Thursday, December 31, 2009

At Least, I Did the Best I Could

Now I'm alone in my room, enjoying solitude after a whole day of cooking and saying goodbye to 2009. In front of me is a glass of beer to reward myself for all the efforts I made this year. This drink should taste better than anything.
New Year's food, already packed and waiting for tomorrow

To be honest, I have never felt this exhausted at the end of a year... exhausted not from being busy, but from wondering, worrying or being paranoid throughout the year. Yeah, and from "waiting" without knowing what I was waiting for. Uncertainty wears you out, doesn't it?

But for tonight, I'm just going to give myself a gentle hug and let the old year go.

Thank you, dear readers, for being with me as I went through a big transition.
I don't know how I could have survived this year without you.

The light to guide the God of New Year to this house

See you all in 2010! :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa Did Come To Our Kitchen

My parents made a fuss about Christmas only when their children were small, because old folks in Japan generally think that Christmas is for kids. Thus, this year, living with my aging parents, I had to have a terribly un-festive Christmas. There was no Christmas tree, wreath, gingerbread people, fruitcake or dinner with sparkling wine. The only thing the family got was a typical Japanese Christmas cake which dad had to buy to help the relative who works at a local pastry shop.

But you never thought that this blog would just ignore Christmas this year? OF COURSE NOT!
How could I end a year without exchanging warm wishes with all the good people who support me?

So here it is... The Santa above (made with a strawberry and cream taken from the "anpanman Christmas cake" dad bought) and I are wishing you a warm, joyful Christmas and a wonderful new year.

Mom said OMG when she saw this strawberry Santa. She showed it to dad and he laughed, too. That was something new to me... actually seeing someone react to what I made for Christmas.
And I think I liked that. :)

*::::*::::*::::* Merry Christmas *::::*::::*::::*

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Daikon Pickles

Daikon radishes ready to be pickled

Mom and I pickled some daikon a few weeks ago. We don't make typical "takuan" that requires nuka powdered rice bran. Ours are pickled in sweet-and-sour solution.

This is the recipe mom got from one of the neighbor grannies several years ago.

Daikon Pickles
For STEP 1
5 kg daikon radishes
300 g salt (coarse salt)
A thick plastic bag
10 kg weight

For STEP 2
500 g sugar
450 mL rice vinegar
dried kelp
dried red pepper
(MSG... optional)
(Yellow food coloring... optional)
A thick plastic bag
5 kg weight

Peel daikon radishes. Place them in a big container lined with a big, thick plastic bag, sprinkling salt all over. Close the top of the bag (not necessary to seal). Put a wooden lid or something and place a weight on top. Leave in a cool place for 2 days.

Two days later...You'll see plenty of water in the plastic bag

Drain daikon. (No need to wash them.) Place them in a new plastic bag. Add the sugar, rice vinegar and dry ingredients. Add food coloring to the solution, if desired. Close the top of the bag, place the wooden lid and the weight on top and leave for at least 2 weeks.
* Note that a lighter weight is used this time.

For some reason, our pickles turn out differently every year, even though we use the same recipe all the time. Usually the saltiness is gone in two weeks, but this year it remained much longer. We had no idea why...
(If you are interested in trying out this recipe, you might want to use less salt to be safe. )

2014.12.6  I added "coarse salt" to the ingredients to specify. My guess is that using regular salt was the reason for the saltiness.  Maybe.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

And the Challenges Go On.. Part 7

It seems that the word "CHANGE" was the theme of this year in many places worldwide. And now at the end of 2009, I, too, am going through a transition.

When I wrote the last post of this "challenges" series, I was still looking for a part-time job, and my biggest concern was my parents' condition, especially mom's. My plan was earning a little money every month as a part-timer and studying translation at home for the rest of the time so that I can work as a sort of free-lance translator in the future, taking care of my parents. But dear readers, on the 1st of December, I started working as a data-input operator. And it's a full-time position, though only for three months.

Why the change of plan? Because I want money.

I want money to do and buy some things that are related to my new interest: the local geopark project. As I wrote on this blog (and another one), I have helped the project once in a while in the past couple of months. Sometimes I was pretty stressed, but after going through some rough times, now I'm interested in being something like an eco-tour interpreter myself, not as a professional of course but as a volunteer. Then there are books to read and workshops to attend, which will cost some money, if not a fortune.

I was still hoping to find a part-time job that would pay me enough to pursue my new interest, but I had no luck. Then finally, at the end of November, I felt that I had no patience left and went for a full-time position that was available then. I knew it was a challenge, but since it was just for three months, I thought that we --my family, especially mom-- might be able to handle it.

Now it has been about two weeks at my new workplace. I work with another new employee and we enjoy working together. More than anything, for me it's so great to be able to talk with someone about my age every day. Oh it's a long-forgotten feeling!!

And how mom is taking this? Well, so far so good, I would say.

In my first few months here at my parents' house, I often wondered if my existence at home was making her mental condition worse, because though I didn't mean to, my presence brought a roll confusion in the house; I was a threat to her position as a housewife. If I be in charge of the kitchen and shopping, she would have no other choice but to stay in her room as a useless old woman. However, obviously it wasn't possible for her to keep things in the house (especially kitchen) under control on her own. And it wasn't possible for me to completely withdraw from the kitchen, either. As the readers from my previous foodblog probably know, the kitchen had been a special place for me -- a special part of me. So, yes, I often thought that mom may function better if I found a job, started working and established "my world" where I can belong to outside this house. But I was still reluctant to give her "mother's role" back. If I'd do so, then what should I be? Just a daughter? After being on my own and being a monarch of my own kitchen for more than 20 years?

But I have to admit this: After I started to work full time and gave her the "mother's role" back at least on weekdays, she seems to be functioning much better, perhaps from the sense of responsibility? She still has memory problems, but now she tries harder not to forget important things so that she can prepare lunch and dinner on her own.

On weekdays, every morning mom and I talk about what to make for lunch and dinner. Every day at work, I call mom in lunch break to remind her what the dinner plan was (she doesn't remember about 3 out of 5 times) and ask her what I should buy on my way home. And after work, I do grocery shopping and go straight home. Most of the time, the dinner is ready waiting for me. If not, I help mom to do the last part and then set the table. That's how we have been handling it. It is obvious that she spends hours to fix dinner because of her memory problem, but so far she is doing fine.

But honestly, I'm not sure if we are doing a right thing.
And in Mar. 2010, I'm going to have to make another big career decision... :(

Dad had a health checkup and got a Swine flu vaccine injection in the first week of December. Same diabetes, same uric acid level, but he doesn't stop eating the food that are not good for him. *sigh*

My younger sister emailed me yesterday and said that she and her kids are not coming to visit us for the new year's holiday. She still can't get rid of the bad cold. Gee... the New Year's Day with my parents without my sister, niece and nephew... My very first experience. Would I be able to handle it?

I wonder how many new challenges are waiting in 2010...

Oh, and last week, I killed a huge centipede walking across my room. (Come on, it's December!)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My First Homemade Rose Hip Tea

Yes, I did it! I just tasted my very first homemade rose hip tea. And it tasted OK. :D

But look at the color. My tea didn't get any redder than this. Is the store-bought rose hip tea artificially colored or something?

The biggest problem was... it took SOOOO long for the flavor to come out from the dried rose hips. The tea was already cold by the time it got enough flavor, so I ended up pouring everything into a sauce pan and heating it on the stove to drink the tea warm.

Well, well... I'm satisfied that I completed the project. But I'm not sure if I want to do this again. There are many other foods that are rich in Vitamin C, after all, and think about all those scraping and cleaning that you have to do to make this herbal tea...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Bluebird of Happiness

If I remembered correctly, it was a beautiful foodblog called OsloFoodie where I was first introduced to homemade rose hip tea. It was back in -- 2004 or 2005? The photo of her tea was oh so beautiful, and I felt jealous when she commented that over there in Norway, rose hips were everywhere on the roadside. After that, I bought young plants of dog rose online and grew them on the balcony. Yes, that was the start of my homemade rose hip tea project.

Unfortunately my dog rose died before giving me any rose hips, which automatically added "making homemade rose hip tea" to the list of my "indefinitely postponed projects." And my envy for those who can pick rose hips on the roadside remained.

Now I'm back in my hometown where the climate is almost subtropical and definitely different from Norway. And look what I found the other day when I rode dad's bicycle to the beach where I hadn't been since childhood!

The bluebird of happiness is in your home...

I'm going to dry these rose hips tomorrow. The weather doesn't seem to be nice, so I'll be using the oven like I did for drying cherry tomatoes in summer.
Wish me luck! ;)

(Nov. 29, 2009)

OK. Take a look.

Honestly, I don't know if I can call this part of the project "fun." It could have been fun if these rose hips were bigger. But think about halving all these small ones and scraping the seeds and hair out of each! AHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhh...!!!

I gave up when I prepared almost half of them.

Dried rose hips (dried for apx. 35 min. at 140 degrees C )

And the above photo shows my very first "homemade rose hip tea." What do you think?
I'm going to brew it when the weather is nice so that I can take good-looking photos of the tea.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TLA #2 -With My Dad -

My dad was taking a walk near the fishing port a couple of weeks ago, and saw someone he knew fishing there. The guy told dad that a real big fish just cut his line and ran away. On the very next day, dad drove to a shop and bought some new hooks and sinkers. Then he realized that he got wrong type of sinkers and he had me go to the same store to buy the right ones. He had to wait for several days until the weather got nicer, and finally the day before yesterday, he went to try his luck. And the above photo was the luck he had. Ha-ha-ha. (For those who are not familiar with saltwater fish, that's an inedible blow fish.)

This is my new friend. He is a stray cat, but by no means a starving cat. And I have never ever seen any cat friendlier than this one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Local "Industrial Fair"

Spinning Squid

A local "industrial fair" was held last Sunday, November 15th. It was a nice but windy day, and there seemed to be a good crowd at the venue--a good crowd for this rural place, I mean.

The smell of barbecued beef filled the area, and fresh fish and good sushi were selling fast.

Sea salt made from deep sea water

Local food

Actually, the "industrial fair" cannot be too different from a farmer's market in a place where the local industry is mainly farming and fishing. But the performances by local kids and the youth on the main stage did make a difference that day. They were so cute.

There was even a tea ceremony booth where local tea ceremony teachers and students served matcha and sweets. But the wind was too strong that making boiling water with portable gas stove was almost impossible. Later I heard that a very strong wind blew while some visitors were chatting after taking the first bite of their sweets, and when they tried to eat the rest, the sweets were gone--they were blown off the table and onto the ground. LOL (I wouldn't be surprised if they quit serving matcha tea at a booth next year.)

But what I really loved to see was these squids being dried. Especially, I cracked up when I saw the "spinning squids." They say that spinning them with a machine like this can dry them faster, and they do this all the time, the industrial fair or not. But it's just too funny to see.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Banana Custard Tart

Banana Custard Tart

After coming back from Hong Kong, I guess I was more exhausted than I thought. Or maybe it was a burnout. I didn't feel like doing anything for several days. Then one day I had a crick in my back while helping dad with loading his car with bags of fertilizer. Gee! Can you imagine how terrible I felt? Your obachan (aunty) is officially an obaachan (granny) now!! :O Honestly, my self-esteem hurt more than my back.

I iced my back every day for at least 3 days, and this morning I was finally able to put my socks on in the way I normally do. So I felt like celebrating and whipped up this tart by combining a couple of Japanese recipes I found on the net. In the kitchen there were too many eggs and bananas as a result of mom's grocery shopping in my absence, and I managed to consume two eggs and two bananas by making this tart. (BTW, she bought some frozen sweet-n-sour-pork and gyoza while I was in Hong Kong... )

At first I was not going to bake the filling. But the custard cream turned out lighter than I had wanted and bananas were not very ripe, so I felt the need to somehow add more sweetness. What I did was sprinkling granulated sugar and cinnamon all over this tart and baking it for --about 10 minutes or so?

Fortunately it worked. The tart was still quite light, but mom liked it that way and I, too, thought it was good.

And now I'm not feeling burned out any more. I remember writing the same thing in my previous foodblog, but cooking/baking does seem to have a healing effect -- when it ended successfully, of course. ;)
. .

Friday, November 06, 2009

Hey, I'm Back!

See what I tried?

Yep, these are the egg tarts from KFC in Hong Kong that Mae recommended in her comment to my previous post. Remembering her comment, the first thing I did in the free time on the next day of our arrival was walking around the BP International hotel, looking for a KFC. And there was a sign near the entrance of Kowloon park! :D I was almost thrilled, but then I had a problem finding the entrance to the KFC. So it was actually the night before we left Hong Kong that I finally managed to buy these egg tarts.

Mmmmmm...... Yum!!

But buying six pieces at one time was probably a mistake. :P

So, why did I visit Honk Kong anyway? What was that trip for?

OK. Take a look at the photo on the newspaper beneath the famous egg tart. That is showing a rare geological relic in High Island, and there was an opening ceremony of Hong Kong national geopark right in front of that hexagonal columnar rock. Since a geopark project is going on in my hometown, too, a couple of staff were sent to the opening ceremony and the seminar, and I was there to help with the language.

Scenery in High Island

Everything was just wonderful and exciting. The hospitality of the host organization was really touching. Though I couldn't take photos, I enjoyed the buffet breakfast and lunch at the hotel. Well... to be perfectly honest, we got a little tired of the same buffet menu on the third day. :P

But what was really great was the dinner at Peking Garden on the night before we left Hong Kong! We never expected that, but we were treated with a wonderful course meal including, of course, Peking duck--a lady sliced it up in front of us--nice dim sum, and many other dishes that I don't know what they are called. And the highlight was the noodle-making demonstration performed in front of us. It was amazing, and funny, too, because the guy threw so much flour over the dough and the flour was everywhere on the table, the wall and the floor but no one seemed to care. Oh, it WAS a wonderful dinner.

But can you imagine me staying at BP International hotel and not visiting temple street? Come on, this is your obachan. I will never let you down. After being totally full from the dinner, we walked up to the temple street and shopped around. And...

Frog Congee

I was not very hungry yet, but I thought there must be a space in my stomach for a bowl of congee. And wanting to try something "different," I chose frog congee, though the other two guys who were with me looked at me like I was some kind of monster. As for drink, I loved this Haizhu beer so much!! I wish I could buy this somewhere in my hometown...

The other two guys had this vegetable noodle soup. They said it was bland, but after adding spicy chili sauce, they were happy.

Yes, it was the must place to visit.

So that was the trip I enjoyed. I might add some more photos later, so keep checking on once in a while.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Sweet Potatoes

Our Sweet Potatoes--just harvested

Sorry. This photo is a couple of weeks old. And I couldn't post a photo of the dessert, "suiito poteto (sweet potato)" that I made with these potatoes. The dessert was not a great success, but my family and mom's tea ceremony students ate them all real quick and I didn't have a chance to take a photo of them. (OK. Let's be honest. I almost forced them to eat the dessert. ) :P

(Added Oct. 27, 2009)

OK. Now it's officially settled. I'm visiting Hong Kong from Nov. 2nd to 5th and will be staying at BP International hotel for three nights.

Dear readers in Hong Kong--if any--, what do you recommend to eat at BP International or in town? (We may not have time to eat in town, though...)

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Sarashi-gaki (Astringent persimmons treated with alcohol)

I don't think anyone does this outside Japan. Maybe even in Japan, not many people do this or know about this. I'm talking about treating astringent persimmons with alcohol to remove the astringency. It's easy. You just have to wet the top, including the stem end, of the persimmons with strong liquor and put them in a plastic bag, wrap well and leave in a warm place (around 35 to 40 degrees C? I'm not sure) for 2 to 3 days. We usually use shochu (distilled spirit) named 'White Liquor' or whiskey.

Acorn-shaped astringent persimmons

Actually the ones in this photo look rather round, but usually astringent persimmons are acorn-shaped. (Don't tell me that some acorns are flat and round.) Non-Japanese people might be more used to eating/using the pulp of VERY ripe, soft persimmons, but in Japan, it is more common to eat sweet varieties of persimmons while they are still firm, and sun-dry astringent varieties to make hoshi-gaki. It is not very popular to make sarashi-gaki like we do, though.

Our family used to put a bagful of alcohol-treated astringent persimmons in leftover warm water in the bathtub (traditionally we don't wash our bodies in the bathtub and the whole family members share the water in the tub), or leave them in the sun for several days, or in a kotatsu heater.

Now the majority of the grannies in this community use -- I'm not sure how you call this in English -- electrical warming mattress? Mom wraps the bagful of alcohol-treated persimmons with the mattress, then with another blanket, turn on the switch and leave it. In about 2 to 3 days, the astringency will be gone and the persimmons turn soft, but not overripe-soft, and sweet. And I would say that the sweetness is a bit different from that of sweet varieties of persimmons. Honestly I like this sarashi-gaki better than regular sweet persimmons.

But, I wonder if Japanese manufacturers of the electrical warming mattress would approve of this use of the product. :P

BTW, I uploaded some photos from our traditional festival here, if you are interested. :)
OK. Now I remembered what "mattress" meant in other countries. Yeah, perhaps I should have used the word "pad." What my mom uses looks like this (a little thinner, though) and I guess it's too stiff and too narrow to be called a blanket, maybe?

(Added Oct. 28, 2009)
Oh, I hope that no one has tried making sarashi-gaki from what I wrote above yet. When I asked mom what to do, she did say, "Remove the stem ends." But today we made some more sareashi-gaki, and I found out that the following was what my mom really meant.

First thing to do is to trim the unwanted part of the calyx and pull out the stem. Today we pinched the stem with a nipper and twisted the fruit. Ideally, the stem should come out and leave a hole like this, but when it didn't, we poked the center with an ice pick. Mom said that just poking was enough--you don't really need to dig out the stem to make a visible hole.

Next step: Dip tissue paper into whiskey and wet the top part of the persimmon carefully. Put alcohol-treated persimmons in a thick plastic bag, tie the top with a string, then put it in another thick plastic bag and tie the top.

Wrap the bag with electric blanket (or bed pad or mattress pad or whatever it is called) and then with another regular blanket. Leave for 3 days.

This was how we brought back the harvested persimmons from the orchard. Dad held the front end of the bamboo and I held the other end.


Saturday, October 10, 2009


Homemade Umeshu (Ume Plum Infused Liquor)

A follow-up on the umeshu I made in May, 2009. The above photo is the one I took in early September and forgot to post then. See how wrinkled up the plums were? After taking this shot, I took out the plums and poured the liquor into an empty glass bottle. It took only a few weeks to empty the bottle. Yes? I already drank it up. Hahaha...

To tell you the truth, everything we made with our ume plums this year -- juice, ume miso and liquor -- was a little disappointing, especially the juice was awful. (Jam was alright.) Everything had a little unpleasant flavor perhaps because the plums had speckles which were actually a disease. Mom made juice and ume-miso with store-bought ume plums with no disease last year and the year before, and they were great. So mom and I decided to use store-bought ones next summer and make only jam with our ume plums.
. .

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Morning! -5-

After a typhoon night

Typhoon Melor passed by our prefecture last night. It's on the main island of Japan now and moving up northward. I hope it doesn't cause serious damage there...

I expected a sunny day today with clear blue sky, like it usually is after a big typhoon in autumn, but oh-no. It's getting really cloudy now and might rain soon ...
. .

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Maybe It Wasn't As Bad As I Thought...

Maybe this bread wasn't a crash and burn like I wrote in my previous post, after all. After letting it rest overnight and using a sharper knife to slice, I got quite decent slices.

I made very easy open sandwiches with sliced cheese and ham, and they were not bad. If used better cheese and some vegetables, and/or some meat with a little spicy seasoning, I think this bread will make really nice and nutritious sandwiches. Now I'm glad that I gave this bread a try.

The recipe was again from the Japanese recipe site, and this seems to be a "quasi-" German bread recipe that was simplified and modified for Japanese home bakers. It is absolutely a no-brainer; you just mix and bake, without leavening. For this bread I used black sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds (which I bought by mistake. I thought I grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds at the store, but obviously I grabbed a wrong one. But I don't think pumpkin seeds ruined the taste of the bread).

Thursday, October 01, 2009


This was supposed to be German bread...

I don't know exactly what went wrong, but this turned out terribly tough on the outside and extremely sticky on the inside. :P

Yesterday I was too tired to do anything, so stayed in my futon almost all day. Today I woke up feeling refreshed, and felt like a challenge. That was the reason why I gave this German bread a try, but it was a crash and burn that I hadn't had for a while. Hahaha...

But I had a wonderful, exciting time from September 27th to 29th, being a tourguide. I still don't have enough energy to write about it in details, but a brief summary is on my another blog, if you are interested. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taking A Break

Instant "Soup Curry"

Right now I'm at my refugee place, my aunt's house. This is the lunch I just had. My aunt is on a long trip until mid December, 2009, so at her house I can be totally alone and enjoy the fast Internet service as much as I want. It's "Silver Week" here in Japan now, the weather is just gorgeous (except that the sea is rough from a distant typhoon), birds are twittering and a couple of butterflies are floating right outside the window. I'm taking a complete break from being a family member, a daughter, a cook, a person who is in charge of cleaning certain parts of my parents' house, etc. Now I'm being totally MYSELF, nothing else.

And here's a good news. I got a nice job offer -- a paid job, though very short-term. Some people from abroad are visiting my hometown next week, and I was asked to accompany them for three days to help with the language. It's going to be mostly sightseeing with one presentation at the city office, so it'll be fun. Actually part of the reason for coming to this refugee place was to do some research and preparation for the next week, but right now I'm taking a break from that, too.

I took this shot on my way here.

Hope everyone is having a good time.

*BTW, "soup curry" is a new name for very runny, soup-like curry here in Japan. I have no idea how it is different from "curry soup," but I don't really mind... as far as it tastes good.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Now Being Dehydrated...

Sicilian Rouge being sun-dried

I thought I would have to wait until next summer to make sun-dried cherry tomatoes, because when they were abundant the weather was nasty, and when the weather got better, the tomato season was over. These are (probably) the last harvest of our Sicilian Rouge.

Four days ago

The tomatoes didn't look quite ripe when harvested, but they are turning redder and redder as they dry.
Now, how much longer do you think I should dry them?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin