kruizing with kikukat

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ribbies are not for Rottweilers: Baby Back Ribs or Spareribs

Last week was supposed to be a short work week, but it felt like forever. It felt like an endless sea of meetings.  AND, I even went to work on Friday evening and Saturday! 

I'm still trying to recover from my cold, and I'm using that as an excuse for why I haven't made gao yet.  D1 tells me that some people at her school are eagerly awaiting their share. . .3 adults and a student.  I know, I know.  I need to get off my lazy ass and make some gao.  I already got the wong tong!

Actually, I did have a pretty good reason for postponing the gao making.  I was diagnosed with pink eye on Wednesday.  I've been on the drops a few days, so I'm no longer contagious.  Maybe next weekend.  Oops, no, not next weekend.  I need to work again.  Hopefully I will make gao before the year of the horse begins!

I was supposed to go to see Dr. KO this month, but because of my schedule, I postponed the visit to the beginning of march.  Off-hand, I know I've been pretty good this time.  Prior to getting sick, I was doing a fair amount of walking daily, and I was back to the oatmeal-for-breakfast gig.  I even stayed away from the Foodland deli fried chicken.  I think its the impending medical appointment that has me on this cholesterol kick (which began last week Thursday, at 5:40 am, after my fasting blood test).  I placed an order for a bag of smoked meat, ordered a smoked meat & onions plate lunch (with potato macaroni salad) and I even managed to make a huge pot of ashitibichi (Okinawan pig trotters soup).  Brucie, you there?  Have I lost you?

Anyway, since I'm on a cholesterol kick, why quit now?  Actually, this week's post is not so much about a recipe or ingredients as it is about a technique. . .a technique which has never failed me in two decades.  My family loves ribs, especially baby backs.  We've ordered it in restaurants and have been disappointed when the ribs were not cooked properly.  It just bugs the shit outta me when the meat is stuck fast to the bone and only a rottweiler could gnaw it off.  Ugh!  Ribs which are cooked right have meat which falls off the bone with the slightest tug.  "Rawhide" and "leather" should not be words which com to mind when eating ribs!

click on recipe title for link to printable recipe

     1 rack of ribs
     2" piece of ginger, smashed
     1 c barbecue sauce

Place ribs in a stock pot with enough water to cover ribs.  Add ginger.  Poach ribs in water for 1 hour (not necessary for water to be boiling the entire time).  Discard water and ginger.  Place ribs in a flat pan.  Brush ribs all over with barbecue sauce.  Reserve leftover sauce.  Cover pan with foil.  Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour.  Cut ribs into 2-3 rib segments.  Grill rib segments, basting generously with remaining barbecue sauce.

My cholesterol kick extended way beyond just my eating habits. Finding out a while after it happened, one of my email accounts spent two days sending out spam to my contactsUnfortunately, no rice went out, so there was no Spammabi opportunity.  I re-did my account, so I'm hoping this embarrassing episode is behind me.  Most of the spam (that I'm aware of) was an advertisement for raspberry weight loss pills.  Interestingly, one of the recipients thanked me for the suggestion and said she was going to order some because her clothes are tight.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kalua Pig in a Crock Pot from Allrecipes

Happy Presidents Day!  I love a 3-day weekend.  Actually, this was a 5-day weekend for me because I fell ill for a few days last week.  From the office mongers gossip, I missed some action at the work place.  Actually, I'm glad I missed the action, but I wasn't having a picnic either.  What began as the "cold nose syndrome" morphed into sore throat/runny nose/stuffy nose.  Yuck.  Thanks to Nyquil, I slept right through Valentines Day. 

Well, now that's not entirely true.  Mr. Dependable texted on Valentines Day, asking if I already owned a Garmin.  I texted back that I already owned one so he didn't need to get one for me but thanks anyway.  He responded with, "no, I wasn't gonna get you one.  I want to borrow yours."  This convo proves I didn't sleep through Valentines Day.  Kalamai.  Mea culpa.  Sumimasen.

Right now is the dead of winter where I am.  Yes, I am in Hawaii, but what many people don't realize is that parts of Hawaii get cold during the winter.  The high altitude areas can get down into the 30s during the winter (at night or early morning).  This is hardly BBQ weather!

Traditional Hawaiian-style barbecue entails digging an imu (pit) in the yard for the long, slow and smoky cooking of foods.  This is our version of the famed barbecue pits in the southern parts of the United States.

Practically any meat or starch can be cooked in an imu, but while beef brisket may be king in Texas (go ask the dudes at the Salt Lick), pork reigns supreme in Hawaii.  Meats cooked in an imu are normally referred to as "kalua".

Kalua pig is standard fare at any luau.  Once the meat comes out of the imu, it is shredded (pulled. . .to you mainlanders) and salted.  No self-respecting luau is complete without kalua pig.  Kalua pig can be served with rice or poi.  In an effort to be cost-conscious or health-conscious, it can be sauteed with cabbage chunks (known locally as kalua pig and cabbage).  I have also used it to stuff steamed buns (scroll way below to see a picture).  Its great as an enchilada filling too.  Some local families will cook a turkey in the imu for Thanksgiving.  Kalua turkey is used the same way as kalua pig.

Most people don't have the time nor gumption to go digging a hole in the backyard.  And some people don't have a backyard either.  I get that.  For usual smoking, I use a charcoal kamado, but its a lot of work to get the charcoal going and maintain the temperature all day, which is how long it would take to cook a chunk of pig.  I'll do it for special occasions, but not for a weeknight meal.  And if I'm going to put in that much effort, I would make sure I cooked a massive amount for freezing or giving away.

For normal home consumption, the best way to replicate the taste of kalua pig, even in the dead of winter, is with a crock pot (it could be made in the oven, but my thinking is that a crock pot uses less electricity than an oven).  Back in the beginning of the new millennium, I posted a recipe on  I didn't realize what a hit it would become.  It even found its way into the cookbook (no, I didn't buy the cookbook).   When I last checked the allrecipes site, there were over 30 pictures of this dish.  Click here for a link to the recipe on the site.

The picture to the left is one way that I like to serve kalua pig:  a handful of it on steamed bread with a barbecue sauce smear.  The recipes for steamed bread and my favorite bbq sauce will be upcoming features on this blog, so please check back soon.  Right now I need to look for my Garmin to hand off to Mr. Dependable.

In an attempt to join the ranks of the living/walking, I ventured out of the house this past weekend to get the talons sharpened.  While I was with Tiffany, The Help was up to no good.  By the time I was done, he had a burning desire to go to Costco to acquire a new camera body for his collection.  He insisted he HAD to own it, giving excuses about how its meant for action shots, how he might need it for taking sports actions photos soon, etc.  Appealing to the pake, he spoke of what a great deal he'd be getting by buying the Costco kit.  Deciding to indulge him (he also dangled a sushi dinner in front of me), I agreed to accompany him on the 2 hour drive.  I came back with a box of daytime/nighttime cold medicine and this picture.  I snapped it in a parking lot.  It left me speechless.

If any of you are contemplating a manual-transmission vehicle (but perhaps may not be a confident stick shift operator), you may want to consider a recent model year BMW.  They are equipped with a hill assist function, which would eliminate the rear end advertising.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cookie Jar: Almond Cookies

Kung Hee Fat Choy!  Its the year of the Water Snake!  I need to find out what this year holds for me (and those born in my year).  I hope the forecast is for a great year.  I could sure use one (or more) of those!

Last week Friday, I snuck away to Honolulu for a quick overnight trip...mixing business with fun.  I made my usual stops and got to eat stuff not readily available in Hilo.  I bought back several kilos of wong tong and two Vosges Chocolate Mo's Bacon Bars.  

The trip to Honolulu came a little too late for gao making.  I had a meeting on Monday, and I was going to spend last weekend making gao for the meeting and for my gao-eating friends.  Kilauea Market was sold out of wong tong, likely because many of the newer Chinese restaurants in Hilo sell gao and jai.  No wong tong in the Hilo stores meant I had to shelve/postpone my gao-making.  Click here for my gao post from last year.

As a consolation, I made almond cookies.  It wasn't gao, but I had all the ingredients on hand.  Along with putting me in a festive mood, almond cookies allowed me to take a trip down memory lane.

The almond cookies I remember making at home ALWAYS had the red dot.  I know it did because the red dot was MY job.  My index finger (well-washed) was the perfect size for the red dot, and back then, a food coloring-stained finger wasn't a problem. . .lotsa food back then produced red fingers (shredded mango, pickled mango, red pistachio nuts).  When I got older, I used the handle of a spoon or the fat end of a chopstick to make the dot.  And then I progressed to making the almond cookies all by myself.

Commercially-available almond cookies do not always have the red dot.  Large tubs of almond cookies sold at warehouse stores do not have the red dot.  Some of them have an almond in the center.  Overall, those cookies are hopelessly tasteless.  Cookies which sometimes come free after a Chinese meal are usually a solid yellow color (at least at the local Chinese restaurants).  They also fall somewhere on the tasteless scale.  I'm old enough to remember the days when they had both taste and a red dot.  I am probably biased, but I think the red dot makes the cookies taste better.

Please don't dismiss this recipe due to the absence of butter.  I love butter, but this is one of those cookies where plain, solid Crisco does fine.  If you are a butter purist, then go ahead and use butter for a portion (less than half) of the shortening, but my preference is to use only shortening.  These cookies are not snapping-crisp, but they are not soft/soggy.  They have a melt-in your mouth quality and a nice almond flavor. . .perfect alongside a cup of tea.  Jasmine would be my preference.  And a warning to those of you who exercise moderation:  its practically impossible to eat just one.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 1/3 c shortening
     1 c sugar
     3 c flour
     1 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp salt
     1 egg
     1 tsp almond extract
     red food coloring

Cream shortening and sugar.  Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Set aside.  Beat egg.  Add almond extract.  Add to shortening and sugar.  Add combined dry ingredients.  Roll/scoop into 1" balls and place 2" apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.  Flatten slightly.  Make indentation in center.  Touch indentation with red food coloring.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes (15 minutes for Airbake sheets).  Makes about 56 cookies if using a #50 disher.

Someone on another web forum asked me about the kikukat blog model.  She is a blue bi-color ragdoll cat.  She was born in the spring of 2007.  Her mom is Sadie, another gorgeous blue bi-color.  Her dad, Shaunbie FancyPants, hails from Manchester, England.  He is a mitted seal point ragdoll. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sesame Chicken Pasta Spinach Salad

I played tennis when I was in high school.  While I was good enough to make the team and get regular playing time, I was not good enough (not good enough=too lazy) to continue competitive tennis in college.  There were tennis courts near my dorm, but I think I never went to hit more than twice (okay, once).  There was a cute guy in the dorm next door who was a paraplegic as a result of an MVA.  He competed in wheelchair athletic events and always suggested we challenge.  Uh, no. . .cute or not, I always politely declined.  Ask me to dinner, not a tennis match, you moron!

My tennis hobby remained dormant for over a decade before I decided to play again.  By that time, racket engineering had come a long way so the racket I played with in high school was a total relic.  Yes, I seized the opportunity to buy a new racket.  I had to.  I was too embarrassed to be seen with my Pro Kennex Silver Ace.  Okay, anyway, back to my tennis story. . .

When I finally decided to play tennis again, I got rated (USTA) and joined a team for the HTL (Honolulu Tennis League) season to warm up for USTA season.  We had so much fun, we continued playing together for the USTA season.  What I liked about playing league tennis on Oahu was the orderliness of matches.  You show up to the site, play your match, then leave.  Our team got together at the end of the season for a potluck.  That was it.  Being fairly antisocial (group gatherings are really not my thing), this pattern was a good fit for me.  I liked that I could play a morning match and then meet friends for lunch.  In other words, my whole day wasn't taken up with tennis.

When I moved to Hilo, things were so different.  You show up to the site, play your match, have a potluck, and then hang out until dark at the courts.  The Hilo tennis day was indeed a full day long!  I never enjoyed that part of league tennis, which was just another reason why it was so easy to stop playing.  Of course, Hilo being Hilo, standard tennis equipment also included a squeegee.  One would expect, in a town known for rain, there would be ample covered tennis courts in order to provide a venue independent of the weather.  There are 3 (three, in case numbers aren't your thing) public covered tennis courts in Hilo.  There may be a few private covered tennis courts, but they are certainly not available for public play.

But not every aspect of the Hilo tennis scene was a bad experience.  At one of the after-league match potlucks, someone from another team (yes, you had to put on a smiley face even after they whooped yo' ass on the court/made bad calls/argued with you about the score) brought this fabulous salad to share. 

I used to make this salad quite often, but I noticed I had a real gritty feel in my mouth after eating all that spinach, so I stopped making this and forgot about the recipe.  But last school year, D1 would come home and rave about her friend Casey making the best chicken pasta salad.  I decided to try this recipe again, using baby spinach instead of regular spinach leaves.  The baby spinach leaves didn't leave my mouth as gritty.  And the kicker. . .D1 said the salad was good!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3/4 - 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
     6 oz curly pasta
     2 tbsp parsley
     1/4 c green onion, chopped
     6 oz (around 6 c) baby spinach leaves
     1/2 c vegetable oil
     1 tsp sesame oil
     1/3 c shoyu
     1/3 c rice vinegar
     3 tbsp sugar
     1/4 c sesame seeds
     1/4 tsp pepper
     1/2 tsp grated ginger

Boil chicken for 10-15 minutes.  Shred into strips.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  drain well.  Combine vegetable oil, sesame oil, shoyu, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame seeds, pepper, and grated ginger.  Toss with chicken and pasta.  Add spinach, parsley, and green onions just before serving.

Upon the advice of coworkers, I took a few minutes to acquaint myself with a TLC show called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  My coworkers felt the family resembled a common acquaintance we have.  While they were right on the money, I was only able to watch 25 minutes of it before straying.  It was awful.  Talk about lepo!