About Bert Tanimoto

Oldish father of two youngish kids. Zojirushi enthusiast and professional writer. California resident with roots in Hawaii and Japan. Classic rock, popcorn movies, audio books, spam, sushi and cone filtered coffee. Guilty pleasures include donuts and pop bands like ABBA and Wham!.

Bert-san’s Take—Zojirushi Toaster Oven

What can you do in a Toaster Oven? I thought about avocado toast, but that sounded too easy. On the other hand, I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew, you know what I mean? So I decided to try a homemade pop tart because there were lots of recipes online…and I like pop tarts!

First thing I found out was that I didn’t have to make my own pie crust because—who knew? They sell ready made crust at the supermarket! Jeez, I had no idea, honestly.


But I still had to roll out the dough…


…and lay it out as best as I could on the baking pan. (See what I did there with the parchment paper to prevent sticking?)


Then I spread the jam. I used a mango passion fruit jam instead of strawberry because I wanted it tart and not too sweet.


I placed another square of pie crust over the jam and poked holes in it to let steam out, according to the recipe. The edges were sealed with grooves made with a fork. It’s lookin’ good!


Then it goes into my Zojirushi Toaster Oven and bakes for 20 minutes or so at 375°F.


So then the recipe says to make your icing while I’m waiting for my pop tart to bake—so I did! Pretty simple; it’s just powdered sugar and water.


Ding!! Looks all golden brown and everything! I see how there’s a hot spot in the back, but it’s not that bad.


My finished pop tart won’t win any beauty prizes, but it tasted pretty good! The choice of the passion fruit jam was spot on, but my icing didn’t spread well because I made it too thick (lesson learned).

What else can you do with a Toaster Oven? How about roasting chestnuts?

Just pierce the shell with little “X” marks with a knife, add a little water to the pan, and pop them in for like 35 minutes at 425°F.


Ta-dah!

Overall my Zojirushi Toaster Oven ET-WMC22 performed very well. The size is very compact, so it’s perfect for a single person or a small family like ours. The included baking pan is heavy duty and not flimsy, so that’s a bonus. And the automatic pull-out rack made it easy to load and remove my pop tart.

 

 

Images by Bert Tanimoto

 

 

 

 

Bert-san’s Take—Zojirushi Breadmaker

Who knew I could actually bake? And that my Rainbow Bread could look so beautiful? I mean, I cannot believe I did this just by following instructions (which I’m really good at) and literally pushing a button. BUT…I’m taking credit where credit is due; even though this crazy amazing breadmaker by Zojirushi does all the heavy lifting, I did have to make the rainbow part, and it wasn’t easy.

Indeed, the trickiest part of baking with the breadmaker might very well be reading the manual. It’s written out pretty well, but for a novice like me, I read and re-read it so I wouldn’t screw up, and I still managed to stumble on a few steps. I baked with the Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro® (BB-SSC10), which is perfect for us because it’s compact and bakes a 1-lb. loaf; we can’t eat that much in a span of 3-days anyway.

The first thing I did was line up all my ingredients for a simple, basic white bread—flour, dried milk, sugar, salt, unsalted butter, dry yeast and water. Then I studied:

After carefully measuring all the ingredients, I started to load the baking pan, and promptly forgot to add the yeast last so it wouldn’t get wet. This is what it’s supposed to look like (my second try), with the water underneath all those dry ingredients, and the yeast sitting on top.

Then the breadmaker does the rest—which is great if you’re baking plain white bread, but I was planning Rainbow Bread, so I was supposed to interrupt the cycle to add food coloring to the dough. My second mistake—I set the cycle wrong so I had to let it go and settle for plain white bread this first time around. Oh well, I needed a test run anyway!

The unveiling of the finished loaf! So exciting! And it smelled soooo good!

Not bad for a first try. The golden color was great, and it didn’t collapse on me—LOL! And by the way, the fresh bread tasted like…homemade bread! Moist and warm. If you decide to keep it for a few days, I’d recommend toasting it by the 3rd day. Trust me, you’ll still love it.

Here’s how I did my Rainbow Bread. The Breadmaker has a homemade setting, which allows you to take out the dough after it’s been kneaded and before it bakes. This gives you some time to do whatever you want to the dough—like add extra ingredients, or in my case, add food coloring. The dough is very sticky, but if you have enough flour on your hands, it’s manageable.

Then you flatten it, stack it, and roll it up!

After you reload it into the Breadmaker, the cycle starts up again, and the machine does the rest. The longest wait time is by far this part—the dough sits and rests to give it time to rise, and then finally bakes. The total from start to end was about 3-1/2 hours (not including the coloring part). But doesn’t it look amazing? Like a sculpture, if I do say so myself!

I have to admit this was a lot of fun and was an awesome weekend family activity. I can’t wait to try the other breads on the menu, like European and the Cinnamon bread; my family wants to do more Rainbow bread in pastel colors!

 

 

Images by Bert Tanimoto and @ironchefmom

 

 

 

 

Happy Fall!

Seems like no matter how many polls you listen to, people have a different season of the year that they like best. Spring and Fall lead the others usually, probably because the weather is milder—and Fall fans are really into it because Halloween is so popular. These pumpkins look scary enough for Halloween, don’t they?

I took a couple of Zojirushi Stainless Mugs with me this month and took some random shots—hope you like them!

This is a local park near our house called Los Arboles, more popularly known as Rocketship Park. There are only a handful of these rocketship slides left in SoCal, mainly because cities are constantly in fear of being sued by parents whose children might get injured. Geez! What happened to kids being allowed to play like kids? Torrance tried to take this one down in the middle of the night, but residents protested so strongly, they were forced to set it up again; and today it’s a historic landmark. I’ve heard there’s another one somewhere in L.A. county, but they decided to cover it up with steel plates to prevent anyone from climbing in. Sheesh…I’m so glad ours is still standing.

 

My gym where I’ve actually kept up my New Year’s resolution to this day!

I’m such a wimp tho…

 

The reason getting in shape is hard—I’ve already confessed I have a weakness for donuts. These apple fritters are AMAZING from Randy’s Donuts®. Highly recommended.

The iconic donut sign outside. It’s been in so many movies and TV shows, the big donut is an L.A. icon. Randy’s is open 24/7 and the fritter is only $1.50; I’d say that’s pretty reasonable!

 

This is the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. We love coming out here on a weekend, to people watch, enjoy the street musicians and shop at one of the best outdoor malls in Los Angeles. My only complaint is the lack of independent specialty stores, which are becoming more rare everyday, being taken over by the big chain retailers. But that’s everywhere you go, right?

Cool dinosaur topiary sitting under colorful polka dots.

 

Slurp! Ready to dig into an icy shaved ice dessert, flavored with mango ice and melon balls—served in a melon bowl! This was every bit as good as it looks. Cheers to Oakobing down in Koreatown, L.A.

 

Pumpkin season has officially begun! But before you order your pumpkin spice latte, go visit a pumpkin patch—a real pumpkin patch. This is Tanaka Farms, a working farm in Irvine, CA located right off the freeway. It’s been years since I visited this place, and the last time was during strawberry season. I was surprised at how busy it’s gotten—with an expanded gift store, produce stand and farm tours; but they still haven’t lost their identity as a farm that serves the local community.

Tanaka Farms is privately owned by a 3rd generation Japanese-American family. It covers 30 acres and they grow over 60 varieties of fruits and vegetables year ‘round. Thank you Tanaka family, for keeping your amazing farm going so all of us can visit an authentic farm so conveniently close!

Happy October everyone!

All images by Bert Tanimoto, Ugly Pumpkins by @ironchefmom

 

 

 

Bert-san’s Take—My Zojirushi Lunch Jar

It’s National Bento Month again! And even though I bring my lunch to work every day anyway, I thought I’d give the Zojirushi Lunch Jar a spin, to see how it really works. Hey, let’s all get behind this great holiday and get some momentum going. We’re supposed to be evolving from the brown paper bag, remember??

Actually, what inspired me to try the Lunch Jar out was the really, really good beef stew that we had the night before. I wanted to bring it for work, so what better way than to keep it hot enough to enjoy at my desk? But that wasn’t all that I was interested in—I wondered how easy it would be to pack everything in the first place, and after I was done, how easy it would be to clean.

I used the largest container for my stew and packed as much rice as I could into the bottom soup bowl. Then my biggest challenge was coming up with what else I wanted to bring to fill up the other 2 containers. Here’s a Zojirushi tutorial on how to use their Lunch Jar:

BTW, did I mention that in Hawaii, we always eat our beef stew with rice? It’s a popular kind of plate lunch, actually, normally served with a side of macaroni salad. Since I couldn’t place a chilled salad inside the jar with my hot beef stew and rice, I added some fruit and a slice of homemade cake in the top 2 containers.

This worked out pretty well—I had some slight melting of the frosting on my cake, but my lunch was still warm, so the jar did what it was supposed to do. And I didn’t mind the fruit being room termperature anyway. I also found the carrying tote bag that comes with the Lunch Jar to be indispensable, and the spoon-fork thing to be handy.

Next up was my chilled test. I again brought our pasta salad leftovers from the night before—looks yummy, right?

I have to say this worked better than the hot lunch; but maybe it was because you really don’t have to keep a salad icy cold—just chilled enough. And it didn’t really matter how cool the other parts of my lunch got; my peanut butter didn’t melt, so I was happy. The top container held a packet of instant miso soup, which was perfect because I couldn’t bring a hot soup with this cold bento. I’ve got access to hot water and paper cups at work, so for me anyway, no problem—I just made the soup there. The spoon-fork wasn’t as useful with this type of food; I just used a plastic fork from our office cafeteria.

Speaking of instant miso soup; if you’ve never tried these, I highly recommend them if you love miso soup and you want some fast. It comes with a packet of real miso paste and a packet of dried ingredients like green onion, wakame seaweed, and dehydrated tofu. Combine them in a cup of hot water, and boom—instant soup!

Just for fun, I tried one more cold bento of cabbage salad, Chinese broccoli, and chicken wings. And using a trick that some of you may find useful, I loaded that bottom soup container with ice. I figured the soup container is leak proof, so it could work as a cold pack for the ice to keep my salad even colder for even longer.

This worked pretty well, surprisingly. I don’t know how often I would need to use this hack, but if you have that extra container available, why not? The ice sits at the bottom, so it kind of acted as a mini fridge for my salad.

Finally, after all is said and done, Did I have fun washing all of these containers? Ha-ha! Since I’m the primary dishwasher at our house, I didn’t think it was a big deal. We handwash everything anyway, and I do believe handwashing is the best way to make the product last longer. Air dry overnight, and it was good to go the next day!

IMHO, the best way to use the Lunch Jar is to plan what you’re going to bring the next day, whether it be a hot or cold lunch, and you can decide for yourself whether your night’s leftovers would work or not. All the containers have to be used to keep everything from rattling inside the larger jar itself, so you may as well find something to pack. The trick is to figure out what to keep temperature controlled, and what to leave room temperature. You might think the containers are too small for you, but trust me, if you use them all for your lunch, the SUM TOTAL of food is plenty for a complete meal. And the best part is that it makes you think about filling them with a balanced, healthy meal, instead of gorging out on one big lunch!

 

 

Images by @ironchefmom and Bert Tanimoto

Offbeat August Holidays

In the U.S., we don’t have any national public holidays in the month of August—no wonder the summer seems to drag on, right? But in some countries they celebrate some very odd ones during August, compared to what we’re used to here in the States.

Taiwanese Valentine’s Day—In Taiwan, the Qixi Festival is celebrated on August 17th, when many Chinese couples schedule their wedding day and hold traditional ceremonies (in traditional costumes like you see above). Weddings held en masse are also common. The traditional folk tale behind Qixi Day is a story about a downtrodden ox-herder who falls in love with a fairy maiden, even though an ordinary mortal cannot marry the daughter of a god. When the Queen Fairy Mother finds out, she takes back her daughter and keeps them separated with a line drawn in the stars, which becomes the heavenly Milky Way. The story has a happy ending though, as the couple is allowed to see each other—but only during one day of the year, on Qixi Day.

Today more than 70% of Chinese couples celebrate the holiday in one way or another, with a romantic dinner being the most popular, followed by gifts for their S.O., movie dates, writing love letters, and going to a motel to celebrate(!). That last one is surely universal?

National Picnic Day—In Northern Territory Australia, Picnic Day is a public holiday and a day off for the general population on the first Monday of August. Imagine getting paid to go on a picnic!

Aussies use the extra day for a long weekend to go on trips or to attend the annual Harts Range races, an activity filled day of riding, bbq and dancing. Others go to the town of Adelaide River to have a traditional Railway Picnic, the way the holiday got started back in the late 1800s—as a way to give the hard working rail workers of the area a day of rest and fun.

Why not have our own Picnic Day? Take along a Zojirushi Food Jar and a Stainless Bottle or two, and you’re pretty much set for a whole day outdoors!

National Melon Day—August 12th is Melon Day in Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia near Afghanistan and Iran.

Since 1994, they have celebrated their favorite fruit that is recognized for its importance in Turkmenistan’s culture and history. Fairs and festivals are held in different regions of the country, inviting guests to taste their juiciest and sweetest melons in the world. Over 400 varieties of melon are grown here, including some of the rarest—not an easy feat considering more than 80% of Turkmenistan is desert. Hot sunny weather and long summers are natural factors which contribute to the Turkmen melon’s distinctive feature; a high sugar content that approaches 18 percent! Makes me want to try one…

“Yama No Hi” (Mountain Day)—Japan honors its mountains on August 11th, continuing this newly established national public holiday that was established in 2014. With the island nation being mostly mountainous, the Japanese have long revered their peaks—especially Mt. Fuji, a striking, nearly perfectly shaped active volcano and Japan’s highest elevation.

On Mountain Day, the Japanese are encouraged to take the day off, go hiking on the beautiful mountains, and spend some disposable income to help the economy. In truth, the first day off just got underway in 2016, so it may take some time to get traction and for people to go climbing. Apparently August 11 (8/11) was chosen because the kanji character for “8” resembles a mountain and the number “11” looks like two trees. That’s a good enough reason for me! “Yama-no-Hi” is Japan’s 16th public holiday.

Hawaii Admission Day—My home state joined the Union on August 21st, 1959. What was I doing in back in 1959? I was living in Hawaii and playing with swords instead of lightsabers, pretending to be “Zorro” instead of Obi Wan Kenobi. I mean, check out the old cars in the background! And BTW, if you don’t know who Zorro is, I’m not going to bother telling you. Just Google it.

Obviously I didn’t care whether Hawaii had become a state or not, even though an overwhelming majority of locals voted in favor of statehood, so apparently it was a big deal.

If you want to celebrate Hawaii becoming our 50th state with me this month, eat “local food”, or better yet, make some local food at home. Like Loco Moco, Spam Musubi or Butter Mochi. There is no better comfort food, in my opinion.

 

Photos: “Chinese folk wedding” by llee_wu is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 
“a feudal picnic basket” by alex lang is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
“Fuji japan” by Travelbusy.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Rail Picnic from the Rail Heritage WA Archive
Statehood Girl from the Hawaii State Archives
“Swordfight” taken by Beatrice Tanimoto, circa 1959