Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#7)

The end of September was so crazy, I didn’t have time to write the Books and Beverages, so I’m going to combine September and October into one post. In the two months combined, I read a total of four books. And being in Japan has allowed me to try a lot of new and interesting beverages.

Books

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

This is the second book in The Lunar Chronicles. It continues Cinder’s story and introduces a few new characters, like Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood) and Wolf. Scarlet works on her grandmother’s farm and her grandmother has mysteriously gone missing. She meets a man named Wolf, a street fighter, who is willing to help Scarlet look for her grandmother. I thought I smelled a love triangle coming, but in this book it didn’t turn into one. Sometimes the next book in a series isn’t as good as the first, but this one was just as good and I didn’t see the twists coming as much as I did in Cinder.

Cress by Marissa Meyer

I had Cress ready to go after I finished reading Scarlet. In this one, it was even harder to see the twists coming, and I think that made it even better than the first two. This book further develops Cress’s character, who showed up in the first book. Cress lives all alone in a satellite in Earth’s orbit with only her portscreens for company and her hair has never been cut since she’s been in the satellite (Rapunzel). She is a very good computer hacker and has done much research on Cinder and her allies. Thankfully, the love triangle I saw forming did not come to be, so I was glad for this little surprise.

The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo

This was the first book I read on my new Kindle. It was a free download, and I figured I might as well read it since it’s about Asian and Japanese culture. I think a lot of it went over my head, but I think I got the basics. It compares Asian and Western cultures through things like tea and flowers. It was very interesting and I think it helped me gain a better understanding of Asian culture. It was a quick read and worth it.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This book is narrated by a dog named Enzo whose master is a semi-professional race car driver who lives in Seattle. Living in Seattle, you can imagine that he has mastered the art of racing cars in the rain, which turns out to be a metaphor for getting through life’s difficulties. Denny, his master, gets married and has a baby girl named Zoe. Enzo is an unreliable narrator, given that he’s a dog, but he is also very wise and believes that his soul will be reincarnated into a human’s body after he has fulfilled his purpose as a dog. This book made me cry, and I had to stop reading it because I was on a train and didn’t want to cry in public. When I got back home, though, I picked it up again and cried.

Beverages

Matcha

Being in Japan, matcha is everywhere. Matcha is green tea powder, and The Book of Tea informed me that powdered tea is the best form of tea. At most sushi restaurants, it comes complimentary. You just put a few scoops in your mug and fill it up with the hot water spout nearby. It’s very nice.

Drinkable Yogurt

One of my roommates bought drinkable yogurt, thinking it was milk. It came in a carton and looked like dairy, so it was easily mistaken if you can’t read Japanese. Thankfully, I was able to read the carton and figure out what it was before we put it in our coffee. Since we couldn’t return it, we had to drink it and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise and very refreshing.

Honey Milk Latte

One day, I needed some good coffee, so I walked into a Tully’s and figured I’d try this honey milk latte. It is so good. And they even made the latte right, with a layer of foam at the top on which they drizzle extra honey. I hope I can find this in the States when I get back, because I love it so much.

Baking

Ichigo Daifuku

Also known as strawberry daifuku. (Ichigo means strawberry in Japanese.) This is a Japanese dessert made with strawberries, sweetened red bean paste, and mochi. It is very yummy, and well worth the effort! To find all of the ingredients, you will most likely need to pay a visit to your local Asian market. By the way, mochi has made an appearance on my blog before.

Ichigo Daifuku
Outer Layer: Mochi dusted with corn starch; Middle Layer: Sweetened red bean paste; Center: Fresh strawberry

What You Will Need

  • 2 dozen strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 17.6 oz bag of anko sweetened red bean paste
  • 1/2 box (1/2 lb) of Mochiko rice flour
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Plenty of corn starch (for dusting)

Directions

Step 1: In your hand, form a small amount of anko into a 1/4″ thick disc. Place a strawberry in it and wrap the anko around it. Repeat for the rest of the berries. (You may need to rinse your hands occasionally.) Place the anko-covered berries on a plate and place in the refrigerator.

Step 1A Step 1B

Step 2: Make the mochi. Combine the rice flour and 1-1/2 cups water in a large microwave safe dish. Cover the dish and microwave on high for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Stir. Recover and microwave on high an additional 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Step 2

Step 3: While the mochi is cooking, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small pot. Dissolve completely over medium heat, stirring often.

Step 3

Step 4: Pour the sugar water into the mochi dish. Stir until well incorporated. See pictures below for the desired consistency.

Step 4A
Not quite there. Keep mixing.
Step 4B
Perfect consistency.

Step 5: Take the strawberries out of the refrigerator. Prepare a baking tray with wax paper and corn starch. Dust the top of the mochi and your hands with plenty of corn starch.

Step 5

Step 6: In your hand, take a small amount of mochi and work it into a disc, like you did with the anko. (The size of your mochi disc will depend on the size of the berry, but having a little bit extra to work with is best.)

Step 6

Step 7: Place a berry pointy side up in the middle of the mochi disc. Wrap the mochi around the anko covered berry. Dust with corn starch. Repeat for the rest of the berries. (You will most likely have left over mochi. It is delicious. I encourage you to eat it.)

Step 7A

Step 7B

Step 8: Finish off the daifuku by dusting off the excess starch with a brush. These will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

Step 8

You may have been wondering why I disappeared for a little while. Well, it sort of has to do with this post. Right now I am studying abroad in Japan, so what better way to communicate this than with a Japanese dessert? Anyway, I made a second blog to document my travels in Japan. I’ll still be writing posts for Sparkle and Sprinkle while I’m abroad, but they won’t be as often. For more consistent posts, please follow my Japan blog, It’s Raining Cats and Mochi.