Merry Christmas 2013

IMG_7926

Mom’s homemade turkey Christmas dinner = pure deliciousness.

IMG_7929 IMG_7930 IMG_7931 IMG_7938

I hope everyone had a wonderful holidays with your loved ones.

Advertisements

Happy Christmas

IMG_3405

I guess it wasn’t just me who didn’t feel all that festive this Christmas. Kevin thinks having Christmas fall on a Tuesday had something to do with it, and I completely agree. Good for those people who took the Monday the 24th off, or even better, the rest of the year off. It was strange to work on Monday, take a day off to celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, and back to work on Wednesday.

IMG_3401

We spent Christmas Eve at my parents’ house and had a wonderful holiday dinner. My mother roasted a 2-pound chicken (which I forgot to take a picture of) and feasted on tonkatsu (pork cutlets) and other appropriately green side dishes like her famous spaghetti salad, string beans tossed in sesame, steamed Brussels sprouts, and spinach. The spread wasn’t very Christmas-y but everything was delicious. My father picked up a decadent chocolate cake from a bakery owned by a Persian family. He asked to have “Merry Christmas” written on a cake but the pastry chef didn’t know how to spell it, so we ended up having a cake that read, “Happy Chrisms.” I thought that was hilarious.

We were invited to Kevin’s sister’s house for an amazing prime rib lunch on Christmas day. I was so into gulfing down the food that I forgot to take pictures. The meat was perfectly cooked, and the green salad and the sweet corn casserole served on the side were absolutely to die for. She definitely knows how to cook! Thank you so much for the amazing meal and thoughtful gifts.

I hope you all had a happy Christmas, and getting ready for the new year!

Recovery Food: California Chicken Cafe

Currently recovering from the two days of pure Christmas dinner gluttony (first night at home and the second night with my fiancé’s family) with simpler meals.  The dinners were fabulous but it’s time for me to go back to my regular eating routine. Here’s today lunch, enjoyed after working out with my sister: a side salad, a bowl of vegetable soup, and chicken pasta salad from California Chicken Cafe.

By the way, there’s a saying in Japan that goes something like this: Women are like Christmas cakes – they go stale after 25.  This is completely ridiculous. evil On a contrary, I think we women are like fine wine and we get better and better with age.  So, all the ladies out there — forget the backward thinking and keep on shining!

Let the Holiday Begin! Green Tea Cookies


I found the best green tea cookie recipe ever. Yes, E-V-E-R. After baking these little green heavenly morsels, courtesy of Kelli from Lovescool, it is no surprise that this recipe won the Pastryspoon.com’s Golden Scoop Awards in the “Best Bakery Recipe” category. I have no idea who Pastry Spoon is and how reputable this award truly is in the baking world but these cookies are true champions in the confectionery arena!

On a totally random note, did you know that the term that brings most traffic to my blog is, “calamari”? I don’t remember talking too much about the fried squid at the Time for Dinner blog, but apparently, people searching for either a photo or information on the dish ends up here. So far, this post has received the most traffic at almost 10,000 visits. The second popular search term is “green tea,” and the post I did about the Green Tea Cake has received more than 7,500 views. Compared to other high-quality, high-trafficked blogs, my daily hits are very, very low (at about 200 a day, and 3/4 of them are probably coming from my supportive sister and boyfriend), but I am so thankful for people who ended up at my blog and checked out my stories and photos. And big thanks to those who have decided to return to this humble place and become a regular reader. I am so honored that you’ve decided to share your precious time with me. 🙂

Back to the Green Tea Cookies. I am hosting a little Christmas get-together tomorrow afternoon at my place with my sister and two of her wonderful Japanese friends, who I’ve been fortunate enough to also befriend over the years. I don’t have that many Japanese friends around me so it’s always nice to be able to relax and speak in my native tongue. I think we’re going to enjoy each other’s company over holiday cookies and tea (and perhaps some wine, knowing us girls). While I love the idea of baking holiday-themed cookies, I am not too keen on making anything too colorful (I hate food colorings), chocolate-y (too messy), or overly elaborate (too tiring), so I decided to bake simple, everyday cookies, for the gathering. Sure, gingerbread cookies would have been more appropriate, but I’m confident that my go-to Cranberry Biscotti, this Green Tea Cookies, and fool-proof Chocolate Chip Cookies, would satisfy our Christmas sugar cravings!

I’ve already talked about the biscotti and the chocolate chip cookies, so I won’t bore you with the repeats here. Instead, I’m posting the recipe of this Green Tea Cookies. I hope you would try this recipe. If you’re a green tea fan like me, you won’t be disappointed!

Green Tea Sweets

Courtesy of Lovescool

Ingredients (Yield 2” leaf shape, Approx 25)

3/4 cup (2.25 oz) Confectioners sugar
5 oz Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 3/4 cup (8.5 oz) All-purpose flour
3 Large egg yolks
1.5 tablespoons Matcha (powdered green tea)
1 cup Granulated sugar (for coating)

(Note: I love green tea so much that I doubled the amount of green tea powder to 3 tablespoons. Although I love how they came out, I don’t recommend it unless you absolutely love the bitterness of the green tea. Doubling the amount will really make the cookies bitter!)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Whisk the confectioner’s sugar and green tea together in a bowl. Add the butter and green tea/sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until smooth and light in color.

Add the flour and mix until well combined.

Add the egg yolks and mix just until the eggs are fully incorporated and a mass forms.

Form the dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 30 minutes).

Roll the dough out to ½” thickness. Cut the dough with a leaf cookie cutter.

Toss each cut cookie in a bowl of granulated sugar to coat. Place the sugar-coated cookie on a parchment lined pan.

Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.

I cannot wait to get the holidays officially started.

One-Plate Wonderland: Filet Mignon Christmas Dinner

filet-mignon-dinnerOne thing I hear repeatedly from all my favorite chefs on Food Network is that entertaining doesn’t have to be hard work. This didn’t settle with me at first because I always associated the party’s success by the amount of effort you invested in preparing the supper, but I decided to take the advice from the experts and prepare a simple dinner for Christmas this year. This approach worked out perfectly because I had to work on Christmas Eve (boo) and I really didn’t have time to prepare a grandiose dinner. My boyfriend arriving early from work and helping me with the preparation made all the difference in the world. This was truly a collaboration 🙂

I began the Christmas celebration with this little appetizer of sesame crackers, goat cheese brie, cucumber slices, smoked salmon and lemon wedges. I meant to get the regular goat cheese for tanginess but picked this one by accident (Trader Joe’s was just jammed packed all last week!) but it turned out as delicious as the original recipe. I make this appetizer at every opportunity I get because I just love the combination of soft cheese, refreshing cucumber and salty smoked salmon together in my mouth.  And they’re so colorful and fun to eat.

smoked-salmon

The second appetizer was Portobello mushrooms stuffed with sautéed garlic, onion, pistachio, panko breadcrumbs, flavored with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and topped with Parmesan shavings. I like serving stuffed mushrooms for starter so the guests can start enjoying wine before dinner and they go so well together.

portabello-mushroom

Next up was a very simple salad of baby arugula, sliced red onion and cannellini beans, with homemade vinegarette dressing — my favorite!

salad

Ever since my epicurean journey to the Northwest, I’ve been fascinated with the beauty of one-plate dinner where the plate becomes the chef’s canvas. I was dying to try something like that myself, so this was the perfect opportunity.  So for the main course, I decided to decorate the plate with festive Christmas colors of green, white and red.

For green, I sautéed and roasted zucchinis, which served as the base of the decoration. Next, to replicate snow, I made herb (thyme, rosemary and oregano) and garlic mashed potatoes, which sat in the center of the plate. I sauteed the spinach with balsamic vinegar for a little texture and additional green.  For red, I made a balsamic reduction to accompany the beef by cooking the vinegar with twigs of herbs for about 10 minutes until the liquid reduced to half.

The life of the party was definitely the filet mignon. My boyfriend was in charge of the meat (it’s a guy thing) and he made them simply divine. He seasoned each beef with salt and pepper, and rubbed minced garlic and chopped herbs (again, thyme, rosemary and oregano). He infused the olive oil with garlic wedges first and seared the meat for a few minutes on all sides, before putting them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. What came out was a perfectly juicy medium rare steak. Mmm. (oh, did I tell you that he’s close to being a professional chef?)

Christmas is such a special time where friends and family come together to enjoy their company. I hope you all have a merry Christmas and a prosperous 2008!

table