kruizing with kikukat

Monday, August 19, 2019

Sour Cream Pumpkin Bread

Shucks!  This post published prematurely, as I was not nearly ready with my "story", hence lack of pics. 

This is what I do with the pumpkins that seem to make their way to my home after Halloween.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Bread

     1/2 c butter, softened
     1 c sugar
     1 tsp vanilla
     2 eggs
     1 2/3 c flour
     1 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp salt
     1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
     1 c pumpkin puree
     1/2 c sour cream

Grease and flour 4 mini loaf pans.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  Set aside.  Combine pumpkin puree and sour cream.  Set aside.  Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add 1/2 of pumpkin-sour cream mixture.  Lightly stir in half of flour mixture.  Add remaining pumpkin mixture.  Add remaining flour mixture.  Divide equally (If using a #10 disher, use 2 1/2 scoops per pan) among prepared pans.  Bake for 40-42 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Wait 5 minutes then remove loaves from pans.  Continue cooling on cooling rack.  

This can also be baked in a 8 x 8" pan (30-32 minutes), 8 x 4" loaf pan (65-70 minutes), or a double recipe can be baked in a 9 x 13" pan (1 hour).

Monday, June 17, 2019

Wayne's Char Siu Chicken

Happy Summer!  I'm looking forward to warm, restful days, but so far, not many of those has happened.  This summer actually seems cool (do I dare say "cold"?).  I have not gone swimming since the short heatwave we had in the early spring.

Spring...spring was so crazy, so full of activity.

D1 came back to Hawaii for a month.  She shadowed a doctor in Honolulu, and got spoiled by my cousins and uncle.  They graciously allowed her to stay with them and provided family "Uber" services so she did not need to drive herself anywhere.  My cousin and her family fed her all kinds of ono food, including Stason's specialty, smoked lamb.  D1 enjoyed the intense car convos with UMiles as he was chauffeuring her around. 

D1 got exposed to all kinds of food while shadowing the doctor.  His nurses would bring him sinigang and lechon on days at his Waipio office.  I don't think D1 ever heard of sinigang before that.  In fact, D1 claims she had her first peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which Aunty Lori Ann made for her.  D2 and I are confused, as D2 brought peanut butter sandwiches for most of her intermediate school's not like we didn't have peanut butter!

In early April, Mr. Dependable and I flew to Honolulu to help D1 deal with some medical issues which turned out to be all good.  D1 bounced back a lot better than I did!

By early May, we were all back in Honolulu to celebrate cute little Cody's 1st birthday party.  His family held nothing back!  The party was at Koolau Golf Club, and they had their famous bread pudding on the dessert buffet!!!  It was as creamy and rich as I remembered it from my resource teacher days.  Kids were feted with games and a the largest jumping castle which could fit inside the ballroom.  Yes, INSIDE the ballroom.  Kikukat Dad said the best part about the party, after the open bar, was the shave ice stand, which was available throughout the party.  I'm not sure how much the birthday boy will remember about his day, but he will certainly have pics.  He took a pic with every guest!

D1 left for AZ the next day, and D2 and I had a few hours to enjoy being in Honolulu.  We were hungry so D2 suggested we make a stop at one of her favorite Chinese restaurants in Honolulu, Fook Yuen Seafood.  Fook Yuen is on the 2nd floor of McCully Shopping Center, and the big draw there is the $15 lobster (limit 1 per entree).  We ordered the seafood pan fried noodles and a salt & pepper lobster.  D2 said her trip to Honolulu was now complete.

One thing keeping me from enjoying my summer is GERD.  I remember having it for a short time about a year ago.  I took some OTC meds for a week and it was gone.  This time, I did the same, but it came back in a few days and I've been working with my doctor to find the right medication.  I am hoping and praying I will not need to have surgery.  My friends who had the surgery have described recovery as grueling.  I'm not up for grueling.
In spite of my inability to eat, I've been enjoying all the food pics my friends have been posting from their travels.  TheKeeper has been traveling through small towns in Japan.  He made me drool when I saw Wagyu sushi.  Another friend has been eating his way through California.  He recently posted a menu showing out-of-this-world prices of Wagyu.  If I could eat it, I would pay!!!

My recent food consumption has changed drastically in an attempt to reign in the acid reflux.  I'm eating oatmeal and banana daily.  I've also discovered that salads sit very well.  Up until last week, I made the mistake of having dressing with my salad...until I realized that salad dressings contain vinegar (a source of acid!).  I'm not sure why I even thought dressing was okay.  Anyway, I'm a bit smarter now, so I'm having my salads without dressing.

In my attempt to "dress up" my salad without dressing, I've been exploring toppings with are neutral (not likely to cause reflux).  Boiled egg and shredded carrots have been my standard toppings on iceberg lettuce.  But I also enjoy small bits  of fish, meat or chicken.  A handful of diced char siu chicken added lots of flavor to a bland salad.  And no, my family is not eating bland food...they continue to eat "normal" food.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2-3 lbs chicken
     1/4 c shoyu
     1 tbsp 5-spice
     3 tbsp sherry
     2 tbsp red bean curd
     1 tbsp red food coloring (liquid) or 1/4 tsp concentrated red food coloring

Combine marinade ingredients and soak chicken overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Broil 5 minutes in order to crisp the skin.  Instead of baking/broiling, chicken can also be grilled over a hibachi.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Hot Cross Buns

I didn't grow up in a house which baked a lot.  And when Kikukat Mom baked, she definitely didn't bake bread.  She blames it on a bad experience with manapua (char siu bao) which turned her off from using yeast.  All of my experience with bread baking has been self-taught, meaning I read it somewhere, be it in a cookbook, magazine, or on a blog.

The foundation for my hot cross buns recipe comes from Mika's blog, The 350 Degree Oven.  Like Mika, I admired "Japanese milk bread".  There was/is nowhere in Hilo which makes Japanese milk bread.  I first had this kind of bread from Panya in Honolulu.  The pillowy softness is what separates it from other local breads (Portuguese sweet bread, shokupan, etc.).

In spite of this blog and the plethora of recipes I've amassed over the years, I don't consider myself a good cook.  I think I've been successful because I can follow a recipe, ingredient-wise, and I am able to take calculated risks when I need to deviate.  Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men have been known to go awry. 

I must've inadvertently copied the recipe incorrectly.  Only when I went back to Mika's blog to check on something did I realize what I had done differently.  This was AFTER I had made both a loaf of hybrid whole wheat milk bread and a batch of hot cross buns!  In spite of my oversight, both turned out great, and I'm posting the full recipe (the ingredients differ slightly from Mika's version).

Hot Cross Buns

     1/2 recipe of tangzhong (see below)
     1/2 c milk
     1 egg
     3 tbsp butter
     2 c bread flour
     1/2 c whole wheat flour
     4 tbsp sugar
     1/2 tsp salt
     2 tsp yeast
     2/3 c dried fruits (fruitcake mix, cranberries, etc.)
     2 tsp flour

Place all ingredients, except for dried fruits and 2 tsp flour, in bread machine pan, following the manufacturer's ingredient order.  Start dough cycle.  Stir dried fruit with 2 tsp flour in a small bowl.  Add to dough at "fruit and nut beep".  Grease a large pan.  When dough is done, divide into 16 pieces and shape into round rolls.  Place on prepared pan.  Let rise for 40 minutes.  Bake at 375 degrees for 13 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool.  Cool completely before glazing.

Hot Cross Bun Glaze

     1/2 c + 2 tbsp powdered sugar
     2 tsp milk
     1/8 tsp lemon juice, vanilla extract, or lemon extract

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.  Place in plastic bag, cut a small hole in corner of bag, and pipe crosses on buns.


     1/3 c flour (original recipe called for bread flour)
     3/4 c water (original recipe called for 1 cup)

Heat flour and water in a small saucepan, whisking constantly, until thickened to a paste.  Set aside to cool or refrigerate if not using immediately.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Roasted Kabocha Squash

Now that I'm relatively rested from Thanksgiving, the November Grand Sumo Tournament has come and gone, and the Huskies secured their Pac-12 championship trophy and made it to the New Years' Six, I can finally resume my dinner planning with more thought.

A steak is always simple (I'm not the one who cooks it!) and there are a handful of other quick, go-to options which would make mostly everyone happy.  It's usually me who is the least happy.

When I know we are having something I don't care for much, like corned beef and cabbage, I try to make a side dish that I enjoy.  Last week's cucumber dish was a prime example.

Since we are getting ready for the biggest eating season of the year, I thought another post with a side dish would be a good choice here.

I did not eat much kabocha/pumpkin while growing up because my parents did not cook it.  We ate more of the other type of squash...winter melon, fuzzy melon, long squash...cooked with some kine of meat or in soup.

But thanks to Thai curry, I've come to realize that I like pumpkin.  And I like it in all forms.  TheHelp likes it too, so he will often pick up a kabocha when he is at the market.  I would love to add chunks to curry, but D2 is not a huge fan.  So instead of adding it to dishes, I cook it separately.

Recently, my go-to method for preparing kabocha has been to roast it in the toaster oven.  My toaster oven is just large enough to accommodate a cut-up kabocha.  Once cooked, the kabocha can be cut up further and added to individual servings of curry.  The light seasoning makes the squash delicious on its own as a side dish.  Any leftovers can be mashed up and used for baking.

And a side note. . .I took advantage of the Black Friday sale at Eat.Sleep.Knit.  My order arrived a few days ago, which was, by coincidence, the same day I made the roasted kabocha.  I couldn't get over how well the color of the yarns matched with the food.
 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 medium Kabocha squash or small pumpkin
     2 tbsp butter, cold
     1 tbsp brown sugar
     1 tbsp maple syrup
     coarse salt, preferably in a grinder
     shichimi togarashi (Japanese spice), optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut squash in half, remove seeds, and slice into wedges.  Slice each wedge in half to form 2 triangular pieces.  Place squash skin-side down onto foil lined baking sheet. Cut butter into tiny pieces and divide evenly among squash.  Sprinkle squash with brown sugar, drizzle with maple syrup, and sprinkle lightly with salt and shichimi togarashi.  Roast for 35-45 minutes.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Otaru is probably THE destination for me when visiting Hokkaido.  There are so many things to eat (mostly sweets) and so many things to buy.

Our first stop in Otaru was the fish market adjacent to the train station.  We had an unmemorable meal there. . .the place we ate at last year was much better, although if compared to Hawaii, the fish market meal would've been awesome.

A trip to Otaru is not complete without a taste of the lavender soft cream.  The lavender soft cream from the small snack counter in Otaru (main street area) is the best I've ever had.  The snack counter is entirely unassuming.  There are 2 entrances to the place, one from the water side (Russia) and one from the street side (canal).  The eating area has stacking plastic chairs, the same type of plastic chairs popular here for patios.  The Ds made a stop here, and D2 swears that if I had taken the time to eat the twisty potato on a stick, I would've been impressed.  Unfortunately, I had just eaten at the fish market, so the only thing I had room for was the lavender cone.  Yum.

Upon the recommendation of Wi, TheKeeper and I bought a bunch of honey syrups from the Sugi Bee Garden store. 

TheKeeper, DHS, and Nakaz, all bought sake from the sake store.  I wanted to do the same, but I had to save my padded sleeves for TheHelps omiyage.

We revisited Kitaichi Glass, and I managed to double my sake cup collection.

No trip to Otaru is complete without eating something from LeTao.  The four of us, still full from fish market and soft cream, went to the 2nd floor salon to rest our legs.  Because of the season, LeTao had a pumpkin double fromage, which I ordered.  TheKeeper ordered the chocolate double fromage.  I cannot remember what Nakaz and DHS ordered.  I did not eat the bin de fromage this time, but it looked really nice in the glass case next to the chestnut tarts (for next time!).

On our way back to the train station, TheKeeper and I bought some fresh kakimochi from the kakimochi store.  I regret not buying more.  I rationed the kakimochi best as I could, but it was so good.  My favorite is the one coated in coarse crystal sugar.

We spent most of the day in Otaru, leaving in the mid-afternoon for Yoichi.  Last year, we did not go to Yoichi, but I wanted to get special omiyage for TheHelp.  The train ride to Yoichi was interesting.  It took close to an hour to get from Otaru to Yoichi on a small, 2-car train.  At some point, I wondered if we were really going to Yoichi, as I was shocked to be passing through what seemed like an endless rural landscape (think on the road from Kamuela to Kohala).  So why the journey?

Yoichi boasts the flagship Nikka Whisky distillery, a company started by Masataka Taketsuru and his Scottish wife, Rita.  The brick exterior fronting the street did not prepare us for what was inside.

Behind the brick facade was a sprawling array of lawns and brick buildings.  It actually looked like a college campus.

I was amused that Massan's home was painted in robin's egg blue!

We did not go to the tasting room (none of us drink whiskey), but I bought two special bottles of whiskey for TheHelp.

Was the trip to Yoichi worth it?  If you like whiskey, it would be wise to spend a few hours there.  For me, a non-whiskey drinker, I would say yes. . .TheHelp was thrilled with his gifts. 

Was it worth the trip for my fellow travelers?  Probably not, but they were great sports.

Our long day ended with a highly-recommended bowl of ramen in Susukino from Keyaki.  We waited about 20 minutes for space at the counter.  The tiny restaurant can fit 8-10 people, so the 20 minute wait wasn't bad at all.  The miso ramen was a bit spicy, but it hit the spot.  I also tried their pork and shrimp water dumplings. (sorry, no pic) 

And without TheKeeper, we would never have been able to find the place.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Spicy Cucumbers

I am turkey-d out.  Too much turkey; too much mashed potatoes; too much stuffing.  Too much of a lot of things.

Except football.

I spent many hours in front of the tv this past weekend.  All but one of my teams won.  I was anticipating a bad Apple Cup, so I drank before the game and bought tons of yarn to console myself in what was supposedly a sure loss for the Huskies.  As it turned out, UW prevailed, AND I have an embarrassing amount of high-quality yarn on the way (I got the shipping notice from Eat Sleep Knit!).

On Saturday, I found myself glued to the television again, watching the Territorial Cup match between the school which takes my $ and the school which gave $ to my aunt (she was a nursing supervisor at the university medical center).  It was almost as exciting as the Apple Cup.  Almost.  And I learned, thanks to TheHelp, that Coach Edwards is indeed a real coach.  Good thing I didn't just believe all those FB comments about how he got the job.  Whew.

Now that the turkey is gone, or at least it is to me, I am not looking to eat anything heavy (unless it's a tomahawk steak).  I'm planning to make these cucumbers as a light side dish.  Be careful because there are no chili pepper flakes to warn diners about the spicy factor.  I usually use the full amount of chili oil, but some people may prefer it to be less spicy.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3 Japanese (seedless) cucumbers
     2 tbsp shoyu
     1 tbsp rice vinegar
     1/2 tsp salt + more for sprinkling
     1 tsp sugar
     2 tsp chili oil (La-Yu)

Score skin of cucumber with a fork or a zester.  Cut cucumbers in half and remove seeds.  Sprinkle salt (not the 1/2 tsp) over cucumbers and rub all over.   Slice cucumbers into 3/8" pieces.  Toss with remaining ingredients.  Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Onuma Koen

DHS wanted to do things which involved walking/hiking/running.  The running was out of the question for me, but walking/hiking sounded benign enough.  TheKeeper checked the weather reports and decided that the nearly 3-hour train ride to Onuma Koen and the walking would best be done on a day with good weather.  
The Onuma train station was very quaint.
It was a short walk from the train station to the park, and there were a bunch of little shops along the way.  DHS bought some fruit, and I had my first lavender soft cream cone.

The park has multiple trails which were mostly paved (nice).

We were treated to scenic views of Hokkaido Komagatake.  I'm glad I did not know then that the volcano is still considered active.

Wagyu Ishizaki chopstick wrapper; placemat shows different cuts of beef
By the time we got back to Sapporo, it was dark and we were actually hungry.  Come to think of it, we had just a small lunch in a snack shop in the park.

TheKeeper had asked me prior to the trip if I liked beef.  I said yes (remember what I said earlier about the tomahawk steak).  He suggested we go to a restaurant specializing in wagyu. Who am I to argue???

We ended up on the 7th floor of a nondescript building on a side street in Susukino.  I remember having to walk past a building with two or three of the seven dwarfs (Snow White's friends) hanging from the facade.  The restaurant was in a building across the street and around the corner from the dwarfs, and I would never have been able to find it on my own (I can't read Japanese).

The restaurant was able to accommodate us, in spite of not having reservations, but the lady said we needed to be out in an hour.  I was pleasantly surprised that we were seated in a "faux" tatami room where the floor was actually recessed.  Not having to sit on my legs was a big plus, especially after all the walking we did at Onuma Koen.  

Having no clue (at least on my part), we had TheKeeper order for us.  We started with assorted kim chee.  TheKeeper ordered kim chee fried rice for himself while Nakaz, DHS and I had the grilled rice ball.  TheKeeper also spent half of a fortune on a decanter of sake, which he said was worth every dollar.  DHS had a beer while Nakaz and I stuck to cider soda.

But nothing could have prepared me for the steak.  I've eaten many good steaks, but nothing, not even the steak at The Signature could compare to the chateaubriant in the picture.  The steak was served with 2 sauces (a ponzu-ish one and a teriyaki-ish one) and a mound of salt flakes.  The sauces were delicious, but I preferred a sprinkle of the salt flakes.  Each steak was sliced into 3 precious pieces, and we cooked the steaks to our liking on the table grill.

I'm guessing the restaurant was Wagyu Ishizaki. . .I can match picture symbols.  I linked to the page I found on the internet because I.MUST.GO.BACK.

Once again, TheKeeper did not disappoint.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Prepping for the Holidays: Ice Cream Cookies

Back in June 2016, I prematurely posted a recipe and pics for Ice Cream Cookies.  It was an accidental post, as I had not been totally aware of the posting dates.  My mother was in and out of the hospital, and I was not dealing well with everything.  Several months later, I realized what had posted while my mind was in the fog.  Rather than removing those posts, I have kept them on the site.  I think they are a reminder of a rough time as well as an accurate reflection of what was going on.

Anyway, back to the cookies.  My post wasn't complete because I meant to post two different methods for baking the cookies.  My friend LAMN's mom, baked these cookies in the way specified in the original post (she used a fork to flatten the dough).  She did not chill the dough prior to baking.  I have not come across her method in the plethora of cookbooks which contain this recipe (ingredients only).

Most cookbooks containing a version of this recipe have only vague instructions for the refrigerator method.  Some even give a range of oven temperatures!  I have not come across any recipe which gave specific instructions for forming the logs prior to chilling.  This was bothersome because I usually resort to the refrigerator method, especially if I'm baking on weekends.

Don't get me wrong.  If I have willing help available, I prefer the method LAMN's mom uses since it doesn't require refrigerator space.  But if I am doing all the work, then I usually resort to the refrigerator method since it gives me more control over the time/process. 

Whenever I bake refrigerated cookies (slice and bake), I use an acrylic double Spam musubi mold (8" long), at right, to shape the dough.  To make work easier, use plastic wrap under the mold to prevent the dough from sticking to the work surface.  And always use a piece of plastic wrap between the dough and the plunger.  Ask me how I know.  For this particular recipe, it's not necessary to refrigerate the dough prior to shaping; other recipes may require chilling the dough for a short time before pressing it into the Spam musubi mold.  Do not be tempted to use any of the non-stick molds.  The plunger needs to fit snugly in the lower portion.

With either method, I vary the sprinkles to suit whatever holiday is near.  Because Halloween is a few days away, I used black and orange sprinkles.  I will be sharing these cookies with a few of my favorite work boys.  TheKeeper gave me for farm-fresh eggs.  Nakaz signed D2 up for the NAU mailing list, and UncleScott has been most generous with fish for my family.

The recipe below does not contain a typographical error.  I did NOT forget to list ice cream as an ingredient.  Cookbooks from Hawaii call like-ingredient recipes for this "Ice Cream Cookies", hence the title of this post.  I grew up calling this "Ice Cream Cookies".  I have seen similar-ingredient recipes from outside of Hawaii, and it's often called "Refrigerator Cookies" and, sometimes, "Ice Box Cookies".  I have no idea why Hawaii cookbooks call this "Ice Cream Cookies".  It contains no ice cream and would make a sad and wimpy ice cream sandwich.  I remember KikukatMom telling me these cookies go well with ice cream.  And, once again, mother knows best.  She is right.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb butter, softened
     2 c sugar
     1 tbsp vanilla
     1 egg
     5 c flour
     assorted sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar together.  Add vanilla and egg.  Add flour, one cup at a time, until all incorporated.  Proceed using one of the following methods:
LAMN's mom: Using a #60 disher (a little less than a tablespoon), scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheet (a flat cookie sheet can accommodate 20-23 cookies).  Flatten to 1/4" thickness with the bottom of a drinking glass (use parchment paper between dough and glass) or a form (LAMN's mom's tool of choice).  Add sprinkles to tops of cookies.  Bake for 13 minutes, rotating cookie sheet once.  Remove to a cooling rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.  For slightly larger cookies, use a #50 disher and bake for 15 minutes, rotating cookie sheet once. 
Kikukat's refrigerator method:  Divide dough into 4 portions and shape each portion into an 8" log.  I use a double Spam musubi mold (plain acrylic; not any of the non-stick ones) to shape the dough into a nice rectangular log.  Lay down a sheet of plastic wrap, place mold atop plastic wrap.  Fill mold with portioned dough.  Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of dough.  Use plunger to compact dough into mold.  Slide mold off and wrap in plastic wrap (bottom).  Chill for at least 5 hours.  Slice 1/4" thick and place on cookie sheet (20 on a large sheet).  Add sprinkles if desired.  Press down gently to set sprinkles.  Bake for 13 minutes, rotating cookie sheet once.  Remove to a cooling rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.  Makes 10 dozen cookies.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Jougai Ichiba

Our first full day back in Sapporo was filled with eating.  The Keeper suggested we go back to Jougai Ichiba (Sapporo Curb Market) for breakfast.

We tried a different place, and, like last year, we were not disappointed.  The kitamae don (pictured at left) was worth repeating from last year.

On our way to the restaurant, I noticed a bunch of shops selling vaccuum-packed potatoes in butter.  I was intrigued so I ordered it alongside the kitamae don.  The lone potato arrived piping hot with a thick slab of butter.  There was also a thin crust of salt flakes on the skin.  Not expecting much, I took a bite.  Nothing could have prepared me for the taste.  The potato, which looked like a russet, was sweet and creamy.  I shared some with the others, and they agreed that it was not like the russets we have here. 

TheKeeper ordered some otoro sashimi and generously shared some with me.  This was the first time having otoro for me, as I don't think I tried any at Ohiso last year.  Oh my!  The fish melted like butter in my mouth.  The 5 pieces of otoro cost nearly 3000yen!

Nakaz and DHS somehow managed to each finish off a huge piece of grilled atka mackerel.

 I was happy to find reasonably-priced (now it really didn't matter because I would've bought them anyway) shine muscats.  Another taste worth repeating!

Sapporo Bier Garten 

A trip to Sapporo would not be complete without a meal at Sapporo Bier Garten.

The grilled lamb was so tasty and juicy, and this year, they seemed more generous with the portions of pumpkin.

Of course, an added bonus for me is the bottomless glass of melon soda!

I was also able to replace the t-shirt I got for TheHelp last year.  The "large" I got him shrank to a "small" after washing!

When I went to bed that night, I was grateful for a few things.  I did not feel the earthquake the previous night; TheKeeper said the walls of the hotel were shaking and creaking (he was down the hall from me).  And I was even more grateful for being invited back to Japan with TheKeeper. . .even though he seemed to take great pleasure in watching me stammer and stutter and use some obscene hand motions while trying to buy a new camera strap.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Clam Rice

I was lucky enough to make another trip to Japan with TheKeeper.  And what made it even sweeter was that we went back to Hokkaido.  I love Hokkaido.  Of course, I need to make it clear that I have only been to Hokkaido in autumn, so perhaps I would not love Hokkaido during January or February. 

TheKeeper enjoys staying at branches of a moderate hotel chain, Toyoko Inn.  The hotel website promises clean and comfortable rooms at reasonable rates.  This time we stayed at a different branch from last year, and again, the service was great.  This place was even closer to the Sapporo main station, and it was surrounded by multiple 7-11s, Lawsons, and SeicoMarts!

One thing I really enjoy about this particular chain is the free breakfast.  Of course anything free is great, but more than the $, I really enjoy the food.  This year, the food was a little different that what was offered at the hotel last year.  We spent 5 nights at the hotel (read=5 breakfasts), and not one time did I see any kind of sausage as a breakfast meat.  The featured breakfast meat was meatballs.  The meatballs looked like they were swimming in a reddish-brown sauce which I assume was some kine of bbq sauce.  Not being much of a fan of the combination, I chose to bypass that selection.

On several days, the breakfast buffet line featured a green bean dish.  DHS and I loved it and swore to try recreating the dish when we got home.  I have yet to actually try a recipe for it, but it's on my short list of things I must cook soon. 

My favorite part of the buffet is the assortment of starches.  Every morning, there were at least 4 different starches, actually more if you include the different breads.  I am not usually a big rice eater, but I really enjoyed all the mixed rice selections.  Some days the rice was made into musubi (triangular onigiri?) and other days, it was just mounded in a large dish. 

A few weeks before I went to Japan, I actually made a delicious mixed rice dish.  I served it from a large dish, but I think it would be equally scrumptious pressed into shapes. . .or even used for the rice portion in a Spam musubi.
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 can (6 oz) kogai ajitsuke (seasoned clams), drained, juice reserved
     1/2 c bamboo shoots, slivered
     4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water and slivered
     1/2 c slivered carrots
     1/2 c soybeans, thawed if frozen
     2 tbsp shoyu
     1 tbsp sugar
     1 tbsp mirin
     1 tsp salt
     1 packet (about 1 tbsp) dashi-no-moto
     3 c (rice cooker cups) rice, prepared as usual

Add reserved clam juice, salt, and dashi-no-moto to rice and water.  Let stand for 20 minutes then cook as usual.  Cook shiitake mushrooms with shoyu, sugar, and mirin.  Add carrots and bamboo shoots.  Cook until carrots are soft.  Add soybeans and clams.  Remove from heat.  When rice is done, toss clam mixture with rice.

We arrived in Japan on Sunday, October 7, although it was around noon on Saturday, October, 6, when we left Hawaii.  For some reason, it felt like we arrived earlier than we did last year, as restaurants were still open for dinner.  We were lucky enough to go to our favorite tonkatsu restaurant, Tonkatsu Wako.