Kurichan’s Japanese Sesame Dressing

[Check back later for pictures :-)]  


  A while back I heard a quote from Hippocrates “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”  This resonated with me so profoundly that I find myself thinking it almost every time I begin preparing food for my family.  With so many preservatives, hormones and….well, junk in the food we can buy off the shelf, I have begun a journey of trying to duplicate some of my favorite items.  My goal?  To achieve the same (or better) flavor, and skip the junk! 




     The following is a recipe requested of me almost on a weekly basis.  Thus, I figured it would be the perfect recipe to introduce myself to you all.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.



     Being married to a  wonderful (and handsome) Japanese man and having lived in Japan for a few years has afforded me the great privilege of expanding my tastes and recipes.   A traditional Japanese meal may have 5 or 6 small servings of a variety of foods, carefully balanced in protein, starch and heavy on the veggies. In many cases, each of those 5 or 6 items may have their own kind of dipping or drizzling sauce.  While that, at first, may seem cumbersome, let me assure you that the explosion of palate sensations is well worth the abundance of tiny little dishes that it requires! 

     Among their favorites is a light and flavorful “Goma Dressing” (“goma”=sesame). It can be drizzled over steamed veggies, a fresh green salad or even a grilled chicken breast.  It can also easily cost you $6 for a 4-6oz bottle and come loaded with high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, and several other preservatives and sugars….all of these things I’m quite certain would’ve made Hippocrates sick to his stomach. So, one day I decided it was time for me to have a go of it.  Here is what I came up with. (Not to toot my own horn, but I LOVE to tell Japanese people I made it and giggle as they look at me in disbelief!)  Enjoy!






Yield: approx 4-5 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup roasted sesame seeds*

2 1/2 Tbls sesame oil*

1 Tbls white distilled vinegar

1/2 cup Japanese mayonnaise (found at most Asian grocery stores. You can use a whipped mayo, but the flavor and texture will not be quite the same)

1Tbls granulated sugar

1/4 cup milk (can substitute plain soy, almond or coconut milk for dairy free options)



*Tahini paste may be substituted for fresh ground seeds and sesame oil but add a little more milk as paste will thicken mixture…and, again, this changes the texture and flavor a bit.



Start by grinding the sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle until they are powdery and fluffy.



 Carefully pour ground seeds into a mixing container and add sesame oil.  Stir until seeds are wet.



 Add remaining ingredients in the order listed (this will keep the vinegar from souring the milk) and stir until well blended.



If mixture is too thick, add more milk (1 Tbls at a time). If too thin, add more mayo or ground seeds. Chill for at least an hour to allow flavors to coagulate. 

Store in refrigerator for about 5 days.  Mix well before each use.

Bread Pudding in a Pinch

Img_4733

The other day I was craving breakfast for dinner and, more specifically, French toast.  But with about 1 1/2 hours until the kids needed to be getting ready for bed I was in no position to make that happen!  Not to mention I only had 4 slices of bread….which I think my son alone would've easily consumed! So, I just dove right into "making-it-up-as-I-go-along" mode and this was the result.  I'm happy to say that it was a hit with the whole family. (Even my husband who claimed to not be a fan of bread pudding!) Oh, and I even got the kids to bed at a decent hour! Yay!  

 
***Note: I made this with half vanilla soy milk and half vanilla coconut milk and it turned out delicious! Also, it reheats in the microwave quite nicely, although it is always better fresh. 😉

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1 cup milk(soy, coconut or almond for non-dairy options)
3 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 slices of your favorite sandwich bread, approx 1 inch cubed
Maple syrup
Powdered confectioner's sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Put eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl and beat well
Place cubed bread in 3+ inch deep baking dish
Pour egg mixture over bread and stir until coated; Set aside for about 5 minutes to allow bread to soak up egg mixture
Cover and place in oven for 20-30 minutes or until bread puffs up and egg is mostly cooked. 
Remove lid and cook about 5 more minutes until tips of bread are lightly browned
Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with a little confectioner's sugar
Best if served hot and fresh.
Makes approx 4-6 servings

5 Minute BBQ Chicken

Christina's Kitchen

I have fond memories of coming home from school to the wonderful smell of an amazing dinner permeating every inch of the house….and even into the front yard. 🙂  My Mom used her slow cooker so regularly that I thought every family had the same love affair with that little appliance.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized exactly why my Mom loves her slow cooker so much!  How else can you provide a healthy and delicious meal when you only have 15 minutes in the morning to throw something together while still getting the kids off to school and yourself off to work?  So, when Mom passed this recipe on to me I think I actually went out that same day and got everything I needed to give it a try. I've made it dozens of time since then and my husband still oohs and aahs every time. 🙂

If you haven't discovered the simplicity of slow cookers or if you lack inspiration or know-how, this is the perfect recipe to get you started. Ok, so it might take you a little more than 5 minutes, but shouldn't take much more than 15. (Unless you choose to make your own BBQ sauce. But even still, it is SO simple it is almost sure to find it's way onto your menu at least once a month.)

***Note: Since the chicken will LITERALLY fall apart in the cooker, you can also use boneless/skinless chicken pieces so you don't have to sift through all the bones to find the meat and veggies.

Pour the drippings over the meat and use as a main dish with rice and some greens,  or arrange the cooked meat on your favorite toasted bread with fresh slices of onion, fresh spinach or lettuce and a little mayonnaise to make a yummy BBQ chicken sandwich. 

Also makes a great soup: Once cooked, carefully pour (sifted)slow-cooker contents into a large stockpot and add about 6 cups of water and bring just to a boil. Pour over cooked Quinoa for a high protein BBQ chicken soup. 

Img_4709

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken; rinsed 
1 medium onion cut in 1-2 inch chunks
1 cup sliced mushrooms; any variety(optional)
2-6 cloves fresh garlic; chopped or pressed 
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce or about 1 1/2 cups homemade
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Remove giblets and neck of chicken and place rinsed chicken in the slow cooker
Add onions, mushrooms(optional), garlic, and salt and pepper
Pour BBQ sauce over all ingredients and cover
Cook on high 4-6 hours or until internal temp of chicken reads 180 degrees

Serve and enjoy!

Dairy Free, Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Pb_cookies

Ok, so before you turn your nose up at these cookies you simply MUST try them. 

I am always on a quest for the perfect cookie as in my family I am famous for my chocolate chip cookies. When we discovered that my baby girl was lactose intolerant, that quest became more of a mission to satisfy my sweet-tooth without making her sick. So imagine my excitement when my friend shared this recipe with me! Suddenly my plain ol’ cookie recipe (you know, the one on the back of the yellow chocolate chip bag????)  was all but retired because this recipe is ridiculously simple and so yummy. Beware, you may not have any leftovers…..unless you make a double batch like I always do! 

It literally takes about 5 minutes to throw the batter together, no mixer required, has only 5 ingredients, and can easily be modified about a million different ways for variety.  Did I mention they are so good you’ll have a hard time not eating the whole batch??  As a way of warning, these are very sweet so they are a perfect match with bitter tea or even coffee.

They take a little longer in the oven than some cookies so I like to use my half sheet baking pan so I only need to do 2 or 3 rounds in the oven.  Their texture will vary depending on what kind of peanut butter you use.  Here are some examples:

Natural or fresh ground pb=very crumbly and light in flavor
JIF or Skippy (creamy)=a little crumbly on the outside and chewy in the center
For a little more chocolately flavor try 1/2 peanut butter 1/2 Nutella
My favorite thing to do is 1/2 JIF, 1/2 natural. They come out chewy but crumbly and almost melt in your mouth. Mmmmm, yummy!

***Note: To ensure they are gluten free and dairy free(if those are an issue for your family) make sure to use gluten free items like baking soda(I’ve been told Arm and Hammer is a good option), and peanut butter(I’m told Adam’s) and dairy free chocolate chips(which many of the store brands are). 

Hope you enjoy them!

Ingredients:
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350
In a small-medium mixing bowl lightly beat egg with a fork or wisk, until just smoothly combined 
Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Place on cookie sheet about 1-2 inches apart 
Bake on center rack for 12-14 minutes or until lightly brown and texture appears dry; let cool on sheet 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack
The texture is best fresh but they keep well in an air tight container.

Enjoy! …..no really, that’s all there is to it! 🙂

Japanese Pickled Vegetables(Tsukemono)

In keeping with my family’s unique tastes, I thought I would share another favorite Japanese dish.  We almost always have some in or refrigerator for snacking on or any number of other uses.

Many traditional Japanese meals include at least one little dish of “tsukemono”, otherwise known as pickled vegetables or simply a side dish of prepared vegetables.  My husband is a sucker for any dish that includes onions. So when my master-of-the-kitchen-mother-in-law introduced us to this recipe my husband made sure she taught me how to make it.  It has quickly become a staple in our household, and, true to form, I have found about a million yummy ways to use it besides just “tsukemono”. 🙂

Img_4697

 

Enjoy!
Ingredients:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 heaping tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 to 1 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup mirin(sweet cooking sake)
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup soy sauce 

Directions:
Slice onions and let them rest at room temperature for about 40 minutes.(I’m told this is to allow the sulfuric acid/gases escape, the gases that make your eyes water, but I cannot confirm this.)
Place rested onions in sealable container and add the remaining ingredients.
Carefully mix and slightly compress onions to ensure they are covered by the liquids.
Seal container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before eating.

Serve as a small side dish or try pouring some over chicken breasts and baking it for a tangy, sweet and very moist chicken dish!

Homemade Laundry Soap

Soap

With two small children, a dog, a household to manage, a part time job and ministry to juggle, I don’t have a lot of spare time.  And with a limited budget to work with, I have found myself becoming more creative, even adventurous in order to save a few dollars and valuable time I could be spending with my family.  I have tried (and since given up on) making my own shampoo and hand soap.  I have made the switch from disposable diapers to cloth(and I will never go back!).  I have, for the most part, gotten rid of most cleaning solutions and instead use things like vinegar($3 for 2 gallons at Costco…can’t beat it!). And the list goes on! 

After a few different…uh, adventures(aka: failures), I began to formulate a few simple rules about “alternative” and homemade products:

1)  Ideally, making a product will cost less and take less time than getting the kiddos loaded in the car and driving to the store and back. 

2)  It is worthwhile if I can do 5-10 minutes of work at a time and multi-task the rest(ie, laundry, reading my kids a book, vacuuming).

3)  It MUST work as good or better than what I can buy off the shelf.

4)  If it costs more, but the health benefits for my family outweigh the extra few dollars by a large margin, it is worth it. This comes in the perspective that the long term health benefits will cost us less money in medicine or doctor visits because the product will be that much higher quality.

5)  If my 5 year old couldn’t do it, with a little bit of help, it is too complicated.

6)  If I can’t pick up the ingredients while picking up a loaf of bread and some toilet paper on a usual stop at the store(or at least on the way there), I need to re-evaluate the above rules. 😉

One of the best things I ever did was to start making my own laundry soap.  My friend, LaVonne is one of the “greenest” people I know, so she often is a wonderful resource for eco-friendly and inexpensive alternatives to common household items. She is the one who got me started and I have since taken her recipe and made it work for me.  I love how easy and quick it is to make, and I love how well it works.  And at around $9 for 6 gallons, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the price tag. 🙂 Just know that it takes some trial and error to get it to the right consistency. But once you get it (took me 2 tries) it’s super easy and fast. If  it isn’t quite right just heat it back up and stir it until it melts again. Easy peasy! Yes, it’s lumpy.  Yes, it is also a little runny.  But who says laundry soap has to be pretty?????  

There are a whole lot of recipes out there but they basically use the same ingredients, just in different quantities. Some people find they have to make adjustments because of hard or soft water. Here’s the recipe I use.  
 **Note: Scroll all the way to the end for some commonly asked questions.**

Ingredients:
*1/3 bar of Fels Naptha (5.5oz bar). You can use other soap but make sure you aren’t using a beauty bar, which is what most bar “soaps” are that you find in normal grocery stores.

*1 1/2 cup arm and hammer WASHING soda (NOT baking soda, although you can add it and some recipes do)

*1/2 to 1 cup borax 

*1/4-1/2 cup white vinegar

*1T essential oil or glycerin (optional)

*2 1 gal. jugs or other container to store soap. If you have an old detergent container or empty vinegar jugs, that works great. You can also use a bucket, allthough, if you have kids you’ll want to make sure it has a tight fitting lid and is very durable.

Directions:
Grate the Fels Naptha soap and put it in a large stock pot with 6 cups water over medium heat; stir constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. Heat until soap melts. (You’ll know it’s melted because it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot as much.)

Add washing soda, borax, vinegar and oil (if desired) all at once, stirring constantly until all has dissolved.

Reduce heat and let it sit for 5 mins. over the heat stirring occasionally.

Slowly add 1 gallon of hot tap water to mixture. If lumps appear, stir over heat a few minutes to incorporate.***

Remove from heat and let it cool for a while. Remove any bubbles and stir, slowly, occasionally(every 20mins or so to keep ingredients from separating) until cool enough to touch. Make sure it’s fairly cool because once you put the cap on the jug, it will expand and blow the top off if it’s too hot. If you are using a bucket, it should be fine to pour in after only 5 or 10 minutes.

Using a funnel put half the mixture in each gallon jug and shake well.

Put aside until cool.

This gels up and looks like egg whites.

Shake well before each use. Use about 1/2 c. per load, depending on size. It won’t suds up like most detergents but the clothes smell wonderful.

***If you don’t have a stockpot large enough, after dissolving all the ingredients in the 6 cups of water, let cool and stir as above, then add half of the mixture to each jug and then fill the rest of the way with hot tap water and shake well.

FAQ:

Q: Where can you buy the ingredients?
A: I have seen them at WinCo, Fred Meyer and Safeway.  Next time you are in your favorite store, take a look in isle with the laundry supplies. 

Q: Can this be used in front loading and HE(high efficiency) washers?
A: Yes and yes.  I have an HE front loader.  Since this soap doesn’t suds up like other detergents it is perfect for HE and front loaders.  You may find that you can use even less.  I actually only use about 1/4 cup per load.

Q: Can it be used to wash cloth diapers?
A: Yes.  We use cloth diapers and have never had any trouble with it.  I actually started adding a little extra vinegar(for the disinfectant quality) to the soap. So I use 1/2 cup to a full 1 cup of vinegar.  You may find that you need less of the Fels Naptha for diapers if your baby has sensitive skin or your washer doesn’t rinse clothes well.

Q: Can I use this if I have sensitive skin?
A: Honestly, I am not sure.  I would assume so.  But admittedly, my family is blessed to not have sensitive skin.  But, that being said, since I use it to wash my daughter’s cloth diapers, I assume it may be ok for most people. Again, don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time.  Try tweeking the recipe to see if reducing or increasing certain ingredients will help.   Please leave a comment if you have sensitive skin and try using this recipe.

Q: Is this soap toxic?
A: Like any soap, it should be kept out of reach of children.  The Borax box says to keep out of reach of children.  (I believe borax can be used to kill ant nests so I would assume that should tell us something!) So please keep this where you youngest and dearest won’t be tempted to play and explore. 😉

Q: Should I use special tools to “cook” it?
A: I use the same stockpot I use to cook spaghetti, and I use the same grater I use for veggies and cheese.  It is soap.  I actually find my stockpot is cleaner after I use it to make this soap!  Just make sure you rinse it well so there isn’t any residue.  …but hopefully you do that with any soap you use to wash dishes! 😉

Q: Can you make it dry instead of liquid?
A: I have seen many recipes for this online but have never tried it as I prefer liquid.  But do a quick internet search and you should easily find something that will work.  I’m not certain, but I think this recipe can be made dry by just finely grating the Fels Naptha and mixing it with the other dry ingredients, adding the vinegar, etc directly to the washer.  Leave a comment and let me know how it works if you give it a try.