Category Archives: Grains

Millet Muffins

Check out the rice section in your local supermarket in Japan for other grains, and you’re often find zakkoku (雑穀) / kokumotsu (穀物), mixed grains and beans, which often includes millet. Millet is called awa (粟) or kibi (キビ) and is often sold by itself as uruchikibi (うるちキビ ) or mochi kibi (モチキビ).

Millet Muffins @ I'll Make Myself!

This muffin recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day is a great way to try millet, and it’s easy to make in Japan and the US. If you’re in the US, millet can be found with the other grains or the bulk food section. The texture of the muffins is moist and rich, and the millet adds a nice seedy pop to it.

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Kabocha Soba Oyaki

The more I learn about cooking and food culture, the more I’ve become fascinated with cultural concepts of portable foods. As I’ve written before, Japan’s main example is onigiri, rice balls, but in the Shinshû/Nagano region, it’s oyaki, the steamed buns often made with savory fillings and soba-flour dough. Combine oyaki with another one of my favorite foods, kabocha, and you have a delicious, healthy addition to your bento that is easy to make and transport.

Kabocha Soba Oyaki @ I'll Make It Myself!

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Whole-Wheat Ginger-Squash Muffins with Chocolate Chips

One last(?) squash purée recipe for the season!

I live in a country where the only cold cereals available at regular grocery stores (Tokyo Metro, you don’t count) are frosted flakes and cocoa puffs.*  As a result, I’ve learned to make a variety of breakfast foods. I’m actually not sure how I only ended up with one muffin recipe on the blog onsidering the frequency with which we eat them at home. Muffins are the ideal food for the Japanese kitchen: their size means they cook through easily, unlike some quick breads; silicone muffin cups are easy to find; and the infinite variations you can make means you can adapt them to whatever flours (including gluten-free), milk, or seasonal fruit you can find in your area. Plus, they’re just fun to eat.

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Cornbread (Bread Revolution Series)

Are you guys sick of kabocha and kabocha purée yet? I never am*, but let’s change it up a bit today.

My first encounter with a vegetarian cookbook of any sort was my dad’s copy of Anna Thomas‘s The Vegetarian Epicure, a memento of a few months in the ’70s when he dabbled in meatless cooking. I have no recollection of my dad (or my mom) ever using VE for anything but the cornbread recipe that we brought with us to every Thanksgiving dinner. I find vintage (sorry, parents) cookbooks really fascinating from a social-history standpoint, so perhaps I’ll peruse the book again when I’m home next.


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How to Bake Cookies in the Oven Range and Mini Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies Recipe

Food homesickness is the plague of not just expats but those who move from region to region– for example, Homesick Texan is a food blog about recreating Texan/TexMex cuisine in New York. The way the author writes about food memories and the problems recreating beloved foods when you can’t always find ingredients really resonates with me as a foodie and expat.

Last week, one of my friends from language school who has also moved to Japan for work commented that he would kill for a decent oatmeal raisin cookie. Oatmeal is nowhere near as popular as it is in the US, Canada, or the UK, and therefore not on the cookie-ingredient radar. Although you can buy a variety of shelf-stable boxed cookies from domestic and international brands, supermarket bakeries and independent or chain bakeries, usually the source of store-bought oatmeal raisin cookies back home, don’t usually make their own in-house cookies here, either. Cakes and tarts are far more popular as a Western-style dessert.

As for home baking, if you consider the Japanese home kitchen, you’ll see why cookies are considered to have high technical difficulty here. A cake can be poured into a rice-cooker or a pan and generally cooked all at once, but cookies tend to be baked in batches. While a full-size oven can accommodate large cookie sheets, baking about 24 cookies at a time, an oven range, which is about the size of a microwave, can usually only take 6-9 at once, and that’s if they don’t expand.

Luckily for the cookie-lovers of Japan, I’ve spent several years working on cookie recipes that actually work in the oven range. You can adapt many recipes from back home by using these general tips for successful cookie baking in Japan:

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Hot Weather, Cool Kitchen: Overnight Oats

There are two import foods I can’t live without: peanut butter and oats.

Let’s talk about oats–I’ll get to the peanut butter later. Sometimes I buy Quaker Oats in bulk from online import stores; sometimes I buy Alishan or Alara jumbo organic oats at Diamond in Omicho Market; sometimes I get Nisshoku oatmeal from the regular supermarket, though I prefer bigger oats. At any rate, there’s a constant supply of oatmeal in my kitchen, which keeps my cereal-obsessed American self quite happy, especially in the dead of the Hokuriku winter when the morning oatmeal warms the kitchen and dining room.

But what about in summer?

Overnight Oats with banana, cherries, and sliced almonds.

That’s where overnight oats come in! It’s like making cold cereal — requires no heat and barely any effort, just 5 minutes before you go to bed!

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Pasta Pomodoro: The Easiest Pasta

Perhaps “The Easiest Pasta” is a misnomer. Perhaps boiled soba in dipping sauce is actually easier, but when you want a new flavor profile on easy summer pasta–i.e., when you spend all summer eating cold Japanese noodles–this is your recipe.

The ingredients are easy to find in Japan: fresh basil was in the produce section of the largest of my rural grocery stores; pine nuts are often located in the Asian section of the store with the Chinese and Korean spices. As for the cheese, if you can’t find good hard cheese, you could use mozzarella or another mild softer cheese, or Kraft grated cheese, or omit the cheese to make the dish vegan.

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Fit for a Dinner Party: Summer Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

Who needs meat when you have the bounty of summer produce? Today I’m happy to share a recipe I think would be amazing at a dinner party–or simply to make something nice for yourself on a quiet evening at home. Bring out the best in summer tomatoes and eggplants with fresh basil, garlic, and a bit of cheese.

When I first moved to my new place, I spent a lot of time watching Food Network (thanks to Food Network Humor) on my phone while was waiting on my internet to be installed. Ina Garten and her friend Antonia made this amazing-looking eggplant pasta–at least until they added 2 whole pounds of cheese.

Health concerns aside, I don’t even know where you can buy that much cheese in one place in Kanazawa. My policy is that a little flavorful cheese goes a long, long way, and in this recipe, I’ve reduced the amount cheese from 900 g (32 oz., 2 lbs) to 55 grams (1.95 oz, .12 lbs)–that’s a tiny fraction of the original! Japan-dwellers, I will recommend that you go to your nearest gourmet supermarket and get some nice Parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano and some nice mozzarella, because it’s okay to treat yourself to nice cheese in Japan on payday. You have my permission! Hundred-grams blocks are more common and quite affordable if you can spread your cheese usage over several recipes.

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How to Make Good Brown Rice

I live in company housing at my current job, and the rice cooker (suihanki, 炊飯器)belongs to my employer. It was waiting for me when I moved in, and it will remain after my contract ends. It’s a humble 3-cup cooker with only a few settings: white rice (hakumai, 白米); quick-cook (haya-taki, 早炊); cake (kéki, ケーキ), which, as far as I know, just sets the cooker for 40 minutes; and clean (sôji, 掃除). The inside bowl has water marks for white rice and okayu (おかゆ), rice porridge.  People with newer rice-cookers might have a separate brown-rice function (genmai, 玄米), but the truth is that you don’t really need a fancy rice cooker to enjoy your brown rice.

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