Kitchen Wizard Turned One! Want to Have a Great Wine Deal?

It’s spring, it’s time for a big celebration and party!
Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard Turned One!
It’s time to toast with my royal readers who kept me motivated all year.

The challenge is, you guys are from all over, so to involve everyone, the celebration needs to happen virtually, so to speak.

So I asked a good friend of mine who works for Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, one of the largest wine companies in the world, if I could share their Employee Wine Sale (which is going on just now) with all of you, and she said YES!   The deals this spring are specutacular with up to 70% off retail on many of the wines including Rosenblum Cellars! You would love it — it looks like there are wines for pretty much every occasion, both domestic and imported.  Oh, and the shipping is included.  So all you have to pay extra is your local tax.  Sweet!

Best of all, you are encouraged to invite your friends and family for the same deal.  All you need to do is to forward this email, all they need to do is to sign up.

Better yet, she and her friend will give us a wine-pairing tele-seminar.  You can send in wine-related questions in advance (leave as a comment on this post).   These experts should be able to help you choose the perfect wine from many choices they offer.

So when is it?
Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines
Wine-Pairing Tele-seminar (Complimentary):  Friday April 30, 2010 9:00 am PST
Call in number and how to post your question will be sent in your confirmation email when you sign up.

How to access the sale: the details will be given during the special call.  After the call, sale details and url will be sent again via email as well. The sale ends on May 7th.

Cannot attend the call?
No worries!  If you register, you will receive the link to the recording as well as Employee Wine Sale details promptly after the call — whether you were on the call or not.

How do you share this deal with your friends and family?
Just share the link to this post with your friend and family.  If you could add a short blurb such as “Hey, check this out.  Mari’s blog will help you whip up twice as many variety of dishes, with half the time and effort.” etc. that would be awesome!

With summer approaching, this is a great offer you cannot miss, and can share with your friends.

Sign-up for Diageo Wine-Pairing Call & Employee Wine Sale from here.

So what are your questions about wine, wine-selection or wine-pairing to these wine experts from Diageo?
Leave your question as a comment below.
Please be as specific as possible — we are expecting a lot of people on the call, so if your question is chosen, I’ll be asking your questions on your behalf.

You can ask as many questions as you want — yet make sure to use one comment box per question.

Thank you for your comments, questions and sharing my blogs with other people!
You guys are the BEST!



Please note:  Anyone can sign up and attend the call.  The wine sale is only available for US residents of 21 years of age or up.  There are different state laws in regards to shipping wines, so depending on where you live, the quantity you can order, etc. on Diageo Employee Sale site will be different.


Project Leftovers: Marzano’s Meatball & Swiss Chard – Part 3

Roasted Peppers (especially red, orange and yellow ones) are something I love to keep on hand. You can just throw them on the grill or in the oven (in my case, often in the toaster oven) when you are using it for something else, and roast until charred. Put them in a bag, or container and close or cover the top to keep the steam in. Leave until cool enough to handle, remove the skin (the steam treatment will help you a lot in this department) and seeds.

I like to keep them as it is in the container, so that they are versatile for many different things later.  If you are an Antipasto fan, they are delicious marinated with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt and a lot of minced garlic, and you can still use it for many dishes including the soups below. Actually the dip has EVOO, garlic, lemon juice, S&P and pureed.

If you add some roasted eggplants, you can make a Serbian/Croatian/Turkish spread called Ajvar. Or my favorite way to make it is to make roasted red pepper puree like this, also roasted eggplant dip (basically the same except using eggplants). Enjoy them separately, or mix them to make Ajvar. Now I have 3 dishes with an effort to make just one. Once you start using them for soups and pasta and whole kitchen sink, these three dips will turn into many more dishes. It’s super easy and anyone can do it. Just a little different way of cooking, but the same thing.  The benefits are not just the variety, but huge time-saving as well.

Obviously I took out all meatball first.  (My hubby doesn’t mind his food touching red meat, as long as he doesn’t have to eat it.)  Then in goes water and red pepper puree. I even added the crust of pizza, just to experiment, since I don’t eat the crust anyway.

Even for those of you who are vegetarian or vegan, or those of you with dietary restrictions, the concept is the same. Just change the ingredients to fit your needs and what you have on hand. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use rice or polenta instead of bread. (Actually if you are, you probably won’t have pizza and bread leftovers!) Cook until heated. Adjust seasoning.

And now it’s a Roasted Red Pepper Bread Soup.  It was very good with smokey flavor of roasted red peppers.

Then I got carried away. (Surprise!)

There were some leftover (yes, to me, it’s worth the weight of gold, remember?) of this soup, so I pureed it with a stick blender. My secret trick to create another dish in no time.  And there you have it. Now it’s Pureed Roasted Pepper Soup. Because of the difference in texture, the last two actually taste quite different. I won’t recommend eating them back to back like I did (hey, I was testing for you guys!), but seriously, if you didn’t tell anyone, no one’s to know.

Yes it is cheating. but I really love being able to make 3 delicious soups from the leftover someone would throw away. In practically no time.

Once you try it, you may get hooked, like I did.

As a matter of fact, the little voice inside of me (with my mother’s voice) always criticize me that this is so lazy and crazy. But I strongly believe many dishes, especially humble yet hearty food like bread soups’ origin were in the leftover. So are lasagna, and pizza toppings.

So what do you think?

Do you re-purpose your leftovers?
Do you think it’s a good idea?  Or bad?  And why do you feel that way?

Share your thoughts about this topic.

Project Leftovers: Marzano’s Meatballs & Swiss Chard – Part 2

So you want to know what I did with the leftovers from Marzano….

On the next day, I decided to have some pizza leftover for lunch, and noticed the box of meatballs. Rather than eat it as it is by myself, and deal with my husband’s “Is this it for me?” complaint or dirty look, I decided to make it into soup. Not just one, I need another without meat for him.

So here’s what I did.

Break the bread and meatballs in bite size pieces with a folk.

Add water (or broth) to meatball, swiss chard and tomato sauce leftover.

Cook until hot and season to taste.

Voila! It’s abrondigas and bread soup. It was delicious!

Here’s the thing. I know it may not be traditional abrondigas soup, but I can name my creation with any name I want. Then all of a sudden it’s acceptable. Consider yourself as a fusion home-cook, then you too can do anything you want. It’s so much fun!  By the way, the girls who were eating next to us had a meatball pizza.  YES. Exactly the same meatballs, cut in half and topped them on pizza.  To think about it, if the tomato sauce on their pizza had the same origin as the tomato sauce in my meatballs, I won’t be surprised.

Now for the meatless version for my husband, I mixed it with roasted red pepper puree I made a few days ago to add extra flavor, and stretch it.  You saw how much leftover I had on the photo. I had to do some serious stretching.

The next post is about that.  So stay tuned…
If you haven’t subscribed to Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard via email, this is a good time to do it.  Click “Email Subscription” toward the top of the right side bar, under Foodbuzz Logo. (The first one is for my news letter, the second one is for email subscription of the blog.)  Then you’ll receive my post as soon as it’s published.

How to Revive Leftover Pasta…

Leftover pasta after the liquid treatment

Before.... Leftover pasta

Do you ever eat leftover pasta?  What do you do to revive it?

I love batching something, and use it little by little to create many different dishes later in the week and I even blog and teach people how to do that, but pasta is one of very few things I don’t over-make.  Because, noodles are best when it’s cooked, right off the pot.  The older they get, the stickier they become.
As many of you read on my previous post, I hosted a cooking class party last Sunday at our kitchen, and as a host, I wanted to make sure to be prepared, and have more than enough food.

I got carried away, and served and showed how to make all these dishes:

  • Appetizers
    • 2 kinds of Mushroom bites (one with goat cheese, one without)
    • Mushroom, spinach and feta cheese gozleme (Turkish version of Quesadilla)
    • Crudite with pesto mayonnaise
  • Served during the Class
    • Made Sauteed button mushrooms and Asian mushroom mix (use these as a base)
    • Okara Quiche with chicken, leeks, asparagus, mushrooms, and gruyere cheese
  • Dinner
    • Magic Mushroom Soup
    • Tuna and Mushroom Pasta, Japanese Style
    • Kinoko Mizore Ae (Japanese Mushrooms and Grated Daikon Salad with Ponzu Sauce)
    • Cranberry and Fruit Relish with Whipped Cream

A lot of mushrooms, I know.  But this class was called “Flexipes: Mushrooms and Beyond”, and designed to teach people how to make a large batch of something (in this case, sauteed mushrooms), then turn it into many different dishes throughout the week (or later if they choose to freeze it).   Naturally, a lot of mushrooms had to show up on the menu.   The good news is, when you make them different flavors and treatments, people often don’t feel they are eating only mushrooms — and no one complained.  Phew!

Pretty much all the food was gone, except the pasta.  I forgot the fact that they ate quite a bit of appetizer and okara quiche before dinner, and made extra in case people were hungry.

Well, something I don’t like more than old pasta is throwing away perfectly good food.  Almost all Japanese have “Mottainai” as a motto. “Waste not”, it means.  So, I needed to do something with this pasta leftover.

So I decided to moisten the pasta with a little bit of liquid (I used vegetable broth I had on hand, but you can use other kind of broth, white wine, pasta water, or even water in a pinch), covered and microwaved it.

Of course, it was not quite as good as newly cooked al-dente pasta, but it was far better than leftover pasta without that treatment, or pre-made pasta from store.  And I definitely liked the fact that I was able to eat it just by heating up.  It’s hard to see on the photo, so just try it and see what you think.

In any case, it’s best to mix the pasta with the sauce as soon as you cook it.  Plain pasta without anything starts to stick right away, and will be harder to revive, especially spaghetti.  Even worse are capellini and flat pasta like linguini.

So the best pasta practice is, in my opinion:

1. Make the exact amount of pasta, and eat it right away.

2. If there’s any leftover, make it into pasta salad as soon as possible.

3. Mix the pasta with sauce or dressing right away or, if undressed,

4. As a last resort, sprinkle with a little bit of liquid on top, cover and microwave, and enjoy the time -saving!

So what do you do with your leftover pasta?

Invitation to my Free Class! “The Fastest Path to Healthy & Exciting Home-Made Meals!”

Happy New Year!

Is “healthy eating” one of your new year’s resolutions?

Would you like to learn how to cook healthy, tasty meals at home with half the effort and time, and with twice as much variety?

As a New Year gift to my loyal readers, I’d love to invite you to my class “The Fastest Path to Healthy & Exciting Home-cooked Meals!” next Saturday, January 16 at Oakland Public Library for free!  I will teach you my unique system of how to make a variety of healthy meals at home easier and faster while having fun!  

In this class, you’ll learn the first, most critical step — how to keep an efficient, flexible pantry.  After completing this step, you will be able to whip up lots of dishes and end your dinner dilemmas forever!

  1. What to keep on hand & what to shop for
  2. How to mix and match ingredients for maximum flexibility and efficiency
  3. Demo of several easy dishes – with samples for tasting!
  • When?:  January 16 (Saturday), 2010   From 11:30am to12:30pm                  
    • Optional free trip to Trader Joes (12:30 – 1:30pm) to help you get a head start
  • Where?: Oakland Public Library Lakeview Branch: 550 El Embarcadero, Oakland, CA 94610    510-238-7344     
  • Questions?:  Leave me a comment!

This event is popular and expected to sell out!  Come early – seats are first come, first served (or bring a portable chair just in case).  The class starts promptly at 11:30am.

*Space is limited to first 40! Save your spot NOW and get FREE printable shopping list by signing up from Class Tab on top.

* Parking: If possible, carpool or take public transportation.  Parking could be challenging. There are a parking under 580 (right next to the farmer’s market), metered parking along main streets such as Grand, Lake Shore etc., and free street parking on side streets.

 Look forward to seeing you in person next Saturday!

The World’s Easiest, Fastest, Home-Made Miso-Soup!


Do you like miso soup?

Miso Soup is considered Japan’s national dish (OK, next to sushi), many have asked me how to make one.

As a native Japanese, I love miso-soup, as much as you do, but I never made it too often. (Japanese housewives, whether they are working or not, they are expected to make at least 一汁二菜 (ichiju nisai, meaning 1 soup (most often miso soup), and 2 dishes, plus rice. I’m only forgiven because I live in the US, and am married to an American…)

Why?  Because I thought it was a pain to make it every time from scratch.

To save that hassle and satisfy my appetite for miso-soup (I like it especially in the morning with my bowl of hot rice), I’ve even bought one of these freeze-dried miso-soup from Japanese markets.  Although they are pretty decent and not as expensive as $3-5 cup of miso soup from Japanese restaurants, they end up quite expensive.

As I started Kitchen Wizard, one of the things I experimented with was batching miso-soup.

It turned out to be a brilliant idea!

So, let me share with you the world’s easiest, fastest, home-made miso-soup recipe.

The World’s Easiest, Fastest, Home-Made Miso-Soup


(4-5 servings – multiply by the number of serving you want to make)

  • Miso with dashi: 1/4 c (1 TBS per serving)
  • Chopped green onions: 1 stalk (about 1/4 stalk per serving)
  • Dried wakame about 3-4 TBS (about 1/2 -1 TBS per serving)
  • Abura-age (fried tofu) cut in half, then into strips: 1 sheet (1/4 – 1/5 per serving)
  • Lightly cooked/microwaved vegetables, cut in bite-size pieces: about 1/4 C (1 oz per serving), such as cabbage, onion


  1. Mix well miso and other ingredients that are cut in bite-size pieces.  Make sure to add abura-age, especially if you plan to freeze this. Do not use things like tofu, potato, etc. that doesn’t freeze well. If you are planning to eat them quickly and not freeze, you can use anything including tofu.
  2. Divide into the number of servings and wrap each with plastic wrap. Keep in the refrigerator or freezer (Miso will not completely freeze.)
  3. When ready to eat, unwrap and pour boiling water.
  4. Optionally, you can garnish with chopped green onion on top.


You can make a large batch of softened miso, divide and add different vegetables for more variety.

You can also mix a little bit of liquid or powdered dashi into miso if you have any for more flavor. They are available at Japanese or Asian markets.

I know some (not so authentic) Japanese restaurants use chicken or vegetable broth for miso-soup…  so if there’s no dashi in sight, you may try a bit of either one for flavor as substitution.  Use only a little bit, especially if it’s liquid – you don’t want a soggy mess.

With this, you can have a nice bowl of miso-soup anytime you want… With rice for breakfast, just like in Japan, or you can even bring it to work for lunch.


Note: I split the pacakge into two, because these particular bowls don’t hold much liquid.  The original miso-soup base only had green onion and abura-age, so I added dried wakame as extra before adding boiling water.

Curry Base Split Recipe 4: Chana Masala & Bonus Recipe: Raita & Mango Lassi

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

From top left: mango lassi, chana masala, raita, potato and swiss chard curry, keema curry

Some of you asked me for the specific recipe for each curry on the photos I used, so as the finale of series of curry related posts, here’s the recipe for Chana Masala (Chickpea curry).  Chana masala is even easier than Keema, Potato and Chard, or Eggplant curry.  All you need is the curry base from our previous post and a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans).  A great pantry menu and it’s filling too.

To complete your Indian feast, and make it more festive, there’s mango lassi (everybody loves it, especially kids) and raita recipes, so don’t miss them!

Chana Masala (Chickpea/Garbanzo Curry)


  1. Heat the curry base (click here for recipe) in the pan.  Add a can or 1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Add some stock as needed (it depends on how much moisture the vegetable has as well as your personal preference). Cook until the flavor is incorporated and heated through.  Adjust seasoning.
  2. Top with chopped cilantro (strictly optional. I hate it, so we don’t!) Serve with steamed rice, saffron rice or naan.


  • You can add more water, and puree it to make daal.

OK… So here’s the finale!  To make your Indian spread more authentic and festive, you need two other things… Raita and Mango Lassi!


  • Chop onion, cucumber, tomato. Mix well with yogurt. Top with paprika or chopped cilantro.

Mango Lassi:

  • The easiest method is with Mango juice.  Mix Mango juice with yogurt with a stick blender.  I like about 1:1 ratio. Adjust the ratio, based on your preference.
  • If using frozen or fresh mango (cut in bite size pieces), puree everything together in food processor or blender (you may need to add some liquid such as milk if using blender.)
  • Optional: add sugar or honey if not sweet enough.

Since we talked about different uses of sautéed and grilled eggplants, we’ll talk about these possibilities in more details next week!

(Yup, this is the end of the curry posts…  I promise… at least for a while. : ))

Curry Base Split Recipe 2: Potato and Swiss Chard Curry

eggplant and potato chard curry

L to R: Eggplant Curry, Potato and Swiss Chard Curry

Potato… yes.  But Swiss chard in curry?  You may ask…

I admit it’s kind of unusual.  However, this is just to show you how versatile my curry base is, and you can use your leftover vegetables or side dishes into a delicious curry, and make a few varieties easily.

In the event an Indian food police shows up at your house, all you have to say is “This is a fusion curry dish” with a big smile, and proudly serve it.  It’s delicious and even healthier, thanks to eh, Swiss chard!

Potato and Swiss Chard Curry


  1. Use about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of sautéed potato and Swiss chard left over (click here for recipe).  If you don’t, boil potato and/or cauliflower (skip Swiss chard) until tender and set aside.
  2. Heat the curry base (click here for recipe) in the pan.  Add cooked vegetables, add some stock if needed (it depends on how much moisture the vegetable has as well as your personal preference).  and cook until the flavor is incorporated and heated through.  Adjust seasoning.
  3. Top with chopped cilantro (strictly optional. I hate it, so we don’t.) Serve with steamed rice, saffron rice or naan.


Walking, Sharing and Picnicking – New Mantra for Staying Healthy and Fit during Travel

Summer is at full swing!  Some of you are just about to leave to well-deserved vacation.  Lucky you!

When traveling, staying healthy and fit often becomes an issue.

As an avid world traveler and foodie, here are my top 3 tips to minimize health issues when traveling:

1. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and walk as much as possible.  By exploring (even commuting to and from "work") the city by foot, you can feel the city, know what’s going on, and keep fit without going to the gym or building in something "special". A lot of people in Asia and Europe stay fit just by walking a lot, and not by "exercising" per se. 

2. We tend to overeat when we travel… all these unique foods looks great, don’t they?  So when going to restaurants, order a variety of dishes and share with others.  That way you can try a larger variety of foods and flavors and eat smaller amounts of each dish – resulting in better balance, higher satisfaction and lower calories.  Make sure to include lots of varieties – especially salads and vegetable dishes – not all meat! In a country like France where they have a great "Plat du Jour", resist the urge to order one per person. Order one, split the appetizer and dessert, and order one extra main (or appetizer) from the regular menu.  Then you can pick anything you want, without overeating. (In case of over-indulgence both food and alcohol, Alka Seltzer works well.  Take one dosage immediately after you realized your over-indulgence, and another in the morning, if you still do not feel better.)

3. For lunch and special events…  Buy a variety of local produce and tasty tidbits at local markets (if farmer’s markets are not open, supermarkets are a good alternative too.) By not eating at a restaurant you can save time, money and your figure… This is also a great opportunity to give a needed rest to your stomach and mind, enjoy good weather with locals at the park, concert, etc. You will have a better sense of place: how locals live and eat, how much things cost, etc.

Bonus tip: If possible, rent an apartment and cook by yourself from time to time. Get a cookbook of local cuisine, and take advantage of the local markets. This will definitely enhance your travel experience and keep more money in your wallet – with the bonus benefit of keeping off those extra pounds. Even if you just make yourself breakfast everyday, it’ll save a ton of money, and you can make friends at the bakery! The best part is that you can re-create and enjoy your tasty memory once you come home — over and over!

By following these simple suggestions, you can maximize your travel experience, stay physically healthy and fit, and maintain mental and financial well-being.

Happy Traveling!

Kitchen Tip du Jour: Always Keep Leftovers to Repurpose into Many Other Dishes.

Many people ask me how I can whip up variety of dishes so easily.

It’s because I have many pre-prepped food that can be used in many different things.

For example, when my sister-in-law, and her family was visiting, I was able to whip up a Turkish Eggplant dip in less than 5 min.  If you make from scratch, this would take well over 1 hour.

Yesterday, I made a spicy Spanish omelet for breakfast in less than 10 min. It would take about 45 min to one hour if you follow a normal recipe.

For lunch, I made flavorful Moroccan style Chickpea & Chorizo Chowder for quick lunch.  Time required?  To heat up the soup, about 5 min as well. If you make this from scratch, this too could take quite a while.

So why I can make these dishes that take a long time so quickly?  All from scratch!

“Is she really a wizard?”

No… I wish!

It’s all because I grilled extra eggplants when we BBQ a few days before, and saved the flesh in the fridge.

It’s all because when I was making clam with chorizo dish, I saved some sautéed onion and chorizo mixture before adding the clams, and kept it in the fridge.  All I did was adding that and (also leftover) sautéed potatoes to beaten eggs. All I did for the chowder is to add can of garbanzo beans and chicken broth (or even water!) to the chorizo mix and heat it up and puree with a stick blender.

Now you can see how many different varieties of dishes you can create by combining these leftovers and some other things you have in your pantry, fridge or freezer.

That’s why I am able to cut so much time from cooking the next time.

This is quintessence of Kitchen Wizard style cooking.

You can do the same.  Always keep leftovers to repurpose into many other dishes, so cooking & eating will be always a breeze and fun. Even when you don’t have time.  You’ll impress your family and friends for sure.

It’ll be like a magic! You too will feel like a wizard.

And never underestimate the power of leftovers!