kruizing with kikukat

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.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Only from Hilo: Butt Laulau

Mauna Kea sunset
Whenever I travel, which is hardly ever, I am always glad to return home.  As most people know, I hate flying, and I hate everything about it. . .the getting to the airport, the checking in, the waiting, and the air time.  I HATE IT ALL!!!  I'm not sure about everyone else, but I've been on the plane with a shitload of idiots.  On my return flight, there was a guy who spent more time digging in the overhead bin instead of sitting in his seat.  Then there was the old lady who kept walking in the aisles (all while the plane was still loading) and screwing up other passengers, as she invariably stood in someone else's seat.  There was also a handful of people who tried to cram a carry-on roller suitcase into the overhead bin when it clearly wouldn't fit (or fits only one way and they spent 5 minutes trying to MAKE it fit the wrong way).  Some dude a few rows in front of me opened the overhead bin above him and left it open til someone else came by and closed it.  What a dumbass.  And don't even get me started on airplane food. . .

Anyway, Seattle/Victoria was fun, and I'm waiting for The Help to "process" the pics so I can get my grubby, seafood-smelling fingers on them.  I must've eaten at least 2 dozen oysters while there. . .raw, smoked, cooked.  I love oysters, and I can't imagine why I don't eat them more often at home.

The Ds return from their vacation this evening.  Mr. Dependable doesn't think much of public education, and to him, its not a big deal that his kids miss school.  He refused to pay the ransom to change their return flight.  His traveling partner, who at first seemed concerned about the kids missing the first day of school back from fall break, took the low road and didn't make a big deal out of it, especially since her child didn't go with them and, thus, wouldn't miss any school. 

Since returning home, The Help and I have been gorging on white rice and "local" food.  Neither of us had rice on the trip (no, I'm not counting paella and risotto), so we were both jonesing for it.  With just the two of us, its easy to pick up food, but with the imminent return of the Ds, I'm feeling like they will be grateful for some "local" food.

If you grew up in Hilo, you know that FF's Oven Ready Butt (brined/seasoned pork butt/shoulder) is TRUE Hilo food.  Its the moonyagi (omiyage) people from Hilo take to friends and relatives on neighbor islands.  It is also what other islanders bring home for family/friends when visiting Hilo.  Now, thanks to KTA, FF is not the only show in town for Oven Ready Butt.  Mountain Apple brand makes their own, and it is usually a little cheaper than FF.  I can't tell the difference in taste, so I buy whichever happens to be cheaper (on sale, FF is cheaper).

When I was away in college, I prepared Oven Ready Butt in the same fashion you'd prepare a corned beef brisket (or how I imagine you'd do it...I don't eat corned beef brisket myself).  Cook the chunk of meat in some water until its fairly soft, then add cabbage wedges and cook until done.  I think I've heard that called "boiled dinner".  I had no choice because back then, there was nowhere in Seattle to get fresh taro leaves.

Now that I live in Hilo, I prepare Oven Ready Butt my favorite way. . .a gigantic laulau which takes minimal effort to make.  The trickiest part is finding the taro leaves, but recently, that hasn't been very difficult.  I can usually find taro leaves at the supermarket (sold in 2 lb bags) or the farmer's market.  In fact, AJanice has some growing in her back yard.  I actually should plant some where the pool pump discharges because the weekly flooding (along with Hilo rain) makes it a good place for growing taro.
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 large piece Oven-Ready Butt
     2 lbs taro leaves, washed and larger veins shaved down

Wrap butt with taro leaves, completely encasing butt.  Wrap tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil, completely encasing taro leaves.  Place in crock pot/slow cooker.  Cook on low for 7 hours or more.  Remove from crock pot.  Carefully remove butt from foil.  Slice and serve.

On occasion, when I can't find a large piece of Oven-Ready Butt, I have bought 2 smaller pieces and wrapped them up.  I usually do the wrapping the night before and store it in the crock in the refrigerator overnight.  Then I just place the crock in the heating element before I leave for work.  This reheats well too, in spite of it not being very photogenic.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Back in the Emerald City: Bones, Bones, Bones

Its been over 20 years.  My, how you've changed!

There were no college buddies on my long flight across the Pacific.

There was no UGeo to greet me at the airport, to help me with my baggage, to take me to get something to eat.

And yet, in many ways, you've stayed the same.

The autumn air is still cool and brisk.

The air still has that odd smell. . .somewhere between the smell of industry and paper pulp.  Its hard to describe, but anyone who has lived in the Pacific Northwest knows what I'm talking about.

Starbuck's Coffee still rules.

And Pike Place Market is still THE place for fresh seafood.

Going down to the market to watch the salmon being thrown to the back at Pike Place Fish was, and still is, a sight to see. Anytime someone visited me in Seattle, it was de rigueur to go down there and watch the salmon "fly". 

As I've spoken of previously, to me, Seattle IS salmon.  There are very few things more delicious than hot, fresh, alder-smoked salmon.  Whether its made by UGeo or Ivar's, the aroma itself will transport you to a different world.  I don't think I could even attempt to recreate it at home.

Ahhhh. . .home. . .Hilo.  We buy fresh salmon from the supermarket (or receive Alaskan salmon from Kento), and we buy it by the piece, never whole.  Living in Seattle, UGeo would often buy the whole salmon.  He would do the filleting himself.  If I knew then what I know now, I would've asked him to give me the center bone.

The center bone, after the salmon has been filleted, is one of my most favorite parts (after the collars/kama, of course).  Some people cook the center bone in a shoyu/sugar sauce, but I love it fried.  It goes great with a cold brewski. . .rice optional!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb salmon bones
     3/4 c flour
     1 1/2 tsp salt
     1 1/2 tbsp garlic salt
     1 1/2 tbsp lemon pepper

In a small ziploc bag, combine all ingredients except bones.  Rinse bone pieces and pat dry.  Using a cleaver and kitchen shears, cut bone pieces apart into 1 1/2" segments.  Shake each piece in flour mixture and pan fry in shallow oil til crispy.

And while I miss UGeo and think about him everyday, not all Seattle change is bad. . Seattle now has superb outlet shopping! I'm sure UGeo is proud of that.