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Spring birthday gift with origami flowers

In april I wrote about getting reacquainted with origami. Remember I made some flowers to decorate a present?

Some of you asked how I did it and I decided to make a video… Let me tell you: that’s easier said than done! ;) But I’m going to present my 7-minute amateur film anyway, since this month’s mission for Hello Japan! is to create some origami. And who wouldn’t want to be eligible for that awesome prize consisting of kawaii origami paper and droll geisha bookmarks?

If you’re familiar with the art of paper folding, you may want to know that we’re starting of with a bird base (of which the well-known origami crane is created), folding it into a ‘small kite’.

And if you’re an origami newbie and I’m working too quick for you — or the video is too vague, knowing this will enable you to search for additonal instructibles on the web. ;) But try and watch this first!

I have also scanned the instructions I originally used myself. They’re in Dutch so I will redirect you to some English sources and roughly translate the part I couldn’t find online.

It’s best to choose some flamed origami paper for this flower.

  1. Start with a square base with the coloured side of your paper down.
  2. Continue to make a bird base.
  3. Follow the instructions accompanying the picture below.
Instructions for Origami flower
  • Hold your bird base in front of you with the open point downwards.
  • Fold the ‘wings’ down to make a small ‘kite’ shape.
  • Now unfold the whole figure!
  • Using the same creases, fold the coloured part inwards and flatten the paper. You’ll get a 33° pyramide shape; I guess you’ll really have to watch my video for this to understand.
  • Slightly open all four sides and curl the leaves outwards with a chopstick or pencil.
  • You’re done!

Have fun!

Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task relating to some aspect of life in Japan.


Bento #104, 02-06-2010

Left & right tier: asparagus on a bed of lettuce, boiled egg with cilantro and wasabi sesame, salt.
Middle tier: inarizushi, spicy Tao Kae Noi (crispy seaweed) and soy sauce.
On the side: milk chocolate with hazelnut.
Drinks (not shown): light Orangina with pulp, tab water.

Bento #104 came along on the 3rd stage of our long term hike through the green heart of Holland (Groene Hartpad).

Wlfr and I walked for 14 km from Zoetermeer to Hazerswoude. To get there we took autobus 206 along the N206, on Tuesday (0)206… We noticed this when we were still in the bus and we were ‘kind of’ relieved to ascertain that it was 13:36 and not 12:06 or 2:06. Not that we are superstitious or anything… ;) It just was REALLY weird. At first I even thought that the day’s bento for 2 (!) was #103… (you can do the math yourself). Fortunately I was mistaken; Betuwe Bento was my 103rd. Phew!

I was surprised to hear wlfr remark that the eggs looked so ‘even’, because I had been experimenting with a new way of boiling eggs. I guess it had passed the test! Freezing tofu puffs hadn’t though; that was no success and I won’t be doing it again.

Along the road in Zoetermeer

Anyway, we had great day with amazing weather and the hike was fabulous. Part of it had seemed monotonous looking at the map in advance, but it turned out to be a wonderful ‘mini survival track’ in a water bird reserve. And we wouldn’t let one killer curlew scare us away ;)

In the past I’ve referred to Maki’s tutorial on how to make a Japanese switchback cut. It’s really easy to do and looks great!

Cucumber in Japanese Switchback Cut

I also mentioned that my technique (originating from the book The Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carving) is a bit different: it does not leave any leftovers. As promised: here’s my own ‘instructible’! I’ll be thorough, so bear with me ;)

First: the chigai-giri, or ‘opposing cut’, as it is also called, can be best performed on fruits or vegetables with a skin that clearly contrasts the inside. I do use it on gherkins, but it’s much fancier on bananas and cucumber!

Are you ready? Here we go!

So, you’ll need a straight piece of your fruit or vegetable and a sharp knife. Preferably one with a blade that cuts on both sides, but I do not own any.

You’re going to cut your knife through the center of the cucumber, about 1 cm from the end. Note that the sharp side of my knife is on the right.

Cut right-angled, all the way through the center of the veggie, staying 1 cm from the side. In the picture it looks as if my cut went awry but it didn’t! And it wouldn’t really matter that much either ;)

Now, pull the knife out again and turn so that the sharp side is on the left. If you’ve got a double-sided blade you can skip this step.

Put the knife back in at the point where you just pulled it out and slice it all the way to the left — but stop at about 1 cm from the side again.

Pull out your knife and put it crosswise on the cucumber. Have the point of your knife approx. where your cut ends at 1 cm from the side and hold it askew to make a line ending about 1 cm from the other side.

Now cut carefully to the middle of the cucumber: just to the slice you made in the first steps. Do NOT cut all the way through!

Turn the vegetable upside down. Of course I usually pull out my knife first but I wanted to show you that I really only sliced halfway through.

Now do exactly the same as in step 3. So point your knife in the same direction as you did before and cut to the core of your cuke.

TADAAH! You can easily pull both parts aside.

I know I used a lot of pictures to show you how to make an opposing cut, but it really is easy peasy! Just try it!

I’d like to point out that my cuke is organic. I was told once by a nutritionist that cucumber is a vegetable collecting so much pesticides directly under its skin, it’s not healthy to eat without peeling it first. Mind you, that was a long long time ago ;)

Why don’t you join Beth Fish’s weekend cooking with a food-related post?

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

Meet bento #95, my Lente Bento! Lente is Dutch for springtime.
So, does it look like a Spring Bento to you?

Lente Bento (Spring Bento) #95
Mr Gnoe and I shared this snack box yesterday on our hike in the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen (dune area near Amsterdam designated for water winning). I couldn’t see the North Sea, but I did hear & smell it! :)

Contents of the top tier: cinnamon bunny biscuits (with a white chocolate layer) in an alfalfa ‘hay’ nest with capers and chives ‘grass’ in front of some SPRING onion crackers. The cookies came from elm@’s surprise packet! The alfalfa sprouts stand for seedlings and the onion biscuits depict early spring sun and blossom at the same time :) Added is a cup of homemade blue cheese dressing. And… in Holland springtime is heralded by tulips, hence the apricot & basil tulips on the right :)

Kawaii usagi thermosBottom tier: blossom onigiri with avocado-wasabi filling (soy fishie hiding). The yellow sushi rice was coloured with saffron. The other flower is supposed to be pink(ish) but the beetroot didn’t dye as well as I thought it would. Next time I’ll check out some instructibles first ;) The garden cress (more young plant life), parsley and edamame are chosen for their bright green colour; the beans sprinkled with some FairTrade African Peper spices. And next to it you find a usagi RINGO (うさぎりんご) a.k.a. apple rabbit. ‘Ringo’ in capitals because it is the name of our cute tomcat :)

On the side we brought some Shincha (first flush sencha) tea in my cute new thermos. Remember what freshly cut grass smells like? Shincha tastes like that!

I’m submitting this bento in the 2010 Spring Contest on Justbento (ending today) and hapa bento’s April B.O.M.B. Challenge which is all about bunnies (open until April 10th). Usagi are true springtime animals and we had hoped to see some live ones on our hike yesterday — but we didn’t. No matter, because we saw lots of deer! 50 at least..! (Mr Gnoe says a hundred but I think he’s exaggerating ;)

Deer grazing near water

Cherry tomatoes, too old to eat

Oooooops, I forgot to EAT these cherry tomatoes… Can’t throw them away though — let’s make some fresh tomato paste!

Making tomato paste in 4 steps, under 10 minutes

Cooked in a little bit of boiling water for a few minutes with an additional tomato, black pepper, salt, one-third of a basil herb cube (crumbled) and a pinch of sundried tomato and basil mix from FairTrade. For sieving I like to use a saucepan so I can hold both handles in one hand, locking pan and sieve together. Oh, and don’t forget to wear an apron! ;)

Fresh tomato paste made cherry tomatoes

And here’s the end result, to which I added a little boiling water in order to completely clean out my saucepan ;) Reheat to thicken if necessary. All done in less than 10 minutes!

Weekend cooking logoOf course there are many ‘optionals’ as well: you can add Herbs de Provence, onion, garlic, smoked paprika etc. And the options for using your fresh tomato paste are endless!

Photo set of the making proces on Flickr.
Dutch post on the Kookgrrls’ weblog.

Why don’t you join in the Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads as well?

I still have to wait a few months before it’s that time again.

Tomato season, I mean.

That’s hard, because I’m already craving some freshly made tomato soup!

So I guess it’s time for my all-time favourite recipe; tomato soup au natural, the way my mom used to make it. “But why post it now?” you ask — quite justly…Well, because I’ve had a request from one of the Kookgrrls, a Dutch mailinglist for women who like to cook.

Needed (serves 4)


  • 1 shallot (skinned and chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (skinned)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 650 gr tomatoes (skinned, cores removed and chopped roughly; you may choose to remove the seeds with the core but I like the tanginess it adds to the soup)
  • 500 ml vegetable stock (or boiled water and 1 cube of vegetable stock separately)
  • small can of pureed tomato
  • salt + pepper
  • optional: sugar
  • optional: fresh basil


  • Sauté onion and crushed garlic for about half a minute in heated olive oil.
  • Add tomatoes, let cook for two more minutes.
  • Add vegetable stock (or hot water and crumbled vegetable stock cube), bring to a boil (stir), cover and let simmer for approx. 20 minutes.
  • Use food processor or blender to smoothen.
  • Optional: use a sieve to sift the seeds out of the soup. I never do.
  • Add tomato puree to taste.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • If you’re a sweet tooth you can add some sugar.
  • Reheat.

I’ve assumed you know how to peel tomatoes. There are several ways to do it, but this howto on GoodFood explains the simple technique I use. I leave them for up to 1 minute in the water, no more. Mr Gnoe doesn’t skin the tomatoes beforehand btw… He takes out the green hearts, chops them roughly and cooks the whole lot. Then, instead of using a blender, he works the fruit mass manually through a sieve. Way too hard work for me, I’m lazy ;)

You can use some freshly cut basil as garnish. And here’s another one of Gnoe’s tips (I hope I haven’t told you before): do NOT cut your basil leaves with a knife or scissors but tear them apart with your hands. This way their essential flavours will come out best.

Weekend Cooking buttonI like to make many batches of tomato soup at the same time and freeze ‘em :) Of course they’ve all long gone by now…

With this post I’m joining in the Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.

Once I have finally made some fresh tomato soup again I’ll take a picture to pimp this post. Please let me know if you want me to add a Dutch translation as well?

Friday bento’s are allowed to contain something extra. That’s just a personal rule ;) Otherwise I might be tempted to buy a bag of potato chips (or something of the kind) at the railway station on my way back home :-o The weekend starts on Friday after work, you see :)

Plenty Bento #91

So what nice foodies did I bring this time? Clockwise: grapefruit juice, fishy with FairTrade balsamico-mango splash for dressing and roasted nuts as salad topping, dried red fruit (cranberries & strawberries), corn salad, egg tortilla with onion, corn kernels and root parsley, celery leaf on top. More stewed pears, more switchback cut practice (on cucumber; looks better than the gherkin, doesn’t it?), raddichio, celery and goat’s cheese sprinkled with dried basil.

If you think this bento is lacking carbohydrates.. you’re absolutely right ;) But I had two sandwiches on the side that were too dull to photograph ;)

As I mentioned in my post about Earth Bento I learned the traditional cut called chigai-giri from Hiroshi Nagashima’s book The Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carving, which I allowed myself to buy because of the November Hello Japan! mission. But… you can all start practicing today! Just go over to JustBento (my favourite) for Maki’s tutorial and have fun :)

Mind you, she does say:

There’s more than one way to do this cut,

And that’s true. The technique shown in my new book is so ingenious there aren’t any leftover pieces! :)) Maybe I’ll share that with you some other time. [How-to posted]

CSA (& organic): corn salad, parsley, root parsley, pears, raddichio.
Organic: egg, cucmber, cranberries, onion.

I didn’t have time before to update you on this week’s bento #86: Gringo Bento. Called that way because of the Mexican foodies :) Although the American Heritage Dictionary classifies gringo as ‘offensive slang’, it has a positive ring for me because it sounds like the name of my gorgeous tomcat Ringo :)

Gringo Bento #86

Don’t you love the (organic) blue maize tortilla chips?! This must be a very healthy bento because I even exceeded the five colour rule ;) How many tints do you count?

The tier on the left contains corn cob, a slice of zucchini, parsley, homemade salsa picante (recipe below), a piece of carrot and something I call an avocado gringo, because it’s neither a quesadilla nor a burrito since it hasn’t been baked or grilled afterwards like the first, nor wrapped liked the latter. It consists of four layers of multigrain wheat tortilla with guacamole, salsa, lettuce and cheese in between.

As you can see I brought some red grapefruit in another side container. The bento box tier on the right contains pepitas (popped pumpkin seeds), sour cream for the bean dish, dried strawberries as a sweet, a mix of corn salad and plain lettuce and frijoles (kidney beans) with red bell pepper, corn, onion and zucchini.

It was yummy :)

CSA (and organic): lettuce, corn salad, corn, parsley, carrot.
Organic: wheat tortilla’s, tortilla corn chips, onion.

Salsa picante

Making salsa picante is really easy!


  • 4 tomatoes without skin & hearts, roughly cut (look at Gnoe’s tip!)
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and roughly cut
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded (or sambal, chili sauce or tabasco to taste)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 4 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and shred until smooth — or almost smooth. Et voilá!

If you don’t have a blender just cut the ingredients with a knife. This recipe is so flexible! You can use leftover tomatoes that have gotten overripe, or you could replace them by canned tomatoes, pureed etc. Instead of ketchup you can also take some tomato paste and add a bit of sugar or honey for sweetness. There’s almost no excuse not to make this salsa!

Last but not least, here’s Gnoe’s tip to undress tomatoes ;) The easiest way to peel tomatoes is to immerse them in boiling water for 1 minute after cross-cutting the skin. Drain, and immerse in cold water for about 5 seconds (or hold under the cold tab). The skin comes right off!

Recipe courtesy of Eethuis Iris

The last of my new furoshikis arrived this weekend: a cool blue & white dragon-fly design. I think it fits summer as well as winter :) I couldn’t say it better than Rusillio who tweeted:

i like the natural theme of the pattern, delicate but lively

The orizuru (crane) was made by my mother-in-law; I haven’t done any origami myself in a long, LONG time ;) But that might change in the near future when I’ll try this edible origami crane! Great bento dish :) But I guess I’ll need to practise first! ;)

YAY! Gimme a lunch break like today a n y t i m e ! :)


Call me weird but after peeling off the first layer of packaging, I left the promising boxes unopened for about 15 minutes ;)

I’ve been crazy about furoshiki’s ever since I heard of their existence. At the time that was not related to bento at all but to giving presents — hey I love gift wrapping, beautiful textiles and paper as well! Not forgetting traditions and preservation ;)

Up until now I only had 2 small furoshiki’s fitting my bento’s: 1 spring, 1 autumn. Having just that pair made me extra careful with them :\ So… now I’ve got some new Japanese wrapping cloths to play with! :)

Most bento-ers know where to find the instructable for furoshiki wrapping techniques, but for those who don’t: go to the Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan! Yes, really.

My new treasures are designed by two different artists: Ichiro Tsuruta and Sybilla. Are you tempted to see my furoshiki’s unpacked? You might soon!

*** Real fans of Japanese presents and avid readers might also like Joy Hendry’s study of Wrapping Culture on Google books! Not just about furoshiki but the whole world of gift giving :) ***

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


Currently grazing

Challenge logo

Gnoe herding...