kruizing with kikukat

Monday, January 30, 2012

Kinako Puffs

Kinako Puff Addict
We've been eating a lot of mochi stuff (mt. view gramma's kinako mochi, zensai, kinako puffs, zenzai), and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight.  With New Years (Japanese, Chinese, and everything else in between) behind us, we're now knocking on the door of the next mochi-eating day, Girls Day. No doubt, the Ds will be expecting some kind of cutesy gift.  I'd better start planning now.

This week began with lots of feasting.  The High Commander (HC) treated all of us drones to Chinese food for lunch on Monday.  That lady is generous and treats employees very well.  Too bad others cannot seem to learn from her.  And its not like they aren't stuffing their faces with food either!  Pity.

On Thursday, I experienced something I hope I never need to experience again. . .my computer crashed.  I have a virus to thank for this.  I spent Thursday night and most of this weekend trying to restore my computer to pre-sickness status.  Luckily, I invested $ in a LaCie Rikiki 1 TB hard drive which was set to backup weekly (I do it daily now!).  Unfortunately, I lost access to Adobe Photoshop Elements and all the keyword tags.  So while I could easily upload all my pics, I had to re-install Adobe and am now in the painstaking process of tagging all of my pics again.  But now, I'm also backing up my Adobe catalog (and all the keyword tags) to my Rugged drive; so if I have another crash, I should be able to restore my catalog when I re-install Adobe Photoshop Elements.  Oh, and I also bought a 1-year subscription to Avest! antivirus software.  Sore lesson!

The high point of my week was going to Honolulu for a day (Friday) to attend a training with the Attorney General's office.  Learned some rather interesting things, along with some things I wish I didn't hear, and some things which fit BOTH of those categories.  I was lucky enough to enjoy a meal at Goma Tei, and I picked up a trinket for the HC.  While I was at Honolulu International Airport waiting for my return flight, I learned that I'll be hosting 2 high school students from Nagano, Japan.  They will spend a few days in Hilo with a some classmates and a teacher.  Its not clear to me yet WHY they are coming, but what is clear, crystal clear, is that they will arrive on Monday, FEBRUARY 6!!!  I need to start cleaning my house soon.  Cripes!!!

I was kinda naughty this weekend.  On Saturday, I told Mr. Dependable to take D2 to a birthday party.  Well, when he got there, nobody was there.  I checked the invitation and text message and realized the party is this coming weekend.  Oops!  But last night, I was really, really naughty, and I will likely pay royally later.  It was a moment of weakness, and I needed something to make myself feel better.  No, I didn't have a bad day.  No, I, I, umm, ohhh. . .

I never got around to telling you what I contributed to CAE's New Years Day party.  This year, I was told to bring:
fried ginger chicken wings
pumpkin crunch cake
apricot-pineapple-mac nut bars
I planned really well so the desserts were made the night before.  I got up early and fried the chicken in the largest cast iron skillet I could find.  I was done early and was feeling rather ambitious, so I decided to make kinako puffs.

kinako puffs

Kinako puffs are tiny, slightly sweet, deep-fried balls made with mochiko and kinako (soy bean flour).  Use a tiny disher to scoop the batter into the hot oil.  I think I used a #70. . .using #50 resulted in larger puffs which did not cook properly.  Because the mochiko is specified by weight, it might be helpful to have a kitchen scale to weigh the mochiko, unless you live in Hawaii, where mochiko is also available in 10 oz. bags (in addition to the 1-pound box).  I may have read somewhere that 10 oz. mochiko is equivalent to 2 cups, but I'm not totally sure.  I do know that the 1 lb. box contains MORE than 3 cups (but less than 4 cups).

LA, a.k.a., kinako puff addict, couldn't stop eating them.  She said they were so cute and just the right size for popping into her mouth.  I wasn't counting, but every time I looked, she had one in her hand or her mouth. But that's okay because she's been working it all off at Zumba (yes, I saw your pics!).

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Kinako Puffs

     10 oz mochiko
     1 c sugar
     2 tsp baking powder
     1/2 c kinako
     1 tsp salt
     1 1/4 c water
     oil for deep frying

Heat oil to 340 degrees.  In a bowl, combine dry ingredients with a whisk.  Add water and mix.  Use a small disher to scoop tiny balls into hot oil.  Fry until golden brown.  Drain.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kung Hee Fat Choy. . .The Year of the Water Dragon

KAG's La Femme Nikita
Kung Hee Fat Choy!!!  Happy New Year (again)!!

Today's post is dedicated to Niki, the most loveable Brittany anyone could hope for.  Sure, you had your moments. . .you got me & Mr. Dependable kicked out of obedience class (We were asked not to return  It was strongly suggested to us not to return until you were older.), you smeared shit all over the back seat of gramma's new car, you flew shit at dr. rodrigues when you boarded there.  Oh, where was I?  Oh yeah, but you helped us train Rain & Sammy and you kept the ete birds and kitanai male kats away from the back yard.  It was a great 16 years.  R.I.P. Niki. . .you will be missed by all of us.

I already made a resolution a few weeks ago, so I'm going to hold strong to that one, which was to take better care of myself. . .eat right, get enough sleep, exercise.  The eating right went out the window last weekend when I took a short trip for the day to Honolulu.  The getting enough sleep and exercising went out the window last week when I had to drive to Naalehu every day for a team audit .  No time to exercise, and when you need to be on the road at 5:45 daily, there is no way any amount of sleep would be enough.

The 4-day long stint at Naalehu came on the heels of a fantastic (fantastically short) trip to check out the Chinese New Year festivities in Chinatown, among other things.  The trip also included a few firsts:  first meal at Morimoto and first meal at Liliha Bakery (Yes ,yes, I know. . . I lived in Honolulu for over four years and NEVER had a meal there).

Morimoto was good, but I still prefer Nobu.  Of course, I made my usual stops:  Nordy Rack, Tumi Store, Manuheali`i, and Goma Tei (wanted to try the ban ban ji).  The Help went to look for a new ride at Porsche of Hawaii, but left empty handed, muttering something about he'd "rather die than buy a tiptronic".  Whatevers.

Here is a slideshow of my Chinatown adventures.  If you care to skip it, thats fine; you can scroll down for an awesome recipe for gao. . .actually better than the one I bought in Chinatown.  If you do decide to brave the short slideshow, please be sure your speakers are turned on!

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As you can see from the slideshow, Chinatown was packed.  Maunakea Street was closed off to vehicle traffic, and food booths lined both sides of the street.  While I saw numerous booths selling gao, I was shocked at the number of booths selling popcorn/kettlecorn.  Since when is that a Chinese thing?  I managed to force my way through the throng of people packed into Sing Cheong Yuan.  I needed to get my gao, Chinese mochi.  I noticed they had a carrot gao this year, but I didn't want to take a chance, since I don't always enjoy carrots.  Ended up getting the gao I normally get.  The courtyard at the Chinese Cultural Plaza was also full of booths selling everything from Year of the Dragon t-shirts to dragon whiskers candy.  This was the first time I saw dragon whiskers candy, but I didn't try any because I didn't want to be saddled with a whole tray of it.  I was fascinated watching them make the whiskers portion. . .fine candy filaments, almost like cotton candy, but totally impressive because the pulling was done with hands. 

I was still full from breakfast at Liliha Bakery, but I forced myself to order some of my favorites:  fried shrimp, pork shumai, and mango pudding.  The Help insisted on ordering char siu bao but passed on the joong and black bean spareribs.  He also kept asking me if I wanted lo bok gao. . .not sure why because I know he doesn't particularly care for that.  I was going to order blanched kai lan, but I just couldn't eat any more.  A happy surprise was bumping into CG and her family.

The four days at Naalehu went by surprisingly fast.  I got to see my two favorite Oregonians and enjoyed collaborating with some really neat fellow educators (and a "poseur" too).  Everyone behaved.  Shhhhhh, but I think those Oregonians like me . . .they allowed me to raid the snack table anytime I wanted to and they gave me the best Effectiveness Indicator to present.  Thankfully, I managed to survive without breaking down (mentally) and without eating school lunch.  I know we should patronize the school cafeteria, but I just cannot bring myself to eat school lunch.  I caved a few weeks ago when I was at Ka`u.  Batter fried fish was on the menu.  Big mistake.  It tasted worst than the dog biscuit I sampled when I was nine.  In fact, I was knee-deep in Effectiveness Indicator 2 (fyi, Instructional Program) at Naalehu when I got the call about Niki.  I told my partner I had to go outside to cry by myself for a little while, and she was nice enough to oblige.  She identified herself as a "dog" person so she understood.  I think I managed to keep it together . . . it wasn't entirely unexpected, especially since I returned home on Wednesday to find Niki in a pool of her own pee, unable to stand up and walk the few feet to the yard from the patio.  I'm getting a little sad now so I need to re-focus.

After recovering all my lost sleep, I rolled up my sleeves and spent the weekend making gao. Made 3 batches altogether:  steamed batches on Saturday and Sunday and a microwave batch on Sunday.  Nice to have a neighbor willing to trade gao for ti leaves!  In fact, Sunday was a crazy day of cooking.  It was Dad's birthday, and I had opened my mouth and invited him over for dinner, so I needed to be sure everything was ready at 6:00 pm.  The menu was tossed green salad with balsamic dressing (eventually the balsamic dressing will become a post), twice-baked potatoes (done lazy casserole-style), steak with herb butter, and peach pie (thank you, Claim Jumper).  Featured wine was a merlot-blend from Gundlach Bundschu.  I also offered miniature blueberry muffins (made Sunday morning at D2's request) and gao. 

kikukat's steamed gao

In honor of the year of the water dragon, I'm posting a recipe for gao.  This must be a common recipe because I saw it in the newspaper a few years ago (long after I've been making it) and a friend gave me the same recipe (tastes better when someone else makes it, so I asked her for the recipe.  I was shocked to see the same ingredients/proportions I use).  I'm bringing a platter of this (microwave version) to my meeting today!

 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb wong tong
     2 1/2 c hot water
     1 lb mochiko
     2 tbsp vegetable oil
     2 tsp sesame seeds
     hung jo

Break wong tong into tiny pieces and dissolve in hot water.  Using a whisk, gradually add to mochiko.  Add vegetable oil.  Whisk to incorporate.  Pour into pan(s) and sprinkle sesame seeds over top.  Place hung jo in the middle and cook as desired.

Microwave:  Grease a Tupperware microwave pan (w/center cone).  Sprinkle sesame seeds.  Add hung jo if desired, but since the center will be open, I usually leave off.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes at 50% power, 5 minutes at 70% power and 5 minutes at 100% power.  This is how I do it in my microwave (1300 watts).

Steam:  Grease pan(s).  Grease ti leaves.  Line pan with ti leaves, making sure ti leaves extend beyond top of pan.  Pour batter in pan(s) and steam.  Here are some guidelines.  I like to make small gao to give away.  I make these in ramekins, which hold about a scant cup of batter each.  My steamer holds 4 of these ramekins in a single layer, which leaves me over half the batter to use.  I use a 1-quart souffle-type dish to steam the remaining batter.  The ramekins steam for 90 minutes, and the 1-quart dish steams for 3 hours.  If I were to use all the gao batter at once, I'd use a 1 1/2-quart dish and steam for 4 hours. . .hope these "popo" guidelines help.

The gao pictures above were cooked by steaming.  Sadly, I'm not very good at doing the ti leaf layer.  The pictures here (notice how I saved this for the bottom, in case ADHD/boredom kicked in for some of the readers) are of gao cooked in the microwave.  In spite of lacking serious curb appeal, microwave gao actually cuts better than steamed gao.  Because all pieces will be identical (or at least thats what I strive for), its easy to lay in a platter.

wong tong

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sugar Bath Ham

Nice to have a holiday today!  I am bracing for a long four days at Naalehu Elementary.

Some of my teammates will be spending the entire four days in Naalehu.  They will be staying at digs out there.  I've chosen to make the nearly one-and-a-half hour one-way drive each day because I need to be around for the Ds. This also means I will be on the road before 6 am each day, but I suppose that cannot be helped.  At least I have leftovers in the freezer to heat up for quick dinners.  Somewhere in that vast wasteland (my freezer) are a few bags of meaty chunks of Sugar Bath Ham.

Ham is something I associate with holiday feasting.  Whether its Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, or Easter, ham in some shape or form can be found amidst the rest of the spread.  I'm always careful to scrutinize the ham to be sure the devil's condiment (mustard) was not used in any part of the preparation. Ickkkk.....what a way to ruin a perfect chunk of pig.  A few years ago, my cousin brought a platter of ham to a family party and said he followed Emeril's recipe. I was totally grossed out when I looked under the foil and saw that it was slathered with yuck.

Over ten years ago, I had a ham epiphany.  My uncle's cousin brought a plate of ham to a family party that was THE best ham I ever tasted (even before I was violated by the mere sight of that mustard-clad beast).  When I asked how it was made, I was told it was made on the stove top, rather than the oven.  The ham had spent a few hours in a sugar bath before being carved.

I've spent many years making hams for parties.  I've done great hams in the oven, but I was never able to recreate the sugar bath ham.  But this year, thanks to the Sack N Save "free half-ham with two vouchers" program, I decided to take a risk and give it my best shot.  I didn't want to go in unarmed, so I googled "stove top ham" to look for ideas.  While I was able to find cooking techniques, I wasn't crazy about the ingredients in the bath, so this was where I deviated.

What resulted from this experiment turned out to be THE best ham, even better than the ham from uncle's cousin.  I supposed I could've stopped at the sugar bath, but the quick heat blast in the oven burned some fat and carmelized the outer surface.  Free ham or not, this is the way I will be making my hams from now on. 

Sugar Bath Ham made with shank-half
 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Sugar Bath Ham

     1 half ham (shank or butt half, about 8 lbs)
Using a carving fork, pierce ham deeply all over.  Score layer of fat.  Place ham in pot.  Pot should be large enough that ham is submerged.  If ham is too large to be fully submerged, be certain half of ham can be submerged at all times.  Add water to pot, keeping track of how much water is added.  Add sugar (half the amount of water).  For example, if you added 10 cups of water, add 5 cups of sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, carefully basting/flipping ham as often as possible.  Remove ham to broiling pan.  Place broiling pan in oven.  Turn oven on to 450 degrees and remove ham after 25 minutes.  Let rest 20 minutes before carving.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hot Buttered Rum

Butter Rum was my favorite Lifesaver flavor.  When I was in college I learned about a drink called Hot Buttered Rum.  It was served at one of the ski resorts I went to when I tried downhill skiing for the first time.  As D2 would say of my skiing, "epic fail".  But ever since then, I've been ono for hot buttered rum.

I tried a bunch of recipes over the years (its been many moons since my first ski resort visit).  Many of my early trials weren't sweet enough.  Some had a chunk of buttter floating on top.  Later, I experimented with recipes using a batter made with sugars, spices, vanilla ice cream and butter.  This is the formula which worked best for me.  A kitchen scale is helpful to measure the sugars correctly.  Feel free to vary the spice amounts to suit your preference.  I am not a big fan of nutmeg. . .blame it on a gnarly malasada experience.  Teachable moment:  Malasadas should be made by Portuguese people, not Filipino people.  However, I don't think nutmeg should be left out. The taste didn't seem complete with just cinnamon. (added 1/9/12, 6:23 pm:  I'm speaking specifically of the hot buttered rum batter. . . there is absolutely NO place for nutmeg and cinnamon anywhere in malasadas!)

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Hot Buttered Rum

     1 block butter, melted
     4 oz brown sugar
     2 oz powdered sugar
     1 c vanilla ice cream, softened
     1/4 tsp cinnamon
     pinch of nutmeg
Blend all ingredients using an electric mixer or hand blender.  Pour into a container and freeze (will not get solid).  To serve, place 2 tbsp of mix in a cup.  Add a jigger of rum.  Fill cup with boiling water.  Stir and serve.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Beef Burgundy

Happy New Year!!

Hope everyone has recovered from the holiday celebrations.  I've been recovering from cooking like crazy this weekend.  For the party yesterday at AEs house, I made fried chicken, pumpkin crunch, tropical fruit bars, and kinako puffs.  There was the usual potato-spaghetti noodle salad, meat sticks and barely-cooked hibachi shrimp.  Any guesses as to who cooked the shrimp?  Why is it that some people have no fricken clue as to what properly cooked food looks like.  How can you cook shrimp on a hibachi and make it look like it was poached?  Clueless.  Then there were the others who showed up 1 or 2 hours late.  Hello?!?

I need to change gears and focus on my plans for 2012. In a few days I'll be back at work and counting down the days until spring break (actually, the postings will be out before spring break.).  I'm sure it won't arrive soon enough.  Because I'm anticipating a very busy 2012, Kikukat blog will be updated weekly (Mondays).  This will give me time to put in a little more detail about whats happening with the family, which was one of the original intentions of this blog.

Yesterday's party at AEs was in the garage/patio.  It was chilly.  I kept my Juicy on the whole time, and I saw others going to cars to get sweaters and jackets.  I wasn't worried about the pumpkin crunch spoiling because it was so cold.  In fact, the weather for most of my vacation sucked.  When it wasn't butt-clenching cold it was raining.  When it wasn't raining, it might as well have been because everything felt clammy.  The Honolulu family remarked that Hilo was a lot colder than Salt Lake.

I suppose this is normal winter weather, but I'm stuck in tropical vacation mentality where I think anywhere in Hawaii should be warm all year.  I don't enjoy being cold all the time, even when I'm indoors.  Most homes here aren't heated, and its inconvenient to make a fire every evening.  My best defense against the cold weather is to cook stick-to-the-bones food (and drink alcohol, but I'd be reported to CPS if the Ds had a glass of hooch for dinner too).  A few weeks ago, I tried a recipe for Beef Burgundy, which I found in a local cookbook.

I decided to try that recipe because I was intrigued by the salt pork in the list of ingredients.  Up to this point, my experience with salt pork was limited to Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  I had salt pork earlier in Safeway and wondered how it could be used since we're not in the Big Woods.  Out of convenience, I used the entire package, which was a bit more (but less than double) than called for in the recipe.  I didn't want to be left with a tiny piece of it.

Overall, I liked this dish.  It was a very meaty, hearty stew with a mild wine flavor.  I'm really not a big fan of beef stew, in spite of that being a staple on the majority of restaurant menus here.  If and when I do break down and eat it, I much prefer tomato-based versions to the "brown" variety.  Oddly enough, I grew up eating "brown" stew.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Beef Burgundy

     3 lbs beef (I used boneless shortribs, but sirloin tip,
          chuck, or round steak can be used)
     10-12 oz salt pork, chopped (recipe said could
          substitute with 8 oz bacon)
     2 cloves garlic, smashed
     3/4 c red wine
     1 c hot water
     2 bay leaves
     1 tbsp dried oregano leaves
     1 onion, diced
     2 tbsp butter
     1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
     2 lbs mushrooms, cut into large pieces

Cut meat into 1 1/2" cubes.  Dredge meat in flour.  Brown salt pork and garlic.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.  Add additional oil to pan.  Brown floured beef cubes.  Add salt pork back to pan.  Add wine, water, bay leaves, and oregano.  Cover and cook for 1 hour.  Remove bay leaves.  At this point, beef and liquid can be refrigerated overnight.  Remove as much fat as possible.  In a skillet, melt butter and brown onions.  Add mushrooms and cook until liquid is released.  Add to beef.  Add tomato paste.  Season to taste.  Cook an additional hour.