Instant Upgrades For Instant Coffee

Granita di Caffè
I’m not as much of a coffee snob as I used to be, when I lived in Japan and everyone around me treated Blue Mountain coffee as the Holy Grail—but I did make fun of my mother when she would take out her jar of Folgers® instant. “Why would anyone drink instant coffee at all?” is what I always thought. But those freeze dried pebbles of brew are making a comeback, doncha know…you’ve heard of Dalgona by now, right?

Turns out instant coffee is pretty handy…for certain things. This coffee granita is a frozen Italian dessert that came out fantastic! The easy part was making the espresso out of instant coffee. Our water boiler did that for me quick. Pro tip: the Zojirushi has temp settings that can be set for different types of tea. We usually have ours at 195°F for green tea, but I raised it to 208° so I could dissolve the instant coffee fast. The hot water was ready in a matter of minutes.

After mixing sugar into the hot coffee, I poured it into a flat pan.

Now the tricky part. After freezing for about 30 minutes, the coffee has to be taken out and stirred a little to break up the ice crystals. If you do this a few times—freeze, scrape the coffee, re-freeze, you’ll get a nice slushy coffee before it has a chance to freeze solid.

Add whipped cream and this Granita di Caffè is done! A frozen treat perfect for summer, that starts with hot instant coffee! Don’t be afraid to make the coffee strong—I used 1-1/2 teaspoons of powder to make 1 cup of “espresso”.

I got on a roll with the instant coffee, so here’s my Coffee Gelatin, made with Zojirushi’s recipe. My tip for this recipe: use a little more gelatin powder or a little less water. I prefer my Jello to be a little firmer.
Classic Coffee Gelatin

And here’s my Nutella® Iced Latte. This is super easy—blend Nutella® into hot instant coffee and refrigerate to cool. Then pour over ice with some milk for a delicious hazelnut latte. Be generous with the Nutella®; it’s good stuff!
Iced Hazelnut Latte

Speaking of Dalgona, this Korean iced coffee drink went viral everywhere a few months ago and it’s pretty much old news now, but if you’re interested in making one yourself, look it up. It’s fun to make and it’s photogenic.
Dalgona Coffee

Just For Fun
I’ve got 2 videos this month. First, if you’re feeling claustrophobic, enjoy the sunset with me for a few seconds. Sound on! If you don’t live near a beach, this is for you!

Next, one of my favorite things to do. Go through a carwash with me—so much fun for cheap! LOL. Sound on again!


All images by Bert Tanimoto
Coffee Granita recipe by The Italian Chef



July Is National Blueberry Month!

Blueberry Bread
This is an official month declared by the USDA! Did you know that blueberries are native to North America and we grow them in 35 out of the 50 states? That means we supply about 95% of the world’s crop. It’s known as a superfood, because they’re rich in fiber, low in calories and full of vitamins and antioxidants. It’s also one of the few foods found in nature that are blue, so there’s always that.

I wanted to try Blueberry Bread with my breakmaker, so I found a recipe on the Fleischmann’s site, the people who produce the instant yeast in bottles and packets. The experts at Zojirushi advised me to use dried blueberries because using fresh ones would make the dough soggy. This also gave me a chance to use the dispensing attachment that comes with the breadmaker—it drops whatever dry ingredient you want into the dough for you, so you don’t have to interrupt the cycle or even take the dough out. Worked like a charm. This is all I needed according to the recipe. (The black container is the auto ingredient dispenser.)

Ready to go.

This was the best looking bread I’ve been able to bake with my breadmaker. I mean, look how perfectly shaped it is! And the texture and color of it was amazing. Then when I sliced it open and saw the swirly blueberry, I was totally impressed. And yeah, it tasted as good as it looked, so I rated this one an “A” and patted myself on the back.

Blueberry Jam
Now for some fresh (ok, frozen fresh) blueberries and my Blueberry Jam using a Zojirushi recipe for the breadmaker! This also turned out amazingly good, and I think the credit goes to using fresh ingredients.

The frozen blueberries worked out great, and I made up for the freshness factor by using lemons from our garden!

I mean, this jam only requires blueberries, sugar and lemon juice—add it to the pan and the machine does the rest. Be sure to mash up the berries first.

Cook for an hour and twenty minutes with the Jam Course and ta-dah! Fresh blueberry jam!

Pour the jam into a glass jar and refrigerate to thicken it a bit. The homemade jam recipes online suggest adding pectin to the jam to add firmness, which I did—you can buy that at the supermarket.

This was a very tasty jam—not too sweet like the kind you get at the store. And it felt good knowing there weren’t any preservatives in it; but of course that means you can’t keep it that long in your fridge. Next up for jams—strawberry!

Just For Fun
What do you do when the twist-off cap on your soda won’t open? You use your slipper of course! (Don’t worry—I cleaned the bottle before drinking!)


All images by Bert Tanimoto




One Pot Veggie Mac&Cheese

Everyone knows how one pot meals are so popular, especially these days when we’re cooking at home a lot and we want easy dinners that still taste good. I figured my Zojirushi Gourmet Skillet would be perfect because it’s the perfect size, and I was right. My skillet has 2 pans, one shallow and one deep. I used the deeper pan, which pretty much is the same as using an 11” chicken fryer.

The recipe is from one of my favorite sites, which always uses simple ingredients, simple steps and looks so appetizing! Remember, this is important for a non-cook like me! Actually, between the right equipment and the right recipe, it’s like cooking for dummies. We had if for dinner that night, which I guess means it wasn’t horrible and my meal passed the test! I chose a One Pot Veggie Mac&Cheese because my daughter is vegetarian. Zojirushi has a one pot dish too, which you can find here.

Here’s the ingredients. Besides the veggies, it uses coconut milk and soup stock to round out the flavor with the cheddar cheese.

First step was to sauté the vegetables—and I found out one thing about one pot recipes. Yes, it was all done in one pot, and it was really easy to put together and clean up. But I always thought you could just throw everything in and just watch it cook. These vegetables though, cook at different times so you have to add ingredients to the skillet in steps. But I can’t complain—it was still dummy proof!

The soup stock and coconut milk come next.

Then the pasta.

And finally the cheese.

NOW all you do is cover and wait.

Here’s a good time to talk about the Gourmet Skillet. I did this on our dining room table, which made it easy for the family to dig in after I was done. In other words, I had a captive audience and they were hungry, LOL! I set the cooking temperature at 350°F and forgot about it. In other words, I didn’t have to fiddle with it even one time. That was nice—my pasta cooked evenly from beginning to end. No overflowing, no scorching. I think I can find all kinds of uses for this skillet, but one pot meals like this are absolutely the ideal match for this kind of appliance. Next time I’m going to let the real cook in the family have a go with it—just think how much better dinner is gonna be!

Just For Fun
I’m telling you, the things you see when you’re at ground level walking and not in a car speeding around L.A.—this gopher snake must have been at least 4 to 5 ft. long. Common gopher snakes are non-poisonous, not dangerous and beneficial because they hunt rodents found in suburban yards. If I sound like an expert, it’s because I was able to identify it online! And I’ve never been afraid of snakes either—maybe because I was born in the Year of the Snake, as was my mother, my grandmother and my daughter. Four generations of hebi-doshi (Year of the Snake)!


source: All images by Bert Tanimoto






Grilled Cheesy

Do you like grilled cheese sandwiches? I love ‘em because they’re easy to make, ha-ha. I’m kinda late on these though—I found out Grilled Cheese Month was in April. But that’s OK. It’s never too late for a cheesy grilled cheese sandwich! And it also gave me an excuse to use my Zojirushi electric griddle. The last time I used it was to make my soufflé pancakes, and that came out pretty good, so I figured why not take it out again. I found out a couple things about the griddle when making grilled cheese—want to know what they are? (keep reading)

Here’s what I started with; note the thin sliced Japanese bread—the best for sandwiches IMHO! The bottle in back is supermarket bottled pesto (not gonna say whose brand, but it was underwhelming). I used 2 kinds of cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan for my cheese

So here’s the first thing I found. You can get 6 slices of bread comfortably on this griddle! That’s pro!

Yessss…melting nicely.

And here’s the second thing I found—set the temperature at the lowest setting on this griddle. It’s plenty hot enough and the sandwiches won’t grill too fast. I burned the first batch setting it too high, and it wasn’t pretty. To get the cheese to melt like you want it before the bread grills too fast, use the griddle cover—that worked perfectly.

First up is the mozzarella pesto grilled cheese. Let’s face it, this is pretty easy to make if you’re using bottled pesto. But I would have done better to make my own—I mean, I had the basil already. That’ll teach me to get lazy. Still looks good, but could’ve been a whole lot better.

Garden tomato and basil grilled cheese. This is the one I was looking forward to making, and it didn’t disappoint. Look at those fresh heirloom tomatoes for color!

I used the grated cheddar for this one and spread some Japanese mayo on the inside. This was definitely the tastiest grilled cheese of the lot.

And finally, the very classic, very American grilled cheese sandwich. My one regret on this one—don’t get too cute and use cheddar cheese like I did. Just use American cheese; this sandwich deserves it! The melted Parmesan on the outside is a nice touch though, and it did add another dimension to the flavor.

Lunch time! Nothing like tomato basil soup to go with a grilled cheese sandwich. The best way to eat this? You dip the sandwich into the soup, of course!

Just For Fun
I hope you feel like toasting some grilled cheese sandwiches now—it’s so easy and quick! But have some tomato soup ready too; even if you’re not a fan, having it with a grilled cheese sandwich might change your mind—trust me!

So who else has been going for a lot of walks lately? I never used to, but these days I walk our dog everyday just to get some sun, you know what I mean? Remember the guy who used to yell, “Get off of my lawn!” when we were kids? Well, turns out they moved to our neighborhood. Sheesh!


Recipe credits: Garden Tomato Grilled Cheese

All photos by Bert Tanimoto



National Rice Ball Day

Never in a hundred years would I have thought we’d all be staying at home, getting bored and trying to figure out how to keep busy. But when you think about it, if you look at it as a chance to learn something new, it could be a super productive period in our lives, and we can look back on these days and say, “That’s when I learned how to make a rice ball!”

April 19th is National Rice Ball Day—did you know there was such a thing? To celebrate, I decided to try making a special rice ball that I had never eaten before. What you see here is an Okinawan rice ball called Pork Musubi; and it was gooood! I got the idea from TabiEats, these YouTubers from Hawaii. The secret to this rice ball is the miso paste dressing, which believe it or not, outshines the Spam®!! (and I guess pork musubi is a good name; it’s very different from Spam® musubi)

All you need to make this exotic Okinawan onigiri is some miso paste, some fried Spam®, a scrambled egg, a sheet of nori (seaweed) and of course, hot steamed rice. Try to fry the egg into a flat square shape if you can. It helps if you can use a rectangle fry pan, like this one that I borrowed from my wife. Ha!

Then make the Okinawan style sweet miso by adding sugar and mirin (sweet rice wine) to the paste.

(miso sauce)
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp mirin
1 tbsp miso

Ingredients all ready to assemble

Lay a thin bed of hot rice on a sheet of nori.

Place the egg and Spam® on one side of the onigiri, and spread the miso paste on the other half like this.

Then simply fold it over and you’re done!

So easy, even I did it and it was so ONO! (Hawaiian for yummy) I was absolutely floored by how the sweet miso was the perfect complement to the Spam®, and the combination gave flavor to the egg and rice at the same time. It was like a Spam® and eggs breakfast wrapped in a rice ball!

I also did some more traditional onigiri: one with katsuobushi (bonito flakes), one with tuna mayo, and one with umeboshi (pickled plum)

You can find all kinds of onigiri fillings online, but these happen to be easy to make and I like them all. Drizzle a bit of shoyu (soy sauce) onto the katsuobushi to season it. Add mayo (Japanese mayo preferred) and a dash of shoyu to the tuna mix. Umeboshi can be found at most Asian supermarkets. Lightly season the rice by getting some salt (this is optional) on your hands that have been moistened with water. The key to molding your onigiri is to keep your hands slightly wet so the rice doesn’t stick.

Place a bit of the filling onto the center of the rice, and start making triangles!

Wrap the nori and it’s done. There are different nori wrapping methods you can follow; personally I don’t think it needs to be a work of art. Onigiri is supposed to be a simple food. I swear, you really can’t go wrong because the taste reward is so much greater than the easy work you have to put in. Here’s my trio!

Happy National Rice Ball Day everyone!


All images by Bert Tanimoto