kruizing with kikukat

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ginger-Scallion Crab

It's almost Chinese New Year, and I'm missing out on the festivities in Honolulu!  Waaaahhhh!  I've gone every year for nearly a decade!  Unfortunately, the timing this year just didn't fit in.  We just had too much to do.  Mr. Dependable shirked parental duties last weekend, and D1 had an appointment with the allergist which was supposed to happen this past weekend.  When you live in a small town, there aren't too many specialists.  We waited over 2 months for the allergist appointment, and on Thursday, the allergist's office called to postpone the appointment another 2 months.  That did it for me!  We now have an appointment in Honolulu with a different doctor, with HMSA footing part of the airfare.

I'm bummed because this means we really could have gone to Honolulu for the Chinese New Year celebration.  The Help pointed out that this past weekend would have been an awful time to be in Honolulu anyway. . .its NFL Pro Bowl weekend.  That translates into  difficulty finding a well-priced hotel room and car.  Oh well . . . maybe next year.  I guess.

For some reason, its been crazy at work too.  D1 has an internship at the medical center lab.  She spends two hours there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  She loves it.  I don't think I could handle what she does.  She isn't as squeamish as I am.  I drive her up to the hospital during my lunch break.  Of course I have indigestion on those days from eating so fast.  D1 eats a peanut butter sandwich on the drive. . .peanut butter sandwich is made by both me and The Help.  I make it the way I would make my own sandwich then The Help goes over it to make it like the way he'd make it.  D1 likes the way The Help makes it.  I wonder why.

I finally got off my ass this weekend and made some gao.  I made 2 batches.  I dropped one cake off at JoFer's house on Saturday, and I'm bringing 2 cakes to work tomorrow.  The gao list keeps growing so it's likely I'll be making more next weekend.  I need to be sure I have enough wong tong and mochiko.  Actually, for gao, I prefer to use the Thai glutinous rice flour.  It comes in a clear plastic bag with green writing (the red and blue designs are different kind of rice flour).  The end product is much smoother than what you get when you use mochiko (white box).

Missing out on Chinese New Year has made me ono for Chinese food, and I tried to compensate by cooking Chinese food as often as I could.  On Monday we had Hong Kong Chicken.  On Tuesday we had sweet sour spareribs.  Wednesday was leftovers.  Thursday was our first free night (no basketball game) so we took Kikukat Dad out to celebrate his birthday.  D2 suggested Japanese food as a break from all the Chinese food we've been having.  On Friday, after the Ds left with Mr. Dependable, I made this crab for me and The Help.

The Help claims not to be big on seafood.  He doesn't eat any of the bony fish (e.g., kole, menpachi, aholehole, etc.).  And he says he is not big on oysters, mussels, and lobster either.  But Ginger-Scallion Crab is an exception.  The Help loves this.  You know it's good when you can hear all the lip-smacking and finger-licking (sorry Brucie. . .I'm sure you must be cringing now).

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 dungeness crabs
     2 tbsp oil
     1 tsp sesame oil
     2" piece of ginger, julienned
     1 bell pepper, slivered
     1 tbsp sugar
     2 tbsp shoyu
     2 tbsp oyster sauce
     1 tsp chicken powder
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     1/2 c water
     green onion, chopped
     cilantro, chopped

Combine shoyu, oyster sauce, sugar, and chicken powder.  Set aside.  Combine cornstarch and water.  Set aside.  Heat oils in a wok.  Stir fry ginger and bell pepper.  Add crab and toss with ginger and bell pepper.  Add shoyu mixture.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Add cornstarch mixture and cook until thick.  Place in serving dish and garnish with green onions and cilantro.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cookie Jar: Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies

Whew. . .I'm glad today is a holiday!  I was running around like a chicken without a head this past week.  The Ds had so much going on.  D2 had an intermediate school registration meeting on Tuesday.  D1 began work at the hospital that same day.  She had games on Tuesday and Friday, and both Ds had dental appointments on Wednesday.  D1 doesn't drive, so I'm still chauffeuring her around.  Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. . .one less thing to worry about.  AND less to pay in car insurance.

Our school was visited by a team made up of district people and a bunch of frequent flyers from Oahu.  What a bunch of sorry ass losers.  They were okay with me, but in one class, the students felt threatened when one of them started firing questions.  When the teacher tried to intervene to calm the student, the Oahu lady flew her hand down to wave her off.  Unreal.  One of the ladies who observed me had her foot up on a chair!  That's something even my students know better than to do.  That's rude!

Similar visits took place in the school district where I worked previously.  Teachers there saw it as a good thing and were looking at the visits as an opportunity to rat out the principal.  They were under the assumption that the visit would lead to the principal getting canned.  None of the visits led to that. . .I know because the same inept principals are still in their positions.  At my school, the faculty seemed to band together and wanted to protect the administration from these nefarious alien invaders.  To me, that says a lot.  People LIKE coming to work.  Students LIKE attending school.  I don't know of any school in the other place where the faculty and students would say that.

Someone said these unannounced visits were for evaluation purposes.  #anylaborattorneyslookingforwork  #lawsuitwaitingtohappen  I hope not because the individual classroom visits were unannounced.  One of my colleagues got into it with one of the brass from Oahu.  I think the Oahu lady behaved in an unprofessional way.  And if we're on the unprofessional tangent, sharing evaluative information with some staff members was also unprofessional.  If these people were respected, it would be a different story.  But a title and a few extra bucks does not garner automatic respect.  The only saving grace is that these idiots are not the ones in the classroom!  I would rather eat wasabi than have my kid be taught by one of these morons.  

Speaking of trash. . .this past week, I threw out what was left of the mini M & M cookies (its long after Christmas, so no point in trying to pass green & red M & M cookies as freshly baked), the ones LA didn't manage to eat.  I needed something to put into the cookie jar, so The Help suggested oatmeal cookies.

Now The Help would much rather eat cookies which are soft and chewy.  To me, soft cookies are either underbaked or stale (its part of the package when you live in such a humid place. . .you WANT cookies which are hard and crunchy).  But I told The Help that if he wanted soft cookies, he could either leave a some cookies out on the counter for a few hours or microwave them til they are warm (they will get soft).  Problem solved.

This is the oatmeal cookie I bake when I want oatmeal cookies.  The dough is sturdy. . .no refrigeration necessary, and the cinnamon-cranberry combination reminds me of my favorite bread machine bread.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies

     1/2 c butter, softened
     1/2 c shortening
     3/4 c brown sugar
     3/4 c sugar
     1 tsp cinnamon
     1 tsp salt
     2 tsp vanilla
     1 egg
     3 c quick oatmeal
     1 c flour
     1 c dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Combine butter, shortening, sugars, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Beat until smooth.  Add egg.  Stir in oatmeal and flour.  Add cranberries.  Using a #50 disher, drop dough onto prepared cookie sheets.  Flatten dough drops to 1/4" thickness (use fingers/palms).  Bake 20 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

When I make this, I stagger the baking.  Begin by baking 1 sheet on a rack 2/3 up in the oven.  10 minutes later, place another sheet on a rack about 3" below first sheet.  10 minutes later, remove top sheet and move lower sheet to higher rack.  Add new sheet onto lower rack and start timing cycle again.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Remembering Vovo: Portuguese Bean Soup

It's too early to be thinking about salads, that's for sure!  With the fickle weather we've been having, it's hard to tell if I should pack up the electric blanket or buy more UGGs.  Most of last week was so cold that I wore boots to work multiple times.  Then on Friday, by afternoon, it seemed like summer was about to begin.  My short-sleeve Manuheali`i blouse was perfect WITHOUT a jacket!  I had to re-think the weather on Saturday. . .once again we were treated to a major light show.  The kats and mastiffs were not happy with the accompanying thunder.  And yesterday was another quasi-summery day. . .t-shirt & crop pants weather.

It will be interesting to see what kind of weather we will have this week.  There will be a visiting group of asses coming from Honolulu to assess our school (nyuk nyuk) and tell us why we suddenly suck.  This is what I don't get.  A few months ago, our school was a "continuous improvement" school.  Then someone in a monkey suit (I'm sure this is a person who wears Reyn Spooner inside-out print shirts) realized he made a "calculation" error, and suddenly our school became a "focus" school.  We are still the same school that was praised for being in continuous improvement. . .nothing changed, but now, because we have a different label, the rules of the game have changed.  And I bet that idiot who made the calculation error did not even attend our school!  So since a large team is coming, they will need to find something wrong in order to justify their trip. 

And leave it to the state to go looking for trouble.  I live in a state where kindergarten is not mandatory.  Now the state is creating preschools at select schools.  We can't even get the compulsory kindergarten right yet they wanna dive into preschool.  State DOE preschools w/o mandatory kindergarten is definitely gonna be a clusterfuck.  I can't believe the state (upper-level, not the teachers) is so stupid.

Oh well. . .I'm just glad I survived last week.  It's always hard to go back to work after a vacation, and last week was no exception.  I have a challenging student, and while I'm itching to tell him where he can go stick it, I took the higher road and gave him suggestions on how to curry favor with the parents of his flavor-of-the-month. . .hoping some if it will rub off in the classroom.  I also reminded myself that in a little over 4 months, he will no longer be my problem (and he better not even think about dating D1!). 

For the most part though, it was nice to be back at work.  I can't remember the last time when I didn't totally dread going back to work after a vacation.  And after seeing facebook posts from people I used to work with, I'm even more grateful to be where I am today.  I'm amazed at what I've observed over the past few years.  Five years ago, I would have believed that people in poverty-stricken areas would be grateful for whatever they receive.  Now I know different.  Many are not grateful.  Many shamelessly ask what else they will get.  This is not what the books say.  I am just glad to be where I am.  Most students and parents are awesome.  Most of my colleagues and all the bosses are competent.  This is way more that I can say about that OTHER place.

Perhaps this is why I didn't mind the boss asking us to be in our rooms this week when the visiting team does their sleuthing.  It's not difficult to want to please the guy. . .to want to make him look good.  He is a really nice man, and I would be pissed if any member of the visiting team disrespects him.  I will tow the line. . .no going to pick up lunch this week.  I will be bringing leftovers. . .leftover Portuguese Bean Soup (PBS).

I used to make PBS from a recipe I found in a cookbook.  But ever since The Help arrived, he has taken over the PBS-making duties.  This recipe is a modified version of the original recipe, which came from his vovo (Portuguese for grandmother).  Here is what puzzles me. . .in many cookbooks I've read, instructions always say to cook beans fully before adding acidic ingredients.  But The Help dumps everything in the pot at the same time, and the soup turns out great every time.  I just don't get it. 

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb kidney beans, soaked overnight and drained
     3 ham hocks
     1 ring Portuguese sausage, chopped
     2 round onions, chopped
     2 cloves garlic, chopped
     1 small bunch parsley, chopped
     1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
     2 1/2 quarts warm water
     salt & pepper to taste

Bring all ingredients to a boil and simmer for 3 hours.

This is one of those dishes which only gets better over days.  I don't like to find bones in my soup, so The Help removes the ham hock bones as the hocks begin to disintegrate.  He also removes the rubbery skin.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Food Processor Dessert: Lemon Bars

Happy New Year!!!  I'm back at work today, but students don't return until Wednesday.  I'm not excited about having to work, but I am excited about beginning the second half of the school year.  In 5 months, the bleeding will end (and new gaping wounds will open).

Before I continue, I'd like to wish a belated happy birthday to my friend Maggie in NY.  Would've loved to join in the celebration at the Cheesecake Factory and check out the 80s band.

I'm feeling rather well-rested, having dodged the bullet of hosting an endless new year gathering.  All I was asked to bring was some kind of namasu and a dessert to CAE's house.  The namasu was easy. . .cucumber & chicken namasu.  The dessert was a no-brainer. . .lemon cake, fruit cake, and confetti jello.  I was going to make lemon bars, my "signature" dessert, but I made lemonade with the last of the lemon juice.  My favorite uncle has a huge dose of a citrus beverage daily to combat the formation of kidney stones.  And really, I think I OD'd on lemon bars anyway.

I've been making lemon bars for nearly two decades, and for most of that time, my lemon bars were just another item on the dessert table.  My late uncle would ask me to bring it as a dessert to family parties.  But a year or two ago, things changed.  After bringing the bars to an office potluck, my buddy SF asked me to make some for the dessert table for her daughter's wedding.  I once made a 40-piece tray of it for a "feed-the-hungry" service project for D1 (she got yelled at by her club advisor---"thats not the kind of dessert for a soup kitchen!").  This past summer, I brought it to a gathering at the HHS pool when the students from Sumoto came for a visit.  The club advisor and some of the kids went crazy.  D1 said that she saw a student eat 5.  That was the first time D1 and D2 had ever eaten lemon bars (yup, I know what you're thinking).  D1 wanted to know what all the fuss was about, and D2 decided to get in on some of the action too.  Since this school year began in August, D1 has come home and told me on more than one occasion:  "___ asked if you could make lemon bars" and "I want to give lemon bars to ___".

About a month ago, one of my bosses told me, "My mom said you're known for your lemon bars."  This was after he thanked me for the tray of lemon bars I brought to the office and the separate tray D1 gave his wife.  That same boss called me during the vacation and asked me for the recipe (claims his wife lost the paper copy I gave).  Of course I obliged. . .I like the guy!  D1's friend brought me a plastic bag filled with lemons from her tree so "you can make lemon bars or something".  Unbeknownst to me, she told her club advisor "D1's mom makes the best lemon bars."  This resulted in the club advisor asking me if he could independently verify this claim.  All this lemon attention just has me laughing.

And I don't mind.  I have the recipe memorized.  I have multiple pans (exactly the same) which allow me to make several pans at a time (no point in making just 1 pan).  Experience has taught me a lot about making and serving lemon bars. 

Kitchen mess is a huge issue for me.  I hate to look at a pile of dirty dishes.  It pisses me off and irritates me when dishes sit unwashed, and that is why I use the food processor to make lemon bars.  The crust and filling can be mixed in the food processor bowl, and the washing is done when the filling is need to wash and dry the bowl between crust and filling.   And if you line the baking pans with foil, the pans will stay clean.  Another huge plus to lining the pan with foil---you will have a nice apron when you dust the bars with powdered sugar.

If I make lemon bars for myself, my preferred shape is the "finger", where the pan is cut into 3 long pieces, then each piece is cut into 10-12 pieces.  But if I am making the bars for an event or to give away, I will cut them into squares.  A 9 x 13-inch pan will yield 35 (5 x 7) squares which are perfect for the medium size baking cups.

I am now staring down the barrel at the 2nd half of the school year.  Over vacation, it occurred to me that perhaps I'm often asked to make lemon bars because people think that's the only thing I can make!  I may need to think of a game changer soon.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust:  2 c flour
            2 tbsp sugar
            2 tbsp powdered sugar
            3/4 c butter

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until tiny crumbs form.  Press into a 9 x 13" pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Make filling while crust is baking.

Filling:  2 c sugar
              1/2 c flour
              1/4 tsp salt
              1/4 tsp vanilla
              1 tsp baking powder
              4 eggs
              5 tbsp lemon juice (may use up to 8 tbsp if you like it tart; adjust baking time accordingly)

Combine all filling ingredients in the same food processor bowl used for crust.  Process until smooth.  Pour over hot crust and bake 25 minutes.  Cool completely.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Cut into desired pieces.

One pan will make 35 squares or 30-36 "fingers".

Congratulations to LA & SN, who announced their engagement to the family on Monday evening.  We will definitely "save the date" (and buy SN a new shirt. . .gotta admit, the boy would look much better in purple & gold).  WOOF!!!
I overcame my frustration with knitting and have been going great guns.  I joined Ravelry and now have access to all sorts of patterns.  I am most delighted with the Noro Silk Garden Darkside Cowl and Beanie.  I started the cowl 3 times (dropped stitches).  The beanie was less annoying, although it is slightly too large for me.  I'm thinking this set will make a nice gift for someone.

Inspired by the Noro Silk Garden Beanie (and dissatisfied with a simple chunky hat pattern I'd been using), I developed my own beanie pattern to use with some chunky yarns, Feza Bogeta and Plymout Yarns Grandiosa.  I love the way the Feza Bogeta yarn worked out, but I'm sure the more economical Lion Brand yarns would work fine too.  Wal-Mart has them in all sorts of colors.  Click here for the printable beanie pattern, which is also available in free .pdf on the Ravelry site.

Note:  These are actually human hats, but I couldn't find a willing model.  Panda and Fat Dawggie had to sign a model release!

Panda in Feza Bogeta beanie
Fat Dawggie in Plymouth Grandiosa beanie