Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hapa Farm Girl: Shiso

For this Hapa Farm Girl edition, I am going to introduce you to some herbs that I've started from seed, called shiso.

In Japanese cooking, there are two types of Shiso. First is the green variety, that you are probably most familiar garnishing a sashimi plate. The leaves (ohba) is used all sorts of ways, whole and salted to wrap around onigiri, chopped or shredded to top dishes, or as a garnish to platters like the aforementioned sashimi. The flower buds (hojiso) are usually salted or pickled, or added to soy sauce as as fragrant dipping sauce. while even the sprouts (mejiso) are used on dishes. My mom eats them like a rabbit, but especially loves the variety used to roll up in her favorite Vietnamese dish. 
wikipedia's picture of Shiso ohba

Shiso is a herb of the perilla family, related to the mint. It used to be called the "beefsteak plant" in the English speaking world, but thank goodness the Japanese name is winning that war, because I think of large beefsteak tomatoes with that name, not the herb. It is broad and leafy, with a wonderful aroma and tang, kind of like a cross between basil and mint.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spam Musubi: Hapa Food

Spam Musubis are probably the most famous hapa food. Go into any self respecting Hawaiian food joint and it has a place on the menu. Go into any Japanese American market and you will see a nice tidy row of Spam, often with musubi makers right next to them.

Why is Spam so ubiquitous in Hawaii? Well during the World War II, it was difficult to transport fresh meat to the soldiers that were there on the Japanese/American war front.  Enter spam. Of course, surplus from the soldiers made their way into civilian kitchens.  Hawaii has a big Japanese American population, so its only natural that they would take the meat and use it in a way most familiar to them: wrapped up in nori and rice.

Now a lot of Americans look down on Spam as being a poor person's food, "mystery meat," trashy food, or generally disgusting canned meat.  Next time you hear someone denouncing Spam, ask them if they have ever actually tried it. Chances are, they actually haven't tried it but they are just parroting a stigma. They are like food racists! I just say don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

Las Amigas: Downtown Los Angeles

My mother takes frequent trips to the Los Angeles Fashion Distict, a sprawling 100 block behemoth of wholesale fabric, clothing, shoes, jewelry, and flowers. Since she sews, she first went there for fabric and notions, but it has become a mecca for her for their amazing flowers as well as clothes. My prom dress was bought there, as well as my graduation lei. The nice thing about the L.A. Fashion District is that you can find something unique that no one shopping at the mall will find. Cash talks, haggling is accepted, and my mother turns into a Baghdad trader, wheeling and dealing.

Once she was shopping for fabric trim and flowers for Mother's Day, she realized she was famished. She asked the shop owner where the closest place to grab a bite was. He pointed directly across the street, to a place she didn't even realize was a restaurant.

Las Amigas is a teeny little shop, with a seating area right across the alley that leads to parking.  It is definitely not the flashiest place, and if you're looking for slick atmosphere you are certainly not going to find it here. I can safely call it "hole in the wall" territory. But she toodled over there anyways and ordered a chile relleno. You know it's ethnic when a Southern California native with a working understanding of espanol has to point to what she wants because they couldn't understand what she wanted. It didn't matter-- it was delicious.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bubble Up Pizza

I've been having a rough week. Since I haven't been doing much other than sleeping and working, cooking has not been a top priority. But my boyfriend and I have a new no fast food rule.

Fast food is great on occasion. I will never be one to bash a juicy delicious double double, or french fries. But it should be for ultra casual get-togethers with friends, not dinners with your significant other.  Its expensive both on the wallet and waistline.

And believe me, my wallet and waistline need all the help they can get!

To the rescue: cheap and easy no brainer foods for when I'm craving something horrible.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Humble Pie: Life Lessons

I was very competitive as a kid.  I may not be full Japanese, but I definitely inherited that stereotypical Asian American upbringing. No television, no sleepovers in high school (heck my friends weren't even allowed to drive me anywhere), played the flute for 4 years, rode horses (national level), competitive speech (national level), learned to sew, learned to cook, 4-H leadership and extracurricular activities, cotillion classes, you name it, I did it.
Senior Portrait

I skipped 8th grade and started high school at 12. I went to a "magnet" high school for academically gifted children; you had to take an entrance exam to get in, as well as letters of recommendations from teachers. I took zero period all four years in high school; I took summer school every summer to get ahead. I took AP classes, honor classes, International Baccalaureate classes... you name it. I had blonde hair, big boobs, and bigger brains! My friends and I were not going to flip burgers; we were going to cure cancer, amass millions, and kick ass. 

I started my freshman year at UCLA at 16 in 2005. I still haven't gotten my bachelor degree. I still haven't gotten even my associates.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Puppy Chow

I had tons of leftover chex, from the Nori Furikake Chex Mix, so I decided to make some puppy chow.

My good friend Riki was the first person to show me this recipe.  I've known Riki since elementary school, so I'm not sure exactly when she first showed me, but it was at an age where we probably weren't trusted with sharp knives that would be needed for anything more difficult. So probably sometime last year... lol just kidding!

It is definitely a good girl's get together food, and I am pretty sure we first made this at a sleepover.   It is super easy to make, tastes amazing, and has all the elements of a good recipe for friends to make together:

A) You get to shake everything at the end
B) No oven, no stove, just a microwave
C) You get to fight over who gets to lick the bowl vs spoon
D) There's no waiting for them to cool down like baked goods, where someone always burns their tongue, usually me

Okay that makes me sound like a special ed kid, but really sometimes simple is better, especially when you're doing nails, watching movies, and making something delicious all in the same night.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nori Furikake Chex Mix: Hapa Food

Furikake is a dry Japanese condiment usually sprinkled over rice. It contains things like: dried fish flakes, sesame seeds, tiny bits of seaweed, egg, teeny shrimp, wasabi, and usually flavored with salt or soy. My favorite to sprinkle over rice is the one with lots of savory bonito tuna flakes, called katsuobushi.

A typical furikake bottle
Now I am sure everyone reading this blog knows what chex mix is. It is something very American, at home at casual parties and tailgates. Game day snack food, it has also seen many a college dorm study session.  My boyfriend always picks out the rye chips out of chex mix. And all the red sour patch kids out of my sour patch kids. With impunity.

Setting aside my boyfriend's annoying quirks, this is a traditional hapa food, taking American chex mix and putting a twist on it. Before commercial chex mixes were in stores, chex cereal was spiced up at home.  This is the Japanese American version.

Chocolate Berry Jam

Continuing my obsession with words, this recipe was originally called "Sundae in a Jar" which I took issue with. I've never had a sundae with raspberries in it. I think of sundae flavor principles as chopped peanuts, whipped cream, maraschino cherries and hot fudge. So I changed this to "Chocolate Berry Jam" because it has nothing to do with sundaes. Although I encourage you to make this yourself, and see if you disagree.

Using fresh strawberries, from Manassero's Farms of course, this is easily my new favorite preserve. It is so bright and fresh, like all good berry jams, but the chocolate brings it to a new level. I want to spoon it over angel food cake and top it with fresh berries. Or just eat it with a spoon. I'm down with that too. Or in a chocolate layer cake! Literally I have been wanting to stuff this in everything. I did not even know chocolate liqueur existed! I ended up going to Bevmo to find it, because Stater Brother's didn't have any chocolate liqueur. I must have expensive taste, because this jam is not only my new favorite preserve, but wins the award for the most expensive. The liqueur alone was 30 dollars!  However, I have plenty more liqueur to make more, since it only has a little bit mixed in this recipe.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Deconstructed Ichigo Daifuku Mochi

One of my favorite traditional wagashi is ichigo daifuku mochi, but it is a pain to make. You have to steam the mochi for 20-30 minutes, then wrap it around strawberries and anko while its still hot enough to stretch, but not hot enough to burn your hands. I've accidentally grabbed a glob of steaming hot mochi and believe me its not fun!

Shaping the mochi around the strawberry takes about 1-2 minutes per strawberry, and I can only make about 15 daifuku before the mochi gets too cold to stretch or I run out of mochi. Plus the molding of the anko around the strawberries also takes time, though not as sticky or annoying as working with the mochi. So when you have coworkers capable of eating 4 of these babies in the blink of an eye, this sucks!

In a stroke of genius (I am nothing if not modest, lol) I came up with an easier way to get the flavor of ichigo mochi without all the work. This isn't really a recipe, but an idea of awesome proportion. My mochi aficionado at work tried this and agreed its not as amazing as the real deal, but is awesome because its so easy to prepare when you have the craving. For those of you who want to make Ichigo Daifuku, I do have the recipe for that at well. It is not as hard as I bitch about, no worries!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mosaic Jello

I decided to try this new jello recipe that I first saw on one of my favorite blogs, Food Librarian.  She called it broken glass jello. Probably because I was an English major at UCLA and tend to be particular about words, or I'm just neurotic, but I often take issue with recipe names that aren't attractive (See Soda Cracker Bark for my latest example of my neurosis).  So Broken Glass Jello won't fly with me... it sounds ouchy and painful and not tasty. Who wants to eat broken glass?

On the official jello website, they call this recipe "Mosaic Dessert Bars" which sounds much more edible. Not that I would want to eat a glass tile mosaic (which is made of bits of broken glass) but at least I am not imagining shards of glass in every bite.

Putting aside my crazy tendencies and bringing up my mother's, this is definitely a recipe for her. I have talked about her penchant for wiggly jigglys in my layered jello post.  So I decided to make her a jello, and see how I liked this one.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Soda Cracker Bark

One taste of this confection brought me back to afternoons at my grandparents house. Salty and crunchy, with sweet and bitter dark chocolate and toffee-like brown sugar mixture beneath, this stuff is seriously addicting. With only five ingredients, its super easy to whip up a batch. Almost too easy.

Hapa Farm Girl: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling

For my next installment of my kinda weekly Hapa Farm Girl edition: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling. Rhubarb is a funny plant, which looks like celery only with a bit of red.

As I mentioned in my Egg Edition of Hapa Farm Girl, my parents have a partial acre that they have horses, chickens, and pooches on, in addition to an orange orchard and garden. In my teens, I planted a rhubarb crown. Now rhubarb is usually grown in places like Washington, because it needs cooler weather to thrive. Here in Southern California, it is usually grown as an annual during winter and spring because the summers and fall are too hot.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Habanero Gold Quesadilla

I had a lot of questions regarding my Habanero Gold recipe, mainly what to use it on? I think it works delicious on a cheese plate, but I wanted to show you a quick way to use it in an entree.

I used leftover rotisserie chicken to make a quesadilla with some flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, and my jar of Habanero Gold. It lends a spicy sweet kick to the quesadilla that is an unexpected delicious twist! 


Habanero Gold Quesadilla

Simply spread a generous amount of the jelly on one burrito sized tortilla (about 2 ounces) and sprinkle cheese and shredded chicken on top. Place another tortilla on top and pan fry until cheese is melted.

See Also:
Mother's Day: Habanero Gold
New Mexican Style Enchiladas

Friday, May 11, 2012

Shoutout to Blogs I Love

Because this is my blog, and I can do what I want, I'd like to share some blogs I love with you:

Food Librarian: I love her bundt recipes! I cannot wait to try the match mochi one! I think because she's also JA (Japanese American), but she seems like family. Or it might be that her love of jello reminds me of my jello obsessed JA mom. I think jello just reminds her of all the agar jellies in Japanese desserts. I will have to make her the broken glass jello that the Food Librarian has on her blog!

FOODjimoto: Another Southern California Japanese American lady! I love her furikake chex mix, it is the sort of Hapa food I love, like spam musubi. She does a whole gamut of food, from traditional Japanese home cooking to guacamole! I love the pictures of her family get togethers, which has inspired me to take more pictures!

Makiko Itoh: Her post on her mother moved me to tears. She writes both Just Hungry and Just Bento, two amazing sites that have tons of recipes, from bento staples to baking. She's even got an amazing bento cookbook, which I've literally read in bed just for entertainment (I do this with all good cookbooks) She's sick right now and going through a kitchen remodel, so she hasn't been posting as frequently as I spam her sites.

David Lebovitz: The man who made my very stoic grandpa grin like a Cheshire cat. I made his German Chocolate Cake for my grandpa's birthday, and it was AMAZING. I made the filling, and bought a can of Duncan Hines filling to do a blind taste test with my mother, and she literally nearly spit up the storebought after tasting David's. He's that good.

**Disclaimer** No one asked me to do these links, and I asked for nothing in return. This blog has like no traffic and its mostly my own personal diary, so don't be thinking anything sneaky like promotions and such. I love these blogs and want to share them with my friends and family so =P

And because this is a boring post with no pictures: Here's my dog as a puppy!



Seven Layer Jello

Don't ask me why, but my mother LOVES jello. When I was a little kid, my dad bought me a patty pan shaped like a heart and I made her a two layered jello heart, red and green because it was Christmas time. That was my Christmas present to her, because I was in elementary school and obviously new at this whole gift giving thing.

I should have never done that.  Ever since, when my mother had a hankering for jello, I would find next to my breakfast plate a giant mountain of jello boxes and some new jello recipe to make for her.  The kicker: I don't particularly care for jello.

My mother's favorite, and my personal bane, was seven layer jello. Every layer had to be mixed separately, and the next layer had to be poured over the cooled jello layer without being too hot and burning a hole in the layer below.  The problem with most recipes is that it calls for you to mix the jello powder with boiling hot water, then wait for it to cool down enough.  And god forbid you let it cool down too much, then you need to put the bowl in a hot water bath.  In short, its fiddly and time consuming.  My recipe solves that by using a mix of hot and cold water so that there is no waiting.  That way in between layers you are free to do something else, and come back at your leisure to finish the whole project.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Blueberry Butter Mochi

If you've perused this blog (or bothered to read the title) you know I love mochi. I love the pillowy chewy texture, I love the plain mochi as well as the ones with creative fillings. I love making it, eating it, and dreaming up new recipes involving it. Butter mochi, from Hawaii, uses the mochiko flour to make a gluten-free cake that is sweet, chewy, and bouncy for a treat I love with a cup of tea. While not strictly mochi, it retains that same chewy texture I love while turning it into something uniquely hapa.

I also love how you can take the base idea of mochi and butter mochi and with a bit of imagination, make tons of different desserts. I've already used my basic butter mochi recipe to make my Confetti Coconut Cake.

When I found a recipe in Hawaii's Best Mochi Recipes by Jean Watanabe Hee that used canned blueberry pie to create a marbeled effect, I decided to see how I would like this fun spin-off using my own butter mochi recipe that I normally use. This dessert is a little messier and moister than most butter mochi, but despite this it is very easy to eat with your hands, which make it a great choice to bring to work functions or family potlucks.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Una-Tama Don: Egg Eel Donburi

I always tell people if they want to try more adventurous sushi than California rolls, they should try unagi, or freshwater eel. I do this not only because their look of terror is priceless, but because I think it is a very accessible and traditional Japanese meat.  I will explain why I think so, just like I do to the novices to calm them down:

First off, unagi is always cooked. I have no qualms about eating raw fish, but I know this is a big one for beginners. They think all sushi is raw and wriggling.  Second off, it is usually barbequed in a teriyaki style sauce, and served warm. Third, it has a soft and pleasant tenderness to the meat, juicy and never weird or rubbery, unlike tako (octopus).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hapa Farm Girl: Eggs

I follow a couple professional and unprofessional cooking blogs/websites, and one of my favorites is Serious Eats. Just like my little Miss Mochi blog, they have an eclectic mix of tastes. They have a regular Canning poster, a Fast Food poster, even a spice hunter. I love having one post be about the best lowbrow hotdogs in the nation, and the next be an in-depth discussion about some culinary ingredient or technique. The juxtaposition really shows what I love about food and culture-- the variety.  Not to mention they have slideshows of the adorable office dog Hambone! What's not to love?


But this isn't just a shameless plug for Serious Eats. One of their more intriguing posts is their weekly In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites. They also talk a bit about urban farming and organic living.  Using this as inspiration, I am starting a Hapa Farm Girl post, talking about my upbringing living in a suburban area with a more rural lifestyle. First topic is EGGS.

Mother's Day White Zinfandel Jelly

I made this jelly in honor of my boyfriend's mother, who loves white zinfandel.  I joke that she doesn't actually eat, but is more like an air fern, requiring nothing but light water and air.  As long as she has plenty of fans around for fresh air, she can live off coffee and wine.  Plus it was a cool unique jelly for everyone else who actually needs to eat. >.<

This jelly is really simple, and I suggest it to anyone who is starting out canning.  Which reminds me, I found a great article on canning basics, because I really don't want to go into the process of water baths and all that. Melissa from Serious Eats wrote A Beginner's Guide to Canning that I think will be very helpful, and is also pretty informative.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Coconut Icebox Cookies


I work in a veterinary hospital as a veterinary technician. My coworkers and doctors are seriously the coolest people out there, but sometimes we get really harried when emergencies come in, so I wanted to get a recipe that I could bring in fresh baked cookies in a pinch. The answer: icebox cookies. Icebox, or refrigerator cookies, are cookies that you make and then either refrigerate or freeze until they are well chilled so you can slice them into thin rounds. The Pillsbury cookie logs in the grocery store are the commercial form of these, but cannot hold a candle to homemade. The nice thing is that icebox cookies don't take very long to mix up, and since they are designed to be frozen or refrigerated, they are perfect for when you want fresh baked cookies but don't have time to whip out your mixer. So now I can bring in cookies to work in the morning, baked fresh while I am pulling on my scrubs!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mother's Day Habanero Gold


My mother used to grow lots of peppers in her garden.  Jalapenos, teeny tiny hot peppers, and most infamously, the habanero.  My mom's habaneros were giant blistering balls of sun just waiting to scorch anyone silly enough to try them.  Needless to say, the possums and skunks left them alone.  During a party as a very small kid, I ate a bite of habanero to impress the big kids who were crying over the wimpy little hot peppers. The first bite was pretty damn hot, but the second bite I hit a seed. I was too young for me to remember this, but apparently I started screaming bloody murder.  Enough stories like these, and even I am amazed I survived childhood without accidentally killing myself.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mother's Day Pomegranate Jelly

For Mother's Day, I made an assortment of jellies. The first I made was pomegranate jelly.

I have an obsession with preserving and canning. I first made marmalade in elementary school for the county fair (in 4-H, natch!) and I was fascinated by being able to take a perishable fruit and turn it into something shelf stable for up to a year! It was more like magic than any other cooking I had done previously. Since then, I have had my fair share of mishaps. From marmalade that refused to jell and stayed a syrup, to making pints and pints of peach pie filling because my mom bought a huge load of amazing peaches at the farmer's market and then went on vacation (stickiest mess ever), I've done it all. Except killed anyone from botulism or food poisoning. /high five

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Confetti Coconut Cake: Butter Mochi Revisited

I have been tinkering with my favorite Hapa recipe of Butter Mochi. You can read about this dessert in my earlier post in order to gain some history and info about it. Some common variations include adding shredded coconut, anko, or chocolate. I decided to make a batch of butter mochi for my coworkers to try, since one of my coworkers wanted to try it after seeing my picture of my last batch. For fun, I drew inspiration from confetti cake. If you've never heard of confetti cake, or "funfetti cake," its pretty much a white cake livened up with sprinkles that melt into the cake batter and produce little spots of color. Usually it's just a prepackaged mix, which isn't necessarily bad but it can't hold a candle to homemade cake batter. Very popular here in America for little kid's birthday parties, it's pretty nostalgic for a certain generation.

Anyways, I decided to try and make confetti butter mochi! I also added in some shredded coconut and christened it Confetti Coconut Cake! The sprinkles don't really add much as far as flavor, it's merely aesthetics.