Monday, March 28, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken & Artichoke in a Creamy Tomato Sauce with Penne for Two

HE SAID: Tastes great, needs a little more zest.
SHE SAID: Yum, yes, lacks zest.

Over the past few weeks we've been putting a lot of thought into cleaning out our homes...purging.  One of the areas we've gone through...the kitchen.  We keep telling ourselves - we really need to use what we have in the cupboards.  The one can that's been haunting us - artichoke hearts.  Seems like it's been there forever!

We found an Artichoke Pasta recipe and made it our own.  It's very tasty, but we both love zesty Italian and although we did add rosemary and Italian seasoning, this dish really tasted like an Americanized pasta dish.  Well, it's probably because the chef forgot to add the seasoning in and threw some in about an hour into cooking and guesstimated on the amounts.  We're planning on fixing the leftovers up by "zesting" it up a bit.  However, the male half of this couple (he LOVES pasta) - he really enjoyed the dish (minus the artichokes).


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 hours on low (if you cook this without the chicken - 4-5 hours on low)
4 qt crock pot (we think we could've squeezed this into the 2 qt)

3/4 lb boneless, skinless thighs, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 - 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (you can use diced Italian tomatoes - we use crushed since the male half of this couple doesn't care for chunks of tomatoes and we didn't have time to run the diced tomatoes in the food processor)
1 - 14.5 oz can of artichoke hearts in water, drained and lightly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. pimiento stuffed olives, chopped in half (or whole)
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/4 - 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream (add in the last 30 minutes)
1/2 lb. cooked pasta (add later, we used penne)
1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese (add in the last 30 minutes)
shredded parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)

NOTE: If you're using crushed tomatoes, you'll want to add Italian seasoning (2 T.), some dried rosemary (1 t.), maybe some pesto, etc...whatever you'd like to add.  It's really a matter of taste.

Pour crushed tomatoes into pot.  Add chicken, artichokes, garlic and olives.  Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low.  During the last 30 minutes, mix in the heavy whipping cream and 1/4 c. shredded parmesan'll want to do this quickly since your pot will lose a lot of heat without the cover on.  Sever over cooked pasta, sprinkle parmesan cheese on the finished product.

Enjoy...we sure did!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sukiyaki for two - Not Made In The CrockPot

HE SAID: Very good, different and light

Sukiyaki ingredients
While cleaning out our kitchen, we found a soon-to-expire bottle of Sukiyaki sauce.  Sukiyaki is a fun dish to make at home...healthy, easy to prepare...but if you ever have a chance to enjoy Sukiyaki in Japan or a Japanese restaurant where the waitress cooks everything for you at your table, definitely try it.

A fancy Sukiyaki meal in Japan can easily run you $160 per person or more.  It's a fabulous meal.  If you're wanting that sort of experience, we recommend Zakuro in Tokyo (Akasaka area).  It's pricey, but wow, the food is great and a waitress dressed in a yukata will prepare the meal at your table.    They'll even sell you their sauce!

It's easy enough to make your own sauce if you prefer.  There are several recipes on the internet like this one.  We've cooked this on the stove too, but it's fun to bring out the modern nabe pot and cook while you eat.

There's really no wrong way to make Sukiyaki.  Pick vegetables that cook fairly quickly.  If you don't have a Japanese market that sells beef sliced for Sukiyaki, ask your local butcher if he can cut your beef almost paper thin.  Sukiyaki beef is cut slightly thicker than shabu shabu meats.  If you really want to get fancy and you own some Japanese cutters which are flower shaped, etc., you can cut daikon (radish) and carrots into flower shapes.  Even if you don't have the cutters, you can easily cut daikon and carrots into shapes.  Cut designs into your fresh Shiitake mushrooms.  You can even take konnyaku and "twist" them.  We'll post instructions with pictures next time we do that.


Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Cook Time: The duration of your meal (cook as you eat)

1 bottle of Sukiyaki sauce (taste it, some bottles require dilution, especially if you have high blood pressure like the female half of this couple)
1 tray of beef, sliced for Sukiyaki (and very marbled)
Chinese cabbage, chopped (depends on how much you want to eat)
1/2 tray firm tofu (we prefer House brand), cubed
1 pkg enokitake mushrooms (normally fresh Shiitake mushrooms are also used, but the male half of this couple doesn't care for them)
1 pkg shirataki noodles (we prefer the goma or sesame ones)
Negi (scallion) - optional
1 T olive oil

Photo from site -
by Setsuko Yoshizuka
Rinse and chop chinese cabbage, arrange in tray.  Rinse and cube tofu, arrange in tray.  Don't cut your tofu too small or it'll fall apart while boiling - also, use firm tofu.  Rinse and remove roots from enokitake mushrooms.  Separate and arranged in tray.  Drain shirataki noodles, arrange in tray.  Arrange beef in tray.  Turn pot on, add olive oil.  Add one or two pieces of meat in the pot, move it around the pot to grease up the pot.  Pour diluted sauce into pot.  Bring to a "soft" boil.  Add other ingredients in pot.  We don't recommend adding everything in at once.   It looks pretty, but things start to over cook.  As items are done cooking, transfer them into your personal dishes and eat with rice you've cooked in your rice cooker FROM Japan!  So good!

Enjoy...we sure did!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Crock Pot Lasagna with Pollo in Potacchio

HE SAID: Very good.
SHE SAID: Yum, but next time we'll adjust the cooking time when using flat egg no boil noodles

After we cut a couple pieces out.
We made this two weekends ago, but the female half of this couple (the chef) got the stomach flu two Thursdays ago which meant the blogging and cooking were put on hold.

So, two weekends ago we decided to do some meal planning.  Made Pollo in Potacchio on Saturday night in the crock pot and decided to make enough for a lasagna the next night.  Turned out great.  Very tasty.

We love Barilla's Flat Egg No Boil Lasagna Noodles...just be careful not to overcook the lasagna or your noodles will be a bit overcooked.  This fit nicely into our 4 qt. crock pot and served us dinner for two nights.


Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3-4 hours on low if you're using the same noodles we used, if you use "regular" lasagna noodles, cook for 6-8 hours on low (check the noodles, when the lasagna cuts easily, your lasagna is probably done)
4 qt-crock pot

Pollo in Potacchio with sauce - depends on how much you want, the sauce is good to hydrate the noodles
lasagna noodles (your choice)
ricotta cheese (depends on how much you like to use, at least 8 oz)
1 pkg shredded Italian blend cheese
2 t. Italian seasoning
1/4 c. water

We promise this looked better in person!
Mix Italian seasoning in ricotta cheese.  Shred chicken from Pollo in Potacchio.  Spray crock pot with non-stick spray.  Pour in a ladel full of sauce into crock pot.  Layer with noodles (break to fit the pot).  Smear some ricotta cheese mixture on.  Sprinkle some shredded cheese on next.  Ladle more sauce (with chicken), the lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese mixture, then shredded cheese.  Continue layering until you're happy with your lasagna.  We only did 4 layers.  End with sauce and shredded cheese.  Pour water over food.  Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on low if you're using thin noodles, 6-8 hours on low if you're using thicker noodles.

Lasagna is done when you can cut into the lasagna and the noodles are cooked.  Let sit a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Enjoy, we sure did!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Crock Pot Pollo In Potacchio for two MEALS

HE SAID: Very good!
SHE SAID:  Loved it, but it's not the same as Cafe VIII 1/2's

As mentioned in a previous post, Cafe VIII 1/2 here in Honolulu produces a great Pollo in Potacchio.  We haven't seen this dish on any other Honolulu Italian Restaurant yet.  What a treat!  The chicken just falls off the bone and the sauce is yummy (everything cooked in wine is yummy).

We decided to make a large batch of this for a couple of reasons - the female half of this couple is trying to lower her carb intake, trying to save money by taking "home lunch" to work and wanted to use some of it for a lasagna the next night.

Cafe VIII 1/2 serves this dish with either rice or mashed potatoes.  There are several variations of this recipe online.


Prep Time:
Cook Time: 6 -8 hours on low
4 qt crock pot

2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless thighs
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed (we used minced since we have the big pre-minced Costco jar)
1 lg. onion sliced (the male half doesn't care for onions, so next time we will use a small onion or half)
3/4 T. red chili pepper flakes
1 can tomato paste (small can)
salt and pepper to taste
1 c. dry wine
1 c. chicken broth
1 T. dried rosemary

The end product, yum!
We put everything in the pot, but you can season your chicken with salt and pepper, sear the chicken, then transfer to the crock pot.  Here's how we did it and it still tasted great.  Put oil into crock pot.  Wash, dry and place chicken into pot.  Mix tomato paste with wine, pour over chicken.  Put the rest of the ingredients into the pot.  Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low.

We served this with homemade garlic mashed potatoes and corn.  Yes, we love corn!  We had some for dinner and kept the rest for the lasagna we made the next night.

Next time we'll amend this recipe to use less tomato paste, it tasted too "tomatoey" compared to Cafe VIII 1/2's dish.

Enjoy, we sure did!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dining Out: Hy's Steakhouse in Waikiki

The presentation was much nicer when it arrived at our
table, but since we always share our meals, this is the
result of splitting meals!
Waikiki's not a local's favorite place to go, but once in a while it's ok.  Don't get us wrong, Waikiki has a lot to offer visitors - a beautiful beach, many places to stay, lots of shopping and great restaurants like Nobu's, Morimoto's and more.  Nobu's is great, pricey, but the food is wonderful.

Waikiki was very different way back one point it was known as the playground for the Hawaiian Royalty.    For us, a visit to Waikiki is on a "as needed" basis!  It's the crowds and traffic we try to avoid.  We have gone to Waikiki for some great get togethers with friends from the mainland.

Last night we dined at Hy's Steakhouse on Kuhio Avenue.  Hy's is a fine dining restaurant, but the attire for Hawaii's fine dining really just means no shorts, tank tops and jeans (although some allow jeans).  For men, slacks and aloha shirt is just fine for a fine dining restaurant here.

The restaurant is basically in 3 sections: the front area where you can watch the chef grilling steaks behind a glass wall; the bar area which has has some nice tables and tonight they had live music (mellow); and what looks like a restaurant decorated back in the 70's.  We decided at the last minute to go to Hy's, so we were seated in the last area.  The first two dining areas really look like you're sitting in an old mansion - they even made part of it look like you're sitting in the mansion's library.

Making the Chocolate Lover's Flambe
The service is excellent, our waiter made some great recommendations.  The food was fabulous, but pricey.  We started with a shared Caesar salad (if you order two or more orders, the prepare the Caesar tableside).  The salad was good, a bit on the sweet side though.  For our main entrees, we shared the Fresh Catch Opakapaka (pink snapper) cooked in an Asian sesame oil/green onion/ginger sauce and served with stir fried Asian veggies.  Very good.  The steak and scallops combo with a Delmonico steak served with Hy's mashed potatoes; also very good.

Chocolate Lover's Flambe
Since we had a gift certificate and were trying to use it up, we decided to treat ourselves to dessert.  As always, the male half of this couple let the female half of this couple choose all the dishes....Chocolate Lover's Flambe it was!  Wow, it was very good.  Hy's is one of the few restaurants on Oahu that still serves tableside Flambe.  What a treat!

If you're looking to treat yourself to a great steak experience with that supper club feel, we highly recommend this place!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

This weekend's crock pot plans

Have you ever had Pollo in Potacchio?  It is a braised chicken dish, very light and pretty darn healthy.  It's one of the female half of this couple's favorite dishes from Cafe VIII 1/2 in Downtown Honolulu.  It's a very simple restaurant, small, by a husband and wife team.  It can get a bit weird in there, but nothing extreme...if you've been there, you know what I mean?

Everyone's favorite dish there seems to be Radiatore Verde which doesn't seem to have radiatore pasta in it.  Looks like penne pasta to us.  Anyway, the sauce looks like a pesto sauce with chunks of steak.  It's good, but not as good as the Pollo in Potacchio!  There was a table of 6 people - 4 of them ordered the Radiatore Verde.

We found some Pollo in Potacchio recipes and will be tweaking the recipe for the crock pot.  We may be ambitious and trying making a double order to have enough chicken and sauce for a Pollo in Potacchio Lasagna in the Crock Pot.  We'll see how that goes!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crock Pot "Anchor Bar" Buffalo Chicken Strips for Two

HE SAID: Very good
SHE SAID: Very good, but should have skipped the flour part...will be making this again and again!

It looked better on the plate next to some rice
The other weekend as show aired on Travel Channel, you know one of those "best of" types.  They mentioned coming up "the original Buffalo Wings" and we're a fan of Buffalo Wings, so the chef of this couple was all ears.  I never bothered to google this, but supposedly Buffalo Wings was created by a woman who owned the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.  We had to google the recipe.

We found many variations of the Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing recipe and sorry, but can't remember which one we ended up with.  What we normally do is read through several recipes and the reviews and tweak the closest sounding recipe to our liking.

We loved this recipe!  We chose to use boneless skinless thighs even though wings are very tasty...thighs are easier to eat at work.  We followed the recipe, including the flouring up the chicken part, but that didn't go so well in the crock pot.  We realized it AFTER we turned the crock pot on, but by then it was too late to wash the chicken off.  We're posting the recipe minus the flour.

Neither of us has ever tried Anchor Bar's Buffalo Wings, so we wouldn't know if it tastes the same or not.  If you have tasted Anchor Bar's wings and are trying this recipe, let us know if it's close!


Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours on low
2 qt crock pot

6 - 8 boneless skinless thighs, cut into strips (depending on the size, 6 large thighs or 8 small thighs fits into our 2 qt crock)
1 T. olive oil
1 1/2 T. white vinegar
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/8 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. tabasco sauce
1/4 t. kosher salt
6 T. Frank's hot sauce
6 T. unsalted butter

Put oil in crock pot.  Add chicken strips (or you can leave them whole).  Mix all other ingredients in a small pan and over low heat bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Pour sauce over chicken.  Cover and cook for 6 hours on low.

We ate this with Japanese rice (since we had leftovers from the fish the night before) and white corn (our favorite).

Enjoy, we sure did!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crock Pot Chinese Style Steamed Fish For Two

HE SAID: Good, but a little salty and too much ginger
SHE SAID: Good, but yes, a little salty.  Nice and light.

Finished product
A slight change in plans with the public utility strike starting up this Morimoto's due to a revised work schedule (plus longer hours) for the male half of this couple.  He's non-union, so he now becomes an essential worker.

Decided to make some Chinese Style Steamed fish, a local favorite at Chinese restaurants.  Normally the dish is prepared either by steaming the fish in the sauce on the stove or pouring the hot oil mixture on the fish.  We figured the fish would steam nicely in foil packets in the crock pot and we were so glad we tried.

This recipe is simple, inexpensive and oh so good!  We had a lot to do, so being able to whip up the sauce, throw it in the crock pot and 3 hours later have a wonderful meal was perfect.  We used tilapia since it was the only white flaky fish at the local market.  Due to the heavy rains we had, the green onion crops are low, so we couldn't do the green onions sliced in long, thin strips.  Went to the markets AND the farmers green onions, no chives, nothing!  Luckily we had some chopped green onions in the freezer.  You can also garnish with chopped chinese parsley (cilantro)...we didn't just because it wasn't on sale.

Here's the recipe:

Prep Time: 10-15 mins
Cooking Time: 3 hours on low
4 qt crock pot (although I think this would have fit in the 2 qt)

1 lb. tilapia fillet (or other white flaky fish)
1 t. kosher salt
1 1/2 T. minced fresh ginger
3 T. thinly sliced green onions (chopped works too)
2 T. low sodium shoyu (soy sauce)
2 T. peanut oil
1 T. sesame oil
chinese parsley (cilantro) for garnish

Dango from Nijiya Market
Mix ginger, shoyu (soy sauce) and oils together in a bowl.  Lay out pieces of foil (one per fillet - large enough to fold into a sealed packet).  Wash and pat dry your fish, then rub with kosher salt on each side.  Place the fish in the middle of the foil.  Make a "boat" with your foil (see picture above) so when you pour sauce onto the fish, your sauce doesn't spill out of the foil.  Pour sauce over each piece of fish, divide the sauce up equally.  Scatter green onions on fish.  Fold foil into a sealed packet and place foil packets into the crock pot.  It's ok to stack the packets, they will all cook evenly.  Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.  Be careful when opening packets, steam will come out of the packets when opened.  Garnish with chinese parsley (cilantro) if desired.

We served this with stuffing (just because someone gave us some stuffing the night before), but next time will serve with Japanese rice.

On another note, we finally stopped at Nijiya Market and bought some dango.  It was very good for previously frozen dango.  It's not quite as good as eating dango from the street vendors in Japan, but after microwaving the dango, it was pretty close!

Enjoy, we sure did!

Friday, March 4, 2011

More Crock Pot Meals!

North Shore near Haleiwa
Decided we need to eat in on Friday and Sunday since we'll be joining some friends for pupus (appetizers) at the new Morimoto's in Waikiki!

For this weekend, the planned crock pot meals will be Foil Packet Tilapia made with a shoyu (soy sauce) ginger base (kinda like Chinese Style Steamed Fish) and Buffalo Chicken Strips (using an Anchor Bar recipe we found online.)  A few weeks ago the Travel Channel did a spot on the original buffalo wings originating from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.   We love bufffalo wings, so we just have to try it!

We will post our recipes..even if they are flops...that way you creative chefs out there might want to take the recipe and tweak it a bit to make it better!  Will also post a review of Morimoto's too!

Decided to include a pic taken with our camera phone during our last bike ride on the North Shore near Haleiwa.  It's a beautiful bike path!  We started near Shark's Cove and headed towards Kahuku for about 4 miles before the sun started going down.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Crock Pot Pork Chops and Sauerkraut for Two

HE SAID: Very good, tasty! (he's eating leftovers!)
SHE SAID: Good, will make this again using bone in pork chops and less sugar.

Pork Chops and Sauerkraut
The female half of this couple started feeling disconnected with her crock pot.  The male half of this couple commented sadly (in a jokingly way) that he didn't get any home cooked meals this past weekend.  As per our previous post, last weekend was busy - we dined out a lot.   Decided to slow cook some pork chops for us this week.

We're happy with our crock pot pork chops!  We splurged this week and bought farm raised pork chops which are 3x the price of the mass produced pork.   It was worth it!  We got the pork chops in the crock pot late, so we had to cook them on high (not our preferred way of cooking).  We'll definitely be making these again, but slow cooking it next time.

Served this up for him with some Japanese rice and corn.  For her, the one trying to stick to a lower carb diet, just two pork chops and a small scoop of corn.   We used brown sugar to cut down on the tang of the sauerkraut, but next time we'll try a little less sugar.

You may also use other cuts of pork, but stay away from tenderloin (too dry).  We're trying to eat leaner cuts of meat.

Here's the recipe:

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 7-8 hours on low (4 hours on high)
4 qt crock pot (if you're only doing 4 or less pork chops, use a 2 qt)

4-6 pork chops
14 oz can of sauerkraut with juice (if you're cooking 4 or less pork chops, you may want to use half the can)
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/3 c brown sugar (next time we'll try 1/4 c.)
3/4 c beer (we used Fosters because we already had it in the kitchen)
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
garlic powder
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

Before cooking
Season pork chops with kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder (to taste, we are on a lower sodium diet, so we use more pepper and garlic powder).  Sear in a pan, then transfer pork chops to the crock pot.  Deglaze pan with the beer, transfer the beer to the crock pot (don't forget to scrape the bottom of the pan).  Pour sauerkraut and juice on the pork chops.  Sprinkle brown sugar into the beer sauce along with the minced garlic.

Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

We already rice cooked from the night before, so the male half of this couple ate the chops with rice.  Next time we want to try adding halved red potatoes to the crock pot.

Enjoy...we sure did!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Catching Up On Our Crock Pot Meals

Last weekend turned out to be a busy weekend, not to mention how humid and voggy it was.  Our schedule didn't allow for any crock pot meals...or any homecooked meals!

Tonight we're trying some Pork Chops and Sauerkraut.  Will post that recipe soon.  It smells wonderful.

A side note - last weekend we ate at a couple of great restaurants.  After our spur of the moment sunset bike ride on the North Shore Bike Path near Haleiwa we stopped at Cholo's in the North Shore Market Place.  It was packed!  We ate at the bar which was just fine.  The service is great.  Free chips and salsa (they make their own) and shared a fish burrito which was also great.

On Sunday we went out for a late Valentine's dinner at Hiroshi's.  Another great place.  It's located near Aloha Tower in the Restaurant Row.  Everything we had was fabulous.  The specialize is Eurasian Tapas. We tried two tapas dishes, the hamachi sushi and the misoyaki butterfish.  Both were delicious.  We shared the snapper meal which was good, but the male part of this couple got the half with all the bones :-(

We are looking forward to more homecooking in our crock pot!