The food part of this blog has moved to I'll see all you foodies over there!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers May Challenge - OPERA CAKE ! ! !

Last weekend the weather was really crummy, a definite a stay-home-all-day kinda day. What a perfect day to do this month's Daring Baker challenge since it looked like would take ALL DAY to make. This month's challenge: Opera Cake. I had never heard of such a cake before so this one was really interesting. The recipe was REALLY LONG, so I'll spare you the reading, since many of you reading this have already made one yourself. But if you must know, I'm sure one of my fellow bakers will have it posted. Check theirs out too. Some will blow you away. So, this is what the opera cake is about... it is (usually) made up of five components: 1) a joconde (sounds fancy, doesn't it?), the cake layer, 2) a syrup (to wet the joconde), 3) a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), 4) a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer), and 5) a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse.)

This month's challenge is dedicated to Barbara of, a former Daring Baker, who is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow that supports the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. This year's LiveStrong Day is in May, so in honor of that, the cake was made light both in color and flavor, instead of the traditional darker flavors of chocolate or coffee. So this opera cake consisted of the cake layer, buttercream filling, white chocolate mousse, and white chocolate glaze. Sounds sinful...
The joconde called for almond meal, but due to Emi's nut allergies, I subbed graham flour. The cake, therefore had this gritty texture that kinda ruined the cake. What a shame... I wonder if the almond meal would of had a similar texture.

On to the buttercream... I'm finding that I'm not a big fan of buttercream. I feel like I'm just eating spoonfuls of butter. I followed the revised version of the buttercream recipe, hoping for something good. But it just tasted really fattening.

The mousse was a new one for me too. I'm not sure if I did it right, but when I added the melted white chocolate chips into the whipped cream, they turned into chunks since the cream was cold. But it was good in its own way.

The glaze made quite a lot. It covered the entire cake plus left pools on the side. But it was still very yummy.

This cake was pretty big, a 10" x 10" square, which I halved so it could fit into a tupperware. I had just gone shopping so there were no room in the fridge. But it was cold enough outside, so I had it chill on my deck.

The cake was a mixture of both healthy (err... not too bad for you) and fattening. An interesting combination, and an interesting experience. Looking forward to next month's challenge!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Soy Moo

I'm not much of a fan of soy milk. It tastes "powdery" which bugs me. But I know it's good for me, so I thought if I made it from scratch that it would taste better. David and Sage like soymilk, so it was worth an attempt. It was fairly simple to make, check out the recipe I used here. The end result: it tasted really strong and "grassy." So next time I'll dilute it more and try a different method. The kids said it tastes like "liquid tofu." About 1 cup of dried soybeans made 1/2 gallon of soy milk, costing me less than a dollar to make. Definitely worth trying again, another one of those things that is so much cheaper and healthier making it at home.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sports Betting

Sage bet David on a basketball game on TV. If Sage's team wins, David has to get him a pack of baseball or football cards. If David's wins, Sage has to clean the toilet. Guess who won...
And then Sage bet him again, and lost AGAIN. So tomorrow he will be vacuuming my car... ha ha

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What's For Dinner?

First thing Sage asks me this morning, what's for dinner? I don't know, I just woke up. Why don't you make dinner today? (without really expecting a response...) OK! Well, what are you going to make? He looks through our pantry and pulls out a can of beef stew. Beef stew, I'll make beef stew for dinner. It was cold today so that sounded good. Sure, ok. And then the girls were, I want to make dinner too. So they started planning. We'll make a salad and some rolls. Well, there's some broccoli that needs to be eaten, so why don't you steam that instead of a salad? And Mommy'll knead the dough and you guys can shape it. So I boiled the water for Abby, but she cut the broccoli, put it in the steamer, and pulled it out and arranged in on a plate. And she washed some grapes as a side dish. And there it was. They "made" dinner tonight. It was cute.

What the Hail?!

Earlier this week we had a heat wave, with temps in the 90's up on our hill. And then it starts hailing and snowing yesterday. And there were a couple tornadoes in a nearby community knocking over cars. Such craziness...
Brrr... it's cold. Didn't think we'd be starting a fire in late May. Good thing we have some wood left.

Miss Smarty Pants

Emi made it into the Honor Roll again this year. Although we were in the middle of a storm, we made the trip down to Hemet for the ceremony.

With her BFF Mallory...

...and the Idyllwild gang.

I also ran into Dazed Mom, her daughter was there too. It was a little strange meeting someone I've only be in contact with online bloggin', in person. She seemed like a nice person, but I couldn't hang out and chat since my kids were heading outside to run across the football field in the rain. But I'm sure I'll see her again someday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ol' Time Favorites & Something New

A long time ago when I only had two kids, we went to a potluck where someone had brought Broccoli Salad. I had never tried such a salad, but I REALLY liked it and got the recipe. I'm not a big fan of raisins in food, other than baked goods, but it works well here. The photo didn't turn out too well, but this salad is YUUUUUMMY!

Broccoli Salad:

2 bunches of broccoli cut up
1 small red onion, sliced
1 c. chopped celery
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1 c. raisins
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled


3/4 c. mayo
2T. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. sugar

Mix dressing, pour over ingredients, and chill. If you have the time, drain the broccoli after you wash it and let it dry. Too much water sticking to the broccoli will water down the dressing and leave you with a pool at the bottom.

Something new... Spinach Quiche with aged goat cheese blue cheese. I also threw in last night's pasta sauce made with portobello mushrooms, asparagus, onions, and tomatoes. The blue cheese wasn't strong in flavor, it mellowed out a little, which was good. Some bacon bits could of been good too...

The Things We Do for Family

It's fern season. I hike into our local mountains to pick some fiddlehead ferns (known as 'warabi' in Japanese). I went to one of my usual spots and it was the end of the season there. Most of them had already leafed out so I only got a little bit. Ferns have to be picked while they are still curled up. I had just missed it since I was too busy with work. My mom really likes these too, (she was the one who got me into picking them), so I try to get enough for myself and my mom and a little extra so she can pass some out to her friends. My usual spots are also known to other Asians who come up and pick them, so if my timing is off, they are all taken. But I have another location that no one goes to, and there is a field full of them. But... you have to hike in 2.5 UPHILL (1700' elevation gain) miles to get there. No wonder it's untouched. Last year I made the trek with Emi and got a couple bags full. We had hit the jackpot. So, although the little I just picked is enough for us, there isn't enough to give away. And so I made the hike up the mountain to pick some ferns for my sweet dear ol' mom.

I headed up Devil's Slide trail. This was my first real hike of the year.
Some beautiful flowers blooming...

Here is Saddle Junction. It flattens out a little here, and about a quater mile away is my fern field. Unfortunately, there were none there. It is higher in elevation here so they haven't come out yet. I'll have to come back in a couple weeks. I'll see if I can get someone to tag along. I felt like a donkey last time carrying all those bags down!

Monday, May 19, 2008


If there is anyone our kids really enjoy, it is Dave Thompson. They LOVE this guy. After hearing he was coming by soon, they waited everyday, asking me "Is he coming today?" over and over and over again. And then he came. They were soooo happy. He is the only one of David's buddies that'll play with the kids and have conversations with me. It is nice since we all enjoy his company.

Playing mercy 2-on-1!
He had brought them some handle grips that they put his dreads through.
They were stoked they got something new for their bikes.

He also left me a pack. It happened to be like the one David has, just smaller. Now we'll have the couple look!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Japanese Cold Ramen

Hiyashi-chuka (Japanese Cold Ramen noodles) is a common summer food in Japan, often served only in the summer at restaurants. Often times, when it is hot, your appetite goes down, but this dish will make you want to eat. Probably due to the rice vinegar in the sauce. Basically, it is ramen noodles cooked and chilled under cold running water, and topped with various toppings, mostly veggies and a little meat. My parents see this mostly as a lunch-type food, but we like to eat it for dinner as well. The sauce is made out of rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and water. Most common is the soy sauce vinegar sauce, but there are sesame seed sauces as well as miso sauces. All are good in their own way. Today's dish I made with celery, cucumber, tomatoes, deli ham, wakame (seaweed), and canned corn. Garnished with pickled red ginger and sesame seeds. I also like kanikama (imitation crab sticks), thin egg omlet cut into strips, bean sprouts, shiso leaves, and steamed chicken as my toppings when I have them. And I usually add some sort of rice on the side, today was onigiri (rice balls) and sometimes I'll do inari (sweetened bean curd pockets.) A very simple, and healthy meal.

One Year Later...

Hard to believe it's been a year since I've began bloggin'... I remember David having a blog first and he kept telling me to start my own but I had no interest. What would I write about, and who would read it? I'd be wasting my time... Boy, was I wrong. I'm really surprised that people around the world read my blog and find it interesting enough come back, which in turn motivates me to post often. I have connected with so many people I would otherwise never (virtually) meet whose lives are fascinating and inspire me to be a better person and hopefully I have done the same. Thank you to all my readers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Strawberry Creek

We went to Strawberry Creek to kill some time while Emi was at her piano lesson. The water is ice cold but the kids still like to go in. It's always pretty here.

Some beautiful flowers were blooming...
Abby slipped and landed on her butt... ...and got all wet!

The Powerful Influence of Friends

Sage's hair was getting long. A sloppy long. He wouldn't let me even trim it and insisted he was going to let it grow. Till one day, his friend cut his hair, cut it all off.. And then he wanted to cut his hair. Not on the weekend, but right now. So I chopped it off before he changed his mind.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Oh Oh...

Looks like Nori might be a cock... it is bigger in size, and has a bigger comb and wattles than the other two, and being that they were all born on the same day, we've come to think it isn't a hen. And since the kids don't want to eat it, we'll have to sell it back and try again, since we don't want cock-a-doodle-dooing every morning annoying our neighbors. (Nori is on the right. See the difference?)

Hot Dog Buns

We were having hot dogs and linconshire sausages and I needed some buns. The cheap kind you get for about a buck are pretty nasty, and the nicer ones are just overpriced. So I took a recipe for hamburger buns and shaped them into logs.


Hamburger/Hot Dog Buns

1 c. milk
1c. water
2T butter
2T sugar
1 1/2t. salt
5 1/2 c. flour
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4t)
Combine milk, water, butter, sugar, salt in a pan, heat till the sugar and butter are melted, and then cool till lukewarm. In a large bowl, combine the flour and the yeast. Pour in the wet ingredients and knead for 10 minutes. Put in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise 1 hour. Punch down, and shape 12-16 rolls, and let rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven 400*F. Optional: brush with egg yolk and 1 T. water. (I skipped this step.) Bake for 10 minutes, rotate, and bake 5-10 minutes longer until browned.
The buns pre-bake. Try to flatten the rolls, they WILL rise during baking.
I doubled the recipe and got about 30 rolls. They looked great, and will work for sandwiches as well. The bread is kinda dense, might even make good breadsticks.

Friday, May 09, 2008

How to Make Miso

Making miso is one of the simplest and rewarding things to make. I live where a cup of miso costs about $6, so this began as a cost effective idea which turned into something I will make every several months. David really like the taste better than the store-bought ones. The ingredients are simple, soy beans, koji, and salt.

I started by taking 16 oz. of dried soybeans, and soaked for 8 hours.
Then I crockpotted it for about 24 hrs, the beans just took forever to cook. This can also be done in a pressure cooker or stovetop pan. The beans need to get soft enough that you can easily smush them with two fingers. As the skin floats to the top, skim them out.
Drain (keeping the cooking liquids) and mash with a masher or use a food processor. If it seems too dry, add some of the cooking liquid. It is important to mash and add koji while the soybeans are still warm. The warmth helps aid the fermentation process. Once mashed, add some rice koji (a filamentous mold also used to make soy sauce) and about 1/2 lb of salt (I used sea salt.)
Use the entire 20 oz container of koji.
Put about tablespoon or two of salt in the bottom of your crock. Be sure to sterilize everything you use. Then make balls with the miso and throw them into the crock.

Then smooth out the top and sprinkle with a little more salt.
Line the top of the miso with a dampened dye-free cloth or plastic wrap. I used both. I boil the cloth to sterilize, and let it cool, ring out and use. I've read that just wetting a cloth in your sink can increase the likelyhood of mold growth. Place a flat plate or lid on top and put some weights on top. I've read recipes that say use 5 lbs. I use two 5 lb weights plus a rock.
Cover with a paper bag, and tie.

Place in a cool, dark place. Stir once a month and in 3-4 months, it is done! If it molds, you can just scoop it off and it'll be fine. Some say to let it sit for 6 months to 18 months, I don't have that much patience!
Total cost: about $1 for a pound of dried soybeans, and $5 for the koji, and maybe 50 cents for the salt. Total yield is about 6 cups.


David has a friend with a sticker machine so he had him make us some sticker samples. These are the kind where only the black part stays on. They turned out pretty cool. We'll see if he can make us some more (in different colors) in exchange for some shirts. ^_^

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Totoro Shirts

Totoro is a character from a Japanese animation movie called "My Neighbor Totoro", by Hayao Miyazaki. He was the creator of Spirited Away if any of you saw that one. Totoro is a friendly forest spirit, whose appearance is a combinations of an owl, a cat, and a tanuki (racoon dog.) He's really cute. We have a totoro stuffed doll that I took a picture of and photoshopped. My girls were pretty happy when they saw it. "I'm going to wear this to school tomorrow!"

Japanese Pizza

... so it is called in the states, but it's real name is Okonomiyaki, which literally translates into "cook what you like." This dish is so open to variation, kinda like the various pizza toppings we have here. Basically, it's a pancake (but not sweet nor crumby like the breakfast kind), with some veggies (most commonly cabbage) and other things such as seafood or meat mixed in the batter then cooked on a griddle. Often times, thinly sliced meat can be placed on the top for extra flavor. Different regions of Japan have their own way to making it (like NY pizza differs from Chicago pizza), some will add yakisoba (stir-fry noodles) or even layer the ingredients instead of mixing it all up. The okonomiyaki is eaten with a thick worcestershire type sauce, some mayo, red ginger, bonito flakes, and seaweed flakes.
I made ours with shrimp and cabbage. Here's the sauce with the mayo and seaweed flakes. I like to make little web designs with my mayo. My kids think it's so neat.
And the final product with all my toppings. Very delish!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I sold my first item on etsy!!! Yeay!!! The green bikeman shirt, so other color variations of this shirt will go up on my shop soon. So exciting!