knits by sachi

Simple rules

Cant’ wait to have new crops. I want to buy proper corns wrapped in husks.

We always try to eat healthy. We have been doing even better since I came across Micheal Pollan’s lectures.

Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.(From Wikipedia)

He seems to be very well known in the States, but I had no idea who he was until the beginning of this year. I feel ignorant, but I am glad that I found him.

I found his lectures on YouTube. He talks about how we can improve our health by changing eating habit. I always thought cooking for my family is the most important task I have on my hands and have been cooking all meals. I never buy microwavable meals or takeaways. We don’t eat at fast food restaurants. However, I am guilty of buying ready-made savory snacks as sausage rolls, pies and scotch eggs occasionally. I have also bought cakes and muffins in plastic packaging.

I haven’t gone to these isles at supermarkets for months now, thanks to his informative talks.

He has 7 Rules for Eating.

Pollan says everything he’s learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

“Eat food” means to eat real food — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat — and to avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances.”

These are from his lectures. Here’s how:

Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. “When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can’t pronounce, ask yourself, “What are those things doing there?”

Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.

Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. “There are exceptions — honey — but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren’t food,” Pollan says.

It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. Oh, yes, in Japan, we say eat until you are four-fifths full.

Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love.

He also says ‘Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.’

I am aware of criticism against him. It is not possible to please everyone of course. But a lot of things he says make sense to me. He also says that truly healthy food do not scream that they are good for you. That is so true.

He hasn’t come up to a miraculous diet, but he has reminded us simple yet very important rules.

I have changed my shopping habit and my son has been cooking his lunch every day.

His favorite seems to be fried rice. We are not completely processed food free and use ham and crab sticks, but I have decided that is OK. He likes flavouring with Korean red chilli paste.

Many of his dishes are his inventions and this is one of them.

I don’t quite know how we should call it. You make Keema curry-like topping with chopped onion, carrot, bell pepper and soya mince. This can be the leftover from the previous night. Heat pan with a bit of oil, spread hot steamed sushi rice. You place topping and make a hole in the centre for egg.


Cover and cook until the egg is done. We like egg yolk runny. He as added a bit of cheese at the end.

Rice has crispy bottom and it is tasty. The topping doesn’t have to be Keema curry. It can be Chilli con carne or any mince cooked in your favorite sauce.

My son has been a very fussy eater. He still is but he started tolerate more vegetables. He now knows the trouble involved in cooking.

We will be enjoying more of these from now on.

Mickeal Pollan is an author of five books: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008), The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006), The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001), A Place of My Own (1997), and Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (1991). In 2016, Netflix released a four-part documentary series, which was based on Pollan’s book, Cooked (2013) I have watched them all.

Oh, He is very funny and his lectures are entertaining, too!

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Hiyashi Chuka, Japanese summer dish

The summer in Japan is brutally hot. The temperature usually stays below your body temperature, however, the humidity is unbearable, averaging over 70 % in the hottest months. With the rainy season of June, Japan is in the subtropical climate zone. It is like to be in a permanent sauna!

Do we feel unwell because of the heat? Sure we do. We have a word, Natsubate translated as ‘summer fatigue’.

You may feel physically tired, lose your appetite and have trouble sleeping. If you feel those symptoms, it is likely that you have Natsubate.

Natsubate is the consequence of hot temperatures and humidity during summer. Air conditioning doesn’t help much. In recent times, it has been said that Natubate happens not only due to the heat but also to the overuse of air conditioning.
It is very important to take care of yourself with healthy life style and good nutrition.

I used to lose appetite during the hot months and only food I could manage was cold noodles. My favorite was and still is cold soba noodles but it is mainly carbohydrates. To add a bit more nutrients, I like this dish; Hiyashi Chuka to serve my family.

Hiyachi Chuka literally means “chilled Chinese”; however, it is a Japanese dish with chilled egg noodles and various colorful toppings. Popular toppings include strips of egg crepes, cucumber, ham, and crab sticks. Soy sauce or sesame based dressing is poured over the noodles and toppings.

In Japan, you can get fresh egg noodles suitable for this dish. I used to think it is not possible to enjoy Hiyashi Chuka without these noodles, but recently, I discovered that you can use dry noodles available from local supermarkets.

I use fine noodles like this one.

All you have to do is cook noodles according to the package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water. Drain water well and place noodles in a large bowl. Place any toppings you fancy. I like adding vegetables, too and often serve it with cooked bean sprouts, green beans, mangetout and corn kernels. Here, I also added steamed chicken breast.

For sauce: to serve one

3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 Tbsp rice wine or white wine
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp white sesame seeds (roasted/toasted)
1/2 Tbsp English mustard

You can be creative and add a bit of chilli sauce, ginger, coriander etc.
It is colourful, nutritious and easy to make. The flagrant sesame oil and vinegar stimulates appetite and you will recover from Natsubate in no time.

I have this distant memory of having this noodle dish with my mum. It was at a tiny restaurant in my home town many years ago. I don’t remember what we were doing on that day, which restaurant it was or why we ended up there. It wasn’t remarkably tasty noodles either. I just remember me, my mum and Hiyashi Chuka. Now my mother has terminal illness and permanently in hospital, I sometimes think of these little things.

I heard that it would be a very hot summer this year in Japan.

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Japanese Potato Salad

It seems that I have been cooking many dishes without knowing they are Japanese.
For example, this potato salad.

When I prepared it for my English friends one day for lunch, they said they never had anything like it before. It is very Japanese, they all said.

How can it be? I thought. It is cooked potatoes with mayonnaise.
We do add vegetables and proteins and this may be unique to our potato salad. There are many variations and each family has their own recipe. Mum always made with ham, boiled egg and sliced cucumber.

I had also used Japanese mayonnaise.

Japanese mayonnaise tastes a little different. Just like there are Hellmann’s and Heinz in the UK, we have Kewpie and Ajinomoto as major brands in Japan. They have been around since mid 1920’s.

Japanese mayonnaise uses soy-based vegetable oil and many of the same ingredients as US/UK ones, however, they don’t add water and uses apple or rice vinegar rather than distilled vinegar. It contains egg yolks rather than whole eggs.Using egg yolks and apple or rice vinegar and eliminating water gives Japanese mayonnaise a thicker texture than American mayonnaise and it is rich. My friends said it was more vinegary and resembled salad cream rather than mayonnaise.
I really missed it when I was an exchange student in America.

How to make Japanese potato salad

2 large potatoes
2 eggs, boiled

2-inch English cucumbers
1/2 tsp salt
2 slices ham
*2-3 tbspJapanese mayonnaise
1-2 tsp English mustard or whole grain mustard

Freshly ground black pepper or white pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Instructions
1. Cook potatoes. You can boil, bake or microwave.
Conventional way is peel potato and boil in a pot. Cook until a skewer goes through. Drain water and put the pot back on the hob.
On the stove, evaporate water and moisture of the potatoes over medium-high heat about 45 seconds or so. When the potatoes are nice and fluffy, remove from heat.

Mash the potatoes roughly to leave some small chunks for texture. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.

The cucumbers we get in Japan are much thinner and cruncher with less water so that we can simply slice them. I either de-seed or use outer flesh of English cucumber. Slice thinly and sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt. Leave it for 15 minutes, then, rinse. Squeeze firmly to get rid of excess moisture.

Dice the sliced ham. I use good quality ham with no added water.

Mash up boiled eggs.

When potatoes are cooled, add ham, cucumber and eggs to potatoes.
Add salt, pepper, mayonnaise and mustard mix until incorporated.

If you do not have Japanese mayonnaise?

Although we like Japanese mayonnaise and it is possible to get them at a Chinese supermarket, they are rather pricey. I often use English salad cream or mayonnaise with a teaspoon of vinegar.

I prefer to go easy on mayo and season with salt, pepper and mustard.

There are lots of room for improvisation for this recipe. My auntie used to make it with sliced, quartered and boiled carrot and thinly sliced fresh onion. My friend once made it with tinned tuna and whole grain mustard. My elementary school used to serve it with sliced apple.

You can use wasabi instead of mustard or add a bit of Miso for saltiness. It is fun to experiment.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of potatoes in the UK. You can have a go at this salad if you get bored with your usual baked potatoes or chips.

My new knitting project this week?

I am already writing for winter issues.

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Tamagoyaki

This is another casual sushi I make at home; sushi with tamago, egg omelette.

I often make them with Inari zushi. They are both savory sweet and my son’s favorites. I made them for his birthday three weeks ago but again this week, to celebrate his success in driving theory test. I know it is only a half way, so it is a petit celebration.

When I serve these egg sushi to my non-Japanese friends, I often get nice compliments. They are not at all exotic, however, my friends all say that they have never had omelette served in this way.

The omelette is called Tamagoyaki which is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg. These usually are prepared in a rectangular omelette pan.

There are several types of tamagoyaki. It is made by combining eggs, sugar, salt or soy sauce. Additionally, sake and mirin are used in some recipes. If you add Dashi, stock made from bonito flakes, it is called Dashimaki. Dashimaki is moister because of the extra liquid, and so it has a softer texture. The egg flavor is also a little milder.

Tamagoyaki is often served in the form of nigiri sushi, and also appears in many types of sushi rolls. In Japan, it is also served as a breakfast dish and in Bento box. It is children’s favorite, and we always serve it for New Years day.

This is what Mum made for this year’s celebration.

Tamagoyaki
Ingredients
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp soy sauce or 1/2 tsp salt.
1 tsp mirin, sake or white wine

If you do not want to darken the omelette at all, it is better to use plain salt. Alcohol will evaporate, but if children get put off by the smell of Sake, choose mirin or omit wine all together.

What you will need:
Frying pan (non-stick frying pan is easier to use)
spatula
paper towel

In Japan, you can get a square frying pan for Tamagoyaki, but I do not have one. I use common round frying pan.

Method
1. Heat the pan over medium heat and oil the pan. Wait until the pan is hot. You can test with a drop of egg mixture. If it sizzles, pour a thin layer of egg mixture in the pan, tilting to cover the bottom of the pan.

2. After the bottom of the egg has set but still soft on top, start rolling into a log shape from one side to the other.

3.Move the rolled omelette to the side where you started to roll, and apply a drop of oil to the pan. Pour the egg mixture to cover the bottom of the pan again.


4.When the new layer of egg has set and still soft on top, start rolling from one side to the other.

5. Repeat this process until the mixture is all used.

Remove from the pan and wrap it with a paper towel. Shape the egg when it is still hot. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

There is another version of Tamagoyaki with Dashi stock added. It is called Dashi-maki. Dashi is stock comes from bonito flakes (kombu seaweed stock if you are vegetarian).Dashi-maki has more flavour, however, it is a bit more difficult to roll because of the extra liquid. It is best to practice without Dashi until you get the hang of the rolling technique.
If you would like to try, add 1 tbsp of rice wine and 3 tbsp of Dashi stock to egg mixture.

When my boys were young, parents were always asked to blow eggs before Easter. Children would take egg shells to school to paint and decorate them. Each child needed to bring three egg shells so that I needed to blow six eggs! I ended up feeling light headed and dizzy in the end. It is amazing that the whole egg content comes out from such a tiny hole.

With six eggs, I always made, you guessed right, Tamagoyaki.

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Cooking with seaweed

One of my friends called me the other day and asked how she could cook Kombu seaweed. I often get these questions relating to Japanese food ingredients.

She said she tried boiling but it turned out like a huge sheet of rubber. She is a foodie and a health nut and knows all the health benefits from eating sea vegetables, however, she does not quite know how to cook them.

We eat seaweed or sea vegetables very often in Japan. You can get them fresh, but dried seaweed may be more popular. It keeps very long in your larder and is very convenient.

Unfortunately, you cannot get too many varieties in the UK, but you can get wakame and Kombu from local supermarkets.

Wakame may be more familiar, but Kombu is not too well known. It usually comes as a hard dried sheet and looks quite inedible. When it is rehydrated, it becomes like a rubber and again, it looks inedible, so what do we do with it?

It is often used to make stock. It is used to make a light broth for Asian soups like miso, noodle soup, and tofu soup. To make one quart of broth, fill a pot with 4 cups of water and a 20cm strip of kombu.

As I wrote in a post in the past, I use Kombu to make the broth for Oden. I also use for miso soup, Udon noodle soup. Kombu is packed with Umami, or savory taste and it gives depth to the flavour of your dish. Should you through away after you make the stock? No, of course not. You can cut them into smaller strips and cook with bit of soy sauce, mirin sweet wine until the liquid is all gone. It is called Tsukudani and often eaten with steamed rice.

I also use Kombu to make this dish: Gomoku soy beans.

It is stewed soy beans with quite often, root vegetables. Simple cooking with not a lot of ingredients, but it is nutty and delicious and nice for a snack as well. Gomoku means a few things mixed. ‘Go’ is the number five, but you can have more than five thing when you use the word.

I make quite a lot in one go since it takes some time to cook soy beans. We used to be able to buy cooked soy beans in a tin, but it has been disappeared from supermarket shelves, so, we have to start from soaking dried beans.

I recommend to use at least 1 cup or 160 g dried beans.

Recipe
Ingredients
160g dried soy beans
30g carrot, diced
5 slices of dried shiitake mushrooms if you have
Kombu sheet, 3 x 10cm, cut to about 1 x 1cm
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine or white wine

This is just a guidance. You can be quite relaxed about measuring seasoning for this recipe. Add more soy sauce or sugar if you would like. You can also add Dashi stock granules if you have some. Add green beans cut to small pieces or diced potatoes. I would choose salad potatoes in that case so that potatoes will not get too soft and mushy.

1. Soak soy beans over night.
2. Cook soy beans in lots of water for 1-2 hours until soft. Drain cooking water.
3. Add water to soy beans just to cover the top. Add all ingredients and simmer for further 20 minutes.

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Make sure your soy beans are fully cooked and soft enough before you add seasonings. If you add them too soon, beans will not get any softer no matter how much more you cook. If you find cooking liquid evaporating too fast, you can add water a bit more.
After cooking for 20 minutes, let it cool. Flavours will soak in as the dish cools down. Adjust the taste with soy sauce, salt and sugar afterwards if necessary.

This recipe works with other beans. When I don’t have time to cook dried beans, I use tinned chickpeas or kidney beans.

I found some beans in tins are a little too soft, but if you shorten the cooking time, it should be fine.

When I have ‘Hijiki’ which is another kind of seaweed, I use it instead of Kombu.

It looks like this dried.

You need to soak in water about 10 minutes before cooking. Cut them shorter if necessary. Be careful, it increases in volume by 10 times when it becomes rehydrated. 15-20g dried Hijiki is good enough to cook with soy beans.

Seaweed is full of vitamins and minerals and has no calories. Isn’t it too good to be true?

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Omurice

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I did not knit these thinking of the Valentine’s day, but when I made the second mouse, I thought the couple was perfect for today.

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They look cute together.

We don’t do much to celebrate the occasion, but I may be cooking this dish tonight, Omurice. I saw this photo online and it inspired me.

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Omurice is Japanese home style dish consisting of an omelette made with ketchup flavoured fried rice. It is a Western-influenced Japanese food which is developed in early 1900. You may find it a bit odd to use ketchup for cooking, but we often do in our country. Omurice is one of the most popular dish among children and for some reason, grown-up men, too.

My husband and my boys are not exception. My son in London called me up the other day asked for the recipe.
What is great about it is that my younger son eats all minced veggies in the rice without complaining. You can use up left-over rice, a bit of cooked or uncooked meat. You do not need any exotic ingredients. It is versatile and wallet friendly.

Recipe for one
Ingredients
1/4 medium onion
small amounts of chopped bell pepper, carrot
40g chopped chicken meat
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 bowl of Japanese rice
1 Tbsp. ketchup and more for decoration

For 1 omelette
1 large egg
pinch salt, sugar and pepper

1.Chop the onion finely.
2.Cut the chicken into ½” (1 cm) pieces.
3.Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the onion until softened.
4,Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.
5.Add the mixed vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
6.Add the rice and stir fry.
7.Add seasoning and ketchup.
Set aside.

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Make a thin egg pancake in another pan, place cooked rice on top and roll the rice with the pancake. I used a square pan but you may find it easy to use a round frying pan.

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If you cannot roll too well, don’t worry. Take a sheet of paper towel and shape.

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Many put more ketchup on top to garnish.

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If you want to cut down on sugar and salt, you can use tomato paste to cook rice instead of ketchup. Some like to top with Demi-glace sauce or curry sauce. There are plenty of room to improvise and make your very own Omurice.

I have also found these cute ones.

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Kids will love these.

I am very curious how my son’s Omurice turned out. He said it went well. He has to take a photo and send it to me next time.

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Super easy cream cheese biscuit

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Everyone is busy stocking up food for Christmas, but I am doing just the opposite. I am focusing on eating food in the fridge to limit spoilage and waste. We will be travelling this Christmas.

I am an eco-friendly and frugal shopper and I usually plan meals well. I heard that in the UK, we waste food worth £470 per the average household a year, rising to £700 for a family with children. This does not happen to us and I want to keep it that way.

We are doing well so far and I think we can leave an almost empty fridge behind if I don’t shop much anymore.

However, some products are not too easy to consume quickly, for example, cream cheese. It feels like a struggle to make your way through the entire cream cheese container.

Cream cheese can be an alternative to butter. It has less calorie so, it is good if you are watching your waist line. I used it to bake muffins in the past and that worked well.

I came across this biscuit recipe in Japanese Cookpad: Cream cheese biscuit.

To make 15-20

Ingredients
150g flour
50g cream cheese
50g margarine or butter
50g sugar

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
2. Mix cream cheese, margarine and sugar. Add flour and combine well and roll the dough into a ball.
3. Wrap the dough with cling film and chill for 30-60 min.
4. Make 15-20 small balls from the dough or roll it out and cut out with cookie cutter.

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5. Bake int he oven for 17-20 mins.

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This is the easiest biscuit recipe ever!

I had low-fat cream cheese and margarine spread, but they worked just fine.
I had a lot more cream cheese left, so I made the second batch, adding cocoa powder this time. I increased the amounts of each ingredient a little, too, but as long as you keep 1:1:1:3 ratio, it works. I think you could use butter milk or fromage frais instead of cheese. You can use alomond powder or gluten free flour. Next time, I want to add chocolate chips. It is super versatile recipe and amazingly simple.

The dough does not contain much fat so it doesn’t spread much during the baking. It is soft and chewy inside. It isn’t too sweet, maybe it is less sweet than some of the morning breakfast cereals.

My son loved it. This is certainly one of our favorites.

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In fact, it was so good that I am tempted to buy more cream cheese. Maybe after the trip.

Now, we need to start packing.

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Celebration treats

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(Writing thank you cards for his grand parents in Japanese. He spent more than an hour practicing. Some characters are quite complicated!)

After receiving good results on A-levels last week, I have been wondering how we should celebrate this happy moment of my son’s life.

If his grand parents were here, we would have a big get together. We would absolutely love that.

But unfortunately, all our relatives are in Japan and what is more, my husband was away on his business trip, again, in Japan.

I tried my best and made his favorite sweets; choux puffs filled with homemade custard and whipped cream.

I also made ‘Mitarashi dango’, Japanese treat made with rice flour.
My family loves Mochi and dango. They are both Japanese traditional rice cakes made from rice flour. Our absolute favorite is Mitarashi dango. It is rather humble snack, but I made some for this occasion. I get cravings for them sometimes.

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Mitarashi dango is a type of dumpling skewered onto sticks in groups of 3–5 (traditionally 5) and covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze. It is characterized by its glassy glaze and burnt fragrance.

In the past, I have tried to make some at home following a recipe I found on internet. The instruction said to cook the flour and water mixture in a microwave, so I did. Disaster! Thick, sticky mixture got stuck to the bowl and I didn’t know what to do with it. I managed to roll some of it into balls, wetting hands time to time, but it was such a nightmare. I struggled to clean the bowl afterwards, too, and decided not to try it ever again!

But recently, I found another recipe in a Japanese cooking magazine. The instruction said to add Tofu to rice flour, knead, and make them into balls. Then, you boil them in hot water. This sounded much easier and promising.

So, here I go again.

Recipe makes about 20
100g rice flour, ‘shiratama-ko’
100g tofu

for sauce,
1tbsp Mirin, sweet rice wine
1Tbsp soy sayce
2tsp corn flour dissolved in the same amount of water

1. In a bowl, mix rice flour and tofu and and knead. Add water to achieve earlobe softness. Roll it into small balls of about 1 inch.

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2. in a small sauce pan, add ingredients for sauce and heat it until it thickens. Set it aside.

3. Boil water in a large pan and cook dumplings until they come up to the surface. Cook further 2 minutes or so. It is just like cooking Gnocchi.

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4. Drain water.
5. Place the dumplings on a plate and pour sauce over them.

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Traditionally, the dango are skewered and sometimes grilled, but I was too afraid to mess them up. Maybe next time.

Mitarashi dango made with only rice flour hardens whey they are cooled, but these ones with tofu do not. It was another reason I wanted to try.

My husband just came back from Japan with loads of souvenirs!

Rice cakes, Matcha chocolates and cooking ingredients!

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He got a mini rice cooker for my son, too. My son didn’t want a toaster or a kettle for Uni, he wanted a rice cooker. Fair enough.

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Cutting down on sugar

It is OK to enjoy sweets once in a while without worrying about calories, but I am making changes.

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First it was fat, then, salt. Now it is sugar, our number 1 public enemy.

Is sugar really that bad as many people say?
It is natural and yummy and make you feel happy, but we all know taking too much of it does cause you many problems.
I guess eating anything in excess, even the most healthiest foods is unhealthy.

I take feeding my family very seriously and have been educating my boys about food and nutrition since they were young. None of us has sweet tooth and eating a relatively balanced diet.

But my boys are approaching to the end of their teenage years and leaving for university soon. They have stopped growing upwards and need to be careful not to grow side ways. There will be temptations of fast food, take-aways and alcohols everywhere. I decided to take a look at our kitchen once more.

So, the first thing is our sugar(s).

It is recommended not to exceed the maximum intake of 30g or 6 teaspoons per day. It is all right to enjoy biscuits or chocolate once in a while, fully aware of having treats, but as a mother, what I want to be careful is these hidden sugars in our daily foods. There seems to be lots of sugars we are not really aware of.

For example, breakfast cereals.

Who decided that cereals are supposed to be sweet? How come the serving size written on box is so small? Who eat just 30g of cereal?

A healthy child can eat the double of the amount easily, and I think this labeling is very deceiving. If the cereal contains 8g sugar per 30g, which is quite an average, our children are having 16g sugar the first thing in the morning and that is more than 3 teaspoon of sugar already. It is the half of the daily allowance.

I would like to go back to our traditional Japanese breakfast with rice and miso soup if we could, but cereals are amazingly convenient and perfect for six-formers who seem to attend school whenever they are pleased. I decided to choose ones with less sugar. I started to buy cereals with less sugar content little by little. If I force them to eat plain corn flakes all of a sudden, boys will take off without having any of it.

Good shopping guidance is this: 22g per 100g. All food products come with nutrition table for 100g. If it contains more than 22g of sugar, you should consider it to be a high sugar product.

This made my shopping trip so much easier.

Did my boys like the change? Surprisingly yes! We became so used to low sugar cereals now and do not want to have sugar coated, choco-chipped cereals any more. Not only that, boys became less and less interest in biscuits after school.

We can make small changes and live much more healthier.

My older son had sweet potatoes every day for breakfast when he was in Kenya last summer. He said he loved it.
It is truly nice to taste natural sweetness in our vegetables. We can change our taste buds by cutting down everyday sugar intake.

I made this “imo-mochi” (sweet potato balls) for snack the other day. It is flavoured with soy sauce and mirin sweet wine. It is a little old fashioned, something like my mum used to make for snack when I was little.

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I simply cooked sweet potatoes in microwave and mashed it up. Add corn starch or rice flour if you have, about 2 table spoons or so, and keep on mashing it up until it is fairy smooth.
Roll it into balls and cook in a frying pan.

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One sweet potato yields about this much.
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Mix about 1tbsp of each soy sauce and mirin sweet wine in a small cup and pour the mixture over the potato balls and cook until the moisture evaporates.

Done.

If you want it more savory, you can make the balls with potatoes. We sometimes have them for supper.

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Low sugar life continues.

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New Year’s Eve noodles

What we had last night: soba noodles.
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We have a tradition to eat soba (buckwheat) noodles on a New Year’s Eve. It is called “Toshikoshi soba”. The word “toshikoshi” means to climb or jump from the old year to the new.

Soba is narrow and long in shape,so it symbolizes a wish for long life.

It is also believed that eating Soba will cut misfortune of the previous year and bring good luck in the next year. Soba noodles have no gluten, they can be cut more easily than other noodles.

The other day, I found these in a charity shop’s window. I could not believe my luck.

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I do not expect many to know what they are. Shop keepers had no clue, either. These are serving plates for “Zaru soba” or chilled soba noodles with a dipping sauce. How timely is that?

Usually, Toshikoshi soaba is served hot in a bowl, but there is no rules, and soba can be served hot or cold. My younger son absolutely loves chilled noodles and had it for lunch almost everyday when we visited Japan a few years ago.

Having cold pasta or noodles are not so popular here in the UK. You may think it is rather odd, but it is very tasty.

Recipe: serves three

About 240 g / 2 oz. dried soba noodles
Shredded Nori
Green onions, finely chopped

Dipping sauce
*You need to make it in advance and chill it in a fridge.
You can also buy a ready made sauce at Asian supermarkets.
300ml Dashi stock (can be made from dashi granules available from Asian supermarkets)
100ml Soy sauce
100ml Mirin sweet wine
1/2 tbsp sugar

Instructions

1. Prepare dipping sauce:place all ingredients of the dipping sauce in a sauce pan and gently heat up the mixture. Let it cool and chill it in a fridge.

2. In boiling water in a big pot, add dried Soba noodles and stir. After coming back to a boil, cook for 3-4 minutes (follow the instructions on the package). Drain and wash noodles under running water.

3. Place Soba on plates and top with shredded Roasted Seaweed. Serve with dipping sauce, green onions, and wasabi.

Very simple.

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For my husband and older son, I served it warm with shrimp tempura. Tempura came from a local supermarket. I cheated a bit.

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Since it is just a plate of noodles, you do want side dishes. I cooked soy beans with root vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and seaweed for one of them.

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I don’t cook Japanese New Year’s feast much because ingredients are not easy to get, but we always have noodles on New Year’s Eve.

Happy New Year!

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2016, the year of monkey.

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