Good Vibes and Chocolates for February

February is a great time to be in the kitchen. Spring hasn’t quite sprung and chicories and root vegetables are still widely available. Fennel is everywhere and winter citrus brightens up crispy salads at home. The weather is still crisp too this time of year and we find ourselves wearing winter coats out to the market while dreaming of warm spring days. February is winter’s last run before new life arrives in March.

Chocolate Hearts and Pink RosesFebruary is also the month of one of our favorite holidays – Valentine’s Day! We love Valentine’s Day because it is a day to sit down and share a delicious meal with someone you love. We also love Valentine’s Day because it is an excuse to buy, exchange and eat boxes of chocolates! Whether you are celebrating romantically, with kids, or with close friends, we all have something to celebrate this year. And with an abundance of fresh produce in season, why not celebrate at home for a change? Create a celebratory 3-course meal for your loved ones featuring all this season has to offer. From fresh strawberries to roasted cauliflower and homemade pickled turnips, the possibilities are endless. We look forward to seeing what you create!

Setsubun 節分

In Japan, we celebrate Setsubun or “Seasonal Division” in February. It marks the day before the beginning of spring in the lunar calendar and is usually held on the 3rd or 4th day of the month.

Spring Setsubun can be thought of as a kind of New Year’s Eve. It is the time to ward away evil spirits and make room for spring. The day is celebrated by throwing roasted beans around our homes and at temples and shrines while shouting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” meaning “Demons out! Luck in!” This ritual symbolizes driving off negative energy as well as an invitation to happiness. The timing is perfect as it is also a time to bid farewell to the cold dark of winter and welcome the new life of spring. We are wishing everyone a very happy Setsubun and a new season filled with happiness and good energy!

Ayatoriあやとり

Ayatori is a game of making string figures by using your fingers and weaving the strings together to create the shapes. It can be played by two or alone. A string about 120 cm (47 inches) long is tied at the ends to form a loop. This loop of string is intertwined to form shapes like broom, flower, airplane and frog.

One of the basic shapes to construct is a broom. Take a sting and give it a try.
http://web-japan.org/nipponia/nipponia26/en/topic/index02.html

Here are the steps:

  1. Take your string and pull it all the way down.
  2. With your other hand make a big loop from the inside and hook it with your index finger through the small loop.
  3. Next pull the small loops through the big ones.
  4. Now flip the loops over and release your hand.
  5.  Flip the string marked with the star, flip it over your finger and pull it towards you…There’s your broom!

Cacao, Chocolate’s Sophisticated Sister

Everyone is talking about Cacao! You see it on chocolate bars, in cookies and even in breakfast smoothies. It is claimed to be a super food packed with health benefits, but what is it? Is it just a fancy name for chocolate? The answer is yes and no.

Cacao or cocoa beans are the dried and fully fermented beans that give us cocoa butter and cocoa solids, and yes, also the base for chocolate. They are native to the Americas and may have originated in the Amazon, although we can’t be sure. Today more than 3 million tons of cocoa are processed globally each year.  Most of the cocoa or cacao processed today is turned into chocolate. Some however, are sold as cacao nibs.

Cacao nibs are pure cocoa beans that have been roasted and broken up into bits resembling chocolate chunks. They are similar to coffee beans in flavor and a bit crunchier in texture. Can you imagine tasting pure chocolate without sugar? That’s a cacao nib. It’s slightly bitter, but nutty with a little spice and a nice crunch. These little bites are rich and will leave you far more satisfied than a sugary chocolate bar.

You can do all kind of things with cacao nibs. Throw them in your next batch of cookies alongside mini chocolate chips, sprinkle them on top of your ice cream sundae for a nutty crunch or even try them at breakfast with yogurt to get you going in the morning. Cacao nibs are easy to find online and in some specialty stores. They will be sure to send your Valentine’s Day dessert over the edge of decadence.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and get some pure cacao nibs today. Taste something new and find creative ways to incorporate this super food into your kitchen. We look forward to seeing all of your bold and crunchy new creations! Happy Cooking!

The Product of The Month: Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-AAC10/18)

NL-AAC10_18There is a distinct line of amazing rice cookers in the Zojirushi family. Each one has something unique that it offers to each owner. This month we would like to spotlight the Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NL-AAC. If you’re looking for a home appliance that gives you some amazing versatility you’ll love this machine! It serves both as a rice cooker and a steamer. One machine that can prepare an entire meal! Offering the fuzzy logic technology this rice cooker includes multiple cooking settings to allow you to make perfect rice along with a side!

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A Fresh Start To A New Year!

Getting Healthy this New Year

Happy January! Can you believe how New Year - MP900309596the time flies? And here we are in 2014! The New Year is a great time to welcome change and new beginnings. It is the month to clear out what’s not needed in one’s life in order to make room for new things. If you have been putting off cleaning out the kitchen cupboards, this is the month to do it! January is also a great month to get back in shape! After indulging throughout the holiday season, most people are looking to cut back and trim down in January. By cleaning and reorganizing your kitchen space, you will be able to start fresh this January with seasonal farm to table fare. We’ll stand by you every step of the way. With our time tested recipes and state of the art equipment, Zojirushi is the perfect companion for creating new habits in the kitchen this January!

We’re enthused to empower and inspire you in the kitchen. Our idea is simple: fresh and seasonal ingredients create delicious and healthy food. We believe that food is meant to be enjoyed and that putting dinner together should be a joyful and simple task. Start the year off right with the 31 Days of Farm Fare challenge. Find a seasonal produce at your local market this month, get creative and try out something new each day. From roasting, to grilling, sautéing and boiling, the options with Zojirushi are never ending. Show us how you’re using fresh produce this January by using the hash tag #FarmFare. We can’t wait to see what you create! Happy cooking and happy New Year!

Japanese Games

福笑い – (Fukuwarai)
This is a traditional game played by children in Japan around New Years. The concept is similar to “Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey” where children are blindfolded and take facial elements and place them creatively on a blank face.

羽根つき – (Hanetuki)
Hanetuki, also referred to “Feather Ball”, is a game that is very similar to badminton, but uses no net. It can be played alone or by a group of people. Traditionally on New Year’s Day this is a game played by girls. Players use a wooden paddle called 羽子板(hagoita) to hit a feather shuttlecock high into the air. The player who misses the shuttlecock gets marked on the face with sumi ink.

Quince: January’s Most Mysterious Fruit

In scouring your local farmers’ markets this January, you might come across a number of unusual things. We have seen everything from purple tomatillos to red endive to jujubes in California! The most mysterious and mystical of varieties, however, is without a doubt the Quince. The rock hard and golden yellow fruit looks something like a lemon crossed with a pear. Just try biting into one and you will be met with a hard texture and bitter flavor.

The truth is that quince is inedible when raw. It must be cooked to be enjoyed. When cooked or poached, their yellow green color softens to a warm and rosy pink. Their bitter edge is transformed into a sweet and floral essence, and they are unlike anything you have ever tasted before. Quince is commonly found in jams and pastes because of its high pectin content. You might find such concentrates in Middle Eastern cooking or on the cheese plate at your local Italian restaurant. In Iran, you might even find quince in regional soups and stews.

While widely unknown and rarely used in the west, quince is one of the oldest fruits around. Native to South Asia, Iran and Turkey, the quince’s history dates back at least 5,000 years. In Greek mythology, it was considered a favorite of Aphrodite and has been accepted as an aphrodisiac ever since.

Keep an eye out for quince at your local market this month. You might be surprised by what you discover. Try poaching it and enjoying with breakfast or even as dessert. You will be spellbound by its beautiful color and rich perfume. As always, let us know what you discover by sharing pictures on Facebook and Twitter. We look forward to following your journey! Happy hunting and happy cooking!

Product of The Month: Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-DCC10)

EA-DCC10If you are looking for a kitchen product that simplifies the process of preparing a great home cooked meal then this is it! Our Product of The Month is the Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle that is easy to clean and comes with an extra large cooking surface that you can prepare an entire meal on! If you’re in a rush but need to cook up a meal for your family then drop the lid for a quicker cooking time. Also enjoy a worry-free tabletop cooking. This griddle is designed with safety in mind – it has a low profile design with a cooking plate that sits inside the body guard to protect against scalding.

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The Holidays Are Here!

Holiday Decadence

‘Tis the season for warm Dinner Place Setting with Christmas Cracker and Glassesmeals. ‘Tis the season for family. ‘Tis the season for holiday celebration! If there were ever a time for celebration with loved ones, it is now. Yes, holidays are a time to come together and be happy over food and drink. The days are shorter, the weather is colder and it is the perfect time to stay indoors and enjoy a warm meal. Most people allow themselves little indulgences in the month of December. We all tend to eat more, drink more and be a bit merrier this time of year. So why not make this year more decadent than ever? We have put together a list of the most decadent and unique holiday indulgences. Because, isn’t the more the merrier?

You can serve these items at your holiday party, or just enjoy them alone on a cold winter’s night. No matter how you indulge, these ingredients are sure to make it worth the revel!

Lambrusco: Nothing says celebration like this sweet red sparkling wine. Its light, fruity flavor and cheerful effervescence make it the perfect sip for holiday toasts and good cheer.
Oysters: What’s more decadent than raw oysters before a meal? Their crisp flavor and buttery texture make them the perfect bite with bubbles. Get them fresh and shuck them on the spot for an unforgettable and simple amuse-bouche.
Morels: Also known as Sponge Mushroom, these meaty mushrooms are delicious with pasta, steaks or simply on their own with toast. You can add them to scrambled eggs in the morning or incorporate them into a roasted veggie dish for an added touch of umami. Get them fresh or dried and cook with plenty of butter!
Ankimo: Also known as monkfish liver, ankimo is the Foie Gras of the sea. Its smooth and silky texture and rich, briny flavor make it perfect to spread on toast, or better yet, steak! Finish with daikon, ponzu or minced chive.
Black Truffle Essence: Thanks to a wide variety of black truffle infused salts and oils, you can now include this decadent essence without breaking the bank. Make your own truffle butter for steaks and green veggies or elevate your scrambled eggs. Black truffle essence adds a depth and earthiness to just about anything!
Chocolate: Chocolate should be the second to last stop for every decadent meal. It pairs great with red wines and spans the flavor spectrum from earthy and nutty to floral and even spicy. Look for a chocolate with low sugar content as sugar can mask the natural flavor notes.
Époisses de Bourgogne: Also known as Époisses, this gooey French cheese is the most delightfully decadent way to finish a meal. Bathed in brandy and aged in caves, this soft cheese is delicious with baguette or simply by the spoonful. Widely available in stores and online, it is perfect paired with Burgundian wine.

What’s your go-to item to make your meals more decadent? Share pictures and ideas with us on twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #ZojiHolidays. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic Finds New Life

Japanese Meal
When you hear miso soup, you probably think of that delicious bowl of soup you get before sushi or the instant package miso soup you find at the store. Did you ever think that it could be more than that? The truth is that it is. Miso soup is one of the most versatile and healthy things you can make at home. It’s also fun and easy to get creative with it! Add sweet potatoes, lobster or even corn for a warming bowl of deliciousness this winter season!

Miso soup is traditionally a “dashi” stock – made from dried fish, kelp and katsuobushi – with miso paste. You’ll find it served with tofu and seaweed most of the time. In Japan, it is a soup often served with rice as part of a traditional meal. In some regions, you might find it with small shrimp, mushrooms or sliced daikon.

Now that you know a bit more about it, take your miso soup to the next level by starting with a homemade broth or “dashi” made using your favorite ingredient from simmered lobster shells to chicken or vegetable stock. Try adding dried kombu for another layer of umami. Play with different kinds of miso, or try mixing a few together by using white, red or yellow miso paste. And finally, get creative with your vegetables and use the season for inspiration. You can add thick meaty mushrooms to match the tofu, deep green beans or even baby shrimp! The possibilities are endless! Happy cooking!

For a dashi recipe, click here.

Japanese Castles- (shiro)Japan Castle

Did you know that there were once over 3,000 castles in Japan? Primarily constructed for their military defense reasons, the castles guarded important strategic sites, such as ports, river crossings or crossroads, and almost always incorporated its surrounding landscape into their defense. As small battles were fought, the need for stronger fortifications began, resulting in a total of over 3,000 castles – including Azuchi Castle, one of the famous castles built by the dominant warlords of Nobunaga. However, once peace was brought to Japan under the Tokugawa rule, the need of castles vastly declined to nearly 170 castles.

Japanese castles follow a classic structure that begins with selecting the right plot of land where the castle rests. It utilized walls that were cut from the mountainsides and carved out moats to add to the fortification. The central part of the castle is the most recognizable. Many castle towers have a five story structure on the outside and eight stories on the inside. This gave a military advantage to protect the building from attackers.

One of the most famous castles in Japan is the Himeji Castle. It has the classic hilltop architecture and is a collection of 83 interconnected buildings. This structure was built with advanced military fortifications during the feudal period. It is the best example of a prototypical Japanese castle. The family crests that signify the various Lords who inhabited the structure can be found throughout the castle. The Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan.

Product of the Month: Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-DCC10)

EA-DCC10Zojirushi would like to introduce the newest addition to the family of great appliances, the Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-DCC10. If you were looking for an electric griddle with a large cooking surface, this is it! This model has a nonstick coated ceramic cooking surface that is 50% larger than our other electric griddle – perfect for large groups. It comes with a lid to help reduce cooking time so that you can sizzle up a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the table faster!

One of the highlights of this product is its safety feature. The heat-resistant handles allow for safe and easy transport. Also the cooking plate sits low inside the body to protect against scalding. Perfect for family holiday parties!

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Planning Ahead for Fall Cooking

As we make our way into November, we enter into the ultimate food season. The weather is cold, holidays are on the horizon and short days give way to long nights at the table. There is nothing like home cooking and baking in the fall and winter months, to really make you feel at home. Take cues from our test kitchen this season, and cook like a pro. With a little planning and measuring before cooking time, you will never rush back to the pantry again!

Red Carnations in the KitchenWhile our test kitchen is always well stocked and prepared for everything, we understand that most home kitchens are not. One of the simplest ways to make your fall cooking easy and effortless this season is by planning ahead. In the kitchen we refer to this process as, Mise en Place, which literally means “putting in place”. It means reviewing the recipe, laying out the equipments, washing, prepping and measuring the ingredients before starting to cook. It might seem tiresome and tedious at first, but once you get the hang of it, we guarantee it will make your life easier.

Utilizing Mise en Place will simplify your holiday cooking and help you avoid last minute disasters. By being well prepared and organized in the kitchen, you will be able to focus all of your attention on cooking, and make a scrumptious meal with more efficiency. You may also catch yourself planning ahead in all aspects of life! All you need to remember is POPS – PLAN, ORGANIZE, PREP and START! By following these 4 simple steps, we guarantee you a better holiday cooking experience. As always, we look forward to seeing all of your seasonal creations this fall. Please share pics and quotes from your kitchen adventures with us on Facebook and Twitter #FoodSeason! Happy eating!

Tips for Holiday Clean Up

‘Tis the season for cooking, baking, eating and making a grand mess in the kitchen! And the last thing we want to do after a great feast is clean for hours on end. Follow these guidelines and clean as you go for a more harmonious kitchen experience!

Clean as you go: Don’t save the mess for last, instead incorporate dishwashing into your cooking practice. While the roast is roasting, clean the mixing bowls. Pop the dinner plates in the dishwasher while preparing the dessert.

Create a soapy sink bath: If you hand wash your dishes, pile dirty dishes in hot soapy water as they accumulate. Washing up will be halfway done before you get to scrubbing.

White Vinegar is your new best friend: Use it to clean cutting boards and countertops or to remove odors from jars, bowls and sinks. You can even rinse your hands with it after handling onion and garlic.

Use Baking Soda to clean tiles: It’s great for crevices and hard to reach surfaces. You can also use it on floors and cookware. Keep an open box in the fridge to absorb odors – just be sure to get a fresh one for cooking!

Pomegranate: A November Delicacy

Pomegranate is considered one of the oldest “super fruit.” It is said to be high in vitamins and anti-oxidants, and its rich color and full-bodied flavor makes pomegranate one of the most versatile items in grocery stores this time of year. Pop a few pomegranate seeds and read on about the wonders of this festive fruit.

Poegranate - MP900382807In its long history, pomegranate has been mentioned in many ancient texts, arts and literatures. For example, in ancient Egypt, King Tut and other ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates as it symbolized life after death. In the history of the Islam religion, pomegranate was believed to contain aril directly from paradise. In Greek mythology, it was the fruit that Persephone – the daughter of Zeus and goddess of the underworld – ate, which resigned her to several months a year in the underworld. Pomegranate was a fruit with deep symbolic meanings.

In the kitchen today, pomegranate might just be one of the most versatile ingredients during this season. Roast it with your Thanksgiving turkey or sprinkle over salads and roasted vegetables. You can even cover your holiday cheesecake with fresh pomegranate seeds! Serve a deep red pomegranate cocktail at your holiday party or add it to your breakfast pancake. As you can see the possibilities are endless! How do you incorporate pomegranate into your favorite Zojirushi recipes? We want to hear from you! Share your pomegranate creations this holiday season with #FoodSeason! We can’t wait to see what you create! Cheers.

The History of Japanese Pottery: 陶磁器 (Tojiki)

Today traditional Japanese pottery is an important part of many traditional celebrations. And just like bonsai, ikebana and other traditional arts of Japan, Japanese pottery is also a form of a synthetic art with a long history. It is a regional trade practiced throughout Japan where many towns and cities have emerged from ancient pottery villages.

Japanese pottery dates back to the Jomon period, from 14,000 BC to 300 BC. Pots made during this era were simple in technique – they were created by wrapping and stacking round cords in a form of a pot. Yayoi pottery made during the Yayoi period was also earthenware that were influenced from Jomon pottery.

One of the more famous eras in Japanese pottery is the Seto period. Originated during the 14th century in the city of Seto – which is now Aichi prefecture – Seto pottery is the first high-fired ash-infused glaze pottery of Japan. It was one of the six old kilns of Japan’s medieval period.

The Japanese pottery that most people associate with is the porcelain pottery from the Edo Period (1603 – 1867). The Ming Dynasty had made porcelain a well desired commodity in this time period. Porcelain was found in Arita and inspired Japanese potters to convert their traditional stoneware kilns to produce porcelain.

Today there are over 20 types of Japanese pottery. There are also 11 towns and regions which lay claim to pottery making where festivals are held to celebrate the historic tradition of pottery making. If you want to learn more about the techniques, visit one of these 11 towns like Seto where long term pottery making classes are offered.

Here are other well known Japanese pottery types. Have you heard of these?

Arita ware made a significant influence on Japan lifestyle. Designed in accordance with seasons enriched the way of life in traditional Japanese society. Arita ware was a popular European import in the early seventeenth century and usually had under glaze blue designs called “sometsuke“. The Japanese as well as Europeans also called these pots Imari porcelain. The name comes from the Japanese port of Imari.

Kutani ware was made in Japan after the mid-seventeenth century. The word Kutani means Nine Valleys and is the name of the area and village where the first kiln was located. Kutani ware is made with an over glaze painting technique and the style is known for its multiple colors, such as greens, blues, yellows, purples, and reds. Birds are a major motif in Kutani style pottery and appear quite frequently. There are 3 periods in the Kutani ware’s history: Ko-Kutani, Saiko Kutani, and Kutani. The ceramics of the three eras are well renowned and hold a high value in today’s marketplace.

Mashiko pottery is often thought of as simple and rustic in style, brown with maybe a little red glaze, but modern pottery made in Mashiko today is found in many styles. Twice a year, coinciding with the Golden Week Holidays in the first week of May, and again for the first week of November, there is a pottery and crafts festival where potters and craftsmen from Mashiko and surrounds come to the town and set up stalls.

Shigaraki is pottery and stoneware made in Shigaraki area. The kiln is one of ‘The Six Old Kilns’ in Japan. The name Shigaraki describes a collective group of ceramic products made in a similar geographic area. Simple, incised, and geometric lines are also evidence that the wares were produced for everyday agricultural pursuits. Shigaraki pottery was first produced to meet the demands of farmers who used them as water urns, bottles, and deep dishes.

Product of The Month: Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-NVC10/18)

Are you looking for a rice cooker that goes far and beyond the performance of other kitchen appliances? If your kitchen is equipped with almost everything, then here is one more addition that will complete your collection.

NP-NVC10/18The Zojirushi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer uses pressurized cooking and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to cook perfect rice every time. The AI feature allows this rice cooker to “learn” from past cooking experiences and adjusts to the cooking “flow” to make ideal rice. It features a Platinum infused nonstick inner cooking pan that helps the way rice is cooked to taste sweeter. The pressure cooking element helps turn beta starch into alpha starch for softer and easier to digest rice.

If you love rice, eat it on a daily basis, and are looking for the top-of-the line rice cooker, then this rice cooker is for you!

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As The Leaves Fall

October is a great month to beHearty Slow Cooked Chili in the kitchen. It’s the perfect season to experiment with roasts, soups and festive desserts as the holidays approach. In the spirit of fall foods, we’d like to turn our attention to slow cooking. The practice of cooking food for long periods of time at low temperature is perfect for this time of year. It fills the house with delicious smells and creates time for more important things – like family time!

October also kicks off the holiday season with Halloween! A holiday for trick or treating, costumes, and of course, candy! Host your own Halloween gathering this year with little bites and no-fuss recipes from the Zojirushi archives. Our recipes are seasonally inspired and meticulously tested to give you the ultimate kitchen experience. Whether it’s slow cooked fall fare or festive holiday snacks, we look forward to seeing what you create. As always, don’t forget to share ideas, recipes and pictures with us! Happy autumn and happy cooking!

Traditional Music in Japan

Music is a lot like food. It is Kotowidely celebrated, brings people together, and each culture has its own version. Like any other culture, Japanese music has a long rich history and a sound as exquisite and unique as the country itself. Unfortunately, and probably not unlike other cultures, modern styles of Japanese music today overshadow the traditional, and traditional music is only heard during certain occasions.

The foundation of traditional Japanese music was introduced from the Chinese. The Japanese adapted their style of music and poetry and recreated it into music suitable to be played at an imperial court, which is now called gagaku (雅楽). It consists primarily of wind and string instruments with percussion. This type of Japanese music dominated the imperial court dances during the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1185) periods.

When Buddhism was introduced, the ritual and chanting of religion strongly influenced Japanese music, and evolved into a new style called shomyo (声明), a style which one recited words along with the melody of the song. During the Kamakura (1185-1333) period, yet another style of music called Heike Biwa (平家琵琶) appeared. It was a type of narrative music in which musicians recited popular tales such as “Tales of Heike” as he played the Biwa, a violin like string instrument.

Heike Biwa opened the way to various performing arts. Dancing, acting, acrobats and dialogues were added to the music which gained popularity among the civilians. Noh () and Kabuki (歌舞伎) are the two well-known forms today.

The three “traditional” instruments we think of today are: Shamisen, a violin like string instrument that has a long neck, a small body and 3 strings; Shakuhachi, a flute made of bamboo; and Koto, a large wooden string instrument with 13 strings that are played with picks worn on the fingers, similar to those used in playing the guitar. Have you heard any of these instruments being played, and if so, where?

A Guide to Japanese Mushrooms

MushroomMushrooms are an essential part of the Japanese foodway. From sukiyaki to kaiseki, Japanese mushroom varieties bring elements of earth and balance to every dish. And what better time of year to learn about mushrooms than in the fall! They are easy to grill, bake, or sauté, and pair well with meat or soups, and even fair well on their own! With unique textures and flavor profiles, each mushroom has its own terroir and can be discerned much like a fine wine. With our guide to Japanese mushrooms you will be a connoisseur in no time!

Enoki: A favorite in the Japanese food world these mushrooms are characterized by their long skinny white stalks and small caps. They are crisp and mild in flavor. These mushrooms won’t lose their crunch in soups and hotpots and are also delicious blanched in a salad. You can even throw them on a grill for a nice smoky flavor.

Eringi: Arguably the largest variety, this is also known as Trumpet Mushrooms. This variety has a large white stem and a thin brown cap. These mushrooms are mild in flavor and can assume the taste of whatever they’re cooked with. They are good simmered, grilled, hot or cold. Slice and dice them for faster cooking!

Maitake: From the look of its frilliness, the name of this mushroom means “dancing mushroom”. It has a woodsy flavor and a nice meaty texture. Widely available in the US, maitakes are packed with vitamins, protein and fiber. Maitake mushrooms partner well with steak and are delicious with butter, olive oil or lemon.

Nameko: Meaning “slimy little things”, these are known for their gelatinous coating. Small and amber-brown in color, these mushrooms are often used in miso soup or atop a bowl of soba noodles. For you thrill seekers and adventurous eaters, this variety can be found bottled or canned in Asian markets and specialty food shops.

Shiitake: Perhaps the best known of the East Asian mushroom varieties, shiitakes are light brown in color and have thick caps. They are available fresh or dried. Dried shiitakes have a stronger flavor and are often used in simmered dishes and soups, while fresh ones form a more delicate texture when cooked or grilled. Overall, it has a rich and buttery flavor.

Shimeji: Also known as buna shimenji, these are the quintessential mushroom variety. With a grayish white stem and brown caps, these little guys are a perfect complement to any dish. They are delicious pan-fried or in soups with seafood or wild game. They can be bitter when uncooked, so always add a little heat before enjoying.

Product of the Month: Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EP-RAC50

EP-RAC50Our Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet is a great product for transitioning to fall. Featuring a deep dish inner pan, a flat plate plus a steaming tray, it will carry you through many a breakfast, lunch and dinner! Stay warm on cold nights with homemade sukiyaki, steaks and fondues and welcome winter mornings with buttermilk pancakes. Its circular heating surface is perfect for even cooking, and with an adjustable temperature setting from 176°F (Keep Warm) to 480°F, you are sure to get that perfect cook every time. This compact and versatile product is easy to clean, pack and go. Take it with you to a holiday party for an interactive dining experience and enjoy!

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September – Back to School & Stepping Into Fall

After a fun and sun-filled summer, Kwe are back to school! Packed lunches take the place of picnics and holiday planning comes into full focus. Summer zucchinis are overtaken by fall squash varieties and the first pumpkins come out of hiding in anticipation for Halloween. We find ourselves full of excitement and enthusiasm for the seasons to come.

This time of year we are brimmed with colors and variety at the market. Deep green broccoli, red apples and blackberries can make you feel more like a painter than a home cook in September. The last corn and tomatoes of summer are still lingering, but we have access to pears, beans and cauliflower too! The in-between-time of September is abundant and diverse beyond words. It is a very exciting time to be cooking at home.

With back to school being the underlying theme of September, we’d like to celebrate the box lunch! How have you elevated your packed lunches from the old days of the tuna-fish sandwich? What fun sides and snacks do you have planned for your kids this school year? Please share your thoughts and ideas with us on Facebook! You are our #1 inspiration in the test kitchen! Happy cooking!

Bento (弁当): The Japanese Boxed Lunch

BentoNo culture has embraced the boxed lunch quite like the Japanese. In Japan, boxed lunch or bento meals are readily available, almost anywhere. From department stores to train stations, you will find students and salary men alike making their way through bento lunches. Not unlike the TV dinners of old, a bento box features a little taste of everything: rice, cooked or pickled vegetables, and fish or meat. Often served in a box-like container with compartments, you can find varieties in lacquered wood as well as disposable plastic.

Dating back to the late Kamakura Period (1188-1333), bento maintained its popularity through the centuries on account of its convenience. They are great for picnics, train rides and even to take to local events. The balanced, simple quality is an easy answer to the fast-paced Japanese metropolitan life.

At Japanese homes, homemakers get creative in making bento for their family. It’s a great way to utilize leftovers and make the most of bits left around the kitchen. It’s also ideal for controlling portions of your meals. What a great way to enjoy lunch on the go!

Bentos are widely available at Japanese markets across the US. They are also fun and easy to make at home. It is more of a concept than it is a strict set of guidelines, so why not try making lunch in the spirit of bento? See our September issue of Zojirushi 101 for some fun ideas! And whatever you throw together this fall, don’t forget to share it with us on Facebook and Twitter! We look forward to seeing your creations. Happy lunching!

Zojirushi 101 Newsletter September 2013 Issue:
http://www.zojirushi.com/mailmagazine/101toppage.html

Kamon (家紋)

Have you ever noticed those circular emblems seen often at sushi restaurants or on a kimono? These are called kamon (家紋), an emblem that identifies an individual or a family name in Japan, similar to that of a family crest found throughout Europe. Its design consists of patterns of nature – such as plants and animals – encircled by a ring.

In the history of Japan, kamon was an important factor of the Japanese society, especially during the Sengoku period – a time of political intrigue and military conflicts. The design of an emblem distinguished social class and identified the clan or organization individuals belonged to. However with the end of the feudal system and the arrival of a new era, kamon use declined, and were mostly used by governments and at formal occasions.

Today you can still find these emblems in a few places. They may be displayed on family gravestones, and some have become corporate logos. The most common place where we find kamons today are on Montsuki (male) and Tomesode (female) Kimonos. Kamon are often emblazed as beautiful artistry on these kimonos, which are reserved for formal ceremonies such as weddings. It is a wonderful way to display this wonderful tradition.

Product of the Month: Stainless Mug (SM-PA30/34)

Product LargeLet us introduce you to our new addition. The new Stainless Mug is compact and versatile featuring vacuum insulation that keeps beverages hot or cold for hours. The streamlined design takes minimal space while maximizing capacity, and its tight-fitted lid with safety lock prevents beverages from spilling accidentally. In pink and lime, these are the cutest accessories for school, work and play. Minimize plastic bottle consumption while enjoying a cold or hot beverage with these adorable stainless steel mugs!

http://zojirushi.com/products/smpa

August Means Fresh Fare and Picnics

Palm TreesHigh-five to everyone who enjoys hanging out outside on a clear, sunny day! The sun is shining, the ocean is glistening, our test kitchen is packed with sweet summer corn and stone fruit, and we find ourselves wishing we were by the sea or out on a hike, or anywhere but in the office! Do you know the feeling?

On days like these, we suggest you pack up your lunch jars and vacuum bottles, and make your way for an outdoor lunch. Any meal can be very much enjoyed in the great outdoors with fresh produce and beautiful weather. Sharing a meal outside is a great way to rejuvenate, or look at a work project with a new perspective. It’s also the perfect excuse to get outside for a bit and catch some fresh air, right?

Sweet peas, corn, strawberries and melons are all farm-fresh in August and just perfect to pack and grab on the go. Take them in your Zojirushi lunch jar and grab your lunch date, you will be enjoying the fruits of the summer well through September!

Kabuki (歌舞伎): The Japanese Theatre

Can you imagine a lovely summer afternoon at the theatre? What about an entire day? In Japan, a trip to the theatre is a daylong event. Traditional Japanese theatre or Kabuki is a live drama, rich in showmanship. Nearly four centuries old, it’s a theatrical play of mime, dance, song, costumes and set design.

Kabuki dates back to the year 1603 in Kyoto. It quickly gained popularity and became a common form of entertainment. Kabuki was originally performed by women and young boys, who were later banned as performers because they were also available for prostitution, and Kabuki switched to all men actors in the year 1629. The new, all-male Kabuki was called Yaro-Kabuki where even female roles were played by men. The Kabuki of that era was notorious for its rowdy crowds and frequent fights.

One of the unique features of Kabuki is the hanamichi or flower path, which is an extended stage that stretches out into the audience. This hanamichi is used as a pathway for actors to enter and exit the stage, as well as a platform for actors to play out important scenes. Like many things in Japan, the Kabuki stage has become increasingly more advanced with technology featuring trap doors, hidden strings, lights and other surprises. Another is a mawari-butai, or revolving stage, which helps illuminate transitions.

Plots of Kabuki are similar to plots of plays performed in western style theatres. They are based on love stories, tragedy or conspiracies, comedies, historical events, and other well known stories. The plot is often based on a small section of a longer story, so to fully enjoy the performance it may be a good idea to read a little about the story.

Today, Kabuki continues to be a popular form of traditional Japanese theatre. Most Kabuki actors are famous stars, appearing in Japanese films and television. If you are planning a trip to Japan, don’t forget to visit a Kabuki theatre – your trip would not be complete without a real Kabuki experience! In 2008 Kabuki was inscribed into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

http://www.kabuki-bito.jp/eng/top.html

Tofu: The Perfect Warm Weather Snack

By the hottest month of the year, a few of you may be looking to eat something a bit…lighter. If you are that someone and have never had tofu, you’ve came to the right place! It’s that spongy, sticky, cheesy looking stuff you aren’t quite sure how to cook. The jiggling white, bean curdling substance sitting in water in the back of your fridge – yes, that stuff!

Believe it or not, tofu is delicious,Tofu healthy, easy to cook, inexpensive and versatile. You can bake it, broil it, or fry it and each technique will give you a different and delicious result. Tofu is one of the easiest things to make as it takes on the flavor of virtually anything you cook with it. You can stir it up with veggies, add it to curry or toss it with steak for an extra bit of protein. You can even throw it on the grill for a smoky charred element!

Originating in ancient China over 2,000 years ago, tofu has been the center of many legends and myths over the years. Eventually making its way to Korea, Japan and India, tofu is now one of the most important elements in East Asian and Southeast Asian Cuisine. It is cheap to make, easy to store, low in calories and high in protein, making it a very popular item around the world. There are endless varieties from fresh to firm and dried to fried. If you were to travel across Asia you would find it in every meal from breakfast to dessert, proving tofu as one of the most delicious and versatile ingredients around.

Oh, and did we mention that tofu is also good for you? It’s high in the right kinds of proteins, and is believed to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol. And yes, it tastes good too! Not convinced? See for yourselves. Try incorporating tofu into your dishes, and let us know what you find. You just might be surprised! Best of luck and happy cooking!

Product of the Month: Stainless Steel Food Jar (SW-EAE35/50)

SW-EAE35_50The Zojirushi Stainless Steel Food Jar is the featured Product of the Month for August. This amazing portable food container comes in a classic stainless steel design along with two other vibrant colors to choose from. The vacuum insulated container keeps food hot or cold for hours. This is perfect for sending the kids to school with a fresh lunch from home or to take a warm soup or chilled fruits for lunch to your outdoor adventures!

http://www.zojirushi.com/products/sweae

July is the Month for Grilling

School’s out, the sun is Summer (1)shining and summer is in the air! What is better than spending a weekend grilling with family and friends? At Zojirushi we love grilling everything from farm-fresh zucchini to apples and oranges – grilled fruit is the perfect addition to a summer cocktail or sangria! Here are a few pointers for those who are planning to elevate their grilling skill this year.
Miso Marinade

Grilling is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of umami. The fifth taste is often characterized as meaty or savory, and beef and pork are great places to play with the elements of umami. Try brushing your meat with shrimp paste, or soaking it in a miso marinade before throwing it on the grill. These unusual ingredients are a great way to add flavor in new and interesting ways. It’s also a great conversation starter as most people don’t think to add seafood flavors to a meat marinade! Lead the way.

Not a fan of mixing shrimp with meat? Another way to elevate your grilling is by using different types of wood chips and charcoal. You can find several kinds of Japanese charcoals online such as binchotan, that are sure to add unique flavors to any meal. A simple wood chip from your local market will also do the trick. Cook low and slow using indirect heat when possible. This style of cooking is perfect for a slow afternoon and will make for a truly delicious meal rich with happy memories.

Take your time and have fun with it! Summer afternoons stretch on forever, so you can spend more time enjoying yourself with loved ones. As always, Zojirushi will be there for you every step of the way. We look forward to seeing all of your summertime creations on Facebook and Twitter! Good luck!

Six Ingredients for Umami
Umami
Umami. That mysterious and oh so popular taste you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s not salty, not sweet, but somewhere in between. Hiding in the shades of grey, its subtle savory elements are hiding in plain sight on the shelves and countertops of your local grocery store. Ingredients you know and some you’ve never heard of can take your next meal from good enough to AMAZING with a few drops of this and a sprinkle of that. Here are six ingredients that will make your food shine with umami that will impress friends and family alike.

1.)   Miso: The mysterious bean paste that epitomizes umami in every form from shiromiso (white miso), akamiso (red miso) or awasemiso (mixed miso), can be added to anything from salad dressing to apple pie. Miso can be used as a sauce thickener, glaze, poultry rub or marinade. This ingredient is sure to stand out from the crowd and get people talking.

2.)   Usukuchi-Shoyu: Now this is your chance to   impress. It’s lighter than regular shoyu, or soy sauce, but it certainly isn’t “light” soy sauce. With a saltier flavor and lighter color, usukuchi-shoyu has a flavor that is more intense than regular soy sauce. It pairs well with citrus for marinades and dressings, and works as a fun salt substitute nearly anywhere. Try it with roasted red peppers for a salty sweet flavor that can only be umami.

3.)   Parmesan Cheese: Shave it on top of vegetables, eggs, toast and pasta for a salty finish without using salt. Parmesan cheese is a simple way to add umami to any dish. We love it with eggs!

4.)   Oyster Sauce: Too fishy? Absolutely not. Oyster sauce is the caramel sauce of the sea. Made with sugar, salt and oyster essence, this super concentrated condiment will add umami to anything it touches. Add a touch to meat marinades, BBQ sauce and veggie stir-fries for that subtle umami edge that’s seemingly so hard to come by.

5.)   Dried Fish: A distant cousin of oyster sauce, dried fish can be found in many forms from baby shrimp to giant squid. Be careful though because a small amount of dried fish packs a huge punch. Dried fish is a great way to make soup starters or savory broths, delicious reductions and glazes as well. Simmer it with garlic and add as a finishing touch to veggies on the skillet.

6.)   Bacon: That’s right, good ol’ fashioned, thick cut bacon. It’s not just for eggs and  pancakes anymore. This fatty, smoky, greasy delight can add depth to anything from pasta with white sauce to farm fresh kale. Let it sizzle with onions as a base for veggies, add it to thick cut greens or use it to wrap up fish before you throw it on the grill. Bacon is a simple way to add savory decadence and elevate any dish.

Origami (折り紙): The Art of Paper Folding

Origami is a traditional Japanese art of paper folding in which a flat, square sheet of paper is folded in a variety of ways to create intricate shapes without the use of scissors or glue. Ori (折り) means “folding”, and kami () means “paper. There are only a few basic folds, but they create endless forms of animals, plants and other shapes. The most well known is the origami crane.

The history of origami begins soon after papermaking was introduced to Japan in the 7th century. Prior to paper folding, paper was generally used for record-keeping and religious writings. Eventually it was used to fold formal traditional ornaments for decorating gifts and wedding ceremonies. Later in Edo period (1603-1868), origami gained popularity and became a common activity amongst ordinary people.

Today you can find an endless array of books on Origami and Origami paper across the United States. It has been embraced around the world as a creative way to make something beautiful out of nothing. It is also a common activity in grade schools, senior homes and rehabilitation centers. Instructions can be found on various websites and videos online. All you need is some paper, and you are ready to go! Happy folding!

Product of the Month: Indoor Electric Grill EB-DLC10

EB-DLC10Grill foods where ever you want. The Indoor Electric Grill allows you to enjoy all the delicious elements of grilling without the hassle and mess of an outdoor barbecue grill. This portable grill has a large ceramic grilling surface for fast and easy grilling; perfect for parties. Its variable heat setting allows you to grill different types of food at its ideal temperature and timing. Now you can enjoy barbecued meats, veggies and fish, all year round. With the Indoor Electric Grill, last minute barbecues and dinner parties will be as easy as plugging in the cord. Plus, the stainless steel exterior will definitely fancy up your party.

http://zojirushi.com/products/ebdlc

Welcoming June

June marks the official start Summertime BBQof summer, and at Zojirushi, we are here to welcome the season. The long days, warm weather and abundance of fresh produce throughout the summer season means more reasons for picnics, BBQs and summertime celebrations in the sun. So gather your family and friends for a get-together, and it’s time to get your grub on!

Rocking the summertime fare is easy with Zojirushi. Our state of the art technology is rooted in generations of tradition and excellence, so that you can be prepared each and every time you cook. Here’s to shared memories, good friends and of course, good food! Cheers and happy summer to you all!

Living Flowers Through Ikebana (生花)

Ever heard of Ikebana? Ikebana, also known as Japanese flower arrangement, is a traditional Japanese practice that is equal parts art, discipline and spirituality. The name comes from the word, ikeru (生ける) meaning “keep alive, arrange flowers” and hana () meaning” flower.” Together, it means “to give life to flower.”

The focus of ikebana is a bit different from floral arrangement in the U.S. Ikebana focuses more on stems, leaves, line and form, than colors, although minimalism is important in color and arrangement. Some arrangements might have just one or two flower blossoms while others may be just stems and leaves. There are several different styles of ikebana from the old and rigid to the modern and free. Each style has a similar set of principles, while showing slight differences in composition and form.

Ikebana is believed to have emerged out of Buddhist practices in the middle of the fifteenth century as a ritual offering of flowers to the spirits of the dead. Over the years, it has become a pillar of Japanese culture, and today is practiced by many from children to housewives.

Ikebana has gained popularity in the US, and most cities have ikebana clubs or classes that anyone can attend. As complicated as ikebana might seem, it’s surprisingly relaxing and meditative once you get into the flow. The trick is to not think too much about it, and just let it wash over you. After a while, you won’t know who’s arranging who! So, if you are looking for a new hobby this summer, try ikebana. You might be surprised by what you find in the leaves and stems!

Product of the Month: Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker BB-HAC10

BB-HAC10This month we’d like to feature our nifty yet wonderfully charming product – the Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker! With the Home Bakery Mini, you can enjoy fresh baked bread everyday without waste. Its sleek white look and study handle make it easy to store and transport. This compact unit saves countertop space and is the perfect option for smaller households. Like your bread soft or firm? Now you can choose, with three texture options from regular, firm, or soft. With its quick baking cycle option, you can enjoy fresh baked bread in just two hours. The unit also comes with courses for kneading pasta and cookie dough without the mess. It even has a jam function for all of your seasonal summer fruits! Now you can have both, homemade bread and jam all from one!

http://zojirushi.com/products/bbhac

May Markets in Abundance

We are delighted to welcome the warmth of May! As we make our way closer to summer, we are reminded of the magic of the farmers market. We find that starting with high quality ingredients is the first step to creating delicious meals. In fact, it’s the same motto we’ve used for years in creating our products – only the best.

Shopping at farmers market is a great way to learn your way around the kitchen. What could be more inspiring than buying your food directly from the farmer? And, with a Zojirushi product, you don’t even have to worry too much about cooking it!

If you haven’t found your local farmers market yet, it’s time to get started. Spring produce is plentiful, and seasonal ingredients often encourage us to become creative cooks. We can’t wait to see all of your market driven creations through Facebook and Twitter. Nothing inspires us more than connecting with you, and seeing how you use our products. Wishing all of you a happy and delicious May!

May – 皐月 (Satsuki)

There are reasons why each month gets its name in Japan. May in Japanese is 皐月, pronounced ‘Satsuki’, meaning “the time to plant rice seedlings”. Satsuki is a wonderful example of how the meanings behind the name of each month in Japan are connected to the seasons and the events. While some months have a more metaphoric interpretation, May is a literal translation. Another unique tidbit about Satsuki is that it’s a common name in Japan for girls.

Natto

Natto is a fermented soybean, but don’t let that deter you from trying it. It is one of the best sources of protein and is filled with rich nutrients that are said to prevent blood coagulation, enrich skin and balance cholesterol levels.

The process of making natto is very unique. After the beans are washed and soaked for about half a day, they go through a steaming process. From there the beans are mixed with a bacteria culture– this is similar to how certain yogurts and cheeses are made. The total fermentation process of aging the natto bacteria takes up to 24 hours. Then it is placed in a refrigerator to be cooled.

Natto has a very unique texture almost like a sticky paste, and a strong scent and flavor due to the fermentation process. It is a common breakfast item in Japan – usually eaten with rice – that is often consumed in a small, white container with yellow mustard and natto sauce.

The Art of Sumo

Sumo is known throughout the world for its wrestlers engaging in a full-contact physical sport, and is one of the few sports that are professionally practiced only in Japan. So what is sumo? It is a wrestling match consisting of two large men facing off in a round ring, called dohyo, with the objective to force the opponent outside of the ring. Wrestlers are not allowed to touch any of his body part to the ground except for their feet.

With its long history, several elements of traditional Japanese culture and customs remain within the art of sumo. The most noticeable is the outfit. During the match, rikishi (wrestlers) wear his hair in a topknot, while the gyoji (referee) wears a silk outfit resembling the style of samurai during the Edo period (1603-1868). Prior to the match, rikishi throw salt into the ring as a form of purification, as the dohyo is considered a sacred place – much like the ritual of salt purification within the Shinto religion.

The life of a sumo wrestler is quite interesting. They live in a communal living environment called heya which are “training stables”, along with their trainers and assistants that help them with everything outside the ring – from tying their hair into topknots to preparing their wardrobe.

Practice begins at 5am and ends before noon. After practice is breakfast! Sumo wrestlers only have two meals per day and have a specific diet called chanko which includes a variety of stews and fish. After breakfast is free time, but many wrestlers take naps to get bigger.

So are you ready to eat like a sumo wrestler? We have for a special Chanko recipe that comes straight from the sumo kitchen! Now just because you eat the same dish as a sumo wrestler doesn’t mean you’ll take on their stylish figure. It would take a whole lot of chanko for that!

Chanko Recipe: http://www.zojirushi.com/recipes/-i-chanko-nabe-i-

Product of the Month: Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NL-AAC10/18

Our new Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NL-AAC10/18 is the perfect rice cooker especially for novices. It comes with micro computerized Fuzzy logic technology that delivers consistency in cooking delicious rice every time. It is loaded with multiple menu settings including steam setting. Yes, you can use it to steam vegetables, fish and dumplings too! The automatic keep warm function will keep your rice warm and ready to eat, when you’re ready for a meal!

http://www.zojirushi.com/products/nlaac