Easy and Delicious Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas

Welcome to the Month of Love, Zo-fans – a time to celebrate your partner, especially on Valentine’s Day. While many couples decide to have a date night out, some may opt for a more intimate and romantic night in with a homecooked meal. Making dinner at home is a great gesture, but it can also be overwhelming to make a dish that’s more elevated than an everyday dinner, while not being too complicated to make or add hours to clean-up.

We’ve rounded up some ideas to help you prepare a dinner that’s delicious and sure to impress with our best tips for simple prep and clean-up.

Delicious Appetizer

Tomato & Basil Appetizer Style Thin Crust Pizza: Use your Zojirushi Breadmaker to make a homemade pizza appetizer, with fresh tomatoes, prosciutto, and cheese. Simple, yet refined. A wonderful beginning to any meal.

Side Dishes to Pair with Your Meal

Caprese Rice Salad: Use your Zojirushi rice cooker to make this twist on a caprese salad, with a rice base. Featuring pine nuts and herbs, this dish is tasty and can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for 12 hours before serving.

Green Peas and Asparagus Doria: Similar to French gratin, this Japanese dish is made with buttered rice with vegetables, meat or fish, soaked in a bechamel sauce and topped with cheese.

Okra, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomato Salad: This side dish is easy to prepare in minutes, by blanching vegetables with hot water from your Zojirushi water boiler.

Entrée Options

Rolled Stuffed Turkey Breast: Faster than roasting a whole turkey but just as festive. This dish has a delicious stuffing and can be made in our product of the month, the Multicooker (EL-CAC60).

Baked Risotto Lasagna Style: This variation of lasagna is baked to perfection with layers of meat sauce and rice (instead of pasta).

Roasted Chicken and Porcini Mushroom Ravioli with Sherry Sauce: Luxurious porcini mushrooms are the star of this tasty ravioli dish, easy to make using your Zojirushi breadmaker.

Ending on a Sweet Note

Layered Trifle Tower: Not sure about baking? No problem! The batter is baked in your Zojirushi rice cooker. Just layer with custard, whipped cream and fruit!

Chocolate Raspberry Tofu Pie: If you’re looking for a non-dairy but luxe dessert to enjoy, try this pie with a smooth raspberry chocolate filling made with tofu.

Do More with Your Multicooker

You can use your Zojirushi Multicooker (EL-CAC60) to help with a variety of meals for your Valentine’s Day dinner. Nine convenient menu settings include: sauté, simmer, slow cook, steam, rice cooker, quinoa, yogurt, and keep warm. The appliance has 4 temperatures for slow cooking, and preprogrammed grain and yogurt settings that automatically adjust cooking time and temperature to make white rice, brown rice, quinoa and yogurt. The machine also comes with a full color recipe book to continue to make easy and delicious meals to enjoy with your partner. Learn more here:

Easy to Make, Easy to Clean

The best part about Zojirushi appliances is their thoughtful construction, not only for cooking but also for clean-up. Here are some tips to clean and maintain the rice cooker used for your Valentine’s Day meal:

Remove & Clean Inner Lid: During the boiling process, starchy foam will adhere to the inner lid and become dirty. The inner lid is designed so it can be removed and washed thoroughly. Especially if you add any ingredients other than rice (such as condiments) when cooking, wash thoroughly to prevent odors.

Remove & Clean Steam Vent Cap: The steam vent cap is there to catch any foam that forms during cooking. Make sure you remove and clean it after each use to prevent from clogging.

Tips to Keep Inner Pan Scratch Free: The inner pan is nonstick coated for easy cleaning (rice is very sticky). When cleaning or washing, don’t put forks, knives or other cooking utensils in the inner pan. The pan should be hand washed with a soft sponge and a mild dishwashing liquid. Please only use the rice spatula that came with your rice cooker to keep the pan from scratching and deteriorating.

What are your favorite meals to make for your significant other? Are you planning on trying any of the recipes or tips we shared today? Be sure to share your experience with us on social by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

On-the-Go Tea Time with Our Tea Tumbler

Happy National Hot Tea Month, Zo Fans! At Zojirushi we love enjoying a cup of tea in the morning, on-the-go, at work, and even at the end of our day. Our new Stainless Tea Tumbler with Handle (SE-KAE48) is leak-proof, vacuum insulated and designed to perfectly house your beverage whether you are at home or on the run, and that’s why it’s the first product of the month in the new year! Inspired by the traditional purple clay teapot, the fine texture of its porous finish creates the sense of familiar comfort with every sip. Keep reading to learn all about this tumbler, how to take care of it, and how to use tea to prepare delicious dishes to celebrate this month.

Tea Tumbler Special Features

Excellent Temperature Control: This tumbler is built with a stainless steel vacuum insulated wall to offer superior heat and cold retention for hours after pouring into the container. The stainless steel vacuum insulation also minimizes heat transfer to keep the exterior from getting hot and minimizes condensation if you’re carrying a cold drink.

Tea Strainer & Infuser: Included with this tumbler is a stainless steel direct brewing tea infuser & strainer combo, which has a handle for easy removal. Use just the tea strainer to brew large loose tealeaves like oolong, or the infuser for black and green tea. The tea strainer will keep tealeaves from flowing out, or if you prefer, the infuser/strainer combo can be removed and placed on the lid that conveniently turns into an infuser stand.

Leak Proof: The lid and handle are designed to be carried with you and provide peace of mind to be leak proof (when used according to the manual). Take it with you on your morning walk, in the car on the way to work, or as you move around the house to enjoy your Sunday.

Caring for Your Tea Tumbler

Zojirushi loves building products that last. Here are some tips on how to clean, maintain or update your tumbler to keep it as good as new:

How to remove coffee & tea stains: As the tumbler is used, tea or coffee stains may accumulate on the interior surface of the mug. These stains can be easily removed using a bleach/chlorine-free food and beverage stain remover.

When to replace gasket and plastic parts: The gaskets should be replaced if they are becoming less flexible or cracking. The cover and stopper should be replaced if they are damaged or cracked. We recommend that the parts are carefully inspected at least yearly in case a part is showing signs of wear.

Don’t use bleach: Bleach will cause the stainless steel to rust and the stopper and cover to experience premature wear. The tumbler and its parts should be hand washed with a soft sponge and a mild dishwashing liquid.

Our Go-To Tea Recipes

You’ve heard of cooking with wine, but did you know you can use tea as a signature ingredient in many other dishes? Take a look at our favorite recipes below that incorporate various teas and pro-tip: make more tea than the recipes ask for so you can have something to sip on while the dishes are being prepared.

  • Black Tea Panna Cotta: This creamy Italian dessert with a hint of Earl Grey tea makes an excellent afternoon dessert. Make some extra tea when you are preparing the dessert to enjoy in your tumbler while the dish is being prepared.
  • Green Tea Chicken Stew: If you’re looking for something savory, this green tea chicken stew is a delicious and comforting soup that features grated ginger, sake, mirin, and other umami-rich flavors.
  • Oolong Tea Chicken Bites: This dish features meatballs cooked in a delicious oolong tea soup, which adds a savory and unique flavor profile. Warm and comforting, perfect for National Hot Tea Month.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy tea? Are you planning on trying any of the recipes or tips we shared today? Be sure to share your experience with us on social by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

Holiday Planning Made Simple

The holiday season is something we look forward to all year long. A time to catch up with old friends safely and to have some of our favorite meals with our favorite people. If you are hosting this year’s get together and are looking for delicious crowd-pleasing recipes that will allow you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your guests, look no further! Here are our top recipes and kitchen tool tips to give you a hand with your upcoming gathering.

A Warm Welcome

Welcome your guests with a warm beverage when they first arrive. Program your Micom Water Boiler & Warmer (CD-NAC40/50) in advance to one of 4 keep-warm temperature settings, ready for the welcome beverage you plan on serving. Your guests might enjoy:

  • Houjicha: A Japanese tea, unique from other green teas because it is roasted over charcoal, and therefore the leaf color tints reddish brown. This roasting creates a distinct and soothing aroma.
  • Oolong Coconut Milk Tea: A slightly sweet milk tea, offering a creamy afternoon treat that’s perfect for vegan and dairy-free guests. Boil and add in your favorite boba for a fun twist on this drink!
  • Matcha Made in Heaven: For the adults, consider this warm matcha cocktail. Subtly sweetened with honey to complement a delicate matcha flavor, paired with whiskey and garnished with lemon.

Dinner on Standby

Many Zojirushi products have a Keep Warm setting to help you prep for dinner beforehand and keep your foods hot until ready to serve. Utilize your appliances to free up time! Our Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-BDC10), for example, helps prepare appetizers ahead of time and uses the keep warm feature so they stay at the perfect temperature until guests are ready for seconds.

Offering appetizers on skewers is a great option if you’re running out of serving spoons or want to offer guests a quick grab-and-go right from the skillet while they’re waiting for dinner to be formally served. Some of our favorite options for appetizers on skewers include Corn Dog Nuggets and Cheesy Spinach Munches.

Making dinner rolls for a family get-together? The automatic rise-then-bake function on our new Micom Toaster Oven will proof the dough for the second rise and then automatically bake it for you. Bonus: it frees up your oven for other dishes! The Micom Toaster Oven (ET-ZLC30) can also help you make delicious Spanakopita, a savory pastry pie made with a spinach and cheese filling, inside of a buttery and crispy filo crust – perfect for a side or an appetizer.

If you’re wondering how to offer a time-saving twist on main entree classics, consider making Rolled Stuffed Turkey Breast, a more compact and faster way to offer roasted turkey using our Multicooker (EL-CAC60), or a Spinach and Turkey Lasagna using the Home Bakery Supreme® Breadmaker (BB-CEC20).

A Sweet Ending to a Sweet Day

The best dinners end with dessert and a good cup of coffee. A Zojirushi air pot will keep your coffee hot to the last drop, without making it bitter. Air pots are great for self-serve beverage stations, too!

Did you know you can prepare many delicious desserts using the Home Bakery Supreme® Breadmaker (BB-CEC20)? Here are some of our favorite recipes you can use to close out your holiday meal:

  • Skillet Bread with Cranberry Cheese Dip: A delicious finger food that can be baked right in a cast iron, with a cranberry cheese dip that’s a holiday treat.
  • Bourbon Street Beignets: Donut hole-like pastries that are coated generously with powdered sugar, and a New Orleans classic
  • Choco Cornet: Shaped like an instrument, the Italian-named pastry is a treat any chocolate lover will love

What are your favorite Zojirushi appliances to use on busy days? Are you planning on trying any of the recipes or tips we shared today? Be sure to share your experience with us on social by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

Passport to Yum – Zojirushi’s Favorite Rice Desserts & Snacks

okaki

We’ve loved all of the rice dishes we’ve tried this year, whether from Asia, South America, the United States or Europe! But we can’t end the year without discussing the myriad desserts and snacks that are made from rice.

Just like those dishes that use rice in its grain or noodle form, many cultures have used this ancient grain in sweet desserts and savory snacks.

The ever-popular rice cracker is a sophisticated snack when made Japanese-style. There are two types of rice crackers most commonly made: senbei and okaki (seen in top photo). Senbei crackers, which originated in China, are made with Japanese short grain rice called uruchi mai and okaki are made with sweet, glutinous rice.  These rice crackers come in various shapes, including square, rectangular, round and as balls, and they can be made by baking, charcoal grilling or deep frying them. We love making this relatively easy okaki-style rice cracker at home, called kakimochi. Try them out and tell us what you think!

chakli

Chakli (photo by Milindb05)

Indian food also has a rich tradition of creating savory rice crackers, one of which is chakli. Chakli is made using rice flour mixed with gram flour, lots of spices such as turmeric, ajwain, cumin, chili and clarified butter, or ghee. The batter is poured through a chakli maker into hot oil, and fried until crispy. Whenever you’re in the mood for a spicy rice snack, try making chakli.

Desserts made from rice are just as popular as snacks, starting with rice pudding! Rice pudding is made across the globe, from Southeast Asian kheer to South American arroz con leche. Arroz con Leche Colombiano is sweet and redolent of cinnamon. Long-grain rice is cooked in a mixture of milk, condensed milk, water, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and butter. The final product is cooled until thick and creamy… just perfect for a holiday occasion.

mangostickyrice

Mango sticky rice (photo by Dennis Wong)

Another well-known rice dessert is mango sticky rice, found in many Thai restaurants across the United States and in beach cities across Thailand. Soaked sticky rice is cooked and then simmered in coconut milk, sugar and salt, and topped with peeled Thai mangoes. It’s a refreshing way to end a Thai meal!

Rice desserts can be simple or more colorful and intricate, like the traditional Chinese Ba Bao Fan and the Korean gyeongdan. Ba Bao Fan or “Eight Treasure Rice Pudding” is a traditional dessert served for Chinese New Year in China. This dessert is made by layering eight “treasures” or special ingredients such as sugar-glazed fruit or and sweetened beans onto a base of glutinous rice and sugar. It gets its name from the belief that the number eight is a lucky number for Chinese people because of the similarity of the sound of “ba” (eight) and “fa” which means wealth and prosperity.

babaofan

Ba Bao Fan (photo by kawanet)

Gyeongdan is a rice cake made using glutinous rice powder and hot water. The paste is formed into round balls which are coated with multicolored sweet bean powders.

No matter what you’re in the mood for… rice desserts, rice snacks, rice, rice noodles, rice paper, rice dumplings… this amazing food can satisfy all your cravings! We hope you make a lovely dish for your New Year celebrations and that you share them with us!

Essentials of Japanese Cooking: Wagashi

wagashi01

Throughout the year, we’ve focused on the essentials of Japanese cooking, from basic pantry items to the principles of washoku, Japan’s culinary tradition. From the basic ingredients of sa shi su se so (sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce and miso) to the more complex creation of dashi and umami tastes, we’ve explored how to prepare appetizers, soups, pickles and main dishes. This month, our post focuses on wagashi, or traditional Japanese sweets.

Wagashi, which literally means “Japanese sweet snack”, are bite-sized confections. They are traditionally made with simple, plant-based ingredients. The simplicity of the ingredients, however, is deceptive, as wagashi are created based on washoku principles of the Five Tastes and the Five Senses and take into account the seasonality of the natural world.

dorayaki

Dorayaki, or sweet pancakes filled with red bean paste

Wagashi is said to have originated in Japan during the time Japanese emissaries returned to the country from visiting China in the 8th century.  The first truly Japanese form of wagashi was a mochi and azuki bean dumpling sweetened with the juice of various vines. As this delicacy became more popular and spread to cities influenced by the aristocracy along the west coast of Japan, such as Matsue and Kanazawa, wagashi creation and design flourished. In the 12th century, wagashi became part of formal tea ceremonies and was paired with bitter matcha tea. When sugar was introduced to Japan in the 16th century, wagashi became easier and less expensive to produce, making it available to the general population.

The variety of wagashi is vast, and it is classified using a few criteria: formal vs. every day, production method, moisture content and shape.

hinamatsuriwagashi

Girl’s day wagashi

Formal wagashi are served at tea ceremonies or special events and are sculpted to represent a seasonal motif for the particular event, such as cherry blossoms in the spring to celebrate Girl’s Day. Every day wagashi are found at street vendors and shops and come in the form of dumplings or cakes or specialized shapes, with various fillings and toppings, usually made in the morning to be eaten that day.

Some of the formal wagashi are crafted based on the seasons. Their base flavors include the five tastes–sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy–with a particular taste emphasized according to what is seasonally available. For example, in the spring, when people gravitate towards sour flavors, wagashi are flavored with oranges. Each piece is also crafted to appeal to the five senses, from the seasonal motifs of each shape, to the fragrance of the ingredients, to the taste, to the texture to the sounds of nature that are evoked when eating a piece.

mizuyoukan

Mizuyoukan, or soft sweet bean jelly

Making wagashi is considered a craft, and wagashi makers can be awarded the title of “Contemporary Master Craftsman”. Wagashi craftsmen take pride in creating confections that balance seasonal flavors and motifs, from traditional cherry blossoms to modern Santa Clauses, appealing to the tastes of all generations. Going to a wagashi shop will make you anticipate the season or special event or festival to come!

Modern wagashi are made with eggs, milk and chocolate, and also come in beautiful shapes and colors.

One type of wagashi commonly found in the United States is called daifuku, which can be made at home. Pair it with Matcha Tea and you have your own homemade snack break!

We’d love to hear about your wagashi experiences, so be sure to leave us a photo and a note in the comments below!