Kitchen Wizard Flexipes Book (paperback & Kindle) is out!

Kitchen Wizard Flexipes Book (paperback & Kindle) is out!

Happy New Year everyone!  

What’s your new year’s resolutions?  The number one resolution to many is “eating healthy”!  As we all know (including myself), keep eating healthy gets difficult as the days go by.

A great news!  My Kitchen Wizard method has become a book!  It’s available as both paper back and e-book from Amazon.  Give yourself a magic wand to help you finally succeed in your commitment and build a sustainable habit easily.  

Here’s to your happy and healthy 2013, filled with tasty home-made meals!

 

 

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!

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!

Batch and fridge: Sautéed Mirepoix Tomato and Meat Mixture — Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

It’s getting dark, cold, and RAINY in the Bay Area.  Yes, this fall is exceptionally rainy, and it rains cats and dogs, and that’s not enough, as if all the animals are falling from the sky. And I heard that those people in Colorado, Nebraska etc. already had 6 inches on snow, in early October?  Not just global warming, the weather is strange lately.

On an evening like that, and especially when I’m recovering from sickness, one thing I crave for is stuffed cabbage.

Believe it or not (I might have said that before), 99% of Japanese housewives cook Japanese, other Asian, as well as European origin food as normal repertoire. At least the last 50 years, that has been the norm.  Japanese are known to adopt great things from other countries and improve it to make it more efficient, like cars and electronics. And maybe not as well known fact outside of Japan, but food is definitely one of them.  We Japanize it with the ingredients that are available in Japan, and make it our own.

So, when I was little, and get sick, one of the things I craved for was “Rolled Cabbage” which is stuffed cabbage. Not just at my house, but ask 100 Japanese, whether they live in Japan or elsewhere, I can guarantee majority will say “I make them once in a while.”  We even have Japanese version, which often is found in oden, Japanese pot-au-feu.

The problem with Stuffed cabbage is it takes quite a long time to make it from scratch. But through my Kitchen Wizarding Process, I found a very easy way, that only takes about half or less time, and as tasty!

Plus my version uses mirepoix as its base, and not much meat, so it’s super healthy.  If you are vegetarian, or vegan, omit meat.

To make it even healthier, you can use other kinds of grains and even more vegetables, instead of rice. If the stuffing is too loose, add a beaten egg, so that it’ll serve as a binding agent.

So here’s Kitchen Wizard’s stuffed cabbage recipe!

Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients:

  • Sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture – about 1 cup
  • Cooked rice – about 1 cup
  • Grated cheese – about 1/4 cup (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A head of cabbage
  • 1/3 –1/4 Can of tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Cream

Directions:

  1. Remove the core of the cabbage, and stuff the hole with a moist paper-towel.  Wrap it with plastic wrap, and microwave it until cooked through, turning once in the middle. (about 5 min for small head cabbage, about 1 lb.  About 8-9 min for a 2 pounder.) This will allow the leaves to come out easily.
  2. Mix cooked rice and sautéed mirepoix, meat and tomato mixture about 50/50. Add cheese if preferred. Mix and season well.  Sprinkle some salt on the cabbage. Wrap a few tablespoons of the rice mixture with the cabbage leaves tightly.  Secure the end with tooth pick or broken spaghetti.
  3. Arrange the cabbage rolls into a pan as tightly as possible, trying not to leave any space.  If there’s any space, stuff with leftover cabbage.
  4. Add broth to barely cover the cabbage rolls.  Top with chopped tomatoes, and place a lid or plate that is one size smaller than the opening, so that the rolls will not float up. Cook for about 20-30 min.  (If you are short with time, cook in microwave, in several minute increments.  Be careful not boil over the broth.)
  5. Serve immediately with cream on top.

Note: Do you have any cooked cabbage leftover?  Great!  Because it’s really handy!  You can shred it and add to miso soup, other kind of soup, mix with vinaigrette to make simple salad as a side dish, sauté lightly with salt and pepper, with tomatoes, curry powder, bacon, etc. etc.

They were so yummy, they made the last bit of my sickness go away…

Never forget, nourish your soul with good, whole food, not just body…  It’ll thank you and give back 100 times! And the best way to do that is through home-cooking.  Treat yourself with your childhood favorite from time to time!

Recession Forces Americans to Eat Less Meat… Have You?

The economic downturn may have a positive effect on the meat-heavy American diet??

Something exciting to hear by Louise McCready, in her gourmet.com article titled Recession Flexitarians.

According to the article, “Fifty-one percent of shoppers surveyed by the American Meat Institute say they have changed their meat purchasing relative to the economy. Despite the recent increase in home cooking, the average family only prepares 3.9 evening meals that include a meat item, down from 4.2 meals last year.

Andrew Gottschalk, an independent analyst at the agribusiness market-research website HedgersEdge.com, reports total beef demand is down 7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008—the equivalent of the entire metropolitan area of Atlanta becoming vegetarian. And farmers across the nation, anticipating continued low demand, are planning to cut their production of beef, pork, poultry, and milk, along with corn, wheat, rice, and peanuts.”

This is a great trend, in my opinion! Even though it might have been caused as a reaction to the recession, it’s great that average Americans finally are eating less meat, and now they know there are many other choices than meat, that are healthier and tastier, let alone cheaper.

As a native Japanese, I’ve noticed that typically people in the US eat twice as much meat, and half the amount of vegetables, compared with those in Japan. If you compare the same type of recipes, it’s quite obvious why.

Watch a cooking show – it’s all meat and carb dishes in the US, whereas in Japan, it’s mainly vegetable based dishes with a bit of meat (or of course, fish and rice).

That’s probably reflected in the obesity rates in the US vs. Japan. (30% vs. 3%). The good news is now Americans too are learning to "stretch meat" by adding minced veggies in burgers, etc., which force people to eat more plant-based food!  And by adding more flavors, people tend feel satisfied faster with less food, compared with just a large piece of meat with a single flavor.

This will be huge! I really believe those who change their eating habits to "less meat and a more plant-based diet" will be become healthier and thinner.

This shift is really important for baby-boomers. At least in the US, you can’t quite rely on Medical Insurance to take care of you when something happens, so each one of us need to be fully responsible to make the necessary changes to prevent any health crisis.

And the biggest benefit is for kids who start eating this way, thanks to the parents’ wise decision to change their eating habits so they will not have to worry about obesity.

I hope you will join this healthy trend, by tweaking your recipes to include more vegetables, and stretch your dollar and dinner, and extend your life span.

Have you joined this trend?  If so, how? 

No? Why?  Are you planning to in the future?

I’d love to hear your opinions. : )

How to eat more vegetables, easily Part 2: Provencal Stuffed Vegetables

stuffed veggies

Here’s the recipe for Provencal stuffed vegetables I promised to you last time…

The version we had in Nice was stuffed with ground veal, but since our objective here is to increase the vegetable intake, may I suggest you make the stuffing with sautéed mirepoix.  If you’ve been reading my blog and implementing the tips, you might already have some in your fridge or freezer! With that on hand, it’ll make things so much easier!

The best thing about this is it’s very versatile – meaning you can use things you find in your fridge or freezer and end up with a delicious dish.

For the delicate flavor of squash blossoms, I like the mixture of rice, chicken sausage, grated cheese or ricotta cheese, lemon zest and parsley. The other vegetables have a more assertive flavor, so you can stuff with couscous, breadcrumbs, cheeses, ground meat, cheeses, chopped nuts, pesto…

Ingredients:

  • Sautéed mirepoix or sautéed mirepoix and meat mixture
  • Seasonal vegetables of your choice: Here I used tomato, zucchini, squash blossom, eggplant and yellow pepper.
  • Cooked meat, cheese, chopped nuts, herb for flavor
  • Rice, breadcrumbs, couscous etc.
  • Beaten egg

Directions:

  1. Combine rice, sautéed mirepoix, meat, etc. and egg.  Season and mix well.
  2. Cut vegetables in half and scoop out the seeds. If large, slice in 1/4” thickness. Sprinkle salt and pepper and drizzle inside with a little olive oil. If using squash blossoms, remove the stems and stamens, just rinse it gently with water and pat dry.
  3. Chop tomato and zucchini seeds (if small), and add to the mixture.
  4. Stuff the vegetables with mirepoix mixture. Optional: Sprinkle with grated cheeses.
  5. Bake at 400F or pan fry both side – stuffed side first on a non-stick skillet, until the top is golden brown and cooked through.

Tip: It’s really fun and easy to make different stuffing and compare. These veggies on the photos have 5 different combinations, all with sautéed mirepoix with chicken sausage.  (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo before I fried them.)

  • pepper: couscous, pesto, ricotta.
  • zucchini: tomato flesh, pecorino Romano
  • Squash blossom: as above with ricotta
  • tomato: zucchini flesh, rice, pecorino Romano,  pesto
  • eggplant: panko, lots of pecorino Romano

If you made too much stuffing, make it into small balls, fry/bake them as a snack!  It’s a cook’s treat.

Squash blossoms are easy to grow at home. Given that they are really expensive (50c per withered flower) and hard to find, I grow them just for the flowers.

In my next post, I’ll share the a little more about this summer delicacy, and the tips on how to keep them fresh longer… So stay tuned.

Zucchini Flower on Foodista

Kitchen Wizard Tool Box Part 3: Electric Kettle — How to Boil Water Fast for Pasta, etc.

Have you ever tried to boil a large pot of water for pasta (especially in a high-altitude area?) and wished it was quicker?

Then read on… This will guarantee to save you a lot of time and frustration.

Get an electric kettle.

It’s so much faster to boil water with an electronic kettle than in a pot, or even a normal kettle. It only costs about $20, so it’s really worth it.

It’s also handy if you like to drink tea or powdered hot drinks like cocoa. In tea-drinking countries like the UK and former British colonies, you’d find one in almost all homes and hotel rooms – even at budget places.

Also use an electronic kettle when you want to:

  • Make a quick, individual portion onion gratin soup (<- click here for recipe!)
  • Make Ochazuke (Japanese rice soup),
  • Blanch spinach quickly,
  • Run the hot water over oily food like bacon or fried bean curds for healthier eating,
  • Wash out grease residue on pots and pans from oily foods for easy clean-up, etc.

The only draw back is the capacity is normally about 1-2 qt.  Now I use the double-potting trick (below) to boil a larger quantity of water.

How to Boil Water FAST — Kitchen Wizard double-potting trick!

  1. Use the pan with the widest bottom on the largest burner (or highest BTU).
  2. Add about 1” (or 2” if you need more boiled water) of water in the pot, close the lid and boil at high heat.
  3. In the mean time, boil water in the electric kettle near your stove (so that you don’t have to run back and forth with full kettle of boiling water). Once it’s boiled, simply add to the pot.
  4. If you need more boiling water, just do another batch in electric kettle.  Make sure to keep the lid closed until the desired amount of water is completely boiled.

These kettles are available at places like Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Macy’s.

Once you start using it, you’ll wonder why you waited so long!

Less than 5: Tuna and Chickpea Salad

Chickpea and tuna salad mixed with spring greens

Chickpea and tuna salad mixed with spring greens

Since you learned about the batching of chopped onions, here’a great recipe using some of them.

This is my favorite salad.  Healthy, delicious and easy to make even from scratch espeically if you already have chopped onions and/or dressing.  If you don’t, make extra chopped onions and dressing to save time later.

  1. Chop ½ onion.
  2. Cut 1 apple into eighths, and slice them thin. Sprinkle with wine vinegar.
  3. Combine 1, 2 and add 1 can tuna (olive-oil packed preferred), and 1 can chick-peas.
  4. Add minced parsley (optional).
  5. Add dressing made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Wine vinegar, Salt and Pepper and mix gently.

Note: For vegetarian version, omit tuna.

For other uses of chopped onions, please refer to the post dated March 27, 2009.

Usage for extra dressing: various salads, dipping raw and steamed vegetables, etc.

Bon Appetit!