Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sangria (white or red) recipe

In an effort to cut down on wine spending, we've been sticking to buying wines that are $20ish or under, but over $11 (because that seems to be the critical point).  Thankfully there are plenty of really good wines out there at that price point.

But whenever we try a new wine, there are always misses, more so it seems when it comes to white wines. I usually turn these wines into sangria (or hot mulled wine when it's cold out).

My ratio for making sangria:

1 bottle of wine
1/4~1/2 cup higher-proof liquor (brandy, for instance)
1/4 cup syrup of your choice
A couple of fruits, chopped
A couple of citrus, sliced

All of this is of course customizable, depending on your taste or what fruits you happen to have on hand. For more acidic wines you'll want to have sweeter fruits, like apples, peaches, or strawberries. Some people like to add 1/4~1/2 cup of juice too.

My most recent recipe consisted of:

1 bottle of white wine (sauvignon blanc)
1/4 cup lillet rose
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup homemade honey basil syrup*
2 tangelos, a meyer lemon, and a lime sliced
A splash of pinot noir

*for honey basil syrup: Heat up equal parts honey and water in a pan until the honey is dissolved. Turn off the heat, add a handful of basil leaves, put a lid on it, and let it steep until the syrup cools down. Store in a mason jar. Tastes amazing in bourbon or gin cocktails.

Stir all this together in a pitcher and let it mariage in the fridge for at least half a day if you can't wait, or a full day if you can. Add ice and a splash of sparkling water when serving, or not :)


Friday, April 15, 2016

Overnight sweet and sour pickles

Unlike a lot of pickle recipes here Japanese pickles are usually made raw, without boiling the brine. This helps the veggies retain their fresh, crunchy texture.

This particular recipe is so easy and fast, I have a constant batch of it sitting in the fridge. If you're feeling lazy, just serve these pickles along with your main. They make great bar snacks too ;)

Veggies of your choice (I've tried bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots & daikon radish)
1~2 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
a handful of whole peppercorns
dried chili pepper or chili flakes, to taste

200ml rice vinegar*
300ml water
8 tablespoons sugar*
1.5 teaspoons salt

Slice up your veggies into sticks or bite-sized pieces. Squash them tight into a glass jar, top with the garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, and chili. Stir the brine ingredients (vinegar, water, sugar, salt) together until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour into the jar with your veggies, seal tight, and let it sit in the fridge preferably overnight. If you make this in the morning though, they should be ready to eat by dinnertime.

*Note: About the vinegar—I tried making this with apple cider vinegar, which you can totally do, but it will taste more acidic. As for the sugar—I avoid using white sugar in my cooking whenever possible, but using sucanat or agave nectar doesn't work as well for this recipe.

This is also a great way to use up those huge mounds of Costco veggies that you have no idea what to do with. Tbh it's why I made these pickles in the first place :P

A note about umami

As a Japanese person I find it pretty hilarious that "umami" is a trendy word in English now. So many chefs are lauding Japanese cooking techniques like it's a new thing. But guys, I have to tell ya, it's been around for centuries. You just took that long to catch up.

There are a bunch of "tricks" us Japanese have up our sleeves that totally amp the umami-level of a dish. They are super easy, super fast, with great results. In fact I feel like they are the best-kept secrets amongst the Japanese community.

Secret #1 - butter and soy sauce
Wondering what sauce to top your steak with tonight? Need an extra something for your veggies? Add butter and soy sauce!

Secret #2 - miso and mayonnaise (or any dairy)
Miso alone is powerful enough. When in doubt, add miso to your sauces/dressings/marinades. It adds depth, transforming an OK sauce to finger-licking good. The combination of miso and mayo is absolutely failsafe. Worried about making your chicken dry? Stir fry it real quick with some miso and mayo. Afraid of sawdust pork chops? Marinate it in some miso before pan-frying. Your friends will be begging for the recipe. Miso and butter work just as well.

Secret #3 - kombu (or kombu dashi)
If you don't really know what kombu is, you'll probably just say "wtf it's just a piece of seaweed." No, it is not just a piece of seaweed. It's the basis of the word umami itself. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a man-made substance created to mimic the savory taste produced by kombu. As in yes, that piece of seaweed? It packs a punch of flavor.

Secret #4 - dried shiitake mushrooms (and the liquid from reconstituting it)
If you're vegan, all you need to make flavorful stock/broth with is kombu and dried shiitake. To reconstitute the shiitake mushrooms, stick them in a small pot with enough water to cover, bring it to a boil, then let it sit until the mushrooms have rehydrated. Add both the mushrooms and the liquid to your recipe.

This is definitely not the whole list. If I missed an obvious one, let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Whipped shea butter and olive oil skin cream

Lately I've been making my own skincare products because:

a) it's better for me (no unnecessary preservatives and stabilizers)
b) it's much cheaper
and c) it's completely customizable.

My kids have eczema and I have contact dermatitis (read: super itchy, dry, splitting skin) on my hands and I found shea butter and olive oil-based creams to be very helpful. So helpful in fact, that the eczema patches on baby have mostly disappeared. Which gave me the idea to combine the two.

200g shea butter
50g coconut oil
50~75g extra virgin olive oil
several drops of essential oil (grapefruit this time)

Put everything in a clean bowl and whip it up with a hand mixer. Pack into cute little mason jars and you're done!

Since I used grapefruit oil this batch smells like lemon olive oil cake. Yum!
You can use less coconut or olive oil if you live in a warmer climate.

My next project is to make my own rosewater, for facial toner. Will definitely add a few tablespoons of it to my next batch of skin cream.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Apfel kücherl (German Apple Fritters) - my gluten free version

My toddler is currently addicted to donuts. Yes, the gluten-full, glazed with tons of sugar kind.
I looked around at different yeast donut recipes but it just seemed like too much work with two little ones running around. And then I tried looking for apple fritter recipes, since Apple Fritter is the name of the cafe where I got the donuts that said toddler is so addicted to.

The best sounding one at kitchn required just as much, if not more work than regular yeast donuts, and the easy recipes looked way to cakey. And then it hit me - apfel kücherl!

Matt and I had them in Munich during our visit years ago, and I still remember how good they were.
Apple rings, covered in a light batter, fried and served with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Are you drooling yet?

I looked around for a recipe and came across this video. It's in German, so I'm reposting the recipe here in English. I also uploaded the recipe in Japanese on my cookpad page

4~6 apples
200g flour (I used AP gluten-free flour, outlined by Shauna aka Gluten Free Girl)
250ml beer or sparkling water
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch salt
oil for frying
~1 cup cinnamon sugar

Prep the apples. Peel the apples, the slice them into 0.5mm~1cm or 1/4~1/2inch thick slices. Then, using the smallest roundish cookie cutter you can find, cut the seed area out so you have a donut-shaped slice of apple looking back at you.

Make the batter. Mix the flour and beer/sparkling water in a bowl. Separate the eggs into yolks and whites, putting the whites in a new clean bowl and the yolks in the flour mixture. Start mixing the whites with a hand-mixer on low speed for a couple seconds, then add the salt. Turn the speed up to high and as the volume of the whites start rising, add the sugar one tablespoon at a time. Keep mixing until the whites form stiff peaks, then gently fold them into the flour mixture using a rubber spatula.

Fry the apples. Heat a 2-inch deep pool of oil. You'll know the oil is ready when you insert a wooden spoon into the oil and small air bubbles form vigorously around it. Dip each apple ring into the batter, coating it generously, the drop into the oil. Fry only 3~4 slices at once to prevent the oil temperature from dropping too much. Fry them until golden brown on both sides, it should take a total of 3minutes. You can also tell that they're are done when the sound of the oil changes. Drain excess oil by placing the slices on a plate with a bunch of paper towels, or a cooling rack.

Apply finishing touches. Combine cinnamon and sugar in a bowl - the ratio really depends on how you like your cinnamon sugar. I like mine spicier, so I blended about a cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon. Once the rings have cooled slightly, dip both sides of each ring into the cinnamon sugar to coat. Enjoy with a hot cup of coffee!


  • If you aren't gluten-free, cake flour would work best for this recipe. All-purpose is fine too. If you are gluten-free but don't have time blending your own ap flour, Shauna also sells her ap flour here. Bob's Red Mill and a couple other brands sell all-purpose flour or pancake mix as well. 
  • ginger ale should also work for the liquid. 250ml is 1 US cup plus 1 tablespoon. (I say US cup because a cup in Japan is 200ml) 
  • you can try this with bananas with equally good results 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ribeye Steak Chili

I adapted this recipe from Chef Naveen's. The original recipe can be found here

2 large garlic cloves or 4~5 small ones
1 onion, diced
1 lb ribeye steak meat (trim fat off and reserve, cut meat into 1 inch cubes)
1 lb ground round tip (or any ground beef)
1 14oz can of crushed tomatoes (San Marzano is the best choice)
1.5 tablespoons Penzey's HOT chili powder (or chili powder of your choice)
2 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)

Trim the fat off the steak and cut into chunks. Put these in the pot and turn the heat on to low, so the fat renders out.
Once the pieces of fat are crispy and there is enough fat coating the bottom of the pot, fish the pieces out. (You could either eat these, discard them, or give them to your dogs once they are cool to the touch. I gave them to our 2 Bernese Mountain dogs who were so crazy to get at them that they actually caught the pieces in midair - usually they're too dim to do that)

Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, then add the garlic that you either minced or crushed using a garlic crusher.

Once the garlic is fragrant and there is no sharp smell of raw garlic, add the steak pieces and cook for about 20 minutes. Once the meat cubes has shrunk and released all their moisture (you'll see a bunch of water and oil in the pot), add the spices and mix well.
Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Stir in the canned tomato. Simmer with the lid on for about 1 - 1 1/2 hr on low heat. Before you serve, taste and add salt if necessary.

You can serve the chili over some pasta, rice, freshly made corn tortillas, or roasted cauliflower rice as we did.  Zoodles (spiralized zucchini or zucchini noodles) are another great low carb option.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thai-style sweet & sour shrimp

Soo...I totally forgot to take a picture of this dish. It was around the time I gave birth to our son but.. Dear. Lord. Cannot believe I forgot. I mean, what's a recipe without a photo nowadays? Promise to update it later with a photo but here is the recipe!

1lb shrimp, shelled & de-veined
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha (rooster sauce)
1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 small onion, sliced
4 small garlic cloves, minced
zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
juice of 1 lime s
plash of shaoxing wine, if necessary

Prep the shrimp. Shell and de-vein the shrimp. To give them a good wash, throw the shrimp into a bowl with a teaspoon of corn or potato starch. Give them a good massage, then add 1tsp salt and plenty of water. Once you've rinsed the shrimp in the saltwater, pat them dry on paper towels. Not only does this clean the shrimp, but make for succulent results once you cook them.

Marinate the shrimp. Put them in a bowl with the oyster sauce, sriracha, agave nectar - give it a good stir and let it sit for 10 minutes or longer.

Start cookin'. Before you start cooking, make sure you have all your ingredients ready & measured out. This goes quick! Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil of your choice in a wok until it shimmers. Throw in the onion, give it a few stirs before adding the garlic and zest. Stir fry until the onions & garlic are a 80% cooked through. Throw in the shrimp with the marinade. Give it a few stirs until the shrimp is mostly pink but you can still see some grey. Add the agave nectar, fish sauce, and lime juice. Stir everything until the shrimp is just cooked through. (don't overcook that shrimp! it'll turn tough.) The lime I used yielded a little over 1/4 cup of juice - if your lime is drier, you may need to add a bit of shaoxing wine at this point. If the sauce is still a bit runny, don't try and reduce it with the shrimp still in the wok. Plate up the onions & shrimp first, then reduce the sauce a little. Pour sauce onto the shrimp and serve.

 If you get a sweet and sour craving, this really hits the spot! Bon appetit :)