Recipe: Mother’s Day Treat (Freezable) French Toast

French bread soaked in egg mixture, ready to be frozen

Frozen French Toast, before...

After... Delicious French Toast!

I was going to put a post about the cold noodle salad with strawberry vinaigrette, but I need to push it back a bit.  Because…

Mother’s Day is coming.  I have a great recipe to share that allow Moms in the world to be treated well — and easy for the family.

Even moms that love to cook sometimes need a break. They get their wish come true on Mother’s day – Daddy and/or Children take her out for brunch, or even better, make a home-cooked meal!  Nice!

Here’s an easy freezable French toast trick I found in a Japanese cooking magazine. You can make a large batch this weekend, eat some and freeze the rest to have your family bring to your bedside from on Mother’s day (and beyond).

Mother’s Day Treat (Freezable) French Toast

  1. Slice French bread in 1” thick pieces.  Place all of them cut side down in a flat container.
  2. For 8 oz French bread, mix 2 eggs,  2-4 TBS sugar, 1 C milk, a little bit of vanilla essence or cinnamon, and pour it all over the bread.  Let the bread soak up the egg mixture completely (5-10 min), turning it once.
  3. For portions that will be frozen: Wrap individual portion with plastic wrap, with cut side down (if wrapping two or more together, make sure it’s wrapped side by side like on the photo, not on top of each other).  Put them on the cookie sheet with sides to avoid leakage, and freeze.
  4. For Mother’s Day, or whenever you want to have your family make this it for you: : )  Remove the plastic wrap, melt 1-2 ts butter in a skillet at low heat. Place frozen French Toasts and cook for 4-5 minutes with lid on. When it’s golden brown on the bottom, flip them, place lid again, and cook 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with maple syrup.
  5. If they are not frozen, just cook with butter, without lid until golden brown.

We didn’t have any French bread, nor maple syrup, so made it with ciabatta, ate it as it is without syrup.  It was chewy, yet moist and delicious!

So go ahead and make some this weekend, and have the frozen version ready to go for your family to treat you to breakfast in bed later on Mother’s day.

As in this recipe, save some basic things you cooked previously, things like various sautéed vegetables, vegetable and meat mixtures etc. and give your family some written instructions.  Your sous-chef of the house (husband and children) will be able to assemble meals when you are away, busy or you need a break!  Look under “batch and fridge” or “batch and freeze” categories on my blog for ideas for food to keep on hand, and what you can do with them.  As a matter of fact, when I got pneumonia last fall, these batched items in our fridge and freezer literary saved our lives, and upgraded my husband’s status as a Kitchen Wizard. Because of that incident, when I was still in Japan about a month ago, but he was back in the US, I didn’t have to stock up food before I left as usual.  What a treat!

In case you are wondering, my husband never really cook much in the past, so if he can do it, your husband and/or children can do it too!

Talking about batching,  if you have that strawberries and radish from the last post sitting around, it may be a bit limp and jammy…  Actually they are quite good with these French Toast as a topping.  If you cannot stand the idea of radish with the French toast, just pick them out.  You won’t even notice.

So what do you do with leftover egg mix in the container?  How about making an easy dessert?

Stay tuned for the easy bread pudding recipe…  Click “ Email Subscription” on the right column, so that you won’t miss it!

The Japanese noodle salad with strawberry soy dipping sauce will be posted after that…

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Recipe: Marinated Strawberries and Radishes

“I got the best adult toy ever.”

When I said that on the Facebook, some of our friends got overly curious about what it is.

What do you think it is?

I got an Iphone, finally. It’s a lot more easy and fun than I thought, and to my surprise, it saves me a ton of time. As you know, I like things easy, efficient and fun.

One example is taking a photo for my blog.

OK, the quality of the photo may not be as good as it could be, but just being able to take a photo, upload it on Facebook immediately without downloading and all that hassle, AND be able to use it for my blog post right away. I’m writing this post as a reply to my email with that photo on my IPhone. WordPress has this great feature that if I send it to a particular email ID, it gets posted on my blog immediately. It’s amazing as soon as I push “Send/Receive” on my Outlook, I will find an email from WordPress that a new article is posted on “Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard”.

So when I made this new dish my friend Fumi told me about, I took a photo with my brand new IPhone and posted on Facebook immediately, as a practice. Yes, it’s the dish those who came to my class last Saturday get to sample. : )

She found this recipe from a new Japanese movie called “Eatrip” that I’d love to see.

The combination of strawberries and radishes sounds a bit strange, but it’s really nice and refreshing. Best to eat it when it’s marinated for about 3 hours, not too long (it gets limp.)

Marinated Strawberries & Radishes (from Japanese movie “Eatrip“)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack strawberries (cut in half or quarter if big)
  • 1 bunch radishes – about 10 (sliced thin)
  • 2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 2 TBS Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 TBS Turbinado or Brown Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Mix EVOO, Wine Vinegar, Sugar well in a container with a lid.
2. Add Strawberries and radishes and mix gently to coat them well with the vinaigrette. Season with a little bit of Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cover, and let it marinate for about 3 hours in the fridge.

Note: You can use the leftover juice as strawberry vinaigrette for salad. I mixed it with mentsuyu noodle soup base for my cold Japanese noodle salad the next day, it was delicious! (and yes, my leftover sliced radishes also adorned this pretty dish.) I’ll share the recipe on the next post!

By the way, it’s still not late to sign-up for Diageo Wine-Pairing Teleseminar on Friday, and get access to their great Employee Wine Sale.

Want to know more? Check out this post.

Or sign up immediately from here.

Feel free to share with your friends and family who’d love to stock up great wine for great price!

So what’s your favorite function or apps on your IPhone? Please share with me.

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.

Aunt Else’s Aebleskiver Pan and Mix Review & Starter-Kit Give Away

   

Thank you so much for your comments on what do you think the pan is for, and what would you fill in these…
I was amazed by your creativity, and all the possibilities the pan offers.  Your answers certainly made me (and many others) very hungry… 

The answer is….  As quite a few of you guessed, Aebleskiver pan!   

You may ask “What is Aebleskiver?”  Aebleskiver are Danish round pancakes that are often eaten before Christmas. (<- Click here for Wikipedia definition of Aebleskiver.) 

As some of you may remember from my post of FoodBuzz Blogger Festival in November, the guy in the red outfit, living somewhere very cold up North sent the pan and mix around Thanksgiving as early Christmas presents.  This is one of the perks as a Featured Publisher at FoodBuzz.  I get to try many cool things and restaurants and write about it. 

This is my Skiver Santa, Chad Gillard from Aunt Else’s in Minnesota.  

   

I’ve been having fun with this every weekend, which I call Skiver Saturday or Skiver Sunday.  The best part is, these Aebleskivers are great not only for traditional apple slices, but with almost anything.  As you know, I love varieties and experimenting!  That’s why you may have already seen a few photos of them with many different things on top on Facebook, etc.  I never get bored.  And now I have even more ideas, thanks to you, I will be able to have fun with it for a very very long time! 

When I’m at home, these are the things I gather on typical weekend.   

Gorgonzola cheese, cheddar, chicken, sliced turkey, shrimp, cramberry apple batter, sauteed mirepoix and sauteed leeks. And of course one each of apple, banana and nutella.   

   

When we tried this first at our friends over Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to bother our friends with their computer password, I wanted to try so bad, I didn’t watch the video on AuntElse Website, they stuck really badly, and some of the got burnt as well.  Since then, My Skiver Santa has given me a pointer from the Northern land, so I now heat the pan for 10-15 min at low-medium heat as soon as I wake up.    

As soon as we pour the batter, it puffs up pretty quickly, so I put all these fun and different fillings in each well. Can you tell I pefer savory food to sweets, and lots of varieties?   

   

The trick is to:   

1. Season the pan well in advance, and use enough oil.   

2. Heat the pan at medium low heat for 10 – 15 minutes until hot. (Set the timer and prepare the filling during that time. If you still have time, watch the video one more time, and learn how to turn.)   

3. Aunt Else mix puffs up a lot quickly.  I recommend pouring about 2 TBS batter in each well, starting from the four corners, then middle four, and the very center well at the end.   

4. After adding the filling, if it doesn’t come up to the rim, add a little more. (The amount on the photo is a bit on the generous side, especially on the top row.  In my opinion,i t’s easier to turn if there’s no batter going outside of the well.)   

5. For perfectly round skivers, do the quarter turns as in the video. If you try to flip the entire thing 180 degrees, you’ll end up with half dome shaped skivers. : (   

It’s really important to pull the skivers UP 90 degrees, then they release itself like a magic!   Before I was trying to separate the balls from the wall, and that made them stick toghether more.  Every minutes or so, I pull them up another 90 degrees, and when you are finished with all four turns, you will have a perfectly round Aebleskivers!   

   

Just like these!   

   

Look at all these different fillings!  So much fun!   

   

Our favorites were:   

  • Trader Joe’s Cranberry Apple Butter 
  • Gruyere Cheese 
  • Apple slices  
  • Caramelized onion and gruyere cheese (Like French Onion soup) 

Sounds strange but defintely my favorite:   

  • Green onions, drops of Kikkoman soy sauce, and gruyere as filling, home-made mayonnaise on top (below).  I also tried Japanese takoyaki or okonomiyaki style with green onion and cabbage mixed into batter (I made more traditional Japanese style batter for this instead of AuntElse’s Aebleskiver mix for this) with seafood etc in it.  That was quite delicious as well. 

Aebleskivers are very similar to pancakes or crepes, so you can fill with anything you’d wrap with your crepes.  With so many options, this can be eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or dessert.  I told you, I love things that can be flexible and optimized.  I like the fact that you can have so much fun making it too.  This definitely passed my test!  Next time, I’ll try sauteed mushrooms, seafood with cream sauce etc. (Use leftovers, since you need so little.)  My husband thought I’m weird, but I’m contemplating using a meatball or quail egg as well.  You know, just like a Scotch Egg!  Will see.   

In terms of savory or sweet question, I found Aunt Else’s mix very versatile, it works for both…  just like a good crepe batter!  You can certainly add more sugar or salt if that’s what you prefer, but I found it just right.  

If you like it sweet, my guess is Japanese anko — sweet red bean paste will be great in Aebleskiver.  We have similar street snacks called Tai-yaki (Tai Snapper shaped pancake sandwich with anko in it) and Dora-yaki (two round pancakes filled with anko), and Imagawa-yaki (Flattened version of Aebleskiver?)  Click each link to see the photos to see the difference.   

   

For 2 of us, we just do one batch (1/2 of the amount of the smallest batch measurement on the back of the bag), and that’s plenty for brunch.  All you need per batch is one egg, 1 cup of water, and a scant cup of Aunt Else’s mix, which is made of organic whole wheat flour.  Even though you don’t have to whip up the egg white like some other Aebleskiver mix, it’s perfectly fluff.  It works great for both savory and sweet fillings.  It’s really fun activity especially with kids (of all ages).   

So in our household, Saturdays and Sundays are Skiver Days!     

Can I tell you a funny story about this?  

In my determination to not to break that new tradition, and my desire to share this fun activity with our niece and nephew, I even dragged that heavy cast iron Aebleskiver pan from the Bay Area to Milwaukee for our Christmas visit.  The problem is, the suitcase that had our pan in it decided to spend some time in warmer climate, and ended up in El Paso, TX.  The good news is, after spending 2 days of us worrying about the whereabouts of my favorite new toy/kitchen tool, our luggage was found at the snowing, fridged door steps of my in-laws. (Geez, guys!   It has something very VALUABLE!)  Well, this is surburban Milwaukee, not Oakland, CA.  Fridged means there’s no one hanging out to steal it.  Plus, these people are very friendly and nice, they often don’t even lock their door!   

Anyway, I found this note in our luggage… and the box we had the skiver pan was opened, and searched… These curious inspectors might have even made a few batches of Aebleskivers…  Who knows?  Well, it was the same day (Christmas day) when they had the fire scare in the plane, so I consider it a good thing.   

   

When we were in Milwaukee, we only tried some apples, pears, bananas with powdered sugar, apple sauce, and some cranberry sauce. Everyone loved them, kids, grandparents and adults.  I guess they realized that I too could make some sweet, more traditional dishes. (I am known to suggest something “weird” like new vegetables, flavors, or spices (Japanese food anyone?) to cook during our holiday visits in my attempt to add variety to casseroles — their kind of Christmas meals.)  

Thank you, my Skiver Santa, Chad Gillard from Aunt Else’s!  With this, everyday (OK, weekend) is like Christmas! 

Oh…  Our generous Skiver Santa wants YOU to have fun with your own Skiver set.  One lucky reader will get an Aunt Else Aebleskiver Starter Kit (both pan and the mix)!    

He also want you to learn more about Aebleskivers and ask questions.  So I am hosting a phone interview with Chad Gillard (aka Skiver Santa), the President of Aunt Else’s Aebleskivers and you are invited!  Don’t miss this unique opportunity. Invite your friends and family too.

All the details will be posted next week, including how to increase the chance of winning. (Wouldn’t you be most curious about this?  I would!)  Make sure to subscribe to Secrets of the Kitchen Wizard by email (sidebar, scroll down just a bit), so that you will be the first one to know.

 In the mean time, please write to our “Skiver Santa” at C.O.mment Box of this post about:

1. What you may want to do with the Skiver Starter Kit? 

2. Why you should be the one to win the kit? 

Again, one comment counts as one point.  Come up as many ideas and keep posting comments. You are welcome to go back to these 2 posts about  1. Aebleskiver pan , and 2. filling, and post more ideas.  

Santa is watching….

Good luck and have a great weekend! 

 

 

The Versatile World of Miso: Fancy Food Show, Miso and Natto Event Recap

As one of the major gastronomic capitals of the world, San Francisco hosts many food related events.

On Monday, I was invited as a guest to the educational seminar on “Miso and Natto: The Two Up and Coming Food from Japan” at Fancy Food Show at Moscone Center  sponsored by  JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization).  My friend Nobuko works for them, and she wanted me to write about it on my blog.

I’d love to!  It’s easy to convince me with good food.  And of course, I was curious about how they are positioning miso and (especially) natto, which is not known as the Japanese food most loved by non-Japanese…, yet.

This post features miso, which is very versatile, gaining popularity, and more readily available than its cousin, natto.  He’s a little more eccentric (it’s fermented, so quite sticky, and pungent), so I’ll save that post for later.   

Most non-Japanese knows miso because of popularity of miso-soup.  Many even call them just “miso”, and ask me “how do you make miso?” 

As represented in that question, many don’t know they can use miso much more than in miso-soup alone, and also can make hundreds of variety of miso soup using what they have in their fridge!  Making miso soup at home is very easy, and much cheaper and often tastier than these cups you pay at some of the Japanese restaurant for $3 or more per serving, or freeze-dried version at the store.

Plus evidence in Japan points to many health benefits such as relieving fatigue, reducing cholesterol, improving intestinal function and digestion, anti-aging, diminishing signs of aging skin, and even reducing the risk of cancer. 

The miso part was presented by Ema Koeda, Chef and Food & Wine Specialist.  She introduced the audience to the versatile world of miso and its health benefits with some Powerpoint presentation with mouth-watering photos. (For more information about miso, click here.) 

she demonstrated one dish which was delicious, super easy, and something everyone loves and are familiar with! 

Yes, you guessed it right.  The first photo you saw…  Japanese Miso Burger. If someone is thinking about start making miso soup at home, but don’t know what to do with the rest of the miso, start with this.  This is a perfect recipe to experience the versatility of miso, and what it can do for you in your kitchen.  Then start experimenting with adding in this and that as a secret ingredient. Soon you’ll be known as a great cook!

The amount of miso used in this burger is perfect…  not to little, not too much, and adds a lot of umami and depth of flavor and savoriness, anyone will love it.  I particularly loved the topping of scallions, and miso ketchup! 

Sendai miso called in the recipe will be hard to find, so simply look for yellow or red miso.  If you are using ground chicken, she suggested that white miso will work nicely.  Most large supermarkets (Asian Food section), health food stores, and gourmet markets sell basic miso pastes.  I recommend the Japanese kind, rather than American version for more authentic taste and ingredients.  If you want speciality miso, such as Sendai miso, call the Japanese market in your area.

Japanese Miso Burger By Ema Koeda

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lbs Ground beef
  • 1/2 Onion, minced
  • 1 Large egg, beaten
  • 4 TBS Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) 
  • 3 TBS Sendai Miso (or red or yellow miso)
  • 1 stick, long scallion, julienned and put in cold water
  • 4 burger buns
  • 3 oz ketchup
  • 1 TBS Sendai miso (or red or yellow)
  • 1 TBS walnuts, crushed
  • 3 TBS shallots, minced

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven at 350 F. (At the event, she simply fried the burgers in the skillet as shown in the photo above.)
  2. Combine beef, onion, egg, panko and miso in a large bowl till well combined, for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Shape meat into patties a bit smaller than the size of buns, approximately 3.5 oz.
  4. Grill patties on medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side and cool.
  5. Combine ketchup, crumbled walnuts, miso and shallots for the sauce.
  6. Warm the buns in the oven, place the patty, ketchup, scallions and top the bun to cover.

Serves four.

The second dish Japanese Misoyaki Butterfish with Sizzling Soy Vinaigrette demonstrated by Jeff Hubbard, Chef Partner at Roy’s in San Francisco was impressive yet probably may not be the first one to try at home for the most people.  It’s mainly because you have to marinate the fish for 24 hours, requires 3 cups each of sake and mirin and 8 oz of miso, plus how the vinaigrette is made (see that fire!)…  It’s time-consuming and expensive, especially if you choose to follow the recipe exactly.  Watching a young, good-looking chef playing with fire was fun, but this is a type of food you may want to try at the restaurant….  He’ll understand, and probably love you for it : )

Using a lot more miso (8 oz for four 7 oz piece fish!) , and long marinating, it has much stronger miso taste than Ema’s burger recipe, which can be even loved by “miso-beginners”.  

I’ll be honest.  I normally do not like misoyaki.  Whether it’s fish or meat.  It’s probably because my dad used to get this miso-marinated Kobe beef for Oseibo gift giving season every year (or maybe for Ochugen in summer too!) from one of his patients.  The miso flavor was too overpowering, plus my mom cried (I’m serious) each time I didn’t want to eat something, so maybe I have bad memories. I begged my parents to let the person know that we appreciated it, but we prefer plain Kobe beef, but Mom’s answer was no.  It’s too rude.  So she lied every year when she called and thank the giver with “It’s our FAVORITE!  All four of us look forward to this special gift every year!”.  So the poor guy believed her and spent a fortune on something we were actually giving away year after year.  

Sorry, I got side tracked.  The kind of fish used for misoyaki is ALWAYS fatty fish, which I don’t care for.  Having said that, it’s my personal preference.  Many people love them, including lots of Americans I know.

What I liked about this particular version was Jeff (or Roy Yamaguchi himself, whoever developed the original recipe) uses soy vinaigrette with a lot of refreshing vegetables such as onions, daikon and tomatoes along with rice wine vinegar and lemon juice to cut the oiliness.  It’s also great way to incorporate more vegetables into our diet.

I won’t do the fire part so that so that don’t have to deal with the smoke in the house afterwards, but maybe I’ll come up with a short-cut and cheaper version of this with less oily fish.  Maybe it will convert me.  Or just make the vinaigrette.  It should be great with chicken, beef, salmon, and many different things.

It’s really nice to see more and more people are becoming intersted in Japanese ingredients and food beyond sushi and teriyaki because it’s not only tasty but healthy as well. It adds more flavor easily without adding extra sodium or fat. (Miso itself is salty, so be easy on salt if you are adding it as “secret ingredients”.) 

This event inspired me to experiment more with miso.  Just like Ema showed us, adding these Japanese ingredients to familiar dishe is a great way to start. Even though I’ve been using miso as secret ingredients here and there, it’d be fun to see how miso would enhance things like clam chowder!  I’ll report on it here as I experiment, so stay tuned!

Are you planning to incorporate miso into your kitchen?  If so, what will you experiment with?

Thanks for inviting me, Nobuko!

My friend Nobuko from JETRO (in special “Miso Apron” I want it!) and Eriko from Tofu-Life  in Benecia.

Pace Picante Sauce Super Bowl Challenge: Picante Mini Burger

 

As a Featured Publisher with FoodBuzz.com, I get to receive quite a few products to try. 

One of the recent challenge was to create a recipe for Super Bowl Party, using Pace Picante Sauce.  I don’t even understand the rule of American Football, yet I like parties, and of course food. I also don’t mind seeing different kind of dishes on Super Bowl party tables besides nachos and Mexican layered thingy.  (Ever since “The Biggest Loser“,  I’m scared of going near them, feeling like I won’t be able to stop and end up with 10,000 calories!)

Right before Christmas, I received two bottles of Picante Sauce from FoodBuzz.  One Mild, and one Medium.

According to the Pace Foods website, Picante Sauce is:

Ideal for cooking, since it’s smoother than salsa with the perfect balance of zesty sauce and crisp vegetables.

Created by David Pace over 60 years ago as a unique cooking sauce to add delicious flavor to all kinds of dishes.

With more rich sauce to go around, it helps dishes stay savory and keeps them from drying out.

A fast, easy way to spice up everyday meals and add flavor to meat, vegetables, pasta, rice, or any dish.

I like the last part.  When I make meatballs and burgers, I put a lot of sautéed vegetables for flavor and healthier eating.  Yet using Picante Sauce definitely make things easier especially when people don’t have them on hand.

Even though I used Medium, I found the sauce to be on the mild side. I personally like salsas which has lots of vegetables, and not very saucy, but this could be used for salsa for dipping in a pinch. 

As I started my experiment, I found its sauciness helps turkey stay moist, yet because it’s not that spicy, I had to add quite a bit, that makes the mixture soggy.  So I had to add extra panko to firm it up so that they firm up a bit.  This may not be an issue when you are using red meat, yet my husband doesn’t eat four-legged animal flesh, so it’s a dilemma I have to deal with every time.  My original plan was to make meat balls.  First attempt, I cooked them in the oven and the cheese inside ran out like there’s no tomorrow.  When I bit into it, there were lots of holes inside — where the cheese use to be!  I thought about calling them “MexSwiss Meatballs”, but I decide to ditch that idea.  

So, on my second attempt, I chose to fry them in the skillet with some flour to protect the cheese.  While I was rolling them in the skillet to color all over, they started to lose shape, so I flattened them into mini-burgers.  Thanks to the FLOUR POWER, the cheese stayed inside.

That accident actually worked out to my favor.  They came out as light and fluffy, flavorful mini-burgers which look like cookies, especially when they were adorned with Trader Joe’s cranberry apple butter on top!  Pretty enough to fool the picky eaters, perhaps?

Picante Mini Burger

Ingredients: (makes about 36 patties)

  • 1 lbs ground meat (I used turkey)
  • 1/2 cup or more Pace Picante Sauce, Medium (If using “Mild”, add hot sauce to taste)
  • 1/3 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 TBS sherry
  • 1 clove garlic (grated)
  • 1/2 ts anchovy paste or fish sauce
  • 1-2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil if using  Ground Turkey
  • 1/2 cup Panko moisten with Milk
  • Salt and Pepper
  • flour for dusting
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for pan-frying

Directions:

  1. Add panko mixture, picante sauce, cottage cheese, sherry, salt and pepper to the ground meat.  Mix well.
  2. Shape the meat mixture into 2-inch patties (about 1/2 inch thickness).  Dust with flour on both sides, especially if using ground turkey — if you don’t, cheese may run out. (Easy and saves a lot of flour if you use mesh tea infuser.)
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-high, and pan fry until cooked through and brown on both sides.
  4. Serve hot.  Optionally top with more picante sauce (best if it’s reduced by half) or cranberry apple butter (looks like cookies!), or mixture of the two.

Variation:  I used cottage cheese because that’s what I had in the fridge, yet also like Feta cheese especially with ground lamb.

What Will Be the Food Trend in 2010?

Happy New Year!

2009 was a challenging year, for our economy, as well as many of us, including our own.  So I am excited to have that year behind us.  I read somewhere that 2010 is good year in Fen Shui, so I’m excited about what the new year has to offer.

As we look forward, one thing I want to know about is the trend prediction of 2010, you guessed it, about food.

1. Eat Fresh, Eat More Vegetables!

On recent Iron Chef, First Lady Michelle Obama opened the super chef battle of Bobby Flay & Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford of the White House vs. Mario Batali, Emeril Ragasse.  The secret ingredients were vegetables from the White House garden, to inspire Americans to cook and eat more vegetables.  I heard that Mrs. Obama actually don’t cook much even before she moved to the White House, yet the First Lady herself is involved in a major TV event like this is HUGE!  I see more and more focus will be placed on eating fresh, especially vegetables, rather than prepared food as well as meat and carbohydrates.

Given the obesity rate of the US is epidemic 33% for adults and 16% for children, 2 in 3 adult Americans are considered overweight,  this is truly a welcoming trend, and will change life of many.  The key is, it needs to happen on everyone’s home, not just on TV or at the restaurants.  We as a nation, need to change our eating habits.  The challenge is to show the general public eating vegetables are not just eating these raw celery from veggie platter, or plain boiled (and possibly cooked to death) broccoli. If that’s the only thing they know, of course they won’t want to eat much vegetables.  There are many easy, more flavorful options, if they are willing to experiment.

One of the easiest and tastiest is roasted and/or grilled vegetables.  My trick is to stick a whole vegetables like eggplants and sweet potatoes (the Obamas’ favorite veggie, according to the First Lady) in toaster oven at 400F while I’m cooking something else.  Compared with an conventional oven, it doesn’t require much pre-heating, so it’s much faster, and reduces energy as well.  Then I have them ready to go in the air-tight container in the refrigerator for various dishes later in the week. 

Click here for my super easy and healthy eggplant appetizer recipe I posted this on SFGate.com site.  It takes less than 5 minutes if you already have grilled/roasted eggplants.  You’ll love it!

Stay tuned for more posts about the food trends in 2010…

What food trend do you predict in 2010?  What’s is your new year’s resolution around food?  Leave me a comment, I’m interested in hearing from you.

PS: Is “Eating Healthy” one of your new year’s resolutions?  Then join us for my free class this Saturday, January 16th in Oakland.  Hope you can make it!

The World’s Easiest Cranberry Relish Your Family & Guest Will Love

One of the (very few) dishes my husband taught me is a Thanksgiving side-dish recipe that has been handed down from his grandma Henrietta.  She passed long before we got married, soInever had the honor of meeting her nor eating her dishes.  However, her husband – Keith’s grandpa – Park who lived till 101 told me how great of a baker Hanky (that’s what he called her) was, and excruciating details of her German cakes which he missed dearly.

This is actually a very simple cranberry relish recipe using a box of jello, yet the power of this should not be underestimated. It is very refreshing, and can double as a dessert. Both children and adults love it alike.  On top of that, it’s healthy — it has a lot of fruits such as apples, pears and oranges, in addition to cranberries, and doesn’t require cooking – I can say this is highly optimized. And it’s bright red, it’s festive and surely adds color to the table. If you have a food processor, it’s super easy.  It requires all familiar ingredients that are really cheap! Probably the most exotic and expensive ingredient is cranberries.

Whenever we make it, people always ask for the recipe and nowadays it became so famous, we get Thanksgiving invitations with the requests for this.

So I decided to post the recipe on my blog. My husband first resisted — “Nooo! It’s MY family’s secret recipe!”.  But those who eat it always ask for this recipe! And I grew up in Japan where’s there’s no traditional Thanksgiving celebration, I needed this for my readers!  So I asked “Wouldn’t it be great if your grandma’s recipe is enjoyed by more people in the world, not just by your immediate family?”

So here it is.  Kitchen Wizard is revealing another cooking secret, this one from her extended family.

Grammy Hanky’s Cranberry Relish

Ingredients:

  • 1 Small box of red jello (we like raspberry. Strawberry is a bit too sweet.)
  • 1 cup hot water (Do not add the second of batch of water, which is suggested on the box.)
  • 1 bag cranberries
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 2 large apples, cored and cut in bite size pieces
  • 2 large pears (should be relatively firm), cored and cut into bite size pieces

Directions:

  1. Mix jello with hot water to dissolve. Put bit-size pieces of fruit in the food processor and pulse several times to grind roughly to about 1/4″ cubes or smaller.  Make sure the cranberries are ground up well — if they are not, it could be tart.  Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do it in two batches.
  2. When the jello is room temperature, add all the fruit including its juice. Mix well.  Chill in the refrigerator until set. (Because of the amount of fruit, it may not set completely.)

We love serving it with turkey in place of regular cranberry sauce or relish, or you can eat it as dessert as well, with or without whipped cream. We normally make a double batch, using the large jello box, and using 1/2 – 2/3 for the actual Thanksgiving, and save the rest for us to eat later.

Oh, this is also great when you are sick! When I had flu and pneumonia 2 months ago and didn’t want to eat, I asked my husband to make this, and I ate it everyday.

So there you have it.  Try it and leave me a comment on how you and your guests loved it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Almost) Less Than 5: Sautéed Eggplant with Miso

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Sauted Eggplant with Miso

Many years ago, my fridge (or especially freezer) looked like a morgue.  No more. Ever since I started Kitchen Wizard, my kitchen is a lot more organized and that has helped me decide what to cook much quicker, and also reduced waste significantly.

They all have the labels with dates and contents, I know exactly what I need to use up soon, and for what.

Today, that item was grilled eggplant.  As some of you older readers remember, I posted a series of eggplant recipes over the summer. Throwing eggplants on the grill whether we plan to eat on that night or not, along side our chicken and sausages is a must for us, because they are one of the most convenient and versatile thing to have on hand. As the day gets colder and shorter, we don’t grill out much, but they are still handy in fall and winter too – for different dishes.

So I decided to make an easy Japanese dish that can be made with pantry items.  This really is a cinch if you already have grilled or sautéed eggplants (ideally cooked in vegetable oil, not olive oil). Obviously, grilled eggplants are healthier – it uses much less oil and salt.  You can also stick the whole eggplants in the toaster oven until soft. You can use a conventional oven too, yet a toaster oven heats much quicker (doesn’t require pre-heating), plus uses much less energy.

If you are vegetarian/vegan, omit the meat or chopped shiitake mushrooms as substitute.

Sautéed Eggplant with Miso

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

  • Ginger, sliced: about 1 ts
  • Green onions, chopped: about 3
  • Crushed chili (optional)
  • Japanese, Chinese or Italian Eggplants: (ideally already grilled) 5-6
    • This is a cinch if you have already grilled or sautéed eggplants. Cut in bite size pieces. You do not need to peel skin for this dish.
  • Ground meat: 4oz (100g)
  • Sake: 2 TBS (sprinkle 1 TBS on the meat, mix 1 TBS into miso to create paste.)
  • Soy sauce: 1 ts
  • Sugar: pinch
  • Miso: 1 – 2 TBS

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet. Cook sliced ginger and green onions (and chili, if you are using) on medium-high heat until fragrant. (If you don’t have cooked eggplants, add oil and sauté sliced eggplants. Add a little bit of salt to shorten the cooking time).  When soft, move toward the edge of the pan.
  2. If you have the cooked eggplants, add to the onion ginger mixture. Add ground meat and any sake residue, and cook until brown.
  3. Add soy sauce and pinch of sugar, and mix in the miso/sake mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve hot with steamed rice.

Kitchen Wizard Leftover Make-Over Tip:

If there’s any left over, add hot water and miso and make eggplant and ground meat miso soup.  Add extra green onion on top.

This is a kind of dish they serve at Izakaya as well as at home in Japan…  So maybe you should have some beer or sake with this, and pretend that you are in Japan!