The Kikukat household has been graced with visits from friends and family. Sandy & her hubby Gerald visited at the start of vacation. Indianapolis cousin visited with her kids and hubby. The Carlyle's of Lanikai are here. The Kikukat ride is enjoying a new pilot: favorite uncle, who is here with auntie & LA (wish his other riders, OT & Dus, could be here too). We are fortunate that our family and friends have been blessed with good health and prosperity to make these trips possible. We're crossing our fingers that 2012 will be another great year.
Please enjoy the slideshow of our favorite pictures from 2011.
While most of my ohana prepares for New Years Day (the biggest holiday for local Japanese-ish families) I'm temporarily checking out and finding comfort in something everyday and timeless. . .banana bread.
Banana bread is usually the fortuitous result of some misfortune . . . bananas ripened too quickly to keep up eating them. I don't think too many people go out and buy bananas with the outright intention of making banana bread. Well, not me, anyway.
When I was married, my father-in-law had about a half-dozen prolific banana trees, so we had an endless supply of apple bananas. Apple bananas were a kid favorite. . .just the right size for a kiddie snack. Now that I'm not on the banana list, I buy my bananas at either the Hilo Farmers Market or Safeway. I find the bananas from KTA to be kinda on the slimy side. I'm sure they are, like the Safeway bananas, the Williams variety, but somehow, the Safeway bananas are not slimy. Of course, if I buy bananas from the Hilo Farmers Market, I always buy apple bananas.
My all-time favorite way to enjoy a banana is in a pie. Sunnyside Restaurant in Wahiawa makes a double-crust banana pie. A few other place on Oahu make it too: Violets on Dillingham, Likelike Drive Inn, and Flamingo Restaurant. I'm not sure if those places are still in business, but thats where I'd go for my banana pie fix when I lived on Oahu.
Unfortunately, I haven't ever tried making a double-crust banana pie because I'm always outnumbered in the house with people who want plain banana bread. No nuts, no chocolate chips, no mincemeat. The Ds like their banana bread plain. This is their favorite banana bread.
I normally bake this in mini loaf pans because they are easy to munch on and convenient to take places. Because my mini loaf pans are "gang" style, they are easy to load in and out of the oven.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 4 mini loaf pans, an 8" x 8" pan, or a loaf pan. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Combine mashed banana and sour cream. Set aside. Cream butter with sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana mixture alternately with flour mixture, ending with flour mixture. Pour a little over 1 cup (2 1/2 scoops from a #10 disher) in each pan if using mini loaf pans. Bake for 40 minutes. If using an 8" x 8" pan, bake 30 minutes.. If using a loaf pan, bake 65-70 minutes. Double recipe can also be baked in a 9" x 13" pan for 1 hour.
Was Santa good to you this year? Santa brought me two waaaay kewl McLaren-Mercedes-Vodaphone shirts. I can't wait for 2012 Formula 1 season to begin! The Ds managed to stay off the "naughty" list this year and had their stockings filled with goodies: instant udon, Targus stylus, kindle case, Bizu, and the ever-timeless Lindt chocolate Santa. Can't wait for next year. I'm gonna ask Santa for a Somali cat!
One reason why I think Santa has been so good to us is because the yummy homemade cookies make our home a worthwhile stop on his world tour. This year, we were armed with a variety of cookies for Santa. The first cookie we made was spritz wreaths (not pictured). Then we moved on to the cut-outs.
Like Santa, I love fancy cut-out cookies too, but the many details that go into making a kick-ass cookie can be totally daunting. The cookie itself is the main part of this monumental task. I love it when cookies snap rather than bend. But making rolled sugar cookies is tricky. Many recipes which I've tried produce soggy cookies. Yuck. And that's after spending all that time to mix the dough, chill the dough, roll it out, and bake it.
The cookies here were made with totally awesome sugar cookie dough. These cookies are crisp. An added bonus is that the dough, when properly chilled, is easy to work with. This recipe will not make a lot of cookies. Scraps can be re-rolled no more than twice. After the 2nd time, gather dough and roll into 1" spheres. Flatten to 1/4" and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. If you have festive sanding sugar on hand, feel free to sprinkle some on. Pics of these cookies can be found near the bottom of this blog entry, just above the recipe for royal icing. Sanding sugar will remain intact during baking. Another option is to leave these buttons plain so they can be decorated with icing. Bake as directed below.
Decorating these cookies is the ultimate way to make these cookies outstanding. I rely on 2 different icings to get the effect I want. The bells, stockings & candy canes were decorated using a corn syrup icing. This icing doesn't dry as firm as royal icing, but the colors are vibrant, and its a lot more convenient to make different colors. The icing has a nice almond flavor to it. The snowflakes and round shapes were decorated with royal icing. Royal icing dries harder than the corn syrup icing, but its inconvenient to make more than one color at a time, and colors are muted rather than vibrant. Royal icing has no particular flavor, other than sweet, so if I'm using royal icing, I make sure that the cookies are made with almond extract.
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and extract. Stir together flour and baking powder. Add to butter mixture. Pat dough into a flattened square, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Working with 1/3 of dough at a time, roll out (1/4" thick) onto lightly floured surface and cut with desired cookie cutters. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 19 minutes. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.
In a bowl, stir together sugar and milk. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. Divide into bowls and tint each bowl a different color. Icing may also be placed in small plastic bags for piping.
Combine powdered sugar and meringue powder. Add food coloring to water (color will become washed out when combined with powdered sugar, so make color strong). Add to powdered sugar mixture. Beat on high speed for 10-12 minutes until icing holds stiff peaks. Place in a pastry bag and pipe designs on cookies.
There's some perennial joke about fruit cake. . .that there is really only one and people keep re-gifting it to each other. In a way, I kinda believe it. I remember seeing the red tin at Christmas, no doubt sent by some friend or relative on the mainland. I remember how the only one who would touch it was AE. I thought it was disgusting to see all the fruits stuck together with the dark brown cake. I much preferred the "local" version of fruit cake, which was less fruit and more cake, good cake.
Mom made fruit cake every year. While her fruit cake was better than the fruit cake that came in the tin, I preferred some other people's fruit cake, where the cake part was more like pound cake. Mom also used walnuts. I h8 walnuts! I love pecans.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 regular muffin cups with paper liners. Remove 1 tbsp flour and toss with fruit cake mix, nuts, and cranberries. Set aside. Stir together remaining flour and baking powder. Set aside. Cream butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Add vanilla and mix well. Add flour mixture. Add fruit/nut mixture. Using a #20 disher, divide batter evenly among prepared cups (about 2/3 full). Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
Aaaaahhh. Nice to finally be on vacation. In spite of having the time to cook, I really don't feel like cooking. I'm blaming it on the holiday hype. Still being in the recovery phase of an illness which has festered since Halloween, the 1 hour I spent in Target pretty much zapped my energy. Meals are gonna be the product of the shortest distance between two points, a.k.a. minimal effort.
As you know from my earlier post, I have a deep, deep affinity for Goma Tei's Tan Tan Noodles. It seems like I'm not the only one. Someone named Robyn Goong wrote to the Honolulu Star Advertiser's food lady, Betty Shimabukuro, and asked her to come up with a copycat recipe for the ethereal Goma Tei version. You can read the article and get the original copycat recipe here.
The difference with my recipe lies in the amounts of black bean chili sauce and sesame oil to add and in the process by which the sauce ingredients are added to the stock. Since I hate to see seeds and chili pepper casings in my food, I had to strain the black bean chili sauce so I could get the heat with out the seeds and casings. Yes, I know, the OCD is coming out.
And speaking of my OCD. . .those of you who know me well are aware that I hate to touch anything cold and slimy or oily with my bare hands. I tried to be very neat with the sesame paste, but in my effort to get to the paste by delicately plowing through the oil layer, I somehow ended up spilling most of the oil layer on the jar and onto the granite counter. I got the counter cleaned up and decided I would wash the bottle with dishwashing soap so it wouldn't be all oily when I put it away. I guess I didn't cover the bottle good enough because in the process of washing the bottle, the bottle opened up. Not only did the sesame paste (not just the oily part) spill all over my WHITE jacket sleeve, but the soap from the sponge ended up inside the partially filled bottle. FARCK!
But after the first bite of the noodles, it was all worth it. The broth had the same "dirty" look as the Goma Tei version. The thinly sliced roast pork was a good approximation of the spiral slab of pork belly. And really, its way after Labor Day. . .wearing white is a fashion faux pas.
Heat chicken stock. When stock begins to simmer, add shoyu and sugar. Add 2 tbsp stock to sesame paste. Mix well, then add back to stock. Place black bean chili sauce in a small sieve. Spoon hot stock over sauce. Discard seeds and chili pepper casings which remain in the sieve. Add sesame oil. Keep stock at a simmer. Divide drained noodles between 2 saimin bowls. Top with greens and roast pork. Ladle soup over all.
I didn't do much this past Thanksgiving, but I had a great day. The Help picked up a ready-to-heat turkey meal from Foodland, which was unbelievably delicious. Now I'm thinking that given the sheer ease of throwing a meal like that together, its just unbelievably time-consuming (and not exponentially better tasting) to make your own food. One thing we both enjoyed was the absence of the mound of oily dishes from roasting the bird and cooking all the trimmings.
The dessert which came with the meal was a small pumpkin pie. While I'm not against pumpkin, I am definitely not a fan of pumpkin (and custard) pie. I like the taste of the filling, but to me, pumpkin pie is so boring. In the past, I've made a few kick-ass pumpkin desserts (fresh pumpkin cake, pumpkin roll, pumpkin and cream cheese layered dessert), but I just didn't feel excited about eating any of those things this year. The Help told me he saw a dessert at Moonstruck Patisserie called "Pumpkin Crunch", but when asked to describe what it was, The Help was at a loss for words. But he insisted it sounded good.
In search of the perfect Pumpkin Crunch recipe, no easy task for someone who never tasted it, I looked through about a dozen cookbooks before I found one. In fact, the identical recipe appeared in several cookbooks. The universal appeal is that it uses whole-package amounts of purchased ingredients (8 oz. Cool Whip, 8 oz. cream cheese, etc.). A few recipes called for odd amounts of these ingredients. I mean, really, what would I do with an 8 oz. container of Cool Whip after a cup of it has been removed?
To make a long story short, Pumpkin Crunch Cake (not really a cake in my book, and, I'm sure Melissa would agree. . .I KNOW cake), was a huge hit, in spite of it being unknown in my home before November. Then my friend Harvey told me its one of his favorite desserts. A few days later, I tried to get cousin Kent to take some home (when he came for a consultation to look at D1's bruised black big toe), but he politely declined and said he and his wife had been eating it for over five days past Thanksgiving.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13" pan, and line the bottom with parchment or waxed paper. Grease paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle nuts evenly over cake mix. Carefully pour melted butter over nuts and cake mix. Bake for 1 hour. When completely cool, invert pan over serving tray. Peel off paper. Combine cream cheese, Cool Whip and powdered sugar. Beat with mixer until well combined. Frost top (pumpkin layer) of cake. Store in refrigerator.
*If you are using a new cake mix with less than 18 oz (about 15 oz.), add 6 tbsp flour to cake mix before proceeding with recipe.
I'm going to attempt to go to work tomorrow. Resting a week on sick leave hasn't been all the fun it sounds like. Still tired from the occasional coughing fit, but GP (coworker) should have more peace. It was actually GP who begged me to go to the doctor again, and I'm grateful he did.
In spite of being on sick leave, I haven't been down and out. I've been snacking all day and have been trying to think of goodies I can make with what I have on hand. I swear I had a bag of kisses because I was ono for Peanut Butter Blossoms to go with a toasty vanilla latte.
Peanut Butter Blossoms originally made their appearance in one of the Pillsbury Bake-Off contests in the second half of the 20th century. Being a peanut butter cookie fan, I've enjoyed these treats occasionally. This is one of those things that, while easy to make, becomes exponentially easier to make when there are another set of hands to help. Fortunately for me, D2 loves peanut butter AND loves to help.
It took several tries for me to come up with the best temperature and baking intervals for this cookie. I checked out a whole bunch of recipes from both local and mainland cookbooks. Some recipes called for less flour, and other recipes omitted the milk altogether. Another discrepancy was the oven temperature. Some recipes said 350. Others said 375. I even came across a recipe calling for 370 degrees! But the area of greatest variation was in baking protocol.
Most recipes suggested baking somewhere between 8 and 12 minutes, removing from the oven, then pressing a kiss into the center of the cookie. A few recipes mentioned pulling the cookies from the oven after 8 to 10 minutes, pressing a kiss into the center of the cookie, then returning the cookies to the oven for 2 minutes or so. I found the second protocol to truly work . . . the kiss definitely set up faster, in spite of my knee-jerk thinking that the heat of the oven would immediately melt the kiss.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter, peanut butter and sugars in a mixing bowl. Stir in egg, vanilla, and milk. Add in flour, salt, and baking soda. Using a #60 disher (2 tsps), drop dough into a bowl of sugar, and roll until coated. Place coated dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and press a kiss into center of each cookie. Return to oven for 2 more minutes. Remove cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely before storing.
The first half of this week passed by in a blur. After going to the doctor on Monday and being told to stay out of work for the next two weeks, I decided I really need to take it easy. I missed out on a workshop on Tuesday and will be missing out on a parent meeting tomorrow. My home is no cleaner, but I'm grateful for the resting time. I'm also grateful for getting out of another workshop, although if it wasn't for a workshop, I would never have encountered this heavenly cake. . .
This is a cake that has been taken everywhere . . . workshops, meetings, family parties, picnics, office snack table. Its always well-received, and its one of those dishes where someone will always ask for the recipe. In fact, that's how I got the recipe myself nearly a decade ago.
I attended a workshop in Honolulu and someone brought it as a contribution to the snack table. Everyone requested the recipe. We were told it came from the Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook, but it could also be found on the Food Network website here.
After making the cake (original recipe) several times, I decided there were some things I wanted to "fix". First of all, I normally buy large eggs. My Williams-Sonoma Food Companion said for 4 eggs, it really didn't matter if it was large or extra-large, so I tried making the recipe with large eggs. If the quality suffered, I certainly couldn't tell the difference. The other thing that always gave me problems was the icing. Using the original recipe made the icing too runny for my taste. It wouldn't just sit atop the cake and ooze slowly. It would run off and be too thin. The taste was fine, but in terms of aesthetics, the thicker icing made for a nicer picture. Oddly enough, the picture of the cake in the book had a thicker icing than what you'd get by following the original recipe.
(adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook)
1 c butter, softened
2 1/2 c sugar, divided
1/3 c lemon zest (optional)
3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c lemon juice, divided
3/4 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" pans or 5 mini loaf pans. Line bottoms only with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Combine 1/4 c lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Set aside. Cream butter and 2 c sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add lemon zest. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to batter, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between pans, smoothing tops. If using mini loaf pans, 3 #10 dishers goes into each pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes (40 minutes if making mini loaves) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in pan. While cooling, make syrup by cooking 1/2 c sugar and 1/2 c lemon juice over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove cakes from pans and place on a wire rack. Spoon syrup over cakes. Allow to cool completely. Combine powdered sugar and 3 tbsp lemon juice in a small bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over cakes and allow icing to drip down the sides.
Before I start bitching about my weekend, I'd like to wish D1 a happy birthday. Somehow, she manages to do well for the 7-hours of each weekday known as "school", but ask her what animals you'd expect to see in Alaska and your head will start spinning with the answer. She drives me mental, but I love her dearly. The full day of labor and years of recovery (still recovering!) she put me through was worth it. I'd also like to wish happy birthday to Aunty Betty (of corned beef hash fame), who shares the same birthday as D1. They are indeed two of a kind.
I worked hard this weekend trying to avoid the Christmas crowds. While some people know me as a "shopper", the truth is, I find crowds daunting. I'd rather spend a few more $ to shop on the internet (in the privacy of my own home, sitting in a comfy chair, sipping a Coco Rico) than brave the awful crowds at PKP, WalMart & Target; unlike me, D1 went shopping on Black Friday and came home with an armload of gifts. Unlike D1 and sadly for those on my gift list, most of the internet shopping I accomplished was for myself. . .pffftttthh. Maybe I'll be up to braving the crowds next week.
I've also been doing some intense research on a dish called "Hainanese Chicken Rice", which is supposed to be THE unofficial national dish of Singapore (introduced by, who else, the Chinese). But I'm trying to avoid going to the market now. The KTA Puainako parking lot is nuts, especially with the cordoned-off area for Christmas trees. For the moment, meals need to be planned around what we have on hand. Spaghetti happens to be one of those meals. This is one of those recipes where you begin to wonder why I'd post a recipe for spaghetti. And you would not be alone. For most of my life, spaghetti was something you made at 5:00 pm, when you ran out of other ideas. It was as simple as browning a tray of ground beef and adding a jar or can of spaghetti sauce. I'm not sure why I decided to change things up a bit, but I did. I came across a recipe for spaghetti sauce and thought I'd give it a shot. It seemed simple enough and it was made with ingredients I usually have on hand. I wasn't prepared for what I started.
The first time I made the recipe, I loved it from the first bite. The kids said it was "okay", but ate at least 2 bowls of noodles with just the sauce. No meat. Just sauce and noodles. Then came the grumbling about how there wasn't enough sauce. So with a bunch of adjustments, I fixed the recipe to the point where the taste was pretty much the same as the original recipe, but there was more of the savory sauce for the sauce-only eaters.
That was years ago. Since then, I've made this recipe for occasions from large family dinners to birthday parties. Cousin LA (a fantastic baker who can make all the cookies in the Martha Stewart cookie cookbook look better than the pictures in the book), requested the recipe. Wow! In fact, the grumbler of grumblers, Dad, actually asked Mom to call me to get the recipe for "Kay's Ono Spaghetti" so she could make it for him instead of the jar sauce du jour she had planned to use. This request did not go over well, and he ended up eating spaghetti made with jar sauce. Poor Dad.
Oh, crap! Garlic bread is a MUST when eating spaghetti. I guess someone will be going to the market after all!
When I was in high school, I remember a book titled "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche". In addition to not eating quiche, the book contained all sorts of things real men don't do. Anyway, to test out the title of the book, I hunted down a recipe for quiche (and crust), made a quiche, and fed it to Dad. His response, "Junk this stuff. Who like eat that kine?" So if one uses the book title as a guide, Dad is certainly (or at least in the 80's) a real man. Yay!!! My daddy is a real man!! Yay!!!
Now, 20-something years later, in addition to being a barometer of man-ness, I've found that quiche is also a great way to use leftovers. With a basic formula of eggs, milk, and assorted fillings, you can make a quiche that will not only fill you up, but it will also make some room in your fridge. While there are traditional quiche (Quiche L'orraine, for one), making quiche really is an opportunity to showcase your creativity, not to mention, your leftovers.
The most important part of quiche is the filling. And here is where your creativity/leftovers come in. You may use vegetables or meats. If using vegetables such as celery, onion, beans, asparagus, spinach, etc., they should be sauteed and/or wilted before using in the quiche. Nobody wants to bite into a raw onion in the middle of a quiche. Meats (ham, bacon, crab, shrimp, etc.) should be cooked prior to using. Swiss cheese is the traditional ingredient in Quiche L'orraine, but other types of cheese also work well: cheddar, jack, colby.
The quiche in the picture was made using leftover crab (from a copycat Thanh Long Roasted Garlic Crab), bacon, and cheddar cheese. It was absolutely decadent. Because I didn't add any vegetables in the quiche, a green salad sitting shotgun was a great accompaniment. And no, I did not invite Dad over for dinner.
1 tsp salt (omit if "filling" ingredients are salted)
1 9" unbaked pie or quiche shell
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place filling in an even layer in pie/quiche shell. Sprinkle cheese. Combine milk and eggs. Pour over cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting and serving.
If filling (after cooked) is less than 2 cups, you may need to add double the eggs and milk. If this happens, bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.