hi there!

I’m Mari.
On Marivelous Me! you’ll find recipes, food gifts, food I’ve traveled for and food solutions. Poke around, maybe you’ll find inspiration for something you’re working on. Enjoy! 


Guide to the Foreign Japanese Kitchen

When my mom moved to the US from Japan (some 40+ years ago), she figured out how to make traditional Japanese dishes in an American kitchen by experimenting with different ingredients to quasi-replicate tastes of home. It wasn’t like you could find edamame or miso paste in your local grocery store back then. She teaches cooking to Japanese women so all of her recipes are written in Japanese, which I can’t read. Happily, whenever I ask for a recipe, she sends them to me loosely translated into English.

Guide to the Foreign Japanese Kitchen by Moé Takemura is what I think my mom wishes she and I would do together: Her recipes, my compilation. This book is a similar story of homesickness; Ms. Takemura was attending grad school in Sweden and yearned for some comfort foods. She experimented with Swedish ingredients, trying to find the closest approximation to ones she would use in Japan. The recipes are translated into Swedish, English and Japanese. Maybe one day I’ll have enough of my mom’s recipes to make a simple book for our family because like most recipes, the ones from moms are the best - and my mom can cook!

(Thanks for the news bite, Amy! Images via Guide to the Foreign Japanese Kitchen)


A Candied Citrus Flower aka A Wacky Project

I admit it; some of my ideas fall on the wacky side. I’ll fixate on a concept, get really really excited about it and make it - jumping in with both feet instead of baby stepping it and doing a trial run. Sometimes I’m super happy and proud of the results. Other times, I’m surprised and a little frustrated that it didn’t work.

Being surrounded by fresh citrus, I had this idea of making a candied citrus flower using different sized fruits to create concentric petal rings. Instead of cutting the peel into individual strips, I’d just cut the peel into thin segments, keeping all the strips attached at the base and then shape/dry the candied fruit on inverted bowls. How long could it take? Meh, 3 hours - tops! It didn’t even cross my mind that it wouldn’t work.

By cutting the petals close to the base, the connection was very narrow. I thought this would net a much more realistic flower. What I didn’t realize was the weight of the simple syrup combined with the fragility of that thin connector would be enough to tear a petal off. Once a petal’s missing, the flower looks broken and wrong. To salvage this project that took not three hours but three days, I just tore all the petals off the lemon, orange, grapefruit, and pomelo flowers and tossed them in sugar. The limes and kumquats remained intact enough to make a mini flower (check back for the follow up to this idea).

The wacky project may not have turned out exactly how I intended but all the candied peels were still tasty. AND, not only do I have fresh squeezed juice in the freezer but I have lots of delicious simple syrups at the ready to make a lightly flavored homemade soda, to drizzle over some fruit or add into a cocktail. I’d say this project was a roaring success. 

If you plan on making more than one fruit flavor, cook them separately to keep the flavors clean. The below recipe is for just one fruit but since it takes a bit of effort, I’d make at least 2 grapefruits, 3 oranges or 4 lemons at a time.

Citrus fruit of your choosing
1-cup sugar plus additional for coating
Cold water

Cut the rind into eight segments, from pole to pole. Carefully peel the rind off. Save the fruit for a different use. Cut the peel segments into thinner pieces, each piece being no more than a quarter-inch wide. Put them in a small pot and cover the pieces in cold water by one inch. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for ten minutes. Drain the water and repeat this step two more times. Drain well.

To candy the peel, you’ll need one cup of water per cup of sugar. You’ll want to cover the peel by half an inch so add a cup of cold water at a time until covered. Add the same number of cups of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil; do not stir but wash down the sides of the pot with a clean brush dipped in water a few times to ensure there are no sugar crystals sticking to the sides. Lower the heat to medium low and cook for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for 8-12 hours or overnight, covered with a cloth. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and cook for an additional 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a wire rack on the counter with enough waxed paper beneath it to catch any potential drips. Carefully strain a few pieces at a time; place on wire rack, pith side down, keeping them spaced apart. Let dry for 8 hours.

Pour some sugar to a small bowl. Add a few pieces of candied peel at a time to the bowl and toss to coat. Tamp the excess sugar off. Store the candied peel in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Strain the sugar syrup to remove any stray bits of peel. Store in the fridge. It should be used within one month. Enjoy #2!

Gilding the lily: Dip one end of the candied peel in melted dark chocolate and place in fridge for 10-15 minutes to firm up.

Really gilding the lily: Finely chop some pistachio nuts. After dipping the peel in chocolate, dip it in the chopped pistachios. Chill in fridge for 10-15 minutes or for as long as you can wait. 


Bottle Filling Water Fountains? Yes, please!

The only time I think about water fountains is when I’m at an airport. I can’t stand how much bottled water costs at airports (captured audiences shouldn’t be raked over the coals) but water fountains seem very ooky to me. You don’t know whose mouth or cold germs have been near or on that water shield. Blech. And trying to fill a water bottle with a bubbling, sometimes dribbling stream is ridiculous too. I guess the water fountain companies have been thinking about it too.

This Elkay Manufacturing water fountain is designed for traditional water drinking as well as an option to fill bottles. There’s also a digital ticker up top to show the bottle filling user how many bottles have been refilled, making everyone not only more hydrated but feeling good about how they're helping to keep bottles out of landfills the process at the same time.

I have yet to come across one of these newfangled fountains but hopefully a few will be coming to LAX soon.

(News bite via The Wall Street Journal)


Muffins Café and Their Legendary Tuna Sandwich

muffins cafe tuna sandwichThe two months leading up to leaving NYC was filled with eating at restaurants that we (honestly I) needed to go to before leaving. Mr. Mari just followed my lead, leaving the decision making up to me. During the final few days of tying up loose ends (we were furniture less at this point), we stayed on the Upper West Side at our friends’. Mr. Mari spoke up. He had a place he wanted to visit one last time.

Mr. Mari had a client on the Upper West Side and every time he’d visit this office, he’d stop at The Muffins Café for lunch and order the same thing: a tuna sandwich and lemon pound cake.

This sandwich has presented one of the only food kerfuffles we’ve ever had since without realizing his “error”, he once said to someone, “It’s my FAVORITE tuna sandwich. Ever.” I make tuna salad OFTEN for us so you can see why I might have been irked. Needless to say, I’ve had this legendary sandwich and it is tasty. The best, maybe not, but it is damn good.

We figured out that what makes this sandwich so amazing to Mr. Mari is the addition of dill, which I rarely use. So now I put dill in my tuna salad. And although we now joke about his favorite tuna sandwich, my competitive streak will always make me hungry to hold the title for Mr. Mari's Favorite Tuna Sandwich. Ever.


Easter Treats

As a quick Easter gift for some people here in LA (my neighbors, landlord and cat sitter), I made some treat bags filled with homemade candied peel. Using a tall, flat-bottomed bag, the candied peels are loosely layered in flavor: pomelo on the bottom, grapefruit then Sumo orange. The top was folded forward and then closed with a little mt washi paper tape. The gift tag was attached later. Done. Easy peasy.


Happy Easter!

We’re heading to Florida for an Easter extravaganza at Mr. Mari’s parents’ home. Not only are the immediate family members joining us but so are Mr. Mari’s aunt, her children with their spouses and kids, my sister and her daughter, as well as our friends Sandy/Bob and their kids. All in, we’ll be 28-strong for Easter brunch. Now that’s a party!

Happy Easter, Everyone! See you back here on Monday!

(Image: Me! in West Hollywood)


Tip: Rolling Pie Dough

I admit, I’m horrible at rolling out pie dough, just horrible at it. I sprinkle flour on the counter, roll roll roll and when I go to turn or transfer it to its pie plate, the center has inevitably stuck to the counter. Which means, I need to gather it all up, chill it (again) and roll it out (again).

Well no more of that nonsense. Now, I use two large (clean) plastic produce bags just for this purpose. Slit open one side edge and the bottom edge with a pair of scissors or knife, open it up, drop your dough in the center of it and top it with another slit opened plastic bag. You don’t have to flour the sheets either because it will peel right off the film. Now, you can roll roll roll to your heart’s content. And, finally - if I haven’t sold you on this already - the sheets make transferring the rolled dough to the fridge for one last chill and then onto the pie plate easier too. Just don't forget to remove a layer of plastic before flipping it onto the plate. No one likes Plastic Pie.


Rose Bowl Flea Market

After the fifth (and definitely not the last) trip to IKEA we took to furnish our home, we thought it would be important to mix in a few other pieces, so our home wouldn’t look like the ‘Hey, look what you can do in 800sf!’ display showroom at IKEA. Someone told us there was a flea market at the Rose Bowl. This sounded like the perfect antidote to our pressboard-furnished home!

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