Monday, November 24, 2008

Pizza: A fable (now with giant beans!)

Woohoo! I haven't had a pizza party in a while - I was starting to get sad, until my trusty friend Eiko reminded me how important a pizza party is for one's soul. She came over with her friend Ria and we fixed us up some pizzas (with dead dough! oops, I used hot water - but we used pie pans so it turned out fine). We each did a pizza up on our own -using the same ingredients...

Eiko was first:
Pizza 1

We've got some spinach pesto, eggplant, shiitake mushies, cashew ricotta, red onion, cherry tomato, roasted red peppers, with maitake-mushie-tomato sauce.

Ria did a great job for her first pizza party:

Pizza 2

I got all crazy with mine and added apple cause Eiko and Ria used ALL of the roasted red peppers.... success:

Pizza 3

We also had an awesome salad to go with it. Apples, spinach, lettuce, red onion, raw shiitake, cucumber, hanamame beans with a roasted-red pepper dressing:


So check out those beans! They are huge - each one is like an inch long! Also, they are purple! A ton of the farmers in the area grow them - I bought bags and bags of them. White, purple and black - all from this years crop. They are a little sweet and nutty - seriously, they require no seasoning at all! Check out some action shots:


It is really difficult to take a macro-shot with no flash of something you're holding with chopsticks after drinking a huge cup of coffee! This is Ria and Eiko (in that order) enjoying the (three person) party. Note the forkin' huge bean Ria is holding with her chopsticks:

Ria and Eiko

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Square Fruit

My new favorite fruit... Japanese Persimmon. They are so delicious! Also, they are square! Weird! How many exclamation points do you think I can use?!?! I bought a mini-crate of them. They will probably be gone by the end of the week... I hope to make some of them into ice-cream... kakis and cream! har har.

Also, I discovered that eggplant is really good fried. Wonderful!

Friday, October 24, 2008

VeganMofo: Day 24

Forgive me father, I am a bad blogger. It has been 18 days since my last post.

My cookies bring all the boys to the yard. I am obsessed with cookes. I make this dough and freeze it and give it to people as gifts. I want you to have the recipe. Make these cookies or you will have bad luck for 7 years.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 c (338 g) Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 t Baking Soda
1 t Salt

1/3 c (71 g) Canola Oil
1/2 c (80g) Shortening or Margarine
1 1/2 c (300g) Granulated Sugar plus 1 T (15 g) Molasses
OR 1/2 c Granulated Sugar plus 1 c Brown Sugar
1 1/2 t Vanilla Extract

1 c (125 g) Chocolate Chips

1 T (5 g) Ground Flax Seeds
3 T (40 g) Water
1/4 c (45 g) Silken Tofu

With a whisk, beat together the Ground Flax Seeds, Water and Silken Tofu in a large bowl. The Tofu will not get completely smooth: a little chunky is alright (better even!) In a smaller bowl, mix the Flour, Baking Soda and Salt together. Cream together the Oil and Shortening/Magarine until smooth then cream in the sugars and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. Fold in Chocolate Chips. Roll dough into balls about the size of quarters. Bake at 350F (180C) for 10 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, October 6, 2008

VeganMofo Day 6: Akebi Update

My Akebi was ripe today. According to my source (this guy's blog), you know it's ready when it pops open along the seam in the middle. After the seam had popped open a bit on its own, all I had to do was to pull gently at the sides and the fruit opend up, revealing the flesh in the middle. 

Ripe Akebi

This sucker is mostly seeds.  

Akebi Flesh

It was a pain to eat the fruit, I had to take a chunk in my mouth and suck the flesh through my teeth. I kept feeling like I was going to choke. However, it was pretty tasty.

My friend Eiko's parents grew up down south and they were really excited about the fruit being in the store. I can imagine that, as a kid, this would be a lot of fun to eat. I personally enjoyed spitting the seeds into my trash can. It's much more fun than spitting watermelon seeds because there are several times as many: I felt like a sub-machine seed gun.

VeganMofo Day 6

I love cookies. I think most people love cookies. They are kinda hard not to love.

Some of my friends have had birthdays, some have spent all their money on plane tickets to go back to the States, and some are just awesome - so I'm making them cookies. Well, not cookies, cookie dough. More specifically, a homemade version of break-and-bake cookies. This is all part of my new food-saver program. I made a double-batch of my grandma's chocolate chip cookie recipe. To tell the truth, it's not her recipe, she's not vegan and has probably never used tofu in her life. But she was the inspiration.

Any way, this is what they look like. I'm a little excited about the idea of ALWAYS having cookies ready to go in the oven...

Cookie Dough!

... my friends and I are going to have a cookie party tonight. I plan on stealing some dough to squirrel away.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

VeganMoFo Day 4

I was cruising the produce section of my tiny neighborhood market and found this crazy little fruit.


It was so weird looking that I had to buy it. I asked some of my friends what it was but they just laughed and were shocked that I found one here. Akebi only grow down south. Any way, I googled it and found out it's sweet on the inside and bitter on the outside. Once it's ripe, I'll give you a play by play.

Friday, October 3, 2008

VeganMoFo Day 3

Today is day one (for me) of the Vegan Month of food. I'm supposed to post everyday about food, foodism and foodening.

Today, I am so excited, I want to shout it from the mountain tops. Seriously. I got a vacuum-sealer. It is amazing. While I was visiting home (California) for my sister's wedding last month, my step-mom, Deb, casually mentioned her food-saver. I kinda blew up at her: talking about how much I wanted one after I'd seen all the cool things you could do with them. I was gunna get one here in Japan, but my parents, being my parents, pretty much assumed that they'd buy it for me. Listen, I have no issues about being spoiled (also, I brought a big suitcase with me). Deb made me promise to take a picture of the first thing that I thhhhhhhhhhhhhhrp'ed (her word for it) so here it is.
It may not look impressive; but, considering that I'm still finding lentils from the explosion that happened last time I brought food back from America, I'm glad I had it around to help me pack! I shudder to even think about all that quinoa released in my suitcase - I'd still be cleaning!

Since I've been back I've also sealed up some pasta sauce (which was a little tricky) and pureed pumpkin (in 200g packs... exactly how much I need to make pumpkin cupcakes!!!). Look at my freezer!

My Freezer
You can click to follow the link and see what everything is!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Memuro Tower

Eiko and I have decided that we only make the same three things over and over again. Tonight, we tried to break out of our cycle. Based on a picture I saw on the internets, we came up with this:

Memuro Tower

Agedofu, Red Pepper Mashed Potatoes, Eggplant-Bean Roll-up, Roasted Red Peppers with a red wine roux.

It was yummy.
Candying Ginger 1
Step one (cut a hole in a box): Slice up your ginger and stab it with a fork to make holes :)

Candying Ginger 2
Step two: put it in a pan with 2 cups of sugar and a tablespoon of water. On the lowest heat, bring it to a boil for about an hour...

Candying Ginger 3
Step 3: After a while it'll all start to stick together, once no more syrup oozes out remove it form the heat and keep playing with it until the sugar start to crust off of the ginger. Spread the whole mess out on a plate or something to let it finish drying and (hoorah!) you have tasty candied ginger!

I was super surprised at how easy this was. The bonus, not only to you get the candied ginger, you get a bunch of yummy ginger-sugar!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Long time no blog!

I'm so excited that I've actually been busy lately. All of my sitting around earlier in the Summer (which now feels as though it's ending quick) had me worried that I'd never leave my house again. Luckily I've been out and about. I've been over to Sapporo a couple times this month. The first time I went with friends Blair and Chris to visit the beer gardens and to see the Susukino Matsuri. It was a pretty relaxing trip. 
I also went to the Rising Sun Rock Music Festival with Kasi, Chris and Lauren. It was good time and they had yummy non-fair food - like corn and cucumbers! I have to admit, I didn't really didn't enjoy the music all that much because I couldn't understand it at all. So, Kasi, Lauren and I went to Sapporo proper to go to a dance party... altogether less relaxing than last weekend.

 The end of the Summer is also birthday time so I ended up making three cakes. The first one I made was for Adam, Sakura Cake with Green Tea frosting. Those pink things are supposed to be Sakura Petals, but Adam confused them for an abstract expression of my inner artist. The pink one was for Kasi and was spicy-chocolate with Vanilla frosting. She loves pink. I made Eiko a Vanilla Bean Cake with Chocolate Mousse frosting. It was pretty good, but my first attempt at Marzipan was kinda a bunk...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fed at last, fed at last, thank god almighty, I'm fed at last.

I've been sick for the past week, which means I've not been eating well or enough. Lots of cold soba, pancakes and rice and beans. Well thankfully, I feel better and Eiko dropped off three huge bags of fresh basil she picked up from a farmer we got to know when I was going though my licensing ordeal (from the farmer: big bag = 100 yen. from the grocery store: ten leaves = 100 yen). The gift was not only to make me feel better, but to apply subtle pressure for me to make her more pesto (she doesn't have a food processor or a blender...). She came over last night for a two person pizza party (which we do every month or so) and I made her make the pesto herself. It turned out great! While she was doing that, I made some basil-tofu ricotta (from Vegan with a Vengeance), which is like drugs it's so good. We topped the pizza with our two basil creations, tomato sauce, shredded komatsuna, eggplant and garlic. I almost always put eggplant on pizza because once it gets soft in the heat of the oven, it has a really nice bite to it - something like cheese but altogether more pleasing. The flavor of the eggplant is all ninja-like, it hides so well, so even if you're a hater, you'll enjoy it.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Procrastination gone horribly right.

Tomorrow is my friend Adam's birthday. I was supposed to make his cake today. I skipped out on class tonight to do so. I didn't make his cake. I went to the store to get almond powder to make marzipan (they were out), I went to a farm to by basil (the only place that you can buy basil at a reasonable price; they were closed) so I came home and made bread - naturally (of course I chose to procrastinate with something several times more difficult my original plan).

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I love that Japan has square (rectangularly-prismatic) bread pans. It really adds something. Also, I would like to add that this is my first successful sandwich-style loaf. All of the others have been utter failures.

Another thing I've come to understand that the phrase, "The greatest thing since sliced bread," is a lot stronger of a sentiment that I had originally thought. Slicing bread is a pain, and requires more skill thank I actually have.

Anyway, there you have it. Rectangularly-Prismatic Whole Wheat Bread. 

You've been foodened!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ooops! no Pictures

We had a nyerd-fest this weekend. I brought my camera, but I guess I'd forgotten how un-photo-worthy a bunch of guys sitting around playing video games is. I completely forgot to take out my camera. However, it was still fun times, and I even won at Smash Bros. a couple of times... go me!

I don't want to post with out a picture - so here is the lunch I made to fortify
myself for the 3.5 hour drive to Sapporo. It's only left-over veggies from meals earlier in the week - but they stood on their own pretty well. 

Garlic-Sesame Stir-fried Quinoa with Squash (thanks Eiko!), Red Bell Peppers and Spinach. I wasn't expecting this, but the quinoa is quite frisky when you fry it; little grains staged an assault on me towards the end - popping out with complete disregard to self preservation.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Goodbye Camping

This weekend we said goodbye to the teachers who are going back to their countries this Summer. We went camping up in the mountains in Shikaoi, a town in the district where I live. Quite a bit of fun all-in-all. 
My parter-in-crime, Eiko, and I drove up Saturday around noon, after making one of my students take a picture of us, and landed at the campsite a few hours later. I'm no veteran camper, but I was a little sad that the campsite was very campsite-y. Although, it was still really nice. Among the other campers, there were a couple cranky-with-the-loud-foreigners types, some sustainable culture group and some families with cute kids who found things like deer jaw bones and didn't appreciate them. 
After setting up camp, we grilled up some food, explored the shallow parts of the lake and sat around chatting. I learned how to chop wood and
 had an epic (25 picture) battle with one piece that just didn't want to split. 
Once I was done proving my manhood, we headed down to the lake-side onsen/hotel area to watch the White Snake festival (Ainu legend tells that they were led to the area by two white snakes). I was pretty cynical about the whole thing (wrongful appropriation of subjected cultures and all; though, I'm in no position to judge). However the festival it self was interesting, except I could not stop commenting about how amazing it was that they've managed to preserve this (26 year old) tradition so long, and how they were able to, so authentically, replicate the traditional Ainu spotlights and fog machines. After the dances, we wrote wishes on paper lanterns and set them to drift out over the lake. They were really pretty, for 5 minutes, until the
 100 yen candles inside went out. It's nice to know that you can combine economy with with appeals to the universe. I hope the sheep-god will be able to read my wish even when it isn't lit up...
Back at the camp site, we grilled up a few more snacks over our
 very large fire and relaxed for the rest of the evening. Some friends from the town joined us for a while and treated up to a little music and fire-dancing. I ended up going to bed a little early, happy to be sleeping in a tent again. It had been too long.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bento! Bento!

My town has the best school lunch in all of Hokkaido. However, it's all meat and animal-y, so I bring my own lunch. Almost every day, for the first month I did this, my coworkers would always make some comment expressing their shock that I was able to make my own lunch.

Well, now the magic has worn off, but I have to say - I'm getting better at packing lunches. I have had a lot of trouble with leaky bento boxes. I have books that have suspicious soup stains on them as a result of sharing my backback with deviant chilies and stews. I finally invested in a better bento, one that actually seals well...
This is a pretty standard example of my lunch. From front to back, I have: rice (I'm trying to use up my white rice and switch to brown), rasins and walnuts (cause I need me my sweets) and Chickpea and Spinach Curry (from The Asian Vegan Kitchen). I am going to be really full for my fifth period class today - but not as full as I would be if I was eating school lunch. It's always at least 900 calories! I made the curry last night before going out to Karaoke to celebrate Lauren's sister being in town and only got to take a bite - but it was delicious. Most definately the best curry I've ever made!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Great Crepe Debate: part 1

Eiko, Lauren and I tried to make some crepes this weekend and were pretty successful. We used the crepe recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance and decided that we would tinker with the recipe if we used it again (it was for savory crepes... they were a little too garbanzo-y to go with the fruit). Next time we are thinking we will cut out the chickpea flour (substituting rice flour for a little extra elasticity); add some sugar and vanilla (maybe lemon or orange zest for color); and use pastry flour instead of bread flour (here in Japan they only have "strong" and "weak" flours - no all purpose, which is what the recipe called for). We will try again this weekend...

The Welcomening

Let's starting!

I guess I will start out with my mission statement:

To share my experiences with food and Japan with the people I love and complete strangers.

For example:

The Nom

This is one of my favorite things I've ever made - a result of improvisation in the kitchen. It's Chilied Kabocha Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Asparagus. Kabocha and Asparagus are by far my two favorite veggies. I liked this so much because there was a nice blend of Spicy, Sweet, Salty and Green flavors. Also, it was one of my first vegan creations - so it's got a special place in my heart.

See, that was painless and a nice quick foodening.

Also, I might share little gems about living in the Japans:

Yesterday, I went to apply for the application to take the test for my drivers license (you read that right). Unfortunately, my application for the application was rejected. Why? Bad timing and two massive bureaucracies working in unison to hassle me.

Before I left for Japan, I had to renew my driver's license because it was going to expire on my birthday last year. Usually, you can't renew you license until shortly before it is due to expire - they made an exception for me because I was going to leave the country before the renewal window would open for me. How nice of the DMV. Little did I know, there was a huge international conspiracy going to aimed at screwing me over.

Fast forward to yesterday, when my friend Eiko and I went to the DMV in Obihiro to apply for the application to take the test to get my Japanese Driver's License (since I'm an American, my international permit only is valid for the first year of my visa, thus I have to get a Japanese license in order to drive). However, in to apply for the application, the issue date on your license must be more than 3 months prior to your arrival in Japan. Thus my application (squared) was rejected and I now have to jump through some serious (and seriously time consuming) hoops to apply for my application.

It seems like there is a lot of back-scratching going on between the two institutions. The DMV is hell, internationally.

There you go. I hope you enjoyed the knowening.