Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Club Bamboo

<-Photo is one of the fellow kitchen helpers and my lunch.

I started volunteer work at Club Bamboo yesterday. Club Bamboo belongs to ACRS (Asian Counseling and Referral Services) in Seattle and serves lunch to the employees and guests.
I arrived at ACRS around 9:00am. At the Club Bamboo, I met two ladies who were bit older than me. I introduced myself to them and joined their conversation until Chef Alice arrived. The kitchen at the Club Bamboo was new and clean. Chef Alice showed me around the kitchen and told me where things were kept. She announced that today’s lunch menu was Chinese style spicy chicken, roasted root vegetables and cooked rice. She told us to start peeling and chopping root vegetables. We peeled and chopped carrot, sweet potatoes, celery roots, and parsnips. There two ladies were Filipino and I am Japanese. All of us saw celery roots at some store before, but we didn’t know what they were. They smelled like celery but don’t look like celery. We wondered if celery roots were Asian vegetable. According to wiseGeek website, celery roots are from Europe.
After all roots vegetables were chopped, the two ladies chopped ginger, garlic, and chilies. I cut chickens to small pieces with another helper who came later and spoke Vietnamese. Chef Alice set a rice cooker ready for rice after she started roasting large portion of the roots vegetable in oven.
All chicken ingredients were chopped. Chef Alice told me to mix corn starch with the chicken. She heated large Wok to fry oil and all spices and took out all spices from Wok. Then she added more oil and fried the chicken until done and added egg white to the chicken. Meanwhile, rice was cooked and vegetables were roasted. My job at this point was to wash and to sanitize all bowls, knifes and cutting boards.
The first guests arrived. Chef Alice dished up the spicy chicken on a piece of large lettuce leaf, roasted root vegetables and cooked rice. It looked colorful and nice. She told the guest to add some pine nuts and chopped green onion over the chicken if she like. Several guests arrived and had their lunch. Around 1:00pm, Chef Alice told us that it was our lunch time. I dished up my lunch as other guest. The chicken was spicy, little bit hot and was good with rice. The root vegetables were sweet and tender. The meal included protein, vegetables and carbohydrate. It was healthy. After filling my stomach, I washed more dishes.
I left the club bamboo around 3:00pm. I had fun working with interesting ladies and helping Chef Alice.
Fortunately Tuesday was not busy day at Club Bamboo. It was good for me to start today instead of Thursday which is supposed to be busy. I am planning to work two days a week for three months and hopefully Chef Alice let me try out my Japanese recipes to the customers before my three months term ends.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Making Tamales

Last month, I was invited to a tamale party. I didn’t know how to make Tamales before this party. The party was fun and tamales were very tasty. I took video and learned how to prepare tamales. I practiced making tamale at the party. I wrapped cooked and minced turkey and cheese on corn paste into corn husk. I made much tamales.
The following week of the party, I bought all ingredients for my first tamale and roasted whole chicken. It was not as good as the ones made by tres Tamarelas at the party. When the corn husks are unwrapped from cooked tamale, the center parts which are meat or vegetable and cheese should be completely wrapped with corn paste. In my first tamale, cheese was out of corn filling and stuck to the corn husk. I realized that I was wrapping tamales wrong way.
I made Tamale with ground pork with cheese 3 days later. At this time, they looked perfect and were delicious.
Please view the YouTube video of Tamale Making Party to learn how to make your Tamales.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Japanese soy sauce company near Seattle

The other day, my elderly Japanese neighbor told me about a local Japanese soy sauce store in Bellevue which is a 30 minutes drive from Seattle. I love to have Japanese soy sauce from a small producer. I asked her to take me to the store. The maker is Kamada Soy sauce or Kamada America. Unfortunately we found out the store portion was closed. I decided to knock the door to the office to find out if we can order the soy sauce today. A Japanese lady opened the door for us. My neighbor told her that she learned about their soy sauce from her friend who owned a good Japanese restaurant and used to buy their soy sauce before. She loves their soy sauce and was disappointed to find out the store was closed. The lady from the Kamada America was apologetic that orders need to be made by fax or internet. She gave us order form. I asked if we can fill the order information and pay it today. She was kind to accept my proposal. I ordered Koikuchi Soy which includes 7 small boxes(200ml) of original soy sauce and Gourmet set which includes Dashi soy, Ponzu and Salad soy. Dashi is concentrated version of Japanese soup, Ponzu is generally made of citrus fruit, vinegar, Japanese soup and soy sauce, and Salad soy seems to be soy sauce based salad dressing. It is costly ($15.75 +shipping for Soy sauce set 1400ml ) comparing buying soy sauce (less than $10,for 1000ml) made by major company at the grocery store. My neighbor told me she only uses this soy sauce and Dashi for the special occasions.

My orders were arrived yesterday. I poured Dashi soy sauce over my fried tofu and made teriyaki fish with original soy sauce. Kamada's koikuchi soy sauce or original soy enhanced the tofu taste and fish was delicious. Only thing that I may warn some people is that Dashi soy sauce contains MSG as most Asian soup does. Kamada’s Original soy sauce is darker brown than one made by a large soy sauce maker. Its ingredients of the soy sauce are Soybeans, wheat, water, salt, and alcohol. According to the box, it was made of organic soybeans and produced using Japanese traditional method. Although I need to test this fancy soy sauce for my various recipes, so far I love using Kamada soy sauce and convenient Dashi to my cooking.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fresh tofu

I recently found Tofu factory with Chinese restaurant near my house. I drove in front of the place often and have never known I could buy such a delicious freshly made tofu there until someone mentioned to me that she always buy tofu when she was near by. It was much inexpensive than buying tofu at any other store. I wrote my review with photos to Yelp. Then I realized someone else posted his review of the same place with different name. So there are two review pages for the same Northwest Tofu inc.:

I decided to buy tofu every Monday morning after I drop off my son at his school one block from the Tofu factory. Yes. I will be there 7:50am in Monday morning.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Left over of pumpkin pie filling and mashed potatoes

I had no pumpkin pie filling and mashed potatoes leftover this year. I made pumpkin cookies from pumpkin pie filling. They didn’t look perfect but tasted good. I made potato pan cake and potato bread from mashed potatoes.
Here is my premature version of recipes which probably needs to revisit and test:
Pumpkin cookies made of pumpkin pie filling

1/2 cup pumpkin pie filling left over
1/2 cup butter melted
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup unbleached flour
½ tsp baking powder
Cooking Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degree
2. Mix all ingredients
3. Drop dough with 1 inch diameter to the baking pan
4. Bake for 7-8 minutes.

Potato bread made of mashed potatoes
2 cups Mashed potatoes
1 cup water
3Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 ⅓ Tbsp sugar
1 ½ cup bread flour
½ cup Whole wheat flour
2tsp active yeast
Cooking instruction using bread maker
1. Add all ingredients to bread maker
2. Set dough setting and start bread maker
3. After dough is done, punch the dough down and flour the dough to prevent to stick to the hand.
4. Divide the dough to two and make elongated or round shape
5. Set on loaf pan or pan and final rise until the loaf is double about one hour
6. Preheat oven to 375 degree and bake 30 minutes or until done.

In addition to these left over, I had large portion of ham with bone. I created soup stock and made blackeye bean and ham soup. Soup was full filling and delicious with home made bread.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Early Thanksgiving feast

My husband bought two tickets of Thanksgiving lunch. He paid $10 each and the proceeds go to the charity. His coworkers cooked Turkeys and other food. The lunch was full course buffet include dessert. All the food was good. I took photos of each food as you seen the slide show above. I tried out everything. I was full all day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Four Essential Japanese Ingredients

There are three things which I need to have to create Japanese taste. They are Soy sauce, Sake Rice Vinegar and Miso (soy bean paste) . I am happy to find all of them can be at major grocery stores such as Safeway, QFC and Albertsons around Seattle.
Soy sauce may be in kitchens of most North American houses and they came from various countries and some from US. I used soy sauce made in China and it tasted different than Japanese one. So I usually go to Japanese grocery to buy low salt soy sauce for my Japanese recipe. If I find the soy sauce produced by small company is for sale, I buy it rather than one from large producer.
Sake or Rice wine seems to be one of popular Alcoholic drinks and it can be found at wine section in most grocer stores around Seattle. I don’t buy Cooking wine made with Sake because it contains too much salt. I buy inexpensive Sake for cooking. Also cheap Sake is good to drink warm. I heat it up to be warm and serve it on cold night with my Japanese food.
Rice vinegar is useful to make Japanese flavored salad dressings and add sugar and salt to make Sushi vinegar. I often add a bit of Rice vinegar with soy sauce to pour fresh or cooked vegetables instead of soy sauce only.
We make Miso soup using Miso or soy bean paste. Miso can be used instead of soy sauce most of the recipe.
With these four ingredients, I can create Japanese full meals which are accompanied with cooked white rice.
Itadakimasu.( This is the phrase we Japanese say before eating our meal like a prayer.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Brewmaster Dinner is Great.

This was my second time attending the Brew master's dinner. Early Summer I attended and the food and beer reflected the late beginning of summer. There were a lot of fresh vegetables. The seating was at round tables. This event reflected the Harvest time with heavier beers and food. The seating was family style with long tables. I liked this arrangement, because I was able to see and talk to people. I recommend this to every one who loves good beer and food.
By Daniel

Brewmaster's dinner at Hales Ale

I had opportunity to join the feast of four courses brew master’s dinner at Hales Ale. The brewery is one of the best and popular breweries in Seattle. The last time we came to Hales Ale was with my English neighbors who like to drink beer and they loved the Hales Ale beer.
I was curious what will be served with crafted beers.
There were about 40 guests for the dinner. The owner of the Hales Ale, Mike Hale, made the opening speech to the guests and had the dinner with the guests. He walked around the tables and talked to each guest. I was grateful to have opportunity to hear about the history of the brewery, his life, and his beer.
The first beer was the gift from the brewery before the meal. I am sorry to say that I lost my paper that contains the names of beer served and I don’t have a good memory of names.
The first meal was Duck confit with wild mushroom and Garlic custard and smoked Tomato relish. I learned the ‘confit’ meant for French cooking when the chef described that the duck was cooked in it own fat. I learned how to pronounce confit. ( ‘t’ is not pronounced.) With this meal we got bitter golden color ale. The duck confit was very rich and it tasted great with this ale.
The second in the course was Beet, Carrot, Turnip and Parsnip Salad. The chef told us some vegetables were from his garden. It was pretty and crispy salad.
The main course was the choice of Cioppino or Braised Rabbit Stew. I ordered Braised Rabbit Stew for my husband and Cioppino for me. The harvest ale was brought for main dish. Mike Hale told us the beer was made of freshly harvested hop. I tasted the rabbit stew and the meat was tender and soup was tasty although it was too strong and I prefer my Cioppino which made of my favorite

sea foods. I loved this ale the most among others and the beer was very delicious with these meals.
The final was the dessert. Baked Apples with Vanilla Ice Cream, Carmel Sauce and Toasted Pecans!
The dark almost black beer was served. It was my first experience having beer with my dessert. The dark beer was actually good with the apples and ice cream.
We had a great time with our friends having nice dinner with fresh brewed beers. It was the birthday of one of our friends, Lyle whoe is the one who notified us the dinner. We wish happy birthday to Lyle and thank you for having us to the dinner.

I took some photos and posted on my Picasa.
Lastly I like to write how to boil Edamane which is Japanese favorite beer food. Here is the Edamame cooking instructions from my mother in Japan. I think with this method the color of Edamame will stay green .
Boiled Edamame
Frozen Edamame
Water to boil
Pinch-1tea spoon Salt
Cooking Instructions
Boil water
Put Edamame into the boiled water.
Cook and boil the water with Edamame for 3 minutes.
Drain the water.
Sprinkle salt over Edamame and mix.
Serve it warm.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Scones and Baking Powders

I baked scones for Sunday breakfast. The recipe in the cookbook used baking soda as one of the ingredients. I didn’t have baking soda and remembered that my husband once mentioned baking powder is made of baking soda and cream of tartar. So I modified the recipe to add extra baking powder. It was successful.
Then I wonder what is cream of tartar does. I had Joy of cooking 1975 edition to find out. No cream of tartar in Index. I decided to look for baking powder section. Yes. I learned something new about baking powders and baking soda. Probably good bakers know these facts.
This book included much chemistry of baking. I was ignorant in this field. Now I learned a bit from this book. There are 5 types of baking powders in this book, tartrate baking powders, phosphate baking powders, double acting or S.A.S (sodium aluminum sulfate). I learned two useful things from it. One is that if tartrate powder (tartric acid and/or cream of tartar) is used for baking, batter or dough need to be baked quickly and not kept in fridge or freezer. Another thing is when there were no baking powder, use mix ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt in exchange of one teaspoon of baking powder. This mix needs to be used quickly once it is mixed with liquid.

Fumikob's Scones Recipe

3 ¼ cups of flour
2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
3 teaspoon of double acting baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 TBSP chilled butter
3 TBLSP sugar
1 Cup milk
(Chocolate chip or raisins, optional)
Cooking instructions
Preheat oven to 425 degree.
Combine first 4 dry ingredient and shift.
Add the dry mix above into food processor and mix
Cut butter into small pieces and add and process in the food processor.
Add sugar and milk and process to mix.
Take out the dough on the floured surface.
Add raisin or chocolate chip (optional)
Knead dough and ½ inch thick round
Cut 12 pie shape
Bake for 10 minutes

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Plates and food

I think plate is like a dress and the food on it is the naked body. If simple food was dished on the gorgeous plate, it becomes more fancy and expensive looks. Plate is also like canvas waiting to be painted. Chef is the artist and food is the paint. When the chef chose the right plate for his food and used perfect color coordination between his food and plate, his food become art. The simple plate may look good for colorful dish while simple food may look good on colorful plate.
I love buying plates to dish up my food. When I lived in Japan, I often visited a store which sold inexpensive place made locally. I collected purple, green, yellow, and blue plates for my food.
I still cannot resist my urge to buy the plate when I saw unique and artistic plate. I often imagine what can be on the plate. I usually go to my favorite second hand store and go to see plates and china section. I usually buy nice plate around $1. I found nice Black Bloom plate by Noritake and bought it one dollar, yellow cute heart plate for 75 cents, and more.
I posted the photo of the black plate and yellow heart shape plate with the lime cake pudding on it. You can compare the photo of lime cake pudding of the previous blog. You will see the difference. I think the both plates look nice with lemon cake pudding on. Depending on my mood, I select the plate for my dinner. The bright plate may cheer me up in dark winter days and clear glass plates will cool me down in hot summer day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lime Cake Pudding Recipe

I had many lime getting old in my kitchen. I was looking for a recipe which use a lot of lime and is simple to make.
I found one from Betty Crocker’s Picture cook book First edition(third printing 1950 redbook) given by my husband’s grandmother.
According to the page of this recipe, Pudding desserts where pudding and sauce bake in same dish.
It turned out to be right. The cake was top half and bottom half was custard like. I brought the Lime cake pudding to taste to our friends since my sons don’t like any lemony taste deserts and cannot tell me it is good. They loved the sweet and sour taste and told me they liked the aftertaste better than Lime pie. Of course my husband loved it and had his second serving.
My recipe is slightly different from the original.


Lime Cake Pudding

¼ cup shifted unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt (Reduced)
1tsp grated lime rind (Reduced )
¼ cup lime juice
2 egg yolks, well beaten
1 cup milk
2 egg whites

Cooking instructions
1. Preheat oven 350 degree.
2. Shift together the first 3 dry ingredients above.
3. Stir lime rind, lime juice, egg yolks, and milk into the dry mixture above.
4. Beat egg whites to stiffly
5. Fold egg whites into milk and other mixture.

6. Pour the mixture into casserole pan or 6 custard cups.
7. Set the pan or cups in pan of water (1” deep)
8. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
9. Serve warm or cold with or without whipped cream

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do you make your bread or buy it from the store?

<-On the left my successful bread.

I love my bread-maker. It is convenient to make dough. In less than 2 hours after I dump all ingredients in it, the bread-maker mixes them, knead and raise the dough while I am doing something else. After testing various recipes and making hard or dry bread several times and, I now can make edible tender fresh and tasty bread. Recently I often bake my own bread to save money and save trip to the store. The bread from large bakery doesn’t taste good as home-made except some expensive healthy and artesian bread and one from small bakeries. I found a package of days old store bought bread. It is 12 Grain bread from major bakery. I looked closely at the package. On the package the letters says, No cholesterol, Low in fat, the good bread. I guess it doesn’t say delicious or tasty.
This bread was left on the counter top in my kitchen more than a week and there are no sign of mold or being old. My home made bread would be hard or moldy in 2-3 days after it was baked. Let’s look at the ingredients on the package. There are so many ingredients listed. They are many kinds of flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin mononitrate, Riboflavin, folic acid, water, High fructose corn syrup, …. , dough conditioner(sodium stearoyl lactyate monoglycerydes, calcium sulfate, enzymes, ammonium sulfate, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide),….calcium propionate(mold inhibitor), soy flour, nonfat and dry milk. The bread doesn’t get mold because it include mold inhibitor. Does it change the taste of bread? How about dough conditioner? What is dough conditioner?
I agree this bread includes some healthy ingredients such as soy flower and brown rice among many unknown ingredients. I am not sure all these ingredients are natural and healthy though.
My plain home-made bread usually made of, flour (Un-breached enriched white, bread flower, wheat, barley, or such.), milk or water, oil or/and butter, sugar, salt, and active yeast. Some times I add sour cream or yogurt. Comparing with 38 ingredients listed above( see phtos) my bread only contains 6-10 ingredients. Pizza dough can be made of only bread flour, olive oil, salt, water, and active yeast. Making my bread is time consuming even using bread-maker. It will take 3-4 hours. When I need to include bread in the menu and didn’t have time to bake one, I buy bread. I often look at the label to find out the ingredients of the bread.Some bread from stores doesn’t contain suspicious ingredients or some chemical compounds and are natural, healthy, and delicious. I buy some bread from Costco bakery. I sometimes buy bread from a local Italian bakery which bakes their bread with traditional way although their bread doesn’t taste as good and gets dry the next day. Healthy bread such as artesian bread or Italian bread made of only natural ingredients are available but they are costly, Inexpensive way to serve healthy delicious bread is to find a failsafe recipe and bake my own bread. Also I feel safe to know what are in the bread.


FumikoB’s wheat bread using bread-maker

1 1/8 cup Milk or water
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter or vegetable oil
3 cups of flour (any variety of flour will do but more bread flour does better. Ex: 2 cups Bread flour and 1 cup of wheat flour.)
2 tsp Active yeast
2 TBSP sour cream(Optional but this will make bread moist.)
Cooking instruction
Add all ingredients to bread pan in bread maker.
Set dough setting and make dough.
Take dough and punch down.
Divide the dough into equal two pieces.
Roll the dough into large balls and place into the loaf pan.
Raise it the warm place until double in the volume.
Preheat oven 375 degree.
Bake bread until top browned for about 30 minutes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin, pumpkin, everywhere

Photo below was taken in Kent,WA

I wonder that how many pumpkin Americans consume and how many were curbed to lantern.
I didn’t eat pumpkin bread or pumpkin pie before coming to Seattle. In Japan, I cooked pumpkin with say sauce, sugar, and sake in Japanese soup stock to make Nimono as we do for other vegetables like potatoes and green beans.
I harvested several pumpkins from my garden. These pumpkins look like Kabocha pumpkin. However, it is hard to tell they are Kabocha or other ordinary pumpkin because some seeds are from large yellow pumpkin to be curbed and from composed Kabocha pumpkin seeds which were extracted before cooking and dumped into my composed bin. My father in Japan who is part-time farmer told me that pumpkin can be stored for a long time and pumpkin will be added sweetness several days after the harvest. I had Kabocha pumpkin in last summer in Japan from my parent’s garden, it was cooked Japanese way. It was very sweet and light. In Seattle my Kabocha like pumpkin didn’t taste as good as one in Japan when I cooked it by Japanese way. The reason may be something to do with the number of Sunny days and temperature in Seattle.
I made pumpkin bread from one of Kabocha like pumpkin and it was success and popular among my family and friends. My pumpkin bread recipe is drived from “Joy of cooking” 1997 edition but changed to meet my families taste.


FumikoB's pumpkin bread
1 ½ cups all-purpose flower
1 tea spoons ground cinnamon
1 tea spoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup Cooked and pureed pumpkin
1/3 cup milk
3 Table spoons melted butter
3 Table spoons vegetable oil
1 cup sugar ( half brown )
2 large eggs
Cooking instructions:
Preheat oven 350 degree. Grease loaf pan or muffin pans.
Mix the first 7 ingredients above together.
In food processor, blend well the rest of the ingredients, pumpkin, eggs, milk, oil, sugar and butter.
Add wet mixture above into the flower mixture. Beat and mix well.
Pour butter into the pan and spread evenly.
Bake until a tooth pick inserted in the center clean about 1 hour for loaf pan, 30-40minutes for muffin pans.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Japanese curry using Sauce Mix

I was little bit hesitant writing and posting food blog for a while I have been posting more Japanese blogs which is not food but my experience around Seattle. Please bear my English writing skills.

Now I decided to write some of my modified version of recipes from my favarite cook books, website and sometimes from the box or the bags of the ingredients.


This is Bretzke family’s favorite recipe. You can make your curry from curry powder and chicken soup stock. However, it will require several hours to make tasty curry. By using ready-made curry sauce mix from the box such as S&B Golden curry, you don’t worry about adding any other spices and make your curry in about one hour. I added garlic to this recipe. If you use pork instead of chicken, I will recommend you to add chopped ginger in addition to the garlic to enhance the flavor. I used S&B Golden Curry here.
Ingredients for 4 people

2-3 Chicken Breast or Thigh
1 whole Onion
1 carrot
4 small potatoes
1 clove of garlic
Curry sauce mix such as House Golden Curry (A half of 8.4 oz)Cooking Oil

Cooking Instructions
1. Peel and cut onion crosswise and chop into small pieces. Peel and chop garlic into small pieces. Peel carrots and cut into bite size. Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch cube.
2. Heat large frying pan, add cooking oil, and sauté onion slices and garlic above with low heat until they are transparent and started browned. It will take for 15 minutes.
Caution: Do not burn them. It will be bitter if it burned.
3. While onion is sautéed, cut up chicken into about 1 inch square cube. Peel potatoes and carrots, and cut them into similar size pieces.
4. After onion is cooked, add chicken and sauté with Onion with medium heat until chicken is fully cooked.
5. Add potatoes and carrot into the pan and sauté for 5 minutes.
6. Add 3 cups of water into a large stew pot and add sautéed meat and vegetables.
Notes: The amount of water can be varied by the brand of the sauce mix and your preference. If you like thick sauce, add less water than the instruction of the box.
7. Cook the pot with high heat and boil. When grayish bubbles float on the surface of the soup, remove them to clear the soup.
8. Turn the heat down to medium when no longer grayish bubbles form. Cook it until the vegetables are tender. Over cooking the soup will cause potatoes breaking down.
9. Turn off the stove, break down sauce mix into small pieces and drop them into the soup.
10. Melt sauce into the soup completely. If the sauce mix remains on the bottom of the pot, it will cause the curry to be burned easily.
11. Cook and simmer the pot over medium heat stirring constantly to avoid burn. Longer cook this, more delicious it gets. Usually the left-over curry next day tastes better than one you just cooked.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Garfield high school Auction dinner

I attended another auction on 12th of April.

The head chefs of the dinner were the same as WMS’s auction dinner, John P at St. Clouds(1) and Thierry of the chef in the hat of Rover's (2).

I volunteered precooking chickens at St. Clouds restaurant the day before the auction. I got to St. Clouds at 2:30pm. There were still some customers for the brunch. John P showed me to the hot grill which I would be grilling chicken.
Shortly later two parents of a Garfield student came to join us. John P pointed 4 large pots full of chicken breasts marinated and ready to be grilled. I think he told us they were 350 chicken breasts. Chicken was grilled diagonally and turned 90 degree on the same side then turn over do the same to make the nice brown lattice. Two of us, women, took in charge each half of the large grill. We grilled 10 chicken breasts on a half of the grill and 40 total at once. It was very hot standing by the barbecue grill without doing anything. We had to be closer to put the chicken breasts on the grill, move and turn them with the tong. My previous task for WMS auction dinner to prepare bread pudding was easy and cushy compared with this task. My hands were greasy and slippery from moving the meat from the pan to the grill. The Chicken breast was large and heavy. It was a hard work to turn using the tong. My hands and arms were burning hot being close to the grill to do the job. I was very sweaty. We cooked all of the 350 chicken breasts in 2 hours. The husband of my grilling partner moved the grilled chicken to the tray to the cooling room for 10 minutes and he stacked the cooled chickens to several layers into the deep pan. Finally he wrapped the deep pan with plastic wrap several times and they were ready to store in the fridge for the final bake the next day. His task required muscle because the deep pan of chicken was very heavy. We completed our tasks and left St.Cloud about 5:00pm. Three of us will appreciate to the grilling cook for his hard labor when we order grilled meats at the restaurant in the future.
The day of the auction, I was nervous to find out thefinal results of the chicken. The dinner started with greens with goat cheese. Main course came next. Barbecued chicken breasts with rosemary sauce looked good. It had nice smoky taste matched well with the special sauce and the meat inside chicken was moist as expected. Our hard work to pre-grill the chicken paid-off. The side dish was delicious too. It was sweet and white potato gratin. I like this better than the bread pudding at WMS auction dinner. It was a great idea to precook chicken half way on the grill first then cook it in the oven. It prevents juice of chicken coming out and the resulted chicken is moist inside and nice brown barbecued looks outside. When I have a big barbecue party at home, I will use this method to serve delicious chicken.
I realize that this method allows the host to spend time with guests instead of barbecuing meat during the party. What's a great way to cook and serve great chicken barbecue!

I bought Girls' night out ticket at this auction. I will write about it after the party is over.

Website references:

(1) St.Clouds website:

(2) Rover's website:

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The day of WMS auction

(This is Part 2 of the previous article. Please read the previous topic.)

This posting was delayed because my photos of WMS auctions along with my two laptop computers were stolen. I am hoping to create my tapenade and to post the picture soon.

On the day of Washington Middle school’s(WMS) auction, I arrived at St.Demetrios(1) at 4:00pm, two hours before the auction started. I went to the kitchen and saw Thierry who is the famous chef in Seattle and is the chef in the hat at Rover’s. (2) He was another volunteer chef to cook main dishes for the guests. Thierry brought his own three assistant cooks. JohnP from St. Clouds came soon and assigned tasks to us. My first job was to carry several large pans of bread pudding and other items such as vegetables from his van to a walk-in refrigerated room. Then I sliced fresh bread, wrapped them in cloth napkins and put them in a bread basket. My last task in the kitchen was dish up hors d’oeuvres. WMS parents donated a lot of appetizers.Although they all looked tasty, the containers of appetizers were tin pans and paper plates. They didn’t look fancy enough to serve to paid guests. Jayne who was the organizer of the food preparation team brought nice plates, freshly-cut leaves and flowers. Another volunteer and I dished them up to the plates and decorate with leaves and flowers. The results was remarkable. The hors d’oeuvres looked like ones served at a nice restaurant. The same hors d'oeuvres looked more delicious and appetizing on the nice plates with a flower in the middle. Now my work at the kitchen was over. It’s time for me to go to the other side of the kitchen to be the guest.
Our servers were the students of WMS. JohnP of St. Clouds gave them quick server training. They turned into the nice young waiters and waiteresses instantly. They served the guests politely and very well. I learned later that JohnP used to be a teacher (see St. Clouds’ website 3). He must have been a good teacher.

Hors d’oeuvres were first served on the plates to the guests who was bidding the silence auction items. I learned all of appetizers which had occupied four large kitchen counters were gone quickly.

The auction stated with nice jazz music played by Washington Middle school jazz band. I decided to peek in the kitchen to find out what was going on before live-auction started. I saw soup was simmering in the two huge pots.
After the silent auctions, all the guests were seated to their assigned seats. When the live auction started, our meal began with a glass of wine and a slice of bread. Our waiter brought white cheese in dark pink sauce on the plate. We wondered if it is for bread or for something else. It was for the soup. The waiter brought soup in the small pot and poured in each plate. If they brought soup with everything mixed in, we would not have seen pink and white inside. The nice colorful contrast made us hungry and wonder what would be the next. It was very pretty and the soup was tasty.
The main course was served the next. The roasted salmon covered with tapenade and bread pudding with sautéed green on side were on the plate. I thought tapanade was for the bread dip and this was the surprise. The salmon was bit salty but delicious. My husband who usually doesn’t like pudding loved this bread pudding.

After main meal, time for the Dessert dash. To get a dessert, the guest wrote how much they would pay for their dessert and the total amount of each table was presented to the auctioneer. The dessert bid of each table were compared with other tables'. The guests at the table of Highest bid can select their dessert first, the second highest select theirs the next and so on. We were the third highest bidder. My husband and one other guest brought a large delicious looking 6 layered-chocolate cake to our table. It was very hard to cut with all layers without smashing because some layers were mushy. The most of them were broken into several pieces. My slice didn't look good but it was very luscious. The cake was so large and after 10 of us at the table had our portions, more than a half of the cake was left to share with other tables.
The cake was so tall and was hard to be carried to the neighbouring table. As a matter of the fact one of the guest at our table took it to the teachers' table and part of the cake fell off. He made a big mess on the table. Fortunately nobody got hurt or got messy. I learned that the dessert which looks really great may neither be suitable to carry nor to be sliced into pieces.
These were my experience participating Washington Middle school's auction. I am going to help precooking chicken the day before the Garfield High school's auction soon. So please keep reading my blog.
Unfortunately my WMS auction photos got stolen with my laptop computer. So I cannot post any photos of WMS auction. Please imagine a lot of people in the Greek Church having delicious full course dinner with nice entertainment.
Website of references
(1) St. Demetrios church website:

(2) Rover's, Seattle website:

(3) St. Clouds, Seattle website :

Monday, March 17, 2008

My experience working at a commercial kitchen

I had an opportunity working at a restaurant kitchen for three days by volunteering food preparation for Washington Middle School’s fund raising auction. The restaurant was St. clouds(1). I was very excited working in the commercial kitchen for the first time. John Platt, who is owner and the chef at St. clouds, was very nice to let us use his kitchen and gave us cooking instructions. Our job was mainly peeling, cutting, chopping, and mixing vegetables and other ingredients. Some people may think it is boring and tiring. But I love cooking and loved this task. I brought my Japanese knife and tried it out then borrowed the restaurant's knife. I learned while my Japanese knife may be good to cut large pieces or slicing vegetables, I liked using the restaurant’s knife which was more efficient chopping vegetables into very small pieces than my knife.

One of dishes which I helped cooking was bread pudding. It is interesting coincidence that I helped making the bread pudding after I wrote about the pudding in the British food. I asked JohnP if this pudding was British. He told me we were preparing French pudding not British. According to him, French loved bread and made pudding using day old bread.

At my first day at St. clouds, my job was peeling and slicing onions. Two of us tackled many onions. Amazingly we had no tears in our eyes. Next I chopped and minced fresh thyme. All chopped onions were placed into huge metal pans with melted butter and oil on the bottom and spices and minced fresh thyme and other spices were added to it. I mixed these onions with all sort of spices with my rubber-gloved hands. Onions were ready to be cooked to be caramelized in the oven. Meanwhile, other volunteers were cutting the crust off from day-old bread which the head of food preparation volunteers got free from Essential baking Co.(2). Essential baking Co. is one of the best bakeries in Seattle. The day-old bread was still tasted delicious. I helped cutting crust off bread and non crust part into smaller pieces while I snacked delicious crust which would go to composed bin soon.

At the second day, onions were already caramelized and ready to be used. I spread one layer of chopped bead into 8 large metal pans. Other volunteers were chopping pears into small pieces and cooked them with caramelized onion in a large frying pan. The pears looked like red potatoes. Two of us spread onion-pear mix in the pans. We added another layer of bread pieces. Meanwhile, two ladies were mixing eggs, milk, cream, and blue cheese with spices in the large container. We got this egg and milk mixture and mixed well and pour into the eight pans. Our final task for pudding was pushing bread down to soak into the liquid to prevent being dry. JohnP told me push floating bread pieces down every 20 minutes. While I waited to press bread pieces into liquid, I helped chopping a lot of pickled green olives into paper corn size to prepare Olive Tapanade.

Final day at the restaurant kitchen, I chopped chives for the Tapanade. I washed many pans, knifes, pots, spoons and everything. I was surprised that dish washing machine was not like one at my house. I scrubbed and rinsed to remove any food waste on the pans. The dish washing machine rinses dishes or anything inside twice and sanitizes them. It only took about 5 minutes. The restaurant doesn’t need many plates using this machine. Only it need person pre-washed dishes and insert it to dish washer. The last task was to help rotating 6 bread pudding pans clockwise from bottom to top, left to right every 20 minutes. This will help cooking pudding in the pans evenly. The pan was very heavy. The chef has to have muscle.

These were my three days’ experience working at restaurant’s commercial kitchen.

I enjoyed meeting and talking other volunteers at St. clouds. I was excited going to auction to help final preparation for 2 hours in advance. And I will be the guest to try out the final meal after 3 days of our hard work. Please read my next blog article to find out the meal at the WMS auction night.

(1)St. Clouds restaurant website.
(2) Essential Baking CO. website:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Is Breakfast the most important meal of the day?

According to 2007 International Food Information Council foundation survey ( ), 90% of consumers named breakfast as the most important meal of the day and only 49% of consumers eat breakfast 7 days a week. Also recent research found that not having breakfast affect children’s intellectual performance. (,
I believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I eat breakfast 7 days a week. I am not sure my intellectual performance is good by eating breakfast. I felt nervous and drove badly when I had to fast to test blood glucose. My family hardly skips breakfast and we are in good health. My family members usually have quick American breakfast such as cereals and Waffle except my older son who has often left over rice. I often have cooked oatmeal with Banana and raisins. Although it is not my favorite breakfast, it contains fibers, lowers my bad cholesterol and supposed to be good for my health. The website ( ) describes the benefit of healthy breakfast.
Most popular breakfast in US is cereal with Milk. It doesn’t require cooking, and supposedly includes with all necessary nutrients to start the day. The companies who sell cereals have fun sites to attract youngsters (, and to promote its health benefit ( ). Disney’s family food webpage ( ) includes two recipes, banana peanut butter smoothie and breakfast burritos for children. Burritos seem OK but I don’t think I have smoothie for my breakfast. This site also includes other good breakfast recipes such as some delicious muffins, cinnamon rolls, and scones recipes.
I like eating big American breakfast once a week. My American breakfast contains bread(toast, muffin, pancake, cinnamon rolls, pastry or Croissant), eggs, meat which usually is choice of bacon, sausage, or ham, cooked potatoes, fruit, orange juice, and coffee. It fills my stomach well and I feel warm after eating this although I feel the need of some vegetables. Some people in US including my husband have supplements such as multi-Vitamins, minerals, and fish oils as a part of their breakfast. I don’t like putting many tablets into my half-awake stomach.
I love traditional Japanese breakfast although I grew up having thick slices of toast with butter and Jam and coffee for breakfast. Japanese breakfast contains Cooked white rice, Miso (soy bean paste) soup, cooked eggs, meat (the same as American), or fish(roasted dried fish, cooked salmon, and etc), Nimono(cooked vegetable), Tsukemono (pickled vegetable), Nori (seaweed), and green tea. I often cook this for Saturday lunch instead of the breakfast. After I have this breakfast, I am comfortably full and am satisfied with all nutrients although I think I took too much sodium. My American family love Japanese breakfast.
I seldom eat out breakfast. Breakfast is cheaper than lunch or dinner. However, most of the breakfast items are easy to make including muffins and Cinnamon rolls. I love to order and taste something new and tasty at the restaurant and it is hard to find something new for breakfast except contents of omelet and freshly baked bread.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Authentic Japanese Udon soup for Americans?

Picture left: My Udon soup, Right: Japanese Udon noodle recipe book. I didn't produce noodle itself. I used the soup recipe only.

I love eating Japanese Udon soup(See: ). I haven’t found a good Udon restaurant around Seattle area.
I saw several English website about Japanese Udon soup recipes. Many of them were American versions of Japanese Udon soup and not authentic Japanese recipes. (See, I decided to create a delicious Authentic Japanese soup for Udon and test it.
I applied Udon soup recipes from Japanese Udon cook book (picture above) and websites. (Sorry all in Japanese, , ttp:// ,
Here is how I have been testing my soup.

The first test
My American family was the first testers. I followed the exact seasoning and process from the book(See the picture above). It was too salty and soup color was too dark.

Second trial to improve my recipe
I asked my old Japanese neighbor, who cooks often for events for Japanese temple and Japanese Language school, to test my soup. I created two types of soup for this trial. I used the exact recipe from the cook book for one. I used less seasoning for another. The first soup was too salty but the second was fine. However, my neighbor pointed out something missing in the taste. I used her suggestion to create another soup for the third trial.

Third trial by more native Japanese
It was organized by my friend. 7 Japanese house wives and my American friend were participants. I created three different soups, the first soup which was boiled some ingredients longer than others, the second soup which was cooked short, and the third which replaced one ingredient to another. I created survey asking about each soup if it was too salty, if it required another ingredients or seasoning, and there were any suggestions in order to improve my soup.
I was nervous. My recipe will be tested by Japanese who grew up eating Authentic Udon soup. They all loved my soup. One even commented that she hasn't eaten Udon soup this good since she had came to America. Another mentioned that the aroma of the soup reminded her grandmother's noodle shop in Japan. Success! All of them liked the second soup.

The forth trial and final
How do Americans like my Udon soup? I organized a birthday party for my husband. Since I try to create perfect Udon soup, I added Udon soup taste testing as a part of the event. This is a good opportunity to find out how Americans (Satellite) like Authentic Japanese Udon soup. About 30 people mostly our American friends and neighbors. Few were European, and Asian descendants. I served Udon soup which did the best so far. The result was unexpected. Most of my American friends finished their bowl of Udon soup. I saw only two people left some in the bowl. Two out of 30 was very promising. This authentic Japanese Udon soup seemed to do well to Satellite.

Conclusion of the testing.
This Authentic Japanese Udon soup trial was very interesting. My Japanese Udon soup may become popular for Satellites while many popular trendy Japanese restaurants serve fusion foods. Many Japanese friends asked me to open Udon fast food restaurants where they can visit. I am not ready to do this business yet. There are a lot of problems to solve. Udon soup is not large enough to fill Americans stomach. More menu items were needed to open the restaurant. My Udon Soup was served with green onion and fish cake. More toppings such as Tempura, eggs, meat, and etc need to be added. The restaurant need to meet health department requirements such as food handling permit and use of commercial kitchen. The location of the restaurant, the size, and number of the employees are the other issues. I need the business plan to start it right and to borrow money from bank.
If I overcome these obstacles and will be ready to work very hard to be restaurant owner, cook, waitress, and cash resister, I may open my own Udon restaurant someday.

Authentic Japanese Udon soup recipe website:
You can make Udon soup easily by following this website instruction:
Ingredients may be bought at Japanese grocery store.
If you have questions about ingredients of Udon soup, please add your comment.