Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sushi Easter Eggs and other Sushi Rice Treats

I've been playing around with sushi rice for the past little while now, making fun-to-eat creations. Sushi rice is simply rice that has been seasoned with rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt and assorted flavourings. Ideally, short grain rice should be used for making sushi rice. But, if you have a lot of regular long grain rice lying about, that will work just as well.

During this Easter long weekend, I happened to have the opportunity to have some fun with sushi rice creations. On Saturday, we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday with a huge dinner of prime rib roast and ham. After this feast, we had a lot of rice leftover. I was thinking that we could always eat up the rice the next day with all the leftover meats, but why not make Easter sushi eggs instead to bring to my mom?

So on Sunday morning, we gathered all the ingredients we needed and proceeded to make a whole batch of sushi Easter eggs. It was a lot of fun and it tasted really good too. I think this may become an Easter tradition for us. Hmmmm.... what other holiday sushi rice creation can we work on next? Victoria Day sushi????? Gee, that gonna be a tough one.

I also posted some pictures of earlier attempts at making sushi rice treats.

I bought this book a long long time ago and now I'm finally using it. It presents many ways to have fun with sushi rice.

Here's the brand of short grain rice we use for making sushi rice. "Botan" and "Calrose" are other popular brands. Purists will use only short grain rice for sushi rice making because it is a stickier rice. But I've had no problems using regular long grain rice because I tend to use more water when cooking rice and the addition of rice wine vinegar will also add moisture, thus making it sticky enough for forming shapes.

Short grain rice vs long grain rice.

I use brown rice vinegar for flavouring as well as for making the rice stick together better for forming shapes. White rice vinegar can be used as well.

To flavour and colour the sushi rice, we used these flavouring packets. Salmon (pink), egg (yellow) and plum (purple).

To make orange coloured sushi rice, we used masago (flying fish eggs). These are really fun to eat because you can pop each of the little flying fish eggs in your mouth. Pop, pop, pop!!!

Here are 2 sample ones we made. To minimize overhandling of the sushi rice, we use clear plastic food wrap (Saran Wrap) to shape the eggs.

Dick wanted to put faces on them. They look like mummies. More suitable for halloween than for Easter, don't you think?

Here's the batch of Easter eggs we made from the leftover rice.

Dick used some seaweed strips to put funny faces on some of the eggs.

To make it more interesting, we hid some goodies inside the eggs. The eggs were filled with an assortment of cucumber, crabmeat and ham.

My mom is looking a little bit leery, wondering what kind of food I'm foisting on her.

I think she had a good time with us. I'm laughing so hard because Dick is pretending to be a bunny when trying to show my mom that one of the Easter eggs is a "bunny" egg. Then afterwards, he tried to indicate an egg by trying to lay one from his behind. So funny.....

Here are some other sushi rice creations I made previously.

The yin-yang symbol was my own idea. The white portion is just white unflavoured sushi rice. The black portion was made of sushi rice mixed with black toasted seseame seeds and the dots were made with steamed green beans. Seaweed sheets were used for separating the black and white rice portions.

The flower maki rolls were my first attempts at making fancy maki rolls following one of the book's ideas.
Here's the book's version of the flower blossom maki rolls.

These are kitty cat rice balls from the Hana Sushi book.

Our version of the kitty cat rice balls. They look cute but tasted too ricey. It was like eating a small bowl of rice with a few tiny pieces of meat.

So we made our own bunny and turtle rice balls filled with canned sardines to make for a heartier snack.

I used raw soba noodles for the whiskers. They are a bit crunchy, but edible. It's like eating raw "Mr Noodles". I used seaweed sheets to cut out the facial features.

These are tiny rice balls covered with a layer of seaweed and strips of seaweed. The eyes are made from circle cutouts of mozarella cheese and black sesame seeds. These are the cute dust balls from the "Totoro" movie. The idea came from this Annathered's blog post.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Totoro & turtle cream puffs

I finally made some Totoro Cream Puffs! They didn't turn out as pretty as Annathered's. If you'd like to try making these yummy cream puffs, please check out her "how-to" here.

At first, I had some doubts as to whether her cream custard microwave recipe would be any good since most recipes I've come across used the stove-top method. But I must say, the microwave method is so much easier and it turned out perfectly! Like Anna says, every microwave is different, so the cooking time may have to be adjusted. It turns out that I had to microwave mine at high for 2 minutes first and then for another 45 seconds after that.

I like that she gives out shorter cooking times for the beginner to play around with until they can get it right. I also like that her recipe makes very small batches. This way, if you goof up the first few times, at least you wouldn't be wasting a lot of ingredients.

Lucky for me and Derek, we got it almost right the first time. The only problem we had was that there were tiny holes on the bottom of our first batch of baked puff pastry. I figured it was because our batter might not be thick enough. So for the next 2 batches, we added less egg to the recipe and almost all the puff pastries turned out perfectly! Good job, Derek! I give credit to my sous chef for his wise suggestion.

For the fun part, we decorated them and filled them with the custard and ate them up right away. They were soooooooo yummy!!!!!

The true scientists that we are, we felt we had no choice but to make some more cream puffs, for testing purposes, you know ;). We wanted to test if day old cream puffs would taste just as good. After having our fill with the freshly made cream puffs, we were good enough to set aside some for storage in the fridge and freezer for testing later.

Of course, fresh out of the oven wins hands down. The cream puffs stored in the fridge still tasted quite good the next day, but the pastry lost its crispness. I'm sure the frozen cream puffs would have tasted divine, if we had only allowed to let it defrost for a good 15 minutes before wolfing them down. But, even though the custard was extremely hard, it still tasted soooooo good, that we ate it all up without waiting for it to fully defrost.

The verdict? It would be best to serve these cream puffs the same day. If you want to make them ahead, I'd suggest freezing them first and then allowing them to defrost slightly and serve as frozen treats. We will try some more experimenting with different flavours like red bean, green tea or chocolate cream custard. If successful, I will certainly blog about it again.

Puff pastries, fresh out of the oven.

Hmmmmm, some of these look like turtles.

My attempt at making these look like Totoros. Being naturally lazy, I took a short cut and used toothpicks to put on cream cheese icing eyeballs first. Then, I melted some chocolate chips and applied the nose and whiskers next. Once the eyeballs firmed up a bit, I dotted them with the melted chocolate for the pupils.

Derek decorated his turtles too.

Filling the Totoro pastry. Say aaaahhhh.

This picture looks a bit disturbing, but we're just filling the turtle pastry with the custard.

These are so yummy and easy to make that it's sure to become a family favourite.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Usagi Yojimbo & Gennosuke

I'm so addicted to sewing plushies now. I think it's because the act of hand stitching, much like knitting, offers a meditative quality. I'm in my happy place when I'm creating something lovable with my own two hands. Sewing plushies is a simple act, but it also allows for the mind to focus on the detailing. So, step by step, a cute stuffed toy is being created. Dick's latest request was to make him a Gennosuke plushie.

Gennosuke is a Rhino bounty hunter found in the Usagi Yojimbo comic book series. Even though this comic book series is based in feudal Japan, which means there's a lot of killing and beheading going on, I actually did enjoy reading some of the stories and I absolutely love the Artwork! Why? Because it features a maniacal sword-wielding (fierce, yet cute looking) bunny as the main character. Yes, I managed to cutefy both of these two samurai characters and Dick still approved.

Here's the official website for Usagi Yojimbo:

Here's Usagi Yojimbo, the main character. He's a masterless samurai (Ronin) bunny wandering Japan's countryside. He's not usually this happy looking, but this is my take on him.

Side view.

Back view.
His other side.

This is Gennosuke. Dick likes him because he's a bit of a rogish character. Whenever Gen gets together with Usagi for some ramen and drinks, he often takes off, after piling on the food and leaves Usagi stuck with the dining bill.

Side view.

Back view.

His other side.

Good times for Gen & Usagi.

Dick insisted that I make swords for them because they would be incomplete without these weapons.

Here are the two buddies roaming around aimlessly in the woods.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Finger Puppet Plushies.

I think I have found my most favourite blog of all time. She loves a lot of the same cute Japanese characters that I love.

As well, we share very similar hobbies PLUS she posts a lot of "How-to" tutorials so that her readers can try them out for themselves. As soon as I saw her stuffed Behemoth Chicken, I knew I had to make one of my own.

I had so much fun with my first plushie that I just kept going and going, non-stop, making more and more of these plushies. I did tweak my plushies a bit by making them into finger puppets. This idea came to me because I remembered my collection of finger puppets I got while visiting Japan.

My family loves these toys so much that I'm getting requests to do more and more of their other favourite characters. Dick wants me to make some superheroes and some Star Trek spaceships. Not sure how I can cutefy those items? But I will make a few more characters for his Katamatari collection.

Help!!! I need to stop this madness soon because I want to move on to other actvities, like re-creating Annathered's other ideas, such as her Bento Box food items, the Totoro chocolates and the Totoro Cream Puffs...

Aaaaahhhhh!!! Too many new play ideas, which one do I want to do next????? At this rate, my gardening plans may have to be put on hold.

Here's my version of the Behemoth Chicken. It's Colin's favourite. He calls it "Eggy".

I made an insert for it, so that it can be both a hanging toy and a finger puppet.

Next up is a steamed bun. This one is everyones' favourite. It can transform from a steamed bun into a rice ball (onigiri) or a blimp, depending on how you squish it.

Here's my attempt at making Kirby, Derek's favourite. I felt that the arms were too long so Dick said I should just make it into a Kirby airplane. I thought about making its arms wrap around an object like it was hugging it and so...

.... here he is hugging his feet. Now the arms don't look so oversized.

This one is a red pikmin, one of Colin's favourite video game characters.

Speaking of video games, Dick wanted me to make the Prince from one of his favourite games, Katamari Damacy. It's a really strange game where the Prince goes around pushing a ball that gathers more and more objects until it becomes so big, it rebuilds the universe. Dick wanted me to form this ball by gluing together lego pieces and old toy parts. I will have to do a separate post for this very odd video game. Here's Totoro, a family favourite from the Studio Ghibli films.
This is his pal, Chu-Totoro.

This is Chibi-Totoro. It looks like a tooth.

Here's the collection, so far... There'll be more coming.

Here are the plushies and other toys we had around the house that I used as models for my finger puppet plushies.

Here's my favourite one.

Long armed Kirby... still very cute.