kruizing with kikukat

Monday, June 30, 2014

Toaster Oven Food: Haupia Jello Dessert

Now that it's summer, I spend way more time at home.  Somewhere during mid-afternoon, I start jonesing for something sweet.  I don't need a big slice of chocolate cake to satisfy the craving, but I need something a little more than a chocolate chip cookie to quiet the demons.

This summer, my preferred theme is coconut.  I've made a bunch of things with coconut:  satay chicken skewers, coconut shortbread, butter mochi, ice cream topping, and granola. D2 and I love coconut, and I was happy to see that Costco is having a special on VitaCoco coconut water in mid-July.   I guess I'll be hitting the road to Kona in a few weeks.

In my series of toaster oven desserts, I have another one to add to the mix.  Haupia Jello Dessert is very versatile because you can vary the flavor of the Jello.  I used pineapple Jello because I was going for the pina colada taste.  Pineapple Jello isn't the easiest flavor to find, but I found it at KTA.  If pineapple Jello can't be located, my second choice would be lime.  The natural food stores here sell a Tahitian limeade, which has a nice hint of coconut flavor, making lime and coconut a proven combination in my book.

Anything made in the toaster oven can be thrown together and cooked a lot faster than a full-size dessert.  This makes it ready to eat that much faster.  Of course, in my house, its the refrigerator real estate which is in short supply, so having to store a square pan is a way more realistic expectation than trying to make room for a 9 x 13" pan.
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 c flour 
     2 tbsp sugar
     1/4 c macadamia nuts
     1/2 c butter
     1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk (shelf-stable)
     1/4 c + 2 tbsp sugar
     7 tbsp cornstarch
     1 c water
     1/2 tsp vanilla extract
     1 pkg unflavored gelatin
     1/4 c tap water
     1 box pineapple jello
     1 c boiling water
     1 c cold water
Preheat toaster (or regular) oven to 350 degrees.  In bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, macadamia nuts, and butter.  Pulse until pieces are the size of peas.  Press evenly into a 8" or 9" square pan.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Cool.  Combine cornstarch and water in a bowl.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan, heat coconut milk and sugar.  When warm, stir in cornstarch mixture.  Add vanilla and stir constantly until mixture boils and is very thick.  Place pan into an ice water bath, stirring frequently to cool and to prevent skin from forming.  Change ice bath as needed.  When mixture is cool, spread evenly over crust and refrigerate.  Sprinkle unflavored gelatin over tap water to soften.  Combine pineapple jello, softened gelatin and boiling water.  Stir until dissolved.  Add cold water.  Pour carefully over coconut layer.  Chill until jello layer is firm.  Cut into squares to serve.

Last weekend, The Help and I made a quick run to Costco.  I was thrilled to see that the first shipment of Rainier cherries arrived!  Rainier cherries are my favorite cherry.  Not only are they absolutely gorgeous. . .blush on rich sun-gold fruit, but they hold a special place in my heart.  The first time I tried a Rainier cherry was straight off the tree in UGeo's backyard (Marine View house).

The 2-pound clamshell of cherries was obliterated early in the week in the span of a quick hour by THREE 11 year old girls who were hungry after splashing around for a few hours.  I managed to eat a dozen of them, and The Help had three (the three in the picture to the right).  It was no mystery as to how the cherries managed to disappear so quickly.  They were delicious.  They were plump, sweet, and juicy.  And they were all gone.

Never one to hide her feelings (or opinion), D2 suggested we make another trip to Costco. . .to buy more Rainier cherries.  I hadn't considered making a trip to Costco so soon, but The Help forlornly recalled about how perfect the three cherries had tasted.  As if the sob story wasn't enough, he reminded me that the Rainier cherry availability window was extremely short and would likely be closed by the time D2 returns from her upcoming trip.

So mid-Friday afternoon, I found myself on the Saddle, heading west to Costco. . .to get Ziploc sandwich bags, more cherries, and a bunch of things Kikukat Mom requested (can you believe Costco has been out of Ritz cracker and bamboo chopsticks for a while now?).

All the way over, D2 voiced her anxiety about the possibility of Rainier cherries being sold out.  She was relieved when, once in the store, we passed a lady with Rainier cherries in her cart.  D2 suggested we keep a visual check on her, just in case she took the last box.  Luckily, there was still an ample supply of Rainier cherries in the cold room, and we ended up buying two 2-pound clamshells of Rainier cherries.

The Help packed his camera equipment to get some sunset shots.  D2 estimates that she has taken over a thousand shots of D1 posing.  She said it was nice to not have to take pictures of D1 for a change.  D2 used my NEX to snap the shot below.  She did a lot of self-talk to get the shot, as she was hoping to avoid agitating the bee.  Photographers seem to do a lot of holding ass to get the shots they want.  I guess it's never too early to start building a portfolio!

Note to self:  Never underestimate the craftiness and cunning of little sisters.  While at Costco, D2 spied a pack of crab legs and asked The Help to buy it.  Being sensitive to those with food allergies, The Help hesitated, as he knew D1 would salivate profusely and pout at the sight of the forbidden food.   I relented, possibly driven by the fact that I forgot my purse at home, and assured him we'd only eat the crab when D1 was out for dinner.  On Saturday, as D1 was leaving to hang out with friends, D2 yelled, "don't be afraid to have dinner with your friends", in the sweetest, pedantic voice you can imagine.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Won Bok Salad

I'm finally ready to begin my vacation!

We managed to survive the 4-day workshop so now I'm just waiting for my stipend.  I hope it will come by Fall Intersession.  Actually, the workshop itself was palatable, and the characters at the workshop made the time go by faster.  We sat according to schools, and I was totally amused by one of my colleagues who used the post-its (courtesy of the district) to fashion a doll-figure.  And of course, the same colleague who always shows up late for work  showed up late for most of the workshop, arriving late in the morning and arriving back late after lunch.  Arriving late after lunch was puzzling since this was one of the few workshops I attended recently which actually provided lunch for participants (at no additional cost to the participants).  What I'm getting at is there was no real need to leave the premises for lunch, even for vegetarians, as the workshop organizers were very accommodating to non-carnivores, providing a vegetarian option daily. 

Lunch being provided was a most generous gesture, but I was appalled by the behavior of some of the other attendees.  When the workshop ended for the day, instead of making for the door, they made a beeline for the leftover lunch area and grabbed what they could carry.  One dude I know, on his way out, suggested I go grab a styrofoam container (like the 2 he had in his hand).  I told him, "no, thank you".   I glanced at the food area and saw hands grabbing for the remaining containers.  Why do people do such things?  By that time, the food had been sitting out over 3 hours, and for me, that is several hours too long for comfort.  My fear of eating rotten food shifted into overdrive.  Gross!

One of the workshop presenters, who arrived a day later than scheduled, was from Missouri, and now I'm wondering if people from Missouri have a tendency to talk fast.  A former coworker was from Missouri, and she spoke a mile-a-minute too.  Another coworker deemed her speech pattern as "not even pausing to take a breath".  My pal GP grew up in the state just south of Missouri and his speech was like maple syrup. . .smooth and slow.  Does the Mason-Dixon line have an impact on speech speed?  Anyway, having to listen to a fast talker, no matter where they are from, is grueling.  And perhaps that's why I came home exhausted on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th days. 

Speaking of the characters at the workshop, I think a former coworker put a curse on me with the evil eye.  Yeah, I saw her giving me stink eye throughout the workshop, even going so far as to talk shit about me to another colleague.  #whatevers #getalife #yourbossisontoyou  After 4 days, my back, neck, and shoulder were killing me.  I used Aleve to dull the pain, but I gave in and gave Sai Fon a call.  After an hour-plus of near-death pain on Friday, I was finally able to move without too much agony.  It's been 3 days since the session with Sai Fon, and I'm much better now.  

And sometime during the 4 days I spent cooped up in the workshop, the weather underwent a change and it became summer!  We enjoyed several days of 90 degree water temperature (my swimming threshold is 87 degrees).  It was nice to splash around in the afternoon after sitting all day.  I'm hoping Mr. Sun sticks around for a while.  D2 has a few friends coming over tomorrow so it would be nice if they could enjoy the water.

Thanks to the warmer weather, I am ready to have salads for dinner!  I made this for a leisurely dinner on Saturday.  I prepped the ingredients for this salad on Friday, so it was easy to throw together after a late afternoon swim.  I've brought this salad to potlucks because it was easy to keep the ingredients separated until serving time.  I've eaten several versions of this salad, and it makes a tremendous difference when the noodles are toasted.  The noodles stay crispier longer and have a nice, slightly nutty flavor.  It is important to not toss the salad too far ahead of serving, as the noodles will get soggy after a while.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1/4 c mayonnaise
     1 1/2 tbsp sugar
     2 tbsp rice or white vinegar
     2 tbsp vegetable oil
     1/2 tbsp sesame oil
     1/4 tsp black pepper
     2 tbsp butter
     1 pkg instant ramen (doesn't matter what flavor)
     2 tbsp sesame seeds
     1/2 won bok (nappa) (about 1 lb)
     2 stalks green onion, sliced thin

Whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, oils, and pepper.  Cover and keep chilled until ready to serve.  Open package of instant ramen and remove seasoning packet (save for another use).  Crush ramen into small pieces.  In a skillet, melt butter.  Add ramen and sesame seeds.  Stir constantly until ramen is golden.  Remove from skillet and place on a plate to cool.  Slice won bok in 1/4" pieces.  Just before serving, toss with green onion in a large bowl.  Add dressing and ramen mixture.  Toss well.  Serve immediately.

This amount serves 2-4 people.

I grew up eating "won bok", but I realize others may call this particular cabbage by alternate names.  Many local Japanese people will call it "makina" or "nappa".  Perhaps a more proper term is "hakusai".  Supermarkets will also use "Chinese cabbage".  Some cookbooks refer to this is "celery cabbage".  Unlike regular cabbage which is globular (except for the type sold at Costco, which is flat...another mystery), won bok is an elongated, giant bullet shape.  The leaves are light green and curly, and the stem is white.  This is the same cabbage we use in batayaki  and potstickers.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sticky Chicken

It was another week of mostly rain, so I still wasn't in the mood for salad.  Kamehameha Day ended up being a soggy holiday, and I certainly didn't do anything special. I just stayed home and tried not to pick at my temporarily capped tooth.  Now that my tooth has been permanently capped, I have another problem. . .in the process of applying the permanent crown, the tooth next to it sustained a fracture, and now I'm dreading having to repeat the entire process again, not to mention chewing gingerly for another 2 week span.  Shit!

While I've been restraining myself from picking at my tooth, a few of the Kikukat house denizens have been stricken with World Cup fever.  The Help is cheering for the team from Argentina.  D2 seems obsessed with Robben and the Netherlands.  She was thrilled when they upset defending champion Spain.  Aki is cheering for Brazil, the land of his ancestors, and Shaka, thinking waaaaay outside the cage, wants Germany to take it.  D1 wants nothing to do with World Cup, and I'm with D1.  I'm glad most of the cheering and game-watching of the opening fanfare occurred while I was at work.

For the past two weeks, I worked as a paraprofessional with students who, per IEP team decision,  qualified (due to regression and recoupment issues) for  extended school year (ESY).  I had the opportunity to work with students whom I would generally not see in my normal teaching line during the school year.  It was an eye-opening experience, and I have new-found respect for educational assistants.  While teachers design instruction, paraprofessionals are often tasked with maintaining consistent implementation of the actual instruction.  These past two weeks entailed lots of repetition and giving lots of wait time.  I also did some dribbling and shooting (basketball skills).  And like teachers and school administrators, paraprofessionals are also terribly underpaid.  Mercifully, I did not need to change a diaper or bring home any soiled underwear for washing (I did this when I was at a local elementary school a few years ago.  A parent cried and thanked me for treating her son as if he was my own.  I opted not to tell her I let one of my own kids eat a can of corn for dinner.)

My stint as a paraprofessional ended on Friday, and today I'm at a workshop with teachers and administrators.  This workshop goes on for four awful days.  Might as well be four weeks. . . I don't know how I'm gonna make it through the next few days.  I'm pretty sure the students at ESY were better company!  The students are always fun. . .adults?  Not so much.

So for the next few days, I'll be cooking stuff like this sticky chicken wing dish which can be thrown together quickly and uses ingredients I already have on hand.  

I got the original version of this recipe from Food & Wine magazine.  I eventually do try recipes I find in magazines, but when I came across this recipe, I actually went to the market, bought chicken wings, and cooked this for dinner that night.   While The Help liked the chicken, I thought it was too spicy for my taste.  Tweaking the recipe, I reduced the amount of ginger and chili pepper so it was more palatable for me.  Now its mild enough where even D2 can eat it (D1 can eat anything spicy so the original version was fine for her).  Leftovers reheat nicely.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     2-3 lbs chicken wings
     1 tbsp ginger, grated
     2 chili peppers
     2 star anise
     1 cinnamon stick (2-3" long)
     1/3 c shoyu
     1/3 c shaoxing wine
     1/3 c water
     3 tbsp sugar
     3 tbsp mirin
     3 tbsp oyster sauce

Fry chicken wings in a non stick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side.  Add ginger, chili peppers, star anise and cinnamon.  Stir fry for a minute.  Add remaining ingredients.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove cover and increase heat to medium.  Cook for 15 minutes or until sauce is reduced and thickened.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Toaster Oven Food: Scalloped Potatoes

The first week of summer vacation is behind me.  "Vacation" might not be the proper word to use because I'm super fricken busy.  I voluntarily attended a computer workshop on Saturday, something I would've been vehemently opposed to doing during the normal work year.  But I went.  For no credit.  For no stipend.  And I checked my PayPal account, and those baboozes still haven't reimbursed me the $20 registration fee (reimbursement contingent upon attending the session). 

I also began the first of multiple summer jobs.  I think this job is even more demanding than my regular day job.  Being a paraprofessional is not the cake walk everyone thinks it is.  The only silver lining is not having to deal directly with headache parents.  Oh, and I did get to see JN, whom I haven't seen in years.  Hi, JN!  Long time no-see.  Seeing you made me think back to the time your car didn't start at the luau in Seattle because some doodoo head you were dating left the lights on!  BTW, its years overdue, but thanks for the ride home that night.

In a week, I will be done with my stint as a paraprofessional and will be returning to the ranks of teacher.  I will be attending a 4-day draining.  One of my work pals, who was supposed to attend with me, saw the list of those attending and decided there was no way in hell he could stomach 4 days with those clowns, so he begged out, leaving me to fend off the infidels by myself.  Wimp!  Weakling!  I actually considered bailing with him, but I'm trying to build my war chest for the upcoming October trip.  The Halekulani isn't free!

I had hoped to be enjoying hot summer days, but instead, I found myself pulling back into the garage to run in the house to retrieve a jacket.  I know it wasn't just me because even D2 ran back in for a jacket.  And more than once in the past week, I turned on the electric blanket, a Valentine gift from The Help from a few years ago.  Now I'm not feeling so foolish for buying 4 giant boxes of Cal Oak firewood from Safeway last month.  I guess we are still not out of fireplace season.

In light of the weather, I'm not feeling so apt to rush out and buy lettuce.  I think I'm gonna stick to the comfort foods for a few more weeks. . .Beryl's Meatloaf, Sugar Bath Ham, Roasted Chicken, to name a few.  And what better to accompany those feel-good foods than a big mound of scalloped potatoes!  And should the weather unexpectedly turn warm, this can (and should, no matter the circumstance) be baked in a toaster oven. 

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     4 c thinly sliced potatoes
     1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
     1/2 c milk
     1 c shredded cheese, divided
     1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine soup and milk.  Add a dash of black pepper.  Grease a square baking dish.  Layer 1/3 of potatoes.  Cover with 1/3 of sauce.  Sprinkle 1/3 cup of cheese.  Repeat layers two more times.  Dot with butter and sprinkle with paprika.  Cover with foil and bake 1 hour.  Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes.

For those who have tried my blog recipes using cake mix (non-pudding type), I have gone back and updated the recipes (both the blog versions and the printable versions) to include the "work around" for the currently-available cake mixes.  Cake mixes sold before 2013 were sold in 18+ oz. boxes.  When Duncan Hines decided to re-do their cake mixes, the boxes shrank to 15 oz.  Apparently, Duncan Hines didn't give a shit about consumers who had religiously purchased their product, developed recipes using a box of cake mix as a base, or even had enough faith in their product to think consumers would be willing to pay a little more to keep the product size the same. . .I know I would've been willing to pay a little more.  Anyway, thanks to the Cake Mix Doctor, there is a a remedy!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ohelo Berry Bars

Cripes!  I am pooped!  Friday was the last day of work for the 2013-14 school year.  The last day for teachers is always frantic. . .trying to get all the signatures to check out, packing up valuables from the room, saying goodbye/thank you to those who made the year pleasant.

The school year actually went by quickly for me.  I can't remember when I've had such an awesome year.  The students were basically good, and, for the most part, most of the adults behaved themselves most of the time.  Before the school year ended, I made lemon bars for the people who went the extra mile for me and D1.  It took me nearly 3 hours to make and another 2 hours to package them!  I will not be making lemon bars for a while.  Now that I managed to get HQ in another content area, I need to start working on domestic things, i.e., another "go-to" dessert.  It's rather telling when one of the bosses calls from the supermarket on a weekend for recipe/instruction/tips on making lemon bars. . .I need to shed the "one-trick pony" moniker.  I can add it to the summer vacation "to do" list. 

Now that vacation is officially underway, between all the chaffeuring duties, I should have some time to do things I have been putting off or didn't get to last summer (sponge drops).  High (after I do the requisite house cleaning) on my list is picking ohelo berries.  Ohelo berries make terrific desserts and preserves.  What???  You've never heard of ohelo berries???  You must be kidding me!

Ohelo berries are pretty special, and if you grew up in East Hawaii, you likely have some kind of ohelo berry memory.  When I was growing up, I remember going to the Volcano Golf & Country Club with my dad.  While he worked on his handicap, I worked on checking out the ohelo berry bushes on the outskirts of the fairways.  I can remember going with my parents to pick ohelo berries for jam (not at the golf course!).

In my senior year of high school, my boyfriend took me to the now-closed Volcano House for prom dinner (there was no dinner attached to prom in those days).  I had ohelo berry pie for dessert and couldn't wait to tell everyone about it.  I don't remember the pie being extremely tasty (I remember it being very runny), but to NOT have ordered it would have been foolish and would not have afforded me the bragging rights of having ohelo. 

Over twenty years had passed since I went ohelo berry picking.  I think the last time I had gone was to pick the berries for jam.  I know I was still in elementary school at that time.   But I was shocked when The Help told me he had NEVER gone ohelo berry picking.  How can?  He grew up here!  Last year, we went hiking on the Kilauea Iki trail and had come across ohelo berry bushes scattered about.  The sight of them reminded me of the fun I had picking ohelo berries as a little kid.  I told The Help about my ohelo berry adventures, and he said he never went berry picking.  #amazing #shelteredprivateschoolkid So in an effort to educate him about how the other half lives, I took him ohelo berry picking off the Saddle (well, how could I not. . .he has a 4-wheel drive vehicle).

In an hour, we managed to pick nearly a quart of berries.  I was too tired to pick any more, and I had to use the bathroom.  I really wanted to make a proper topping for a cream cheese pie (wanted to correct what my former coworker made. . .this story will be shared in a future post), but refrigerator real estate helped me decide that I needed to make something which did not require refrigeration. 

At this very moment, my refrigerator is stuffed.  I just bought the gigantic tray of eggs from Costco, so if I don't use most of it (tea eggs, potato salad, Canlis salad, egg salad sandwiches, salty eggs) by the time I go berry picking, I will make these bars (instead of the cream cheese variety).  There really is no way to lose when you make a dessert with ohelo berries.

Unfortunately, the berry picking will need to wait at least another day.  Wouldn't you know. . .Mother Nature is not being cooperative.  The first day of summer vacation has turned out to be a wet, cloudy, cool day.  It is, in fact, so cool that The Help just put on his wool beanie!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 c butter
     3 c flour
     2 1/4 c sugar, divided
     3-4 c ohelo berries
     1 tbsp cornstarch
     3 tbsp flour
     3 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine butter, flour, and 3/4 c sugar.  Press 2/3 of mixture into a 9 x 13" pan and bake for 15 minutes.  Reserve remainder for topping.  While crust is baking, combine berries and remaining 1 1/2 c sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Combine cornstarch, flour, and water.  When berries start releasing liquid, add some liquid to cornstarch mixture.  When berries have been boiling for 8 minutes, add cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes longer.  Spread on baked crust, sprinkle reserved topping evenly over fruit.  Bake for an additional hour.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.