Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Birthday Celebration

We celebrated my birthday  I mean Jason's Birthday a few weeks ago.  His birthday celebration involved steak, a massage and a movie.  The best part about setting up a celebration like that, is you get to enjoy all of it!

 photo Pedicure.jpg
I'll leave it small, because... well... its feet.

I ended up with a pedicure!  Jason had also rented a couple of movies for the weekend.  However, as the parents of 4 we watch one when we can fit it in.  So the night before his Birthday celebration we watched an action movie, we weren't sure how late we would be getting back the night I was taking him out.  Well we got back early enough to watch a movie, so we watched Breaking Dawn Part II.  So, probably not his ideal night - but I enjoyed it!!

Happy Birthday!  You are one amazing husband and father.  Thank you for all you do for us.  I hope we helped you relax, even if it was only for an hour and an half.  Love  You.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ichigo Daifuku - a tutorial

 photo MochiParty.jpg
This is my friend and her two Japanese neighbors who taught us how to make mochi.  They were so sweet and their English is amazing, left me wishing my Japanese was better!

My latest Japanese favorite wagashi (Japanese confection made of mochi, azuki bean paste, and fruit) is Ichigo Daifuku.  This is a strawberry stuffed mochi, and it is so yummy.

The first time I had Mochi (Rice Cake) I didn't really love it, it has a strange texture and flavor.  Too much of a good thing, maybe.  A rice cake is about the size of you palm and made entirely of mochi and might be flavored.  Mochi has the consistency of a dough.  However, when stuffed with sweet beans and strawberry it is super yummy.

There are lots of tutorials available on how to make Mochi, this is how I was taught.  A friend arranged for her neighbors to teach a couple of us Mochi addicts how to make Ichigo Daifuku.  We made about 30 that day.  We made the mochi in 2 batches because if it cools you can't shape it or get it to stick around the strawberry.

Ingredients:  Makes 6 (I think a few more, these were a little big)
Shiratamako (glutinous rice flour)  100g
Sugar  20g
Water  150cc
Strawberry  6+
Anko (sweet red bean paste)  30g/each  *****I think 15g/each is better*****
Katakuriko (potato starch) or Corn Starch for dusting

 photo Shiratamako.jpg photo Anko.jpg
On the left is a bag of Shiratamako.  On the right is a bag of Anko,  you can also get it in a can.  I was told that the Anko in a can is wetter and harder to work with for mochi.

1.  Preparation:
Remove stem from strawberries.  Wrap strawberry with Anko and round to make ball (you want the tip of the strawberry to peak through).  Have some water in a bowl to use for your hands to keep things from being so sticky.  If your hands are a bit damp the Anko doesn't stick to you as much.

 photo Ankowrapping.jpg photo AnkoStrawberry.jpg

 photo Ankowrap.jpg

 photo wrapped.jpg

2.  Measure out dry ingredients. Put Shiratamako and Sugar in a heat resistant bowl and mix.

 photo measuremochi.jpg

 photo drymixing.jpg

3.  Pour water into the bowl, gradually.  Mix until smooth.

 photo mixsmooth.jpg

 photo Addwater.jpg

4.  Loosely cover with saran wrap.  Put the bowl in the microwave and heat for 2 minutes and stir the dough.  Heat the dough in microwave until the dough becomes clear (2 min - 1 min each time).  Stir the mochi quickly.  If you dip your spatula in water the mochi will not stick to it as much.

 photo cover.jpg

 photo heatedmix.jpg
This is the early stage of cooking, you can see how white the dough is.
 photo microwavestir.jpg
This is when the dough is done, you can see that is clearish compared to the previous picture.  It does not turn completely clear.

5.  Dust a flat pan, plate or table with some Katakuriko.

 photo dumponpowdered.jpg

6.  Remove the hot mochi from the bowl to the dusted surface.  The mochi is hot and sticky so be careful!!  Dust the top of the mochi.

 photo powdertop.jpg

7.  Dust hands with more Katakuriko and divide the mochi into 6 or more pieces.  You can use a pastry scraper, they work great.

 photo dividemochi.jpg

8.  Make 6 flat and round mochi.  Grab a piece and pat it out.   Be sure to not get it too thin, especially in the center.  
 photo flattenmochi.jpg

9.  Wrap anko/strawberry in the mochi.  Place the point of the strawberry down.  Pinch closed and use Katakuriko to keep the mochi from sticking to you and to the container you are going to store it in.  When you have it all wrapped up you kind of roll the mochi in your hands to smooth the outside and shape it nice.

 photo strawberrydown.jpg

 photo pinchmochiclosed.jpg

 photo done.jpg

I have made mochi several times now and I will tell you that volume measurements don't work as well. You can also use Mochiko flour - the recipe is a little different as is the flavor and texture.  The differences are subtle, so most people wouldn't know the difference unless they have them side by side. Use good strawberries!  You want to see a bit of pink peaking through the top of Ichigo Daifuku.

 photo plateof.jpg

Monday, March 18, 2013

Has Japan Changed My Taste Buds?

I am beginning to wonder if my short 3 years in Japan has changed my taste buds.  A fact that my 3 sisters kept reminding me of during their visit a few weeks ago.

I like mochi, enough to figure out how I am going to have fresh mochi in the states.  A tutorial on ichigo daifuku is in the works.

The fact that I am starting to enjoy mochi (at first I was not a huge fan) does not in itself cause me to wonder.  It is the fact that the past few weeks, I have been wishing for more of these.

 photo SugaredBean_0002.jpg

These are sugared beans.  They are the size of large Lima beans.  A friend found them in mainland and brought some for me to enjoy.  We joked that this was the ultimate hippie food.  Could you imagine a cupcake topped with one of these?  They were that big - a cupcake topper.  But, I did enjoy eating them.    Anything with sugar for me!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hinamatsuri (Girl's Day)

 photo lightroomedit-3.jpg

We participated a little more in Hinamatsuri this year than usual.  I found a wooden doll display I was willing to purchase.  I actually think it is wooden food, a cake with the doll decorations - but it works for us.  

 photo lightroomedit-2.jpg photo lightroomedit.jpg   
I also bought sweet Arare.  This is essentially puffed rice cereal, and some of it is colored.  This is a traditional cracker eaten on Hinamatsuri. 

The history of this event goes all the way back to 794. In those days, the death rate of women giving birth was so high, people started to put dolls beside their pillow to take their place. This became the origin of “Hina nagashi”, which the “Hina Dolls” were sent down to river or the sea taking bad spirits with them. Nowadays, “Hina Dolls” are more like guardians for children covering all the troubles for them. By the way the dolls are set to imitate a wedding in the time of Heian era (794-).(Okinawa2Go!Project)

This is the day to wish girls’ well-being in Japan. As for Okinawa, there is local traditional event called “Hamaui” on March 3rd in the lunar calendar. Girls go to the beach and soak their hands and feet in the saltwater to purify themselves to drive away the ill luck and pray for their well-being. Both traditional events are fun for girls. (Okinawa2Go!Project)

You can read more about Hinamatsuri here and here.