Friday, March 30, 2007

Michiko's Apple Yeast Bread

I started experimenting with growing wild yeast culture from fruits such as apples and raisins for bread baking in February (about 2 months ago), and it seems I have begun to get a hang of it. (There are some photographs of my early experiments with the wild yeast culture in the entry on March 17, "From Michiko's Recent Kitchen Experiments" and on March 13, "Rejuvelac Sourdough Bread").

Although Amar was quite dubious about my apple yeast or any other kind of wild yeast experiements (and it was quite understandable since at the beginning the bread made with my homegrown wild yeast weren't that terrific ;-), as I start to get a hang of it and the loaves of bread produced have become more and more in a good shape with a good flavor and texture, he started appreciating the bread made with my wild yeast.

The landmark moment was when he said of my second loaf of apple yeast bread: "Wow, this is the best toast bread that I've ever had since I left New Zealand! Seriously!! This bread reminds me of one of my favorite bread in New Zealand called 'Burgan'. I used to eat the bread a lot throughout my university days... Hmm, this [my apple yeast bread] is a really nice bread. Please make this again and again."

I asked him what about my apple yeast bread reminded him so much of his favorite New Zealand bread. To which he answered, "Well, it has a slight sour flavour similar to sourdough bread, but not too sour and light, and yet it has a depth of flavour as you bite it. The crust is nice and crispy, but the crumb is moist. It's easy to slice cleanly, and the best part is that when you toast the slice and put butter on it, it doesn't sink like some commercial bread sold here, and it absorbs just right amount of butter! So this is the best bread ever, because of such a good harmony with butter both in texture and in flavour!"

...Uh-huh. I understand how important it is for him that "a good bread" has to be a good company for a good NZ butter :-)

(The last small bread is another my experimental bread - something that I would call "apple yeast scone bread" - this is also made with apple yeast, and has several kinds of dried fruits and nuts. All these bread here are made without any commercial yeast, but just with wild yeast culture raised from apple skins.)

Flamenco Demonstration

Yesterday (Thursday March 29th) I danced flamenco for a demonstration at International Spouses' Circle at IU International Center - it was the first occasion I danced flamenco in Bloomington, and after as long as one year of absence of flamenco in my life since I left Japan last May. I started taking flamenco lessons about 10 years ago, and although there were couple of times I couldn't take classes for several months for various reasons, this is the longest absence of flamenco in my life in these past 10 years. (I'm not doing any flamenco now here in Bloomington because I haven't found any good teacher around here.)
After this demonstration, it made me realize how much I have missed flamenco... but well, I was also very happy to have had this opportunity to dance it as a presentation for friends, and with someone else who can also dance Sevillanas (which is both a flamenco dance and a folk dance in South Spain).

It turned out that Tamara, a Spanish girl from Madrid, also dances Sevillanas. Though she is not from South Spain where most people can dance Sevillanas, she has learned to dance sevillanas and some flamenco in childhood since her family loves flamenco.
After some wonderings I decided to put on one of my flamenco dresses I brought from Japan, for otherwise I probably may end up not wearing them ever again! So I brought one dress for myself and a manton (big scarf used for flamenco) and a flamenco skirt for Tamara. And I think I made a right decision - both Tamara and I were glad that we wore the dresses; it is always so much better to perform in real costumes for a presentation! (The only problem was that my hairdo was messed up a short while after starting dancing, as you can see in the pictures above and below. I wish I was better at doing my hair @@;)

The presentation was very successful and both Tamara and I enjoyed dancing togehter a lot! Thanks to Amy, a friend of mine, who came to see the presentation that day and took a lot of pictures of us dancing, I have some photos to share here.
Thank you Tamara for dancing with me, and thank you Amy for the great photos :-)

The International Spouses Circle (ISC)'s gathering that day was an "International Dance Session", and we also enjoyed Sandy's salsa and melange workshop, and Maya's Egiptian/Middle-Eastern dance workshop as well. It was a lot of fun! Thank you Sandy for organizing the event and International Spouses' Circle (^^).

(About these small pictures: Left: Amy took this picture without me noticing it at all, and I found this portrait quite artistic. Right: Amy and me.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gardening & flower photos

Our new house on Greenbriar has quite a large yard with lots of deciduous trees. In last fall, we had to rake a huge amount of leaves and take them to the roadside so that the city's leaf collection service would pick them up.
However, even though we had raked a lot of huge heaps of leaves back then, we wrongly ignored the leaves on the borders of the yard and just left them as they were. I said "wrongly", but I realized that only very recently, when I saw flower buds shooting out through the layers of leaves around these borders of our yard.

So, while Amar was away for a conference in Chicago for 4 days, I started raking the yard again, and raked and raked for all day long for 3 days. It was quite surprising to see how much leaves were still left after such a work in last fall (we had about three times more heaps back then than what you see in the picture above, which are the leftover leaves I collected in the past few days) ... but after 3 days of work, I collected almost all the leaves from every corner of the yard and now the garden looks much greener and fresher.
I am a total novice in gardening and a little bit overwhelmed to think just how much I need to learn and by the amount of work I would have to do all the year round, but I can also see that it is a very rewarding job too. Getting a close contact with the earth and nature calms your mind and nurture your spirit.

Amar was very pleased and grateful to find the whole garden cleaned up and much greener on coming back from Chicago on Tuesday the 27th. After some chat with Amy who was visiting me for a coffee, Amar and I went to a piano concert by Christopher O'Riley at IU Auditorium, the concert we've long been looking forward to - Chris O'Riley is a classically trained pianist who also "transcribes" (=transfer into classical music) and plays rock music such as Radiohead and Eliott Smith. The concert was really terrific and deserved our long expectation for it.

By the time Amar came home from Chicago, Bloomington became very warm (almost like an early summer rather than spring), and lots of flowers and trees have started blooming. Bloomington in bloom is really beautiful and lovely.

Here are some photos of the flowers and trees in bloom in our yard:

P.S. on April 6th: The collected leaves were picked up on April 5th by a tree-specialist trader who we found through a friend's introduction, for which we paid $75. It was not cheap, but we thought it is worthwhile to ask someone else to do the job... I'll make sure to collect all the leaves before winter next year! ;-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our second Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday (the 20th of March) was our second wedding anniversary. We had originally intended to dine out to celebrate it, but partly because Amar has been too busy (he's leaving for Chicago for a conference in a few days), we decided to have our anniversary dinner at home.
I cooked a Korean hot pot called "Kimchee pot" - marinated pork, tofu, garlic chives and kimchee cooked in a hot and spicy soup with a lot of complex flavor - and made a pumpkin pie, which is one of the best favorite dessert of both Amar and myself. I recall that one of our first dates back in LA was a Korean dinner at a Korean restaurant in Koreatown - so I think the Kimchee pot helped freshen our memory of those days :-)

Amar bought a bottle of NZ white wine called "Richmond Plains", Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, and it turned out a perfect company for both hot Kimchee pot and pumpkin pie.
I decorated the pumpkin pie with my homemade caramel sauce and some pecan nuts, as well as whipped heavy cream. Amar adored the combination of caramel sauce and pumpkin pie, saying, "This is the best dessert ever!! I have never eaten a pumpkin pie like this! You should definitely make this your signature dessert." ... Well I am really happy that my pumpkin pie made him this happy ;-)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Letter from NASA?

About a week ago we received a letter from NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration - that was addressed to Amar. It was a "Certificate of Recognition" for one of his achievements in chemistry.

The certificate says -

NASA presents this certificate to:

Amar H Flood

For the creative development of a technical innovation
which has been approved for publication as a NASA Tech Brief entitled.

I am so proud of my husband for being recognized by NASA! Amar seems to be quite pleased himself, but he is also humble and looking forward to more: "Yes this is a great encouragement for this project and my chemistry, but this is just a starting point - by using this innovation as a base, I need to develop my project further to see just how good it is."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cooking and dining together with Tom and Amy

We finally had a chance to catch up with our former-neighbor couple (from the time when we lived in "Dodds" house) Tom and Amy last Thursday, taking advantage of the one-week spring break.

We gathered at Tom and Amy's, and cooked Japanese deep-fried breaded pork "Tonkatsu" together, and Tom cooked us very delicious Chinese potstickers and chicken salad. Tom is a great cook!
We had a really nice time - enjoying good food, nice company, and beautifully decorated house with Amy's good taste.

Here are some photos from the evening:

(Amy's beautiful table setting)

(Tom & Amy)

(Tom's potstickers ... nice presentation, as well as really yummy!)

(Enjoying chatting and eating appetizer (Tom's potstickers))

(Tom's delicious chicken salad... and nice salad bowl... Amar, I want to get something like this for our home, too! ;-)

(Strawberry-chocolate mousse that I made for a dessert)

From Michiko's Recent Kitchen Experiments

The following are the pictures of some of my recent kitchen experiments and cooking/baking of my original recipes.

***Bread with "homemade" wild yeast culture***

(Apple yeast loaf --- apple yeast bread #4)

(Apple wild yeast baguettes --- apple yeast bread #3. "Apple yeast" is wild yeast cultured from wild yeast residing on apple skins.)

(apple yeast scone bread --- apple yeast bread #5)

(rejuvelac sourdough pizza with wholewhat flour)

(making "rejuvelac" = enzyme water from sprouted wheatberries)

(my first "rejuvelac sourdough" bread --- not very successful as you can see ... ^_^;)

(rejuvelac sourdough bread with adzuki bean paste filling)

***Bread with commercial yeast***

(Onion Walnut Breat)

(Ciabatta al Formaggio)

***Growing sprouts at home & Making Japanese food from scratch***

(homemade "natto" (=Japanese fermented soy beans) Amar usually dislikes "natto" for its "sliminess", but the homemade ones seem to have passed his test ^^. Natto is a typical acquired taste thing, like "vegemite" in NZ.)

(home-grown broccoli sprouts)

***Japanese sweets made with my original recipe***

(green-tea & adzuki beans muffins)

(Japanese buckwheat & adzuki bean "manju" cakes)

(Japanese buckwheat & adzuki bean "manju" cakes with "kinako" (=roasted soy flour))

(strawberry & adzuki cakes)

***"Experimental" vegetarian dishes***

(Daikon radish cooked in mushroom & seaweed soupstock)

(Brown rice hamburgs with onion, mushroom, nuts and cheese --- hmm, it was yummy!)

(tempeh and soybean curry)

(Pumpkin & lentil croquettes)