kruizing with kikukat

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hibachi Food, Potluck Food: Bacon Pickle Hot Dog

It's that time of year. . .hibachi season!  The next few months will be filled with graduation parties, picnics, Fourth of July BBQs, off-to-college parties and, eventually, tailgating.  Uh-oh.  Tailgating reminds me that the next school year is just around the corner (and we haven't officially ended this one yet!).

The Help and I came to the decision that we need to replace our current outdoor grill in order to be in top shape for hibachi season.  After several surgeries, it's time to just start fresh.  Hopefully the Weber grills will be on special!  We are looking at Weber because the replacement parts are easier to find.  Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Target have some off-brands which, while well priced, are difficult to repair.  The Charmglow gas grill on the patio has been looking like Frankenstein's monster for a while.  It is time.

If you are having a barbecue (or invited to one), bacon pickle hot dog is a great contribution.  UJames neighbor, GarretK, made this for one of his parties.  Upon first glance, it didn't seem appetizing at all, but I was amazed at how the tart dill pickle enhances the smokiness of the bacon and hot dog.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

hot dogs, preferably red (found in Hawaii)
bacon, 1 slice for each hot dog
pickle spears, sliced thin, 1 slice for each hot dog

Slit hot dogs lengthwise, but don't cut all the way through.  Slice pickle spears lengthwise into quarters, sixths, or eights, depending on girth of pickle.  Shove pickle slice into slit of hot dog.  Wrap hot dog with bacon slice.  Broil or grill until bacon is cooked.  Cut each hot dog wrap in half to serve.

This weekend was a big graduation week.  For the first time in over a decade, I attended commencement and watched with pride when my students received their diplomas.  It was a great feeling to be able to congratulate the seniors as they made their way back to their seats.  Even the distasteful sight of the poorest excuse for an administrator #yofadagotuin did not dampen the moment.  The tassel changing was definitely a chicken skin moment, and it made me realize that my place is with the students.  I haven't felt this excited about my job in years!

The following day, Saturday, graduation excitement touched my own family.  CP, the first-born of the next generation, graduated from high school!  Congratulations, hugs and kisses go out to him!  Although I wasn't able to make it to the commencement exercises, I made him a lei to commemorate his momentous occasion.  If only his grandfather could have been there. . .he would have been so proud. 

This weekend served as a bittersweet reminder that in a year, D1 will be participating in her own commencement exercises.  If I could give her one bit of advice, it would be, "Make the most of your senior year.  Once it is over, there is no turning back."

Monday, May 19, 2014

Is it Tomato Beef or Beef Tomato?

In a few days, the seniors will no longer be seniors.  They will be graduates.  Wow.

This year has gone by quickly.  A year ago, I knew none of my current students, and I was eagerly counting the days I had left to work in that office.   There were very few bittersweet feelings. . .I was so glad the year would be ending soon.  When you are in an environment where many people want to be the boss, you end up with a bunch of assholes giving needless commands for the sole purpose of attempting to demonstrate their authority. . .clerical staff trying to levy sanctions based on their warped understanding of educational protocols and law.  Just an example. . .bosses having to mediate between clerk and teacher (not me. . .I just watched).  It was nice to leave that kind of toxic environment and be with students.

This year, I'm still counting down, but the countdown is bittersweet.  I am going to miss the class of 2014.  My students have taught me so much, and I feel I have become a better teacher because of the lessons they gave me.  I hope I was able to return the favor to them and that I met their expectations of what a good teacher should be.

Sniff, sniff. . .I think I am about to cry now.  I hope I can be strong and not cry on their last day.  Graduation is such a big occasion, and I don't want to be remembered as the crybaby teacher. 

This is going to be a busy week.  This evening is the athletic awards program.  Thursday will be the "jumping in the pool" assembly for seniors.  This is a big moment for seniors.  They wait four years just to get to jump in the pool!  Jumping in the pool for PE isn't quite the same.  Commencement ceremonies take place Friday evening.  I will be there to send them off. . .just as I was there to welcome them on the first day of school.

Work notwithstanding, my own kids have a lot going on this week too.  D1 has several school functions today, and so does D2.  D1 and I will also need to be at commencement.  Knowing how busy this week will be, I decided not to expect much in the way of cooking.  The m.o. for this week will be pick-up. . .Cham Cham, Leung's, Cafe 100. . .all fair game.  So to ease my feelings of guilt, I made this for dinner last night.  Beef Tomato/Tomato Beef on noodles is something we all enjoy.  Its even easier if its made without the noodles, but since the Ds love chow mein noodles, I rarely omit the noodle part.

I'm not sure how the rest of the world sees this dish, but it is a favorite selection on the menu of most Chinese restaurants in Hawaii.  It is also one of the few dishes all of us will willingly eat.  D1 will eat everything but the tomatoes.  D2 will eat only noodles, broccoli, and baby corn.  But there is something for everyone here, and when I make this, there are hardly any leftovers.

Kikukat Mom occasionally made this, probably at the request of Kikukat Dad, but I'm sure her heart wasn't into it. . .she won't eat onion or bell pepper so that certainly put a damper on her enthusiasm.  Also, when she did make it, she never made the noodles.  It was always eaten over rice.  Not being a huge fan of vegetables back then, I showed no enthusiasm for this dish and have no fond memories.

When I got older, I came across a recipe in a cookbook which sounded like something I could eat.  By then I was eating all kinds of vegetables (except peas, which I still do not eat).  I added the baby corn at D2's request.  I really didn't think much of this dish, but after posting a picture of this on facebook, I was floored by the amount of comments and the # of requests.  The next day, both Ds each left with a container of this for their teachers (and my friends) who had asked, via facebook, for a taste.

The other aspect of my facebook post which left me speechless was the debate over the name of this dish.  I remember hearing "Tomato Beef" all the time, but many of my friends insisted the correct order was "Beef Tomato".  One friend, a logical tita indeed, pointed out that a closely related dish is called "Beef Broccoli", not "Broccoli Beef".

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Beef Tomato or Tomato Beef Chow Mein

     1 lb flank steak
     3 tbsp shoyu, divided
     1 tbsp shao xing wine
     2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
     1 1/2 tsp sugar
     1 clove garlic, minced
     1/2" ginger, grated
     1/2 onion, sliced
     1 head broccoli, peeled and cut into florets
     1 stalk celery, sliced thin
     1 bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" strips
     1 can baby corn, drained
     2 stalks green onion, sliced in 1/2" lengths
     1 c chicken broth
     2 tbsp cornstarch
     2 tsp salt
     1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
     1 tsp oyster sauce
     2 tsp ketchup
     3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
     20-30 oz cooked chow mein noodles

Freeze flank steak for 30 minutes.  Slice against grain into pieces (2 1/2" x 1" x 1/4").  Combine with 1 tbsp shoyu, shao xing, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, sugar, garlic, and ginger.  Let stand at least 30 minutes.  When meat is nearly done marinating, place chow mein noodles in a baking dish and heat in a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  While noodles are heating, heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in a wok over high heat.  Stir fry flank steak pieces until done.  Remove from wok and set aside.  Add  onions, broccoli, and celery to wok.  Stir fry 1 minute.  Add bell pepper and stir fry for another minute.  Add baby corn and green onion and stir fry for another minute.  Combine chicken broth, cornstarch, 2 tbsp shoyu, salt, brown sugar, oyster sauce, and ketchup.  Pour over vegetables in wok.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Return beef to pan.  Add tomatoes.  Heat for a minute.  Pour over heated noodles.

This year, D2's school did not have their usual ho`olaule`a.  Instead, they did `aha mele (song festival).  I'm guessing the `aha mele choice over ho`olaule`a was done to conserve instructional time, as the practicing takes away from classroom time.  Having been notified of the `aha mele earlier last week, I was unable to get a sub.  Another elementary school had their May Day program on the same day so I can imagine how many teacher-parents needed subs.  Administration gave me their blessings to attend (what did I say...I have THE best bosses), but it would have been difficult and would've taxed the personnel resources of my department.  Luckily, The Help and Mr. Dependable were able to make it.

This will be the last elementary school May Day for D2.  In a few months,  D2 will be matriculating at another school.  It hasn't always been easy for D2 to follow D1.  They are just so different, and I can imagine the shock people have when they realize D2 is NOT a miniature D1.  I'm grateful that her 5th grade teachers gave her a chance to participate in the last ho`olaule`a as an island princess, something D1 never did.  

And for the second time while writing this week's post, I'm feeling like I'm about to cry.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chicken and Squash

Wow!  I'm glad I made it through last week.  Last week was crazy.  I endured 4 out of 5 days of afterschool meetings.  On top of it all, D1 had 2 advanced placement tests to take and a board meeting to attend.  She even managed to attend the year-end performance of the Ambassadors.  The high point of the week was the may day festivities on Monday.  We sure have lots of student talent, especially the Polynesian students.  There were several Tongan dances as well as modern Hula performances.  I had chicken skin during the oli to open up the program.  And thankfully, the program ran smoothly.  All the students behaved.  I hope it is a sign of healing.

I was also able to make good on a promise I made to one of my language arts classes.  When my administrator came in to do my observation, my students engaged in conversation with him, retelling William Golding's Lord of the Flies novel (up to the point we covered), and the admin mentioned never having read the book in his life.  The students also fully participated in the discussion, leading the admin to give me shining evaluation marks.  The last time he came to my room, the students were very hesitant to speak up.  I told them that if they weren't willing to share what they knew, I would look like I wasn't doing my job in educating them.  I also explained how if that was truly the case, it was their responsibility to let me know, as judging from the work they submit, they are getting what I'm teaching.  I'm glad they were more verbal this time because I think it gave the administrator a better idea on what they knew.  And the ones who were present on observation day got a Korean bento from me.  Anyway. . . yippeeee and whew.  "Yippeeeee" that I did okay and "whew" that it is over for the year.

Thanks to The Help, I was able to enjoy a relaxing brunch with the Ds.  We went to Hilo Bay Cafe again, and once again, they did not disappoint.  I hope they will always have spicy ahi inside-out roll on the buffet line.  Nobody makes it as good (unless you ask D1.  She insists Sushi Bar Hime has the best spicy ahi.).  Their featured crisp/cobbler was peach pineapple, which wasn't as good as the strawberry, but I think they learned from the Easter brunch and made the crisp/cobblers a little smaller.  D2 selected a Dutch apple pie, which was huge.  That's the next thing they need to pare down.  The size made it near impossible for the normal person to finish.  They had a bunch of salads and the typical breakfast fare.  D2 enjoyed herself at the make-your-own miso soup bar.  I hope they will have a Father's Day brunch that I can look forward to.

With all the meetings and events last week, I'm hoping this week will be a little more relaxed since next week is sure to be unreal hectic.  The Ds are already telling me what I need to make for their events.  Uh oh...forget what I said about this being a relaxing week.

And I almost forgot. . .with a string of sunny days last week, we officially welcomed pool season!  Water hit 90 degrees on Monday!  Of course, I was the only one thrilled by the high temps.  The Help and the Ds, especially D2, would've preferred it a little cooler.  Not me. . .I love it when the thermometer climbs into the 90s.  After so many months of cool water, it was nice to splash around again.

Now that the weather is getting warmer, I find myself wanting to eat a little lighter.  I'm not looking for a hearty beef dish with thick luscious gravy.  I'm looking for something with more vegetables.  The hot weather makes me want to eat vegetables. 

The Help was nice enough to humor me with a light pasta primavera dish.  Of course he made a side of grilled chicken sausage too.  I'm not a big fan of sausage, but the chicken apple sausage he got at KTA was halfway decent.

When I resumed cooking duties, I made this very humble chicken and squash dish.  In fact, it is so humble that I almost didn't post this.  I changed my mind when I thought this might be one of those cobbled-together dishes which are typical of the plantation mentality which influenced the way many of us here experienced while growing up.  The plantation mentality is one of frugality.  Older Japanese people (my grandparents age or older) might have said, "mottainai", a Japanese word meaning "don't waste".  I never heard that actual word being used , but I remember reading it in an article.  I suppose it's a throwback to the days when every possible cent was saved.  None of my grandparents worked on the sugar plantations, but that does not mean they weren't influenced by the plantations in some way.

So as a tribute to the hardworking people in Hawaii of yesteryear, I decided to post this chicken and squash dish.  The squash is something rarely purchased.  Most people have a friend who has an uncle, a brother, or a grandparent who has a prolific hyotan plant which produces enough to share with their vast extended family network.  That is the way I came upon this hyotan.  Of course, the Ds refused to touch this, as the squash was NOT the type they normally eat. . .they are winter melon purists.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced in half to make it thinner, then sliced 1/4" thick
     1/2 onion, sliced thin
     1/2" piece ginger, grated
     1 medium hyotan, cut into fourths, seeds removed, then sliced 1/4" thick
     1 tbsp oil
     2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
     2 tbsp miso
     1 tbsp shoyu
     1 tsp hondashi granules
     1/2 tsp rock salt

Heat oil in a pot.  Saute chicken, onion and ginger.  Add hyotan.  Add brown sugar, miso, shoyu, hondashi, and rock salt.  Cook until hyotan is cooked.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Happy Cinqo de Mayo!

How are YOU celebrating?

My family is definitely not big on Mexican food, so there will be no trip to the taqueria.  Tequila and I don't really get along either, thanks to a bad experience in Salem, OR, of all places.  One weekend, I took the Amtrak and went to Salem to visit my then-bf.  My then-bf and his friends decided to drink before going to the movies.  I wasn't planning to drink, but it was cold, and I thought that a tequila sunrise would surely make me feel warmer.  It did that and more!  It sent me to the Devil's abode and I ended up praying to the porcelain god for the rest of the evening.  I never made it to the movies, and I'm sure my gut was on fire all weekend.  Euwwww.

Shortly after the tequila sunrise disaster, I moved off-campus to a new apartment complex on Ninth Avenue NE.  As luck would have it, my apartment was located across the street from a Mexican restaurant, Aurora's.  While I frequented the restaurant for snacks and meals (the chilaquiles were the best), I steered clear of any margarita or Jose Cuervo shot special.  Living across the street from a Mexican restaurant made for easy Cinqo de Mayo celebrations.  Most people spent a long time jousting for parking, but all I had to do was walk across the street (and it was a one-way street too!).  And like all other Mexican restaurants, Aurora's provided tortilla chips and salsa for munching while waiting for your food order. 

I think the "starving college student" image lends itself well to the typical dorm room snack, tortilla chips and salsa.  A jar of salsa and a bag of chips are easy to bring to parties, although I really wasn't a huge fan of salsa while in college.  Aurora's indulgences notwithstanding, I seldom ate chips and salsa when left to fend for myself.  Salsa just didn't taste right.

I converted years later when I attended a work meeting in Honolulu.  A coworker brought a tub of salsa to the meeting, and nobody could get enough.  It was so good.  It was nothing like the stuff in the jar!  She was more than willing to share the recipe, and with that good will, I've been sharing it ever since.  Every time I've brought the salsa to an event, someone has requested the recipe. . .it never fails.  I have seen variations of the recipe in cookbooks, but I always stick to the original recipe.

click on recipe title for printable recipa

     2 cans (14-15 oz each) stewed tomatoes*
     1 can chopped olives
     8 oz fat-free Italian dressing
     1 onion, chopped
     1 bell pepper, chopped
     1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
     few sprigs of green onion, chopped
     dash of sugar
     dash of oregano, crumbled
     dash of garlic salt

Drain stewed tomatoes.  Chop and place in a medium non-reactive bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

*One of the cans can be Italian style, but do not use Italian style stewed tomatoes for both cans. 

If you have any salsa leftover (all you need is a cup), consider making this soup.  Fellow blogger Karen Loase's recipe for Black Bean Soup is a winner! Go to the second helpings blog and make the soup.

On Friday, our school made the local news.  Unfortunately it was due to a large "affray" which occurred just after school ended.   I did not witness any part of it, although D1 and my cousin both shared bits and pieces of what they had witnessed.  When I went to the office, an hour after the melee, there were police, students, and school personnel congregating in the area of the administration office.  I never saw anything like this in all my years as a teacher, so this was a first!  According to the anecdotes shared with me, police, school security, administrators and custodians all had to work to restore order and control the fighters.  Some adults were thrown to the ground.  This entire episode saddens me, as our school has always had a reputation of being accepting and tolerant of differences. 

It was a year ago when I was given the wonderful opportunity to return, to do a better job than I did the first time around.  I still feel this school is the best place to work and to learn, no matter what any stinking state audit says.  Even in the wake of Friday's fracas, I have no regrets in coming back.  I am  grateful to those who made it happen, and I know we will bounce back.
It may not look like much, but it IS home.  Hooray for second chances!