Monday, December 26, 2016

Belated Merry Christmas!

My Christmas snacks Dec. 2016

It's actually January, 2017 and I'm posting this now. Sorry! My procrastination problem, AGAIN! (And forgive me. I'm faking the date again... )  Actually, the last couple of months of 2016 was a turmoil for me.

First, I broke my left foot at the end of Oct. How did it happen? I was walking in my house, carrying a big laundry basket with my both hands. And I fell because of a curled up end of an old tatami weed mat. I fell on the dorsum of my left foot as my body went one step down. XO  It caused a crack in the bone and I had to wear a cast for about a month.

Then in the middle of Nov. mom quit eating. Well it had happened many times before, but usually she was secretly eating sweets in her room even when she wasn't eating meals. And usually, after I take her out for a treat of nigiri-zushi - her most favorite food on the face of the Earth -  and cake & coffee, she regained appetite and went back to normal eating habit. .. Well, relatively normal.

But this time, she completely stopped eating and even said NO to nigiri-zushi. Soon she started to refuse any food or drinks with any taste saying that they made her nauseous, and accepted water and medicine (pills) only. She got weaker and weaker until she was finally hospitalized. They stopped one of the anit-Alzheimer drugs and gave her IV nutrition drips and an antidepressant (that was supposed to improve appetite). It all worked, but what worked the most was the threat of nasal tube feeding. She hated that idea so much that she started eating hospital meals. LOL

She was hospitalized from Dec. 15th, 2016 til Jan. 6th, 2017 (with a short stay at home for the New Year's holidays from Dec. 30th til Jan 3rd).  Now she's back at home and eating pretty well.

Anyway, now I'm trying to catch up with my regular blogging (Wait. When was I blogging regularly???) Here's some pics from the Christmas of 2016.

Just like I didn't have enough challenges in life, I gave Christmas Kougloff a try.



Things were OK until I took them out of the pans. But it ended up in a tragedy.
Well I guess you can see how I tried to hide the chaos with lots of decoration. The good thing was... they tasted pretty well. Ha ha.



And these are other appetizers I prepared: Stuffed black mushrooms and Ritz crackers with avocado dip and cream cheese.


Of course, I didn't forget to enjoy a bottle of nice (rather expensive) sparkling sake. :D

Oh, enjoying them alone in my room in the candle light really healed me in that challenging week.
Hope you all had a very merry Christmas.  :)
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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Recycling Buckwheat Noodles -- Buckwheat Pizza!!

Let me tell you. Sharing a kitchen+dining room with aged parents IS a big challenge. They eat very slowly, then spend hours having tea and dessert, watching TV (even though each of them has his/her own room with a TV and air conditioner). Roughly speaking, they stay in the kitchen for about 2 hours for breakfast, then about 2.5 hours for lunch, and 2.5 hours for dinner. Not together, though. Mom basically does not like eating meals regularly, so often she sneaks into the kitchen when no one is there to eat her brunch.  So I really have to struggle to find the kitchen available for me to cook meals, especially when I want to do other things like joining some workshops or community activities, etc.

And it's even harder when one of the aged parents is demented and you let her to do some cooking in order to give her a role and a sense of worth. Cooking with her not only takes longer but can be very, very stressful. And another thing is that after using kitchen utensils, she cannot remember where to put them back. She cannot remember (or does not care anymore) which sponge is for the dishes and which is for
cleaning the sink, sink strainer, kitchen trash can and other dirty places. AHHHHHH! But you never know when she does the dishes and you cannot stay with her all day to watch her and make her do everything properly. At least, I can't. That way I'd have to sacrifice my personal worth, my mental sanity and actually my life just to keep the kitchen "normal."

But ... as long-term readers of my foodblog know, cooking has been a therapy for me. It meant so much to me to have my own kitchen and cook what I liked -- including Western dishes -- in the way I liked, without having to worry about my parents coming in to watch TV and me having to stop what I was doing.

This must have been much more stressful for me than I realized. One day this summer it really, really got on my nerve and I felt that I couldn't take it any more. So you know what I did? I sat in front of my PC and saw the oven-cum microwave that I had found online and saved in the cart. And I pressed the purchase button. I had it delivered to my deceased aunt's house and arranged the kitchen so that I can do some cooking -- well, mostly baking there. You know, I NEEDED THAT!

And now, about my pizza today.  :)
I've been attending Japanese buckwheat noodle making class for the past few months. (I'll post about it sometime later. Stay tuned!) But I cannot eat them up (I'm the only one buckwheat noodle eater in my family) so I had to find some ways to use up the old, not-so-tasty noodles. Lately I started mashing boiled buckwheat noodles and spreading it into thin sheets to freeze them. The other day I used some of them for fake buckwheat lasagna. And today, look what I made!!

The boiled and mashed buckwheat noodles turned into crispy pizza crust!

I thawed the buckwheat dough and rolled it out to make a real thin pizza crust, dusting it with bread flour. For the crispiness, I pre-heated the oven to 250 degrees C (with the baking sheet in the oven) and baked the crusts for about 10 minutes. Then I put the toppings on them and baked at 250 C for 12 minutes or so.
And I tell you. The crust turned out pretty goooooooood!!
I once tried to make a crispy pizza crust using bread flour and olive oil, but it wasn't really impressive. But with this buckwheat crust, though the center was rather soft, the edge was really, really crispy!  :D
The toppings? Blanched asparagus, black olives, mushrooms, tomatoes and basil leaves.

I enjoyed the pizza with ginger ale for lunch today. And I'm very happy that it wasn't as filling as regular-crust pizza. It feels pretty healthy!

Gee, experimenting like this really helps me cope with my stress. I'm feeling much, much better now -- even though it poured unexpectedly this afternoon and the laundry got soaked wet before I came home from my aunt's house. ;P  ;P 
He he. Nothing can bring me down when my experiment resulted in a success! :D
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Blueberry Extravaganza!! - Part 3

Blueberry Muffins

As in my previous post, while making my blueberry dessert, I got tempted to make another blueberry-related dream of mine come true. That was, taking photos of blueberry scones or muffins sitting on my favorite tea cloth WITH some berries in a small woven basket in the background and some berries scattered on the cloth, maybe with some white wild flowers or something. Well, I already had that setting on my table right in front of me. All I needed was scones or muffins...

Of course I didn't have enough time for both scones and muffins, so I chose muffins.

Now let me share with you the result of my crazy morning ...






OH it's been a long time since I did something like this last time...   It really felt like, "Obachan IS back!!" :D


These weren't just waste of time, though. My parents do not like Western pastries, but they did love my blueberry-custard cream dessert when I shared it with them.
So, in addition to satisfying my desire, I did do something good to my parents, too. Right? ;)
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Blueberry Extravaganza!! - Part 1 and 2

Blueberries!!

Two days ago, I found a big bowlful of blueberries on the kitchen table. Dad said that one of our relatives bought so many of them, for some reason, that she didn't know what to do. So she kindly came to our house to give us some.
OH! So many blueberries!!

Now, long term readers of my foodblog may remember that I used to grow a blueberry bush in a planter when I was living alone in an apartment. It yielded only a handful of berries, but I was really making a big deal out of it. Remember?

And it was my dream to one day get so many fresh, ripe blueberries, smother them with something like custard cream and eat them from a big bowl with a big spoon. I experienced that luxury at a Thanksgiving dinner or something at my friend's house in America almost twenty years ago. And it became a wonderful memory that will last a lifetime. OK, OK. You can laugh at me. But food-related memories can be really deep seated for anyone, you know?

Anyway,this could be my once-in-my-lifetime opportunity to make that dream come true! Actually, I thought, "Mmm.... If I use relatively small amount for one purpose, I could make a couple more blueberry-related dreams come true."

One of the dreams was making fresh blueberry pancakes, stacking them up and drizzling them with maple syrup with a few fresh blueberries on top. So that became Part 1 of my blueberry project, which I went for yesterday. Look at my breakfast yesterday morning! :D
Part 1. Blueberry Pancakes

And last night, I made something similar to custard cream as a step to my lifetime dream. LOL Then this morning, instead of just eating it from a bowl, I expanded the project a little bit. So, Part 2 of my project was taking some photos of my blueberry-custard cream dessert...

 Part 2. Blueberry Custard Cream Dessert


... and then, of course, eating it! :D

The dessert was not exactly the same as what I had in America decades ago. But it was close enough. Quite satisfactory. Really! :D

But I couldn't stop there... I ended up adding Part 3 to this project, which I will share in my next post. :)
Yeah, the baking fairy in me went hyper!! LOL
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Monday, July 25, 2016

There Still Is a Hope...

Green Ume Plums and Rock Sugar (Jun 3rd, 2016)

Guys, I have a confession.
1. I forgot to post about my ume plum juice project 2016 when I started it in June.
2. It was NOT a total failure -- at least -- but not a great success, either.

So, let me give you more details.

On June 3rd, I sterilized the jars and lids in boiling water for more than 10 minutes. I had kept the green ume plums in the freezer overnight. I bought a new bag of rock sugar instead of using the leftover from the year before. So, in a nutshell, I WAS ALL READY for a success. I pictured myself having a sip of nice, refreshing ume juice on a hot and humid day at the end of July.


But, oh well. It was already quite hot in early July, and I was lazy to put them in the fridge. Actually I thought about it but reluctant to do so because the rock sugar was not melted completely then. And when I took a look at the jars four days ago, my ume juice was covered with white foam and probably white mold. AHHHHHHHH!! Fermentation! Oh NO!

The good thing is that, thanks to several kind bloggers, now I know how to save the juice when this happens. According to their blogs, if you remove the plums and the foam and cook the juice (syrup?) at about 70 degrees C for about 10 minutes, it will be still drinkable, UNLESS it developed green or brown mold.

So, that's what I did yesterday.

Ume Plum Juice -- or Syrup, Being Heated

After heating it for more than 10 minutes, I cooled it, poured it in two bottles and put them in the fridge.

The taste? No, I haven't tasted it yet. I'll probably give it a try in a few days, and I'm not too optimistic about the taste, to be honest.  With the mold and being heated like this, the real refreshing ume flavor must be lost. I'm just happy that I didn't waste 1 kg of ume plums and 1 kg of rock sugar. That's about it.
Oh well.  ;P
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Friday, June 03, 2016

And This Time I Didn't Use Cheese !

Oven-baked Horse Mackerel?

The lunch I had yesterday. See? This time I didn't use cheese, and it was definitely a right decision. :)

BTW, I used tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, thyme, white wine, salt and pepper for this dish. And it was baked not in a regular oven, but a toaster-oven. Then, is it OK for me to call it "oven-baked?" And as long as it is "baked," I cannot call it "acqua pazza" right?

How about "baked horse mackerel a la Provence?"  ;)

(BTW I'm not going to tell you that the horse mackerel fillet's expiration date was May 30th.)

;P

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Gee, I Didn't Need Cheese for This One ...


Jack mackerel with tomato sauce and cheese, baked in toaster oven

My lunch today.
Mom bought a lot of small jack mackerels the other day. They are not small enough to be ideal for deep-frying, but not big enough for sashimi (sliced raw fish). So I used about half of them to test my tomato sauce. Other ingredients were olive oil, garlic, herbs from my garden and cheese.

The dish tasted OK. The tomato sauce was not too sweet and went well with seafood, I thought. But it would have been better without cheese. Definitely. :(

Anyway, soon we will have fresh tomatoes from dad's veggie garden. And around that time, it is also young jack mackerel season. Mmmm... can't wait! :D
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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It's This Time of the Year AGAIN!


It's great to have a relative who grows tomatoes in a huge greenhouse. Every year we get so many of them! :D

And that means it's time for me to make tomato sauce and jam as I do every year, which means, using the onion, thyme and garlic from our veggie garden and deep seawater salt from a local shop.



Ahhhh... Now I'm ready for a huge seafood pizza!! :D
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Monday, April 11, 2016

First Abalone Picking in 2016

First harvest this year! Seventy of them!

I guess long-term readers of this blog already know that April is never April without this: abalone picking.

Here's my old post about this chewy type of abalone and my mom.
And one year later, mom had to have a surgery to cut off her left foot and wear an artificial foot. The above post in 2009 was the last time she was able to pick abalones.

Maybe a caring daughter should quit abalone picking completely for mom? If the daughter continues the habit, would that make mom feel miserable about her not being able to do that any more?
Believe me. I thought about that A LOT. And IIRC, I didn't pick abalones at all in 2011.
But in 2012, I finally decided to re-start and continue this habit. If I continued, she might feel miserable. If I stopped, she might feel guilty. Either way, she would feel hurt a little. Then wouldn't it be better that my family can at least enjoy the taste of this type of abalone?

So that's why I picked seventy of them last Saturday, like this:
(click on the word "this"above to see the viedo!)

... and cooked them in a pressure cooker.

I guess I'm going to batter-fry some of the leftovers in a few days. :)

And I posted some of the photos from this abalone picking on another blog of mine.
Click on the link below and enjoy!

 

The sea in this area is full of life. We're really blessed. :)

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A Dream Came True !

Beetroot Pickles with Cottage Cheese

See what I'm enjoying now! :D

Never really thought I could make this happen here at my house (my parents' house, to be more precise), but oh, you never know!!  Oh, I'm so happy!!

What I would like to do differently next time is adding some whole cloves (I didn't use them this time) and making the pickling solution less sweet.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Road to Beetroot Pickles

When I try to recall my memories of cafeteria food at the University of Southern Mississippi, this comes to my mind first: beetroot pickles.
I had never seen anything like that before. And first they looked like some kind of jelly. So the taste and the texture was a big surprise for me.
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And I loved it! Especially when I ate them with cottage cheese.

Now more then twenty years later, in my hometown, I often thought about them but never really thought that I could taste them again in my room here. Of course no local supermarkets here have them on the shelf. And although I can buy them online -- Amazon, as usual -- for some reason I didn't feel like giving it a try.

But two years ago, when I was wondering what to grow in my veggie garden, something inside of me told me to buy beetroot seeds via Amazon.

 
This Year's Harvest

Actually, my first attempt failed. The leaves grew alright, but the roots didn't grow at all.
But this year... See the photo above? This is how much I got. Quite enough to try making beetroot pickles!

So I gave it a try!! :D



Oh it was sooooooooooooooooo much fun to peel the cooked beetroots!! :D :D I thought I could keep doing it forever!
And the sink was like a scene from a splatter horror movie, except the blood was too pinkish.
And they say beetroot juice is good for your health, right?

Now, this is what I made. Beetroot pickles. Just like I dreamed of.
I can't wait to try them with some cottage cheese!!
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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Daikon Pickles, STEP 2 and 3

 My Daikon Pickles in Mid February

So sorry that I didn't post about this earlier. Yes. My daikon pickles were already ready to eat mid February. And I tell you what. IT'S A GREAT SUCCESS!!! YAY!! :D

Oh, I have to apologize for not posting a picture of STEP 2. Actually I forgot to take a pic when I did STEP 2, so here's one from several years ago.... 2009. Basically what I did this time in 2016 was not really different from this.
STEP 2 (Photo from 2009)

What you do in STEP 2 is you take daikon out from the salty water, drain well, then place them in a new plastic bag with ingredients like sugar, vinegar, dried kelp and red pepper, and place a weight on top. For details, click here to read my post from 2009.

Now when I opened the lid to see if the pickles were ready in Feb. 2016, it looked like this. So let's call this STEP 3.
And they looked like this inside the plastic bag.
The photo above isn't too impressive, but the taste was really goooooooooooood! They turned out a little too salty in 2009, and I was more careful this year about how much salt I use. It worked. ;)
Now my family enjoys eating them at almost every meal. Yep, all the hard work is rewarded. :D
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