kruizing with kikukat

Monday, December 30, 2013

Comfort in a Bowl: Trotter Soup

Christmas came and went at the Kikukat house.  The Ds got a lot of goodies, and The Help treated me to an Amazon Prime membership.  I wanted to get him a new monopod (for shooting football games), but he waved me off.  He had to settle for a Ping golf shirt instead.  Poor buggah!

I finally got around to seeing Edz, whom I missed dearly.  Now that I work across town, I don't get to do the "pop in" on him at work.  We had lunch at Hilo Bay Cafe.  It was really nice, and I always kick myself as to why we don't have lunch more often.  I got to show off my new pair of Dr. Martens to him.  Only Edz could give UGeo a run for his money when it comes to shopping.  When we lived in Honolulu, Edz and I would often spend Sundays worshipping at the House (Liberty House Ala Moana) and then having lunch at Orson's.    Edz would have the po' boy and I would have oysters rockefeller.  I guess I'm showing my age because Orson's closed a long time ago.

I also got to do lunch with Brucie!  I haven't lunched with Brucie since fall intersession.  I'm hoping to see more of him during high school basketball season.

In a few hours I will get to see LA & SN.  They are here until the 3rd.  Other out-of-town ohana arrived a few days ago. . .UMiles & AKathy and AChar.  Jin Young from Korea arrived last month.  I suppose I will have lots of family obligations these next few days.  I'm sad OT & Dus couldn't make it home.  The Help has been keeping a watchful eye on Dus' bottle of Jameson Gold Reserve.  OT could help me kill the Kraken.  Kikukat Dad is so proud of OT's ability to consume alcohol!

Right now it is storming in Hilo, and I mean STORMING.  I'm worried about the pv system and my car because we had hail last night/this morning.  I am certain that when this storm is over, there will be a thick layer of snow on Mauna Kea.  LA & SN will have a bumpy flight coming in to Hilo!

Anyway, its almost new years eve, and that means one thing to me. . .pig feet soup.  While many people enjoy a huge spread of food at holiday parties, on new years eve, I much prefer to have a bowl of soup.  Soup is the ultimate comfort food, and there are few things which provide more comfort than pig feet soup.

I have fond memories of sitting down to a steaming hot bowl of pig feet soup for dinner.  The silky feel of the pork skin, sucking on the rounded knuckle bones, bits of char floating in the broth. . .all evoke a strong sense of nostalgia.  As I got older, I began dipping pieces of the succulent meat in freshly grated ginger mixed with shoyu.

Both Mr. Dependable and The Help have become pig feet soup converts as well.  Mr. Dependable grew up in a house which served sweet-sour pig feet, and he was certainly not fond of it.  The closest The Help ever got to pig feet was a smoked ham hock. 

What can I say?  I grew up eating pig feet.  Kikukat Mom made it sweet-sour style (hers wasn't as puckery as Mr. Dependable's mom).  We often had a jar of Hormel pickled pig feet in the fridge that Kikukat Dad and I would eat for dinner (with a generous splash of shoyu).  Mt. View gramma braised pig feet with peppercorns and bay leaf. . .kinda like adobo, but not as puckery either.  And I'm guessing it was Mt. View gramma who taught Kikukat Dad how to make pig feet soup.

I was in college when I realized pig feet wasn't eaten in every household.  My townie roommate (from Hawaii Kai) said she never tasted pig feet in her life.  My other roommate, who was also my high school classmate, once bought me a jar of pickled pig feet just so she could watch me eat it. . .she couldn't believe people actually ate the stuff in the jar which grossed her out.

One thing about pig feet that does gross me out is when the stubble isn't completely cleaned.  I singe the pig feet on the grill outside.  What doesn't burn off gets yanked with fish tweezers.  Yes, that does take a while, but its worth it to me not to see black stubble on the skin.

Pig feet soup is best made the day before you plan to eat it.  If you have a pressure cooker and a fat separator, it can be made and eaten on the same day.  While the flavor comes from the skin, try and find pieces with lots of meat.  Some people add araimo (dasheen).  I don't like to add it because it makes the broth slimy. . . same reason why I never add konbu.  If you are like me and use this as your ozoni soup (I don't like the pink ear thing), heat the mochi separately and add it to each individual bowl instead of adding the mochi to the pot.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Pig Feet Soup

     2-3 lbs pig feet
     3-4 thumb-size pieces of ginger, smashed
     2 tsp hondashi
     2 tsp salt
     2 tbsp shoyu
     additions:  togan (winter melon chunks), watercress, won bok, sliced daikon, carrots, mochi

Singe pig feet over flame to burn off hairs.  Place in a pot and cover with water.  Boil rapidly for 15 minutes.  Discard water and rinse scum off pieces.  Place cleaned pig feet in a large pot.  Add 10 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 2 hours.  Refrigerate overnight.  Skim hardened fat from surface (there should not be much).  Add ginger, hondashi, salt, shoyu, and any "additions" (consider how long additions will take to cook; togan chunks will take about 40 minutes)  and cook for 1 hour.

I spent some time in the kitchen this past week.  I made mini M & M cookies for Santa and I also updated an earlier recipe, Lemon Cake.  The recipe now includes directions for baking mini loaves, perfect for gift-giving.  D1's coaches, her club advisor, and her friend AC were the lucky recipients of lemon cake. 

Emotional first aid was also provided to my boss, as he wrestled with calibrating his oven temperature.  He had a lemon-lilikoi bar project going.

Sadly, it was I who probably needed the emotional first aid most.  I started and re-started a knitting project.  The first time, I made just 2 inches of the cowl before I realized I dropped a stitch.  The second time, I was over half-way through when I discovered I was missing a stitch.  Son of a bitch!  I don't know why I torture myself with this thing called knitting.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Mini Cream Cheese Cherry Fruitcake

I'm finally on vacation.

It seemed like vacation would never get here!

Just a few more days until Christmas.

I hope I didn't forget any gifts.

I THINK I'm done with my Christmas shopping.

I try to bake at least 1 batch of humbug holiday cookies with the Ds, but it looks like time isn't on our side this year.  We normally have at least half a week before Christmas to bake cut-out cookies, but vacation began too late.  Maybe we'll be able to bake something for Valentine's Day.

Instead of cookies with the Ds, I had to settle for some by-myself baking.  I chose to make mini cream cheese cherry fruitcake because I knew neither of the Ds would be too disappointed about missing out on this.

Fruitcake isn't something many people are often enthused about, but everyone (adults) enjoys the local version of fruitcake.  The fruitcake we know and like is actually a pound cake with a spattering of candied fruits.  It is not the type you find at Trader Joe's. . . mostly fruit bound together with tiny bits of cake.

There are a handful of people around here who make a more traditional kind of fruitcake.  Last Christmas, one of The Helps clients gave him a fruitcake which was a deep, dark brown.  It tasted very much like prune mui, and it had a tar-like texture.  She told him it was her specialty.  My friend A's mom makes a steamed fruitcake, which is dark, although not as dark the one I previously mentioned.  Kikukat Mom makes something called "light fruitcake".  While not steamed, it has a tan color which is different from the pictures you see here.  And I'm sorry mom, but I don't like the fruitcake you make.  Like the two aforementioned varieties, it is dense and unappealing (to me!).  The cream cheese variety is much more to my liking.

And I just remembered. . .I haven't bought anything for The Rents.  I guess I'm NOT done with my Christmas shopping.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     8 oz cream cheese, softened
     1 c butter, softened
     1 1/2 c sugar
     4 eggs
     1 1/2 tsp vanilla
     2 1/4 c flour, divided
     1 1/2 tsp baking powder
     3/4 c candied cherries, cut in half
     1/2 c pecans, coarsely chopped

Grease and flour 5 mini loaf pans.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine cream cheese, butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  In a separate bowl, stir together 2 c flour and baking powder.  Gradually add to cream cheese mixture.  Toss remaining flour (1/4 c) with cherries and nuts.  Fold into batter.  Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.  Bake 45-50 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to wire rack.  Cool completely.

The best fruitcake in the world is made in Hanapepe, Kauai, by Mrs. Nozaki, a retired hairdresser.  Her fruitcake is outstanding!  I have been fortunate enough to receive quantities of it over the years from her son.  Unlike this recipe, which contains nuts, Mrs. Nozaki's cake only has cherries in it, and the cake's flavor is enhanced by the whiskey-soaked cheesecloth enveloping the loaf.  I haven't received Mrs. Nozaki's cake this year yet, but I'm hoping her son bought out Safeway's supply of candied cherries so he can bake several batches.

Congratulations to D2 who received an award at her school!  I'm disappointed I wasn't able to make it to the presentation (I had a Charles Dickens function in my classroom.), and I am grateful The Help represented me.  D2 tries so hard, and it was nice that she was recognized for her effort.

Congratulations are also due to the HHS varsity boys basketball team.  The took first place in the St. Joseph School's Cardinal Classic.  They won a 67-64 nailbiter against crosstown rival Waiakea.  With hardly any time remaining in overtime, and the score tied 64-64, star guard Jalen Carvalho (nephew of my good buddy SF) hit a 3-pointer to win the game for the Viks.  It was awesome.  Jalen is beast, but the whole team worked hard for the victory.  Best wishes to them as they hit the skies this week to participate in a pre-season tourney in San Diego.

And for my weekly rant. . .where the fuck do they find the refs in this town?  Be it football or basketball, they are all horrible.  What a bunch of blind idiots in stripes!  One of the refs at the basketball game spent more time talking stories with a coach than watching the players.  Auwe!!!
While I began my vacation this weekend, The Help got busy.  Of course, I went along as "assistant". . .underpaid and overworked (me, not The Help).  The Help did a session for Maria at Short N Sweet, a local bakery.  Maria is the designer of D1's birthday cake.  The bakery was hired to do an afternoon tea for a local beauty business.  While Short N Sweet has been doing afternoon tea for a while, Maria had no pictures of past events so she asked The Help to help her capture the event (food-wise).  I think she will be happy with the images.  She was kind enough to give us some goodies. . .gougeres and a flaky mushroom turnover.  OMG!  The Empress Hotel has nothing on Short N Sweet when it comes to tea!

And for the first time in nearly a decade, I got to eat fried kole (yes, we really do eat this fish. . .much to my horror, the top hits for "kole tang" were aquaria websites, not delicacy websites).  3M texted me on Saturday morning and reminded me about the RBI concession.  Mmmmmmmmm.  The fried kole was so yummy that I sent The Help back down to the Boys & Girls Club of Hilo baseball field for another plate!  I hope they will put me on their speed dial whenever they have fried kole at their concession.

deep-fried kole

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cookie Jar: Snowball Cookies

For nearly a year, I have been on a quest for the perfect snowball cookie.  This is my story. . .

February 18, 2013:  I am beginning my Snowball Cookie Journey.  Sometime last week, a container of Big Island Delights Snowball Cookies appeared on the kitchen counter in the office.  By the time I saw it there, only a few cookies were left.  Given the fact that there are some rather lepo (Hawaiian word for dirty or filthy) people in my office, I decided to pass on the free cookies.  Unfortunately, the picture of the snowball cookies was imprinted on my mind, and no matter what I did, I knew I had to address my snowball cookie yearning.

While I spent a lot of time baking cookies, I never made snowball cookies.  I'm not sure why I never made them, but there was always something better to make or the season demanded I make something else.  I did an internet search, and the 1st recipe I saw was the Land O' Lakes recipe.  I figured these people make butter, so they should know what they are doing.  I decided to try the Land O' Lakes recipe.

Just so we are on the same page here, what I'm calling "snowball cookie" has a number of aliases:  Russian Tea Cookie, Mexican Wedding Cookie, Melting Moments (in a few cookbooks).  The nut-flecked cookie is usually rolled twice in powdered sugar, once when warm and again when cool.  The double powdered sugaring process results in a thick layer which quickly turns gooey upon contact with fingers.

Before I could actually try the recipe, I made the mistake of pausing to think about how neat it would be if the powdered sugar could be colored to match the seasons.  I read somewhere that its easy to color powdered sugar. . .just put some in a blender and drop in some food coloring.  Whirrrrrr it up, and its all good.  Wrong.  The color was barely discernible.  The Help told me that I didn't use enough powdered sugar, so he proceeded to show me how it was done.  Epic fail...he used nearly a whole bag of powdered sugar, but we still ended up with sugar which was barely colored.

I proceeded with the Land O' Lakes recipe.  Things seemed fine right up until the rolling in powdered sugar while warm.  Upon contacting the warm cookie, the food coloring flecks seemed to separate from the powdered sugar, turning the cookies the color of mold (I used green food coloring).  The second roll (cool) did nothing to help; in fact, it exacerbated the mold look.  With the exception of the color, the cookies were fine (fine=okay/edible), but judging from the looks of the cookie (the inside, not the coating), there was no way the Ds would go for it.  Even for my taste, they were a bit too nutty.

I spent over an hour this afternoon going through my cookbook collection for variations on the snowball cookie recipe.  I have decided on the next recipe to try, once I finish eating all the "mold" cookies.

March 17, 2013:  The search for the best snowball cookie recipe continues. . .

If its not the over-abundance of nuts, I don't like the "raw" taste some of the cookies have.  The latest recipe I tried calls for a fast bake.  A fast bake is good for conserving electricity, but its not worth saving a few $ on electricity if the cookies aren't cooked right.

December 2013:  These are the cookies I will be giving out as coworker gifts.  I love these cookies.  They are not too nutty. . .they are just right.  I bake them longer than most recipes because I detest the thought and mouth-feel of underbaked cookies.  And with the colored powdered sugar fiasco behind me, the cookies will be snowy white. 

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 c butter, softened
     1/2 c powdered sugar
     2 1/2 c flour
     1/4 tsp salt
     1 tsp vanilla
     3/4 c nuts, chopped

Cream butter and powdered sugar.  Add flour and salt and stir well.  Add vanilla and nuts.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a #50 disher, scoop portions of dough.  Roll into balls and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet (regular, not AirBake).  Because this dough does not spread, it may be possible to fit the entire recipe on a single sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack and let cool 10 minutes.  Roll in powdered sugar.  When completely cool roll in powdered sugar again.  Makes 33 cookies.

The Help had a banner photography week!

He received an inquiry for a food photography shoot (didn't I say he was a FOOD photographer?) from a local business.  He was stoked.  I'm hoping it will work out.  Just on the heels of that, the HuffPost's Taste section featured one of his pics.  The Char Siu Bao pic is his.  Of course they didn't give any credit to the person who actually made those bao!  And sadly, my kids are familiar with many of those customs!

We attended a banquet on Monday night to celebrate the awesome football season.  Coach B told the boys about The Help's pictures and how they could obtain prints.  The Help created a smugmug site for all of his football pics.  D1 reported that the football boys, many of whom had never seen the pics, were thrilled.  They were calling each other and telling each other to check out "this pic" or "that pic".  Awesome.  The Help was probably more tickled with the football boys' reactions than the HuffPost pic.
my favorite pic from the season

Monday, December 9, 2013

Crab Lasagna

The days are passing so slowly!  I can't wait until winter vacation.  I have a whole bunch of things I need to do.  Going on a trip will not be one of them, but I am expecting house guests at the end of the year.  LA tells me she and SN will be coming to spend new years in Hilo.  I guess the family hasn't scared him off yet.  Give them time, and the last time he was here he feigned illness so he hasn't seen them in all their glory.

The arrival of out-of-town guests means that Kikukat Mom's family will be getting together.  Once when they were here, I made a huge mess of spaghetti for them.  Another time we did the build-your-own sushi thing.  If duty calls and I have everyone over (aside from New Years Day), I will make and serve crab lasagna.

This is a recipe which has been in my arsenal for years.  Its easy to make and it heats up nicely too.  The last time I made it, I posted a picture of it on facebook.  I received all kinds of requests for tastes (obviously these people are close by) and recipes.  One of my classmates posted a status update saying he and his children made this for his wife's birthday, and it was a huge hit.  That's the kind of stuff which makes me smile.

This was a super busy weekend for me.  D1 had a birthday party.  I can't remember the last time she had a bunch of friends over for her birthday, but her friends seemed to have a nice time.  D1 asked The Help to set up a "photo booth", and we bought a bunch of stick props from amazon, but the girls  just took a group picture. . .not much impromptu photo-boothing with just 1 or 2 at a time.  Oh well.

The only other "planned" activity was swimming.  I'm glad the weather held up.  In spite of it being December, the temperature yesterday hovered around 80 so the girls got to splash around.  The Help said I would've died if I had been around when he removed the pool corner guards (he has these contraptions in the corners of the deep end  to mitigate the effects of the vinyl from constant sun bombardment).  A whole bunch of geckos (the fleshy kine) had set up house behind the guards!

The party food was all stuff D1 requested:  spicy soybeans, tea eggs, somen inari, lumpia, crispy chicken, build-your-own-sushi, 7-layered jello, chocolate birthday cake.  The biggest hit was undoubtedly the crispy chicken.  It all went!  Mr. Dependable showed up with D2 and fed his face.  D2 shoved a bunch of somen inari in her mouth.  Mr. Dependable took notice of The Help's full-light photo booth set up.  I had to chuckle when The Help offered Mr. Dependable his services, "I can take professional photos of you and the other people in your office.  I have slimming software too!"  Bwahahaha.
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D1's cake was purchased from Short N Sweet, a local bakery.  I first sampled Short N Sweet goodies when they were a hole-in-the-wall place in Kohala.  A few years later, they moved in to Hilo, and The Help and I have been regular patrons.  The lemon cloud cookie is really ono.  One of my coworkers, RN, loves the banana roulade.  While D1's cake was not inexpensive, it was delicious!  The buttercream frosting was just sweet enough, and the chocolate cake was a deep, dark Devil's food.  In spite of the price, I will not hesitate to buy another cake from them. . .it's the kind of cake where you don't mind eating the leftovers.

This week is another busy week.  There is a football banquet this evening.  The coach invited us, and while we were not an official part of the football team, it would be hard not to attend.  The coach will be using about half of The Help's pictures in a slideshow.  I'm certain the boys will enjoy seeing their pictures.  The Help took some pretty wicked action shots of the boys.  His reputation as an action photographer has grown. . .kids who play other sports at school have asked D1 if "unko" could take pics of them.  In fact, boys who play football at OTHER schools, both on the Big Island and on ANOTHER ISLAND have asked D1 if "unko" can take pics of them!  The Help keeps insisting he is a FOOD photographer.

And not to be left out, D2 has a showcase dinner this week too.  She has been volunteering her time and assisting one of the after-school classes at her school.  She and her friend KN have been working with the lower-elementary students on various crafts.  The instructor has been kind enough to let D2 and KN make their own crafts too.  This past week, D2 brought home a self-contained red shrimp habitat in a Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler bottle!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1/2 lb lasagna noodles (not "no boil" type)
     1 tsp olive oil
     8 oz cream cheese, softened
     2 cans cream of mushroom soup
     1 lb crab meat
     16 oz cottage cheese
     1 onion, chopped
     1 egg
     1/2 tsp salt
     1-2 tbsp pesto (if unavailable, use 2 tsp minced, fresh basil)
     1 c shredded cheddar cheese, divided
     1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

Cook noodles according to package directions, adding olive oil to boiling water.  Rinse and drain.  In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, soup (remove 1/4 c of soup and set aside), crab, cottage cheese, onion, egg, salt, and pesto.  Mix reserved soup with 1/4 c water.  Pour into 8 x 13" pan, spreading all over bottom of pan.  Layer 1/2 of noodles, 1/2 of crab mixture, and 1/2 if cheddar cheese.  Repeat.  Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Crock Pot Food: Beef & Barley Soup

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  I broke down and invited some old aunties over for a simple lunch.  I didn't go nuts (local style), and I limited the food to traditional fare:  turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, candied yams, roasted asparagus, cranberry sauce, rolls, and pumpkin crunch cake.  Everyone took home enough leftovers for at least another meal, and I was left with a manageable amount of everything.  I'm sure my mom pooh-poohed the amount of food, but I think I made more than enough.  Kikukat Mom grew up in Hawaii, so by her measure, if I didn't make enough to hold the party 3x over, I really didn't make enough.  Well, I don't care if she thought that because the whole thing was over by 2:40!  That gave The Help enough time to help Kikukat Mom with her printer troubles.

It was nice to see the old aunties.  ABetty (of corned beef hash fame) is doing much better and moving around well. . .well enough to help herself to a second serving.  AJanice asked me if there was a book she could get which defines slang and text jargon.  She said she is currently reading a J. K. Rowling book with all kinds of profanity.  "I know what fuck and shit are, but I don't know what snogging means," said AJanice.  I had to laugh.  AJanice earned a living as a speech therapist just outside the Beltway, so "fuck" and "shit" were enunciated with utmost precision as ABetty looked on unfazed.  ABetty, the older of the two is closing in on 90, but even she will say a "fuck" here and there.  If I ever live that long. . .

The Ds popped in for a short time to get changed for a brunch.  D1 looked towering in her heels, and D2 looked so pretty in a floral dress.  Nice to see her wearing something other than a t-shirt and shorts.  Neither D is big on turkey so I hope their brunch served other things as well.

Even though the leftovers were manageable for me, I'm turkey'd out for a while.  I decided to buy a turkey breast roast (even if the whole turkey was much cheaper).  Nobody here really cares for dark meat so I figured the thighs and drumstick would only get in the way.  Glad I did.  The turkey breast cooked in under 3 hours, and because I brined it, it was juicy and seasoned throughout.  3M offered to deep fry my turkey, and I may take her up on it next year...if I buy a whole turkey.

I'm also kinda ham'd out.  I made Sugar Bath Ham.  The Help and I had ham sandwiches for a few days.  I like ham, but after 3 days, even ham loses its welcome.  I'm looking forward to eating "plain" food now.

Oahu and Kauai were under flash flood watch this past weekend, and I couldn't help but wonder if the rains would eventually reach us here.  While the weather wasn't all that great, it was primarily dry.  The Help watched a lot of football in between doing his chores (taking care of animals, washing car, etc.).  I managed to throw together this soup in the crock pot.  It was a nice break from turkey & ham.  It also went well with the leftover rolls from turkey day (giant bag from Safeway was $6.99).  Although the instructions say to initially add the barley to part of the vegetables on the stove, I'm quite certain everything could be just thrown into the crock pot. 

With the craziness of Thanksgiving behind us, its now time to do the countdown until the next break:  Winter Vacation!!!  15 work days stands between now and another break.  If I call in sick or take personal leave, I can shave off a day or two too!

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Beef & Barley Soup

     1- 1 1/2 lbs beef chuck, cut in 3/4" cubes
     1 tbsp oil
     1 c chopped onion
     1 c diced carrots
     1/2 c diced celery
     1 clove garlic, minced
     12-16 oz mushrooms, cut in quarters (or smaller)
     3 sprigs thyme
     1/2 c pearl barley, rinsed and drained
     1 can beef broth
     1 can chicken broth
     2 c hot water
     1/8 tsp pepper
     1 tsp salt
     fresh Italian parsley

Heat oil in large skillet.  Saute beef cubes til no longer pink.  Using a slotted spoon, remove meat to 4-quart or larger crock pot.  Add beef broth, cover, and cook on high.  Using same skillet, add onion, carrots, and celery.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add garlic, mushrooms, and thyme.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, place at least half of vegetable mixture in crock pot.  To remaining vegetable mixture, add pearl barley and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then add to crock pot, along with hot water, pepper, and salt.  Cook on high for 5 hours.  Remove thyme sprigs before serving.  Garnish with parsley.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cranberry Orange Biscotti

I didn't realize Thanksgiving was so close!  I saw some kind of Taste of Home post on Facebook and I had to actually run to the calendar to see for myself.  No shit!!!

The work week this week is only 3 (2 by the time this is published) days, but short weeks tend to drag on, and the kids are totally gone.  Adults too.

But in a few days it will be Thanksgiving, and that gives me something to look forward to.  Its not just the break from work.  I love Thanksgiving food.  I love all the white meat from the turkey and all that you can do with the leftovers. The other big deal about Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce.  I love cranberry sauce, and I think Williams-Sonoma makes the best.  I need to check the pantry to see if I have any left.  One year, I made my own cranberry sauce, and it was unreal sour.  Since then, I've left the cranberry sauce to the experts.

It doesn't seem right to have cranberry sauce outside of the holiday season, so I don't make anything with cranberry sauce beyond the holidays, however dried cranberries are fair game year-round.  I keep a Costco-sized bag of dried cranberries on hand.  The Ds sprinkle li hing mui powder on it and eat it as a snack.  I love to use dried cranberries in recipes as a substitute for raisins.

While cranberry orange biscotti recipes abound, the recipes I tried lacked orange flavor.  Bummer.  In my experiments with biscotti making, I came across a recipe which included a topping.  After tinkering with the ingredients, I came up with a recipe which has the pronounced orange flavor I was looking for - its in both the biscotti and the topping.  In addition to cranberries and orange flavor, this biscotti gets its crunch from chopped marcona almonds. 

This biscotti is a little trickier to make than my previous biscotti recipe because of the baked-on topping.  This biscotti needs to be sliced very carefully with a serrated knife.  Using too much pressure will cause the topping to pop off.   I suppose you could leave the topping off, but the orange flavor would be less prominent.

just after the first bake
slicing biscotti using a serrated knife

getting ready for the second bake
 click on recipe title for printable recipe.
Cranberry Orange Biscotti

     1/4 + 2/3 c sugar, divided
     2 tbsp + 1 tsp orange juice, divided
     6 tbsp butter, softened
     zest of 1 orange
     2 eggs
     1/2 tsp almond extract
     1/2 tsp vanilla extract
     2 c flour
     1 tsp baking powder
     1/2 c dried cranberries, chopped
     1/2 c marcona almonds, chopped fine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine 1/4 c sugar and 1 tsp orange juice.  Mixture will be rather dry.  Set aside.  Grease 2 biscotti pans or line a flat cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Cream butter and remaining 2/3 c sugar.  Add 2 tbsp orange juice, zest, eggs, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  Stir in flour and baking powder.  Add cranberries and nuts.  Shape dough into 2 2" wide rectangles in/on prepared pan(s).  Using half of sugar/orange juice mixture for each loaf, pat onto top of each rectangle, taking care not to spill any on baking sheet.  Bake 20 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes.  Using a serrated knife, slice 1/2" on the diagonal.  Place on a cut side and bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.  Flip over to other side and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

NOTE:  Cranberry Orange Biscotti would make an excellent snack for Black Friday shopping, that is, if you choose to indulge in that sport.  After the stampeding sounds in Wal-Mart last year, I will be staying home.  There is no need for me to be in the throng of people.  I'm sure the Ds will be home too.  I know neither were happy last year.  I just hope Kikukat Mom's curiosity about Black Friday shopping was cured last year too. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Almost Barefoot Contessa: Butternut Squash Risotto

I cannot explain the logic behind my actions, but I found myself in Costco twice this past weekend.  I know I wanted to get kitty Frontline, but I can't remember what else.  And yes, there are still only 2 days in a weekend, so that means I went to Costco 2 days in a row.  Considering many of you shop at Costco, this may not be a big deal, but for me, Costco is about 90 minutes (now, since the Daniel K. Inouye highway was rededicated/realigned).  Costco used to be 2 hours+ from where I live so I suppose the euphoria of being closer to my favorite club store overrides being sensible.

And The Help was no help.  In fact, he contributed to the maladjusted thinking by saying he forgot to get "this and that" when we were less than 15 minutes out of Kona (the first time).  Then he said he welcomed the opportunity to drive his other car.  And within 24 hours of our first Costco trip, we were back on the road again, headed west.

We actually ended up spending way more $ on the 2nd trip, buying all the stuff we missed  on the 1st trip.  The Help got a dangerous stocking stuffer for D2 (HE can clean the tape residue off everything after she gets done with it. . .maybe I will get him a gallon of Goo Gone for Christmas).  We also stocked up on a ton of sausage (which I don't even think I like).  One thing we bought that we both agreed on was a tray of pre-cubed butternut squash.  I love butternut squash, and The Help likes the tray because its all cleaned and cut.

Roasted butternut squash is ono, and my favorite way to have it is in a risotto.  The recipe I use is adapted from the Barefoot Contessa's Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash.  Shallots and pancetta are not always easy to find in Hilo, and I always have the Costco bag of bacon bits on hand in the fridge.  I love the aroma of saffron, but its an expensive ingredient, and I don't think most people stock it all the time either.  I will go out of my way to get some, but if you don't have it, rest assured the risotto is yummy without it too.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Butternut Squash Risotto
(adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

     2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed
     2 tbsp olive oil
     1/2 tsp pepper, divided
     3 cans chicken broth
     6 tbsp butter
     1/2 onion, chopped
     1/2 c cooked bacon bits
     1 1/2 c arborio rice
     1/2 c white wine
     1/2 tsp saffron threads (optional)
     1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place butternut squash cubes in a foil-lined shallow pan.  Toss with olive oil, salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, tossing midway through.  While squash is roasting, heat chicken broth in a medium saucepan.  In a 5 quart Dutch oven, melt butter.  Add onion and bacon bits.  Saute 7 minutes.  Add rice.  When grains are coated, add wine and cook for 2 minutes.  Add 2 full ladles of chicken broth and saffron threads (optional).  Stir.  When broth is absorbed, add chicken broth, 2 ladles at a time, stirring until chicken broth is absorbed.  Repeat until all broth is used.  Stir in roasted butternut squash chunks and parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Parmesan Chicken Wings

Thank you, armed service vets, for all your sacrifices which ensure our freedom.  Kikukat dad, The Help's dad, Mr. Dependable's dad, UGeo, and many of our family members and friends have proudly served in the military.  A few continue to serve. . .and we are so proud of them (big shout out to my nephew Joseph Cummings, my friend Kenneth Hara, and D1's friend LP).

Welcome to fall!  It finally feels like fall.  There was a definite nip in the air this week, and two fall "benchmarks" happened:  boots and fire.  After a decades-long hiatus, I wore boots again.  I notice that both students and teachers in my area dress much better than where I worked just before this.  Both students and teachers think nothing of donning a pair of boots.  Its nice to see people dressing well.  I'm sure there is no way to connect it to test scores, but for me, it makes me want to dress better and project a more polished appearance.

On Tuesday, I cleared the area around  the fireplace so The Help could make a fire.  I love the smell outside when there is a fire inside.  Nothing screams "fall" louder than a fire in the fireplace!  And we do the "wood" fireplace action, not the "flicking a switch" action.

I was trying to think of something quick to make with chicken...something that also could shoulder the fall theme, but I just ran out of ideas...or perhaps it was my decision to watch back episodes of Criminal Minds and NCIS: Los Angeles which caused a hiccup in my thoughts.  Regardless, I ended up making something which could be a year-round treat:  Parmesan Chicken Wings.

Chicken is always a baffling meal for the Kikukat house.  While The Help and I aren't too picky, the Ds are very particular about anything they eat.  Chicken is no exception.  If given a choice, D2 will suggest "shoyu chicken like the kind Kawamoto's has".  Unfortunately, I don't know how to make the kind Kawamoto's has, and I certainly don't want to buy chicken thighs (Kawamoto shoyu chicken is always thighs...yuck).

D1 gives a bit more rope when it comes to chicken, although she keeps saying she doesn't like chicken.  One thing we can all agree on is wings are the pieces of choice.  We love wings, and wings work well for us.  The Help likes the drummettes, while D1 and I prefer the flats.

Wings are great for just about anything. . .shoyu chicken (obviously not as good, per D2, as the one from Kawamoto Okazuya), fried, Korean, etc.  I'm not really keen on frying anything because The Help hates the mess the oil makes.  Sure, it tastes yummy, and the skin is crackling good, but I need to give The Help a break sometimes.

This is why The Help loves Parmesan Chicken Wings.  In spite of the crunchy coating, the wings are cooked entirely in the oven.  I like that the wings don't need to be flipped.  And since I'm basically a nice person, I cover the pan with aluminum foil to make clean up easier for The Help.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 lbs chicken wings
     1-3 tsp minced fresh parsley
     2 tbsp bread crumbs (dried, like Progresso)
     1 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp pepper
     2 tsp dried oregano
     2 tsp paprika
     3/4 c grated parmesan cheese
     1 block melted butter

Disjoint each chicken wing into 3 pieces:  wing tip, drummette, flat.  Discard wing tips (or save for soup).  In a small bowl, combine all remaining ingredients, except for melted butter.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a shallow pan large enough to hold wing pieces in a single layer.  Dip each chicken piece in melted butter, then generously coat with parmesan cheese mixture.  Place in prepared pan.  Drizzle any remaining butter over chicken pieces.  Bake for 1 hour.

It was another Viking week!!!

The cheerleaders took 3rd place honors in the BIIF Cheerleading competition at the Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii Gym this past Wednesday.  They squeezed past the Warrior (Kamehameha) team with a great performance (and not dropping anyone).  This was the first time since 2005 the Vikings participated in competition.  They worked very hard on stunts, tumbling, and routines.  Kassie Kotake and Audra Paiva, HHS cheer coaches, and the Big Island Cheer Gym did an amazing job with the girls.  Thank you so much!!!

A big congratulations goes out to the Keaau Cougar Cheerleading squad who took 1st place in the BIIF competition.  Uncle Edz beamed proudly from the stands when they nailed their performance.  Those girls were awesome, and we wish them the best at States.

Football season for the Vikings came to an end on Friday evening. . .
The Viking football boys lost a hard-fought battle in the quarterfinals of the HHSAA Division I football tournament against the Campbell High School (Ewa Beach) Sabers.  They scored first and managed to stay even with Campbell for most of the game.  I was amazed at how many Campbell fans paid the airline ransom to support their boys.  As a member of the Viking ohana, I was so proud of our football boys.  Throughout the season, in both victory and defeat, the Viking boys played with their hearts and gave Hilo a renewed sense of football pride.  I can't wait for next season!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cucumber Seaweed Namasu

Now that November is here, it is a reminder that the family party season is just around the corner.  I wonder what short straw I will draw this year.  I wonder what Kikukat Mom will volunteer me to host.  Frick.

For the first 10 years (or so) of my life, the holiday trifecta was split between my moms and my dads families.  Because Kikukat Dad's family really had their shit together, they were able to put on lunch gatherings.  We went to Uncle A's house for Thanksgiving, Aunty C's house for Christmas, and Gramma's house for New Years Day.  For each of those holidays, we'd end up at my grandparents' house (parents of Kikukat Mom) for dinner.

When I was about 10, things changed with Kikukat Dad's family, and suddenly, everyone was put on a rotation.  With the rotation came the dish assignment by the host and the keeping of a tablet to note what people brought each year (so the same people wouldn't get stuck bringing sashimi to every party and the same cheap asses wouldn't get away with bringing roasted turkey hindquarters each year).  I don't know if any of the aunties took notice, but we ended up with the same food at every party:  bbq sticks, fried chicken, sashimi, and potato macaroni salad.  Sure, there was the turkey & trimmings at Thanksgiving, ham at Christmas, and soba at New Years, but, for the most part, it was the same food at every party. BORING.

Now that I sometimes find myself as the host, I try and do a better job.  First of all, I try not to have too many people bring stuff because then I hear a bunch of lame excuses about how they were late because they had to make this-or-that.  And if that's not bad enough, there are those assholes who show up at party time with uncooked food and expect me to cook it (uh, maybe if you showed up 2 fricking hours earlier I might be more inclined to cook the food for you).  And most importantly, some people make food which I don't care for (e.g., Kikukat Mom's potato-spaghetti salad. . .its full of peas, which is on the same level as the devil's condiment).  Why should I ask people to bring food I won't eat!?!  Sure, I know people ask for others to bring certain things, and that pisses me off. . .hello, you are a guest. . .eat what I serve or don't come.  Attending is YOUR choice.

Now that I'm exhausted from my rant, its time to sharpen the claws for the dreaded phone call from Kikukat Mom. . ."can we come to your house for _______.  I'll make all the food."  Uh, yeah, right.  Since when did that ever happen?  I'm still licking my wounds from last New Years.  In spite of someone else "making all the food", I ended up making a whole bunch of stuff AND having rude guests steal beverages from my bar (you know who you are, you idiot---and don't think we didn't see you grab pie with your bare hands).

Alas, I don't think I'll magically grow a pair and be able to hold strong against Kikukat Mom, so I suppose I should just go along from the get-go, instead of fighting every step of the way.  After all, I end up capitulating anyway.  Shit.  And I might as well start thinking of things I can throw together in a hurry. . .just like I did last year.

Cucumber Seaweed Namasu was one of the dishes I made for the endless New Years party.  It was quick to throw together so it didn't take up much of my time.  Because its so colorful, it looked very festive on the holiday (local-style) table. 

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 Japanese cucumbers, sliced thin on the diagonal and then cut in
     1/2 lb ogo or 1 pkg (8 g) dried seaweed "salad"
     1/2 carrot, julienned thinly
     1 kamaboko, sliced into thin strips
     1 can ajitsuke kogai
     6 tbsp sugar
     6 tbsp rice vinegar
     1 tsp salt

If using ogo, pour boiling water over ogo, drain, and rinse under cold water.  Drain well and cut into 2" pieces.  If using dried seaweed "salad", soak in 10 cups of cold water for 10 minutes then drain well.  Combine sugar, rice vinegar and salt in a small jar with a lid.  Shake until sugar and salt are dissolved.  In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, ogo/seaweed, carrot, kamaboko, and ajitsuke kogai.  Pour dressing over and toss gently.  Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Beneath the tropic skies of Hilo. . .

A HUGE shout-out goes to the HHS Viking football team. . .BIIF Division I champs! 

They beat the Kealakehe Waveriders on a wet Saturday evening to claim a berth in the state tournament.  Way to go, boyz!  We are so proud.

                         . . .loyalty and honor shall forever be thine

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cookie Jar: Spooky Pinwheel Cookies

It's almost Halloween!  Yippee!  I love Halloween!  I love the idea that candy will be marked down with a deep discount as soon as Halloween is over.  I can buy my fill of Twix and Three Musketeers!  That's the best part about Halloween.

One tradition we have in Hale o Kikukat is baking cookies during fall intersession.  That didn't happen this year because the Ds and I both took trips during intersession.  Luckily, the Ds stayed with me for the weekend after intersession (Mr. Dependable told me he had to work golf in Kona) so we were able to do our Halloween cookie baking.

D2 wanted to make Hoot Owl Cookies (she has been asking about this for a while), but I didn't think there would be enough for the kids to "help" if we did the owls.  Inspired by Pinterest, I wanted to try making pinwheel cookies.  After checking out a bunch of recipes, I settled on the dough for one of my trusty sugar cookie recipes and just changed the procedure to make the spirals.

If you prefer soft cookies, you can make the rope shorter than 12" before coiling.  But if you are like me and prefer a crunchier cookie, its very important to hold to the 12" length before beginning the coil.  A bunch of the spiral cookie pictures on Pinterest feature thicker cookies.  They look neater than the ones we made, but I'm guessing they weren't crunchy.  Any leftover dough (or if you get tired of rolling the dough into ropes) can be rolled out and cut with cookie cutters.  You can find the procedure and baking times for the cut-out cookies here.

Turned out only D2 helped me with the cookie baking.  D1 recused herself and spent the time in her room.  I'm thinking that was a blessing in disguise.  D2 loves making and decorating cookies, while D1, being a taskmaster, just wants to get things done.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1/2 c butter, softened
     1/2 c sugar
     1 egg
     1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
     2 c flour
     2 tsp baking powder
     food coloring:  yellow, orange, black

Combine flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg and extract and mix well.  Add dry ingredients.  Divide dough into 3 parts.  Tint each part a different color.  Shape colored dough into a flat brick and chill for 30 minutes.  Divide each color of dough into 24 pieces.  Shape each piece into a cylinder 1" long.  Place 2 cylinders of dough next to each other.  Add 3rd cylinder on top.  Roll together to form a 2" cylinder.  Chill for 10 minutes.  Remove 1/4 of cylinders from refrigerator.  Roll into a rope 12" long.  Then twist from one end.  Coil cylinder, taking care to keep center flat.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Chill while preparing remainder of cookies.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Roll edges of cookies in non-pareils.  Bake for 19 minutes.  Place cookies on cooling rack to cool.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Belgian Waffles

This week was a killer week!  I swear I still have jet lag.  The Help thinks I'm crazy to think jet lag can persist for days.  I have not fully recovered from my trip.  I noticed that the students were actually better than teachers as far as not extending vacation.  There are still a few teachers who were still on vacation when school resumed.  Mercifully, this week was s short one for students, as the teachers had their union day on Friday.

I have "attended" every union day since I began teaching.  This will be our first union day in a while, as the union day was taken away from teachers when we had the furloughs.  The union days are pretty much the same.  But this year, being that the day happened so soon after my trip, I sat there and let my mind replay my trip.

I wanted to bring back a cooler of chilled seafood, but that didn't happen.  While strolling through Pike Place Market, I noticed that both City Fish and Pike Place Fish both pack airline-approved coolers guaranteed for 48 hours of freshness.  I wonder when I will break down and order something.  I don't think I ate enough seafood while there (Really, can this ever be possible?  One can never eat enough seafood).

I thought about buying a whole bunch of things.  I saw the cutest cat-art prints (Bad Kitties), but I didn't buy the print I desired because I didn't want the responsibility and worry of making sure it came home in good shape.  There were many stalls displaying beautiful fruit, but I didn't buy any, as I wasn't about to eat fruit in lieu of a meal while in Seattle.  I was intrigued by a chocolate pasta. . .meant to be a dessert pasta.

While I was thinking about food, it occurred to me that while I was away, I never once had a sit-down breakfast with all the trimmings.  Most of my breakfasts were some kind of grab-and-go pastry (Nielsen's potato, almond croissant, Top Pot doughnuts, some disgusting thing called kringler that tasted like the vile condiment).  Suddenly I felt shortchanged.  I remember having fabulous breakfasts when I was a student in Seattle.  Was I so preoccupied with other things that I couldn't take the time to have a sit-down breakfast?  I guess so.

Cafe Kaila Belgian waffle
I'm a bit taken aback because a sit-down breakfast is a luxury of vacation.  When I visit Honolulu, I make it a point to go to Cafe Kaila.  They make the best Belgian waffles.  I've tried Sweet Es and Yogurstory, but after having it at Cafe Kaila, the others pale by comparison.  The waffle at Cafe Kaila is light and crispy.  You can even get it topped with seasonal fruit.  The last time I was there, D1 got it as a "side" with bacon (looked like a pound of crispy bacon).

If you happen to be in Hilo (Tuesdays-Saturdays), stop in at Paul's Place.  Its across Agasa Furniture, near the Hilo Farmer's Market.  Paul's Place features a Belgian waffle which can totally hold its own against Cafe Kaila.  In spite of it being so awesome, I seldom order it because there are other things on the menu that I find irresistible.  The Help always orders it, and getting him to share a bite with me is like taking candy from a baby.

Since the Ds were with me this weekend, I decided to make up for what I missed in Seattle.  . . a good breakfast.  We made waffles! 

A few months ago, The Help upgraded my double Krups Belgian waffle maker to 4-banger by All-Clad.  It was taking too long to cook just 2 waffles at a time.  Since then, we've experimented with a bunch of different waffle batters.  Some required yeast for leavening, while others entailed separating the eggs.  One of the yeast batters produced a waffle which tasted like bread (not surprising).  Both The Help and I found that we preferred waffles made with batters where the eggs were separated.  We also liked a hint of lemon (over vanilla).  The Help and the Ds love to top their waffles with fruits, especially blueberries, but I prefer it unadulterated.

Have you had breakfast yet? 

 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 c flour
     3 tbsp sugar
     2 tsp baking powder
     1/2 tsp salt
     2 eggs, separated
     1 1/4 c milk
     1/3 c vegetable oil
     1/4 tsp lemon extract

In a medium size bowl, sift dry ingredients together.  Beat egg whites until stiff.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, beat egg yolks and milk.  Add egg mixture, vegetable oil, and lemon extract to dry ingredients.  Mix only until moistened.  Fold in egg whites.  Bake in Belgian waffle iron for 5 minutes.