japanese sweet potato cakes

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An old friend of mine from my high school days in Japan asked me today if I could take an old and familiar Japanese dessert and make it healthier and plant-based. The dessert is what the Japanese call simply “sweet potato” or “su-i-to-po-te-to”, to be precise. It’s a sweet and savory dessert that is full of sugar and butter, and tastes so good! While trying to find examples of this dessert to show you, I stumbled upon this hilarious Japanese cooking demo for the dessert where this lady cooks with her poodle (not literally cooks her dog, but you know what I mean). You can watch it here:

I wish I had found this video earlier because I definitely would have added rum to my recipe when I was trying to make it! Anyway, I had two slightly different recipes my friend and I found and I decided to make both. I used a recipe from Hungry Note for version 1 and a recipe from Kyoto Foodie for version 2. In order to make them plant-based, I would need to make substitutions for the egg yolk, butter, milk, and cream. After much research (i.e. googling), I decided I would use silken tofu, avocado, coconut milk and coconut “cream” as my replacers, in that order.

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One thing I was a little uncertain of was how the texture and taste would differ since I wouldn’t be using Japanese sweet potatoes. I can’t find those locally here so I used the regular orange flesh “yams” that I found at the farmer’s market. Japanese sweet potato, or satsumaimo, has a purplish peel and light yellow flesh. It’s a little sweeter than what we call a sweet potato in the States. I found a great article in the Japan Times written by the author of one of my favorite Japanese blogs, Just Hungry, that talks about the history and uses of satsumaimo.

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The verdict — both versions of the sweet potato cakes were very good, taste-wise. Not too sweet, a little caramelized on top, and very creamy. Texture-wise, they were definitely too soft. It was a little softer than sweet potato pie filling, and while it did firm up a bit as it cooled, I still think it lacks the traditional texture. Next time, I will probably keep all the ingredients the same but increase the amount of sweet potato. I would definitely add at least one extra sweet potato, maybe even two. I think that would give it the more potato-y texture that is missing. However, this recipe as it stands has really great flavor, both cooked and uncooked. I could eat it raw as a sweet potato pudding as well. And it’s pretty healthy as far as desserts go, so you could use it as a side with your dinner, or even for breakfast if you wanted. I also think it would make a really great pie filling. I might experiment with baking one of these versions in a pie for Thanksgiving this year. I can’t vouch for how close it is to the original since it’s been over 15 years since I’ve eaten suitopoteto, but since I really enjoyed the flavor, I would definitely not call this experiment a failure!

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japanese sweet potato cakes “suito poteto”, version 1

ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 cup coconut “cream” (place can of coconut milk in fridge for 15-20 min. Use the thickened “cream” off the top of the can)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1/8 cup silken tofu
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.  Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil on the stove top.
  2. Cut the peeled sweet potatoes in 1/4-inch rounds and then halve and quarter them. Boil for 4-5 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Drain the sweet potatoes and return to the pot. Mash them in the pot over low heat to evaporate a bit of the moisture.
  4. Add the avocado, tofu, and maple syrup to the pot and blend with the potatoes using an immersion blender. (Can also spoon into a food processor or blender)
  5. Gradually add the coconut cream and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla extract.
  6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or foil. Spoon the mixture onto the tray in any shape you want. If it’s too runny, you can use line a muffin tray and use that instead. Mine made 9 little cakes.
  7. Brush the tops with a bit coconut cream.
  8. Bake for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown. Place tray on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Place a sheet of wax paper on top of cooling rack and use a spatula to place the cakes on the paper. Cool for another 20-30 minutes. They will firm up more as they cool. Enjoy!

*Notes: Next time, besides increasing the amount of sweet potato, I will also try the following: mash the sweet potatoes by hand, blend everything else in a blender or food processor, then stir the mixture into the hand-mashed sweet potatoes. That may help solve the texture problem and make it less runny.

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japanese sweet potato cakes “suito poteto”, version 2 “kyoto-style”

ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk (may substitute other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt, optional
  • sesame seeds

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch rounds and halve and quarter them. Steam for 10-20 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Place in a bowl and add the maple syrup and avocado and begin mashing.
  4. Add in the coconut milk, tofu, cinnamon, and salt.
  5. Form into balls and place onto a lined baking sheet, or spoon into a lined mini-muffin tray as I did.
  6. Top with white or black sesame seeds and bake for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown on top.
  7. Cool in muffin tray or on baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing. Allow to cool for 10 minutes more on a wire rack. They will firm up a bit as they cool. Enjoy!

*Notes: Next time, besides increasing the amount of sweet potato, I will also try the following: mash the sweet potatoes by hand, blend everything else in a blender or food processor, then stir the mixture into the hand-mashed sweet potatoes. That may help solve the texture problem and make it less runny.

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corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad

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This is a really simple salad to throw together and is great when fresh corn is in season. You could use canned or frozen corn but fresh corn off the cob is simply the best! The flavors and colors are bright, you get a mix of sweet and sour from the corn and peaches versus the lemon and pickled red onion.

corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad

ingredients

  • 2 ears of fresh corn (uncooked), removed from the cob (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 cup cooked shelled edamame
  • 1 peach, diced
  • 2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onion (recipe below)
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Add the corn through to the red onion to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  2. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the salad, and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of red wine vinegar and toss again.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and toss again lightly.

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pickled red onion

ingredients

  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly in rings or half moons
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 5 black peppercorns

directions

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a tea kettle or small saucepan. Place the onions in a colander over the sink and pour the boiling water over them and let them drain.
  2. In a two-cup or other container, place the onions and all other ingredients. Stir to distribute the flavors evenly.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. They will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

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takikomi gohan – brown rice with tofu, zucchini, eggplant, shiitake

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This was a spur of the moment meal that I started at 9:00pm Sunday night. I don’t recommend doing that since I added too much liquid to my rice cooker and after two-and-a-half hours, it still hadn’t beeped. I finally checked on it close to midnight and the brown rice was finally done. Learning from my mistakes, what I believe should be a faster recipe is below.

brown rice with tofu, zucchini, eggplant, and shiitake

ingredients

  • go of brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 block of tofu, cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8-10 shiitake, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
  • water

directions

  1. Put rice in rice cooker and enough water for 2 go according to your rice cooker’s specifications. Add all other ingredients.
  2. If your rice cooker has a brown rice setting, switch it to that, and press start.
  3. When your rice cooker beeps, it’s done! (You may want to check on it after an hour and see how it’s doing, and then every half hour after that. The vegetables will add extra liquid as they cook down, so make sure you don’t make the mistake I did of putting enough water to compensate for all the ingredients.)

fall harvest meal ii

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One of my friends recently moved to the neighborhood and last night we decided to cook a meal together. Her kitchen is teeny tiny and she also has the tiniest stovetop I’ve ever seen, so naturally we cooked at my house. When I invited her over to cook, I really had no idea what we would make. I started brainstorming based on what I had in my fridge and pantry and came up with a menu. And then I came up with a second menu that began to sound really amazing to me. Even though it was in the 90s yesterday, I just couldn’t put aside the thought of this second menu, so we decided to brave the heat and roast away in the kitchen. Here’s what we made: miso-ginger chicken thighs*, roasted asparagus, orange-balsamic glazed acorn squash, smashed crispy red potatoes, and stir fried shiitake. It was quite a sight to behold, all those trays lined up in the oven, roasting away right along with us.

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I’m still a little surprised we managed to fit everything in. The two recipes completely new to me were the miso-ginger chicken and the orange-balsamic acorn squash. They were both amazing. The chicken is quite possibly the best chicken I have ever eaten. As we were feasting away, I couldn’t help but comment over and over how amazing the chicken tasted. It was spicy and tangy, with the flavors from the miso and ginger melding together creating something quite wonderful. You really need to try this! The acorn squash was sweet and creamy and the citrus added a brightness to the flavor. I’m pretty sure I will be making everything on this menu many times again in the future. Having company over, not to mention a second set of hands in the kitchen, made all of this possible — I never would have gone to all the trouble for just myself. I need to have company more often so I can eat lots of yummy food!

*for vegan followers of my blog – everything on this menu is vegan except for the chicken. I am working on a tofu version of this recipe that I will post when I’ve perfected it.

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miso-ginger chicken thighs

from Guiding Stars

ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, zest and half of the juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red chili paste

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ Fahrenheit.
  2. In a food processor, combine everything but the chicken into a paste. Toss over the chicken to coat. (You can marinate it overnight in the fridge, or cook right away — the flavor is very intense even without marinating).
  3. Place the chicken in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once after 15 minutes.

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orange-balsamic roasted acorn squash

from Miss Kitchen Witch

ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, cut into 1/2-inch rings
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from 1 orange
  • 1/2 an orange, sliced thinly
  • salt to taste

directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the squash rings evenly.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oil, and orange juice. Brush the squash with 3/4 of the mix and top with the orange slices. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and bake for about 20 minutes.
  3. Flip the squash and pour the rest of the vinegar mix on top. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the squash is very tender. Allow to cool slightly, but serve hot with a little orange zest if desired.

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smashed crispy red potatoes

ingredients

  • 8-10 small red potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional: fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender — approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on size of potatoes.
  2. Drain potatoes into a colander. Do not rinse. Using a towel or pot holder, take each potato and smash it flat with your hand onto a baking sheet. You can use a fork or potato masher if you want, just make sure they don’t completely fall apart.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If you choose, you can add chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
  4. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes. They should be brown and crispy on the edges. Roast longer if necessary to get the desired crunch.

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roasted asparagus

ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands or tongs to coat the asparagus completely in the seasonings.
  4. Roast for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus and your desired degree of doneness. I like mine to still have a bite to it and I don’t like it too charred.

stir-fried shiitake

ingredients

  • 8-10 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and ends trimmed
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)

directions

  1. In a medium-size bowl, dress the shiitake with approximately 1-2 tbsp each of the sesame oil, soy sauce, and mirin. Stir to coat evenly.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté the shiitake for 5 to 10 minutes until mushrooms begin to wilt.

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korean-inspired lettuce wraps

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Clockwise from the top: lettuce, kimchee (fermented cabbage), sukju namul (bean sprout salad), seasoned soy bean paste, maple-glazed tofu, marinated shiitake

My grocery store carries kimchee in the produce section alongside tofu and spring roll wrappers. If you can’t find kimchee, you could maybe add some hot peppers or something else spicy with a bit of crunch. I got the recipe for the sukju namul here at Maangchi, a great Korean food blog. I used Japanese cucumbers from my garden and bean sprouts that I grew in my kitchen! The seasoned soy bean paste is a Korean brand I found in the Asian section of my grocery store. The recipe for Maple-Glazed Tofu can be found at Fried Dandelions, a vegan food blog with a lot of great recipes. The recipe for the marinated mushrooms is below. This is really a simple dinner to make — each element only takes 5 to 10 minutes to make and can all be made in advance.  I made extra of everything so I could take it to work for lunch tomorrow and Wednesday.

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marinated shiitake mushrooms

ingredients

  • 7 to 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking)
  • 1 tbsp sugar

directions

Clean the shiitake and cut them into 1/4-inch strips. Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (If using dried shiitake, rehydrate them in 2 cups of hot water (enough water to cover) for at least an hour. Reserve the soaking liquid and use 2/3 cup of it in place of the water).

grown up bento, part 1

School started last week which means it’s back to either packing lunches or running across the street to Wendy’s or McDonald’s. I’m trying to stick with the former so I bought myself some cute bento boxes in the hopes that this will help me be creative and excited about packing a lunch, even when my schedule begins to get really crazy. Since I’m following the Vegan Before 6 plan, each lunch needs to be vegan also. So far, I’ve made it a whole week, so that’s progress!

Here is what I packed this week:

Day One 

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1 – Corn salad – fresh corn, cooked edamame (soybeans), cucumber, peach, and tomato. Chop everything up and dress with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. (Could also add fresh cilantro or basil, fresh mozzarella or feta if non-vegan, experiment with the spices. Get creative!)

2 – Leftover fried tofu from Mad Mex (that’s a bit of vegan sour cream you see in the picture), and honey dew melon

Day Two

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1 – Maple Glazed Tofu with homemade guacamole and refrigerator pickles. There’s a multigrain tortilla hiding under the wax paper below the tofu. I put the guac, tofu and pickles in the tortilla at lunch time. (For guacamole – combine one avocado, juice of one lime, and 1-2 garlic cloves in a food processor or blender. Can also add red onion, cilantro, tomato, tomatillo, etc. For refrigerator pickles — recipe is here on my blog) 

2 – leftover corn and edamame salad from yesterday, and mango and cantaloupe chunks.

Day Three

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1 – leftover guacamole from day two. Under the guac is a multigrain tortilla. The greens are leftover from dinner at a Japanese restaurant the previous night. They’re dressed with sesame oil.

2 – leftover maple-glazed tofu from day two and chunks of cantaloupe. I made a wrap again with the tortilla, greens, guac, and tofu.

Day Four

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1 – cantaloupe chunks and cucumber sticks (I grow Japanese cucumbers in my garden — they’re long and slender, have no seeds, the skin is thin and tasty, and they are burpless. Much crisper and tastier than your average cucumber. Very similar to Persian cucumbers, only about twice as long.)

2 – leftovers from the Japanese restaurant two days earlier – fried rice and zucchini, and seaweed salad (I ordered the seaweed salad appetizer specifically so I could have leftovers for lunch. I knew that it would be too much food with my entrée but I was trying to be proactive).

My bento boxes are made by Bentgo. Each container has a lid and they stack on top of each other. There’s a plastic fork, knife, and spoon that fits in between the two containers and there’s an elastic strap to hold everything together. I got a great deal on Groupon for them, and I love the colors!

my nana’s refrigerator pickles

I used these pickles in last night’s summer burger, so I thought I’d post the recipe (sorry, no lemons here today). My Nana used to make these every summer, and they were always one of my favorites. In fact, when I was younger, they were the only pickles I liked, other than Japanese pickles. A fond memory of my Nana was when I was trying to force myself to like dill pickles. She told me that pickles weren’t good for you anyway, so if I didn’t like them, I didn’t have to eat them. 🙂

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nana’s refrigerator pickles

1 cup vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. celery seed

Mix together thoroughly. Do not heat.

Add:
6 cups sliced unpeeled cucumbers
1 cup thinly sliced onions

Refrigerate and enjoy! They’re good to eat in a few hours, but they’re even better days and weeks later.

cornbread stuffed peppers

Disclaimer: there is no lemon anywhere to be seen in this recipe…but…it’s the first thing I’ve cooked in a while and they turned out beautifully so I thought it was deserving of a picture and a post!

I found some beautiful peppers at my local farmer’s market this weekend. I had some amazing cornbread stuffed peppers at Biba a few weeks ago and thought I would try to recreate them. My cornbread recipe doesn’t even compare, but I thought it was still quite good.20110906-065623.jpg

ingredients

  • 1 box corn muffin mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 5 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 medium-sized peppers

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  • In a medium-size bowl, prepare the cornbread according to package directions. Mix in the scallions and 3/4 cup of the cheese.
  • Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Fill each pepper with the mix then top each with a sprinkle of the remaining cheese. Bake until cooked through and golden on top, about 15 minutes.