kruizing with kikukat

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