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.