Monday, September 13, 2010

Pain au chocolat bread pudding

Before I came to Seattle, I was not into baking. I started baking out of boredom. I didn't know anyone in Seattle and I needed to find something to do until my husband (then fiancé) came home. One day I discovered the Food Network and before I knew it I had started cooking and baking. Thank you Giada, Michael, and Ina!

I always thought baking was not for me. I am neither detailed oriented nor patient and I was sure they were prerequisites for baking. However, I discovered that a lot of recipes in America use cups, mesuring spoons, and sticks of butter instead of measuring an exact amount on a scale. I liked that a lot. I also discovered a whole class of desserts that do not need to be decorated beautifully such as banana bread, muffins, and apple crumbles to name a few (believe it or not I had never eaten these desserts in Japan!). Usually referred to as 'rustic desserts' they are easy to make and taught me how fun baking can be!

Now back to watching TV. One day on the Food Network show Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello, the host, Michael, was making a pain au chocolat bread pudding dessert. It looked fabulous and easy to make. With those two necessary ingredients in hand I was immediately printing out the recipe from and running to my nearby grocery store to fill up on everything else. You may be wondering, is it really delicious and easy to make? Oh yes, it was yummy and so easy my husband could bake it!

You can get the recipe here.

I don't know why but the Fall season makes me want to cook and bake more, especially rustic foods and desserts. This year Fall arrived in Seattle sooner than I expected triggering my need to bake. I decided to make the pain au chocolat bread pudding again, why not? This is a great recipe for a weekend brunch too. I love the cozy feeling at home, eating a late breakfast with my family while slow Jazz plays in the background sipping one of my husbands lattes, mmmm. I hope you can try this recipe someday too, and have a wonderful week!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Hi there,

I need to apologize for not updating my blog in such a long time. I have a good excuse though. I got pregnant and my morning sickness had been horrible. I did not feel like cooking or baking for a very long time. Now that I am 5 months along I feel much better and I can start to cook and bake again. However, my taste buds have not been normal lately, pregnancy still has its grip on me.

It has been frustrating that not only can I not cook, I also cannot enjoy food like I used to. I crave strange and unhealthy things. I typically am turned off by McDonald's and I don't drink soda, preferring instead tea or coffee. However, while I was suffering from morning sickness, I craved a McDonald's cheeseburger, french fries, and a coke. I tried to stop myself from eating and drinking them but I gave in 3 times and ordered a happy meal late one night. My husband gave me a hard time quoting Food Inc. Yes honey, I know all about it but I could not help it. I was powerless.

Again I apologize and thank you for patience waiting for my blog update. I hope to do a better job blogging until my 2nd child comes in February, 2011. After number two is born, I might dissapear for a while again.

Today I want to introduce a Japanese food again. It is called Tonkatsu.

Tonkatsu is a breaded deep fried pork. It is very simple and you can use leftovers and make 2 other dishes.

Tonkatsu Recipe:


  • 1 1/2 lb pork loin or pork tenderloin cut in 1 inch thickness (I prefer tenderloin but I could only find normal pork loin today)

  • 3 eggs

  • flour

  • panko (Japanese bread crmubs)

  • salt and pepper

  • oil for deep frying

How to make:

  1. Tenderize the pork by pounding, adding salt and pepper generousely all over

  2. Dust with flour, coat in an egg mix, and finally coat them with Panko. Dust, dip, dip.

  3. Deep fry them until they are cooked (and be careful - we're working with pork)

I eat them with tonkatsu sauce which you can get in most asian grocery stores.

The next day I used the leftovers to make a sandwich. Typically deep fried leftovers are soggy and unappetizing, but tonkatsu is a bit different. I warmed up the tonkatsu in a microwave and coated them with tonkatsu sauce, generously. Butter (and mayo if you want) the sandwich bread and add lettuce and tonkatsu and voila, my lunch! In Japan this is a popular sandwhich called "Katsu-sando".

Looking for another idea? Try this.

I made Donburi by using leftover tonkatsu. In Japan it is called "Katsu-don".

Here is the recipe of Katsu-don:


  • 4 tonkatsu (or more)

  • 1 yellow onion

  • 3-4 eggs

  • 500 ml dashi (or just water)

  • 4 tbs sugar

  • 4 tbs sake

  • 1-2 tbs mirin

  • 6 tbs soy sauce

    • How to make:

      1. In a deep pan, mix dashi, sugar, sake, mirin, soysauce

      2. As soon as the mixture boils turn down the heat to medium and add thinly sliced yellow onion, cook

      3. Once the onions are soft add tonkatsu and cook for 5 min or so to heat up the tonkatsu

      4. Finally pour mixed eggs all over and without touching let the eggs cook but not until they are cooked completely and hard - I stop when the eggs are still soft

      5. Put all over warm rice and enjoy!

      I generally don't like to deep fry at home beacuse I am stuck with left over oil and a house that smells like deep fried oil. But tonkatsu can be so versatile, it is worth it. I hope you think so too. Enjoy!

      Saturday, July 10, 2010

      Strawberries & Raspberries Picking

      For the July 4th weekend my husband and I decided to take our daughter strawberry picking at a farm in Arlington.

      Picking strawberries is actually hard work! My daughter and I got tired easily but my husband was so excited he was out of control. Soon we had assembly line. My husband would pick the berry, I would hand them to our daughter, and she would put them in the container.

      Here's the catch of the day...

      The farm had not only strawberries but raspberries too.

      Picking raspberries is easier on your back but still very hard work. They are easily crushed so you need to grasp them just right. We should have brought a pair of scissors.

      We picked so many strawberries and raspberries my daughter could not carry the container, but that didn't stop her from trying.

      By now we had too many strawberries and raspberries. We had no problem eating fresh strawberries and finishing them before off but the raspberries were going bad quickly and I had to do something fast.

      Last year I tried a raspberry custard pie recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine, and the pie was super yummy so I decided to make it again. It is actually a tart but no one really cares much as they are biting into it. My husband ate whole thing by himself. Thank goodness I baked two pies.

      This time I used a rectangle tart pan but last year I used a normal circle tart pan. Here is the picture from last year.

      If you have raspberries at home and don't know what to do, I recommend this recipe. You can click the blue highlighted letters which links to the Martha Stewart website. And remember to act fast, raspberries don't last long at all.

      Thursday, June 17, 2010

      So You Think You Cannot Cook

      My husband thought that he could not cook anything, at all, until I introduced this recipe. He does not like cooking...just eating. We used to have a long distance relationship and whenever I visited him there were towers of pizza boxes and cans of coke in the shape of pyramids on his kitchen counter. It was bachelor life gone horribly wrong. To help him out I used to cook rice and Japanese curry and then freeze it all before I left. I did not want him to eat unhealthy all the time and I thought I could make a difference in one person's life. That was then.

      8 years and 1 kid later, I am not so philanthropic. Sorry honey. My daughter was a colic baby and the first 4 months were unbearable. I did not even take a shower everyday, so cooking was not a priority either. My husband often brough home pho or teriyaki from a nearby restaurant but I was getting tired of those foods and I was missing a homemade meal. It was time for me to teach my husband how to fish.

      I had to ask myself, what would be the best way to motivate him to learn to cook for me? Why not teach him how to make one of his favorites that I always cook, and make sure it was easy! I now had a plan. The recipe is called Pork Bok Choy. It requires only 5 ingredients (2 out of these 5 are salt and pepper). It is so easy and so delicious that you will find yourself eating bowl after bowl of rice along with it too.

      At this point you may be wondering if the old adage applies, "never try to teach your spouse anything new - it will end badly." Entire industries, such as driver's ed, rely on strict adherence to this fact. Spouses are not supposed to try to teach other anything, you have no tolerance for each other. But I was desperate, hungry, and had no where else to turn. I needed someone to cook and I needed them now.
      It worked! He tolerated me and learned how to cook Pork Bok Choy. It was amazing, a little too much saunce the first 10 tries but he's starting to get used to it. Now whenever I am sick or busy, he cooks this or other meals from his repetoire, as short as it may be, for me and my daughter. I really appreciate him for attempting to cook more and help me out. This recipe is so easy my husband can cook it, and if you knew him well you'd realize just how easy it must be. Here it is.
      Pork & Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce

      • 1 lb of thinly sliced pork (butt and shoulder cut) for Sukiyaki cut into about 1 inch square. Asian grocery stores will have this prepackaged.
      • 8 bok choy sliced in 1/2 inch pieces.
      • 1/4 cup of oyster sauce.
      • salt
      • pepper
      • vegetable oil
      How to make:
      1. Cut the pork into 1 inch squares. Slice bok choy 1/2 inch thick and separate the white part (towards the root) and green part (leafy part).
      2. Heat a wok or large pan and 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil.
      3. Cook pork first and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper.
      4. When the pork is cooked, add white part of bok choy and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 3 - 5 minutes.
      5. Add the green part of bok choy and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 2 - 3 minutes.
      6. Add 1/4 cups of oyster sauce.
      7. Taste and if you like more salt, pepper, or oyster sauce, add them to suit your taste.

      Monday, June 7, 2010

      Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

      When spring finally arrives every cooking magazine is ready with a recipe for strawberries and rhubarb. I have always wanted to make something with rhubarb but never had the chance. This year I was determined to use it in something, and of course I chose strawberry rhubarb tart. It's a classic.

      I was looking at the June 2010 issue of Living magazine and there was a delicious looking fig and strawberry tart inside. I decided to use this recipe as a guide for my strawberry rhubarb dessert.
      A lof of fruit tarts, such as apricot, use almond in their filling. This fig and strawberry tart recipe uses hazelnuts. Because my daughter is allergic to peanuts, and by association susceptible to tree nut allergies, I cannot use either.

      Until you have a family member with a severe food allergy you will never know how hard it is to keep them safe. I did not either until I found out that my daughter is severely allergic to peanuts - I learned the hard way. Having said that, I really appreciate my friends who remember about my daughter's condition and care about what kind of food they cook when they invite us over, especially for potlucks. It means a lot to me.

      A lot of cereals, cookies, bread, and kid snacks have both tree nuts, peanuts, or both as an ingredient. Even when they don't have these ingredients in them, a lot of them are made in a facility that processes peanut and tree nuts.

      I was afraid to feed my daughter until I learned to live with the food allergy. I was frustrated at times because it was hard for us to go out and eat spontaneously. I also felt sorry for my daughter and of course blamed myself thinking it was because I ate a lot of peanut butter or simply my fault for giving her bad genes in the first place.

      After dealing with (and still dealing with) these overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, and mother's guilt, I was determined to make sure that I would not let my daughter miss out on anything that we all take for granted and in order to do so I would need learn how to cook and to bake a little bit more.

      Ok, back to the strawberry rhubarb tart. I was trying to think of a hazelnut substitute and immediately chickpeas came to mind. I know it's a little unconventional, but bear with me for a moment.

      First I needed chickpeas in an easy to use form, like a flour, so I turned to Whole Foods. I found them but of course it was made in a facility that uses tree nuts so I bought dried chickpeas. I thought that I could grind them at home by myself, big mistake. They are incredibly hard when they are completely dry and ungrindable. I happend to have canned chickpeas so I decided to use them instead. I used a food processor to chop them finely. They were pretty moist so I put them on a pan and dry roasted them. I hoped they would be a good replacement for hazelnuts. Here is the end result photo.

      Now, you can't tell from the photo but I burned the tart little....and in my attempt to hide it I sprinkled chopped strawberries and mint leaves from my garden all over for a nice touch of color.

      Here is the recipe of my peanut and tree nut free Strawberry Rhubarb Tart adopted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine June 2010 issue, Fig and Strawberry Tart.

      Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
      For the crust:
      • 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
      • 1/2 tsp of sugar and salt
      • 1 stick of cold butter cut in small pieces
      • 1/4 cups (or more if you want, but I really needed only 1/4) of cold water

      For the filling:

      • 3/4 cups of finely chopped (almost flour like) canned and drained chickpeas
      • 1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar
      • 2 tbs of sugar
      • 1/2 tsp of lemon zest
      • 1 stick of butter cut into small pieces
      • 2 tbs of rum
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
      • 2 tbs ofpotato starch (corn starch is fine too)
      • 8 oz of strawberries (halved)
      • 2 stalks of rhubarb (chopped in 1/2 inch pieces - next time I will use more)
      How to make:
      1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
      2. Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour and sugar together, then add butter and pulse until butter becomes the size of peas. Add water and pulse until the dough starts to hold together.
      3. Take out the dough and make a disc. Refrigiate it for at least 1 hour. (I am impatient remember? I only put it in for 30 minutes and it was fine).
      4. Roll the dough to make it fit your tart pan. (usually it is 9 or 10 inches round)
      5. Poke the bottom of the tart crust and then put aluminum foil and pie weights and put them in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove weights and bake 5 more minutes or so.
      6. Let it cool. Leave the oven on.

      Make the filling:

      1. Mix strawberries and rhubarb with lemon zest.
      2. Using a food processor, chop chickpeas finely and then dry roast them in a pan on the stovetop.
      3. Mix eggs, butter, sugar, brown sugar, rum, potato starch in a food processor. Then add the chickpeas.
      4. Pour the filling in the cooled crust and spread evenly. (Since my filing was too moist, I did not spread much. At this point I should have known that my filling would be too moist).
      5. Top with strawberries and rhubarb.
      6. Bake for 30 minutes and then decrease the temperature to 325. Bake about 1 more hour. I ate with unsweetened whipped cream since the tart itself was really sweet.

      Making this strawberry rhubarb tart was also a good excuse to use this beautiful handpainted porcelain mold I bought from anthropologie store long time ago. It added a little extra authenticity to what was a somewhat unconventional recipe. Bon Appetit!

      Friday, June 4, 2010

      Mick Jagger

      Today I want to show you one of the most popular Japanese foods amongst Japanese people. It is called Nikujyaga.

      When I made this for my dear friend Yvonne and her family she asked me what it was called and I told her it was called nikujyaga. She thought I said “Mick Jagger”. Well whatever is easier to remember, right? I am sure now you will not forget the name of this dish and if you forget, you can ask your Japanese friend, “what is the dish called sounds like Mick Jagger?” They will probably know you are talking about nikujyaga .

      I love this dish because it is like a comfort food to me (I am sure to most Japanese people as well) and also recently I discovered how to make two other dishes by using this dish’s leftovers.

      On Monday I prepared nikujyaga for dinner. I made a lot since I knew I would use the leftovers to make two other dishes.

      Leftovers + Japanese curry cubes = Easy and quick Japanese curry rice for lunch.

      For Tuesday’s lunch, I scooped out some nikujyaga and added Japanese curry paste cubes to make curry for lunch (see photo above). For my daughter and me, I needed 1 – 2 cubes. I added some water and more frozen peas. If you have broccoli (or whatever else you may want to add), you could microwave them and add it to the curry too. Unfortunately I did not have much time so I did not add any other vegetables, it already has veggies so I wasn't concerned.

      And voila, a Japanese curry lunch for my daughter and I.

      For Tuesday’s dinner, I made croquettes with the leftover nikujyaga. I drained all the liquid from the leftovers and ever so lightly mashed the potatos and carrots. I made a round ball and then dusted them with flour, dipped them in whipped eggs, covered them in Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), and deep fried them until brown. If your leftovers are too moist and soft even after you have drained all the liquid you can steam or microwave the potatoes and add them back to the mixture and hopefully thicken it up.

      I ate them with Japanese vegetable and fruit sauce, semi sweet (you can get this at an Asian grocery store) but you can eat them as is or you can enjoy them with soy sauce too.

      Leftover + Flour + Egg + Panko + Deep frying oil = Croquette

      My advice for you is to make nikujyaga the night before you want to eat it. The next day is best for this dish. If you did not make this dish the night before you can make it earlier in the day and let it completely cool after it is cooked. Then reheat when you are ready to eat. The flavors are absorbed when it cools and it tastes much better.

      Even though I made the dish on Monday I prefer to make it on Sunday when I have more time to cook and let it cool. I am usually tired on Monday so it is nice to have dinner already made on Sunday and I can even stretch it out through Tuesday’s lunch and dinner. Hopefully this nikujyaga recipe will help you to have a little bit more relaxing start to your week.


      • Vegetable oil
      • 1 lb of thinly sliced beef (a.k.a. beef for Sukiyaki from an Asian grocery store)
      • 4 large onions
      • 6 large golden potatos
      • 4 carrots
      • 1/2 cup of frozen green peas
      • 1/4 cups and 2 tbs sugar
      • 2 tbs of mirin
      • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
      • 3 tbs sake
      • 6-7 cups of water (prefarbly Japanese Dashi stock but if you cannot get it or make it easily, plain water is fine)

      How to make:

      1. Slice onions, cut carrots 1 inch in thickness, quarter potatos or if they are too big, cut in 1/8. Cut thinly sliced meat.
      2. Heat 1 - 2 tbs of vegetable oil in a deep pot and add the meat. When the meat is cooked half way add 2 tbs sugar and 1 tbs soy sauce and continue cooking. When the meat is cooked, take it out from the pot and set it aside.
      3. Heat 2 -3 tbs of vegetable oils in a same pot (you don't need to wash the pot in between #2 and #3) and stir in onions first and cook for 3 minutes or so.
      4. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 3 minutes or so.
      5. Add back the meat in the pot, add 6 - 7 cups of water (or dashi), 1/4 cup of sugar, 2 tbs mirin, 3 tbs sake, 1/2 cup of soy sauce.
      6. Cook them uncovered at medium heat until potatos are cooked all the way through.
      7. When you are ready to serve, add the frozen green peas and cook for 3 additional minutes. Serve.

      P.S. The curry I made from nikujyaga became leftovers too so I added udon broth (or dashi and soysauce) to the left over curry and then udon noodles to make curry udon for lunch. The nikujyaga leftover options are limited only by your imagination!

      Wednesday, June 2, 2010

      Missing significant others.....

      My daughter has been loosing her shoes at an alarming rate. I now have 3 shoes that are missing their "other". I briefly thought about throwing them away but I could not and I don't know why.

      Children's shoes are not cheap! I was confused because I had to keep buying the same shoes again and again. Causually over the phone my mother told me I lost shoes too. I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

      What can I do with 3 odd paired shoes? Take pictures of course! I paid a lot of money to buy these shoes so at least they can be my artistic subjects, right? I want someday to show the photo to my daughter and tell her the story of the lost shoes. I hope the photo means as much to her someday as it does to me.

      Missing shoes reminds me of missing socks. I don't like doing laundry and cleaning up the house but when I fold my daughter's small clothes and tidy up her tiny shoes, I smile.

      My daughter is napping now. Time to do laundry and clean up the house!

      Sunday, May 30, 2010

      Memorial Day weekend project

      This weekend I was determined to try quilting for the very first time.

      My dear friend Maki and I learned how to quilt from her friend one Saturday in March but since then I have not have a chance to try it. I have been collecting fabrics and been looking at them once in a while imagining what I would like to make.

      Because this was Memorial Day weekend and rainy, I knew if I didn't quilt now I may not have another chance for a very long time. So I did it!

      I decided to make a toddler-sized comforter quilt for my daughter. I wanted my first quilt to go to my dear little girl.

      I was surprised how much I got done considering it was my first time quilting. I have to say it is because of my kind husband who took care of our daughter this weekend giving me the time to quilt.

      I made my own pattern, cut the fabrics accordingly, sewed them together, and finished assembling the layers, but I am stuck. I have no idea what to do from here. It is time for me to contact Maki's friend again and hopefully she can show me how to actually quilt them together.

      My quilt is not finished but I wanted to share what I did this weekend on this blog. I will update everyone when I finally finish making the quilt...hopefully in the near future.

      Wednesday, May 26, 2010

      Small kitchens and an orange carrot brioche

      The kitchen is where I spend a lot of my time. It is the only place I don't mind cleaning. It is where I meditate by baking. It is where I dance while I mix ingredients. The kitchen is the heart of my home.

      If you are an organized person, you probably set out every ingredient you need on the table. I am not an organized person. As I read the recipe I grab ingredients and put them in the bowl. I invariably go from a cabinet to another cabinet, a cabinet to the fridge, and the fridge to a cabinet.

      open cabinet,
      close cabinet,
      step back,
      open fridge,
      close the fridge


      Today I was taking a moment to recoup my energy from a busy day by meditating for just a few minutes. I tried to imagine a place where I felt safe and warm and without any notice a vision of a tiny kitchen from my childhood apartment sprang into my meditating mind, surprising me.

      I grew up in my parents first apartment until I was 7 years old. The apartment was very small. The kitchen was barely a kitchen. It was a kitchen/dining room with a small stove and a small sink and a 4 person dining table. It is where my mother cooked and sometimes we baked together. That is also where I learned how to use a knife to properly peel apples. I was only 5 years old then. Looking back I can see my parents generation wasn't as concerned about safety as we are today.

      Safety aside, I have a clear memory of making doughnuts with my mother. She would roll the dough on the dining table, no island or counter space for us, and using a doughnut cutter, cut out the doughnuts. I really wanted to make a rabbit shaped doughnut so I attached 2 long sticks of dough as ears for the rabbit. My mother warned me the ears would fall apart. She was right of course but let me do it anyway. During the deep frying process the rabbit ears came off as predicted so I moved to plan B and simply made doughnut sticks. We sprinkled sugar all over them and ate too many. The kitchen was full of joy and laughter.

      I don’t have a picture of the kitchen but I found this photo in my archive. It is our old living room. You will quickly notice that my mother, myself, and my father are together almost the width of the entire room. Each night we would sleep here on futons stored in a nearby closet.

      We moved to a slightly bigger house eventually. My mother started working. My sister and I became busy at school studying and playing with classmates. The kitchen was bigger. We still enjoyed baking and cooking at our new house but I realized today that I miss the small kitchen and apartment of my childhood. It is tempting to wonder if I am really just missing my childhood when I did not let myself be defined by what I had or what I did, or perhaps it is simply the blissful ignorance of youth.

      Enough about my past, let’s talk about baking! Today I will introduce my orange carrot brioche. I went to Big John’s P.F.I the other day and found a bag of orange peels. I was thinking what I could make with them and settled on a brioche. I also had a lot of carrots and thought a carrot or two couldn't hurt? Carrots can add a nice orange color to the brioche and as a bonus hides a vegetable in a food that my daughter might eat.

      I used my bread machine until the 1st rise phase. The bread machine is from Zojirushi that I received as my first mother’s day gift from my dear husband. I love it. If you bake a lot, especially bread, a bread machine can help save you a lot of time.

      Now, here is the recipe for the orange carrot brioche:

      Orange carrot brioche (makes 12)


      • 100 cc milk
      • 1 tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
      • 1 egg
      • 1 ¾ cups of bread flour
      • 2 tbs sugar
      • 1 tbs nonfat dry milk
      • 1 tsp salk
      • 4 tbs butter
      • ½ tsp dry yeast
      • ¼ cup orange peel
      • Zest of 1 orange
      • 1/4 cup loosely packed finely grated carrot
      1. Put all the ingredients into your bread machine. Use the dough setting and let the machine do its job until the 1st rise.
      2. Remove the dough from the machine and punch it until the air comes out. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
      3. Cut the dough into 12 pieces and start making brioche. (pictured below)
      4. Let it rise again (2nd rise) and when it is ready coat them with an egg wash.
      5. Bake them at 350 F degree for 15 to 17 minutes.

      My daughter tried a brioche and proceeded to spit out all the orange peels that she found. I'll have to add orange peels to her ever growing "don't like" list. If only she knew...

      Thursday, May 20, 2010

      Italian and Big John's P.F.I.

      My husband went to London for business and he was supposed to return a week later. He got sick however and came home earlier, much to the delight of me and my daughter. I thought I would be ok with him gone but I had a very hard time falling asleep.

      Since I found out he was coming home a little early I started thinking about what I could cook to celebrate him return, maybe a nice romantic dinner at home while our daughter is sleeping.


      Why Italian? Well first, I started thinking about what kind of dessert I could make instead of what kind of main dish I could cook. (Small insight into me. This is how I think. Dessert first.) Tiramisu instantly came to my mind and so why not make a nice Italian dinner for the both of us?

      My husband loves Tiramisu but unfortunately I'm not a huge fan and don't make it very often. I like to have a lot of fruit in my dessert and as you know Tiramisu does not. It is also rare that I encounter a very good Tiramisu because it is deceptively hard to make. Usually the lady fingers are over soaked and become a too mushy. Lady fingers cannot be too wet or too dry. It is a delicate and careful balance.

      I made Tiramisu a long time ago and my husband loved it and asked me to make it again, and again. But in keeping with my philosophy to leave them wanting more, I have not made it again. Tiramisu is a very challenging dessert to make, however because he is coming home soon it may be time for me to try again.

      He will not be back for a couple of days but since I am so excited about him coming home and the idea of having nice Italian meal with him, I decided to go to Big John's P.F.I., an Italian grocery store in Seattle. It is located in a difficult to find area so whenever I go there I feel like I am going somewhere special that only locals know about.

      When I arrived I found these beautiful herbs and flowers ready to welcome me.

      These flowers and herbs were planted in olive oil containers, tomato cans, and so on. It is a very unique way of displaying flowers and herbs that I really must try at home.

      As soon as you enter the store the smell of these spices will wash all over you.

      So many different kinds of olive oils.

      My shopping list for Big John's was not long. To be honest, most of what I need to make Italian I could get elsewhere but I could not pass up an opportunity to come visit the store again. It somehow inspires me.

      On my last visit I saw canned escargot. That grabbed my attention of course and I toyed with the idea of actually trying to cook them. I did not know where one could get fresh escargot and thought canned was good enough. I asked the store clerk if they had any cans left and he said they were sold out and I was lucky because there not very good either. He suggested I catch snails outside and cook them. I decided to pass on the idea...for now.

      So that's a no to the canned escargot but I still bought lady fingers, dried pasta, San Marzano canned tomatos, and a pound of orange peel. At this point, other than Tiramisu, I don't know what I am going to make but whatever my choice I can assure you that a blog post will shortly follow.

      Tiramisu challenge?

      to be continued....