Now that it’s fall, I’m craving the taste of cinnamon. Snickerdoodles are Dustin’s favorite cookie. Since today was his first day at his new job (YEA!) I decided to make these to congratulate him! It’s also important to note that these are the first cookies that I’ve baked in my new kitchen in Santa Cruz, using my wedding gift bowls, cookie sheets, and utensils! And you may remember my little Japanese oven from before. Now I’m almost overwhelmed by the size of American ovens!

(From an old Holiday Martha Stewart Magazine that’s been laying around – except I always use salted butter)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 2 TBS. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in eggs one at a time. Gradually add the flour mixture.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 TBS. sugar and the cinnamon.
  • Shape dough into 1-inch balls, and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.
  • Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden.

    Hi Jonas!  🙂

    New Beginnings

    We’ve made it back to Santa Cruz and would like to introduce Jonas, the newest member of our family at only 3 months old. We adopted him from the SPCA a few days ago.

    Soon we will be back with more recipes and food-related posts. In the meantime, we’re scurrying around trying to organize everything in our new house. So check back soon!

    Something Like Tom Kha Gai

    We definitely can’t claim that this is the traditional way to make the famous Thai soup, but we enjoyed the challenge of creating something that tastes pretty close, using the ingredients that were available to us in Japan. This recipe serves 2 with enough for seconds. On a side note, it’s been snowing all day and covering the ground! This is the first time we’ve seen snow like this since moving to Osaka, so we’re thrilled and so is Arius.

    2 TBS. canola oil
    2 small shallots, chopped
    3 dried chillies, thinly sliced (or more if you like)
    1 TBS. fresh ginger, minced
    1 14 oz. can coconut milk
    1 bullion cube (we used chicken) dissolved into 1 cup hot water (or 1 cup stock)
    6 lemon grass leaves (we bought some that were already trimmed, but we sliced them a few times to bring out the flavor)
    a handful of button mushrooms, sliced
    1 TBS. fish sauce
    juice of half a lime, the other half sliced
    2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces
    4 green onions, sliced

    • In a pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the shallot, and chilli and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant and shallot is soft.
    • Add the ginger and cook for a few minutes more.
    • Add the stock, coconut milk, lemon grass, mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice and a few lime slices, and bring to a gentle boil. Add the chicken pieces, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
    • Remove lime slices from pot. Divide soup among 2 bowls, garnish with sliced green onion and serve with steamed white rice and extra lime on the side.

    Feliz Navidad: Mexican Pizzas and Christmas Tree Decorating

    There’s nothing tricky about making these. Eating something far different from stuffing and mashed potatoes was the goal here. At home my Mom makes turkey enchiladas the day after Thanksgiving, and we eat them in the same room as our decorated Christmas tree that we’d cut down earlier that day. Since we couldn’t find a Thanksgiving turkey in Japan, I thought we should still eat something “Mexican,” so as not to completely break tradition. This recipe makes two Mexican pizzas, and they’re way better than the ones you get at Taco Bell (not to damn them with faint praise).

    The sauce we made for our Mexican pizzas was similar to our enchilada sauce recipe, but without the tomatoes.

    Mexican Pizzas

    Vegetable oil (2 TBS. + more for frying the tortillas)
    Chili powder
    Garlic Powder
    Onion Powder
    Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
    a couple splashes of chicken broth (or water)
    4 corn or flour tortillas
    1 lb. ground beef (or turkey)
    1 package taco seasoning (or your favorite seasoning blend)
    1 14-oz. can refried beans
    Toppings: Shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, diced onions, chopped lettuce,  sour cream

    • Heat about 2 TBS. of vegetable oil in a pan. Then add 1 TBS. of flour and a bunch of spices — lots of chili powder (add to taste), a few shakes of cumin, garlic powder, dried onion, salt and pepper — and whisk everything together until the sauce thickens and is fragrant. Add a little chicken broth (or you could use water) to lighten it up. Taste and adjust seasonings until it’s perfect for you. Set aside. (You can also use your favorite store-bought enchilada sauce if prefer to make this meal even easier!)
    • Preheat your broiler.
    • Fry corn or flour tortillas in vegetable oil on both sides until crispy. Drain on paper towels and place two of them on a baking sheet in a single layer.
    • Brown 1 lb. of ground beef in a pan and add water and taco seasoning (or your own blend) according to package directions. While it’s simmering, heat up a can of refried beans.
    • Spread a thin layer of beans on top of each tortilla on your baking sheet. Top with some taco meat (you won’t need all of it – save for another use). Cover with your remaining 2 tortillas and liberally spoon the enchilada sauce on top of the two Mexican pizzas. Sprinkle with lots of shredded cheese, fresh tomatoes and chopped onions.
    • Broil for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted and lovely. Slice your Mexican pizzas into quarters. Before serving, scatter some chopped lettuce on top, and a dollop of sour cream (if desired).

    Arius enjoyed the process of stringing lights on the tree.

    And here’s the finished product. Not too bad for a fake tree, huh?

    "American Taste" Lemon Bars

    Last year we threw together a Friday-night English Coffee House event at our church for all of our English students. They enjoyed listening to some live music, mingling and conversing (in Japanese, as much as we had hoped that they might want to take advantage of the English-theme of the night) while drinking freshly brewed coffee and eating these lemon bars. Several students less-than-fluently exclaimed, “This have American taste! Oishii!” I’ll take that as a compliment. This recipe has never let us down with its buttery shortbread bottom and tangy lemony top. It comes from the cookbook Gourmet’s Casual Entertaining.

    First, make the shortbread base:

    1 1/2 sticks (170g) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    2 cups flour
    1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
    1/2 tsp. salt

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C). Process all ingredients in a food processor (I don’t have one, so I just picked up the bits of butter, and rubbed them with the flour between my fingers) until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle into a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan and press evenly onto bottom with a metal spatula. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes.
    • While the shortbread is baking, prepare the lemon topping:

    4 large eggs
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
    1/3 cup flour

    • Whisk together eggs and sugar in a bowl, then stir in lemon juice and flour.
    • Pour lemon topping over hot shortbread when it comes out of the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees (150 C) and bake in middle of oven until set, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars.
    • Sift confectioners sugar over bars before serving. These can keep for 3 days, covered and chilled.

    I’ll leave you with a current picture of Arius …

    Moroccan Chickpea Chili for a Japanese Halloween

    Can we get any more multi-cultural? I don’t think so. So, Halloween in Japan: No trick-or-treaters can be found, and if you’re lucky enough to find a pumpkin that’s big enough to carve, it will cost you the equivalent of 40 US dollars or more. But at least the stores have plenty of festive decorations up. And one of my students (a 6-year-old boy who recently came back to Japan after living in America for a year) showed up to English class dressed in a pirate costume and gave me a bag of candy. That was the highlight of my day. That and this delicious chili from Cooking Light. My mom always makes chili on Halloween, so I thought I’d do something similar on this side of the Pacific. We halved the recipe, but left the measurements for the spices the same (an accident, but the chili tasted delicious!) The recipe below is with our alterations. (Our grocery store doesn’t have tomato paste or cilantro, so we had to omit them).

    2 tsp. olive oil
    1/2 onion, chopped
    1/2 cup celery, chopped
    1/2 carrot, peeled and chopped
    1 clove of garlic, minced
    2 tsp. ground cumin
    2 tsp. paprika
    1 tsp. ground ginger
    1/2 tsp. tumeric
    1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/8 tsp. chili pepper
    3/4 cup water
    1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
    1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
    1 TBS. no-salt-added tomato paste
    1/2 TBS. fresh lemon juice
    1 TBS. chopped fresh cilantro

    • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to pan. Saute 5 min.
    • Stir in cumin and next 7 ingredients (through chili pepper). Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
    • Add water, tomato paste, chickpeas, and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
    • Stir in cilantro and lemon juice. Serves 2.

    We caught Arius in the act of stealing a soup spoon.

    And here’s my dog Faith back at home looking festive! Happy Halloween!

    Crisp Salmon with the Kitten’s Parsley & Lemony Potato “Chips”

    Japan isn’t really known for its wide open spaces, and our balcony is no exception. Nonetheless, it’s our only place to enjoy the fresh (?) city air. So we recently cleaned out the junk that was being stored there by the last tenants, bought some planters, and plated some herbs — basil, parsley, and sage — as well as some other pretty flowering plants. Now our little balcony is much more welcoming and a good place to enjoy a beer on a warm evening (what’s left of them in October, that is — warm evenings, not beer)

    Unfortunately (and for no apparent reason), the location of the parsley plant is Arius’ favorite place to curl up and take a nap. I’ve managed to salvage most of the leaves, but I think it’s been sit on one too many times. He hasn’t touched the basil though. It’s grown about a foot in a week!

    Crisp Salmon

    (adapted from Cooking Light):

    2 salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
    1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
    1/2 tsp. instant minced onion
    (I used garlic powder instead)
    1/2 tsp. dried oregano
    1/4 tsp. paprika
    1/4 tsp. pepper
    1/4 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. olive oil
    fresh parsley, stolen from the cat, washed, and chopped for garnish

    • Combine panko, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, and pepper in a shallow bowl (I didn’t measure the spices; just did a few shakes of each).
    • Sprinkle salmon fillets with salt, then dredge in panko mixture.
    • Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon to pan and fry until outside is light brown and crispy, and inside is done (a few minutes per side).
    • Garnish with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

    Lemony Potato “Chips”

    2 medium potatoes, cut into slices
    olive oil to coat bottom of pan
    1 small clove of garlic, chopped
    salt & pepper

    fresh lemon juice

    • Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until just starting to turn golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
    • Add the sliced potatoes (in a single layer, in 2 batches if necessary), and fry until potatoes are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, turning once