Beginner’s Poke Bowl


In Hawaii, we love our poke bowls.  Put some rice in a bowl and top with fresh sliced fish, customize your toppings and top with a shoyu vinaigrette.  It’s the island version of grabbing a sandwich…grain, protein, veggies and sauce. Aloha, done.

Let’s break it down: fresh means raw and shoyu is soy sauce and poke is pronounced POH-keh.  Did I lose you at the raw fish?  Hang in with me because you’re gonna love this Beginner’s Poke Bowl.

Let’s start by the pickled toppings that really give a good crunch with your bowl but take at least an hour to marinate.  Make a light pickling solution with rice vinegar and sugar.  I use a ration of 3:1; vinegar to sugar.  Add a pinch of sea salt.  For the pickled veggie-crunch: stir together the vinegar, salt and sugar to dissolve.  Julienne a large  carrot and two radishes.  Thinly slice a Japanese cucumber and 6 slices jalapeno pepper. Save yourself a bowl and mix the vinaigrette in a sealed storage container, add in your prepped veggies; giving all a good toss.  Let it pickle at room temperature for one hour. Or if you’re really on the ball, do it the night before.

Cook brown rice according to the package directions.  For an authentic Hawaiian-style rice, make the sticky by rinsing, adding a little extra water and letting it cook low and slow.  Remember, you want the rice to not be fluffy as you need it kind clumpy to be able to use your chopsticks.   My friend Satomi taught me this easy technique when we lived in Japan. Put your  rice in a large pot, swish the rice five times (please don’t question Satomi). Pour off the extra rinse water each time because you’re rinsing off some of the starch to help it cook to the right texture.  You get the exact amount of water by resting the tip of your index finger on the damp rice and gently adding enough water to reach the first joint of that finger.  It works like magic for any amount of dried rice you add to the pot; no need to break out the measuring cups.  Stir in a pinch of sea salt, giving a good stir, and bring to a boil.  Once you see the first vigorous boil, turn down to low and cover pot with lid.  Simmer and keep covered for 45 minutes (don’t peak cuz you’ll let off steam).  Remove from heat and let rice come to room temperature before adding to your dish.

Once you have your rice cooked and your veggies pickled, assembling your Poke Bowl just takes minutes.  The star of the Poke Bowl is your Hawaiian Ahi (or shrimp, octopus, salmon). Oh no, too soon to introduce octopus in this beginner’s poke primer? You’ll get there and trust me it’s delicious.

Take your gorgeous red Ahi steak, cut into about one-inch cubes, season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Sear the tuna is a hot skillet coated with a swirl of olive oil.  In Hawaii, we eat it raw but for the beginner I suggest cooking it to your liking by kissing it with some heat.  Let the cubes  sit undisturbed in your skillet for a second to get a tiny bit browned, don’t feel you have to keep tossing it around the pan.  I like my tuna with the edges golden and the center red.  It will be easier to get that raw center-toasted outer by cutting the tuna into a larger cube.  If you order a poke bowl here in the islands you’re gonna get your raw fish cut into small cubes.  Actually, the word poke means to cut up into bits. Let’s get back to your pan and Ahi, err on the side of taking it out before you think as it will keep cooking a bit.

Assemble your bowl with a large scoop of brown rice in your bowl, then create a beautiful landscape of toppings.  Top with your seared Ahi, pickled veggies, fresh avocado slices and I like a mix of thinly sliced  green onions with pok choi(bok choy).  Mix a simple dressing of tamari, rice vinegar and sesame oil.  Finish it all with a spritz of fresh lime, especially important for keeping your avocado green and vibrant.  Make it truly authentic… sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds or furikake.





The Great Big Biscuit Challenge


While most folks put dropping pounds or learning a new language  as their New Year’s Resolutions, at the top of my list is to make a better biscuit. I mean really; how can one call yourself a Southern gal and not make a decent biscuit?  I’m stepping forward and pleading guilty to that one. My biscuits are usually of good flavor but rather dense and heavy for my liking (& also Big Sugar’s when pressed to give honest feedback).

So on the first day of the new year I put everyone in the house to work.  Belly up to the bar, grab a biscuit and let the ratings begin.  Three different biscuit recipes were used; an old recipe I had claiming to be just like Bojangles, the second from the back of the White Lily Flour bag and the last,  a back-of-the-can traditional baking powder biscuit.  Two of the recipes used self-rising flour and the other all-purpose  For the fat,  good old-fashioned lard and the other two good ol’ Crisco.  Each recipe also called for a different baking temp though all were baked at pretty high heat. Each was brushed with melted butter as they came out of the oven.

Here’s how the biscuits looked for judging-

Biscuit A: Bojangles Biscuit Wanna-Be

Preheat oven to 450 degrees/ bake 12 min

3 C. Self-rising flour

3 tsp baking powder

2 tsp powdered sugar

1/2 C. lard

1 1/4 C. buttermilk

Biscuit B: Southern Soft-Flour Biscuit

preheat oven to 500 degrees/ bake 8-10 minutes

2 C. White Lily Self-Rising Flour

1/4 C. cold Crisco

2/3-3/4 C. buttermilk

I added one tsp sugar

Biscuit C: Baking Powder Biscuit

preheat oven to 475 degrees/ bake 11 minutes ( I only baked these 10 min because they browned quickly…uh, that’s a hint)

2 C. All-Purpose Flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 C. cold Crisco

3/4 C. buttermilk

I added one tsp of sugar

I TB melted butter (brush on top before baking)

And so the judging began. Well, let me back up, the  judges had to be slowed down a bit so that the nibbling didn’t commence willy-nilly.  The biscuits were kept separated on their baking sheets (all baked on parchment).  And of course, we had mounds of softened butter and Hawaiian Honey but the initial bite had to be of a naked biscuit. We’re running a tight ship here.

Angela took the role as scribe.  She also directed the boys which biscuit to each first.  I gotta tell ya, it was hard not to tell them which was which. But I wanted to let them taste & judge  in the blind.

Check out the comments and cool chart that Angela put up on our kitchen board:


We all designated our number one choice for the best biscuit and then which ones came in second and third place.

The Soft Southern flour and the Baking Powder Biscuits tied for first place with the copy-cat Bojangles (Biscuit A)  judged by all to be the least favorite of the bunch.

Here’s the comments:

Biscuit A: dry & salty

Biscuit B: buttery, best looking, moist (Cameron & Angela’s top pick)

Biscuit C: Flaky, buttery (Mike and My fave but Cam & Ang thought it was dark and heavy)

What’s to be learned from this?  Biscuit tasting Contests are a great way to start your day (& year)!

And I learned cold Crisco and a high oven temp produce the lightest flakiest biscuit.

Now I can get started on the other things on my resolution list. And I better put the biscuit baking on hold to get  to the other resolutions especially the one involving less calories. C’est Bon!







Hurricane Hamburgers & Stormy S’mores today on KHON 2

Hurricane Hamburgers…so cute, they’ll blow you away

 No Baking & No Cooking

First things first, hurricane preparedness  is serious business, y’all.  You need to plan for several days of no power  ( no lights, no electronics and gasp*** no cooking).  As desperate as the youngins’ are without their electronics, well, I feel the same way about the cooking and baking outage.  But here’s two family-friendly recipes I’ve prepared for our local morning show on KHON 2.  Both of these are no baking and no cooking but totally scrumptious and such an easy project for the beginner (or kids).


Use the photo above for a construction guide (so easy : no recipe, just a photo and ingredients)

Vanilla wafers (hamburger buns)

Shredded Coconut, tinted green w/food coloring (lettuce)

Mint Fudge Cookie (hamburger patty)

Corn syrup and sesame seeds (brush on a scant amount of corn syrup to the “top bun” wafer & sprinkle with sesame seeds)

If you want to make it a Deluxe Burger:

  • Slice of American Cheese: select an orange starburst candy; roll it to flatten and cut into small squares
  • Ketchup & Mustard: use tubes of yellow & red decorative frosting
  • arrange your condiments and fixins’ so they are peeking out from the sides of the bun
  • add a droop of yellow to your green coconut to give it that realistic lettuce color

No Baking & No Cooking

Stormy S'mores

Stormy S’mores …No campfire needed



Graham Crackers (halved)

Milk Chocolate ready-made canned Frosting

Mini-Marshmallows (12 per sandwich cookie)

Set up a s’mores bar in the kitchen; try these add-ins:

  • Nutella or nut butter
  • thinly sliced bananas, apples or pears
  •  blueberries or sliced strawberries
  • chopped nuts or chocolate chips

Remember, you don’t have to wait for bad weather to enjoy these great treats!

Love & Lemons

lemonade mason jar04


The Saturday started with a gentle reminder that the harvest needed to be completed that day. Our lemon tree was heavy with fruit. The bounty was ready to be brought into the kitchen. Each morning I enjoyed seeing the fruit, from my kitchen window, dipping the branch; checking on the ripening by gauging the optimal color and size.

Okay, I’m getting carried away, so before you start picturing a lush lemon orchard…something out of Under the Tuscan Sun. The photos on the page illustrate my entire harvest. Yep, that’s right. We got two lemons from our tree and we couldn’t be happier. You see, we have this very aggressive guava tree that is the bully of the side yard. And, according to a neighbor who took some guavas for jelly making, we have the bad kind of guava. It’s pulpy and hard to press the flesh out. The big bad guava tree is the bain of my Sweet Sugar’s landscaping plans. I am the Tree Gov’ner, giving the stay of execution. Only because the birds love to sing and flit around the branches and I have the show right in front of my window. But the reality is, the guava fruit is of no use to us. It falls along the stone path and the birds eat out little wedges then leave the fruit. The lemon tree struggles to grab some sunlight from the guava tree. But luckily, it persuaded some sun to feed it so that we were rewarded with these two glorious fruit.

Lemon on Tree

As I had written about previously, homegrown fruit has to be treated like royalty. You have to give special thought to how, what, why and where you will cut into these glorious precious globes. It wouldn’t be meaningful to just slice into wedges to adorn steamed shrimp or squeeze into iced tea. And the Buttermilk Lemon Poundcake had been done (and devoured).

Sometimes simple is really the best. When life (ahem, your tree) gives you two lemons, make lemonade. Speaking of simple, you start with making a simple syrup.

1 cup water and 1 Cup sugar heated until sugar is dissolved and thickens.
Squeeze 1 cup lemon juice. Stir together and adder to make 1 quart of water. Chill and serve with thin wheels of lemon.

Bright Blueberry Morning…a Linda’s dozen

Blueberry Morning…a Linda’s Dozen

Blueberry Muffins

These, bursting with blueberries, home baked muffins are calling out to be made for your weekend.  They patiently wait on the pedestal cake plate. Mister Sweet Sugar is bustling about.  As an early riser, he is already through with most of his weekend catch-up efforts.  As it gets too hot under the noon sun, here on the island; you gotta get your outdoor chores done. He’s trimming the jungle of our yard, fixing the door of his truck and lots of other guy things.  He’s not much of a breakfast guy so having these muffins ready on his schedule make me feel like a might have done a good wifey thing.   The muffins just sit under the dome and wait to be snatched on the run.

Here’s a Linda’s dozen of muffins. A Linda’s dozen?  Well, it’s the opposite of a baker’s dozen which gives you the bonus muffin; thirteen rather than twelve.  My dozen is eleven because how could you not  sample one while they are still warm from the oven?

The first time I made them, I had that uh-oh feeling… after I had preheated the oven, made sure I had plenty of blueberries and had whisked all the dry ingredients.  Then I realized I had no milk, no buttermilk or even cream.  Groan. And being a southern girl meant going to the store would entail hair brushing & probably a quick curl, running an iron over something and putting some color on my face. C’mon, it was a lazy Sunday…I just wanted to nestle in my kitchen.  So, I searched my fridge for something and there it was. Sour cream.  I watered it down a bit to make it pourable.  It worked beautifully and I’ve been using it in my muffin recipe ever since.  Don’t you love when that happens?

Here’s the crazy good recipe:

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins

2 eggs

1 c. sugar

½ c. sour cream

1 tsp water

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

½ c. oil

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

2 c. flour

1 c. blueberries, frozen

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  In separate bowl, whip eggs and sugar; adding sour cream and one teaspoon water. Stir in vanilla extract and oil.  Add wet ingredients into the dry. Gently fold in blueberries.  Topping: In small bowl, mix together 2 teaspoons sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon.  Line muffin tins with paper baking cups. Fill cups two-thirds full. Top with cinnamon-sugar and nuts; evenly distributed. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 15 more minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes on rack.  Move muffins to a cooling rack. Makes one dozen.

Eleven Blueberry Muffins

Mountain Mama Mandarin Rolls
Mountain Mama Mandarin Rolls

Mountain Mama Mandarin Rolls

Thanks to Facebook, I was notified it was Betty’s birthday. I consider her my “Mountain Mama”, to take a line from the old John Denver song. You see, I went to college up in the mountains of North Carolina, over six hours away from my coastal home. Luckily for me I met great girls on my dorm floor, freshman year. Teacher Tammy and I became great friends and sorority sisters. She lived down the mountain about an hour away. Like many of my fellow freshman, she went home frequently on the weekends. Our school became a suitcase- college come Friday through Sunday.

First rising

First rising

Teacher Tammy (her nickname: an education major) kindly took me home with her many week-ends. We headed down the mountains with Prince and the Go-Go’s blaring from her cassette player. I loved her family from the second I met them. So many great memories of driving slowly, cruising along the town center, tanning thickly coated in coconut oil, driving her grandmother to get her hair done, Betty’s delicious beefy cheesy –mac and every Saturday and Sunday morning, there were baked orange-cinnamon rolls. I had never had them before and boy, did they disappear fast.
Decades later, these rolls baking still remind me of waking up at Tammy’s home in the mountains. These rolls will make you feel toasty warm and your guests welcome.

I had been wanting to create my own orange rolls but sadly the oranges we get here in Hawaii are rather dull tasting.  And I surely didn’t want to waste the flour and butter on dud citrus if it had a starring role (roll, haha).  Well, for the holidays the stores are filled with mountains of juicy tangerines, clementines and mandarins.  Folks, go pick up a mesh bag of mandarins and get up early on January First to make your family very happy.

Mandarin Mountain

Mandarin Mountain

Icing Mandarin Rolls

I’m planning to make these a winter tradition.  Which now makes me think of the original Read home tangerine tradition.  My sister Susie and I were allowed to dive into our stockings Christmas morning before anyone else was awake; no presents under the tree could be opened before all were up and seated in the living room.  We had the candy we loved and went crazy over the giant peppermint stick. I mean it was as big as a salami roll. We would lick it to a coned-point and then after a day it would go into the fridge, forgotten and turning pink… and get tossed about Valentine’s Day.  We always had great stocking stuffers but we would be puzzled by the lone tangerine rounding out the toe of the stocking. Susie and I would remove it from our stocking and put in back in the fruit bowl on the kitchen table. Later, we discovered that Sweetpea was keeping up a tradition from her Mama. A tangerine was a special treat in the winter of her childhood in the Virginia Valley.  Christmas citrus will always remind me of Christmas morning excitement.
Zest Mandarins

MtnMama Orange Rolls 1st Rise


3 1/2 Cups flour ( I used bread flour because I wanted to use it up from my pantry)
2 packages yeast (1/4 oz. packages)
1/4 Cup sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 TB mandarin zest (can substitute clementines, tangerines or oranges-whatever’s juicy & fresh)
1 TB fresh squeezed mandarin zest

8 TB butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 TB zest
1 tsp fresh manadarin juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

2 1/2 Cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup fresh mandarin juice
1 TB mandarin zest
1 TB butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Zest mandarins, I was able to get about one tablespoon of zest from each fruit. You’ll need 6 tablespoons for the entire skillet of rolls (separated into dough, filling & icing)

In bowl of upright mixer (before you add the attachment), whisk dry ingredients: yeast, sugar & flour. In microwave, place water, milk and butter. In 10 second increments, melt butter and warm the water and milk. Attach dough hook and with mixer running, slowly add warm butter and buttermilk mixture, add in vanilla, salt, juice and zest. Add eggs one at a time. Your dough will be very sticky. Knead 8 minutes.

Oil large bowl and use your oiled hands to remove dough from mixer bowl (remember, it’s super sticky). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place lightweight kitchen towel over the bowl. Place in warm place and let rise until dough has doubled. About 45-60 minutes.

Punch down the dough. Place a small amount of flour on counter. Flour rolling pin (or roll out between parchment paper) and roll out to large rectangle. Combine softened butter with vanilla juice and zest; spread out onto rectangle leaving a one inch border on all edges. Cover butter layer with sugars, cinnamon and salt.

Roll up into log and cut in half. Then cut the halves in half so you end up with 8 spiral rolls. Butter a cast iron skillet liberally with butter. Place rolls in skillet, cut side down. Cover entire pan with plastic wrap and light towel; let rise in warm place for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees after the first 20 minutes of this second rising. Mix together all icing ingredients.

Bake rolls at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, Let cool 10 minutes then pour icing over warm rolls. The icing will harden slightly as rolls cool.
I serve them straight from the skillet.
Mtn Mama Orange Rolls01

Best Grilled Spicy Chicken Ever

Spicy Sweet Sticky Chicken…Best EVER!


This is the best sweet spicy chicken you’ll ever eat; it’s incredibly easy and sassy too.  Just make sure you have  plenty of iced tea because the heat is gonna make you want to down a glass or two. It has a slow heat that will sneak up on ya.  It’s a different kind of heat than you’ll find in a big order of buffalo wings.  The heat from this is the sweet sticky sauce that is so popular in Southern and  Asian cooking. This is a great crowd and hostess pleaser; it’s inexpensive and easy to cook a bunch.

Start by marinating your chicken thighs overnight in the fridge. Pour all the marinade ingredients in a re-sealable bag placed in a large bowl (just in case there’s leakage and makes for easier handling); put all the chicken thighs in and give it a gentle massage to coat all the pieces.



3 lbs Chicken Thighs (Bone-in, skin on)


2 TB Sriracha Sauce (not Tabasco)

2 TB Oil

1 TB Rice Vinegar

1/2 Cup water 

(discard marinade after chicken placed on your grill)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Preheat  grill to high. Combine all ingredients in food processor, pulse until garlic and ginger are chopped small. Transfer sauce to small pan, heat until reduced and thickened to barbecue sauce consistency. Grill chicken over high heat, skin side down until lightly charred but not cooked through.  Pour 2/3 of sauce in bottom of large casserole dish.  Place grilled chicken over sauce, turning each piece to coat.  Cover dish with foil, bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve over shredded cabbage with steamed rice along with reserved sauce on the side. The sauce is killer.  My boys love it over their rice and I pour it over my grilled vegetables.

1/4 Cup Soy Sauce (shoyu)

1/4 Cup Honey

juice of one orange

2 TB Rice Vinegar

2 TB Sambal (chucky chili garlic sauce)

2 TB Brown Sugar

1 TB Hoisin Sauce

1 TB Sriracha

3 tsp Fish Sauce

1 tsp fresh lime juice

6 cloves garlic

1 inch knuckle of ginger, peeled










Southern & Sweet…Carolina Cornbread




Let’s start with a cornbread controversy.  Southern cornbread purists will tell you that this delicious skillet of baked corn goodness should be savory, no sugar.  And folks, they’re serious ’bout that. Pop that cornbread batter in hot oil and you’ve got a hush puppy. Order cornbread in Hawaii and you will be served corn bread that has been baked in a square pan and it ‘s buttery and sweet like cake. Heck y’all, it IS cake.  Really good corn cake.They’re both wonderful when done right. 

Barbecue is happy to have some cornbread alongside. Collard greens put it to work, sopping up all that pot likker.  Sweetpea says my Daddy liked to eat it soaked in buttermilk and a spoon.  But my favorite is with cold baked beans.  That to me is such a great and simple lunch but be warned; it’ll put ya in a carb coma.     ah bliss…You can fancy it up with bacon, corn niblets, cheddar cheese, onion and my buddy Jim likes to bakes his spicy by adding chopped hot peppers.  

My recipe is southern(savory) and a lil’ sweet.  Me and my cast iron skillet are currently baking this cornbread on Channel 53, Olelo.

Here’s some tips before you start. Put your cast iron skillet in the cold oven and then preheat; you want it to heat up slowly.  Have the batter made before you put the butter in the hot skillet. The butter just takes a moment to melt and you don’t want it to burn. Not to be bossy but you gotta use yellow cornbread.  Folks, cornbread is golden. In more ways than one.


Put cast iron skillet in oven, Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 1 TB yellow cornmeal

2/3 c.sugar

1 TB baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 1/4 c buttermilk

1/3 c. vegetable oil

3 TB melted butter

In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Melt  butter in microwave.  In separate bowl, whisk eggs and remaining wet ingredients.

Slowly add butter to egg mixture.  Add wet batter into the dry ingredients, stirring just to combine.  Add 2 tablespoons butter to hot skillet in oven.  Swirl the skillet to have butter evenly distributed. Carefully, pour batter into the very hot skillet.  Bake 33-35 minutes until golden brown.  Once baked, keep cornbread in the skillet until cooled, uncovered. This will keep the crust crisp. Lightly brush with additional butter. Why not, right?   

My recipe is southern(savory) and a lil’ sweet.  I am currently baking this cornbread on Channel 53, Olelo.



Cast Iron Cornbread

Cast Iron Cornbread

Carolina Cornbread baked in my cast iron skillet

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