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!.

Mardi Gras!


King Cake

Even though Mardi Gras is kind of a regional holiday, celebrated mainly in New Orleans every year, it’s still fun to get on the bandwagon and eat the traditional foods because it’s so good! Mardi Gras was brought to America by the French, who first settled in Louisiana back in the mid-1600s. Cajun and Creole dishes, which are often associated with the holiday, have different roots too, It’s all a mixture of French, Spanish and West African influences. Creole cooking comes from a more aristocratic history, while Cajun was the food of people who lived off the land. One major difference between the two is that Creole recipes use a tomato base soup, while Cajun recipes do not.

So, to celebrate Mardi Gras month, I made a traditional King Cake with my breadmaker. Check it out—a party explosion in a roll! Ha! Apparently a tiny porcelain or plastic toy baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is usually hidden in the cake, and the person who gets it is blessed with proseperity and luck. I didn’t put a baby in mine, but I did use the required brioche dough that I made with the breadmaker. You can fill this cake with a cream cheese filling or with cinnamon sugar; I’ll take cinnamon in my pastry over cream cheese anytime.

Bake until a golden brown…

Drizzle with icing…

And decorate like Mardi Gras! The three colors of the festival signify: PURPLE for justice, GREEN for faith and GOLD for power. They were assigned back in 1892—did you know what they meant?

I can tell you exactly how this came out; just imagine a giant cinnabun glittered in green, purple and gold. Mmmm…my favorite kind of dessert! And hot out of the oven? Amazing!

Cajun Jambalaya

I wanted to see if I could do this in my rice cooker so I tried it. It was super easy, but I think I’ll be more adventurous next time and do the Creole version, which would involve tomato sauce. This was still a winner though!

Here are the ingredients. Notice the vegetables used: they form what’s called the “Cajun Trinity”, a staple in this type of cuisine known for their blend of aroma and flavor. Bell pepper, onion and celery are a favorite combination found in most Cajun recipes.

All of that went in my 5.5 cup Zojirushi without a problem, but just barely!

After about 30 minutes, I opened it up and stirred up the ingredients good. Thank goodness for cooking shrinkage!

Then I simply let the rice cooker do the rest of the work and it chimed me when it was done. I mean, I think it came out really well, don’t you? It tasted good too—I maybe miss the tomato base of the Creole style, but this was plenty flavorful as well.

And a word about this rice cooker—it’s a basic model from Zojirushi that has all the menu settings of the higher priced ones. It’s MICOM operated so it’s waaay better than the ones that don’t have computerized technology for making rice. I mean, I literally put all the ingredients in and it did the rest. Jambalaya from a rice cooker!

Happy Mardi Gras!

Just For Fun
My cool shoes that I got from my sneakerhead son for Christmas. OK, you have to be a fan to appreciate this. Ha-ha! #maytheforcebewithyou

Zojirushi products used in this post:
Micom Rice Cooker NS-WTC10
Home Bakery Maestro® BB-SSC10

Brioche bread dough recipe by Barbara Bakes
Cajun Jambalaya recipe by Cajun Cooking Recipes

All images by Bert Tanimoto, all rights reserved

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America

 

Asian Hot Pot Month!

When the weather outside is frightful (sorry, not sorry—I live in SoCal), there are still ways to stay warm inside; and the best way might be a hot pot dinner. Hey, it still gets plenty cold enough for me around here, relatively speaking. I made two hot pots already this month that I’d like to share, and they’re both pretty interesting…

This is a classic Japanese nabe called Mille-Feuille (pronounced “meel-foy” in French), that gets its name from the famous French pastry. You’ve seen this kind before, right? It’s a cake made with layers of puff pastry and a custard cream. It might be easier to find a Napoleon, which is similar but slightly different in the type of cream that’s used. These are both Napoleons, but you get the idea.

“Mille feuille” literally means “thousand leaves”; can you guess why this hotpot is so popular in Japan? I cannot tell a lie—this beautiful creation was my wife’s skill, but I did help! The main prep was getting thin sliced pork and stuffing it in between the leaves of the napa cabbage.

Then you layer it in your pot like a fan (probably from the outside-in is best), and pack it in tight! The cabbage will shrink as it cooks, so you don’t want it to fall apart. Part of this dish uses enoki mushrooms, so if you end of with empty space you can always use that to fill it up. The broth is a basic dashi stock with ginger, soy sauce and sake—there are plenty of recipes online and it seems like everyone has their own style.
I’m using the smaller skillet from Zojirushi this time (EP-PBC10), which was plenty big enough for our little family. We had leftovers. Be warned that you don’t want to overcook this, and the Zojirushi skillet heats up fast as soon as you cover it.

Within less than 10 minutes, it was done and ready to dig in!

If you want to understand Japanese cuisine, this is the kind of dish that is typical. Much like shabu-shabu, you get to taste the ingredients for what they are—not over flavored or spiced up to beyond recognition. Simple in visual presentation but so elegant and tasteful. And so hearty by itself it doesn’t require any side dishes if you don’t have any. Our dipping sauces were just store bought bottles of ponzu and sesame salad dressing! We finished with udon in the broth, although a lot of people like to use rice instead.

The second Asian hot pot I did was a Korean one called Budae Jjigae, also known as “Army Stew”.

My father-in-law, who was a Hawaiian man married to a Korean lady (whom he met in Korea when he was in the army), loved this stew. Can you guess why? I mean, take a look at the ingredients—Spam®, hot dogs and kimchi. What’s not to like? And yes, I know there’s a lot of people out there that are repulsed by Spam®, but try to keep an open mind. Granted, this dish wouldn’t win any healthy eating awards, but it originated during the post-Korean War era, when food was scarce. Many Koreans, who lived near the Army bases, supplemented their diet with canned processed foods that they could get from the soldiers. This was how Budae Jjigae (literally “army base stew”) was born. The slices of American cheese are a nice touch, aren’t they?

Army Stew assembled! There’s a lot going on here—including the tofu, enoki mushrooms and Korean dduk (a very firm rice cake, compared to the softer Japanese mochi).

All done and ready to eat! Some would say that this hot pot is really just a glorified Korean instant ramyeon (ramen). And in fact, I threw the flavor packets that came with the ramyeon into the stew as well—everything goes in!

So there you go—two very different hot pots. Stay warm!

Just For Fun
Vandalism at it’s sweetest.

Products used for these recipes:
Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EA-BDC10

 

All photos by Bert Tanimoto

 

 

 

Bert-san’s Gift Guide


It’s time for another holiday gift guide from me, featuring all Zojirushi products of course. But I’ve got specific reasons for choosing these; so from a non-cook and older dude who can still learn new tricks, here are my choices for the perfect gifts for this wacky year.

And BTW, I should mention all of the electronic products mentioned here can be purchased on the new Zojirushi online store.

Rice Cooker NP-HCC10/18B

This is the exact same model that I own—and the most trusty appliance in our kitchen for a rice lover like me, which I used to full advantage on National Rice Ball Day to make this Okinawan Spam Musubi. The one menu setting that is probably overlooked, but absolutely useful, is the Regular/Softer/Harder setting that is perfect for fried rice. When I did my Island Style Kimchi Fried Rice I didn’t really have day-old rice (best for fried rice), so I just cooked up a fresh batch and used the “harder” setting—worked like a charm and gave me non-mushy fried rice!

 

Stainless Mug SM-SHE48/60

I like this one for the shape, build and outer skin texture. First of all it’s made with their polished steel interior so if you’re not into non-stick coatings, this is the bottle for you. The lid is one of the best that Zojirushi makes in my opinion. A flip-open, push button style that you can operate with one hand, including a lock. Two more important features that I love—the lid flips open 180°, so it completely clears my nose (!), and it disassembles completely so I can wash everything. This was the most annoying whenever I bought the other brands; that maybe they were insulated and leakproof, but you couldn’t clean them! And trust me, they can get moldy! Hopefully Zojirushi will introduce more colors to this line, but meanwhile both the black and orange are pretty cool. Here’s my test drive out in the field.

 

Glass Vacuum Carafe AH-EAE10

How would I use this, you might ask? Well, actually, this is the kind of gift that you may not appreciate until you need one at a family get-together or just if you like drinking your coffee or tea throughout the day. That’s when you’ll think, “Oh yeah, we got one of those from (fill in the blank) for Christmas!” Seriously, a cool design combined with superior heat or cold retention is a handy thing to have, and will be appreciated by anyone. And guess what, not everyone has a water boiler, so a thermal carafe serves the same purpose! HIDDEN BENEFIT: a glass lined thermal carafe like this one means it will not absorb odors or stain because it is non-porous. When we did our hot pot at home I used it to pour broth into the pot to replenish the soup stock. Brilliant!

 

Micom Water Boiler CD-LFC30/40/30

If you want to splurge just a bit more, you might want to get an actual water boiler. I cannot tell you enough how valuable this product is on our kitchen counter. You can read my review here.This model is short and squat and low profile, but still fills up with 3 Liters of water, plenty enough for our family. BONUS! I discovered just today that the lid comes completely off, allowing me to refill the tank from my refrigerator water dispenser—that’s a plus since I don’t have a filter running from my sink. Having immediate access to hot water is a luxury; and it helps me make jello anytime I want, ha! See my Broken Glass Jello for more fun! Get yourself or someone else a water boiler—you can thank me later…

 

Home Bakery Maestro® BB-SSC10

This is one appliance I can honestly say is fun. People say the act of kneading bread is therapeutic, which is why baking bread has been skyrocketing. Yeah, it’s OKAY…but I like getting to the end result for my fun. The Maestro® bakes a smaller 1lb. loaf—again, plenty enough for our family to consume before going stale. But it still has the full range of menus so I’ve even used it to make jam. Shhh…don’t tell my wife, but she recently made from scratch a batch of Concord Grape jam. She peeled and boiled the grapes and everything. My jam made with frozen blueberries in the Maestro® tasted better (my opinion). The Blueberry Bread I made uses dried blueberries and the automatic dispenser that comes with the breadmaker to drop the berries into the dough. All you do is push the button, and about 3-1/2 hours later—fresh baked blueberry bread!

 

Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30

I just reviewed this product a couple months ago and it was fantastic. You can read how I baked a Margherita Pizza, a Zucchini & Corn Pizza and a Plum & Peach Galette, all with this toaster oven. It has a large enough capacity to replace your regular oven for most dishes, and you can see from the review that I was able to load a 10-inch cast iron skillet to make the Zucchini Corn Pizza. I was impressed with the sturdiness of the rack, too! This is a super impressive countertop appliance that looks so good with that black mirrored oven door—trust me, whoever gets this as a gift is going to be extremely happy.

 

Gourmet d’Expert Electric Skillet EP-RAC50

It seems like there’s no limit to how I can use this item, and I think I’ve only scratched the surface. At first when I chose this skillet over the smaller EP-PBC10, I thought it might be too big for us. But I’m glad that I did. For one thing, the shallow pan that it comes with was handy for the Kimchi Fried Rice that I made a couple months ago, so there’s that versatility. And the large size just makes it easy to cook anything, especially if it has soup stock in it that requires the deep pan. At the beginning of this year, I wrote about our traditional Sukiyaki that our family does for every New Year. We’ll probably do it again this year on New Year’s Eve. It’s fun to have traditions—you can count on them to be consistent, even if everything around you isn’t!

 

Just For Fun
What kind of fruit is this? These are ginormous Muscat Grapes that we found at the Asian supermarket. $26.99 for a bunch—there were 44 grapes. You do the math. They were delicious though! To me it tasted like mango, or maybe cotton candy–except more sophisticated.

Season’s Greetings From Us!
Thanks for reading my posts this year; I really hope you enjoyed my stories. Here’s a collection of Santa pictures of my kids—all the way up until my oldest was 21 years old! Aren’t these great? They complained a lot as they got older, but we made them do it!

 

photo credits: all photos by Bert Tanimoto, Zojirushi product photos by Zojirushi America Corporation, gifts by Marco Verch used with permission under Creative Commons license

 

 

 

 

One-Pan Meals Are Too Easy

This is getting dangerous. My Zojirushi stuff is making it so easy to cook, pretty soon I’m going to be expected to do more cooking around here. My wife already said, “You’re gonna have to cook more if you want to get better. What if you start cooking every Sunday?” Waaait a minute…how come I feel like I’m going to get more “to-dos” around the house? Actually we usually buy take out food on Sundays anyway, so cooking might save us money—and I’m never opposed to that.

I recently tried these One Pot/One Pan recipes that really seemed perfect for my Electric Skillet and my Toaster Oven. The hardest part is prepping the ingredients, which isn’t that time consuming. The cooking part all happens in the same pot, so even if there are steps to follow, it’s not like you’re washing anything in between. I found that being able to electronically control the temperature when the recipe calls for it, helped a lot for a novice like me.

I’m happy to say this One-Pot Beef Stroganoff came out tasting as good as it looks,  Here are the ingredients I used (link to this recipe below if you’re interested). I used the shallow pan from my skillet for this one, which was the right choice because pasta stroganoff isn’t a soupy stew like sukiyaki or a hot pot.

Then it was a matter of cooking each stage of this dish in the same pan. First I sautéed the mushrooms.

I set that aside to make room for the ground beef and onions.

Here I’m stirring in the flour and paprika real good so it dissolves. Look at me—two fisted cooking technique! LOL.

Here’s where I added the broth and finally the pasta. That was basically it—all I had to do then was cover it and let it simmer for 10 or 12 minutes until the pasta cooked al dente. 

The sour cream is added after the heat is turned off, and then garnished with the parsely. Look at how creamy it looks!

I’m realizing that one-pot literally means one pot, so that’s easy on the cleanup, but I sort of thought you load up everything in the pot in the beginning and just let it cook by itself. There are recipes like that, but most recipes require “steps”, because different ingredients cook at different times. Not complainin’, just sayin’.

On the other hand, one-pan recipes are exactly like that—and are fast becoming my favorite kind. This is a sheet pan Garlic Butter Salmon and Asparagus that I found online that can be baked all at once in the oven (or toaster oven). Now this was easy—make the garlic butter, coat the fish and veggies with it on the baking sheet, and pop into the oven to cook.

14 minutes later, we got dinner, with sides! I am definitely trying more sheet pan recipes in the future. And having a toaster oven large enough means you can do everything on the countertop—from prep to bake to serve.

Check out the sizzlin’ salmon! Woohoo!!

Just For Fun
What in the world is this guy doing??

Products used for these recipes: 
Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EA-BDC10
Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30

Beef Stroganoff recipe by JoCooks
Garlic Butter Salmon recipe by Chrissy Teigen

All photos by Bert Tanimoto

 

 

 

 

 

 

Island Style Kimchi Fried Rice with Spam

Comfort food is different for everyone, depending on where you grew up. I grew up bi-culturally, so if Fried Rice is one of the great comfort foods of all time for most Asians, my #1 is Cha-han, Japanese style—but my #2 is Spam Fried Rice, Hawaiian style. Here’s where non-cooks like me can never fail. Fried rice is so easy, the only way to fail, besides burning the rice, is to use rice that’s too freshly cooked because you’ll get mushy fried rice.

This is my Kimchi Fried Fice and this is how I made it foolproof. You’re supposed to use day old rice so that it’s slightly harder already, thus preventing mushy fried rice. I didn’t have any—so I made fresh rice in the morning, using the “HARDER” menu setting on my rice cooker. I didn’t make any adjustments to the water; I only cooled it off to room temp. Worked like a charm.

Kimchi and spam—who’s gonna argue with that? I’ll wait.

The Zojirushi Gourmet d’Expert Electric Skillet at work.

The secret sauce (kimchi juice from the bottom of the jar). Feel free to add Korean gochujang if you want, but bear in mind it doesn’t really increase flavor, only spiciness.

Really fast Kimchi Spam Fried Rice.

The family liked it, so I guess that means I passed.

So now I’m getting cocky, right? I thought, OK—let’s try the steamer function on the electric skillet; I’ve already got it out anyway. I chose this Sesame Broccoli, a popular side dish that you get sometimes at Korean BBQ restaurants. The ingredients are simple enough—fresh broccoli florets, sesame oil, ground sesame seeds and lots of garlic.

The steamer plate is more than large enough to hold a bunch of veggies as you can see, and the skillet is deep. I filled it with about a half-inch of water, got it boiling, and lowered the broccoli inside. The steamer plate has a small handle and legs to hold it above the water. Steaming time was about 7 minutes, but I think I should have quit at 5. Still, it was OK.

Then all I had to do was dress it with the sesame oil, garlic, crushed sesame seeds and some salt and it was done! Looks good? I think my daughter really liked it—she even brought some to work for her lunch the next day.

 

Just For Fun
Remembering the late great Ruth Bader Ginsburg…my daughter must have been channeling her spirit with this hairstyle! LOL!

Have you ever been to the secret swing at the top of Elysian Park in Los Angeles? Not so secret if you’re on Instagram actually, but still worth finding if you want this great view! Check before you go though—it’s been known to disappear and reappear for various reasons, like COVID, too many influencers, etc.

 

credits: all photos by Bert Tanimoto, Sesame Broccoli recipe by Korean Babsang