30 December 2013

Homemade cranberry jam and milk & honey jam

The past week was really hectic! I was in a cooking and baking frenzy every other day, preparing for a baking play date at my place as well as two parties at friends' place.

The party yesterday at C & R's place was awesome! Most of us have known each other since secondary school days (more than 20 years, gasp!) and the group of 11 has now grown to include the spouses and kids and our headcount is 37 (2 more coming soon)!!

During our annual year-end gathering, we typically have gift exchanges and I was cracking my brain on what to prepare this year. For the past few years I had baked cupcakes and cookies; I wanted something different this year. When I saw fresh cranberry sold at Sheng Shiong supermarket near by my place, I recalled a blog post on cranberry jelly doughnuts by Veronica of Peng's Kitchen recently. Making the jam looked quite easy and so jam it was! One jar of jam seemed too little, so I decided on one more milk & honey jam. I bought a bottle of earl grey milk jam from Japan few years ago and it was really yummy!

Got these petite jam jars from Tong Huat Trading, an amazing shop at Chin Swee Road that sells all sorts of glass and plastic containers (another recommendation by Veronica). I love the lever ones very much and wanted to buy 2 dozens but there was only 1 dozen left :( Had to make do with the normal screw cap ones for the balance.

 This cylindrical one is about 4cm in diameter, $2.50 each.

 This squarish one is about 5cm in diameter, also $2.50 each.

The normal screw cap one is about 4cm in diameter, $0.70 each.

The labels are Coharu masking tape printed using Coharu label printer. I bought the printer online from Rakuten, and masking tapes from Loft and Tokyu Hands during my past trips to Japan.

Each family received a bottle of cranberry jam and milk & honey jam packed in a sweet Laura Ashley ziplock bag.

Yes, I very atas :p LOL!! Bought the Laura Ashley ziplock bags last year at Laura Ashley store at Jiyougaoka, Tokyo. Yes, I like to hoard such stuff :p Finally have a chance to use them. I think they are really app for packaging/gifting. Too precious to use as storage bags.

Cranberry Jam
(adapted from Peng's Kitchen and Anncoo Journal)

Ingredients (recipe yields about 700g of jam)
  • 360g Fresh cranberry (exact weight of 1 pack of fresh cranberry sold at Sheng Siong supermarket)
  • 300g Caster sugar
  • 265g Apple juice (exact weight of 1 bottle of apple juice)
  • 70g Water
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to boil.
  2. Lower heat to medium low and simmer for 30 mins, stirring frequently.
  3. Jam will thicken slightly after 30 mins and further thicken after cooling down.
  4. Let jam cool slightly before transferring to clean glass jar (sterilised with boiling water).
  5. Cool completely before sealing and store in fridge. Best consumed within 2 weeks, up to 1 month.

Milk & Honey Jam
(adapted from Our Adventures in Japan)

Ingredients (recipe yields about 390g of jam)
  • 450g Fresh milk
  • 225g Dairy whipping cream
  • 100g Caster sugar
  • 45g Honey
  • 2tsp Vanilla bean paste or 1/2 Vanilla bean pod (I use Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste)
  1. Mix fresh milk, whipping cream and caster sugar in a pot. Cook on medium low heat, stirring frequently, for 30 mins.
  2. Add honey and vanilla bean paste, and continue to stir frequently. It takes another 20-30 mins for the jam to thicken. Jam will further thicken slightly upon cooling.
  3. Let jam cool slightly before transferring to clean glass jar (sterilised with boiling water).
  4. Cool completely before sealing and store in fridge. Best consumed within 2 weeks, up to 1 month.

I am submitting this to the "Baby Sumo's Christmas Recipes Collection 2013" event which is hosted by Baby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out.

21 December 2013

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate and Chickpeas - AFF West Asia Dec 2013

I hadn't intend to make another Middle Eastern dish because I've a few upcoming parties and lots to cook and bake; and quite a number of photos to edit and blog posts to write! But I was craving for some salad and since I still have some pomegranate molasses left, decided to try this simple recipe that I bookmarked previously.

When I was searching the internet for various Middle Eastern recipes for AFF West Asia this month, I realised that gathering of ingredients was harder than I thought. Till now, I haven't managed to find sumac, a key ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, therefore had to shelf the idea of making the Fattoush Salad.

For this particular salad, I had problem finding chickpeas initially but of all places, I saw it sold at a pasar malam near my place yesterday night. Haha, bingo! The rest of the ingredients like spinach, red onion, walnut, pomegranate, feta cheese and pomegranate molasses were no problem. Simply toss everything together and serve. I added some pistachio and coriander as well.

The salad was surprisingly refreshing creating an explosion of different flavours and texture in my mouth. It looked so christmassy too, could do as a party dish during the year-end festive celebrations.

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate and Chickpeas
(recipe adapted from mideastfood.about.com)

  • 1/2 box (50-60g) baby spinach
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup mixture of walnut and pistachio, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 70g cooked chickpeas
  • 10 cubes feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Garnish - 1 stalk coriander finely minced, 5 cubes feta cheese crumbled
  1. Place baby spinach, diced onion, chopped walnut and pistachio, pomegranate and chickpeas into a large bowl. Crumble the feta cheese and add into the mixture.
  2. Add 1 tbsp of pomegranate molasses into the salad and toss gently.
  3. Place salad in a plate or bowl, garnish with finely minced coriander and sprinkle crumbled feta cheese all around.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest: West Asia hosted by Shannon from Just As Delish.

I am submitting this to the "Baby Sumo's Christmas Recipes Collection 2013" event which is hosted by Baby Sumo of Eat Your Heart Out.

20 December 2013

Hokkaido (Sapporo/Otaru/Jozankei) Nov 2013 - Day 5 & 6

Continued from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

Last 2 days of our Hokkaido holiday!

Our breakfast was scheduled at 8.30am, so I woke up a little earlier for a soak at the onsen. The male and female onsen baths had switched over at 4am, and this was the "male" onsen that hubby visited previous day. The changing area is a tad smaller in size.

There was even a crib inside the changing area.

Bath area.

The indoor onsen.

Another indoor onsen, cybress bath style.

To get to the outdoor onsen, have to go down a flight of stairs. Felt so cold while walking down since we could only bring in a tiny towel.

Quickly jumped into the hot spring water. Ahh, much better.

Similar to the other onsen, there's also sauna room but I didn't go in.

The onsen mascots. These 2 represents autumn and winter. The other 2, spring and summer are located in the onsen I went previous day.

8.30am, our breakfast time!

Selection of small dishes, such as plum, pickles, wild vegetables, tamago, squid sashimi.

Tofu and fishcake hotpot.

Salt marinated salmon.

Soup and radish.
The onsen tamago and boiled potato were available free-flow, and not part of the set breakfast.

After breakfast, we went back to the room to laze some more.

Gorgeous weather.

Checked out at around 10.15am and proceeded to the bus-stop to wait for the "KappaLiner" scheduled at 10.30am.

Pity we didn't have enough time to walk around Jozankei.

The countryside is so lovely.

The bus ride took about 30 mins and soon we reached JR Sapporo Station. From there, OTOT till 2pm to check in at Hotel Gracery. Shopping time! And then it was more shopping after we checked in :p

We met up again at 8pm, at Susukino for dinner. We had eyeballed this BBQ mutton shop few nights ago.

We ordered different cuts of mutton. Cabbage, beansprouts and onions were free flow. Did I mention before, grilled veggies were quite yummy!

Lamb sausage was surprisingly yummy!

After having the grilled mutton, we decided to hop over to Ramen Alley for a bowl of ramen, went back to the same shop as we liked the ramen previously.

The next morning, we had a couple of hours to spare before heading to the airport. So we dropped by Nijo Market 二条市場 which is located near Odori Park. It's a fresh market similar to the Curb Market (Central Wholesale Market) but more conveniently located.

However, having visited the Curb Market, Nijo Market pales in comparison in terms of products, number of shops and vibrancy. But I guess it's still an attractive fresh market for tourists and visitors who didn't have time to go all the way to Curb Market.

We were there close to 8pm, some shops were closed (or maybe not open yet).

I bought 2 melons (yes I hubby hand carried the melons back to Singapore :p) and left shortly.

We walked towards Tanukikouji shopping street in search of breakfast place.

Breakfast at Cafe Doutor. Variety of sandwiches available.

 My egg and ham sandwich. Super like!

After breakfast, we went back to the hotel, did some last packing and checked out. Took the JR bound for New Chitose Airport. When we checked in our luggage at the ANA counter, was really pissed off when the ground crew told us that my luggage was overweight. My luggage was 30kg which is within the baggage limit, but the maximum weight allowed for 1 piece of luggage is 23kg. In other words, I had to split my luggage into 2 - 1 piece at 23kg and the other 7kg. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my spare duffel bag, and hubby had to sacrifice his hand carry backpack for my 7kg of stuff.

With all this time wasted, we had very limited time to explore the awesome New Chitose Airport, less than 1.5 hours to go before boarding the plane. We quickly headed to the duty free shops to get the must-buy Hokkaido snacks and then to Smile Road/Sweets Zone where there's Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Royce Chocolate shops.

Huge Royce Chocolate shop.

Can even see the chocolate making process.

Doraemon sky park.

I think dear son would like this place.

Most of the areas are free, only one area requires admission fee to access the library, workshop and commemorative photo booth.

There's even a Doraemon cafe.

We didn't have much time left and many areas and shops unexplored yet :((( Had to go into the immigrations and departure lounge after a while. Next time, we must make it a point to reach the airport at least 3-4 hours in advance!

We will be back again!

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19 December 2013

Hokkaido (Sapporo/Otaru/Jozankei) Nov 2013 - Day 4

Continued from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

Day 4 - it's my highly anticipated onsen getaway and I have chosen Jozankei onsen!

I know, there are quite a few more interesting onsen areas to go, like Niseko, Noboribetsu, Lake Shikotsu, but these are slightly further away from Sapporo. Since our time here was so limited and our main objectives for visiting onsen were to rest and relax at a nice ryokan, have a therapeutic soak in the hot spring and enjoy a sumptuous kaiseki dinner, Jozankei Onsen fitted the bill nicely.

We woke up late and took our time to pack luggage. Checked out at around 10.30am and left the big luggage with the hotel. Thereafter, we proceeded to Stellar Place (connected to JR Sapporo station) for early lunch. We had some time to spare because check-in time at the Jozankei ryokan is around 2-3pm and we would be taking either 1pm or 1.30pm bus.

Hubby and P were keen in bbq meat, but N and I were not so interested, a bit too heavy for first meal of the day!

In the end we settled for this restaurant that sells Omurice. We were the first customers to be seated at 11am, the restaurant filled up very quickly after us. Hmmm, the Japanese also take early lunch, or maybe because it was a public holiday.

I ordered the lady's set once again. Usually when I'm in Japan, I like to order lady's set or seasonal set which always suit me very well :)

The set came with a soup and small salad as starter.

My main course, the classic Omurice rice. Chicken rice cooked in tomato wrapped with omelette and topped with more ketchup!

There are a lot of choices for omurice here. Rice can also be cooked with cheese, sauce could be demi-glace sauce. Toppings like hamburger can be added as well.

My set dessert, a mini berry parfait.

Hubby ordered a salad.

And nugget and fries. Too little for him? Coz he knew I won't be able to finish all my rice :p

After lunch, we proceeded to the Sapporo Station Bus Terminal (South Exit) and bought our bus tickets (Jotetsu Bus) bound for Jozankei Onsen. The one-way fare cost 750 yen and takes about 75 min. There are 2-3 buses available every hour.

There's also a direct bus line called "KappaLiner" which takes 60 min, at the same price. However this service requires reservation and only runs 2 service per day at 11am and 3pm (not suitable for us). Hence we chose to take the local Jotetsu Bus for the outbound journey. For the journey back to Sapporo, I requested the ryokan staff to make reservation for the KappaLiner.

On the way to Jozankei Onsen, not much autumn foliage since it's beginning of winter already.

Our stop was "Jozankei Jinga Mae", meaning in front of the Jozankei Shrine.

Our hotel for the night, Shogetsu Grand Hotel, just 2 mins walk from the bus stop.

Hotel reception. It was 15 mins to 2pm, slightly early for check-in. The front office staff requested us to take a rest at the lounge while they prepare.

I took the opportunity to take some photos around the lobby and lounge area.

Lounge area overlooking a valley and another hotel.

I guess this is a fireplace.

Shop selling souvenir, local and spa products.

After waiting for about 15 mins, the front office staff informed us that they were ready. And after the check-in procedures, we were ushered to our rooms.

First, we headed to P and N's room, which was the Premium Suite with in-room onsen bath!

Spacious living room area with sofa and dining table.

Bath area, with cypress bathtub and fresh spring water and separate shower room.

Bedroom with massage chair.

Pantry area with complimentary coffee/tea making facilities and beer/beverages in the fridge.

Back to our room. We booked the standard 10 mat tatami room and was delighted that the hotel upgraded us to the deluxe 12 mat tatami room! All thanks to P and N since they took the Premium Suite.

Living and balcony area.

Additional sleeping area.

Balcony area with TV. Standard layout for Japanese ryokan.

Bathroom, normal tap water (not fresh spring water).

View from our room.

Lovely! Too bad autumn's over, otherwise it would be breathtaking. I guess it would be beautiful once it starts snowing.

Time to head to the onsen!

Spacious changing area.

Typically, ryokans would provide beauty products such as collagen cream, moisturising lotion, hair serum etc for ladies to use after soaking the onsen.

The bath area and indoor onsen.

The indoor bath has 3 pools. 2 of them at 40 degree celsius and 1 at 35 degree celsius.

I usually prefer the outdoor onsen, the roten ofuro.

It was such a blissful feeling soaking in hot spring water while admiring the beautiful scenery.

The male onsen would be switched over to female the next morning, so that guests could enjoy both onsens.

After a nice soak, hubby and I went to the lobby lounge for a honey buffet, a special service for hotel guests.

We could make our own honey drink, and taste different honey with crackers and waffles included.

Besides crackers and waffle, there were also boiled potato and a chewy fried mochi ball.

After the little snack, we went back to our room for snoozing till dinner time.

Our dining time was scheduled at 7pm at the dining room, and here's our 12-course kaiseki dinner menu.

Here were the first 3 courses - plum wine, appetisers and hot pot.

Sweet plum wine is usually served as a first course.

Look at all the colourful appetisers, didn't know where to start eating.

The seafood milky hot pot. The milky soup was delish!

Sashimi platter. Fresh and sweet!

Roast beef. Tender and succulent.

Broiled kinki fish with root vegetable.

Steamed uni and kani. Interesting way to eat uni.

Rice with pickles and soup. The rice was so fragrant, wanted to eat all of it but I was so full already.

Tempura. Crispy but not oily. Yummy!

Dessert. The cake was black sesame mousse cake, very tender and moist. The pudding was very nice as well, slightly tangy and cleanse the palate after the sumptuous meal.

After dinner, we went to P and N's room for chit chatting and strawberry shortcake (bought it in the morning) before retiring for the night.

Our warm and cozy futon was already prepared for us by the ryokan.

Next post would be our 5th and 6th (last) day at Hokkaido! Stay tuned!

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