kruizing with kikukat

Monday, September 30, 2013

Crock Pot Food: Beef Stew

Now that there is a definite nip in the air, I'm all psyched to cook hearty, cold weather food.  And there is nothing that screams "hearty" like beef stew.

Before I go on, let me get this off my chest:  I am not a huge fan of beef stew.  I am not kidding.   Yes, I grew up in Hawaii.  Yes, beef stew is served at practically every self-respecting "local" restaurant.  Yes, it was served in my house growing up.  Yet, I am not a big fan.

So why would someone who is clearly not a fan of beef stew be dedicating a precious weekly post to the unofficial most popular home-cooked meal in Hawaii?  Its because the majority of people I share my house with are huge fans.

My dislike for stew goes back years decades.  I remember my mom making it.  I remember my grandma going to the emergency room because she nearly sliced her index finger off while trying to cut out all the fat from pieces of stew meat.  I even remember my older cousin trying to force me to eat a bowl of it, indignantly telling me after the 3rd time I declined, "My mother made it."  I still didn't eat it.

The stew I grew up with was rather thin, and it didn't have much color.  The meat chunks tended to be large and fatty.  The vegetables were huge and it seemed to be more liquid that chunks.  Maybe that explains why stew seemed like it lasted forever, another demerit for stew.  We weren't poor, so it beats the crap outta me why my parents HAD to make a huge pot of stew every time.  Kikukat Mom did not make stew with any tomato base either.  It was "brown" or "natural", as Kikukat Dad once called it.  I can't remember what kind of stew my grandma made...main thing it didn't contain any finger bits! 

When I was living on my own in Honolulu (when I started working), I decided to have another go at stew.  I bought one of those packet mixes and followed the directions.  It was horrible...there was some spice in there that I found irritating.  I even tried some stew special at Zippy's.  It was nasty too.  I decided to avoid making/eating stew.  This worked out okay because Mr. Dependable didn't like stew either!

And then the Ds came along.  Having dinner at my parents' house, they both ate "stool soup" and would come home raving.  Ugh.  I was actually impressed at how fitting the term "stool soup" was for it because that's what I was thinking for years.  And one day, the unthinkable happened.  Someone bought me dinner from Cafe 100. . .and it was beef stew!!!  I can't remember the exact situation, but I was forced to eat it, and thats when things began to look a little brighter.

Cafe 100 beef stew has a tomato base.  Eating it, I realized that stew tastes pretty decent when eaten with a scoop of potato salad.  I also noticed that there were pieces of meat and vegetables enrobed in a hearty sauce (not thin and watery).  Turned out that the Ds weren't picky...they loved tomato-based stew too.

Since then, I've actually gone back to making and (sometimes) eating beef stew.  I've even made it for parties, as I've come to realize that some of my uncles love beef stew (one of them goes there weekly to get it).  I've made it in a pressure cooker for a quick meal (must have a fat separator), and most recently, I made it in the crock pot.  The crock pot method works best if you have enough forethought to make it a day before you plan to eat it.  Chilling the mixture before reheating the next day will allow you to remove the hardened fat.  The best part about crock pot stew is that the meat does not require browning prior to cooking.

My parents still make the same stew I grew up eating, and I still decline (politely) when they offer some to me.  But now, I make my own stew and offer it to them (and they always accept).  The Ds both boldly proclaim "grandma makes the best stew".  I suppose I should prepare myself for the day one of the Ds offers me some"natural" stew.  Blecchhhhh.

What kind of stew did you grow up eating?
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 lbs beef stew meat
     1 large onion, diced
     1 c celery, sliced
     2 large carrots, cut in 1" chunks
     4 potatoes, cut in 1 1/2" chunks
     3 tbsp minute tapioca
     1 tbsp sugar
     2 1/2 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp pepper
     1 can tomato soup combined with 2 c water

In a 5 quart crock pot, layer ingredients in the above order.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Refrigerate overnight.  Spoon off hardened fat.  Reheat on high for 2 hours, stirring after 20 minutes.

Way to go, Vikings!

First football victory (that I know of. . .and I will be the first to admit I don't know a whole lot about high school football) over the Kealakehe Waveriders!  The final score of this defensive brawl . . . 6-3.
And what great timing. . .Homecoming!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Feels Like Fall II: Apple Cheese Crisp

This is typical autumn scenery in Connecticut.
This past week I could really tell the weather was changing.  Its been getting dark earlier too.  I learned to love fall when I was in Seattle, and I fell in love all over again when I visited Connecticut.   I associate autumn with all sorts of feel-good things. . . halloween candy, football, pumpkin pie, apples, colored leaves, spiced cider.  If you are in Hilo, fall is also the time of the year for the Hawaii County Fair.  This is when Hiloans know it is guaranteed to rain.

There are no fall "colors" in Hawaii, but the stores are already full of halloween candy and supplies.  Kona Costco had a bunch of sweat-producing costumes.  Spookier still is the fact that Costco even had some Christmas things on display. . .wired ribbon, wrapping paper, lights, tags, and gift sets.  I went to Target this week, and I couldn't resist buying some fall-colored sprinkles (for cupcakes) and a few bags of "halloween candy", knowing full well the halloween candy wouldn't last past the end of the week.  I think they must put something in halloween candy to make it taste even better.  I swear the full size bar of Three Musketeers doesn't taste as good as a dozen of those mini ones eaten in one sitting.

One thing I have busied myself with has been football.  High school football.  The season seems a tad longer than it was last year, and being able to put forth a decent team makes the games very entertaining.  The Help has been doing some photo work for the coach.  He has taken some really cool action shots of the players.  I go to the game to cheer for my students and keep an eye on D1.  My favorite part is when the players gather at the end of the game to sing the alma mater.  Its always chicken skin.

This past weekend, I accompanied The Help to the game.  He thought it would be a good idea for me to accompany him onto the field and carry his other camera body.  I had a different idea.  I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to watch the game from a normal vantage point.  For those of you not familiar with Hilo, high school football home games of East Hawaii high schools are played at Wong Stadium, which is actually a baseball stadium.  This means that the football game is played in the outfield and part of the infield portions of the diamond.  Watching the game sucks because you are so far away.  Watching the game from a proper stadium was great, but I came home  soaking wet.  The sky opened up in the middle of the 4th quarter and didn't stop until after the game ended.  East Hawaii is one of the wettest areas in the entire state. . .why the heck is there no COVERED football stadium? 

While I was at the game, I realized that the weather really is beginning to cool down.  For the first time in months, I felt like eating something warm, like a big bowl of Portuguese Bean Soup.  My late friend Colleen made a great bowl of bean soup.  Its not exactly like the version The Help makes, but it is hearty and good.  I haven't eaten it in years, and thinking about Colleen and her life made me sad.  I worked with Colleen in the mid 90s.  She left the teaching profession and did a bunch of odd jobs.  I remember her with lots of fondness, and whenever she'd invite me and Mr. Dependable over for bean soup, she often made this kick ass apple crisp for dessert.

What set Colleen's apple crisp apart from all others was the addition of cheese in the topping.  Having bits of savory goodness just makes the sweet flavors burst even more.  Colleen took the time to cut in the butter with a pastry blender, but I'm lazy.  I found that the fastest way to make this dessert is to use a food processor.   Make the topping first and keep it chilled.  Use a 6 mm slicing disc to slice the apples.  I changed Colleen's recipe and used minute tapioca for part of the cornstarch.  I like the way tapioca thickens a filling. . .thanks for the tip, AJanice.  And whatever you do, do not be tempted to add a shortbread crust base to this dessert.  You will end up with a soggy bottom.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Topping:      2 c flour
                    2 c sugar
                    1 block + 2 tbsp butter
                    8 oz grated cheddar cheese

Combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter to form a crumbly mixture.  Stir in grated cheese.  Refrigerate while preparing filling. 

Filling:        6-8 apples, peeled, cored & sliced ¼” thick
                   1 tbsp lemon juice
                   2 tsp cinnamon
                   ¼ c sugar
                   1 tbsp cornstarch
                   2 tbsp minute tapioca (may substitute and equal amount of cornstarch)

Combine all ingredients and arrange evenly in a greased 9 x 13” pan.  Sprinkle topping over apples.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.

If you prefer, the above filling can be substituted with 2 cans of sliced apples or apple pie filling.

On Thursday, we celebrated Kikukat Mom's birthday with a nice dinner at Imiloa Sky Garden.  I had been ono for crab, and I knew they boast crab legs in their buffet spread.  Of course I brought my own mayonnaise and Joyce Chen scissors.  I think Kikukat Dad was impressed with my forethought in planning.  He was amazed at how much easier it is to get the meat out of crab with kitchen shears.

Its rare when a crab dinner gets overshadowed, but I think thats just what happened last week.  On Monday, Kikukat Mom & Kikukat Dad (with D2 in tow) brought home their newly-adopted children from the Hawaii Island Humane Society in Keaau.  They actually went last Saturday, thinking they were going to adopt ONE kitten.  Somehow, they ended up with TWO.  FYI, two kittens can be adopted for the price of one, and senior citizens get an additional discount.  They thought they'd be able to bring the cuties home then, but they were told to return on Monday to get the boys (they were "fixed" on Monday).

Oreo and Mickey seem to be adjusting well to life in the Waiakea Uka manor.  After a few days of being confined to a safe area to establish litterbox norms, the boys are now exploring the house, climbing on furniture and napping on the sofa.  And should the Humane Society check up, the Ds can reassure them that Oreo and Mickey (aka Rider and Chris, respectively) are not being abused.  In fact, Kikukat Dad wants then to remain indoors until they are larger.  He said he doesn't want other cats to pick on them.  The only toxic element they have encountered thus far has been Kikukat Dad's everyday profanity.

On a disappointing note, I wrote my first disciplinary referral on a student last week.  He would not keep his mouth shut so I told him to stay after class.  When the bell rang, in spite of me and his skills trainer telling him to stay put, he bolted and said, "fuck you!  I don't need this fucking class!".  As he left, he slapped an old metal cabinet and pushed past other students in the hallway.  I wouldn't tolerate my own children speaking like that to me, and I'm certainly not going to tolerate it from him.  Needless to say, it was a rum & diet Coke weekend for me!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Toaster Oven Food: Roast Chicken Breasts

This week was a crazy week at work.  We had our Open House, and I got to meet a handful of parents.  I had a record turnout this year. . .4!  Not kidding.  I'm good with it because the 4 parents who showed came at different times so I got to spend some time with each of them, telling them how their child was doing in my class.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to speak to one of the parents because she was ready to come at me about why her son was failing his vocabulary tests.  She told me that he is the type where if he writes the definition, he can remember it.  Her jaw dropped when I told her he does that every other Monday.  I explained further that we do other activities between the definitions and the test so its not like I'm expecting them to just know these words.  So now its her turn to give me an excuse why he doesn't do well, since I obviously already do what she was going to suggest.

The other three parents who showed up were really nice, and they were pleased with things.  Of course, their kids are always polite and on-task.

Along with Open House, I had a student meeting and a football game this week.  The student meeting went well.  Its always nice to see former students who thank you for teaching them when they were in school.  This is also a back-handed slap, as it means you've been at it long enough to be teaching another generation.  The football game also went favorably.  Nice to see the boys doing well.  All their hard work is paying off.  Kudos to the head coach and assistant coaches for putting in all the time with the boys. 

Because Mr. Dependable went out of town this weekend, I had the Ds for the whole weekend, which meant all the chauffeuring.  D1 went to the movies on Friday evening.  On Saturday she had a class work session, cheer practice, and the football game. 

With Open House and all the preparation, the student meeting, work sessions, cheer practice and the football game, you would think my week was rather full.  Add on a scavenger hunt around town to locate bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, and you've entered into a whole different dimension.

Is there some kind of chicken shortage in Hilo?  I went to multiple supermarkets looking for bone-in, skin-on half-breasts, and in all my trouble, I managed to find just 1 regular-size package of organic ones.  That's it.  I don't understand it.  There were trays and trays of thighs (bone-in, boneless/skinless, organic, hormone-raised, etc.), which I detest (dark meat = blecchhhhhh).  I didn't want to buy wings because I just made those last week. 

I was disappointed, but I still needed to eat so I made a half recipe of roast chicken.  And yes, I did it in my trusty toaster oven.  Since I installed pv in late 2012, I've been trying to be conscious about electricity usage.  When I didn't have pv, I used electricity without even thinking about conservation.  True, I have some things which suck the lifeblood out of my electricity generation (fish pond, doggie pond, and auto kitty drinking fountain, etc.), but other than those necessities, I do try to conserve when I can.  Roast chicken is so versatile.  I love making chicken salad mix from the leftovers.  I've also added chopped chicken into a wild rice salad.  The possibilities are endless.  Please don't be tempted to skip the step of smearing the herb butter mixture under the skin.  It totally pumps up the flavor.  Because I have it in my garden, I usually use thyme, tarragon and rosemary for the herb butter mix.  And when I'm lucky enough to find bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, I buy four because four fits nicely in my toaster oven pan.  Crap!  I should have looked for chicken in Costco!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     4 bone-in chicken breast halves
     3 tbsp butter, softened
     1/2 tsp salt + additional for sprinkling
     1/4 tsp pepper
     1 tbsp assorted herbs, minced
     1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine butter, salt, pepper, and herbs.  Set aside.  Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  Spread herb butter over chicken and under the skin.  Place skin-side up in a shallow pan.  Sprinkle with salt and drizzle olive oil over chicken.  Roast for 25 minutes.  Flip chicken pieces over (skin-side down) and roast for 20 minutes.  Flip chicken pieces over again (skin-side up) and roast for 15 minutes.  Remove chicken to a serving platter. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bread Machine Rolls

"The best thing about a long weekend is a short work week."
                             -Kikukat's ex-boyfriend

Yup, yup, yup, even if the guy bugs me, he's right.  And thanks to Labor Day, this past week was indeed a short week (in time only).

A short work week means I have one less day to fret over what I'm bringing for lunch.  And fret I do.  I stress over what I'm going to bring as well as what D1 will eat.  Luckily, for at least one day each week (and its in the middle of the week so holidays don't usually affect it), I have Local Kine Errands deliver lunch for me.  Its always the same lunch...small salmon bento (the one without the meatball) from Puka Puka Kitchen.  I think I might try the large salmon bento next.  The small doesn't have too much salmon in it.

D1 normally brings some kind of sandwich with a whole deli counter of meat packed in.  Earlier in the school year, I offered to make her a wrap.  She came to my room that day and asked what I used to "spread" the meat.  From that day on, she has insisted (snicker, snicker) that she make her own sandwich/wrap.  The only thing I do is wash her lettuce when I wash mine.  I gladly dole out the $ for the cold cut supply because this takes a load off of me in the morning.  The Help says we are keeping the Safeway and KTA deli counters in business just with our dry salami and honey ham purchases.  Maybe we try roast beef next.

Frankly, I'm really not a sandwich person.  What I really enjoy is bringing some kind of soup for lunch, and this past week, I actually did just that.  The Help made a big pot of bean soup, which he shared with his parents.  I brought a bowl of it for lunch, and I was able to bring a bowl of it for one of the bosses who did me a huge favor.  In addition to the bean soup, I also packed fresh apple cake and some rolls.

The apple cake is the same one featured on my blog about a year ago.  It is often pinned on Pinterest, and people who try it always tell me how good it is.  This week, at the suggestion of some readers, I frosted it with a lemon cream cheese frosting, and it was really good.  I will eventually get around to posting that recipe.

The rolls...the rolls...where do I begin?  First of all, this is the only recipe you need to justify purchasing a bread machine.  Seriously.  Everyone here, including picky, picky D2, loves these rolls. 

It has taken me a while to develop this recipe just the way I like it.  I modified a recipe which came with the bread machine manual of my original bread machine.  The original recipe was not sweet at all.  I tried adding sugar, as much as 1/2 cup, to see how sweet I could get these.  At 1/2 cup of sugar, the rolls were too difficult to shape.  Cutting the sugar back to 1/3 cup gave me the sweetness I wanted with the ease of shaping that I needed (I am not Portuguese. . .shaping bread is NOT in my blood, but I can wrap a mean potsticker!).

And I have made these rolls into all kinds of shapes.  Because the original recipe gave instructions for making 15 rolls, for a while, I stuck to that and made 15 (like you see in the small picture below).  I made them in a shallow rimmed pan (large cookie sheet) and placed them kinda close so they'd touch when they rose.  They baked up really nice, and they spread a little.  These were good for making sandwiches.

Then I got a little wiser and realized that its hard to divide the dough into thirds then into  5 pieces, so I bought a large square pan (ordered from Amazon. . . around 11" x 11" or so) and made 16 rolls (4 x 4) in the square pan.  These are the rolls you see in the other pictures.  They spread less and are just slightly smaller than the ones made in the flat pan.  If you don't have a large square pan, dividing the dough into 15 pieces and placing them in a 9 x 13" pan will also give you the same result as the square pan.  I have divided the dough into 8 pieces, made them elongated and used these for hoagie-like sandwich rolls.  I haven't done it yet, but if you divide the dough into 10 or 12 pieces and shape them into ropes, those could be hot dog buns!

Normally, I dip the rolls in melted butter after I shape them, but I tried brushing them with water and sprinkling some fancy lavender salt on top.  This is fine if you plan to eat the rolls on the same day.  But after the first day, the salt melted and left the tops wet.  I will stick to the butter dip.

While I made these rolls to go with the bean soup, the Ds jumped in and helped themselves.  They always do, and they will readily partake in the rolls, no matter the shape.  They will each grab a roll (or half a roll if I make them like hoagie rolls) as they leave the house in the morning and eat it plain.  Sometimes they will stuff the roll with cold cuts (D1), shredded Costco roast chicken (D2), or salami (both).  And you can be sure that when D1 stuffs her roll, it is packed with a layer of meat nearly as thick as both bread layers combined!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 c milk
     1 egg
     2 tbsp butter, cut in pieces
     3 1/4 c bread flour
     1/3 c sugar
     1 tsp salt
     3 tsp yeast
     1-2 tsp melted butter

Place first seven ingredients in pan of bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.  Set machine to dough cycle.  When dough cycle is complete, remove dough to floured surface and let rest 5 minutes.  Generously grease a 9 x 13" pan (low sides, preferable). Divide into 15 balls, somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a racketball.  Dip one side of ball into melted butter, invert and place in 3 x 5 pattern in prepared pan.  Let rise 30-40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake rolls for 15 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hey Six Sisters! Parmesan Honey Pork Roast

I need to start really cooking again.  I've really been lazy since returning from my Honolulu trip in mid-July.  I've hidden behind work as an excuse. . .not too hard since this is an arguably new experience for me. . .but even I get tired of eating out (or picking up) all the time.

In all fairness, my new job is not totally new.  I worked here a decade-and-a-half ago.  Some of the people are the same, and the campus is definitely still the same, but there are many things which have changed in my absence.  I have been sweating over some new things like the stupid rotating bell schedule.  This rotating schedule is just outrageous to keep track of, and if 6th and 7th periods are always at the end of the day, by the time the kids get to you, they are wiped out.  Then the Friday schedule has a life of its own too.  Some days the schedule lists even periods, and other times, it lists odd periods.  It is a record-keeping nightmare.

And I think its safe to say "the honeymoon is over".  This past week was totally trying.  Between D2 having tons of homework and D1 having a meltdown because a teacher misplaced her work, I just had it.  I was trying my best to help both of them, and I certainly didn't feel very appreciated.  I have also kept my tongue majorly in check with some of the adults on campus.  One guy was a totally rude asshole, and it makes me wonder how he is supposed to be helping kids with a stinking disposition like that.  Speaking to him for 5 minutes sent off so many red flags which, I'm sure, kids can pick up on too.  Many of the adults at my school don't know how good they have it.  The teachers in the district I worked in last year would kill to have such cushy jobs.

Because I've been so busy with work, I've been neglecting my personal technology time at home.  Candy Crush Saga must miss me, and I'm sure Pinterest misses me too.  I need to get back in form again since I haven't pinned things in a long time.

One of my earliest pins on Pinterest was Six Sisters' Stuff:  Slow Cooker Parmesan Honey Pork Roast.  I finally got around to trying it, and I must say that it was one of the best crock pot pork dishes I have ever had.  Unfortunately, due to my own ineptitude, I ended up having to slightly alter the recipe.  I've linked to the original recipe on their site, but the recipe I ended up using is at the end of this post.

For you locals, this tastes like a savory version of the shoyu pork your Japanese grandma made (or what I imagine the shoyu pork of a Japanese grandma would taste like. . .I wouldn't know because mine didn't make).  Okay, okay...its similar to the shoyu pork in the okazuya case at Kawamoto but not so dried out.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3-4 lb boneless pork roast (I used shoulder)
     1/2 c honey
     3 tbsp shoyu
     1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
     1 tbsp vegetable oil
     1 clove garlic, minced
     2/3 c grated parmesan cheese
     5 fresh basil leaves
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     1/4 c water

Spray crock pot with cooking spray.  Place pork roast in crock pot.  Combine honey, shoyu, oils, parmesan cheese, and garlic.  Pour over pork.  Scatter basil leaves.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Remove roast to serving platter.  Pour liquid (use fat separator to remove as much fat as possible) into a saucepan.  Heat til boiling.  Combine cornstarch and water.  Whisk into saucepan, stirring until thickened.  Serve with pork (sliced or pulled).

On Saturday, an ER nurse left an anonymous comment on my blog, which was extremely nasty and insulting towards teachers.  Essentially, this person felt the need to accuse me of going into education for June, July & August (summer vacation).  This person continued his/her assault by saying teachers have the nerve to grumble about parents not participating in their child(ren)'s education because some of them work and have important jobs.  This person made it clear that the job of an ER nurse is more important that any job in education because they save lives.  This was the first and only comment I ever deleted without publishing.

An ER nurse is indeed someone who must be highly skilled, very intelligent, and have the ability to remain calm under intense conditions.  I think nursing is one of the most demanding fields, and I admire and respect anyone who works in a health care field.  Yes, you save lives and you help make the quality of our lives so much better.  However, one cannot become an ER nurse (or any other nurse or doctor. . .even in Grenada!) without somehow having benefitted from the work teachers do.  Someone had to teach them how to read and write!  Obviously, this particular ER nurse never learned manners, for if he/she had mastery of manners and a sense of common courtesy, he/she would never have made that comment.  It was downright rude, and to give you an idea of how dumb it was, it can be equated with saying something so idiotic like "those who go into nursing just wanna screw a doctor".  Yes, that's just fucking ridiculous...people go into nursing for the same reason people go into education. . .to help others, to make a difference in people's lives.  Like health care professionals who get upset with parents when their juvenile diabetic patients gorge on sugar, educators get upset with parents when their students don't study at home.  Jeezzzzz!  If you are so bothered by what I write, please refrain from reading my blog.  

Comments on my posts are welcome, especially those comments which offer unique recipe hints and tips.  I love those!  I am also open to publishing opinions which differ from my own, as not everyone has the time to create a blog of their own and just want to offer a different perspective.  Fine.  But I will not publish toxic, venomous comments, as nobody is being forced to read my blog.