Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's from the Ikedas

May 2010 bring you brighter skies, calm waters, good food, good friends, good health, good hearts. Thanks for joining us on this journey. And now to pop more fireworks, to bathe fresh, sleep well and eat ozoni on new year's day for luck.

Resolution for 2010:
Paddle more, walk more so we can cook more and enjoy the company of family and friends, tap into the talents of others and say no with aloha.

Sunday Dinner Week #21: Sunday Dinner in Honolulu

1113 Smith Street
Honolulu, HI (Chinatown)

In 1974, the owners of Little Village Noodle House, Kenneth and Jennifer Chan arrived from China with a suitcase and $100 to their name. Theirs is the typical immigrant story of hard work and determination leading to success. The interesting thing about their story is that their hard work led to a small restaurant, then a larger one, then an even larger restaurant, until Mrs. Chan decided to go smaller and open an upscale restaurant in the middle of Chinatown. In 2001, they opened Little Village Noodle house to rave reviews.

My friend Rod introduced me to this quaint little restaurant when we were in Honolulu on business, so  I couldn't wait to bring my family. This place is right up our culinary alley, so when my middle son had a cheerleading competition in Honolulu. . .Sunday is Chinese!

Atmosphere: It's Chinatown, but much cleaner, and with parking on the side. Once inside, it's cozy and always on the brink of being crowded. Look around and see what other people are eating.

Service: Excellent

Food: We tried the duck with taro (pictured above) - It's crispy, not oily on the outside and the duck is cushioned by Chinese taro mash. The house fried rice is tasty, and we are very familiar with good and bad fried rice. This one is chock full of flavor bursts, and again, it's not greasy or over seasoned. We also had the green onion pancakes for appetizer and Chinese spinach with oyster sauce.

We overate, as usual, but if we had it to do over again, I want to order the taro basket. We also need to order two orders of fried rice.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Aloha Kalikimaka

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! 

Christmas breakfast is a simple affair at our house, especially since no one gets to open presents until breakfast is cooked, eaten and cleaned up. Our 'ohana tradition: Belgian waffles, some kind of fruit topping and some kind of meat. Milk, cocoa, coffee.

What's your traditional Christmas breakfast?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CSA: Community Supported Agriculture

from Ginger Ridge Farms, Mountain View, HI

I'm catching up on my rss feeds and found an article on ma'ona about CSAs (community supported agriculture). Basically, you pre-pay for a box of goodies from the farm(s) and every week you get a box. The money is used for supporting the farm and in return you get a surprise box of usually organic veggies and fruits.  The idea is intriguing, although considering we have the best farmer's markets in the state, I'm wondering if it's not cheaper to just get my butt up on Saturday morning and fight the parking space hoarders for my fresh veggies. That way I can get exactly what I want and I won't waste on things I don't know how to use or my boys won't eat. Still, like teaching, I think farming is a noble and underappreciated kuleana that needs to be supported by the community.

I googled CSA and found several resources if you are interested in checking out CSAs in your area.
The US government provides information on what it is and how to find farms near you. I went to the Local Harvest site and finding farms is as easy as putting in your zip code. I also narrowed it down to CSAs in Hawaii and found one  farm in Mountain View which is about 20 minutes away from Hilo - Ginger Ridge Farms. Their weekly box is above. They charge $25/week, with a one month, $100 minimum. Pick up is in Mountain View on Sundays, but if they expand their membership,  they may deliver in Hilo, Keaau, Pahoa and Kapoho.

The other CSA farms on the Big Island are:
Kanalani Ohana Farm in Honaunau, south Kona ($432/year for a full share; $240/year for a half share)
Lions Gate Farm (Kona coffee) in Honaunau, south Kona ($18.25/lb. of coffee picked up weekly or monthly)
Adaptations, Inc. in Kealakekua south Kona ($19/week with a 12-wk min. for "basic"; $27/week with 12-wk min. for "gourmet")

I did notice that none of these farms had any ratings, so I'm curious as to what people's experiences are with CSAs.

New Year's resolution: go to more farmer's markets

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #20: Hawaiian Style Fast Food

November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving weekend started our two weekend holiday craft fair run. My middle boy has a company, 808 ID, and he sells custom shoes, t-shirts, stickers, and trucker hats. Basically, he still continues to do all the other things, like cheerleading, baseball, school, and I work the fairs with my parents (Rockin H Ranch Wear). By Sunday, we're so brain dead and tired that Sunday dinner is whatever is pre-soaked in the meat department. Lucky we live Hawaii. We have our own version of ready-made or easy to cook food in Hawaii that suits our need for shoyu sugar.

From our local supermarket, KTA, try the soaked Korean style pork, shoyu sugar bonless chicken or teriyaki meat. A Foreman grill or a hibachi is the best way to cook these. While there, check out their poke selections. I like the Hawaiian style ahi because it's full of fresh ogo and inamona, but my husband likes the king crab with butter and my sons like the ahi shoyu. Their tofu furikake poke is the best in the islands. Eat it as is, or use it on your mixed greens salad in place of dressing. If you're ono for spicy ahi poke, Safeway has the best spicy ahi. From Sack n Save, try the wasabi ahi or the shoyu ahi (Ken's favorite shoyu ahi poke is from Sack n Save). I am not a fan of shoyu poke, only because I feel like the shoyu kills the taste of the fish, but poke it comes down to personal preference.

I physically can't stomach marlin, so unfortunately, I'm not a cheap date. What ready-to-eat or easy-to-cook local food do you buy from your local grocery store?

Sunday Dinner Week #19: Steamed Fish, 2 Ways

November 22, 2009

Ok, so I'm one month late in posting this, but the thing about dinner is that everyone expects to eat, whether we feel like cooking or not, so we've still been cooking and taking pictures, even if the blog has been quiet.

I went to Philadelphia to do some presentations on technology and writing, as well as to talk about young adult literature and try to meet some authors. Yes, I'm a reading groupie. But after five days on the continent, the best welcome home dinner is something home grown.

Ken, the in-house fisherman and cook, made steamed fish, two ways using a weke ula and a "Joe Louis" or munu. Both of these are different types of goat fish. The weke ula was caught off Ken's kayak at Honomalino and the Joe Louis was caught at Kahuku Ranch (day time spear fishing). Goat fish are pretty versatile. They can be grilled and deep fried, but most people steam these fish because they have nice white, flakey meat.

Black Bean style steamed fish

Coat the fish with black bean/garlic sauce. Ken uses the Lee Kum Kee brand that comes in a short glass bottle. If you are a camper/fisherperson too, this is the sauce to put in your camping gear. Wrap in foil and steam. Some people put ti leaf between the fish and the foil, but the ti leaf will add cooking time.

Chinese style steamed fish

Put a few slices of ginger in the cavity and on top of the fish. Wrap in foil and steam. While it's steaming, fry bacon until crispy. Crumble bacon and save bacon oil. When fish is done steaming, pour shoyu on fish, top with minced ginger, green onion and crumbled bacon. Heat the bacon oil until smoking (if you want to be more healthy, use peanut oil). We have a 4" cast iron pan that is strictly for heating oil for steamed fish. Once the oil starts smoking, pour it over the fish. The magic is in the sizzle. Your guests will be impressed with your iron chef skills.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #18: Kim Chee Beef Stew with Namul

Hilo's such a rainy old town/ I listen to the rain falling down. . .

While the west side of Hawaii is dry, Hilo's been under some kind of gigantic rain cloud for days. We've been pummeled by water, so it's a perfect Sunday to stay in bed and sleep, except that it's been raining for so long that things feel damp in the house. Not so good when you want to be dry and toasty. Still, it's soup weather, so I called my mom to bring some of her kim chee beef stew. My mom is the queen of making soup for the masses and she usually has something in her freezer: luau stew, minestrone, kim chee stew, etc.
Mom was bringing stew so I challenged Ken to make Korean style vegetables, or namul for our sides. That gave me the afternoon to nap while Ken perfected his knife skills and immersed himself in vinegar and garlic.
Mililani's Kim Chee Beef Stew
Braise stew meat with chopped round onions and garlic.
Put in water to cover and let it simmer until the meat is tender and adjust flavoring before adding the other ingredients.
Add 1 small bottle of kim chee with the juice, 1 can sliced bamboo shoots, 1 daikon, cubed, 3 carrots, cubed, 3 potatoes, cubed, 2 heaping T. ko choo jang, kimchee base (kimuchi no moto) to taste, red pepper flakes, red pepper powder, let it simmer.

Half an hour before you serve, add in zucchini, chopped mustard cabbage and kabocha pumpkin, skin on. Simmer and serve. As with other stews, it tastes better the next day, so make large batches.

Wakame (seaweed)
Soak dried wakame in water. When it gets soft, drain water, then add vinegar, sugar, roasted sesame seeds and sesame oil to taste.

Bean sprouts
Pull little roots off. Blanch in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and add garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds and green onions. Saute for a couple of minutes.

Carrot and Daikon
Use Japanese grater to grate the carrots and daikon (white turnip). Sprinkle with salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse. Squeeze out the excess water. Toss with vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and roasted sesame seeds (see the pattern emerging?).

Cucumber kim chee simplified
Cut up cucumbers, sprinkle with salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse. Squeeze out the moisture. Toss with garlic, ko choo jang, vinegar and sesame oil. For spicier cucumber, add more ko choo jang and red pepper flakes. 

So that no one accuses me of not making anything for Sunday dinner, I made dessert: Chocolate honey bun cake.
Chocolate honey bun cake with macadamia nuts
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 13x9" pan. I use a dark non-stick pan, so I put the oven on 325.
1 box of chocolate cake
1 8 oz. container sour cream
2/3 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
Mix the above ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the following:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped mac nuts
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp. cinnamon
Pour half of the cake batter in pan, then sprinkle the sugar mixture and cover it with the rest of the cake mixture. Bake in the oven for 48 to 54 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then frost with your favorite chocolate frosting while it's still warm. I like to poke the cake with the fork so the frosting melts into the cake. If I have extra mac nuts, I like to sprinkle that on top of the cake too.

Have a great week!


Monday, November 9, 2009

KISS Dinners: Okara patties

Sometimes there's cooking to impress, cooking for special occasions, or cooking for saving money. On Monday nights, there's just cooking to accomplish the act of getting food on the table so that the day can finally be done. Mondays are perfect times for KISS dinners (keep it super simple). Okara patties are about as KISSable as they get. Okara is the waste from the process of making tofu. It's kind of like pieces of aburage that they mix with some sliced vegetables, and konyaku. If you're not used to it, the texture (mushy, a little bland, somewhat grainy) can be off putting, but I like it straight from the container with hot rice.
Okara Patties
1 block tofu, drained, mashed (my mom puts it in cheese cloth so that all the liquid is squeezed out)
3 containers of okara
water chestnuts, sliced
green onion
eggs for binder
green onions
bread crumbs (I used panko)
Mix, salt to taste and make patties. Fry it up until the tofu is a little koge (almost burnt), and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #17: Okonomiyaki

In 1976, my mother took a teacher exchange position in Wakayama, and we headed off to Japan for a year. What I learned from living in Japan was that the Japanese culture in Hawaii is very Americanized and the "Japanese" food that we enjoy is not always authentic. Sometimes, I feel nostalgic (hisashiburi) for the kinds of food that I remember eating in Japan, so this Sunday, we made okonomiyaki, a regional food that's sometimes referred to as "Japanese pizza."

Okonomiyaki is made in Osaka and Wakayama with cabbage, pork, eggs, green onions and okonomiyaki flour that has the consistency of pancake batter. It's put on the grill then topped with mayo, furikake, okonomiyaki sauce (similar to tonkatsu sauce, just a little sweeter), and bonito flakes on top.

Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is served with yakisoba noodles. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to make this from scratch, so either get the okonomiyaki mix and add cabbage, egg, protein and green onions, or use the okonomiyaki flour.

We learned that if the protein is not cut thin enough (in this case, we used belly pork sliced by the butcher), then the meat has to be cooked on the side and added later. I like it without the pork. For me, the key is the bonito, mayo, sauce and furikake. Another thing, when frying the okonomiyaki, let it get crispy for a nice texture in your mouth. :-)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #16: Grandma's Ginormous Steaks

My grandma, Mary Uilani Kaumeheiwa Sodetani was always in the kitchen or in her garden. Even now, over 10 years after her death, my grandfather sits in this same kitchen in the mornings and he talks to his wife. Before she died, they had been married for 60 years. I think when I go into my kitchen, I carry her with me still. I think I always will.
I found this picture of her in the kitchen, but when I looked closer, I realized that each plate contains one ginormous steak. No wonder we are so big. Still, for grandma, we decided to celebrate the steak in all its glory. So here's our version, with mine and Ahi's practically raw. Rare is not even the word. It's the texture of soft, silky rare meat with the juices still intact that makes this huge slab of beef so delicious. Pono also likes baked potatoes, but I must admit I pretty much bite at anything potato. My family won't let me live down the whole grey glue dish that was supposed to be my contribution of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. Did you know that the more you stir potatoes once they've totally broken down into gluten, the grayer it gets? It's true. I am the witness.
My husband said to prick the skin and wrap it in foil before I put it in the oven, but I decided to stop fooling around and go to my Joy of Cooking book (I don't have the original hard cover book with the green cover - but I wish I did). According to The Joy of Cooking, potatoes need to be scrubbed, dried, greased with butter, then put into a 425 degree oven WITHOUT foil. Foil will keep too much moisture in and the potato will be mushy. Prick the skin first and too much moisture escapes leaving the baked potato dry and burnt on the edges(that's how my baked potato usually comes out).

The unwrapped, unpoked potatoes go into the oven for 40-60 minutes. Halfway through,  poke a fork in it to release the steam.  Return to the oven. The cool thing is when you prick the skin on the hot potato you can hear the hisss of steam escaping. Serve immediately. I must say that true to The Joy of Cooking, our potatoes came out flaky and buttery even without the condiments.

Now if only mashed potatoes were this easy and foolproof. I need secret insider tips for mashed potatoes because I think there's a conspiracy by mashed potato recipe writers to keep me out of the loop.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #15: Loco Moco

The June-July issue of Food Network Magazine claims that the loco moco at Hukilau Cafe in La'ie, Oahu is the best burger in Hawai'i, and our representative for its feature 50 states, 50 burgers. The staff of the Hawaii Magazine have their own opinion of where to find the best loco moco, but no matter what everyone agrees that the loco moco was created in sleepy little Hilo town.

The story goes that the loco moco dish was created in 1949 by the Inouye family, who owned the Lincoln Grill in Hilo. A group of boys from the Lincoln Wreckers sports club contributed to its creation. Because the boys did not have a lot of spending money, they asked Nancy Inouye to put some rice in a saimin bowl, one hamburger patty on the rice and brown gravy over the hamburger and rice. She charged twenty-five cents for this, and it was much cheaper than ordering a hamburger steak entree. One of the boys, George Okimoto, was nicknamed "Crazy" because of the wild way he played football. Crazy in Spanish is loco so the boys named the dish loco moco just on a whim. Moco had no special meaning except it rhymed with loco. At first it was not on the regular menu but, because of its popularity with the Wreckers, it became a fixture at Lincoln Grill. The egg was added later.

Cafe 100 has the most varieties of loco moco including the Halloweenie loco, loco with spam, portugues sausage, smokies, kalua, etc. It's basically peasant fare, not for the weight conscious, and definitely not for those people that don't like their food touching each other. Loco moco is a one bowl, throw everything together meal buried in greasy brown gravy. That's what makes it so comforting, and so easy to make at home.

Our favorite under 1/2 an hour loco moco:
May's teriyaki patties grilled on the Foreman grill
Lots of white rice, or if we're lucky enough to have extras of Ken's fried rice, we use that
Brown gravy from powder
Eggs made to order

Local celebrity chef Alan Wong serves his own version of loco moco at the Pineapple room with a kiawe wood-grilled Maui Cattle Co. beef patty and two farm-fresh sunny-side-up eggs on a bed of fried rice. A rich veal jus blankets the dish.

I think Alan Wong's food is super sexy, but his version of loco moco is a bit too frou frou for us. Sometimes we gotta just stick with the basics. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #14: Plan B

The problem with mini "staycations (Kona Village) is that Sunday comes and not only are there errands to run and people to drive around, but Sunday dinner is still on.  I rushed back to Hilo (about 2 hours away), went home to find out that my son had the house key, went to find him at the beach, waited for him for another hour while he was at a birthday party, then took him to batting. While waiting to take him back to the beach, I put the lau and deli roll into the slow cooker for dinner.  When we finally came back from the beach, the laulau was still cooking. At 5 pm, with a 6 pm dinner, it was time for Plan B!!!
Mom's "When We Were Really Poor and Cod was Really Cheap" Plan B dinner
1 package of black cod steaks (no need to defrost)
tomatoes, chunked
onions, thinly sliced
garlic salt and pepper to taste

Put ingredients in a pot, cover and cook until fish is cooked. Don't need to stir. This "fish stew" is even better the next day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kona Village - come to the Big Island

October 10, 2009.
The advantage of being a teacher (in addition to having the luxury of being the rubber slipper contessa) is that we get the same breaks as our kids, so what better way to take advantage of living in Hawaii then to enjoy a "staycation" at Kona Village.

I left the kids and hubby behind and spent a couple days with the Ula La Red Hat ladies. Kona Village is a no phones, no television resort that includes all the amenities with none of the fussiness.  We stayed in a hale that led us right to the sand (major upgrade because they were slow - NICE). I finished three books under the shade. The best part is that you don't have to leave the resort. All meals are included and ocean activities are free (paddleboarding, kayak, snorkeling, scuba).

Lunch is an outdoor buffet by the water with an extensive salad bar, hot dishes, items from the grill and an extensive dessert assortment. Stake a place under the shade, order an Arnold Palmer (ice tea and lemonade) and have a leisurely lunch. You can tell the quality of a business by the staff. I've been going to Kona Village for about 8 years and I still see the same staff. They are attentive without being pushy, and they get to know you. They remember you when you return. Their fish of the day grilled "burger style" are totally delicious and the make your own sundae with tropical homeade ice creams will put you over the top. The best thing to do after lunch is hang out at the pool and just float or go under the hammock by the hale and take a nap.

Dinner is a more formal affair, although it's still outdoors with live dinner music and the "tiki torches." For dinner, men have to actually wear collared shirts. No t-shirts and surf short. Ladies, no bathing suits. For dinner, you can choose one of everything, from appetizers to dessert. Here was our menu for the evening:
Appetizers: pork ribs, oven roasted tomato and goat cheese, lemon ahi sashimi, salt and pepper shrimp, duo of ahi and Kona kampachi, pineapple and coconut float and Loeffler corn rice noodle (right). Each appetizer comes in little amuse bouche sizes so try it. I had the ahi and kampachi combo to keep with my seafood theme. The fish was fresh, well seasoned and the furikake crackers was a nice texture change.

Soup: chicken long rice soup or Manhattan style chowder. Again, seafood, went with the chowder. The base broth for the chowder was what made it so yummy.

Salads: local greens, chilled soba salad or caesar with chicken, ahi or plain. I had the caesar with ahi. I think they overdressed the salad, but I like my salad very lightly dressed, so ask when you have preferences.

Entrees - veal, prime rib, jumbo prawns, fish of the day, rack of lamb, split lobster tails, opakapaka "Hong Kong" style, beef tenderloin and shrimp tempura combo. I had the fish of the day, monchong that was flaky and well seasoned. I've never eaten monchong so it was a nice surprise.

Dessert - chocolate flourless cake, apple crisp, bread pudding, assorted ice creams, assorted evening drinks. I had the chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and then we rolled to our room for girl talk, irish coffee, and homemade cookies. When you get back to your hale, your bed is turned down, an orchid on your pillow and a water bottle by your bedstand.

Breakfast - same deal - pick and choose or on Sunday, go paddleboarding in the morning and come back at 10 for Sunday brunch.

If you're a kamaaina, call them directly. You'll get a different room rate. There's so much food that you will never starve, but if you want to go a little cheaper, they offer rooms at discount and 50% off of meals which makes it even more enticing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #13: Naughty Steak

I've been watching The Naughty Kitchen on Oxygen about Chef Blythe Beck, an executive chef in Texas who keeps touting the idea that her food is naughty because she uses lots of butter and other bad for you ingredients that are so good. She's obnoxious, and her food doesn't really look that special, but for Ken's birthday, we are being a little naughty by bathing our steaks (bone-in NY steaks on sale at Safeway this week for $4.99/lb. plus the $2 off coupon) in real butter. It doesn't count as naughty steak if you don't use real butter.

What made the steak extra good was that the butter actually made the outside of the steak crispy, or butter crunchy. I think, as always, that the secret is in the pan. We used a well-seasoned large cast iron pan that holds the heat and browns the butter. Nice!

Go alongs: sweet onion carmelized tart and garlic and butter mushrooms.
Dessert: Double chocolate glazed red velvet cupcakes (Ken's on a cupcake kick).

Sweet Onion Carmelized Tart
1 sheet puff pastry
poke holes, crimp edges to create a crust, put into 400 degree oven until golden brown

slice onions, carmelize in olive oil and thyme
put on baked puff pastry and put into oven for about 5 minutes.

When we make this again, we will divide the pastry into thirds so each strip will have crust, because the edge of this tart with the crust is so much better than the middle. The onions are also good on the steak, even with the puff pastry.

Ken's Double Chocolate Glazed Red Velvet Cupcakes
Frosting on velvet cakes are normally vanilla frosting, but I like chocolate even though chocolate is my enemy (melting chocolate fiasco from week #4). The directions for the chocolate frosting calls for melting chocolate in the microwave for 5 minutes at 50% power, mixing halfway through. Nowhere did it say add fat, add dairy, add butter.

Again, FAILURE with the chocolate! My chocolate, half way through, turned into semi smooth, semi sticky, goopy mess. By the end of the 5 minutes, I had dusty, burnt crap. Attempt #2, scrap the microwave method. I cannot melt chocolate in my 23 year old microwave. I admit defeat and I'm moving on. The double boiler method wasn't working either until Ken added butter. Success.

Easy red velvet cupcakes
1 box German chocolate cake mix (it's cheating, but it's premeasured)
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 T baking cocoa
1 bottle of red food coloring (1 oz.) - I got it on sale, otherwise, this one ingredient makes this recipe expensive

Mix. The red food coloring turns the batter into a bright red, Halloween, fake blood color. Cool! Put into a 350 oven for 19-23 minutes for cupcakes (I lower it to 325 because I use dark, non-stick cupcake pans.) Cool.

Melt chocolate and mix in with some ready made chocolate frosting (this frosting cuts the sickening sweetness of the store bought frosting). Frost, enjoy.

Have a great week and happy grinding!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #12: Bangohan, Plantation Style

Bangohan (dinner, or the evening meal in Japanese) actually started at my grandparents's house about half an hour after the Pioneer Mill Plantation smokestack whistle blew to signal pau hana. I guess I always grew up eating dinner well before the sun went down whenever I was in Lahaina. It's probably why I'm ready to eat at 4:30. It's the ancient plantation clock that still ticks away in me.

What I've always liked about the word bangohan or even hirugohan (lunch) is that it contains the word gohan, which in Japanese means rice. Rice represents Japan to me, and it represents my family. In some families, there was always poi, in ours, there was always rice. If all we had was one can of meat, there was always enough rice to fill our stomach.

Tonight's dinner is plantation style dinner - rice, tea, a little fish, a little canned corned beef and onions, lots of tsukemono (salted, pickled veggies), and furikake. My oldest son brought over a neighbor boy once and I was cooking canned corned beef and onions. He said, "what's that smell? Smells like dog food." You know, it kind of does smell like dog food, but it also smells like my mother-in-law's kitchen, and it smells like my obachan's kitchen, and my son said, "I don't care. It's GOOD!" That's always enough, don't you think?

In case you're not from red dirt plantation roads like me, in order to make canned corned beef and onions, look for the can above. It comes with a little "key" opener on the side. It was the first job I had in my mother's kitchen - to open the can of corned beef. If for some reason, the key breaks off, opening the can is a minor brain teaser!
The finished product. There's no recipe. Corned beef, onions, fried in a pan, let the onions sweat, add oyster sauce.
The dish above is from my Grandma Ah Sing's kitchen. She's the one in the kimono at the top of the blog. Grandma was a working mom - she had her own business - the Pioneer Sewing School, so dinner had to be quick. This is just fresh green beans and egg, kind of fried egg fu yong style. It's one of my mom's favorites.Ken makes a tataki style ahi, marinated in olive oil, balsamic, shoyu and some garlic. He takes the whole steak, sears it in a hot pan, then slices it thin. The inside needs to be raw. I like this because whenever we had extra sashimi, I would soak it in shoyu and ginger. The next night we'd have tea and rice and the heat of the tea would "cook" the sashimi slices, but still leave the middle raw.
Some of our favorite tea/rice sides- Amano tempura, cucumber zukke, takuan, fukujin zuke, rankyo (pickled pearl onions), and genmai cha for the tea (the one with the puffed rice balls).

Happy grinding this week, and if you have a little of this and a little of that, it's chazuke night.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #11: Pono's birthday - Sushi bar

My baby is 12 tonight so he asked for sushi bar - Phew! I love when they ask for easy stuff. Sushi bar is one of the easiest because everything is basically raw except for the fried egg. For our family, the must haves are the tobiko (flying fish roe), fresh ahi and special mayo. Ken also got inspired by Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss and made a cupcake cake for Pono with a chocolate square cake with cream cheese frosting on the bottom topped by a pyramid of funfetti cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

Easy Breezy Desserts: Grown Up Creamsicles

Now that I've mastered the Jello, I'm on to other easy desserts. This one's originally from the Kraft Foods magazine with a little Hawaiian oomph.

Frosty Orange Creme Layered Dessert
prep: 15 minutes plus freezing
makes: 12 servings

2 c. orange sherbet or sorbet, softened
1 pkg. cream cheese (I used the lowfat Neufchatel one)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (used the non-fat one)
1/2 cup orange juice (used POG instead because it was on sale at Sack n Save)
1 tub (8 oz) Cool Whip Lite, thawed

Line two loaf pans with foil. Spread sherbet onto bottom of pan to form even layer (notice from my picture that "even" is a suggestion rather than a possibility for me). Freeze 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese in large bowl with hand mixer until creamy. Gradually add condensed milk and juice, beating until blended. Gently stir in Cool Whip. Pour over sherbet in pans.

Freeze for at least 3 hours. To unmold, invert pan onto plate; remove foil

Sunday Dinner Week #10: Braising Stew

Braising is when meat is seared, then put into a low oven with a little liquid and cooked for several hours. It's a great way to make roasts, but I wanted to try it on my grandma's pipi stew. My mom, my aunties, my dad, my grandpa -- we've all been trying to figure out how to make grandma's stew, but since she didn't write it down or even measure, I think my mom (grandma's former daughter-in-law) gets the closest. The rest of us rely on our taste memory and the aspect of the stew we like the most. For me, it's the softness of the stew meat. So far, I've tried to cut the stew meat into smaller pieces, but no matter how long I cooked it, it didn't come out right. . .until now.

Grandma's stew needs to be full of meat. Stew meat with the bone is what grandma used because I remember the sound of the bones clanging on the bottom of the pot, but I used boneless stew meat, left in their large chunks. I floured and seasoned the meat, then seared it on all sides in my guardian ware heavy duty aluminum pots. Once all the pieces were seared, I put the meat back in, leaving all the crispy, burnt nubbies on the bottom, added the potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and onions, covered and cooked for three hours with a little red wine, beef stock and bay leaves.

After three hours, I was a little disappointed because the meat looked solid, so three hours down the drain, but dinner has to be served, so I continued on. It actually smelled like roast until I added more liquid, diced, seasoned tomatoes and tomato paste. Before serving I also made super easy Bisquick dumplings. The stew meat was all I asked for: firm in the stew, but soft and melty in my mouth. My mom told me, "grandma would be pround of you." That's the best compliment!

Mary Uilani Kaumeheiwa Sodetani - I miss eating in your kitchen, but I miss your grandma hugs and honi the best.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #9: Ken takes over

After 8 weeks, I'm running out of ideas for Sunday dinner. Usually cooking is like writing for me. I'm constantly gathering inspiration from what's going on, I'm observing, reading, dreaming about what comes next. But this week, nothing inspired me, so this morning (Sunday), my husband decided to take over, look in the freezer, and take out the large, uncut sirloin for a prime rib type of roast. When he makes roasts, he tends to cook it less than he thinks he should, because he's always afraid that it will be over cooked, so the sirloin was PERFECT for me - medium at the ends, but bloody, soft and and juicy -- like butter! He paired it with roasted root veggies, stir fried squash and mushrooms, mini popovers and red wine au jus.

I used to work at a restaurant in Volcano when I was in high school, and besides peeling a lot of potatoes, I remember making popovers on Friday nights because Friday night was prime rib night, so for me it's a natural pairing. The best part of popovers are that they're simple (salt, milk, flour, eggs and a little bit of roast grease), and when they're in the oven, just before you take them out, they do that magical rise out of the muffin pans. They're almost hollow in the center, and a little chewy on the outside, with just the right hint of fat. The problem, though, with having a husband that cooks, is that there's another cook in the kitchen, and for us, we've always had small kitchens. It's like things are harmonious (to me) if I'm the boss in the kitchen, but if I'm the sous chef, or the dishwasher when Ken's in charge, the kitchen is so tiny, we're constantly banging into each other. We definitely have different energy when we cook, and we're almost incompatible. Ken has a frenetic energy that to me sucks up all the oxygen in the room. He's always on the brink of panic. He uses half the dishes in the cupboard just for prep. I think I'm more calm. I am a minimalist when it comes to prep, dishes and pots. If I don't have something, I do without or I substitute. On the other hand, he is more daring than I am. I tend to stick to recipes while he will venture off the beaten path. When I change something on a recipe (like my jello quests), I will only change one thing at a time. (This week I used yellow cake instead of lemon cake because, well, KTA didn't have any boxes of lemon cake).

So what did I actually do for this week's dinner? Make rice and an ugly, but tasty 7 Up jello cake. Ahi's girlfriend brought over some mini oreo/chocolate pudding cheesecakes made by her mom that were just yummy! I'll have to get the recipe for that, but it looks like a lot of work. In Japanese, that's called mendokusai, humbug - probably something Ken could do. It is a labor of love, and this is Labor Day weekend, but seriously, if I had to make a living with my desserts, we would be homeless. Want recipes? Let me know, I'll go ask the chef.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In Pursuit of the Jello Queen Crown

Since I was a young, impressionable kid in the 70's, being raised by my grandparents in the summer and a single mom during the year, my idea of family and domesticity centers around jello. These were the days of jello molds, avocado green hard plastic molds made by Tupperware. This was back in the day when how many Tupperware you had represented how rich you were. Jello could be a salad, a dessert, and a quick snack for a kid who wanted to feel grown up.
As an only child, and a daughter of a very strong, independent woman, raised by other very strong, independent women, I really didn't appreciate that I was surrounded by matriarchs that were well-educated pioneers in their field; role models for the daughters that followed them. What I really wanted was a mom who would drop off layered jello squares to my elementary school, or make frozen pudding pops for the neighbor kids.
In my thinking, if I can be the jello queen, I can rule the world!
Jello attempt #1: Make broken glass jello. (Note to self: start with something easier, like one flavor jello) The picture I uploaded is NOT my jello. It's not even from my blog. This picture, along with the recipe belongs to the 'Ono Kine Grindz blog. This is a great local food blog, just way too high mucky muck for me, although I'm following. It's now at a new location - and they don't use the iPhone to take pictures, but use an actual Canon EOS. Still, besides the picture, at least their recipe worked for them. My jello attempt #1 came out like a runny, gloopy mess of white brain matter with gelatinous colored goop floating in it. We ate it anyway, but even the iPhone's bluriness wasn't going to hide the disturbing white runs. FAIL.

Jello attempt #2: Make layered jello. The nice photo is what it's supposed to look like. It's from justJENN recipes. This recipe is a test of my patience. FAILURE. The first layer is the jello. The recipe says to keep it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. I did that, and in 30 minutes, the middle was a little runny, so I left it in for 15 more minutes. When I checked again, just a little more runny, but 45 minutes is more than 30 minutes, so I poured the white layer. WRONG! The white layer was too heavy for the bottom jello layer, and in the center of the pan, the white layer broke through and leaked into the jello layer. I now had orange jello with a mucus cloud in the middle. My solution? Take my spatula and start stirring the mostly set jello with the milk layer and set again. Because of my initial layer failure, I decided to leave every layer in for a long time. The drawback was that by the time I was ready for the last milk layer, it had hardened and I didn't have an even layer. Do you see how my version is crooked and uneven? It's because of the bottom layer and the last milk layer. We ate it anyway, but again, FAILURE.

Jello attempt #3: Go with the big guns: Call a friend. It's the bottom of the ninth, 2 outs, 2 strikes, the game is on the line and I need to hit it out of the park. I decided to email my friend Merle for her jello recipe. It's one flavor of jello, knox gelatin and a cup of whipping cream. Everything is mixed together, and then like magic, the whipping cream layer starts to float up as the jello sets. Success! Now for jello cakes. . .

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #8: Crock Pot Friends

I think my friend Liana knew that I was going to have a busy weekend when she commented on this blog and talked about her ham in a crockpot recipe, and it was serendipitous that for the past week, I've been swearing into the chest freezer because I can't find anything when I have a mountain-shaped half ham that keeps wedging into all the empty spaces everytime I move something from the freezer to search. While at a rehearsal on Saturday for a poetry reading, I was texting Liana about instructions, then texting my husband to buy some needed supplies, and Sunday dinner solved itself.
Liana's Crock Pot Ham
1 ham (used Farmer John smoked half ham, 99 cents per lb.)
1 can crushed pineapple
mustard (I used dijon, but maybe I'll try yellow next time)
brown sugar (I also added about half a jar of guava jelly)
cloves (she uses cloves, which Ken doesn't like, so I opted for the homemade guava jelly instead)

Put it in the crockpot (our ham didn't fit, so we had the extra top for breakfast, pan fried), put it on low and start it.
I let it cook for almost ten hours. By the time we were back from our poetry reading and discussion, the ham was a little palahē, so instead of slicing it, we just put it in a foil pan with the au jus on the side. Notch it up as another Sunday dinner that can be made without actually being in the kitchen!

I'd love to collect more crock pot friends so I can get more recipes.

The funny part about this recipe is Liana doesn't even like ham, but for $14 total for the ham, including all the stuff on it, not only was it a fast, semi-homemade meal, but pair it with Ken's saimin spinach salad, and I could come home at 5:30 and have Ken put the food on the table by 6. Not too shabby.