Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hawaiian Plate Lunch

I love my crock pot. Throw together a few ingredients (the fewer, the better), turn the crock pot to "low", and go about my business. After a few hours, I've got dinner. Or breakfast. Or dessert.

In the last few weeks, one crock pot recipe keeps popping up on my radar and disrupting my calm: "Hawaiian chicken" and its variants. Three guesses which spiky tropical fruit is a key ingredient in these recipes. Mm-hm.

It's the last day of January, and most people have probably given up on their original New Year's resolutions, but let's try a new one. In 2015, let's all stop calling food "Hawaiian" just because it's pineapple-adjacent. Pineapple on food does not make it Hawaiian. Just stop.

Do you want to make Hawaiian food that actual Hawaiians eat? Bust out your crock pot and let's rock. 

Kalua pork with cabbage is the quintessential Hawaiian dish. Someone always brings it to our hula halau potlucks, and there's never any left over. It's super easy to make, only has four ingredients, and it is YUMMALICIOUS.

It only gets more tender the longer you cook it, so it can go low and slow for up to 12 hours. Honestly, the hardest thing about this recipe is leaving the pork alone to cook. Dusty and I take turns yelling at each other to stay away from the pot as it cooks all day, filling the entire house with its delicious aroma. 

Kalua Pork with Cabbage

Prep Time: ~10 minutes
Cook Time: ~8-12 hours 
Serves 8

4 lbs boneless pork butt
2 tbsp sea salt (You can use Hawaiian sea salt, but it's not mandatory.)
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1 small head cabbage, shredded

  1. Using a fork, poke holes all over the pork butt.
  2. Rub salt and smoke all over that butt. (Stop snickering.) 
  3. Place the pork in the crock pot, turn the heat to LOW, and wait.
  4. About 30 minutes before serving your meal, separate the fat from the meat with a fork. At this point, the pork should be fall-apart tender. 
  5. About 15 minutes before serving your meal, put the shredded cabbage into the pot. Mix the cabbage in with the juices.
  6. Serve over steamed jasmine rice.
You have a perfectly awesome meal already, but you can easily expand it into a Hawaiian plate lunch. A basic plate lunch usually has two scoops rice, two scoops mac salad, poi and/or lomi salmon, and a main dish like kalua pork. Sometimes it also has ahi poke (POH-kay), which is usually served as a pupu or appetizer. Our version of plate lunch definitely includes poke.

Looks ono, yeah? Now I'm hungry.

When I first got this poke recipe from one of my hula sisters, her instructions were, "Put a little of each thing, taste, put a little more, taste again, put a little more until it tastes good." After a couple of trials, this is the basic recipe we like, but you can put a little of each thing, taste, put a little more, taste again, put a little more until it tastes good to you.

Basic Ahi Poke

Prep Time: ~20 minutes
Chill Time: ~2 hours minimum
Serves 6

4 cups sashimi-grade tuna, cubed
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup green onion, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

  1. Mix all ingredients together gently, taking care not to smush the fish.
  2. Chill for at least two hours before serving. 
  3. Try not to eat all of it in one sitting. Leave some for your beloved spouse. (This is more for me and Dusty, but it may apply to you.)
Oh, hey! There's apparently some kind of Big Sportsball Event happening tomorrow and our local team is playing. You know what goes really well with beer and sportsball? Kalua pork and tuna poke. You're welcome.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How to Plan & Pack Lunches for Your Kids

Team Everman spent most of the last two weeks in our pajamas, lounging, cooking, baking, eating, and playing. Dusty crafted a new family Dungeons and Dragons campaign for all of us to play, with Flora the Rogue (Diana), Emma the Warrior (Tala) and Zurduja the Druid Mother of Beasts (Mama). So far, we have vanquished giant rats and met a sea naga who told us where to find Olga the Ogre. It’s getting exciting!

Yes, holiday break has been relaxing and rejuvenating, but now it's time to get ready for school and work tomorrow. To that end, I completed my quarterly review and update of our family menu. If you’re curious about my planning process, you can read my Dinner Bell post. I’ve also started planning school lunches for the week, and here's what that looks like:

As I mentioned in the Dinner Bell post, I made a list of all the things my kids will eat and a formula to pack them all together. Having a lunch formula has really helped curb the scrambling that used to happen when it was time to pack my kid's lunch.

Thermos Thursday is new this school year, and it has been a success! I pack Thermos Thursday lunches in the morning, using leftovers. First, I put boiling water into the thermos and close it so it starts heating up the inside. Meanwhile, I microwave the meal that will go into the thermos. When that's done, I open up the thermos, pour the hot water out, and spoon the meal in. Screw the top back on and the meal stays warm until lunchtime. Mmmm...

Here's what the "A+B+D" and "C+D" formulas look like for the bento lunch:

A: Pancakes with maple syrup in bottle
B: Bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
D: oranges and grapes
A: Onigiri (rice balls in the shape of heart and star)
B: Hot dogs (no ketchup this time)
D: carrots, cucumbers, olives, and nori
C: Picnic of salame, gouda, crackers
D: cucumbers, tomatoes

C: Baked star-shaped quesadillas
D: fruit salad

A few of my mom friends have said, "I can't do all that!" Girl, please. If I can do it, you can, too! Look, I bow to the dedicated craftsmanship of bento artists who are blowing Pinterest up with their gorgeous, picture-perfect Totoro-themed bento lunches. But I like having time for TV and board games and naps, so I try not to spend more than 30 minutes a day making lunches. Let's put the emphasis on "try". I really try to remember that the ultimate goal is to make sure my kids get good things to eat.

Having said all that, I now must confess that I have, since my first bento post, gotten a little crazy with bento and onigiri ideas. I got some cute new nori seaweed punch tools, though, and I just HAD to use them. See?!


Trust me, the kids don't get these lunches every day, or even every week. It's just that sometimes, I get inspired to do a little more.

Bumblebee onigiri with SPAM wings, bell pepper flowers with cucumber stems and leaves
Frosty: three sizes of onigiri, hot dog hat and bow tie, nori face and buttons, carrot nose
Frosty Jr.: two sizes of onigiri, hot dog hat and limbs, red pepper bowtie, nori face and buttons, carrot nose
Kitty and Piggy Onigiri: black sesame rice & fried tofu made with animal shape tools, wrapped in nori
This one is a bit of a cautionary tale, as Diana didn't eat hers. She said, "It was too pretty. I didn't want to ruin it." We had A TALK. Now she eats everything.

Lunch for my godson: ninja dog onigiri head, nori-wrapped sausage body, pepper throwing stars, grape "bombs"

Doggie onigiri with sausage ears, nori faces, red pepper cheeks
Pepperhead and Sausage Man by Betsy

Because of these crazycute lunches, I had to add to my Bento Kit:
Tweezers for arranging nori seaweed onto cute onigiri
Food-safe scissors for cutting up anything, really
Infant medicine dropper for putting syrup/ketchup/soy sauce into those tiny bottles

Go forth and make yummy (and sometimes crazycute) lunches for your kids. May the Force be with you.