June 10th: A new job means, “Ai-ya, Toto, I no tink we stay NYC anymore! Right on, ke’ia, dis!”

While clearing Tutu’s freezah, I have kept my job search on the q-t. More fun to talk about food, no? But, I have indeed been dutifully looking for a job and now I have one! I will keep the company’s name anonymous here, but I will share with you how lovely it is!

This morning, I went to my new office for a team meeting, to get to know all of the players – some of whom are on the neighbor islands. This was to be a two-hour meeting. Yesterday, I noted that this was the first time in years that I was not in preparation mode because I was not leading this session! (the first sign that things have changed!)

As we started, I assumed we would dispense with the intros in a 10 – 15 mins and then move on to discuss the business at hand. My notepad and pen were at the ready.

First, my new boss introduced himself. He shared with us his story of what brought him to this company, starting with his camp experience as a kid.

As he was speaking, my NYC reflexes kicked in. I started to get antsy, worrying about the time we were using, wondering how long this would take because we needed to get to the business…

And then, I heard a little voice in my head, “Husshhhhh, no worry. This is not New York. Just listen.  Let go, and go with it.”

Next up, a colleague who’s been on the team a little over a year. In sharing his story, I learned about how his family came to the islands and his journey that brought him to this meeting today.

One by one, each team member shared their deep personal history through their own individual kumulipo. I learned about their passions, their cultural beliefs, their families. As I listened, I began to understand that this was an incredibly magnificent and important use of time. I was getting to know each and every team member on a personal level. This was like nothing I had ever experienced before. We were becoming ‘ohana right there in the conference room.

When my turn came, I acknowledged that in listening to their stories, I saw a little bit of myself in each of them. We were already part of one another. And then, naturally, I too shared my story, from the Maui origins of my Hawaiian family, my Great-great grandfather, who was a whaling captain sailing out of both New Bedford, MA and Honolulu, another great-great grandfather who came from Germany and was the paymaster for the kingdom, and then all the way through my time on the mainland and my journey home that brought me to this table.

Two hours came and went. We never discussed business. That was the point.

As I reflected on this over the course of the day, I understood what a special meeting this had been and how much of a difference it will make in the days (and years!) ahead of us.

In NYC, we intro’d newbies during bi-weekly company meetings. We spent just a few short minutes going around the room saying our name and our role. That was it. Getting to know my teammates would take place over our tenure together (and, in some cases, not at all). Work was about work, even though the company espoused a culture of people first. Today’s experience confirmed for me how far off the mark that place had been.

This company values Aloha, ‘Ohana, and Kuleana. ‘Ae, they do and it is right there in action from the start.

“Toto, I tink dis da staht of one choice work adventure…”

May 24th: A lazy Tuesday serves up bookended bistro time and some catfish experimentation…

My plan for today was to go for a walk and then head to the beach for a nice swim. But, even though it’s a beautiful day in Nu’uanu I am downright lazy. I was super productive yesterday, so I’m ready to indulge… 🙂

While Tutu is at church, I sift through online recipes for catfish. Bruddah Bruddah bought some frozen at Whole Foods when he was here last month and he never got around to serving it up. I have never made catfish before – heck, I can’t remember when I even ate it — but I sure do remember catching it in Waolani Stream back in the day…

I have no idea what I’m doing.

Epicurious and All-recipes offer up a couple ideas, as does a teeny-weeny catfish recipe book Tutu has on hand – my Dad bought it for her because of her love for this fish. Who knew??? The things you learn when you move home…

As I read through various preparations I realize this might actually work as an adaptation of one of my ALL TIME favorite go-to chicken recipes: Ina Garten’s Crispy Mustard Roasted Chicken. Over to the cookbooks on the counter in the kitchen. “Foolproof” has what I need!!

Tutu asks what’s for lunch and I give her the menu of catfish – she is over-joyed! — and kale chips. And then I swoop in with the disclaimers of using a chicken recipe and not knowing if this will work.  Admittedly, at first I was going to combine two recipes.  But then I thought I would totally experiment with the mustard and white wine – they are great for serving up the most moist chicken, but I am dubious of what will happen with this little fish…

A review the recipe and I get ALLLLLLLL excited because it calls for the food processor! The big guns are gonna come out!

So, here we go.

Baked Catfish, a la Ina Garten’s Crispy Mustard Roasted Chicken. (Note: Below is exactly what I did with the catfish. I’ve linked to the original chicken recipe should you want to do that – basically, I halved the recipe. The cooking time for the fish, is much shorter than for chicken.)

Ok, NOW here we go…


  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp. of dried thyme (it calls for fresh, but we had dried)
  • Hawaiian salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest (zest of one lemon)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (we had Pinot Grigio open in the fridge)
  • 3 catfish fillets (the package we had was just under 1 lb.)

My start: Go outside and read your book in the bistro under the avocado tree while the catfish defrosts (one hour).

Ina’s start: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the garlic, thyme, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced. (OMG, I totally dorked out here. For years, I have minced by hand, and today this just whizzed up in no time flat. I meant to take a picture, but I was totally having a moment and completely spaced.) Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the panko. Pour the mixture onto a large plate. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard and the wine.


My bad, I should have also taken a pic of the mustard and wine.  Awww man, I suck today!

Pat the catfish dry with paper towel. Cut each fillet in half. Sprinkle both sides generously with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat both sides, and then place in the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere (I always have to remind myself of “wet hand” and “dry hand” this time I am successful!!) Place the catfish on a foil covered baking sheet. Press the remaining crumbs on the catfish pieces.


Bake for 10 – 12 minutes. (I accidentally did not check the time when I put it in. So this was my best guess). Check for doneness (I used a knife and fork to separate a piece to see the inside. I still wasn’t sure, so I took a little piece to taste. Perfecto!! Soft and moist, and opaque throughout.) Serve hot or warm.  (I served it warm because I need to make the kale chips in a hotter temp oven.)

As the saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” As regards catfish, this was a WINNER WINNER CATFISH DINNER!!


Tutu took one bite and said, “Ono! You can make dis wit’ chicken!!” 😉

So good, I had another piece right then and there.  All together, a lovely, light lunch. Healthy and onolicious!

And now, back to the bistro!!

May 20th: A little slice of Island Life on this Aloha Friday…

This morning, I brew up a cup of Kona Coffee, pour it into my hydroflask and head on down to Ma’ema’e School, just a wee few minutes walk from my house. Today is their annual May Day celebration – even though it’s May 20th and not Lei Day…

On Wyllie Street, as I near the school, I can hear Hawaiian music wafting in the air. There’s a bit of drizzle – um, so what’s new in Nu’uanu?? – but that isn’t going to make for rain on this island parade!!

The main courtyard area is jam-packed with Mommies and Daddies, Kupuna, Aunties, Uncles, Brothers and Sisters – this is a big time ‘ohana morning.


The rain means that many folks are sitting in the shelter of the hallways that front the classrooms. On the ledge of a planting area is where my okole finds a little spot. I ask the folks who are sitting in the hallway if they mind my sitting here – I am below them, but want to be sure all is ok. Daddy says, “Oh, no problem! But, get da drips from da roof, eh?” I thank him and take my spot awaiting our little performance that is officially on Hawaiian time (15 mins late 😉 )

Each class takes their place on the slope of the field. This brings me back to my days in Kindergarten and 1st grade when I was a little one sitting on this very slope watching May Day.


And now, it’s showtime!

In all my years working in theatre and with performing arts nonprofits, I have seen a ka-billion little kid shows. I am so moved as I watch these keiki – I AM HOME. Nothing tops this little piece of island performance heaven…

The 2nd Graders welcome us with “Eia makou na pua o’ Hawaii” (Here we are, the children of Hawaii). The tears well and fall as I video this priceless gem. I’m a little embarrassed to be crying, but it has now started to rain a bit harder, so who can tell if it’s “da drips” or da kine tear drops? Breathe, Aunty. Breathe!

Just look at these colorful cuties…


‘Auwe, the video I took is much too big to post here, so, instead, I give you the lyrics – you can hear this in your head, no? Go sing along…

–Eia makou, na pua o’ Hawaii! (Here we are, the children of Hawaii!)

–Eia makou, na keiki ho’okani! (Here we are, the merry little children!)

–Eia makou, na alaka’i nani! (Here we are, the leaders of tomorrow!)

–Oli e, oli e, no makou! (Come along and join us in our song!)

While this is playing out, I go spock what is definitely an “only in Hawaii” scene…


Try look all da slippahs in da pile…

3rd Graders dancing “Alekoki” — about the waterfall just down the way – serves up your classic pu’ili traffic management action in all its glory. With all the pu’ili flying in every direction, good thing this was a hula noho – “Eh, no hit yoah classmate!! You going put someone’s eye out!” (Youuuuu know YOU heard dis small kid time. Alekoki is among the first in our keiki hula repertoire!)

‘Auwe, was raining and some ledeh in front had her umbrella up high while she videod her kiddo. So, no picha on dis one. Bummahs.

And, who doesn’t remember singing, “King Kamehameha, the conqueror of Hawaii, became a famous hero one day. He fought a native army, and PUSHED them over the Pali and crowned himself King of Hawaii Nei!!”

Who better to demonstrate this Hawaiian warrior fierceness?  Pre-K Keiki Kane, gettin’ da job done!


Look dere plastic raincoat-kine ‘ahu’ula…I stay dying, dey so cute!!!

When I came home I showed the video to Tutu and she go laugh and say, “Ho, da cuuuuuuute!” And then she started singing along and gave a resounding, “’Auwe e no ho’i e…” as the last line of the song. Too good, eh?  4-year olds, and one 84-year old!!!

So much aloha on display today — I totally lose it when the 5th graders pile their retiring teacher, Mrs. Nakamura, with lei – so many, another teacher helps unload a few to make way for more. Not a dry eye in da house, fo’ shua.


Naturally, I am reminded of how special this is to island life. The genuine outpouring of aloha for this beloved teacher makes my pu’uwai overflow, my maka take care of the emotional spill…

Ahhh, piha ka na’au. Mahalo, na pua o’ Ma’ema’e!!

There is no recipe for this kind of joy!

May 18th: A little bit of Costco, and a little bit of leftovers…Spinach, Strawberry, Gorgonzola salad, and open-faced sandwiches.

Another week, another Costco run. This time, just for the essentials: vino, cheese, fruit, and vegetables. Of course we stop to check out the latest in Costco Fashion (I am a super big fan of their mini- work-out skorts, it’s like they’re my new uniform. 😮 !!).  Nothing for us there, today, though.

No visit is EVER complete without a stop at Costco Library.  Again, nothing goes in the cart this time – although I did spend some quality time with The Barefoot Contessa’s collection while Tutu got her Diamond Crackahs…

On the way in, Tutu says she wants Costco take-out pizza for lunch. I cannot even find words to respond, I am NOT spending my day’s calories on that.  I just calmly say, “I’m eating the leftover pasta from yesterday.”

Naturally, as we progress with our shopping, this all goes out the window.

In our cart, we have baby spinach and strawberries, and my mind drifts to that sensational summer salad with that + gorgonzola, red onion, and toasted almonds. THAT’s what I’m going to make!! Into our cart goes a GIANT wedge of gorgonzola – lots o’ fun times to come with this little friend…

Tutu has bought multi-grain bread – which I know, “goes in da freezah” – and announces that she will make us open-faced sandwiches with pastrami (from da freezah!!) and sliced cheese – her cheese addition to our cart.

Home we go!

While Tutu works her magic with the sandwiches, I get down to business with the salad…alas, this also calls for avocado. Drat. I forgot. And, our tree is not yet ready to give up its babies. So, we forge on. Still ono, no matter what.


I found this recipe online a couple years ago, and I just handwrote it, so I have NO IDEA to whom the credit should go. Dear Universe, please thank the generous soul who posted this somewhere for me to find…

Here it is for you:

Avocado, Strawberry, Spinach Salad:

  • 6 cups of baby spinach (you can use arugula, too. Just a little more tangy)
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced (hull: you know, cut of the top, slice in half, and slice out the white center part, leaving only the red.)
  • 1 avocado, diced (you can use two!)
  • 4 oz gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (you can use more, good crunch!  No multi-tasking while you toast these — they go from just perfect to papa’a (burnt) before you can say “multi-task”)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Toss all ingredients together.  Serve immediately!

Note: This is a one-hit wonder. Make only as much as you need. It will not be pretty as a leftover. It will still taste fine, but the avocados will have browned by the next day and the whole thing will just be , well, all I can say is, “un-pretty.”

(In order to make just enough for us, I took two small salad bowls and placed enough spinach in each to fill both.  That was the basis.  Then I eye-balled the rest.)

May 17th: Da Quickie Lunch! Garlic and Basil Pasta with Chicken/Spinach Sausage.

It’s Tuesday.  I head out on my little walk in nature and find these views for me  and you…


Still working on finding out what this tree is.  It has the most beautiful wooden seed pods!


Irises in Hawaii.

I have been fortunate enough to visit the iris garden that Van Gogh painted while he was in the asylum just outside of St. Remy, France.   I am so inspired by visiting an artist’s surroundings.  To see the vantage point from which the masters created his/her work is an experience that cannot be matched.   I feel as if I am able to understand them a little better, and I am moved to regard what their eyes chose to re-create.

My faves:  Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam — complete with her scribbles on the wall, and the items she pasted as wall-paper; Cezanne’s Studio outside of Aix-en-Provence, with it’s long thin slit on the second floor where he pulley-ed in his blank canvases; and Jackson Pollock’s Barn in the Hamptons, on Long Island, where the pain splatters are just beneath your feet!


A Hawaiian Crane — I followed him for a while and he finally obliged with this shot!

These always remind me of my Dad.  I love when I find them in completely unexpected places — he’s always watching…no?


A May Day practice in session for this Friday’s performance at Ma’ema’e Elementary School.   Both my brother and I spent Kindergarten and 1st Grade here.  This little slice of green holds a wonderfully special place in my family’s collective hearts.  (I am so charmed, I’m gonna go sit and watch this performance on Friday morning.)

As I return from my walk, Tutu comes home from church.  And now, morning is fast becoming afternoon.  This afternoon, the plumber is coming to wrap up work he left off on Saturday.  His work will be in the kitchen, so, my time to whip up something is limited!!

Tutu wants pasta. She takes out a packet of Trader Joe’s Garlic Basil that my cousin gave to her – among other cute items – for Mother’s Day. I say I need to think about it for a minute. I ruminate in the shower – doesn’t everyone do their best thinking there with the water streaming overhead?

The solution – Freezah ingredient: Chicken/Spinach sausage from Costco.


This was fast and ono and there was no recipe:

  • Garlic and Basil Pasta (or whatever pasta you have in your cupboard!)
  • 4 Chicken/Spinach Sausage links, cut into 1/4” slices (or whatever sausage you have!)
  • One medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • Several spoonfuls of grated parmesan
  • Hawaiian Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the pasta according to the package instructions – I kept taste-checking to get to the perfect al dente. While the water is boiling, brown the sausage pieces. Add the onion and the garlic, sweating them until translucent. Add Hawaiian salt and pepper – taste to determine desired seasoning.

Drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sausage mixture. Fold together. Spoon desired amount of grated parmesan and serve immediately!

One thing I forgot to do!!! Reserve just a little of the pasta water, and add a couple spoonfuls to the sausage and pasta. The pasta got a little sticky. The water would have helped a bit.

May 14th: We break to make lei for our malihini from NYC…

On Monday, I will have been home for two months! Tonight, I am entertaining my first visitors from NYC. They are celebrating their first wedding anniversary. I couldn’t be more excited to have them to the beach for sunset cocktails.

Everyone knows it is tradition to honor a guest with a lei. I might have gone down to Chinatown to pick out a beaut’ but today, UH is graduating and so, well, that’s not so great an idea…

But, this is Hawaii, and we all always have flowers in our yard. It’s time to make a lei.

Ooops. We can’t find our ancient lei needles – they used to live in the top drawer in the kitchen, because they were in constant use. No idea where they have gone. Long’s to the rescue! (Of course, EVERYONE has the same idea so we have to go to two Long’s before we are successful!!)

Back at home, I step outside to our front yard. We have gorgeous stephanotis meanderingly growing on a trellis on our front wall.


I clip a few heads and take them back to the kitchen to soak ensuring there are no little bugs.


One by one, and then in bunches of three, I string them onto the needle, and then onto the thread (I doubled sewing thread to get the right thickness).


I have enough to make this two strands – one shorter, one longer.


This took me back to being a kid – we made leis all the time. They were always so simple, and yet, so special, because we took the time to make them ourselves. I hope this brings my friend joy that equals what I felt when I made this.


A lei is strung with love. It is filled with love. And, it is given with love – with a hug and a kiss, that’s the proper way.

May 11th: Da Snack Tips Edition!

It’s nighttime. We are watching some movie on tv. Earlier in the day, we had lunch out, so we’re not super hungry, just a little shnack will do.

Pistachios. Good and good for you! But frustrating as hell when you are down to the last few that just will. Not. Open!!

I go to throw them out. Tutu says, “NO!! Wait! I go show you.”

She proceeds to take the half shell of opened one and uses it to create leverage in the space on the ones I have given up on. Annnnnnnd, they magically open!!!

Try it yourself. And, don’t forget to thank Tutu when you do!

May 7th: Tutu takes on her own fridge – Potato Mac salad with Tuna!

It’s Derby Day!  I am missing my friends in CT — they always have the most rocking (ha!  Get it??) Derby Party.

Tutu and I plan to watch and she has something special in store fo’ grindz…

We have some leftover linguine.  She has decided it’s time to make Potato Mac Salad with Tuna – seriously, my all time fave, even though I should never, ever share that with a health professional…

Tutu goes to work:

Boil a couple eggs. Peel and boil a potato. Chop the eggs into fine pieces (she uses an egg slicer, which, when I was little, I insisted was harp. How many of these did I break – “Mommy, listen!! It’s a harp!! Br-r-r-ring, twang. Oh. Sorry, Mommy…”). Open a can of tuna, loosen with a fork. In a large bowl – LARGE BOWL – mix everything together – you can also add some celery for crunch, we didn’t have any this time. Add mayo, enough to coat all the ingredients but not make to creamy or soupy. Sprinkle with paprika. Enjoy!! (Tastes even better on the second day when all the flavors miko!!)


Good thing I had already taken a nice walk and have a hike planned for tomorrow!!!

Carbee-Diem! (note the empty bowl…)

May 2nd: Post-Bruddah, back in action, Stuffed Bitter Melon

Our friend from my Mom’s church was over our house several weeks ago and naturally we were talking food and cooking.  (No, really???)  She and her husband have the most awesome-est garden at their home up Alewa Heights. She is always bringing us goodies from her yard. She mentioned that her bitter melon was coming in and I commented that I liked it – my Mom does not. And so, a couple weeks later, a handful of bitter melons come back with my Mom from church!

My mind’s taste buds take me to stuffed bitter melon from a chinese take out place down Kaneohe. I haven’t had this in ages, and I have never made it. But, game on!!!

I need to consult Mary Sia’s cookbook for the pork hash. Meantime, last week, we were out with da Aunties, and one of them talked me through the recipe and technique she and her family used at their restaurant.

Instead of making pork hash – which is super easy – I decided to make the stuffing from leftovers (see?  Following the theme…) kiawe smoked pork, and teriyaki chicken, both from Ruger Market – leftovahs from a weekend pahty!

Additionally, I chose to add some wood-ear fungus that I sent home from my NYC pantry. I bought this dried from Chinatown when I made jai a while back. Just needed to soak a little bit to rehydrate.

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Mary Sia’s recipe is below. But, my version was truly a fusion of Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian influences. A complete testament to follow a recipe, but just use what you have and don’t stress about it.

Bitter Melon Stuffed with Pork – from Mary Sia’s Chinese Cookbook

  • 6 medium-sized bitter melons
  • 8 water chestnuts (canned is just fine!)
  • ½ cup green onions, cut in 1/4” lengths
  • 1-1/2 cups ground roast pork (you could just use ground pork, but sweetness of the char siu makes the flavor and balances the bitterness of the melon. In this case, I used both the smoked pork and teriyaki chicken. Same idea.)
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry (I skipped this. We didn’t have)
  • 3 Tbsp. Shoyu
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp, gourmet powder (no idea what this is. So, I skipped!)

Cut each melon crosswise into 1-1/2” pieces, remove the seeds. Peel water chestnuts (What???? Use da can opener, and hemo from da can), mince. Add water chestnuts and green onions to roast pork. Add sherry, shoyu, pepper, and gourmet powder and mix well (I put it all in the food processor and zipped it to a fine but chunky consistency).

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Stuff each piece of melon with the meet filling.

This part is from Aunty: Place stuffed melons in a skillet, sauté in sesame oil – you want to lightly brown the bottom (you’re not going to be able to see this, but it’s just to get it cooked from underneath, first)

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Back to Mary Sia’s


  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch (I just used Gold Medal flower)
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry (skipped!)
  • 2 Tbsp. shoyu
  • 1 tsp. Hawaiian salt
  • 1 tsp. gourmet powder (skipped).

Mix all ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until the sauce is simmering gently, add to the stuffed melon. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

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This was GOOOOOOOOD!!! And, it was all for me, Tutu wouldn’t come near it.  🙁  — > 🙂


April 29th: Recovering from bruddah’s vacation…

Clearly, you know I love to cook. But I also love to read (and to write and share with you all! 🙂  ) I really crave reading outdoors.  In NYC, I would go up to our building’s roofdeck to soak up some warm sun, and sit among the flowers reading whatever title was the latest in my repertoire.



Now that I’m home, it’s no different. Typically, my outdoor reading is on the beach, but I remember now, that when you live here, you don’t necessarily want to spend hours reading on the beach – like you do when you’re only home for 10 days…

Hellooooo, Bistro Nu’anu under the avocado tree. The perfect space. Quiet. Outside. Shaded from the sun.  Canopied thickly to guard against the rain.  Ahhh, this is the spot!!!

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My smoothie and my book. Done and done.