kruizing with kikukat

Monday, August 31, 2015

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I am eagerly awaiting the holiday this coming weekend.  I know we just had a holiday here (Admissions Day), but I need another break.  I've been busting my ass!

I spent mid-week worried about KikukatMom.  She had her gallbladder removed on Wednesday in what was supposed to be a simple, out-patient procedure.  It turned into an overnight stay because her heart beat became irregular during the procedure.  Her gallbladder was also infected, which means it's a good thing the surgery wasn't put off any longer.  She was given the "all clear" the next day, and by morning the day after, she was out and about.  It blew ABetty's mind when she showed up at her doorstep in Mt. View after going to Target and Safeway.  ABetty had offered her services to stay with the Rents during the recovery period and was surprised when KikukatDad declined.  ABetty didn't realize KikukatMom would be up and about so soon.

I spent the weekend doing work, work-related work.  I made a flowchart, worked on my professional development goal, and tried to process how my lapse in judgement at the moment resulted in being the advisor for 2 HUGE senior class activities.  I purchased a video class on pastry via Craftsy, but I never got around to watching it.  I was too tired.

In spite of my lethargy, I have been able to bake.  Yeah, go figure.  Baking is not so much a problem as cooking.  I think it's because it's a lot easier for me to get excited over sweets.  I know I have a major sweet tooth, and my biggest weakness is cake.

This weekend, I baked pound cake.  I like the tight crumb of pound cake, and the buttery flavor is to-die-for.  The cream cheese adds just a hint of tang.  The best part about this recipe is that it makes two at a time.  We are almost done with one of the cakes, and the other one is nestled in the freezer. . .perhaps I will need to eat it during the recovery period after Jimena, since it appears Ignacio will bypass us!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 1/2 c butter, softened
     8 oz cream cheese
     3 c sugar
     6 eggs
     1 tsp vanilla extract
     1/2 tsp almond extract
     3 c flour
     2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 2 8 x 4-inch loaf pans, being sure to grease all the way to the top of pans.  Cream butter and cream cheese.  Add sugar and beat 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla and almond extracts with last egg.  Stir in flour and salt just until combined.  Divide batter evenly between pans.  Bake for 55 minutes.  Tent pans with foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before removing cakes from pans.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Similar recipes suggest baking in a tube or bundt pan for a total of 80 minutes.

This freezes well too.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Missing D1: Soft Wontons with Spicy Sauce

It's been nearly two weeks since D1 has been gone.  I could say I'm so excited about her beginning her college career, and I wouldn't be lying.  But that's only half true.  The other part of the story is that I'm missing her dearly.  It's not the same as the two times she went to Japan or the time she went to California.  This is different.

This makes me think back a thousand years or so to when I left for college.  I can even remember what I had on when I boarded the plane out of Hilo!  Now that I'm the parent, I relive that time through my mom's eyes.  Who gives a shit about what I was mother must've been so sad when I left, but she kept her game face on and told me to do my best.

Since I'm missing D1 so much, I'm posting a recipe for a dish I know she'd want to eat.  Don't let the benign looks of this dish fool you.  The sauce is packed with flavor and the soft wontons don't disappoint either.  This reminds me of a dish I had at Din Tai Fung in Bellevue, WA.  I finally found a similar recipe on Diana Kuan's Appetite for China blog.  I didn't have Sichuan pepper, and I wanted my sauce to have a little kick of ginger so I made a few changes to her recipe.  It's been too long since my trip to Din Tai Fung to know how close the sauce is to theirs, but if it's not similar, it's certainly equally tasty.  Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to mastering their xiao long bao yet.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 lb ground pork
     1 can water chestnuts, chopped
     1/4 c green onion, minced
     2 eggs
     2 tbsp shoyu
     1 tsp salt
     2 tsp sugar
     1 tsp sesame oil
     won ton wrappers (3 trays of Chun Wah Kam or 2 pkgs of Twin Dragon brand)

Combine all ingredients except for wrappers.  Wrap 2 tsp of filling in each wrapper by encasing filling in a rectangle shape (wet edges of wrapper) then overlap lower left and right corners, forming a diamond shape.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add 6 wonton and cook for 4 minutes.  Wonton will float when cooked.  Remove with a slotted spoon (shake off excess water) and place in large serving dish.

Spicy Sauce
     1 tbsp minced garlic
     1 tsp minced ginger
     2 tbsp shoyu
     1/2 tbsp sugar
     1 tbsp chili oil
     2 tsp black vinegar (original recipe said may substitute with balsamic)
     green onion, minced

Combine all ingredients except for green onion.  Pour evenly over cooked wonton.  Sprinkle green onion before serving.

I am relieved D1 seems to be enjoying her new digs and adapting well to life in the desert.  Perhaps it's her reptilian brain kicking in.



Monday, August 17, 2015

3M's Orange Macadamia Nut Cookies

I'd like to begin this week's post with a happy belated birthday shout out to two of my favorite people (and they happen to share a birthday!):  D2 and 3M.  I hope they enjoyed their birthday, even if the usual Admissions Day holiday did not give them a long birthday weekend this year.

One awesome thing about working where I do is being able to work with friends from small kid time (okay, "small" might be pushing it, but I mean pre-legal driving days).  Up until this school year, one of my small kid friends worked just around the corner from me.  It was great to have someone I could trust so close by.  I could get a quick answer to a work question or I could count on a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.  This year, 3M has a new work location, and while I'm happy for her, I'm selfishly sorry for myself.  I can't grumble too much because she still takes all my calls, and she promised to have lunch with me when the craziness of beginning a new school year dies down.  I'm still waiting for that day, but we are still less than a month into the school year.

In our younger days, 3M and I shared meals together at restaurants in Hilo and Seattle.  We've even spent Thanksgiving together.  Like me, 3M has a pretty good memory, and we might be the only 2 people I know of who can remember the submitter of recipes from an old 4-H cookbook.  Both of us like cookbooks, and as we get older, many of our conversations focus on what foods we plan to prepare for occasions.  Naturally, we share samples and trade recipes. 

I got this recipe from 3M years ago and finally got around to trying it.  She said her aunt gave her mom the recipe, and this has been a favorite cookie of hers.  And I know why.  3M and I both like hard cookies.  Soft and chewy cookies are not our style.  While I'm more for a snapping-hard cookie, 3M tends to like cookies which are buttery and melt in the mouth.  After years of baking cookies, I'm convinced that the melt in the mouth part comes from powdered sugar and cornstarch.

In addition to being absolutely delicious, this cookie is great for gift-giving.  If you use a disher, you can make cookies of uniform size which stack nicely in a plastic bag.  Pssssttt. . .Christmas will be here in 139 days, so it's never too early to practice!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     4 c flour
     2 c powdered sugar, sifted
     1 c cornstarch
     2 c butter
     1 c chopped macadamia nuts
     2 egg yolks
     1 tbsp orange zest
     4 tbsp orange juice
     granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, powdered sugar, and cornstarch.  Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form.  Stir in nuts.  Combine egg yolks, orange zest, and orange juice.  Add to flour mixture, stirring til moistened.  If mixture is too dry, add more orange juice, a teaspoon at a time (up to 2 tablespoons).  Using a #60 disher (about 1 tbsp), scoop dough onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Flatten to 1/4" using a glass which has been dipped in granulated sugar.  Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

And while I didn't say much about D2 in this post, let me assure need to be feeling too sorry for her.  She is sporting a new macbook air!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cleaning out the Fridge: Fruit Crisp

This summer, The Ds seemed to be addicted to white nectarines.  The Help went to the market weekly (sometimes multiple times) to replenish our supply.

The obsession with white nectarines began with a weekend trip to Costco.  We happened to run into Wi and her family.  Wi's hubby was jonesing over the fresh fruit tart but opted to leave with a flat of white nectarines instead.  Since Wi is known for having good taste, we decided to copy and picked up a flat for ourselves.

Wi did not disappoint.  The white nectarines were delicious.  We went to Costco the following week and bought another flat!

For D2, the white nectarines were a substitute for the dismal Rainier cherry harvest this year.  The Help saw a sorry looking bag at one of the local supermarkets, and the two occasions where we bought the 2 lb pack from Costco, the cherries were highly disappointing.

The Help tried buying a whole bunch of fruit this summer.  He bought some sweet apricots and some blueberries.  He even bought me a mango from the farmers market.  At some point, we had about 5 different fruits in the fruit drawer.  There was no way we could eat it all, so I decided to make a fruit crisp.

I'm totally good with nuts, but one place I don't like nuts is in the crisp topping.  The nuts distract me from the buttery goodness of the topping...I wanna taste butter, not nuts.

Oh, and unless you are a glutton for punishment, place a silicone mat or a piece of foil between the ramekins and the baking sheet.  When the filling overflows, which is likely to occur, especially if you are using ramekins, you will thank me because following that little tip will significantly reduce clean-up effort/time.

click on recipe title for printable recipe

Topping:  1 1/2 c flour
                1 c sugar
                1/4 tsp salt
                1/2 c butter

Place ingredients into food processor bowl and process until small crumbs form.  Place in refrigerator while preparing filling.

Filling:  6 c assorted fruits, peeled and cut in large dice
             1 c sugar
             1/4 c minute tapioca or 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 2-quart baking dish or 7-8 ramekins (about 1 cup each).  Combine fruits, sugar and tapioca or cornstarch.  Place fruit in prepared dish(es).  Top with chilled topping.  Place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Eat while warm.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Almost Mrs. Barry's: Coconut Shortbread Cookies

The new school year officially began for students on Wednesday.  For our school, it was a freshman-only day.  Since I don't teach freshmen, it was another work day for me, but I did go to the festivities at the pool to welcome the freshmen.  There were some really huge kids and some kinda small too.  I guess it's always this way with the freshmen class.  I was kinda surprised to see some of the girls.  I remember them from years ago in elementary school.  They had been small and skinny then but now, they got chunky.  I guess you can never tell how kids will turn out.

My classes this year seem okay, but I'm veteran enough to know that the first week or so is a honeymoon period.  We'll see how the coming weeks go...but I know there will be at least one kid who is a handful in every class. 

One happy moment was when a student asked me, "Do you know ___".  I said I did and he was one of my favorite students because he did quality work, was respectful and had great commitment to bettering himself.  To my surprise, the student told me, "this year, I'm gonna be your favorite.  I'm just like ___".  Right on!  I love enthusiastic kids.  In other classes, some kids couldn't shut up.  Others kept pushing buttons.  Just after my partner told students not to sit on the desks, one boy sat on the desk.  She told them not to put their feet up, and seconds later, some kid put his foot up.  I wanna know if he is hard of hearing or just insubordinate.

Now that I think about it, I didn't see much of my coworkers at all.  I guess I was too busy working to even notice most of them!

After busting my ass all week, I knew the weekend would be more of the same.  I invited the family over for lunch on Sunday, so even going into the weekend, I knew I had to get in a Costco run before Sunday.  I would've just asked The Help to go, but he made a choice...a choice to re-enlist in the work force...thus his days are rather busy.

So after work on Friday, The Help and I headed out to the west side.  Our plan was to go right after work, but there were some things we had to do first, so by the time we got to Costco, it was after 6 pm.  I was hoping to stop in at Mrs. Barry's Kona Cookies to buy a bag of coffee crunch cookies.  Unfortunately, we were too late.  They were closed.  Maybe we'll make it the next time.

It was always a treat to go to Kona and make a stop at Mrs. Barry's Kona Cookies.  Without a doubt, my favorite was the coconut shortbread cookies.  Don't get me wrong...the coconut shortbread cookies are one of my most favorite cookies of all time, but I no longer buy it from Mrs. Barry's since I can make my own.

My friend's mom shared with me a cookie (and the recipe), and I was blown away at how much it tasted like Mrs. Barry's coconut cookies.  The one difference was that her cookies were round instead of quadrilateral (Mrs. Barry's version used to be rectangular but now they are more square-ish).  I put on my thinking cap and came up with a sure-fire way to get quadrilateral cookies. . . use a spam musubi mold to shape the dough! 

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     3/4 c butter, softened
     3/4 c sugar
     2 c flour
     1 c sweetened flaked coconut

Cream butter and sugar til fluffy.  Stir in flour and coconut.  Shape into a log (I use a double Spam musubi acrylic mold), wrap in plastic, and chill 5 or more hours.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Slice thin (1/8"-1/4") and place close together on cookie sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool completely on wire rack.