Recipes

Baking Marathon With Tomomi

Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with my generation. We are terrifyingly obsessed with our technology (yes I am one of those people who checks my Facebook multiple times a day, I confess! Guilty as charged!), and yet it’s like the wild wild west with zero etiquette or common curtesy!

If there is one major pet-peeve I have, it’s when a friend expresses interest in doing something, so we agree on a day, I schedule it into my calendar, and then when I text them just a few days later to confirm the specifics (like oooh time, or location)…..radio silence.  If I text someone in the morning the day we are supposed to meet, and just never hear back from them period, whether it’s to confirm, to cancel, or the next day to apologize, I feel a bit like Godzilla ready to rampage Fukui and stomp on things.

The only thing worse…when I text an entire group of people, and not a single one has the common decency to reply. RAWWWWWR!

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Maybe Calvin was onto something here…excellent anger therapy!

Luckily for me I have my friend Tomomi.  Tomomi understands how frustrating dealing with other ALTs can be and has always known how to cheer me up when I’m having trouble coping with their flakiness. One of Tomomi’s finest qualities, and one of the reasons we are both such good friends, is that we understand the importance of commitments. I can always rely on her, and that’s something invaluable in a friend in my opinion. I don’t know what I’d do without her!

So Sunday we decided to have a baking marathon and challenge ourselves by making some difficult recipes! We’re both very skilled cooks and bakers, so every now and then it’s fun to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, and it’s less stressful trying complicated recipes when you have a partner with baking skills you can trust.

Our last month together is precious, and I want to see her as much as possible before I leave.  We made not only delicious desserts yesterday but special memories that I’ll have forever. Talk about a great way to spend a day!

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 9.33.14 AMOur first challenge was a pie. I was determined to learn how to replicate Tomomi’s incredibly fluffy and flaky pie crust.  One of the best things about this recipe, is that just like my Grandmother’s recipe, it contains no shortening; just good ol’ natural butter.

Tomomi’s pie crust is pretty darn simple as far as ingredients go, just flour, butter, and ice water. The real trick though is in the technique of mixing them together. The secret to making flaky pastry is cold butter and never-ever over-kneading the dough. Always work with the pastry when it’s cool and firm to the touch. That means often having to pop it back into the fridge for a bit, which is a pain, but so very much worth the extra time.

Next we made the filling, which was 2 bags of frozen mixed berries (because fresh berries in Japan cost a small fortune), a pinch of brown sugar, a spoonful of honey, and sprinkling of corn starch. Easy-peasy! Because the berries would release a lot of juice we opted for a lattice-style pie top and got to town making it look gorgeous! What do you think? Pretty snazzy looking eh?IMG_3949 IMG_3958

We were both very pleased with the end result! I hate to torment you any more, but let me just say that is was so good my tastebuds felt like fireworks!

Our next dessert challenge was inspired by my recent wanderlust obsession with the Amalfi Coast. I went to Cinque Terre and Sorrento 4 years ago and adored it. I want very desperately to go back to that magical place, full of colourful houses, kind people and the smell of lemons and the sea lingering in the air….
amalfi coast2Tomomi has been attempting to master the art of chiffon cake making lately, so we decided to try making a lemon chiffon cake. One of the best things to eat in the Amalfi Coast area is lemon desserts, they’ll blow you away!  There’s nothing quite as summery as a little fluffy lemon cake in my opinion, unless it’s pie and we had already made that!

Getting a chiffon cake out of the pan not looking butchered is tough. It takes surgeon hands and nerves of steal, it’s the equivalent of a baking surgery. I chickened out, and let Tomomi do this part because I couldn’t bear the idea of ruining the beauty of our masterpiece.

Tell me that isn’t the fluffiest-looking chiffon cake you ever saw!? Tomomi did a wonderful job, and I thought it looked beautiful! 
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We then drizzled lemon chocolate all over the top and spooned a dollop of homemade lemon jam on each slice. It was like eating a zingy lemon-flavoured cloud. Mmmmmm….

Like the pie crust, Tomomi’s recipe for chiffon cake is very natural. Just eggs (lots and lots of eggs!), flour, sugar, a drizzle of sesame oil, plus lemon juice and zest to add flavour. The secret to success is folding the merengue in oh-so tenderly and softly. You want to mix that merengue in, but you still want fluffy streaks of it throughout the batter. If not, the cake won’t be like eating a cloud.

We drank tea and chatted until it was time her her family’s dinner, at which point I headed home with my heart lighter, mind trouble-free, stomach happily stuffed, and very much ready to unwind, relax, and watch a funny movie (Bridesmaids).

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Categories: Life in Japan, Lifestyle, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple Aroma Ambrosia

This weekend I was exceptionally lazy. Which is pretty much unheard of because I typically make busy little bees look like couch potatoes. I don’t know why but I’m always dashing hither and thither, and seem to thrive despite my insanely long to-do list. I don’t particularly enjoy it either, I just seem prone to being an overachiever and overly efficient I suppose.

While I am certainly never going to be satisfied with a sloth-like lifestyle, I did decide to schedule a little rest and relaxation this weekend. I was still productive  (I couldn’t resist scrubbing all my floors and the majority of my apartment to boot, just because it was looking a little lackluster) but I also spent an equally lovely amount of time in bed reading.

Reading books again is like discovering long lost treasure. I was a voracious reader as a child, and as I grew up and changed from an adolescent to an adult, my social calendar in all its busy glory surreptitiously sucked away my time to indulge in my favorite pleasure. The worst part was that it happened so gradually I never noticed until I went to Hawaii this Christmas! Since then I’ve been fairly diligent planning reading time before bed.

Saturday AND Sunday morning I rolled over, opened my curtains wide to let the sunshine pour in and grabbed my Kindle which was waiting on my bedside table. I simply adored the luxury of lounging in bed with nothing else to do than read my book (and eventually migrate to my kitchen for my necessary coffee and then back to my bed & book).

Whenever I’m truly happy nothing can keep me away from my kitchen. There is nothing like cooking with sunshine  pouring into my kitchen and singing along to country music…my poor poor neighbors, they must absolutely hate me when I’m happy.

This weekend’s creations were all apple themed because I had quite a few waiting to be used in my fruit bowl. I resolved to cook with apples more because it makes your house smell like heaven! apple chipsInspired by something I saw on pinterest, I decided to try making apple chips. My first try was a spectacular disaster. Please, pleeeeease do yourself and your house a favour and never ever attempt to make apple chips in a toaster oven. I burned mine to a crisp….(literally, charcoal black) and set off the smoke detector, much to my embarrassment. I had to open all the windows in my kitchen to air it out and flee to the sanctuary of my bedroom in shame for quite a while before attempting batch number 2, using my oven this time, which thankfully turned out ok. As my friend Lizzy said, sometimes even the best cooks have to mess up every once in a while.

The secret to making apple chips is to slice your apples very very thinly, cover in cinnamon sugar, bake in an OVEN for 1 hour at 100ºC. Turn them all over and cook another 1 hour (or more) until nice and crispy.

My second recipe was equally delicious, and luckily I nailed it on the first try. I’d really recommend it if you are looking for some yummy comfort food this cold winter!

BAKED APPLE & MUSTARD CHICKEN:

What you’ll need:

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 apple
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

What you’ll need to do:

  1. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste. Then coat in flour, shaking off any excess.
  2. Heat olive oil in frying pan. Once oil is hot, place chicken breasts in pan and cook until golden on both sides. Remove from pan and place in casserole dish.
  3. Peel apple and cut into thin slices.
  4. Add apples to frying pan. Cook on medium heat for 3 minutes.
  5. Add apple juice, cider vinegar, dijon mustard and rosemary to the pan. Cook together with apples and bring to a simmer.
  6. Pour this sauce over the chicken.
  7. Turn on oven to 190ºC (375ºF) and cook for about 30 minutes, basting your chicken occasionally.
  8. Place chicken on plate, spoon sauce over top and garnish with fresh rosemary. Tada!

chickenNow doesn’t that look yummy! I certainly think so! Very easy-peasy to cook too! I would also throw out the recommendation to serve this with a cider instead of white wine. I personally opted for Strongbow and thought the two went great together. Then for dessert I whipped up my favourite chai-spiced rice pudding. A savory way to end a beautifully-lazy weekend!

Categories: Lifestyle, Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yuzu Yumminess In A Jar

In my humble opinion homemade presents are the best. Nothing like receiving a gift and knowing that someone cared about you enough to put all that effort in! Not that Christmas shopping in insane malls doesn’t count as effort of course. I would consider that as more of a sacrifice, a sacrifice of sanity because malls these days are nuts.  Even malls in Japan make feel like I’m going into battle and Christmas isn’t even a recognized holiday here! So DIY gifts are the perfect solution, at least for me, not only do I get to avoid traumatic malls, I get to shower the people I care most about with gifts that took lots of time and effort to make.

I know I probably shouldn’t give away all my Christmas DIY present secrets away for fear someday my friends and I will accidentally both make the same gifts, but this one is just too delicious not to share. Plus, it’s not my own recipe so I shouldn’t be greedy with it.

For those of you who know me, it isn’t a big secret, I adore yuzu. Yuzu are a Japanese citrus that are similar to both an orange and a lemon. I love their scent, their taste, even their shape! The ease with which I can buy yuzu in Japan is something I will definitely miss a lot when I go back to Canada. Thank heavens for Southeast Asian import stores! This is my favourite yuzu jam recipe, and what I love about this jam is that it’s great on toast and you can even put it in your tea! Toast and tea, genius. I probably should have named my blog that, two things I adore and an alliteration…

Anyhoo onto the actual recipe. I apologize in advance for the terrible iPhone photos!

What you’ll need:

  • 5 medium sized yuzu (about 500 grams)
  • pure water 500mL + 300mL
  • 500 grams granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Wash the yuzu. Cut in half and squeeze out juice into a small bowl.
  2. Cut peel into smaller pieces (I personally prefer 1/8 wedges for my size). As best as you can strip the yuzu peels of their pulp. Place all pulp and seeds into a small pot.
  3. Fill a large bowl with icy water. Next, cut all of the yuzu peels into very thin strips, the thinner the better. Place these yuzu peel strips into the icy water. By doing this the yuzu peel becomes less bitter.IMG_3374 IMG_3377
  4. While you let the yuzu peel soak, take the pot containing the yuzu pulp and seeds to the stove. Add 500mL of water to the pot. Boil the water, pulp, and seeds until water has condensed down to 2/3 of what you started with. This step is incredibly important for this recipe because this is how the natural pectin is gained. The seeds and the pulp contain large amounts of pectin, which is the ingredient that will solidify everything into a jam.
  5. After you have boiled down the pulp, turn off the heat. Place a metal strainer over a small bowl, pour pulpy mixture into strainer and, using a spatula, press the moisture out of the pulp. Slowly add the extra 300mL of pure water as you do so to ensure all pectin has been released. Press pulp into the sides of the strainer until only the toughest bits of pulp and the seeds remain. Pour liquid from bowl into a clean pot, throw out pulp and seeds.IMG_3378IMG_3380
  6. Using your hands grab small handfulls of the yuzu peel out of the water. Place between the palms of your hands and press out as much water as possible. The more water you squeeze out the sweeter your jam will be. Add yuzu peel into the pot with the pectin water. IMG_3381
  7. Boil this mixture on high for 15 minutes. Be absolutely sure to stir constantly for the entire 15 minutes or it will all burn to the bottom of the pot.
  8. After 15 minutes add sugar and yuzu juice. Continue to boil on high for 10 more minutes stir constantly. IMG_3386 IMG_3383
  9. By now a milky white substance will begin forming on the top of the bubbling jam mixture. For lack of a better word I call this “scum”.  To make beautiful, delicious jam it’s very important to remove this. I use a metal ladle and have a bowl of clean water ready of the side to dip the dirty ladle into after each scoop before skimming the ladle carefully along the top. Keep alternating between stirring jam and scumming until all scum is gone and the mixture is transparent.

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    That white milky stuff in the ladle is “scum”

  10. You can tell the jam is nearing completion when the bubbles around the edges become very large and the mixture starts to get viscous.
  11. In a pot of boiling water sterilize your jam jars and their lids. After, place upside down and shake as much water out as you can. While the jars are still hot you can then pour in the yuzu jam.IMG_3391 IMG_3392 photo(2)
  12. Fill jars to the brim. I was able to make 2 large jars of and one baby jar of jam with this recipe. Screw the lids on nice and tight. Place in boiling water for 2 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat and decorate!
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Merry Christmas!

And speaking of awesome homemade presents, please everyone note the gorgeous purple apron I’m wearing. It was the sweetest Christmas present from Tomomi whom I made this jam with.  I love, love, LOVE it, so you’ll probably see me wearing it a lot in the future foodie blog posts!

Categories: Dessert Recipes, Life in Japan, Sweet | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Little Romantic Dinner for One 2.0: Gazpacho Secrets

It’s been a crazy, hectic past few weeks. It’s been a little insane really, what with work, the numerous sayonara parties for friends leaving Fukui (somehow I was up till 5am TWO nights in a row this weekend, something absolutely unheard of…previously) and a vigorous bikini-bod workout regime in the evenings. PHEW! I’m exhausted just thinking about it! I decided to talk a chill pill today…sort of. I decided it was time to cook a fabulous little romantic dinner for me prior to my workout. So, quick as a bunny I stopped by the grocery store and picked up a bushel of fresh, juicy ingredients.

I scampered back to my kitchen, and I kid you not, in less than half an hour I whipped this sexy beast of a dinner up. No, really, I’m not lying! Cross my heart, in less than half an hour I made chilled gazpacho soup from scratch, grilled some baby steaks, prepared boiled corn on the cob and steamed some asparagus. Healthy, delicious and quick; I feel a little like the superwoman of the kitchen!IMG_0172

That looks like sexy summer love on a plate in my opinion, ow OW! Looking good!

If there is one vegetable that marks the beginning of summer feasts for me it’s corn on the cob. So juicy and plump and very VERY satisfying to eat straight off the cob. Those of you who have ever suffered the indignity of wearing braces and needing your corn carved OFF the cob (I still cringe at the memory) rather than being able to dig in merely using your chompers (made doubly excruciating when the rest of your whole family gets to) will perfectly understand the triumph and sweet taste of victory I feel ever single time I maul savour my corn on the cob using my nice and straight pearly whites.

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For those of you who’ve never tried gazpacho I encourage you to do so immediately. Traditionally this soup is served chilled so it’s the perfect summer soup that will taste refreshing and tangy on those crazy hot humid days like I’m currently dying from experiencing in Japan (28-35 degrees Celsius, every day, you’ve got to be kidding me….mumble mumble). Gazpacho is a famous Spanish tomato-based chunky vegetable soup.

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To make my homemade gazpacho you’ll need:

  • 4-5 medium sized tomatos (cut into quarters)
  • 1 fresh clove of garlic (cut finely)
  • half a red onion (cut into quarters) *or white onion should you not have red on hand*
  • a third of a baguette (cubed)
  • 1 small cucumber (skin removed and diced)
  • 1 stalk of celery (diced)
  • generous pinch of thyme, salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • lemon wedge (peel and seeds removed)

SECRET CHEF HINT: The secret to making the best and most delicious gazpacho is the freshness of the ingredients. You want tomatoes that are as fresh and as flavourful as you can buy.  In my case I opted for a variety of tomatoes, which included Fukui’s Koshino Ruby variety famous for its natural sweetness, tart baby tomatoes and a few plump large organic tomatoes. Organic tomatos pack a flavourful punch so be sure to try using a few when you make this recipe if you can afford it! Same goes for the onion, garlic, celery and baguette, you want the freshest you can get.

What you’ll need to do:

  1. Take the stems off the tomatoes, cut into quarters. Put in blender (I simply adore my magic bullet, it allows me to make just the perfect amount for a double portion of this yummy soup). Put away one finely diced quarter of a tomato for the garnish.
  2. Add to blender: small pieces of peeled and chopped up garlic, red onion, cucumber and celery. Keep a little of everything and finely mince for garnish.
  3. Add wedge of lemon (make sure to remove peel and seeds).
  4. Pour in olive oil and add generous pinches of thyme, salt and pepper.
  5. Blend until nice and chunky.
  6. Add ripped up pieces of the baguette and blend a little more.
  7. Place in refrigerator until chilled. This should only take about 5-10 minutes.
  8. Remove from fridge. Pour into a bowl, add garnish of finely chopped vegetables and drizzle with a little olive oil. Tada!

The final touch to my dinner was what I refer to in my mind as fancy-pants water. To make staying hydrated in the summer a little more exciting I like to keep a pitcher in my fridge of water to which I have added a few slices of lemon and a few sprigs of mint. Trust me, drinking water doesn’t seem like a chore when it looks this tempting! It’s a great way to stay healthy in the summer heat.IMG_0183

Well, that’s a wrap folks because the sun is setting and I’m off for a run! The best part about this dinner was how healthy and packed full of energy it was. I’ve got a 12km run waiting and I can guarantee that all those nutrients will give me the energy I need to finish, even despite the crazy Japan heat.

P.S. I promise to post my blog post about walking on fire soon, just making a few finishing tweaks!

Categories: Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Munch-worthy Maple Scones: For the true Canadian at heart!

I am a tea-junkie….that’s just something that I’ve come to accept about myself.

  • Do most of my friends think I’m a little nuts when they see my tea shopping splurges? Yep
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Shopping spree at the Lupicia Tea festival in Kanazawa 2012

  • Do they think it’s laughable that I get cranky when I don’t get my daily tea time? Definitely.
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Tea in The Tiffin Room of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore

  • Question my sanity for spending crazy sums of money to enjoy high tea at famous places? Absolutely!
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My mom and I enjoying high tea at The Ritz Hotel in London. I treated her for mother’s day, we know which side of the family my love of tea comes from!

  • Do people think my tea collection is insane? Yep to that question too.

    The saddest thing is that's only half of it, the other half is at school!

    The saddest thing is that’s only half of it, the other half is at school!

I’m cool with it though, when people tease me now it’s like water rolling off my back. After all, in my opinion there are definitely other things much, much worse that I could suffer an addiction for.  Tea is pretty harmless in the great scheme of things, not to mention really delicious!

I’ve always loved the quote “Tea is like a hug, but on the inside.” Drinking tea always soothes away my stress; it’s my way of putting aside a little “me-time” in my busy days and always feels like the equivalent of pampering my soul.

As many parents, especially my own, have discovered it’s easy to get children to do what you want when you dangle a tempting enough carrot. I always had my nose in a book when I was little and for my parents getting me to put my beloved books away and interact with real people was a bit of a challenge. When I was very young the reason I, not so secretly, always joined my nana for tea was for the sweets, the tea was more of an afterthought.  No one ever forced me to have tea in the garden every day….the carrot was dangled and I came quite willingly. For me I viewed it as a win-win situation; I got to hang out with my loving Nana AND I got to eat cookies! The same could not be said for my little brother who often plotted various ways to get in, get his allotment of cookies and hightail it out of there. His excuses, let me tell you, were hilarious and my nana saw through them in a heartbeat. Nevertheless though, she’d allow him to flee the table, content in the knowledge she had at least one very willing tea partner.  Maybe it’s the nostalgia of those memories and love for my Nana (who passed away very sadly when I was far too young) that brought on this tea obsession? I often reflect on those perfect tea parties with her in the garden when I drink a proper British tea.

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But ooooh how the times have changed.  These days, I have tea time for the simple pleasure of drinking tea, and the sweet has become an afterthought.  Or it least is was, until I met Tomomi.  My passion for tea time sweets appears to have come back with a vengeance, especially my love of scones, since coming to Japan.  Scones are undeniably my favourite tea sweet of all time; preferably served warm and  topped with clotted cream and fresh jam….Now you know why I was so eager to help my friend Tomomi make over 26 various types of jam!

For Tomomi’s jam party I combined two things I’m passionate about, scones and maple syrup, into one amazing recipe. Are you chuckling over how very Canadian this was of me? It’s ok, I laugh at how incredibly Canadian I am at times too. I’ll confess it wasn’t the first time I’ve made this recipe, I made it for the first time about a year ago and loved it so much it’s been on my “must re-bake list” for far too long.

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I love my maple syrup!

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Om nom nom!

What I love most about these scones is that despite the maple syrup they aren’t overly sweet. The whole wheat flour and oatmeal make them relatively healthy for a scone too, while contributing to a nice crumbly consistency.

What You’ll Need:

  • 60 mL high quality maple syrup  [1/4 cup]
  • 90 mL milk [6 tbsp]
  • 130 g pastry flour [1 cup]
  • 160 g whole wheat pastry flour [1 1/4 cup]
  • 40 g rolled oats (aka: oatmeal) [1/3 cup]
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 130g butter (should be cold) [11 tbsps]
  • 1 egg

What You’ll Need To Do:

  • Heat your oven to 190°C (400°F).
  • In a large bowl mix together all dry ingredients (pastry flour, whole wheat pastry flour, rolled oats, salt, baking powder)
  • Add cold butter to dry ingredients. Using a cold knife cut the butter into the dry ingredients to mix until butter is in very, very small pieces.
  • Add milk and maple syrup to the bowl. Mix well.
  • On a baking tray lay down a piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and press the scone dough down evenly into a large rectangle.  Continue to shape until the dough is very thin, about 3cm deep.
  • Now, using a sharp knife, cut the dough into even squares. (I cut mine into squares about the same size as my pinky finger.)
  • Rearrange the scones on the parchment paper so there is at least 5cm between each scone. This is so they have room to expand when they bake.
  • Using a fork whisk your egg in a small bowl until a little frothy.  Using a pastry brush lightly brush a little egg on the top of the scones. If you like you can also sprinkle with coarse raw sugar at this time, I personally opted not to this time to keep them a little healthier. 
  • Place the baking tray in the oven and cook scones for approximately 20 minutes, or until the top of the scones turns a light gold color.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

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Citrus Cranberry Ginger Muffins

I’m pretty sure lemon + orange + cranberry + ginger = ambrosia muffins! Talk about a killer flavour combination!

When I was a little girl my mom used to make this absolutely wicked orange-cranberry loaf.  It was so delicious I don’t think it ever survived in our house for more than a day before being completely devoured. The cranberries were an explosion of flavour nestled like hidden gems in a fluffy citrus batter.  It was pretty addicting to eat to say the least and accompanied by a seductively-sweet aroma that would bring my brother and I scurrying to the kitchen in record time.

After my mom and my dad left Japan and returned home to Canada I found myself thinking about them often, and feeling more than just a little homesick.  This loaf was a taste of home that I missed, and so to welcome in spring I decided to celebrate by making muffins and modified my mom’s recipe. I had to modify it because, of course, I could never make the original recipe taste as good as hers, so I decided that I wasn’t even going to try…

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

What You’ll Need To Do:

1) Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) . Place muffin liners inside a muffin tin (or grease muffin tin using butter lightly and then add a little flour to coat like this)
2) Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3) Zest your orange, lemon and ginger.  Add to dry mixture. Set aside.
4) In a large bowl, cream butter.  When butter looks light and fluffy add sugar and mix together.
5) Add egg to the butter&sugar mixture and mix until smooth. Stir in orange juice and fresh lemon juice.
6) Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Mix together until just moistened.

IMG_91297) Add in whole cranberries. Fold batter over them gently.
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8) Pour into prepared muffin tray until about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-30 minutes until an inserted toothpick can be removed cleanly.
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I personally prefer mine a little crunchy on the outside so I tend to let them brown up quite a bit before taking them out. 
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9) Let the muffins stand for at least 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool.
I ended up giving the majority of this batch (I think it made about 18 generous-sized muffins) away to two very good friends of mine celebrating their birthdays this weekend.  I have of course have finished the left-overs far too quickly and I think these muffins were so delicious they might have to be made again soon…very soon…possibly as early as this upcoming long weekend!
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The Simplest Salmon Recipe Ever

This very well may be the simplest recipe for cooking salmon I have ever tried.  It’s pretty much fool-proof and was incredibly tasty for how little work it required to prepare. Therefore, it’s a recipe star in my opinion. I live a pretty busy life so simple+quick+healthy recipes are always appreciated.  I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did when I made it for my little romantic dinner for one!

What You’ll Need:

  • Salmon fillet
  • Fresh lemon slices
  • Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Aluminum foil

What You’ll Need To Do:

  • Place a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray
  • Slice lemon into quarter-inch thick slices.  Place enough lemon wedges on top of the foil to support the bottom of your salmon fillet (I needed 3).
  • Place salmon fillet on top of lemon slices.
  • Cut a bit of butter and place on top of the salmon (how much is up to you! I was wanting a extra-healthy meal so I only put about half a tbsp)
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Wrap the aluminum foil very tightly up around the salmon.
  • Bake in your oven at 175°C (350°F) for about 15-20 minutes. Open aluminum foil after 15 minutes to check how salmon is doing.  It’s really important not to over-cook the salmon, the salmon is finished when it flakes when you stick a fork into it, and it should not be squishy or look like “jelly” anymore. It should be a light pink color, and feel firm when you press the back of the fork into it.

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Categories: Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Miso-Sexy Salad

“Winter is coming…” Any avid Game of Thrones will recognize this famous line. Yet, for a winter-lover like me when the days start to get a little warmer and I am forced to swap my beloved snowboard for my-nemesis-in-a-bottle, sunscreen, there is only one thought that echoes ominously in my mind: Summer is coming… 

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No seriously, I’m not kidding. Summer in Japan is something that sends shivers down my spine. I dread summer the same way Ned Stark dreads winter, when the night is dark and full of terrors. Canada never made a summer lover out of this Calgarian. I much rather prefer a snowy white mountain to a white sand beach. This slightly crazy attitude has simply been amplified after experiencing two unbearably hot and humid Japanese summers. It’s so crazy-hot here that people carry around a sweat towel with them everywhere they go, not just to the gym!

So, while I’ll be the first to admit, my summer enemies are slightly less terrifying than nightwalkers they are enemies nevertheless: sunscreen which I loathe, sunburns which plague me despite faithfully lathering myself with the sunscreen I loathe, and the biggest arch-enemy of all women, bikini season. BLEH!

This weekend was spent in a state of denial in my kitchen so at least something good might be produced along with wallowing in self pity. With summer on the way, I knew hot foods would soon be the last thing I’d want to be eating so I wanted to get funky and creative with my salads. I spent a blissful time in my kitchen experimenting and I am pleased to present my newest perfected experiment recipe: Miso-sexy Salad!

What You’ll Need For The Salad:

  • 1 large skinless chicken breast
  • 3 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 large lemon wedge
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1 head of brocoli
  • 1 cucumber
  • Romaine lettuce

What You’ll Need For The Dressing:

  • 2 teaspoons miso paste
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon warm water (add enough for the dressing consistency you desire)

What You’ll Need To Do:

  1. Chop chicken breast into small bite-size cubes.
  2. In a large fry pan over a medium heat pour in sesame oil and add chicken pieces.  Brown the chicken.
  3. Turn heat down to low. Add miso paste, lemon juice and water to fry pan. Stir until chicken is covered.  Place a cover on the frypan. Let it simmer gently for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent chicken from sticking.
  4. Once sauce has simmered down to a thick paste that coats the chicken nicely, remove from heat. Set aside to let cool.IMG_9072
  5. In a sauce pan put a small amount of water on to boil.  Cut brocoli into small bite-size pieces.  Place brocoli in a steamer pot over the hot boiling water.  Allow brocoli to steam for about 5 minutes, until tender but still a little bit crunchy. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  6. Cut up cucumber into bite-size pieces. Rip romaine lettuce into bite-size pieces. Place in a large bowl.
  7. To make the dressing mix together miso paste, lemon juice, sesame oil and warm water with a fork.IMG_9082
  8. Add chicken and brocoli to salad. Drizzle with dressing!IMG_9119

Yes, you may whistle in appreciation at this sexy looking salad. If it had a voice I imagine it would reply something like this, “Thanks, miso-sexy I don’t blame you for whistling!”

Categories: Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mushroom Risotto

I love eating risotto, but dislike making it because so often you have to watch it like a hawk while it’s cooking. This recipe however, is simple, healthy and very delicious.

What you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup of Aborio rice
  • 1/2 pound portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms
  • 1 shallot, sliced up
  • 1/4 cup white wine (can substitute extra broth here if you desire)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1.5 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • splash of milk
  • salt & pepper

What you’ll need to do:

  1. In a saucepan, warm up the broth over a low heat.
  2. In a different large saucepan pour in olive oil.  Heat up the oil over a medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot add in the mushrooms, cook mushrooms for about 3 minutes, or until soft.  Remove mushrooms, mushrooms juices and oil into a small bowl and set aside for later.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil to pan and stir in the cut shallots. Cook for 1 minute before adding the rice.  Stir the rice and coat evenly with the oil for about 2 minutes.
  4. Once rice is a pale, golden hue pour in the wine. Stir until wine is fully absorbed.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the broth.  Stir until fully absorbed.  Continue adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until fully absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes.
  6. Add parmesan cheese, splash of milk, mushrooms and a little salt&pepper to taste. Stir until creamy and thick.  Voila! IMG_6729
Categories: Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Classy Little Romantic Dinner for One

I am convinced that there is something in the water these days inducing insanity. It’s either that or maybe, far more likely, my friends’ hormones and pheromones are completely out of whack with the promise of spring hanging heavy in the breeze…

I am certain I’m not being paranoid.  Elton John’s written songs about times like these, although, I’ll admit he’s far more elegant and eloquent describing it (Can you feel the love tonight…It makes the breeze feel cool…). I however, shall state it bluntly: my community of friends has gone crazy and a love haze is in effect.

Couples have been springing up recently faster than flowers. Levels of PDA are running dangerously high and straining the patience of yours truly. Keeping my razor-sharp thoughts to myself isn’t the easiest when people are spoon-feeding – or rather in most cases in Japan, chopstick-feeding – each other while sitting next to me in a cramped restaurant booth.  At times like these being single can be a little lonely.  Which means it’s the perfect opportunity for…drumroll please….a perfectly lovely romantic dinner for one!

I’m not too sure when I began this tradition but it is something I adore doing.  Every so often, when being single starts taking it’s toll, I like to tie on my favorite apron, plot out a masterpiece of a sensuously savory dinner and cook up a storm.  Once finished, I set the table with some candles, turn off my cellphone, turn on the tunes (typically Michael Buble), dim the lights and after a hearty “Itadakimasu!”, dig in.  I love eating my feast slowly and meticulously, taking my time to relish every mouthful.  Who needs a boyfriend when my cooking can make me swoon!?

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Well, tonight was one of those nights.  Operation romantic dinner for one was a go.  On the menu tonight:

Appetizers: 

5 plump olives, several blushing baby tomatoes, apples with blue cheese and crisp baguette slices begging to be dipped in luxuriously smooth olive oil and zesty balsamic vinegar.

Main:

A tender lemon infused salmon fillet accompanied by a creamy melt-in-your-mouth mushroom risotto and succulent steamed asparagus stalks.

Dessert:

Sea salt sprinkled chocolate covered strawberries.

As far as my romantic dinners in the past are concerned this one was very healthy and pretty simple to whip up. Easy was very important because I was feeling particularly lazy after a crazy night out on the town yesterday cumulating in a sleepover giggles-and-chit-chat session with Lizzy until the wee-hours of the morning.  After a late wake-up we then proceeded to spent the most wonderfully mellow and lazy Sunday afternoon basking under covers, watching Breakfast At Tiffany’s, while beautiful warm spring sunshine flickered in through the windows.

With my parents arriving for a visit this week, and a busy little trip with them around Japan on the horizon, a relaxing night at home alone was exactly what I needed.  I even left all the dishes in the sink to be taken care of tomorrow!

Yummy Appetizers
Olives, tomatoes, apples with blue cheese, sliced baguette with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.

Cracked open a new yuzu (Japanese lemon) liquor I found at Yasubun that I’ve been dying to try!

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Main Course
Steamed asparagus, lemon-infused salmon and creamy mushroom risotto.

Yuzu Liquor. Yuzu is a type of Japanese citrus (similar to a lemon) that I am incredibly fond of. Loved it! Can't wait to share with my parents when they come to Japan in a week!


Yuzu Liquor. Yuzu is a type of Japanese citrus (similar to a lemon) that I am incredibly fond of. Loved it! Can’t wait to share with my parents when they come to Japan in a week!

Categories: Life in Japan, Lifestyle, Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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