Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Goodbye BBQ: Lau laus

One of my really good friends just said "Aloha" to his mom and little brother, they moved back to the mainland. We are all really sad to see them go and will miss them terribly. But we did our best to send them off right; make-your-own lau lau BBQ!

Lau lau is a traditional Hawaiian dish that usually consists of pork and fish wrapped in taro leaves. This is a very nutritious meal...taro leaves are practically BURSTING with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber.

We have had lau lau BBQs before where you bring all sorts of fillings. This time we stayed traditional and had pork, fish, sweet potato, and ulu fillings. You seriously can't beat sweet potato and ono!

The easiest way to cook your own lau lau at home is with a pressure cooker. They are no longer scary things that could blow up at any minute! I swear! They don't make 'em like they used to...luckily! In just 40 minutes you can have up to 10 large lau lau cooked! So go get one pressure cookah! :)

Hawaiian lau lau:
Makes about 15 large lau lau

3 lbs pork (butt is normally used but we used tenderloin this time)
3 lbs fish (butterfish is the norm, we used yellowtail tuna)
6 sweet potato, washed and cubed
6 ulu, peeled, cored and cubed
Hawaiian salt or sea salt, to taste
3-4 taro leaf per lau lau, washed and de-stemmed
2-3 ti leaf per lau lau, washed and de-stemmed
Aluminum foil

My only warning for lau laus is there is a TON of prep-work. Make sure you have many hands to help.

It took us a good hour and a half to get all the prep work done for our lau laus.

These steps all happened simultaneously, make sure everyone has a job!

We had to peel the ulu. It is very messy because the ulu fruit secretes a white glue-like fluid when it is cut. I would recommend just slicing off the peel with a knife...our peeler is probably going to be thrown out after peeling all those ulu! All gummed up!

Dan and Nick peeling the ulu

At the same time have someone prepare the taro leaves. This is an easy task, you just need to cut the stems off of the leaf as close to the leaf as you can.

Hunter cutting all the taro leaves
Cut all the meat and veggies into chunks.

Me chopping the Okinawa sweet potatoes for the lau lau
We are fortunate enough to have an abundance of ti plant in our backyard, so getting ti leaf is not difficult and takes no time at all. Pick the nicest looking ti leaf and make sure you wash all the dirt and ants off of them.

Ti leaf that Dan and Nick collected and washed
Next you de-stem the ti leaf. This process can be a little tricky. You must first break the hard stem by bending the leaf in the middle back and forth until it snaps.

Dan de-stemming all of our ti leaf to wrap the lau lau in
After you have broken the stem, face the bottom-side of the ti leaf towards yourself and gently pull the leaf away from the stem. You might get a few tears in the leaf during this process but that is OK!

Dan just broke the stem and began pulling the leaf from the stem



Ti leaf with the hard stem removed

Once the ulu has been peeled you need to take out the "core" and cube it. The core of the ulu isn't hard like a peach pit but it is a tough fiber that you do not want to eat (unless you are making ulu chips and then it's post idea!)

Nick showing the "core" of the ulu, the part that you want to cut out

Nick coring the ulu

 Once you have prepared the fillings you are ready to construct the lau laus! I like to set up our table like an assembly line, it seems to work really well and it makes me feel super organized! :)

Table with the lau lau assembly line all ready

Start with the taro leaves

Add the sweet potato and ulu.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Try not to over fill your lau lau, it is very easy to do!

Well, I took a hiadus from writing this blog and this goodbye BBQ was several months ago, 6 I believe. I am just now putting the finishing touches on it. I can honestly say that I miss Daria and Hunter-Gatherer terribly. How could you not miss this goofball? :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

San Francisco: A week long eat-a-thon

View from Alexis' office

I just got back from visiting one of my best friends in San Francisco! We had a great time together; walking around the Mission, visiting the California Academy of Sciences, sunning in Dolores Park, and eating lots of delicious food!

DAY ONE: Thank god I walked a lot. 
My friend Alexis had to work so I was left to my own devices and walked around her neighborhood. I went up and down both Mission St. and Valencia St., which are two of the "main drags" in the Mission. There was so much to see! And I ate a lot too :)

I went out for breakfast with one of my friends who is from around San Francisco but I didn't take a picture of my meal. I hadn't thought of doing a photo essay of everything I'd eaten in SF until after breakfast. Breakfast was really good though, I had cornmeal pancakes and bacon! And a super over-easy egg that was inedible. 

I wandered around Valencia and Mission Streets and luckily my cousin recommended Papalote to me for lunch. I got the most delicious tacos I've ever had! Slow-cooked pork covered in green chile sauce and then topped with lettuce, tomato and some kind of pickled vegetable. The salsa that is served on the side of every meal is absolutely, hands-down the best salsa I've ever had. It is spicy but not too spicy. Creamy but not rich. And smoky but not over-powering. If you are going to San Francisco you need to eat at Papalote.

Tacos chile carne with a side chips and salsa.
I was absolutely stuffed after eating delicious Mexican fare for lunch but I totally got two scoops of ice cream from Humphrey Slocombe later in the afternoon. I got two recommendations to go there and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. So I ordered one scoop of their Vietnamese coffee and one scoop of black sesame. The ice cream scooper commended me on my choices saying I chose "sophistocated flavors". He also had a stellar waxed handlebar mustache.

Freezing outside of Humphrey Slocombe eating my "sophistocated" ice cream.
For dinner we went to Cafe Tibet in Berkeley. Alexis is also a baker (check out her website Flour(less)) and we had to deliver cookies to a customer in Berkeley and she had been wanting to eat at this restaurant for a while. It was really good! I've never had Tibetan food before so I have nothing to compare it to but I really enjoyed everything we ordered.

Curried potatoes

Cabbage and carrot salad with sesame dressing

Tibetan garlic bread
The bread was kind of plain and was only good when dipped in the curry sauce. I was sad it wasn't more garlicky.

Combination plate of momo
Alexis got the dumplings or momo and they were so tasty! She got a combination plate with meat and veggie stuffed momo.

Lamb curry
DAY TWO: Clever girl.
Once again, Alexis was working but this time I met up with my friend Justin and we took the ferry to Tiburon. The ferry ride was great! We drank wine/beer and looked at the scenery. I saw Alcatraz Island, Angel Island and Sausalito from the boat. We went to Sam's Anchor Cafe to get seafood. We both ordered cioppino and it was absolutely delicious!


After finishing our cioppino we sat drinking wine and enjoying the view of the bay. Little did we suspect that the seagulls had other plans. Having finished all of our food we were unconcerned with the threat of the seagulls. One of the seagulls started making a horrendous "SQWWWWWAAAAAACK!!!" behind us. While it had the attention of everyone in the vicinity, it's partner in crime swooped in, knocked over our bottle of wine (all over me I might add), and stole a package of butter. BUTTER! Not bread or seafood but butter. I was mostly upset that we had been duped by two seagulls. It was just like the part in Jurassic Park where the Velociraptors out-smart the humans. One of the Velociraptors is in plain sight, distracting the humans while the other is lurking behind the palm fronds. I was the Australian in this scenario. The restaurant was very nice and gave us a half bottle of the wine we were drinking as an apology for the seagull incident. 

I was feeling a little under the weather after my Tiburon adventure. I'd like to say it was the shock from my close encounter with death from sky raptors but more likely it was sitting out in the sun all day drinking wine instead of water. Alexis and I ate at this little sushi restaurant by her house called We Be Sushi. Soup is my favorite meal. Hands down. If I were told I could only eat one kind of food for the rest of my life I would not hesitate for a second. Soup. This udon soup made me feel a lot better. 

Udon veggie soup, vegetable tempura, and seaweed salad

DAY THREE: Carbo-load. 

Alexis and I started the day off and doughnuts! Dynamo doughnuts not only had very tasty doughnuts but they were so creative! We got spiced chocolate, maple bacon apple, and a seasonal doughnut that had a cardamom custard filling!

Spiced chocolate, maple bacon apple, and hot crossed bun with cardamom custard and orange glaze
We walked around Valencia Street after breakfast and worked up an appetite just in time for lunch! We went to Delfinas and got one of the tastiest pizzas I've ever had. The crust was fantastic and their homemade sausage was absolutely amazing. So flavorful.

Sausage pizza
We met up with some of Alexis' friends in Dolores Park and enjoyed the sun and some beers! I love visiting places outside of Hawai'i so I can drink micro-brewed beer! Speakeasy was one of my favorites.

Delicious local beer enjoyed at Dolores Park
We had a fairly food-filled day so we decided to share an appetizer for dinner. Tot-chos are my new favorite  junk food. We went to Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem which is a bar in the Mission (not to be confused with the all muppet band). We ordered the sweet potato "tot-chos". Tator tot nachos. My mind was blown into pieces. I will be posting my own homemade version of this dish in the future. Stay tuned.


DAY FOUR: Fried pickles are brilliant. Nobel prize brilliant.

I started to forget to take pictures of everything I ate in San Francisco at this point. But I definitely got the high points. Alexis and I met up with my cousin and his girlfriend at Southern Paw BBQ. Southern fare is so tasty and this restaurant put a nice spin on most of their dishes. I enjoyed the brie mac & cheese and the fried pickles especially.

Brie mac and cheese, fried pickles, cornmeal hush puppies, and fried catfish

DAY FIVE: Ethiopian food junky.

Hawai'i has the best Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, basically all Asian food cuisine readily available. So when I leave the islands I try and get food that I cannot have anytime I want. I absolutely love Ethiopian cuisine. Injera is one of my favorite breads. It's so sour and I love the texture. Alexis and I went to Cafe Ethiopia and it was one of my favorite meals of the trip! I had such a hard time deciding which dish to get that I decided to get the meat/veggie combo plate, 2 types of meat dishes with one vegetarian. It was so delicious I couldn't stop eating it! We also got another plate of injera and I ate most of that as well as everything on my plate. I have found a good injera recipe and will hopefully be posting my attempt shortly.

Dorowot, kay wot, and mesir wot on injera

DAY SIX: I was so hungry!

So Alexis and I didn't eat breakfast (still full from the day before) and went to the California Academy of Sciences. One of my friends from Hawai'i is the Assistant Dive Officer there and we went to see him and all the amazing exhibits. If you are going to San Francisco you MUST go. The aquariums and the butterfly/aviary alone are worth the price of admission. But back to food. Alexis and I were so hungry afterwards that I forgot to take pictures of our food before we ate it. We went to a restaurant that my friend had suggested near Golden Gate Park called Social. We got meatballs in marinara sauce and sweet potato tempura french fries. They also brew their own beer so we got delicious beer with our meal.   

What used to be two meatballs

What used to be sweet potato tempura fries

DAY SEVEN: Day out with cousin Dan.

My last day in San Francisco I went on a city tour with my cousin Dan who has lived in Sf since 1997. It was really great to catch up with him. We met for coffee first at Philz Coffee. I got the medium roast Philharmonic with soy milk. It was very very strong but also very tasty. Then we walked over to the Mission's Kitchen. I love Mexican food and this breakfast was awesome! Chorizo scramble with rice and refried beans. Perfect start to a long day of walking.

Chorizo scramble, rice, and refried beans
I had such a great time in San Francisco and ate a lot of amazing food. If you are going to San Francisco I would highly recommend all the of establishments mentioned in this blog post. If I hadn't walked everywhere I probably would have gained 15 pounds. As it is...I only gained 10 or so! :) Totally worth it!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Westside Diving

Oh my gosh! It's been so long since I went diving! Dan and I finally got to use our Aaron's Dive Shop groupon for 2-tank boat dive in December. It was so great to dive with Dan again...our last dive together was in July!

Aaron's Dive Shop dive boat at Waianae Harbor

It was not ideal conditions the day we went, super windy and a little choppy. So we didn't go very far away from the Waianae Boat Harbor. But we had so much fun! I think it could have been the worst day ever and I still would have been stoked! The first site we dove was called Landing Craft Deep. We were fairly conservative and didn't go the max depth (90-100ft), we stayed above the ship at about 83ft.

Landing craft bow
My camera was still out for repairs at this point so all our pictures are blue :)

Me diving around the bow of the landing craft
I am a little sensitive to nitrogen narcosis and so I don't usually like to go deeper than 80-90 feet, unless there is something really cool deeper.

Looking up at the surface
Kissing fish! Haha. Not really. But the foreground/backgound trick definitlely makes it look real
We were down on the wreck for about 25 minutes and saw a lot of really interesting animals! Inside a exhaust or smoke pipe I saw two golden gobies! I tried to show them to my husband but underwater communication is not always effective...and sometimes it's just downright hilarious! We also saw a stingray, a blue dragon nudibranch, and a single pyramid butterflyfish. Obviously we saw much more but those were the "stars" of the dive.

The second dive was shallower and the site was called Two Tanks. I like shallow dives because you get to stay down longer and are able to take your time.

Marlin spike auger

Whitley's boxfish
Do you see the octopus? It's got its eye on you!

Imperial nudibranch train
My husband and I love nudibranchs...A LOT. We love them so much that we went as nudibranchs for Halloween a few years ago. No one knew what we were. We got several really weird guesses. My favorite was "WHOA! Are you like, psychedelic ninja turtles?!"

 Jolly green giant nudibranch and Imperial nudibranch. This is how marine biologists dress up for Halloween :)

Kangaroo nudibranch

Scrambled egg nudibranch

Goldring tang with chromis school

Snake eel

Friday, March 1, 2013

BBQ Pulled Pork Sammies with Homemade Buns (and sides, delicious sides)

I apologize for the lack of posts. I have been cooking but it's been cRaZy! Holidays, family visiting, new computer...I just decided to give up on posting until things had settled down.

Anyways! PORK! 

Over the holidays my room mates and I impulsively bought pork shoulder at Costco. For those of you who didn't immediately gasp after reading the previous sentence, let me clarify. My room mates and I bought 15 lbs of pork shoulder. That's a lot of pig! Luckily this turned out to be a good thing...unlike many other bulk ravioli. Maybe someday I will post about my Costco shopping strategies (and epic failures) but today is not that day. 

So, pork shoulder was a great discovery! We made carnitas and BBQ pulled pork! I use my Crock Pot to slow cook the meat and then keep the shredded flavored pork warm while getting everything else ready.

BBQ pulled pork:

1 pork shoulder
1-2 onions, thickly sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, whole
1-12oz can Coca-Cola (or other cola, I've been wanting to try Dr. Pepper! But that might be weird...)
Water, enough to cover-almost cover the meat
Your favorite BBQ sauce
Dijon mustard

1. Brine the pork overnight. In a large bowl mix warm water, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and any other spices that peak your fancy. Refrigerate.

2. Place sliced onions and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker and put the meat on top. Pour the Coca-Cola over the meat and top off with water. Set the slow cooker for 10 hours on low heat. Personally, I work 10 hour days so it's perfect to start before I leave in the mornings but you could start the night before. 

Pork shoulder after 10 hours in the slow cooker. 

3. After 10 hours, take the pork out and place onto a cookie sheet or some other shredding surface. Try to save as much of the onions and garlic as well, they are so yummy!

4. Shred the pork with two forks (best way I've found). Put the pulled pork back into the slow cooker and stir in BBQ sauce and mustard. The amount of sauce is to the discretion of the chef, I like the taste of the pig so I try to not overwhelm the pig with sauce. I would say the ratio of BBQ to mustard is about 1 to 2/3. 

BBQ pulled pork!
Homemade buns (or giant dinner rolls):

I got this recipe from the blog Inquiring Chef. Her recipe is for dinner rolls (not buns) and they are absolutely perfect! I don't do perfect and I am definitely lacking some of her kitchen tools so mine look a little...rough...compared to her's. They may not be pretty, but they sure are delicious!


1½ cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. (28g) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. table salt
4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour, lightly spooned into measuring cup and leveled off


3 Tbsp. (40g) unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. sea salt

1. In a large bowl (I don’t have a stand mixer) stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand about 5 minutes.

Yeast and warm water
2. To the yeast mixture, add the butter, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix until the ingredients begin to come together. Add 1 cup of flour and mix. Add the remaining 1 cup flour. Mix until the final addition of flour is fully incorporated. Remove dough from bowl and onto lightly floured surface, knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover it with a dish towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 20 minutes. Or if you are like me you started reading and totally forgot until it had tripled in volume.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into an even ball. The original recipe instructs you to make all these precise cuts but I just cut “approximately” even amounts of dough and formed them into balls.

My "Kitchen-Aid" mixer ;)
Sticky! Add more flour!
4. Place each rolled piece of dough into a lightly greased 9×13 baking pan in rows of 4. Cover the rolls with a dish towel and let them rise while your oven is preheating to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) – about 20 minutes. Our oven is tiny and heats very quickly so let your dough rise for 20 minutes regardless.
Lightly brush the rolls with about half of the melted butter before baking.

Buns in the oven! HAHAHA!
Bake until golden brown, 13-15 minutes. Immediately after removing the rolls from the oven, brush them with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with salt. I sprinkled with sea salt before baking, it works either way!

Delicious salted dinner rolls

I love bread.
Jalapeno coleslaw

This recipe was adapted from the Pioneer Woman's Cilantro-jalapeno slaw recipe. It is to die for. I usually put some on my sandwich and then a side of 'slaw on my plate!

1/2 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 head purple cabbage, thinly sliced
3 Hawaiian hot peppers, minced
1/2 fattiest milk you have
1/2 mayonnaise
1 tsp vinegar (we have used white, apple cider, and rice...all worked great!)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups cilantro, chopped

Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix all the other ingredients together. It is important to taste the 'slaw sauce. It's easier to make adjustments. When the flavors are up to your satisfaction pour the 'slaw sauce over the veggies and toss. It's best to make the slaw ahead of time so it has time to sit and the flavors mix. But that is not necessary.

**NOTE: We used napa cabbage instead of regular cabbage, it tasted great but wasn't as good as leftovers**

Matt mixing the 'slaw.
My co-worker made pickled onions for me and I thought they would go nicely with this meal...and they DID! Oh my gosh! They are so incredibly tasty. I have asked for the recipe and will share it as soon as possible!

BBQ pulled pork sammie, jalapeno 'slaw, and pickled onions!