Friday, July 31, 2009

In Search of BBQ

Originally uploaded by cathy.ikeda
As a foodie's wife, I eat according to what Ken finds. He usually spends his down time on our trip researching and reading reviews according to the kind of food he's ono for. Most times we have wonderful experiences, but sometimes, there just is no dim sum in Compton.

We did find a clean, busy BBQ joint in Anaheim called Blake's Place. It's in a small industrial area, right next to their BBQ bottling plant. When we got there, there were about 5 Harleys parked outside the door. A good sign.

The menu is extensive- I guess there's a lot of different combos of meat. There's brisket, beef ribs, pork spareribs, babyback ribs, chicken, pulled pork... It comes with coleslaw (meh) and a dark, gooey, smokey molasses beans. I took the pulled pork sandwich. At first bite, it tasted like a kalua pig sandwich, but the sauce was nice and tangy with smokey undertones.

When Ken grows up, I think he needs to learn how to smoke meat.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Don't Waste the Tequila

I come from a family of "-holics" - opiumholics, alcoholics, workaholics, dramaholics, foodoholics. . .so since I am something of a controloholic, I don't do much drinking. I don't like the feeling of medicine head I get from alcohol, so I definitely don't know much about tequila, but the tequila lime shrimp asked for tequila, so I decided to look for other tequila recipes, otherwise, poho, especially since I don't know what normal people do with tequila when they're not cooking with it. What drinks contain tequila? Is it just for shots? When Ken was in a Hawaiian culture class at UHH, his teacher was the artist formerly known as Kaipo Frias (Mr. Kekuhi Kanahele/Dr. ???). Anyway, they had a party at the haunted house in Hakalau and the tequila (Patron) was for swilling straight from the bottle, then chanting or singing very loudly. That's my tequila knowledge. What I did learn, though, is that when a recipe calls for tequila, be prepared to stand in front of the liquor aisle and look befuddled.

Did you know that there are 700 different brands of tequila? I should have gone to before I went to the store, but basically, there was clear tequila and gold tequila. The gold tequila is a mixed tequila with the agave tequila (clear) mixed with other sugars, like cane sugar. The gold tequila is a lower quality tequila, but it was for cooking, so I didn't mind.

This dessert recipe is from Hungry Girl again (it was on the same newsletter as the tequila shrimp). It's fluffy and mushy with a kick of alcohol and a strawberry tang at the end. 1 cup of this is 2 Weight Watchers points, alcohol and all.

Strawberry Margarita Mousse
(ok, maybe I can make margaritas with tequila?)
1 large (8-serving) or 2 small (4-serving) package(s) JELL-O Sugar Free strawberry gelatin dessert mix
2 cups frozen unsweetened strawberries, mostly thawed
1 1/2 cups Cool Whip Free, thawed
1 cup cold Sprite Zero (or any diet lemon-lime soda)
1/4 cup plus 1 T. (2 1/2 oz.) tequila
3 T. lime juice (my limes were a little hard, so I put them in the micro for half a minute, then rolled it around on the counter like I was rolling dough)

In a medium-large bowl, combine gelatin mix with 1 cup boiling water, and stir until completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Set aside. (This is half of the water that it calls for on the box. Don't fret.)

In a blender, combine strawberries, soda, tequila, and lime juice. Puree until smooth. Add this mixture to the bowl with the gelatin mixture and stir thoroughly. Refrigerate for 45 minutes, until slightly thickened but not set. (Do not over-refrigerate.)

Using an electric mixer, blend in the Cool Whip. Once mixture appears mostly blended, use a spoon to mix it up from the bottom. If needed, continue mixing until uniform. (I didn't actually do that so mine had some white spots among the red. I used my "stick blender" because I was too lazy to set up and clean my hand mixer, and my bowl was too big so my "stick blender" was spraying juice outside of the bowl. )

If you have the right glasses, Hungry Girl also has a diet margarita recipe.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #4

Being a contessa means that the pressure is on to go beyond the food and work on the art of entertaining, so in my pitiful attempt, I decided to spend a little money and buy some flowers. What I really wanted to do was make an outdoor deck in the little area outside my kitchen, but my husband said we couldn't do it in 4 hours (something about putting down cement pillars and building a deck on top of the pillars - what is that hard?) In my mind, I already found the perfect teak table and chairs with a cute little runner courtesy of Better Homes and Garden. For now, $7.99 flowers from Safeway will have to do. If my husband really was supporting me, he would have started on that deck, but he made our bed once for our futon and he put one set of legs facing in one direction, and the other set of legs facing in the opposite direction, so unless he can make it out of 2x4's with very minimal cutting and putting togetherness, the supplies will end up with those recycled bathroom stalls under our palm tree that have been with us for 5 years.

Back to the food. My husband and I have been going paddle boarding in the afternoons and when we're tired, we go out in the deep and just sit on the boards and talk story. That's where our menu planning happens, so since Saturday was a nice hot day in Hilo, we felt that Sunday dinner should be a lazy affair. On the menu: store roasted chicken shredded to make chicken wraps, Hungry Girl Te Quiero Tequila Shrimp and Betty Crocker Chocolate-Orange Punch Bowl Cake. Chicken wraps are a great way to use store-bought roast chicken. Shred the chicken, warm up the burritos (I love the La Tortilla Factory low carb/high fiber whole wheat burritos - small size is the only 0 point tortilla), cut up matchsticks of Japanese cucumbers, and cilantro. Everyone makes their own burritos with chicken, veggies, and a combination or choice of plum sauce, hoisin sauce and/or sweet chili sauce. We used the tequila shrimp in the burrito wraps too - the juiciness of the tomatoes with the tequila and chili really make this burrito succulent. Dessert was actually the most time consuming dish, but while the chocolate cake was baking, I had my own shrimp cleaning challenge (based on this week's Hell's Kitchen). The contestants had to clean as much shrimp as possible in 10 minutes. It takes me 20 minutes to clean 2 pounds of shrimp, but my husband did say that I left a tail on one of my shrimp. I hope that was the only one.

The dessert was a new recipe for me, so I made it as it was written, but if you want to keep the calories down, replace the oil, water and eggs in the chocolate cake batter with a can of pureed pumpkin, or diet coke, use fat free vanilla pudding with skim milk, and use Cool Whip Free rather than regular Cool Whip. What makes it so lusciously lovely is the fresh orange zest that is mixed in with the vanilla pudding. The recipe says you can substitute vanilla pudding with white chocolate pudding, but where the hell do they sell white chocolate pudding? It must be at Whole Foods with my $7 bottle of diet peanut butter. I did have one major failure. If you go to the Betty Crocker website and actually look at the mandarin orange sections in the picture, they dipped them in chocolate. Well, I have dipping chocolate, so I thought NO PROBLEM. I put it in the microwave (Ken and I got the microwave as a wedding gift, so it's over 20 years old), followed the directions, and stirred every 30 seconds. What did I get? Nothing! I got gunky, dry, lumpy chocolate that had the texture of stiff peanut butter. I kept going in 30 second intervals - 2 minutes, 3 minutes - I finally had to call Ken since this is the chocolate he always uses to make dipped strawberries - he put butter in it (while I said, "you know, it says not to put butter") and stirred again, told me I should be using a spoon instead of chopsticks, and then said it was "fixed." On my first attempt to dip the orange sections, I got granules of chocolate on my oranges that looked and felt like coffee grounds. Ugh! So I'm frustrated, I'm muttering to myself in the kitchen, pushing plates around and "fricken/fracking." What does my husband say?
Him: What?!
Me: I'm frustrated! I can get everything else, but I can't get the fricken chocolate to be dipping consistency!!!!!!
Him: See? You shouldn't do the Sunday dinner thing.
Me: WHAT???? (Whatever)

What I learned: sometimes things don't always come out like the pictures, but suck it up, keep my fricken/fracking to myself and get dinner on the table by 6, because if it's Sunday at 6, then dinner is served.

Happy grinding! We are nowhere near a kitchen next Sunday, so I'm taking a week off. I'll just add it to the end. Have a great week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #3

Last week was about making dinner the hands-free way with the slow cooker, but this week, I had to rush back from Kona to get dinner done by 6 p.m., so this week's dinner is the 30 minute, grill everything dinner with a Costco run on the way.

This is actually my mother's specialty because she is the seasoner in the family. My son has the tako eye, I have the super nose and my mother has the salt hands.

On the menu: ribeye steak (get the big cryo pack from Costco and cut it to whatever thickness you want), salmon packets and corn on the cob (buy local - Loeffler Farms), pound cake with mixed fruit and ice cream parfaits.

The secret is the salt. My mom makes her own seasoning, but use any kind of Hawaiian salt mixture. For the steak, salt the meat, rub with some minced garlic and drizzle a little bit of olive oil, and let it sit until the fire is done. If you have plenty people, let the steak sit, then cut it, but if you're feeling decadent, cut a steak per person (my boys will eat 2 each, no matter how thick it's cut or how much other food is on the menu).

For the salmon, cut salmon into steaks, put on a piece of foil, use the same salt mixture, a bit of olive oil and squeeze lemon on salmon, then close the foil to make packets. Put the packets on the grill for about 12 minutes. Do not turn over. The corn can also be on the grill (we parboiled ours first to speed it up). Be crazy with the seasoning - like butter, chili seasoning and parmesan - experiment.

Since the grill is already on, if you don't want to make s'mores, try making banana s'mores packets. Take a banana, make a lengthwise slit without taking the skin off, stuff the banana with mini marshmallows and mini chocolate chips, then fold it into foil packets. Put on the grill after dinner is cooked, and when everyone is done eating, dessert is served.

What did you eat this Sunday?

Next week is a normal Sunday, then we're off to Compton, so next week's theme is still up in the air. I'll check today's paper and work on a thrifty meal. I also harvested basil yesterday, so I'll post our pesto recipe tomorrow. Until then, happy grinding!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Foodie Films

Yes, we did make Sunday dinner this week, but I couldn't find my iPhone, so I took pictures on a regular digital camera. Since I don't actually know how to get the pictures off the camera, the Sunday blog will be a little delayed. Still, being food obsessed, the eating continues even if the writing is a bit slow. Why can't they make cameras that just move pictures from the camera to the computer through bluetooth magic?

Liana's food obsession is leading to her quest for more books like Trails of Crumbs and Julie and Julia. Her newest book find is I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti. I love to read too, but it's less work to watch a DVD so I'm constantly looking for food films. Some of my favorites:
  • Like Water for Chocolate based on the book by Laura Esquivel. Tita is in love with Pedro, but her controlling mother forbids her from marrying him. When Pedro instead marries her sister, Tita throws herself into her cooking -- and discovers she can transfer her emotions through the food she prepares. This one's steamy, so wait until the kids are asleep. Spanish, with English subtitles.
  • Chocolat Johnny Depp is dreamy as a traveling gypsy, but Juliette Binoche, the single parent that comes into this conservative French village to open a chocolate shop during Lent, is the one that really stirs the pot.
  • Eat, Drink Man Woman Distracted by their complicated love lives and secret ambitions, three adult sisters reluctantly humor their widower father by enduring the elaborate, traditional Taiwanese dinners he insists on having every Sunday. The story of these three adult women and their father is very endearing, but the father's creation of these Sunday feasts are what really make this film worth watching. Chinese with English subtitles.
  • Tortilla Soup with Hector Elizondo as the widower, is the same story as Eat, Drink Man Woman, just the American version. Same story, but Mexican food versus Chinese food. It's still beautiful food, although I prefer the Chinese version.
  • Mostly Martha An uptight professional chef, Martha, finds her world turned upside down when she takes in her newly orphaned niece, Lina, who is not impressed by her aunt's cooking. Martha is obsessed with her food and is a control freak who verbally attacks anyone who tries to send her food back. German with English subtitles.
  • No Reservations is the American version of Mostly Martha. Kate, the control freak chef, is played by Catherine Zeta Jones. I like this version as much as I like the original.
  • Big Night I think this is actually Ken's favorite foodie film. Despite having a talented chef and outstanding cuisine, an Italian restaurant run by two brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub) teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. It's then they learn a huge star will visit their bistro for a multicourse meal. With everything to lose, the brothers pull out all the stops hoping the "big night" will save their trattoria.
  • Tampopo Tampopo follows a young widow who runs a small noodle restaurant in Tokyo and Goro, a cowboy hat-wearing truck driver, as they attempt to concoct the perfect bowl of ramen. Japanese with English subtitles. (This one is a bit hard to get your hands on, but if you own the DVD, I will buy it from you.)
  • Ramen Girl When her boyfriend leaves her high and dry in Tokyo, spoiled American tourist Abby (Brittany Murphy) finds solace in a neighborhood ramen noodle house run by a cantankerous old chef (Toshiyuki Nishida), who agrees to take her on as an apprentice cook. Truthfully, Brittany Murphy bugs me. She's got duck lips and she always plays spoiled, shallow girls (Uptown Girls), but I was surprised with this one. It went beyond my expectations.
  • Ratatouille this animated film by Pixar is about Remy, a rat who loves to cook. Cute, fun and the Pixar people actually had French chefs creating recipes for the film so that the food would be authentic.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Becky's Sunday Birthday Dinner (Week #2)

Happy 20th birthday to my sister Becky! She's working in California, but we decided to have dinner for her anyway, then send pictures of dinner to her phone just to let her know we are eating in honor of her. If you can't torture your siblings, then what's the use of having them? Since she's been away for awhile, and since I've been laying around after my oral surgery, we had a Hawaiian food dinner made in our crock pots.

On the menu: crock pot laulau and crock pot chicken long rice. It cooks itself and I can lay around, especially when my husband starts the chicken long rice the night before AND shreds it before he goes to sleep. I had some cooked lau in the freezer, so if I just had one more crock pot I could have made chicken luau too, but I only have two crock pots. My secret to a complete Sunday dinner - invite people to dinner who will bring stuff I don't want to make. (So the complete menu: laulau, chicken long rice, poi, poke, lomi salmon on sale at KTA, mixed greens salad with feta and cranberry, rice) Nothing was low fat. This is a dinner for those that are not afraid of salt.

If you're not familiar with crock pot laulau, this is so easy and great when you need to bring something for potluck. Spray the crockpot with Pam, put some fresh lau on the bottom, then put oven ready pork butt (or deli roll), cut up in the middle, and cover with the rest of the lau. We used three deli rolls and 2 pounds of lau. Cover the crock pot and leave it alone on high for like 8 hours. When the lau looks like spinach, it's pau.

Next week is my dad's dinner, so while we are at a baseball clinic in Kona, we'll get some steaks from Costco because he's a rancher and a good ole' boy from the Buckeye State, so steak and corn on the cob. Until next week, good grinding!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Comfort Food Makes a Bad Day Better

Yesterday was a bad day, but there's no "crying over spilt milk," so despite my freaking out, Ken leaving his new cell phone on his bumper and driving away only to pick up pieces of his phone along the road, and Ahi having to show up at family court, we did what we always do at 6 pm -- we cooked. Here's Ken's "turn a frown upside down" recipe

Ken's Steamed Fish Chinese Style with Lup Cheong

  1. Clean fish and place on foil (we used these moana kali, but you can also use uhu, weke, weke ula, moana)
  2. Slice lup cheong
  3. Stuff stomach of fish with lup cheong and some ginger, julienned
  4. Put remainder of lup cheong on top of fish, and close foil to form a package
  5. Steam fish for about 1/2 an hour, depending on size (we cooked these two on the right)
  6. Open foil and pour shoyu to taste
  7. Top with chopped green onions
  8. Heat peanut oil* until smoking (works best in a small cast iron fry pan)
  9. Pour over fish (it should sizzle)
Serve with rice and grind.
* According to Ken, peanut oil is good because it has a high smoke point and it doesn't have too strong of a flavor. Canola oil is ok. If you have saved bacon fat, that's good too because, well, because it's BACON.

While cleaning up after dinner, I've realized that we really are fish people, because there were still goodies left in the foil (lup cheong), but the fishes were picked clean and everyone felt better, which I guess is why they call it comfort food.

What food comforts you?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Freaking Out

Yesterday, I went to the oral surgeon, Dr. Atebara, for a consultation. My regular dentist, Dr. Patsy Fujimoto, basically is afraid that my lower right wisdom tooth is pushing against my last tooth and is starting to kill my last tooth. When I saw her earlier this month, she said it was a hard extraction for her, but for an oral surgeon, it would be "5 minutes," so I went into my consultation with no worries.

Dr. Atebara walks in, introduces himself, then says, "you know this is going to be a VERY difficult procedure," then he continues to smile. (WTF???) He then shows me a brochure with a picture of wisdom teeth from young people to a 25 year old. He shows me the facial nerve, and I guess by the time you are 25, your facial nerve is basically between the impacted wisdom tooth. I am way past 25, so that facial nerve must be wrapped around my tooth.Wait, there's more. There's always more. He says the risk is that if he damages the facial nerve, I could lose feeling from my midline of my mouth to the right side PERMANENTLY. He says sometimes people have problems with drool, speech problems and difficulty putting on lipstick because that numb feeling you get after you had a cavity filled can become a permanent feeling.

My first thought? How the hell am I going to cook Sunday dinner? I hope I don't cook and drool!! Second thought - what if I can't read out loud anymore? I talked to Dr. Patsy again, and she still thinks I need to do this, but I'm still freaked out. Dr. Atebara tells me before I leave, "you know I do this procedure all the time, and if I tell you it's going to be hard, it's going to be hard." I am not one to turn away from hard, but today, I will allow myself to freak out and get weepy and blame it on the Michael Jackson memorial.

Tomorrow we go to family court with Ahi for a shoplifting charge from last year, so tonight I will gather all his character reference letters and his grades, and we will gather around him because he is our son, and no matter what, he is a good boy who made a mistake, but today, I will cry for myself just for a little while.

Please follow this blog

Hi friends,
If you're getting this on email, then you were invited to the first post of the Sunday Dinner project, but I don't want to inundate your email with my obsessing, so as a courtesy to your sanity, I will take your email off my list (right after this one).

If you want to be a part of my small community of Sunday Dinner project moral supporters and critics, please go to the blog and become a follower (it's on the right column). How very self-absorbed of me. Sorry. Remember, no pressure.

And if you are motivated to start your own blog, please send me your link! Thank you and happy grinding.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Scaled Down Scampi

Weight Watchers will probably come down on me for printing this, but I'm saying now that this is a WW recipe with modifications for my family who is not on WW.
Shrimp Scampi (8 points)

2 tsp. olive oil (it needs to be the good stuff - extra virgin, no light)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (I'm lazy, I buy the big minced garlic bottle from Costco)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 lb. shrimp, medium, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup wine, dry white or vermouth
2 tsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/8 tsp. table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
8 oz uncooked linguini, cooked and kept hot (I usually use whole wheat, and pasta doesn't come in 8 oz sizes. I double the recipe so I don't have half packages of pasta all over the place)
1/4 cup parsley, fresh, chopped (I used Italian basil instead because that's what I have growing on our little deck)

Heat oil in skillet; add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add oregano and stir to coat. Add shrimp and saute until bright pink, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer about 1 minute.

Dissolve cornstarch in chicken broth in a small cup and whisk until blended; add mixture to skillet and simmer 2 minutes, until sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (To punch it up more, I also added capers and tossed it around instead of the salt.)

Sprinkle with basil. Each serving yields about 1-1/3 cups of pasta, 1/4 cup of sauce and 3 ounces of shrimp per serving.

Good grinding.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5, 2009 - Dinner One

It's summer. . .I'm done teaching summer school and I just finished reading my third book, Julie and Julia. Since I need something to do to keep my mind from melting, I've decided to take inspiration from my last book -- Julie, the author, cooked all 500 plus recipes from Julia Childs' first cookbook in one year and blogged all her hysterical adventures as she cooked. I may be as obsessed as Julie, but definitely not as hysterical (Ken - you backing me up?), so I'd like to do a much more scaled down, hopefully doable version of this by officially starting my "Sunday Dinner Project."

I'm sending this to my friends and family, so I'm accountable now - but I vow to cook Sunday dinner every Sunday for one year. Ok now that I'm writing this down on the blog, it sounds so LAME. It sounded much better in my head, but it is a little more complex than cooking once a week. Besides cooking dinner, I'll try to make it as low-fat, tasty and cheap as I can. In the book Julie, the author gained like 10 pounds or so from all the butter. I can't afford to gain 10 pounds. I'm also pake, so I love to cook with whatever I find in the freezer and pantry. If I can cook dinner with whatever I already have, that's like finding five dollars in my pants pocket. GRAVY! It's easy now because it's summer, but our life is totally chaotic, so it will take preplanning and what my mom calls gaman (that Japanese trait of not whining and just shutting up and forging on).

Tonight's dinner: Weight Watcher's shrimp scampi with pasta, garlic bread made with hot dog buns I found in the freezer, spinach salad with saimin toppings, steamed green beans, ribs and poke. Ok- I actually only made the scampi and garlic bread. Everything else was leftovers from 4th of July, but hey, it's a start. Scampi is not usually diet food, but instead of butter I use a little olive oil, wine and chicken broth thickened with cornstarch. I was supposed to use whole wheat pasta, but I didn't have any and when I went to buy pasta a couple weeks ago, whole wheat pasta wasn't on sale. Since I'm making the rules, I think I can substitute to stay with the other rule of being thrifty. That's why this project is not called the Obsessed with Alan Wong Project or the Martha Stewart Wannabe Project.

Now to start planning for next Sunday. . .It's my sister Becky's birthday next Sunday, so even if she's in California, I think I'll make something she likes anyway, or something that represents southern Cal. . . Ideas?