kruizing with kikukat

Monday, December 31, 2012

Shogatsu Party Idea: Build-Your-Own Sushi

Happy New Years Eve!!!  I'm here at my computer when I really should be preparing for the party I was voluntold to host.  Yup, Kikukat Mom did it again, and I'm the sucker.

A month ago, Mom told me that it would be nice for me to host the family new years party.  She informed me that the main party would be dinner on new years eve, with partygo-ers returning new years day for lunch and, very likely, dinner.  Being terrified of Mom or not, I had to make like General Travis and draw the line in the sand.  I told her I would be willing (I'm quite sure I didn't use the word "glad") to host a party on new years day ONLY.  At the time of the offer, Mom informed me that my offer was not acceptable.  I breathe a sigh of relief because I thought I was off the hook.

A few weeks after that, some of Mom's family members met (without me...I was invited, but refused to attend, figuring my services were rejected=my help not needed).  It was decided there that the party would be on new years day and that I would indeed be the host.  If I had bigger balls, I would've told Mom that the statute of limitations regarding my generous-yet-originally-rejected offer had expired and to find another family member to shove on the responsibility.  Alas, I don't have big balls, and when you add my heightened sense of fear of the temper, I decided I would just shut up and oblige. 

Suisan poke assortment:  spicy ahi, mixed plate poke, salmon nori wasabi

You see, its not that I don't like my family.  I DO like my family, or at least most of them.  Some of them drive me crazy, but I still like them.  What I don't like is the idea of having to prep my home for 50+ people.  There is a crazy domino effect here...if I invite this one asswipe (okay, I don't like him), it means having to invite another dozen people (due to his ties and familial proximity). In fact, my late, beloved Uncle Ray, just before his tragic, sudden passing, had been lobbying hard to ex-communicate this guy (and others with equal familial proximity) from future family parties.  Some family members have since betrayed his wish, but I intend to keep his flame lit to the best of my ability.  Anyway, Mom assured me that asswipe was not going to be included on the guest list (around 25), so it was another reason to just shut up and oblige. 

BLT fixins
For the party tomorrow, I was asked to made dessert, save for a pineapple upside down cake, which some idiot requested AE to make.  I told Mom I'd make it, but Mom said that it was a direct request to AE.  Whatevers, I can't be responsible for bad taste.  Since most of my day is going to be spent making desserts for tomorrow (layered jello, brownies, banana bread), I will have very little time to prep for dinner tonight.  This is where the Build-Your-Own-Sushi comes in handy. 

cucumber and kaiware (daikon sprouts)

The pictures in this post are from the last time I did the B-Y-O-Sushi thing.  The main prep is to cook and season the rice...totally simple if you use a rice cooker and the seasoning packet.  The only other mandatory thing to have is nori sheets (cut in half).  Everything else can be done to suit your own taste.  D1 and I enjoy poke as a filling.  The best place in town to buy poke is Suisan.  D1 says the spicy ahi poke there is consistently good.  That's her favorite.  I like the mixed plate poke (marlin, ahi, opihi) or nori salmon wasabi.  The Help isn't big on poke (although he has no problem forking out the benjamins at an omakase sushi bar), so his B-Y-O-Sushi mainstay is the BLT fixins...bacon bits, crisp lettuce and diced tomatoes (seeds taken out by me so that I can eat it too).  D2 is happy with imitation crab, so I'll put out ingredients for a California-ish roll: cucumber, kaiware, honey mayonnaise.  When I've made this for parties, I've also done the following:  cooked shrimp, fried egg strips, avocado, tobiko, ikura, unagi, seasoned kanpyo, neri ume.  I'm sure D2 would've loved to see Spam and beef teriyaki strips too.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Honey Mayonnaise

     1 c mayonnaise
     1 tbsp honey
     1/2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients.  Chill until ready to use.  Can be made a day ahead.
See you in 2013!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mini Rainbow Cupcakes with Tie Dye Buttercream Frosting

Happy day of Christmas Eve!!!  I think I've been a good kat this year, so I'm hoping Santa brings me something good.  If Santa decides to pay us a visit, he may get lucky and get some of these:  mini rainbow cupcakes with tie dye buttercream frosting.

The mini cupcake journey is taking me on an interesting ride.  I first blogged about these when I made some for Halloween.  The Halloween ones were made with Betty Crocker's golden vanilla cake mix and frosted with Kick Ass Frosting, a cooked cream frosting.

This time, I used Betty Crocker yellow cake mix, and did the tie dye technique with buttercream frosting.  I found that the cupcakes I made in the 2 oz portion cups needed to bake for 19 minutes (golden vanilla baked in 15 minutes and devil's food baked in 19 minutes), and I was able to make 33 cupcakes with 1 box of the Betty Crocker yellow cake mix (Betty Crocker golden vanilla and devil's food cake mix made about 40 each).  

At the urging of D1, we made a version of rainbow cupcakes, a much blogged-about creation at a whole bunch of different websites.  These cupcakes were intended to reflect the colors of Christmas, red, green, and gold, but the red turned out less than red.  Upon the advice of a coworker, I ordered a different type of food coloring, so I'm eagerly anticipating its arrival to see if it will yield a more "red" color.  Of course, along with the Christmas gift I ordered for D2, it will arrive AFTER Christmas.  Stay tuned. . .

This was my first attempt at tie dye frosting.  I followed the tutorial here.  Thank you, Mel!  I should have used the 1M tip instead of the open star tip, but I was so caught up in doing the tie dye frosting that I could not be bothered with changing the tip (The Help did the frosting of the cupcakes for me, so all the frosted cupcakes seen in this post are his handiwork).  He used to work at a "European" restaurant in Aina Haina, so he does have some kitchen experience.

This week's recipe is my go to recipe for buttercream frosting.  It is an adaptation from the version in the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook (one of my favorite cookbooks).  I've made it often, but given my climate, I've found that I have consistently needed to add a bit more powdered sugar to get the right consistency for piping in a pastry bag. At some point, I tried to go with less liquid, but it was easier to start with the additional powdered sugar.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Buttercream Frosting
(adapted from the Cake Mix Doctor)

     1/2 c butter, softened
     3 3/4 c + 2 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
     3 tbsp milk
     2 tsp vanilla

Beat butter on low speed for 30 seconds.  Add remaining ingredients.  Beat on low speed for a minute.  Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.  Makes 3 1/2 c frosting.  

If you are still with me, I'm also going to share a few helpful tidbits here:

*A box of Betty Crocker yellow cake mix will divide nicely into three 1 1/4 cup portions.  This is helpful if you are making cupcakes for people who want a "rainbow" effect.  

*If making 1-color mini cupcakes (not rainbow), use 2 full #60 dishers to fill each cup

 *Rainbow mini cupcakes are a pain in the ass, but its much easier/neater if the divided batter is placed in plastic ziploc bags and squeezed into each baking cup.  The Help and D1 both insist that using a disher is downright ridiculous.

*The frosting recipe will make enough to frost anywhere from 36-50 mini cupcakes.  Using a smaller tip will allow you to frost 50

*The frosting recipe will make enough to frost anywhere from 36-50 mini cupcakes.  Using a smaller tip will allow you to frost 50 cupcakes, whereas using a 1M tip will frost about 36 cupcakes. 

*The 1M tip produces the frosting pattern seen in the picture on the left.

Since the last post, where I commented about the tragic events in Newtown, Hawaii has experienced its own tragedy.  Our beloved senior senator, Daniel Inouye passed away in Washington, D.C. He was a iconic figure in both Hawaii and Washington political scenes.  Our entire nation will miss him dearly.  Now to watch and see who disrespects the honorable senator's wish for his legacy.

Monday, December 17, 2012


When you read this, I will be on vacation (actually formerly-known as furlough, directed leave without pay).  Yay!  Its a much-needed vacation (furlough is still a vacation since there should be no work issues), and I don't even want to think how quickly the next 2 weeks will go by.  Since I will be at home, I plan on having leisurely days. . .breakfast when I get up, lounging around in PJs, and not being a slave to the alarm clock.  Normally, I have a bowl of steel cut oats (cooked in the microwave) and a cup of joe, but since I'm on break, I think I'll change things up a bit and have granola and yogurt for breakfast.

I tend to be picky about granola.  I like things crunchy...not a fan of soggy granola.  I also don't like walnuts so many of the commercially-available granola are out. . .too many cheap walnuts.   I like granola with pecans or macadamia nuts.  Sliced almonds are okay too.  For the fruit, I use cranberries, dried mango, and dried pineapple.  If I have it on hand, I'll even chop up some dried apricots to throw in.  I keep the raisins away (raisins are on THAT list, below mustard, but somewhere near peas).  Homemade granola is great because you can choose what you put in it, but the best part is the smell as it bakes.  The aroma of cinnamon always makes me think "holidays".  Mmmmm.

And since Christmas will be here next week, this is a good time to make a batch of granola to keep on hand as a gift for people who surprise you with a gift.  Place cooled granola in an airtight container and tie with a holiday bow.  If you don't need to use it as an emergency gift, you'll have the pleasure of consuming it yourself.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     4 c rolled oats (old fashioned)
     2 1/2 c nut pieces
     1 1/2 c sweetened flaked coconut
     1/4 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp cinnamon
     1/2 c vegetable oil (scant)
     1/2 c honey
     2 c dried cranberries (or mixture of dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Line a large, shallow baking pan with parchment paper.  Toss together oats, nuts, coconut, salt, and cinnamon, in a large bowl.  Whisk together oil and honey, then stir into oat mixture until well coated.  Spread mixture in prepared baking pan and bake, stirring every 10-20 minutes for 1 hour.  Increase oven heat to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes, stirring midway through.  Remove from oven and stir in cranberries/dried fruit.  Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.  Makes about 10 cups.

Unfortunately, my leisurely morning was hijacked this morning because the workers showed up before 8:00 am to fix my pool.  After 5 years, the liner at the deep end was tearing.  The Help patched it several times, but it got to the point where even the patches were pulling off.  I was telling people not to splash in the deep end.  Actually, I'm not upset at all that the pool people showed up this morning; in fact, I'm grateful that they could work today...its a typical Hilo day...overcast, cold & semi-drizzly.  But having a "new" pool brings baggage.  For the past few weeks, the pool pump and filter have been off.  The pool boy (a.k.a. The Help) saw no reason to condition and treat the water when the repairs were looming, so I was able to benefit from not having that eat into my electrical bill from HELLCO.

I guess I'm going to be turning the pool pump and filter back on later today or tomorrow and starting back up with my electrical consumption, but guess who showed up on Saturday!!!  A crew of nearly a dozen burly men spent 6 hours on my roof making a huge racket.  Because optimum roof real estate was taken by solar water heater panels and pool heater panels, the pv panels had to be places on 4 different roof faces.  30 panels and several arrays later (and several $K poorer). . .waiting for the inspectors to show, and more importantly, waiting for a small bill from HELLCO!  Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me!  I can't wait for tax time to get here. 

I try not to get down with the events around me, but my heart aches when I think about all the families in Newtown who experienced great sorrow on Friday, December 14.  Having visited Connecticut a few years ago, I remember it as an idyllic place, straight out of a Norman Rockwell scene.  Lives there will never be the same.
Tales of teacher heroism in the face of death illustrate what I already know...teachers are dedicated people with a strong commitment to their students.  How many government bureaucrats would put themselves at risk to save others?  So for those of you assholes negotiating the teachers contract and trying to nickel and dime us, think about the work we do for your children, think about the commitment we show, .and then think about how many kiddie lives were saved because a teacher (Vicki Soto) sacrificed herself for her students.  Nobody is talking about how her students performed on a test; nobody is talking about whether she was a highly qualified or highly effective teacher.  Social media sites are inundated with how she was committed til the end.   Isnt' it obvious. . .what counts is knowing kids came first, that the were safe, not how well they scored on a test!  I hope you will feel ashamed at the way you've treated us, how superficial you've been to let test scores determine teacher pay (really, anyone will tell you, some kids are just smarter than others).  Settle the fucking contract and give us what we deserve!!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Somen Inari Sushi

Its the last week of school/work before winter break, and I have food obligations for at least 2 food-centered events this office luncheon (me) and a class activity (D1).  I'm sure D2 has something but I just haven't been notified yet, so make that 3 food-centered events this week.  D1 hasn't voiced an opinion for what she wants to bring (I'm thinking brownies), and I'm thinking about bringing somen inari sushi to the office luncheon. 

People often ask me where I find my recipes.  Although I have a huge collection of cookbooks, which I continually pore through, there are many times when I sample a dish at a party or a meeting then feel compelled to ask for the recipe.  Somen inari sushi happens to be a product of the latter.

 At our family Thanksgiving luncheon at Aunty Janice's house a few weeks ago, Cousin Vinny brought a platter of these fancy pockets.  I took one and persuaded D2 to try it.  Thinking she'd balk at being asked to take a bite of the aburage (she is a sworn tofu enemy), I let her taste a kamaboko sliver first, followed by a noodle, and then by something from the ocean salad.  At that point, she grabbed the aburage and just took a huge bite.  By the time we left Aunty Janice's house, she had consumed at least 5 of the somen inari sushi and was looking forward to diving into the ones we were taking home. There was no way I could've brought home enough, and she was disappointed when she had polished them all off.  After I showered, I texted Cousin Vinny and asked him for the recipe.  The recipe, "Stuffed Aburage", is on page 13 of the newsletter. 

My friend Colleen's mom made something like this for a party nearly 2 decades ago, so I know the recipe has been around a while.  I think I didn't attempt it sooner because I was daunted by having to prepare the aburage.  I didn't realize it came already pre-cooked and pre-seasoned.

Cousin Vinny gave me unsolicited advice on where to find frozen pre-seasoned aburage rectangles (KTA, of course), and he even gave me advice on how to deal with the liquid that gets squeezed out from the aburage.  All his knowledge lead me to question who actually made the dish. . .Cousin Vinny or his wife/boss Aunty Mia.  Cousin Vinny gave credit to Aunty Mia for making the dish, as he was busy making the baked beans, which we also enjoyed.

The One and Only Cousin Vinny and a Copycat
The baked beans was a whole conversation on its own, and The Help and I agreed it was one of the best baked beans we had ever eaten.  Unfortunately, Cousin Vinny was unable to provide a recipe. . .he just "threw in this and that" as a result of a telephone kokua call to Sweetie (his sister-in-law).

I was under the impression that the best cooks worked in my area, but after Thanksgiving, I'm pretty certain that the best cooks are masquerading as employees at Hilo High (Cousin Vinny and Sweetie both work there).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cookie Jar: Ginger Gems

You would think things at work would be on auto pilot by now, but they are not.  Shit is hitting the fan from all directions.  People, people. . .just ten more days.  You've got to hold yourselves together!

Thanks to Williams-Sonoma, Gilly Hicks & Ecko Unlimited, I'm just about done with all my Christmas shopping, but I still have a few "big ticket" gifts to buy. . .The Rents, The Help, and D2.

The Rents are a conundrum.  What can you get people who don't really have room for anything else (other than jewelry, clothing, or another iPad)?  The electric roaster I bought them last year is still in the original box, never unpacked.

The Help is another problem.  What do you get for someone who buys WHAT they want WHEN they want?  The Help has extremely high consumer standards, thus further complicating things.  Harumphfffff.

D2 might be the easiest of the bunch, although hundreds of dollars worth of toys have no place in her room.  Any technology gift which D1 doesn't own will likely end up being hijacked by D1.  D2 enjoys DOING crafts but doesn't enjoy CLEANING up craft work.  Maybe she isn't as easy as I thought.

D1 wasn't mentioned because last year, The Rents and I bought her a new smartphone and data package, which was supposed to serve as birthday and Christmas gifts for a 2-year period.  Unfortunately, I think The Rents are gonna cave and buy her gifts this year (year 2) because I overheard the missus asking her what she wanted for her birthday.

Once I get my gift buying/wrapping completed, I'm going to begin my cooking.  There is nothing that signals the start of the holiday season like the smell of ginger cookies.  Mmmmmm.  When I bake ginger cookies, the wonderful aroma of Christmas permeates the entire house (not unlike the aroma or tea eggs simmering on the stove at Chinese New Year), and its hard not to feel festive. 

 click recipe title for printable recipe

     3/4 c vegetable shortening
     1 c sugar
     1 egg
     1/4 c molasses
     2 c flour
     2 tsp baking soda
     1 tsp cinnamon
     1 tsp ground ginger
     1/2 tsp ground cloves
     1/2 tsp salt
     1/2 c Maui gold coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line airbake cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.  Cream shortening and sugar.  Add egg and molasses.  Add flour mixture.  Using a #60 (2 tsp) disher, portion dough and roll sparingly in Maui gold coarse sugar.  Place 2" apart on prepared cookie sheets (15 per sheet).  Bake 15 minutes.  Cool for a minute before attempting to remove to cooling racks.  Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Maui Gold sugar is available at most stores in Hawaii.  The coarse, golden crystals add extra crunch to these treats.

Before I sign off, I want to say that the Kikukat household got our tree fairly early this year.  We got it from Home Depot, and I can only keep my fingers crossed that it won't turn brown before Christmas.  It was my turn to choose the theme this year, but I was somewhat limited by the fact that D1 used a few strands of gold lights to decorate her bedroom.  It was either the red lights with white cord or the colored lights.  Since I didn't order a flocked tree from KTA, I had to go with the colored lights.  I decided that since my energy level (thanks to work for sapping what little life-blood I had left) was low, I'd spring for no-fuss tree decorations (in my mind, hanging ornaments = plenty fuss).  I bought silk poinsettias, cut them apart and stuck the picks in between the branches.  I splurged on a couple dozen clip-on gold butterflies and dragonflies.  The lazy-style decorating didn't bother me half as much as something else. . .can you guess?  Thankfully, The Help fixed it, and we redistributed the decorations so it looks much better.  Now if I could only get the Ds to pick up the mess on the barstool in the background!