chicken and pasta from hell

"i don't even know what this is" dish

i don’t even know what this is.  i poured egg over leftover pasta dish from last night.  it looks horrible and the taste is indefinable.  when i’m preoccupied with stuff, my cooking skill gets even worse than usual.  

i must be feeling anxious about tonight’s opening.  elijah noticed that i was not mentally there with him while we were playing with his dump truck and digger this morning.  my sound effect for the dump truck was poor (-5).  he was hanging down from my nipples all morning saying ‘oppai~, oppai~ (breasts)” every 15 minutes.  

i hope the next two days go smoothly and happily.

today’s elijah :: mr independent

mr. elijah decided recently that he’s no longer a baby. he declared that he’s an independent adult. he doesn’t like me to feed him anymore, he wants to feed himself. he said to me, ‘mama, please don’t try to feed me, or i’ll feed you!’. he picks up his food and feeds me and paul, then himself.

i’ve been giving him diced cooked vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, and acorn squash as well as some cut fruits and cheerios. i’ve been wanting to add some protein. i mixed some vegetable and meat in rice and try to feed him that, but he didn’t eat much.

one of my mama-tomo (mama-friend) and i were talking about baby food (our babies are nearly the same age) and she suggested that i should mix meat into some mashed potato and fry up a pancake. good idea! that evening, i cooked up some potato pancake with lots of veggies and meat in a non-stick pan. wow! he ate everything and wanted more.

since then, i’ve made different pancakes with sweet potato and pumpkin. they worked well too. but now he’s off to use a spoon on his own. i never be able to keep up with elijah’s growth. that makes me happy.

he’s a very hungry boy now because he’s walking! it was amazing to see the process of how he learned to walk. he took his first step when he turned 10 months. it looked like an accident. he stood up and took three quick steps toward the dishwasher. since then, he took a few steps at a time and would fall. he spends standing up for longer and longer each day. one day, when paul said to him, “oide” (“come here”). he was standing by the fridge. then he walked toward paul! eeeeeeeeeeee!

we kept telling him to “oide” with arms wide open. he would walk toward us, further and further each time. everyday, he was able to walk more. one week later, he can control speed, change direction and walk from room to room. he doesn’t crawl much any more.

i can’t help but feel emotional.

trying out homemade baby food – broccoli and sweet potato

elijah has been eating solid food for awhile and he’s getting used to some of the food. i bought some commercial baby food in a jar, but so far elijah doesn’t like them at all. i tasted some and i know why – it’s surprisingly disgusting. flavor is way too strong… i might be wrong, but commercial pureed sweet potato is actually yam.

(homemade broccoli rice and vivid colour baby food sweet potato)

anyhow, i’ve been making homemade baby food. it turns out that it’s not that hard. i microwave pretty much everything and mash them or finely chop them. to store the food, i use ice tray to make individual servings for rice and soup stock. anything else, i put them in a freezer bag and use a chop stick to score so that when you use it, you just need to break a piece.

elijah didn’t like my sweet potato puree, either. he made a face like world is over.

and he didn’t like broccoli, either. that’s okay. if he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to eat it. when he’s ready, he’ll eat it anyway. right now, i’m enjoying looking at his priceless faces.

cookie disaster! (with recipe)

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i didn’t try to make one big cookie on purpose. it was an accident.

it wasn’t such a good idea to try to make cookies while taking care of the baby. i was having some people over so i thought it would be nice to have some home-made cookies. plus, now that i’m a mama, i should be able to make cookies canadian-style. chocolate chip cookies are the classic mama cookie, so i decided to try them first. it was supposed to be a three-step process:

  • find a recipe
  • get the ingredients
  • make the cookies

my plan started pretty well. i found a recipe online. i took elijah to the supermarket and he gave me the okay to buy a bag of chocolate chips.

the next day, i decided to make the cookies. i fed elijah and put him down to sleep. i mixed the ingredients together, turned the oven on, and started forming the dough into cookies. from the bedroom, i heard elijah start to cry. i went and picked him up and brought him to the kitchen and put him in his chair. i gave him some toys to play with and went back to making the cookies, placing them on the cookie sheet. elijah started crying again, because his diaper was wet. off i went to change his diaper. then i realized he was hungry again, so i sat down to feed him a bit more…

quite a while later, i came back to the kitchen with elijah. the cookie dough was looking suspiciously mellow. i’d left the raw cookies on the cookie sheet on the warm stove top while the oven was preheated. i think they got a little bit cooked before i put them in the oven, and they were already spreading out and getting really soft. i didn’t really notice, i just put them in the oven.

i baked the cookies according to the recipe, but they came out really big and all stuck together. plus they were a little burned at the edges. at least the non-burned parts were tasty, even though we were eating ugly chunks of cookie. i didn’t serve my giant cookie to my guests — i gave them italian cookies that i’d bought at the supermarket.

plan B always works best.

recipe for a cookie disaster

  1. gather the ingredients
  2. start mixing them together
  3. make funny faces and play with the baby
  4. preheat the oven
  5. sing silly songs and play with the baby
  6. form the cookie dough and place onto the cookie sheet
  7. make funny noises and play with your baby
  8. leave the cookie sheet on the warm stove top
  9. change his diaper
  10. change his clothes (diaper accident)
  11. wash those clothes right away
  12. forget what you were doing fifteen minutes ago
  13. feed the baby
  14. burp the baby
  15. wipe the baby’s mouth after he spits up
  16. forget what you were doing thirty minutes ago
  17. try to put him back to sleep
  18. pick him up
  19. change his diaper again
  20. bring him back to the kitchen
  21. give him a toy and try to make him interested in it
  22. put the cookie sheet in the oven without noticing the cookies are already warm and melting
  23. bake the cookies
  24. take the cookie (only one giant cookie by now) out of the oven
  25. break off the burned parts and throw them out
  26. eat the leftover cookie chunks and save some for later
  27. open a package of italian cookies and place some on a plate
  28. voila! delicious italian cookies!

sansai gohan (with recipe)

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paul, elijah and i spent a week in ontario this summer. we went to visit our family and friends there.

we went to georgian bay, kingston and ottawa. it was a very busy schedule, but we managed to get a few hours in toronto to visit one place we really wanted to go – J-town!

J-town is a little japanese mall in the suburbs in toronto. there are a few small shops, and a grocery store, and a restaurant. i bought a lot of japanese books and groceries, things that i can’t usually buy in canada.

best of all, i found a package of sansai (mountain vegetables)! it’s been a long, long time since i ate sansai. sansai gohan and sansai soba are my favorite.

since elijah was born, i’ve learned to prep supper after eating supper the night before. this way, i don’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen in the evening, when elijah usually turns into mr. fussypants :D

recipe for sansai gohan

  • 3 cups rice
  • 660ml water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 Tbsp sake
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 200g sansai
  1. wash rice and soak in the water for 30 minutes
  2. boil sansai in hot water and drain
  3. put rice and water in the rice cooker
  4. add sugar, soy sauce, sake and salt and mix well
  5. place sansai on top of the rice
  6. cook until it’s done.

you can add dried shiitake and fried tofu if you like.

happy white day! (mille-feuille)

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in japan, women give chocolate to men on valentine’s day. and men return gifts a month later on white day (march 14th). on white day, men can give anything in white: underwear, handkerchiefs, jewelry, etc.

in canada, men give roses to women on valentine’s day. i have the luxury of receiving a gift, but there is no official day to return the favor. so i decided to return the tradition and give something white on white day. last year, i made white mochi filled with raspberries and white chocolate. this year, i made mille-feuille.

for valentine’s, paul and i went to moose jaw, about two hours drive south from saskatoon. moose jaw has a spa with a natural hot spring outdoor bath. i didn’t realize there was a hot spring in saskatchewan — i thought they were only in british columbia and alberta. so it was a nice surprise when paul found out about the spa in moose jaw.

the room we stayed in had a jet bath right next to the bed — no door involved. it reminded me of love hotels in japan, but it was surprisingly less tacky. maybe because there was no neon, or mirrors over the bed.

there’s an indoor pool on the top floor of the hotel that extends outside, where there’s a balcony surrounding the hot pool with the open sky above. in japan, this kind of thing is called “rotenburo” (literally, “bath under the skies”). people like to go to rotenburo especially in winter, when you can take a bath surrounded by snow.

this is canada, so the “rotenburo” was a pool, not a bath. everyone wears swimsuits, unlike in japan.

after dinner, we went to the outdoor pool. it was nearly midnight – around closing time, so there was only one other couple there. they were making out in the middle of the indoor pool, so we headed outside. the bath was surrounded by thousands of tiny christmas lights wrapped around the winter trees and we could see stars overhead. clouds of steam softened the effect. it was very beautiful. when the steam wrapped around the bare trees and fell down to us, it was as if we had thousands of leaves wrapped around us.

here’s the recipe i used for mille-feuille, from the joy of cooking. i cheated and bought frozen puff pastry, instead of making my own.

recipe

you need puff pastry. i bought it, cut it with a cookie cutter, and baked it according to the instructions. you can make your original pastry, if you know how. good luck…

the trick with the pastry is to press it down while baking so it doesn’t rise too much. i didn’t have anything to press it down with, so my mille-feuille is way too puffy.

pastry cream

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 4 large egg yolk

beat in a medium bowl on high speed until thick and pale yellow (about two minutes).

meanwhile, in a medium saucepan:

  • 1 1/3 cups milk

bring to a simmer.

gradually pour about one-third of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking to combine. scrape the egg mixture back into the pan and cook over low to medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and corners of the pan to prevent scorching, until the custard is thickened and beginning to bubble. then continue to cook, whisking, for 45 to 60 seconds. using a clean spatula, scrape the custard into a clean bowl.

stir in:

  • 3/4 tsp vanilla

cover the surface of the custard with a piece of wax or parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming. let cool, then refrigerate before using. this keeps, refrigerated, for up to two days.

raspberry sauce

combine and bring to a boil over low heat:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

add:

  • 1 cup fresh or unthawed frozen raspberries

stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

add:

  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest, vanilla

blend it with a hand blender and strain and discard seeds and pulp. pour the sauce back into a saucepan and reduce sauce by half.

layer the puff pastry circles with custard and raspberry sauce. serve with a glass of milk and a kiss.

setsubun in canada

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february 3rd was setsubun. on this day in japan, people throw soybeans to get rid of oni (demon) and eat uncut maki-zushi. people also dress up as oni by wearing an oni mask. last year, i made my oni debut in a homemade mask. the oni mask i made was quite crappy, but at least i did look like an oni.

this year, i was planning to make a decent oni mask that might scare the hell out of paul. but we went out for lunch with his aunt and did some shopping, and by the time we got home, it was already 8pm. i was almost too tired to make sushi, but i managed to make one roll of maki-zushi. because if you don’t keep your culture, no one will…

luckily i had some leftover dried ingredients from making osechi ryori at new year’s. i used dried shiitake, kanpyo, steamed spinach, and egg omelet for the filling. i’m supposed to eat the whole maki-zushi without cutting, but it’s incredibly hard to eat. so i cut it anyway.

then i had to find some soybeans. but all i’ve been able to find in canada are these oily soybeans that look like they’re roasted then sprayed with oil. they’re tasty, but they give me pimples everytime. so i’ve stopped buying them. the soybeans you see in the photo are uncooked soybeans.

meanwhile, japanese roasted soybeans are not oily or salty at all. they are just roasted and full of natural flavour. yesterday, i received another package from my parents, full of japanese food and maternity clothes. they didn’t forget to include some setsubun soybeans and two paper oni masks as well. unfortunately, the package arrived too late for setsubun this year. but paul and i ate the traditional number of beans (one for every year of our ages) anyway.

this year, we missed our chance to wear oni masks. so next year, we both will put on masks to be oni parents for poko-chan.

osechi 2: pirikara-konnyaku, tataki gobo, and kobumaki (recipes)

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most recipes for osechi ryori (traditional japanese new year’s dishes) make enough to feed a family of four for three days. my family is only two people (paul and i) so far, so i didn’t want to make too much. we were just planning to eat osechi ryori for one day, because we can never do the same thing again and again.

so, i did some research and found a japanese website that shows you how to make osechi ryori for two people. i think it’s kind of romantic…

even though i was just making osechi for two, it took a lot of prep work and cooking to make all the various small dishes. my admiration for my mother’s effort in preparing osechi for my family every year grew and grew…

while i was cooking, i amused myself by thinking about how osechi is actually a bit lame. i might offend some japanese people by saying so, but it’s true. osechi is full of “dajare” (bad puns) and “oyaji-gyagu” (“old man gags”, corny jokes). so many of the dishes have names that are meant to bring health and good luck, but they sound like really bad jokes.

for example:

  • black beans are “kuro-mame” : “mame ni ikiru” means “live healthy”
  • kelp (kobu) : “yorokobu” means joy
  • snapper (tai) : “medetai” means joyful, fortunate
  • japanese sour orange (“daidai“): “daidai” also means “generation after generation”
  • shrimp : we eat shrimp in order to live until our backs are curved with age (shrimp’s back is curved, so…)
  • gobo (burdock root) : just like gobo, live thin and long with roots spread in the earth.

…what can i say. it might be hard for english speakers to understand the jokes, but believe me, they’re lame. maybe we’re supposed to start the new year with a good laugh, but i’m not sure if i can laugh without raising my eyebrows a little or thinking of a rimshot at the end of the each joke.

the good thing is, the jokes are so lame that they’re kind of adorable. at least, i’m used to it.

recipes (clockwise from the left of the photo)

pirikara-konnyaku

  • konnyaku 1/2 cake
  • soy sauce 2 tbsp
  • mirin 1 tbsp
  • chili flakes
  • sesame oil
  1. blanch the konnyaku in hot water
  2. slice the konnyaku (about 7mm). make a cut in the center of the flat surface. take the top and pull it through the hole to make a weave effect.
  3. heat the oil in a pan. add konnyaku, soy sauce, mirin and chili flakes.
  4. saute for a couple of minutes, just for flavor
  5. garnish with carrots cut into decorative flowers

tataki gobo (pounded burdock)

  • gobo 2 stalks (thin)
  • rice vinegar (dash)
  • white sesame seeds 3 tbsp
  • sauce: rice vinegar 50ml, mirin 2 tbsp, japanese soup stock 2 tbsp, pinch of salt
  1. wash gobo, pound it lightly with a rolling pin, and cut into pieces 4-5 cm long. if the pieces are too thick, cut them lengthwise in half
  2. put the gobo in a small pot, cover with water and add vinegar. bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until soft. drain.
  3. toast white sesame seeds in a pan. cool, then grind.
  4. add the ingredients for the sauce to a pan, bring them to a boil. add the gobo and cook until the liquid reduces by half.
  5. turn off the heat. add the white sesame.
  6. garnish with snow peas

kobu maki (kelp roll)

i improvised this one, so if i remember correctly…

  • kelp 2 x 10cm cut pieces, soak in a water for about 10 mins. save the water
  • kanpyo, soak in water for 5 mins
  • gobo, 4 small pieces (saved from the tataki gobo recipe after blanching)
  • carrot, 4 small pieces, blanched
  • sauce: soy sauce 2 tbsp, sugar 2 tbsp, sake 1 tbsp
  1. put two sticks each of gobo and carrot on top of a sheet of kelp and roll it
  2. tie the kelp roll with a short strip of kanpyo. trim off the uneven ends
  3. place the rolls in a pan. cover them with the water used for soaking the kelp
  4. simmer on low heat for 20 minutes or so
  5. add the sauce and simmer for 15 minutes

osechi ryori 1: chikuzen-ni

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among the other osechi dishes, chikuzen-ni is one of my favorites. first of all, it’s good for you. it’s full of fiber. it contains gobo (burdock), renkon (lotus root) and konnyaku. second, it’s delicious. my mom makes killer chikuzen-ni. i tried last year too, but it turned out only okay. i probably didn’t cook it slowly enough…

this year, i wanted to make it as close as my mom’s chikuzen-ni as possible. so i cooked it slowly, like she does. i also used chicken thighs with bones, so that bones added more flavor.

chikuzen (筑前) was the name of a local administrative area in the west of fukuoka prefecture, from the nara period to the meiji period (710 ~ 1871). chikuzen-ni is a local dish from this region, but now it’s popular all over japan.

it is very hard to cook authentic japanese food in a small canadian city like saskatoon, let alone osechi ryori. it’s hard to find the right vegetables. luckily i was able to get some ingredients from the asian markets in winnipeg when i was there over the holiday. and i also had some japanese food that my parents sent me. so in the end, i managed to cook up some dishes for the new year. paul was very happy.

i ended up making only nine dishes. so i call it “petit osechi” :)

chikuzen-ni recipe (for four)

  • four slices of chicken thigh with bones
  • sake to marinate the chicken
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 gobo
  • 1 small renkon
  • 4 dried shiitake
  • 1/2 konnyaku
  • 8 snowpea
  • some flower shaped carrots

—————————————

  • 1 cup of the liquid from shiitake
  • 1 1/2 dashi (japanese soup stock)
  • TBSP 6 soy sauce
  • TBSP 4 mirin
  • TBSP 4 sake
  • TBSP 4 sugar

also you need parchment paper
—————————————

  1. cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and massage the chicken with sake. set aside.
  2. rough chop the carrot, gobo and renkon. (cut the vegetables at an angle and rotate the vegetable and cut again, so that the pieces have more surface area.) soak the gobo and renkon in a bowl of water with vinegar to prevent them from discoloring.
  3. remove strings from snowpeas. blanch in hot water, then transfer to cold water.
  4. boil the konnyaku and cut into bite-size pieces.
  5. re-hydrate the dried shiitake in one or two cups of water. remove the stems and cut in half. strain and save the liquid.
  6. heat oil in a pan and add the chicken. when it’s cooked, add all the vegetables except the snowpeas.
  7. add the dashi and all the seasoning.
  8. make a lid with parchment paper. place the lid directly on the food cooking in the pot.
  9. skim off any scum that forms. turn the heat to low.
  10. cook slowly until reduced by approx. 30%.
  11. decorate with snowpeas and flower shaped carrots.

happy 1st anniversary!

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(photo: stack of homemade dorayaki, Doraemon‘s favorite snack)

oh, boy… today was absolutely the craziest day. when i woke up in the morning, all i could see was the whole white world. on the weather channel, there was a blizzard warning covering almost all of saskatchewan. the strong wind and the blowing snow completely blocked the view from my apartment window. i couldn’t see across the street.

i spent my afternoon drawing, but i got distracted by the noise of the strong wind so many times that i had to take a break a couple of times. we have some plastic chairs and a patio table on the balcony and they kept getting blown around. they were wild. one of the chairs got blown into the corner of the balcony and kept banging its head against the railing — it looked like self-mutilation.

anyway, this wild canadian weather almost made me forget that it’s a special day here — it’s the 1st anniversary of my blog! my very first post was one of my loud silence photos. for that first month, the only people who knew about my blog were me and paul :D i didn’t tell anyone about it until february, around the time i was setting up my solo drawing show. at that point, i was getting about 20 visitors per day (now it’s 250, average).

i’ve had so much fun with this blog for one year. i’ve met lots of interesting and nice people — thank you to those of you who leave comments or wrote to me using my contact page. some days were really exciting here, like the time that i got linked from metafilter and the site crashed. since then, paul redesigned my blog and i opened my shop and my gallery.

there will be a couple of new things happening in the new year. i’m preparing for a show this spring that i’ll be writing about. there will be some more updates here, including moving to a new server. and i have some personal news that i’ll be blogging about, and showing photos.

so, thank you for coming to visit. let’s have another great year!