After re-evaluating my goals with this blog, I've opted to make these posts whenever I have something worthwhile to share, not necessarily every day.  This should bring up the overall quality of the photos here.  I hope you enjoy!

Today I decided to make something for myself. The odd thing is, once the truffles were done, I didn't like the richness of the chocolate. Oh well, white chocolate next time. This jacket with the wings is also one of my favorite jackets.
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Today's cooking school project was berry cheese tartlets. They're filled with mixed berry jam and lemon cream cheese.  The dough was very brioche-like, sweet and buttery.
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On this lovely Sunday kitchen experimentation was on the docket.  This is similar to hummus, but uses white beans and soft tofu instead of chick peas and tahini.  It's easier to find those in Japan, so I figured it was worth a try.  Whip them up in the blender with some lemon juice, olive/sesame oil and cumin or whatever spices you like and it's delicious.  I like eating it with some homemade carrot sticks. Fun fact: baby carrots aren't really sold in Japan.

What kinds of dips do you like to make?
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Today I decided to try out a macrobiotic place in Isetan in Shinjuku, called Chaya.  This little plate cost almost ¥2000 ($20), so it wasn't cheap, and it tasted oilier than I would have liked.  The service wasn't particularly fast and it also fell victim to the classic Japanese problem of not being able to cater to true vegetarians very well because most dishes contained fish.  It did taste okay though, but I wouldn't go again unless I was going on a day with unlimited lunch time.  It's certainly not a place to go during a limited lunch hour.
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My cooking school has seasonal bread and cake classes you can take (no cake in spring or summer this year, owing to heat), and this is the final of the three spring bread classes I decided to take. It's like a cinnamon roll made with Earl Grey Tea instead of cinnamon. Interesting, to say the least. They're quite delicious, although I suspect they will get dry pretty quickly. That just means I'll have to eat them quickly or give them away!
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Okay, this is the last photo of these bushes this season, I promise. It's just that they're EVERYWHERE and rather photogenic. Okay, okay, say goodbye to the mystery bush. I'll try not to photograph them anymore.
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After discovering that I have way too much peanut butter in my pantry, I got an intense craving for something infused with peanut butter. Honestly, I never thought I'd say too much peanut butter, but there it is. Anyway, adding a quarter cup of peanut butter to your favorite biscuit recipe (add a little more milk/soy milk to keep the right consistency or you'll end up with bricks) and you've got some lovely peanut butter treats. Try them with jelly to have PB&J biscuits at breakfast.

Note: If *anyone* if your family has a peanut allergy, children under 3 shouldn't have peanuts or peanut products. Otherwise, kids can have peanut butter from 1, although I'd still recommend waiting until 3 years just in case.
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After my successful tuna nigiri experiment, I thought I'd try my hand at some more varied sashimi. The main reason was the quality of my sushi rice, which I still haven't got quite right, but there was also a nice pack of fish at the shop. Sometimes I can't resist.
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Happy one-year anniversary to this blog! I now have over a year of photos for you to ignore. But if you'd like, please have a look through them. :o)

My Persian roots show through sometimes, and this may be one of those times. Here are some large figs from a random fruit stand baked with crumbled feta. No salt, no other seasonings necessary.  Although it might be a good idea to drizzle a little honey on top to counter the brine in the feta and the tartness of the figs.

I'm rather amused by the end result, though, because it looks like a carnivorous flower to me.  Still, it was quite tasty.

Recipe (per serving):

1 large, round fig preferably not a black fig, although any will do
2-3 tbsp cubed feta
1 tsp honey (optional)

Wash the figs and pat dry.  Stand them upright in a baking pan and cut an X in the top, about halfway down each fig. Open the tops slightly.

Press the cubed feta into the figs, spreading the fruit to make room. Crumble some of the feta to cover the flesh of the fruit.

Bake at 375 (180) for about 10 minutes, or until the feta is melting.  Heavily brined feta may not melt or brown well, so keep an eye on the figs as well.

If desired, drizzle some honey over the top of the feta before serving.

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Today I tried to think up ways to use up some things in my fridge. Incidentally, I decided to try to make a shake out of the yuba, but it needed some flavoring. Enter fresh strawberries. Mix with a little honey and voila, smoothie.

Although I wish I kept ice in my freezer to make things a little less dense. It wasn't until recently I began appreciating the use of ice in smoothies. Before I only had poorly-made restaurant smoothies with large chunks of ice. Anyway, I know better now.

Recipe (1 smoothie):

1 small block soft tofu or yuba (tofu skin)
1/4 c soy milk
4-5 strawberries, rinsed then husked
1 tbsp your favorite honey
ice as desired

Toss the yuba and soy milk in the blender, blending until creamy. If it's not thin enough add more soy milk to desired consistency.

Add the strawberries and honey and blend again.

Add ice until desired thickness.

The more ice and soy milk you add, the more this recipe will yield. If you like lots of ice, be sure to have a friend to share with.
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Today I found an interesting fruit stand in Machida. They sell discounted fruit that are ripe NOW. Not overripe or anything, but you don't want to leave them sitting around. I managed to get four huge mangoes for ¥1000, which I found very exciting.

Almost as exciting was cutting them like Moo Cow taught me to last year.
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Even though it's May, cherry blossoms are still on everyone's minds. Today in cooking class we made cherry blossom cream to go in this bread. Once I leave Japan I will be on an eternal hunt for the liqueur in the US and Canada...
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My stepmom used to keep two types of purple clematis in the front flower box in Michigan. She kept trellises for them to climb. They never filled out the trellises but I still remember the flower. Apparently there are over 300 varieties. And from the many clematis I've seen in Japan, they're all over the world too.
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This flower caught my attention from across a parking lot while waiting for my bus. It never ceases to amaze me how bright the coloring of flowers is in Japan. I wonder if it's the volcanic soil...?
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While I'm not particularly partial to these flowers, it's nice how the bushes are completely covered in blossoms for almost an entire month. The varieties range from pinks, purples and reds to pure white and everything in between. They're a nice background for spring, although I don't know if I would consider planting them in my yard, since they're so common here.
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Carp streamers are typical decorations seen leading up to Boys' Day (more recently called Children's Day). When the wind blows it looks like the carp are swimming upriver, which is a sign of a strong fish. Families should get a carp streamer for each boy (now, child) to hope for children to grow up strong. Many families buy new streamers every year. This is partly because new things are seen as better in Japan and partly because nobody has space to store things with such small living spaces.

Of course, like many Japanese cultural points, the celebration is rooted in Chinese culture, but the commercial aspect is purely Japanese.
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The Japanese love playing on words. The area of Tokyo I live in is called Ikebukuro. There is a distinct owl theme to the area, mainly because owl in Japanese is fukurou. Of course, they couldn't pass up the chance to have "IkeFukurou" everywhere. I guess it's okay; it makes shopping for my owl-loving family easier.
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My friend and I went for Dim Sum. Technically called Yumcha when eaten with tea, it is popular in Hong Kong to eat Dim Sum for breakfast. We found an all-you-can-eat place in Ikebukuro and ate for three or four hours. Of course, they messed up the order, which is why we were able to stay so long. It was decent, although not the best and I'm not sure I'd go again. True to the Chinese reputation in Ikebukuro, we found a dead fly in one of our glasses.

But these little mouse dumplings were adorable. The warm custard inside wasn't bad either.
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Irises are one of my favorite flowers. The sheer number of varieties is spectacular.
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It's no secret I love to cook. Food in Japan is amazing but once in a while I want a taste of home. This pasta bake was an experiment in using food steamers instead of the stove. As a resounding success, this may be helpful in the hot months of summer...
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