Pumpkin Custard for Breakfast

pumpkin custard2

Pumpkin is officially in season now! Have you see all the pumpkin products at Trader Joe’s alone?  I’m intrigued by the pumpkin cookie butter, but I haven’t bought any yet.  I stock up on their canned organic pumpkin this time of year though, because it’s always great to have on hand, and not only for pumpkin pie.

I’m trying to get more veggies into all of meals, even breakfast. AND I recently had to have dental work and gum surgery, so soft foods have been a must. :(

I’ve been enjoying this warm pumpkin custard for breakfasts as well as dessert!  It’s pretty high in protein and low in sugar, so I don’t feel guilty eating it first thing in the morning to start my day.  And since the weather is turning colder, it is such a comforting meal to warm you up!


Pumpkin Custard

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 egg

3 tablespoons liquid egg whites or one egg white

1 tablespoon milk

Stevia or other sweetener

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

dash of pumpkin spice

Non-stick spray

  1.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Spray a large ramekin or bowl or two small ramekins with non-stick spray.  Pour custard in taking care to leave about 1/2 ” space at the top.
  3. Microwave in 30 second intervals until cooked. Depending on your microwave and whether you cook the custard in two ramekins or one, it should take about 90 seconds – 2 1/2 minutes.




Filed under Breakfast, Gluten Free, Vegetarian

Sweet Potato Parmesan Chips

sweet potato chips1

I have been addicted to these microwave sweet potato chips recently! Why? Because they taste great (obviously), AND they are sooo easy to make!  I’ve been keeping a peeled sweet potato in the refrigerator. When I want to have some fresh chips at lunch time, I just slice thin rounds with my mandolin, place on a parchment lined plate, season with parmesan and onion powder, and zap in the oven for three to four minutes.  How easy is that?

I was inspired by this recipe for sour cream chips.  I couldn’t find powdered buttermilk, so I just omitted it.  I also omitted the salt, which I found unnecessary.  I was dubious at first – -I have always made chips in the oven.  But invariably they would burn on the edges.  I thought microwaving these would produce soggy chips — and they did, the first time.  The trick is to slice them REALLY thin, and you need a mandolin to do this.


Now, I keep a peeled portion of sweet potato in the fridge, and whenever I want fresh chips, I just make them.  It’s so much easier than having to preheat an oven and attempting to bake them that way.  For some reason, the microwave ones may brown — watch closely at the end of cooking– but not much.  And it still tastes good — I actually prefer a bit of browning.  It is a very different flavor than the brown/black edges I would end up with baking traditionally.  Hope you try these! :)

sweet potato chips2

Microwave Sweet Potato Parmesan Chips

1 sweet potato (I peel mine, but you don’t have to!)

1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese

Pinch or two of onion powder

Non-stick olive oil spray

  1. Line a plate with parchment paper. Spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Slice some thin rounds of sweet potato with a mandolin.
  3. Arrange in one layer on parchment. Spray with non-stick spray.
  4. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and onion powder.
  5. Microwave on high for about four minutes checking to see if they are getting too brown at about three minutes.
  6. Remove and eat! If you want to make a bigger batch and save in an air tight container for later, just repeat the process until you finish slicing the sweet potato.

sweet potato chips 3


Filed under Appetizers, Snack, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Princeton Children’s Book Festival and Bilingual Good Night Engines


Copies of my new book came yesterday!  It’s the bilingual board book version of Good Night Engines.  I’ll be signing copies of these as well as Truck Stop at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival tomorrow from 11-4 at the Princeton Library in New Jersey.  Please stop by if you are in the area. There is a fantastic group of authors and illustrators that will be there.  Check it out here!  :)


Filed under Books

Easy as Pie Ice Cream Cake


Our son turned eleven while we were on our cruise to the Bahamas, so we decided to celebrate it at home later in the summer.  My son has never been a cake fan. From the time he was a toddler, he has been fobbing off remnants of cake for his mom and dad to finish at every birthday party. He and I decided an ice cream cake would be best for his birthday, because he loves ice cream — he always eats it with a fork even when it’s served in a bowl!

As usual these days, I was swamped with work and had a big book deadline on top of travel plans right before the celebration!  I found a solution, though, with this cake, which can be prepared days in advance.

The base is a brownie layer which you can make from a mix or from scratch. Here is my recipe for a decadent Truffle Brownie. Because I was pressed for time, I used Trader Joe’s Truffle Brownie mix. Then after I baked the brownie layer and let it cool completely, I spooned softened Cookies and Cream ice cream on top and smoothed.  I froze the cake until hardened, then melted chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in two separate bowls in the microwave.  The white chocolate chips did not melt properly, and I thought it was a fail, but I crumbled them on top, and it was actually quite tasty! I was able to wrap the whole thing pan and all in saran and foil and store in the freezer for a few days.

An important thing to note is to use a spring form pan — the kind used for cheesecakes. When you are ready to serve the cake, simply release the sides and remove the bottom.  If you don’t have a spring form pan, you could line a cake pan with saran and remove the cake and peel off the saran when ready to serve. But you won’t have as crisp an edge. Do not thaw this cake before serving!  It is best to serve immediately after removing from the freezer while the ice cream is hard.  Otherwise, cutting gets very messy!

The birthday boy blowing out the candles.

The birthday boy blowing out the candles.

The cake was a hit and there were no leftovers on plates for the parents, so we had to get our own slices!

Easy Ice Cream Cake

1 package of brownie mix

1/2 gallon container of ice cream

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

non-stick spray

whipped cream (optional) for garnish

  1.  Spray non-stick spray in spring form pan and set aside.  Or line a cake pan with saran.
  2. Preheat oven and prepare brownies according to package.
  3. Pour batter into pan and smooth top.  Bake brownie layer and cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, let ice cream thaw for about 25 minutes while brownie layer is cooling.
  5. Spoon ice cream on top of brownie layer and smooth with an offset spatula or spoon.  Freeze until hardened.
  6. Melt chocolates separately in two bowls at 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, spoon chocolate in center of cake and smooth out.  Top with white chocolate crumbles.
  7. Wrap cake in saran and foil and freeze until hardened.
  8. When serving, do not thaw cake! Release spring form pan and remove bottom.  Or if using a cake pan, lift cake out of pan with saran and remove saran wrap.  Cut cake immediately while ice cream is still hard and serve. Enjoy!


Filed under Desserts

Peanut Miso Kale Chips – A New Favorite!

kale miso 2

A couple of years back, I did a post on these Kale Chips, but I’m here to tell you today that I’ve vastly improved them! These are the most delectable Kale Chips ever, and if they were sold in a bag, I’m sure they would fetch the usual $5.00 or so price tag for just a mere handful! The flavor is as wonderful as ever, but I discovered that using Tuscan Kale, removing every single hint of stem, and a new cooking method takes these chips to a higher level.

Tuscan Kale is the kind of kale with flat leaves, unlike their curly leafed cousin.

kale trimmed

I trim each leaf with kitchen shears, and save the stems. I cut the stems into short pieces, or process in a food processor and steam for later usage.

kale with scissors

Kale in steamer -- steam for about 10-12 minutes depending on how chewy you like it.

Kale stems in steamer — steam for about 10-12 minutes depending on how chewy you like it.

I mix together the sauce ingredients in a bowl:

peanut sauce

Then coat the kale leaves completely. It is OK if there is just a hint of the sauce on the leaves — it packs a flavorful punch and a little goes a long way!

Spread kale out in a single layer on lined baking sheets. Put in a preheated 375 F degree oven. Turn off oven and let sit for 30-60 minutes, checking after 20 minutes.

The chips are perfectly crisp with no brown edges!

kale miso

If you want an even faster recipe, just make the kale chips without the sauce. Cooking time is 20 minutes. I like to spray with olive oil and season with kosher salt.


Look how thin it is!

Look how thin it is!

These chips keep in an air tight container for about two days, and they stay crisp! I have also tried them with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast (parmesan would probably taste better, but if you want to go vegan…) and taco seasoning.


kale with yeast 2

My favorite is the peanut miso flavor though! :) Have a try and let me know what you think. Which do you like best?

Peanut Butter and Miso Glazed Kale Chips

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon miso paste

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon mirin (or rice wine vinegar if you don’t have it)

2 teaspoons water

A large bunch of Tuscan Kale

non-stick spray

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment or foil. Spray foil with non-stick spray. Set aside.

2.  Wash kale leaves and pat dry. Then cut away each side of the stem per leaf, reserving leaf parts. Save stems for later use (I like to chop mine and steam them).

3.  In a large bowl whisk together peanut butter, miso paste, soy sauce, and mirin with a whisk. Add water and whisk until smooth. Throw in kale leaves and coat and massage with clean hands to get the sauce on all of the leaves. Spread leaves in a single layer on lined baking sheets. Spray with non-stick spray. You will have extra. You can save these to bake for another time. Turn off oven.

4.  Place baking sheets in oven and let sit for one hour. Halfway through baking, stir the leaves and turn over.

5.  When chips are crisp, transfer to a plate and let cool completely.

Plain Kale Chips

1 bunch Tuscan Kale

non-stick spray

kosher salt to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment or foil. Spray foil with non-stick spray. Set aside.

2.  Wash kale leaves and pat dry. Then cut away each side of the stem per leaf, reserving leaf parts. Save stems for later use (I like to chop mine and steam them).

3.  Spread leaves in a single layer on lined baking sheets. Spray with non-stick spray. You will have extra. You can save these to bake for another time. Season with kosher salt. Turn off oven.

4.  Place baking sheets in oven and let sit for 20 minutes, checking after 12 minutes.

5.  When chips are crisp, transfer to a plate and let cool completely.


Filed under Appetizers, Gluten Free, Sides

Orange Infused Goji Berries and Yogurt


Goji berries are said to be one of the most anti-oxidant rich foods on the planet. Some claim that it boosts one’s immunity system, improves one’s brain function, and even extends one’s life expectancy! They are high in vitamins C and A and are also a good source of iron and fiber, and have some protein. I buy them in bulk at a local market, but they are also readily available at health food stores.

The dried berries are quite hard in their dried state. Unlike dried cranberries, they are not very chewy either. In Chinese cuisine, they are used in cooked dishes, so I decided to reconstitute mine in very hot orange juice. I heated 1/4 cup of orange juice and soaked about 1/4 cup of goji berries in it for about 10 – 15 minutes. This really softened them up and made them much easier to chew. I then mixed them in a 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt and sprinkled with reserved berries, toasted almonds, coconut, and cinnamon for garnish.  Such a delicious, quick, and healthy snack!


Orange Infused Goji Berries and Yogurt

1/4 cup orange juice, gently heated

1/4 cup dried goji berries

1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)

toasted sliced almonds, dried coconut, and cinnamon for garnish

1.  Soak goji berries in heated orange juice in a small bowl for about 10 – 15 minutes

2.  Reserve a few berries for garnish.  Mix the rest along with orange juice into the Greek yogurt and stir until combined.

3.  Sprinkle toasted sliced almonds, dried coconut, cinnamon, and reserved berries on top and serve.



Filed under Breakfast, Snack, Vegetarian

Spirulina Popcorn and the Bahamas


This month we went to the Bahamas on a cruise with my mom to celebrate her 85th birthday.


85 years old! :)

It was a quieter event than the last time when we celebrated her 80th with our extended family five years ago.  I did a post on it here.

Jamie was so little then!

Somewhere in the Atlantic

Somewhere in the Atlantic

Here he is in the cabin as we left the New York port this time.

Jamie in the cabin as we left New York.

Cool dude.

The ship we were on was the Carnival Splendor.  It made stops at Grand Turks, Half Moon Cay, and the Bahamas.   We would have liked to have spent more time in Nassau where the ship docked for an afternoon.  It is a beautiful city, and we enjoyed a couple of hours at Ardastra Gardens and Zoo.

The highlight of the gardens are the delicate flamingos that are trained to do marching drills.

The highlight of the gardens are the delicate Carribbean Flamingos that are trained to do marching drills.

The gardens is also home to a collection of animals, including this guy, a capybara who wouldn’t stop eating.


Did you know that the capybara is the largest rodent?  Somehow he is cute, but can you imagine him with a giant rat’s tail!?

After the gardens we visited Fort Fincastle and the Queen’s Staircase.

At the bottom of the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs.

Then, we went quickly to an internet cafe to check our emails and then it was already back on the ship for us.

They say that it is not uncommon to gain a pound a day on a cruise ship, and I can believe it! There is an excess of food and alcohol and so many opportunities to consume. We definitely ate our share of soft serve ice cream and *popcorn* every night!  But luckily, Denis and I only gained a pound each. :)

While on the cruise ship, ironically, my mom and I listened to a long talk given by a nutritionist on detoxing the body.  He spoke at length about the benefits of algae and seaweed, and I was intrigued.  After the week on the cruise we all fell back into our normal daily habits, but I felt compelled to do more.  I researched more on the benefits of algae and seaweed.  I’ve always loved seaweed, and we all eat it regularly.  (I quit buying the seasoned roasted seaweed at Trader Joe’s because Jamie would inhale it and there is a lot of sodium in it.)  Now, we just eat plain roasted nori seaweed that is used to make sushi. It has no extra ingredients.   I cut it up myself with kitchen shears. :)

Roasted seaweed found in Asian markets.

Roasted seaweed found in Asian markets.

On the other hand, I had never had spirulina – a blue green algae, before, and decided to try it.

Spirulina is a microalgae that has been consumed for hundreds of years by Aztecs and other Mesoamericans.  It is a complete protein and has all essential amino acids as well as other nutrients and antioxidents, and is one of the best plant proteins on the planet.  It has been promoted as a treatment for many ailments, including diabetes and high cholesterol. Studies have also shown its antioxidant effects in reducing cancerous lesions.  See this 1985 abstract published in the Nutrition and Cancer journal for more info on the study.  It has also been found to help athletes recover from muscle fatigue faster, due to its antioxidant properties.  This is discussed in a 2010 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.

That said, I wasn’t interested in taking spirulina supplements, I just wanted to eat it. :)  I have to say, the flavor is stronger than seaweed.  So it might take some time getting used to for people who aren’t even used to eating seaweed every day like us!  You could easily put it into a green smoothie though, and it would probably go well with the rest of the green flavors.  I haven’t tried this yet, because I’m still timid when it comes to green smoothies.

I like to eat my greens, so instead I sprinkled it all over my popcorn.

spiralina popcorn 2

I hinted before that I am somewhat of a popcorn addict.  I have an air popper and toss the popped corn with olive or sesame oil.  You could also use a mister to spray the oil if you have one.  I often cut up dried seaweed to toss in and sprinkle with sesame seeds and sea salt.  We have been enjoying popcorn this way ever since we had Hurricane Popcorn in Hawaii.   This is a much healthier version though!  I always found the thick buttery goo a bit much and prefer something lighter.

Spirulina Popcorn turned out to be quite tasty.  It turned our popcorn bowl into a green, healthy snack from the sea. :)

For more information on spirulina – its benefits and ways to use it, check it out nuts.com.

Spirulina Popcorn

1/4 cup popcorn kernels

olive oil or sesame oil

sea salt to taste

1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

1 sheet of dried roasted seaweed, cut into small pieces with kitchen shears

1 teaspoon dried spirulina

1.  Pop corn in an air popper or on the stove.  If you pop it on the stove, place popcorn kernels and a tablespoon of oil in a large pot with a lid and heat on stove.

2.  Toss popped corn with oil and season with salt, sesame seeds, and dried spirulina

spiralina popcorn 1


Filed under Snack, Superfood

Chicken Katsu

chicken katsu

My mom is here visiting again!  When she arrived from a day of traveling, I served Chicken Katsu for dinner (with rice, miso soup, and miso green beans – not a low sodium meal!).  It was comfort food Japanese style.  When I lived in Japan, this was a favorite dish to order at a mom and pop type of restaurant –the equivalent of a nice, hot diner meal here in the U.S.

Basically Chicken Katsu is breaded chicken served with a Japanese savory sauce made up of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.

I like to trim the chicken breasts to make them thinner using kitchen shears.  Then I pound them to an even thickness in a Ziploc bag.



To bread, I simply coat in flour, then egg, then panko (Japanese bread crumbs).


Then, I fry them up in a skillet and keep warm in the oven while I continue to cook all the chicken pieces.

chicken katsu

Slice the chicken into strips at a diagonal and serve with sauce and hot rice!  Perfect comfort food. :)

Chicken Katsu


4 chicken breasts

kosher salt

½ cup flour

2 eggs or 1 egg + 1 white, beaten

1 ½ cups panko

about 1/3 cup canola oil for frying


¼ cup ketchup

1 ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


  1. Trim tenderloin from chicken breasts. Place breasts and tenderloin pieces in a large Ziploc bag and lightly pound until each piece of chicken is uniform thickness, about 1/4 –inch.
  2. Measure flour and place in shallow dish. Beat eggs in another shallow dish. Measure panko and place in third shallow dish.
  3. Pat chicken dry, place on plate and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt.
  4. Dredge a piece of chicken in flour. Coat in egg. Coat in panko. Set on clean plate. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
  5. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  6. Heat a large skillet with about 1/3 cup canola oil. Test with a few crumbs of panko. When it sizzles, the oil is ready.
  7. Place a few pieces of the coated chicken in the oil being careful not to crowd the pan. Saute on each side until golden, about 1-2 minutes per side. Drain on rack set over a baking sheet. Place chicken in warmed oven and continue to cook remaining chicken in skillet.
  8. To make sauce, stir ketchup and Worcestershire sauce together until fully combined. Serve with chicken.


Yield: 4 servings


Filed under chicken

Dad how-tos


A recent piece I did inspired by my neighborhood!

Originally posted on THE WAY TUGEAU:

hipster-dad-CORRECTED-Melissa-Iwai-2015 (3)Melissa Iwai’s how-to for the perfect (Brooklyn) Dad….

View original


Filed under Uncategorized

Beef Teriyaki Burgers

teriyaki burger

When we go to the Japanese store, Mitsuwa, in New Jersey, Jamie and I always share a Hamburg plate (Hamburger with sauce served with rice and soup) in the food court.  The flavors always bring me back to my brief time in Japan many years ago.  The other night, I decided to make similar Japanese style burgers based on this recipe, which I posted several years ago.  Instead of ground turkey, though, I used beef, and made them bigger, more like the Mitsuwa ones we love.

The sauce is thin, but is so delicious, and so much better than the sickeningly sweet kind you might find in the store.  Mirin is a rice wine similar to sake, but with a higher sugar content. It can be found in Asian markets.  You may have extra sauce which can be stored in the fridge and used in a pinch to season broiled salmon or other meat.  It is also good served over plain hot Japanese rice!

teriyaki burger 2

Teriyaki Burgers

½ slice of bread, finely minced

2 tablespoons milk

1/3 cup finely minced onion

1 clove garlic pushed through a garlic press

pinch of kosher salt

pepper to taste

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 lb. lean ground beef

1/2 tablespoon oil

Teriyaki sauce for serving

Teriyaki Sauce:

1/2  cup mirin

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1.  Soak bread with milk in a large bowl for about 10 minutes.

2.  Add onions, garlic, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce to mixture.  Then add ground beef.  Stir it lightly with a fork.  Then gently form into six large patties and place on plate.

3.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Heat oil in an oven safe skillet on the stove.  Cook burgers on each side until browned, about 1-2 minutes per side.  Place skillet in oven, and continue cooking burgers for about five to ten minutes, depending how well done you like them.

4.  To make Teriyaki Sauce, heat mirin and soy sauce in a small saucepan on low heat for about 1-2 minutes.  Add sugar, stir to dissolve, and let simmer for about 1-2 minutes.  Serve sauce over burgers and rice.



Filed under Beef