kruizing with kikukat

Monday, February 24, 2014

Under Pressure: Sweet Sour Spareribs

Under pressure to prepare meals in a hurry. . .a few weeks ago, NN, the mommy of D2's best friend, asked me if I own and use a pressure cooker.  She was interested in buying one to help expedite meal preparation.  As soccer season kicks into high gear for her, time in the kitchen takes a back seat to time at the soccer fields.  And with two kids in soccer, she is really pressed for time.

I did not grow up in a home which used a pressure cooker.  In fact, I don't think my parents ever owned a pressure cooker.  Kikukat Mom would rave about crazy & brave UJames, who would use a pressure cooker to cook sweet potato and laulau.  I remember my homeroom teacher in high school telling a story of how she cooked beef stew in the pressure cooker, and how the stew ended up on the ceiling of her kitchen.  It was probably stories like that which prevented my parents (from the same generation) from wanting to even attempt to use a pressure cooker.

Unlike my parents, Mr. Dependable's mom owned a pressure cooker.  It was never used (she said she bought it at a party), but she still had one.  She gave it to me to try.  I gave it a shot.  My food did not end up on the ceiling.  The pot did not explode.  The spareribs turned out tender and flavorful.  I was sold!  I eventually bought a large pressure cooker, which has come in handy for all sorts of things. . .AND has a safety mechanism which prevents the pressure cooker from being opened until the pressure dissipates to a non-explosive level.

A few months ago, I posted a recipe for pig feet soup, a traditional Okinawan recipe.  When Mr. Dependable broke his jaw, the first thing he requested after the wires came off was pig feet soup.  Thanks to the large Fagor (and the fat separator), I was able to make it in time for dinner that day.  In recent years, The Help successfully  lobbied for a pot of beef stew as a no-fuss meal at informal family gatherings.  I've obliged him and attained hero status with UJames, who always has second helpings (I've been told my beef stew tastes like the one served at Cafe 100).

I circled back last week, and NN informed me she loves her new pressure cooker!  She asked me for some recipes, and the first recipe at the top of my list was sweet sour spareribs!  Actually, it was pig feet soup, but I didn't think NN would eat pig feet soup, so I gave her my recipe for sweet sour spareribs.  I knew it was a good choice when she said, "yummmmm".

 click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2 lbs spareribs
     4 cloves garlic
     1/3 c shoyu
     6 tbsp sugar
     1/4 c rice vinegar
     1/2 tsp salt
     1 tbsp oil
     1 tbsp cornstarch
     1 can pineapple chunks, drained

Combine shoyu, sugar, vinegar and salt. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat spareribs and 1 c water. Boil then simmer for 20 minutes (longer if chunks are large). Drain spareribs. In a clean pan, heat oil. Add garlic and spareribs. Fry for a few minutes. Add shoyu mixture. Cook on low for 25 minutes. Combine cornstarch and a little water. Add to spareribs and stir until sauce thickens.  Garnish with pineapple chunks. 
Pressure cooker method: Combine spareribs and 1 c water. Heat til boiling. Cover and bring up to high pressure. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let pressure decrease naturally. Drain spareribs, discarding broth. Clean and dry pressure cooker. Add oil to pressure cooker. Add garlic and spareribs. Fry for a few minutes. Add shoyu mixture. Heat til boiling. Cover and bring up to high pressure. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let pressure decrease naturally. Combine cornstarch and a little water. Add to spareribs. Heat and stir until sauce thickens.  Garnish with pineapple chunks.
If you like lots of sauce, double the sauce ingredients.

Monday, February 17, 2014

FATTIE's Chicken Curry

Thank you to Presidents Washington and Lincoln for inspiring the USA to create a holiday in the middle of February!  I'm enjoying my day off while I take a trip down memory lane.

This is very similar to a delicious dish I was served at the wedding rehearsal dinner of someone an ex-boyfriend could not get over.  While the company at the dinner sucked ass, the curry was remarkably creamy, satisfying and comforting.

While this picture and the rehearsal dinner featured chicken in the curry, this can also be made with shrimp.  In fact, I do prefer curry made with shrimp, however, out of respect and compassion for D1s possible shellfish allergy, I'm trying to minimize the cooking/serving of questionable food while we await our appointment with Dr. Kuo.

Enjoy the holiday!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1/2 c butter
     2 cloves garlic, crushed
     4 tsp curry powder
     1 lb shrimp or chicken
     1 can chicken broth
     2 thin slices lemon
     1 bay leaf
     1/2 c flour
     1 c sour cream
     condiments:  chutney, chopped egg, bacon bits, chopped celery, chopped peanuts or mac nuts

Cut chicken into strips (If using shrimp, shell and devein).  Set aside.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in garlic and curry powder.  Add chicken/shrimp and saute until cooked.  Remove and set aside.  Add chicken broth, lemon slices, and bay leaf to saucepan.  Simmer 20 minutes.  Remove and discard lemon slices, and bay leaf.  Remove 1/2 c of liquid from saucepan and add to flour.  Stir until smooth then add to saucepan.  Stir until thickened.  Add sour cream.  Stir until fully incorporated.  Return chicken/shrimp to sauce mixture.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Serve with assorted condiments.

My original angle was to post a scathing account of the indignities I endured, but The Help suggested I tone it down, after all, the food should be the focus. . .not details of my sordid past relationships.  If you are like me and love a good story, email me and I can give you all the details!
We celebrated Valentine's Day!
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The Help bought us girls a Dream Cake from Zippy's.  D2 had been talking about the cake for weeks, saying it was her favorite cake. I used to see this cake in the dessert cases at Robert's Bakery and Lanky's Bakery, but it was not something my parents ever bought even if I asked for it many times.  Something about those chocolate curls. . .

D2 gave me a rubber band ring.  It fits me perfectly.  In addition to me, her dentist also received a gift.  He got a rubber band bracelet.  Thank you again, 3M, for the rubber band loom and supplies.  It came in handy this past weekend when KN and KB spent the night with D2.  Glad there is something which provides a break from the electronics these kids seem to love so much.  

The Help got me gold...liquid gold.  Not sure where he found this bottle of Kirk and Sweeney Dominican rum.  I will not be making a rum cake with this.  I will be using it as an wash away the ills of a bad day.  It should be gone in a fortnight!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bread Pudding

Well, we voted on a bell schedule.  It was one our school developed which is quite similar to the current bell schedule.  Now we need to hope it passes muster (some brass has to approve it).  If it passes, I'm going to be happy.  I think it's a sound schedule, and it really is workable.

I spent the better part of the week agonizing over how to motivate the students to do better on schoolwide reading assessments.  I certainly don't want to be called the albatross of the language arts department!

My sweet tooth escalated this week, and I ended up making several desserts.  One thing I made was bread pudding.  For some reason, we always seem to have odds & ends bread pieces in the freezer.  Not wanting to waste, I think I'm the one who keeps throwing bread (still in the bag) into the freezer, thinking I'll eventually get around to making croutons.

I accumulated enough bread slices to make the volume requirement for this recipe.  But this recipe is so delicious that it wouldn't be a bad thing to buy bread just for a pan of bread pudding.  Of course, there was one occasion where I bought a loaf of French bread on the way home from work.  When I got home, I realized the bread was old and hard (perhaps this was the reason for the discounted price).

What to do?  Make bread pudding of course!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb bread, cut or torn into 1/2" cubes (about 12 cups)
     1/2 c dried fruit
     6 eggs
     1 c sugar
     2 tsp vanilla extract
     1 block butter, melted and cooled
     1/2 tsp cinnamon
     1/4 tsp nutmeg
     4 c milk, heated in microwave for 1 minute

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13" pan.  In a large bowl, toss bread cubes and fruit.  Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg using a whisk.  Gradually whisk in milk.  Stir egg-milk mixture into bread-fruit mixture.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 40 minutes.

When I was younger, I liked eating cold bread pudding.  I liked the cool, creaminess of it.  But as I got older, a heated chunk of bread pudding with a generous pat of melting butter is my favorite way to eat it.
Hilo welcomed Chinese New Year this weekend with a festival at Kalakaua Park.  We arrived just after 10 am, and it was already crowded.  There were a handful of food booths and a whole bunch of craft fair type booths.  The only quasi-Chinese foods sold were shrimp chips and gao.  I was tempted to buy a bag of shrimp chips, but I changed my mind when I saw them sodomized with odd flavors like garlic and furikake.  The gao booth was another scene of corruption.  In addition to traditional gao, they had the audacity to sell green tea-flavored and chocolate-flavored gao.  Popo would've fainted! 

The Big Island Shaolin Arts Lion Dancers culminated their trek throughout downtown Hilo with a performance on Kalakaua Street (between the park and the East Hawaii Cultural Center).

I didn't buy anything at the festival, but on the way back to the car, I bought 2 Kendama from the Irie Smoke Shop (on the advice from one of my favorite students).

I remember taking the Ds to "feed the lion". . . feels like a thousand years ago!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Greek Pasta Salad

KABOOM!!!  By now, most people have heard about what happened at work this past Thursday (it made the Huffington Post).  I was talking to 3M in her office as recess ended and students made their way to their 5th period class.  We heard a loud noise.  It sounded like a single firecracker (although someone thought it was much louder).  When I looked outside 3M's door, the kids were proceeding to class as usual, and nothing looked awry.  I went to the main parking lot to move my car to the makai driveway (it was Thursday so D1 had to go to the hospital for her internship) because its a lot easier to get out from the makai driveway than the main entrance.  I went back to my room and found a slip of paper I meant to give to another teacher for her meeting that afternoon.  While in her room, the lockdown alarm sounded.  I was on my way back to my room (running) when I saw D1's friend in the building corridor.  She had been in the bathroom and got locked out of the near classrooms.  Poor thing!  I told security I'd take her so we ran to my room and locked down.  We busied ourselves by eating snacks and drinking soda.

Lockdown lasted about an hour-and-a-half.  Two students were arrested for detonating a water bottle bomb near the auditorium.  All of this was on the local news. . .including a picture of my car parked on the makai side of campus!  I'm glad nobody got hurt, and I am so proud of the way the situation was handled by the administration.  We really do have the best administrators! 

The uproar caused by the bottle bomb notwithstanding, this was a busy week.  I attended two boys basketball games (both losses).  One game was against the dreaded crosstown rival.  The other game was against the "haves" (we are the "have nots").  The Help came along to take pics for D1's cheer coach.  Of course, he took the opportunity to snap some practice shots of the game.  In spite of all the running he had to do on the football field, he declared that taking football pics was much more enjoyable than taking basketball pics.

Hilo had another week of mostly cold (by Hawaii standards), wet weather.  I took advantage of the opportunity to wear some of the boots & covered shoes I bought.  After years of wearing sandals & slip-ons, I decided to go back to wearing covered shoes.  I love it.  It keeps my feet nice and warm.  Come to think of it, the day of the bomb was the first dry-ish day we've had in a while.  Anyway, a bunch of my fb friends drove up to the mountain this past weekend to play in the snow.  Some random trucks could also be seen driving through Hilo with snow in the cargo area.  Oddly enough, by the time the weekend came around, Hilo was warmer. . .in the 80s.

I'm beginning the countdown until the next holiday.  TEN days.  I might need to start the spring break countdown soon too.  I know there are 73 days of school left for the seniors.  We counted together.

It is too early to be thinking about salads, but with all the counting down, I'm kinda looking forward to summer vacation (or spring break. . .since it will come before than summer).  And I took advantage of the warm weekend weather to throw this salad together for Super Bowl food.  Actually, I wanted to make something else, but there must be some kind of onion shortage going on because I could only find reasonably priced red onions at the market (and I didn't feel like driving around).

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 c orzo (uncooked)
     2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
     1/2 red onion, finely chopped
     1/2 c minced flat-leaf parsley
     1/3 c red wine vinegar
     1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
     1 tsp salt
     1 1/2 tsp sugar
     1/8 tsp pepper
     1 tomato, chopped
     1 bell pepper, chopped
     1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
     1/2 c kalamata olives, drained and sliced
     1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

Cook orzo as directed on package.  Drain well and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine onion, parsley, vinegar, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add orzo and toss to coat.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  Just before serving, toss pasta with remaining ingredients.

On Saturday, The Help and I stopped by Short N Sweet Bakery to try the creme brulee cupcakes we saw on their FB page.  What a treat!

The cupcakes have that classic carmelized sugar topping which shatters when you dig in with a spoon.  But you will definitely need to use a spoon to get all the custard goodness (a nice surprise!).

If you're on the Big Island and you're looking for a nice treat for Valentine's Day, call Short N Sweet and place an order.  These are worth the price!

They are also cheaper than Maui onions.  I am NOT kidding.  When we went to Safeway, a bag of Maui onions (with 3 small-ish onions) was over $10!  That is crazy!!!