The Zojirushi Holiday Gift Guide is Here!

Holiday Gift Guide

Our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide is here and we’ve got great recommendations for all of the special people in your life!

Take our clever Yes/No questionnaire and by the time you’re finished, you’ll know exactly what type of Zojirushi product you should be getting for that special person.  The best part, is that no matter what kind of gift you end up choosing, there are no wrong choices!

Twas the Night For Zojirushi

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holly-berries-icon-psd copy copyTwas the night before Holidays, when all through the house–
Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.
And just when even a mouse wouldn’t squeak,
The Zojirushi products decided to speak!

rice copyThe Rice Cooker said, “They can’t live without me.
Rice is a staple, their dinners need me.
Whatever the side dish, whatever the soup,
You need fluffy rice, to complete the group.”

bread“I beg to differ,” the Breadmaker said.
“What staple is there, other than bread?
I can bake it fresh, and it smells so good,
The mornings are mine, that’s understood.”

waterboiler3“Hold on! Wait for it! Here comes the spoiler!
That’s not how it ends!” chimed the Water Boiler.
“It all starts with water and I heat it with ease.
Tea drinkers love me, everyone agrees.”

travelmug2 copy“Ah, but here’s one thing that’s wrong with you all.
You slaves are stuck, you’re plugged to the wall!
We’re cool, we hydrate, we stay with the runners.”
The Travel Mugs bragged, as they flashed their colors.

foodjar4The Lunch Jars and Food Jars, they heard the discussion.
They said, “We agree, we concur, we second that motion!”

 

gourmet2And that Gourmet guy, you know the one–
that Tabletop Skillet who has all the fun.
The life of the party, always looking so chic;
breathed out a sigh and rose up to speak.

holly-berries-icon-psd copy copy“Hold it, listen you all. You’re missing the point!
It’s not who’s great, or who rocks this joint.
We all serve a purpose; we follow a plan.
We make life easier whenever we can.

holly-berries-icon-psd copy copyWe all love to cook, and that’s the truth.
We satisfy cravings, or any sweet tooth.
So let’s enjoy what we do–we are truly blessed.
It’s not about skill, or who is the best!”

holly-berries-icon-psd copy copyA sudden silence then came over the kitchen.
The arguing stopped and they started to listen.
The Zojirushi spirit is alive and well.
“He’s right, good point! They started to yell.”

holly-berries-icon-psd copy copyAnd so it was on that Holiday night,
with the fire in embers and the stars out of sight,
a commotion was settled, the rebellion rejected.
Peace came again, with the kitchen protected.

holly-berries-icon-psd copy copyThose products decided to give up the strife,
and take Inspiration From Everyday Life.

 

–with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

Happy Holidays everyone!

Good Taste: Yuzu!

 

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Yummy for the palette and yummy for the skin!  Yuzu is a gorgeous, cold-hardy citrus fruit used in Japanese cooking, cocktails and beauty treatments. Yuzu is popular in dishes…as an ingredient in dipping sauces like ponzu and in spicy pastes like yuzukosho. It’s even more popular muddled into cocktails like the Yuzu Sour, which is mixed with rum, vodka, triple sec, soda and simple syrup.

The yuzu fruit is small, about the size of a large lime. It’s tart and a little bit bitter, citrusy as if a grapefruit and a lemon were mixed together. Very little juice can be extracted from the fruit, since the fruit has a very thick rind and large seeds relative to its size, but the juice that is available has a concentrated flavor, and zesting the peel releases the fruit’s aromatic oils. Yuzu seeds were also used medicinally.

Yuzu zest in chawanmushi

Yuzu zest in chawanmushi

The hardy yuzu plant is able to thrive in diverse planting zones, and can even survive temperatures as low as 5°F. In April and May, the trees flower with delicate white blossoms. From June through August, the trees remain dormant, laden with dark green fruit. Even though the fruit is not yet ripe like it will be during the winter months, the rind of the green fruit is grated and served with salads and sashimi to add a citrus spice to these dishes. During the winter months, the fruit turns golden and aromatic, and is used fresh and preserved. Yuzu marmalade is extremely popular, and can be used in desserts and teas. Marinades for chicken and fish, as well as dipping sauces for vegetables and beef are also commonly used. We love the Baked Sea Bass with Yuzu Pepper recipe on our website… give it a try!

One of the best uses of yuzu is on Winter Solstice, or Toji. A hot bath is drawn and whole yuzu fruit or sliced fruit bundled in cheesecloth is added to the water. Bathing in this water is said to ward off colds and flu during the winter, and to rejuvenate dry, chapped skin as the aromatic oils are released into the water. The nomilin in the fruit’s oils also produces a relaxing effect and increases circulation.

Luscious and appetizing, yuzu is a treat at this time of year!

How to… Use a Deba Bocho

As we’ve been showcasing, Japanese kitchens are equipped with simple, elegant tools that serve multiple purposes and are made to withstand constant use. Japanese knives are key to the culinary tradition, with the deba bocho being an important piece of the cook’s knife collection.

The deba bocho is one of the five basic knives that are part of most traditional Japanese kitchens. Along with funayuki bocho, nakiri bocho, wabocho or santoku, and the sashimi bocho, the deba bocho, which means “pointed carving knife” has a unique shape and heft that has evolved over time to become task–specific and task-expert.

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The deba bocho, also called a sakana bocho, is a thick-bladed, heavy knife with a sharp tip. The length of it can vary, but in general, the deba bocho is a medium to large (23-31 cm, or about 9-12 inches) knife that is used to hand-fillet fish, carve whole poultry and cut through larger chunks of meat, especially when the cook needs to cut through small bones.

The various parts of the blade are extremely useful for specific cuts. When filleting a fish, the broad, long edge of the blade is used to cut through the flesh along the edges of bones. The tip is used to sever fillets from the carcass and the corner edge is used to cut through larger pieces. The knife can also be used similar to a Western carving knife, useful for carving a chicken along the joint lines and along the breasts. The knife, especially if maintained correctly and sharpened regularly, makes precise cuts and will last the cook for many, many years.

Have you used this type of knife before? Share your stories!

 

Delicate Customs:  Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens are some of the most beautiful and tranquil spaces in the world. Imparting a sense of unspoiled beauty, Japanese gardens are stylized, yet natural, representations of nature… idealized versions of landscapes that evoke serenity, meditation, harmony and grace.

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From the smallest backyard to the largest park, Japanese garden traditions revolve around six aesthetic principles, including point of view (or perspective), miniaturization, concealment, ‘borrowed’ scenery, asymmetry and artistic form. The earliest documentation of these principles can be found in the Sakuteiki (or Notes on Gardening) written during the Heian period of Japan’s history, from approximately 794-1185 CE. According to these principles, the Japanese garden is a miniaturized and often, abstract, version of a larger natural landscape, where fine sand or gravel can represent water or large rocks represent islands. The designed landscape is meant to be viewed from a particular perspective, whether a seated position, such as in traditional meditation gardens, or from elevated platforms, such as in pleasure gardens. These perspectives inform the scale of the garden, along with the types of flora, fauna, water and rock elements used in it. In this landscape design tradition, plants, animals and hardscape are deliberately chosen to tell a subtle story, sometimes of mythological or religious beings, and sometimes of the passage of seasons in an area fondly remembered. To that end, Japanese gardens are not constrained to a grid of a symmetrical design axis, like the formal Western flower gardens at Versailles. Elements flow in natural patterns, often placed according to Buddhist geomancy principles.

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Ryoan-ji Hojo rock garden

Traditional Japanese gardens have survived the many periods of Japan’s history, beginning in the Heian and Muromachi periods, then experiencing a resurgence during the Edo and Meiji periods and again in current, modern times. Today, large-scale urban parks incorporate the main styles of Japanese gardens into their landscapes, including the tsukiyama, karesansui and chaniwa styles. The tsukiyama style focuses on showing nature in miniature, using small-scale trees, rocks, waterfalls, streams and ponds. The karesansui, or “dry”, style uses sand and gravel to represent flowing water, and is most often seen in zen or meditation gardens because of the simple elegance of the garden. Chaniwa-style gardens are adjacent to a teahouse, and are designed to be utterly natural and simple, while at the same time meant to prepare a guest for entering the teahouse for the chanoyu or tea ceremony. A garden path denoted by tobi-ishi, or stepping stones, guides guests to the teahouse, along with stone lanterns called ishidoro. Small round stone bundles bound with straw are placed along the paths so that guests will know where they are not to step. A tsukubai, or stone basin and ladle, are placed at the end of the garden path, and water from an elevated bamboo pipe, or kakei, is poured into it so that guests may wash their hands and mouths prior to entering the teahouse.

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These three styles of traditional gardens are seen in spectacular public spaces, and one particular garden not to be missed is the Ryoan-ji Hojo Temple Garden in Kyoto.

Japanese gardens are now famously available to people all over the world, and even if you don’t live close to one, designing your own garden space, however large or small, can be a beautiful, artistic and fulfilling endeavor.

Our Newest Food Jar – Great for Lunch this Fall!

 

SW-HAE (New)

 

Our new Stainless Steel Food Jar SW-HAE55 comes in beautiful steel and rich metallic red finishes, and has the classic Zojirushi 2.5 inch wide mouth, which makes it easy to add food and eat directly from the jar. The SlickSteel® interior finish, electro-polished to a smooth surface, is free of BPA, and is easy to clean and repels foreign substances and stains. Best of all, Zojirushi’s vacuum insulated technology—where the air within the insulation enclosure is ‘vacuumed’ out, minimizing heat convection—keeps foods and liquids hot or cold for hours. The lid has a unique feature that lets you screw off the stopper lid and release pressure, so there’s no need to wrestle with a jar of hot food when you’re trying to open it.

While we’re very excited about the features of our new food jar, we think our customers say it best. Check out these reviews of some of our other stainless steel food jars posted on Amazon.com:

Love this food jar. Exactly like the reviews I read from online. Every morning, I put organic rolled oat and chia seeds in it and add boiling water. I have some commute so when I arrive at work the oatmeal is fully cooked and still burning hot! This product seriously saves my weekday mornings.” ~ by Nicole on 6/19/15

“…This is a long term and wise investment. No plastic container to dispose. No harmful and toxic chemicals that goes into the food – only freshly cooked food wherever you go!” ~ by Bluetooth on 4/4/15

“We use two of these about twice a week for our kids’ lunches. I warm up leftover spaghetti or chicken noodle soup or beans & weanies in a dinner bowl, then scoop the food into these jars, and it stays warm from 6:30 AM to noon. My kindergartener and 2nd grader can handle opening and closing the jars. I have used these for myself too, and it has enough room for the volume of food I eat (average woman). They have held up well for 5 months so far. […] They have not leaked yet, which makes it worth the high price of these in my opinion. We also have a Kid’s thermos version much like these, but these (Zojirushi) are taller, hold more volume, keep food warmer longer, and have a more grown-up appearance, so I like them better. I have travel tea container by the same maker, and it also never leaks.” ~ by JH on 11/23/14

“Got this for my 11-yr old daughter to take hot meals to school. We’ve had it for 3-4 months and used it quite a bit. It does a great job of keeping her noodles or soup warm until lunchtime and is just the right size. We had a small Stanley thermos container that we’d gotten for the same purpose, but it was bulkier and heavier, and was a total dud at keeping the contents warm. There is really no comparison, the Zojirushi is MUCH better.” ~ by Liz and Tom Craffordon on 1/27/15

We hope that you try out this new 19 ounce size stainless steel food jar, and that your own review is as glowing as the ones from our other customers.

For actual product features and use and care instructions, please visit the SW-HAE55 product page.

Instagram Is The New Food Channel

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Have you noticed all those people taking pictures of their food at restaurants? Chances are iphoneit’s going up on Instagram before they even take their first bite. When our family eats out, we’re not allowed to dig in until all the shots have been taken. We’ve even been known to use our cell phones to add extra lighting when it’s too dim to get a decent shot!😜 Sorry, so obnoxious…😓 Of course, we always make sure it’s OK with the restaurant; these days they all seem to be used to it. Besides, there are plenty of food bloggers around who do reviews, too. 👍

advicepicIn the Instagram world, the “food shot” is probably the most popular image posted, along with pics of kids, pics of pets, quotes that give out life advice, and those self-promoting selfies.😒 Wait, did I just apologize for being obnoxious with our food shots? I take it back–there are worse offenses.

Instagram is a legitimate force in social media today with well over 300 million users worldwide; probably why Facebook bought the company back in 2012 for $1billion. Make no mistake, Facebook is still the king with over 1.3 billion users!😲 I happen to have accounts in both Facebook and Instagram, even though friends my age are usually in Facebook. Instagram is mostly populated by the Millenials and the age 35 & under demographic, but my day job is to manage social media for our kitchenware company, so I’ve been the one to post images to our Instagram account, @goodcookcom

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My mechanic diagnosing my engine!

I find it more fun than Facebook; it’s very easy to use, I don’t have to write a whole story behind the picture, and for a graphics geek like me, playing around with the image filters, photo cropping and collage framing is kind of satisfying. On my personal Instagram account, I find myself posting events or images that are quirky or interesting to me, but I don’t think my kids find them particularly “Instagram-worthy”. Apparently we don’t think alike. Who knew!😞

I leave the food pics to my wife, who has become very skillful with her cell phone. She cooks a lot, so between her creations at home and our tours out on the town to find foodie places that she scouts on YELP, there’s a lot of content to share. Ironically, the dishes I get to eat at home are every bit as delicious as they look, but by the time I get home for dinner, the beautiful plate that made it to Instagram does not look like what I’m eating!😠 Oh well, it tastes the same though, so I can’t complain!😄

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Fresh POKE (Hawaiian style marinated sashimi tuna)

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Basement record store in Boston

The above shots come from 2 separate Instagram accounts: my wife’s and mine. Is it obvious which one is hers and which one is mine?

 

Good Taste: Gin-nan (Ginkgo Nuts)

Gin-nan or ginkgo nuts ripen in autumn, and this month, fans around the world will be picking them straight from the trees to bring them to their tables.

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Patience is required to prepare ginkgo nuts. Fresh nuts are encased in three layers – a pulpy, yellowish outer covering; a hard, smooth white nut case; and a thin, brownish inner skin. And that’s not the only protection around the nuts! The pulpy outer covering is extremely pungent, likened to durian fruit in intensity and odor. Avid enthusiasts undertake the challenge of removing the smelly outer covering, cracking open the nut case and then scrubbing the inner skins off while the nuts are soaked in hot water to get to the nut within. (The not-so-avid can definitely find fresh, hulled nuts at Asian markets around the world.) The inexperienced novice will certainly come away with skin peeling from their hands and an overfull stomach, as only 4-5 nuts should be eaten at a time (unfortunately, ginkgo poisoning is a thing).

ginnan02Gin-nan grow on female ginkgo biloba trees, which are prized not only for their fruit but for their beautiful and unique foliage. In Tokyo, ginkgo trees turn a splendid shade of gold during the fall season, and locals and tourists alike visit the “Ginkgo Avenue” or Icho Namiki near the Aoyama-Itchome Station and in Showa Memorial Park. Each location is planted with four rows of ginkgo trees, forming broad avenues overhung by leafy branches dappling shade. A ginkgo tree is also at Sensoji Shrine in Asakusa, the oldest temple in Tokyo.

The raw nuts, once harvested from the trees and deskinned, are white in color but turn pale green when cooked. In Japan, the nuts are skewered and grilled, kushiyaki-style and more commonly found in chawanmushi, a savory egg custard appetizer. The true connoisseur loves these nuts simply roasted, warm and fragrant on an autumn day.

How to…use an Oroshi-gane

Japanese kitchens are equipped with a few simple, elegant and highly-functional tools…great knives, a mortar and pestle, a rice cooker, chopsticks, and an oroshi-gane, or hand-held grater.

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A traditional sharkskin oroshi-gane

The oroshi-gane is a key implement used in daily Japanese cooking. Primarily used to grate roots, such as wasabi and ginger, the oroshi-gane is also used for grating daikon radishes, wild mountain yams and citrus zests.

The grater is commonly found in three varieties: plastic, ceramic and metal. They each oroshigane03feature a small handle that the cook holds, a flat surface with thorn-like projections against which food is grated and a collection trough that captures the paste and juice from the grated food item. In old times most households owned a metal one. Today, plastic ones are gaining popularity as they are less expensive and can be replaced when the grating surface becomes dull. They also come in a variety of colors and fun shapes, making the tedious grating experience a bit more exciting. Ceramic graters are easily breakable, but don’t retain odors which is nice when you grate a lot of ginger, wasabi, onions, or any herbs and vegetables that have a strong scent. Oroshi-gane were originally made from sharkskin stretched and glued onto a wooden board. The rough skin, similar to sandpaper in texture, turned wasabi roots into mush, creating the paste-like wasabi we know today.

Have you used this type of grater before? Share your stories!

Delicate Customs: Undo-Kai!

Undo-kai time is here!

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Every year in Japan, schools hold sports festivals showcasing their students’ physical talents in competitive and cooperative sports. Families and members of the community all assemble at their local or school stadium and watch children at each grade level compete in track and field, dance, o-en-dan, kumi-taiso, ki-ba-sen, tama-ire and ball games.

Undo-kai festivals are daylong events, and often coincide with the National Sports Day holiday on October 10, which commemorates the opening of the 1964 Olympic Games in undoukai03Tokyo. The day begins in the morning, with a procession of children marching to music in their gym uniforms – red teams (aka gumi) separated from white teams (shiro gumi) by the color of their hats. Families spread out blankets on the nearby grass, and lay out their cushions and picnic lunches, ready for the morning’s performances. Children on each team warm-up and stretch, the o-en-dan cheering squads perform dances to music and taiko drums, and the track and field and ball games begin!

Each team has been practicing for this event, from the youngest first grader to older sixth grade students. Each member of the team contributes to the team’s points, which will be tallied at the end of the day to declare a winner. The morning’s competition breaks for one of the highlights for families…a picnic or bento lunch.

Students share the bento lunch with their families, taking a long break in the shade to rest and prepare for the afternoon’s competition. Bento lunches are as much a part of the Undo-kai tradition as the games themselves. Parents and grandparents have been up since early morning preparing onigiri, fresh vegetables, fruit, desserts, chicken, fish, shrimp, omelets, sausages, salads, pickles and sandwiches. The shapes and colors and textures of the food, all delicately seasoned, is a sight to see! Freshly-brewed tea is loaded into insulated bottles and the entire feast is packed in beautiful, stackable bento boxes.

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After eating until everyone is satisfied, the children return to the games, and the afternoon’s competitions of kumi-taiso (group gymnastics), ki-ba-sen (shoulder war), dancing and music continue as more points are collected for each team. Finally, the games end, and the scores for each team are announced. The school principal and representatives from each team lead the closing ceremonies. Win, lose or tie, each team has demonstrated a quintessentially Japanese trait… cooperation, even while competing.