Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Hola! Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15th-October 15th. In honor of this celebration, we’re featuring salsa verde and empanadas this week. Ironically, these are the dishes I made for my first week of my new course on culinary and pâtisserie. Whoo hoo!

Let’s start with salsa verde- ‘coz it was simple and pretty quick- hehe!

Ingredients (yields two cups):

  • 1 oz Canola oil
  • Bunch of cilantro (or parsley)
  • 1 Garlic
  • 1 Lime (juiced)
  • 1/2 oz Onion
  • Salt- to taste
  • 1/2 of Jalapeño or serrano peppers
  • Tomatillos (canned or fresh)
    • 1 canned 13oz
    • 5 fresh (I guestimated since I couldn’t find canned tomatillos at my grocery stores)

When using fresh tomatillos, be sure to remove the husk. Also, before blending, fresh tomatillos, they should be blanched or broiled. I did both.

  • Blend all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor to desired consistency.
  • Heat canola oil over medium high heat.
  • Season with salt.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Salsa will keep fresh up to five-to-seven days.

I’ve never made my own salsa before. I couldn’t believe how simple and quick it was. I would love to experiment in making other salsas like pico de gallo and salsa roja (red salsa). Ooh, I can’t wait! I’m on a salsa kick! (I’m doing my quick salsa dance right now 🤪💃🏻). My university had a ballroom dancing course that I took. It was pretty cool, but definitely had its challenges. Salsa was a bit difficult to learn. My favorite dance was the foxtrot. It was the first dance we learned and was the easiest.

Onto empanadas… Empanadas are basically Spanish turnovers. They can be filled with either a savory or sweet filling. We’re filling them with savory ingredients.

Ingredients (yields eight servings)

  • 2 oz bread flour
  • 1 oz cake flour
    • *NOTE: can substitute both flours for all-purpose flour (3 oz total)
  • Canola oil (optional for deep-frying)
  • 1/2 oz lard or vegetable shortening
  • 2 oz monterrey jack cheese or mild cheddar, shredded
  • 1 poblano pepper (roasted, seeded and diced)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 oz warm water
  • Sift flours into a mixing bowl.
  • Add lard or vegetable shortening and blend into flour (I used vegetable shortening).
  • Dissolve salt in warm water before pouring into the flour mixture.
  • Knead dough until smooth.
  • Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile…

  • Scrape the filmed skin off the poblano pepper, using the back of the knife.
  • Remove seeds and cut into dices. (The seeds will make the flavor more acidic)
  • Combine cheese and pepper into bowl.

30 minutes later…

  • Weigh the dough on a food scale and divide into eight equal pieces.
  • Sprinkle flour on surface and rolling pin.
  • Roll dough into a ball and flatten with a rolling pin, creating a circle.
  • Place cheese/pepper mixture on one side of the circle.
  • Fold the other side to create a turnover.
  • Press dough around the filling and crimp edges with a fork.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper and bake in a 375ºF oven until golden brown.

Happy October! Wishing you a great week ahead. Until next week…

Peace and wellness,

FS x

Please check out my social media platforms for more posts throughout the week!

GBD Goodness!

Week 12 is here! I completed my final culinary assignment in my Culinary Foundations course. It was bittersweet. I can’t believe how quickly 12 weeks went. I’m grateful to my chef instructors for their valuable and constructive feedback. I’ve gained so much knowledge over the last three-and-a-half months. Next week, I begin a new culinary course on Culinary and Patisserie. I’m excited to keep learning! Thank you for joining me on this escapade.

I made deep-fried chicken legs and onion rings. I had a deep fryer that I used once many years ago. I was excited to utilize it again. However, that plan failed. Turns out, the deep fryer no longer worked. Bummer! Onto plan B- deep-frying in a pot. I monitored the temperature of the (canola) oil with a candy thermometer. The temperature needed to be between 325º and 350ºF.

350 on the nose!

I made the chicken first. Set up the breading station with seasoned flour, egg wash and milk, and coating flour- in this order.

After the chicken is coated, they’re ready to be submerged into the hot oil. After about 10-15 minutes, remove the chicken from the pot, drain excess oil on a paper towel, and check the temperature of the chicken to make sure it is mininum 165ºF (temperature doneness for poultry).

Look at this golden brown deliciousness [GBD (minus the “-ness”)]! Wow! Glorious! When I took a bite of this, it brought me back to when my late grand-aunt made her famous fried chicken. It tasted very similar to hers. Wonderful memories…

Ingredients for fried chicken:

  • Chicken legs (bone-in thighs are ok, too)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Eggs
  • Milk (1 c. per egg)
  • Canola oil

Moving onto the onion rings. This involves making a batter before we dip them into the hot oil.

Ingredients for the batter:

  • Egg yolk (beaten)
  • Club soda or beer (I used beer)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Egg whites (whipped and folded into the batter)

After the batter is made, the onions are ready to be dredged in plain flour before they’re dipped in the batter. The temperature of the oil should be 350ºF. Slowly dip a few battered onions into the pot at a time to avoid overcrowding the pot.

Once they’re golden brown, remove them from the pot and drain excess oil on a paper towel. Note, the onion rings won’t be as golden brown as the chicken because of the whipped egg whites.

I loved that the batter on these onion rings were light, airy, and fluffy. You could taste equal parts of the beer batter and the onions.

Ingredients for onion rings:

  • Large white or yellow onions (cut into 1/4 or 1/2″ slices) (one large onion makes A LOT of rings!)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Egg yolk
  • Egg whites (whipped and folded into the batter)
  • Club soda or beer (4 fl. oz.)
  • Baking powder (1/2 tsp.)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Canola oil

Stay tuned next week as we continue this extraordinary culinary journey. Thanks for reading!

FS x

A break this week…

There was no cooking assignment for culinary school this week. We just had to fabricate a whole chicken and freeze all the parts. We’ll be using them for the next six weeks. Exciting! I can now say I’ve deconstructed a whole chicken. Yay!

I have to say, I didn’t enjoy the process. Working with raw meat, especially poultry grosses me out. I usually buy already cooked chicken or specific chicken parts (i.e., thighs and drumsticks). It’s much easier and cleaner to work with. As I was fabricating the raw chicken, all I could think about the entire time working was wanting to sanitize everything. Wash my entire kitchen with soap and hot water. I usually wear gloves when handling raw poultry, but I was advised not to wear gloves because it’s actually more dangerous. People are more prone to cutting themselves more easily when wearing gloves. Shucks! So, I had to use my bare hands. I washed them like I had OCD! Seriously! My fingers were pruned by the time I was done. I washed all my equipment and tools several times, as well as cleaned the counter and sink area multiple times. I had to make sure everything was sanitized. Salmonella, food poisoning, bacteria spread is NO JOKE! It’s important to practice safety and good hygiene, especially when working with raw poultry.

August is birthday month. I spent my birthday weekend in the kitchen and with family and friends. My loves! The perfect trio!

Last week, we celebrated my aunt’s birthday. We had the whole chicken with gravy, and carrots vichy and brussel sprouts for her bday dinner. My sister made Oreo-stuffed chocolate cupcakes for dessert. Yummmmm! In my featured image, I created a collage of all the yummy food I ate this weekend. My dad and sis made a feast for dinner. We had tossed salad, steak, chicken, Portuguese sausage, mashed potatoes with boiled eggs and olives, and shrimp and oyster tempura. Wow! We celebrated with strawberry, chocolate, lemon, and coconut cupcakes for dessert from Sam’s Club. Sam’s Club makes some pretty yummy cakes. My dear girlfriend took me out for brunch at the La Hiki at the Four Seasons at Ko ‘Olina. We went there two years ago and had a fulfilled delicious, out-of-this-world buffet brunch experience. However, since COVID, buffets have not reopened, and restaurants that once offered buffets, had to get creative. This restaurant created a pre-fixed brunch menu. The food was yummy, but you can’t beat that buffet. I can’t wait till the buffet reopens again. It was one of the best brunch buffets I’ve ever eaten at. I would love to take my family there to experience all that superlativeness.

Have a great week, All! Please stay safe. This pandemic is getting outrageous!

FS x

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Papa’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and father-figures! Hope you had a chillaxing day, doing absolutely NOTHING! We appreciate all that y’all do for us. Thank you, thank you!

My family and I are celebrating with my dad. My sister and I cooked steaks, seasoned with garlic pepper, and rack of lamb, marinated with teriyaki sauce. We’re using the Instant Pot air fryer combo we got my dad for Father’s Day last year. It has all kinds of cool features: air fry, bake, broil, and roast. We’re using ALL the features. So exciting!

I made a Greek yogurt sauce to complement the meats. Yum! That’s my favorite part about eating red meat, which I’m so excited to eat because I don’t have very often anymore. Red meat is a delightful treat. I was introduced to this delicious pairing when I went to Turkey in the summer of 2010 for a world conference.

The yogurt sauce is similar to the Greek tzatziki sauce. It’s very simple to make. I add my own simple touches to it to make it my own. I used plain Greek yogurt and seasoned it with garlic pepper, minced dried garlic, and dried dill. Voilà! All done! The sauce is so good, I can eat it by itself. Uh huh! You heard right!

Now, gotta have them veggies! We made green beans and brussel sprouts, cooked with garlic balsamic olive oil, onions,and garlic. Scrumptious! Now, that’s how you get people to eat their vegetables, haha!

We also had Portuguese sausage, the best sausage there is, in my opinion (I’m not a huge sausage fan) and shrimp tempura. The tempura was already pre-made, thanks to Costco. My dad cooked oysters in a buttery garlic sauce. Oh my! I was in heaven! I love oysters. We don’t eat it all the time. Whenever we do, I savor every bite! It’s a wonderful treat!

For dessert, my dad requested a haupia pie, which my sister bought. Haupia is a Hawaiian coconut dessert.

Time to grind all the delicious foods! Ciao!

Have a great week. Happy belated Juneteenth, now a federal holiday (yay!), and Happy Summer!

FS x

Week Five of AAPI Heritage Month: Nepalese Food

We’re closing in on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s been a wonderful month highlighting the culture I’m so proud to be apart of. I’ve learned about so many different resources, books, and movies that highlight the AAPI people. RepresentASIAN!!! I’m so happy that President Biden signed a bill to combat hate crimes against the AAPI population (the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act).

I’d like to also mention again that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the pandemic, especially this year, taking care of my mental health has become so important. Moreover, realizing that the little things we often take for granted are what we should be treasuring every single day. Things such as: socialization, companionship, and hugs. Those are part of the human make-up, we so desperately need.

Mental health should be openly spoken about and not looked upon as a negative stigma. Often times, people feel judged and criticized once they talk about mental health. That’s not right. My dream is that mental health would be openly discussed amongst people, freely and in a healthy, positive way. There are various support groups through mental health organizations, where people can meet and safe safe to discuss their experiences, but we need that same love and support from society.

This week’s AAPI cuisine feature is Nepalese food. I had two close friends (siblings) in graduate school who were from Nepal. While they resided here on O’ahu, they frequently invited me over to their home and made home-cooked Nepalese vegetarian food. They were so proud of their culture and country. And they were great cooks! They even taught my family and our friends how to eat with our hands. I guess they don’t really use utensils in Nepal. It was a bit strange, as I’m not used to eating with my hands, but it was an interesting experience. Likewise, my friends learned about the local culture here and were exposed to a variety of different ethnic foods. They often liked eating at Himalayan Kitchen in Kaimukī. I love that place. They became friendly with the staff. I’d always have a grand time hanging out with them. They brought so much joy and a sense of calmness whenever in our presence.

If you haven’t had Nepalese food, it’s very similar to Indian food. They are neighboring countries after all. That got me thinking, what’s the difference between the two cuisines? They seem so similar- and they are. I found this article that explains the difference: https://kitchenappliancehq.com/what-is-the-difference-between-indian-and-nepalese-food/. One thing Jeff Campbell states is that Nepalese food does not contain cream like Indian food does. That’s very true! A lot of Indian dishes have creamy textures. Next time I’m dining out at a combined Nepalese/Indian restaurant, I’ll be able to tell the difference.

Have a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer!

Cheers!

FS x

Week One of Asian-American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Thai Cuisine

Happy belated May/Lei Day, and Happy AAPI Heritage Month! So grateful to have this entire month dedicated to us!

I’ve included some links to learn more about the AAPI legacy:

Each week during the month of May, we’ll highlight on a dish of Asian or Pacific Islander cuisine. I’m excited to share about the various dishes I love throughout this month.

This week, our featured dish is Thai cuisine. It’s one of my favorite Asian foods. I love this new restaurant in Kaimukī called Red Elephant Thai Cuisine. Their food is excellent. The server shared that the food is considered to be authentic to the food cooked and eaten in Thailand.

Over the weekend, my friends and I had a marvelous dinner at Red Elephant. We sat in their outdoor section of the restaurant, which is featured in the picture collage. Their outdoor atmosphere is beautiful and tranquil both in the daytime and nighttime. I love sitting out there. We were entertained by a talented pianist while enjoying our dinner. Everything about that night was spectacular. We laughed and enjoyed each others’ company. The food was delicious. It was a wonderful reunion.

Prior to dinner, we attended our late friend’s celebration of life service. I had shared in a prior blog post that one of my girlfriends unexpectedly passed a couple months ago. It was shocking to all who knew her… The service was a lovely tribute to remember and honor her life. There were lots of tears and laughter, and reminiscing about the fabulous person she was to those who had known her. She will be dearly missed. I hope she is resting in love, happiness, and peace, and watching over us. My main takeaway from this experience is to live life to the fullest. Be the best version of yourself; be kind and loving to those around you, and have faith in everything you do.

I have so many favorite Thai dishes from Red Elephant, and overall. I didn’t present them all. The dishes featured in the collage are: yellow curry with sticky rice, tom yum (hot and sour lemongrass) soup, and green papaya salad. These photos were taken when I dined there with my sister.

This weekend, my friends and I ate: red curry with sticky rice, tom yum soup, spring rolls, and pad see lew (stir fry with noodles). We loved all these dishes. Yum!

The go-to dish I must order at any Thai restaurant is the tom yum soup. It is a breath of fresh air. I love the spiciness and sourness. The broth is so tasty. I always get excited when I see tom yum soup packets and flavored snacks at the store.

Check out Red Elephant Thai Cuisine:

3196 Wai’alae Ave.
Honolulu, 96816
808-732-5461
https://www.redelephantthaicuisine.com/

Peace,

FS x

Hearty and satisfying. It’s mmm, mmm, good!

Annyeong haseyo! “Hello” in Korean.

We’re approaching the end of April and heading into May. We’re inching closer and closer to mid-year. A lot has occurred this year and sometimes it feels like a continuation of last year. However, I continue looking forward and focusing on the light that’s ahead. Focus on the positive and not dwell on the negative. Things are improving whilst in this pandemic. “April showers bring May flowers.”

This week’s featured dish is one my favorite Korean dishes, soft tofu stew, or kimchi soondubu jjigae. I HEART this soup/stew. I love tofu, especially soft tofu. And the tofu in this soup/stew is extremely soft. It hits the spot every time. Oh, and that soup base- it’s so good! It’s the fish-base that makes the broth so tasty.

One of my favorite things about Korean food is dining at all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ restaurants. Cooking your meal amongst great company is the best! And eating the yummy food with others is simply fabulous. Korean BBQ always makes me excited. I love the meats- the kalbi and beef tongue are my faves. I look forward to the side dishes, such as the various types of kimchi, and finally, that tofu stew. Mmm, mmm! It’s a hearty and satisfying meal, every.single.time!

I found this recipe: https://www.koreanbapsang.com/kimchi-soondubu-jjigae-soft-tofu-stew-kimchi/. Looks simple and delish to make at home.

Make the most of April. May is coming. More sunshine and flowers to look forward to.

Jal Itsuh (“Be well”),

FS x

Local Kine Grindz

This week, we’re exploring the local grinds on the island of Maui, one of my favorite islands away from home. Maui holds a special place in my heart because my mom was from there. I have lovely memories staying at my maternal grandparents’ house in Wailuku and visiting with relatives whenever I’d visit. As a child, we got our second dog from Maui. His name was Charlie. Boy, was he a menace. But he was a good watch dog. Always protecting us and our family home.

Several years ago, I got to try the famous Sam Sato’s in Wailuku. It’s a small, family-owned business. The restaurant gets pretty crowded, but the wait is worth it. They’re known for their dried noodles. This week’s featured image has a variety of popular dishes from Sam Sato’s: dried noodles, saimin (similar to ramen), cheeseburger, and BBQ beef stick. Can I say, ahhh-mazing? Loved all the food. It was so yummy. It hit the spot.

These days when I visit Maui, I like to play tourist. My favorite places to visit are:

  • Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
    • It’s a beautiful and peaceful place, full of zen and nature.
  • Maui Ocean Center
    • I always love going to an aquarium.
  • MauiWine
    • Mmm, wine! Can you say wino? MauiWine is not too far from the lavender farm.
  • Sightseeing in Lāhainā/Front Street
    • I love Lāhainā and walking through Front Street. I love seeing the largest Banyan tree in the U.S.
  • Tasaka Guri Guri
    • My childhood favorite snack. This is a must have every time I visit. Guri guri is a dessert that’s between an ice cream and sherbet. Tasaka’s has two flavors: strawberry and pineapple. Both are quenching, but my favorite is the strawberry. Strawberry, all the way!
  • Whaler’s Village
    • A beautiful shopping mall in Lāhainā, with yummy restaurants, like Leilani’s on the Beach. Have a meal and a drink while watching the sunset fronting the beach.

My friend and her family recently visited Maui and told me about her visit to the goat farm. She shared how fun it was. That’s on my travel list the next time I’m in town again. Surfing Goat Dairy|Maui Goat Farm. I LOVE goat cheese and can’t wait to try them fresh. Yum!

Next time you’re in Maui, visit all these cool places, including Sam Sato’s:

1750 Wili Pa Loop
Wailuku, 96793
808-244-7124

Travel safely! Wear your mask!

FS x

Lunar New Year Celebrations & Good Luck Wishes Continue…

Happy Sunday! As previously stated last week, today’s ethnic food feature is a popular dish eaten to celebrate the Lunar New Year (LNY). LNY or Chinese New Year (CNY) is celebration across 15 days. Yea!

This week, I’m taking a trip down memory lane to Singapore. I’ve been to the country twice. This year marks 10 years since my first trip to Singapore. Time truly flies. Feels like I was there yesterday. Singapore is a beautiful country- and clean. Smaller than O’ahu, believe it or not, but is more populated by an additional three million people. I can’t fathom the thought of Singapore having more people than O’ahu. O’ahu is pretty crowded with about one million of us residing here. The two times I traveled to Singapore, I hardly saw any people while I was out in public. Although, I traveled to the country before and during the Lunar New Year, respectively. So, maybe a lot of citizens took a holiday and traveled out-of-country.

I learned that during this huge holiday celebration, this is the one and only time families get together and celebrate. It’s a BIG deal! It’s the once-a-year party/reunion everyone looks forward to. I’ve been to one celebration in 2011 with a friend’s family. It was wonderful to be in another country, experiencing a holiday that is so important to them. Their Chinatown was beautifully decorated and multiple festivities were occurring. A much different feel from how LNY is celebrated in Hawai’i, even though we have a huge Asian population in our state.

One of the popular dishes that is eaten during the LNY celebration is yusheng (see featured image). It’s a must-have. All the restaurants offer this on their menu. Yusheng is a mixed salad that includes ingredients symbolizing good luck, that are neatly organized on the plate. Everyone participates and mixes the salad. It’s been said that the higher you toss the salad, the greater the good luck. I was fortunate to experience eating this delicious salad twice, in 2011 and 2015. It was truly memorable.

I found a website that lists all the ingredients needed to make this salad- and its meanings of why it represents good luck. Very fascinating. I love what individual foods represent for different cultures. In many ways, this is what brings people together. Moreover, this is how we learn about and from one another. Through culture, through food, through history, and through story-telling. It’s so wonderful.

Yusheng ingredients:

  1. Raw fish
    • Abundance and prosperity.
  2. Pomelo, which is a very big grapefruit
    • Good luck. Optional to add.
  3. Pepper and cinnamon powder
    • A wish for prosperity. Optional to add.
  4. Oil
    • Drizzled onto salad in a circular motion. This is to symbolize that money is coming in from all directions.
  5. Carrots
    • Good luck.
  6. Green radish
    • Eternal youth. Optional, but recommended to add if serving salad to elders.
  7. White radish
    • Brings good business opportunities.
  8. Crushed peanuts
    • Hopes that your household will be filled with valuable possessions.
  9. Sesame seeds
    • Hopes for your business to flourish in the coming year.
  10. Golden crackers
    • Great wealth.
  11. Plum Sauce
    • Poured all over the dish instead of just one spot for the desired stronger ties with loved ones.

Happy celebrating! Have a wonderful Year of the Ox!

FS x

References:

Giant Singapore (2021). Yusheng ingredients you need to use for luck & prosperity. Retrieved from: https://giant.sg/yusheng-ingredients-you-need-to-use-for-luck-prosperity/

Meditating on Escargot

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend! We’re midway through the first month of the year, and what a month it’s been so far! I hope you’re taking care of yourselves. Brighter days are coming. There is a glistening light at the end of what seems like a very long and dark tunnel.

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to apprehend the practice of meditation. I have to admit, meditating is plain hard. It takes a lot of focus and discipline to really master this exercise and reap the benefits from it. I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near understanding this. I’m still in the very beginning stages. Maybe even in the pre-beginning period. One day soon, I’ll get there…

I found this article on the web and I hope it’ll help with becoming proficient in meditation and mindfulness. https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/

I’ve enjoyed the following apps that have meditation features:

  • Calm
  • Insight Timer (there’s a lot of free features on this app)

Onto this week’s cuisine: French. I loved dining at these three restaurants that have now all closed: Café Miro, Le Bistro, and Le Guignol. So sad that these places closed, but happy to know there’s still some French places remaining on O’ahu that I’ll one day try.

My favorite dish I always order at a French place is escargot (featured imaged)- cooked land snails. Sounds gross (I’m not a fan of snails in general), but it’s so delicious, especially when cooked in garlic butter and pesto. Yum! Our family friend’s relative once gave us a bag of escargots. Not sure where he had gotten them from. Nonetheless, we were so thankful and excited! My dad cooked them with some garlic and butter, and oooh, lala, it was onolicious! Tasted like fine dining restaurant quality! It was a special treat for us. Once in a lifetime.

Wishing you a great week ahead. Be safe and stay healthy.

FS x