Years ago we went to the Museu de la Xocolata in Barcelona, a small piece of heaven where your tickets are chocolate bars and your taste buds fill with delight. The chocolate museum has all kinds of activities and opportunities for tastings, and it was there that I had my first ever experience with thick, rich, decadent Spanish hot chocolate. Tasting the drink was like falling in love.
Falling in love is what enjoying really good chocolate is supposed to feel like, according to Simran Sethi, host of my newest podcast obsession, The Slow Melt. In her podcast, she also says awesome things about being your own sexiest sweetheart, and buying the good chocolate for you. And while I love that sentiment and am most certainly not opposed to buying myself chocolate, I did have to buy some good stuff for Chad on Valentine’s Day (I just forced him to share with me 😉 ).
We’ve been doing a lot of chocolate tasting lately, especially since I received The Chocolate Tasting Kit for Christmas. I am already starting to see differences in chocolates as we try them, and have also learned a lot about how to taste chocolate and how it’s made. Pairing the kit with The Slow Melt, I’ve been gaining a lot of knowledge about chocolate, and I can’t wait to start working with specific coffee pairings as my palate develops! My favorite recent chocolate tasting? Black Salt Dulce de Leche Bonbons from Vosges Haut Chocolat. 62% dark chocolate sprinkled with black sea salt crystals = something I could melt into my chair over.
If you can’t get your hands on some good chocolate as soon as your taste buds would like, get some eye candy by checking out The Slow Melt’s Instagram, and enjoy some sweet listening by subscribing to the podcast!
Have you tried any wonderful chocolates lately? Please do share your favorites!
PS: can you imagine being gifted Vosges Haut Chocolat’s Travel the World through Chocolate Steam Trunk!? A most indulgent, luxurious gift if there ever was one!
I was listening to an episode of The Sporkful the other day and the host, Dan Pashman, noted that the episode would be the last of 2016. I thought it was rather early to already be having the last show of the year when I realized suddenly that 2016 was already over. How did that happen? I feel like after giving birth to our sweet baby (who will already be one at the end of this month–eek!), time has been more of a whirlwind than ever before. Days, weeks and months have been sneaking their way into the past in what feels like the time-span of a few breaths.
Realizing that 2016 had already come and gone naturally led me to reflecting on the crazy, sometimes crummy (but often amazing!) year we had, and then, of course, to thinking about what’s to come in the year ahead. And that brought me back to the fun request Pashman asked listeners in the episode of The Sporkful I’d been listening to: call in and describe what you resolve to eat more of in 2017. I thought that was such a fun resolution because rather than making a difficult, potentially unattainable goal, you’re making a resolution that is more about enjoying yourself.
So what’s your answer? I for one would like to eat more onigiri in 2017. I loved grabbing tuna mayo onigiri from convenient stores in Japan whenever I needed a quick snack, and I always miss eating it when we’re in the states. Chad even got me a cute kitty onigiri set for Christmas in Tokyo last year so I can try to make ones like these cute ones from Bento and co. below!
I’m looking forward to hearing about your food resolution in the comments, and to posting more frequently in 2017!
Happy New Year!
PS Remember this little onigiri needle felt cutie I made a couple years ago? So easy and fun!
Have you ever seen turban squash at your local farmer’s market or grocery store? I was pretty intrigued when I came across some earlier this fall, and decided in the spirit of the 57 Things Series, I’d bring home the unfamiliar and find a way to prepare it for dinner (#40 on the list!).
These guys are pretty tough to crack open–I actually had to enlist Chad to help me, and even he had to cut it from the side instead of cutting off the “top of the hat” as most recipes suggest. He said the trick is to start at the bottom with your knife and to wedge it back and forth a bit. When raw, the squash smelled a lot like pumpkin. Its seeds looked a bit like pumpkin seeds too, but rounder.
After scooping out the seeds and pulp, I baked the squash. In the meantime I sauteed some veggies to mix with couscous and seasoning. From there I added the tender turban squash and mixed well before baking it altogether inside the shell of the squash. The verdict? Delicious!! It was a little labor intensive, but I definitely want to make it again soon. See the recipe below, adapted from this recipe, and try it for yourself!
Click to download
Have you tried any new foods lately?
When I told you about the picnic loaf I made, I promised I’d tell you what I did with all the bread I pulled out from the center of the loaf. I know you’ve been waiting (okay, you probably totally forgot I even mentioned it), but this idea will have been worth the wait! At first, I considered making these meatballs, but then came along a chance to make this awesome, easy chickpea dish. This 5-Minute Chickpea Dinner is part of Bon Appetit’s Cooking without Recipes series, and I absolutely love it! I didn’t have peas on hand, so I just used red pepper lightly cooked in the same pan I was toasting my bread in. Sooooo good you guys.
I was super happy to use every part of the bread I made, and–keeping with the spirit of Mottainai Grandma— I proceeded to use each and every part of the watermelon we had on our picnic, too. The white rind was used for Watermelon Rind Pickles, any pink or red shavings were used to make watermelon flavored water, the green rind was put in our compost, and we ate the inside just as it was.
Using up the bread and the watermelon are two good examples of fulfilling number 48 on the 57 Things List: Never throw away edible food (my original post on the 57 Things Series is here!).
What are some of your favorite ways to use every last bit of something edible?
I mentioned I’ve started baking my own bread again, but did I also mention we don’t have central air in our apartment? That means it’s not always the best idea to have the oven going (even though I did make a mighty tasty coffee cake the other day in 90 degree heat!). Still wanting to make my own bread as much as possible, I decided to experiment with a recipe from The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day that can be made in the oven OR in the crock pot. That’s right: bread in a crock pot. And here’s the resulting bread, one from the oven, and one from the crock pot. Can you guess which is which? If you guessed that the darker loaf was from the oven, and the lighter one was from the crock pot, you guessed right. I actually put the crock pot one in the oven to get more of a golden crust when it was done baking (the book suggests using the broiler to do so, but I already had the oven on for the other loaf), but it still didn’t get a golden crust as nice as the oven loaf.The bread was made from the same batch of dough, so the taste was the same. As for the texture on the inside, the two loaves seemed quite similar. I cut the loaves differently (the oven-baked loaf was for my go-to breakfast and the crock pot loaf was for a picnic sandwich), but you can still see the similarity in crumb. For the picnic sandwich, I looked at this recipe for guidance but used whatever I already had in the fridge. Here’s how I assembled mine:
1. I Cut off the top of my loaf, pulled out the inside of the bread (I’ll tell you what I used that part of the bread for later!), and brushed olive oil along the inside.
2. Then I placed multiple layers of raw red bell pepper, spinach, mozzarella, basil, salami, ham, and cream cheese inside.
3. Lastly, I put the top of the bread loaf back on, wrapped the whole thing tightly in plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge weighed down with a full yogurt container for a few hours.
I sliced the sandwich before we left for our picnic and grabbed some watermelon and pretzels, and then we were off to enjoy our tasty picnic.We had a really relaxing time with a great view. Lillian enjoyed looking at the water and playing with daddy in the shade of a nice big tree, and I tried my best not to eat the entire picnic loaf!
What are your favorite picnic foods? Have you tried any kitchen experiments lately?
P.S. Remember these gorgeous picnics?
The first weekend I was home from the hospital after having Lillian, Chad brought home Indian take-out from a great restaurant nearby our apartment. I am not exaggerating when I say that it. was. AMAZING. Everything from the mildly spicy tandoori chicken to the carrot dressing on the salad. But most of all, the butter chicken curry! To say the least, a lunch set from that restaurant will definitely be something to pine for upon our return to Michigan. On the bright side, the unavailability of the meal in the near future inspired me to take a shot at number 5 on the 57 things list: Order take-out when necessary—then try to make your order from scratch, at home, the next week. I actually tried a couple recipes for butter chicken, but couldn’t quite get the full body the take-out curry had. After pulling from a few different recipes and adding some of my own ideas, however, I came up with a pretty darned good butter chicken that will do the trick. I think next time I might try adding sautéed shredded carrots to bring a little more thickness to the curry–what do you think?
Crockpot Butter Chicken Curry
1/2 c. coconut milk (or 1/2 of a standard-sized can)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 can tomato sauce
1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp garam marsala
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbs fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
1 Tbs honey
3 Tbs butter
1 red or yellow onion
1/2 tsp garam marsala
1/2 c. coconut milk (or remaining 1/2 of standard-sized can)
Add all marinade ingredients to a blender and purée until desired smoothness. Pour over chicken in a separate bowl and let sit for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté your onion in 1 Tbs of butter until transparent. Add the chicken and the marinade and cook until the chicken no longer looks pink on the edges. Add the remaining ingredients and pour into a crockpot to cook on high for 1 1/2 hours, or on low for 3 hours. Serve with rice and/or nan.
This post is part of the 57 Things Series. You can read the original post here.
When I was staying at Aikku Hospital after having Lily, one of my favorite meals was on Setsubun: a bean pilaf, cabbage and seaweed soup, salad, drinkable yogurt, fruit salad, orange ice and a pack of setsubun beans. One day a couple weeks after coming home I was telling Chad how much I wanted to eat the pilaf again, and he threw together an awesome bean pilaf of his own.
I begged him to make it again the other day, and though I had to pull an arm and a leg to get ingredient approximations for a recipe to share with you, I’m proud to say I was successful!In the background you can see field mustard. Chad has been whipping up this simple green by boiling it and serving with ponzu and bonito flakes. Back home, field mustard is often considered a weed, but in Japan it’s a semi-expensive veggie side dish! Japanese Style Bean Pilaf
2 1/2 c rice
2 bouillon cubes (we used chicken)
1 Tbs butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed & diced
Salt to taste
2 tsp Oregano
1 Leek, thinly sliced
2 Tbs Rice vinegar
1 Tbs Lemon juice
1 can bean salad (or mixed beans of choice)
1/2 cup Corn
Fresh parsley to taste
Prepare rice in rice maker and add crushed bouillon cubes to the water. We use Japanese rice, and prepare it in a rice maker, but you can choose your favorite rice and preparation method.
While the rice is cooking, sauté the onion & garlic in butter. Add the remaining ingredients except for parsley & avocado, and heat through.
Add finished rice and stir before folding in avocado and parsley.
Note: The bean pilaf I had at the hospital was served with a sliced boiled egg on top–a nice bit of additional protein! Also, this recipe is great because you can really be flexible with how much of each ingredient you add based on your personal tastes. We’re going to try adding edamame next time! It’s easy and delicious!
I’ve mentioned time and time again that ever since visiting Paris a few years ago I have been obsessed with croissants. I can still be quite picky about them–if they don’t have the right buttery layers and flakiness, just forget it. (Unless you add Nutella. You can add Nutella and things will work out. I may have just done so to a supermarket croissant and consumed it happily with coffee a few minutes ago.)
Despite my ongoing obsession with croissants, I actually never thought a lot about the origin of the delightful pastry. Of course France is generally famous for croissants, but did you know that the origin is a little more complex than that? In preparation for National Croissant Day tomorrow, here is a little Smithsonian article: Is the Croissant Really French? After reading the article, why not treat yourself to a croissant to celebrate your new-found knowledge?
In a pinch back home, I would settle for Starbucks’ warmed croissants, but I really had trouble finding good ones in my area of Michigan. Fortunately Japan has loads of nice bakeries with decent croissants, and right around the corner of our apartment is a tiny bakery where a sweet little old lady sells a few delicious croissants every morning (always sold out quickly). I’ll probably indulge in one of those tomorrow if I don’t go into labor.
YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT AND NO BABY STILL HASN’T COME YET AND YES SHE WAS DUE MONDAY.
Phew. But that’s okay. She’ll come when she’s ready. Or not, and the doctors will induce labor. Either way, I have sort of been putting off blogging because 1) we haven’t gone far all month in case baby decides to come suddenly (so there has been a lot of hanging around home getting ready), 2) most of the crafty projects I’ve been working on are gifts for people who haven’t received them yet so I haven’t posted about them, and 3) any baby-related posts I have planned are ones I want to post after she arrives.
ANYWAY, that’s why I haven’t been posting as much as I would like, but I’ve been thinking of you! Eat an extra croissant (or at the very least, a heaping spoon of Nutella) for me, and keep us in your thoughts as baby’s eventual birthday approaches!
Happy National Croissant Day (a day early!)!
Ever since we heard the news about Tsuta Ramen shop receiving a Michelin Star, we knew we had to give it a try. Our first attempt was one Friday after work, when we learned that the shop closes at 4:00 PM. Yeah, what? Chad called to confirm the shop was really already closed for the night to learn that not only are the hours incredibly limited (11:00 AM-4:00 PM), but that you have to get a placeholder ticket by 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning in order to get a bowl as well.
Last Monday, Chad decided to take off the upcoming Wednesday from work to surprise me and go with me to Tsuta during the limited open hours. Much to our dismay, after getting the day-off request approved, he discovered Tsuta is closed on Wednesdays! Strike two!
Fortunately for us, now Chad is on vacation, so yesterday (Tuesday) we were able to scurry down toward Sugamo Station to get a ticket from Tsuta. We got there around 10:15, and were able to get tickets to reserve a spot for eating around 3:00. Unfortunately, all that was on offer for the day was Tsuta’s miso ramen, which I was especially bummed about because I tend to go for shoyu (soy based) or shio (salt based) ramen. Of course, that didn’t change our minds about giving the shop a try!
Approaching the shop, you are greeted with several signs explaining the placeholder tickets. The tickets are color-coded, and the time you arrive to get a ticket determines the time you can come back to eat.
If you’re on a Tsuta ramen mission, don’t go sit in line to get your placeholder ticket! Open the door to talk to someone–if there is a line of people outside, they are already waiting for their dining time slot!
You are advised to arrive a half an hour or so before your time slot, and if you miss your time or lose your ticket, you forfeit the 1000 yen deposit you give for your placeholder ticket.
Once we got our placeholder tickets, we had to decide how to spend the next several hours. We came up with a few really nice ideas, which I’ll share in a future post. For now, the important thing to know is that if you’re in town to try Tsuta ramen, you really have to plan a day around it. We recommend going to the shop for a placeholder ticket around 7:30 or 8:00 AM to ensure you can have a bigger selection of ramen dishes, and so that you can get a more convenient time than we did. Around 2:15 or so we came back to Tsuta Ramen and joined a line of several other customers. We slowly moved forward in the queue until we were welcomed inside and given our deposits back so we could chose our ramen. We had three choices: normal miso ramen, miso ramen with egg, and miso ramen with extra chicken. We chose the latter two options (which came to exactly 2000 yen total), and then continued to wait in the indoor line for seats to open up. We were pretty excited when our ramen was served. We were ready for new flavors–we’d never had chickpeas, sliced onions or chicken in our ramen before. A good egg is usually a huge indication of my overall rating when it comes to ramen: it shouldn’t be completely hard boiled, but the yolk should be slightly cooked. My egg was spot-on. I liked the noodles, too, but sometimes the texture was a little grainy for me. I couldn’t tell whether that sensation was from the soba noodles themselves, or from the noodles being coated in miso broth. The ramen didn’t disappoint, but I would personally like to go back and try a bowl of the shoyu ramen.
Tsuta’s miso ramen is not my favorite ramen in Japan, but that could just be due to my lack of enthusiasm for miso based-ramen. Chad was quite impressed, so we’ll have to do some future investigation next time we can plan around Tsuta’s rather inconvenient hours. Either way, I’m glad we got a chance to try it! For information on hours and days in which Tsuta is open, click here.