Tag Archives: how to

Japanese Style Sesame and Furikake Pumpkin Seeds

28 Oct

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It’s Halloween time, which means the obligatory roasting of the pumpkin seeds after making jack-o-lanterns! I was trying to find some fun ideas for seasoning my pumpkin seeds, and I realized that seasoning these seeds is kind of like seasoning rice. You can dress it up to be sweet, salty, spicy, savory, anything. The rice (or the pumpkin seeds) are a blank slate ready to be whatever funky flavor you want.

My rice / pumpkin seed comparison made the lightbulb go off. Why not season the seeds with furikake?! (This is my favorite seasoning to put on onigiri – Japanese rice balls – you can see my recipe for those here.)

Furikake is the Japanese all purpose topping for foods. It consists mainly of seaweed flakes and sesame seeds, but different mixtures feature different flavors. In a Japanese household this is as common as salt and pepper. It’s used on eggs, pasta, salad, soups, and sushis / rice… anything really. So why not try it on one of my favorite Halloween time treats?

And OMGee did I hit this one out of the park. I don’t think I will ever roast my pumpkin seeds any other way. These have a very classic and traditional Japanese flavor. If you are a fan of miso soup or soba noodles, you’ll love this recipe, since it uses the basic ingredients to make the broth base for those two dishes.

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You Will Need:

Pumpkin Seeds

Sesame Oil

Mirin

Powdered Dashi

Furikake Seasoning

There are no precise measurements here, because each pumpkin will yield different amounts of seeds. So you gotta just eyeball it. SO! Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Next, wash your seeds under cold water, picking out all the pulp and goop and pumpkin entrails.

Put the seeds in a bowl, and lightly drizzle with sesame oil, gently tossing the seeds till they are coated. This will add flavor and ensure your seeds don’t burn.

Repeat the drizzle and toss process with the mirin. Mirin is a Japanese rice wine that is similar to sake, except it has a much lower alcohol content and a much higher sugar content. This will make your seeds kind of gooey and sticky as they heat up, and makes the furikake seasoning stick to the seeds and get lightly crusted on. The more seasoning you intend to crust your seeds with, the more mirin you’ll want to add. I added about equal part sesame oil and mirin to mine.

Next, take a single serving packet of powdered dashi stock (about 1 tablespoon) and sprinkle / toss it on the seeds. Dashi is considered one of the “five basic tastes” of Japanese cuisine and is made up of katsuobushi and kombu – basically powdered bonito fish stock and seaweed.

Next, sprinkle your furikake – as much as you’d like! – on the seeds. I used Urishima brand Traditional Blend Furikake, which is made up of white and black sesame seeds, salt, seaweed, sugar, soy sauce and green tea powder.

Once your seeds are all seasoned and evenly coated, pour them onto a greased baking sheet, and pop them in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, stirring the seeds up every 10 minutes.

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And voila! You have some Japanese-tastic roasted pumpkin seeds! Enjoy! (I’m munching on them now as I post this!) ^_^ Happy Halloween!

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How To Make Rose Petal and Hibiscus Infused Vodka

24 Jun

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If you don’t religiously troll food network programs like I sometimes don’t, (I’m notoriously flighty in my TV watching habits) then you might not know, but – infusing your booze with various flavors is the new “thing”.

But aside from the obvious bonuses of looking cool and being able to feel like an old world apothecary bartender, infusing spirits with flavor is a great way to experiment with your own personal tastes. And the sky is the limit. You can use practically anything to inject flavor into your favorite cocktails. The basic concept is to marry a variety of choice flavors into a base liquor to create a custom-flavored spirit. Vodka is the most common base spirit used and the other light spirits (gin, sake, light rum) can also be used with almost any flavor. It’s so easy to do, it’s almost laughable.

On Fathers Day I had a blast making my dad some Fresh Cherry and Cinnamon Infused Rum, and while I was in the mood to play culinary artisan, I made a small batch of Rose Petal and Hibiscus Infused Vodka while I was at it. I am really looking forward to popping this little princess out of my lady parts so that I can join in the flavored liquor fun instead of mixing concoctions that go primarily to my father (what with hubby being in Boot Camp and all).

For these particular infusions, here’s what you’ll need:

Mason jars

Vodka of your choice

Dried rose petals

Dried hibiscus flowers

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1. Fill the jars with your petals / flowers.

Sprinkle the rose petals and hibiscus flowers into separate clean mason jars. How much you put in, and how long you keep the dried flowers sitting will determine just how flavorful the vodka becomes. I filled the jars roughly half full. (Or half empty, for you pessimists out there.) Pour the vodka over the dried flowers.

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2. Seal the jars, and let them infuse.

Put the lid tightly back on the jars and let them sit (away from direct sunlight) until the vodka takes on the desired flavor. This varies depending on what you are flavoring your vodka with. Fresh herbs, flowers, fruits and veggies generally require a longer infusion time, ranging from 7 days to a full month. Dried herbs and flowers cut down the infusion time quite drastically, with infusion times ranging from a few hours to a couple weeks.

For these particular recipes, the Hibiscus Infused Vodka only took two hours to take on the desired flavor. (In fact, it was almost overwhelmingly flavored after that time.) The Rose Petal Infused Vodka took about five days for it’s peak flavor, though it could have easily sat for another week or so to really pack a flavorful punch. You can (and should) always periodically taste the vodka to see when it’s acquired a flavor to your liking.

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3. Drain the vodka, and serve. 

Drain the liquid into a fresh, clean mason jar. Once your booze is sufficiently infused, drain the dried petals / flowers out of the liquid and store your freshly infused vodka into a new, clean mason jar. You can discard the flowers, or hold onto them for another round of infusions – although if your flowers are particularly water-logged, you may just want to toss them. Since the hibiscus only took two hours to leech the flavor, my dad kept the vodka soaked flowers to make tea with. Which is particularly clever, I thought. Spiked tea? Uhhh, yes please. Anhow, that’s is pretty much it! Easy peasy, and it looks decadent and tastes it too.

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Like I said earlier, there’s just something about infusing your own spirits that harkens back to an industrial era apothecary world. Once I get settled, I fully intend to create an infusion shelf, cluttered with old fashioned bottles stuffed with crazy and unique flavors.

Fresh Cherry and Cinnamon Infused Rum For Father’s Day

17 Jun

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Yesterday was my husband’s first Fathers Day as a daddy, and my father’s first Fathers Day as a grandpa! I am missing my husband so much. I have only cried twice since Jonathan has left for Navy Boot Camp, and both times I was standing in the greeting card aisle of Walmart reading sappy Fathers Day cards. (Just doing my part to fulfill every stereotype that I can over the remaining three months of pregnancy. Pregnant lady sobbing into a card in the Hallmark aisle of a supermarket? Check!)

Since my handsome husband is off serving his country and making me proud this Father’s Day weekend, I can only really focus on doing something special for my poppa this year. My dad is one of the coolest, craziest, most amazing men you will ever meet. Everyone who knows my dad loves him. One of the only gratingly annoying things about my father is that he doesn’t really WANT anything. And the things that he does want are so random and obscure that it makes gift giving a nightmare. His idea of a “gift” is just sharing a cup of coffee while he beats you at chess. Which is kind of lame for the aspiring gift-giver.

But over the years, I have discovered a couple of fall backs when it comes to making my dad happy with tangible gifts. And one of those is specialty boozes. For my dad’s birthday this last year I made him some homemade Spiced Whiskey, which he loved. But I wanted to try something a little different this weekend. I got to thinking – it’s cherry season, and my dad has been all over fresh cherries this month…

So why not make a Fresh Cherry and Cinnamon Infused Rum? This isn’t really a “recipe” so much as it’s a “throw things into a jar and then wait” tutorial. But for those who would like to give it a whirl –

You Will Need:

Mason Jars

Fresh Cherries

Cinnamon Stick

Rum of Your Choice

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1. Wash and prepare the cherries.

After washing the cherries you can score the surface of them, or cut little slits into the flesh of the cherries to speed up the infusion process – or you can just toss them in whole and intact. Both ways work, one just takes longer to flavor the rum. I decided to leave the stems on so it’ll be easier to fish the little buggers out when it comes to nom nom time.

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2. Fill the mason jar.

Toss a stick or two of cinnamon into the mason jar. Then fill the jar to the top with cherries. Pour the rum over the cherries and cinnamon until it reaches the brim.

3. Store your cherries, then play the waiting game.

Put the lid tightly back on the jar and let it sit (away from direct sunlight) for 7 days to a full month. You can keep them soaking for upwards of eight months, but who has the patience for that, really? Keep in mind, the longer you let it sit, the stronger the rum will become infused with the cherry flavor and cinnamon flavor.

You can periodically taste the rum to see when it’s acquired a flavor to your liking. It should have a fresh, clean and lightly spiced, woody taste from the cinnamon. As the rum will soak up the cinnamon flavor faster than the cherry, if you intend to keep the mixture brewing for more than two weeks you might consider pulling the stick out early.

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At the end of a week or two, you will have a homemade batch of Fresh Cherry and Cinnamon Infused Rum! And, of course, you can munch on booze-infused cherries when you’re ready to drink your new concoction. You can get creative and use your rum infused cherries in dessert recipes, jams or sauces, top them on ice cream sundaes – or just eat them straight from the jar like my dad will most likely be doing.

And that is pretty much it! Enjoy!

How To Make Campfire Hobo Packs

28 May

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When I first heard about hobo packs I was on the very first “meeting the boyfriends parents” trip to Washington. We were camping out on our way to visit Mount Saint Helens and Jonathan got super excited when it came time to make his favorite camp food cuisine. I learned that making “hobo packs” over an open fire while camping has been a family tradition in the Freeman family since Jonathan was a kid – and it is now one that we intend to keep up as well.

This past weekend, while camping at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, we introduced our friend Nate to hobo packs and I thought, hmmm, why not make a blog post out of it? I’ve been meaning to make a kind of “Freeman Family Cookbook” soon (which is currently disproportionately packed with Cajun foods and booze), so taking picture of and blogging about our favorite recipes is something I intend to do over the next few years at any rate.

A hobo pack is, essentially, a foil packet containing a piece of meat and some vegetables, seasoned however you want. It’s a simple as that. While I’ve tried to be a good foodie and track down the origin of the hobo pack, the best I can find is that boy scouts have coined the phrase for the dish and make them while being outdoorsy. The title of the food is an obvious reference that hearkens back to the days when hobos used to procure their food by cooking it over dumpster bonfires, and not panhandling on intersections and using conned money to buy cheap vodka and fast food.

The concept of the hobo pack is genius in it’s simplicity. You really can’t mess this recipe up. Apparently there is a whole camp cooking subculture that deals with the myriad recipe possibilities that involve shoving random eats into a packet of foil, some bordering on being downright gourmet. But whenever we make our hobo packs, we keep it simple with good ol’ fashioned meat and potatoes.

Here’s the Freeman Family Hobo Pack staple. You’ll need:

Ground Beef

Red Potatoes

Carrots

Onion

Mushrooms

Garlic Cloves

Olive Oil

Hamburger Seasoning

Aluminum Foil

1. Get your fire started.

My husband is a ridiculously outdoorsy mountain man and takes his campfire building very seriously. So I won’t even begin to try and go into the details he insists are involved in starting a “real” fire. (While he prefers to build old fashioned organic fires from found wood that he labors over lovingly with an ax in hand, he has been known to get wild with the lighter fluid from time to time.) So suffice it to say, once your fire is started, let it burn down for about an hour. What you want is glowing embers, not a crackling fire. While your fire is working it’s way down to a smoldering heap of yum yum making embers, get to work on step 2….

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2. Prepare the fillings.

First, work your ground beef into hamburger patties and season it with your favorite seasonings. We used Pappy’s for these packs, but we’ll change it up depending on what we have on hand or feel like at the moment. You can make the patties as big or small as you’d like, but flatten them out into a patty so that they cook evenly!

Next, slice the carrots, onions, mushrooms, and red potatoes (we like to keep the skin on ours). And depending on how garlic crazy you are (we are somewhere between ‘bat shit’ and ‘Tom Cruise’) prepare some minced garlic, or whole cloves. We went with the whole cloves.

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3. Fill your packs.

Double up the aluminum foil and spread a little olive oil on the surface. Then, pile the veggies and meat into the center of the foil. The size of the pack should match the size of your appetite. Whats awesome about these packs is that everyone can mix and match up their own pack to their own taste. So when it comes to filling time, you can be as uniform or creative as you’d like. Once they’re to your liking, lay another layer of doubled up aluminum foil over the top and wrap them up by turning in and pinching the corners. I fold each edge down two or three times and then dog ear the corners.

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4. Cook your packs.

Place the pack on the embers and surround with coals. You should hear these bad boys sizzling in no time. The foil should expand to the heat, but they won’t shouldn’t explode. Let them cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Again, this depends on how big the packs are, and how hot your campfire is. Use your judgement or just err on the side of well done and pick them out by the 40 minute mark. Once you’ve pull them out of the embers, let them cool for 10 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, cut them open (be careful of the steam!) and serve right out of the packs or shovel onto a plate. You can add BBQ sauce or teriyaki sauce, or anything really. The beauty of these packs are their versatility to suit individual cravings. These are the perfect camping food and super fun to make. Once you try them, you won’t want to go back to hot dogs and hamburgers!

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Harvesting Fresh Lavender for Aromatherapy and Potpourri

10 May

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Last week Jonathan and I stayed with our friends the Rawsons and the McGahheys in Southern California (while we were in the area for the Iron Man 3 release and the LA Fashion District). They live in the beautiful hills of Temecula and are surrounded by a veritable Eden of fruit trees and herbs of all varieties. On the winding drive up to their house on a hill, I geeked out as we passed through tons of sprawling English Lavender plants becaaaaaause….

I had been tossing around the idea of finding some lavender to make Victorian potpourri satchets with for some time – I actually had it in my “list of things to do while Jonathan is in boot camp so you don’t go crazy and set fire to the neighborhood” – but I didn’t want to go buy some poor baby lavender plant at Home Depot or whatever just to mutilate it. So I asked demanded that I be able to harvest a handful or two.

I have used lavender essential oils many times in the past. Lavender oil is known to have a soothing and calming effect on the nerves – relieving tension, depression and nervous exhaustion in general and is very effective for headaches, migraines and insomnia. So I was pleased to learn that lavender is one of the safest and best herbs to use for aromatherapy to combat the daily stresses and strains of pregnancy!

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Lavender became quite popular during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and preferred her tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach and ease her headaches. Around this time a popular method of aromatherapy in regards to lavender, was to dry flowers and leaves of the lavender plant and then sew them into a pouch to be tucked under your pillow. Not only will you reap all the benefits of lavender aromatherapy, but it will help to restore restful sleep (and keep your bed smelling pretty!)

So the morning before we left for home, I got up early and trudged down the hill with some strips of silk (from our bag of booty gotten at the LA Fabric District) and started picking me my lavender. After a couple minutes I looked up to see my swoon-tastic stud muffin of a husband walking down the hill with a cup of hot coffee in his hand that he’d brought me. The cool morning air, the hot coffee, the wafting scent of lavender in the rising sun and my handsome husband with his tousled Thor hair really filled up my happy.

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Anyway, harvesting lavender is really simple. There’s not much to elaborate on. But here’s some basic tips:

1. Pick the flowers in the morning.

The best time to harvest your lavender is in the morning, preferably after the dew has dried but before the heat of the sun draws out too much of the essential oils.

2. Pluck with a few inches of growth still on the stem.

When you cut each blossom, be sure to leave a few inches of green growth on the plant. While you can use the leaves (they have a good portion of oil in them) be sure to leave some room for growth to replenish the bush with more buds. In general, lavender is like any other flowering plant – when they are deflowered, at the base of the stem a new flower will grow, giving you 3-6 effective harvests in a year.

3. Gather the lavender in bunches.

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When you have enough blossoms to fill your hand (about 1 ½ inches across at the base – any more than this runs the risk of your bouquet mildewing), then tie the bundle tightly at the stems. I collected one bundle with leaves intact, and one stripped of leaves so I could have more of the actual blooms. Now that you have your lavender bunch, it’s all ready for drying out! The bouquets I went home with were so simple and woodsy chic that I am confused as to why these little beauties aren’t used in weddings more often.

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4. Dry your lavender for about two weeks.

To dry the lavender, hang the bundle upside down in a dry, dark place. The darkness helps the lavender retain its color, and drying it upside down helps lavender retain its blossom shape.  You’ll know your lavender bundle is done when there is no moisture remaining on the stems in the very center of the bundle. Mine are still sitting over my bookshelf, waiting to be turned into Victorian potpourri satchets. I’ll be sure to blog about THAT process soon. 😉

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In the language of flowers, lavender means devotion, luck and happiness.

How to Make Traditional Japanese Onigiri (Rice Balls)

7 May

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Okay, as promised, here’s the how-to on the on the Bonito and Shiso Onigiri we made for Fresno Ani-Jam’s annual cosplay picnic at Woodward Park on Sunday. Above is the lovely cosplayer Neeka modeling one of our rice balls at the cosplay picnic. Check out her cosplay work, she’s amazing!

First off, onigiri, (the Japanese word for “rice ball”), is a popular food in Japan made from white rice formed into triangular, oval and sometimes fanciful shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed). Onigiri is a mainstay of Japanese bento boxes and a favorite quick meal in our household. These little flavored rice balls are made with sushi rice and stuffed with inexpensive furikake seasonings, or any leftover meats and veggies finely minced for filling. Onigiri really is the meatloaf of Japanese cuisine and is a creative way to makes use of leftovers!

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I stumbled upon onigiri when I fell madly in love with the series Fruits Basket, and have seen it in various animes and mangas since. In the Fruits Basket photo above, we actually own the original artwork watercolor background scenery used in the anime that we bought from a fine art dealer at Anime Expo years ago, and it’s currently hanging in our kitchen. So I get to look at the “original” Sohma family kitchen as I make onigiri with my handsome husband! (I’m a very spoiled nerd, I know.) Making onigiri started out as a geeky project, but now it really has become one of our favorite Japanese foods to make, and is always a guest and crowd pleaser.

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So here’s what you’ll need!

Rice

Rice Vinegar

Bonito filling and shiso furikake seasonings

Water

Nori

Onigiri form

1. Follow the directions for cooking the rice.

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The white rice you use should be a short grained Japanese-style rice so it sticks together easily. Long grained rice tends to be drier and won’t stick together as the recipe requires. We use Botan Calrose Rice which is found in the international food isles of most grocery stores. So! Cook the rice according to package directions. Once it’s done, lightly sprinkle the rice with rice vinegar while fluffing with a wooden rice paddle or fork.

2. Prepare the nori strips.

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There are multiple ways of wrapping nori on your onigiri, and all you have to do is check Pinterest or Google Images for some great ideas, but for the sake of expediency (c’mon, we made 5 freaking pounds of this stuff) we just went with the classic onigiri strip on the bottom, for easy gripping of the sticky rice balls. Nori, also found in the international aisle at your grocery store, usually comes in hand roll sized sheets. Use a pair of kitchen shears and cut the nori down to desired size. I usually make strips two finger widths across and as long as they need to be for the size of the onigiri mold you are using.

3. Get a small bowl of water handy for keeping your hands wet.

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Before handling the rice, wet your hands thoroughly. While it won’t prevent all the grains from sticking to your hands, it will at least keep your hands from becoming COATED in rice.

4. Make your onigiri in the mold.

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These little onigiri molds come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. You can find them in some oriental food markets, and you can most certainly find them for super cheap online. They’re fun, easy to use, and make some impressive looking dishes (versus using your hands for riceballs). We got our classic triangle shaped molds at Japan Town in downtown LA.

If you are going to make filled onigiri:

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The first batch we made was Bonito Filled Onigiri. While you can fill onigiri with anything, it’s easiest to just buy a jar of furikake – a Japanese condiment that is meant to be sprinkled on soups and rice and used in onigiri. For our filled rice balls, we used Bonito Furikake – basically sesame seeds, sugar, salt, nori shavings, and dried bonito flakes (a Japanese fish from the tuna family) seasoned with soy sauce flavorings. (It’s Jonathan’s favorite of all the furikake mixtures we’ve tried.)

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Scoop some rice into the mold till its about half full. Then make a deep crater in the rice ball, but don’t push to the point that your thumb slips to the other side. This is where your filling is going to go, so just deep enough to place things in.

Insert your fillings into the hole. Make sure that you don’t overfill it or it won’t hold together! Scoop some more rice over the hole so that all fillings are hidden. The place the lid of the mold on top, and press down firmly. If you press too lightly, the rice won’t stick together and will crumble as you eat it. Push your thumb into the mold bottom and your perfectly formed rice ball should pop right out!

For the unfilled onigiri:

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The second batch we made we used Shiso Furikake – which is a mixture of dried beefsteak plant, salt and sugar. For this rice ball, simply season the rice before shaping it into the mold. And when you make the onigiri, just fill the mold and press. Simple!

5. Wrap nori around your onigiri.

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Again, you can do whatever you want with the nori. Wrap it all around the outside. Wrap it up completely all mummy style. Give it a cute little face. Whatever. We decided to make little hand holds because we needed to mass produce these bad boys or risk running late for the picnic. (Which we did, by 20 minutes. Ugh.) I personally prefer the simple strip on the bottom, because the nori keeps your hands rice-free and keeps the rice ball in its shape, while not overwhelming the dish with too much of that seaweed flavor. The seaweed should stick to the rice with minimal pressure, since a combination of the moisture from the warm rice and the stickiness of the rice itself will make it stay put.

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Once they’re all ready, I like to dip mine in soy sauce or sprinkle them with teriyaki sauce when it comes to nom nom time. And that’s how you make onigiri! It’s fast, simple, and the possibilities and room for creativity are endless!

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower. Or, uh, How To Capture Sunrise Photos.

6 May

The nerd realm has been abuzz with word of how wonderful the Eta Aquarid meteor shower was gonna be this year. The offspring of Halley’s comet, originating from Aquarius the Water Bearer, was all set to peak in the dark hours before dawn this morning. What’s more, the thin waning crescent moon was supposed to guarantee a great show this year, allowing the ionized gas trails to show persistent trains for seconds after the meteors have passed.

Since I was too lazy to catch the Lyrids last month, I was all set. Not only would I watch this bad boy, I was going to get all fancy up in hyah and play around with some time-lapse photography. I spent most of my 5 hours of sleep dreaming about the gorgeous star trail photos I would catch in the darkness before dawn.

So 4:30am. Rolled out of bed. Woke up my cranky husband. Forced him to make us some coffee. Started gathering my camera equipment and prepping my settings. Headed outside and then……. IT WAS OVERCAST. No stars. No meteors. No lovely star trails. KAJHFDUIBST$@&^#!!!!!

Unable to go back to bed, we decided to make the most of things. We packed up our camera, our coffee and our golden retriever Thor and headed out to Freedom Park in Hanford to watch the sunrise and let our puppy get some energy out in the dog run. And! We captured some sunrise photos. So I figure, why not blog about that?

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Sunrise / sunset pictures are not really my forte and when it comes to photography, I am the least technical camera geek that I know. I love talking about capturing photos, but get self-conscious and irritated when people want to talk about cameras and equipment. I am like the country hick who knows how to make her fiddle sound gorgeous, but couldn’t read sheet music to save her life. Even so, I have picked up some tips and tricks along the way. If you’re looking to grab some pretty shots with minimal thinking and technical exertion (aka, if you’re lazy like me) then I’d like to share how I compose my sunrise pictures.

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Sunrise in Hanford, California. Captured with a Nikon D3S and 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens. Taken at 1/640 sec at f/13 and ISO 200.

1. Find a pretty sunrise / sunset. In my experience, the best sunrise / sunset images include clouds and an interesting(ish) foreground.

The clouds capture the growing (or fading) light of the sun and become drenched in wild and rich colors. Silhouettes act as focal points. They can be used as frames (as with the trees in my picture this morning at Freedom Park), or act as the foundation that draws the eyes up to the sunrise (like the mountain range in the Alaskan sunrise below). The great things about silhouettes is that they add mood and context to a shot. Without a silhouette to work with, it’s wise to follow the rule of thirds, (as with the Mexican sunset photo below). But remember, photography is kind of like piracy. It’s always much more interesting with rum, and the “rules” are more like guidelines. Do what makes you happy, and what seems beautiful to you.

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Sunrise in the Tracey Arm Fjord, Alaska. Captured with a Nikon D3S and 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens. Taken at 1/400 sec at f/10 and ISO 200.

2. I set my camera to Program Mode, so that the camera automatically calculates the shutter speed and aperture.

3. I set my ISO as low as possible, usually 200.

I usually don’t lug around a tripod with me, so I find the most stable surface I can and then take a few test shots. If light is so terribly low that I’m getting blurry shots with my balancing the camera on a rock or a fence or my husband, then I pick the ISO up a tad. Since sunrise / sunsets are usually best with creamy or smooth imagery, the lower the ISO – and the least noise in the image – the better.

4. I intentionally set the exposure to underexpose the image.

With the constantly changing light with sunrises / sunsets, it’s wise to shoot at a variety of exposures. In my experience, if I let my camera decide the exposure, I’m likely to get an overexposed shot that doesn’t really capture the beauty of the light. But I’ll usually experiment with various exposures to find the formula that “pops”. The key is to experiment.

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Sunrise in Progreso, Mexico. Captured with a Nikon D3S and 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens. Taken at 1/320 sec at f/9 and ISO 200.

5. It also helps to take the camera out of auto white balance mode.

When your camera is on auto white balance mode you run the risk of losing some of the warm golden tones of a sunrise or sunset. Instead try shooting in ‘cloudy’ or ‘shade’ which are usually used in cooler lights and tell your camera to warm things up a little.

6. Keep Shooting!

For every one photo I post, I have like, a trillion rejects. I’ve been scolded by fellow photographer friends for being so trigger finger happy, but I prefer to experiment and shoot to my little hearts content, rather than gruel away with a viewfinder and tripod to get “the shot”. Bumbling around with imagery is half the fun for me. Actually, it’s all the fun. Some of my best shots are really happy mistakes and misfires that I’ve come to treasure. So if your temperament matches mine, give these tips a try.