Congratulations to My Friend!

My friend Junko is the most multi-talented, hardworking, generous and humble person that I know.  She is a passionate baker and  patisserie.  She began working for Holly Smith at Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, WA about a year ago.  She already received a rising start award from Star Chefs 2015 in Seattle last December amongst many talented chefs like Brady Williams of Canlis, Marie Rutherford of The Whale Wins,  Edouardo Jordan of Salary to name a few.  She was also recently nominated as a semifinalist for the James Beard Award 2016.  Huge congratulations to her!  Thanks for your inspiration, friendship and support!
The photos are taken at the Star Chef events back in December. 


Last Minute Simple Shepard's Pie

I've been cooking mostly Japanese food lately since I came back from Japan a few weeks ago.  My friend came over in the morning yesterday and told me it was St. Patrick's Day.  We are not Irish and I guess I didn't really see anything online about it.  

Anyway, Happy St. Patrick's Day yesterday!  We happened to have bought tons of beef from a local organic farmer a couple weeks ago for the first time.  And we have about 100 pounds of all kinds of meat in our freezer.  

It was last minute but I used a pack of ground beef to try this awesome meat that I haven't eaten yet  and make a simple shepherd's pie.  I love shepherd's pie.  It's very easy to make and everyone loves it.  The extra bonus is that you can make balls out of the left overs, coat them with some panko and fry them to make delicious potato croquettes. Win, win.

The farmer's meat was lean and clean and it was the best tasting shepherd's pie I've ever made.  I also made it lighter by not using butter and cream. I say you don't need to buy expensive organic meat from grocery stores.  Do some online research and buy grass-fed clean organic beef for one-third of the price.  It's so worth it.  I took me almost no effort and we now have the best quality beef to last a year and saved lots of money.  


Arros Negre aka. Black Paella

Here's something I've never made before in my kitchen or anywhere else.  Arros negre.  
It's a paella like rice dish made with squid ink and it's a popular dish from Valencia and Catalan in Spain.  

 I was so excited when my client gave me a box of this squid ink broth to give it a try.  Some people are probably afraid of eating food covered with pure black ink.  I'm not one of those people.  I love spaghetti al nero di sepia - squid ink pasta for instance.  It's so goooood.. and it's fun-ny to eat; and something that makes your mouth and teeth blackish.   It would be a great ice breaker if you are at  dinner parties with strangers or even on a first date.   And guess what-- squid ink is good for our health according to a few sites including this one.  It gets better.  It's delicious. 

But I would be slightly intimidated if I had to make this with actual squid ink.  I'd be afraid of splashing it all over my kitchen.  I actually did splash the broth in a box all over the stove and myself.  It is indeed 100 percent black.

I highly recommend wearing an apron and go slowly when you pour the broth into the pan when you make this dish.

* In case you want to give it a go but have no idea where to go to get a whole squid with ink sack,  I'd ask seafood people at nearby grocery stores - the ones that actually sell whole fish and shellfish, or simply go online to buy it in a jar or box.  


Orange Cranberry Sauce and Happy Thanksgiving!


It's icey cold in Seattle and I'm starting some prep work for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner.  This will be my second time hosting and cooking.   I'm trying to keep everything simple but AMAZING.

This cranberry sauce is very easy to make and the flavor is very fresh.  Canned cranberries are horrible in every way.  Please make you own.  This is so simple.  My kids can make this in 10 minutes.  

I'm not a big fan of eating meats with sweet fruity sauce myself to be honest.  But I might even have a few bites with this sauce tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving and Be Safe Everyone!


Honey Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Yogurt Sauce

It's getting cold in Seattle and definitely time for roasting.  I made these honey roasted carrots the other day.  It's simple, easy to make as you can imagine, but the flavor is insane.  We eat roasted vegetables often at our house.  It's Seattle. It's cold out.  Root vegetables grow well here.  And people here eat healthy things like roasted vegetables all the time.

Roasted veggies are great, but it can be dull and boring after a while if you just roast them with the usual olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. At least for me and my family.  It's also common to find carrots that aren't as sweet as they should be.  Adding honey is a good way to alter that.  The result also looks prettier and shinier from the caramelization.  

Yogurt goes very well with honey and makes the whole dish more festive. I love eating cold roasted veggies, but  this one is better to be eaten while it's hot in my opinion so that you can feel the little crunch from honey and the tangy yogurt melts nicely over the carrots.  

You might think it's too boring to serve roasted carrots for dinner, but who won't get excited about these roasted carrots ; )


Coconut Yogurt Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Seeds and Fresh Berries

One of the things I try to keep in mind is to keep it simple.  Unfortunately I don't always live up to it  and often have to remind myself.  

Panna Cotta is so simple to make and ridiculously tasty.  That's probably one reason it is universal and popular.  I'm very happy with this new recipe I came up with.  It started out as a simple dessert, but I wanted to give it a little twist and started to have fun with adding things around my kitchen.  I used coconut milk and greek yogurt instead of heavy cream as a base.  You can't go wrong with these combinations.  Then I started to add things like pomegranate seeds , vanilla beans, raspberries, chia seeds, lemon zest, etc...  So much for the simple dessert, I know ; )

In the end it turned out to be a pretty healthy dessert.  It's loaded with vitamins and other nutrients that are great for us.  Coconut milk definitely added richness from its good fat while the yogurt made it light and refreshing.  It's made with Chobani's plain non-fat Greek style yogurt (#MadeWithChobani).  They are celebrating the Football season and this festive dessert would be a great one to serve at your game day parties.  You can also check out many other awesome yogurt recipes on their website.



I have been making my own Kombucha for the past few months.  My friend Junko who is an expert of yeast and fermentation, gave me a scoby to start my mown batch one day.  

I thought making Kombucha was extremely difficult because I didn't really know what Kombucha was.  I knew it was a healthy thing to drink. I was also confused with Japanese konbucha, which is a kind of tea brew from dried seaweed.  Kombucha is basically iced tea with sugar, but it's also fermented by using SCOBY, stands for  a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.  

After I was generously given a scoby and Junko showed me how to make it at home, I did a little research.  It is actually not clinically proven by any research that what kind of benefits it has for our bodies.  But people have been drinking it and making it because they feel better about their healths by experience.  That's a good enough reason for me to start making my own and drinking it dairy.  It's also much cheaper than buying them at stores.  After my little research, I read some people are afraid of messing up the process and getting sick from drinking home-made one, but I wasn't too worried about it after I learned the process of making it from my friend who knows quit a bit about yeast and fermentation and assumed me that it's highly unlikely that it'll happen to me.   I've made about 5 batches since then and I really think my body is happier.

If you are interested in making you own, there are sites like this one to explain further more about Kombucha.

I will write a recipe at the bottom as usual, but here's how I made my kombucha.  To make a new batch, I used 2 bags of English breakfast tea, 1 bag of Japanese green tea called houjicha, 2 bags of raspberry tea, a tea spoon of dried camomile from my garden and a cup of cane sugar.  I boiled a gallon of water and added the bags of tea, camomile and sugar off the stove.  Then stir it until sugar resolved and let it cool down to a room temperature.  I got rid of the tea bags and strained the tea into my 2 gallon jar and added another gallon of water.  Then put a scabby in that I had kept in a container with kombucha in the fridge, and a cup of kombucha in the jar and covered the top with cheese cloth and sealed it with a rubber.  Let it sit for 7 days or so in a cool shady area in your house.

I don't have a photo of scoby in this post, but it's white, round, flat and feels like rubber.  


About 7 days later, I opened the jar and tasted my kombucha.  It was perfectly sour and fizzy.  

I had some shiso leaves from my garden and lemon cucumbers from a farmer's market.  In case you don't know what shiso leaves are, they are the herbs usually come with sashimi plates.  It's basically basil for Japanese.  I never flavored my kombucha afterwards but I decided to try with chopped shiso leaves, sliced lemon cucumbers and ginger.  

Kombucha was so refreshing.  The best batch I made so far.  I highly recommend the combination of these ingredients I used for flavoring.  

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