Thursday, March 31, 2011


It's avocado season at our house!

We've got several Haas variety avocado trees, and they're finally in-season. 

Seems like a long wait.

This year, though, there aren't too many, so we'll savor them while they last.

One of our favorite things to make is guacamole.

The weather has warmed up fast, Spring is here, and the avocados are ripe.

Time for guacamole!

The first thing you'll need are perfectly ripe avocados.

Well, maybe they don't need to be perfectly ripe.

What's great about guacamole is that you can use avocados that are a little over ripe, since you're going to mash them up anyways.

Here's what you'll need.


6 large avocados
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 lime
1/2 jalapeño, deveined, seeded & minced
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Optional: 1/2 small clove garlic, minced

I think this one is perfectly ripe, the skin will come away from the avocado in one smooth piece, and there's no purple remnants of the skin on the flesh of the fruit.

This one is still okay, the skin doesn't come away in one piece, but the flesh is still clean.

If the skin doesn't come away from the fruit cleanly, you can scoop the flesh out with a spoon.

This is about 6 large avocados.

Add some lime juice, it will keep the avocados from turning brown.

Add 1/2 the juice of a lime first. Reserve the others for later.

Mash with a potato masher or a large fork.

A rough mash with some chunks still present is perfect.

Dice or mince 1/2 a sweet onion.

I think if there's a secret ingredient to guacamole, it would be the jalapeño.

Best wear gloves when handling hot peppers, it might sting your skin.

I like the heat, but some of my family members don't, so I remove the veins and seeds.

Finely chop, but if you like the heat, leave it chunky.

Add a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice.

I ran outside to grab a lemon, and also to check on how my cilantro is growing, since I had saved some cilantro for the guacamole, but forgot, and put it in my breakfast quesadilla.


The cilantro is still too small to use.

Chop the tomatoes and add a little salt and pepper.

Add about 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.

I liked this jar because it's got 'cumin' on the lid, but I generally buy cumin at the Mexican market in a bag and refill the jar. That costs a LOT less.

Stir all the ingredients together.

You'll have cilantro in yours, of course, since you won't have eaten the last of it for breakfast.

Then, give it a taste.

I like it with a lot of lime, so I generally add an extra half of a lime.

Guacamole's a great dip for veggies and chips.

You can serve it with your tacos, taquitos, and burritos.

Or put a big scoop of guacamole on the top of your salad.



Dixie loves avocados.

This is Dixie.

When the avocados start to fall from the trees, she likes to bury them.

She buries them in the soft dirt in the planters next to the house.

I can tell she's buried some avocados when she comes to the door with dirt all over her nose.

In the summer, we'll find several mini avocado trees starting to grow next to the house.

This was taken on the day we brought Dixie home.

These are Dixie's litter mates.

The one with the pink cord around her neck is Dixie.

She's had a pink collar since she was born.

One Christmas, the kids gave us this picture in a little Cottonelle puppy frame.

Rick threw the tennis ball for her a bunch so she would be panting and smiling.


Not Karen.

When we got Dixie, Mrs. Jensen, the breeder, said, "This one has a sense of humor."

She was right.

Dixie jumps up on the bed, steals my neck pillow, and runs under the piano and waits for me to see her.

We've lost touch with the Jensens, they moved shortly after we got Dixie ten years ago.

I wanted to thank her.

Dixie's brought a lot of joy to our lives.

No printable recipe for this one yet.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Won Ton Soup

Won Ton Soup is one of my favorites.

Maybe it's because I love noodles.

I would always judge a Chinese restaurant by how good their won ton soup was.

It's surprisingly simple to make, especially if you plan ahead a little and have some won ton skins on hand when you make your gyoza.

You can make some won tons with the same filling, freeze them, and have them handy for soup!

Start with some chicken broth.

Home made is by far the best, but you can use canned.

For four cups of stock, add two cups of water.

Also add a slice of ginger root and one clove of garlic, crushed.

If you have some shiitake mushrooms, thinly slice them and add them, too.

I had these vegetables on hand--baby bok choy, chinese peas and bean sprouts.

You can use any vegetables you like.

I think non-root vegetables work best.

Cilantro is really good in here, as is watercress.

Immerse each vegetable in boiling water for about 10 to 15 seconds only.

That keeps them from getting overcooked.

After the ginger and garlic have been cooking in the soup stock for a few minutes, taste the stock. If it needs some more body, add some dashi--soup stock. The dashi above is made from vegetables.

The bonito flavored dashi is good in won ton soup.

Or you can use konbu dashi.

These are the won ton wrappers they had at Nijiya Market.

Look at the date to be sure they're fresh.

If they're old, they won't bend nicely, they'll crack.

This is the sausage/mushroom filling I made for gyoza.

If you're going to make won ton, use it the same day and freeze the won ton. 

It's not good to keep the filling for more than a day.

Moisten around the edges with a little bit of water and fold it in half, pressing it together firmly with your fingers.

Put a dot of water near one corner, and bring the opposite corner over to overlap, then press firmly.

I like this shape for won ton soup, but you can also leave them flat.

Drop the won ton into boiling soup stock or a separate pot of water.

Cook for a few minutes over medium heat until the won ton float, then they're done.

Spoon the won ton into soup bowls.

You don't want to leave the cooked won ton in the broth, the noodles will expand a lot, so ladle them right into the bowl.

Put the blanched vegetables into a bowl with the won tons and ladle the hot stock over them.


If you like a little dipping sauce, you can make some ponzu sauce with lemon juice, shoyu and a splash of vinegar and sriracha hot sauce.

Sprinkle with some cilantro leaves and chopped jalapeno.


This is my favorite won ton soup, the Hung Tao Won Ton Soup at the House of Louie Chinese Restaurant in West Covina.

The won tons are fried, and the soup is thick, with little pieces of chopped barbecued pork, egg flowers, and cilantro in the broth.

They serve it really hot, just as I like it.



When I was a little girl, I went to Japanese language school, I've talked about it before.

This is the old Community Center where I first started Japanese school,
I was about 7 years old.

It's tough being a new kid at Japanese school.

Everyone already knows each other, and at recess, all the girls were in small circles, holding hands, and doing the Soupy Sales shuffle together.

I remember watching them from the porch of the school.

The girls would slide their feet--left, right, left-left, then right, left, right-right--all together, laughing and having fun.

I couldn't do it--when I looked down at my feet, I just had two lefts, no rights.

It can get lonely on the porch at Japanese school all by oneself, watching all the other girls having fun.

Until you look around on the porch, see someone else, and make your own friend.

This is Susan.

She was new at Japanese school, too.

She's a couple of years older than me, so smart, and so, so nice.

We became fast friends.

I wanted to be just like her.

Even more so, when she got these blue glasses.

I remember thinking they were the prettiest, coolest things I'd seen.

I really wanted a pair of blue glasses.

But I didn't need them.

Or get them.

Susan used to let me wear her blue glasses at Japanese school.

Except when she needed them.

To see.

Then I had to give them back to her.

Remember these girls?

Susan is second from the left.

She recently told me she'd always admired my Japanese odori technique.

She wanted to dance like me.

I never knew that.


I'd always admired her popular dance technique.

We talked on the phone for hours and hours, all through high school.

Once, one of my dad's friends had to use Emergency Breakthrough because our phone line had been busy all evening. 

I was talking to Susan.

When she went away to college, we wrote letters.

Lots of letters.

I still have the letter she told me she was in love with John, and another when she asked me to be her maid-of-honor in their wedding.

We wrote when she moved around the country when her husband was going to graduate school, and when our children were small.

Susan is still my role model.

She's artistic and a talented artist, but doesn't know it.

She's on a roller hockey team and is super-fit.

She worked so hard for the past few years taking care of her aging, ailing parents--not an easy thing to do.

She understands me, knows me so well, and always gives me the benefit-of-the-doubt--seemingly without thinking twice--when I stick my foot in my mouth.

We're back to talking on the phone, sometimes with long conversations like when we were kids.

Feeling left-out and standing on the porch at Japanese school during recess wasn't so bad, after all.

You never know when you'll meet a friend.

Thanks, Susan, for being a life-long friend.

No printable recipe for this one yet.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sesame Balls

I love dim sum.

I especially love sesame balls.

They're my favorite.

Crispy-crunchy sesame seeds with chewy mochi-like outside and sweet bean paste on the inside.

There are a lot of recipes online, it's difficult for a novice sesame ball maker to choose, so of course I chose the one with the best picture.

The ones above are the ones I made, but look at these:

The sesame seed balls on that website look perfect.

Here's what you'll need for the inside, I cooked the whole package of beans and put the leftovers in the freezer, but you can make less.

l lb. azuki beans
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
~1/4 cup oil

They also sell the beans already cooked and sweetened at Nijiya Market.

I had these in my pantry begging to be used.

Rinse the dry beans and put them in a large pot. There were 2 1/3 cups of beans in this one pound bag. Cover them with water and let them soak overnight.

Drain the beans and cover with water by a couple of inches, and bring to boil.

Lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until tender.

Drain the beans.

Add the sugar.

Transfer beans and sugar to a food processor and puree.

Transfer to a pot, add oil, and heat over low heat until the mixture is thickened to a soft paste.

Transfer to a container and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

You can make this several days ahead of time, or keep it in the refrigerator for about a month.

When you're ready to make the sesame balls, roll the sweet azuki bean mixture into balls, a generous teaspoon sized.

To make the dough for the outside of the sesame balls, combine:

1 3/4 cup mochiko
2/3 cup water
1/2 to 2/3 c lightly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup raw sesame seeds

Canola or peanut oil for frying

Use the same flour we used to make peanut butter mochi.

 Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Pour into a bowl containing the mochiko and stir to combine.

Form the dough into a ball and divide into 3.

Roll into a log and cut into six pieces.

Keep a bowl of water handy.

The dough tends to get dry, so you need to be constantly wetting your hands.

Flatten out a piece of dough.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap to keep it moist. 

If you don't, you'll have to continuously keep dipping your hands in water because the dough will get dry.

Add a ball of the sweet azuki beans.

Cover the beans with the dough.

Wet your hands and smooth into a round ball after you have closed the dough around the beans.

You can pinch off excess dough as you're making them, that way one side of the ball won't be overloaded with dough, and you'll have an even coating.

 Moisten your hands lightly with water and roll the dough.

It would be fun to make them with friends, so you can have an assembly line to make it go faster.

Chatting and giggling always make the cooking more fun.

 Roll the balls in sesame seeds, coating all around.

These are the sesame seeds I used.

I keep them in the freezer.

Heat the oil to just below 350 degrees F, add the sesame balls.

After 2 to 4 minutes, they'll float to the surface. 

Then, gently press them with a long metal spoon and press them back into the oil, holding for a second or two. The balls will expand a little.

Cook them a little longer until they're golden brown.

Drain on paper towels.

The next time I make these, I'm going to make them with some friends.

Then we'll all have them with a cup of tea when they're done.



When I get good at making these sesame balls, I'm going to invite our friends Robert, Connie & Robert's mom, Mas, over to have some sesame balls and hot tea.

This is our friend, Robert.

If he had his way, this is the only picture of him I'd post.

He's kind of shy.

We've been friends for years and years.

And years.

He's a big Dodger fan.

His mom is too.

I hope I'm as adventurous at 92 as Mas is.

Robert goes camping with us every summer.

If Robert, or his son Keith, can't go, we plan around them.

They're important.

When our daughter got married in a fun do-it-yourself wedding last year, we couldn't have done it without Robert's help.

He came over and helped paint the house. Even when Gary had to work.

He helped with the wedding preparations, helping stain the arbor and make the stage, hang the strings of lights in the trees, make the mason jar lights, stage the ceremony area, etc., etc., etc.

Then he took a day off from work the next day to help us clean it all up.

He's that kind of friend.

Here he is dancing with Connie at the wedding.

He looks happy.

I'm so happy for him.

We couldn't ask for a better friend.

No printable recipe for this one yet.