All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Konnyaku to takenoko no tosani / simmered konnyaku yam cake and bamboo shoot with bonito flakes

Tosani -- a simmered dish finished with bonito flakes -- is a common choice for fresh bamboo shoots, and it also is a great way to create a rich, strong-flavored dish without using lots of soy sauce. Soft and chewy konnyaku is added below for contrasting texture and a fiber boost.

1/2 of recipe:
54 calories; 3.6 g protein; 1.2 g fat; 6.5 g carbohydrate; 3.6 g net carbs; 183 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 339 mg with regular soy sauce); 3 mg cholesterol; 2.9 g fiber


Amazake-iri sobako pankeeki / buckwheat pancakes with amazake

More filling than they look, these small pancakes are sugar free and take advantage of buckwheat and amazake for health benefits. The soft sweetness of amazake made from brown sweet rice makes this pancake a natural with syrup and fruit or as a plain pancake to accompany savory dishes.

1/2 of recipe:
445 calories; 13.8 g protein; 10.4 g fat; 72.7 g carbohydrate; 70.4 g net carbs; 84 mg sodium (with milk; 74 mg with soy milk); 224 mg cholesterol; 2.3 g fiber


Koyadofu to saishin no nibitashi / freeze-dried tofu and yu choy sum simmered in broth

Koyadofu makes everyday vegetable side dishes a bit more filling by offering chewiness while releasing a flavorful broth in your mouth. Sakura ebi adds a toasty note and vibrant color.

1/2 of recipe:
120 calories; 11.1 g protein; 5.5 g fat; 5.0 g carbohydrate; 4.2 g net carbs; 234 mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 334 mg with regular soy sauce); 11 mg cholesterol; 1.8 g fiber


Fuki no to-iri iritamago / scrambled egg with Japanese butterbur buds

An easy way to enjoy the bitterness of early spring. While plain-tasting oil is the usual choice for iritamago scrambled eggs, below it is cooked with toasted sesame oil for extra aroma. Oil and eggs soften the bitterness in general, yet fuki no to butterbur buds can be overwhelmingly bitter, depending on climate, time from harvest, etc. If unsure, first try only half of the specified amount, or soak them in water for at least one hour (or blanch if in a hurry; see Notes). Iritamago can be served as is. The photo below shows my favorite way -- a topping for plain steamed rice.

1/2 of recipe (steamed rice excluded):
92 calories; 6.6 g protein; 6.3 g fat; 1.5 g carbohydrate; 5.7 g net carbs; 116 mg sodium; 214 mg cholesterol; 0.6 g fiber


Tom cooks 16. Koebi no mabodofu (mapo spicy tofu with bay shrimp)

Practice makes perfect.
I wonder how many times I heard this phrase on Japan's NHK Radio English Conversation Program. Hundreds, perhaps. Mr. Katsuaki Togo, the instructor of the program, repeated it so many times to encourage listeners, and it still comes into my head from time to time.

This time, it came back when I watched Tom's performance in the kitchen.


Menuke to takenoko no nitsuke / rock cod and bamboo shoot in reduced broth

One of the standard quick dishes when you have really fresh fish. Nitsuke is cooked with a relatively small amount of strong-flavored broth, and tastes substantial. While fish is often the only principal ingredient, pairing it with an in-season vegetable adds a pleasant layer of aroma and flavor. Very early-season takenoko bamboo shoot is used here. The broth is for a low-sodium diet; for a conventional recipe, see karei no nitsuke (sole simmered in reduced broth).

1/2 of recipe:
173 calories; 27.3 g protein; 2.2 g fat; 8.4 g carbohydrate; 6.2 g net carbs; 355 mg sodium (when using 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce and shoyukoji made with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce); 54 mg cholesterol; 2.2 g fiber


Breakfast, January 1, 2015

Once again this year, we had our typical ozoni soup with rice cakes and osechi special dishes for New Year's Day. When we have guests, I am tempted to make something different just for fun. But with ozoni and osechi, my focus has been to maintain the taste, which is largely supported by the quality of ingredients and the many little simple steps involved in preparation.

My ozoni and osechi prep usually starts on December 27 or 28, and our fridge is filled with small containers by the evening of the 31st. Large containers go to our near-freezing basement or outside shelves, and they all wait to be served on the morning of January 1st.