kruizing with kikukat

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chicken Potstickers

OMG!  Work is brutal.  On Tuesday, the office phone began ringing off the hook.  It was ridiculous.  But the High Commander showed aloha, once again setting the bar high.  She bought a nice lunch for everyone at the district office.  We're talking over 30 lunches!  It just amazes me how some people miss out on all the "respect" and "relationships" talk.  And I loved how others talk about "honoring time" as one of the meeting norms then keep us beyond the 3 pm end-of-paid-work time. 

For the last day of torture last week, GP and I attended a data review session at one of the high schools.  We sat in with the ragamuffin group (not language arts, not math; this was all the rest), and we were treated to a show.  At one point we thought the teachers were gonna riot when they were told they'd be observed by their peers and rated.  The Freddie Mercury-look-alike presenter looked like he wanted to run and hide.  GP and I wondered why they even stayed at the school since they say the principal is outrageous (decided to be the gatekeeper on the hard-to-fill area bonuses instead of let geography dictate)...then we saw their schedule for the school year.  OMG!!!  Talk about not listening to the High Commander! 

I need a new job, I really do.  I keep asking my friend Keith (chef at Sansei) if he thinks DK will hire me for something.  I have no restaurant experience, but DK seems intelligent...nearly half-dozen successful restaurants must count for something.  I'm sure he could think of something I could do for his empire.  I asked my parents if they would support me if I quit work.  They said they would gladly welcome me back to their home, but I'd need to sell my home and let them tell me what I could and could not do.  Forget it!  I have less than 10 years left (before full retirement eligibility), and I'm sure time will pass slowly.  Ugh.  The system is sooo messed up.  It wasn't like this when I entered in the early 90s. Of course, I didn't have an iPad back then either.

In the past few weeks, there has been a huge increase in kikukat blog traffic.  I'm guessing pinterest is responsible...the strawberries with almond cream pic and recipe seem to be what draws people here.  I'd like to say a big ALOHA to my new pal Maggie in New York.  In her honor, I'm sharing a pic of omiyage from Edz' recent trip to the Big Apple.  My favorite New York & white cookies!  It took me a few days to finish them off, but with D2's help, we managed to put them all away.  The cookies in the pic came from 2 different places:  Junior's and Rossi's.  They taste similar, but I liked the small Junior's cookies the best.  But don't get me wrong...I will never turn away black & white cookies. 

The Help is away now.  He went to the Bay Area for a family trip.  I was invited, and The Help's daddy graciously offered to cover all travel expenses for me (he is a very kind, generous man), but when my district was given the green light to convert 2 "formerly-known-as-furlough" days to professional development days for teachers, I wasn't about to use two 8-hour leave days for 2 7-hour days.  I would be out 2 hours, and I know the Establishment would never allow me to take the 2 hours another time.  Fuckers.

Prior to leaving, The Help said he was gonna try and spend some time in San Francisco's Chinatown.  That made me really jealous because I kept thinking about all the goodies he'd get to eat and all the goodies I'd be missing out on.  Of course, he is in a van with 4 other family members, including a coddled and indulged pre-teen, so maybe my jealousy is tempered a bit.  After all, had I gone on the trip, I would've missed out on the last 2 days of torture and would not have had the opportunity to scream obscenities at Mr. Dependable over the car speaker phone.

Prior to the blowout with Mr. Dependable, I had been planning to pick up dinner from Leung's, a local Chinese dive with the greasiest, most ono kau yuk.  But when our conversation ended and I drove into the Leung's parking lot, I nearly ran smack into Mr. Dependable's pilot!  Fuming even more, I spun my car around and left.  There was no way Leung's could've handled both of us in the same room!  So instead of my greasy plate from Leung's, I decided to come home and eat from my freezer.  It took me some time to figure out what was available in there (and what should actually go into the trash).  I came across a bag of chicken potstickers and a wrapped up block of what turned out to be taro cake.  What a find!
I need to explain that the frozen potstickers I found were not store-bought.  I had made them last month.  When I make potstickers, I make a big batch (takes several hours), storing the filling in the refrigerator while I wait for the potstickers to get frozen (freezer real estate, especially for a large cookie sheet, is at a premium, and this is usually what determines how many I can make at a time.).  Most times, I don't eat any of the potstickers when I'm making it...its more to have on hand for those nights when I'm pressed for time.  Frozen potstickers take the same amount of cooking time as non-frozen potstickers, and because they are frozen individually, you can cook only what you need each time.  I like to eat potstickers with a spicy dipping sauce, but if I'm pressed for time, shoyu with a touch of sriracha and sesame oil works fine too.  While I enjoy potstickers, nobody in my house enjoys them more than D1.  Nobody.  Oh, yah, Mr. Dependable likes potstickers too, but he certainly won't be on my potsticker sharing list for a while.

For everyday cooking, I prefer to use stainless steel or enameled cast iron cookware (not non-stick), however, when making potstickers, I use a non-stick skillet to avoid the frustration of major sticking (its likely you will lose the bottom of the wrapper if you don't use non-stick).  You will end up souring the pan for hours!  How do I know this?  I learned this the hard way.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Chicken Potstickers

     1 lb ground chicken
     2 c chopped won bok
     1 tbsp grated ginger
     1 tsp shoyu
     1 tsp salt
     2 tsp sesame oil
     1 tsp shaoxing wine
     1/2 tsp sugar
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     2 pkgs Chun Wah Kam round wrappers or 1 pkg Twin Dragon gyoza wrappers
     oil (1 tbsp per frying pan-ful)
     chicken broth or water (1/2 c per frying pan-ful)

Combine chicken, won bok, ginger, shoyu, salt, sesame oil, shaoxing wine, sugar, and cornstarch.  Place 2 teaspoons of filling in center of wrapper.  Wet edge with water and seal, making pleats as you go, to form a half moon.   Pleats will naturally cause potsticker to curve.  At this point, potstickers may be frozen in a single layer.  When frozen, potstickers can be bagged together.  To cook, heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick skillet.  Place potstickers (directly from the freezer is fine too) into pan, flat-side down.  Add 1/2 cup chicken broth.  Cover pan and cook until most of the liquid evaporates.  Uncover and cook until bottom of potstickers are golden brown.  Serve with shoyu or dumpling sauce.  Makes about 4 dozen.

Chun Wah Kam wrappers are thicker than Twin Dragon wrappers.  You can also substitute ground pork for the chicken.
I will post the sauce recipe next week.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Baked Chow Mein

I do a lot of bitching here, the very kind of bitching which allows me to put on a somewhat happy face for most of the work week.  But before I continue with my bitchy ranting for the week, I need to say something about the High Commander.  As far as leaders go, she's got it going on!  She was publicly commended by the Supreme High Commander, and instead of just standing there like I know some others would do and take all the credit, the High Commander recognized that her  success as a leader was possible only because of all the good, hard-working people who work in her complex area.  And this is EXACTLY why I have tons of aloha and respect for her and why I go to work (I also need the $ because I don't always get my big fat child support payments in a timely fashion and I have services I need to buy).

Well, I managed to survive week 1 of work, and I'm going into week 2 not any happier than I was last week.  I need to look ahead and figure out how many more days until the next vacation/break.  Oh, yeah, it was supposed to be on Thursday, but my fellow union idiots sold their souls to the devil and voted to work on those days.  Some people will do anything for chump change!

And we didn't even get to the longer work day yet.  In a week from today, my work day will be longer by an hour (the school day for kids in my district will be longer also).  I suppose the hard work by the drones has been paying off.  According to last year's testing results, many schools did well.  Even the shoe chewer's school did well.  The thing that gets me most upset about the extended day is that I'm going to need even greater planning skills in order to get dinner on the table in a timely manner.  D1's cheer practice will be over at 6:00 pm, so I guess our dinners will be at 6:30 or so.  If I'm able to leave work at 4:00, I'll possibly be able to make it home by 4:30, which will not leave much time to prepare dinner.

Luckily, this easy noodle dish can be thrown together quickly, and it can even be made the night before.  I'm feeling like a lot of my cooking will be done ahead of time.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Baked Chow Mein

     1/2 lb char siu
     2 trays (@10-12 oz) chow mein noodles
     2 tbsp oyster sauce
     1 tbsp sugar
     1 tsp salt
     1 tbsp sesame seeds
     1 tbsp sesame oil
     1 pkg chop suey vegetables (about 10-12 oz)

Combine all ingredients thoroughly in a 9 x 13" pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring once during baking.

And if you're still reading along, here is a tip:  lightly grease the pan or line the baking pan with foil.  If you forget to do either of these things, you run the chance of baking your noodles into your pan and having to chip them off later with a chisel.  Not fun.

Speaking of "not fun", I spent this past weekend fixing 9 cheerleader skirts.  The skirts flared out too much, so somehow (according to D1, this whole issue is my mom's fault), I ended up doing the alterations.  OMF!!!  I don't want to see another seam ripper for a long time!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Feels Like Fall: Fresh Apple Cake

Feels like its back to school time.  This time of the year used to be called summer.  But by the time this post is published, I will have been back at work for at least 4 hours to begin "SY 12-13".  Ughhhh.  Some people have no idea that summer vacation is for BOTH students and teachers. 

Sadly, teachers where I work ARE back at school.  Kids don't return until July 31 so the time between today and July 31 is to bring the teachers up to speed so that the kids can do as well on the state test as the kids who live less than 10 miles away. 

I guess its fair to say I am upset at having to return to work when my counterparts (who work at the school 10 miles away) are still enjoying their vacation.  The state has only enough money to fund this extended learning time for one school year, so a year from now, I will still be on vacation.  Oh well, maybe I can take a nice vacation with all the extra $ I will earn this year.  I hear Hawaiian will be offering a new route to the land down under soon.  Brisbane, here I come. . .g'day mate!

09/13:  I am adding this in due to the high volume of traffic this post has been recently experiencing.  This post was originally a lot longer, describing in detail the indignities educators in one particular district face at the hands of parents and the educational bureaucracy.  I removed much of it, as time has passed and I thought most visitors to this post are primarily interested in the recipe for this delicious treat.  

Recently, I received a comment from a nasty reader which had absolutely no validity, as it was a personal attack on teachers and any other non-healthcare worker.  Please, please, please...enjoy my recipes, but if you have nothing nice to say, please refrain from leaving an anonymous comment. 

Thank you, 

September 22, 2014
If you enjoyed this apple recipe, you might want to check out another apple recipe I just posted here.

November 19, 2015
Comments attacking other commenters are forbidden.  Remember, this is basically a recipe blog.  If you would like to change society and/or rid society of nasty people, please run for public office.  

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Fresh Apple Cake

     1 c vegetable oil
     2 c sugar
     3 eggs
     3 c flour
     1 tsp baking soda
     2 tsp vanilla extract
     1 c chopped pecans
     3 c peeled and chopped apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13" pan.  Combine oil, sugar, and eggs.  Stir in flour and baking soda.  Add vanilla, pecans, and apples.  Spread in prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes.  Cool for 2 hours.  Then prepare frosting.


     1/2 c butter
     1 c brown sugar, packed
     1/4 c evaporated milk
     1/2 tsp vanilla

Boil all ingredients in a small saucepan for 2 minutes.  Set pan in bowl filled with ice water.  Beat icing until of spreading consistency.  Spread over top of cake.

I managed to sneak in an end-of summer lunch with Brucie.  We ended up at our usual haunt because he refused to have anything to do with Chinese food and lazy Susans.  He managed to get back from China in one piece, and he brought back a bunch of goodies for me and the Ds.
chops for the Ds

I am going to be very busy in the next week.  I am taking an online course. . .my first course in over 15 years!  I also got volunteered to alter 9 cheerleader skirts.  While the sewing part isn't difficult, not having 8 of the girls handy to try on as I fix is somewhat of a downer.  I'm hoping that by this time next week, the skirts will just be a memory!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bread Machine: Plain Not-So White Bread

The Help has discovered the bread machine!  Prior to his discovery, he was under the impression that the bread machine was a useful tool for preparing dough.  He never imagined it would be any good at actually baking a loaf of bread.  Imagine my surprise when he asked me, "can that thing actually make an edible loaf of bread?".

As an educator, I know first hand that people learn best when they can actually "do" something.  So for teaching purposes, I suggested that The Help try to make a loaf of bread by following a recipe.  He wanted something simple and plain, so we decided on a basic white bread recipe.  The Help did the measuring and dumping, interjecting his work with several "I don't think this is gonna come out" lines.  I explained the control panel on the bread machine and taught him how to set the machine for basic bread with a medium crust.  For dramatic purposes, I made him press the start button.

Three-and-a-half hours later, he was blown away by the golden brown loaf nestled in the bread pan.  He was tempted to cut into it, but I explained that bread needs to be cool before it can be sliced.  He was totally shocked to find out that the inside of the loaf was not a gooey, doughy mess.

Since then, The Help has replaced buying bread from the supermarket with buying the giant bag of bread flour from Costco.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Bread Machine White Bread
(2 pound loaf)

     1 1/2 c water
     2 tbsp butter, cut in chunks
     4 c bread flour
     3 tbsp dry milk
     2 tbsp sugar
     2 tsp salt
     1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Place ingredients into bread pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer of your bread machine.  Use basic or white bread cycle with crust color set on medium.  When bread is done baking, remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

If you don't already have a bread machine, here are some things to consider:
  • For maximum versatility, purchase a machine which can accommodate a 2 pound loaf.
  • If you like the idea of an elongated bread pan, look for a model with at least 2 mixing paddles.
  • A hopper for holding "mix-ins" is very convenient to have.
new digs
 A few weeks ago, I actually made it to Honolulu for an quick, overnight trip.  While there, The Help went to check out his parents' new digs.  I got to enjoy some much-needed delicious food.
shrimp look fun and taro puffs

char siu bao, har gao & siu mai
joong, lo bok gao & more har gao

scallion pancakes...better than what I'd make at home

honey walnut shrimp

fried string beans

peking duck
 I don't know when I'm going to get to go on a trip again.  I was supposed to go in to the office today, but I was "saved" by D2, who convinced me this was a good time to have her bff Kara over for a sleepover.  I'm attending a workshop on Friday, and I officially begin work in a week.  I was supposed to go to Kona on Saturday, but Mr. Dependable pulled a fast one on me and I ended up with the kids this weekend.  We made the most of it and actually went to a bon dance.

Puna Hongwanji
While the picture above may seem benign enough, there was a definite cost to this outing.  Somewhere between the church and my car (parked on the side of the road), I stepped in dog shit.  I drove off smelling a faint odor, but it got stronger as the foot heaters began working.  Before I even hit the Panaewa stretch, I was gagging violently.  I ended up pulling off to the side of the road by Mauna Loa Mac Nut.  Cleaning my black patent dkny slippers proved futile, as there were deep treads in the sole of the slipper and there was no way to dig out every morsel of crap.  Knowing there was no way I could make it home otherwise, my slippers got hurled into the bushes, never to be seen again (hopefully...I hope nobody is THAT desperate).  I bought those slippers years ago in Connecticut. 

I can't believe I'll be at work in a week...when most of the public school teachers in the rest of the state will still have a good 2 weeks of vacation left.  I hope that when I receive my paycheck (reflecting a 17% raise) this will all seem worth it.  I had planned to buy a fisheye converter with my first fat paycheck, but now I need to use it to pay my credit card bill with the replacement slippers on it.   I still plan to go through with purchasing that fisheye converter eventually, but in the meantime, I gotta stay away from bon dances.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July Firecrackers

I need to thank D2 for this post.  I was just going to do a simple post, wishing everyone a happy fourth.  But a few days ago while I was getting ready to go out, D2 showed me a YouTube video giving detailed "how-tos" for these cute treats.  The recipe and instructional video can also be found on the Kraft Jell-O website.

Unfortunately, this being Hilo, we were unable to find plastic/disposable 1 oz shot glasses to accommodate the 20 portions this makes.  We ended up making this in 3 oz bathroom cups (plastic), so while the recipe suggests using 2 tsp for each layer, we used 1 tbsp.  Thanks to my butterfingers (I spilled one of the cups), we made 16 desserts, instead of 17.  Yes, D2 and I had fun eating the extra cherries.

The video shows the jello being eased out of the cups which appears simple enough.  But in real life, getting the jello out that way was not simple at all.  But The Help, using the podogee brains, figured out that the easiest way to get the jello out was to smash the cup into an oval shape and roll the cup a few times between the palms.  The jello will pop right out.

The recipe calls for cherry jello, but we used strawberry because thats the red flavor we seem to buy.  I can't remember ever buying cherry jello.

I would eventually like to try the adult version of this (also on the jello website).  But I will need to wait until the novelty of making this wears off.  I don't think D2 would be happy to make this if she wasn't able to eat it.

Hmmmmmm, I'm really worried about how I will top this next year.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Restaurant Chatter: Le Magic Pan

Its almost Independence Day, and that makes me really sad because that means in a two weeks I'll be heading back to the salt mines.  I feel like I didn't get to do much at all this summer (thank goodness for the overnight trip to Honolulu) because it was so short and invaded by work.  After watching all the Formula One races on Speed, I'm hungry (in my own little way) for some adventure.  Oh, how I wish I liked flying. 

waiting for my crepe
One of my favorite F1 races happens to be the grandest race of them all. . .the Monaco Grand Prix.  The street circuit is absolutely killer. . .hairpin turns near apartment buildings make driving at top speeds suicidal.  Of course, I can only dream about going to Monaco, as the long flight to get there is a major turn-off.  I haven't even thought about the cost of going, although I'm sure that itself would be prohibitive.

side salad
ham, cheese & mushroom crepe
But with three years of high school French and a  year of college French under my belt, I've always been fascinated by France and French-speaking countries like Monaco.  Alas, the closest I'll get to Monaco/Paris would be Tahiti; the plane ride there is much shorter, and there are direct (I hope) flights from Honolulu to Papeete.  And I don't think the threat of the vile, Devil's condiment is as omnipresent in Tahiti as it would be in France.  In the meantime, I'll continue to dine at Le Magic Pan, Hilo's only crepe restaurant, and pretend I am 12 hours away (Monaco time is 12-hours ahead of Hawaii). 

Located on the Hamakua end of Keawe Street, Le Magic Pan opened a few years ago, and, knock on wood, has managed to survive the Hilo curse.  On some evenings, there is live music (not hard rock, not Hawaiian, not reggae, not rap), and unlike other restaurants, the musicians play at a volume which still allows table conversation.  The last time we were there, there was a pianist and a flutist.  Really nice and enjoyable.

apple walnut crepe a la mode
The Ds like going to Le Magic Pan because they can have dessert for dinner.  Part of the charm is that you can watch your crepe being prepared.  They also offer espresso drinks and wine.  I love how the tables are covered in brown paper.

nutella & strawberry crepe
love the Venus
While the menu is not too large, there are daily specials listed on the board.  In addition to crepes, Le Magic Pan serves soups and salads.  And I am quite certain they are the only restaurant in Hilo with Venus of Willendorf salt shakers!

BTW, the next Grand Prix race is 6 days from now, the British Grand Prix.  I will be cheering for the McLaren boyz, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.  Given what I know about British food, I will likely not be inspired to post a recipe based on the great culinary traditions of Great Britain.  Haggis, anyone?
strawberry and banana dessert crepe
even the shingle is charming

Two Sundays ago, we took a day trip out to Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, to hike the 4+ mile round trip into Kilauea Iki crater.  This was the first time for both Ds and only my second time.  It was a cool (but rain-less) day, which made this experience much more pleasant than my first time.  We also went into the crater via the "switchbacks" and came out via the "stairs".  This allowed us to time to rest on the benches (the switchback way has no benches).  Unfortunately, the most difficult section of the crater (the rocky section) has to be navigated just before the stairs, which makes me seriously wonder if this way was any easier.

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