Posts tagged ‘baking’

Pumpkin Flan

Do you like flan?

It’s super popular in Japan (they call it “pudding” though, not flan), but it seems like you don’t see it all that often in the U.S. Of course you can buy flan, and I’ve seen mixes for it, but it’s not really on the same level as things like chocolate chip cookies, cake, or brownies here.

That’s too bad, because it really is delicious. My husband loves flan. It’s one of his favorite desserts. Sometimes we had it in Japan at restaurants and such, but I’d never actually made it myself before.

If you’ve been reading my posts the past couple of weeks, then you know I’ve been on a pumpkin kick. Well, in an attempt to make some new pumpkin dishes, I decided to make pumpkin flan, and it was definitely a success.

I found a recipe on Martha Stewart’s website, and decided to try it out. I halved the recipe and adjusted a few things for my version though.

One thing I should have done was bake it in a smaller dish. I used a square 2-quart baking dish, which was a little too big for the amount I made, so my flan was a tad on the thin side. Because of that I recommend either using a smaller baking dish or doubling the recipe.

Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
In a large bowl, mix together 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, and a dash of salt. Stir in 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, and mix well (not pictured).
In another bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream.


Pour the egg/cream mixture into the pumpkin mixture, and mix until smooth.


Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat.


When it turns a rich brown color, and starts bubbling, remove it from the heat, pour it into the baking dish, and very quickly spread it around the bottom of the dish evenly. You have to be really quick with this, because as soon as it’s off the heat, it’ll start turning hard.


Pour the custard into the baking dish over the caramel. Set the baking dish into a deep roasting pan, and fill up the pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
Bake until the custard sets, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator to cool.


Run a knife around the edges of the baking dish. Place a large serving dish wrong-side up on top of the baking dish. Carefully hold both the serving and baking dish and flip them so that the flan comes out onto the serving plate.
Cut it into pieces and serve.

You can serve it with a dollop of whipped cream, but it’s great just by itself.


Pumpkin Flan

(serves 4)

  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and salt. Stir in the pumpkin puree, and mix well.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and cream. Pour the egg/cream mixture into the pumpkin mixture, and mix until smooth.
  4. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook until it melts and turns a rich brown color, and starts bubbling. Remove from heat, pour it into the baking dish, and very quickly spread around the bottom of the dish evenly.
  5. Pour custard into the baking dish over the caramel. Set the baking dish into a deep roasting pan, and fill up the pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until the custard sets, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator to cool.
  6. Run a knife around the edges of the baking dish. Place a large serving dish wrong-side up on top of the baking dish. Carefully hold both the serving and baking dish and flip them so that the flan comes out onto the serving plate. Cut it into pieces and serve.

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart


October 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Halloween re-post: Pretzel Monster Fingers

Wow! It’s almost Halloween! I didn’t realize that until I looked at the calender earlier.

It’s a good thing I bought Halloween candy at the store yesterday. I thought about waiting until the Sunday before Halloween to buy it (which, I guess would be this coming Sunday), but I thought that all the good candy would be sold out by then. Maybe. I don’t really know. Do the stores usually run out of candy right before Halloween? I don’t remember..

Actually, I don’t even know if we’ll get any trick-or-treaters here. There are a lot of families and a lot of kids at our apartment complex, and a lot of people have their patios decorated for Halloween, so I’m thinking some of the kids might go trick-or-treating around the complex. Of course, this is our first Halloween living here, so I really have no clue. I would love to have some trick-or-treaters come here, but we may have no one come, in which case we’ll have a huge bag of candy on our hands.

Honestly though, I picked out a bag of candy with all the kinds of candy in it that I like just in case we don’t have any trick-or-treaters. If I’m going to be stick with a huge bag of candy, then it’ll be candy that I like gosh darnit!

I’m re-posting one of my posts from last year: Monster Pretzel fingers. Last year, I made them on Halloween, so I wasn’t able to post about them until after Halloween. I thought I would re-post this before Halloween this year for everyone who hasn’t seen it, and to give ideas to anyone looking for Halloween themed foods to make. These take a little bit of time, but they’re so fun, it’s worth it.


[originally posted November 1st, 2011]


Did everyone have a good Halloween? Or for those of you in the U.S. (and similar time zones), are you having a good Halloween?

Hisa and I did nothing to celebrate Halloween really, but then Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Japan. You can see Halloween decorations and Halloween themed foods here and there, and some shopping malls even have events for kids these days, but that’s about it. Most people don’t do anything.

Normally not doing anything on Halloween would bum me out, but honestly, we’re too busy trying to get ready to move out, go to my in-laws’ place, figure out our trip to Thailand, and finally move back to the U.S. (phew!).

So that Halloween didn’t pass by us completely unnoticed, however, I decided to make something a little spooky and fun for dinner.

Monster fingers!!! Are these awesome, or what?

So many Halloween treats out there are sweets, but I wanted to make something spooky to have with our dinner, so I decided to make these monster fingers. They’re made with pretzel dough shaped into fingers and topped off with an almond for the nail/claw.

These were a lot of fun to make.

I made a normal dinner (meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and tossed salad), and then merely added the fingers so it looks like a hand emerging from the mashed potatoes. You could have these sticking out of just about any salad or side dish.

These also go great with sandwiches! Ah, you gotta love Halloween!

Pretzel Monster Fingers

(makes 24 fingers)

  • 1 c. warm water
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. bread flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • sea salt
  • 24 whole almonds
  1. Mix warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl. Let sit 5 minutes or until bubbles form.
  2. Add whole wheat flour and mix. Add salt and mix.
  3. Add bread flour gradually until easy to handle. Pour out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, or until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 450° F (175° C).
  5. Bring a large pot of water on to boil. Add baking soda.
  6. Divide dough until you have 8 balls of dough. As you work with one, cover the others to prevent them from drying out. Divide each ball of dough into 3 pieces. Roll out each piece into a snake, the length and width of a finger.  Pinch the dough twice to create “joints”. Boil the fingers, 3 at a time, for 1 minute, and then place on a lined baking sheet.
  7. Beat egg, and brush egg on each finger. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the “knuckles” of each finger a couple times.
  8. Place one almond on each finger, carefully pushing it slightly into the dough. Sprinkle fingers lightly with sea salt.
  9. Bake 12 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.


October 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Pumpkin Lasagna

I’m on a roll with the pumpkin recipes this season.

I’ve made some yearly favorites (pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin French toast, etc.), and I’ve also made some new favorites, namely pumpkin lasagna and pumpkin flan. I’m saving my pumpkin cheesecake for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I also have a few more pumpkin foods I want to try making. I’m thinking pumpkin scones, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin bread pudding, and maybe some pumpkin granola…

Poor apples. They’re being so looked over by me this fall. Don’t worry my pretty apples, I will soon turn my attention to you as well.

Anyway, I really wanted to make something savory with pumpkin, other than pumpkin soup, and I decided pumpkin lasagna sounded pretty awesome. I couldn’t find a recipe online that I liked though, so I ended up making my own with very satisfying results.

Instead of pumpkin puree, I wanted to you slices of roasted pumpkin, so I turned to my absolute favorite pumpkin, kabocha. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before, but kabocha is also known as Japanese pumpkin. It looks similar to acorn squash, but with more of a small pumpkin shape with a green outer skin and bright orange flesh on the inside. It’s one of sweetest types of squash out there and very delicious. You can usually find it at Asian grocery stores and places like Whole Foods and Central Market. If you can’t find any, feel free to use acorn squash or butternut squash, but I encourage you to try out kabocha. It really is tasty.

The kabocha I sliced and baked on a baking sheet with some olive oil, dried sage, and salt and pepper until tender. You don’t have to peel kabocha (the outer peeling, more like a rind really, is edible, and tastes the same as the orange inside)

For the sauce, I made a bechamel, or white sauce. Basically just butter, flour, and milk. I cooked the butter until it browned, however, and then added some dried sage (sage goes great with most winter squashes and sweet potatoes) before adding the flour and milk.

For the cheeses, I used large curd cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese (it doesn’t really matter which you use though), grated Parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (the last is amazing with sweet winter squashes and sweet potatoes). Yes, I used four kinds of cheese in this lasagna. That’s how awesome it is.

I used oven ready lasagna noodles, because they just make life so much simpler, and I topped off the lasagna with some pumpkin seeds/pepitas.

This is a vegetarian dish, but not really what I would call a “light” dish. It’s a nice change from regular lasagna though, and a delicious treat for welcoming the Fall/Winter seasons. And it has four kinds of cheeses in it. Come on, you can’t go wrong with that. You know I’m right.


Pumpkin Lasagna

(serves 5 – 6)

  • 1 box oven-ready lasagna noodles (you won’t use the entire box)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 whole kabocha (Japanese pumpkin)
  • 1 tsp. dried sage
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 container large curd cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese)
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1  tsp. dried sage
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • plain pepitos (pumpkin seeds) for sprinkling on top
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400° F. Scoop the seeds out of the kabocha. Cut off any brown, rough spots on the outside of the squash. Thinly slice the kabocha about 1/2 centimeter in thickness, and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, add 1 tsp. dried sage, and add dash of salt and pepper on top. Toss the slices to coat them. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and egg. Mix everything until well combined.
  3. In a skillet or saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add 1 tsp. dried sage and continue cooking the butter just until it starts to brown. Sprinkle in the flour, mix until a paste forms, and continue cooking and stirring for about 5 minutes (you want to cook the flour, but you don’t want it to brown). Gradually pour in the milk, a little at a time, while whisking vigorously. Raise the temperature to med-high, and continue whisking until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency. Remove from heat, and season with salt to taste.
  4. In a deep, 2 quart casserole dish, add a little bit of the sauce, and spread it around the bottom of the dish evenly. On top of that, layer lasagna noodles, half of the kabocha slices, half of the cottage cheese mixture, 2/3 c. of the mozzarella cheese, and 1/4 c. of the Gorgonzola cheese. Repeat with noodles, sauce, the remaining kabocha slices, the remaining cottage cheese mixture, 2/3 c. mozzarella cheese, 1/4 c. Gorgonzola cheese, noodles, the last of the sauce, the last 2/3 c. mozzarella cheese, and then sprinkle with pepitos.
  5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400° F for 20 – 25 minutes. Then, remove the foil and continue baking for another 15 – 20 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes before serving.




October 12, 2012 at 11:17 am Leave a comment

Country Wheat Bread

Few things smell quite as good as homemade bread baking in the oven.

Coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon come to mind, but that’s another post for another day.

Homemade bread baking just smells so dang good. If you’ve never made yeast bread, it’s almost worth it just to get that wonderful smell in your kitchen. Believe me. It’s awesome.

Oh yeah, the bread tastes really good too.

This is a basic country bread. It has a good crumb, it’s not dry, and it makes good sandwich bread.

I use a mixture of bread flour and white whole wheat flour. The addition of bread flour helps it to rise better than if it were 100% whole wheat flour. Feel free to use whatever ratio of bread flour and whole wheat flour you want.

Country Wheat Bread

(makes 2 loaves)

  • 1 c. warm water
  • 1 c. buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1/4 c. melted butter (or oil)
  • 1/4. c. sucanat or sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 3 – 3 1/2  c. bread flour
  • 2 – 3 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 4 tsp. dry yeast
  1. In a large bowl, combine the water, buttermilk, and butter.
  2. Add the sugar and salt, and mix.
  3. Add 1 cup of bread flour and 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour, and mix until smooth. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the yeast and mix. Allow mixture to sit, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  4. Continue to add flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until it becomes hard to mix. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead, continuing to add flour as needed, for about 8 minutes, or until dough becomes smooth and elastic.
  5. Place dough in a large bowl sprayed with non-stick spray. Cover bowl, and put in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, or until dough doubles in size.
  6. Punch down dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough in half and shape into 2 rectangles. Roll up the dough like a jelly roll, lightly pressing with each rotation of the dough to get out any air bubbles. Pinch the seams closed and place in two sprayed (or greased) 5 x 9 in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until double in size ( 45 min – 1 hr).
  7. Preheat oven to 375° F. Uncover and bake bread for 30 – 35 min, or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. [Note: If bread starts to brown on top too quickly, cover with aluminum foil for the remaining baking time.]

October 5, 2012 at 11:15 am 2 comments

Dark Chocolate Chip and Walnut Scones

I love scones.

I remember when my mom first started making them. She a got a recipe for them from someone at our church, I believe. I was in elementary school, and I’d never heard of nor had scones before. But from that very first scone I was in love. Fresh scones are hard to beat.

Growing up, whenever my mom made fish chowder, she would make plain scones to go with it. This may seem like an odd combination, but trust me, it’s lovely. We would slather them with butter and honey and eat them with our chowder. Ah, memories.

I still make plain scones whenever I  make fish chowder. It’s one of those comfort foods that makes me feel warm and fuzzy because it reminds me of my childhood (and because it tastes really good of course too). Sometimes, however, I like to make scones for breakfast too. They’re great, because you can make just about any kind you want, just like muffins.

This time around, I found myself wanting scones for breakfast one Saturday morning. And not just any scones, but chocolate chip scones with walnuts. And not just any chocolate, but dark chocolate. Whenever I eat or make anything with chocolate, I always use dark chocolate. I figure, if I’m going to go all out and eat chocolate, than it better be good chocolate, and my favorite kind of chocolate on earth is dark chocolate (the darker, the better).

These are a wonderful treat for a weekend morning (or a special weekday morning even). Crumbly on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside with warm gooey chocolate and crispy walnuts. Heaven my friends. In the form of a breakfast quick bread.

Dark Chocolate and Walnut Scones

(makes 8 scones)

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. cold un-salted butter (half a stick), cut into cubes
  • 1/2 – 3/4 bag of dark chocolate chips (5 – 8 oz.)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 2/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° F. Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. With a pastry blender (or two forks), cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Add chocolate chips and chopped walnuts and mix in.
  5. Beat buttermilk and egg together in a small bowl. Pour over the flour mixture and stir just until the mixture comes together. Try not to over mix it.
  6. Pour out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 4 or 5 times. Transfer to the prepared cookie sheet. With floured hands pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Using a floured knife, cut into 8 wedges, but do not separate the pieces.
  7. Bake 15 – 18 minutes, or until golden brown.

October 3, 2012 at 11:55 am 10 comments

Egg, Ham, & Spinach Hashbrown Casserole

I know I’ve mentioned I like egg dishes before. But really, they never get old! And there’s so many variations!

Quiches! Stratas! Frittatas!

Let us not forget, though, the mighty breakfast casserole!
So many things you can add, and all delicious.

I made mine a hashbrown casserole with onion, spinach, and ham added with the hashbrowns, cheese sprinkled over the top, and then beaten eggs and milk poured over everything and baked. Lovely.

Don’t think you can only serve this for breakfast/brunch. Like all those lovely egg dishes, I strongly believe they’re good for any meal. I served mine for dinner with a tossed salad. I say, go for it.

Egg, Ham, & Spinach Hashbrown Casserole

(serves 4)

  • 3 large russet potatoes (or frozen hash browns)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 – 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 c. diced ham
  • 1/2 bag (6 – 7 oz.) fresh spinach
  • 1 c. shredded colby jack cheese (or the shredded cheese of your choice)
  • 4 – 5 large eggs
  • 1 c. milk or cream
  • salt and pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 360° F.
  2. If using frozen hash browns, cook according to package instructions. If using fresh potatoes, peel, wash, and grate potatoes. Add olive oil to a large skillet over med-high heat. Place grated potatoes in an even layer in skillet. Cook until browned on one side, then flip and cook on the remaining side until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Place hashbrowns in a sprayed 3 quart, rectangle baking dish. Return skillet to heat.
  3. Turn heat down to medium. Add onion and garlic, and saute for 3 minutes. Add spinach and ham, and continue cooking until spinach wilts. Remove from heat.
  4. Sprinkle half the cheese on top of the hashbrowns. On top of that, spread the onion spinach mixture in an even layer, then sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
  5. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk (or cream) together. Season with salt and pepper, then slowly pour the egg mixture over the casserole so that everything is evenly covered.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown, and the egg is completely cooked. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes before cutting and serving.


September 26, 2012 at 11:55 am Leave a comment

Baked Fish Fillet Sandwiches

I’m so glad it’s Friday!!

Between going to school part time, and working part time, I’ve become busy full time! This probably seems like a fairly obvious observation, but it’s true nonetheless.
Yay Friday!

When I was kid, we sometimes went to McDonald’s. I’ve always hated their hamburgers, so when I was a kid, I would get their fish fillet sandwich. I thought it was pretty good, and it didn’t gross me out like their hamburgers did.

Fast forward to now. I haven’t been to McDonald’s in a loooong time (I generally try to avoid fast food), but I started thinking about those fish fillet sandwiches I used to get as a kid. I thought it would be fun to make, so last week I got some frozen cod fillets, and made Hisa and I baked fish fillet sandwiches for supper.

I didn’t want to fry them, so I prepared it the same as my baked fishsticks, except for cutting them into sticks, and then simply made them into sandwiches.

This is a very easy, straight forward recipe, so it’s good for a busy night, when you don’t have much time or you’re too exhausted to be bothered.

I recommend cod for this recipe, but any firm white fish will work fine.

Baked Fish Fillet Sandwiches

(serves 4)

  • 4 sandwich size fillets of cod (as big or as little as you want)
  • 1 – 2 c. flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 c. panko bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • tartar sauce
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • butter for buns
  • sliced cheese (optional)
  • lettuce (optional)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Spray a cooking sheet with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper.
  2. Rinse and pat dry fish fillets.
  3. Add the four, beaten egg, and panko individually to three small bowls. Dip each fish fillet, being sure to coat both sides, into the flour, the egg, and the panko, in that order. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake fish for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  5. Spread butter on each hamburger bun half, then toast until buttered side is golden brown.
  6. To assemble: spread tartar sauce on one or both hamburger buns. Place one fish fillet on bottom bun, then top with sliced cheese, lettuce, and the top bun. Serve.





September 14, 2012 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

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About Me

My name is Rachel. I'm a small-town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, currently living in Japan, who likes cooking, baking, reading, working out, and traveling. Join me in my culinary adventures, my domestic doings, and the story of my life, one day at a time.

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