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 #82: Tuna Casserole

I love this dish and I had been making it forever. Tuna, creamy sauce, pasta, some vegetables…it’s perfectly easy to make, healthy, using mostly pantry stable ingredients that you probably already have on hand….what’s not to love?

So today, I’m sharing how to make it in the ELB! I figured if I can make it in the ELB, I can have just one bowl to clean after I devour this! Easy to make, easy clean up too! Winner!

Of course, you can use whatever vegetables you want in this dish, only peas, only carrots, no mushrooms…feel free to add or remove as you wish! Make it your own!

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

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Ingredients:

1 cup egg noodles

3/4 cup water

1/2 tablespoon dried onions, or 2 tablespoons fresh, minced

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup frozen peas or mixed vegetables

1/2 can tuna, packed in water or oil, drained

1/2 cup condensed cream of mushroom soup

2-3 pieces of white mushrooms, diced

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Procedure:

1. In the large ELB bowl, place the egg noodles and pour water in.

2. Add the onions,

3. The cheese,

4. The frozen peas or mixed vegetables,

5. Mushrooms,

6. Condensed cream of mushroom soup,

5. And the tuna.

8. Mix them together gently, being careful to leave the noodles at the bottom.

9. Top with the other 1/4 cup cheese, cover with foil and set on the ELB base.

10. Place 2 ELB cups of water in the base, cover and let steam until done, about 35 minutes.

11. Carefully open the ELB and check the noodles for doneness. If not done, add 1/2 to 1 ELB cup water to the base and steam until done.

12. Stir the contents carefully and serve hot! Enjoy!

Electric Lunchbox #60: Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese! Who knew it would take me forever to get this recipe right!? I mean, mac and cheese!!!!

I got a lot of requests from you guys for Mac and Cheese made in the ELB.

And as it is one of my son’s favorite food ever, I had already been experimenting since before the requests came in. This recipe took that long!

It definitely tested my patience, as recipe after recipe, it failed. Too clumpy. Too watery. Noodles undercooked. Noodles over cooked. Too bland. Too salty….and on and on.

Should’ve sprinkled it with something colorful for the photo op!

So I started working on it at least once a week. In the process, I’d ran out of grated cheese, or cream, or butter, so I had to wait again until grocery day comes around for another round of testing.

This recipe is my latest one in the quest for a good, one bowl mac and cheese made in the ELB. Although not as smooth as I would like it to be, it is one that I cannot stop eating. Even my son said “you know I want more too, right?” So I believe we have a winner!

The cheese I ended up using. So good!

You can definitely replace the cheese with sharp cheddar or any mix that you like if you want, but know that this combo is soooo good!

Also, please read the recipe through before making it. Specially my note about the salt, as I do not want you to have your mac and cheese ready only to realize that it’s too salty to eat.

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

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup uncooked macaroni

1/2 cup water

1 cup grated cheese (I used a blend of Swiss and Gruyere cheese as that is what I had in the fridge 😋)

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon minced, dried onion

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

Dash of ground black pepper

Dash of turmeric powder, optional (this is just for color – if you want it more yellow)

1/4 teaspoon salt (hold off adding the salt until after the dish is cooked – remember that you can always add salt but you cannot remove it. Some cheeses are saltier than others.)

1. Place all the ingredients, except salt, in the big ELB bowl, in the order listed.

2. Place the bowl in the ELB base.

3. Add 3 ELB cups water in the base, cover and let steam until it shuts off, about 1 hour.

4. Carefully open the cover and stir the mac and cheese. Check if macaroni is cooked through and adjust seasoning, adding the salt if needed.

5. Serve hot! Enjoy!

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Electric Lunchbox #39: Penne with Meat sauce

Penne with meat sauce the easy way! If I planned my prep day well, I would have some ground beef browned with onions and garlic in the fridge. That little prep makes it easy to put together little meals in the ELB.

This is one such meal. As usual, easy to prepare, one bowl, and you just basically put everything in and press the steam button! Love my ELB!

*I have not used this lunchbox at work though, as I work in a laboratory and we cannot eat on our work desk (we call them bench). We have a cafeteria in our building, and some seats and tables outdoors, and that’s where everyone eats. I am not sure I want to leave the ELB unattended when it is not close by. However, I have used the ELB a lot at home to prepare small amounts of food, and of course, desserts!*

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1/3 – 1/2 cup cooked ground beef (I just saute in garlic and onions until browned)

3 mushrooms, chopped

1 tablespoon diced celery

1 tablespoon diced onions

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon beef bouillon powder

3/4 cup penne pasta

120 ml marinara sauce

160 ml water

120 ml water for base

Place the beef, mushrooms, celery, onion, garlic powder in the bottom big bowl. Add in the penne, marinara sauce and 160 ml water. Stir to mix. Cover with foil and set on the base of the ELB.

Place 120 ml water in the base, cover and let steam until done, about 55 minutes.

Carefully open the lunchbox and stir the pasta. Check the doneness of the pasta. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serve hot.

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Electric Lunchbox #32: Chicken Parmesan with Egg Noodles

Chicken Parmesan with egg noodles in the electric lunchbox – another comfort food made easy!

My family loves pasta (so much for me trying to follow a low carb lifestyle!), so we usually have a pasta dish at least once two every weeks. But this recipe totally changes it. I can make one to two servings – depending on how willing someone is to share – very easily. My 11 year old son can even get this ready and cooked as there is no open fire to worry about.

I hope you guys try it and let me know how it was. 😊

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

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1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

salt & pepper to taste

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

1/3 cup marinara sauce

80 grams wide egg noodles

1 teaspoon olive oil

Water

2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, shredded

parsley, chopped

1. Cube the chicken breasts and sprinkle with garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Mix to distribute the spices evenly. Place in the small top bowl. Top with the parmesan cheese and marinara sauce. Set bowl aside.

2. In the big bottom bowl, place the egg noodles, the olive oil, and enough water to barely cover the noodles. Place this bowl in the electric lunchbox base. Place the bowl with chicken on top and cover with foil.

3. Place 3 Itaki cups water in the base, cover and steam until it shuts off, about 55 minutes.
Check chicken and pasta for doneness, adding water to the base as necessary.

4. When done, carefully open the lunchbox. Drain the pasta if any water remains in the bowl. Mix chicken and marinara sauce, adjust seasoning to taste and pour over pasta.

5. Top with mozzarella cheese and serve hot.

Electric Lunchbox #20: Penne ala Vodka

A wonderful side for any lunch or dinner, this pasta is easy to prepare and is neutral flavored enough to go with fish, meat, or vegetarian main dishes. I sometimes steam some frozen meatballs on the little top bowl to serve with the pasta.

If you would like this alcohol free, just substitute the vodka with equal amounts of chicken broth. Hope you enjoy this quick pasta dish!

80 grams dry penne pasta

10 grams butter

100 grams canned chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon tomato paste

140 grams chicken broth

Pinch of salt

Pinch of sugar

Pinch of chili pepper flakes, adjust to taste

25 grams heavy cream

25 grams vodka

3 Itaki cups water for the base

Place penne, butter, tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth, salt, sugar, pepper flakes, cream, and vodka in the bottom bowl of the Itaki. Mix well to dissolve the tomato paste.

Place the bowl in the Itaki and add 3 cups water to the base. Cover and let steam until it shuts off, about 55 minutes.

Carefully remove from the lunchbox, stir and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot.

*You can definitely add another dish to cook in the little bowl of the Itaki Pro, or even the 2 other bowls of the Jumbo just be sure to add more water to the base, as needed, to cook everything properly. Ideas would be any of the following: flan, chocolate cake, chicken, salmon, ribs, broccoli, baby bokchoy, etc.*

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Electric Lunchbox #2: Tips

I didn’t realize that a lot of people have this Electric Lunchbox. It was an impulse purchase for me because it was so cute! I mean, just look at it! 😍

One thing I know is that it took a little trial and error for me to be comfortable using it. The instructions included were a little vague. But I like challenges, so I dove right in!

Little experiments followed…(something I like to do as I am a scientist by profession) until eggs, soups, curry, and white rice were cooked just the way I like it. Records were kept, timers were used, and after all that, I just had to share it with others so that my findings won’t be in vain. 😊

Here are a few things I learned after tinkering with this lunchbox for a few weeks. Hoping to help others gain confidence in trying their own recipes in it.

1. *Please note that the word “cup” in my electric lunchbox recipes mostly refer to the little itaki cup included with the lunchbox. It holds 40ml.* This cup also has a handy egg piercer right on the bottom of it. Careful – as it is a bit sharp.

**I recently changed this to “uses regular cups, unless stated” since I’ve been making more than just main dishes in it.

2. Have a “prep day”. Set aside an few minutes or so to cut up meats and veggies and bag them individually in little portions. This would be easier done right after purchasing groceries. They can then be stored in the freezer for longer storage or in the refrigerator if you’d use them up soon. Frozen food can be moved to the refrigerator to defrost the night before you need it.

3. White rice always cooks perfectly when I use an equal amount of water in the rice bowl (usually 2:2) and at least 2 cups water in the base. Make sure to rinse the rice and drain before adding the measured water. You don’t have to drain every last drop, it’s quite forgiving.

4. Simmer sauces. There is an abundance of simmer sauces available in the grocery stores right now and most that I had tried were good. Just place your meat, tofu, and/or veggies in the bowl, top with a generous pour of the simmer sauce and you’re good to go! Salsa verde with chicken is great too!

5. Curry pastes and coconut milk. My favorite combo! Top any meat, tofu, and vegetables with a couple of spoonfuls of curry paste and 2-3 little cups coconut milk (basmati rice in top bowl!) and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal! Thai Kitchen brand tastes great!

6. Japanese Curry Mixes. These were the ones I experimented with in the beginning as I am very familiar with it. So easy! Add cut up chicken, pork, or beef in the big bowl. Then diced potatoes, carrots, and onions, one square(cube) of curry mix, 2 little cups of water. Place 2 little cups rice with 2 little cups water in the small bowl. Add 2 little cups water to the base, place big and small bowl in base. Cover and steam until it shuts off. Stir curry and serve over rice. Yummy!!

7. Barbecue sauce. Easy to make barbecue chicken when you have this on hand! Just add diced chicken breasts in the bowl and a good squeeze of barbecue sauce.

8. Boiled Eggs: I get the perfect hard boiled eggs by piercing the wide end of 5 eggs with the egg piercer (it’s on the bottom of the measuring cup), placing it in the egg holder, pierced side up and onto the base without the stainless bowls. Add 1 little cup water to the base, cover, and let it steam until it shuts off. It will take about 25 minutes. Place eggs in cold water right after cooking.

Hard boiled egg
Soft boiled egg

9. Soft boiled Eggs: Take 5 eggs and pierce the wide end. Place in the egg holder and onto the base without the stainless bowls. Add 25 ml water to the base, cover, and let it steam until it shuts off. Place eggs in cold water right after cooking. This will take about 15-16 minutes. If you want the yolks runnier, use less water which equates to less cooking time.

So easy to peel!

10. To peel boiled eggs easily: Tap eggs on the counter multiple times then gently roll between your palm and the counter, exerting gentle pressure. It will peel off like the photo above.

11. Scrambled Eggs: Spray the bowl with cooking spray to make sure egg doesn’t stick. Lining with parchment works too! Cover bowl with foil. 1 little cup water in the base will be enough to cook 2 scrambled eggs in the small bowl.

12. Omelets: place diced mushrooms, bell peppers, chopped ham, turkey, cheese, spinach – whatever you use in your omelet – in the bowl that was sprayed with cooking spray. Beat 2 eggs and season with salt and pepper. Pour over everything in the bowl. Cover bowl with foil. 1-2 little cups of water in the bowl will cook the omelet, depending on how much filling was added.

13. DO NOT use the plastic lid for the stainless bowls WHILE steaming. They are perfect for storing your prepped bowls in the fridge, or for transporting the bowls to your workplace but they must be removed before turning the lunchbox on. Also, you can order extra bowls from the website if you need them to prepare meals in advance.

14. To cook small pasta (macaroni, ditalini, small penne, etc.) in soups, add 1-2 little cups pasta and pour in whatever liquid you are using, leaving about an inch between the liquid level and top of the bowl. 2 cups water in the base would be enough to cook the pasta.

15. 1 little cup (40ml) water in the base creates steam that lasts about 25 minutes in MY Itaki Pro. 2 cups is enough to cook rice, and 2-3 cups is enough to cook main dishes with raw meat (cut into small pieces) with rice in the small bowl. So far, I never had to use more than 3 cups except for one instance I’ll explain next. * Please note that I was informed that it varies from 15-25 minutes for others so please check yours out so you can estimate a baseline time per cup and go from there. I will time my cooking and add times to the recipe so you can adjust the amount of water you use in your base.*

16. Try not to open the Electric Lunchbox while it is steaming. I did it once and it took a lot longer to cook the food and I had to add another cup of water.

17. Use a scrubbing pad to remove deposits from the steamer. I had also used Magic Eraser with the same results. I will likely try vinegar soon and update this post.

*So I did try vinegar and here is the best way I found: after your food is cooked and while the steaming element is still HOT, add a little vinegar to it. Let sit for a few seconds and brush with a toothbrush until all the deposits/stains are removed. Rinse thoroughly. It will look brand new! Do not leave the vinegar too long as it may pit the metal.

18. Make sure to empty the base of residual water and let dry before storing. You do not want mold or bacteria growing in there. I just rinse and wipe them and place the base and cover upside down to dry on the counter.

I will add to this list as I find more useful tips. In the meantime, I will be trying to find time to cook in it more and share the recipes with you. Keep safe everyone!

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Udon Noodles with Gyoza

Since it has been cold and rainy all week (and for one more week!) in Southern California, I prepared something quick with ingredients I have on hand. We are all supposed to hunker down and try to avoid going out as much as we can to try to slow the spread of the Corona virus. I work in healthcare, so no option to work from home for me. 😞

If you’ve been following the news, grocery shelves are empty almost everywhere as people are stocking up for the worst case scenario. I believe this kind of panic is unnecessary and causes additional, unneeded stress.

On that note, I have always kept my pantry stocked as I try not to go shopping all the time. It makes me truly happy every time I can prepare a dish without needing an additional trip to the store for an ingredient or two as I do work full time.

This recipe is put together using what I have and it’s tastes really good! Hot and filling! Feel free to add anything you want or have in hand.

Enjoy and everyone please stay safe!

1 pack udon noodles frozen or fresh

Ingredients needed per serving:

1 cup boiling water

1 tsp dashi stock powder

1 tsp light soy sauce

1 tsp mirin

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp sugar

Toppings:

  • Frozen gyoza
  • Kamaboko, sliced
  • Steamed vegetables (brocolli, carrots, cabbage…)
  • 1 stalk spring onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp bonito flakes (katsuoboshi)
  • 1 pinch chilli flakes (shichimi togarashi)

Cook udon noodles according to packet directions. 

Place the gyoza in a preheated, lightly oiled skillet and cook until bottoms are golden. Add 1/4 cup water to skillet and immediately cover to completely cook the gyoza. 

Place dashi, soy sauce, mirin, salt and sugar into a bowl and stir. Pour boiling water in and mix well. 

Place cooked udon noodles in the bowl. 

Top with gyoza, kamaboko, steamed vegetables, sliced spring onion, bonito. Sprinkle with chili flakes.

Serve hot.