kruizing with kikukat

Monday, November 23, 2015

Almost Homeroom : Macaroni and Cheese

Sorry for the late post...I had my setting wrong.  Senior moment. . .and foreshadowing of what to expect soon.

This year I'm trying something different.  The Help bought the turkey dinner package from Safeway.  I've never had the Safeway dinner.  A few years ago, The Help bought the Sack N Save turkey dinner.  It will be nice to compare them.  Zippy's also offers a pre-made meal, but the cost is nearly double the Safeway meal.
Since he has taken much of the work off my hands, I can expend my effort into making side dishes and dessert.  The meal comes with mashed potatoes, but since I don't think potato salad (a traditional local side dish) goes well with roast turkey and gravy, I think I will make macaroni and cheese instead.

Over the years, I have had some really good macaroni and cheese both at restaurants and at home.  Kincaid's makes a kick ass lobster macaroni and cheese.  12th Avenue Grill is known for their macaroni and cheese with alii oyster mushrooms.  I've made different versions of Barefoot Contessa's macaroni and cheese, and there is probably an infamous blue box, or two, in my pantry as I'm writing this post.  While I like to consider myself a macaroni and cheese connoisseur, I'm not the picky eater in my home.  D2 is the picky eater, and out of all the macaroni and cheese, save EasyMac, this is the only version she doesn't complain about.

This recipe was adapted from a macaroni and cheese recipe served at the Homeroom Restaurant in Oakland, CA.  You can find that recipe here.  I have never been to the Homeroom Restaurant, but I would like to purchase their cookbook and try more macaroni and cheese variations.  I would have made the Homeroom version exactly as posted, but I didn't have the same cheeses.  I am not fond of sharp cheddar either so I wasn't about to send The Help to the supermarket to buy the exact cheese.

My friend OllieMama grew up in Northern Cal, but she said she has not been to the restaurant either.  Maybe she can pay them a visit on her next trip home.  I don't have any plans to be in the Oakland area anytime soon, so until then, I will just enjoy my copycat version.  I suppose she will read this and ask me to save a portion for her to enjoy after Thanksgiving.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 c milk
     3 tbsp butter
     1/4 c flour
     1 1/4 tsp salt
     8-9 oz uncooked pasta
     4 oz shredded colby & jack cheese
     1 1/2 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
     1/4 c panko or breadcrumbs, optional

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water.  Allow pasta to drain while preparing sauce.  Heat milk in microwave for 2 minutes.  Melt butter in a heavy dutch oven over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk until golden brown.  Add hot milk, whisking constantly until milk is fully incorporated.  Cook 3 minutes until sauce thickens.  Add salt.  If not salty enough, add another 1/4 tsp of salt.  Stir in cheeses.  When mixture is smooth, gently stir in cooked pasta.  Heat until pasta is hot, about 3 minutes.  Serve immediately.

You may also place in 2 1/2-3 quart baking dish, sprinkle with panko or breadcrumbs, and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, but I prefer to eat this without baking.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Almost Barefoot Contessa: Orange Pound Cake

Last weekend was my birthday.  Another year closer to being really over the hill.  I can't believe how old I FEEL.

I spent my birthday on the west side.  The Help drove me and TheRents out for a Costco run.  We had lunch at The Blue Room.  I even made it in time to go to my favorite yarn store.  All in all, it was a great day.  But there was one thing missing:  birthday cake.

OllieMama keeps raving about the carrot cake at Costco, but I did not see any when I was there.  I saw some large red velvet cupcakes, but no carrot cake.  It didn't matter because I didn't feel like having carrot cake anyway. 

I came home from Kona, exhausted, but decided to make my own birthday cake.  I felt like something citrus-y so  I made orange pound cake.  I made a half recipe of the mini loaf pan version. . .only because I figured I'd be expected to share some.

This cake has been adapted from the Barefoot Contessa's recipe.  I leave out the orange zest, and I use large eggs, instead of extra-large eggs.  Because I usually use local navel oranges, the zest is not the perfect orange color found on supermarket oranges; it is a green-gold color, which, in spite of the added flavor, does NOT look appetizing in a cake.  I guess my inability to bring myself to pay the premium for extra-large eggs is why I just use large eggs. . .it's what I buy. The icing is also thicker with my recipe than with the original recipe.  I like the icing to slowly ooze down the sides, not run down in a thin shell.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 c butter, softened
     5 c sugar, divided per recipe instructions
     8 large eggs
     6 c flour
     1 tsp baking powder
     1 tsp baking soda
     2 tsp salt
     2 c orange juice, divided per recipe instructions
     1 1/2 c buttermilk
     2 tsp vanilla
     4 1/4 c powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 8 mini loaf pans or 4 4 x 8" loaf pans (or 4 mini loaf pans and 2 4 x 8" loaf pans).  Cut parchment paper to fit bottoms of pans.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine 1 c sugar and 1 c orange juice.  Set aside.  In a medium measuring cup, combine buttermilk, 1/2 c orange juice, and vanilla.  Set aside.  Cream butter and 4 cups sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Divide mixture among pans.  If using mini loaf pans, use 4 level #10 dishers per pan.  Bake 42 minutes for mini loaf pans or 55 minutes for 4 x 8" loaf pans.  While cakes are baking, heat orange juice & sugar mixture until sugar dissolves.  Set aside.  Let cakes cool 10 minutes in pan.  Remove loaves to wire rack set over a shallow pan.  Pour warm syrup evenly over each loaf.  When completely cool, make icing by combining powdered sugar and 6 tbsp orange juice.  Pour over cakes and allow icing to dry and harden before wrapping or serving.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Shoyu Chicken

Going to work after Halloween is hard.  Kids are all strung out on sugar, and if that wasn't bad enough, the candy wrappers don't seem to find their way to the trash can.  I'm hoping the candy will be gone by now. . .until the major onslaught of  Christmas treat advertising begins in a few weeks.

I can hardly wait.

It is now very noticeable that the days are shorter.  The Help and I went out just after 6 pm last night and it was already dark.  As we passed the golf course, The Help lamented that his days of Sunday outlaw golf are gone for the next few months.  True dat.

I am looking forward to a holiday this week.  It's nice how the week is split in half.  Fall intersession was just over a month ago, but it seems like a long time ago, and Winter break seems like it's a long way off as well.  I know it will come quickly, but at this point, even Thanksgiving seems far away.

Before I left work on Friday, I made sure to have my mid-quarter grades figured out.  The same students who earned Fs for the 1st quarter are earning Fs for mid-quarter.  Both Fs are due to non-attendance.  I absolutely hate it that attendance gets held against schools.  It is the responsibility of the parent/guardian to see that the child gets to school.  The person who decided to hold student non-attendance against individual probably never taught a day in his/her life.  But like it or not, the local public education system has deteriorated to the point where now schools are crucified when the non-attendance rate is high.  These chronic non-attenders would not attend no matter the school, but to the state office, non-attendance of a student means the school is not doing something right.  What a crock!

On the bright side, my school doesn't fault teachers for failing chronic non-attenders.  One of my friends taught at a school where the dumb administrator told her failing students was forbidden.  The administrator told her that failing students is the job of high schools.  No wonder we get so many students who cannot do the work!  Only high school administrators must know the value of a high percentage of students passing end-of-course exams.

Okay, enough bitching about work.  Time to start thinking about what to make for dinner.  When D1 was home, I'd always be stumped as to what kind of chicken dish to prepare.  D1's affinity for poultry was limited to ginger chicken soup, gai jow, and, occasionally, cold ginger chicken.  KikukatMom could not get over how D1 could stand the strong ginger flavor of the soup.  With D1 away, shoyu chicken is D2's oft-requested chicken dish.  And for D2, the star anise is the best part...she loves to suck on the points of the stars at the end of the meal.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3 lbs chicken
     3/4 c shoyu
     1 tbsp honey
     1/2 c brown sugar, packed
     1 1/4 c water, divided
     3 cloves garlic, crushed
     1" piece ginger, sliced fine
     1 star anise
     2 tbsp shao hsing wine
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     1 tbsp chopped green onions

Parboil chicken for 10 minutes.  Rinse chicken and drain well.  Set aside.  In a medium pot, combine shoyu, honey, brown sugar, 1 c water, garlic, ginger, star anise, and shao hsing wine.  Bring to a boil and simmer 2 minutes.  Add chicken to pot.  Simmer 45 minutes.  If time permits, refrigerate overnight and skim off hardened fat or use a fat separator to remove oil if not able to chill overnight.  If chilled overnight, heat chicken until simmering.  Remove chicken to a large serving bowl.  Remove and discard garlic and ginger.  Combine cornstarch and 1/4 c water.  Stir into simmering liquid and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Pour over chicken.  Garnish with green onions.

Many, many thanks for all the birthday wishes this weekend.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Amaretto Custard Bread Pudding

OMG!  This past week was brutal.  The kids in school were awful.  I'm certain they were high on Halloween candy all week.  They were hyper and difficult to settle.  I called several parents, and I came very close to submitting a disciplinary referral.  It would have been my first for the school year.  But I decided I could deal with the infraction in a different way.  I made a call home and the kid caught heat when he got home. . .or so he told me.

I also spoke with several students about respecting personal space.  Some students think nothing about going right up to others (both minors and adults) and sitting so close they are practically on the lap of the other person.  Other students persist in trying to grab items from others, perhaps not realizing that at some point, their hands or ON the other person's body.  They needed to be sent the message that "no means no".  I don't think they take "no" seriously when they hear it, erroneously always assuming that an acquaintance won't see their invasion of space as assault/attempted assault.

A few years ago, there was a similar incident with another student.  Several teachers made excuses for the student, saying "___ is just like that.  ___ means no harm."  I considered not saying anything then, but what jarred me was the thought that if my own child had been the victim, would I want a teacher to turn away, rationalizing their inaction at attempting to curtail the inappropriate behavior?  The answer was clear, and that is why I decided to make sure the perpetrator received consequences for his/her actions.  I hope any teacher who has my child in class will apply the same principle.

What I find most bothersome is that some students see nothing wrong with their own behavior and say, "oh, dats my friend.  They don't mind."  That kind of delusion will bite them in the ass one day.

Speaking of biting, my jaw seems much better, but now a different pain has replaced the achy jaw.  I think I have another cracked tooth.  I don't know how it happened.  Oh, never mind.  I know how.  I will need to wait until late November to see my dentist.  Anyway, until I can get a dental appointment to repair my tooth, I'm trying to eat soft things (no Cape Cod potato chips for me)

With the weather getting cooler, I find the luscious custard texture of bread pudding very comforting.  It's also soft enough that I'm not wincing when I chew.  The rich sauce makes this an extra decadent dessert.  Who would've thought stale bread could taste so good.

Now to prepare myself for another week of kids high on OLD Halloween candy. . .

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb bread, cubed (about 10-12 cups of cubes)
     1 qt milk
     6 eggs, reserve 1 yolk for sauce
     1/2 c sugar
     1 c cranberries
     1 tbsp vanilla
     7 tbsp amaretto, divided
     1/2 c butter
     1 c powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13" baking dish.  In a large bowl, pour milk over bread cubes.  Beat eggs (except for 1 yolk) and add to bread cubes.  Add sugar, cranberries, vanilla, and 3 tbsp amaretto.  Stir gently.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes.  Begin preparing sauce 5 minutes before bread pudding is done.  Heat butter and powdered sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir constantly until butter is completely melted.  Add 4 tbsp amaretto and reserved egg yolk.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  When bread pudding is done, poke holes all over bread pudding.  Pour sauce over and let soak in. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Furikake Party Mix

It's almost Halloween.  Halloween marks the crossover to fall, at least in my mind.  After Halloween, the days seem a lot shorter and the weather seems a lot cooler.  I like fall because fall means fireplace weather.

When I was young, I would go trick-or-treating around my neighborhood.  I remember The Rents making arrangements with  KikukatDad's friend to purchase large boxes of full-size candy bars.  I couldn't understand why we had to give out full-size Good News and Snickers bars, when I wanted to give out Jolly Rancher and Dum Dums.  I kinda still don't get it, but I do understand why the purchased the candy wholesale.

I think D1 had similar trick-or-treat experiences when she was younger, but I'm not sure about D2.  Seems that in the past few years, trick-or-treating has undergone some kind of transformation.  For The Rents, they now go to Costco and buy huge quantities of individually packaged pretzels, fruit snacks, and Famous Amos cookies and dutifully pass them out to kids who go to their house for trick-or-treating.  But The Rents have remarked that the kids who stop by are neither from their neighborhood nor are they the grandchildren of neighbors.  No shit.  Kids who are in their neighborhood on October 31 arrive by the truckloads from other neighborhoods.  They get dropped off and picked up after they have huge bags of candy.  It's no surprise that many of The Rents neighbors keep their porch lights off.  The Rents aren't there yet.  They can't seem to turn their backs on Halloween.

Not like me.

Let me explain.  I live on a small street, and there are no children on my street (D2 is the only minor resident. . .by the time D1 returns home in December, she will be an adult).  In the eighteen years I have lived here, nobody has ever come to trick-or-treat.

Maybe that will change this year.  And I will be prepared.  I will have furikake party mix to share!

You can buy furikake party mix from Costco (not cheap), Big Island Delights (you'll never get enough, even in the large foil bag), and Wholesale Unlimited (the cereal becomes hopelessly smashed by the time you're ready to eat it).  But it's easy to make your own, and if you make your own, you can control what goes into it.

The Costco version has Honeycomb cereal in it.  I don't add it in mine because I don't think it matches.  If you'd like to add it, replace the kakimochi with Honeycomb.  One of the pre-made ones also contains Bugles.  Those are good, and I would add them in if I could remember to buy them when I go to the store.  I do make an extra effort to locate the waffle pretzels.  Unlike the sticks, the waffle pretzels don't invariably end up at the bottom of the batch.

Another tip:  try to find a non-fishy furikake.  Nori komi or nori goma is preferable.  Every mouthful should not taste like you're eating a piece of fish or shrimp.

Don't ask me why, but eating the furikake party mix out of a paper cone makes it taste extra special.  And best of all, the cone is refillable and does not require washing.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
     1 box Crispix cereal
     3 cups kakimochi
     1 bag pretzels
     1/4 c sugar
     1/4 c vegetable oil
     1/4 c light corn syrup
     1/4 c butter
     1 tbsp shoyu
     5 1/2 tbsp furikake

In a large roasting pan, combine Crispix, kakimochi, and pretzels.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a small saucepan, heat sugar, vegetable oil, corn syrup, butter and shoyu until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Pour over cereal mixture.  Sprinkle furikake.  Toss everything gently until cereal, pretzels and kakimochi are coated.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.  Stir periodically while cooling to prevent mixture from clumping.  Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Oyster Rolls

I love oysters.

I will eat them raw.  I will eat them cooked.

I've eaten raw oysters on both coasts of the United States and in a foreign country.  I bought oyster shooters from some seafood stand in Pike Place Market.  In a fit of drunkenness, my friend DY and I went to a seafood restaurant up the street from our apartment, sat at the bar, and had a bunch of oysters before stumbling home.  My raw oyster experience on the opposite coast was much tamer.  My family and I went to a raw bar in Lexington Market (Baltimore) and filled up on oysters and clams.  I couldn't believe how fast those guys could shuck oysters!  When The Help and I went to Victoria, we enjoyed a cold platter at a seafood restaurant near the harbor.  I got to eat all of the raw oysters on the platter.

Whenever I go to Miyo's, I cannot help but order the fried oysters.  Having attempted, with very pathetic results, frying them at home myself, I can appreciate Miyo's.  I wanted to try the grilled oysters on sticks which were being sold on Miyajima, but I never got around to it.  Until I go back, missing out on the experience will always haunt me.

Unfortunately, the people I live with don't share my enthusiasm for oysters.  They just don't get it.  Losers.

But they will eat oyster rolls.  Go figure.  I think its because the oysters are chopped and there are other ingredients in the mix.  I suppose you could say it's rather underhanded of me to "hide" the oysters.  Oh well, it works.  And in spite of being allergic to some shellfish, D1 can eat oysters, which is a big plus for her since much of the food she associates with home contains oyster sauce.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 cans (8 oz each) whole oysters, drained and chopped
     1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
     2 can (4 oz each) mushroom stems & pieces, drained and chopped
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     2 eggs
     1 lb fishcake paste
     2 tbsp sugar
     1 tbsp shoyu
     1/4 tsp 5-spice
     1/4 c chopped green onions
     oil for frying

Combine cornstarch and eggs with a whisk.  Mix in fishcake paste, sugar, shoyu, and 5-spice.  Stir in oysters, water chestnuts, mushrooms and green onions.  Heat oil in a skillet.  Place panko in a small bowl.  Drop heaping tablespoons (#40 disher) of mixture into panko.  Coat completely with panko then shape into 2-inch long flat oval.  Fry in heated oil, turning once.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with shoyu-oyster sauce mix.

I barely survived the stress from the Summer Ends music festival from a few weeks ago, when D1 dropped another bomb on me.  She told me her school has a fall break too and she was going to visit friends in California and she was going to take the Greyhound bus to get there.  I was okay up until the "take the Greyhound bus" part.  I was hoping Mr. Dependable would put the brakes on this, but he didn't.

So D1 went on an 8-hour bus ride to downtown LA with her friend A, who was actually going home for the break.  She had contacted the SoCal Uncles earlier in the week, and fortunately, UDus was in town and able to get her from the station, which, I discovered, isn't too far from Skid Row.  Frick!  UDus got her safely to Orange County where she met up with Hawaii friends.

D1 sent me a bunch of pics from her trip.  I guess she had a lot of fun.  She mentioned going to Knotts.  Gee, it's been over 20 years since I've been to Knotts.  I'm sure the attractions have changed a lot.  I wonder if they still offer the chicken dinner.

Of course, all the vicarious happiness garnered from D1's fall break trip was tempered by the anxiety of her getting safely back to AZ.  OMG!  I was on pins and needles hoping she'd make it back to the Greyhound station on time.  It didn't help that she was going back on the overnight bus.  Then came the worry of how she'd get to campus.  I'm glad all went smoothly, and later that day, I received a pic of yukgaejang and banchan from HoDoRi, which seems to be the mainland doppelganger of Restaurant Osaka (she said they also make good katsu).

While D1 was stretching her wings and doing all kinds of shit, D2 was also keeping busy.  Mr. Dependable arranged golf lessons for her.  So far, things seem to be working out.  She hasn't grumbled about going.  We'll see how long this will last. . .

On behalf of all of us here, I'd like to extend a huge high-five to the man who re-energized my career.  Thank you for bringing be back and giving me the opportunity to spend valuable time with my children.  Thank you for helping me remember why I do what I do.  Thank you for having faith in me.  Best wishes in your new endeavor.  I hope our paths will meet again one day.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Easy Black Bottom Cupcakes

It's back to the salt mines today.  Ugh.  Fall break never seems to last long enough. 

I spent most of my fall break suffering from TMJ.  I'm sure going to the dentist/oral surgeon would be a smart move, but I can't even think about surgery right now.  This is the first bout of TMJ suffering I'm experiencing.  The Help told me it can take weeks to feel normal again.  It HAS been weeks for me, and the pain has traveled from the area of my ear to my lower jaw.  The pain seems to be getting better, but it has been a slow recovery process.

Having a sore jaw kinda put the damper on eating my favorite snack...potato chips.  I have a large Costco-size bag of Cape Cod chips just calling my name, but I need to hold off.  I did manage to eat regular Lay's potato chips without too much trouble, but Lay's (yellow bag) lacks the satisfying crunch of the Cape Cod chips.  I guess it's apparent why I have TMJ.

On Saturday afternoon, I asked The Help what did we do for the past week.  He said we did chores.  Maybe that's why I didn't want to think about it.  Doing chores suck.

I vaguely recall going to Kona sometime last week.  The trip, which would have been a high point, was marred by a stupid power outage due to a large tree falling on electrical wires.  It was the one day where I was craving Starbuck's lemon pound cake.  Unfortunately, I never got my pound cake because they were unable to ring the register at Starbuck's in Target.  It would have been nice to get my safety check (vehicle inspection) done too, but the car dealership's computer was down, which meant no safety check that day.  A dinner at Monstera would have been nice too, but D2 refused to come with us.  Going to Kona this past weekend was totally out of the question with the Ironman happening on Saturday.

I do clearly recall going to a football game.  The Viks notched another victory, and my thoughts about the worst behaved kids in east Hawaii were validated.  I'm thinking about calling the school and complaining to the principal about players and their girlfriends who created trouble by not abiding by stadium rules.  Several players lied, and one was foolish enough to give me his name, which I cross-referenced with the roster and asked another player.  The girlfriends were another story.  One wanted rules bent for her AND her friends.  While she seemed nice, one of her friends had a sassy attitude and a nasty mouth.  Apparently, she hasn't learned manners yet.  Of course, no rules were bent for them, and they stormed off. 

I couldn't help thinking that I was the idiot for spending my vacation dealing with pilau kids from another school!  That really IS dumb.

One bright spot about my vacation. . .my beloved Huskies upset the Trojans.  Yeah!!!

On my last day of vacation (yesterday), I decided to treat myself (and D2 and The Help) and make dessert so we could end our vacation on a sweet note.  I noticed a brick of cream cheese in the refrigerator, so instead of making plain devil's food cupcakes, I made these cream cheese-filled ones.  They are easy to make, and they don't need any frosting to taste like a million bucks.  If only I could've had a handful of crunchy Cape Cod chips with these. . .

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     8 oz cream cheese
     1/2 c sugar
     1 egg
     1 c chocolate chips
     1 box devil's food cake mix (preferably the non-pudding type)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pan(s) with 20-24 paper liners.  Cream together cream cheese and sugar.  Add egg and mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Set aside.  Prepare cake mix according to directions on box.  Fill each cup 1/2 full (a #20 disher works well) with cake batter.  Plop 1 tbsp (a #50 disher works well) of cream cheese mixture on batter in the center of each cup.  Top with more cake mix (#20 disher, half-full or #40 disher).  Bake 22 minutes (or whatever cake mix instructions give as baking time for cupcakes).  Remove from tins and cool completely on wire rack.