When I was growing up, little to no emphasis was put on seasonal foods. When I moved to Japan, the lack of apple cider, caramel apples, elephant ears and even candy canes stood out in my mind against the Japanese seasonal advertising.  Now that I'm in Canada, the lack of readily-available Japanese seasonal foods is saddening, but not a huge problem.

Different from the orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins we're all familiar with, kabocha (かぼちゃ - Japanese pumpkin) are small, have dark green skin and taste mildly sweet when ripe. Kabocha soup is an autumn staple in Japan, served alongside everything from salads to fried rice.

To make your own, find a kabocha at the market.  They're becoming more common in everyday grocery stores and are usually fresh with the squash in the produce section.  Try to find a good-sized one, about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter.  You'll only need half for the recipe, so if you can only find smaller ones, that's fine too.

かぼちゃスープ Kabocha Soup
1/2 kabocha, seeds removed (save the seeds for toasting!)
1/2 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
2 chicken bullion cubes
2 cups water
1 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste (optional)

Wrap the cut end of the kabocha with plastic wrap and heat it in the microwave for four minutes, wrap-side down. Carefully (it's hot!!!) remove the green skin and slice the kabocha thinly.  Discard the skins or reserve for composting.  Heat the butter or margarine in a pan and sauté the onions on medium-high heat until they begin to soften.  Before the onions begin to brown, add the kabocha and sauté just until kabocha begins browning, being careful to avoid burning the onions.  Add the chicken bullion and water and simmer until kabocha is softened (it looks darker when it's cooked).  Use an immersion blender or food processor to purée the soup, then return to the pan.  Stir in the milk and add pepper and/or salt to taste.

Personally, I don't add any salt or pepper, but your tastes may differ.  Sometimes I also put a spring of parsley on top for color.  The swirl on top in the photo is milk drizzled from a spoon.
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Moo Cow loves lemon meringue pie, so today's experiment was in making mini versions that look like cupcakes.  The lemon curd and meringue turned out super tasty, but the chocolate biscuit base was a bit bitter for our tastes.  The meringue was also a little overwhipped and it cracked, but it still tasted divine.
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Today we went to the Toronto Zoo, and this frog seriously had me thinking he was going to hunt me down in my sleep...so instead of just a photo, here's a meme.  It's unorthodox, but that's okay, you can ignore it if you like.

Just remember, he will hunt you down.
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I have always loved biscotti.  They're the adult version of cookies and milk (don't tell anyone, I still eat cookies and milk too!).  Like cookies, they can be made in almost any flavor and can be dipped in a variety of things or left plain.  These are chocolate-orange and cranberry biscotti.
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One of the things I hate in this world is coffee.  It smells great and tastes like plumbing.  Bitter plumbing.  Anyway, for those who do like coffee, these buns are pretty little mocha twists with almonds on top.  I'm going to try substituting green tea powder or even black tea for the mocha next time.
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After making the Limone, it got me thinking how I could vary the recipe to make similar filled breads.  I thought about making curry bread and other things, but just wasn't feeling it.  Sweet bread it is.  Here's a cute, little strawberry milk bun, with creamy insides and fresh strawberry slices on top.
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For some reason Japan thinks of Italy when it's summer.  The summer-themed breads at my school are all Italian-inspired this time around.  These lemon cream-filled buns aren't Italian in my opinion, but they are good. The #1 producer of lemons is currently India, where they are thought to have originated.  Italy is #10, but they were first introduced to Europe through southern Italy.  Maybe they were thinking lemon granita!  Anyway, this recipe was exceptionally interesting because it's my first truly filled bun.  This has so many possibilities!

See a variation inspired by this recipe here.
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