Product Inspirations – Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-YGC120)

Want a tall glass of delicious iced coffee today? With cream added just the way you like it? And a touch of cinnamon or chocolate powder just the way you want it? And brewed fresh with your favorite coffee?

With our Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-YGC120), you can brew your favorite coffee, iced or hot, at home, just the way you like it.

This stylish coffee maker can brew a minimum of 2 cups up to 12 cups of hot coffee or up to 6 cups of iced coffee. It has smart, versatile features that ensure coffee is brewed perfectly. Brewing temperature is set at 200°F to maximize flavor, and the HI, MED, LOW and OFF settings for the warming plate keep coffee warm or let it cool to make iced coffee. The filter basket swings out and is easy to load with ground coffee with the included measuring spoon, and the removable water tank with two sets of markings for hot or iced coffee makes filling the machine with fresh water easy and accurate. The glass carafe comes with an included Ice Basket. And the machine lets you set a timer for brewing.

The Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker also comes with convenience features like a drip prevention mechanism so that when the carafe is momentarily removed, the machine inhibits messes. The clean spout design of the glass carafe makes pouring smooth and easy, helping to avoid dribbles and dripping. The Clean Indicator notifies you when cleaning is recommended, and the filter basket is easily removed for washing in the sink. All surfaces that come into contact with water and coffee are BPA-free.

The best thing about this coffee maker is that you can use it to make more than just hot or iced coffee. Summer wouldn’t be summer without ice cream, and this machine is great to brew coffee for Creamy Coffee Ice Cream. Milk, sugar, iced coffee and even a favorite liqueur of your choice… blended all together and frozen for a few hours… and voila! Ice cream!

We know you’ll love this new coffee maker as much as we do, and you can find out more at our website. As always, we’d love to hear about your favorite recipes… and don’t forget to post pictures!

Japanese Bento – Kyaraben!

We’ve saved the best for our final post in our Japanese Bento series… kyaraben!

Character bento, or kyaraben, are famous for their style, originality, fun and creativity. Initially created to entice children to eat their lunch, kyaraben focus on the concept of “kawaii”, or cuteness, to present a well-balanced meal in a convenient, portable bento box.

Kyaraben come in an endless variety, all depending on the creativity and wherewithal of the maker. The simplest kyaraben showcase cars, trains, airplanes, stars, hearts and flowers. As the kyaraben artist makes more sophisticated bento, they add cute animal shapes to the bento, including grinning panda bear patties, smiling penguin rice balls, octopus-shaped sausages with flapping arms, porky pigs and small rabbit-eared eggs.

The most popular types of kyaraben, in Japan and internationally, are ones that showcase characters from Japanese anime and manga as well as from Western animated TV shows and movies. Imagine eating a nutritious lunch with Hello Kitty or Gudetama! And how about Doraemon and Pikachu, stacked with fried chicken and sausages! And let’s not forget Totoro and Anpanman on a bed of fried rice surrounded by colorful carrots and edamame! And for kids who love American cartoons, Disney’s Tsum Tsum characters and Winnie the Pooh are big favorites!

Kyaraben artists use both everyday kitchen tools along with special tools made for creating character bento. Plastic wrap is generally used to shape rice balls, but special shapes can also be made using rice molds. Vegetables can be julienned with a sharp knife and also cut into flowers, stars and clouds using miniature veggie cutters. And meats, poultry and seafood are served in bite-sized pieces. Rice and other items are decorated with cutouts of nori seaweed or with designed using powdered seaweed sprinkled through stencils. So elaborate are kyaraben designs that numerous books have been published and popular blogs such as Little Miss Bento are visited by foodies from all over the world!

Ready to try your hand at kyaraben? Check out our ideas for these beautifully-shaped fun bento. And as always, be sure to share your pictures with us!

NYC My Way

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to New York on business. Actually I’ve been going there for the past several years on a regular basis, but this time I decided to pay attention to the details–to this amazing city that never sleeps. Anybody who has lived here probably says there’s no other city like it in the world, but I lived in Tokyo as a younger man, and I think there are as many similarities as there are differences–if that makes any sense. It’s the similarities that I see that allows me to imagine what it would be like to live in New York; maybe not quite as fast as Tokyo, but equally as intense and alive with millions of stories being told at the same time.

I’m not gonna lie–I go to New York to eat. I always go to visit my favorite restaurant, the Yakitori Totto on 55th near Broadway. Their kushiyaki (skewers) is better than anything I’ve ever had in L.A., and to me it gets close to Tokyo. Of course, in Tokyo even the street food stands are impressive. But this gets close, like I said, so Yakitori Totto gets my props.

Some highlights:
Asparagus Bacon (top left) is exactly what it says, tender asparagus wrapped in bacon–the combination is wonderful.
Tsukune (top right) is ground chicken basted with a teriyaki sauce, usually served in meatball shapes, but at Totto they do it in one piece.
Kalbi (bottom left) is Korean style short ribs, which I had with salt instead of the traditional marinade. Excellent choice with the way it brought out the real taste of the beef.
Shishito (center) is a Japanese green pepper, mildly sharp when delicately grilled. This one is served with a dab of miso paste, which gives it quite the flavor blast.
Negi-Pon (bottom right) is a creative concoction of pork pieces topped with scallions and flavored with ponzu sauce, a tangy soy sauce thinned with citrus juice.

By the way, if this gets you craving…I’ll bet you didn’t know Zojirushi has their own recipes for kushiyaki. You should check them out:
Miso Chicken
Stuffed Potato Mushroom

Takin’ it to the streets…
One thing you do in New York is walk a lot–it’s not really a lot, but coming from Los Angeles where you almost never walk, it seems like a lot. And on ground level, you notice a lot.

There are street vendors everywhere, sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians–selling produce, cellphone cases and baseball caps. Why not? It’s easier to pick up a bunch of bananas on the streets when you’re walking home, than it is to find a supermarket.

Here’s a typical traffic scene with a bunch of school buses getting ready to leave, right?

Wrong! These buses are not moving–they’re parked! This street is (I’m guessing) a temporary parking lot for these buses. I stood at this corner waiting to cross for a full minute, before I realized there weren’t any drivers inside the buses. Then it took me another 15 seconds to figure out why they were just stopped there. I guess you find parking where you can in mid-town Manhattan.

I love finding street signs that show the personality of the city. They’re usually worth a double-take.

That statistic about pedestrian deaths has got to be true. New Yorkers do not bother to wait for the “WALK” signal at the crosswalk. As soon as there’s a gap in the car traffic, even in the middle of a green light, New Yorkers start across the street. I’m sure the only ones that wait patiently for the light to change are tourists. I mean, we’re not as fearless as the natives.

Ever since 9/11, the FDNY are the most heroic fire fighters in America. You’ve gotta love their way with words though–they truly have their own language that only they understand. I’d never heard of a “Siamese Connection”, but now I know it’s a twin-fitting water source for the fire department. And being a professional writer, I’m pretty sure there’s no such word as “sprinklered”. But hey, it’s the FDNY–I’ll give them a break.

OK, back to food! Here’s another thing about walking the city–you don’t need Yelp to find good places to eat. You can stumble across them by serendipity and be pleasantly surprised. This place caught my attention from across the street because of the name, Meatball Obsession. How am I supposed to pass that up?

This is my kind of place–quite literally a “hole-in-the-wall”, where the kitchen was behind the order window, inside the building. It’s a meatball in a cup; 2 of them for $9 with pasta at the bottom, your choice of toppings and cheese, then filled to the brim with tangy tomatoey marinara sauce. Mine has  mozzarella pearls, grated parmesan, sauteed mushrooms and fresh basil. With a stick of focaccia dipping bread, this was a fantastic deal! After I ordered, I was asked, “take out or walking?” So I naturally chose to eat and walk, like any normal New Yorker would. It was delicious!

On my last night, I did what I always do when I’m in New York. I took a walk through the city a bit—It’s always more fun at nighttime, especially Times Square, which is kinda like a circus like Venice Beach is for Angelenos.

Saw Doc Brown and his DeLorean…

NYPD on horseback. So cool!

Evening pick-up ping pong match at Bryant Park. Nice!

But at the end of the day, it was still a relief to be back in L.A.


photo credits: All photos by Bert Tanimoto


A Food Lover’s Tour of Japan – Gifu Prefecture and Savory Gohei Mochi

Our Food Lover’s Tour continues this month in Gifu Prefecture, home of the famous gohei mochi!

Located in Central Japan, Gifu Prefecture represents so many facets of the Japanese landscape and the diverse culture of this area.

The northern part of Gifu Prefecture is mountainous, covered by large swathes of alpine forests, ideal for skiing in the winter and trekking in the summer. The central area of the prefecture boasts clear, fresh springs, caverns and local traditions. And the southern part of Gifu Prefecture is famous for traditional cormorant fishing, modern industry and the confluence of powerful rivers.

One of the most famous sights in Gifu Prefecture is Shirakawa-go, situated at the base of Mt. Haku-san. Shirakawa-go embodies ancient Japanese alpine life, with a river running through the village, nourishing rice fields, a temple, coalhouse and paddock to preserve the old village scenery and 114 traditional thatched roof homes, still occupied along with the more modern residences. Locals continue to practice traditional industrial arts such as weaving, dyeing and culinary arts such as making soba noodles and sake. UNESCO designated Shirakawa-go as a World Heritage Site in 1995.

When not enjoying the snow, visitors to Gifu Prefecture enjoy the onsen, or hot springs, predominantly found in Gero and Okuhida. The hot springs at Gero have been active since the 10th century, and are said to be effective in treating ailments. They’re even nicknamed the “springs for the beautiful” because the smoothness of the water is said to aid in beautifying skin tone and complexion. The Okuhida area also boasts hot springs, five of which are famous in Gifu Prefecture. These onsen–Hirayu, Fukuji, Shin-Hirayu, Tochio and Shin-Hotaka–are scattered along the base of the Japanese Alps, and are surrounded by incredible frozen waterfalls in winter and teeming rivers and white birch forests during warmer months.

The southern part of Gifu Prefecture is widely famous for cormorant fishing along the Nagara River, near Gifu City. This area prospered as a castle town during the 13th century, and to this day, the annual Tejikarao Fire Festival, when portable shrines are carried among a shower of sparks and paraded through the city in the spring. Also in the spring, traditionally beginning on May 11, cormorant fishing takes place along the river, a practice that has been taking place here since the 8th century. Cormorants are aquatic birds that have been trained to catch sweet ayu, a type of river trout. The fishing masters are recognized by the Japanese Imperial Household and showcase this type of fishing until the middle of October.

For those who crave more nightlife, the Okumino Area hosts the Gujo-odori, a dance festival that lasts for 32 nights, within this period, four days are termed “All-Night Dancing” and the participants dance the whole night from dusk until dawn! The Takayama Festival and Furukawa Festival also provide ample opportunity to party, with both festivals showcasing the craftsmanship and artistry of this area–including the production of washi paper and wood carvings—in the floats that are designed for the processions.

But Gifu Prefecture isn’t just about tradition. Many modern industries thrive in this area, from the serious aerospace business to the more whimsical production of plastic food displays. No matter what your interest–skiing, trekking, museums, architecture, onsen, or outer space–Gifu Prefecture has everything to offer…

… Including pleasure for your taste buds! Gohei mochi is a signature dish of this area and is made from cooked short-grain white rice, pounded and shaped onto a flat stick. The rice is then grilled and once crispy, coated with a walnut-miso paste and grilled again. The resulting snack is warm, savory and delicious… and best of all, easily made at home! You may try out this simple recipe!

We hope you enjoyed learning about Gifu Prefecture and as always, share your experience with us… and don’t forget the pictures of your gohei mochi!

Product Inspirations – Home Bakery Maestro™ Breadmaker (BB-SSC10)

It’s time to get baking, and we’re so excited to introduce our newest premium breadmaker: the Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker.

We’ve created this breadmaker to make 1-pound loaves of bread, doughs, cakes, jams or your own creations, and have loaded it with healthy course settings. And we’ve designed this breadmaker with our newest innovations.

The Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker features 15 courses, each of which alter the mixing, kneading, rising and baking functions according to the type of food to be made. Ten bread settings include traditional courses like White and Whole Wheat, as well as new settings for healthy baking, such as Multigrain, Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Salt Free and Vegan. The breadmaker also includes four specific courses for Bread/Pizza Dough, Pasta Dough, Cake and Jam. One of the most unique features of this breadmaker is the Homemade course, which allows you to customize the knead, rise and bake time as well as store up to three custom programs to match your own homemade recipes.

The Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker also comes with a new Auto Add Dispenser, which automatically adds ingredients such as dried fruit and nuts during the knead cycle.

No matter which setting you choose, the Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker uses double heaters built into the bottom of the breadmaker to rapidly heat the interior of the baking pan to facilitate oven spring, helping to make breads with an airy crumb and a superior crust.

The easy-to-read LCD control panel and convenient key code on the lid make it simple to choose the course setting, select the crust color and set the delay timer. And cleaning is simple, as the baking pan, kneading blade and Auto-Add Dispenser are all removable so they can be cleaned with mild dish detergent and warm water. The sturdy handle makes it easy to move and store. Accessories include a full color recipe booklet with 50 delicious recipes, a liquid measuring cup and measuring spoon. All surfaces that come into contact with your food are BPA-free.

This compact breadmaker comes in a modern white finish, perfect for any kitchen decor.

But what kinds of goodies can the Maestro make? Health-conscious recipes include salt-free and sugar-free breads, like Salt Free Whole Wheat Bread and Sugar Free Whole Wheat Bread. Gluten-free breads are also easy to make in this breadmaker, especially ones like Gluten Free Brown Rice Bread. And our new setting for vegan breads includes a great recipe for Vegan Cranberry Walnut Bread where you can add the dried cranberries and walnuts using the Auto Add Dispenser. Recipes such as Lemon Cake, Quick Cheese ‘n’ Onion Bread, Blueberry Jam, Naan, Spinach Pasta and Whole Wheat Pizza Dough are just as easy to make.

Try out our new breadmaker, and find how-to videos and more recipes on the Home Bakery Maestro™ Breadmaker (BB-SSC10) website, exclusively for this new machine. And don’t forget to share your recipes with us!