kruizing with kikukat

Monday, February 23, 2015

Easy Almond Danish Puff

I spent the weekend trying to recover from one of my most difficult trips to Honolulu.  While the flight was a bit rough, saying goodbye to auntieKH without losing it was the hardest part.

AuntieKH was a part of my life since I was 6.  I still remember when UM brought her to Hilo and introduced the family to his fiance.  It was the first time I ever heard that word.  It was also the first time I saw someone with long, beautiful, polished nails.  AuntieKH was a teacher (my dream job at the time) AND had long polished nails, cut straight across.  Wow!  I knew my uncle hit the jackpot!

That was more than four decades ago, and over the years, auntieKH has always been there for me.  When my ex-bf had no car, UM and auntieKH gave him their Toyota Corolla wagon.  When I needed a computer to write my master's thesis, UM and auntieKH came through and bought me my first Apple computer, a Mac Color Classic, and color inkjet printer.  When I moved out of my Honolulu apartment, auntieKH showed up to help me clean (for those of you who know me, you can probably imagine the coat of dust on the bi-fold closet doors!).  AuntieKH provided guiding words of wisdom when my friend's mom discovered she had pancreatic to get a wig, oncologist in Honolulu, etc. 

Being related to auntieKH was an unexpected perk when I went to work for a state office on Oahu.  I was being treated rather nastily by this bitchy lady.  She happened to be signing in for a workshop at the same time I signed in.  Just by chance, one of the resource teachers at the sign-in table saw my name.  She said, "you're____ _____!  I'm ____ _____(my sister-in-law) cousin."  I recognized the lady from auntieKH's wedding photos...she was the friend who got the bride's bouquet.  I told her she hadn't changed in 30 years.  Then she turned to the boss sitting next to her and said, "you know whose niece this is, right?".  The boss knew auntieKH well.  The bitchy lady had heard the entire exchange and then said, "what, you're _____ ______ niece?".  Ever since then, the bitchy lady was a lot less bitchy to me.  When I shared the story with auntieKH, she just laughed and said that I should excuse the bitchy lady because her teaching career had a rough start...her students set fire to her room!  No wonder she was a bitch.

I still find myself tearing up, not wanting to believe she is gone.  AuntieKH took good care of herself.  She and UM attended exercise class at the Y several times a week.  She was also careful (most times) about what she ate.  The last time she visited Hilo, she ordered an egg white omelet at Hawaiian Style Cafe.  I still remember watching her fry an egg, using only a drop of oil in the non-stick skillet.

As I think back to the good times with auntieKH, I am reminded to take better care of my own health.  My cholesterol is a little higher than it should be.  I don't take medication, and I'd like to keep it that way.  Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats and have the power to lower bad cholesterol.  While this week's recipe has butter and eggs, it make me feel a little better to think the almonds will cancel out the cholesterol.  Did I mention I am sometimes delusional?  The best almonds to use are natural, sliced almonds. offers both natural sliced almonds and organic sliced almonds.  Even better, they don't charge a ransom for shipping to Hawaii.

And don't be fooled by the pictures.  This dessert is very easy to make.  The Help was shocked at how quickly it came together.  Apparently, this dessert is also a great traveler.  The Help mailed this to daddyHelp for Father's Day.  He said it arrived in great condition.  I wish auntieKH came to the family New Years party this year.  My contribution was a tray of Easy Almond Danish Puff slices.  I think she would've loved it.  And maybe she would have looked at my nails with approval as I served her a piece . . . or two.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

Base:  1 c flour
           1/2 c butter
           2 tbsp water

Cut butter and flour together until pea-size pieces form.  Add water and stir until dough forms a ball.  Divide dough into 2 parts.  On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, press each dough half into a 3" x 12" rectangle. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Puff:  1 c water
          1/2 c butter
          1 tsp almond extract
          1 c flour
          3 eggs

Heat water and butter in a medium saucepan until boiling.  Stir in almond extract and flour.  Reduce heat to low and stir constantly until dough forms a ball.  Remove from heat and add eggs, beating until fully incorporated.  Divide mixture in half and spread over base, covering base completely.  Bake for 1 hour.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Glaze:  2 tbsp butter, softened
            1 1/2 c powdered sugar
            1 tsp almond extract
            2 tbsp water
            slivered almonds

Beat all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Spread evenly over puffs.  Sprinkle with slivered almonds.  When glaze is dry, slice into 1" strips (for finger food) or 2" strips (for plated serving) with a serrated knife.

Makes 12-24 pieces.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rice Noodles with Crispy Tofu and Vegetables, in loving memory of AuntieKH

Gung Hee Fat Choy!

The lunar new year will be upon us soon.  In a few days we will welcome the year of the goat.  How will you celebrate?

For me, it will be a work day, so there will not be much celebrating.  I'm sure the Ds will eventually coax a belated Chinese dinner out of Mr. Dependable.  I will probably end up cooking, which really isn't so bad.  Unless you are The Help.

The Help has decided to follow a strict eating regimen to bring down his blood sugar levels.  Since his last doctor visit, he has been steering clear of ice cream cookies, Napples, and other yummy goodies.  He has also been limiting his consumption of starch, replacing the mound of rice with a green salad.  I know how hard it is to stay away from foods which are unhealthy but taste so good.  I've been fighting the cholesterol war for years, trying desperately to stay off meds.  I applaud The Help's valiant effort. But that's sort of where it ends.

Unfortunately, the rest of us here, myself included, have not demonstrated compassion with our actions.  Last night I saw D2 polish off 5 ice cream cookies with her glass of milk.  D1 was busy unwrapping and popping Dove chocolates in between nibbles of li hing lichee.  Of course, I've been hitting the tin of Yoku Moku I received as a gift from Dee.  Yeah, I know it probably wasn't nice of me to stuff my face with those things, especially those rolled wafers (those are my favorite), but I really wanted to get rid of the temptation, for The Help's sake.  You know what I mean.

Anyway, for dinner on Thursday, I'll be making something we can all (even The Help) enjoy.  There is something for everyone in Rice Noodles with Crispy Tofu and Vegetables.  D2 will eat this because she loves baby corn and won bok.  D1 will eat this because she enjoys bell peppers and rice noodles.  The Help can eat this without restraint because it is light and low in fat.  Don't be fooled by the healthy sound of the recipe title.  This dish is extremely tasty, even to high school students.  Last year, D1 brought a pan of this to a junior council potluck.  She was a bit apprehensive about how it would be received, but she reported that they totally cleaned it up.  I guess I will do my part and have a serving of this too.  But I also plan on making gao and gai dan tat so I will have something to look forward to after dinner. . .sorry, but low-fat is really not my bag!
click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 block tofu, sliced into 6 pieces and drained on paper towels overnight
     vegetable oil
     16 oz dried rice noodles (1/2" wide)
     1 1/4 c water
     1 tbsp dried salted black beans
     6 large dried shrimp
     1 medium onion, cut into 1" pieces
     2 large won bok leaves, sliced into 3/8" pieces
     1/2 zucchini, sliced then cut into fourths
     1 bell pepper, cut in 1" pieces
     1 can baby corn, drained
     handful garlic (flat) chives, cut into 1" pieces
     6 T oyster sauce
     6 T shoyu
     1 1/2 tbsp mirin
     1 1/2 tbsp shao xing

Heat 1/4" of vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet.  Cut each tofu slice into 6 pieces (3 x 2).  Fry tofu pieces until golden brown and crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  Soak rice noodles in warm water to cover for 30 minutes.  Soak dried shrimp and salted black beans in 1 1/4 c water for 5 minutes.  remove shrimp and black beans and chop fine.  Reserve soaking water.  Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok.  Saute chopped dried shrimp, black beans, and onions for 1 minutes.  Add won bok and zucchini and saute for a minute.  Add fried tofu cubes.  Add bell pepper, baby corn and chives.  Saute for another minute.  Remove everything from the wok and place on a platter.  Add reserved water to wok.  Drain noodles and cut into thirds.  Add to water in wok.  Cook until water evaporates.  Return tofu and vegetables to wok.  Combine oyster sauce, shoyu, mirin and shao xing. Add to wok, and toss to coat everything in wok.  Remove from heat and serve.

With a heavy heart, I would like to dedicate this post (and original recipe) to my beloved auntieKH.  auntieKH left our physical world  last Tuesday.  While I am devastated by her passing, I am comforted by the fact that she left peacefully, surrounded by those who meant the most to her.  We will all miss auntieKH, but as LA said, auntieKH lives on in our wonderful memories.  

And auntieKH, if you're reading this, I don't think I thanked you enough when you were with us. . .thank you for marrying UM.  Without your love and support, he would've been just another family weirdo!

Rest in peace, Auntie
January 30, 1947-February 10, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Creamy Italian Dressing

I spent most of last week licking my wounds.  I guess I'm more of a Seahawks fan than I care to admit.  After all, Max Unger is from the Big Island, and Jermaine Kearse and I are both Huskies.  Maybe it's also because I do NOT like the Patriots.

In my book, the Patriots are the NFL equivalent of the Oregon Ducks.  I'd like to draw in a Joker smile on Bill Belichick's face and give Gronk a good spanking.  Don't even get me started on Tom Brady.  He is from a school in the Big 10, the sworn enemy of the Pac 12 conference.  But I have one question about Tom Brady.  Why are his teeth so nice?

I can't believe the NFL swept Deflategate under the rug.  WTF.  The NFL spends all that money on domestic violence "no more" commercials, yet they condone cheating.  Talk about messed up priorities.  Moving on. . .

I guess the next big thing for me (in terms of entertainment) is the start of the 2015 Formula One season.  I hope Lewis Hamilton can repeat as world champion.  That would be awesome.  The F1 season runs March thru November, so that should take me well into football season.  Good.  I'm so not into basketball and baseball. 

Mr. Dependable crapped out again this weekend.  Well he told me that he was going to the other side of the island for this and that and if I wanted him to take the kids (HIS kids), then he had to change his hotel reservation.  Blah, blah, blah.  Out of fairness, I asked the Ds if they wanted to go with him or stay home.  Both said they'd stay home.  I like it when they're home anyway.  I don't need to wonder what time they'll roll in on Sunday evening.

D2 invited a friend to spend the night.  That was nice. I was going to order pizza for dinner, now that D2 eats pizza (D2 used to hate pizza, but now she will eat cheese pizza, as long as it's from Domino's.  Sorry, Pizza Hut.).  But on Thursday, after eating some kind of Doritos casserole for lunch, I decided maybe I wasn't ready for pizza just yet.  So I sent The Help to the market to buy some thin sliced beef for teriyaki.  The weather had been fairly nice last week, so having hibachi food wasn't too much of a stretch.  I even managed to make some Spam musubi for the girls.

There was a cute conversation at dinner.  D2's status as picky eater extraordinaire is well known.  One of her friend's mother has a list of the foods D2 will is not a long list.  D2's friend was shocked to see D2 eating beef teriyaki.  She said, "I never saw you eat this kind of food before."  I told her she could tell her mom to add that food to her list. 

On Friday morning, D1 showed up at my room carrying a bag of lettuce.  She said it was from Ma (a beloved counselor).  Ma and 3M left on Friday night for the city of brotherly love so I inherited a nice head of lettuce from her.  Cool.  I figured I'd offer the kids a nice bowl of salad alongside the Spam musubi and beef teriyaki.  There were no takers.  The Help and I ended up eating the salad by ourselves.  I suppose things could have been worse.  The dressing was beast.

As much as possible, I try to avoid buying salad dressing.  The only exceptions are ranch dressing (I buy the bottle) and Italian dressing (I have a thing for Good Season's packet mix).  Too many times, I've been grossed out from reading the dressing ingredient label.  Many dressings contain the Devil's condiment.  Just the thought of it grosses me out.  If a recipe I come across calls for it, I will leave it out.  Ick.  Yes, I am a hater.   I am a mustard hater.  That shit is nasty!

The dressing I made for Ma's lettuce was a creamy Italian dressing.  It didn't have the robust flavor of the Good Season's mix, but it wasn't missed.  A creamy dressing should be creamy and smooth.  This dressing delivers on those points and boasts the right herb flavor.  The instructions call for blending the dressing.  I use an immersion blender for this; it's easier to wash than a traditional blender. 
click on recipe title for link to printable recipe

     1 c mayonnaise
     1/4 c onion, diced
     2 tbsp red wine vinegar
     2 tsp sugar
     3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
     1/4 tsp salt
     1/4 tsp garlic powder
     2 dashes of black pepper

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Almost Kay's Lunch Center: Fried Sesame Chicken

Perhaps it was blog reader BrendaC who is responsible for my wave of nostalgia.  Perhaps it could have been triggered by Kikukat Dad who said he had dinner at Restaurant Kenichi.  Perhaps I equate the Super Bowl with partying.  I don't know.  But whatever it was, I've been bitten by the nostalgia bug.

If you spent some time in Hilo during the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century, you likely had a meal at Kay's Lunch Center (today the location is occupied by Restaurant Kenichi).  Kay's Lunch Center served local, Japanese, and Korean foods.  They were best known for two things:  fried chicken and blueberry cream cheese pie.

The blueberry cream cheese pie was alright.  I'm really not a fan of that kind of thing.  I am usually put off by the icky gooey goop of canned pie filling.  And the cream cheese layer in a round pie just seemed too thick for the amount of topping.  You can have all the blueberry cream cheese pie you want.  I will pass.

It was the fried chicken that brought me back to Kay's Lunch Center time and time again.  Sometimes I would eat-in, but many times, I did the take-out...chicken in the cardboard box with the pointy lid.  I loved the mild shoyu-sugar flavor and the random sesame seeds strewn on the coating. 

Kay's Lunch Center closed up a few years ago.  As I was watching the Super Bowl yesterday, I couldn't help but think about all the parties missing the cardboard box with Kay's Lunch Center chicken.  I know I was missing it, especially since the Seahawks lost (No, I am not much of a Seahawks fan, but having lived in Seattle, I feel a little guilty if I don't cheer for them if they are not playing a team I like more).  So if you are like me and have a hankering for Kay's Lunch Center fried chicken, you can go ahead and make your own. 

Now I realize there are two divergent methods one might try for making the chicken.  I've seen recipes which call for flouring and frying the chicken and then dipping it into a sauce.  I call that "Korean Chicken", and I will share the recipe in a separate post.  But I never noticed any green onion bits on the Kay's version; I only noticed sesame seeds.  My method for making the Kay's Lunch Center chicken calls for marinating the chicken overnight and then frying it.  It seems to be less messy and more straightforward than the alternate method.

And if you happen to have leftover fried chicken, you can do what Kay's Lunch Center did. . .pull all the meat off the bones and use it to top a salad.   Mmmmmm.  

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     5 lbs chicken wings
     1 c cornstarch
     1/2 c flour
     1/2 c sugar
     1 tsp salt
     6 tbsp shoyu
     2 tsp oyster sauce
     4 eggs
     4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced (optional)
     2 garlic cloves, minced
     4 tbsp sesame seeds

Cut each chicken wing into 3 pieces (tip, flat, drummette).  Discard tips or save for stock.  Combine remaining ingredients and place in a ziploc bag.  Add chicken pieces.  Turn bag to coat evenly.  Allow to marinate overnight.  Deep fry wings until golden brown.