Anko, a.k.a. Mysterious Sweetened Beans

Tsubu an
The finished tsubu an

Sweet beans?  Sounds a little weird maybe if you’re used to beans being only used in savory dishes.  My first introduction to sweetened red bean was at the house of a friend from Taiwan and my thought was “…sweet beans?  Yuck, no thanks.”  But I eventually learned how delicious they can be and now I’m a big fan of anko, also known by the rather unattractive name of “red bean paste.” Continue reading Anko, a.k.a. Mysterious Sweetened Beans

Rice

Rice
Are you supposed to store the rice cup here? I do.

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about cooking rice and so I thought I would give this deceptively complex topic a go on The Spice!

As a kid, we ate instant Minute Rice and it was my favorite thing, with lots of butter.  When I got older I lived in Japan for a year and experienced the cultural and culinary institution that is Japanese rice.  I still remember my host family having a conversation for over an hour about different types of rice and how they differed based on their origins.  This was not an exciting conversation, particularly since I could only half follow it. Continue reading Rice

Halloween party food!

Halloween table
Halloween table

My absolute favorite holiday is Halloween, but the past few years the crazy Halloween parties of the past haven’t been happening.  So this year I decided to have my own.  I had a few friends over for Halloween-themed snacks and then we watched part of The Addams Family, Troll, and all of Evil Dead.  I was hoping for more classic monster movies, but they were all certainly appropriate to theme! Continue reading Halloween party food!

Dad Chili

Chili on a chilly day!
Chili on a chilly day!

I’ve never been a big fan of chili.  I don’t dislike it, but I’ve never woken up one day and been like “Yes!  Today is chili day!”  It’s something my dad would make from time to time when I was young and his was made with venison and lots of beans until it was a thick stew of whatever he decided to toss in. A few years ago he visited and we made chili again and we wrote down the recipe. At least I thought we had. Continue reading Dad Chili

Grapefruit Pound Cake

Grapefruit cake
A finished slice of the cake

The other day my husband did the grocery shopping for me and brought home a grapefruit.  While I love grapefruit, it’s not something I eat very often and it’s been languishing in the fridge.  Fortunately, I have been struck by a sweet tooth nearly continuously lately and have been trolling in the internet for small cake recipes far more than I should. Continue reading Grapefruit Pound Cake

But I shouldn’t…

Mini cake
It’s tricky to see the scale of it, but it’s only four inches across.

When it comes to personality, I’m a planner, I don’t like risks, and I’m extremely organized.  If that sounds not very fun, that’s sometimes true!  One thing I’ve noticed is that I often have a long list of things I feel should do, although no one expects me to do them except for me.

The past month or so I’ve been trying an experiment of anti-should.  If I feel I should do something, but I don’t really want to, I don’t.  If I feel I really shouldn’t do a thing, but I want to, I give it a try.  Continue reading But I shouldn’t…

Marinara sauce

spaghetti sauce

Today we have a pretty straightforward entry: spaghetti sauce!

I don’t remember what initially led me to reject jarred spaghetti sauce from the grocery store, but I’ve been making my own exclusively for years and now the store-bought stuff tastes weird to me. Although this could be cooked “Italian grandma style” of simmering it all day (as my own Italian grandma did), I am usually a card carrying member of the “I’m hungry and that takes too long” school of cooking. Continue reading Marinara sauce

Quick Pickles

Quick pickles
The pressure is on!

My first experience with Japanese pickles, tsukemono, was at a family restaurant in Kyoto, definitely nothing fancy. I don’t even remember what the pickles were except that they were kind of slimy, strong tasting, and definitely gross. Even though I try to be open minded and adventurous with new foods, I kept a wary distance of tsukemono after that.

Pickle press
Pickle press

Many years later, a friend recommended a Japanese cookbook to me, Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh. She had met the author and also knew that my favorite kind of Japanese food is more “home cooking” style, not sushi or tempura.  It’s ended up being my favorite Japanese cookbook and makes just the kind of food I love in the from-scratch style I like to cook in. Continue reading Quick Pickles

Tiramisu cupcakes

Tiramisu cupcake
Tiramisu cupcake!

I began studying Japanese in 2000 and one thing I heard as a recent-ish current event about Japan was that there was a craze for tiramisu.  A lot of my information about cutting edge Japan was influenced by books about Japanese culture written in the early 90s or late 80s when Japan was a big mysterious deal.  Lots of business etiquette, flashy hair bands, street fashion, and tiramisu.  Turns out tiramisu really hit its peak of chicness in Japan in 1991, so my information was more than a little behind the times and the hair-band-and-street-fashion scene was pretty drastically different when I went there a few years later in 2003. Continue reading Tiramisu cupcakes

of Cooking. of Arrakis.