@ironchefmom

This month I’m going to introduce y’all to my favorite Instagrammer. @ironchefmom cooks and plates the meals herself, takes her own shots and posts them just for fun. Her teenage kids made her open the IG account and stuck her with the name, back when the Japanese Iron Chef cooking show was so popular. I can honestly say all the food she’s posted, tastes as delicious as they look—mainly because @ironchefmom is my wife and I get to eat like this at home!

Our family eats all kinds of food at home; and our weekend activity is usually finding new places to eat around Los Angeles, so our menu is pretty varied. Of course, my favorite is Japanese, so there’s always a lot of rice involved. She is Korean-American, so there’s a lot of kimchee involved too. And our kids are pretty Americanized, like my daughter who’s very partial to pasta (like the tarako spaghetti above ).

Yes, we own a Zojirushi Rice Cooker (NP-HCC10); not their top of the line, but a very advanced one with a lot of menu settings. Since we often eat plain white rice with our dishes, it’s important to buy quality grain and have it cooked perfectly. Good quality rice does have a flavor—contrary to what most people might think. And what most people may not realize is how rice is so verstile, it complements almost any kind of food, beyond just Japanese. I’ll eat it with anything—steak, eggs for breakfast, chili, marinara meat sauce, Swedish meat balls, hot dogs. It really does substitute for pasta or bread, more than the other way around.

We had Mexican Chicken Chile Verde once, which we ate with white rice. @ironchefmom prepared it in our new pressure cooker—man, was that meat tender!

This Creole Gumbo was done in our slow cooker…as soon as I can get my hands on the new Zojirushi Multi-Cooker, I’ll ask her to make it again! So good with white rice…

Some nights we eat out of cans. I love this dish—Miso Marinated Sardines on steaming hot rice. Simple and nutritious even from canned foods.

This is Korean style oxtail stew called Kalbi Jjim. Sometimes it’s so spicy it makes my eyes water, but it’s a hearty dish that I can eat with the rice even after all the meat is gone, and all that’s left are vegetables.

Speaking of vegetables, last year we decided to go on a vegetarian diet to see if we could get healthier. I think we did pretty good. It lasted for 40 days without cheating! Not bad, huh? Even when we went out to restaurants we stuck with it, but boy was it hard (and a little boring IMO). It was actually tastier at home, where we had meals like Vegan Cantonese Lettuce Wraps with Japanese Kabocha Soup:

And Vegetable Curry…

And Vegetable Sukiyaki…

If you ever try to do this, my advice is to just get started and stay focused. You can do it too!

So have I made you hungry yet? @ironchefmom loves to cook and posts strictly for fun, and we obviously get the benefits; but of course there’s a downside. I don’t always get to eat the beautiful dishes you see here because I get home late. My daughter is the lucky one, and I usually have to assemble a look-a-like version. I’m not complaining though—it still tastes the same! And when we’re out at restaurants, we’ve grown accustomed to waiting until she gets all her IG shots done before we can dig in. She’s gotten faster at taking the pictures, and we’ve gotten more patient, LOL.

Today is @ironchefmom’s birthday. Happy Birthday! Help us celebrate by giving her page a LIKE, okay? And if you leave a comment, she’ll more than likely respond. I’m going to leave you guys with a couple more of my favorites. When it was my birthday, I got a week’s worth of personal requests! Best present ever, I gotta tell ya!

Hamburg Steak with Demi-glace sauce:

Buta no Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly):

photo credits: all by @ironchefmom

Zojirushi Year in Review

Looking back on last year, 2018 was absolutely monumental for our favorite kitchenware company. Let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights from the historical year that was—

2018 marked the 100th birthday of Zojirushi, a landmark achievement for any company, period. Not many businesses can reach this milestone, especially in the competitive environment of home electronics. Zojirushi started in 1918 as a manufacturer of hand blown glass liners, which would eventually evolve into the thermal insulation technology for which it is famous today. To celebrate their 100th anniversary, Zojirushi in Japan produced a delightful anime called Share the Warmth, a story about a little girl who learns that sharing with others, is the most rewarding gift of all. It’s done in stop-motion style, one of my favorite animation forms. Check it out, you’re going to love it!

The company also went to the International Housewares Association show, as they do every year, where they unveiled their new products to the industry. Their booth was festively decorated to celebrate their 100th Anniversary, while a party was thrown for VIP guests. All the appetizers and food, including the sushi, was cooked and prepared using Zojirushi appliances. I covered the Housewares Show in one of my blog posts here.

Those new products, and more, were introduced throughout the year to us consumers. Among them were a new coffee maker called the Fresh Brew Plus, the “plus” part being a stainless mesh, permanent coffee filter that comes with it. For iced coffee, you use the special water fill markings for stronger coffee, to compensate for the ice. Neat, huh? No more guesswork!

Their new Water Boiler came out in June, with a stainless steel interior. This was an important innovation that answered the wishes of consumers who aren’t keen on nonstick coatings.

An upgraded Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker was introduced, which simplified and increased menu selection by displaying the full menu imprinted on the lid. The user only needs to reference the type of bread they want, and enter the corresponding number into the program. Oh, and congratulations Zojirushi, for being chosen as a finalist in the annual HomeWorld Design Awards for 2019—good luck in the contest!

The latest addition to Zojirushi’s Stainless Mugs was introduced as well, with a new and improved flip-open lid. The reason I love the Zojirushi brand of bottles is the way they completely disassemble for easy cleaning. It’s not like you have to do this all the time, but I feel it’s a good idea, to keep everything sanitary. The cool thing about these bottles is that you can purchase a low profile screw-off lid separately, as an alternative to the flip top. If you get a lid that’s a different color, you instantly get a two-tone colored bottle!

And finally, Zojirushi’s very first Toaster Oven was introduced this month. Compact and versatile, it’s the perfect size for singles and small families. The main feature is a mesh grill rack that prevents melting food from dripping onto the oven’s bottom tray or onto the heating elements. I gotta get me one of these!

Well, I hope everyone had a good one this year. I think we can safely say that Zojirushi certainly did. As for me, my oldest son is getting ready to graduate from college in 2019, and my daughter is getting ready to graduate high school. Being 4 years apart, they’ll be hitting major milestones at the very same time. And we as parents get to experience the whole college thing again, for the next 4 years. Fun, fun, fun!

Happy New Year, y’all!

It’s Baking Season

In the food industry, where I work, the 4th quarter of every year is the busiest time because of baking season. It is when most home bakers are actively baking their favorites to give as gifts or just to treat their families to fresh baked goods. A quick look at some of the special holidays this month reveals just how important baking gets during the month of December.

National Fritters Day is Dec. 2nd

Apple Fritters are my wife’s favorite thing when we go to a donut shop. She’s very picky about her fritters—they must be crispy and properly bumpy with crevices on the outside, moist with enough apple bits inside. Not too sweet, with a cinnamony taste overall. Fritter fanatics regard this classic as the shining star of the pink donut box.

National Brownie Day is Dec. 3rd

America claims that Brownies are home grown and was invented in Boston during the early 20th Century. Most stories point to a cookbook author named Fannie Farmer who adapted her chocolate cake recipe into a chocolate bar cookie baked in an oblong pan, back in 1905. The Brownie is classified as more a cookie than a cake because it’s a finger food, eaten with your fingers like cookies, instead of with a fork, like cake.

National Pastry Day is Dec. 9th

Like we need a Pastry Day on top of all these other baking days? LOL. Apparently there is a classic definition of what a pastry is, versus what is cake. For me, when I see a display of baked goods in a showcase at a bakery, they’re all pastry to me, but I would be wrong. Pastry is defined as “dough or paste consisting mainly of flour, water and shortening that is baked and often used as a crust for foods like pies and tarts”. Whereas cakes are basically baked desserts and are simply a modified bread.

I have learned one thing from Zojirushi though—making pastry dough is easy with a bread machine, but a hassle enough for most people that they buy ready made pie crusts from the store. Most bread machines have dough settings that knead the dough for you, so you can bake homemade pastries in no time. If you have a machine, check out Zojirushi’s croissant recipe here.

National Oatmeal Muffin Day is Dec 19th

I have to admit, my favorite muffin is blueberry, but like everyone else, I know oatmeal is healthier for me—others must agree, because otherwise why would there be a whole holiday devoted to them? And speaking of muffins, remember that episode on Seinfeld® where Elaine talks about the “best part of a muffin” being only the muffin tops? Did you know that McDonalds® is going to be offering muffin tops as part of their revamped breakfast menu? According to Moneywatch, the fast food giant is trying to revive their weakening breakfast sales by offering new and unique items. It’s always fun when real life copies fiction!

National Pumpkin Pie Day is Dec. 25th

I guess pumpkin pie is as much a traditional Christmas food as anything else, but pies in general are very popular during the holiday season, according to (who else?) Marie Callendar’s. While pumpkin pie is a staple of Thanksgiving dinners, it isn’t the only American pie favorite. Pecan pies are a southern thing that dates back to the 1920s, and the company says they sell more than a million pecan pies during the November & December season. And if you account for all the dessert pies, Americans bought more than 38 million frozen pies for the holidays. How about you, are you a pie person or a cake person?

National Fruitcake Day is Dec. 27th

I wonder how many people even know what a fruitcake is? I believe you have to be of a certain generation to be familiar with this traditional dessert that probably only your grandmother knows. These days I think it’s been replaced by Panettone sweet bread, the kind you see pop up during the holidays at supermarkets. But back in the day, this dessert was one of the most ridiculed dishes ever, because even though people joked in good fun, you’d have to be a real fan to actually like it. The fruitcake is a dense bread made with candied or dried fruit, nuts and spices, and sometimes soaked in rum or spirits.

It’s so heavy that in Manitou Springs, Colorado, a competition is held to see who can throw it the farthest. In Independence, California, fans gather to participate in a Fruitcake Festival bake-off, still going strong in its 14th year. Admission to the event is said to be “fruitcake or egg nog”. The fruitcake is also known to be able to last a notoriously long time. Since most of the ingredients are already preserved foods like dried nuts and candied fruit, the microorganisms have no moisture to reproduce. It’s also soaked in booze, which acts as a preservative and stops mold and yeast from developing on the surface. Diehard fans like their fruitcake old, like fine aged wine, they say. No wonder everyone makes fun of fruitcake!

Enjoy the baking season—I hope you plan on doing some baking this year!

 

photos: Brownies by kae71463, Fritter by L.A. Foodie, Pastries by Allison Meier, Chocolate Pastries by Marco Verch, Muffins by Marco Verch, Fruitcake by Bryan Ochalla
Creative Commons

 

Food Memories

Do you have Food Memories? What I mean is, do you have certain foods that you can remember from your past that trigger memories of specific events or times in your life? I do. And they’re not necessarily anything fancy. In fact, most of the dishes on my list are pretty humble and might even be considered weird by some people who could never relate to how I was raised. Others might think, “Yeah, I remember that!” I’ll give you an example of something that only locals from Hawaii may or may not understand. Who knows, it could have been just my family that did this.

Hawaiian Bread & Vienna Sausages

I clearly remember when I was very young, my aunts and uncles would gather at my grandmother’s house for most holidays. My grandmother was a very good cook, so she did most of it. Other aunts would bring their specialty—beef teriyaki or macaroni salad or whatever. One of my aunts would always bring a big platter of Deviled Eggs; every single time. I suspect it was because it was the only thing she did well, and my other aunts didn’t want her attempting anything else, LOL.

What I used to love was when my uncle brought out a big loaf of Hawaiian Sweet Bread. Back then all they had was the round kind, and we would butter up a slice and eat it with canned Vienna Sausage. Yes, that Vienna Sausage. Hawaii people must have a thing for canned meats, because besides Spam, we were into those little cylindrical pieces of mystery meat that comes 7 to a can. I loved that stuff! And yes, the sausages were fried before we ate it. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

Omurice

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like omurice, which is basically a ketchup flavored fried rice wrapped delicately in a thin skinned omelette, in the shape of a yellow football. Kinda bizarre when I describe it like that, isn’t it? Believe me, most Japanese kids love it, and I was no exception. I was raised partly in Japan when I was little, and my memory of this dish was my Mother bringing me to the Department Store in Tokyo and having lunch on the rooftop floor. The top floor of most hi-rise stores back then had little rides for the kids, and restaurants where the menu featured kid friendly dishes like omurice, hamburger steak and curry rice in kid portions. It always came with a tiny paper flag of Japan planted on the food somewhere.

Aji Sashimi

Years later, when I started working in Tokyo as a fresh college grad, I really learned what amazing food really tasted like. I never even liked fish much, but I discovered that it was because I’d never had good fish before. Japan opened my eyes. As the company rookie and a gullible gaijin (foreigner), my co-workers couldn’t help but to initiate me into their world. One Friday night they took me to a good sashimi place where the fish was the “freshest in Tokyo.” Sure enough, what came out was a platter of Aji (horse mackerel), nicely sliced and accompanied by 3 fish heads with their mouths still snapping open and shut because they were that fresh! Try eating with those eyes staring at you and saying, “Don’t eat me!” (I ate it though, and man, was it good!)

Zaru Soba

That summer, I realized that Tokyo gets really hot and really humid in August. Everyone kind of slows down a bit and spends a lot of time indoors in coffee shops with air conditioning, to get away from the suffocating heat. My co-workers would almost always go to eat zaru soba (buckwheat noodles) for lunch—cold, cheap, quick and refreshing. I started doing the same—and even today I get a craving for plain zaru soba. It’s the simplest, most satisfying meal that you can slurp in 15 minutes, and it’s not heavy when it’s sweltering hot. And don’t forget; it’s not complete unless you get the soba-yu to add to your cup of leftover dipping sauce. Soba-yu is the milky water that they’ve boiled the noodles in. Servers come and pour some in your cup, and you drink it as a diluted warm soup with your sauce. Ask for it next time; any authentic noodle shop probably has it, even here in the States. It’s such a nice finishing touch!
Soba-yu

Saimin

People talk about Spam Musubi all the time, but saimin is just as local as anything else. No offense to any of the restaurants on the Mainland, but you really have to go to Hawaii to get the good stuff. The staple food of 24-hour drive-ins and hungry college students who are pulling all-nighters, saimin is unlike ramen in almost every way. The broth is thinner but no less tasty, and even if the noodles are basically the same curly kind, the ingredients inside are similar but different. The classic saimin has some chopped green onions, slivers of scrambled egg (not boiled), a piece of kamaboko (fish meal), and a few slices of char-siu (pork meat Chinese style, which is drier than ones in ramen). If you can’t tell the difference between ramen and saimin, then you really haven’t had the real thing.

Did you know you can get saimin at McDonald’s® in Hawaii? It was in fact the first such “ethnic food” to break into the McDonald’s® menu at the time. It’s actually not bad and does the trick if you’re craving. I love Hawaii McDonald’s®—it’s the only place you can get rice with your Big Breakfast, along with spam and Portuguese sausage. Of course soy sauce is always available as a condiment, even at McD’s!

Too many more food memories to talk about in one post. I can’t stop once I get going. What are yours?

 

photo credits: saimin: Eugene Kim, zaru soba on ice: tokopedia, soba-yu: katorisi, all licensed by Creative Commons
Aji: Foods in Japan, Hawaiian Bread & Zaru Soba dinner by Bert Tanimoto

Orange you glad it’s Fall?

Besides the bad puns, Orange is the one color that says Fall more than any other. Autumn brings the changing of the leaves as they carpet front yards with a confetti of Brown, Gold and Orange. Pumpkins suddenly become everyone’s favorite gourd—pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin latte, pumpkin wine…pumpkin this and pumpkin that. And the official colors of Halloween? Orange and Black.

Orange is a happy color, according to color psychologists; radiating warmth and happiness—which comes between the stimulating energy of Red and the cheerfulness of Yellow. Sounds like a great color to love! Orange supposedly relates to our “gut” feelings, whereas Red is more physical and Yellow is more mental. It’s an optimistic color which uplifts our feelings, able to give us emotional strength during difficult times and helps us bounce back from disappointment. Seems like we could all use a little bit of Orange in our lives, yah? What’s your favorite color?

Being a writer, I’m glad I don’t do poetry, because there are no words that rhyme with orange. In fact, in the entire 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, the only perfect rhyming word is sporange—a scientific term for a sac where spores are made. Are we writing a poem or a technical journal here? Then again you can always write romantically about Blorenge, a mountain in Wales, which might be compelling if you live there.


Other things Orange: being a Californian (I qualify now because I’ve lived here for over 30 years), I know there are a couple of Orange state symbols. Our official state salt water fish is the Garibaldi, a brilliantly orange sub-tropical fish that scuba divers often see off of our coast. These guys are so cute and colorful, you wouldn’t think they could harm you, but divers have been known to get bitten if you get too close to their nesting grounds. They were named as our state marine fish as recently as 1995; the state freshwater fish has been the Golden Trout since 1947. (I’m a big fan of tropical fish since I used to keep an aquarium for many years)


The California state flower is the California Poppy, a beautiful orange blossom that grows wild all over the state. Native Americans in California valued the poppy as a food source way back then, and they were also used for the oil extracted from the plant. Here in SoCal, the best place to see them in the wild is the Antelope Valley, a protected area in northern Los Angeles County. If you ever have the chance, get out there to see them—it’s pretty spectacular. And the psychologists are right. The sight of so many orange poppies really does make you feel happy!

And now in no particular order, more things that are Orange to celebrate our favorite October color.


Ooops, did I say these weren’t in order? I lied—this is my favorite. Ha-ha!


One of my favorite snacks. Remember Toy Story 2 and the Cheetos® scene? Classic.


My Dad’s favorite topping on a bowl of rice—not so much mine.


The aptly named Bird of Paradise—native to South Africa, but they sure grow wild all over Hawaii, my other home state.


Absolutely my favorite fruit. But to get the really best kind, you have to have breakfast in Hawaii. I miss it!

Happy Orange October!

 

photo credits: Orange tabby by Dan Zen Fall forest by Anton Vakulenko Garibaldi by mark6mauno Poppy field by Juuyoh Tanaka Poppy valley by Gregory Smith Cheetos by Mike Mozart Ikura by City Foodsters Bird of Paradise by Jeff Kramer Papaya by Jar
Used by Creative Commons license