Tropical Paradise, Floras & Frutas (vol 1)

It is truly amazing to have many tropical plants growing in our back yards and sometimes I realize how I dismiss the beauty growing around me. I now capture my tropical paradise more often than before as I am very lucky to live in paradise. I often complain that it’s too humid, too hot, too chilly when temperatures drop below 80 degrees, too rainy, ya dida blah blah. Sometimes I feel the weather can’t make up it’s mind or is bipolar and then I stop and see that all these changes are what makes our island unique and special… tropical. It is our distinctive weather that allows us to grow vibrant floras (flowers) and delicious frutas (fruits) that our island visitors from around the world come to treasure and appreciate.

Enjoy the first of a series of posts highlighting the beauty of our island’s floras and frutas.

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Papaya grown by my-laws in their garden.

Because the tree is so fruitful, my in-laws give away their papaya to anyone who wants them. Bear eats it raw when fully ripe and sweet. My mother likes the young papaya that is just about to become ripe, slightly orange but mostly white flesh, for pickling. Mmmmm… candied papaya or Mrs. Tudela’s papaya turnover sounds good just about now. What would you do with it? The possibilities are endless.

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Stage 1 – flowering of the mango. You can see small green buds that are the young pollinated fruits starting to grow. This preymantis is giving me that stare down to stay away from his territory.

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Stage 2-3 – The survivors of many continue to grow and start off cashew shaped and then straightens out.

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Yes, these mangoes are dunkolo (huge). We gave a mango seed to my father-in-law 4 years ago from a tree near our former residence. We had never seen mangoes so large with a lot of meat inside, extremely sweet, and juicy. He successfully grow the seed and it now produces so much since. He says we are only allowed to pick one mango per season as a thank you for the seed. Nice try dad! I’ve made smoothies, cut them up into bite size pieces and ate them as a frozen snack, baked mango cake and bread, and so much more.

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Mom-in-law has these vivid flowers growing in the front of her house. They are so lovely to look at. Makes me happy whenever I see them. I believe they are called datei/Indian mallow. Do you know?

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My father-in-law had these and I was so excited to see them. I remember eating these so much as a child. This is actually the first since moving home that I’ve come across these. He says that auntie down the street has a tree of these. Exciting!

Bear or his dad do not remember the name but say it from a lemai (breadfruit) type tree. So I asked around and also researched. “Mansåles…something like that,” my assistant says. A colleague thought it was a large åbas (guava). After searching mansales, I came up with nothing. After searching for about an hour, I “think” I found the name…  ambarella (aka ‘kedon, jew plum, June plum, and so on). Do you know of another name?

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Ambarella has a very tough, sour, bitter skin. The inside contains a hard hairy pit. The fruit is crunchy and tastes like a combination of young guava, coconut, green apple. It is slightly tart but sweet and leaves a thin film on your tongue and grainy feel on the roof of your mouth. It is not one that I can eat often but the mere fact I’ve had the chance to eat it is satisfying enough.

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Finally, my fave of all flowers. I bought stephanotis seeds during one of my daycations to Hawaii but never planted them… I don’t have the green thumb to grow from the seeds. I am more successful with starter plants, which I was lucky to find on another Hawaii daycation.

Since planting it by my driveway, I have had the pleasure of smelling them before I go to work and when I return. Sometimes the jasmine-like fragrance is so intense, especially when it rains, that I can smell it from afar.

I waited a whole year for 1 seed pod to open up so I could give it to my father-in-law. He fell in love with this flower after smelling them at my house but can never remember the name. Tonight he informed that he has successfully grown 4 seeds and is excited to plant them down to grow wild in his garden.

Stay tuned for more Tropical Paradise posts.

Passion: Island Life

Tony Romas – Hagatna

When the in-laws call for a last minute dinner, how can you refuse? Bear bumped into them at Docomo. He was there to disconnect our cable and home phone and they were they connecting theirs.

After paying so much for cable with HD channels, we came to the conclusion we no longer needed it since Apple TV suits our needs and we can Netflix & Hulu. When we did watch any cable channels it was for news or Food Network, both of which we can find online. We rarely receive calls on our home phone so we figured that it was pointless to continue paying for it. We kept our internet and Bear’s cellular active but all others are gone along with the expensive bill that came along with them.

To our surprise there were $4-$5 happy hour specials on beer, cocktails, and appetizers from 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm. Happy hour starts at 2:00 pm? Bear was already there when I arrived at 6:15 pm and we immediately placed orders for beer and spinach artichoke dips while we waited for the rest of the family to arrive.

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Doesn’t look busy but it got busy later. That’s Bear enjoying Stella.

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Bear seating available for those wanting a more informal dining experience or the men who want to tune into the ESPN.

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Happy hour spinach artichoke dip $5 but half the size of regular order.

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They provide The Guam Daily Post for your reading pleasure as you wait for your food along with a basket or two or three of fresh hot baguette with butter.

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Although I wanted to order this baby but it was the in-laws treat.

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So I got the miniature version of the lobster. I had a small appetite tonight and the coconut shrimp appetizer and a bowl of french onion soup seemed fitting. Plus I’ve learned over time that I never finish my full size meal. Appetizers are perfect portions to avoid leftovers. By the way, Tony Romas’s french onion soup is one of the best I’ve tried on island.

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The rest of the family ordered 1/2 rack ribs.

Tony Romas – Hagatna
Agana Shopping Center
Open daily: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Happy hour (Mon-Fri) 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Passion: Dining

4-Leaf Clover Garden

It’s been awhile that I’ve searched for 4-leaf clovers in my garden. It was a relaxing day of house and yard work so I figured I sit down and find a few. Today I found three.

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I don’t have a dedicated clover garden but they grow wild around my garden. I was pretty excited when I spotted my first 4-leaf by accident in 2014. It took awhile to train my eyes to spot them but after finding so many over time I can zero in on them almost instantly.

As an Irish descent from my maternal grandfather and with our homes sitting on the same lot my grandfather raised chickens and farmed eggs I’d say it is luck of the Irish and grandfather sprinkling his love onto my garden.

Some days I would find one 4-leaf and others I would find five or more. Once I found eight including a 5-leaf clover. It is said that chances of discovering a four leaf clover are 1:10 000 however my garden has proven otherwise.

I have preserved all of them between the pages of my Anne of Green Gables and Anne of the Island & Tales of Avonlea books. I’m sure Ms. Anne Shirley wouldn’t mind having some luck by her side.

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You can see that I did not press them well as the 4th leaf on some swiveled to nearly non-existent and have browned.

As of today I may have about 40 or more preserved 4-leaf clovers and I really don’t know what to do with them. I’ve thought of making necklaces, bracelets, or paper weights but I don’t have the slightest clue on how. I have researched resin, decoupage, you name it but they seem difficult.

Here are some of my previous finds.

4leaf1Far right clover is a 5-Leaf

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If you know of simple and easy crafts that will not ruin the delicate clovers or a better way to preserve them please do share.

Should you stumble across a clover patch, challenge yourself to try to find one. Some say that each leaf symbolizes hope, faith, charity, and luck and other say fame, wealth, love, and health.

Passion: Collectibles

Pika’s Cafe

Pika's Cafe
Pika’s Cafe

We started going to Pika’s Cafe when they first opened their doors and were located on the opposite end of the building they are currently located. The former location was smaller with only approximately 20 seats. Since expanding, they have grown their image and brand to be one of the island’s favorite breakfast and lunch joints with locals and visitors.

Bear was craving for their breakfast kimchee & bulgogi fried rice and salmon benedict so we rushed over and got there by 10:00 am knowing breakfast service ends at 10:30 am. We were told upon signing the wait list that it’ll be a 10 minute wait so we were happy that we’ll still be able to order breakfast.

During our wait outside one server opened the door as guests were leaving and mentioned that they would be opening on Sundays. I was surprised but saw it coming seeing with how popular the restaurant has become.

I would always tell others that Pika, co-owner of Pika’s Cafe, had mentioned during a Guam Women’s Chamber round table meeting that one of her conditions to her husband before opening the restaurant was that Sunday’s would be their family day to spend time with their children so opening on Sunday was off limits. I always thought this was a great ground rule and example for business owners with children. However on that same token I always thought Sunday was one day that many locals and visitors dined out and was a day that most restaurants should open their doors, especially the popular ones.

I checked their Facebook page and it confirmed January 22 as their first Sunday operation. Yay! We don’t only have Saturday to dine there. The wait would not be as long now that weekend diners have a choice or… are Sunday church goers going to be our next hurdle. The struggle is real with a restaurant in such demand. We need a plan of attack.

With that said, we finally got seated after 30 minutes and the lunch menu was now in effect. Bummers!

Coffee
Coffee first

Our server was courteous and consistently checked on us even as busy as they were.

Our server did not mention to us about opening on Sunday. Yet, I wonder if the owners dedicated another day of the week as their family day or is it still Sunday and they are entrusting the Sunday operation to their dedicated and hard working staff members to keep the restaurant afloat.

Breakfast at Pika's
Lunch at Pika’s

Bear ordered the Classic Burger Champ with Fried Egg. It was a very tasty burger and the ciabata bun, lana sauce, and avocado was a nice touch on the classic burger. However, he would have liked the the classic burger condiments of ketchup, mayo, and mustard in the burger or on the side. The burger was served alone with no starch. Regular or shoe string fries would complete the $15.00 dish. A small portion of fried taro, lemai, or banana chips would add an island touch.

Classic Burger
Classic Burger Champ $15.00

I was glad to a different item and ordered the Shrimp Club panini. The chili aioli had a slight kick and the panini was grilled to perfection. At $14.00, I also would have liked a starch to accompany my meal and maybe a creamy dipping sauce like ranch dressing to mellow down the chili aioli.

Shrimp Panini
Shrimp Club $14.00

I am glad to see how successful Pika’s Cafe has become. They have won in different categories for Pika’s Best over the years. We will continue to dine here even without the condiments and starches. It is one of our highly recommended places to visiting family, friends, and clients.

Pika’s Cafe $$
Open daily: 7:30am-3:00pm
888 N. Marine Corps Drive
Star Building,
Tumon
(Chamorro directions: across St. John’s school)
671-647-PIKA (7452)

View their menus at:
To Go: http://tinyurl.com/PikasToGo2015
Kids: http://tinyurl.com/PikasKids2013
Catering & Private Party Menu: http://tinyurl.com/Catering2014Pikas

Passion: Dining

Sesame Garlic Pasta

Of all the pasta meals I make, this one is Bear’s favorite. It is so simple and easy . The ingredients worketogether in harmony and is truly the “less is more” meal since it is not a saucy pasta dish nor completely dry.

Kitchen Gadget
Pasta Noodle Measurer (1-4 servings)

Measure 4 servings of pasta. I use this kitchen gadget to help. I make 4 servings so we have leftovers for lunch or if Bear decides to go for a second or third serving.

Yes… you read correctly. Boil your pasta in a frying pan. After discovering this, I no longer boil my pasta the traditional way – fill a pot of 8-9 cups water with salt, wait for it to boil, then throw in my pasta. I use the method above for all types of pasta.

Add pasta to pan and add cold water and turn on stove. The pasta will not stick to each other. As the water becomes a simmer, give the pasta a stir. Cook pasta until al dente. I do not follow the recommended package cooking time since the pasta is already started cooking while the water was heating up. You’ll find less pasta water in the pan and perfectly cooked pasta.

While boiling your pasta, prepare ingredients for the sesame garlic sauce.

Sauce Ingredients

Combine ingredients into small pan and simmer for 1-2 minutes until brown sugar dissolves and ingredients soften and blend together, reserving 2 tsp green onion for garnish. I ran out of sesame seeds as my usual garnish for this dish.

Simple Sauce

It may not seem like there is enough sauce to coat the pasta but it is.

Simmer sauce

When pasta is done, drain over another bowl so you can obtain some pasta water.

Drain pasta

Reserve 4 tbsp pasta water

Pasta water

Season shrimp with salt & black pepper and fry in the same frying pan you used to boil pasta, 2-3 minutes on each side (depending on the size of shrimp).

Fry shrimp

Add the 4 tbsp of reserved pasta water

Add pasta water

Mix in the drained pasta with shrimp and toss toss immediately.

Pasta & Shrimp

Turn off heat and add sesame garlic sauce and toss until pasta is fully coated

Pour sauce and toss

Add the 2 tsp reserved green onion. I would also added sesame seeds but that’s on my next grocery run.

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Enjoy! This is the point where Bear would sarcastically tell me to stopping eating it because it’s horrible and he would spare me from such a terrible dish by eating all of it 🙂

Sesame Garlic Pasta

Sesame Garlic Pasta

4 servings pasta
4 tbsp reserved pasta water
14 pcs large shrimp
salt & black pepper

Sauce
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk green onions, chopped
– – reserve 2 tsp for garnish
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp spoon brown sugar (dark or light)
2 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp butter
Sesame seeds

Boil pasta in frying pan until al dente. While pasta is cooking make the sauce.

Combine all sauce ingredients into simmer for 2-3 minutes until brown sugar dissolves and ingredients soften & blend together.

Once pasta is cooked, drain in colander over large bowl and reserve 4 tbsp pasta water.

Season shrimp with salt and black pepper. Fry/saute in the same frying pan used to boil pasta until fully cooked, 2-3 minutes per side. Add reserved pasta water to shrimp then add drained pasta and toss immediately.

Turn off heat and add sauce to pasta. Toss until fully coated. Garnish with sesame seeds and 2 tsp reserved green onion.

screen-shotBear’s way of showing his love for this pasta.

Passion: Kitchen Kreations

Honey Garlic Wings & Bear’s Poor Man’s Tuna Poké

Tonight’s dinner was a treat from Bear and he was more than happy to be my model for this post and ever so patient while I snapped away at everything he did so I could get the perfect photo. Let’s say dinner took longer to prepare than usual. He typically kicks me out of the kitchen until dinner is ready. I helped a little but big props to this man for doing most of the work.

We are not professional chefs and simply love to experiment in the kitchen. So we encourage you to give these a try and let us know how it turned out. If you have any suggestions or tweaks you made to your recipe, we would love to hear about it.

BEAR’S POOR MAN’S TUNA POKÉ

Bear had a craving for his poor man’s tuna poké /poʊˈkeɪ/. Although I don’t eat poké and he would love for me to one day try it… he’s more than glad to have the entire dish to himself. “You’re loss… more for me,” he says.

Poké can be served with your meal but is normally prepared as an appetizer/pupus. Many would say that poké is best paired with a nice super cold beer that has been in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

SAMSUNG CSCCube tuna into bite size chunks.

SAMSUNG CSCAdd to medium size mixing bowl

SAMSUNG CSCAdd sesame oil and stir

SAMSUNG CSCthen add rock salt

SAMSUNG CSCsprinkle in furikake and stir

SAMSUNG CSCAdd cucumber

SAMSUNG CSCthen onion

SAMSUNG CSCStir all ingredients together, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour in refrigerator to let the ingredients to get cold and blend together.

Bear’s Poor Man’s Tuna Poké
1 lb Tuna, cubed
4 tbsp Pure Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Alaea Hawaiian Rock Sea Salt
2 tbsp Sushi & Sashimi Soy Sauce
2 tbsp Nori Fumi Furikake
1/3 Cucumber, cubed
1/3 Onion, cubed

Cube tuna and add to medium mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour to allow ingredients to get cold and meld together. Enjoy!

HONEY GARLIC WINGS

It was our first time making the honey garlic chicken wings and it turned out as tasty as it sounded. I am also excited to share two kitchen gadgets that I frequently use.

SAMSUNG CSCIn a small mixing bowl add flour, garlic & onion powder, salt, and black pepper

SAMSUNG CSCCoat chicken wings on both sides

SAMSUNG CSCFry wings in peanut or vegetable oil heated to 375°F for 4 minutes on each side

SAMSUNG CSCAnother 4 mins on 2nd side of wings

SAMSUNG CSCPlace cooked wings on platter or baking trey lined with paper towel to soak excess oil

I use this garlic peeler tube often and it has been a time saver. Made of silicone, 1-2 pieces of garlic cloves with husk are placed inside the tube. Press down on tube where cloves are located and roll back and forth with firm pressure. The cloves are cleanly separated from the husk. No more smashing and peeling.

Finely dice garlic and add to a medium sauce pan. For each clove, I slice vertically then horizontally and finally across the grains to get perfectly diced garlic. No… I don’t have a garlic chopper kitchen gadget 🙂 but the next gadget is awesome.

SAMSUNG CSCCut off the tough skin of the ginger and then mince with either the next gadget, a garlic press, handheld grater, or with a knife. There are many tools out there but this was given to me by my cousin who bought it from a vendor who made these and sold them at a Kailua, Hawaii craft fair. and I’ve had it for over 12 years.

This ceramic grater/mincer is about the size of a cup saucer. What makes it unique is that crevices or indentations were made in the ceramic and hand painted prior to being fired in the kiln. I use it for garlic, ginger, and even onion if a good mince is needed. The brush came with it which helps get every good bit of the ginger.

SAMSUNG CSCAdd ginger, butter, soy sauce, honey, and brown sugar to sauce pan with garlic.

SAMSUNG CSCSimmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes until brown sugar has dissolved and the garlic and ginger has had time to infuse the sauce.

SAMSUNG CSCPlace wings in large mixing bowl and pour in honey garlic sauce

SAMSUNG CSCTwirl. Toss. Flip. Mix. Whatever gets the job done. Don’t let the wings sit in the remaining sauce that settles at bottom of bowl. Remove from mixing bowl and set onto serving plate.

SAMSUNG CSCSuccess! Yummy! Gone!

Chicken Wing Batter
1/2 c flour
3/4 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in small mixing bowl. Coat wings on both sides. Fry in 375°F oil for 4 minutes on each side. Place cooked wings on paper towel lined baking sheet or platter. Set aside and make sauce.

Chicken Wing Sauce
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp diced/chopped garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce

Mix all ingredients together in medium sauce pan. Coat wings on both sides. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes until brown sugar has dissolved and the garlic and ginger has had time to infuse the sauce mix.

Transfer wings into a large mixing bowl and pour sauce over wings. Twirl. Swirl. Flip. Mix. Whatever gets the wings coated. Serve with rice and Bear’s Poor Man’s Tuna Poké.

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Passion: Kitchen Kreations

Tuna Sushi Bake

Sushi bake is one of those dishes the is accompanied by a craving for it. It’s a simple dish but is not one of those dishes that you can just whip up. Depending on Bear’s mood, I make it with either tuna, chicken, crabmeat, or salmon. I made tuna the other night after thinking about it all day at work.

Sushi bakes were made popular by the crabmeat version but it evolved with the use of other meat products. It’s a musubi type dish that is baked with the meat product on top and wrapped with laver/seaweed sheets.

laver

I purchase the seaweed at San Jose Supermarket. At $1.59 for 1 package of 8 trays containing 6 pieces of seaweed per tray is a steal.

ingredients-1

Sushi Rice
6 cups cooked white rice
3-4 tbsp rice vinegar or 1/2 packet rice vinegar powder
4 + 2 tbsp TastyIsland rice seasoning (nori fumi furikake)

rice-with-furikake

Let cooked rice cool a bit where it is not piping hot and the steam can barely be seen. Mix in the rice vinegar with rice in the same pot you cooked your rice. There’s no need to dirty another dish. Rice vinegar has a pungent smell and taste so start with 3 tbsps. Add furikake. Taste and adjust vinegar or furikake. Keep in mind that the furikake mix I use contains salt so 4 tbsps is enough for the amount of rice used.

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Transfer sushi rice to 9×13 baking dish press to into pan. Tip: wet your rice spoon with water to prevent rice from sticking as your spread and press rice.

sprinkle-furikake-on-top-of-rice

Sprinkle the 2 tbsps of furikake onto of pressed rice.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

tuna-strainer-2

Strain your tuna from the juices. So let me just say that I take pleasure in straining my tuna because of this kitchen gadget. The struggles I used to have prior to finding this at a local $1.99 store, Sweet Home Dededo.

mix-onion-mayo-siracha-blk-pepper

Add tuna to mixing bowl along with other ingredients. If you like a spicy kick, feel free to add more siracha.

place-and-press-tuna-on-top-of-rice

Spread tuna mix on top of sushi rice. Be sure to spread the tuna evenly.

bake-for-15-mins

Bake for 10 mins and then turn oven from bake to broil and broil for 5 mins additional minutes.

cut-into-bite-size-pieces

Remove from oven and cut into bite size pieces. Best served hot.

Tuna Topping
6 cans 5oz chunk white tuna, drained
1/8 piece of white onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup mayonnaise – I only use Best Foods
2-3 tsp siracha or more depending on your spice level
Salt & Pepper

wrap-in-lavor-strips

Wrap with 1 seaweed sheet like I do or…

or-sandwich-between-2-lavers

…sanwich between 2 sheets like Bear does. You find that the seaweed sheets disappear much faster that the sushi so buy enough.

Passion: Kitchen Kreations

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