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Setsubun Fun

kodomomame_softToday is a rather fun holiday in Japan called Setsubun, in which you throw beans at ogres and eat large sushi rolls. That’s a pretty basic explanation, but more can be found in a post I did all the way back in 2011 on my former blog. Pretty amazing how different I look now from then!

mamemaki_fumira_softSadly, I haven’t been able to get the videos to work from that post. It’s really a bummer, because I remember them being quite clever (at least in my opinion), and now they may be lost for all time.IMG_0112At the very least, I’ve got an Asahi to drown my sorrows, and I had a pretty delicious dinner. Also, I had fun watching my students at school. We made several fun crafts for the day: Chad made cute ogre hats for the kids to wear, one of our teaching partners helped students make little ogre cups to hold the beans, and our other partner helped the kids make Eho-Maki, the special Setstubun sushi.
IMG_0107                                                                     We had Eho-Maki for dinner

I hope we were able to drive out the oni, or ogres, today with our bean throwing, and that good fortune is on its way! Have a happy day!
xx Caitlyn

P.S. Isn’t the clipart in this post freaking ADORABLE!? It also happens to be free, which is amazing. Find the pictures in this post and more on fumira.jp (it’s in Japanese, but if all else fails, I think the google translate version should be able to help you if necessary)!

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart

This weekend was full of Easter treats! I made some super easy, dangerously yummy Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Easter Eggs, some pretty pastel-colored deviled eggs, and a lovely lemon tart.

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Pretty Deviled Eggs ❤

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Sweet treats: top left and right: Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs (made for work, but definitely sampled at home!), bottom left: my mom’s amazing carrot cake, and bottom right: too many desserts! Carrot Cake, Lemon Tart & Cheesecake.

I decided to make the lemon tart in honor of Dame Eyola from The Neverending Story. The recipe is sort of a glorified lemon bar recipe, but I figured Dame Eyola grew fabulous fruit, so why not glamor up a lemon bar recipe with her in mind?

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Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart

Ingredients

1 1/4 c. chilled butter                                     2 c. sugar

2 c. all-purpose flour                                     1/4 c. lemon juice

1 c. powdered sugar (plus a little extra for dusting)

4 eggs                                                                candied lemon zest

                                                                          blueberries (for garnish)

IMG_04311. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Then cut butter into flour and powdered sugar until crumbly; press into an ungreased tart pan. Make sure you spread the crust high enough over the edges that you’ll have a high “wall” for holding in the lemon filling later. Bake for 30 minutes.

IMG_04352. Meanwhile, you can make your candied lemon zest. I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but it’s super easy and wonderful directions and pictures can be found by clicking here. Basically, you zest a lemon (the directions say to peel and slice the zest, but I just used my zester), boil the zest in a sugar-water simple syrup, drain it, dry it, and coat in more sugar. Can’t go wrong! Set your zest aside and make your filling. Squeeze out the lemon juice from your zested lemon (it should equal about a 1/4 cup, at least), or use lemon juice from a jar. Then blend eggs, sugar and lemon juice together.

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Here is my crust after pulling it out of the oven.

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3. Slowly pour lemon mixture over crust. (Be careful!–I got a little over excited and some of my filling spilled over the sides of my crust, leaking through the bottom of my tart pan and onto the counter! *cries*) Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes; cool.

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Here is the tart after cooling.

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4. Once the tart has cooled, sift some powdered sugar on top for decoration.

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5. Next, add your pretty candied lemon zest.

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6. Lastly, add some blueberries for a nice, colorful contrast. The tart will taste best chilled, so I recommend keeping it refrigerated for at least an hour before serving.

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Oo la la!

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Enjoy!

I had a lot of fun making and eating Easter delights over the weekend, and was happy to make Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart: a spring treat that was book-inspired! Did you enjoy any special treats over the weekend?

Projects

Lovely Easter Ideas

In anticipation of Easter, I decided to give an easy DIY a try:

Easter Egg Strip ArtSource

This Easter egg made from paper strips on minted.com is apparently a craft for children, but I thought it looked cute so I made it anyway! 🙂 Here’s how mine turned out:

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And here are some other Easter-themed ideas I’d like to try:

bunny rollsMaking cute little bunny rolls… (Source)

DIY love eggs…making pretty DIY love eggs… (via thesweetestoccasion.com)

   pastel deviled eggs

…and making pastel-colored deviled eggs! (Source)

Are you going to make anything fun for Easter this week? Please share your ideas!

Food & Cooking

Me Oh My Oh!

Happy Fat Tuesday! I’ve had the song “Jambalaya” stuck in my head all day today, and the question is: Has it been stuck in my head because it’s Fat Tuesday, or because I knew I was about to make this awesome recipe for the first time!?

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To be honest, I barely followed the recipe because it called for such large portions of sausage and shrimp. I basically cut the amount of sausage and fish down to a forth of what the recipe called, and then added more veggies and rice. It. turned out. AMAZING. I guess that’s the nice thing about jambalaya–it’s a mish-mash of delicious ingredients that come together to form a delicious meal, and you don’t have to be very exact. I was especially pleased because today was my first time making it!!

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This year was also my first year trying paczki, a type of Polish donut. I found out from this informative article that back in the 16th century, paczki were filled with pork fat and fried in lard, and I would just like to say I’m pleased paczki have developed into the lard-less, pork fat-free sweet pastries they are today.

Italian Masquerade Mask

Source

Something I didn’t do this year was wear a pretty mask. Will someone PLEASE give me an excuse to wear a pretty mask? I love the colors in the one above, and the colors and style in the one below.

Masquerade Mask

Source

I’ve also never been to a Mardi Gras celebration of any kind (aside from our little culinary fun tonight). I think going to New Orleans to see the festivities first-hand at least once would be fun just for the experience. Have you ever been, or would you like to go? If so, how was your experience? If not, why would you or wouldn’t you want to go?

Food & Cooking · Monday Matters · Tried

Hina Matsuri Dinner

Today it’s Hina Matsuri in Japan, also known as Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day, so I decided to make a Japanese meal to celebrate from Michigan.

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I was really excited to find a simple, pretty-looking recipe for chirashizushi using fresh, sushi-grade tuna. Chad went all over town in search of tuna I could use for the recipe, and finally found some at our local D&W supermarket. Chirashizushi is basically a bowl of sushi rice topped with fresh fish, and–in this case–a colorful salad mixture.

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Yes, I know this picture is blurry, but at least there are cute dolls decorating it.

In addition to the chirashizushi, I also made yudofu (recipe at my old blog, here!) and ichigo daifuku. Yudofu is basically tofu boiled with kombu (dried kalp), and ichigo daifuku is a lovely spring treat consisting of fresh strawberries wrapped in sweet red bean paste and mochi.

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Here you can see my colorful bowl of chirashizushi, as well as the plate of yudofu in the background. I used traditional white sticky rice rather than the brown rice for which the recipe called.

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So bright and cheery!

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Here are some up-close pictures of the ichigo daifuku. I had to do some conversions when using the recipe because everything was in grams and ounces, so I think I’ll be experimenting to make them look prettier in the future. When it comes down to it though, I didn’t care too much about how they looked because they tasted really yummy, and totally brought me back to Japan (they were one of my favorite Japanese sweets! Natsukashii!). You can find the recipe I adapted by clicking here.

We really enjoyed having a Hina Matsuri dinner, and I was so glad everything turned out! Hope you have a lovely Girl’s Day!

P.S. I know I had promised I’d be back last Friday, but something…unexpected came up. On the bright side, I’ve reserved the post I’d been planning to write, and should have it ready for you this Friday instead! 🙂

Food & Cooking · Projects

Spreading a little love

I’ve been enjoying doing a few little crafty things here and there: making cute little robot cards using a pattern from the book Craft-a-Day: 365 Simple Handmade Projects, writing Valentines and a few other letters that I’m looking forward to sending, and getting crafty in the kitchen with special Valentine treats as well 🙂

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I just love having sealed envelopes filled with hand-written messages ready to be sent! They’re even better when surrounded by lots of fun craft supplies!

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Here are the two robot cards I made. In Craft-a-Day, the author suggests using paper for the entire craft, but since I didn’t have any grey paper I just used foam. I thought the cards turned out pretty cute–one of robots is saying konnichiwa!, and the other one is saying hello.

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I also had a lot of fun making heart-shaped rice crispy treats today to bring into work tomorrow. I just made them like usual, spread them in a cookie sheet, let them cool, cut out hearts with a cookie cutter, and then frosted half of each one with a Strawberry Shortcake frosting.

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So easy and cute!

What I love most about the crafty things I’ve been up to this week is that they are all things I get to give to other people that spread a little love. I really enjoy that sort of thing anyway, but I realized after reading a couple of blogs this week that it just so happens to be “Random Acts of Kindness” week, too. Have you done anything kind for others this week, or received any kind surprises? Have you been up to anything crafty this week?

Food & Cooking · Monday Matters

Happy Lunar New Year

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I got the idea for this cute little paper cut here.

We’re several days into the start of the Lunar New Year, and this year is the year of the wooden horse. Although in Japan they don’t officially celebrate the Lunar New Year anymore, they do still follow the zodiac, so their New Year cards sent out to arrive on January first are almost always decorated with the yearly animal. Obviously we’re not in Japan anymore (stop reminding us!), but we figured we could still get down on some Japanese-Chinese food in honor of the Lunar New Year.

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We got an unexpected extra treat on the day we planned our little celebration: my brother and sister-in-law asked us to go to lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. We love the Fortune Cookie in Grand Haven, and always indulge in their FABULOUS crab rangoons. Several hours after that awesome meal, it was time to get started making our own.

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Don’t judge me for getting carried away with my deco.

I decided to make Japanese gyoza, often referred to as pot stickers in English. I was SO glad I purchased a little gyoza mold before leaving Japan–it made the whole process much less labor intensive. (I got the recipe for the filling here.)

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Yum! They turned out great!

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Chad decided to make tenshinhan, which is a dish we often ate at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Japan called Osho. This dish involves rice, crab, egg, green onions and all kinds of other deliciousness you can find in the recipe here. We were so pleased to finally find a recipe for this dish as I had been looking everywhere to no avail. I even asked the staff at Fortune Cookie, to which they replied, “Where did you have this dish?” And I said, “Um…a Chinese restaurant.” They asked, “Where?” I replied, “…Japan.” They didn’t seem to like that very much, and just replied by saying, “That’s not Chinese food.” Anyway, the happy ending to the story is we finally got a recipe, though Chad said he’d like to tweak it in the future (less eggs, more sauce, etc.).

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It was a lot of fun preparing the meal together, and just as much fun digging in. Have you ever tried your hand at making recipes like these?