Hikari's Food/Japanophile and Other Interesting Stuff blog

End/Beginning of Year Giveaway (Closed) & an Unexpected Christmas Find.

Hi, Everyone!

Did you have a good Christmas? Are you ready for the New Year?

Just figured I’d let you in on a new giveaway being hosted by our Japanese friends on YouTube: Sandwich press/cutters!

This is just Cooking With Dog’s video, there are SIX OTHERS and all you have to do is follow the instructions for each to get a chance to win these cute, handy sandwich makers. You have until January 4th to get all your entries in. Good Luck!

I’ll go ahead and post all the addresses here:

megwin: http://youtu.be/6lXQ9ofrB9Q
sasakiasahi: http://youtu.be/fK1UifLk_mI
ochikeron: http://youtu.be/ClOpEYk5zV8
MarimoMarshmallow: http://youtu.be/m0eI8J4eM4Y
mosogourmet: http://youtu.be/vx_m6hQ5ALs
kazuch0924: http://youtu.be/x75hd4B1G7Y
cookingwithdog: http://youtu.be/bRl80S0n_yY
Play All 連続再生: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRl80S0n_yY&list=PLOSl0zcwU0DPjjeae9WXNn9a…

In other news, I found something cute to use for sauce containers in bento.

Cute, lidded sauce containers from something that used to hold gum!

Cute, lidded sauce containers from something that used to hold gum!

I was visiting a friend after Christmas when I noticed these cute things lying around. When I asked about them, it turned out they had originally held gum. They came in a six-pack from the dollar store! When I expressed my interest in them, she said I could have the empty ones and that she was just going to throw them away. While the stickers on top won’t really last past a washing, they can be peeled off/replaced with something else, and I think they’ll make perfect mayo/sauce cups for my bentos! Just keep in mind they’re not meant to be used for thin liquids like soy sauce as the lids aren’t very tight, but would be great for mayo, ketchup or thick dressings & sauces.

Here they are in one of my larger boxes.

Here they are in one of my larger boxes.

How did I miss these?! I’ve been to the dollar store at least half a dozen times in the past couple of months! I know it’s a bit late to find these now, but Valentine’s and Easter are just around the corner, so if you’re interested keep your eyes open for something similar with a different holiday theme!

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Eating My Mistakes: Chocolate Avalanche Roll Cake


Another delicious kitchen mistake. This time? Roll Cake.

I knew THIS was too much to hope for...

I knew THIS was too much to hope for…

If it had come out like this, or even this, I would have been thrilled.

But THIS seemed tantalizingly within reach.

I’ve been dreaming of delicious, fluffy, cream-filled roll cake since last year when a friend in another state mentioned wanting to open her own bakery. Until now, I’d never tried it. I’m not one for trying to bake from scratch, and my current kitchen is neither properly equipped or of sufficient size to pull it off. The last time I tried anything fancier than cupcakes, the results went terribly, terribly wrong. Petits-fours with nasty, see-through icing and crumbly bits everywhere were not appetizing. No, I don’t have a picture. (Thank god, it was before I started blogging.)

So when I decided that this was to be my Christmas dessert, I asked Hubby: “So, if I make an ugly cake, will you eat it?” To which he replied, “Will it still taste good?” My affirmative answer received a positive reply, so off I went to research making roll cake from a box. This was an arduous task, with lots of digging and contradictory suggestions. Pre-roll the cake, don’t pre-roll the cake, modify the recipe, don’t modify, etc. etc.

What I did get out of it: Don’t over-bake, roll with a kitchen towel dusted with powdered sugar. Don’t roll until it’s cool. Bake it thin. With thoughts of how I wanted to fill my roll cake, I baked the cake following box instructions, except for the timing, as it cooks even faster in a jelly roll pan (actually a cookie pan with high enough edges) than cupcakes do. My mix was some kind of double or triple chocolate mix from Duncan Hines.

I decided on the pre-roll method and used plastic wrap along with my towel in the hopes of making cleanup easier. As the cake cooled, I once again thought of how to fill my lovely cake. Chocolate icing, cut with whipped cream, and cherries. MMMmmmmm… Black Forest Roll Cake. But just in case, I waited to whip the cream, as I knew there was a chance the cake would crumble.

Alas, I was correct. As I unrolled the towel, about halfway down was the first crack. The closer to the center of the roll I got, the more breaks I found. Oh well, at least the cake would taste good. Armed with just chocolate icing, I iced and re-rolled my creation, placing it on a tray lined with foil.

Not too bad for a first attempt, huh?

Not too bad for a first attempt, huh?

During the day as it sat, it turned more into an avalanche than a cake.

Thank goodness I wasn't planning on serving it to guests!

Thank goodness I wasn’t planning on serving it to guests!

But it still tasted great. If I raised the foil sides, it almost looked pretty. I think the problem is that boxed cakes are meant to be fluffy, not strong, thus cannot take the stress of being rolled. I could have tried filling and then rolling, but I have a feeling that I would have been disappointed to see all my hard work split and crumble anyway.

Lesson? Don’t try to make pretty cakes until I get a proper kitchen and equipment. I should just stick with simple and easy… For now…

But one day, I will have my fully stocked kitchen. Then, I will make pretty cakes, cute cookies, and petits fours worthy of tea parties. Maybe.

Until then, I have a chocolate avalanche to eat through, straight off the pan with a spoon between me and Hubby. This could take a while.


Alternative Gift-Wrapping Idea: Return of the Furoshiki!

(Sorry, everyone! This was supposed to be Wednesday’s post, but the auto-post didn’t work for some reason… and of course it took me until today to realize it wasn’t posted. Anyway, it’s here today!)

Aren't they pretty?

Aren’t they pretty?

Everyone’s gotten their (Insert Holiday Here) shopping done, right? Have you wrapped all of your presents? Are you tired of seeing your carefully folded, taped and be-ribboned masterpieces torn apart and discarded?


While you can’t really help what the kiddies will do to a gift, they don’t really care how carefully it’s wrapped anyway. But what about your friends, co-workers or lover(s)? While it’s tempting to throw the gift into a bag and call it done, being able to wrap a gift and make it look lovely shows you took the extra step and that you thought about them.

furoshiki_bottleWhy not try using furoshiki? I know I gave a bit of a tutorial for wrapping items in my American Bento part 3, but I would like to consider other items that can be wrapped beautifully, like bottles. Many people like to give a bottle of wine when visiting a house for a party, so instead of simply placing it in a wine bag, why not wrap it with a beautiful scarf or other piece of fabric? I’ve been using it for my water bottles for years as a carrying mechanism, and will demonstrate using my cheap bandana wraps and a reused tea bottle.

First: how to make sure your wrap is big enough?

Arizona Tea has such lovely blue bottles!

Arizona Tea has such lovely blue bottles!

Just set the bottle down in the center of the fabric, take diagonal ends and see of they can tie across the top comfortably in a double knot.

Wine bottles take a bit more finesse.

Wine bottles take a bit more finesse.

For Wide Bottles: Lightly roll your fabric and wrap around the bottle twice. Can you make a double knot? If so, you’re ready to begin!

Yes, it's that simple!

Yes, it’s that simple!

Next: Prepare your bottle using the first step above, (Making sure the nice side is down!) making a double knot over the top. Then, cross the fabric across the back of the bottle, and back around to the front. (I find it’s easier to do this in my lap so I can control the bottle and it helps me keep the knot on top from slipping.)

It was hard to show the fabric crossing around the back...

It was hard to show the fabric crossing around the back…

Then you just tie that into a double knot and you’re done!

Yeah, not as pretty as the professional version, but this is just a bandana. It's much nicer with some satiny fabric!

Yeah, not as pretty as the professional version, but this is just a bandana. It’s much nicer with some satiny fabric!

Decoration: If you like, slip a holly twig or clipping of pine into the knot, or include some other festive decoration like a candy cane or ornament.

Option 1: Tying a handle loop into the top: If you have enough fabric, simply take the ends and make another double knot at the very end, and you have a carrying loop!


Option 2: Try other ways of twisting the cloth at the fold: Here, I’ve twisted the fabric back on itself, making a decorative twist. You can also try a single knot.

I had to use a different fabric to show the twist.

I had to use a different fabric to show the twist.

There are many other decorative ways of wrapping up a bottle with a cloth, but this method is easiest. I have found a YouTube video that shows this method with the handle loop.

Also, there’s the easier two-bottle method! Just keep in mind it involves a cloth big enough for two bottles. I don’t have such a cloth, so can’t demonstrate myself.

And don’t forget all the other things you can wrap with your fabric!

From the official Japanese page.

From the official Japanese page.

Merry ChristmaHanukaKwanzakah Everyone!

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Shpadoinkle! ~ Hanafuda “Flower Cards”

Hello, All! I know, it’s been a while, but we’re gonna open up with a new Shpadoinkle!

Have you heard of Hanafuda (花札)? To me, they’re DEFINITELY Shpadoinkle!

This is a set of traditional Japanese playing cards. The name literally means “flower cards” and this is due to the wonderful flower patterns on the cards.


Basic Hanafuda: There are 48 cards in a typical deck, with 12 “months” each represented by a flower or plant. Each month has four cards, with two “plain” or “normal” cards and a ribbon card, special card, or animal card (there are a couple of exceptions). Depending on the type of card, you match cards of the same ” month” and try to get points. You can collect ribbons, “brights”, animals, and other combos for points. I’ll give some links to more detailed instructions at the bottom of the post.

The cards are known as “Hwa-to” in Korea and are also used for games in Hawaii under different names, but are generally recognized as hanafuda.

I first heard of hanafuda years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to learn to play. What I discovered is there are numerous games and versions of these games that can be played.

The rules may seem complicated at first, but once you get the concept behind the game (Koi-Koi) and learn which cards are worth what, it’s a lot of fun. At first, I learned to play on my tablet. I found a decent Android app for playing the game Koi-Koi for free, of course, but if you like the game you can spend a couple of dollars to help support the developer.

Interestingly enough, most of the Japanese people I know don’t know how to play any games with hanafuda. This may have to do with a connection to the Yakuza as they became popular for gambling in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. Oh, just a little known fact, the cards became popular for gambling due to mass production from the Nintendo gaming company, which first got its start by making playing cards!

After classes were finished for the quarter, I wanted to play with someone other than a computer. With the hopes of teaching Hubby, I went on eBay and found a decently priced deck for a little under $10 (after shipping). they’re not fancy, just thick cardboard. Wow, these guys are TINY! (about maybe 1/2 the size of a normal playing card) Not to mention very hard to shuffle due to their thickness. If anyone decides to learn to play, I suggest the hybrid cards that double as normal “trump” cards, as they will be easier to handle, shuffle, and are multipurpose.

The multipurpose version

The multipurpose version

Although, after finding out a special set from Nintendo existed, featuring beloved Mario characters, I had to buy another set for collector’s purposes. I have yet to break the seal, my otaku heart cries when I think about it. Maybe I’ll need to buy another deck so I can use them, they’re so CUTE!

Just couldn't resist these cuties!

Just couldn’t resist these cuties!

So, this is what I’ve been doing in my spare time, when not writing reports or essays or completing mounds of homework. I really think I would be to the halfway mark in NaNoWriMo if I could have used just my school work towards the total. Seriously.

But anyway, I will write a more in-depth article if this generates enough interest. For now, however, I will leave some links at the bottom for those interested in learning more about this card set or the games that use them. (And if anyone gets the Android version I linked and wants to play, let me know. I’d be happy to have a human playing partner!)


Android Free version of Koi-Koi

A whole website dedicated to hanafuda (and their flash-game is pretty decent, too!)

This flash game is pretty good, but doesn’t use as many of the combos as I’d like  (gotta have my Hanami/Tsukimi zake!)

If you have plenty of Nintendo games, consider saving points to get the Mario deck (if you don’t, just use eBay).

Hawaiian version, including Solitaire option and some of the card symbolism meanings.

I definitely feel that using the Android and computer versions first will help you learn the rules and see if it’s fun before you decide to invest in a read card deck.

Need more info? Feel free to just Google or Bing: Hanafuda, rules, etc.



What does one do when she has spent all day writing reports and completing assignments without eating all day?

She has brupper. (Or for the non-Southerners, brinner.)

What’s brupper? It depends on who you ask. For some, it’s when you have breakfast for supper. Now, while I do enjoy having a lovely breakfast-style meal in the evening on occasion, this is not what I am talking about.

In my house, it’s the meal you have after not eating all day, then realize about 3 or 4 in the afternoon that you’re starving.

Luckily, I realized this was going to happen and prepared my Ham, Cheese and Potato bake.

And now that I think about it, with a big over-easy (what we call sloppery) egg on top, it was kind of a breakfast for supper kind of meal as well. So technically, it was both meanings of the word.

One more week of classes, another of tests and Winter Break will free me up for more writing and maybe a new blog page with some short stories. But as usual, with my projects, I have more ideas than I ever really complete.

So, while this page is kind of stalled for now, soon will come lots of recipes to make us want to diet after the holidays!

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