Ninja Diary, The Royal Antidote for the Blues

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hyms at heaven’s gate
-Sonnet 29, William Shakespeare

In the midst of blessings, sometimes the blues come a-calling. But then I remember my heroes...

Emperor Meiji of Japan (1852-1912) was the ultimate multitasker. He cast aside criticism. He persevered in propelling Japan in a positive direction. After 200 years of isolation, the Tokugawa shogunate (feudal lord system) was toppled and the island opened its ports. Samurai grieved their loss of jobs and status. The West demanded deals that put Japanese at a poor advantage. Wildfire arguments about the country’s future raged across Japan.

Powerful Peppermint Magic in Japan and in Chocolate Cupcakes

Ancient Japanese knew the secrets of peppermint. (The miracles of chocolate and cupcakes came to Japan a few centuries later.) Alongside their Egyptian counterparts Japanese healers were prescribing peppermint for digestive and respiratory issues. Toothaches and headaches were also cured with the perfect mint. The current interest in the natural medicines has put the restorative qualities of peppermint back in the spotlight. (Aromatherapy is huge in Santa Monica. Is it popular in your neighborhood, too?) By the way, peppermint oil is packed with omega 3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, Vitamins A and C.

Ninja Note: Japanese mint is sharper than North American mint. If using peppermint essential oil for health or baking, a drop or two can be potent. (I speak experience. Trays of goodies away have been tossed thanks to my generous dousing of essential oils.)

Chocolate, another magical elixir, was allegedly introduced to Japan by the Dutch in the late 1700s

Amazing Twists on Traditional Tea, Shuhari Matcha Cafe

Centuries of traditional Japanese tea craft mingle with modern treats at Shuhari Matcha Café. Japanese high-quality tea ceremony matcha is whisked and served. Just like the kind that is served by kimono-clad beauties in Kyoto. However, the café also adds creative twists on classic Japanese and American comfort foods. Coconut milk swirls in steaming matcha lattes, cornflakes garnish green tea sundaes and matcha powder speckles balsamic glazed strawberry bread rolls.

ヴェニス(Venice)のおしゃれなAbbot Kinney Blvd守破離(Shuhari)抹茶カフェは観光客を見ながら日本から毎月輸入された前田園(Maeda-en)の抹茶を 楽しめます。 守破離とは、日本の茶道、武道、芸術における師弟関係のあり方の一つだそうです。そのために日本の伝統的な材料を西洋人の好みに合わせて主に抹茶を使った飲み物、さらに、モダンなおにぎりやバーガーやスイーツを提供しているカフェです。このカフェでは、日本の茶道のお点前を体験することができ、

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!)