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Category: Discussion


About a book

Thank you a million times over to all of you who jumped in with praise and encouragement at my announcement that I’m writing a cookbook. I have been very reluctant to share this on the blog, mainly because once you say something out loud it becomes real and then there are people to hold you accountable!

I wanted to wait until I had enough of it done to actually begin projecting when it would be finished, which I’m hoping to be around the end of March. The vast majority of the content is written, it’s just down to taking all of the 90+ photographs and enlisting my software engineer husband to help me with the formatting. I currently have about a quarter of the total photos needed, so it’ll be a major crunch to actually cook all of this food and photograph it in time for my self-imposed deadline. At least I get to eat it all too!

Recipe: Chestnuts 1

As many of you know, my personal cooking style trends heavily toward various asian food styles, most notably Japanese. People hear that and often they say things like,”Oh isn’t that unusual!,” or, “How exotic!” But to me, there is nothing strange or exotic at all in the way I cook. The food I make is typically very homey and comforting and most of all, dead simple to make. With this book, I really wanted to take Japanese cooking and make it accessible. Or rather, not make it accessible, but show that it always was.

I’ve thought for a while that the biggest impediment for people to branch into a new cuisine is not so much the new recipe ideas as the new ingredients. Cooking Japanese may be simple, but it does require you to use a lot of ingredients that are not a typical part of the Western pantry. I can completely understand how this can be intimidating, and I also understand that no one wants to buy a giant tub of miso only to use it once and then just have it take up space in the deepest recesses of the refrigerator.

Ingredient: Matcha


For this book, I’ve taken 30 common Japanese ingredients and described their appearance, common usage, and flavor; and provided 2 dead simple recipes each that highlight that ingredient. I’ve also made sure that each of the ingredients showcased in the book can be found at either a regular grocery store like Kroger or Publix, or at least at a “gourmet” grocery store such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. No need to head to an asian market 50 miles away, all of the ingredients are relatively easy to find and easy to use.

Not all of the recipes are classically Japanese either. Some are my personal shortcuts to recreating Japanese staples with fewer steps and ingredients. Some are recognizably Western, but with a Japanese ingredient used to give the dish a new spin. So even if Japanese food has never interested you before, there are still sure to be a few recipes in the book that will be appealing and surprising.

Thank you again for all your support. It means a lot to me when someone likes something I made. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do when it’s ready for it’s big debut!


A better 2012

I totally dropped the ball on most of my goals for last year. It’s just the truth.

When Jeff and I decided to let me quit my marketing job, the agreement was that I would spend my time learning new skills to put toward a future career that I would make for myself. I know that I will never be happy working a regular job with regular hours for someone else, so I was excited to have the opportunity to work towards self-employment.  So, last year was about honing new skills and working on projects that may one day earn us a small income, namely through writing and photography.

I did not do the best job I could have of learning or using those skills last year. I’ve realized that my perfectionist mind has a way of stopping my progress completely if for some reason I feel that the work I’m doing isn’t perfect. I also have a bad habit of dooming myself with feelings of futility, that I’m doing months and months of work that will never pay off. And lastly, I’m realizing that I require a lot of unsolicited praise. If I’m not told that my work is good, I’ll just assume it isn’t.

In the last month or two I’ve finally started to pull out of that thought process. I’m starting to see value in my own work, to feel like it’s adding up to something worthwhile, and to accept that it won’t be perfect but that it will still be good. I wish that it hadn’t taken a year to feel that way, but I’m hopeful that I can do better to impress myself this year, to work hard to get the things I want, and to be who I want to be.

So maybe I should tell you exactly what has been causing me so much grief in the last year and what it is I’m finally excited to be working on. I’m writing a cookbook. It has been a ton of work but it’s finally coming together enough to see that all that work is adding up to something good. But not just that, I’ve also been learning how to take professional quality photos, for the book and also in the hopes of making a career out of photography some day.

Whew! I’ve waited so long to share that! Here’s a little sample of what you’ll find in the book…

Persimmon Walnut Breakfast Bread

Pork Katsu

Pork Katsu


I can’t wait to share the finished product with you! Cheers to a better 2012!

What is something that you hope to accomplish this year?


My belated Christmas re-cap

I’m kind of glad that I’ve waited this long to re-cap my Christmas festivities because I really just cannot bring myself to do all the “year in review” and “goals for 2012” posts that show up this time of year. I definitely have some goals for next year and some exciting things on the horizon, but I’ll save those things for another day.

This Christmas we drove up to the Chattanooga area to spend Christmas Eve with Jeff’s family.

Jeff and parents

The tree at his Papaw’s house was knee-deep in presents!

Pile of presents

They got passed out rather quickly with the help of two “Santas.” Do you guys do that in your family? Someone, usually one of the kids gets to “play Santa” and hand out all the presents!

Passing out presents

And in Jeff’s family everyone takes turns opening gifts one by one, so we all get to see what each person got and take pictures easily.

Family on the swing

And when it’s not your turn to open one you can take turns snapping photos of each other instead!

Me waiting to unwrapJeff is excite

After about 2 hours of unwrapping gifts (yes it takes that long but it’s part of the fun) we went into the kitchen for dessert. I brought a carrot cake because Jeff recently mentioned to me that carrot cake was his favorite, so I just had to make it for him.

Carrot cake with honey and clementine

Not just any carrot cake though, this was a carrot cake with a clementine cream cheese frosting! It might just be the best thing I’ve ever baked.

It makes me so happy when people like things I’ve cooked or baked, and everyone definitely loved the cake.

Carrot cake cutCarrot cake frosting

Carrot cake with clementine cream cheese frosting

A nutty spicy carrot cake with citrusy clementine cream cheese frosting.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes


  • 1 and 1/4 cups softened butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 5 eggs (separated)
  • zest and juice of one clementine
  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 heaping tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup ground almond meal
  • 4 oz. crushed walnuts
  • 1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
  • a pinch each of clove and nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 10 oz. finely shredded carrots
  • pinch of salt
  • And for the frosting:
  • 8 oz. room temp. cream cheese
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • zest and juice of one clementine
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 additional oz. of crush walnuts to top

Cooking Directions

  1. For the cake:
  2. Grease a 9-inch spring-form cake pan with butter and set aside.
  3. Beat egg whites and salt in a large bowl until stiff peaks form.
  4. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between, then add clementine juice.
  6. Mix together dry ingredients and zest in a separate bowl and add to wet mix in three installments, mixing completely in between each addition. Stir in walnuts and shredded carrot by hand.
  7. Fold beaten egg whites into the batter gently and pour into cake pan.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, then remove and let cool completely in cake pan.
  9. For the frosting:
  10. Beat together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  11. Add zest, juice, honey, and cinnamon and mix in. Add sugar until desired consistency is achieved and frost over a completely cooled cake.
  12. Top with 4 oz. of crushed walnuts to garnish.

After dessert we went back to Jeff’s parents house to spend the night so that we could leave from there to head to Hiawassee, GA the next morning. My Dad’s side of the family has moved up there in recent years and it’s a beautiful part of Georgia, even if it is 2 and a half hours away.

I was so done with snapping photos so I didn’t really take any that day except for this one of me and my Dad. Don’t we have the same eyes?

Me and Dad Christmas 2011

So you may have noticed that I haven’t told you what Jeff and I got for each other yet. We actually exchanged gifts the Friday before Christmas so that we’d have time to “play” with our new stuff before we had to head up to Chattanooga.

I sent Jeff down to the basement to open his since I’d been storing it down there.

Jeff about to open his present

It’s a home beer brewing kit! We’ll both enjoy that one! 😉

Jeff's home brewing kitJeff loves his present

He is so excited about it and has been spending the last week reading up on brewing techniques and shopping for the ingredients he’ll need to make his first batch!

He had also been dying for me to open his gift to me for all of December, and now I know why…

Me about to open present from JeffI got a Rebel!Love my gift!

It’s a Cannon Rebel DSLR camera!!! Ahhhh!

I’ve been dying for a better camera for ages. I’m really starting to understand and enjoy photography and it was time to upgrade for sure. I absolutely love the Cannon PowerShot S90 Point and Shoot that I’ve been using for the last 2 years and I’ll definitely continue to use it, but a DSLR was necessary for me to be able to continue improving my photography skills and to take more professional quality photos.

It’s also going to be invaluable for a personal project I’ve been working on…….

Anyway, I hope your holiday season was wonderful too. See you all in the new year!

ornament 2011