On New Year's Day, it is a Japanese tradition to eat Ozoni soup, which is essentially a soup made with clear dashi broth with mochi (pounded glutinous rice) and an assortment of various vegetables (spinach, watercress, mushrooms, daikon, carrots, etc). The mochi can be cooked by boiling it or roasting it in a toaster or oven. When I am using a mochi for soup (instead of a sweet dessert), I look for mochi that has ZERO fat, sodium and sugar (I use Shirakiku brand if you can find it but there are countless brands and types of mochi).
This traditional soup is a symbol of beginning the new year with harmony and balance. Recipes for this New Year's day soup will vary greatly depending on the region of Japan and family traditions, but I highly recommend that you either look for a recipe and try it at home or order it at a Japanese restaurant...
My aunt used to serve Ozoni soup with a side of Abekawa mochi, which is mochi that has been rolled in a Kinako (soybean flour) and sugar mixture (and sometimes a pinch of salt). It's warm and gooey and sweet....mmmmmmm. This year, although I wish I could eat these amazing treats at my sister-in-law's house (she's from Japan), I am going to attempt to try to make some on New Year's Day. (Note: I made my Ozoni soup with spinach, carrots, daikon, and mochi)
Happy New Year!
Monday, December 31, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
I *adore* Japanese food: light. healthy. comforting. flavorful. artful and delicious.
Now, I completely sympathize with those who feel the confusion and bewilderment when going to an asian grocery store for the first time because there are sooooooo many unfamiliar ingredients and even if I could guess what something was by the packaging, I would have no clue on how to use such an ingredient. However, I am lucky that my brother married a woman from Japan so I have someone to help me sort through (read: explain) all the items I cannot read in the grocery store. As we came across about 50 jars of furikake, she explained that Furikake is a common table condiment in any Japanese household much like salt is a common table condiment in an American household. I picked a simple, traditional Furikake with just Nori and sesame seeds...but the possibilities and flavors are endless and I encourage you to explore the options....
* Somen noodles
* Iceberg lettuce, shredded
* Carrots, shredded
* Green onions
* Somen Tsuyu (Noodle soup base that is diluted with water to taste)
* Boil somen noodles for 3 minutes. Drain and run under cold water.
* Roll somen around a fork to shape little balls. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
* Arrange first 4 ingredients to make a beautiful salad!
* Sprinkle with Furikake.
* Put Tsuyu in a separate side dish for dipping or put tsuyu over salad as desired.
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do...
Thursday, December 13, 2007
In the food mecca of San Francisco, I almost *never* go to a chain restaurant like California Pizza Kitchen because there are too many other unique options. But, I am a fan of the BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad (chopped lettuce, black beans, sweet corn, jicama, cilantro, basil, crispy corn tortilla strips and Monterey Jack cheese tossed together in a garden-herb ranch dressing and topped with chopped BBQ chicken breast, diced tomatoes and scallions and then drizzled with BBQ sauce). Recently, I returned to CPK with some friends and discovered this new Miso Salad on the menu...
I am *hooked*. It is so ridiculously satisfying and delicious. I am now determined to make my own version at home (and so can you!).
* Shredded Napa cabbage
* Fresh avocado
* Julienne cucumbers
* Red cabbage
* Green onions
* Crispy rice noodles
* Crispy wontons
* Miso dressing
(and you can order it with or without grilled chicken or blue crab & shrimp, but I like it vegetarian...)
There really isn't a recipe for this salad as far as proportions go--just go by feel and taste. Have some faith--it will be delicious.
Update: I was successful at making the BBQ chopped salad at home. So exciting! Now, you can too!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I wish I could have one of every item in Whole Foods--the ultimate foodie's haven...
If you arent able to cook up a meal yourself, Whole Foods has a delicious food bar (and lots of pre-made meals too!). Sometimes I browse the food bar just to get ideas for things I can make for myself at home (and avoid paying $6.99/lb!). Call it "shopping for a free idea". This warm salad sounded so delicious...
The food bar presents my typical dilemma that I usually face when dealing with food buffets--I shove a whole bunch of things that I dont think "go together" because I cant make up my mind or I get greedy and want to eat more than I should. Always ends in a tummy ache. Always. So I usually try to avoid buffets and, instead, take the ideas back to my kitchen and prepare a more balanced meal that wont give me a stomach ache...
Thank you, Whole Foods...
* butternut squash
* red onion (diced)
* dried cranberries
* maple syrup
* olive oil
* wine vinegar
* salt & pepper
This recipe can also be easily adapted to include any of your favorite root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc). You could also add fresh rosemary sprigs or sage leaves.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I *love* sweet potatoes! Making crisp oven-baked fries can be tricky, especially with sweet potatoes because the sugars tend to make them turn soft/soggy with prolonged heat. Ideally, I like my fries to have a crisp outside with a soft texture on the inside, which requires a long time in the oven (but you have to watch them carefully so they dont burn!).
* 4 or 5 sweet potatoes
* olive oil (for drizzling)
* seasoning (I use a blend of sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and all-spice)
* Peel sweet potatoes and cut them to desired shape.
* Place them in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle spices.
* Toss everything together.
* Arrange on a cookie sheet.
* Bake at 450 degrees for 40-55 minutes, depending on how crisp you like them--toss the fries every 20 minutes or so.
Serving Suggestion: I like to serve them with organic ketchup or make a miso-mayonnaise dip.
This year, we decided to host a holiday dinner and winter beer tasting at our place because we dont usually have the opportunity to see our friends during the holidays...Seasonal ales can be fun to collect and some are pretty tasty--but watch out because many seasonal ales are high in ABV!! Have you ever tried a pumpkin ale?! Yum.
Here is a photo and list of about half of the beers we featured at the tasting (from left to right):
Sierra Nevada--Celebration Ale--India Pale Ale--6.8%
Alesmith--Yulesmith--Imperial Double Red Ale--9.5%
St. Bernard--St. Bernardus Christmas Ale--Belgian Strong Ale--10%
Het Anker--Gouden Carolus Noel--Belgian Strong Brown Ale--10.5%
Anchor Steam--Anchor Our Special Christmas Ale--Spiced Beer--5.5%
Huyghe--Delirium Noel--Belgian Strong Ale--10%
Affligem--Noel--Spiced Belgian Strong Ale--9%
Moylan's--White Christmas--Belgian Wit--6.5%
Avery Brewing Co.--Old Jubilation Ale--English Strong Ale--8%
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I have always known that yogurt has "bacteria" in it, but I never understood what that really meant until a year ago when I got really sick from a really evil bacteria, which landed me in the hospital for a week. I will spare you the hospital details and just say that a large part of my post-hospital treatment was reintroducing "good bacteria" into my digestive system and colon by taking probiotics.
In addition to probiotics, I also found Activia yogurt, which contains a probiotic culture called Bifidus Regularis to help regulate the digestive system (its really a "live" culture" that makes its way to the colon and helps with intestinal transit). Supposedly, eating one serving a day for two weeks will introduce enough of the good bacteria into your digestive system to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
If you have IBS, a sensitive stomach or other digestive problems, then it is crucial to learn more and pick foods that are easy on the digestive tract and especially foods that have soluble fiber. I use this helpful Fiber Blog and this amazing Food Chart.
I have found Activia in most grocery stores. It comes in a variety of flavors, but I particularly love the BLUEBERRY flavor. It is one of the best berry yogurts I have ever tasted...
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I love smoothies--a good blender is a smart investment!
frozen banana chunks
1 serving blueberry Activia yogurt (or any berry yogurt)
1/2 or 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
organic vanilla soy milk
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract (optional)
1 Tbsp. honey (optional)
Note: the quanties of each ingredient will vary, depending on your taste and consistency preferences--I like very thick smoothies that you can eat with a spoon so I use a lot of frozen fruit (this is much better than adding ice because it gives an icy texture without watering it down) and just enough soy milk to process it smooth...
You can also add a Nutiva Hemp Shake Mix, which is a protein superfood drink mix--it has a lot of protein, minerals, antioxidants and fiber!
Dr. Andrew Weil teamed up with Ito En to make this line of brewed teas. Now, I usually make my own tea--hot or iced because tea is generally inexpensive...but I tried one of these teas at the SF Green Festival and looooved it. 0 calories, 0 sugar. YES!
My favorite (complete with amusing description):
Jasmine White: "Creating the taste of balance, this tea perfectly blends the softness of white tea with lush, fragrant jasmine green tea. Both have been treasured in China for centuries for their calming properties."
These teas retail for about $1.99, but I found a sale on Amazon--you can get a case of 30 for just under $20 and FREE SHIPPING if you order it by December 30. yes, a case is on its way to my apartment...