“Everyday” Sesame Sticks

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Another recipe from the “Every Day book. Another big success. I can’t stop eating these sesame sticks and neither can my 21-month old toddler!

I didn’t have black sesame seeds so I replaced them with white.  It’s so nutty, subtly sweet, and the crunch is irresistible.  My daughter is begging me for another one while I type this … and I don’t blame her. The batch I just baked is almost gone now.

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Black Sesame Sticks

黒ゴマスティック(「まいにち食べたいごはんのようなクッキーとビスケットの本」から。)

80 g cake flour
20 g whole wheat flour
20 g cane sugar
20 g black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons soy milk (you can substitute with water)
A pinch of salt

Here’s the detailed information on how to make these yummy sticks. It’s in Japanese but there are plenty of pictures to help you along the way!

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Smile Biscuits

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It’s so ironic.  Japanese tourists would drop hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars gobbling up American goods when they’re visiting the states on a holiday, while we Japanese living in the states would spend three times as much to get Japan-made products online or at local Japanese stores!

I love Japanese book and I can spend hours browsing through Amazon Japan to check out fun cookbooks and craft books. I usually resist the urge to purchase anything since it’s more expensive to buy it here and the shipping fee is pretty ridiculous, but once in a while, especially when I’m tired and lacking the willpower, I push the “click to purchase” button, which immediately follows by a buyer’s remorse.  But most Japanese books are so well written and practical, I’m always glad to have ordered them when they arrive at my doorstep three to five business days later.

My latest purchase was this baking book titled, “Mainichi Tabetai Gohan no Youna Kukki to Bisuketto no Hon,” (まいにち食べたい“ごはんのような”クッキーとビスケットの本), which translates loosely to, “Book of cookies and biscuits you want to eat every day like a meal.” The author, Shiho Nakashima, cleverly and quite accurately titled the book as such, because all the recipes included here are so healthy (maple syrup instead of white sugar; a tiny bit of canola oil instead of butter, and no eggs, for example), one won’t experience an ounce of guilt even after eating these baked snacks every day.

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The basic, and perhaps the most popular among the cult followers (Nakashima has published several more books on this “every day” series, including everyday muffins, crackers, and chiffon cakes, which are equally impressive), is the Smile Biscuit, which you see here. It’s made out of the combination of whole wheat and cake flours, maple syrup, and canola oil. I was pretty hesitant at first (how can something with virtually nothing in it possibly taste good?) but I was surprised when I took the first bite of the super dense biscuit.  It was absolutely sensational!  It was so simple but not plain, and so gentle but not flavorless.  It reminded me of snacks I grew up eating in Japan in the early 80s, before all the artificial sweets began filling up the grocery store shelves.

You can’t really think of this as a substitute for a regular, butter and sugar cookie but think of this rather as something completely new to our taste buds. Sure, it tastes nothing like the cookies that we’re accustomed to, but it brings a wonderful, fresh flavor and texture (and so much comfort) that would sure to satisfy any adventurous and open-minded cookie lovers out there. I am absolutely in love with these cookies / biscuits and I will, in fact, bake them and eat them every day as part of my daily dining ritual.  (Confession:  I received this book a week ago and I already made four batches of it.)

Here’s the video of the author making the Smile Biscuit!

Holiday Icebox Cookies

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I finally realized that the best way to control my cookie intake during the holidays is by making icebox cookies. They’re genius – simply make the dough, freeze it, and bake only the amount you want, instead of making the entire batch and rushing to eat the cookies before they go stale (or whatever excuses I can come up with).

Okay, mine are not technically “icebox cookies” since the doughs were frozen in a shape of a ball instead of a log, and I rolled it out instead of slicing from the log, but you get the gist.  They keep for weeks in a refrigerator and months in a freezer and your favorite cookies are right at your fingertip, whenever you’re crazing a few pieces of delicious dessert.

I made doughs for my favorite cookies over the weekend and baked a few today for an afternoon tea with a friend.  It took only a few minutes to cut out the dough and bake them.  I love a hassle-free prep.

I can’t believe that Christmas is less than a week away! This year’s Christmas seems to creep up much quicker than usual, thanks to Thanksgiving falling on the 28th.

Poilane’s Punitions

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Like so many tourists from around the world who make homage to this world famous boulangerie, I too visited Poilane on my last trip to the City of Lights and picked up a little complimentary “Punitions” cookie (or two, or three) from a basket by the cashier on my way out. I can still recall the moment the robust buttery flavor and subtle sweetness hit my taste bud – it was heaven. Just like the French culture, these cookies present a paradox that we Westerners often struggle to decipher: how something so simple (cookies made from only butter, sugar, egg, and flour) taste so rich, luxurious, and opulent.

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There’s no mystery why these butter cookies from one of Paris’ most famous bakers are called, “Punitions,” or punishment, because it’s just plan cruel to have to wait to bite into them until they cool down. Yep, it was definitely a torture.

You can find the recipe and a lovely story by Dorie Greenspan in her book, Paris Sweets. Or, click here for the recipe. This is one of my all-time favorite baking books.

A Sweet, Sweet Gift

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A group of wonderful ladies from a collegiate hockey team that Kevin coaches showered us with heartwarming baby gifts – a handwritten card signed by the entire team and a Kate Spade Stevie diaper bag!

This was a total surprise. You should have seen my face when Kevin walked in with a giant Kate Spade box one night. I now carry this bag everywhere I go with Pon Pon because it makes me feel like a chic mom that actually cares about style … which, in reality, am totally not. lol

We are so blessed to have such great people in our lives.

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Now that things are starting to settle down a bit (translation: we can sleep for an hour at night now — yipee!), I was able to sneak into the kitchen for a few hours this morning to bake my favorite chocolate chip cookies for the ladies as a thank you gift!

I used the Neimen Marcus recipe and made four batches of these heavenly munchies. I don’t think I’ve made such a large batch before — the entire apartment and I smelled like butter all day!

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I stuck a Lavender and Olive sticker on the box for a little personal touch! I hope they enjoy the sugar rush after their game tonight!

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.

The Perfect Cure: Chocolate Chip Cookies

cooking-cookiesThere’s an old Japanese proverb that says that, “stupid people don’t catch cold.” WTF? Well, I’m assuming that it means that active kids who played outside are typically more intellectually inept than those who stayed home and … read or something. Naturally, the latter would build up enough tolerance to fight cooties from being outside, thus making them unlikely to get sick.  I think I can credit my insecurities as a youth to this saying because I was one of those kids who never, ever got sick and because of that I always believed that I was stupid.

Well, either the proverb was proven to be full of shit (yeah) or I’m becoming smarter (neh), but I’ve been susceptible to cooties lately. This “turning 30” thing has really wreak havoc on my system, I tell you. For example, it takes me at least three days to recover from one night of wild fun (and by this, I mean going to a 10:00 p.m. movie), and forget losing weight. My ass gets bigger just by thinking about sweets. But what’s more frustrating than anything is that I get sick now just by walking past someone who’s coughing!  What is all that about?!?

After suffering this nasty cold for nearly a week, I finally felt good enough to get myself out of bed today and do something I’ve been wanted to do for weeks — baking.

marthaI didn’t want to do anything intricate so I went for the good old chocolate chip cookies, which give me enough satisfaction while providing guarantee results. I’ve tried many chocolate chip cookie recipes in the past but my favorites came down to  ① the recipe on the back of the Nestle chocolate chips, and ② Martha Stewart’s.
Although I wouldn’t call myself a fan of hers (she’s kinda scary), Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook is actually one of my favorite cookbooks. Everything that I’ve tried from this book has been successful, and I like the way the instructions are written. I used her recipe this time and the cookies certainly satisfied my sweet tooth.  This particular recipe called for more butter and less flour so the results were more crisp and less chewy, and I loved them.

Nothing cures cold better than a couple (or a dozen) of no frill, no nonsense homemade cookies, for sure.  Maybe I’ll save some for Santa too.