Oreo Taco Cookies #SundaySupper

Since samurai times Boy’s Day (now Japanese Children’s Day) is celebrated on May 5 in Japan. After vanquishing the French in 1862, Mexican warriors started the tradition of a great big party on May 5, Cinco de Mayo. Although the reasons for the festivities are different, both holidays honor courage. The French word for heart is coeur. All great warriors know that to engage in battle takes great heart. Festivals are fun. But whilst nibbling, oh, say on an Oreo Taco Cookie and staring at a samurai accouterment, it’s nice to remember why the May 5 holidays began.

So, I’m glad that parades still take place in Puebla, Mexico where the battle victory over the French occurred.  I’m grateful too that in Japan, remnants of the samurai rituals of initiation remain. Kabuto, the crowning helmet of battle armor is displayed in many homes. Koi, carp flags flutter everywhere, symbolizing the brave fish that swim upstream.

Japanese Children’s Day is also about praying for the health of our kidlets...

The Truth About Japanese Animal Cafes

The truth about Japanese animal cafés depends on your philosophy about life. The well being of café critters is a debatable subject. (Employees’ love of their birds, cats, dogs and hedgehogs, however, is uncontested.) Your perception of a café will probably depend on your sensitivity to seeing caged bunnies and clipped-wings birds.
Another truth about Japanese animal cafés: If you’re teaching English out in the countryside, you’ll need to catch a train to Tokyo. Or Osaka. Most if not all the cafés are in cosmopolitan areas.

Café may also be a misleading word in some cases. In some animal cafés vending machines are the source of the coffee or tea. Other places are bonafide afternoon tea spots. (Scroll down to see links to a menagerie of popular animal cafés in Tokyo.)
It’s true that a visit to a Japanese animal café is easier if you know a few words.
Let’s start with the animals.

Sprinkling Sweetness One Cupcake at a Time #TheSprinklesBakingBook #Giveaway

“Life is meant to be sweet,” says The Sprinkles Baking Book author, Candace Nelson. With her coast-to-coast Sprinkles cupcakes franchise, Candace has sweetened the lives of countless customers. Including Disney fans who are familiar with the Sprinkles Cupcakes sold at The Happiest Place on Earth.

Sprinkles Cupcakes opened its doors for the first time in 2005 in Beverly Hills, CA. Sprinkles Ice Cream came along in 2012. Both stores sell delectable cookies. A frequent visitor to the Beverly Hills store, a decision of which cupcake to buy never gets easier. Intensifying the situation is Sprinkle’s chocolate chip cookie. (Peanut butter and oatmeal cookies are also options.)

The fantabulous recipe for the store’s chocolate chip cookie is revealed in The Sprinkles Baking Book. Sprinkles has mastered the art of the soft cookie. I attempted to replicate the deep chocolately chip cookie. The perfection

Power Hitter RICE Dishes and Desserts

Fate has a funny way of dancing us in directions unimagined in childhood. Hiroyuki Igarashi, owner of the popular Manhattan Beach RICE, is an avid baseball fan. From childhood through college he played baseball. A career in sports seemed to be in the cards. However, adult realities and responsibilities appeared during his college years.  In both Tokyo and LA, when he was not studying or on the baseball field, Hiroyuki-san worked at Japanese restaurants. In LA, his passion for serving traditional Japanese dishes was sparked. Inspired by mentors like celebrity sushi chef, Uechi Katsuya...

CourseHorse Gallops into LA #GourmandiseSchool

CourseHorse has galloped into LA! Click on the site. Look up almost any subject and CourseHorse will connect you to a class.  It’s a great way to lean into a dream. Say you want to switch careers. Maybe visions of creating masterpiece cakes keep appearing while analyzing data. Wouldn’t it be nice to throw on an apron over pajamas instead of a 3-piece suit? Still, you suspect stenciling on fondant should be mastered before ditching the secure 401k. CourseHorse to the rescue.

CourseHorse has over 2,000 cooking classes in Los Angeles. Whether it’s better baking skills or producing patisserie store beauties, CourseHorse is a great source. A search for baking on CourseHorse brought up Cakes & Cupcakes offered by the Santa Monica Gourmandise School. Curious, I signed up. Sooo glad I did. Clémence Gossett (a co-owner) and instructor extraordinaire presented...

Tuna and Tomato Bento #SundaySupper

When Japanese TV weather reporters start their cherry blossom forecasts, you know it’s spring. Due to the diversity of temperatures in Japan, the pretty pink petals are spotted at different times. Follow the Parade of Cherry Blossom Festivals and Parties, you’ll see picnics! Who wouldn’t want to enjoy yummy treats under branches laden with pink? Truly it is like fairyland. Parks in Japan turn into magical places.

You want to rush out and enjoy the delights of spring. Tuna and tomato bento boxes are the perfect solution. This Japanese bento is easy to prepare and super-nutritious. Tuna is good for the heart. Thanks to omega-3 fatty acids. Tomatoes are packed with vitamins A, B6, C and K. The best part of tuna and tomato bentos are the deliciousness. Tucked into Japanese rice, the tuna, tomato and a dash of soy sauce tickle the tongue with salty and sweet.

Even if you live in Antarctica, tuna and tomato bento are... 

Easy Japanese Lemon Yuzu Bars #SundaySupper

Entering springtime is like getting to color again with bright lemon and blushing rose crayons. Stark tree branches now blossom with flowers.  It’s a season of hope. 

Perhaps the plethora of lemons used in spring baking, reflects the optimistic moods of recipe makers.  Ironically, winter is the prime time for American lemon and its Japanese citrus cousin, yuzu. Italian lemons (specifically in the Sorrento region) are at their best in spring to late fall.

Whatever the season, I’m confident the Ninja Baker’s Easy Japanese Lemon Yuzu Bars will always...

Betty Watkinson's Cranberry Bread

Magic, mother’s love and memories are wrapped up in Betty Watkinson’s cranberry bread. Betty was my husband, David’s mom. Holidays for David, always involved Betty’s cranberry bread. Betty was a master baker. Every Friday, after school, she’d bake pies and cakes with her mother. (My husband’s grandmother.)

Sadly, soon after I met my mother-in-law, she had a stroke.  Her mind was never the same. But Betty’s heart remained sweet.

On one visit, I popped a quick bread into the oven...

Follow the Parade of Cherry Blossom Festivals and Parties in Japan

Japan springs into party and festival mode with the appearance of cherry blossoms. From mid-March to April’s end, national TV news concludes with a cherry blossom forecast. The climb of the pale petaled wonders from Japan’s subtropical Okinawa to the tippy top island of Hokkaido is announced. (Okinawans start their festivals in late January. Hokkaido farmers typically celebrate in late April or early May.) 

Hirosaki Castle in Aomori hosts their annual famous festival between April 23rd and May 5th. (A hop and a jump across the Tsugaru Strait and you’re in Hokkaido.) Celebrating a centennial of cherry blossom festivals in 2017, the Hirosaki Festival will run until May 7th this year. This is sakura (cherry blossom in Japanese) enchantment at its best. You and the kidlets can row in the castle moat. In the evening, you can cuddle with your spouse as the cherry blossoms are illuminated. (Lights illumine the sakura during Tokyo’s Bokutei Festival, too.) The pale pinks and white petals blanketing Hirosaki Park are impressive, too.  

Speaking of blankets, when sakura appear, Japanese flock ...

Celebrating Community, Childhood and Salt 'n Straw Organic Ice Cream

LA is a city buzzing with hip, slick and cool conversations and people. Imagine entering an ice cream store in LA that feels less like a fashion show and more like a place where friends go to hang out. A spot where scrumptious ice cream flavors evoke childhood. Isn’t it comforting to know that such an ice cream store exists? It’s called Salt & Straw. And there are three locations in Southern California. Kim Malek, the owner of Salt & Straw believed so strongly about creating community via ice cream that she cashed in her 401k, recruited her culinary wizard cousin, Tyler Malek and established Salt & Straw. All ingredients are locally sourced, organic and non-GMO. The ice cream menu changes with the seasons. (Similar to the Japanese aesthetic.) Owner, Kim Malek loves all the Salt & Straw flavors but is particularly fond of the Roasted Strawberry and Toasted White Chocolate. A bestseller year-round is Sea Salt and Caramel Ribbons. Love to hear which Salt & Straw flavor brings you back to the joy of childhood.

純粋な子供の時代をお覚えていますか。特に夏休みが始まってから心の声に従って遊びましたか。又は試験の為に勉強していましたか。何れにしても、アイス・クリームを楽しんだでしょう。皆様が子供の幸せを体験できるようにキム・マレクは貯金を全部注ぎ込み、勇気を出して南カリフォルニアに3つのSalt & Straw(塩&藁)のアイス・クリーム店を開店しました。偶然にアイス・クリーム作りに興味を持つタイラ・マレク(キムさんの従兄)が料理学校から卒業しました。一緒に地元の農家から主材を購入して無農薬のアイス・クリームを作り...