kruizing with kikukat

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Healthier Spam Musubi

Christmas came and went in the Kikukat house.  All decorations have since been put away, and the tree has gone to the tree graveyard.  I can't believe I waited until I was on vacation to get sick.  I managed to avoid catching a cold all semester, yet I somehow had to be sick at Christmas.  Being sick certainly put a damper on my enjoyment.  Bleccchhhh.  I'm a little better now, but I am still hacking away.  I hope to be better by New Years, especially since I've been tasked with making a bunch of desserts for a party at CAE's house.

Since we are on vacation, the Ds have been home with me and are always looking for food.  We have a pantry full of food they can have, but they never seem to like my suggestions.  I guess even Cup O Noodle gets boring.

D1 isn't too picky about food.  Her food range is huge so she can usually find something to eat.  D2 is my picky eater.  She seldom wants what we have.  For a quick lunch, I've driven up the road to Ainaola Mart to buy the Ds mini laulau plate, but I can't do that every day.

One thing both Ds like to eat is Spam musubi.  Spam Musubi is such a decadent dish.  Sure, it may have humble beginnings with the Spam, a relatively inexpensive filler (rice), and a thin seaweed wrapper, but it is certainly decadent in terms of taste.

The easiest place to get it is 7-11.  They seem to have an endless supply.  Unfortunately, we don't live close to any of the four 7-11s in Hilo.  L & L Drive In also makes Spam musubi, but we don't live near any of those establishments either. 

The next, and obvious choice, is to make it at home.  It takes some time (waiting for the rice to cook), but homemade Spam musubi is truly better than what you can buy at 7-11, L & L or any okazu-ya.  We make ours a fraction healthier by substituting some of the white rice with brown rice.  Most kids don't care much for brown rice, but it's barely noticeable in a 1:3 proportion.  Some places do not do a good job of seasoning the Spam.  I've had Spam musubi where the Spam was just fried.  When you make it at home, you can go through the effort of cooking the Spam in a generous amount of teriyaki sauce.  When putting together the musubi, we also sprinkle on some furikake (Ds like katsuo or ebi flavor).  Kikukat Mom adds a squirt of neri ume (paste) for another taste dimension.  Some places will go the extra step and bread and fry the Spam (Spam katsu musubi) or add a thin sheet of fried egg into the musubi.  I noticed that KTA will make Spam musubi with beautiful edamame rice.  The possibilities are endless!

As the cook, there is also lots of latitude in presentation.  I have a mold which enables me to wrap a long Spam musubi (2 slices of Spam at a time).  Once wrapped, I cut the long piece in half to make 2 Spam-length musubis.  From there, you can either cut at a 45-degree angle (pictured) or just a flat cut (cut each half into halves or thirds).  The 45-degree angle cut is my choice for a platter.  The angles look very elegant.

In addition to the stay-at-home lunches which can be satisfied with Spam musubi, Spam musubi is a great potluck dish.  I'm saying this since we are in the midst of the holiday party season.  Its not hard to make a bunch of Spam musubi for a party.  If I'm taking Spam musubi to a potluck in a container, I would go with the flat cut in thirds, especially if I know there will be lots of other goodies to eat.  Leftovers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, placed in a ziploc bag, and reheated for about 15 seconds in the microwave.  The key is to wrap them as tightly as possible and store them in an air-tight an environment as you can manage...double ziploc or ziploc in a sealed container.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 rice cooker cup brown rice
     3 rice cooker cups white rice
     1 can spam
     2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
     2 tbsp shoyu
     1 tbsp mirin
     furikake (optional)
     neri ume (optional)
     5 sheets nori (roasted seaweed sheet)

Wash rice and cook as usual in electric rice cooker.  While rice is cooking, slice Spam into 10 slices.  Fry on both sides in a skillet.  Add brown sugar, shoyu, and mirin.  Cook until liquid is gone. Dampen spam musubi mold with water and proceed according to the type of spam musubi mold you are using: 

If using Spam musubi mold with flat packing plates, insert lower plate into mold, smooth side up.  Pack half-full with rice and press down with other packing plate.  Sprinkle furikake, if using.  Squeeze neri ume, if using.  Place Spam on rice.  Add more rice to fill mold.  Pack with packing plate.  Remove lower packing plate and center mold on sheet of nori. 

If using Spam musubi mold with single packing plate, center empty Spam musubi mold on sheet of nori.  Pack half-full with rice and press down with packing plate.  Sprinkle furikake, if using.  Squeeze neri ume, if using.  Place Spam on rice.  Add more rice to fill mold.  Pack with packing plate.  Pressing down on packing plate, slice mold up, leaving rice on nori.  

Roll tightly with nori.  Wrap in waxed paper.  Let set at least 10 minutes before cutting with a dampened knife.  Keep knife damp in order to minimize sticking.
On January 2, 2015, I will be busy watching my beloved Huskies kick some Pistol Pete butt in the Cactus Bowl.  Hope Coach Peterson will be able to win his first bowl game as a Husky coach.  Ironically, the game will be played in Tempe, AZ (guessing Sun Devil stadium).  ASU is one of D1s choices for college...and probably my wish for her...sorry, Wildcats.  Tempe is just much more convenient to the airport.    

The Ds, while grateful for gifts they received at Christmas, seemed much happier helping Kikukat Mom and Dad with their gifts. 
Missy and D1
Tuffy and D2

Since this will be my last post of 2014, I'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy closing out of 2014.  I'll be here in 2015, looking forward to bigger and brighter things.  Things should definitely be brighter soon for me...going to the big city to get my eyes checked out by a glaucoma specialist.  I have Kikukat Mom and Dad to thank for this.

Thank you all for reading my blog!  See you in 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Confetti Jello

Yikes!  Last week was bad.  Why do students go all crazy right before long breaks?  For that matter, why do adults act like assholes before long breaks.  Last week, I asked a science teacher if she could assist one of my students.  I am NOT a science teacher (the 10 credits from college are indeed telling), but if a student needed assistance with their language arts work, I wouldn't hesitate to help them.  Well, this science teacher told me she is "busy too" (what the hell is that supposed to mean...she wasn't teaching a class), and if this student needs help, she should go see so-and-so or so-and-so during her recess or after school.  Where did that rant come from.  A simple, "I cannot" or "I'm busy now" would've sufficed.  The lingering bitter taste in my mouth triggered my suspicious brain cells and left me wondering if the science teacher was unable (competency-wise) to help.  Luckily, a competent science teacher was willing to assist.

Wednesday was one of the worst days I've seen in a while.  There were at least a half-dozen fights.  The first fight happened before school even began.  It was actually two separate fights happening at the same time at the same place.  The adults in the area had a hard time keeping order and were lucky that a well-respected student was there.  He single-handedly pulled off 2 of the fighters and was talking nicely to them, asking them to calm down.  I'm glad he was there because I could've easily been hit too.  I assessed the situation and saw no adult in the immediate vicinity.  I surmised that the boys he pulled off were likely done fighting (if they weren't, they would've wrangled free of him and attacked again) and were looking for an out.  I suggested they leave the area and go to a quiet place to gather themselves and get back in control.  Both boys obliged politely.  Whew!

Later that day, the student who stepped in to help break up the fight told me I should not have stood where I had.  He said he did not want me to get hit and if I had gotten hit, he would've stepped in and done something.  He told me not to ever do that again because he won't always be there to look out for me.  D1 echoed his sentiments, telling me I was stupid.  Probably.  Would I do it again?  Probably.  It's not in my fabric to just sit back and let kids punch each other silly.  But it is nice to think that a student thinks enough of me that he would have my back.  Bless him. . .he is awesome.  Bless his family. . .they did a great job raising him to be an honorable young man.

The thing that's most bothersome with fighting is that students all just wanna watch.  It takes a lot to be someone who attempts to dissolve a fight.  Most of the spectators are there for the show and don't want the fights stopped.  As a parent, if it was my child fighting, I would want someone to stop the fight.  It's just wrong.  

Anyway, both recess and lunch on Wednesday were fighting times.  Two fights occurred near my room.  Security actually had to pull one kid off of another kid.  Ughhhh.  The other fight was between 2 girls.  I saw some JROTC boys trying to hold one of the girls back.  I know there were other fights (I saw crowds of students heading in one direction en masse), but mercifully, they took place away from my room.

I was worried about Thursday and Friday, but they were both quiet days.  I managed to get my grades done.  Now I can work on pacing guides during my break.

D1 attended her last winter ball (as a student, and I hope, for the love of God, that she does not become an educator and has to chaperone or advise the winter ball).  I asked Aunty 3M to keep an eye on her.  At last years dance, she seemed to have befriended this attitude-rich boy.  Unfortunately, I saw him picking up a permission form this year, and I can only hope she didn't rekindle any friendship with him.  With all the nice guys out there, I don't know why she would want that one!

Because D1 went to the winter ball, I was banned from attending.  I was hoping to begin my vacation, but someone asked me for a favor, so I went to school yesterday to chaperone some students.  It was a good chance for me to prep for 3rd quarter.

So now I am finally on vacation, and it could not have begun soon enough!  Unfortunately, this means the holiday party season is upon us.  I'm really not into the whole holiday party thing.  It's just so much work for just a few hours.  It also bugs me when guests don't come on time, or they come with food that isn't ready to present.  I think I inherited that part from my uncle.  I knew that irked the shit outta him to no end.  With any luck, this holiday season will be quiet.

If I need to go anywhere, I decided that my go-to potluck dish of the season will be confetti jello.  Many people love jello desserts, and I am one of them.  I grew up in a home which did not make a lot of desserts, and our refrigerator was always full so there was never enough room for a pan of jello.  I usually alternate between layered jello and confetti jello.  What I like about confetti jello is that you can switch up the colors for the occasion (red & green for Christmas, red & blue for Independence Day, orange & yellow for Thanksgiving, etc.).  It also firms up fairly quickly, allowing you to make it in the morning for serving that evening.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     4 (3 oz) boxes Jello in assorted colors/flavors
     4 c boiling water
     4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
     1 1/2 c hot water, divided
     1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
     1/2 c water

Dissolve 1 box of Jello in 1 c boiling water.  Pour into 8 x 8" pan (or simlar) and chill until firm (2 hours is adequate).  Repeat for remaining Jello flavors.  In a 2-cup measuring cup, sprinkle unflavored gelatin over 1/2 c hot water.  Let sit 5 minutes.  Add remaining 1 c hot water and stir until gelatin is dissolved.  In a 1-qt measuring cup, stir condensed milk with 1/2 c water.   Pour gelatin mixture through a sieve and add to condensed milk mixture.  Let sit until cool (room temperature).  Cut flavored Jello into small cubes and toss gently in a 9 x 13" pan.  Add condensed milk mixture to cubes.  Chill until firm.  Cut into serving size pieces (we like to cut into 1 3/4" pieces because they fit nicely in serving cups).

For several past posts, I've mentioned D1s saga in applying to various colleges.  So far, she has received email acceptance (unofficial to me...I'm old-fashioned...I wanna see the hard copy letter) from one school and official (yes, paper) acceptance from two schools.  One of the "real" acceptance letter places is in her top three.  Rawr!!!

I hope she hears from the other places, especially the other one in the top three, soon.  She needs as much time as possible to mull over her choices and make an informed decision.

While D1 and I are proud (and relieved) that she has options, D2 is ecstatic.  She was worried that no college would accept her sister and she'd be living here for years to come.  D2 sent me a text a few weeks ago:  "mom, D1 needs to get out of the house NOW".  I explained that it was nearly 11 pm and there was really nothing I could do at the moment.

This will be my last post before Christmas, so I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  From my family to yours. . .
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Divine Red Sauce

I have been unbelievably busy.  I'm glad this is the last week before vacation begins.  Warning:  this post was written by someone in a really bad mood.  If you aren't ready to read profanity, stop here and scroll all the way to the bottom for a great recipe for spaghetti sauce.  I will not be allowing any comments which attack my candidness. . .you were adequately warned.  If you want to join my misery, then feel free to read on. 

I spent last weekend baking orange pound cake, a version I adapted based on the Barefoot Contessa recipe.  I made enough mini loaves to give all of my resource team buddies.  They are a joy to work with, and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of that group.  Its like being back at the resource office without the bullshit of middle management.  I made sure to send large, tribute versions of the cake to the office staff, security, and custodians.  Only the custodians thanked me (as of this post).

As I was giving a loaf to one of my work pals, this vile student asked me, "what kine bread dat?"  I told him it was orange pound cake.  He said, "I like one."  He repeated himself several times.  Each time I said no, and I finally told him that if he asks me again, I will deem it  harrassment.  Where the fuck does he get off expecting something from me?  Ever since last year, he has been such an asshole.  When he leaves the room, the other students immediately complain about him.  They say he is irritating.  They are right.  He cannot sit still.  He also cannot keep his fingers to himself.  I had football pics on my board with a sign saying "do not touch the pictures", and yet he touched the pics.  I asked him what part of "do not touch the pictures" did he not understand.  The other week, when I asked him to sit down, I happened to turn around and he was mouthing the f-word at me.  And he expects me to just give him cake.  Talk about delusional.  He has a nice girlfriend, and God knows what she sees in him.  Her parents are nice people, and they would be terribly disappointed if they saw what her boyfriend was really like.  Why do nice girls like these awful, dumbass guys?

Sometimes I wonder from where these students get their entitlement attitude.  Another student, who was an absolute jerk to me all last year, asked me to borrow a quarter.  Never!!!  I will not loan a cent to anyone who is not respectful.  And he didn't get cake either!  Then there are those students who seem alright but then do something to make you scratch your head.  Last week, I offered instant noodles to my was the end of the day, and I was cleaning out some things from my room.  A few students accepted with gratitude.  The next day, this one asswipe, saw the box on my desk and proceeded to help himself because he was hungry.  WTF?!?  One nice gesture from me, and he assumed it was okay to help himself the next day.  Ridiculous!  Where do these kids learn manners?

And since I'm in a friggin nasty mood (and my recent posts have been utterly sanitized), let me go on to say that in the past week, two bitches really deserved slaps from me.  Both times, the commenters were condescending as hell.  But I took the high road and refrained from pointing out to both of them that they ain't foolin' anyone...both have kids who are so far from center and fall under the socially handicapped category.  I feel for these two as parents, but when they pretend as if nothing is the matter, they become part of the problem.  My own kids are far from perfect, and I do not hold back when they need to be corrected.  It's better if they hear it from me and have the opportunity to adjust their actions. 

So given my nasty disposition, I'm in no mood to cook a fancy dinner.  I think I'm especially irritable because last week was filled with concert, family in town, workshops...just a whole bunch of stuff.  Perhaps if I was in a better mood, I would have taken the time to dress this up with some meatballs, but because I'm not, I just made the sauce.  The sauce was good, and believe it or not, nobody grumbled about having a meatless dinner!

And in case some deaf people didn't hear me when they asked, I don't know where D1 is going to college, but I do know she did her own work.  Oh, and by the day, when you're teaching your kids some manners, teach your hubby some manners too!

I hope to return to my normal, cheery self by next week.  I think the nastiness should be out of my system by then.
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3 tbsp olive oil
     1 giant jar (45 oz) Ragu spaghetti sauce (Costco)
     7 oz red wine
     3 1/2 tbsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add Ragu, wine and brown sugar.  Stir and heat.  Serve over cooked "strand" pasta.  Garnish with parmesan cheese.

If you are using a "supermarket" size jar of spaghetti sauce (24-28 oz), use 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 c red wine and 2 tbsp brown sugar.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mini Brioche

Several monumental things happened for D1 in the past two weeks.  First of all, she finished her college applications.  I guess we are now entered into the waiting game.

Second, D1 finally got her provisional drivers license.  I feel like it took her forever.  Unlike me, D1 was in no rush to drive so didn't do much practicing until I actually made the road test appointment.  In six months, if she remains in good standing as a driver, she'll be able to exchange her provisional license for the "real" one.  It occurred to me that six months will be about the time of graduation.  Yikes!

Third, D1 turned seventeen.  My, how time flies.  I'm getting old.  Seems like it was just a few months ago that I was taking her to preschool.

Unlike last year, D1 didn't want a fancy party.  Perhaps she realizes that she will be leaving Hilo within a year.  I dunno.  But she opted to celebrate her birthday with family.  Mr. Dependable took her out to her favorite restaurant, and we will go out to her favorite Japanese restaurant for dinner later this week.  Talk about having a good life! 

Since I wasn't invited to the Mr. Dependable dinner (not that I'm grumbling because I'm NOT), I stayed home and made brioche.  I was watching one of the Anthony Bourdain shows (Layover?), and when he walked past a bakery, the brioche caught my eye. 

I'm really not big on French cooking.  They use too much of the vile condiment, but the breads are a different story.  I love the egg-y-ness of brioche and the citrus-infused dough.  Mmmmmm.  I saved some for the Ds to have for breakfast. . .since I'm so nice.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1/3 c water
     1/3 c butter
     5 eggs, divided
     3 1/2 c bread flour
     1/2 c sugar
     1 t salt
     Zest of 1 orange or lemon
     2 1/2 tsp yeast
     1-2 tsp vegetable oil
     2 tsp turbinado sugar, optional

Place water, butter, 4 eggs, bread flour, sugar and salt in the bread machine pan.  Sprinkle zest over all.  Make a small well in ingredients and add yeast.  Set bread machine for dough cycle.  Just before dough is done, pour vegetable oil into a large bowl.  Coat bowl well (all except the area within an inch of the rim) with vegetable oil.  Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat dough evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours.  Grease eighteen 2 1/2" fluted tart pans (if not available, grease a baking sheet).  Divide dough into 18 equal pieces (If not using tart pans, form each piece into a ball, place on prepared baking sheet, and follow rising, egg wash, and baking instructions).  From each piece, remove 1/4 of dough.  Shape larger portion into a round ball.  Place in prepared tart pan.  Roll smaller dough portion into a teardrop shape.  Poke a hole in center of dough.  Place small teardrop-shaped dough into indentation.  Repeat for remaining 17 pieces of dough.  Let rise 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  While oven is preheating, beat remaining egg well and brush over dough balls.  Sprinkle turbinado sugar.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from tart pans immediately.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rich Buttercream Frosting

I guess we have officially entered into the Christmas season.  I say "officially", but I happen to know Target started the Christmas season before Halloween was over.  I'm sure Wal-Mart and Macy's did the same too.  It really is sad that the retailers take advantage of the holiday season to prey upon the consumers.  I guess most consumers aren't complaining, and sadly, I allowed myself to fall victim to the retailers before my Thanksgiving marketing was done...I indulged in some Cadbury (solid milk chocolate with crisp sugar shell...the same thing as those darn good Easter mini-eggs, but shaped into balls).

Actually, this is all RC's fault.  She sent me a tin of Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark a few weeks ago.  Thank you, RC (the contents of the tin were gone in a week)!  I am really NOT a chocoholic.  Normally, I will pick vanilla over chocolate.  I am vanilla.  But all bets are off at Christmas.  I think my weak mind makes me vulnerable to the appeal of hot buttered rum, spiced cider, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and all kinds of sweets. 

The Ds tend to get all caught up in the sweet binge too.  Both inherited my sweet tooth; Mr. Dependable doesn't gorge on sweets nearly as much as I do.  D1 got herself a bag of those Cadbury balls, and D2 bought a few boxes of candy canes.  I was tempted to buy some of the holiday Lifesavers, but I saw dum dum pops in holiday flavors and couldn't resist those.  I haven't tried them yet.

In a few weeks, the Ds will be telling me they need to bring food to class parties events.  Parties are frowned upon by school officials, forcing creative teachers to resort to linking festivities to the current curriculum.  Last year one of my students organized a Dickens festival, where every contribution needed to be tied to A Christmas Carol.  Recently, the Ds have been asked to bring mini cupcakes to events (the size makes mini cupcakes easier to eat, especially when there are multiple desserts available).  TBH, the classroom "events"  already began.  Last week, D1 brought some kind of mini cupcakes for her human physiology class.  I really don't know what it was all about but she pressed bone-shaped decors into the flesh-colored frosting.  Kinda macabre if you ask me, but she said it went over "bonederfully".

D1 can complete the baking part of the mini cupcakes, but she asks me to do the frosting portion.  Over the years, I have tried many different frosting recipes.  This is my favorite buttercream frosting.  The consistency is perfect for frosting cupcakes.  If you choose to embellish the cupcakes with sprinkles, be sure to apply them immediately after piping the frosting (helps to have someone else doing this part).  This frosting hardens fairly quickly, making for easy transport.  The only down side to this is that you need to get any decorations (sprinkles, candy beads, etc.) onto the frosting soon after piping.

I'm still pissed about Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines changing the size of their cake mix without consulting me, the Cake Mix Doctor, or any other cake mix user.  I'm not sure when this happened.  I don't know how they thought they could get away with it.  While not applicable to these mini cupcakes since I just make the recipe on the back of the box, I have a whole bunch of recipes which used the larger size cake mix.  I will now need to buy two boxes and weigh out the difference.  What a headache.

For mini cupcake purposes, the box of Betty Crocker Supermoist (about 15 ounces) Devil's Food cake mix can make 35-39 mini (2 oz) cupcakes (use 2 full #60 dishers for each mini cupcake).  Bake for 19 minutes.  A Duncan Hines box (also about 15 ounces) of yellow cake mix will make about 40 mini cupcakes.  I bake the Duncan Hines yellow mini cupcakes for 17 minutes (a full #40 disher works well for each cup).   If I plan to eat these, my preference is Duncan Hines. 

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Rich Buttercream Frosting

     1/2 c butter, softened
     4 c powdered sugar, sifted
     3 tbsp milk
     2 tsp vanilla
     food coloring

In a mixer bowl, cream butter on low speed for 30 seconds.  Combine milk, vanilla and food coloring.  Mixture should be much darker than end product.  Add powdered sugar to butter and 3 tbsp of milk mixture.  Mix on low speed (#2 on Kitchenaid) for 1 minute.  At this point, powdered sugar should be barely incorporated into mixture.  If lots of powdered sugar remains unincorporated, add 1 tsp more of milk mixture.  Scrape bowl.  Mix on medium speed (#6 on Kitchenaid) for 1 minute.  Place in an icing bag and pipe onto cupcakes.  Makes enough to frost 42-47 mini (2 oz cups) cupcakes with 1M star tip.  If decorating, add decors as soon as frosting is piped...frosting will harden.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cranberry Sauce

I have been trying very hard to lay off D1, but I have been so frustrated with her.  I know she is stressed out about college applications, but sistah, you gotta get your act together!  As of last week, she applied to O-N-E college, and it's not even a college she totally wants to go to.  I think she applied because the application fee was cheap.  One would think that for $60k/year, they could at least waive the fee!  While I hope she gets accepted (to boost her confidence), I fucking hope she won't go there.  It's in the middle of the boonies, and they don't even field a football team which plays on TV!  She spent days on her application.  I wish she would've spent the time on applying to schools she WANTS to attend (the ones I'm okay with also).  I just don't get her screwed up thinking.  A sane person would apply to the college they really want to attend FIRST, and then apply to the "safety" colleges.

When I was applying to colleges, I just applied to a bunch too, so I really can't get upset at her for that.  But I knew that I would've gone to all the colleges I applied to and I also knew my parents were willing to pay the $ for me to get outta their house (at least for four years).  I haven't even told Mr. Dependable where she applied to because I KNOW he would see dollar signs and hit the ceiling.  The Help has nothing to say.  He applied to one college, got accepted, went there, and got his degree.  End of story. 

So to keep from bitching at her constantly, I'm reminding myself that this will likely be the last Thanksgiving D1 spends with us for a while.  I need to make the most of it, put on a happy face, and give her a day of peace (grumbling resumes on Black Friday).

This year for Thanksgiving, I'm planning to roast a whole turkey breast.  After the easy clean up last year, I'd be a fool to go back to a whole turkey if it's just my family.  I'll make the dressing (yes, Mike, I'm baking it in a separate dish), gravy, and mashed potatoes too.  I'm ono for pumpkin crunch, so I'll make that instead of pumpkin pie.  But the first thing I'm making is the cranberry sauce.  Homemade cranberry sauce is so much better than what the stores sell (Williams-Sonoma comes pretty close to homemade).  It doesn't take very long to make so the effort is well worth it.

I hope by the next post I will be able to say D1 applied to a few more colleges.  ARGGGHHH!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 bag (12 oz) fresh cranberries
     1 1/2 c sugar
     4 1/2 oz water
     1/2 tsp grated ginger
     1 1/2 c (12 oz jar) orange marmalade

Heat cranberries, sugar, water, and ginger in a saucepan, stirring until sugar melts.  Cook until fruit is tender, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes.  Stir in marmalade.  Chill until 2 hours before serving. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fried Garlic Chicken

Years ago, I would try and get a reservation at Ninniku-ya whenever I was in Honolulu.  "Ninniku" is the Japanese word for garlic'; "ya" is the Japanese suffix for "business".  The garlic steak was out of this world.  I'm not sure when it happened, but Ninniku-ya in Honolulu closed.  But every now and then, I find myself jonesing for the garlic steak.

The garlic steak (a fat, bone-in ribeye) came on a large sizzling platter, along with a handful of well-browned garlic cloves and a thick pat of melting garlic-herb butter.  Some bearded Asian dude wearing chunky rings, would bring it to the table and cut the steak into large chunks.  He never cut the steak into truly bite-size pieces, and he didn't have much of a personality, but I loved the way he said "garlic steak".  His accent made "garlic" sound like "gaah-lick".

Because of the garlic steak, I never had opportunity to order too many other dishes.  Other than caprese salad, some kind of garlic pasta, and garlic fried chicken, I don't remember much else on the menu.  And unless I fly to Japan, it's unlikely that I'll ever have food at Ninniku-ya again.

When we have steak at home, I usually leave it up to the cook to decide on the preparation.  Mr. Dependable was a hibachi steak person...steaks, cooked on the grill only.  The Help usually does a 2-step preparation...sear on the range in a cast iron pan with grates, then finish in the oven.  I think he learned that method from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook.  The Help will sometimes make a red wine pan sauce to go with the steaks.  Neither Mr. Dependable nor The Help has ever done a garlic steak like Ninniku-ya.  Disclaimer:  The Help makes an excellent steak, but I'm certain he would readily admit that he does not make a steak like Ninniku-ya either, nor does he hack up the steak while wearing chunky rings.

I need to come clean on something.  I have never cooked a steak.  Honest!  With all the cooking I've done, I have never cooked a steak (other than a sliced up flank steak or a chuck steak cut into cubes for beef barley soup).  I am not kidding.  I find the hibachi daunting, whether it's a gas grill or a charcoal grill.  I might try the range/oven method, but I would not know where to begin. 

Now that I have convinced myself I want to eat a Ninniku-ya garlic steak, I will need to accept disappointment.  You will need to accept disappointment too.  For the past five paragraphs, I have extolled the goodness of the Ninniku-ya garlic steak, however I am unable to make a copycat of the steak.  I apologize if I misled you into thinking there would be a garlic steak recipe waiting at the end of the rainbow.  There is no such recipe in my arsenal at the moment.

The only "garlic" dish I can make is garlic fried chicken.  Thanks to a recipe shared by a former coworker when I worked in Honolulu, I make a mean ass garlic fried chicken. The awesome garlic flavor comes from garlic powder in the coating as well as sliced garlic cloves infusing the frying oil. The out of this world garlic flavor is smooth (unlike the jarring garlic calamari I had at some restaurant on Queen Anne Hill (I cannot remember the name of the restaurant, but it was in a cluster with several restaurants, including Jake O'Shaughnessy's in the old Hansen Baking Company) in Seattle.  If you have an affinity for garlic, this recipe will surely please your taste buds.  And if you are an attention seeker, try bringing this to a party.  You will be hounded for the recipe all night long.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Fried Garlic Chicken

     2-2 1/2 lbs chicken wings, disjointed, tips discarded
     2 eggs, beaten
     1 c milk
     1 c flour
     1 tbsp garlic powder
     1 tbsp garlic salt
     3/4 tsp black pepper, divided
     2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
     vegetable oil
     8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
     1/4 c butter, melted
     1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
     1/4 tsp salt

Combine eggs and milk.  Pour into a square pan.  Add chicken pieces, turning to coat.  Set aside.  In a gallon-size ziploc bag, combine flour, garlic powder, garlic salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and thyme.  Drain chicken and coat with flour mixture.  Heat 1" of oil in a skillet (360 degrees).  Fry garlic until golden brown and crisp.  Remove and drain.  Fry chicken pieces until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Place chicken pieces in an oven-proof dish in a single layer.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  While chicken is baking, prepare sauce by combining butter, parsley, salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and fried garlic slices.  Pour over chicken and serve.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Namul: Korean Bean Sprout Salad

This is probably not a good time to be posting a cold vegetable picture and recipe.  But I MUST.  After all the feasting over the weekend (feasting actually began on Friday), I realize I need to scale back a bit.

But I HAD to celebrate on Friday.  No, not because it was my birthday, but something else happened...something I've been waiting a whole year to happen.  I hadn't expected it to turn out so deliciously well, but it did.  Thank you, 3M for making IT happen and for allowing me to be there to witness it all.

Sometimes assholes really DO get what they deserve!

I had a great lunch on Friday, and it was followed by an onolicious dinner at Miyo's.  I got to eat fried oysters.  Even better, the Ds were with me.  I didn't hafta share them this year.

On Saturday, The Help suggested we make it a double buffet day.  On one of his 10k-step walks, he noticed a breakfast buffet being served at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel.  It wasn't crowded, and the bacon was crispy.  It was definitely NOT the Hawaii Prince breakfast buffet, but for Hilo, it was pretty good.  The bread pudding was delicious, and there weren't too many raisins to pick out.  Have I ever made it clear how much I hate raisins?  It is right up there on the list, a few notches away from the devil's condiment.

The second buffet was something I've been wanting to try but always found the near-$100/person pricetag daunting.  Leave it to The Help to surprise me with a drive out to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel for the Clambake.  Wow!  Among other things, I consumed a dozen oysters and 2 lobster tails and a set of lobster claws.  I love lobster!  The Help likely ate only a fraction of what I did, eating mostly shrimp cocktail and sashimi, and he even managed to sneak in some salad selections. There was a guy on the next table who definitely beat me.  He ate 3 whole lobsters.  I know because I watched him (couldn't help it...he was in my line of sight).  He also had a slab of prime rib in between all that.  I don't expect to get back to the Clambake any time soon, after all, I can't be going there with D1!  But now, I'm excited to try the Let's Go Crabbing buffet at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.  Its a fraction of the price (under $70 for adults) and features all kinds of crab.  Maybe when D1 goes on her spring break trip. . .

So after all that feasting and pigging out, it's time to lay low on the food, especially the cholesterol.  I soaked some chicken in a kal bi-type marinade, and I made some namul.   There is nothing better to eat with hibachi food than namul.  "Namul" is what I call Korean bean sprout salad, but I know namul actually refers to various vegetable dishes served as banchan, those small dishes with tasty morsels served at Korean restaurants before the meal comes.  All I know is they never give enough namul, and the bean sprouts is what I always hope to hoard!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1/2 - 1 lb mung bean sprouts
     1 1/2 tbsp green onion, chopped
     1/2 tsp sugar
     1 tbsp sesame oil
     1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
     3 tbsp shoyu

Clean bean sprouts and wash in cold water.  Boil water in a medium saucepan.  Add bean sprouts to boiling water and leave in for 1 minute (Can also steam over water for 5 minutes in the microwave...high power).  Drain, rinse well in cold water, and drain well.  Add remaining ingredients and chill thoroughly before serving.

While all this was going on, it was a rather disappointing sports weekend.  All the teams/individuals I was cheering for did not prevail:  high school football, college football, professional football, Formula One.  On the other hand, I did manage to attempt knitting again. . .I had lots of time to sit and give it another go.
And after spending the better part of an hour taking stuff apart, I'm asking myself why I choose to take part in such torture.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Baked Crab Artichoke Dip

I had a good weekend!

I spent Friday night at a football game.  It was a big game...winner gets to go to the state playoffs, travel to Oahu to play an Oahu team.  A lot was at stake.  At first I thought our boys were too pumped up.  They seemed awfully loud and hyper, but they managed to hold it together on the field.  Now onto the next challenge.

On a whim, The Help and I decided to go to Kona on Saturday.  I wanted to get a large poster printed at Costco and pick up some chips and edamame.  A few minutes out of the driveway, The Help suggested calling the Rents to see if they wanted to tag along.  Gunfunnit!!!  They both agreed!!!  We had to turn around to get them (and wait for Kikukat Mom to get ready).

I was surprised to hear that the Rents hadn't eaten lunch.  Instead of going directly to Kona, we stopped at Tommy Bahama for lunch.  I think they make the best crab bisque.  If I had a copycat recipe, I'd make it at home.  After the cup of crab bisque, I was too full to try a dessert, but there were some neat looking items on the dessert tray.  One of the desserts was made in a pineapple, and there was a gorgeous coconut cake too.  I have a major coconut weakness.  I love anything coconut, including coconut water.

The Rents were well-behaved so we took them to Sansei for dinner.  Kikukat Dad was thrilled that he could consume alcohol without the worry of having to drive home.  After Tommy Bahama, he said he wished he ordered a martini there so he went about fulfilling that wish at Sansei.  Unfortunately, when the food came, he said he wished he ordered a beer instead.  I was shocked when he told the server to bring him a beer.  I tried to drink his martini, but I guess I'm not a fan of Tanqueray.  It smells too much like soap.

The food at Sansei, as always, was delicious.  Kikukat Dad said it was "a hundred times better than Nobu".  I like Sansei, but I don't think it's better than Nobu.  It's different, but it's definitely not a hundred times's not even ten times better!  Kikukat Dad loved the calamari salad, Maui kal bi steak, and rainbow roll.  The only thing he didn't care much for was the mango crab salad hand roll.  He said there was too much grass.  Whatevers.

After eating all that good food on Saturday, I decided to kick off my slippers and stay home on Sunday for a day of tv watching.  I saw Lewis Hamilton get the checkered flag at the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX (one of my favorite places).  I'm glad that Lewis won.  It makes five-straight wins.  I also watched D2's Bronco's get their horsey asses kicked by the Patriots.  The Help keeps raving about how Football Baby can sure pick the winners.

So with all my tv watching yesterday, I made sure I had something good to nosh on.  Yes, yes, I know this is mean...posting a crab recipe when someone in my house is allergic.  But I can't help it, and anyway, she wasn't around for most of the day.  The pictures show the dip being served with buttery crackers, but I enjoy this with potato chips too.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 cans (@6 oz) crabmeat, drained well
     1 can (12-13 oz) artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
     1/2 sweet onion, chopped fine
     4 oz shredded parmesan cheese
     1 1/2 c mayonnaise
     1/4 tsp white pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Spread in a shallow baking dish (1-2 qt).  Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until top is brown.

Monday, October 27, 2014


This past week was an eating out week.  3M and I enjoyed a tasty lunch at Hilo Rice Noodle and the very next day, we had a nice breakfast at Coqui's Hideaway.  When we were hiding away, I saw LAMN's aunt having lunch with her lady friend.  Seeing LAMN's aunt, coupled with the ongoing conversation with 3M about our days in the Pacific Northwest, took me on a journey back to college days with LAMN.

LAMN's mom, unlike Kikukat Mom, would write to her nearly daily.  She would also send care packages with HOMEMADE goodies in them.  In case my mom is reading this, let me say that my mom sent me care packages too, but they were usually filled with purchased snacks...won ton chips, crack seed, colored popcorn, etc.

Okay, now where was I?  Oh yeah...LAMN's mom would send  care packages with HOMEMADE goodies in them.  One goodie stands out above everything else...her lavosh.  Mmmmmmmm. . .it was like a sweet cracker, which was ono enough to eat plain, without any cheese spread, potted meat, or fruit butter.

LAMN's mom's lavosh was very different from my first introduction to lavosh, the one at the now-gone Gourmet Hut Hawaii in the old Kaiko`o Mall.  They sold lavosh in waxed-paper wrapped parcels.  If you went in and requested a sample of a spread, it was likely given to you on a small piece of lavosh (or Carr's crackers).  The lavosh there was not something you'd eat plain. . .it had to be topped with a spread.

Now, several local companies make lavosh.  If you go to the local snack aisle (by the bakery) at KTA, you can find many different varieties/flavors of lavosh.  All pieces are nearly identical in size.  It's lavosh like the kine LAMN's mom made...local kine lavosh...somewhere between a cookie and a cracker.

A few years ago, I tried to make lavosh (local kine).  I remember seeing a girl doing a 4-H demonstration on lavosh.  She couldn't have been older than 13, so I didn't think it would be difficult.  My attempt turned out to be an epic fail.  The dough was sticky, and no matter how I tried, I couldn't get it thin enough to be crisp.  And to make matters worse, even with sticky dough, the poppy seeds went all over then dang place.  I had poppy seeds all over the floor!

Being older and wiser now, armed with a Dyson and having discovered the magic of parchment paper, I thought it was good time to give it another try.  This time, I added the poppy seeds in the dough (no more having to sprinkle it on each piece).  While I was able to roll the dough thinner and not worry about how I was going to get it on the cookie sheet, the baking time was still something I needed to work on.  The 8 minutes called for in the original recipe was not anywhere long enough to yield a crispy product, and soft lavosh is not acceptable in my book.  I fiddled with the baking time in order to get snapping-crisp lavosh. 

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 3/4 c flour
     1/2 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp baking soda
     1/2 c sugar
     1/2 c butter
     1 c buttermilk
     3 tbsp poppy seeds (or sesame seeds, or combination)

Sift flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar together.  Cut in butter until crumbs form.  Stir in buttermilk and poppy seeds.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Using a #40 disher (a generous tablespoon), scoop dough into balls onto floured surface.  Flour hands well and smooth balls.  Flour dough balls well.  On a piece of parchment paper, roll ball of dough out as thinly as possible.  Repeat with remaining balls of dough.  Place lavosh, parchment paper and all, on cookie sheet.  Bake for 23 minutes.  Remove lavosh to cooling rack and cool completely before storing.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie

Just before I went to Texas a few years ago, I purchased one of the Pastry Queen cookbooks.  Prior to purchasing the book, I knew nothing about the author.  The impulse purchase was made solely because I was utterly intrigued by the meringue picture on the cover.  Ever since I can remember, I have loved lemon meringue pie.  Perhaps it was because I grew up in a household which did not make regular trips to the bakery. . .perhaps because Kikukat mom was not into pie baking. . .perhaps I had been a naughty girl. . .for whatever reason, we NEVER bought lemon meringue pie.  On  occasion, my uncle, who was a frequent bakery patron, would bring over a lemon meringue pie (probably when the bakery was out of prune cake, his favorite).  I remember exercising restraint when all wanted to do was to stick a fork into the meringue and eat a big glob of it.

When I moved into my home, Kikukat mom bought me a Meyer lemon tree.  It was the first tree we planted.  When the men came over to dig the swimming pool, I made sure they did not touch the lemon tree with the heavy equipment.  Thankfully the lemon tree flourished and over the years, it has given me a nearly constant supply of big, juicy lemons.

Being a lemon meringue pie fanatic, you can bet it was close to the top of my list of recipes to make with my lemons.  I've tried several recipes, and I've discovered I prefer a slightly sweet filling (as opposed to tangy).  Another ingredient amount which varied among the recipes I tried was the cornstarch.  I don't like a soft runny filling; I like the filling to be able to stand when cut.

Of course, the most important part of a lemon meringue pie is the meringue.  I like a generous ratio of meringue to filling.  In my experimentation, a 4-white meringue makes a nice topping.  The 3-white versions, while covering the filling, didn't seem high enough for me.  Some recipes called for more whites than yolks, but if you know me, you know the extra yolks sitting in my fridge would likely get thrown away before they get used.  When I first started making this pie, I would use a spatula and spoon to spread and smooth the meringue over the hot filling (the left side of the above photo).  After the Pastry Queen cookbook purchase, I began piping the meringue from an icing bag fitted with a large star tip.  I love the way the meringue looks (the right side of the above photo).  I guess it depends on the effect you are after.  If you are like me and love the slightly burnt tips, then use a piping bag.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a solution to keep the meringue from weeping (caramel colored drops on the surface of the meringue).

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     9" baked pie crust

Filling:  7 tbsp cornstarch
              1 3/4 c sugar
              1/4 tsp salt
              1/2 c lemon juice
              2 1/2 c water
              4 egg yolks. beaten
              3 tbsp butter
              grated rind of 1 lemon

Meringue:  4 egg whites
                   1/4 tsp cream of tartar
                   1/2 c sugar
                   1 tsp vanilla    

Combine all filling ingredients, except lemon rind, in the top of a double boiler.  Heat over high, stirring constantly.  When mixture thickens (about 10 minutes), continue cooking 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add lemon rind.  Keep warm.  Using a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until frothy.  Add cream of tartar.  Gradually add sugar.  Add vanilla.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Place filling back on heat source and heat briefly, stirring a few times.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place meringue in icing bag.  Pour hot filling into pie crust.  Immediately cover surface of hot filling with meringue, being careful to pull meringue to edges.  Either mound or decoratively pipe remaining meringue onto pie.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Meringue should be golden brown.  Let cool before serving.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Easy Minestrone

This was certainly an adventure-filled fall break.  I'm almost looking forward to this week back at least I know the bleeding ends at 3:00 pm.

On Wednesday, the Ds and I headed to Honolulu.  We were conveniently able to schedule a follow-up appointment with the allergist on Thursday.  We spent the rest of the time shopping, eating, and rubbing elbows with family at a wedding.

My "little" cousin LA and her fiancee SN tied the knot at the beautiful and classy Halekulani Hotel.  Talk about the wedding of weddings!  Every girl should want a wedding like that.  While the venue was impeccably set up, the food was absolutely delicious.  Glad the happy couple was so concerned about the guests eating well!

After all the indulgences last week, I think it's best to scale back and eat light this week.  I noticed the weather here seems cooler than it was a few weeks ago, making it good soup weather.  This recipe cheats a little and uses 2 cans of Campbell's condensed soup for the base.  But when you're pressed for time on a weeknight, the canned soup ensures everything will come together quickly.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Easy Minestrone

     3 slices bacon, chopped (or use 3 tbsp bacon bits + 2 tsp olive oil)
     1 c chopped onion
     1/2 c chopped celery
     1 can Campbell's bean & bacon soup
     1 can Campbell's beef broth
     18 oz water
     1/2 tsp salt
     1 can (14.5 oz) whole tomatoes or stewed tomatoes, broken up
     1/2 c pasta
     1-2 c diced zucchini
     1-2 c shredded cabbage
     1 clove garlic, minced
     1 tsp shredded basil leaves, optional

Brown bacon (or bacon bits and olive oil), onion, celery, garlic & basil.  Add soup, broth, water, tomatoes, salt, macaroni, zucchini & cabbage.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes or until zucchini is cooked.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Almost Cafe Kaila: Belgian Waffle Encore

I am finally on Fall break, a break from work, but a break from nothing else.  This is going to be a busy break!

A year ago, The Help and I headed to the Pacific Northwest to visit AChar and to pay homage to the greatest institution of higher learning (my opinion only).  This year, we're keeping it local.  I'm taking the Ds to Oahu.  We have an allergist visit lined up and a list of places at which to dine, but the high point of our visit will be a wedding!

In planning our eating, both Ds have requested we go to Cafe Kaila for breakfast.  Cafe Kaila, in Market City, seems to be a popular breakfast place with the Japanese tourist crowd.  They arrive in taxis, on foot, and one time, I saw a bus load arrive.  I notice they tend to order family-style, and this might not be a bad idea, after all, the portions at Cafe Kaila are ample.  While I enjoy the egg breakfasts and home fries (hoping I get to try the benedict this time), the Ds go there for Belgian waffles.  After swipering a bite of their waffle, they are not off base in declaring it the best waffle in the world.

The Ds are partial to the waffles at Cafe Kaila, but delicious Belgian waffles can be recreated at home with just a little effort.  I posted a Belgian waffle recipe a few months ago.  That recipe yields crisp, savory waffles which can be made with ingredients you likely have on hand.  However, if you want to capture the crisp, light and slightly lemony taste of the Cafe Kaila waffle, then this week's post is for you.  These waffles are crispier, lighter, and sweeter than my previously posted recipe.  Unfortunately, not many people have buttermilk in the fridge.  If you don't mind running out to the store (or making your own from a powder or milk/vinegar), then this is the recipe you need to make!  You can always use the leftover buttermilk to make red velvet cupcakes!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 3/4 c flour
     1 1/2 tsp baking powder
     1 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp salt
     1/3 c sugar
     3 eggs, separated
     1/2 c butter, melted
     1 3/4 c buttermilk
     1/2 tsp lemon extract

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.  Set aside.  Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.  Whisk egg yolks, butter, buttermik, and lemon extract.  Whisk in flour mixture, stirring until smooth.  Fold in half of egg whites, then carefully fold in remaining egg whites.  Cook on a pre-heated waffle iron for 6 minutes at medium heat (Use 1/3 cup or #12 disher for each waffle and #4 heat setting on All-Clad).

Homecoming was especially sweet this year with a victory over the Konawaena Wildcats.  The final score, 39-7, doesn't truly indicate how well the Wildcats were able to move the ball.  Moving the ball close to the goal line was not the problem.  The problem was crossing over with all the Viking defenders in the way!  
off to an early lead
difficult to escape from your own teammates
bringing down dangerous Nainoa Ellis-Noa
Best of luck next week, boys.  Let's finish the regular season with a victory over Waiakea.  I will miss the game but will definitely look at the pics when I return.

Kikukat and family would also like to ask anyone heading to the west side this coming weekend to cheer on hometown boy and Viking alumnus Colby LaBrie (bib #1565), who will be competing in the Ironman World Championships on Saturday.  It's people like Colby who remind me why I do what I do.  I am so proud of him.  Go Colby!!!