It's A Wonderful Life: 5 Magic Keys from the Japanese Tea Ceremony...#BetterWithMissJones Matcha Frosted Lavender Cupcakes

Matcha mania is sweeping the US at the moment. Bon Appetit has recipes for everything from matcha donuts to matcha smoothies and spa day masks! Starbucks has “shaken, not stirred” 007 sexy iced green tea and sensuous matcha lattes. It makes me giggle to see this matcha storm brewing in America.

In Japan, matcha mania is also alive and well. (And has been around for as long as I can remember.) Myriads of yummy cakes, ice creams feature matcha. Treats from the USA including Kit Kats and Oreos also do exquisite tangos with matcha.

However, unlike the en vogue matcha fad in the US, in Japan there is a sedate side of matcha. The Japanese tea ceremony is a sacred and ancient ritual. 

Dive into Pleasure, 5 Skinny Secrets from Japan, #Gluten-Free #Glutino

Ahhhh, the holidays! Bright lights, beautiful presents and big temptations entice this foodie. Growing up in Japan (babyhood to UCLA) allowed me to glean a few secrets to staying skinny. Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. You can enjoy your Christmas cake and eat it too! Even if you’ve got gluten sensitivities, I promise you can still enjoy all the delights of the season. If you select Glutino’s cookies, crackers and pretzels. Or bake something scrumptious with Glutino brownie, bread or cake mixes.

Secret 1:  Never say never. Say yes to what you want!

Have you ever seen a Japanese bento? It’s basically a lunch box with petite, pretty items from each food group.

Never say never. Say yes to what you want! 

Good News from The Ninja Baker

Holidays bring families together, gifts around the Christmas tree and sweet carols. Or candle lighting of the Menorah with loved ones. In Japan, Christmas is typically a commercial holiday; so, Christmas cake appears. (Bestsellers tend to have tons of strawberries, whipped cream and cute chocolates.)

Keeping with the good cheer of the season, I want to share some sweet news.

Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies, #SundaySupper

“If you do not waste, you will never have lack.” (無駄なければ、不足がなし) The Japanese version of “waste not, want not.”

 

Canned pumpkin and chocolate candies are always purchased in abundance. (What’s the point of a stocking if Santa doesn’t deliver chocolates?) So, start the violins…luscious chocolates are the typical “leftovers” from the holidays.  Half cans of pumpkin puree used for pie are also left alone…until today. A challenge was issued from the Sunday Supper Movement: Transform holiday leftovers into divine dishes and desserts. Perhaps I could have made a Japanese okonomiyaki pancake with the pumpkin. But I prefer dessert. A chocolate one. So I skipped with my fingers over the computer keyboard to Cookies & Cups. (A magical cookie, chocolate and other kid-friendly food kingdom ruled by Shelly Jaronsky.) Sure enough, a pumpkin brownie recipe quickly appeared. I was encouraged to read that although the taste was slightly different, her children loved the brownies. Her recipe required only 2 ingredients. Wonderful, right? 

A Mother's Love, Miracles and The Breakaway Bakery

A mother’s love for her daughters miraculously saved her own life.  Exhausted and without energy, Janice Lavine continued to care for her children. Including trips to the doctor. When one daughter was given a list of allergies and foods to avoid, Janice kept her company. She joined in on the restricted regime.  Janice suddenly found the prescribed gluten-free, dairy free, soy free, nut free diet working for her. However, another child missed mother-daughter sweets time. Janice headed to the kitchen. With her daughters in mind, she tailored traditional treats for the allergy sensitive crowd.

ブレークアウェイ・ベーカリーは、アレルギーの娘のため、そしてもう1人の健康な娘も一緒に楽しめるように、オーナーである母(Janice Lavineさん)が作った奇跡のスイーツの店です。彼女は自分の健康が良くなくても娘のために長年頑張っておられました。Janiceさんは1人の娘のためにヴィーガンの生活を始めてから幸いに自分の健康が戻ってきました。全部のクッキーは手作りなのでずいぶん時間がかかりますがお客様はこんな美味しいヴィーガンなお菓子はロサンゼルスの他の店では手に入いらないのでJaniceさんにとても感謝しております。

Japanese Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes, #SundaySupper

Clap your hands if you believe in fairies! Sugar Plum fairies from The Nutcracker!  Ballet in Japan is a big after-school activity. Many Japanese moms chauffeur or take trains with their ballerina princesses to class. So, The Nutcracker is a familiar figure on stage and in stores at Christmas time in Japan.

Need a Nutcracker ballet refresher?  In a nutshell (tee hee): Toys around the Christmas tree come alive at midnight. Including young Clara’s beloved Nutcracker. He leads his soldiers against the Mouse King and his thugs. The Nutcracker fights valiantly but is captured. All is lost…until Clara zonks the Mouse King on the head with a slipper. The Nutcracker turns into a prince. He rewards Clara with a trip to the Land of Snow and Land of Sweets.

Miso Glazed Corn, #SundaySupper

Once Upon a Time in the faraway land of Japan, families made their own miso.  Soybeans and sea salts were tossed in with rice. Barley and wheat were used to make miso, too. (Rice was pretty pricey for a few centuries.) Japanese koji (fermented cooked rice and soybeans) was key to the storage of miso during snowy winters in the olden days. (Way before refrigeration and supermarkets.)

Each home had their unique take and flavor of miso. A family with blooming Japanese yuzu trees, tossed in the citrus fruit to their miso. The Imperial Palace served only hatcho miso during the Meiji Period. Why? Emperor Meiji insisted on hatcho miso from Okazaki, Japan. Ironically, Okazaki was the hometown of Ieyasu Tokugawa – the Shogun – whose family ruled Japan for 200 years. And just happened to precede the Meiji Period.

Fast forward to the New Millennium: More than just the local miso is available at the supermarket. For a soupcon taste of miso from all over Japan, visit Mankyu Misoten in Asakusa. The store has sold miso since 1804. (Tokyo’s oldest temple – Sensoji – is also found in Asakusa. And so are tons of tourists!)

Pumpkin Chocolate Cake, #SundaySupper

Halloween is now a booming business in Japan. Like Christmas, the sweets shops concoct cute treats for the holiday. The holiday is strictly commercial. Halloween costume parties (and Christmas parties) are ever popular. Still, it’s just a reason to celebrate and have a good time.

There is no trick or treating on Halloween. Growing up in Tokyo, my friends and I would trick or treat in “gaijin” (foreign) compounds. The lucky kids were those who had connections on to the US military bases. They were the kids who got real American candy from the States.

Some Japanese children are aware of the American tradition. One of my Japanese friends teaches English to children in Southern Japan. Her students asked if they’d get Halloween candy on October 31st. Her answer was an emphatic no. “This is Japan.”

Under the Tuscan Sun, Lemony Honey Lavender Glazed Japanese Yuzu Cake

Under the Tuscan Sun, 20th Anniversary Edition, Lemony Honey Lavender Glazed Japanese Yuzu Cake

Anniversaries bring reflection and hopefully celebration. Reading Frances Mayes’20th birthday edition of Under the Tuscan Sun delivered both reflection and celebration to this reader. Long before Under the Tuscan Sun was a blockbuster movie; I picked up the first edition of the book. Journeying with Mayes the first time was wonderful.  Her poetic sentences in a prose book inspired me. As did the Italian people, recipes and landscapes Mayes encountered. The second read brought a deeper sense of wonderment as I lingered on each page Under the Tuscan Sun.

The first edition of Under the Tuscan Sun came out during the pre-iPhone era. Still, the spirit of the book holds steady in any age. Two decades after the original publication, the symbology of finding home and restoration is significant for many of us. The young Frances Mayes describes her post-divorce, new life and home restoration in Italy. She delves into dreams of angels and longings. Scorpions are (literally) cleared from her home.  Mayes contemplates the influences of her Southern upbringing.  Then, eloquently elaborates on the similarities between her Tuscany villa and her Southern home...

Move Over Limoncello Japanese Yuzu Cheesecake

Yuzu is the elixir sought after by Japanese cuisine maestros. Like lemon, the Japanese citrus, brightens any savory or sweet. Just in case you’ve not been introduced, yuzu is the citrus cousin of lemon and lime. Yuzu produces a bigger pucker. Containers of yuzu juice line the pantries of home cooks to gourmet chefs in Japan. Yuzu liqueur is pretty spectacular, too. Think Limoncello. Just better. To quote the husband: “It’s just like spiked lemonade!”

Yuzu liqueur combined with cream cheese, tofu, custard powder and Cool Whip, a smooth dance of sweet and tart ensues. When poured on top of a Japanese Pocky crust, a cheesecake dessert diva is born.

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