Thanksgiving 2010

Every year we go over to my paternal Grandparents’ house and have a delicious Thanksgiving feast. My grandparents are both from Hawai’i, but they’ve traveled and lived all over the world, including six years in Germany when my dad was growing up.

Because of this, our meals are always a melting pot of food from all over the world. Whenever I eat at family gatherings, I can just taste the love in the food. It makes you warm all over, especially when you know everything is home made.

Thanksgiving 2010

This year we had:

  • Turkey with Gravy
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Green Beans
  • Candied Yams
  • Rolls
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Stuffing/Dressing
  • Guava Chiffon Pie
  • Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
  • Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (I used this recipe)

I really love my grandma’s yams and stuffing. Some of the stuffing she bakes inside the turkey and some she bakes outside so she can mix them together to get the perfect consistency. After we eat our big dinner at around 3pm, we drink some coffee, watch football, and play games.

We usually end up at home around 9pm, where my dad has been making his “Aorta Soup” in the slow-cooker all day. It’s that little something that hits the spot after a big, early meal so you don’t go to bed hungry. I don’t know how all the flavors are still fresh and vegetables still crispy after stewing several hours, but this soup is delicious. Sadly, no pictures of that since I ate mine up immediately before heading home.

What are some traditions you have for when you’re with your family?

Thanks to my mom and sister for snapping pictures!

A Salty Adventure

Hawaiian Sea Salts: Red & Pink

Last month I saw a tweet from Marx Foods about a photography challenge they were having for salt. I told them I was interested and I received 5 samples of cooking and finishing salts: Hawaiian Red Salt, Hawaiian Pink Salt, Ginger Salt, Espresso Salt & Flor de Sal. I was tasked to create two photographs: one of just salt, and the other of a finished dish that shows the salt well.

Immediately, the dish kālua pig popped into my head. I’m in the process of planning a vacation with my family and my sister’s Girl Scout troop to Hawai’i, so Hawai’i has been on my mind. We intend to have a “Hawai’i Day” next spring before going on the trip to expose the girls to the food and culture of Hawai’i so they don’t experience culture shock when they land on the island.

Kālua pig is one of the most popular dishes in Hawai’i, and is featured everywhere from the diner-style mix plate lunches locals eat midday, or the elaborate luau feasts held for special occasions (or tourists). It’s also one of the hardest dishes to find on the mainland, especially the east coast! We usually bring our kālua pig with us from Hawai’i on the plane, frozen, or have it shipped to us from the islands.

But, seeing the Hawaiian red & pink salt in the package from Marx Foods reminded me that the only ingredients in kālua pig are pig and Hawaiian sea salt. I then began to research how to recreate a mini imu in my oven at home. It seemed that all the recipes were for larger pieces of meat, and varied on temperature and time.

I settled on a 1.75 piece of pork butt and cooked it at 350 for  2 hours and 45 minutes. I cut 1/4 inch deep slices every inch and rubbed it with 2 tablespoons of a mixture of red and pink Hawaiian salt and 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke. I wrapped the pork with banana leaves secured with toothpicks and then wrapped with aluminum foil. I set it in a small baking dish and then put it in a larger dish. I added 2 cups water in the outer dish and set in the oven. I took the pork out after 2 hours to check on it, added 45 more minutes and 1 more cup of water around the dish. After 2:45 the pork was perfectly tender and easy to shred with 2 forks. I would suggest serving this dish hot and fresh. If you have leftovers, sprinkle with water before heating up or serve with a sauce to add some moisture back in. I ate some with rice and some red chile tortillas for lunch.

Flor de Sal, Ginger, and Espresso Salts with Milk Chocolate Caramels

In my excitement to make this dish, I forgot that all of the beautiful salt would dissolve when cooking! I then used the other three salts on some milk chocolate caramels and shared them with my friend Stephanie.

The ginger salt was surprisingly very strong and spicy flavored. After eating the caramels, the spice lingered in the back of our throats for a while. The espresso salt was a tad milder and sweeter than the ginger salt. The flor de sal was strong and straight-forward and paired perfectly with the sweet chocolate and gooey caramel.The salt granules were softer and smaller than the other two flavors, so the salt was easier to mix with the chocolate and caramel while tasting.

While we were tasting pork and caramels, we also decided to try the new Top Chef: Just Desserts truffles from Godiva that I had picked up over the weekend.

From top left, clockwise: Acai Berry – Dark chocolate ganache layered with acai, rose, and berry ganache in a dark chocolate shell decorated with a red heart; Passion Fruit – White chocolate and passion fruit ganache in a white chocolate shell; Chocolate Mendiant – Dark chocolate ganache between two dark chocolate disks, topped with bits of organic dried apricot, tart cherry, and sea salt; Green Tea – Matcha tea mousse center in a white chocolate shell decorated with green stringing.

The berry ganache tasted like alcohol or cough syrup, the passion fruit was bright, fresh, and smooth, the mendiant was rich but balanced with the salt, and the green tea was far too rich with the white chocolate and too much artificial green tea flavor in the center.

Chocolate, Almond, and Salted Caramel Cupcakes

On October 15th I attended a surprise going-away party for one of my best(est) friends, Stephanie. Stephanie is moving with her boyfriend from Washington DC to Pittsburgh, and though I’ll be able to see her every once in a while, it won’t be as frequent as when she was living a few miles away from me.

For her surprise party, I decided to combine some of her favorite things: almonds; salted caramel; coffee; chocolate. I found out about the surprise party a day or two before, so I was limited to the local Whole Foods for ingredients. I only had one chocolate cupcake recipe on hand and that hadn’t turned out perfect last time I baked it. I decided to use the same recipe (upped the chocolate chips to 1/2 a bag and cooked for 25 minutes exactly) and they turned out perfectly! I think it was because I was baking with love (^_^) and used sturdier liners this time.

Mise En Place

Before filling the liners, I crushed up some almond biscuits with a little melted butter in the food processor and pressed them into the bottoms of the liners. I then put the batter in, baked them, and waited for them to cool. Once cool, I cored them. I heated up the caramel, added some fleur de sel to balance the sweetness, and mixed to combine.

The caramel cream cheese frosting was made with dark, un-spiced rum as well as some more fleur de sel. I tried piping the frosting on, but my tip wasn’t working so I just cut a hole in the bag and worked from there. Since the caramel had been warm, it was thinner in consistency and seeped into the cake, leaving a space for the caramel cream cheese to fall in to, no matter how carefully I tried to balance the frosting on top.

I finished the top of the cupcakes with toasted almond slivers, a sprinkle of fleur de sel, and a drizzling of salted caramel.

Everyone seemed to love these cupcakes, and when I got a chance to try one the next day, they were delicious! The recipe yielded 28 cupcakes (probably because of the extra chocolate chips I put in), so some of them had almond cookie crusts and some didn’t.

This recipe has been deemed a "hit at home" and is one of the tastiest recipes on Hapa-tite!

Mimosa Brunch Cupcakes

This month my office was having a potluck, only this time it was a breakfast potluck! I thought this would be a perfect time to try my hand at the Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge I’ve been seeing over at Sweetest Kitchen.

This month’s challenge was Orange and I had been dying to make some mimosa cupcakes–great for breakfast, right? If you feel inclined to vote for me, please head on over there on October 20th to cast your vote.

These cupcakes have orange zest and champagne in the cake, are filled with orange curd, brushed with champagne, and topped with a champagne whipped frosting and a candied orange peel. The cakes themselves seemed to go over well at work, but I wasn’t quite happy with them. I tried (again) to make a frosting involving corn syrup and egg whites and it just didn’t turn out. The cake was a little dense for my taste, and the orange curd didn’t sit long enough before filling the cupcakes.

I was imagining a light, bubbly, citrus taste, but got one that was sticky and heavy. Everyone at work seemed to like them so much, so I’ll link to the two recipes I combined for this one: Loves to Eat & Liz in Life. Next time I’d make a simpler orange cake with a champagne/whipped cream frosting. Sometimes simpler is better!

The winner of October’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from: Angela’s Images (a selection of handmade crafts; Bake It Pretty (a $5 electronic gift card); Beanilla (2-fold Madagascar vanilla extract & 3 Tongan vanilla beans); Hello Hanna (a pack of Sweet Stands cupcake stands); Lisa Orgler (an 8.5″x11″ original art print of your choice); Miss Kitty Creations (a handmade cupcake charm of your choice); Sweet Cuppin Cakes (a prize pack worth $25); Tundra Books (a selection 3 very sweet children’s books). Thank you to all our prize sponsors!

Spring & Summer Bento 2010

Whew! The warmer weather and abundance of sandwich-lunches instead of true bento made Spring and Summer light seasons for bento. Often times I made and photographed dinner and plopped the leftovers into a container to eat for several days, so no pictures of that boring stuff. Below find the bento that I made and had the mind to photograph before devouring. There are bento from the end of February to the end of September.