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Suck so hard

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I believe that confidence is a constantly wavering line. To the people in the world who say that their confidence never waivers, I call bullshit. Because my parents and teachers always built me up when I was younger, I developed a bad case of high expectations. The balance beam of my faith in myself is currently at an all-time low for the following reasons: 

1. I just failed my lifeguarding inservice. Fortunately I was not fired, however I am not sure if I will be taken off the schedule until the next inservice. If that happens, I am screwed. The next inservice is in two weeks…two weeks without work!? I might as well just go home a month early. I failed specificially during a rescue test of a passive submerged victim. The test-giver was a manager who I am kind of petrified of because she screamed at me a few weeks ago during the training. She is also of larger stature and doesn’t act all that passive when I’m trying to ‘save’ her. Half of me feels like a crappy lifeguard who should quit before she royally bungles a real rescue and the other half of me realizes that I am generally a bad test taker and would probably do the right thing in an actual emergency. Having never done an actual deep water rescue, I don’t know for sure. I hope that they let me retake it before taking me off the schedule. Plus the test was at 8 a.m. and now the rest of my day has a negative sheen on it. 

2. I get the impression that I am not very easy to live with. I am slowly moving out of my boyfriend’s house into my own, and he wants me to hurry the process up. I know he is just tired of all my junk, but it is kind of disheartening and makes me think that living together for real would not work out. Also because we have very different ideas about food. 

3. Shopping and cooking for him and I is sometimes daunting in that we like different things and I will just clam up and not get what I want. This is totally a self-esteem thing because I will not buy something if he won’t eat it, because some twisted part of my brain doesn’t think I deserve it/doesn’t see the point in cooking for one. A big part of the cooking and eating process, for me, is to have people enjoy what I make. So if I’m just making something for myself that he is not going to eat, I find it really futile. When I live alone, I also eat very little and buy very little. 

I think I just need to convince myself that I AM worthy; that I am a good lifeguard, that I do not need someone else’s approval to validate my own self-worth, that I deserve to get myself things that I want. I bought a couple clothing items with my sister a few days ago and there is a perpetual nagging voice in the back of my head that is telling me to return them because I don’t deserve new clothes. It is hard to convince myself to be nice to myself. As weird as that sounds. 🙂 

Aside

Being in Spokane right now feels really strange. For the past two years of my being in college, I have always chosen this month to be at home. The longer I am here, the more I kick myself for not going home this month. My oldest and one of the most wonderful friends is traveling to New York, kind of for good, in just a few weeks. When I go home in August, she won’t be there. My dad and sister are out of school now, whereas they won’t be in August when I am actually there. Also, I am barely working here…my first day of job training is today, almost a month since I got out of school. 

I try to find creative ways to fill up my days, though I often resort to Netflix and cooking. I can’t really feel too sorry for myself because a) I chose to do this and b) I have it better than like 80% of the world. (Excluding the 20% that have the resources to jet off to foreign vacations at a moments notice and/or are having more fun than me while not working.)

I miss my mom and my dad and my sister and the slow, easy way of life that I took for granted in high school. I miss the genuine kindness, and the running-into-someone-you-know-everywhere-you-go-ness. I can’t think about it too much because I just start crying at completely random times. I chose to go to this school, I chose to stay with my boyfriend and wait until he can come with me to make my flight home…hence August. Sometimes it sucks planning your life around someone else’s agenda. Though I’ve spent the majority of my life just making plans for one, which is considerably easier but also considerably lonelier. I know that if I went home without him this month, I would have a persistent guilty feeling about leaving him here alone. 

Being in Spokan…

Empty days

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I have some seriously empty days ahead of me (and behind me, I suppose?) I am constantly asking myself — What if I took the internship? What if I applied to more jobs? I seriously feel like a housewife because I sit on my butt all morning and then make Paul lunch and dinner when he comes home. It is interesting actually living with him. I spent most of my time at his apartment last semester, but that was a living-together without the marked appearance of my boxes of possessions, “girl-crap” everywhere and unshakable presence. I wake up, check Facebook and look at my latest cancer-afflicted child page (I don’t send prayers but good wishes count, right?), rummage through the STOCKED cabinets, fridge and freezer and proceed to fall back asleep. I currently have three hours a week lifeguarding at a nearby pool until June 4. Not much time left, I suppose, but this inactivity is not really sitting well with my typically active self. I had all these plans for working out and yoga, but I am hesitant to spend money whilst not making any, my running shoes are too tight and I am just filled with apathy surrounding everything except internet trolling and bed. 😛 I hope I won’t look back on this month of lethargy with regret. 

Semi-vegan cherry-almond scones

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Semi-vegan cherry-almond scones

Adapted an online recipe and made these to-DIE-for cherry scones. They have whole-wheat flour, butter (why they are only semi-vegan), greek yogurt, fresh frozen cherries, and almond milk. I am thinking about making an accompanying almond nut butter to spread on next time. I miss baking! This was inspired by my sister’s extremely fancy cupcakes she just made! At some point, I don’t know when exactly, she became a better baker than me. 😦 And I don’t get to reap the benefits of it!

Because someone actually started following me after I posted this (!) I am going to post my recipe.

Eggless Cherry-Almond Scones

2 c. whole wheat flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 c. sugar, plus more for dusting

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. butter, or margarine if you are a vegan

1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk

1/4 c. plain or vanilla Greek yogurt

A couple generous scoops of fresh frozen cherries. I used Washington cherries. What kind? No idea. The local kind.

Directions:

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt together. Cut in the butter and oil, stir that shit up until it resembles small crumbs. Add your almond milk and yogurt; stir. Add frozen cherries, making sure you are not putting the water icicles in it. Yes, I did feel that was necessary to mention. Mix it all up and find a creative way of dropping/cutting out, wedging your scones. I just formed a ball and cut it up, but you could do anything. Brush with almond milk and sugar, bake at 375 degrees F until golden brown. Probably like 15 minutes. These were the best scones I have ever made. Also, the first scones I have ever made in the mainland.

 

 

2:12 AM and Amy is hungry

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Rather than look at food reviews for Hilo restaurants and silently cry, I will be productive about the lack of good food available in Spokane! I will make it!

Shopping list of my dreams:

-Sesame oil. Bottles and bottles of it. This is a kitchen staple.

-Hot chili oil. Another staple. As is oyster sauce. 

-Shoyu goes without saying. Aloha Shoyu is the best. Find it. 

-UME! There is nothing better than a friendly, pinkish red ‘hello’ once you get to the middle of your rice ball. Ume salad dressing is to-die-for, and I can possibly make it myself. 

-Baby bok choy. It seems like it is easier to get regular bok choy here, but I much prefer the baby variety because of its tenderness. I could buy a ton of them, chop ’em up and freeze it. 

-Ginger. I have a love-hate relationship with ginger. The Mae Ploy pre-shredded bottles are so handy, but they get moldy pretty quickly. I made a ginger dish recently and bought fresh ginger, which was such a hassle to peel and shred. But it adds such depth of flavor to…everything. Even tuna! The powdered variety is good, but it cannot replace the real thing in stirfrys. 

-Hoisin sauce. Staple for Asian sauces. Also, Mr. Paul’s favorite stuff. 

-White sesame seeds add a nice look and nutty texture to braised vegetables

-Plum sauce for dipping. I don’t really like to heat it up, but mixing it with a little shoyu is great on the side. 

-TOFU. I cannot live without tofu. I can’t remember when I tried it for the first time. I think I ate the silken kind when I was a baby. I love tofu, beyond belief. I will eat it raw, cold, warm, chewy, crunchy…I would buy ten at a time if they didn’t go bad. Even though I’ll still eat it when it gets sour.

-With tofu hand-in-hand is rice! I try my hardest not to eat white rice, but there’s really no replacing it in certain dishes. Brown rice can be good for fried rice, but I feel like it doesn’t completely absorb the flavors that white rice can. I used to make lots of soybean, red bell pepper fried brown rice dishes when I was a heavy dieter. I didn’t put oil in the pan, and I added shoyu and garlic chunks. Ono. 

-Sugar is a kitchen necessity for most people, but I add a little to my Asian sauces as per Sam Choy’s advice.

-Rice wine vinegar too. 

-GOOD VEGETABLE BOUILLON. We always have bouillon cubes at my family’s house. They are so, so useful for sauce and soup starters. You can even use it as a base for a marinade.

-Panko crumbs. Onolicious when used to bread tofu and fry/bake. 

-The best vegetables for stirfry and fried rice, besides bok choy, are: colorful bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and baby corn. 

-Fresh tomatoes. There is so, so much you can do with them. The problem with buying them in college is that they ALWAYS go bad on me. I suppose I just need to buy them and seriously plan some tomato-y meals. 

-Unshredded cheese. It tastes way better, folks. I like havarti the best, but jack, cheddar and motz are the utilitarian choices. Parmesan too. 

-I forgot GREEN ONIONS. And regular onions of course. But green too!

-Red wine vinegar. Excellent stuff. So is basalmic.

-Basic bread ingredients. Flour, yeast, b. soda, b. salt. Vanilla too, even though it rarely has to do with bread.

-Garbanzo beans, refried beans, pinto beans, black beans, fresh green beans. Not frozen. Fresh. 

-Necessary condiments: ketchup, stoneground mustard, chutney. 

-Necessary spices to have on hand: sea salt, peppercorn grinder, garam masala, cumin, garlic salt, red chillis, TACO POWDER, bay leaf, curry powder (or some kind of curry base), italian seasoning. 

-To buy/grow fresh: basil, lemon basil, rosemary, oregano, cilantro. Probably more, this is just what I would use the most.

-Udon noodles. So good in a flavorful broth. 

-FURIKAKE for….everything. 

-Won ton wrappers. Unless I figure out how to make them myself. Hmm…nope, never will. 😉 

-Good snack produce: celery, English cucumber, green apple, tangelo, green grapes, nectarine, peach, honeydew, ripe tomato, arugula with sea salt, strawberry, watermelon, apricot. Dried fruit too. CRAISINS ❤ 

-Good snack non-produce: seaweed squares, anything with li hing powder on it, rice cakes. 

-Green enchilada sauce 

-Good quality corn tortillas. Only enough for two weeks, they will go bad. 

-Cream cheese. An essential! 

-Iced non-caffinated tea with Mom’s lillikoi juice in it. 

-Tempura mix

-Korean pickled cucumber 

-Frozen salmon, shrimp and lobster tail (who am I kidding?) 

-Dried peas and lentils for soup

-Soy meat crumbles, soy bacon, gardenburgers.

-Miso soup packets

-Plain yogurt. Again, not more than you can eat.

-Granola with your favorite fruit dried in it 

-Jiffy pancake mix. It is so, so much better and cheaper than Bisquick!

-Quaker oats

-Lots and lots of stockpiled butter in your freezer. Wait for a good sale and go crazy with this purchase. 

-Chocolate chips from Winco are always good to have. 

-Ak-Mak crackers. Yum.

-Green olives with pimentos. Black olives.

-Bottled lemon juice. It really isn’t as good as the real thing, but it’s so handy. You can’t really taste the difference either.

-Carbonated water for drinks. 

-A variety of wheat pasta

-Fingerling potatoes and new potatoes. These go bad quickly too. I don’t think you can cut them up, cause they turn pink and weird. It’s best to buy when you know you’ll be using it within the week. 

-It’s always good to have a loaf of bread frozen in your freezer. It stays good forever this way. 

-I love soy milk. I love normal milk too, but it’s always a gamble as to whether I’ll drink it. 

-Mochi flour and potato starch 

-Coconut milk for curries and mochi!

-Tuna fish

-Salty pickles

And that’s all I can think of for now! I sure would be happy to have all this stuff in my house right now. 🙂 

A love affair

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Poke with Dad straight out of the carton with a bag of Pueo poi. My favorites were everything except tako and the mayonnaise-y ones. Korean and shoyu and limu and, who can forget, avocado. I tried the king crab and butter poke after Uncle Andy bought a variety when Uncle Lyle came to town. I remember I even tried the pipikaula that day. But the king crab was by far the most rich and indulgent thing to ever slide down my gullet. Seaweed salad was good for the first couple bites, but sometimes the taste became way too ocean-y. Sure Save had the best tofu poke, with lots of tomatoes and green onions. Tofu was the cheap kind too. But so, so ono.

So much local food went untried, thanks to my vegetarian ways. I remember that Chinese kid from that big family who all went Kea’au school starting the ‘huli-huli’ chant when we went down Paradise Drive and the huli huli chicken stand had roasting chickens turning in a spit by the side of the road. I remember that it smelled out of this world, holy almost. I had Mom buy one, probably on the way to Pahoa Library, and I took a bite with great anticipation. Sadly, it tasted bland and dry like all chicken did to me. My Mom ate the whole thing though. She has always loved her chiggin.

Leaving Pahoa Library, there was a Filipino food stand on the side of the road on our way back to Paradise Park. Mom would stop and get fresh produce, and she would let me get the banana leaf mochi treat for 50 cents. To unwrap that treasure and stuff the sweet, glutinous bar down my throat was downright heavenly. My mouth is watering as I think about it.

Somehow the rice you get at potlucks was always better than the rice you could make at home. Maybe this was because my parents didn’t use a rice cooker. Sometimes Dad even put butter on his rice, a vestige no doubt from his mainland days. I thought this was plain nasty: rice is something you pair with salty, not creamy. I used to see the more haole kids at school scrape their white-rice-and-ketchuped lunch plates and my stomach would turn. Shoyu is the best, maybe followed by furikake.

I can’t remember the first time I had purple sweet potato haupia pie, but it must have been a revelatory day. I was resolved to make it afterwards, for my dad’s big 50th birthday party. It was the hardest desert I had ever made, as a ten-year-old cooking enthusiast. I had to boil down the purple sweet potatoes a day in advance and make a sort of lumpy pudding out of it. The day of, I had to make the macnut crust, haupia and sweet potato layers, waiting in between each layer for the earlier component to set. I was so proud of my desert. I was walking around inside and outside (cause there were people spilled out literally everywhere across the house and yard) offering it up to people. One of our family friends even told me to be more humble! To be fair, he is a damn good cook himself.

Jojo fries from the gas station market are the best. The ones at the Kea’au gas station behind McDonalds are the best of the jojo fries. Slightly spicy wedges fried to perfection, eaten on the way home from school or town. Potato-wise, Mom’s green sauce potato enchiladas are one of the best meals she makes. I tried to recreate it here at school a few months ago. It was so labor intensive! It was wonderful though not quite as wonderful as Mom’s. She also makes her own refried beans and Spanish rice. Those were my favorite leftovers…some of the only leftovers I would actually eat. (I have a thing about ‘old food’.) Dad would sometimes throw halved potatoes into his broiler creations. He’d marinate a steak and then slap in down in a pan along with a bunch of vegetables. I would always eat the vegetables even though they were soaked in what I called ‘meat juice’. Potatoes are hard to cook. Mom would make scalloped potatoes and half the time, they’d still be starchy when you bit into the bigger pieces. Half the time she got it perfect though. 🙂 I think potato casseroles are some of the trickiest meals to make.

Both my parents made awesome tofu stirfrys. Mom started getting really fancy toward the end, making tofu parmesan that rivaled the eggplant version. Her stirfrys usually involved panko and frying, or a bunch of different sauces soaking into the tofu. I remember that her tofu was always cut like a brick and was a deep brown color. She sometimes fried up chow mein noodles too, and always veggies. Mom’s stirfrys always took longer than Dad’s. That’s because Dad made stirfry a completely different way. He chopped up the tofu into symmetrical cubes and tossed them into a pan with a selection of onions (always need the onion, he prefers Maui), garlic and vegetables. Sometimes Dad’s were better than Mom’s, and vice versa. I made them my own way, usually a variation of a Sam Choy recipe that I loved to death. Mine were pretty good too.

Mom’s magic bars were everyone’s favorite desert. A confectionary dream of graham cracker, evaporated milk, chocolate, butterscotch, ohelo berry jam, coconut flakes and literally a million other things, you just throw it all together and bake it. My cousin once asked if she could take two of them before she even had one. 🙂

My Uncle Andy is a French-trained sauce chef. Most of the stuff he makes is meat, so that leaves me out. His fish meals, though, are to die for. One time he made a ton of beer battered halibut for one of my birthday parties. That was one of the best culinary nights of my life. He makes wonderful seafood stews and scampis too. And his chocolate decadence cake…you’ll never settle for less. Ever in your life. Although Jessie made a sumptuous Sacher Torte last Christmas break that might give him a run for his money.

Some of the best food I have ever had was at my friend Coryn’s house. I remember one time she had me over for dinner. It was just a typical night, nothing fancy. However, her dad (a bonafide chef AND dentist) whipped up some griled LOBSTER TAILS, scallops and shrimp. That was my first known experience with lobster. The experience was literally indescribable. When Coryn brought food to school for sharing, which she frequently did, she drew crowds. She made me a delicious and beautiful chocolate (I think raspberry?) cake for my 18th birthday that I will never forget, even as a demented old woman. One time, a group of us were going to a track meet at Kea’au, and we stopped at Coryn’s to make some picnic food. I will never forget that seemingly innocuous cooking session. Coryn made Happy Rice, a dish I was previously unfamiliar with. She took a bowl of sticky rice, added Japanese marinated mushrooms, furikake, soybeans and I believe shoyu. She actually made musubi out of it with mochiko chicken, but I was content with the straight rice. Probably the best to-go lunch of my entire life. I have attempted to recreate Coryn’s Happy Rice here in Spokane…I actually went to the good Asian grocery in Seattle, guessed my way through the Japanese lettering, and brought home a few jars of what I hoped was the correct prepared mushrooms. They were! I will not be so bold as saying that my white girl, Spokane-made Happy Rice was as good as Coryn’s, but it satiated my cravings.

Sharon’s pumpkin dip, stuffed potato skins and CHRISTMAS COOKIES are what I think of when I pull into the Morrone household. I don’t remember where she found the recipe for the dip, but it was literally one of the best dips I have ever dipped into IN my twenty years of living. I actually forgot about it until just now, when thinking about the meals I’ve had at their house. This may have been a bad idea, because now I’ll probably think about it for the next few weeks in sad remembrance. Tony’s special Italian tomato sauce also remains the best red sauce, hands down, I have ever consumed. And yes, I am saying that even after going to Spokane’s delicious Tomato Street.

Sashimi…my old friend. After an unfortunate experience with grey sashimi in Idaho (bad, bad idea) I will probably never eat it again unless it is made by Mike Jervis or Pond’s restaurant. Go ahead. Convince me. ImageN

God I miss Hawaiian food, and the not-so-Hawaiian food that I associate with Hawaii. The quality of food back home is SO MUCH BETTER than it is here. I am such a food snob because of my upbringing. It is 12:09 and I need to sleep, or I would talk about nori-crusted ahi sashimi, FURIKAKE SALMON, Miyo’s, Hilo/Pahoa Farmer’s Market, H&Ks, KTA deli and…(oh my God) TWO LADIES KITCHEN.