Friday, August 26, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Haupia Pie Inspired by Ted's Bakery

Elise with the original from Ted's Bakery (via Foodland supermarket).

Before I left for Hawaii a couple of weeks ago, I made sure I had all my important papers together. Plane tickets, check. Hotel reservation, check. List of the best places to eat on Oahu, cut out of a Sunset magazine article by my friend Trish, check and double check.

One of the must-try items on that list was the chocolate haupia pie from Ted's Bakery. We didn't make it to Ted's but did happen to see it prepackaged for sale in the grocery store, so I bought a piece to try. It was so good I knew I had to try recreating it at home.

For those who don't know, haupia is a firm coconut pudding. You make it in a pan and then cut it into squares and eat it with your fingers. It's a popular thing to have at luaus; the pie is a super easy and fun treat that would be great at a casual potluck or dinner party.

Janet's Chocolate Haupia Pie
Make a one-crust recipe of your favorite pie crust, and pre-bake it. Pour the hot haupia into it and chill until set. Add your favorite chocolate pudding (I must confess to using a box of instant Jello chocolate pudding) and pour on top of haupia, again chilling until set.

Top with whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Cut one piece for the photo, then take the rest to your parents to ensure your status as favored child.

Haupia (source)

2 cups coconut milk
1-1/4 cups water
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch

Combine the coconut milk and water. Stir until smooth. Add the sugar and cornstarch. Cook over low heat until thickened and shiny. If the haupia is grainy, you need to keep cooking the mixture because the fat in the coconut milk has not yet melted.

If you have any chocolate pudding left over, be sure to smear some on your face to resemble a goatee and mustache.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Thousand Words: Kailua Beach

How many times do I have to tell you not to offer your brother up to the gods?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Oahu Travel Tips


Aaahh...paradise. My family just spent 7 glorious days in Hawaii and this week's post topics are all the things I did or saw or ate and said, "I'm gonna blog about this when I get home."

Today's topic: Oahu Travel Tips

1. Rent a car. You will find many reviews online that say you don't need a car if you stay in Waikiki but if you listen to them, you will come home and say, "I don't really like Oahu. It's too touristy." and that will just piss me off. (For many reasons, and the main one being that you think the word "tourist" does not apply to you.) Duh people--if you stay in Waikiki without a car, all you see is Waikiki, which is very crowded and loud and, yes, touristy. There is so much more to this island; you really need to get out and see it. (Stay tuned later this week for Oahu sightseeing destinations.)

2. Or take the bus. Here in California we drive everywhere so my kids were amazed to see schoolchildren and businessmen boarding the bus every day. Public transportation in Hawaii is great and you can ride The Bus pretty much anywhere you want to go for a couple of bucks and a transfer, without the hassle of fighting downtown traffic. A 4-day pass costs $25.

3. Brush up on your Hawaiian. I used to live on Oahu but my husband is from Michigan. He's what locals here would call "haole" and is entirely unfamiliar with the Hawaiian language. I did the driving on this trip and navigating downtown Honolulu with its one-way streets and lots of traffic can be pretty confusing, so Vince was my map guy.

Here's a typical scenario:
Me: OK, so we have to get to Kapiolani Ave.
Him: OK. (A few minutes go by...) Here it is--turn right here.
Me: What? Where? This is Kalakaua.
Him: Oh. Sorry.
(A few minutes later...)
Him: OK, turn here. Kahili.
Me: I thought we were going to Kapiolani.
Him. Oh. Sorry.

Luckily, we were on an island and could only get so lost...

4. Do not play the Alphabet Game with street signs. There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet and B is not one of them, so this game ended pretty quick.

5. Eat some Spam. You will be surprised at how easy it is...even McDonald's serves it. You can get Spam musubi (rice with a piece of Spam on top, wrapped with seaweed, or nori) at any food court in any mall but our favorite is the Zip-pac at Zippy's, a local fast-food chain. It's 2 scoops of rice sprinkled with furikake (seasoned nori flakes), macaroni salad, and four pieces of meat: teriyaki beef, fried chicken, fried fish, and Spam. So salty! So tasty!

Do you think she likes it here?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rick Bayless' Pesto

This is one of my favorite cookbooks--it kind of straddles the kid/grownup cookbook because although Rick Bayless cooks with his teen daughter Lanie, there's not a fruit kabob or bagel faces recipe to be found. Praise be!

My favorite pesto comes from this cookbook--it's good for kids because the cream cheese mellows out the strong basil flavor.

Bayless Family Pasta with Pesto
1/4 c. pine nuts or walnuts
3 garlic cloves
2 c. fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. lemon balm, optional
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. cream cheese or fresh goat cheese
1 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice
1 lb. dried pasta
1/2 to 3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1. Scoop nuts into a small skillet. Set over medium heat. Stir until nuts release toasty aroma into kitchen, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let nuts cool.
2. Place peeled garlic in microwave-safe cup and barely cover with water. Microwave on high power for 1 minute. Scoop garlic out of water with spoon. Allow to cool.

3. In a food processor, combine cooled toasted nuts, basil leaves, lemon balm if desired, olive oil, cream cheese, lemon juice and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cut each garlic clove into 3 pieces and add to processor. Secure lid. Pulse 5 or 6 times, then run machine until mixture is smooth--about 1 minute. Leave pesto in food processor.
4. Boil pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Pour reserved pasta water into food processor and turn on to thin the
pesto. Mix pesto with pasta. Sprinkle on half of the grated Parmesan. Divide onto plates and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Serves 4 as a main course.

Lucky me, to have a Dad who keeps me supplied with fresh lemon juice from his tree.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Super Easy Carnitas

When I cook for a crowd, I usually serve Mexican food. Do-it-yourself tacos or burritos are delicious, kid-friendly, and easy to prepare beforehand. Tonight it was carnitas.

The night before your party, put a couple of pork roasts (buy the cheap stuff) in your crockpot and season them with salt, pepper, cumin, onion, garlic, and chili powder. Cook them overnight, then in the morning let them cool and shred the meat.

A few minutes before the par-tay, pour a few tablespoons of oil in a large skillet and fry the carnitas so they get kind of crunchy. Put out tortillas, bowls of avocado, sliced onion, cheese, and salsa along with some beans and Mexican rice (don't forget a pitcher of Margaritas) and let the fiesta begin!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Desert Island Discs

My tween daughter Elise spent her own money on a new iPod Touch and is now the queen of the app and princess of iTunes. I had loaded all my CDs on to my own iPod when I got it 4 years ago (first generation baby!) and done nothing more than hit the "shuffle" button since then.

Last night (with Elise's help) I finally figured out iTunes and bought a few old favorites. It made me think of that "Desert Island Discs" thing they used to do on the radio, where you'd send in your favorite 3 songs and then keep your fingers crossed that they'd play them and announce your name on the radio. Does it get any better than that?

Janet's Desert Island Discs:
1. Save a Prayer by Duran Duran
2. This Time by INXS

and, drumroll...Better Man by Pearl Jam, probably my very favorite song in the history of songs. Does my age show? Elise says my songs are lame but hello. Her favorite song is called "My Life Would Suck Without You."

What are your Desert Island Discs?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vinyl Decal Decorated Cabinet

I have been looking for a cabinet that will fit the corner of my kitchen. It's a very narrow space between the window and the pantry so it couldn't be more than 23" wide or 12" deep and I needed drawers and shelves to hold my work supplies. I bought a tape measure to keep in my purse and every time I went into a store that had furniture, I'd look. And every week or so, I'd check Craigslist--nothing. For so long that it became part of my regular routine.

Can you spot the kitty?

Finally, FINALLY, I found this beauty for $40 on Craigslist. It was absolutely perfect, except that there is not a single piece of white furniture in my entire house. Luckily, my can of black spray paint is still warm from the last project I conquered.

Aah, better already.

Now to jazz it up a little. I used these vinyl decals but if your taste is not as quirky as mine, there are plenty of more classic options like birds or trees that are a little more understated.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Happy Zucchini Day!

If you don't already have today off, you should. August 8 is "Leave Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Front Porch Day." Since my yard is small and my thumb black, I was hoping to be a leavee this year, but no luck so I headed to the farmstand and picked up a few to make my favorite enchiladas. I got this idea from a health food restaurant but never ordered them and never got a recipe, so let's wing it together, shall we?

Janet's Zucchini Enchiladas
6 corn tortillas
oil about 1/2" inch deep in a small skillet
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup zucchini, grated coarsely
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 can (10 oz.) enchilada sauce

Heat the oil and fry the tortillas for just a few seconds, until soft. Drain them on a plate lined with paper towels. Pour about 1/3 of the can of enchilada sauce to cover the bottom of an 8x8 square baking pan.

Lay out a tortilla and put some cheese, onion, and zucchini down the center.

Roll it up and place seam side down in the pan. Repeat with the other tortillas, then pour the rest of the sauce over the top. Make sure all the tortillas get some sauce on them so they don't dry out.

Sprinkle with more cheese and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, until it's hot and the cheese is melted.

Janet's Notes: Be sure that the zucchini is grated coarsely. If it's too fine it'll get mushy and lose its texture. Also this would be good with green enchilada sauce but that would have required a trip to the store.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Childhood Summer Games

Subtitle: What were we thinking, and where were our parents?

If you're a parent, you've probably uttered following words to your kids at some point this summer: "You know, when I was a kid we didn't have (insert electronic device here). We played outside." We say it as if it were a much healthier and wholesome thing, as if we all went outside and laughed and everyone got along. But when I really think back, these games tended toward the brutal.

Here are a few outside games guaranteed to give your kids more than carpal tunnel on their video game arm.

Crack the whip: Everyone joins hands--how nice!--in a big line. This is where your mom pats herself on the back and then stops watching. The most popular (read: bossy) neighborhood child gets to be the leader, who proceeds to run quickly in the curviest line possible. Do not let go of anyone's hand! The people at the end become the whip crackees, and their necks are flung back and forth in a way that would make "Wipeout" seem like a walk in the park.

Red Rover: This game is for a large group of children, so we played it in school with credentialed instructors supervising us. Half the class stands on one side of the field, and half on the other side. Again, you all join hands and then one side chants, "Red Rover, Red Rover, send (one kid's name) right over!" That kid then runs as fast as he can and tries to break through the other team's wall of arms. The force of the running child will certainly break your hands apart, so you have to hold each other's forearms. This is guaranteed to break a radius, if not an ulna, but if you're the one to let Jimmy break through, your popularity on the playground will take a serious nosedive.

Mother May I: This game will not hurt you physically but someone will always end up with a bruised ego. The leader stands at the end of the driveway and everyone else lines up at the other end, with the goal of reaching the leader first. Then it goes something like this:

Leader: Best friend, take 10 giant steps forward.

Best friend: Mother may I?

Leader: Yes you may.

and then...

Leader: Little brother, take 8 baby steps forward.

Little brother: Mother may I?

Leader: No you may not. You may take 5 giant steps backward.

Little Brother: Mother may I?

Leader: Yes you may.

I won't even go into King of the Hill or pink bellies. What was your favorite "wholesome" childhood game?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sour Cream Rhubarb Bars

Did you ever see the 30Rock when they were at that Congressional hearing for the KableTown merger? All of a sudden there was a big revelation and everyone gasped and started taking and then they cut to Rob Reiner who was murmuring "rhubarb rhubarb peas and carrots peas and carrots rhubarb rhubarb." It still cracks me up but maybe you had to be there.

Anyway, my kids asked what rhubarb was--they had never heard of it. Far be it from me to deny my offspring the rhubarb experience, so I bought some at the store today and searched for a recipe. This one, from a Web site called The Rhubarb Compendium looked the best. And go ahead, admit that you don't know what a compendium is; I didn't either.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Squares
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Mix sugar, nuts, melted butter and cinnamon until crumbly and set aside.

He's easily amazed.

In a separate bowl, cream together brown sugar, shortening and egg. Add flour, soda and salt to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Lastly, stir in rhubarb.

Pour mixture into pan and sprinkle with reserved topping. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes. Cut in squares and serve warm or cool. Makes about 20 bars.

Janet's Notes: I guess I expected these to be like cookie bars; instead, they were more like a rhubarb coffee cake. They were great though, and Max declared that he loved them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back of the (Giant) Bag: Rosemary Focaccia

I buy my bread flour at Costco in 25-lb. bags. I make pretty much all of our bread. Pretty lucky family, right, to come home to the smell of fresh bread and eat a piece hot off the loaf? Nope. The real treat is when I'm too busy to make hamburger buns or sandwich bread and they get to eat "store bought" bread. Grass is always greener, I guess...

So I was dumping my bag of flour into the giant storage bin I use to keep it, and noticed a recipe on the back for rosemary focaccia. We have rosemary growing as a ground cover and I certainly have enough flour--what the heck, I'll give it a try.

Rosemary Focaccia
3 cups bread flour
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. or 1 package instant active yeast
1 1/3 c. warm water
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. dried rosemary leaves
Combine flour, salt, sugar, yeast, water, and 2 Tbsp. oil. Mix until dough is pliable. Knead on floured board until smooth. Place dough in oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes. Coat baking pan with oil and gently press the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Brush remaining oil over the top.

Make dimples in the dough (clearly, this is the best part).

Sprinkle with Parmesan and rosemary. Let rise 20 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Janet's Notes: I made the dough in the bread machine, decreasing the water to 1 cup. I added fresh (not dried) rosemary straight into the dough, not sprinkled on top. I also used 1 Tbsp. loose yeast instead of one individual package because, you guessed it, I buy my yeast from Costco as well.

You have to take a photo with olive oil next to it; I think it's some kind of Italian bread photography rule.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pet Peeves: The Children

I adore them. They conspire to drive me crazy.

I love my children as much as you love yours, which is a lot. A ton. Infinity tons, really. But there are a few, just a few, things they do that drive me up the wall.

1. Making the same sound over and over. I don't know why it's fun to say a word or make a noise repeatedly and loudly. I always think to myself, "Don't say anything. They will stop soon" and they never do, then act totally surprised when I finally yell "CUT IT OUT!"

2. Calling me from the next room. They had not one single word to say to me the entire time I was sitting right next to them, but the moment I cross the invisible line to the next room, it's "Hey Mom!"

3. Continuing to call when I don't answer. Here's a perfect example: I'm in the laundry room upstairs, and Sean is in the kitchen downstairs. He wants to know if we have turkey. "Mom!" I hear him of course, but why would I scream a conversation from the laundry room to the kitchen? But instead of then coming to find me, he keeps calling, "Mom! Mom! Mom!" for the next 3 minutes, in which time he could have come up to the laundry room, gone back, and made himself a delicious turkey sandwich.

4. Putting the shoes next to the closet. The entrance to our house from the garage (where we usually come in) is exactly 12 inches away from the shoe closet. That means that you need to take exactly one step in the door, open the closet, and throw your shoes in. One swift, graceful motion is all it takes, yet the kids can never seem to remember the part where you have to open the door and instead throw the shoes onto the floor directly in front of the closet. No partial credit, people.

5. Watch those knees/elbows! This is more of a little kid thing but my 8-year-old still doesn't think twice about using my ribs as the resting spot for his elbow when he decides to get up from the couch. He also tends to just roll upside down and flail his legs at random intervals, usually in the middle of a board game or while watching television. This always ends up in a cat tearing out of the room and/or someone being kicked in the face.

6. Where's the turkey/lettuce/cookies/tortillas/raisins/etc. It's right there, on the second shelf, behind one other thing that you never bothered to move. I wish I could say it gets better but my husband is just as bad about this as the 8-year-old.

And of course I wouldn't trade them for the world, and even as I write this, I can't imagine them growing up and not needing me for the little things anymore. But being able to laugh at our children is really why we had them in the first place, right?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Back of the Tub: Kraft Ricotta Cheese

I had a bunch of ricotta cheese left over from the pizza earlier this week and decided to make the recipe on the back of the container. I wasn't sure whether I'd blog it because it is basic to the point of ridiculous, but my kids loved it and I had to laugh when Max declared it "the best thing I've ever eaten."

Here's the gist of the recipe: dump ricotta cheese in spaghetti sauce. The end.

Parmesan Bow-Tie Skillet
3 cups bow-tie pasta, cooked
1 jar (14 oz) spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup Simply Kraft Reduced Fat Ricotta Cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Combine pasta, spaghetti sauce, ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 2 Tbsp. Parmesan in large skillet. Cook on medium heat 10 minutes or until cooked through, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses; cover. Let stand 5 minutes or until mozzarella is melted.

Janet's Notes: I used macaroni because I didn't think bow-ties would stand up to 10 minutes of cooking after they'd already been cooked. I cooked my pasta just to the raw side of al dente and then reduced the cooking time to about 5 minutes. Nothing needs to be cooked, just heated.

If I had spent two hours on this meal they'd have hated it.