Summer Squash Pancake with Dill Yogurt Sauce (Gluten-free)

Recipe VERY scientifically experimented from: various zucchini fritter recipes 

squash fritters

Have you seen a dead cactus?  I have, because I managed to kill one before. And it’s truly one of the saddest sights you would ever see. It was given to me as a souvenir from my co-worker’s Santa Fe vacation – The entire office was horrified and dismayed when they discovered a brown shriveled shell looping over a tiny Mexican clay pot on my desk months after. I was immediately declared to have “toxic black thumb”, never to care for any living things EVER.

squashesThe fact that I now live with 3 dogs and grow vegetables is not because I am sufficiently rehabilitated, but because animals let me know when they need to be fed, and also I have, over the course of years, haphazardly yet continuously developed a catalog of plants that can survive my gardening skills (or the lack of).

Squashes definitely make the cut in my short list, and every year I plant at least a couple of different kinds – This year I settled with yellow crookneck and pale green pattypan types.  They did not disappoint, and in my opinion, now deserve to be made into something spectacular – Like these yummy fritters.

Of course they are hardly my innovation but rather traditional and popular Mediterranean snack. But I did tinker with various recipes to find the balance that would strike a sweet spot for me every time. Continue reading

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake with Tofu Green Tea Frosting (also for non-vegans who are in urgent need of cupcakes but out of eggs)

Cupcake recipe slightly modified from: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule (Isa Chandra Moskowitz), I found the recipe online but would definitely consider buying the book.

Frosting recipe adapted from: http://cookpad.com

vegan chocolate cupcake

OH MY GOD, I’M SO STRESSED OUT. I NEED TO EAT A CAKE, LIKE, RIGHT NOW.

It was 11PM and I was at home hunching over my laptop, stumbling through never-ending to-do list for the projects that had to be wrapped up before holidays, which at this point was very quickly becoming to look less and less likely.

Everybody knows a cake is a perfectly logical solution to mitigate the possibility of nervous breakdown under such crisis, and clearly it would be even more effective with chocolate.  So, naturally, I decided to bake chocolate cupcake, although it did pose some logistical issues in this particular situation including the fact that I’m not a very good baker nor have I ever even tried to become one, as well as that I was all out of eggs.

However, neither of these was going to stop me – 2 hours later, I was in the kitchen inhaling the most moist, fluffiest and richest cupcakes I ever baked. Once again I proved to myself it is when I do something I’m totally NOT supposed to be doing that I demonstrate remarkable concentration and skills.

Or possibly, this recipe is just really, really amazing. Continue reading

Unseasonal Goya Champloo (Sautéed Bitter Melon)

Recipe inspired by: Lucky byproduct of my complete negligence

goya champloo

Nothing says summer like goya, “bitter melon” which is one of typical ingredients used in cuisines from Okinawa, the most Southern and hottest island in Japan.

So imagine my surprise when I finally stepped out to the yard to check up on my vegetables this past weekend after a particularly busy month, and found a bunch of shiny bitter melons hanging behind the thick, green vines in a plot (where they self-seeded themselves from the previous year) that I haven’t even watered after summer squashes were all gone.

Amazed, both by my own obliviousness and the resilience of the plant, I decided to pay unseasonal respect to these survivors that they deserve with probably the most well-known Okinawa dish. After all, I feel strange affinity towards this relatively unknown vegetable – Seriously tough, seriously Asian and, seriously and unforgivingly, bitter. It’s basically like all the old people in my family (and I suppose I’m on my way to get there – Mean, crazy cat lady who never takes sick days. Wait. I kind of AM there already).  Continue reading

Mushroom Ma Po Tofu

Recipe slightly modified from: http://www.eatingwell.com

mushroom ma po tofu

Sometimes I wonder just how many vegetarian conversions mushrooms have been responsible for. People may decide to omit meat from their diet for ethical or health reasons  – But I know a friend who one day completely stopped eating meat, and what convinced him (yes, it was a guy, too) that he could live without meat for the rest of his life was mushroom cannelloni he ate that day.

I don’t plan to become a herbivore any time soon, but if any dish was to makes me seriously question whether I ever need to eat meat again or not, this would be it.  Continue reading

Purple Yam Soup

Recipe as a result of: My attempt to make something Halloween-ish that is spooky and sweet but does not require baking (and I got it)

purple soup

I was in elementary school when my dad took us with him from Tokyo to San Francisco, while he was invited to attend a 6-month business training program at the headquarters of the American company he was working for. It was the first time for all of us to live outside of Japan, even for a short term. We arrived late summer, spent a hectic few weeks getting settled in, then October came around.

Halloween is fairly established and enjoyed by many in Japan nowadays, but at that time not many Japanese even heard of it unless they had been in the States. So, imagine you are in the 3rd grade, never had Halloween before, and your mom (who probably just learned what it is, too) explains to you what will happen.

This is EXACTLY how it was processed in my 8-year old brain:

Wait – Let me get this straight.

… I get to dress up.

… Then I go around neighborhood, while still being dressed up, knocking on everybody’s doors.

… And they give me candy?

NO. FREAKIN’. WAY.

I’m in!!!!!

We went back to Japan in following winter after dad completed his program, but this miraculous event was thoroughly ingrained in my memory. To this date, Halloween is my favorite holiday – It MAY be somewhat responsible for the fact that I now live in US. Continue reading