Category Archives: Books

Garden Pizza, Gluten Free Crust, and Pizza Day Giveaway

finished sauce with tomato2 copy

In my newest book, Pizza Day, which will be released by my publisher Tuesday, there is a pizza recipe at the end of the story called Garden Pizza.

To win a signed and personalized copy of Pizza Day and its the companion, Soup Day, please go here!

Pizza Day and Soup Day Melissa Iwai 2017-72

Garden Pizza is what a little boy and his dad spend the day making using some of the ingredients that they have grown in their garden.

pizzaday_int_garden-Melissa-Iwai

These are some of the vegetables that they gather:

Pizza-Day_int-10-11-Melissa-Iwai

Sadly, we don’t have a stellar garden like theirs, so I made this pizza the other night for my guys using ingredients I bought instead.

Sauce igredients4 copy

Some of my sauce ingredients: diced carrots and onion, dried oregano and basil, garlic, tomato, and olive oil (I forgot to include the tomato paste here!). I use the fresh basil as a garnish to top the pizza when it’s done.

First I made the dough and let it rest and rise while I cooked the sauce.

dough pre rise 2 copy

My sauce gets its sweetness from the carrots. No sugar needed! Plus the carrots add nutrients and fiber.

pizza sauce

After the sauce cooked down and the flavors melded together, I pureed it in a blender, just like the boy in my book!

Pizza-Day_int-20-21-Melissa-Iwai-2017

Then when the dough was finished, I kneaded it, let it rest a bit, and rolled it out.

rolled out dough copy

It was time to top! Denis and Jamie just wanted sauce and cheese.

cheese pizza PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

I made mine veggie and turkey and used a cauliflower crust I had made (see recipe below), because I was doing reintroductions after the Whole 30 and hadn’t gotten to gluten yet!

PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

Riced cauliflower with egg and almond meal prebaked

PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

Baked crust (you must bake it before topping)

veggie pizza PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

Topped with pepper, tomato, onion, sauteed kale, and turkey

Then into the oven our pizzas went.

The final product:

finished pizza 3 copy

Crispy on the outside, chewy crust

 

vegie pizza closeup PIzza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017

My mini pizza with veggies, turkey, mozzarella, and fresh basil

Pizza Day by Melissa Iwai 2017
Cheesy!

Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Pizza Day and the board book version of Soup Day here!

Pizza-Day_int-30-31-Melissa-Iwai-2017

 

Garden Pizza from Pizza Day by Melissa Iwai

Pizza Dough:

Ingredients:

Non-stick spray or oil for greasing

1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

3 cups flour, divided, plus more if needed

non-stick spray

 

Pizza Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

¼ chopped carrot

1 ½ tablespoons chopped garlic, about 2 cloves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 ½ cups chopped vine-ripened tomatoes, about 3 large

¼ cup tomato paste

  1. Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together yeast, water, olive oil, and salt in another large bowl until combined. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cups of the flour to mixture and mix together until well blended.
  4. Add a little bit of the leftover flour gradually (you may use half or all) until dough forms a ball.
  5. Sprinkle flour onto a large board or counter top, and dump out dough. Knead for 5 minutes, adding a bit of the remaining flour each time it starts to feel sticky. You want to end up with a smooth, elastic mound of dough.
  6. Shape dough into a large ball. Place in greased bowl and turn over to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
  7. Heat olive oil in skillet and saute onions, carrots, garlic, salt, and herbs until onion is translucent.
  8. Add tomatoes and paste. Simmer until softened on very low heat, covered, about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  9. Pulse in blender or food processor to desired chunkiness.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F for 10 minutes.

  1. Divide pizza dough in half, and roll each into a ball. Let rest 10-15 minutes.
  2. Lightly dust two baking sheets and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out each ball of dough into a round on each baking sheet.
  3. Spoon pizza sauce on top and spread onto each. Top with fresh veggies, pepperoni, cooked sausage, shredded cheese, grated parmesan cheese, goat cheese, whatever you like!
  4. Bake for 10-13 minutes, depending how crunchy you like your crust.

Makes 2 medium pizzas.

Gluten Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Nonstick olive oil spray

1 1/2 cups of riced cauliflower (I buy mine bagged from Trader Joe’s. You can also make your own by ricing or grating raw cauliflower), steamed for about two minutes

1 egg white or 1/2 whole egg

1 tablespoon almond meal

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Prepare  two square pieces of parchment, about 6″ x 6″. Place one square on baking sheet and spray with non stick spray; set aside.
  3. Mix rest of ingredients together in a bowl.
  4. Spoon mixture on top of prepared parchment sheet on baking tray. Flatten into a circle with a spoon.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven. Place other square of parchment on top of crust and flip. Then peel cooked piece of paper off.
  7. Your crust is now ready to be topped with toppings of your choice. After topping, bake in oven for another 5 minutes.

Makes one mini pizza crust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Art Related, Books, Children, Dinner, Gluten Free, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Whole 30

whole 30 sm

Discovered Coconut Cream, Coconut Aminos and using more fresh herbs and homemade condiments

I’ve been aware of the Whole30 program for several years but was never interested in doing it, because it sounded so intense. In a nutshell, if you aren’t familiar with it, the founders, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig call it a “reset”, not a diet. The Whole30 focuses on changing lifestyle habits related to food, by means of eating whole foods only and eliminating all foods that could be contributing to compromising one’s total health. Basically, they argue that you should eliminate these foods for a minimum of 30 days to see if there is a change in your health. Then you gradually reintroduce those foods back into your diet, paying close attention to how they affect you physically or emotionally. The foods in question are: Sugar, alcohol, soy products, legumes, dairy, and some additives, such as sulfites. Also, they want you to avoid baked goods, junk food or treats made with “approved” ingredients (this was the hardest for me!) More detailed information and the arguments in favor of trying such an elimination process can be found here. There is tons of information on the website.

This post is just my experience with it. I think it is different for everyone. I like that it its heart, it focuses on the individual and doing a “science” experiment on yourself to see what foods make you feel good and which don’t.

A lot of people lose a ton of weight. Jamie’s squash coach lost 30 pounds in the summer. I, on the other hand, lost a negligible 2 pounds. Since our weight can fluctuate a lot even during the day, this isn’t saying much. I did lose a lot of bloat though. But, the Whole 30 is explicitly NOT a weight loss plan, and they encourage you to not weigh yourself or track that kind of thing, because the focus is on the food and nutrition and overall health. Another term they use for this is “non-scale victories”, of which, I’m happy to say I had quite a few.

Some of these include: Sleeping way better every night; having more energy without caffeine during the day (it is not required, but I cut out all forms of caffeine while doing the Whole30, including cacao powder and black tea!); ending my sugar, chocolate, peanut butter addiction, reducing the general aches and pains I had all over my body (arm, back, shoulder); surprisingly, a new appreciation for cooking and trying new ingredients and vegetables. I already enjoy cooking, but it took it to a whole new level for me! I cooked every single meal except for one the whole month, and I actually LOVED it. I started using way more fresh herbs and now must have a variety at all times. I started browsing the produce aisle with renewed curiosity and marveling at the beauty inherent in fresh vegetables and fruit.

shopping cart

My shopping cart at Trader Joe’s these days is heavy on the produce.

So I definitely count those as wins. And the one reason why I decided to tackle the Whole30 was to “healthify” my life! After my hellish year dealing with injury after injury and dental issues, all stemming from stress and over working (written about in more depth here), I made a commitment to make adjustments in my lifestyle across the board. arm 72

During this process, I realized that the only time I had made a concentrated effort to take care and truly nourish my body in my adult life was when I was pregnant with my son 14 years ago! I took a tally of all the injuries I have sustained since having him: Broken foot, two sprained ankles, sprained thumb, frozen shoulder, chronic back pain, torn elbow tendon, torn hamstring tendon, tendonitis in knee, all due to over training and probably not eating well. Kind of crazy. When I started cooking all my meals and being so careful about my ingredients (sugar is in everything, people – I’m looking at you Sriacha), it reminded me of how careful I was when I had pre-gestational diabetes during my second and third trimesters. It is such a nice feeling to feed myself with the focus of nourishing my body and making it feel good, rather than other reasons (oh that’s fattening, or oh, that food reminds me of x,y,z), mostly mental/emotional or just removed, and going through the motions.

typical breakfast now

Typical breakfast these days: Lots of vegetables (roast yam, steamed zucchini, mushrooms), protein (eggs), healthy fats (avocado), condiments (homemade ketchup), fresh herbs (chives)

I think that the Whole30 is not for everyone. Denis was NOT going to do it, and that is fine. I think it would be really hard and feel restrictive if you weren’t coming from a place where you believed that changing your eating habits would improve your life. It would just feel like a bunch of rules that you’d be dying to break.

Now, I’m slowly reintroducing foods. So far I’ve learned that dairy is not so great, especially cheese. I already knew I was lactose intolerant, so this is not surprise. I occasionally eat Greek yogurt and that seems OK. I still avoid caffeine and sugar, though I’ve had a little bit of the latter in cough drops and some honey. Legumes are fine. Bread is fine, but I don’t really care for it. I really missed rice though. And some soy, just because it is more convenient (soy is also in everything! Even as another ingredient in some of my vitamins). I figure being ethnically Japanese, soy is fine. Surprisingly, I haven’t had a drop of alcohol, and I totally don’t miss it. I was aware before that it was messing with my body as I get older anyway.

I still have a sweet tooth, so that’s annoying. But plain fruit tastes so sweet to me now, that’s all I eat. Even some vegetables like sweet potato and delicata squash taste like dessert to me now.

delicata squash

Delicata, my new obsession. Someone on Instagram said it’s like “butternut squash’s hot older brother”. I wish I could remember who it was so I could credit her!

 

The seeds are also great!

delicata seedsjpg

Toss in or spray with olive oil, roast at 400 F for about 10 minutes.

Some tips for food prep if you decide to do the Whole30:

  • Have a lot of prepped foods in the refrigerator so you don’t have to think when pulling together a meal – I like to always have roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables, sauteed vegetables, different forms of protein (eggs, sauteed, grilled, and roasted meats), lots of condiments and fresh herbs

 

  • You can make a bunch of condiments at once, like on a weekend. Then you have it all week or longer. My favorites are: clarified butter, flavored butter, pesto, homemade ketchup, homemade mayo, Sunshine sauce (see recipe below), guacamole, salsa, tomato sauce, fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice with kosher salt.

 

  • Make the slow cooker your new best friend. It’s so easy to cook a lot of meat and vegetables and stews and curries for leftovers. Even though Jamie and Denis weren’t doing the Whole30, I was able to make meals for all of us, and just swap out rice, bread, pasta, cheese, with more vegetables on the side.

 

  • Easiest, no thinking required meals were: Salads and hot bowls made out of the above items – a palm size of protein, a thumb size of healthy fats, a ton of vegetables

Things I would do differently would be to limit my nut, dried fruit, and seed consumption. It is so easy to overdo it! Also I would try to keep a better record of how I was feeling physically during the month. It is so easy to forget after a week. When I read how I was feeling the first day (in pain) and how I was feeling the last week (pretty great), it is pretty cool to see it in writing. Also, I had blood work done near the end, and my blood sugar levels were lower than last year, and everything was really good. 🙂

Would you ever try the Whole30? Have you already done it? If so, what were the best things for you? And what would you do differently if you did it again? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

I was enjoying plating my new kinds of foods so much, I started another Instagram account here: https://www.instagram.com/healthywholefooddaily/

Some recipes I adapted based on Whole30 recipes:

Ketchup

1/2 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Mix together.

Note, the Whole 30 version uses cider and the mixture is cooked. I found I liked it raw, and I couldn’t find apple cider that didn’t cost an arm and a leg just for ketchup.

Sunshine Sauce (adapted from Melissa Joulwan)

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup coconut milk

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tablespoon coconut aminos

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

  1. Mix together.

This sauce is SOOO good with raw vegetables, or thinned with more coconut milk and drizzled over roasted vegetables or salad.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Condiments

Click Here to Start Launch and Power Button Start Cookies

  
This past week, we celebrated the release of my husband, Denis’, debut novel, Click Here to Start.

Click-Here-to-Start-High-Res
This awesome book cover was illustrated by Octavi Navarro.

The book chronicles twelve year old Ted, who is a whiz at Escape the Room Games, and his two friends, as they cleverly figure out what is behind the clues left by Ted’s great uncle – a WWII veteran of the Nisei Brigade from Hawaii. Ted is sure there is something valuable to be found in his late uncle’s apartment, and he has to use his gaming knowledge to do it. Along the way, the trio realizes there are other people searching for the same “treasure”, and they may not be so “friendly”. Ted and his friends have to use their wits and brains to solve the mystery – and ultimately, themselves, in this fact-paced, kid friendly novel.

The audio book, produced by Listening Library, was released at the same time, which was very exciting! It’s narrated by Greg Watanabe, an actor and comic. He does a wonderful job! I love how he’s able to do the different voices of all of the characters, whether they are male or female, young or old, from Hawaii or from the mainland… He gives each of them a distinct personality.

So far, the book has gotten such positive reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, kidlit bloggers, teachers, librarians, kids. It was named a School Library Guild Section and an Amazon Best Books of the Month Selection.

“As addictive as your favorite video game. I couldn’t put it down.”-Adam Gidwitz, New York Times bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm

“Humor, believable characters, and adventure…keeps readers in suspense to the end. A winner for mystery enthusiasts.”-Kirkus Reviews

“In this clever debut, Markell takes readers on a clue-filled adventure…[and] maintains an energetic, entertaining balance of character-driven narrative and tricky challenges.”-Publishers Weekly

“Markell’s highly entertaining debut novel…is a well-paced read with fully realized and likable characters,…[and] should have strong appeal to gamers, fans of video game-based stories, and reluctant readers.”-School Library Journal

And today from Jean Westmore of the Buffalo News:

“Markell offers plenty of scary suspense, thrilling action, references to literature and movies and lots of humor in his cleverly constructed puzzle. The book is dedicated to “the valiant men of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat team, who fought so bravely for the U.S. at a time when their Japanese-American relatives back at home were being treated so dishonorably.’ His wife’s uncle was among them.”

click-cookies_Melissa-Iwai
For the Click Here to Start book launch at BookCourt this past weekend, I made Power Button Start Cookies. Jamie, our son, was a great help with frosting and packaging. He’s so proud of his dad! 🙂

jamie-_Click-Here-_-Bookcourt

me-icing_Click  

For the cookies, I used my tried and true sugar cookie and royal icing recipe I’ve used for holiday cookies in the past. This time, I used powdered egg white merengue for the frosting, and I think it really made a difference. The exterior piped frosting was perfectly hard. I am just not so great at piping! I dyed the frosting a bright green to match the Start button on the cover of the book. We frosted them green, then later, I piped the Start symbol on top in white. It is an extra step to do the piping and then the fill with diluted frosting, but the results are much better. You get a crisp outline and a very smooth interior with no ridges.

The event was wonderful. Fun to see old friends and new ones. Denis spoke about how he came to write the story, which is inspired by my uncle, Nicholas, Nakabayashi, who fought with the 100th Battalion during WWII. Denis also had fun playing Escape the Room Games with Jamie as research. 🙂

 Denis-and-Aubry-at-Book-COurt
I was surprised that almost all of my 38 cookies were eaten at the event! Only two remained, which we enjoyed after the big event. 🙂 

  

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Filed under Art Related, Books, Cookies, Desserts, Uncategorized

National Soup Month

January is National Soup Month! It’s gotten colder here, so soup is the perfect go to meal for us. I love soup so much I wrote a book about it.

The recipe is at the end of the story.

It is featured on Library Sparks’ activity calendar for January which you can download for free here. (Did you know it’s also Happy Get Organized Month and Happy Brainteaser Month? I bet you didn’t!)

Soup Day was inspired by my son, Jamie. I created Snowy Day Soup (the recipe of which is at the end of the story) to get him to eat his veggies when he was a toddler. We’d choose the vegetables together at the market, and I’d let him cut the soft ones like the mushrooms, with a plastic knife (with my help).

Here is an old video of us making it together!

Back in 2010!

Back in 2010!

And here is a video of it being read on Story Time Castle. 🙂

Another favorite soup of his is Zucchini Soup, and we have it regularly. It is so easy to make, even he can do it by himself! I illustrated a version of it which I submitted to They Draw and Cook. Here’s the art and the recipe:

Zucchini Soup Melissa Iwai 2016 72

Zucchini Soup

1 lb. zucchini sliced

1 cup chicken broth or other broth

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Slice zucchini into rounds. Steam. You can either steam on the stove or in the microwave, covered with saran for 8 minutes.
  2. Careful transfer the cooked zucchini and juices into a blender. Add chicken broth and seasonings. Pulse several times on low, and then blend at high until completely smooth.
  3. Heat and serve.

Happy Slurping! 🙂

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Filed under Books, Children, Soup, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Princeton Children’s Book Festival and Bilingual Good Night Engines

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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!  🙂

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Chocolate Coconut Avocado Ice Cream

avocado ice cream

In the comments section of my last post, Trixie Pin of Almonds Are Mecurial mentioned an Avocado Ice Cream recipe found at Oatmeal with a Fork.   I’ve always heard of ice cream made out of avocado and I’ve been wanting to try it for some time.  I ended up basing my recipe on this Vegan Mint Chocolate Chip recipe at Detoxinista, which is actually very similar to the Oatmeal with a Fork one.  All three sites have fantastic healthy recipes and beautiful photography, so check them out!  (I’m definitely going to try the Mint and Chip one soon — love that it’s green naturally!)

I only had 1/2 an avocado to work with and I didn’t want to wait until my other two ripened before I made the Chocolate Coconut Avocado Ice Cream.  I was woman obsessed.  The other 1/2 of avocado I had used to make a half portion of my Creamy Avocado Dip, which I was also craving because I had some homemade pita chips on hand….!  You see, I have both a sweet AND savory tooth!

First off, this is how I ripen my avocados — I throw them in a brown paper bag with bananas or plantains and fold the bag closed.  In a few days, they are perfect.

An unripened avocado and a ripe one, with an unripened plantain cozying up to them.  The ripened bananas were cut up and frozen.

An unripened avocado and a ripe one, with an unripened plantain cozying up to them. The ripened bananas were cut up and frozen.

Avocados are amazing fruit. They are full of more than 25 essential nutrients, fiber, protein, good fat, and beneficial antioxidants!  Read more about the benefits here, if you are curious.   I am so glad I like to eat them now.  As a kid, I hated them.  I’m happy Jamie loves guacamole.  My mom eats avocados only one way:  Mashed with brown sugar and spread on her morning toast.  I guess it’s a Hawaiian thing….  This is a savory breakfast that sounds good, that I will try soon — an egg baked in half an avocado!

Recently, I heard on a podcast about a study done which showed that eating avocados tripled a woman’s chance of getting pregnant through IVF.  I’m not trying to get pregnant but found it intriguing.  There are several lists of fruits and vegetables that look like the human organs they are good for floating around the internet–not surprisingly avocados look like a woman’s womb!

For the Chocolate Coconut Avocado Ice Cream I made, I threw into my Vitamix:  1/2 avocado, 2 tablespoons lite coconut milk from a can (you can use the extra in curry, or freeze in an ice cube tray like this for future smoothies), 2 tablespoons of agave syrup, 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil, 2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder (my new love), and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla.  If you have a whole avocado or two, just double or quadruple the amounts.  After blending to a creamy smooth consistency, I poured it into my ice cream maker and let it roll.  It only took about 5 minutes due to the small quantity — basically the time it took to clean the dishes!  You could also pour your mixture into ramekins and chill and eat as pudding. It is SOOO good!

So creamy!  I garnished with some dried coconut and toasted almonds

So creamy! I garnished with some dried coconut and toasted almonds

This ice cream is so creamy and rich.  I only eat one scoop at a time (not three) because it is very filling!  Out of curiosity I plugged in the nutritional values for the ingredients and came up with this for 1 oz. of Chocolate Avocado Ice Cream:  78 calories, 6g fat, 1.7 g sat. fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 mg sodium, 8.6 g carbs, 2.1 g fiber, 5.6 g sugar, and .8 g protein.  Happily, my vegan and gluten free friends can enjoy it as well! 🙂

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In other news, I just want to give a shout out to people in the New Jersey area!  This Saturday (September 20), I will be at the 2014 Princeton Children’s Book Festival signing books with my husband, Denis (and author of Hush Little Monster), and Anne Rockwell (author of numerous books, including  Truck Stop). We are so fortunate to be included in such an amazing gathering of authors and illustrators.  Favorites, such as Brian Floca (2014 Caldecott Winner), Brian Lies, David Kirk, Sophie Blackall, Fiona Robinson, Peter Brown, Pseudonymous Bosch (one of Jamie’s favorites), Jon Scieska, Mary Rose Wood, and a whole boatload of others will be there.  Check out the list here.  If you do make it out, be sure to stop by our table and say “hello”!

Chocolate Coconut Avocado Ice Cream

1 ripe avocado, halved, pit removed

1/4 cup lite coconut milk from a can

1/4 cup agave syrup

 1 tablespoon coconut oil (in liquid form)

1/4 cup raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and puree until completely smooth and creamy.

2.  Pour into an ice cream make and churn according to manufacturer’s directions.  Alternatively, pour into a metal bowl and put in freezer and stir every 15 minutes until thick and creamy.

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Filed under Books, Desserts, Vegan, Vegetarian

California Dreamin’

June and me

June and me

It’s been so long since I’ve posted, I feel like I’ve almost forgotten how!  In the past few weeks, I’ve had a ton of deadlines and events, and in June, we made a visit to California.  It was my 30th high school reunion, and we had a book signing in my home town of Lompoc on the Central Coast.  Life has been a whirlwind and now I am catching up!

Air travel and the time difference makes life so surreal… It was hard to believe that the same day we left Brooklyn, we later found ourselves driving around in sunny Los Angeles in a rented car.   After a lunch of the requisite In-n-Out burgers (which are nowhere to be found in New York),   we hopped on the 405 and headed north to Lompoc.  On the way there,we made a quick visit to a Barnes and Noble store in Westlake Village where we met June Sobel, the author of B is for Bulldozer, and the two of us signed books there.  I illustrated this book over ten years ago, and June’s son, to whom the book is dedicated and was inspired by, just graduate from Stanford this summer!  We had just met in person finally this year in NYC, and it was great to see her again. 🙂

Then, the next thing we knew, we were in beautiful Santa Barbara at the wonderful Chaucer’s Bookstore where I got to sign more books!

Jamie and me with Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell

Jamie and me with Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell

It was so great to finally make it to Lompoc after 15 hours of non-stop traveling!

I’m totally dating myself when I say it was my 30th reunion, but honestly it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long! Lol.  Some of my classmates whom I haven’t seen in 30 years were in town and came to a book signing we had at The Bookstore–a wonderful independent book store in Lompoc.  I don’t think we’ve changed THAT much.  It was so great to see these lovely women again after so many years!

sarah me barbie karen

 

bookstore karie, donna, lisa

 

There were several reunion events during the weekend.  What fun it was to see everyone again and reconnect.  It was  kind of weird to talk to people who remembered things that happened that were shared experiences that had no recollection about…!  And so amazing to realize that we had all watched each other grow up and now here we were in the present so enmeshed in our respective adult lives and identities!  It was also nice to be able to introduce Denis to everyone and meet my classmates’ significant others and tie the two worlds (past and present) together.

While in Lompoc, we stayed with my mom, of course.  I hope I have her energy when I’m 84….

My mom tree trimming on her property.

My mom tree trimming on her property.

The whole time we were there, I think every meal I ate except for maybe one was Mexican!  I so miss the food I grew up with, and here in our part of Brooklyn, great, cheap Mexican food is not to be had….  My mom made her yummy enchiladas (I did a post on it here and again here!), and I literally ate a burrito I got in town and brought home (it was as big as my head) for about five meals.  lol.

For breakfast, my mom introduced us to a delicious and so so easy to make Mexican Migas that a friend taught her to make recently.  Basically it is scrambled eggs with salsa and leftover cut up corn tortilla.  It is SO good!  Total comfort food.

You start by frying the corn tortilla in a bit of oil:

migas 1

Then you add beaten eggs:

Note the Japanese influence of cooking with wooden chopsticks...

Note the Japanese influence of cooking with wooden chopsticks…

Then you add salsa:

migas 2

Serve and eat!

With refried beans, crema, and chopped scallions

With refried beans, crema, and chopped scallions

I’ve seen other migas recipes made by sauteing onion and pepper first, but my mom’s recipe is easier– you could do it in your sleep – or at least before your first cup of tea or coffee!

I think it also tasted so good because my mom made it for me. 🙂

Hope you enjoy it!

me jamie mom in lompoc

Mexican Migas

2 corn tortillas

1 teaspoon oil

2 eggs, beaten

about 1/4 cup salsa or more to taste

1.  Cut up corn tortillas.  Heat oil in skillet.  Saute tortillas until soft.

2.  Add beaten eggs to skillet and stir. Cook until no longer translucent.  Stir in salsa and cook until heated through.

3.  Serve with shredded cheese, chopped onions, beans, sour cream if you wish.

Makes one to two servings.

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Filed under Books, Breakfast, Eggs

Omu Raisu (Japanese Rice Omelet)

close up omu raisu

I don’t know about you all, but I am so not ready for Christmas and the end of the year! I find myself juggling so many things to begin with, but then there’s presents to procure, work to finish, cookies to bake… Before we left for our travels to the midwest for Thanksgiving, we three enjoyed the Annual Children’s Book Festival at the Brooklyn Museum.  If you are in the area, it is a wonderful opportunity to meet Brooklyn authors.  It’s usually the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and it’s free!

It was packed like this all day.  That's me and Jamie on the bottom right.

It was packed like this all day. That’s me and Jamie on the bottom right.

My friend, Claude, took this of us.

My friend, Claude, took this of us.

I also did a book reading, craft, and signing this past weekend at Grace Church School in Brooklyn, where Jamie went to pre-school.  I can’t believe it’s been SEVEN years since we first entered that beautiful building!

Me reading Soup Day

Me reading Soup Day — Jamie doing a great job not looking bored!

It is always very nostalgic going there.  My very first post on this blog was the Rocking Horse Cookies  I made for a Bake Sale there.  Time flies…

As for the Omu Raisu…  This is one of those common dishes that you could find everywhere in Japan — I haven’t been in ages, so I don’t know what it is like now.  It’s a Japanese version of a Western dish.  And as I saw when I lived there, way back in the 90s, “Western” often included ketchup.  I taught a cooking class there with my friend, Elaine, to some of my (adult) English language students.

We decided to do Crunchy Tacos– American style– as in, the kind you get at Taco Bell.  At the time it was pretty impossible to get authentic Mexican ingredients where we were living.  It was really fun, and the students loved the tacos, but the one thing I remember is them saying that it would be good with ketchup. lol

Anyway, one of my favorite scenes in the movie, Tampopo, directed by Juzo Itami, is when this hobo makes Omu Raisu in a deserted ship kitchen for Tampopo’s son.  View here.  It’s so cute!  The hobo’s version is not stuffed– he cooks a perfect omelet and puts it atop a bed of ketchup rice.

Here is a video on how to make a Miffy Lion Omu Raisu!!  I found this while searching for the scene in Tampopo.  OMG.  The Japanese are so good at cute.

Omu Raisu is one of Jamie’s favorite dishes — he’s a ketchup fiend.  I hadn’t made it in awhile, but while visiting my brother, he introduced us to this awesome YouTube channel, “Cooking with Dog”. We  watched numerous episodes on Apple TV while there.  I love that the dog just sits on a stool in the background as the chef cooks.  Here is the Cooking with Dog Omu Raisu episode.

My Omu Raisu is a simplified version.  I don’t use tomato sauce, just ketchup.  You can fill it with whatever meat and vegetables you like, but I like to use the traditional chicken.  I love white rice, but only had brown rice on hand.  As you can see, I have picky eaters to please, so I made different fillings for everyone.  I made a big batch of chicken and onions and rice first; doled out a portion for Denis in a bowl; then added the ketchup, peas, and corn (all things Denis hates); doled out a portion for Jamie; and then added cooked broccoli to the remaining filling for myself.  It was like a logic problem. filling diagramThen I made omelets and filled with with each person’s filling! omu raisu on fork

Before I share the recipe, I just wanted to thank Chef Mimi for giving  me the I Am Part of the WordPress Family Award.

image
Thank you, Chef!  I usually don’t post about awards because I am extremely busy, and I always have a slight bout of anxiety thinking of gathering other links, notifying the recipients of the awards, and wondering what  they will do.   But I was so touched by Chef Mimi’s no pressure attitude.  Plus, she’s a self taught cook like me and learned along the way while raising and feeding her family.  She has a wonderful collection of recipes in her recipe guide on her blog, so check it out!

omu raisu above
Omu Raisu (Japanese Omelet Rice) For three servings

4 teaspoons oil

Some onion — about 1/2 cup, diced, depending on your taste

about 1/4 cup cooked rice for each serving 1 chicken breast, chopped into small pieces about 1 cup of cooked vegetables

2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup ketchup, depending on how much you like ketchup 6 eggs (1-2 per person)

1)  Saute onions and chicken in 1 teaspoon oil in a non stick pan.  When it’s cooked, added cooked rice and cooked vegetables and ketchup.  Stir to incorporate.  Remove to a dish.

2)  Using a clean pan, heat 1 teaspoon oil and swirl around.

3) Beat 1-2 eggs in a bowl.  Add to pan.  Move around so that the egg covers bottom of pan.  When it’s almost done, lay filling on one half of egg circle.  Flip other half on top.  Put a plate on pan and flip omelet out onto the plate.  (The cooking with dog chef puts the filling in the middle and folds each side over — you can do this too, but my way is easier!)
4)  Serve immediately, garnished with more ketchup!

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Filed under Art Related, Books, chicken, Dinner, Eggs, Uncategorized

Double Chocolate Plantain Bread (Gluten Free) and Book Events

At Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn

At Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn

This past weekend I had back to back book events.  On Saturday, I read B is for Bulldozer and Truck Stop  at Greenlight Bookstore.  I also did this  ultra cute, fun collage project (from No Time For Flashcards) with the children.  Check it out — it is perfect for pre-K and Kindergarten aged kids!

Collage made by me and Jamie

Collage made by me and Jamie

I precut the shapes out of construction paper.  Jamie was my helper and passed them out.  I brought pieces of brown paper bag for “dirt” and encouraged them to tear it up into pieces and glue to their collages.

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Sunday was an amazing event at Books of Wonder on 18th Street in Manhattan.  If you have never been there before, it is a fantastic independent bookstore devoted solely to children’s books.  They do not carry any licensing products — you will not find any Disney or Nickeloden books here!  All the picture books are arranged alphabetically by illustrator, rather than author.  It’s the only bookstore I know of that does this!

>We love it there and go often for events of which there are many.  It’s been a wonderful opportunity to meet legendary book people, like the late Tomi Ungerer or Chris Van Allsberg as well as newer, well-known authors and illustrators.  One of our favorite events was listening to Nortan Juster and Jules Feiffer talk about creating The Phantom Tollbooth last year in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

This Sunday, though, I was on a panel there!  My panel mates are all exceptional picture book creators.  I was honored to be included in the group.

With Brian Floca, Anne Rockwell, Robie Harris, Chris Raschka, Deborah Heiligman.  Not pictured are Leyuen Pham, Doreen Cronin, and Betsy Lewin.

With Brian Floca, Anne Rockwell, Robie Harris, Chris Raschka, Deborah Heiligman. Not pictured are Leyuen Pham, Doreen Cronin, and Betsy Lewin.

I was totally nervous before the event – I am not so comfortable speaking in public anyway, but my anxiety was heightened by the stellar company I was keeping.  Anne Rockwell, who is the most sweetest, generous, warmest person ever, put me at ease.  I was so thankful she was able to make it.  She is a “living legend” as Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder, said in his introduction of her.  She has written over 100 books, many of which she herself illustrated.  You can imagine my immense relief when she told me she love the illustrations for her warm story, Truck Stop!

Anne and I both spoke a bit about how the book came to be and our process of creating it.  Brian Floca spoke about his amazing book, Locamotive.   He actually got to drive an old fashioned locamotive for an afternoon as part of his research.   Robie Harris and Chris Racshka discussed writing and illustrating a book about child fears, When Lions Roar.  The challenge was creating something that wasn’t too scary, but scary enough, and what a delicate line that is.  Deborah Heiligman and Leuyen Pham talked about their book on the life and work of Paul Erdos (The Boy Who Loved Math)  as well as the esoteric system of Erdos numbers.  The wonderful Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin of Click, Clack, Moo! fame have been collaborating for 18 years.  Their newest is Click, Clack, Boo! They spoke about their collaboration and how much trust and respect they have for each other — also how they both share the same sense of humor (obvious if you’ve ever read their hilarious books about duck and Farmer Brown).

Everyone had such an interesting perspective on the work of picture book creating. It was really fascinating and inspirational.  I was so happy to meet finally Chris Raschka and Betsy Lewin  whose illustrations I adore and whose books Jamie grew up with (along with many of Anne’s).

Anne Rockwell and me outside of Books of Wonder after the event.  Do I look relieved?

Anne Rockwell and me outside of Books of Wonder
after the event. Do I look relieved?

It really is such a gift for kids to be able to meet authors and illustrators of the books they love.  If you ever have the opportunity, please do so!  Not every place is like  NYC where there are book events all the time, but in cities across the country, especially at independent book stores, there are events taking place often — and they are free!

With all these book events (not to mention deadlines and travel), this fall has been really busy.  It’s always a pleasure then to find a really, super easy recipe — especially one that is tasty, healthy, kid-friendly, and in this case, gluten free!

Double Chocolate Plantain Bread

Double Chocolate Plantain Bread

I have several people in my life (friends, my niece, Jamie’s friend) who are gluten intolerant.  So I am always on the lookout for some yummy gluten free recipe I can pass onto them or make.  I saw this TWO ingredient plantain bread on purelytwins.com recently, and I’ve been making it and experimenting with different variations and flavors.  The twins recommend using yellow plantains with a few brown spots, as they are less starchy.  But if you want a sweeter, less tangy flavor, the dark ones work too.

plantains

I came up with this Double Chocolate Plantain Bread Mini Loaf that is so moist and delicious.  It’s a nice snack cake for after school or even for breakfast.  I added vanilla, sugar, cocoa powder and chocolate chips to the two ingredient aforementioned plantain bread.  I baked it in a mini loaf pan.  I made the batter in my Vitamix, but any blender or food processor would work just fine (I’ve also made it in a food processor but the Vitamix is easier to clean!)

chocolate plantain bread 2

Double Chocolate Plantain Bread Mini Loaf

non-stick spray

1 large plantain, either yellow with a lot of brown or all brown

2 eggs

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon (or more depending on your taste) sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the bottom of a mini loaf with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

2.  Peel and slice plantain. Put in a blender or food processor with eggs, cocoa, and sugar.  Puree until smooth.

3.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Drop chips evenly on top and stir gently to incorporate.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes, checking with a skewer.  If it comes out clean when poked in the center, the loaf is done.  Check at around 25 minutes.  The center can be very moist and pudding like.  If you like that texture, take it out.  If not, bake a bit longer.

5.  Let cake cool in pan for about 20 minutes, then remove and cool completely.

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Filed under Books, Desserts, Snack, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Princeton Children’s Book Festival and Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

Denis and I signed Hush Little Monster together

Denis and I signed Hush Little Monster together

This past Saturday we participated in the Princeton Children’s Book Festival.  It was a  beautiful day for celebrating children’s books!

We met a lot of interesting authors and illustrators and wonderfully supportive parents buying books.  It was also great to see old friends.

With Anne Rockwell, author of Truck Stop, and her daughter and illustrator, Lizzy Rockwell,

With Anne Rockwell, author of Truck Stop, and her daughter and illustrator, Lizzy Rockwell

With Denise Dowling-Mortensen, author of Good Night Engines and Wake Up Engines--we met in 2004, the year Jamie was born and when Good Night Engines was released. :)

With Denise Dowling-Mortensen, author of Good Night Engines and Wake Up Engines–we met in 2004, the year Jamie was born and when Good Night Engines was released. 🙂

I made mini donuts to hand out — they looked like these and the recipe is here:

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Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of them — I was too distraught over finding my cake stand had broken en route! The good news was that the pile of donuts quickly disappeared within the first couple of hours.

Jamie was a trooper and didn’t mind having to be with us at the festival all day long with no playmates.  He wandered about the four tents of 20 authors and illustrators and looked at books, sampled treats, and had his program signed by all 80 of them!

Table seating of each tent

Table seating of each tent

He also scored  cute drawings from Dave Roman (author/illustrator of the Astronaut Academy series) and Alexis Fredrick Frost (of Adventures in Cartooning fame):

dave roman sketches

By Alexis Fredrick Frost

By Alexis Fredrick Frost

Thank you so much for being so kind to my son!

Jamie also got to choose a couple books for himself and a friend which he had signed by Dave Roman and Fiona Robertson.  It’s so special when you can give and receive an autographed copy!

By Dave Roman

By Dave Roman

By Eva Ibbotson, Illustrated by Fiona Robertson

By Eva Ibbotson, Illustrated by Fiona Robertson

I knew it would be a long day of meeting people and signing books, as well as traveling to and from the event.  It’s the kind of situation where you never know if you’ll get really hungry in a place where there might not be healthy, portable options available.  In preparation, I made a dozen Shelly’s Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins to bring with us.

Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

This recipe is from The World According to Eggface — a fantastic blog with lots of great recipes.  These muffins came in handy when we were stranded on the platform after just missing our train back to the city!  It was dinner time and we had to wait for the next train–in the end we were kind of glad we did, because we got to ride with more of our festival compatriots who arrived at the train station later.  Plus, we weren’t hungry anymore!

This coming weekend, I have more book events.  If you are in the NYC area, please come join me.  I will be at Greenlight Bookstore (686 Fulton Street at South Portland, Brooklyn, NY)  on Saturday, September 28 from 11- 12, reading Truck Stop and the board book version of B is for Bulldozer, which was just released this month!  On Sunday, September 29, I will be on a panel with Anne Rockwell and several other authors at Books of Wonder (18 West 18th street between 5th and 6th Avenues) from 1-3 pm.

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Filed under Art Related, Books, Breakfast, Children, Snack, Travel, Vegetarian