Kabocha Vanilla Chai Ice Cream


Kabocha Vanilla Chai Ice Cream (and yes, I need to update photos!)

This was a recipe I created a year ago for a Food52 ice cream contest. I surprisingly made it to the semifinals (call it beginner’s luck) but lost out in the final week of voting. That being said, this recipe is killer for fall time. It’s the perfect blend of fall ingredients mixed with those warm flavors of chai tea and vanilla. Enjoy!

Kabocha Vanilla Chai Ice Cream
Adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Roasted Kabocha Squash
2-3 lb Kabocha squash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half; remove seeds and membranes. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until soft when pierce with fork. Let cool slightly. Scoop the flesh into a food processor and puree until completely smooth. Measure out 1 cup of the kabocha puree for the ice cream; reserve the rest of the puree for another use.

Chai Milk Base
1-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 vanilla bean, scraped
3 cups whole milk
3 Darjeeling tea bags

Combine first 5 ingredients in medium saucepan. Mash slightly with a wooden spoon. Add in whole milk and place over low heat. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and place tea bags in milk mixture. Let steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and strain mixture. Measure 2 cups of the chai milk mixture for recipe; discard remaining milk.

Ice Cream
2 cups chai milk base
1 TBSP plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1 ½ ounces (3 TBSP) cream cheese, softened
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
2 TBSP light corn syrup
1 cup kabocha puree
¼ cup maple syrup

Mix 2 TBSP of chai milk base with cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Add kabocha puree and maple syrup and combine until smooth.

Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Return the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Place ice bath in the refrigerator and leave for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.

Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press the sheet of parchment directly against the surfact, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Pasta with Spicy Sausage and Vegetables in Tomato Cream Sauce

This is one of our family’s favorite meal creations. To be honest, I have no idea how it came about anymore. There was some recipe we were trying to recreate and we ended up with something so much better!  Don’t you love when that happens? 🙂

This is by far my husband’s all-time favorite dinners! It’s been in our cooking binder for years. It’s a great pasta dish that tastes as good the next day (hello leftovers!) as the day of. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!


Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Vegetables in Tomato Cream Sauce
Inspiration from Simply Recipe

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup whipping cream
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
1 TBSP dried sage
1 head broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 carrot, chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2-3/4 pound orecchiette
Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and toss in the carrots. Cook for approximately 2 minutes and then add broccoli. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Strain vegetables and plunge into ice bath.

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic; sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add sausages and sauté until no longer pink while breaking up the sausages. Add cream; simmer 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices and sage. Simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add broccoli and carrots to the sauce and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions or until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Return pasta to pot; add sauce. Toss over medium heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.


Vanilla ice cream with Miso Caramel Swirl


Vanilla ice cream with Miso Caramel swirl

Japan is hot, hot, HOT right now!

And that means ice cream season at our house! There’s nothing I want more on a hot and humid day than a bowl of deliciously cold ice cream. During this time of the year, our ice cream maker is always out, with the extra canister in the freezer waiting to be called to action.

My favorite ice cream cookbook is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home. I stop by her shops every time I’m back home visiting family in Columbus, Ohio. Her unique flavors are well-balanced and always leaves me wanting more. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I heard she was coming out with a cookbook. I was probably one of the first to pre-order it!

Her recipe for vanilla bean ice cream has always been one of my favorites and I truly didn’t think it could get much better. That was until I made miso caramel from the Food52 website (which if you haven’t checked it out, go now!). As I was debating how to use this miso caramel, I realized that the vanilla ice cream would be the perfect pairing.

Seriously, it’s one of those knock-your-socks off recipes. From the day I made it, my husband has been begging me to make it again. I finally relented after I tried a few other ice cream recipes to mixed reviews (in case you’re wondering, they were NOT Jeni’s recipes).

It’s sweet. It’s salty. It’s gooey and warming. I would eat an entire batch if I could! Give it a try and let me know what you think.


Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean and seeds. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and the vanilla flavors the milk, about 4 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.

Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Layer the vanilla ice cream with miso caramel in a plastic container. Once all ice cream and caramel is used, you can swirl with a knife. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze the vanilla ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.

Miso Caramel Recipe
From theminx on Food52 website

Makes 1 pint
¾ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup heavy cream
2 TBSP white miso

In a heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat, stir together sugar and water. Without additional stirring, bring mixture to a boil. Use a wet pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan. When sugar becomes a deep golden brown and wisps of smoke just start to form, remove pan from heat.

Once off the heat, carefully pour in the cream, which will cause the caramel to bubble. Stir to combine. If the caramel seizes up and hardens with the addition of the cold cream, then put the pan back over low heat and stir until the caramel is liquid again. Whisk in the miso.

Allow to cool slightly before pouring into a lidded container. Store in the refrigerator]

Dirty Tom’s Rice


Dirty Tom’s Rice

Dirty Tom’s Rice. Yes, I realize it’s an odd name for a dish. I blame my husband. This was the name he jokingly gave it as we were working on this recipe creation….and it stuck!  He’s arguably as good of a home cook as I am, and spends plenty of time there since I work late three nights a week. He is the resident master of meats, risotto, fish, and his delicious Jamaican jerk creations. This is a recipe was the results of his efforts to find the perfect side dish for grilled Jamaican spiced meats.

In our house, Sundays equals grill day. It’s the perfect end to the weekend as we tend to stay at home to prepare for the week. We catch up on housework, run  errands,  take our dog Zion on a walk, and usually spend a good chunk of time in the kitchen.  Of course, you need something to go with the grilled meat and there enters Dirty Tom’s Rice. It started with weeks of sampling different recipes but nothing wowing us. We decided to take the highlights of all the recipes we tried and make it our own. We’ve worked and tweaked this recipe to get it to this point…and I’m pleased to say that after our final run-through on Sunday night, it is DELICIOUS!

Dirty Tom’s Rice & Beans

A lug of olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ lb. smoked turkey kielbasa
1 TBSP garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 can kidney beans (or black beans?), rinsed
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp dried sage
½ TBSP dried parsley
½ tsp Cajun seasoning
1 cup brown rice

1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook kielbasa until browned. Add in onion, bell pepper, and celery over medium heat for approximately 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for one additional minute.

2. Add spices, beans and water to the pan. Bring to a boil and add brown rice.  Return to boil then reduce to simmer.

3. Cook for 45 minutes, or until rice is cooked. 

A Dog Named Zion


Zion, our adventure dog

It’s almost as if I knew I’d be missing my dog, Zion. I had uploaded photos of him so I would have them available on my iPhone for whenever I was near wifi. It’s only been a short time but I miss him dearly. I’m use to his morning “wake-up” of licking my hand from the side of the bed to his goodnight pet before he retires to his pillow each night.


Posing with Mt. Fuji in the background on one of his hikes

He’s a good dog who has been with our family for approximately three years now. He was a stray dog at one of the facilities that I oversaw in Rota, Spain. I was at the facility taking pictures in hopes of getting all the dogs adopted out. In true Zion fashion, he lavished me in doggy kisses and I was SOLD! Next up was my husband who was a bit harder to convince but came around in the end (truth be told, Zion and him are now the best of buds!).

Those initial months together were some of the most grueling. We were establishing our pack order, taking obedience lessons, getting use to having to consider Zion in our plans, and more. Throw into the mix that we found out we would be moving half way around the world to Japan (with some pretty intense animal import regulations)! It’s all been worth it though because what we have received in return has been a dog that loves us with all his heart, a great exercise partner, an adventurous hiker, world traveler and one cool dog.


Sleeping with his toy

So it’s not surprising that Zion is also a bit of a foodie (look at his parents)! He is served up homemade dog food because we believe that he should also be eating healthy, balanced food. This is his favorite recipe. I love it because you can adapt it to whatever you have on hand (no broccoli but peas, why not!). Hope your dog agrees!



Whipping up a batch of Zion’s food

Customizable Dog Food Recipe


2 chicken leg quarters (or chicken breasts)
1 cup brown rice
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 (10 ounce) package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans – rinsed, drained and mashed
2 carrots, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup olive oil

Place the chicken leg quarters in a large pot, and fill with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 40 minutes. Remove the legs and allow to cool. Strain and return the cooking liquid to the pot. Once the legs have cooled. remove and discard the skin and bones; chop the meat, and set aside. Stir the brown rice into the reserved chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid, and add the rice to the bowl with the chicken.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the ground beef. Cook and stir until the beef is crumbly and no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Pour off any excess grease, and place the beef into the bowl.

Stir in the oats, spinach, broccoli, kidney beans, carrots, garlic, cottage cheese, and olive oil. Store the dog food in resealable containers in the freezer. Thaw the daily portions overnight in the refrigerator.

Note: We like to use the food processor to finely chop all items together. We freeze into containers that hold about 3-4 days worth of food. We usually double the recipe and we have enough for about 3-4 weeks.

Crostata alla Nutella (Italian Nutella Tart)


My friends and family know I have a slight major Nutella obsession!

It started young when our Italian neighbors in Dublin, Ohio let me enjoy my first taste of this chocolatey hazelnut goodness.  It quickly became one of my favorite treats. Years have passed since that day and I still love Nutella. I put it on anything and everything. I host an annual event in celebration of Nutella Day. Even the year I joined the Public Relations Bateman Competition in college, the product happened to be Nutella. It was obviously a product I could get behind!

Yummy nutella treat

Enjoying crostata alla Nutella in Italy (2006)

I always knew the French loved their Nutella on toast and in pastries. They do it well so I thought there was little competition. But when I first visited Italy, I realized that Nutella’s homeland took it to a whole other level. During our 2-week journey, we spent 3 nights in Alba, Italy. Yes, the home of the Nutella factory. The factory is very secretive so no tour (sad face) but walking the streets to the smell of chocolate-hazelnut was divine.

During this trip, my husband and I were museum-bashing Florence and needed a recharge so we ducked into a small café for a macchiato and treat. Little did I know I would come face-to-face with a dessert that I still dream about, the crostata alla nutella. A sweet shortbread-like dough with a thick Nutella layer. Utterly sinful and delicious! Served with a thick, strong macchiato and it’s a match made in heaven.

In an attempt to recreate this delicious food memory, I have scoured the internet translating Italian recipes, comparing Italian-American recipes and taste testing several versions (yes, it’s a hard job!). This recipe is a mix of all the research and the closest I’ve come to the “real thing”.

Crostata alla Nutella

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold and cut into cubes

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups powdered (icing) sugar

4 egg yolks

¼ tsp vanilla extract

1 large jar (750 g) Nutella

Powdered (icing) sugar, for decoration


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 Celsius). Butter and flour tart pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine cold butter cut into cubes with a little over 2 cups of all-purpose flour until it resembles sand. You can use pastry blender or your hand.

Dump the butter and flour mixture onto a large working surface and make it into a mound. Add a little over 1 ½ cups of powdered sugar on top and make a well in the middle.

Into the well, add four egg yolks and a dash of vanilla. Slowly begin to incorporate the egg yolks and vanilla into the sugar, butter and flour mixture. This process will take awhile so be patient. Continue mixing and kneading until the mixture resembles firm cookie dough.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for two hours.

Flour your working surface and roll the dough into a circle large enough for your tart. You will want the dough to be thicker, approximately ¼- ½ inch thick.  Use extra dough to create decorative strips for the top.

After the dough is in the pan, use a fork to poke several small holes so it doesn’t bubble while baking. Take the jar of Nutella and dump the whole thing into the tart pan.  Note: I have used less and it’s fine. I actually prefer a higher pasta frolla-to-Nutella ratio.

Place tart in the oven for approximately 40-45 minutes. The pasta frolla seems to brown too quickly so I usually lightly cover with foil for the first 30 minutes. Remove and let the dough get golden brown and the Nutella will turn a dark brown.

Cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar prior to serving.

Note: Nutella can be swapped for marmalade. I used homemade mikan orange marmalade one time and everyone really enjoyed it.


Message in Youth Hostel in Florence. I totally agree!!

When life gives you bad beer, make cupcakes!


My hubby loves beer. Let me clarify, my hubby loves GOOD beer. The word good being the key and he’s very particular about it. Good equals flavorful, hoppy, non-fruity, microbrews, specialty beers, and the list goes on and on. You can imagine his delight when the base’s mini-mart received a shipment of American microbrews. He snatched up a few sampler cases to enjoy.

Overall, he was happy with the new brews and was enjoying them until the Kona Brewing Company’s sample pack. It included a Koko Brown Ale which was described as having a toasted coconut flavor. He thought he’d give it a try but immediately put it down. Too tropical for beer! He pondered keep them or just empty them.  I suggested making cupcakes with the beer.

I’ve played around with chocolate stout cupcakes before (think home-brewed chocolate-hazelnut stout with Nutella & cream cheese swirl icing) so I figured the recipe could be worked to enhance the coconut flavor. I did some adjustments and they turned out great. Hope you enjoy as well!

Chocolate Coconut Ale Cupcakes

Adapted from My Baking Addiction’s recipe (see notes below for link)

3/4 cups Koko Brown Ale (or similar flavored beer)

1/4 cup coffee

1 cup unsalted butter

3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

½ TBSP baking soda

¾ tsp salt

2 large eggs

½ TBSP coconut extract

2/3 cups sour cream

Cake Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare muffin tins with cupcake liners.

2. In saucepan, bring stout, coffee and butter to a simmer over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. In large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat eggs, coconut extract and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.

4. Add stout-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just combined, taking care the stout mixture is cool enough that it will not cook the eggs. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Divide batter equally among cupcake. Bake cupcakes for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tin and cool completely.

Coconut Buttercream Icing

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

3 -4 cups powdered/icing sugar

1 tsp coconut extract

Heavy cream or milk, as needed

Coconut Buttercream Directions:

Beat butter until softened and fluffy. Add one cup of powdered sugar at a time until incorporated. If using a stand mixer, use a low speed to ensure that it doesn’t spray everywhere. After adding the third cup of powdered sugar, add the coconut extract and blend until smooth. Adjust consistency by adding more powdered sugar or heavy cream. Note: You can use coconut milk in place of heavy cream/milk to intensify the coconut flavor (for those coconut addicts out there!).

Toast sweetened coconut flakes over medium-high heat until they are fragrant and have a light brown coloring. Stirring frequently to keep from burning.  Cool to room temperature.

To assemble, ice cupcake and then roll in toasted coconut flakes. Enjoy immediately. The cupcakes are best the day they are made but will last 1-2 days in the fridge.

Makes approximately 24 cupcakes.

Note: Recipe inspiration from My Baking Addiction’s Chocolate Stout Cake. Recipe at: http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/chocolate-stout-cake/

Welcome to My Table


Hello my foodie friends!

I decided it was time to take the plunge and start my blog. I’m always asked if I have a blog to share my adventures in the kitchen and abroad.  To be honest, I was scared after my first blog attempt. I started it in 2010 when we first moved to Japan but I think I took on more than I could handle at that time. A new culture, house, way of life, food, language, etc…..the list went on and on. I needed some time to figure my way around my new “home” and of course, that started in the food department. Did you expect anything less from me??

Join me as I share my adventures around Asia and in the kitchen. I will also be sharing memories, travel recommendations and recipes that remind me of my time in Europe. In between, there will be a few kitchen disasters and fun. That’s a guarantee!