Kava Kava

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Michael is half Fijian-Indian. His dad was born and raised in Fiji. Wanting to explore his islander roots was one of the reasons he went to UH Hilo (and met me!). So for our wedding reception luau, Michael requested I make a popular Fijian drink, kava. I wanted to make him happy, so I said yes…but being a little Polish white girl, I knew nothing about it. I had before in Hawaii, but I had no idea how to make it. So I did some research.

Kava is made from the ground up root powder of Pacific pepper trees and water. It is a social drink, normally drank with good company to create good memories. It is especially popular among young men, as a way to bond. It is notorious for sedative and slight hallucinogen qualities. It is not like you are gonna have an acid trip, but you will definitely feel more relaxed and open.

Then Michael sent me to a Kumar’s Island Market, a Polynesian store in San Jose. It was small, rundown looking building. It reminded me of almost every building in Hawaii, so I loved it. The store is really small, but if you want anything from the islands, this is the place. The guy was really nice and got me enough kava powder for the party.

Then I still have the problem of making it…and Michael had no idea because his dad never really taught him how. “It’s like making tea,” was my only clue from him. So I turned to YouTube! I found tons of videos on how to make it. This is video I based my recipe on:

This recipe makes 2 gallons, enough for 30 people.

Kava Kava
2 gallons of purified water
1/2 lbs kava root
1 large mesh or nylon strainer bag

Bring all the water to boil. Turn off the heat.

Add the kava to the strainer bag. Do not tie the end yet.

Dip the strainer back into the water while still holding the open end (do not let go yet). Spoon some of the water into the bag to ensure all the powder gets wet.

Now tie the end of the bag and let it float. Cover with a lid and let it steep for 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and let it cool a bit.

Once it is cool enough, start ringing out the strainer bag into the pot. Once it dries out, dip in the water and ringing it out again. Repeat this 3-5 times.

At this point, I got Michael and had him taste it (did not think drinking a sedative was a good idea while pregnant). He said it was great so I served it. Traditionally kava is drank from coconut shells. We only had 6 of them, thinking everyone would not want to try it at once. We were wrong. All our guests wanted to do a big toast at the same time, so we had to pass out plastic cups.

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Everyone said the minute it hit their lips, their whole mouth went numb. And it continued to numb all the way down. Most were good with just one cup, but quite a few came back for more. I will have to wait until after the baby is born to try my version of kava. Good thing we still have half a pound of kava powder left! When I tried it in Hawaii, I remember thinking I needed to become one with my chair or else both of us would cease to exist…fun times 🙂

Kava is truly unique experience, highly suggest you try. Make a bowl and share with your loved ones.

BULA!

Huli Huli Seitan

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So….I was so busy and excited during my wedding luau that I forgot to take pictures of food….bad food blogger…

I made Huli Huli Chicken for the meat eaters and Huli Huli Seitan for the vegetarians. I chose Huli Huli because I wanted to give our guests something unique to Hawaii. And it’s easay.

Hul Huli “Chicken”

But I have made Huli Huli “Chicken” and seitan before on this blog. So I essentially combined the two for this recipe. It looks almost exactly like Seitan Ribs, just more sauce and in cutlets.

Seitan ribs

I put the seitan out during the party and just told the vegetarians what it was. Everyone else started eating it too. Some thought the texture was different, but my answer to that is “duh”. I’ve said this before, nothing will ever taste and feel exactly like meat, except meat! But everyone still ate it, despite their comments. So it must be pretty good 🙂

This recipe makes 20 servings. It can easily be cut down for a smaller crowd, but seitan keeps well in the fridge and freezer too.

Huli Huli Seitan
1 carton of vegetable broth
1 package Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten
2 and 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 gloves of garlic, minced
2 and 1/2 cups of ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
1 and 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
4 cloves minced garlic

In a large pot, add the carton of veggie broth and fill the pot up to 3/4 of the way full with water. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl add the vita wheat gluten, water, soy sauce and 3 cloves of minced garlic. Mix together until it forms a smooth and elastic dough. If you like, you can knead it together when it starts to get thicker.

Once the dough is ready,  divide into 20 smaller balls. Shape the balls into little cutlets. The dough is elastic so this might take awhile, you can let it rest if need be too.

Now drop the cutlets into boiling water and cook for 1 hour. They will puff up so give them a stir to resubmerge them occasionally.

Remove them from the pot and place in a large Tupperware container.

In a small bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. Pour over the seitan, coating it well.

Seal up the container and  let it marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Now you can finish cooking it any way you want. I suggest throwing them on the grill until they get some nice grill lines. Or under the broiler just until they start to blacken. Or pan fry until nice and golden.

A lovely chicken substitute to remind you of the islands.

Wedding Reception and Wholesome Chow Cake

In my last post I talked about our wedding. The only guests were my parents and Michael’s Aunt and Uncle—only because I just wanted something simple.  However, the following Saturday we had a luau party at our home. It was a lot of fun and it wonderful to celebrate with the rest of our friends and family. I will post recipes from the BBQ in the next post.

For this post, I will talk about the amazing cake my best friend Amanda made for me (she may be the antagonist of the sushi post story…). Since I usurped her of maid of honor duties by running off to Vegas, I asked if she would make a small cake for Michael and I to cut at the Luau. And of course I requested it be vegan.

She worked at a bakery before, but is not too familiar was vegan baking. So she turned to mix—but not just any mix. Like me, she does not believe in all artificial junk and chemicals that come in most processed foods. She used Wholesome Chow, a certified organic and non-GMO company. It specializes in gluten-free, vegan, and allergen-free baking mixes.

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Amanda made a two-layer round cake, using the Organic Vanilla Cake Mix and Organic Chocolate Cake Mix (each layer was a different flavor). She added soy milk and Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread.

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The mixes came out well, but did not rise as much as she hoped. I forgot to tell her that vegan cakes never will rise as much as traditional cakes. I should have told her to use the Earth Balance Baking Buttery Sticks and to whip more air in than normal (without over mixing the batter), makes the cake a little more fluffy.

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She frosted with the Organic Vanilla Frosting Mix, once again adding Earth Balance. Then she decorated with brown sugar to make it look like sand and used our kissing Hawaiian salt and pepper shakers as the cake toppers.

IT WAS SO CUTE!!! You did an amazing job Amanda and I am very thankful to have you in my life (and not just for your baking skills).

By the way, this cake is even better when you get to shove it in your husband’s face! Hahaha…

I am going to try other products from Wholesome Chow now….thinking maybe the Organic Chocolate Lavender Cake Mix would be cute for a baby shower and some Organic Hi-Protein Pancake Mix would be great after a morning hike.

Vegas Wedding and Dinner at Scarpetta

So,  we got married in Las Vegas!

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I chose the Las Vegas Wedding because I liked their packages and options. I wanted something easy, quick, and simple. I wanted our love to be focus the ceremony. I honestly have no complaints with this chapel at all. I would like to warn this is quick, in-and-out, no frills place. If you want the long, elaborate, personalized ceremony then this place is not for you. Our ceremony was still beautiful and we got great customer service nonetheless.

Afterwards my dad took amazing photos of us on the strip.

It was SO much fun! Everyone was saying congrats and giving us high fives.

But seriously, look at  how great these photos are? My dad is very talented. Thank you so much Papa!

Then we had dinner at Scarpetta in the Cosmopolitan. We had a table with an amazing view of the Bellagio fountains.  The service and the food were AMAZING!

To start, I got the Heirloom Tomato Salad. Fresh heirloom tomatoes, olives, marinated eggplant and good olive oil. Michael just ate the cheese for me. Then I had the Spaghetti, which was seriously the best pasta I have ever had. Homemade pasta with simple red sauce with tons of fresh basil.

Then for dessert Michael and I shared Amedei Chocolate Cake (it was not vegan, but like I have said before, you have to be reasonable sometimes). Not only was it so delicious I cannot even think of a word to describe it, they wrote “Congratulations” on our plate!

I seriously recommend this place to everybody. We are going to come back  to Vegas for our anniversary next year, and I already know I want to eat here again. Check out the rest of the menu here.

Thank you Mom and Dad for making your princess feel like a real princess! And thank you Michael for being such an amazing man, I am so happy to spend the rest of my life with you.

Tofu and Broccoli

I need to say a giant apology for not posting for over a month. I promise I have very good excuse. At the beginning of August I found out I am pregnant! And then a few days later Michael proposed! And we are getting married next weekend in Las Vegas! Told you I had a good excuse.

I am so happy and excited to marry the man I love and start a family with him. But this past month has not been easy. I lost my job, which is probably for the best. It was not a good fit for me and I am not sure how much longer I could have worked due to horrible morning sickness. And do you know how much fun planning a wedding is when you are beyond exhausted all the time? Not at all.  I am so grateful for all love and support from my family and friends. Especially my mom, I could not do this all without you!

I will talk more wedding and baby stuff in later posts…

So, remember that morning sickness I mentioned? Yeah, that phrase is a total misnomer. I have felt nauseous all day and night. Not fun.  Even when I am hungry, my stomach magically cannot hold much food at once. And foods I once loved, I cannot even stand the thought of now. So, as you can imagine I have not done too much cooking lately. However, yesterday I was actually hungry for lunch. So I made up this tasty dish.

I used broccolini, but feel free to us broccoli if you cannot find it. Broccolini is hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli, giving it longer stalks and slightly sweeter flavor. It is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, folate and iron. I love broccolini because the stalks get tender and have an almost asparagus-like flavor.

This recipe makes two servings.

Tofu and Broccoli 
1 block of extra firm tofu, frozen and drained, then cubed
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tps red pepper flakes
1 tps grated ginger
Olive oil
1/2 small white onion, cut into thin strips
1 clove of garlic
1 small head of broccolini (broccoli is fine too), cut into bit-sized pieces
Teriyaki sauce

Check out my previous post about how to freeze and drain tofu.

Cube the tofu and add to small bowl.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and ginger. Toss together to coat the tofu and let it marinade for at least one hour.

Once the tofu is ready,  heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the chopped onions and cook until soften.

Add the garlic, broccolini pieces, and the tofu with the marinade. Cook until the broccolini is softened and the tofu is slightly golden.

Top with some teriyaki sauce before serving.

I had this over brown rice, but noodles would be delicious too. Simple and high in vitamin C, folate, and iron—all the things a growing baby (and mommy) need.