Home made Natto (Fermented Soybeans)

Have you heard of, or even maybe TRIED, Natto (fermented soybeans)?

When you see it in Japanese or other Asian grocery stores, they come in a package of 3 little white, styrofoam boxes. It is usually served with rice in Japanese meals, most often breakfast. You stir it well to make it super stringy and slimy, add the tiny mustard and soy sauce packets that come with it, and pour everyting over hot rice. Then, you dig in!

It is for sure an acquired taste, even for those who grew up eating Japanese food. You either love it or loathe it. However, with all the fermented food craze lately, I read that it is added to everything, and I even saw it used to top a pizza! Now that is something I have to try! 😋

I prefer to use these small, organic soy beans when making natto and soy milk. The ones at the grocery stores are bigger, but are okay to use too.

So, in this post, I will show you how to make this super healthy, fermented food at home. In case you are like me and my mom, who happen to love natto, you can have an unlimited supply if you make it.

You will need an incubator that can keep a constant temperature of 100C. You can use an oven, a proofing box for bread making, or an Excalibur Dehydrator.

A few years ago, I purchased a Japanese Yogurt maker specifically because you can adjust the temperature, unlike the ones available here in the US. The brand is Tanika and it is really a handy little appliance that I always use to make my homemade natto. Of course, I also have an oven, an Excalibur dehydrator, and a Brod and Taylor Folding Bread Proofer, but I do not like warming up that much space for a little jar of natto. So this little yogurt maker is just perfect for me. Labels on the appliance and the manual are in Japanese but I recently saw some on Amazon that are made for the US market with English labels.

Just like yogurt, you need to buy a package first to be able to get the bacteria you need to make natto, then if you make it regularly, you just get a little from the prepared batch to make more. This is the easiest way to get started. Of course, you could also buy some natto spores to start the Bacillus Subtilis culture. Mitoku is the brand I use. It’s from Japan and makes really tasty natto. It comes with a tiny measuring spoon so you get a lot of natto even though the culture bottle is tiny.

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups soybeans, preferably organic

Water

Store bought natto, or natto spores

Procedure:

1. Rinse 1 1/2 cups of soybeans in water and soak in at least 5 cups of water overnight at room temperature.

*the soybeans will more than double its size, see photo below, so make sure you use a lot of water when soaking the beans.*

A dry soybean on the left. After soaking for 12 hours, it will look like the one on the right.
I use this footed strainer basket with a handle to steam the soybeans in an Instant pot.

2. Rinse and strain soybeans and place in a metal footed strainer basket (or a colander over a trivet).

3. Pour 1 1/2 cups water in the pressure cooker liner.

4. Place the strainer with soybeans in the pressure cooker and pressure cook for 45 minutes.

5. Let pressure drop for 10 minutes, then release pressure, placing a kitchen towel over the vent to help dissipate the steam.

Cover the vent with a clean towel. I just took a photo to show the release of pressure.
Soybeans after cooking for 45 minutes.

6. In the meantime, prepare your yogurt maker.

7. Place 1/4 cup of water in the Tanika Yogurt Maker’s inner container, place the spoon inside and cover with the clear cover.

8. Position the spoon so that the handle sticks out of the cut out in the cover.

9. Microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds to sterilize. Dump out the water.

10. If using the natto spores, mix 2 teaspoons boiled and cooled water with 1 tiny spoonful (included in the spores box) of the culture. Mix well and set aside.

*water mixed with natto spores*

11. Take one soybean and squeeze it between two fingers, it should be soft enough that it will crush easily.

12. Transfer half of the hot soybeans in the prepared yogurt container.

13. A. *If using spores, pour the half of the diluted culture over the hot soybeans.

13. B. If using ready made natto, add a spoonful of it onto the hot soybeans. Stir with the sterilized spoon.

14. A. *Add the rest of the soybeans to the yogurt container and then the rest of the diluted culture, if using spores. Mix well.

14. B. *If using pre made natto, add a spoonful more to the soybeans, then mix throughly.

15. Make sure to mix well, but be careful not to crush the beans.

16. Set the container into the yogurt maker, cover with a clean towel and place the blue cover over, slightly ajar to allow air in.

17. Set the fermentation temperature to 45C and the timer to 24 hours.

18. Carefully remove the blue cover and check the beans after 24 hours.

19. They should have a white, fuzzy growth around most of the beans.

20. Cover with the clear cover then the blue screw, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating.

*this is how it looks like from the bottom of the container.

21. Take a big spoonful of the natto and place on a serving dish. Cover and return the rest to the refrigerator. Using a spoon or chopsticks, thoroughly mix the natto until stringy and slimy. I was told to stir vigorously 100 times! Add a little soy sauce and hot mustard, serve over hot plain rice. Enjoy!

Microwave Mochi

Microwave mochi was one of the food that me and my coworkers at Brentwood made one fun day.

I purchased a few of the microwave Mochi makers from Marukai (now Tokyo Central) in Gardena, CA. We brought in boxes of Mochiko rice flour, sugar, and any filling we want to eat! There was strawberries, mangoes, coconut, chocolate, peanut butter, truffles, peaches, blueberries….anything and everything you can imagine.

We made batches upon batches and quickly formed the hot mochi into little balls with our chosen filling inside. Then quickly pop it in our mouths. We had an hour lunch so we had time to make our mochi and enjoy it too.

I really like the mango filled ones that I then rolled in desiccated coconut. That was yum!

So here I’m sharing the basic recipe! It’s easy to make and takes 5 minutes or 9 minutes depending in which method you follow!

You’ll need:

Microwave Mochi

1-1/2 cups mochiko (rice flour)
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
Katakuriko (potato starch) or kinako (roasted soybean flour), for dusting
1 cup tsubushi an (mashed bean paste) or koshi an (smooth bean paste)

Lightly coat a microwavable tube cake pan with cooking spray.

Mix mochiko, water, sugar and salt in a bowl.

Pour mixture into pan and cover with plastic wrap or a microwave cover.

Microwave 3 minutes on low, then 3 minutes on medium and 3 minutes on high, for a total of 9 minutes.

OR microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Cool in microwave 5 to 10 minutes, then turn onto a baking pan sprinkled with katakuriko, kinako, or cornstarch. Cut into 16 pieces using a plastic knife.

Dust hands with katakuriko or kinako and flatten each piece. Place 1 tablespoon an (or any filling of your choice) in center of each piece. Bring edges together and pinch to seal. Shape as desired.

Note: This recipe is based on microwave wattage of 1,000. Depending on your microwave wattage, cooking time may need to be adjusted.

Variations

>> Add fresh strawberries, peanut butter or sweet chestnut covered with bean paste.
>> For chocolate flavor, stir 1/4 to 1/3 cup melted chocolate chips into mochi batter before cooking.
>> Add a few drops of food coloring into batter for color variation.
>> A few drops of flavoring (strawberry, grape, orange, blueberry, etc.) may also be added.

Electric Lunchbox #91: Taco Soup

Taco Soup!

Perfect for the cold weather we are having right now…not that it compares to the snow storms experienced in Texas and other states. But still, everyone needs a good recipe for a delicious warm soup, right?

This is another Brentwood recipe, one that we tasted at a potluck more than once and got the recipe to make it ourselves at home whenever we craved it. It’s got everything to make it hearty and filling yet it’s not too heavy. A perfect balance of flavor and healthy ingredients.

I like my taco soup with all the fixings…sour cream, cheese, green onions, chopped onions, tortilla chips…but it’s also delicious as is.

Hope you try this ELB version, stay warm and safe my friends!

*NOTE that this recipe uses regular sized measuring cups, NOT the tiny ELB cup, unless specified.*

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Ingredients:

1/4 cup canned Pinto beans, drained

1/4 cup canned kidney beans, drained

1/4 cup canned corn, drained

1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with liquid

1 tablespoon canned green chili

1 tablespoon taco mix powder

1 tablespoon ranch mix powder

4 oz can chicken meat, drained

1 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 ELB cups water for the base

*Sour cream, grated cheese, chopped green onions, tortilla chips, to serve

Procedure:

1. In the big ELB bowl, place pinto beans,

2. Kidney beans,

3. Corn,

4. Tomatoes,

5. Green chili,

6. Taco powder

7. Ranch powder,

8. Water,

9. Chicken,

10. Water,

11. Cornstarch,

12. Mix everything together. Place in the ELB base. Add 2 ELB cups of water to the base. Cover and let steam until it shuts off, about 40 minutes.

13. Carefully open the ELB, and stir the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.

14. Serve hot with all the fixings! Enjoy!

Electric Lunchbox #87: Minestrone

It’s been cold this week here in Southern California so when I told my husband that I do not have any ideas on what else to make in the ELB, he said “soup!”

He went on naming different soups he grew up eating in Peru…and I stopped him when i heard Minestrone. I love Minestrone and I haven’t made it in a long time!

When I was a high school student at Herbert Hoover High in Glendale, CA, I chose a cooking/baking as my elective class. Not only as a way to nurture a life skill/hobby, but also to rest my brain between classes. And the basic Minestrone I make all these years always comes back to the recipe I learned in Mrs. Baker’s class.

So here it is! The original recipe I scribbled down when I was 15 years old – sure brings back a lot of memories! I didn’t even have to scale it down for the big ELB bowl as it fits perfectly!

Do not feel like you have to follow the recipe to the letter. Any bean or veggie you want, or have on hand, can be used instead of the ones listed in the recipe but I do encourage you to try the recipe as it is at least once. Then you can make adjustments after you’ve tried the recipe as is.

*NOTE that this recipe uses regular sized measuring cups, NOT the tiny ELB cup, unless specified.*

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon rice

1 tablespoon small pasta

1 tablespoon canned beans

1/2 cup peeled and diced potatoes

1 tablespoon green peas (used celery as I was out of green peas)

Salt and pepper

A few rosemary leaves

3/4 cup beef broth

2/3 cup water

Procedure:

1. Place the chopped onions in the big ELB bowl.

2. Add the butter,

3. Cornstarch,

4. Tomato paste,

5. Rice,

6. Pasta

7. Beans,

8. Potatoes,

9. Celery or green peas

10. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and the rosemary leaves,

11. Add the beef broth and water. Stir to mix everything together.

12. The butter will be a big blob but it will melt as the soup cooks the pasta and rice. It makes this soup rich and velvety!

13. Place the bowl in the ELB base. Add 3 ELB cups of water to the base, cover and let steam until it shuts off, about an hour.

14. Carefully open the ELB. Stir the soup and check the pasta and rice if it’s cooked through.

15. Serve hot! Enjoy!

Electric Lunchbox #85: Bodega Beans

I read an article about Bodega Beans a few weeks ago. Have you heard of it? It sounded quite delicious to me that I was planning to make it even before I was done reading the article.

Apparently it is a recipe for when you want a cheap but healthy meal with readily accessible ingredients. And nowadays, who doesn’t want that? It can be a wonderful side dish, if anything!

According to the article, the most basic “recipe” is to sauté garlic and onions in a little olive oil, add a can of drained beans and any seasoning you like, drizzle with more olive oil and you’re done! A sprinkle of cheese is optional, then serve with rice or bread.

I did make it and it was absolutely delicious! I added a few spices to it but feel free to use any that you like or have!

After making it a few times on the stove, I made it in the ELB for you guys! You can prepare rice in the small nesting bowl and you’re all set for a yummy meal!

*NOTE that this recipe uses regular sized measuring cups, NOT the tiny ELB cup, unless specified.*

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I like to add crispy bacon to my bodega beans as my son doesn’t like beans but loves bacon…so beans with bacon is acceptable to him. 😊

Just place the bacon strips in a clean skillet, let the oil render out and brown till crisp. Crumble when cool.

Ingredients:

Bacon, browned and drained, optional but highly recommended

1 tablespoon minced onions

2 tablespoons chopped carrots

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cumin, paprika, sazon todo, as desired

1 tablespoon chopped celery

1 can beans, rinsed and drained (garbanzo, pinto, red bean, black bean, any will do)

2 tablespoons olive oil or 1 tablespoon each bacon grease and olive oil, more as needed

Parmesan cheese, optional

Avocado slices, optional

Chopped cilantro, optional

Chili pepper flakes, optional

Procedure:

1. Place onions in the big ELB bowl.

2. Add some carrots,

3. Salt, pepper, garlic powder and any other seasoning you like. I love adding a couple of shakes of cumin.

4. Chopped celery,

5. The can of drained beans,

6. Crumbled cooked bacon,

7. Mix everything together. Add the olive oil or bacon grease and olive oil mix. Cover the bowl with foil and place in the ELB base.

* you can place 2 ELB cups of rice, rinsed and drained with 2 ELB cups water to the little nesting bowl to round out your meal!*

8. Add 3 ELB cups of water to the base, cover and let steam until it shuts off, about an hour.

9. Carefully open the ELB and mix the contents. Serve hot with rice, bread, cheese, chopped cilantro, and/or avocado if desired. Sprinkle with chili pepper flakes if you want a little spice.

10. Enjoy!

Electric Lunchbox #81: Daifukumochi or Daifuku

Happy New Year’s Day my friends!

Here’s to hoping 2021 will behave and allow us to go back and do what we used to do – enjoy life with people that matter, get together with family, eat together, and travel all over collecting memories to cherish forever.

Back to food…and ELB…today I will show you how to make one of my favorite sweets in the ELB.

Daifukumochi or daifuku (literally “great luck”), is a Japanese sweet made from sweet rice flour. It is formed into a round mochi then stuffed with sweet filling, most commonly anko, sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans and sugar. Daifuku is a popular wagashi in Japan, and often served with green tea.

I made this in the ELB since mochi is traditionally served for New Year in Japan. The actual mochi for New Year’s is a block of pounded sweet rice, which cannot be made in the ELB. I do have a mochi maker, it cooks the soaked rice and pounds it perfectly so you don’t have to. All I do is pat it into a rectangle and slice. Then eat, of course! 😊

This sweet mochi is served all year round as a snack. I love eating it and I can finish a package of 6 in one sitting. It’s that good! Or bad….

You can also wrap a clean, dry, fresh strawberry with the red bean paste before wrapping in the mochi. That is a real treat specially if the strawberry is ripe and sweet.

I hope you enjoy this little Japanese dessert/snack! I tried to make it real easy using readily available ingredients. 😊

*NOTE that this recipe uses regular sized measuring cups, NOT the tiny ELB cup, unless specified.*

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup mochiko rice flour

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch salt

1/2 cup water

Katakuriko (Potato starch), for dusting

1/4 cup red bean paste

3 ELB cups water for the base

Procedure:

1. Place the rice flour in the large ELB bowl.

2. Add the sugar and salt next.

3. Pour in water.

4. Slowly stir the mixture.

5. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes thick and well blended.

6. Cover the bowl with foil and place the bowl in the ELB base. Pour 3 ELB cups of water in the base, cover and let steam until done, about 1 hour.

7. In the meantime, pour some katakuriko (potato starch) in a plate and set aside.

8. Roll up a tablespoon or so of red bean paste into balls. Make 4 of these. Set aside.

9. When the ELB shuts off, carefully open it and drain any liquid on top of the mochi.

10. While hot, divide the mochi into 4 pieces using a butter knife. D

11. Dust your fingers with katakuriko.

12. Working quickly, while the mixture is hot, scrape 1 portion of the mochi into your hands and stretch it out a little.

13. Place 1 red bean paste ball in the middle and pull edges over, pinching to seal. Roll into a ball, dusting with katakuriko as needed.

*I was rushing to leave when I made this so apologies for the irregular shapes. It took me less than 5 minutes from the time I took the mochi from the ELB to taking this final photo. I might re do the photo when I get another chance to make these leisurely *

14. Give the mochi one final roll in the katakuriko, place on a serving dish, and devour!

Electric Lunchbox #56: Chicken with Green Beans

Chicken with green beans – this is an ELB version of a stir fry that our family loves. I believe that the original version uses shrimps but allergies made me switch it to chicken. It’s still really good! And if you do want to try it with shrimps, just replace the chicken with the same amount of shrimps.

I use garlic powder and minced dried onions because I find the flavor is more pronounced than using fresh, when steaming is the method used for cooking. If you don’t keep those in your panty, feel free to use fresh.

Of course, as with all my cooking (not really baking though!) recipes, feel free to add or remove ingredients and use this mainly as a guide. Make it your own! And I hope you enjoy the end product of your efforts! ❤️

*NOTE that this recipe uses regular sized measuring cups, NOT the tiny ELB cup, unless specified.*

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Ingredients:

100 grams diced chicken breasts

10-12 pieces green beans, trimmed, and cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion, or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped onions

1 teaspoon oyster sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

3 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Dash of ground black pepper

Rice (optional):

2 ELB cups rice

2 ELB cups water

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon Knorr chicken and tomato bouillon powder

Procedure:

1. Place chicken, green beans, garlic, onion, oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, cornstarch, and pepper in the big ELB bowl.

2. Mix until cornstarch dissolves. Place bowl on the ELB base.

3. If cooking rice, place rinsed and drained rice in the small nesting bowl, add water, turmeric, and bouillon powder. Stir. Place bowl on top of the bigger bowl. Add 3 ELB cups water to the base, cover and let steam until it shuts off, about 55 minutes.

4. Carefully open the ELB, remove the bowls and check chicken and rice for doneness. Serve hot, over rice, if cooked together.

5. Enjoy!

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Electric Lunchbox #36: Mama Tuca’s Lentils

My mother-in-law is a wonderful cook! Lucky for me, she is always more than happy to teach me how to prepare Peruvian food whether in her kitchen in Lima, or mine in Orange County. She is very kind and gentle but strong and determined. She likes to go out on her own, fearless, and discover places. I grew up more sheltered, more scared, careful of the outside world. I remember once when she was vacationing here in the US, my husband and I came home from work and she was gone…we had to go and drive our cars to look for her all over our city. I found her walking by Trader Joe’s, arms full of grocery bags with treasures she found to make a meal. She is good at substituting and making a new dishes.

When we were in Peru, breakfast is usually turkey, cheese, ham sandwich, with fruit juice and my essential, coffee. Lunch is the biggest meal, and she would always prepare a salad to go with it. Everything tasted really good. This is one of those recipes. Healthy and easy to make, it quickly became a staple as both my husband and my son likes it.

I adapted it to the ELB, substituting garlic and onion powder for the real thing as we will not be sautéing it. If you have a red bell pepper and aji amarillo, please use that instead of the paprika and turmeric I used. I just used those as it is something we are all familiar with and probably have in our pantry already. When mama Tuca made this, she used pork, but I had used beef, and chicken when I’m too lazy to go to the store.

Please remember to soak the lentils for about couple of hours. We are using raw lentils and they do cook faster than regular beans, but soaking helps it along.

I hope you like this recipe. I’m sure my family does!

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*NOTE that this recipe uses regular sized measuring cups, NOT the tiny Itaki cup, unless specified.*

1/2 cup lentils, soaked at least 1 hour, up to overnight

1 cup water, for cooking

1 teaspoon oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika powder (or 1/4 red bell pepper, pureed)

50 – 60 grams cubed pork or chicken, or ground beef

1 small potato, peeled and cubed

120 ml water (for steaming)

Drain the lentils after soaking. Transfer to the big bottom bowl of the ELB. Add all ingredients and stir to mix. Place in the ELB base.

Add the water for steaming to the base. Cover the ELB snd let steam until done, about an hour. Check lentils and meat for doneness , adding more water to the base and steaming longer, if necessary.

Serve hot, over rice (can make some in the little nesting bowl at the same time!).

My husband usually asks for a fried egg on top of the lentils. I like it this way too so I happily fry some eggs to serve with this dish.

If you have a jumbo, make lentils in the bottom bowl, poached egg in the small nesting bowl, and rice in the top medium bowl! Perfect meal!

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