08 January 2009

Hash Mishmash

After arriving home from errands with the kids and procrastinating for a few minutes, I found that dinner was staring me in the face. I tried to pretend this wasn't so by polling my family members: "are you hungry?" I asked each person. The kids both said no, so I allowed myself to feel slightly hopeful about not having to make dinner tonight...but then I addressed the question to Aogu, and alas, I received an immediate and resounding yes.

Shuffling to the kitchen and poking through the randomness that is currently contained in the fridge, I found a 1/4 package of hayashi rice roux. Score! Izumi and I chopped an onion; that is, I chopped and she peeled the skin off while crying and saying "Izumi no me ga itai yo Mama!" (my eyes hurt, Mama!). I got the onion going in a skillet and went rooting for the thinly sliced beef that I was sure I had in the freezer.

Only it wasn't there. Curse words. But, the onion was already going, the idea was already percolating, and the trend of meat substitution started yesterday. So I grabbed some thinly sliced pork and scissored it up into the skillet (that's right, I cut it with scissors; I like to cut food with scissors whenever possible, especially raw meat. Scissors allow me to gingerly hold said raw meat over its intended pan and saw away at it with minimal contact). There wasn't enough meat. I remembered I had thawed a couple of little pieces of chicken, so I grabbed them out of the fridge and scissored them, too.

Better. As that was frying up, I dug through the veg drawers of the fridge and found a wilty salad for myself and carrots for everyone else. I also found some mushrooms, so I sauteed them in a separate skillet and threw them into the

*Hayashi Pork Chicken Mishmash, which we ate with the aforementioned
*hot carrots (that's what we call carrots that have been sliced and microwaved till tender...Koji LOVES them)
*wilty salad with ceasar dressing; strategically not pictured
*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in

After trying out this "new" version of hayashi rice, our consensus was "it's not inedible". In other words, next time I will only make this dish when I am sure that I have thinly sliced beef. Hey, you never know until you try!

07 January 2009

Chinese Potluck

We were invited to Koji's school friends' house for a potluck today; yes, that's all we do with our friends is go to one another's homes and eat...

Our hostess decided the theme should be "Chinese," which made it really fun, and also a bit of a challenge to try and figure out what to make. Fortunately, there was feature in this month's issue of Cooking Light on Chinese New Year. I decided to try and make the sweet and sour chicken, but I didn't have any chicken and I didn't want to go to the market. Aogu ended up with

*spicy sweet-and-sour turkey meatballs
*white rice with a bit of brown mixed in

I also made a mandarin orange cake, but I was disappointed with the way it turned out, so I won't show you a picture or give you the recipe this time!

As for the rest of the family, Koji and Izumi ate lunch first with their friends, then the moms and I had lunch. By the time we finished, it was about 2:30 and I was stuffed. I thought I may not need dinner...look at the feast we had, as reflected in the "take home box" to the right.

What I didn't account for was the traffic driving home, or my need to keep Izumi awake. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by feeding them dinner in the car, which meant that I ever so reluctantly drove through McDonald's. Bah. Actually, I don't regret that as much as I am remorseful about buying two chicken McNugget Happy Meals only to find that the toys were no good. Next time, even if I make a fool of myself at the drive thru, I'll have to find out what the toys are and make my choices accordingly. And, though I thought I was so stuffed after that late lunch, I decided I had a space in my stomach for one of those dollar double burgers. But I thought I'd save calories by not having cheese...bah again. I need to make a resolution to resist that nasty food!

I was hoping that I could just link to the Cooking Light recipe I mentioned and save myself some time, but I think it's not up on the website yet because it's too new. Plus, I do want to record the way that I made it because of course, I made a few little changes.

Spicy Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs (Chicken) from Cooking Light, Jan./Feb. 2009
4 tsp. cornstarch, divided
5 tsp. low sodium soy sauce, divided (I used regular)
1 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger (I threw in about 1/2 tsp. ground, I'm out of fresh)
1 tsp. dark soy sauce (I used regular)
1 tsp. Chinese rice wine (I used Japanese cooking sake)
1/8 tsp. white pepper (I left this out)
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound pre-made meatballs, thawed and cut in half (or boneless skinless chicken breast cut in chunks)

1/2 cup fat free less sodium chicken broth (I used homemade)
1 T brown sugar
3 T ketchup
2 1/2 T rice vinegar
2 tsp. chile paste (I used "to ban jian," red chile miso)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 T canola oil, divided

1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 giant "tree ear mushroom", reconstituted and chopped
NOTE: these veggies and amounts are what I used, not what the original recipe called for...they also specify 1 cup of diced fresh pineapple, but I prefer spicy and sour to sweet, so I deliberately left this out

Combine 2 tsp. cornstarch, 2 tsp. soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl. Add meatballs (chicken); stir to coat.

Combine chicken broth, remaining 2 tsp. cornstarch, brown sugar, remaining 1 T soy sauce, ketchup, vinegar, chile paste (to ban jian) and sesame oil in a separate bowl.

Heat 1/2 T of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables (except for tree ear mushroom, if using) and saute for about four minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons of canola oil in the same pan. Add meatballs (chicken) and spread in an even layer; cook w/out stirring for one minute. Saute an additional three minutes or until chicken is done.

Return vegetable mixture to pan. Add chicken broth mixture, pineapple and/or tree ear mushroom if using and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil; cook one minute or until thickened, stirring constantly. Serves eight.

06 January 2009

Day In

Koji isn't back to school until Thursday, and we had no plans today. So though I got up this morning and put on my track suit, thinking I would drag us to the gym for the first time in four months, when I noticed it was snowing, I decided we should have a day in instead. Mind you, it wasn't a blizzard; it was a barely visible float-by of the occasional flake, but I must have wanted a day in, because that was sufficient reason for me to call off the gym and a possible trip to the market as well.

Through the day, I looked at the dinner option list on the fridge; I was troubled and indecisive. Several of the possibilities either called for ingredients I wasn't able to buy today, or worse yet, I just didn't feel like making them because I've looked at the list too much. It's the same problem as my clothes; they're not actually overworn, they're just over-looked-at. I digress.

Finally, when the kids started shouting about their empty stomachs, it seemed time to make a decision. We have a lot of potatoes, and thanks to this blog I know we've already had rice every day this year. For tonight, surely we could take a little break from rice and also be more casual? I'm throwing in "casual" so the paper plate pictured below will make sense.

*oven fries
*steamed broccoli

*turkey "hamburg"--a Japanese style hamburger steak

and for Aogu,

*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in

That's right, he couldn't take the day off...and mind you, he already had rice in the lunch I made for him (which is a topic deserving of a separate post). As soon as we started eating, he said, "where's the rice?" and I said, "we're having fries today" and he countered with "but this hamburg is really good and it would be even better with rice". What could I do? We had a bit left over from yesterday, which is less than ideal but better than nothing, so I warmed that up and he was satisfied.

Other observations: Koji didn't like the hamburg at all, but he's not a huge meat fan, so I wasn't surprised. We got him to eat two-thirds of it, anyway. Also, when we have broccoli, I have to make sure and steam up the stems for him, because he only eats broccoli stems, not crowns. Yes, I am still referring to Koji here.

Hamburg recipe in Japanese from Kikkoman website;

Mix and knead the following together in a bowl until it's very cohesive:
360 g (about 3/4 lb.) of ground meat (I used turkey, the recipe calls for a mix of beef and pork)
2 eggs
1/4 onion (I used about 1/2) minced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
small piece ginger, minced fine (I didn't have fresh, I threw in some ground ginger)
2 T panko (Japanese style breadcrumbs, next time I may add a touch more)
2 T ketchup
1/4 tsp. salt

Divide into fourths, (I divided into 8 portions so everyone could theoretically have two) form into a ball shape and toss between your hands to get the air out. Put a bit of salad oil into a frying pan and line up the balls, flattening a bit as you fry them. Once both sides are nicely browned, pour a tablespoon of red wine over all (I used Japanese cooking sake). Put a lid on (oops, I didn't put a lid on) and steam for 2-3 minutes. Stick in a toothpick and make sure the cooking juices run clear. When they do, the hamburg is finished. Sprinkle a bit of soy sauce on and serve with ketchup.

05 January 2009

Poultry, in Various Forms

*Asian-style egg drop soup, made with chicken broth; recipe from Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times

*garlic chicken, recipe from Easy Weeknight Favorites
*rice, white with a bit of brown mixed in
*green salad of romaine with cucumbers, tomatoes and bottled ceasar dressing
*canned mandarin oranges for the kids
*1/2 piece of blueberry coffee cake for me
*three Lindt white chocolate truffles for Aogu; I think he was trying to keep the rest of the his Christmas stash for himself. The kids have been moving in on it lately, picking up the bag and shouting, "Papa, hambunko shio!" which means "Papa, let's split one!" and of course he would always agree.

Other observations:
I'm making a lot of recipes from cookbooks titled "Easy". Hmm....

The egg drop soup was definitely worth a repeat. I didn't have any scallions on hand, so I sauteed some mushrooms and threw them in. Of course that wasn't a substitute of a similar flavor by any means, but it did increase our veg intake just a bit. I look forward to trying it with scallions next time, I think that will make it even better. Also, next time I will make the soup with three cups of broth and three eggs rather than the four called for, so we won't have any left over.

Egg Drop Soup
1 qt. chicken stock (I had some homemade on hand and I think that made it better, but I wouldn't worry about making it with canned stock next time)
4 eggs
1 tablespoon soy sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped scallion
1 tsp. sesame oil

Bring three cups of the stock to a boil. Meanwhile, beat the remaining stock with the eggs and the soy sauce. When the stock is boiling, adjust the heat so that it bubbles but not furiously. Add the egg mixture in a steady stream and stir for 2-3 minutes. Taste and add salt or soy sauce if necessary, then add pepper, the scallions, the sesame oil, taste again, adjust seasonings and serve.

I'll make garlic chicken again because the kids really liked it, but I want to adjust the recipe so the sauce doesn't taste so acidic. Maybe I have to leave out or at least reduce the amount of lemon juice. Based on yesterday and tonight, perhaps cooking with lemon isn't great for my family? Aogu didn't say anything, but I think that's because he was on the phone while we were eating, not because he didn't have an opinion. Or maybe I need to salt it a bit more; I used unsalted butter because that's all I have on hand, and I never added salt at any point. Perhaps that would have balanced it more.

Garlic Chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (I used seven chicken "tenders")
1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/4 cup butter
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Dredge chicken in flour. Melt butter in skillet; add and saute garlic just a bit, then add chicken. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side until chicken is done. Remove chicken from skillet. Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet, bring to a boil and boil for four minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet and spoon the sauce over until it thickens and the chicken is hot. Serve chicken with sauce poured over.

04 January 2009


Wow, I must say my food photography is vastly and instantly improved when I use our new Canon digital SLR instead of my phone camera. Something to think about for my future posts...

Anyway, tonight at dinner time we had some friends over, so even though I knew that they didn't expect us to feed them, I was happy to, because more people means more motivation! For tonight, it meant that I actually got into the kitchen and cooked up one of the things I bought ingredients for the other day, instead of resorting to instant ramen. So this is what we had:

*Japanese-style Beef Stew with Winter Squash, recipe from Mark Bittman's Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times
*Green salad of romaine lettuce, freshly grated parmesan, dried cranberries and chopped pecans
*Rice, mostly white with a bit of brown mixed in
*more coconut cake with canned chocolate frosting, arranged much more quickly and less artfully than yesterday
*chocolate-dipped crystallized ginger
*chocolate-dipped mini pretzels

Beef Stew Recipe (because it was worth a repeat, according to the fam and our guests, though note to self, Aogu would prefer less or even no lemon)

2 # boneless beef chuck, cut into chunks
2 cups dashi
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin, honey or sugar
10 nickel sized slices of peeled fresh ginger
salt and pepper
1 lemon
1 1/2 # peeled butternut, pumpkin or other winter squash or sweet potato, cut into 1 inch chunks

This is how I made it, not Mark Bittman's exact instructions:
1. Brown the meat chunks in a large pot
2. Add the dashi and the rest of the ingredients, except the lemon and squash. Dash in some pepper, peel the lemon and add the peel.
3. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Check the meat for tenderness. Stir in the squash and either cook for 15 more minutes, or if you're trying to save time as I was, have your squash pre-cooked via microwave so you can stir it in and heat for just a minute or two.
5. Salt if necessary and add the juice from the lemon...or don't, if you're me making this recipe next time. Enjoy with rice, preferably Japanese-style short grain!

03 January 2009

Unforseen Trend

So I didn't anticipate that the beginning of 2009 would include the trends of eating "dinner" at 2 or 3 pm and include the ingestion of sea animals with their heads still attached, but that's exactly what seems to be happening, if today is any indication.

We were invited to a New Year's party that started at 2 pm today. We arrived exceedingly hungry, having eaten nothing but a couple of pieces of doughnut mid-morning. Our hosts were ready for us with platters of

*grilled whole mackerel
*cucumber salad with crab
*pot stickers

The mackerel is what looked super delicious to me! Though I really like to cook, there are a few things I haven't mastered and one of them is "large chunks of meat". Whole fish fall under that category in my mind; so though I like them, I have never prepared one at home. The rest of my family ate some or all of things listed above (except Koji who didn't eat at all because he was so busy playing) but all I ate was most of an entire good sized mackerel (but not the head) and some cucumber salad. Best of all, the host had bought a whole case of mackerel and didn't mind giving me two more (don't worry, they are already grilled) to bring home. Hmm. Maybe breakfast tomorrow?

Beverages and desserts: Aogu drank
*yogurt flavored drink ("Yoglife"?!) for me and the kids, and small pieces of
*apple pie
*seven layer bar
*chocolate almond cookie

Brother, this posting what we ate for dinner might also become a diet tool for me because I'm a little embarrassed to admit that at 6 pm we went to another friend's house for a visit and continued eating dessert. At least we didn't eat dinner again, I guess. Oh, the kids did actually, they had some
*pad see iew, which they mainly ate to get the
*ice cream and
*leftover coconut cake that I had made as a "practice run" for my Grandma's birthday party and then frozen. I actually wanted to make mini layer cakes for everyone, a la this post at Bakerella so I took my biscuit cutters, the cake, some chocolate frosting and coconut with me to the friends' house and then spent most of the evening fiddling with it. My friend kept apologizing, saying that I was working too hard making dessert for them, but I thought it was really fun!

02 January 2009

East Meets...South of the Border?

That's right, tonight's dinner was:

*sushi and

You see, a friend from Koji's school invited us to her place for lunch today, and it was no ordinary lunch. It was sushi made by her husband, who is an actual sushi chef at Kyoto at Lincoln Park. I haven't been eating sashimi or sushi since I've been pregnant generally, but I made an exception when we were in Tokyo last October. I made another exception today, because I knew this sushi was fresh. Plus, I stuck to toro (tuna), which seemed the least risky. Oh, and crab, which was cooked. I also ate three deep-fried tiger shrimp heads, eyeballs, antenna and all. This was my first time for that experience, but how could I refuse when my friends were quick to point out that shrimp shells are full of calcium? Turns out they are tasty too (what isn't tasty when it's deep fried?).

My friend's husband had purchased a liberal amount of sashimi, so even though another friend's 10 year old son supposedly ate 40 pieces of sushi, we still had some left over for "take out". That turned into Aogu's dinner, pictured above.

I'm not planning to eat because I'm still stuffed from lunch, but Koji announced that he was hungry and wanted a quesadilla. That seemed easy enough, so I went ahead and made that for him and Izumi. Some other items that were also consumed:
*tomatoes (note to self, don't buy tomatoes in January, they just aren't good even if they look like they're going to be!)
*cottage cheese (it almost goes without saying that Izumi is the one who ate this. She LOVES it so much, it's practically a food group for her)
* osenbei...we don't usually eat this for dinner as I consider it a snack and theoretically try to keep it separate, but since Koji and Aogu started watching a movie while we were still eating, the whole experience kind of ran together.

So, happy second day of 2009. Our dinners are already turning out to be even more random and interesting than I expected!

01 January 2009

A Year's Worth of Dinner

Maybe I'm being much too ambitious, but that's what I'd like to end up with on this blog in a year from today. My idea is, if I reinvent this blog--not that it was very clear what it was in the first place--to be a record of our dinners, then on some day at 4:30 pm when I should be making dinner and my mind goes blank, I can then inspire myself and maybe even you.

I'm not going to try and make our dinners fancier, and I'm not going to lie about what we have! Just the facts here, even when they aren't pretty!

Getting to the point, for tonight our dinner was:
*bisquick pizza
2 c. baking mix, add 1/2 cup water, knead for one minute w/ additional flour or baking mix. spread into a pizza pan or cookie sheet, thinner is better and top with your favorites. tonight we were a little short on options, having just flown in from LA, so I topped our pizza with sauce that was leftover from another pizza kit, pre-shredded cheese, and on one half, tuna and olives. bake for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees.
*frozen blueberries for Koji...everyone else, including me, didn't get excited about this "dessert" option. not that I needed dessert, since I helped myself to some holiday cookies while I was making dinner.
*beverages: Aogu and I had water, the kids had chocolate milk.

Good luck to me! If all goes well, I will post again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and....