Tropical Punch Green Smoothie

So this morning, I was making a smoothie for breakfast, when I realized that I was out of avocados. Oh no! What would give my smoothie that nice creamy texture? I improvised a bit, and when I finished blending it up and took a sip – wow! This smoothie tasted like tropical punch. Not too shabby.

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Tropical Punch Green Smoothie
1 c fresh spinach (you could probably sub other leafy greens here, but bitter greens like kale or chard would change the flavor)
1/2 frozen banana
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 kiwi
juice from 1 lime
1/2 c coconut water
1/2 c coconut milk
ice cubes, to taste

Blend everything except for the ice cubes until very smooth. Throw in the ice cubes and blend to desired texture. Slurp with happiness!

Love, peace, and vitamins & minerals,
Sumiko

September in Utah is Awesome: A List

September in Utah is awesome. Even though it’s a bit on the hot side this week, there are plenty of things to make up for it.

One: The SLC Fall Farmer’s Market is open on Tuesdays, and there are SO. MANY. PEACHES.

There are Angeles peaches. These gorgeous things have a beautiful red heart, and they are so bold and so scrumptious I can’t even stand it.

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And there are Lemon Elberta peaches. If you’ve never had a Lemon Elberta peach, I am so, so sorry. Because thees peaches are quite plainly the most delectable thing on the planet, and they are only here for two or three precious, rare, golden weeks of late summer and early fall. They are so delicate, so light, so juicy, and so sweetly tangy that it’s impossible to believe even if you are eating one. I’m in love with Lemon Elbertas.

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Peaches also remind me of the story of Momotaro, which my mama used to read to me when I was little. Momotaro was a boy who came to an elderly couple who were unable to have children, and he floated to them down the river in a peach.

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Two: Speaking of good stories, my mama’s birthday is in September! That’s definitely something good in Utah. If you don’t already know how amazing my mama is, you can hear about why she’s a total badass and why I’m super-duper glad that we got to celebrate this birthday with her.

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Three: The only herb I grew in my garden (okay, my weed-patch) this summer was basil. But you know what? Basil’s all I need. Exhibit A:

 

 

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Four: sunflowers. They’re everywhere, man. How can you see a sunflower and not be happy about it?

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Love, peace, and September happiness,
Sumiko

 

Happy December!

Yay, it’s December! Snow on the ground…horrible inversion in the air…and delicious smells emanating from my kitchen. Like these gorgeous things, this morning! I was inspired by some truly incredible pumpkin waffles I’d eaten at the Tin Roof Grill‘s Sunday brunch last weekend. And conveniently, I happened to have some pumpkin puree just languishing away in the pantry. Okay, it wasn’t languishing. I’d bought it because I like all things pumpkin when it’s cold outside.

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Anyway, I don’t often post recipes here, but since this is one of those rare moments where something that I thought, “What the hell, let’s wing it!” worked out pretty well, I figured I’d go for it today. I’m not really much for measuring in the kitchen, but since consistency is important for waffle batter, I took a pancake recipe and tweaked it a bit. Okay, a lot. But I used the same amount of flour that the pancake recipe called for, which ought to count for something. Anyway, here it is!

Pumpkin Spice Waffles
3 eggs
1.5 c pumpkin puree
.5 c Greek yogurt
1 c milk
2 c flour
1 tbsp baking powder
cinnamon
cloves
ginger
nutmeg
allspice

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, yogurt, and milk. Don’t be like me and whisk so hard that you spill it over the edges of the bowl, though. That’s a bummer.

Add in the flour, baking powder, and spices (all to taste – I just kind of dumped them in the bowl, heavy on the cinnamon as usual!). Stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is lump-free.

Stick dollops of the batter onto a smoking hot waffle iron, and waffle the hell outta them. Enjoy!

Love, peace, and waffles for all of humankind,
Sumiko

P.S. I topped my waffles with homemade whipped cream, which is ten times yummier than the storebought kind, and some hot spiced apple compote. To make the compote, just chop up some apples (I always leave the skin on, because I’m lazy, and I like it better that way). Then melt a bunch o’ butter in a frying pan until it’s all bubbly and gorgeous. Throw in the apples, and some cinnamon and ginger. Maybe a little spoonful of brown sugar, too. Let it get all caramelly and beautiful, and stir it occasionally so the apples don’t burn. This magical concoction is also a wonderful dessert, served over vanilla bean ice cream.

Fresh Pasta and Theories on Life, Happiness, and Inner Peace

I have quite a few theories on life, happiness and inner peace. One of them goes like this: “The secret to life, happiness, and inner peace is using fresh pasta instead of dried pasta.” There are a few things that really lend themselves to fresh pasta, one of which is chicken noodle soup. This is a quick overview of the steps to making fresh egg pasta!

You will need: 2 cups of flour and four eggs. A food processor is handy if you’ve got one, but you can also do this by hand. It’s much messier that way though.

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Measure two even cups of flour.

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Add in some salt. Measuring is optional! Just not a giant ton of salt.

 

 

 

 

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Pulse a couple of times until the salt and flour are nice and evenly mixed.

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Add the four eggs…

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…and pulse until the dough starts to form a ball. If you want to, you can put in fresh chopped herbs, spinach, tomatoes, or whatever!

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Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple of times.

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Using the heaviest rolling pin available (marble is the best!), roll out the dough into a thin sheet, flipping over as needed. Add more flour if the dough starts to stick to the counter.

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When you can see the outline of your hand through the dough, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s thin enough.

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Use a pizza cutter and slice it into whatever size and shape you want! For chicken noodle soup I like this shape. But you can also do long fettuccine-shaped noodles, or use this pasta dough to make tortellini or ravioli.

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Ta-daaa! Fresh pasta. Seriously…once you have fresh pasta (which really only takes about five minutes to make) you’ll wonder how you ever managed to eat the dried stuff. It’s life-changing.

Love, peace, and fresh cooking,
Sumiko

 

 

 

A Gratuitously Food-Related Post

Since school started, I feel ever so slightly guilty about not coming up with very thoughtful blog posts which represent a more scholarly and professional ethos. But since I’ve been doing homework since 9 am this morning (minus four hours for a date) here is the titular food post!

Homemade yogurt is completely rocking my world right now. It requires much less thought than my homework and causes much less anxiety than the final papers I know will be due before I know it. It’s so easy I can’t believe it. And sometimes a person just needs something easy, you know?

Here’s how to try it out.

  1. Get some milk…if you want fat-free yogurt, start with skim milk. If you enjoy a slightly richer tasting yogurt, go for 1% or 2%, or if you’re feeling particularly bold, whole milk.
  2. Stick it in a pan and bring it to a boil, or put it in a microwaveable dish and zap it until it’s about 175 Fahrenheit. I use a cheap-o candy thermometer for this.
  3. Transfer the hot milk to a ceramic or stoneware dish (not metal!) and let it cool to between 110 and 120 Fahrenheit.
  4.  Whisk in a couple of tablespoons of yogurt containing live & active cultures. For half a gallon of milk, I use four tablespoons. I like Mountain High, or Dannon, or Stonyfield for starters. Just make sure it’s plain – a flavored yogurt will mess it up!
  5. Cover the dish and put it somewhere reasonably warm for 6 – 12 hours. Leave it completely alone!
  6. Uncover your dish and discover the magically created yogurt, thank the lovely little bacteria that did all the hard work for you, and stick the yogurt in the fridge to stop the yogurtization process. I think I may have just made that word up.
  7. Eat the yogurt.
  8. Alternatively, you can strain the yogurt to make yourself some delish, creamy, thick Greek yogurt. As you can tell by the adjectives, I’m a big fan of Greek yogurt. Since I’m a cheapskate with these things, I bought a very thin flat bedsheet and cut it up into big squares that I use to line a colander or strainer – this is much more effective than grocery store “cheesecloth” and you can wash them and re-use them.

And that’s how you can make homemade yogurt. My favorite thing is how much money it saves. A 32 oz container of Greek yogurt is usually $6, and I can make half a gallon of Greek yogurt for about $3 – or however much a gallon of milk is. AWESOME.

Peace, love, and yogurt,
Sumiko

Quaint

A couple of months ago, I was talking to my mom on the phone. She asked what I was doing, and I told her that I was trying out Great Grandma Tadehara’s legendary homemade bread, in between hand-sewing a dress. This dress, as a matter of fact.

With Mr. Awesome at his beautiful sister’s wedding!

Mom chuckled and said I was awfully quaint for a twenty-something in 2012. While that may be true, I find so much value in homemade things, culinary and otherwise.

My mom was an organic, composting, recycling, cloth-diaper-using mother long before it was fashionable in the eco-trends of today. My dad was a carpenter, and he and my mom designed and built the house I grew up in…personally. As in, actually did the work, not just stopped by a construction HQ and picked out floor plans from a variety of pre-determined models. One of the first gift-giving lessons I remember hearing from them was that a gift made by me, no matter how clumsy or inelegant, would be worth more to them than any storebought item. That’s a mentality I’ve carried with me for years.

My favorite quilts are the one hand-sewn by my great-grandmother using scraps from suits and denim jeans, and the one pieced together by my grandmother right before she lost her vision. My favorite meals are made completely from scratch (just ask me about my lasagna someday). My favorite jewelry is hand-crafted by myself or people I love. My favorite notecards were created by my sister and my friend Kim. My favorite mug was handmade by a craftsman here in Salt Lake City, who coincidentally operates an excellent meatball sub & Philly shop. Most of my favorite cooking tools were handmade, too. My favorite bread? It’s Great-Grandma’s recipe. The best yogurt I’ve ever had is homemade. The most delicious pickles, too. In fact, virtually every single food item it’s possible to purchase in a store is much, much tastier when it’s made from scratch at home.

Maybe it is quaint, and maybe there’s an antiquated, unstylish sense that homemade must necessarily be less beautiful, less perfect, less luxurious. As I look around and see so much disposability, so much temporality and so much stuff, I can’t help but disagree. With more soul invested into the creation of an individual object, it increases in value to me and encourages me not to clutter my life with too much excess. It reminds me that everything I truly value is such either because someone created it with me in mind, or because it is imbued with the memories of loved ones. And it reminds me when I am giving a gift to someone that an object is only worth what I put into it.

So here’s to the quilts our grandmothers made us, the recipes our great-grandmothers passed down to us, and the lessons that our mothers taught us when we were young.

Love, peace, and quaintness,
Sumiko

Blender Food!

When I was in high school, summer meant two things: more sleep, and food from a blender. My sister and I were obsessed with smoothies for breakfast. Anything was fair game. The orange juice that Mom was going to make for breakfast on Sunday? Oops. It was sacrificed to the blender gods. Those raspberries that were for little brother’s birthday layer cake? Oh dear…they seem to have gone missing.

I actually wrote down one of the smoothie recipes from this time period. Here it is.

1 c crushed ice
6 oz lemon yogurt
1 orange
lemon juice, to taste

I’m pretty sure all the crushed ice is why I kept getting brain freezes from drinking them, but I persisted! (I was kind of a stubborn kid.) Today, I’m still pretty stoked about smoothies in the summer, although they seem to be getting healthier as I get older. Funny how that happens. This is my new favorite recipe.

1 c soymilk (vanilla or plain, up to you)
1/2 c plain yogurt
2/3 c frozen fruit
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 leaves kale or a handful of spinach
1 tbsp agave nectar if you’re a fan of the sweet stuff

Some of my favorite variations for the fruit: half mango, half raspberry. All strawberries. All blueberries. Any combination of berry. Peaches. Cranberries with anything else.

The main point is that blender food is fun. Mix it up!

Love, peace and pureed fruit,
Sumiko

Hot Weather Food

It seems like summer is here this afternoon. I always have mixed feelings about summer.

  1. Jealousy: kids get summer vacations from June to August. I do not. Hence, I am very jealous.
  2. Happiness: motorcycles. Cookouts. Sunshine later into the evening.
  3. Sweat: yes, I classify “sweat” as a feeling. I’m a wimp, and I acknowledge that. Anything over 80 is just too hot.
  4. Satisfaction: watching our family attempt at a garden grow, despite my dog’s best efforts to chew on all small plants in the backyard, is very satisfying.
  5. Hungriness: usually I’m not as hungry in the summer as I am in the winter, but any excuse to cook outdoors is a good one in my book! And in the spirit of this…

Here are my top ten favorite summer foods (and drinks). They aren’t in any particular order because I’m very attached to all of these things and just can’t pick favorites like that.

#10: Anything with mint! Such as this mint limeade, which I enjoyed this afternoon.

#9: Grilled vegetables. Zucchini, summer squash, thinly sliced potatoes, corn, eggplant…whatever. If I can’t put it directly on the grill, that’s what grill baskets were invented for!

#8: Grilled pineapple. Bonus points if you lightly brush it with honey while it’s on the grill.

#7: Sun tea. For instance, this red raspberry sun tea, which I made with about a couple dozen raspberry tea bags in a two gallon container of water, set outside in the sun for at least a full day.

#6: Grilled meat. Steak, chicken, ribs, kebabs, pork chops, jalapeno bratwurst, whatever is in the freezer. It’s all good!

#5: Smoked meat. This afternoon, my sweetie and I tried out our smoker for the first time (BBQ chicken strips) and it was DELICIOUS. I’m going attempt to smoke every single food in my house. (If you took that last sentence out of context it could be very confusing…but I mean “smoke” in the sense which leaves us an edible product, not a bunch of ashes.)

#4: Iced coffee. I’m a caffeine addict. It’s pretty much inevitable. I usually make a gallon of coffee concentrate at a time with this recipe and keep it in the fridge until…well, until I drink it all. Which usually doesn’t take that long. Hehehe.

#3: Indian food. Something about the spice combinations in Indian food, plus the incredibleness of mango lassi, just screams “summer” to me. In a good way!

#2: And speaking of mangoes…mangoes! I wish I lived in a country where mangoes grew all over the place. Just for a little while! Please send me suggestions if you have lived in a place like this. I’ll bring back some mangoes for you. Unless I eat them all on the plane ride home.

#1: WATERMELON. One of which we planted in the garden yesterday, and I am looking forward to eating them more than I can possibly express!

So…what are your favorite summertime foods? Or recipes? Please share!

Love, peace and hot weather foods,
Sumiko

Holiday-Weekend-Brain List

My brain is basically mush tonight. On any given day, I feel like I wake up with a certain amount of attention span and mental power to ration throughout the day. Today I didn’t wake up with a very large brainpower reserve, and it was basically all used up by 3:30 this afternoon…so in honor of that, I’m writing down a list of words that occur randomly in my head starting…now!

  • Harry Potter
  • Marines
  • Sharks
  • Pennies
  • Water
  • Violins
  • Ice cream
  • Cell phones
  • Dog
  • Grass
  • Window
  • Windex

(I don’t want to clean my windows…why am I thinking about that?)

  • Radio
  • Sewing
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Canyonlands
  • Family
  • Chicken curry
  • Weddings
  • Motorcycles
  • Bug spray
  • Mt. Rushmore
  • Vacations
  • Paint
  • Tile
  • Plumbing
  • Nails
  • Messy
  • Laundry
Congratulations! If you made it this far and you’re really confused, you’ve just experienced what it’s like to be in my brain. Most of the time, I successfully fool most people into thinking I’m pretty smart, but today I don’t think I could even convince my dog that I know what’s going on.
Hope you all are having a lovely week after a holiday weekend!
Love, peace, and brain mush,
Sumiko

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

If you were to buy these in a store, how much do you think they’d cost? Twenty bucks? Thirty? Forty? (At $2 each, they’d be $42.)

But wait! You can make them at home for less than $9! Chocolate covered strawberries are one of my favorite desserts. Simple, delicious, and kinda sorta healthy since they contain fruit. Also, they contain chocolate, which is scientifically the greatest thing on the face of the earth. Obviously. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make your own delicious chocolate covered strawberries, which is pretty darn easy.

First: assemble quality ingredients. Fresh strawberries without bruises or yucky spots: check!

And then some GOOD chocolate. Please, for the love of all things holy, use good chocolate. I’m using Valrhona Guanja dark chocolate coverture, which is an easy one to melt into a beautiful, smooth liquid. You can use dark or milk chocolate as long as it’s a good quality. If you use a Hershey’s bar, so help me, I’ll come over and smack you upside the head. It cannot be permitted!

Second: wash and dry the strawberries!

Make sure they are VERY dry. Chocolate and water are not friends. They aren’t even acquaintances; you might say they are mortal enemies. If you introduce water to chocolate, the chocolate will seize. “Seized” chocolate is lumpy, dull in color, and really a tragic, terrible waste. Carpe diem if you wish, but never carpe chocolate. (Sorry. I so rarely get to use “carpe” with anything.)

Third: melt the chocolate. A lot of people are intimidated by working with chocolate, but it’s really pretty easy. Just use a microwave-safe container, dump some chocolate in, and zap for 30 seconds, then stir. Then another 30 if you need it. If the chocolate still isn’t melted, try 15 second intervals. Make sure you stir well in between each zapping, because often the heat from the already-melted chocolate will melt the solid pieces if you just give it a moment. The only thing to really make sure of here is that you don’t get it above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, because that will also result in seized, yucky chocolate.

Fourth: dip the berries! Hold onto the stems and gently dunk the berries in the melted chocolate.

Hold it up and let the excess chocolate drizzle off the end, and then place them onto a piece of parchment paper.

It helps if you gently nudge each dipped berry forwards (towards the tip) to make them look prettier.

Then the most difficult part: letting them dry completely before you scarf them all down. But once they are dry (you’ll know because they will come easily off the parchment paper and not leave any bits of soft chocolate behind), let the scarfing commence!

Oooooooh. Would you just look at these?

Goodness gracious. And these delectable-looking things…

Drool.

Love, peace, and chocolate on everything,

Sumiko

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