Last week, I've been eating a lot of cheesecakes and rice late at night. So, I decided to go on a diet and reduce my carbohydrate intake even just at dinner. Luckily, we have a lot of melon and watermelon at my husband's hometown. So right after we finished our a-bit-late lunch, I asked my mother-in-law to not prepare anything for me for dinner because I was hoping I could just eat fruits and the usual vegetable salad. She said, 'Really? Well, how about tofu salad? It's more nutritious." I've never eaten tofu salad, but then I said yes and thanked her.
Then came dinner and my tofu salad.
It looked mostly like I expected; but I thought it would be unfried silken tofu cubes mixed amongst the colorful salad vegetables. It wasn't. It was lightly fried. When I took a chopstickful (can i say that?), the experience bursted into my mouth in slow-motion and dramatic wind effect on my face, as if I was awaken from a deep sleep. It felt like all five of my senses just came home after relentlessly and meaninglessly wandering the earth. I guess that's the strike of the vinegars and sweetness of the vegetables.
The following night, I asked if I can eat the tofu salad again. It was like a newly discovered addiction.
Tips and tricks
If the dressing comes on too strong for you, you may adjust it with water. :)
The picture on the right is another version with stir-fried broccoli and baby leaf instead of paprikas. :)
One afternoon, being on my usual lazy-to-cook-for-one mode, I raided the fridge for the easiest ingredient I can handle. Then I saw tofu. I think I'd cook this tofu instead, I don't need chopping board to cut it and I can just use a small pan, I thought to myself. And then there's frozen udon that I can boil for just 1-2 minutes... So, remembering a dish I tasted when I once visited the vegetarian grocery in Kyoto to buy kombu powder, I devised a recipe after that. And here it is. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of my udon topped with kombu tofu yet because it looked too plain-- I want to re-do that next time and put some greens, when my cooking mode comes. ;)
Pestoey. I guess even without explanation to this word I dug from my own introverted vocabulary, anybody will understand what it probably means. But just in case I'm wrong, I called it pestoey veggy spaghetti because it can be the usual garden fresh spaghetti but instead of tomato sauce, I drowned the stir-fried vegetables in my usual pesto sauce.
I learned this from my mother-in-law when I went home to their place one time. I just saw her stir-frying shimeji mushrooms then tossing in the left-over salad (consisting of lettuce, broccoli, red and orange paprika). I went to the toilet for a while and when I went out, lunch was ready and it was a grassy green spaghetti-- not the tomatoey sauce I was expecting!
So I just sat there, said "itadakimasu!" and swirled my fork for my first bite. It was my and my husband's first time to eat this kind of spaghetti sauce, and we were both captivated! It was so delicious I just wanted more.
Ever since then (about 2 months ago), my husband has been requesting this sauce at least once a week.
4. After 2 minutes, toss in the paprika and stir-fry for not more than one minute.
5. Add lettuce and mix well. Turn off heat after 15 seconds.
6. Pour in the pesto sauce to the stir-fried vegetables, doing your best to scrape them off the blender. Then, add water to the blender, shake it then pour it over the vegetables. Mix well.
7. Either top it over your pasta or mix the pasta with the vegetables in the pan before serving! Add Parmesan cheese if you're a hardcore fan. ^_^
Tips and tricks
Grow your own basil plants! Basil here is very expensive. But a month and a half after we planted 8 basil seeds, we've been harvesting more than enough every week. I've been eating my favorite basil pesto spaghetti, pesToasts, pesTomato spaghetti and Christmas pasta quite well. Just FYI, basil is good for migraine too!
Above is my veranda garden where I have 8 basil plants, asparagus, chili pepper, trying-to-grow snack-pine (a kind of pineapple), rosemary, 8 kinds of cacti and a silver-leaf plant.
This is my husband's recipe. He said this is very delicious (and I saw it was true while watching him eat), but unfortunately, I don't like egg and natto so I will have to take a photo of my own version next time-- which means I need to prepare my recipe an hour before I get hungry next time just so I can have a food pictorial.
But while waiting for my version, I suggest you give this a try!
**Natto・納豆・なっとう is a Japanese food which means fermented soybeans. It can be bought in packs of three and each pack has an accompanying sachet of sauce, usually with dashi or soup stock made from fish and other things. So if you're a vegetarian, you'll have to use soy sauce instead of that sauce pack.
**Udon・うどん is thick Japanese wheat noodles usually used in soups, and dry and fried noodle dishes.
Tips and tricks
The frozen udon I used is ready after one minute of boiling. You may use other kinds of udon but my husband's favorite kind of udon is the frozen type, and it lasts in the freezer for long so we can just pull it out anytime and quickly cook udon whenever we want.
I first tasted this recipe when my mother-in-law cooked it for dinner on the night my husband introduced me to his family as his girlfriend. That moment, I made an oath to replicate the recipe. After a number of versions, I finally got the motivation and measuring spoons to standardize. ^_~
① Two kinds of mushroom stir-fried and stuffed in tofu rolled in potato starch then fried. Sauce poured over the stuffing.
② Red and yellow paprika stir-fried with eggplant and shimeji mushroom, stuffed into fried silken tofu then poured with gingered sweet and soy sauce.
③ Mashed silken tofu mixed with chopped shiitake mushroom, formed into balls then fried. Topped with grated radish and gingered sweet and soy sauce.
Here are some fried dishes my mother-in-law cooked for me and served with gingered sweet and soy sauce!
④ Mashed soy beans sandwiched between two eggplant halves then dipped in potato starch before frying.
⑤ Fried tofu and gingered sweet and soy sauce-- but it looks like my mother in law forgot to cook grated ginger with the sauce so she creatively topped the whole dish with grated ginger instead. It was very delicious!
I first tasted this dish when a very good college friend cooked this for me. My friend used simpler ingredients (just good tofu, red chili, salt and pepper) but it was really delicious. This is just a tastier version-- so that even non-vegetarians will hopefully love our simple tofu friend a bit more and; so that even lazy kitchen people can enjoy a quick, plain-looking but tasty tofu dish.
I love dairies, especially cheese.
However, recently, I've been feeling like I'm developing some sort of lactose intolerance. The past couple of weeks, every time I eat my usual cheesy spaghetti, toasts or cheesecake, my head immediately aches-- from mild headache to quite terrible migraine. It is usually followed by vomiting. After I've vomited a third of my meal or dessert, my head feels lighter. But I would still feel phlegm thickly surrounding my throat. Is that a mild form of lactose intolerance or something? But I tell you, it surely is not pregnancy. hahaha
Anyway, here's one of those lazy food I eat when I'm all alone, having no drive to cook for myself and/or very absorbed with some sort of stuff (like blogging or studying Japanese) to afford distraction. But be sure you have pesto sauce stocked in the the freezer or fridge or else it will be quite bothersome to prepare on a busy day.
Tips and tricks
On days when I make basil pesto sauces, I usually grind extra cashew nuts then store in an airtight container because it's not my hobby to wash my blender. Then whenever I feel like going vegan, I have a cheese replacer to run to. But obviously, I didn't have ground cashew this time so I just crushed the cashew nuts while in its strong plastic sachet and had a nutty, crunchy pesto lunch. *(^_^)*
Pistachio has a different flavor but is as good as cashew in pesto.
Eggy Eggplant. Egg-Plant. Egg and the Plant. Stir-fried Egg and Eggplant. Mother and Egg.
One time my older brother mocked me for my choice of password for my laptop. My password then was "password". But after a few months, my younger sister started overusing my laptop when I'm not home, without my permission. So I decided to change my password. After some time, my brother borrowed my laptop and asked me my new password. I whispered to him "new password". He said verbatim, "for a sister of such creativity, you suck at passwords".
Yeah, I have very poor naming ability too. I named my bicycle Kicchan because it was given to me by a Kida-san. There are still a few examples on my poorly-named list but let's just go back to the dish.
I didn't want to turn you off with a poor dish name, as it did when I reread my candidates above. So I decided to call it "nasu omelet".
Nasu・茄子 is Japanese for "eggplant". I thought this name gives this very simple dish a bit of curiosity, enough to make you try it (and now you know another Japanese word ^_~). This dish is really worth a try-- my husband assures you. I also like running to this dish when I'm out of bento ideas.
Tips and Tricks
If you want it looking meaty like the one on the picture above, stir-fry it a bit longer.
Otherwise, transfer immediately to a plate to decrease after-cooking heat from the pan.
Takikomi gohan is a Japanese dish whose main ingredient is rice. It is cooked and seasoned with various ingredients, but in this recipe, we'll simply use carrot, aburaage, shiitake mushroom and our usual seasonings. Trivia-- gohan means cooked rice.
I remember when I cooked this recipe, I intended it for my husband's bento. After lunch the following day, my husband sent me a text message (which he doesn't usually do), to say that the takikomi gohan was very delicious! ^____________^ yeey!
Okay then, let's get started!
Sweet-miso glazed eggplant, or which I am more comfortable to call "nasu dengaku, | なす田楽", is a VERY easy recipe which involves a homemade sweet miso sauce and eggplant which I sometimes grill, fry or roast.
I've done this recipe at a family friend's gathering for dinner, together with other dishes, but this one became the highlight of the night. Everyone loved the sauce and even used it to dress their fresh cucumbers and lightly grilled tofu. Now I owe everyone this recipe. Sorry it's late! Been having difficulty getting myself to blog again. But this one's standardized now! ^_^
Tips and Tricks
This dish tastes good even after the eggplant has lost heat. But you will be surprised at how wonderful it can taste when the eggplant is still hot! My technique is, of course, either cook the eggplant just before it is eaten or; toast the sweet-miso-glazed eggplant in the toaster just before eating. If you want to have it in your bento, it is possible. Just don't mix the sauce and the eggplant and be prepared to be attracted to a possibly off-colored eggplant. ^_~ just close your eyes and it can taste as good as freshly... no. Freshly cooked is still best, but it tastes good even when packed for a later meal.
The technique in making the sauce is cooking it under low heat all the way through and; using a small saucepan so as to make it very easy to handle. When using wide pans, the sauce unnecessarily spreads out, letting the circumference of the mixture burn fast.
As for the kind of miso, if you can't find 58% less salt, just get any white miso and adjust the mirin and sugar first on the recipe. I've tried using red miso, but it didn't taste as good. I bet a mix of red and white miso will be amazing but I haven't tried that so far.
My husband is not a cheesaholic.
So I didn't have chance to prepare this dish until recently, when I started working and I need to bring my own bento. It doesn't only look beautiful in my bento, it tasted awesome. So for my first two weeks at work, it was an everyday guest in my lunch box. ^_~
Tips and tricks
I haven't tried it (because I don't think it matches the other flavors in my bento, like pad thai etc.), but I'm pretty sure it will taste wonderful with a dash of Italian herbs. It can also be a perfect side or topping to any kind of pasta sauce-- red, white or green. Don't you think so?
This is a must-try especially for peanut butter lovers.
Tips and tricks
I've tried adding mirin into this sauce and decreasing sugar a little and it had a wonderful deeper layer of flavor.
You may also mix some boiled or stir-fried vegetables like carrots and broccoli to make it colorful and more nutritious.
A vegetarian for 12 years and a kitchen warrior since I moved in to Japan, my favorite battle has been winning over my husband's interestingly complicated taste buds.