We’ve got ourselves a Mexican fiesta!

Happy last weekend of July and start to the 2020 Olympics! I watched the opening ceremony on Friday night. The Japanese do not disappoint! My peeps; my motherland. So proud! Go Teams USA and Japan! Wishing all the athletes the best of luck!

On Saturday night I witnessed the men’s street skateboarding athletes from the US, Japan, Peru, Brazil, and France showcasing good sportsmanship to one another. Hugging, encouraging, and supporting each other. It brought a warmness to my heart. The world coming together.

I recalled my very first trip to Japan in 2015. Tokyo was already underway in preparing for the Olympics. A lot of construction building those extraordinary infrastructures. Amazing! They were already selling Olympics merch, too. I bought some hand towels as souvenirs. I remember thinking about wanting to be in Tokyo when the Olympics occurred. Who knew that we’d experience a global pandemic in 2020. So glad I didn’t buy tickets. I hope all who did were able to get a refund. Sending good energy that cases don’t soar out-of-control during these next couple weeks in Tokyo and amongst the athletes and all who are involved in making the Olympics happen. I’m looking forward to watching my favorite sports: gymnastics, swimming, and diving.

We’re highlighting on two dishes I made: rice pilaf and Mexican pinto beans, aka frijoles de olla. I was extremely nervous to make the rice pilaf on the stove. Every time I used to make pilaf on the stove, my rice would turn out mushy. Thank goodness for rice cookers! It’s a staple in almost every home in Hawai’i and especially amongst Asians. I learned over the years that a rice cooker can be very handy in cooking all sorts of foods, besides rice. There’s a Buzz Feed article I came across years ago. I’m glad the link is still active: https://www.buzzfeed.com/melissaharrison/rice-cooker-recipes

As suspected, my first attempt at making the rice pilaf turned out mushy. Ugh! While my taste testers enjoyed the texture, I certainly didn’t. I had another go at making it. This was unacceptable to submit to my instructor. The second time, I didn’t follow the recipe to “the T.” I added in less liquid than the recipe called for and hoped it would be enough to create a “just right” texture and consistency. Phew! Thank God it worked! My second attempt turned out perfect! And boy, was it delicious! Or should I say, addicting! It was buttery, light, fluffy, and somewhat chewy (in a good way). The dish included butter, chicken broth, and onions (brunoise style cut 1/8″ x 1/8″ x 1/8″). I didn’t know rice pilaf required baking for 18-20 minutes after boiling on the stove top. Whaaaat? Yep! It helps the rice absorb the liquid and creates that fluffy texture. Ooh whee!

Onto the frijoles de olla. That was pretty simple and self-explanatory. I soaked the pinto beans overnight. Any dried beans needs to be soaked overnight before cooking. Also, they’re to be seasoned last, after the beans are fully cooked. If they’re seasoned before they’re tender, the beans won’t cook properly. I learned something new! The Mexican pinto beans included the following ingredients: sliced onions, and chopped garlic and jalapeños. All ingredients are thrown into a pot, covered in water. They’re to be brought to a boil and then to a simmer until the beans become tender. Once the beans are tender, lard, or white fat from pig, is added. Lard can be substituted for butter, which is what I used. Bam!

Have a marvelous new week ahead!

Stay safe,

FS x

Hot Potato!

Hello! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. I spent it in one of my favorite places- the kitchen. Yesss!

This week in school was all about potatoes. Here are some interesting takeaways I learned from my reading.

  • Did you know potatoes are both a vegetable and starch (Gisslen, 2018)?
  • To prevent oxidation, the potatoes from turning brown or gray, soak them in cold water immediately after cutting them (Gisslen, 2018).
  • Did you know there are many different colors of potatoes? Blue, purple, pink, red, brown, and yellow (Gisslen, 2018)?
  • If there are any green areas on the potatoes, it should be cut off. It contains a substance called solanine, which has a bitter taste and is considered poisonous (Gisslen, 2018).

I learned four different knife cuts: bâtonette, brunoise, julienne, and small dice. The bâtonette is a 1/4” x 1/4” x 2” cut. I had to first cut the potato into a rectangular block. Then use a fancy culinary metric ruler to cut the block into 1/4” slices. Then cut again into 1/4” sticks. Next, I took the bâtonette sticks and cut them into 1/4” cubes, aka the small dice cut. I cut another potato into a rectangular block to prepare for my next cut, julienne. The measurements of that cut are 1/8” x 1/8” x 2”. After cutting the block into 1/8″ slices, the final cut I performed was the brunoise cut, which is cutting the julienne sticks into 1/8” cubes.

It was an exciting experience to learn and master these new knife cuts. The culinary ruler was a huge help in measuring the potatoes precisely. That tool will come in handy going forward.

The featured dish is a pommes purée, which is similar to mashed potatoes. It’s a bit more fluid and translucent. It’s not fluffy as mashed potatoes, but still has that whipped, smooth, and creamy consistency. The purée had minimal ingredients and steps, but was a difficult dish to make. The first attempt at making the dish resembled a mashed potato texture. That wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately, I had extra potatoes to try again.

I analyzed what I could do differently as I remade the dish. I cooked the potatoes a little longer. They needed to be tender, but not to the point of disintegrating. After the potatoes are strained from the boiled/simmered water, they are to dry for a bit before they are put into a food mill or mesh strainer. I let the potatoes dry for about five minutes, compared to 10-15 minutes in my prior attempt. The initial endeavor led to difficulty mashing the potatoes through the mesh strainer (I don’t have a food mill [yet]). They were probably too dry and had hardened. During the second try, the potatoes weren’t entirely dry yet, and therefore, it was a bit easier to mash through the strainer. Yay! I know that using a food mill, which was optional, would have made the mashing process a lot easier. Unsalted room temperature butter and warm heavy cream were added to the mashed potatoes. I mixed it as lightly and quickly as possible to avoid over-mixing that would create a “gummy” texture. The dish is seasoned with salt and pepper.

Phew! I’m glad the dish was better the second time around. You might have wondered what I did what all that extra potatoes? I made mashed potatoes and used it to make shepherd’s pie. Yum! It was a busy and tiring weekend in the kitchen, but worth every second. I enjoy cooking very much and am so glad to have this opportunity to learn more about culinary arts in an educational setting.

Happy new week,

FS x

References

Gisslen, W. (2018). Professional cooking, 9th ed. Wiley.

Carrot Craze

It’s finally happening. Culinary school. This week, I began my first course of my culinary program. I was excited, yet nervous. Watching the live and prerecorded videos and reading the material helped prepare me for the new cutting technique I learned, as well as the lab assignment I had to cook.

I learned about the oblique/roll cut this week. To accomplish this technique, one cuts the carrot in a 45-degree angle and then rolls the carrot 180-degrees and repeats the process again. The purpose of this cut is add dimension and to evenly cook the carrots since they will be cut at relatively the same size.

The featured dishes I made for this week’s assignment were carrots vichy and carrots purée. I started with the carrots vichy first. The dish entailed: carrots, sugar, unsalted butter, salt, and water. It was a very simple dish to make. The carrots are barely covered in water and are brought to a boil. Once they’ve reached boiling point, they are to be brought down to a simmer until the liquid nearly evaporates. The carrots should then become tender and soft. The liquid will form into a glaze. The dish can be garnished with fresh parsley. Black pepper is a must. And then the best part- tasting. It was delightful!

Moving onto the purée. It required the same steps as the vichy; same ingredients as well, minus the sugar. After the carrots are tenderized, they are to be strained. Save the boiled carrot water. The cooked carrots are put into a food mill, mesh strainer, food processor, or blender to purée. I used a food processor. To create a smooth purée texture, pour some of the boiling carrot water to the mix. The purée tasted excellent. It was smooth, creamy, and velvety. Yum!

I’m excited to share this journey with y’all. Stay tuned for next week’s dish.

Be safe,

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

Happy Mama’s Day! Week Two of AAPI Heritage Month: Japanese Cuisine

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts! I hope your weekend is filled with love, relaxation, joy, and laughter. You are appreciated. Your sacrifice, hard work, unwavering love, support, encouragement, and understanding means the world. Thank you!

Every year, I cook dinner for all my mother-figures in my family. This weekend, as we continue celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I made an Asian curried ground turkey stew (featured image), which turned out to be more like soup. Nonetheless, it was scrumptious. I’m sure it’ll taste even more delicious after all the ingredients have soaked into the broth over the last couple days. I’ve learned that it’s best to make the dishes ahead of time so they have time to marinate in their sauces and seasonings. The dishes are a lot more tastier a few days later. Here are the ingredients I used:

  • Pepper
  • Garlic pepper
  • Dried garlic flakes
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Homemade curry powder
    • Cumin
    • Coriander
    • Ground ginger
    • Mustard seed
    • Red pepper flakes
    • Turmeric
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Shoyu (soy suace)
  • White vinegar
  • Chicken stock
  • Bay leaves
  • Whole wheat flour (to thicken the sauce)
  • Ground turkey
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Lentils
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Okinawan sweet potatoes

I love cooking. But cooking for a heartwarming purpose, like Mother’s Day, is exhilarating for me. I love putting all my heart and soul into my cooking. Cooking with love is the best!

“To the world you are a mother. To our family, you are the world.” ~Unknown

In joy,

FS x

Easter Genesis

Happy Easter and Resurrection Day! May your Easter weekend be filled with love, peace, happiness, and many blessings, today and always.

Did you know that pink is one of the colors of Easter? My favorite color as well. According to a Southern Living article (2019), pink represents hope and brand new beginnings. Perfect for the my mindset this Easter and spring season.

This year, I’ve added spring to my favorite seasons. I had an “aha” moment. We are generously given so many opportunities to “start over” and live a new life every day. Leave the past behind and continue moving forward as we learn from our mistakes and make better choices the next day. We proceed with perseverance and stay the course on this journey of life. Literally, we have a fresh pristine start every single day. Others believe that every January 1st is a fresh start as we ring in the new year. Furthermore, some believe that the new year truly begins on the Lunar New Year, which varies from year to year. A new year can also begin during the spring season and on Easter Day.

I’ve been reminded to be kind to myself and take things day by day. As New Year’s Day 2021 approached, many of us hoped and wished for a better year as the clock struck midnight. Lunar New Year came and we had those same wishes for the Year of the Ox. Now that spring has begun, I’ve learned to appreciate new life, more sunshine, and fresh beginnings. And today, on Easter Day, it feels like a new dawn all over again.

2020 was a tough year for many of us. Just the same, some of us still feel like we’re living in 2020, a year later. Still feels like Groundhog Day in some sense. I’ve experienced periods of that this year. We’re 1/3 into 2021. The year is far from over yet. I’m still believing for an exceedingly superb year. Let the rebirth begin!

One of the traditional dishes eaten during the Easter holiday is lamb, which is this week’s featured dish. According to Waring (2018), the people of Egypt experienced horrendous sickness and mourned the deaths of their firstborn sons. Therefore, the Hebrew community covered their doors with the sacrificed lamb’s blood so that God would “pass over” their homes. Hence, the meaning of Passover. As Christianity emerged, those newly converted passed on the tradition of eating lamb. Christians also refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God, as He sacrificed himself to die for all of humanity. John 1:29 in the New American Standard Bible states, “behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Lamb is my ultimate favorite red meat. I love its gamey and distinctive taste. It’s unlike other types of meat, which makes it so unique, delicious, and special.

Cheers to a wonderful Easter season. Continue believing and hoping for all good things. That is my prayer every day for this world.

In peace,

FS x

References

New American Standard Bible. (2020). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+1.29&version=NASB

Southern Living. (2019). The real meanings behind the colors of Easter. https://www.southernliving.com/easter/easter-colors

Waring, O. (2018). Why do we eat lamb at Easter? https://metro.co.uk/2018/03/29/eat-lamb-easter-7426513/

Happy Pi 𝝿 Day, 03/14!

Today, we’re featuring a ground turkey pot pie (see image) to celebrate 𝜋 day! Pi, a mathematical term, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159, or 3.14, as most commonly known.

Did you know that pi has been computed to over one trillion numbers beyond its decimal point? It’s an irrational and transcendental amount, and will continue infinitely without recurrence or sequence. That’s pretty trippy! The number goes on and on and on… Wow! That’s math for ya. Very mysterious and beguiling!

Visit https://www.piday.org/ for more information.

I’ve always found math fascinating, especially beyond simple arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There’s so much in the mathematical world that I don’t know about. I learned from a former tutor that there’s math beyond calculus. I always thought calculus was the end of math. Nope! There’s so much more out there. It’s amazing!

I took Kumon at a young age. I was always ahead in my math classes at school, which was such a blessing as I reflect back. Kumon made it easier for me to understand math, especially in school. But the math got harder and eventually, I couldn’t keep up with my Kumon homework and school homework. I stopped taking Kumon around middle school. When I got to high school, I struggled in math throughout my four years. I decided to re-enroll in Kumon, in hopes that I’ll understand the material better, but it was too late. Because I wasn’t ahead anymore and was basically doing the same level of math in both Kumon and high school, it was too overwhelming and I ceased the program again.

I appreciate the Kumon program so much. I think every parent should enroll their children in Kumon for both math and reading. It really does help the student thrive and excel in those key school subjects. I also took Kumon reading for a few years, but not as long as I took the math program. I wish I stuck with Kumon throughout middle and high school, even though the math was getting harder. It would’ve helped me a lot as I learned a new math subject every school year.

While I was in high school, my personal goal was to take AP Calculus in my senior year. And during that time, I thought calculus was the end of math. I tried so hard to get there throughout my four years, but I didn’t. I made it to pre-calculus, which was a great accomplishment, nonetheless. That was a very hard class. I’m not sure how I would’ve survived calculus. Even with extensive tutoring, I just could not grasp the concepts of the pre-calculus equations. It literally felt like a foreign language to me. I felt so lost.

Moving on…. Let’s talk pies now! Literal pies that we can eat and not calculate and contemplate on. These homemade pot pies are simple to make, but do take some time. There’s a lot of prepping involved. But in the end, it’s so worth the time and effort. They’re so hearty and yummy!

I was first inspired to make these pies from an AllRecipes recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/26317/chicken-pot-pie-ix/. My aunt’s friend shared the recipe with her. Overtime, I made the recipe my own, as I always do. I love modifying my recipes and give my personal touch to them. The picture above is a ground turkey pot pie. I love making my dishes very hearty. I added various veggies, including Okinawan sweet potato to the pot pie mixture. It changed the taste and texture of the mixture and made it scrumptious! Better than the original recipe.

I wish you a celebratory day with a lot of pies!! Happy eating and computing for all you math lovers!

Pai! Get it? Hehe!

FS x

Seventeen of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Comfort Food Made With Love

Happy Monday and last week of 2020! We’re in the home stretch! Let’s make the best of our remaining days of the year. I want to end the year strong! Let’s show 2020 what we’re made of!

The 17th fact that the year has taught and reminded me was:

17. Every day is a blessing and gift.

Despite the year we’ve had, I did my best to see the light and optimism in the cards we’ve were dealt with. It was a tough and challenging year, but I was reminded that every day is a blessing and gift. It’s all about perspective and how you view things. I strongly believe that even with chaos amongst us, we can still see and experience positivity in and from it. I was constantly reminded of how much I have been blessed with. The fact that I get to wake up to start afresh every day is awesome. I have an opportunity to make better choices, be more loving to others, and make a difference. Life is a precious gift.

Last fall, I visited a dear friend in the Midwest. We made dinner together one night (see featured image). It was so special and yummy. My gf made her mom’s Swedish meatballs, which I never had before, and mashed potatoes. Double yum!! I had made Indian chicken curry. We also made rice and green beans. It was a delicious treat we, her family included, enjoyed very much. It was simply lovely.

Y’all know about my passion for cooking and food. Cooking with others brings joy and love in my life. We know that food connects people together. So does cooking. I always feel closer with whom I cook with. It creates a special bond I can’t quite explain. Overall, it’s lovely and cheery.

Wishing all of you a wonderful week. Until tomorrow. Peace!

FS x

Fifteen of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Air Fry Chicken

Hope you all had a peaceful and splendid Christmas. Now, onto preparing for 2021. I’m spending this weekend doing deep cleaning for the new year. It’s a cultural tradition I like to upkeep. Cleaning out the old to welcome the new.

I’ve got five more facts of 2020 lessons. The 15th thing the year has taught and reminded me is:

15. Appreciation of essential items: toilet paper, paper towels, gloves, masks, soaps, sanitizing wipes, sanitizing sprays, and hand sanitizers.

This year we were in desperate need of these in-demand essential items aforementioned that we easily overlook and take for granted. I have such an appreciation for these treasured items. I won’t ever take them for granted again. Across our nation, it was difficult to find TP, paper towels, gloves, masks, soap, sanitizing wipes, sprays, and hand sanitizers for months at the beginning of the pandemic. People would wipe them off the shelves and hoard as much as they could. Stores had to soon implement limitations on how many each household could buy so that there would be enough for others. Now, TP, paper towels, masks, and hand sanitizers are easily accessible again. Yay! However, I still am having a hard time finding gloves, sanitizing wipes, and sprays. Those items are constantly sold-out or not available.

This year, we’ve been very conscientious about germs and bacteria. I’ve always been health-conscious and practice good-hygiene, but since the pandemic, it’s been heightened to a greater extent. I’m constantly washing my hands, cleaning high-touched surfaces, and now, I sanitize groceries and other items that I buy from the store, that are delivered to me, or bought online.

This summer, I hunted high and low for an air fryer (see featured image). Seemed like purchasing an air fryer was on a lot of people’s minds, as it was hard to find. They were sold out in most of the department stores. After a lot of inquiring and driving, I was finally able to get one. I had made fried chicken (see featured image). It wasn’t like the deep fried chicken I envisioned from KFC or Popeye’s. Let’s just say using an air fryer to fry chicken makes it more healthier. The chicken was good. It looked dry, but it taste dry. The texture and the taste reminded me BBQing chicken on the grill. I can’t wait to utilize make more dishes with my air fryer.

Until tomorrow.

FS x