Sneak Preview — Food in Japan Report

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Happy April!
As with the most wizards, a Kitchen Wizard also disappears from time to time.

This time, I wasn’t sick, and not being able to eat.  (Thank god!)

As a matter of fact, I was in Japan, visiting family and eating lots of good food for 2 weeks.

During the fast week, my husband joined, and we travelled to Kyoto and such.
On my second week, he went home becoming a mini-kitchen wizard back home during my absence, while I taught my mom how to do Kitchen Wizarding, and she made some things from the base I made.

I will start more detailed reports with photos next week.

In the meantime, here is a sneak preview — the highlights from my trip, to whet your appetite over the weekend.  : )
(The slide show of all these photos on top.)

Which photo/food do you find most intriguing?

Have a great weekend!


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.

Project Leftovers: Marzano’s Meatball & Swiss Chard – Part 1

On my last post, I asked you what do you do with your leftovers, and vote.

Mine is definitely re-purpose leftover into different dishes, and sometimes eat is as it is/reheated.

Recently, my husband and I went to Marzano on College Avenue in Oakland.  They have fabulous happy hour starting from 10 pm.  We normally do not eat that late, but on that Friday, I had a meeting in San Francisco at night (without food!  ugggh!) and by the time we got back in Oakland, we were starving!   Since it was already 9:30, we decided to wait and take advantage of their happy hour.

I know no one else does that, but we tend to order way too much when we are hungry.   Their happy hour is great — $6 for various appetizers and salads and $10 for 5 kinds of fire-roasted pizza.   We presumed, “OK, the price is low, so the portion will be small.”   Plus I love varieties, so we decided to go for Fritto Misto, Grilled Sardines, Fire-roasted Meatballs and Swiss Chard, and Quatro Fromaggio Pizza with oyster mushrooms.

When we got the Fritto Misto, we were shocked. It’s HUGE!

Then Sardines.  There were three of them, and were pretty big, each about 5 – 6 inches long.

By now we were already getting full.  It’s almost 10:30!  And in the cazuela, a Spanish clay dish for tapas, my meatball comes.  Big, golf-ball size, and there are 3 of them!  The bad news is that my husband doesn’t eat read meat, so I’m responsible for all three.

Pizza was amazing, and it’s at least 12 inches!  We stuffed ourselves, but end up coming home with one half of this pizza and half of the meatball dish.

YES…  the picture you saw is actually my leftover meatballs taken the next day, because I didn’t have a camera at the restaurant.

Would you like to take a guess, what do you think I did with these leftovers?  I dropped a hint at the beginning.  I love re-purposing leftovers, so they were re-purposed.

I’ll tell you the answer on my next post.  So stay tuned!
Be sure to subscribe to Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard via Email from top right side bar under “Email Subscription”, so that you’ll get it as soon as it gets published.

Take the Poll: Leftover Food – What Do You Do with It?

When you have some leftover, what do you do with it?

  • Do you throw it away?
  • Do you eat it as it is (or reheated)?
  • Or do you turn it into something else?

There is a Japanese proverb “残り物には福がある”。 It means “Last, but not least”, “Sometimes lees are better than wine”, and my favorite, “Leftovers bring you good luck”. It’s not just about food, but other things in general.

Sometimes “leftover” has negative connotations, but for me, leftover food is worth the weight of gold.

Take this poll about leftovers:

In the comment section, tell me more — how you feel about leftover in general, what to do with it and why.

Such as

  • “I eat all of my pizza leftover the next day, save everything else, but normally end up moldy, so throw them away.”
  • “I bring my leftover to work for lunch.”
  • “No doggie bags, no leftovers! I eat them all!”

I’d love to know what YOU do with your leftovers.  : )

Thanks and have fun!

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?

Aebleskiver Giveaway Town Call was a success!

powdered aebleskiver


It was so much fun with Aebleskiver Starter Kit Giveaway Town Call last night with so many new and old skiver enthusiasts from coast to coast.

If you joined us, hope you had a lot of fun! What fascinate me the most is all the possibilities we have with this pan and the mix! Seriously the sky is the limit.

And if you are on gluten-free diet, there’s a great news – Aunt Else’s will be releasing wheat-free aebleskiver mix in a few weeks! YAY!

Did you miss it?

I’m planning to do more of these fun interviews, Q&As and giveaways, so be sure to subscribe to my mailing list.

Then you’d be the first one to know. Please sign up from

If you have any preference on date and time for these calls, please leave me a comment. I’ll do my best based on what most people want.

Please tell me what kind of food related interviews you may be interested as well.

The winner of the Starter kit was Michaela Vega from Minneapolis, who posted many comments, tweets, wrote to ‘Skiver Santa, became fans of both Kitchen Wizard and Aunt Else site..

She even wrote a post about the giveaway call on her blog with a video of how to make aebleskivers.

She certainly got the most skiver points!

She’ll be getting a personal delivery of Aunt Else’s starter kit (mix, 9 hole cast iron pan, chop stick for turning, and handle hot pad) from our Skiver Santa, Chad, the president of Aunt Else’s Aebleskivers, since she happens to lives in the same area!
Wonder if she finds her present under a tree, late at night… on a snowy night.  There are lot of them in Minnesota I believe.

Aunt Else's Aebleskiver Starter Kit

Our generous Santa even offered extra presents for everyone on the call.

If they buy the kit or the pan by tonight 11:59pm PT, they get a mix free. Plus 10% off.
If they purchase something before 11:59pm this Sunday, they still get 10% off. Pretty sweet!

What about those of you who couldn’t make the call, because the time didn’t work out?

Since I believe in fairness, I BEGGED him if he could extend the same offer to other people who couldn’t make it.

And he said “YES”!

So here’s his offer – exactly the same with the one from last night. (Those of you who were on the call, please verify it’s the same. ; )

* Buy a starter kit or pan, and get the mix free (Until 11:59pm PT, Tonight Friday 2/19/2010)
* Plus 10% off by using “kitchen wizard” as promo code.

* (starter kit, pan, basket, etc. etc.) – The discount will not show on the shopping cart, so 10% will be refunded on your credit card bill.
* (basket, starter kit & mix only) – Automatic discount with “kitchenwizard” as promo code.

* All purchase 10% off (Use the links above) till 11:59pm PT on Sunday (2/21/2010) on both sites by becoming an Aunt Else Fan.
* * USE “kitchen wizard” as promo code.


* Questions? Please send all Aebleskiver purchase related questions to

So there you have it.

Take advantage of this generous offer right now if you are thinking about getting the starter kit or the pan. Because after the deadline, it’ll be gone.

Now I need to prepare for my “Flexipes: Mushroom and Beyond” Cooking Class & Party at my kitchen this Sunday. It’ll be a lot of fun to go through the entire process of “Kitchen Wizarding” and enjoy the fruit of our experiments together. Everyone will be amazed how easy and fun it is to create a week worth of new dishes from something they already made.

It’s full, so those of you who are on the wait list or can’t make it on Sunday, I’ll promise to do more soon.

Be sure to sign up for my mailing list Check “Class” so that you will be the first one to know and get special offer before it goes out to the public.

So, what kind of interviews, giveaways would you be interested? Please leave your answers as a comment.

Have a great weekend!

Tonight 7pm PT! Aebleskiver Giveaway Town Call – Register NOW!

Well, tonight is the night! 7pm PT/9pm CT/10pm ET!

Aebleskiver Starter Kit Giveaway you’ve been waiting for.

We still have spots left, so it’s not too late to jump in.

If you want to win the kit (9 hole cast iron pan, Aebleskiver mix, stainless steel chopstick for turning, and handle hot pad &52.99 value),

Please sign up from here:

If you just want to join the call without signing up, here’s the call in number.

* When: Tonight 2/18 (TH) 7pm PT/9pm CT/10pm ET
* Call in #: 218-862-7200  Passcode: 527334

NOTE: To be eligible to win the starter kit, you must sign up through

Exciting News: Aunt Else’s will be introducing gluten-free version mix during the call, so especially if you are on gluten-free diet, you can’t miss  it!  Invite friends too! (And yes, you can pick GF version mix if you win the starter kit.)

Set the Olympic on Tivo/DVR and join us to find out more about this fun and tasty treat, and more!”(You’ll skip all the commercials that way too. : )
Will you join us?

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Black Beans

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Black Beans Dark Chocolate Cookies with Black Beans

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Are you making something special for Valentine’s Day?

How about this Dark Chocolate cookies with black beans?

This is a post by my guest blogger, Michela Vega from  She’s a Blogger, mom, and web professional, who will help you incorporate beans into your child’s diet.  I’m very impressed by what she does, so I begged her to share some of her creation with you all — Dark Chocolate Cookies with Black Beans, perfect timing for Valentine’s Day.

I’m planning to make it tomorrow, and bring to our ski trip on Sunday.  Very curious how a chocolate cookies with black beans turn out.  They looks and sounds yummy.

I wonder if this may be good as filling in the Aebleskivers…  Another thing to try!

So, here’s her post… Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cookies with Black Beans Recipe by Striving Bean

I had a need (yes a real need) for chocolate the other day, so I made a batch of Dark Chocolate Cookies.  This recipe is a perfect for a chocolate fix – just in time for Valentines Day!  They don’t have the typical amount of fat and sugar in many cookie recipes.  The secret ingredient?  One 15oz. can of black beans. Make your little sweeties (or your big sweetie) a batch.  And if you don’t have a sweetie – make yourself a batch.  It’s his/her loss!

Here are the cookie highlights:

  • A light texture – this is likely due to the gluten free white rice flour.
  • Not overly sweet.  However feel free to adjust the sugar content to your liking.
  • This cookie recipe appears to be gluten free.  I’m not a gluten free baker, so please be sure to check the ingredients for your needs.
  • Easily made vegan.

Dark Chocolate Cookies
Recipe by Striving Bean

Makes 3 dozen (36) cookies
Store these in the refrigerator since they contain beans.

One  15 oz. can of low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed well
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk (I used soy milk, but you can also try 1% milk)
1 cup canned pumpkin

2 cups white rice flour  (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free White Rice flour)
3/4 teaspoon (0.75 teaspoon) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (0.75 teaspoon) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) salt

1/2 cup (0.5 cup) of sugar (optional – some additional Tablespoons of sugar for sprinkling on top)
1/4 cup (0.25 cup) brown sugar (firmly packed)
3 Tablespoons Smart Balance Buttery Spread, melted (I used Smart Balance, but you could try butter or Earth Balance)
1/2 cup (0.5 cup) unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

1 cup bittersweet (or dark chocolate) chocolate chips [plus optional additional 1/3 cup (0.33 cup) for topping – I highly recommend]

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Mix beans in food processor with soy milk, until fairly smooth.

pureed beans and soy milk Pureed Beans and Soy Milk 

3.  Remove bean mixture from food processor, and place in bowl. Add 1 cup canned pumpkin and mix well (can do this in food processor if needed).

4. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients: rice flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.  (It’s important to mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl, so the baking soda & baking powder can be evenly distributed.  This helps the cookies rise)

5. Cream sugars and melted Smart Balance. Add applesauce and vanilla extract.  Gently mix together.

6.  Add black bean puree and cocoa powder to sugar mixture. Gently mix together.

7.  Fold in dry ingredients into the chocolate/sugar/black bean mixture.  Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips. It is easier if you add small portions of dry ingredients and dark chocolate chips a bit at a time.  Mix until just incorporated.

8.  Drop a large spoonful per cookie on parchment lined baking sheets.  Press 2 additional dark chocolate chips on top of each cookie. (optional, but recommended)

9. Sprinkle additional sugar on top (optional)

10. Bake at 375 F for about 9 to 11 minutes.  Cool 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to cooking rack with a spatula.  Cool completely on rack.


Chef’s Notes

  • Bittersweet (dark) chocolate chips are very key to this recipe. I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.    Dark chocolate heightens chocolate flavor more than milk chocolate chips.
  • This cookie recipe can easily be made vegan by using vegan dark chocolate chips and Earth Balance Naturally Buttery Spread (I did not test, but it seems like it should work fine)
  • I used a lower sodium canned black bean.  If you choose to use regular canned black beans, you may want to skip the 1/4 teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) salt.
  • Since you’ll be storing these cookies in fridge, warm in microwave 7 seconds on high.  If storing in freezer, warm in microwave 15 seconds on high.
  • If you choose to use all-purpose flour (since some readers may not have access to white rice flour), my best guess is the texture will not be as delicate.  But I think it’s still worth to experiment with all-purpose flour.
  • If you are not using canned black beans, 1 and 2/3 cups  (1.66 cups) cooked beans is the same amount as a 15 oz can.
  • I stored extra cookies in the freezer by wrapping individually, then placing in a freezer safe container.

Our family weighs in:

  • Son loved them – he even knew about the beans.
  • Daughter really loved them and asked for one in her lunch.  This surprised me since she knew about the beans.
  • Husband liked them, but thought they could use more sugar.
  • I love the intense chocolate taste.
Plated Cookies 
Thank you for the great post, Striving Bean!
So… will you make them? 

Finally… Aunt Else’s Aebleskiver Giveaway Details

Do you want Aunt Else Aebleskiver Starter Kit?  The pan, the handle hot pad, the turner, and the mix?  Everything you need (except for egg & water) to make delicious Skivers at your home?

Then you are in the right place!


Come to a Special Aebleskiver Call with Chad Gillard, President of Aunt Else’s on February 18th, 2010 at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT .

Chad will answer your Aebleskiver questions, and you will learn a lot about this fun and delicious food. Plus sometime during the call, we pick a winner from those who attended the call.

NOTE: This giveaway offer is good for US and Canadian residents only.  Anyone is welcome to join our call.

Please sign up from this link to get the phone number.
You’ll get the number & passcode right away via email.  We need to have everyone go through here,  so that we can pick the winner for the starter kit giveaway from this list and announce during the call.

  • Be sure to check mark “Aebleskiver Giveaway” at the bottom.

Do you want to increase the chance of winning?  Here’s how!

1. Become a Kitchen Wizard fan on Facebook. If you sign up your friends and tell me who they are, you get extra points.  Also subscribing to the Kitchen Wizard newsletter and/or blog subscription via email (From the side bar under these red pots) is 1 point each.

2. Become an Aunt Else fan. 1 point each at Facebook, Twitter and Foodbuzz page.  (put links)  By the way, this will give you 10% discount on all purchase from and  Use “KitchenWizard” as the discount code on either site.

3. Send us questions you want me to ask to Chad during the call in the comment box. If you come up with more than one, break them up, so that everyone has a fair chance of asking questions.  Each comment count as one.  Also the comments you’ve already left on my previous Aebleskiver related posts counts too.  Obviously, we’d rather have someone who’d love the pan and use it to win!

If you want to go back to add comments to increase the chance of winning, here are the links.

4. Come to the call. We pick the winner based on these comments and fan activities, and announce the winner on the call.  NOTE: Just like these raffles at the church, you need to be present when your name is called! Otherwise, it goes to the next person in line.

5. Extra benefit to be on the call… Our generous Skiver Santa agreed to offer some Special gifts to those who attends the call, so be sure to stay on the entire call to find out the details.

Some of you might be thinking…

“What shall I do, if I really really want the kit, I’ve left many comments, but I cannot be on the call…”

OK… If that’s the case…  you are allowed to have your representative on the call, as long as you let me know in advance who’ll be on the call for you (as a comment for this post).  To be fair to everyone, one cannot be more than one person.  If someone agrees to represent you, s/he cannot represent themselves.    Please make sure that person signs up with their name as well, so that we can send him/her reminders for the call.

So what would you like to ask about Aebleskivers? Leave your questions in the comment box below.