Halloween will be here soon. A few weeks ago when we were in Honolulu, both Uncle Kevo and Aunty Renee suggested Party City in Iwilei as THE place to get Halloween costumes. Aunty Renee said it was much easier to navigate through than the branch in Waikele, and she was right. In spite of people congregating in the aisles, there was still ample room to pass (not like KTA!). We only had to go there twice for D2 to select her costume. D1 and I ended up buying things too.
I always stress over what to send with the Ds (when D1 was younger) for class treats. When I was younger and optimistic, I tried to send pencil and eraser packs instead of candy. Now that I'm older and wiser, I send what D2 can easily carry. Last year she took mini bags of popcorn. I'm not sure what she will be taking this year. While I'd love to send her with these cupcakes, I don't think she would appreciate having to carefully transport them. Too bad because I know her teacher would love them. I'm not even thinking about her classmates!
I first got the idea for these from my niece Jacy. She posted a pic on Facebook of some micro cupcakes she made in the ketchup-sized cups (1 oz). It was Jacy who sternly warned me about not going beyond half-full when filling the portion cups. Thinking that a micro-cupcake was too small, I decided to use the 2 oz cups. I took these to a work meeting, and they were a hit. People ooohhed and aaaahhhed when they saw them, and once they took a bite, I was bombarded with questions.
I was outed! I was forced to admit that I used cake mix from a box (Betty Crocker golden vanilla in the pics). Feeling rather shitty, I retreated to my office to hang my head. I noticed an email was waiting for me. It was from one of the bosses. FarcK!!! Now what??? To my surprise, she asked me for the frosting recipe, deeming it "kick ass". She said cake is really not worth eating unless it has frosting. I had to agree. She also asked how to make the cupcakes in the portion cups. When we got to the filling part, I explained, "half full". She then called me an optimist. Hah!!! I didn't dare tell her my reaction to seeing her name in my inbox! I just repeated, "half full".
1 box cake mix, any flavor
33-40 2 oz. paper portion cups
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or whatever the box says). Prepare cake mix according to directions on box. Fill each paper portion cup half full. Do not fill any more! Place filled cups on a baking sheet. Bake 15-19 minutes (depending on cake mix). Remove to rack to cool. Frost when completely cool.
1 c milk
1/4 c flour
1 c butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp extract
1 c + 2 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
Combine milk and flour in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until thick. Remove from heat and cool completely. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add cooled milk mixture and blend well. Add extract. In 3 batches, add powdered sugar. Beat 10 minutes or until frosting comes together.
Last weekend, the Ds, The Help, and I headed to Honolulu to see
Cirque du Soleil's Quidam. I had seen Cirque's Mystere production a few
years ago in Las Vegas, and I thought the Ds would enjoy the
spectacle. Our trip was just overnight, but we were able to do what we
wanted. We started the weekend off with lunch at my fave dim sum place,
Legend Seafood Restaurant. It was the first time The Help tried
jellyfish, and he said it was something he would eat again. The
jellyfish came on a cold platter with thin-sliced pigs feet. Yum! Of
course, we also had the egg custard tarts, and I was happy when both Ds
said they enjoyed mine more.
We didn't have much time
before we had to head to the Blaisdell for Quidam. Quidam was much
better than Mystere. Mystere had too many of the slow-moving acts.
That gets old after a while. Overall, everyone enjoyed the show, and
the candied nuts in the cone were really good. The pecans were my
After the show we did a quick shopping run to
TJ Maxx. TJ Maxx is now D1's favorite store. Unfortunately, we
somehow forgot 1 of our bags at the counter, and The Help had to go back
the next day to retrieve the bag. D1 showed tremendous initiative by
taking it upon herself to call the store to see if the bag was there.
Of course, she solicited a "finder's fee" for her good deed. I complied
because I had a Michael Kors blouse in the bag.
a late dinner at Shokudo. I tried taking pictures of the food, but
none of the pics turned out. D1 was so excited to dig into the honey
toast. I was more curious about the shrimp tempura, which, according to
Honolulu Magazine is the crunchiest shrimp tempura in town. The honey
toast, in spite being of humble origins, was very good. I know I can make a decent copy of it at home. The tempura
was rather disappointing. It was full of batter. Crispy batter, but still, batter. I ate some kind of sushi with a ponzu sauce. It was good, but after the shrimp tempura disappointment, we were going downhill fast.
We had brunch at another place featured in Honolulu Magazine, YogurStory. YogurStory was a cute place located near Pagoda Hotel. We parked in the same parking lot behind Sorabol where some idiot immigrant man backed his van up into my Nissan Stanza (I'm really dating myself now) twenty years ago. Edz suggested I try the red carpet waffle. It was alright, but the chantilly waffle was even better. D1 and I shared a hurricane rice bowl too. I would go back to YogurStory again, and next time, I'd like to try the fat pig fried rice. I was going to have that this time, but at the last minute, I changed my mind. Still, YogurStory was a nice change from Chinese food, which is what we normally eat in Honolulu and at home (see below digital scrapbook).
The one thing that gets me about the Ds is that whenever we have Chinese food, no matter where, no matter how fancy or how ghetto, they always need to order some kind of broccoli noodle dish. Most of the time, they order beef broccoli cake noodle, but at Legend, they will get beef broccoli pan-fried noodle. And here is the kicker. . .they will not eat the beef! The broccoli and noodles get cleaned up, but the meat and gravy end up going on The Help's rice (I won't eat the beef, but I wouldn't order it with beef either if it was for myself).
At home, since I'm doing the cooking, I make it with chicken. Hilo has no real (real=Chinese) noodle factory, so I buy what comes from Honolulu (Chun Wah Kam), which is ready-to-eat chow mein noodles. This is not the same crispy stuff La Choy sells in a can. These are egg noodles which have been boiled then pan fried. The orange shreds in the picture below are carrots, which also remains uneaten by the Ds. The broccoli will be gone at some point during the meal. Like D2 tells me, "You can't put in enough broccoli, mom."
1-2 lbs chicken breast, deboned and cut into 1" cubes
1 tbsp shoyu
1/4 c flour
30-32 oz ready-to-eat chow mein noodles
2 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 c broccoli spears
1/2 c sliced carrots
1/2 onion, sliced thin
1/2 c oyster sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 c water
1 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
Combine chicken cubes with shoyu. Toss in flour and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir together oyster sauce, sugar, w c water, and chicken bouillon powder. Set aside. In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and 1 tbsp water. Set aside. Heat noodles in 250 degree oven for 10 minutes. While noodles are heating, heat oil in wok. Brown garlic and discard. Brown chicken. Remove when cooked. Add vegetables and stir-fry fir 1 minute. Return chicken to wok. Add oyster sauce mixture. Add cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Pour over noodles.
I had a special treat at work this week. Two pals from my former office in Honolulu came to do a training for us. I can't say I've ever stopped missing them. Work has not ever been as good as the days I when I worked with them. They are fun to be with, but they are also very efficient and know what they are doing. Gosh, I miss those days!
I would like to thank fellow blogger Kellie Michelle for mentioning me in her blog. Please check out her blog. Her Sunday Lunch looked really yummy. She made filled strawberries for dessert!
Okay, back to reality. It is now October, and the weather here is hot! It really doesn't feel like October at all. Isn't October supposed to be cool? I was actually going to blog about prime rib this week, but given how hot its been, I thought something lighter and cooler would be more appropriate.
I had great plans to bake and do all kinds of domestic spectacles which would even make Martha look pathetic (ok, maybe thats too strong a statement, but I'm trying to make a point here). Instead, I ended up making doggie treats. In the week I was on break, doggie treats were my legacy. I guess my dreams of giving the bird to the state and driving off into the sunset in my food truck is not going to happen this time. By the time this post hits the internet, I will be back at work. On the plus side, only 21 work days until the next holiday (General Election Day). I will need to use a sick leave day sometime during that period to maintain my sanity.
Okinawan Sweet Potatoes
Actually, I cannot complain about fall break. This was one of my most productive breaks ever. I did manage to cook and bake things other than doggie treats. We feasted on ginger green onion crab, egg custard tarts, apple tarts, peanut butter cookies, sushi, Texas-style smoked BBQ brisket, baked beans, cole slaw, okazu-ya food, and all kinds of cupcakes. After feeding our faces, I suppose its only right that the dogs got a special treat too.
In addition to all the cooking and feeding, I managed to evict D2 and re-claim my office. Earlier in the week, the Ds decided to move both beds into the same bedroom. The Ds together do not weigh more than 150 pounds collectively, and how they managed to move the bed to another bedroom is beyond me. This move left D2's bedroom wide open for use. Salivating madly, I suggested turning D2's room into a study/play room. I got The Help to move D2's desk out of my office and into the new study/play room. I will no longer need to walk through the mine field of crayons and little pokey things to get to my computer!
One thing I didn't get to do much of this break was sleep. Nights were very restless. My back has been bothering me, and even though I went to get a massage, I am still sore. My neighbors went to Texas, Las Vegas, and Disneyland, and their dogs have been missing them tremendously. One of their dogs kept escaping from the lead. This caused The Help tremendous anxiety, as he constantly kept tabs on the dog. The other dog, a cute puppy named Patches, barked ALL NIGHT. The barking set off my babies, which resulted in them taking turns with the bark collar. Maybe during winter break, I will come up with a way to put some kind of sleeping ingredient into the doggie treats.
I posted pics of the doggie treats on my facebook page, and several of my friends asked for the recipe. For my friends in Hawaii, Okinawan sweet potatoes are easy to get, as most farmers markets and supermarkets sell them. In my experience, they are drier than orange-fleshed large sweet potatoes (garnet yams) that normally begin appearing in supermarkets around this time of year. If using those potatoes, just add less water when making the puree.
The dough was one of the easiest handling doughs I have ever worked with. The rolling was done on a non-stick baking mat with a silicone rolling pin, and I did not need to add any additional flour to prevent sticking. The cutting was equally simple. I only wish cut-out sugar cookies were this easy.
1/2 lb Okinawan sweet potato
1 1/2 tbsp oatmeal, ground to sand consistency
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 tbsp creamy peanut butter
Boil Okinawan sweet potato in water to cover for 45 minutes. Cover with cold water and peel when cool enough to handle. Dice in 1/2" cubes. Blend with 1/4 c water until smooth. Measure out 3/4 c of puree. Add remaining ingredients and stir until mixture begins to come together. Knead by hand until dough is smooth. Roll out to 1/4" thickness and cut with desired cookie cutters. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Since we are counting. . .less than 50 days til winter break!
I am not sure what got into me after all the baking, cooking, and evicting, but just before the weekend, I decided to clean and reorganize the laundry room. For fear of the "before" pictures going viral, I decided not to take any pictures of the room (although I posted the female shoe collection on facebook). The Help added standards and shelves, and I went to Target and bought out their supply of clearance bins. In trying to help me organize my things, The Help had a wonderful idea:
Yes, those are some of my cookie cutters strung on a clean bungee cord! I arranged the cutters by seasons, so its a visual reminder to get busy with those Halloween cookies. It also keeps the cookie cutters from being smashed in the bins. The Help is so smart!
Today finds us kicking off Fall Intersession for public school students and most teachers in the 50th state! I am finally on break! And I totally deserve it after the hell week last week.
Things at work were getting a little weird. The week began with a call from an unrealistic parent...no, I don't think your child will ever be an Air Force One pilot. Unforeseen collateral damage of professing high expectations is some parents interpret it in a twisted way and grow false hope that ALL children (no matter how cognitively compromised they may be) will be able to embark on a landmark journey which leads to acceptance at an Ivy League college and/or a stellar career. High expectations are great, provided they are realistic.
Then came the farting. Uncle passed the clerk's desk and broke wind right by her head. Twice. Uncle muttered, "pardon me", as the cheese was cut. That is sooooo no class. You had to do it right by the clerk's head? Thats definitely a hostile work environment and assault, if you ask me. Then we heard Uncle lifted up a cheek at a meeting, let it rip and said, "I'm so gassy today". I'm sure students have been written up for doing stuff like that, but I guess some are above the law because it keeps happening. Gross.
Maybe I'm the one with a stick up my ass (bwahahaha), but growing up, people just didn't do things like that, other than in a juvenile, prank-like way. I must not be alone because other people voice disdain with that behavior. The clerk wasn't very happy, and the "pardon me" just didn't cut it as an apology.
Anyway, back to my break. I'm planning on baking cookies with the Ds. Neither of the Ds heard of peanut butter cookies with the criss-cross (the only peanut butter cookie they know is the peanut blossom variety) so I think we need to make peanut butter cookies with criss-cross pattern. That was definitely a staple growing up. The Help found a doggie donut recipe on the internet so I may modify the recipe and have D2 help me make some for Sammy & Rain.
I also want to smoke a brisket in the Kamado and make some ginger green onion crab. I'm not sure how much I'll get to do, but its nice to have the option of planning meals which take time to prepare. With all the craziness this past week, there was only time for fast, quick dinners. These fishcake patties saved me one night (and provided lunch the next day).
I wonder if fishcake patties are a Hilo thing. Every okazu-ya here sells them in some form. They are super quick to prepare (buy fishcake paste already made) and leftovers heat nicely. If you have any veggies on hand such as carrots or beans, mince a small amount and toss them into the mix. Fishcake paste from Hilo (Amano brand) is white and slightly sweet; Chinese fishcake paste you get in Honolulu is gelatinous gray and savory. I've used the recipe below with both types of fishcake paste, and both taste great.
Combine all ingredients except panko. Using an ice cream scoop, drop ball of mixture into panko. Coat well. Flatten. Fry until golden brown.
The panko step is very important if you want to keep the fishcake off your fingers. Mom never did the panko step, and I remember her constantly wetting her fingers to minimize the sticking. Of course, then she had the greater problem of keeping the water from her hands from dripping into the hot oil. This is NOT a declaration that I am smarter than Mom (she might be reading this).