Grandma’s Recipes

Growing up with my Bacha

The Chef's Table - Zazios Birmingham

The Chef’s Table – Zazios Birmingham

It is easy to get caught up in everyday life. We don’t get or take enough chances to do something different or “stray away from the pack”.  About a month ago, I was given the chance to do exactly that. Trust me, I will always love flipping steaks and grilling asparagus, but now it’s time to get out the wok. I have the privilege of cooking at the Chef’s Table in Zazios on January 24th. My chef Jud McMichael and I will be serving a five course Asian inspired dinner.

Aside from Jud’s strong love for Asian fare, Japanese food was part of my childhood. I was the kid who taught my kindergarten class how to use chop sticks for show and tell. The same one who had a rice cooker in his dorm room. My grandmother, Shuko Kuwahara, was born in the beautiful city of Nara, the capital to the Kensai region of Japan. She met my grandfather, Richard Philips, during the Korean War while working as a translator at the military base where he was stationed. An American M.P. was hassling Shuko one day, and my grandfather, a robust and kind man, came to the rescue. They were married shortly after and she moved to the states in 1951. They raised two laudable children and influenced all four of their grandchildren heavily.

My Bacha and Mother

My Bacha and Mother

I will never forget the meals she cooked for us. The captivating smell as you approached their house. The sound of her washing her hands in the kitchen sink as we walked in the front door. The feeling of her small and welcoming arms in the greeting that followed. She was an artist for occupation and that didn’t change in the kitchen. She cooked with such finesse; washing her rice meticulously and chilling the spinach in such a specific way, her delicate hands flipping teppanyaki with chop sticks or drying tempura over paper towel. Delicious inari sushi was a staple along with small Japanese donuts, regardless of the fastidious process to make them. She advanced her grandchildren’s palettes at a young age. More so, she taught us to appreciate dining together around a table of beautiful food as a family, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Inari Sushi

Inari Sushi

As a cook now, I look back and regret the things I didn’t learn from her. It couldn’t be more true that “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. She was a culinary mecca, filled with advanced knowledge of process and an understanding of food that I may never reach.  All I physically have are some simple recipes, most of which are in Japanese, but more importantly, I have vivid memories. I’m going to recreate some of her classic dishes as well as debut a few of my own, but all deriving from the flavors entrenched in those memories. Come dine with us later this month, and taste a piece of inspiration that Shuko left behind.

 Nathan Shaw
Lead Line Cook


Kids and Christmas Cookies

It is that time of year again.  Time for shopping til you drop, cooking til you drop, putting up with family until you pull all of your hair out (like mine), and SNOW!  Well, if we’re lucky, this is Michigan after all.  More than all of that, it is time for the beloved Christmas cookie bake off.cookies 013

Ever since I can remember this was my favorite part about the Holidays, except the presents of course.  I loved being in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother baking cookies and cakes.  From what I remember, baking with my mom was always so easy going, and there never seemed to be any problems.  Man, was I wrong.  You never realize how much of a marathon it is to bake with children until you have your own.  Now I know the abuse I put my mother through.  When I was young it was just me, so now that my fiancé (Bryn) and I have two less than two years apart, I feel that fate is playing tricks on us.  Not only are there two of them, they seem to work with each other as partners to distract us in one direction while they are robbing us in another.  Little fingers are in everything; frosting, dough, butter, eggs, and then all of the sudden there is a dust cloud of flour hovering in the kitchen.  It’s as if little Pillsbury ninjas dropped smoke bombs and escaped with a cookie from the batch fresh out of the oven.  I may be exaggerating a little, but not by much.cookies 003

O.k. all jokes aside, as I said before baking in the kitchen with mom and grandma was one of my favorite times as a child growing up.  Now Bryn and I get to share that with our two wonderful children, Claira 3, and Joey 1.  It brings me back to when I was younger.  It gets me more excited now that I get to share these traditions with my very own.  What’s better is that they get excited about it.  Every time I’m at home in the kitchen chopping, sautéing, baking, roasting or whatever, they are right there next to me, step stool in hand, trying to see on top of the counter, stove or peeking into the oven.  Now when something is in the oven, it is standard protocol to have the oven light on at all times so they can see.  The ooohs and ahhhs that come out of their mouths send chills up my spine every time.  There is nothing better as a parent to share what you love to do in life with your children, and they love it just as much.cookies 2 011

So this holiday season we are back in the kitchen armed with parchment paper and our favorite sheet trays.  We tend to stay pretty classic with sugar cookies, which aren’t my favorite, but they are a great cookie for the kids to get involved with.  The recipe is simple and the little ones feel like they are really doing something special when they get to roll, cut, frost and sprinkle the cookies.  Another cookie classic for me is the cornflake no bake.  This is not a glorious cookie by any means, and not really a Christmas cookie by tradition, but when I was growing up this was the cookie that meant the holidays were near.  On top of that they are totally addicting.  I can’t keep my hands off of them and neither can my little ninjas.  They seem to disappear without anyone knowing. (The cookies and the kids)cookies 2 021

We get excited every year when this time comes around.  Now it’s all about the kids and the sacrifices you make for them.  To see them light up when they realize what Christmas is has no comparison to anything else in the world.  Their happiness means everything to us.  It has been a true blessing to start our own family traditions in the kitchen.  There is nothing that makes me more proud than their little smiling faces in the most used room in the house.  I encourage everyone to take as much time with your little ninjas as much as you can.  Even though my kids are so little, I realize how fast time goes.  I want them to grow and pass on these traditions that we have with them to their own families.  Every minute you have with them counts, don’t waste it.cookies 005

As I wrap this up I would like to take the time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  I’m sure you can tell that this time of the year means a lot to me, from my past to my future.  I would like to leave you with a little gift as well, so following this are the two recipes that I talked about.  Let the bake off begin!  Happy Holidays to you and all the little ninjas.Cookies


Cornflake no bake:

¾ C   corn syrup

1 C granulated sugar

12 oz. Peanut butter

6 C. Corn flakes

Method:  In a large stock pot melt, on medium low, the corn syrup and sugar until dissolved.  Stir in the peanut butter until mixture is combined.  Last stir in the cornflakes and coat them evenly with the mixture.  Layout a piece of parchment and using a spoon drop small mounds of the cornflake mixture onto the parchment and allow to set.cookies 030


Sugar cookie:

1 C. butter

1 C. granulated sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

1.5 tsp. baking powder

.5 tsp. salt

.25 tsp. nutmeg

3 C. flour

Method:  In a mixer cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add in the vanilla and egg and combine.  Add all dry ingredients until well combined.  Remove from mixer and place on a layer on plastic wrap.  Shape into a rectangular loaf, wrap and refrigerate for one hour.  Lay the dough onto a piece of parchment the size of your baking tray and roll to a thickness of ¼ inch.  Cut out your shapes on the parchment and remove excess dough from the cutouts and repeat.  Transfer parchment to the baking tray and bake for 6 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool before icing.


Royal icing:

3 large egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla

4 C. powder sugar

Method:  Whip egg whites until frothy add vanilla and sugar a little at a time.  Whip in low until icing gets a sheen.  Continue to whip on high until stiff peaks form.


Joe Pearson
Lead Line Cook

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