31 March 2009

Chili and Pokemon Shirts

I made chili today and I got it done in like 12 minutes flat. That doesn't count the simmer time, of course, but I was still impressed with my own speed. You'd think I wouldn't mind spending a little more time on dinner now that we are back in influenza quarantine mode, but maybe I was preoccupied making these:

I didn't make the shirts but I did make and attach the patches, and if you ask those pictured, of the things I made today, these were infinitely superior!

30 March 2009

Chicken Nuggets Are For When I'm Dizzy

Thank God for leftovers. This morning I had hayashi rice, for lunch I had palak paneer and for dinner, mabodofu. You can see that I would have starved today if not for these provisions which remained from the last few days.

There was no cooking for me today; in spite of the flu shot I had, I think I'm starting to succumb after a week straight of nursing sick kids. BAD! Remember that I am 37 1/2 weeks preggo!! So I'm not feeling terribly spry on the best day, and topping that with a fever and sore throat pretty much incapacitated me today.

Thank God also for foresight; when we were at Costco the other day, I bought the five pounds of dino nuggets that I haven't in quite some time. I figured they would come in handy after the baby's here, but their day for handiness was today instead. The kids enjoyed them with ketchup, rice and edamame, and finished things off with ice cream and strawberries.

As long as I'm speaking of God, please God, let this flu, if that's what I have, be much more short lived for me than it has been for the kids!!

29 March 2009

Clam Chowder

Making it myself usually keeps me from feeling this way, but my concensus on today's clam chowder:

Would rather have eaten at Mo's.

28 March 2009

Mabodofu from a Box

I got to leave the house today!

I got to leave the house today!

Yes, this was an extraordinary and rare moment. The occasions for my release were a good-bye party and a baby shower. Aogu released me and I thank him!

Making dinner for the fam before I flew the coop was the least I could do. They had:

*mabodofu, only this time I couldn't be bothered making the sauce from scratch and used a sauce packet I found in the pantry
*white rice
*steamed broccoli?

As I was at a party, you know what I ate.


27 March 2009

Unprecedented Output

I made a lot of stuff today! Perhaps I've finally made peace with the reality of influenza keeping us home for not just one or two days but many beyond? Or I'm just stir crazy...

In any case, I was struck with a fit of creativity and productivity! First, I decided that someone who can make their own granola can probably also make their own granola bars. Right? Sounds logical? Here's what I ended up with. They're a little hard to see with the light reflecting off the plastic I wrapped them in. And furthermore, though I'm finding it pleasing to be able to pull them out of the freezer anytime without wondering what exactly is in this snack food?! I'm still not actually sure that I love the way they taste. At the same time, I know I'll never turn my nose up at anything that contains oats and chocolate chips! Still, I think I can do better. One quibble I have with the recipe I used is, it called for cutting an 8x8 pan of bars into 24 servings?!! Um, not likely. I think I ended up with something like 18, and that felt scrimpy. Point here, does anyone have a granola bar recipe to recommend?

Next, it's not dinner or even food, but I can't resist noting that today I was bitten by a sewing bug and suddenly couldn't go another moment without fashioning some sort of garment. Maybe now that my sewing machine is back in its proper accessible position in the basement, I suddenly had to make up for the last six months, when it wasn't? Or maybe I was just challenged and inspired by my sister? At the same time, I don't have the stamina for a long project, or a body that I am planning to keep for longer than the next two weeks. So my solution was this skirt for my daughter. If you think you see me patting myself on the back, you aren't making it up!

Last but not least, I did actually make dinner in spite of making these other things. Perhaps having Aogu home to eat dinner for the first weeknight in ages had something to do with it? It's

*hayashi rice which was infinitely better this time, as I had the required thinly sliced beef on hand
*white rice
*daikon salad again...what can I say except that I really like daikon and ume (Japanese pickeled plum) together and I can't get enough lately. Must be Baby Spice's fault.

So, all this creativity is nearly enough to make me think that staying for home for days on end isn't so bad...?! Quote that back to me in a few more days and see what I say!

26 March 2009

Pita Inn to the Rescue

Izumi and I had lunch at Pita Inn with friends on Tuesday, but we couldn't eat it all and it's a good thing.

After I spent a large portion of today making this trifle for Craig's birthday, I wasn't up for making dinner.

But I'm really pleased with my creation! Too bad there wasn't any way for us to sample it...Happy Birthday to Craig!

25 March 2009

Cornmeal Pizza, but I'm Still Avoiding Yeast

Though we were home all day today in what will turn out to be the first of MANY days at home thanks to some nasty cases of influenza, I still couldn't plan ahead enough to try out a yeast pizza for dinner. But I really wanted to make pizza so I could use up that half full pack of pepperoni in the fridge.

I'm so glad that I got out this little pizza cookbook that my sister gave me quite some time ago: I found a great recipe for baking soda pizza with cornmeal. The whiter side of the pizza is "my" side, where I covered the pepperoni with pepper jack cheese. The other side is for the kids...but my efforts to use the pepperoni were a little overzealous, so they found it a bit spicy.

Well, there's nothing like having some leftover pizza available, so I count the pieces they didn't eat as to my benefit!

24 March 2009

Mickey D's Again...

...but is it really "again" if the last time we drove thru was in early January? I'm kind of proud of myself on this one; there was a point last year when I was driving thru at the Golden Arches at least once a week.

The back story to my "break down" for tonight is that we spontaneously went to play at a friends' house after school. We left around dinner time and had a bit of a drive ahead of us. I was worried that the kids would fall asleep and then not be able to go to bed easily when we got home. So driving thru to feed them dinner AND keep them awake seemed like an excellent kill two birds with one stone scenario.

As usual, in a moment of weakness, I got the double cheeseburger from the dollar menu, thought it was gross and ate it anyway.

23 March 2009

Kale and Cabbage Gratin

The kale I've recently experimented with by putting it in soup etc. has been a success, at least for me. I even got the kids to eat some by mixing it into their mac and cheese, if I recall correctly. If you're fact-checking me, you'll have to find that post on your own since I'm too lazy to link to it here.

In any case, I thought it was about time I branch out and make something other than soup with kale. So at long last, I made this kale and cabbage gratin. Here's what I learned:

*any recipe that calls for a pound of kale AND a pound of cabbage will turn into an exceeding amount of food
*ground thyme is nasty and should never ever be used under any circumstances, starting this moment
*more cheese would probably be better, at least from a taste standpoint
*if you don't know what to compare gruyere to when you are at the market searching for it in vain, try muenster instead

And with the hindsight of posting this several days later: this gratin is not bad, but if I should ever make it again, I will halve the recipe. After I ate it once or twice a day for the next several days and still had more than half left, I had to give that half to a friend. Trying to plow through it on my own was just overkale. Get it?!! Overkale = overkill...never mind...

22 March 2009

Whopper Ice Cream with a Side of Mac and Cheese

As you may have deduced, Jenny likes malt. I wanted to treat her while she was here, and I also wanted to provide dessert for the friends we invited here today to see her.

So I made this
*malted milk Whopper ice cream. It went over very well and of course I forgot to take a picture of it until it was down to the last few licks in the bottom of the utterly misleading lowfat cottage cheese container.

I'm a little amused, yet dismayed that since my energy was consumed by the ice cream making, I decided it would be OK to serve it with brownies from a box. Still trying to decide if I was really fine with that, but I'll never know because box or not, the brownies are gone now!

Following my recent trend of tiring myself out too much to make dinner, tonight we had
*K*raft macaroni and cheese with peas, broccoli and ham stirred in

It was almost as awesome as the ice cream. Almost.

21 March 2009

Thai Sook Dee

Our lovely, generous and suprisingly energetic for just having a baby three weeks ago friend and houseguest Jenny was so kind as to buy us dinner from Thai Sookdee tonight. Good timing, since I was both uninspired and unenergetic after our late night shenanigans the evening before! Maybe driving through Mickey D's for hot chocolate doesn't count as "shenanigans" to you, but I bet you're not almost 37 weeks pregnant?! See!

In any case, we had
*shumai for everyone
*pad thai for Jenny and Katie
(try not to faint, I know how shocking that is) with
*strawberry smoothies
*massaman curry for Aogu
(same sentiment as above)
*mango strawberry smoothie
*eggplant kaprao with shrimp for me
*chicken wonton soup for me
*mango smoothie for the kids who also had
*curry and rice made by me
; I had made a giant pot the day before to hold us over the weekend and I was too cheap to order them something from the restaurant, not knowing if they'd eat it.

Everything was delicious! Thanks very much for dinner, Jen!

20 March 2009

Shirl's Drive In

Jenny's here! Jenny's here!

But you would never know that I'm that excited about it since I took nary a picture of her....Jen, help me out...

She decided spontaneously to fly in from Charlotte for the weekend. So I'm not the least surprised that dinner tonight became a bit of an adventure. These things seem to happen to us.

We were driving up to Zion for a womens' retreat, planning to grab something to eat along the way. Our plans seemed to be foiled as we drove along a country-looking road with not much around but Wally World (that's my dad's name for Wal* Mart), which prompted us to brain storm possible dinner like items we might maybe perhaps be able to get from Wally. We weren't quite desperate enough to do that, but by the time Jen spotted Shirl's Drive In, we were up for just about anything else.

We ended up with
*Butterfinger Polar Blast
*Italian meatball sandwich
for me and
for Jen.

The "drinks" (dessert?) were great; what's not to love about a huge cup of melty ice cream swirled with chunks of Butterfinger...I admit I didn't love it as much once my Butterfinger chunks were gone...

But once we drove a bit further and turned onto that main road that had been eluding us, we saw restaurant after restaurant that we were more familiar with and we felt a little foolish about going with Shirl's. I tried to maintain that I wanted to support the local economy, and I actually really meant it. I prefer a local shop, that's one of the reason I don't set foot in Jewel*Osco or Dom*inick's if I can help it. I digress.

We didn't get around to eating for another hour or so, after we had found the retreat location, found the actual room the retreat meeting was being held in, finished singing many worship songs and sat down to hear the main speaker.

Verdict on the meatball sandwich with apologies for the bad picture taken with cell phone: pretty tasty, and pretty hard to eat with no utensils and sitting in an uncomfortable chair with a huge belly! Those jalapenos really added the kick that Baby Spice always wants me to go after, though I'm still afraid that I must have sprayed the neighbors in front of me with jalapeno juice every time I took a bite. And many thanks to the lady next to me, who handed me lots and lots of tissues that helped me sort of almost keep my unruly dinner under control!

19 March 2009

Skillet Quesadillas and Spinach Tart Again

We were out late last night and then today was quite busy, with CBS and a dr. appt.--which took forever because I didn't eat lunch before having my non-stress test and Baby Spice was asleep--so dinner was low priority tonight.

The kids had
*skillet quesadillas, just cheese and tortillas
*steamed broccoli

and for myself I added
*a slice of spinach tart.

Leftovers can be such a good friend!

18 March 2009

Sabri Nihari

Tonight we were invited for dinner and a massive playdate at Koji's classmate Saho's house. She and her family are moving away next week, so this was our last chance to visit with them in their home. Sniff! We will miss them! As for dinner, I contributed this beet salad. I also made this chocolate and matcha bundt cake and I am so disappointed that my camera battery went dead and I wasn't able to take a picture of it! It was my first foray into baking with matcha, though I've had intentions in that department for years...and I know it's been years since the packet of powdered matcha that I dug out of the pantry had supposedly expired in 2002... mwah ha ha, I used it anyway because it hadn't been opened. Anyway, what kind of germs would want to mess with matcha?!

Here are the kids doing dinner. They had pizza. If you are astounded at the number of kids pictured, well, I told you this was a MASSIVE playdate!

Getting to the point, here is the Indian (Pakistani?) food that we ordered from Sabri Nihari on Devon. After all these years, I haven't once gone down to Devon to eat even though I quite like Indian food. So when the friend in charge of ordering asked me for a recommendation, I had to scramble a bit. I read around on Yelp, and many people seemed to have good things to say about this place. More importantly, one of my mom friends from Koji's school is married to an Indian man, and she recommended it too. Picking the place wasn't as much of an ordeal as figuring out what to order though: the so-called on-line menu portion of the restaurant's website is blank. So I cobbled together ideas from the reviews on yelp and came up with the following:
*chicken makhani (butter chicken)
*frontier gosht (chicken and jalapeno curry--fiery but delicious!)
*chicken biryani
*sabri nihari (beef stew like curry)
*palak paneer (spinach and cheese curry)
*garlic naan

As is my trend lately, I ordered too much. But you can see that these ladies didn't mind. Thanks very much to Maki-san for getting us together at her place one last time!

17 March 2009

Present for Samantha

My friend Michelle's baby Samantha is one week old today, and I got to celebrate with her. Well, I got to meet her and hold her, which felt like a celebration. I didn't feel quite as happy as I think I will when Baby Spice shows up, but almost. Note all my fancy green eyeshadow. Um, it is St. Patrick's Day. I'm sure this is how the Saint himself would have me mark the day. If you don't know what St. Patrick's Day is about, you should definitely watch Lufti's Fanciful Flannelgraph. Speaking of green, this is what I made for Michelle and Terry, and thus vicariously, for Samantha:

It's a spinach phyllo tart. And it is tasty, if I do say so. You thought I made it for my friends? Well, I did, but I cleverly made one for myself as well, and it turns out, for Izumi. I served the kids leftover pepperoni spaghetti for dinner but when I sat next to Izumi with this on my plate, she couldn't get enough! What a good, er, green, girl!

16 March 2009

Daikon Salad, my BFF

So I haven't really been out for a "big shop" since Sunday, March 1st. That means the fridge, freezer and pantry are actually starting to have a bit of space in them, and I'm having to be more creative with my ingredients (witness yesterday's spaghetti). I must say I feel that I lack ideas more than I lack ingredients.

Today I couldn't be bothered to think of what I could make with a daikon and some chicken breast. Fortunately, my trusty mom friends from Koji's school were there for me and we decided together that I should make some kara-age (Japanese style fried chicken nuggets) and a daikon salad. Not sure why I couldn't think of that last by myself since I LOVE daikon salad and eat it every day when we are in Japan. Even a convenience store daikon salad will do, so delicious. I digress...

Knowing Aogu wasn't going to be joining us for dinner, as he's on a super busy project for the next two weeks, I took the liberty of mixing some whole grain/bean mix into our rice. Alas, Koji was too smart for me--right away, he said, Mama, I don't like this rice... guess we'll be back to white soon. Last but not least, miso soup with daikon, shiitake, corn, peas, seaweed and tofu. I didn't put enough miso in so it actually wasn't very good, except as a veg conveyor for the kids. Oops.

Note to self about daikon salad: the way to make this particular version is, mix mayonnaise and umejiso paste to taste, then stir that into chopped daikon and cilantro. Shiso would have been better, but cilantro were the leaves I had on hand.

Maybe I'll break down and go to the market tomorrow.

15 March 2009

Izumi's Request

It's not necessarily expected in the middle of March around these parts, but we had a rather spring like day. Aogu and the kids were even able to make their trampoline debut for this year. Or did they do that yesterday? Whenever it was, scroll down fast to see Koji in action!

Izumi wanted to eat outside today so though it wasn't actually that warm (witness my wool coat) we decided to go with her plan. In the fine spirit of using pantry ingredients, we had

*pepperoni spaghetti with jarred spaghetti sauce, canned mushrooms, frozen green beans, onion, whole wheat spaghetti and pepperoni

I thought this one of one of the stranger, less appealing/delicious things I've made. So naturally, the family loved it and had seconds.

14 March 2009

Bake Me a Cake as Fast as You Can

Here you see the fruits of my labor for today.

I like to use words like "labor" right now, in the hope that Baby Spice will take a hint.

Anyway, this cake is in honor of Miho's mother in law, Jan. I hope you can "read" the cake and figure out for yourself what number birthday she was celebrating. This was the same cake I made last week for Koji's party, but in a different shape of course. Rumor has it the cake was a big hit, and I think I'm in the queue to make a cake for the next three birthdays their family has coming up...

in the next three weeks. It's a good thing I like to make a cake! Maybe I'll charge them a little extra and use the profit to go to that cake decorating class.

Um, do I really need to tell you that I didn't feel like making dinner tonight? Thankfully, I recalled the super helpful and utterly unoriginal idea of having the kids "make" dinner for us...

*English muffin pizzas topped with jarred spaghetti sauce, pregrated Costco cheese, salami
*also with mushrooms, red peppers and jalapenos for grown ups

Believe it or not, we did not have cake for dessert. But we do actually have quite a bit on hand, thanks to the bits I saved when I carved two 9 X 13s into a "6" and an "0". Maybe I'll eat it for breakfast.

13 March 2009

Dinner at Miho's

Graduation night at Koji's school tonight meant that after I left the kids at Miho's so I could run to the market for some milk, heavy cream etc.--which by the way doesn't count as a trip to the market for dinner items, see tomorrow's post!--I couldn't drag us home for dinner. So we accepted her graciously offered hospitality instead:

*white rice
*miso soup with cabbage, carrots and dried shiitake

Sounds simple, and it was, but I tell you, once in awhile, food made by someone else tastes really good, whatever it may be!

12 March 2009

With Apologies to Haters of Green Peas

Don't think I'll ever be able to make ebi chili (shrimp in chili sauce) again without remembering the last time I made it at Miho's house. You see, I discovered that Miho doesn't like peas, and I was taken aback by the information. She's not a picky eater, but more than that, who doesn't like peas? They seeem to be one of the few things that pretty much anyone and everyone can at least force down. Guess that was the problem...they were really forced down her when she was growing up so now that no one can make her eat them, she doesn't. In any case, tonight's dinner was just for us, so I went ahead and put lots of peas in, but I felt vaguely uneasy about it. I served the shrimp in chili sauce with white rice and a salad of romaine with cucumbers and ranch. One of these days I need to put up the recipe...

11 March 2009


All I can say about dinner tonight is that it paled in comparison to lunch.

Lunch today was part of a farewell party at Koji's school sponsored by the "Mother's Association" in honor of several of the ladies who will be leaving the school soon. I was marginally in charge of the gathering, and I say marginally because I was willing to take charge of organizing the schedule and the take out order as well as the dessert buffet. I wasn't up for figuring out "game time," which is a good thing because the fruit basket game that someone else thought of and implemented was a thousand times better than whatever I would have come up with.

Oh, and did I mention that in the midst of this party/luncheon, we all had to go back over to the school classroom so that we could help with the kids' "graduation festival" that happened to be scheduled for the same morning? Yeah, I'm not always a brilliant scheduler. Koji and his friend Takeru were in charge of the "karate gokko" station, a place where every kid who paid a ticket had a chance to punch or chop at the wrinkled up newspaper that Koji and/or Takeru held up in front of them. Takeru was especially good at tearing the newspaper at just the right moment so that even the little girls felt like they were skilled in karate. Koji was more preoccupied with choosing just the right prize for each person, because everyone got a prize. Many of the prizes were home made, and now that I'm talking about them here I wish I had photographic evidence, because they were super cute, funny and enthusiastically received. For example, the recycled spaghetti box with several long pieces of yarn heavily taped to one end...was it some sort of rocket? We'll never know, but the kid chosen to receive it was ecstatic!

Back to lunch, which I ordered from the Cafe Lucci to Go menu. I went with:

*fried calamari
*rigatoni with vodka sauce
*bowties with meat sauce
*fettucine alfredo
*chicken parmigiano
*chicken asparagi

Note to self for future lunch orders: cream sauce seems to go over better than tomato-y sauces...no one's that excited about salad when there are carbs to be had...when there's a lot of dessert planned, scale back lunch items and then scale them back again.

Lunch was followed by a dessert buffet, to which I contributed a cranberry upside down cake. I was pretty excited about it, but I guess everyone else wasn't because only half of it was eaten. Oh well. It didn't help that it kind of fell apart when I turned it upside down, and that no one knew what it was. Again, a note for next time: put up some signs so people know what is being offered! I actually had that in mind to do but never got to it.

Later that afternoon when the kids and I got home and actually elected to skip karate because that's how tired we were, I had to just lay on the sofa for quite some time! Even when I got up to serve the kids some leftover mac and cheese, there was no room in my stomach for dinner. I think at some point later I ate some rice and beans or something, but I can't remember now. The point today was, lunch was a FEAST!

10 March 2009

Meatloaf Muffins

I defrosted the "meatball mix" that was frozen from my
pasta endeavors a few weeks ago. My plan was to make meatballs but then I remembered seeing a "meatloaf muffin" recipe somewhere awhile back, and I thought that would be easier. I sprayed a muffin tin with non stick spray and stuffed the meatball mix in, then baked at 375 for 30 minutes. They were still a little pink in the middle, which made me think I should have referred to the recipe. But that wouldn't have actually been helpful, because the meatball mix was much meatier...

*meatloaf muffins with ketchup/soy sauce
*white rice
*green beans w/ a bit of butter
*hijiki braised with chicken and red pepper

09 March 2009

Ahead of the New York Times?

Perhaps you are on the edge of your seat, wondering if I ever got around to adding that forgotten kale to the soup I made last week. Or perhaps you don't have any recollection of the event I mention. In any case, the next day, I did put the kale into the soup and it honestly made the pretty good soup downright delicious.

Little did I know I was just ahead of some kind of trend; the next day this article appeared in the New York Times. Next time I buy kale I want to make this. But that may not be until next week at the earliest, because I finally noticed this challenge and I want to give it a try. In some ways I feel like I've already done it because the last time I went for a "big shop" was last Sunday the 1st. But in the interval, we went to Costco on Saturday the 7th and I picked up some fruit and milk. Guess I'll try to go until at least this Saturday without another trip to the market, though my friend "ordered" a birthday cake from me and I might have to swing in for a couple of ingredients I don't have. But if that's not for family meals then I guess it's not really cheating, right?!

There is a point to all this, which is: there were a few more leaves of kale, left from the incident mentioned above and found in the fridge tonight. Since I read the article and found that kale is such a wonder food, I thought I'd like to try and get my kids to eat it. I chopped it pretty finely and added it to

*macaroni and cheese with hot dogs and peas...and kale!

I wanted to try it as a stir fry, so I put the rest of it together with some mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. I think I was over zealous with the garlic, though. It was too much, even for me. I mean, I still ate it; it tasted fine when I mixed it with my macaroni and cheese. But note to self: when stir frying veggies for one, two giant cloves of garlic are overkill.

One more thing "left over" from last week is egg whites. Have I mentioned this already, or just thought about it to myself? You'll recall that I made two large cakes last week for Koji's birthday party. Those cakes were all-yolk cakes, but I hated to throw away perfectly good whites, which means that some two dozen egg whites have been swimming in various small containers in the fridge ever since.

Finally tonight I got around to making these. Please don't try this at home unless you have a stand mixer! But if you do, please get to cracking some eggs... I need some more meringue cookie fans that I can start an obsession club with! One note about baking: if you follow these instructions exactly, the cookies will likely come out snow white and still a bit tacky. I like mine dried out and crunchy (which is weird because in my book, all other cookies worth eating are chewy and on the soft side), so I've found the best way to achieve that result is to bake as directed, then turn up the oven to 300 or so for another half an hour. After that, depending on how dry you're aiming at, you can remove the cookies from the oven, or turn off the oven and leave them in overnight. Some of the best meringue cookies I've ever made were the ones I accidentally left in the oven after turning off...then rediscovered two days later!

08 March 2009

Beans, Beans...You Know the Rest of the Song

Dinner this evening was all about beans. Aogu and the kids had

*white rice
*steamed broccoli

I don't care for natto, although my Japanese mom friends from Koji's school have been urging me to get over it because it's so good for breastfeeding?! That means I have five more weeks to hate natto and then I have to start liking it. Or at least tolerating it. Or not. Anyway, I had

*white rice, topped with
*black beans, shredded cheese and salsa
*salad of romaine, steamed broccoli and ranch

07 March 2009

Special for Michelle

I'm afraid of yeast.

We got a breadmaker for our wedding. I tried to make bread in it once and it was a dismal failure, so after it sat our shelf for awhile, I gave it to a friend. Alas, though I parted with the equipment, I didn't part with the conviction that baking with yeast wasn't for me.

I've pretty much kept that idea with me until now. Now I feel a little more advanced with cooking and baking, and I think I'm ready to do the yeast challenge, which means, bake anything that contains yeast. Last weekend I was ready to do so, and I decided I wanted to make cinnamon rolls.

When I started to thumb through a few of my favorite cookbooks, I noticed a disturbing trend in cinnamon roll recipes: they all need to rise for two or more hours. How is that conducive to morning consumption? No wonder bakers have to get up at 3 am!

Though I want to make cinnamon rolls with yeast for the fam and eat them for breakfast, I'm really not that sacraficial as to get up at 3 am to make all that happen. Therefore, last weekend I went back to my favorite cinnamon rolls without yeast recipe, which is from Cook's Illustrated. I'm putting it up here so that my friend Michelle, who also doesn't want to get up at 3 am, can give it a try. As for my next foray though, it may have to wait until after I have this baby, because I find these cinnamon rolls entirely too tempting!

If I'm not going to make cinnamon rolls with yeast, what should I make with yeast?

Quick Cinnamon Buns with Buttermilk Icing
Note: where this recipe calls for buttermilk, I've had equal success souring milk with lemon juice instead. A cup of milk added to a tablespoon of lemon juice and left to sit for five minutes usually does the trick.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter , melted, for pan

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (packed, 5 1/4 ounces)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter , melted

Biscuit Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus additional flour for work surface
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted

2 tablespoons cream cheese , softened
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup confectioners' sugar (4 ounces)

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pour 1 tablespoon melted butter in 9-inch nonstick cake pan; brush to coat pan. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2. To make cinnamon-sugar filling: Combine sugars, spices, and salt in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter and stir with fork or fingers until mixture resembles wet sand; set filling mixture aside.
3. To make biscuit dough: Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk and 2 tablespoons melted butter in measuring cup or small bowl. Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed (dough will look very shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy.
4. Pat dough with hands into 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Following illustrations below, fill, roll, cut, and arrange buns in buttered cake pan. Brush with 2 tablespoons remaining melted butter. Bake until edges are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Use offset metal spatula to loosen buns from pan; without separating, slide buns out of pan onto greased cooling rack. Cool about 5 minutes before icing.
5. To make icing and finish buns: While buns are cooling, line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy cleanup); set rack with buns over baking sheet. Whisk cream cheese and buttermilk in large nonreactive bowl until thick and smooth (mixture will look like cottage cheese at first). Sift confectioners’ sugar over; whisk until smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds. Spoon glaze evenly over buns; serve immediately.

Tried and True

We had our super typical Saturday, the one in which we go to the Supercuts in Lakeview so that Aogu and Koji can get a haircut. After that we sometimes go to McDonald's next door, but we were running a little later than usual and our Costco rebate was burning a hole in our pocket. Off we went to Costco, where we actually didn't find anything of consequence to buy with our rebate. Don't feel too sorry for us, we still somehow managed to spend a hundred bucks. We did get a big box of those ShamWow towels, and I certainly hope they are as miraculous and wonderful as they claim to be.

Because we had hoped for new cell phones but didn't find Sprint service at Costco, we stopped at the Sprint store. We had to forgo new phones though, because somehow the phones they have now seem like they aren't even as good as the ones we've been using for two or three years. Though we have NO plans at all to actually do so, I think we're better off waiting for the day we move to Tokyo to get a new phone. Then we can actually upgrade instead of making a lateral move, or worse yet, downgrading!

Point of all this is, once it was time for dinner, I was ready to keep it simple. I went with

*strawberry lemonade, which I made with the lemonade maker and the strawberry puree that was leftover from the birthday cake. I'm not going to give you a link to the cake, I think you know the one I mean!
*the same grilled cheese we had a couple weeks ago. No, I guess it was a little different because I threw some deli turkey on it. That wasn't very good; I had frozen it and I've now decided that freezing deli turkey doesn't work.
*tomato soup with chickpeas and pesto which is a super tried and true recipe for me. I've been making this soup semi regularly since it came out in Cooking Light more than six years ago!

One thing I've noticed is that putting the pasta into the soup isn't actually a good idea. It's much better to cook the pasta separately, put it in the bowl and pour the soup over when ready to eat. Tonight's pasta was alphabet, and in the time it took the kids to let their soup cool enough to eat, there wasn't any more soup in their bowls, just noodles that had completely sucked up all the liquid!

Another thing about this recipe: since it's meatless, sometimes I'll throw in chicken or browned ground meat to make it a little heartier.

Final comment about the soup: tonight's soup was actually a throwback to last summer, because instead of V-8, I poured in some tomato sauce that I made with tomatoes from my garden. Not to worry, it was in the freezer from then until yesterday! The pesto I stirred in at the end was also made by me with basil from my garden and then kept frozen until I needed it.

So I'm feeling a little bit summery! And very full....

06 March 2009

Intervention Let Down

I'm a hypocrite.

After I intervened so that Jess wouldn't have to eat a Big Mac a mere 24 hours ago, Aogu and I both had Wendy's for dinner tonight. Yuck, mostly. Actually, the too salty fries and the too squishy bun on the bacon cheeseburger were disappointing, but the Spicy Chicken Go Wrap was OK. Am I a pig for having three items from the value menu?

In my defense, Koji was invited to play at Takeru's house with just about everyone from his school this afternoon/tonight. They were going to order pizza--which might not have been better for me since I've been on such a pizza overload--but I had to leave for a baby shower before the pizza arrived.

So in order to put some dinner in my stomach before arriving at a baby shower that promised desserts, and considering my three dollar budget, Wendy's it was.

I didn't know until later that when Aogu was driving from work to Takeru's house to pick the kids up that he also stopped at Wendy's...

05 March 2009


Tonight we had

*white rice
*salad of romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers in dijon vinaigrette
*maple glazed salmon

I was able to run an intervention with my friend Jess and serve her some of the above rather than allowing her to eat a Big Mac. Phew! Friends should never let friends eat Big Macs. Jess was kind enough to declare this the best/healthiest dinner she's had in a month?! Jess, maybe you need to come for dinner more often?

04 March 2009

Two Birds with One Stone

Tonight I remembered that I'm supposed to supply a main dish for tomorrow's CBS staff lunch. The most convenient approach seemed to be, make an exceeding amount of dinner, eat a bit of it and then take the rest to share with the ladies. So that's what I did:

*yakisoba of angel hair pasta, pork, red peppers, carrots, onions, mushrooms and kale with tonkatsu sauce

A couple of months ago, one of the moms from Koji's school advised me that rather than buying expensive "ready for yakisoba" noodles at the Asian market, she uses angel hair pasta. I tried that, and I think it worked pretty well. I wasn't prepared for the pasta to soak up the sauce the way it did, so next time I'll have much more sauce ready. The favored sauce is "Bulldog Sauce" for tonkatsu (pork cutlets), but again, I didn't want to buy it, so I made some with a tried and true Cook's Illustated recipe, adapted by me, which is as follows:

Tonkatsu Sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (yellow would be OK, too, but I prefer Dijon)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce

Mix all together until smooth. Serve with tonkatsu or use in yakisoba.

03 March 2009

Happy Six Minus Six Weeks, Koji!

The Japanese school year starts in April, which means that in another week or so, the oldest kids in Koji's class will graduate from kindergarten so they can go off to first grade next month. We've had a joint birthday party for Koji and his friend Takeru (who is graduating) for the past two years. So this year, though both of them don't actually have birthdays until next month, Takeru's mom and I decided that we should celebrate together one last time, early. Thus, the ice skating birthday party that you see here! Takeru and Koji are in the middle of this photo; Takeru has a blue hat and Koji is next to him with a green jacket and a silver helmet. How was ice skating with nearly 20 kids age six and under? I wouldn't personally know; being 33 weeks pregnant, I couldn't join the skating. But most of the other moms did, and it looked like everyone had a pretty good time. The PVC pipe stands in the picture that the kids could hold onto and skate were integral to that good time, and I'm so glad that the Glenview Park District was ready for us!

The party was a collaborative effort between myself and the four other moms of the birthday kids. In the past, for joint parties, which we usually end up having once every two or three months with Koji's school friends, the birthday cake is always ordered from a bakery. This time, I volunteered to make enough cake for everyone. Here's what came out. I wish I was better at food photography, because they looked more impressive than this, if I do say so myself! It was a lot of work to make enough cake for 40 plus people, and I thought I would rather err on the side of having too much. So this is four recipes of "All Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake" from The Cake Bible covered in three recipes of "Strawberry Cloud Cream" from the same book. If/when I do this again, I would go ahead and pay up for a couple more 9 X 13 pans and bake more and thinner layers. The recipe calls for baking the cake in two nine inch pans, so when I poured all that cake batter into one 9 X 13, I didn't know what was going to happen. Answer: one big cake! And when I stacked two of those, it was a ginormous cake! So next time, thinner layers for sure.

I was pretty content with what you see in the previous photo, as far as the cakes go. But last night, Koji said to me, "Mama, am I going to be able to eat the cookie on top of the cake with my name on it?"....uh, sure, son, of course you are...the bakery usually puts cookies with the kids' names on them on the cake so the birthday kids have something special and extra. Well. I certainly wasn't up for making the exact same cookies that the bakery does, but I did have an exceeding amount of egg whites after using two dozen yolks for the cakes! So I made some meringue, piped out the kids' initials, put sprinkles on them, baked them up and stuck them on the cake. Once those, the number candles and the sparkler candles were all on the cakes, they were suitably festive, I think! From left to right in this photo, you see Emika (6), Masumi (5), Kai (4), Koji (6) and Takeru (7).

What does all this have to do with dinner?!! Not much, except that it left me much too tired to serve anything but
*hot dogs and
*random leftovers

Fine with me! I really had fun making the cakes, and I even thought that if I'm going to be so into birthday cake, maybe I need to take a cake decorating class? The only trouble is, most of the cakes I see online that are beautifully decorated seem to be covered with buttercream and/or fondant, and now that my taste is skewed a bit Japanese, that's too sweet for me. Even if I can make a pretty cake, I want to be able to eat it too. So I'm not sure where/how to find a "Cake Decorating for Cakes that aren't as Sweet" class....

02 March 2009


Being a little loco, I thought it made sense for me to try and make enough birthday cake for 35+ people and yet make dinner. Ha...I wasn't the least bit surprised when it was 5:30 and I re-read my recipe to see that the beans need to simmer in the soup for ONE AND ONE HALF HOURS, not just 30 minutes.

That's why the kids had
*instant ramen

And why much later, Aogu and I had some
*white bean chorizo kale soup, minus the kale because though I diligently bought it, I of course forgot to put it in! fortunately, there are leftovers to experiment with.
*white rice

01 March 2009

Indian Food and Hot Dogs

Thanks to Baby Spice, I've been wanting--not craving, just wanting--food with a little more kick to it. Wish I could say the same for my kids, but I think all they've been wanting is a good old hot dog.

So when I was at Food4Less today, proving to myself what I suspected, which is that I dislike the store and don't need to go there ever again, I grabbed some buns and hot dogs. Mission accomplished for the kids.

As for the kick I was wanting, I found it with this:
*Indian Cauliflower Curry Stew, which would have been better with a bit of chicken in it. And I didn't find the flavor "complex," I actually found it a bland, if it's possible for something to have a kick and somehow be bland at the same time. Aogu and I also had
*white rice