The Day Everything Turns Green

St. Patrick's Day Recipe - Shamrock Pound Cake
It turns out about 54 percent of Americans will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year according to a 2022 survey, which got me thinking—why? Most of us aren’t even Irish. It isn’t a national holiday here, unlike in Ireland where it really means something because Saint Patrick symbolizes the arrival of Christianity. But it’s kind of a fun day to be green and all that, and celebrate with Irish food. They even have St. Patrick’s Day parades in Japan, because they know how to copy and make things distinctly Japanese over there, ha-ha!

I baked a hidden surprise Shamrock Pound Cake that I never knew I could pull off. This thing was like a magician’s trick, where once you know how it’s done, you realize how easy it is to create the illusion. It’s an old trick for bakers, but it wasn’t for me. So if it isn’t for you either, here it is in pictures.
Recipe - Shamrock Pound Cake - Preparation
Make some shamrock cake cutouts. I used ordinary pound cake mix, dropped food dye into the batter and baked it in a loaf pan. Get a clover shaped cookie cutter. Slice the pound cake into even slices the same thickness of your cookie cutter. Then press out your shamrock cake cutouts and set aside.

Now here’s the tricky part. You need to stand up the cake cutouts in another loaf pan like soldiers as best as you can. Layering the bottom of the pan with batter gives you a base that will help keep the shamrocks standing, as well as suspending it off the bottom.
Shamrock Pound Cake - Shamrock cutouts

Cover it all up with the rest of the batter until the shamrocks are completely hidden. Then bake the cake as per normal like the cake mix instructions say. When it’s done, glaze over it with lemon glaze (you can see the cookie cutter I used).
Shamrock Pound Cake - Glazed

Let it cool completely before you attempt to cut it. The trick is to cut the slices along the same widths of each of the shamrock cutouts that you’ve baked into the cake. If you did a good job of standing them up tightly together before covering with the batter, the result should be pretty convincing. If you thought the inside cake would overbake or something, don’t worry—it doesn’t. Pretty cool, huh?
St. Patrick's Day Recipe - Shamrock Pound Cake

Everybody makes corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not a great fan, so we made Shepherd’s Pie instead, which I liked a lot better; mainly because I love ground beef. So apparently this Irish classic would normally use ground lamb, but since I’m not a big fan of lamb either—well, you get the picture. Lots of recipes for this simple dish online, but it’s basically exactly like you see here. Mashed potatos and a filling made of ground beef, peas and carrots that was sautéed with beef broth, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.
Recipe - Shepherd's Pie in Process

I mean, it’s pretty basic—the only thing is that it does require some steps. You have to mash the potatoes, which you can do ahead of time before you make the meat filling. And like any casserole dish you have to bake it.
Recipe - Shepherd's Pie in the Oven

I guess technically if you use beef instead of lamb, this dish would be called a cottage pie by the British or the Irish, where it originated. I don’t think we Americans are that fussy about the name. It’s interesting to note that the name Shepherd’s Pie came from the minced lamb because a shepherd looks after sheep. And the mashed potato topping was meant to represent the sheep’s fleece. Makes good enough sense to me!
St. Patrick's Day Recipe - Shepherd's Pie - Plated

So what do you do with the leftover mashed potatoes that wouldn’t fit in the Shepherd’s Pie? You make Irish potato pancakes of course, which is what the Irish do so they don’t waste food. Also known as Boxty, this classic dish is a cross between hash browns and a pancake. It contains flour and grated raw potatoes, so combined with the mashed potatoes, Boxty has a uniquely smooth texture when pan fried—yet you can taste the grated bits of potato like hash browns.
St. Patrick's Day Recipe - Potato Pancakes
Ireland and potatoes go hand in hand as everyone knows, and a lot had to do with potatoes being the food for the country’s poor back then. Potatoes can grow anywhere so it was the ideal staple food. You can find authentic Irish potato pancakes all over the republic today, including at restaurants that specialize in it and packaged for sale in supermarkets.

We had ours for an Irish style breakfast. Traditionally, we could have had some pork blood sausage too, but we didn’t have any. If you want to see that, check out Zojirushi’s Irish Breakfast here.
St. Patrick's Day Recipe - Full Breakfast
How are you going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?


Products used in this post: Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30, Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-DCC10

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2023


Happy Pies!

National Pie Month is here and Valentine’s Day is coming! Let’s make hand pies—or are these empanadas? Whatever; I know they aren’t turnovers because they haven’t been folded over like one. Every food culture in the world seems to have their own version of a hand pie, both sweet and savory. The English can probably claim to be the original hand pie, with the Cornish Pasty dating back to the 19th Century.

The county of Cornwall, located on the southwestern tip of of England, is a huge tourist destination known for its world renowned beaches. But it wasn’t always so—most Cornish people made their living in the tin mines centuries ago and the pasty was a quick meal for the miners and easy to eat. Miners could hold the pasty by their signature pinched crust, even with their dirty hands, and throw that part away after eating the rest. There were a couple of reasons for this—mining caused arsenic to come up and the miners didn’t want to ingest any for fear of poisoning. And a more colorful reason was to appease the fairie spirits of the mines, by leaving behind the crusts for them to eat. No harm in hedging all your bets to be safe in a mine!

I made 3 kinds of hand pies for National Pie Month with different ingredients.

The fillings were just fresh strawberries and strawberry jam, fresh apples with brown sugar and cinnamon, and store bought kalua pork (Hawaiian style) so I could have a savory one.

Just buy some ready made pie crust, cut them out with a cookie cutter and crimp the edges with a fork to hold the ingredients inside.

Coat them with egg wash and throw them in a Toaster Oven for 20 minutes. You can do them all at the same time and you’ll have a mess ‘o hand pies made to order.

Now here’s a question that needs answering. Is a quiche a pie? Of course it’s a pie. It’s a savory egg custard pie that you bake in an oven that originated in France, that you can have for dinner. You could also make an apple or cherry pie for dessert too, if it pleases you. What about a frittata? Is a frittata, which is also an egg custard, a quiche? NO, because it isn’t baked in a crust, and it isn’t French. A quiche needs to bake longer and has that creamy texture, and just smells like a tempting weekend breakfast.

My favorite thing to order at the pancake house in our neighborhood is the diced ham and scrambled eggs. It comes with a short stack of their famous pancakes, which I drown in maple syrup. The eggs are always fluffy, and I like to eat them with ketchup and Tabasco®. Doesn’t this slice of quiche kind of look like the same, except that it’s been baked in a pie?

Here’s my last pie for Pie Month. A humble slice of homemade custard pie, which happens to be my go-to comfort pie. Hawaii people are into custard pie—did you know that?

Local style custard pies are slightly different from the Mainland ones; a little creamier I would say, rather than eggier—softer and silkier in texture. The secret ingredient is using evaporated milk rather than whole milk or cream. And eat it chilled; that’s really the only way. Next time you visit Hawaii to binge eat all that amazing local food, save some room for a slice of custard pie. It’s a well-kept local secret.

Happy National Pie Month and Happy Valentine’s Day! This is still the best use for a pie:


Products used in this post: Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2023

09-September_qwest_pie_throwing_0111 (pie in face) by Seth Lemmons, under license by Creative Commons


It's Soup Month!

It’s Happy New Year and Happy Soup Month! Are you a souper star soup lover? Try answering these Jeopardy® questions about soup and see if you are:

  1. The Campbell’s Soup® website calls this soup and a grilled cheese sandwich an unbeatable dinner combination.
  2. The New England style of this chunky seafood soup, is made with fresh littlenecks.
  3. It’s a thick Italian soup with vegetable, beans and bits of pasta.
  4. Bun bo hue, a spicy meat and noodle soup, is a specialty of this country.
  5. This made in America soup uses different meats and, of course, okra.
  6. The TV show in which a character says, “No soup for you.”
  7. This beet soup can be served hot or cold, but it should always be topped with sour cream.
  8. A popular soup associated with San Francisco uses this tangy bread as a bowl when serving it.
  9. Miso soup sometimes has cubes of this as one of its ingredients.

    (Too easy, right? Answers at the bottom if you need it.)

Being Japanese, I love miso soup best. And I’m not that picky about it, but with the many kinds of miso paste available and the different kinds of ingredients you can put into it, the varieties can be extensive. When I was growing up there were only three main types: RED (aka miso), WHITE (shiro miso), and BLENDED (awase miso). But today they are classified by ingredients, taste, color and region, so that means there are a lot of brands. I’m not going to get into a miso tutorial, but I know that the red miso is characterized by a strong, intense flavor, and it seems to go best with the heavier foods. Our local tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurant would always serve aka miso soup. White miso, on the other hand, is mildly sweet and a lot of people like it for mixing in salad dressings or light sauces. And as you might guess, awase miso is the most versatile miso and what we used to make our tonjiru (pork and vegetable miso soup) at home. You talk about a meal in itself, be sure to sprinkle the spicy shichimi togarashi (7 spice blend) on it for that extra kick.

Another popular soup at my house is Hawaiian Chicken Long Rice. (who woulda guessed that?) Treat yourself to a luau in Hawaii or go to the nearest “local” foods restaurant and see if they have this on their menu. It’s really pretty simple to make, so you can probably do it yourself with a decent recipe. It’s only chicken broth, bean thread noodles, shredded chicken, minced garlic, ginger and chopped green onions. Some people like it soupier than others, but either way it’s sometimes a chore trying to pick up those slippery noodles! It never fails to splash back into the bowl and cause a spattered mess when I eat it. Do not attempt to eat Chicken Long Rice with chopsticks unless you’re an experienced user…you have been warned.

By now you might have guessed that my favorite soups sorta reflect my background. Yep—Japanese, Hawaiian and American. And I’m partial to chowder type American soups more than chicken noodle or vegetable broth. Clam chowder is great, but you can’t beat Corn Chowder, with chunks of potato, bacon and the sweetness of corn. It’s got to be thick enough to stand a cracker in, and dressed with black pepper before spooning it. So good!

By the way, when soup gets this thick, how come it isn’t a “stew” already? What’s the difference? Why is chili a soup on the menu anyway? Can we discuss some of these burning questions? According to some experts, the main difference is the amount of liquid that’s used—stews usually contain less of it, and the amount of time a soup is simmered, causing the liquid to thicken and lessen, it becomes more of a stew. OK, that makes sense, but where does that leave chowder, or chili? By definition, soups are made primarily with broth or water, which is how chowder is made, and why it’s called a very thick soup. By that definition, chili isn’t really a soup because the water content is low, but restaurants don’t know where to put it so it’s always under “soups”. Both soups and stews are considered comfort foods that are eaten out of bowls, even chili. But if you’re from Hawaii, you eat chili on a mound of rice, on a plate.

Have a warm Soup Month, everyone. Make some soup and load up your Zojirushi Food Jar to go!

1.Tomato 2.Clam Chowder 3.Minestrone 4.Vietnam 5.Gumbo 6.Seinfeld® 7.Borscht 8.Sourdough 9.Tofu
Did you remember to answer in the form of a question?


Products used in this post: ZOJIRUSHI x HELLO KITTY® Stainless Steel Food Jar SW-EAE50KT, Stainless Steel Food Jar SW-EAE50

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2022


Merry Holidays!

What a year, huh? The world is getting healthier, but at the expense of it getting crazier, it seems. I’m gonna do my part to spread the joy, for what it’s worth, so I made a Cheese Ball Tree with my takoyaki maker. Cute or nah? Ha-ha.

All I did was make the batter, drop the cheese in and wait for it to cook so I could start flipping them into cheese balls. Here’s the batter recipe:
2 eggs (lightly whisked)
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
Combine the dry ingredients first, add the eggs and blend together. Add the water bit by bit while whisking to prevent lumps, until it gets to a runny consistency. That’s it!

Set your Gourmet Sizzler® fairly low because it cooks fast. Add whatever cheese you want—I used mozzarella and cheddar.

Summon up your takoyaki skills and start rollling. Sorry, I can’t help you here—you just have to practice. But if you oiled your pan it won’t stick at all, and you’ll soon have some golden cheese balls.

Dress it up with your favorite pizza sauce and sprinkle some herbs on it and you’re done. You guys might want to add bits of meat or veggies inside for a pizza flavor; I just wanted a simple cheese ball today. The sauce had plenty enough flavor for me.

Since we are celebrating the holidays, I challenged myself with a Panettone Bread, seeing as how there was conveniently one available on the Zojirushi site. I had to halve all my ingredients because I own the 1 lb. breadmaker and the recipe uses the 2 lb. Zojirushi model; but I think it translated correctly.

I wish it rose taller, but I suppose it’s about right for being only half of what the recipe calls for.

Plenty of dried fruit inside that I laced with cognac (he-he). Note that you take the dough out of the breadmaker and fold the fruit into it for this recipe (it’s easy). Overall the dough was a bit stodgy and overbaked, but the flavor was spot on. We’ve been watching a lot of the Great British Bake Off®—can you tell? If you’ve not seen this popular baking show on TV, I recommend it. They don’t compete for money like most shows; it’s strictly for the love of baking, which is why the contestants are such good sports and supportive of each other. Maybe also because they’re English and not American??

When you’ve had enough of your panettone and it’s gotten stale, turn it into bread pudding with sweetened milk. We had eggnog handy so that worked very well.

Bake it in your toaster oven.

And have it with ice cream! The perfect leftover holiday dessert.

So eariler I mentioned how we’ve had a pretty tough year this year, but we had a couple of family events that carried us through. At the top of our list was my daughter’s 21st birthday. We celebrated with balloons.

And cake.

And also crispy rice balls. (click to see how this was done with the takoyaki pan too)

And we all took a trip to Portland, Oregon.

By the way, I can say now that we’ve actually been to both Portlands in the U.S.; Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine. How about that?

How was your year? I hope you had a good one!

Products used in this post: Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30, Home Bakery Maestro® Breadmaker BB-SSC10, Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-BDC10, Takoyaki Plate EA-YBC01

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2022


Homemade Bread Day

People who love to make their own bread swear by the therapeutic benefits of kneading your own dough—as if it has a calming effect close to meditation. Nahhh; I’d rather have my breadmaker do it for me and just eat the fresh bread after it comes out of the oven. I’m in that “work smarter, not harder” group.

“Bready or not, here I crumb.” National Homemade Bread Day is coming up this month. Get your breadmaker out and bake! It’s safe to do that now—you can even find yeast in the stores and it won’t be sold out, like during the pandemic when everyone stayed home and baking was out of control. Remember that? Why don’t you join me for November 17th; take out your breadmaker and quit loafing around. Did you hear how the bakery caught fire? The owner’s business is toast now. Seriously though, do you know why bread jokes are the best? It’s because they never get stale!

My featured bread (above) that I’m proud to show off is a rustic French loaf baked in a Dutch oven. I mean, it came out amazingly good, with dough that I kneaded in my Zojirushi breadmaker.

I used this recipe from Heart’s Content Farmhouse for this one, but it looks like there are lots of similar ones online. Apparently being able to cover it with the lid of the Dutch oven creates the steam needed to bake this to the right texture. The recipe does call for extending the baking time with the lid off—I’m assuming to brown the top some more.

The result was a hard crust like it should be, and a chewy textured bread like it should be. I think the generous amount of salt also helped with the flavor.

If you know how I like to work in the kitchen, you know how I don’t like to work much. Guys, I present to you the easiest savory bread in the world. You know how easy it is to make plain white bread in the breadmaker, right? I give credit for this to my wife, who knows exactly how much I like to work.

Go to TJ’s (Trader Joe’s®) and get some of their Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning. It’s a blend of black and white sesame seeds, dried garlic and onion, sea salt and poppy seeds; just like the topping on a typical Everything Bagel. Use the White Bread cycle and during the 2nd Knead time, add about 2 tablespoons into the dough. I even used the auto dispenser that comes with my breadmaker for this so I didn’t even have to open the lid. Check this out.

Savory homemade Bagel Bread!

Fragrant, fluffy, and fulfilling.

Here is where you insert your own favorite recipe for Banana Bread. I just wanted to show you how a toaster oven is so great when you don’t want to mess with your normal one. They’re more energy efficient, they do more things, they’re portable so I can move it around on my counter, and they can bake just about anything in smaller portions.

Our banana bread, perfectly done in a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan that fits no problem in the toaster oven.

Here’s what I think: if you want to do all of your baking in a toaster oven (like we do since our big one doesn’t work too well), invest in a good one. The better ones will heat more evenly and will probably be large enough to produce a better bake, with all the roominess inside. Just my opinion…

Happy National Homemade Bread Day!


Products used in this post: Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30, Home Bakery Maestro® Breadmaker BB-SSC10

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2022