When I wake up crying

Hawaii kid time

I had a dream last night about my Aunty Marilyn. For some reason I didn’t see anyone else in this dream, just Aunty Marilyn, but I knew there were other family members there. We were all helping her pack up the house so she could move. That house on Lunaai Street in Kailua holds a lot of memories. One of my favorite pictures of my brothers and sisters and cousins was taken on the far side of the pool, Mt. Olomana in the background, each of us organized by age. My Uncle Jack took this picture, along with who knows how many thousands of others. We were always saying “Uncle Jack! Not another picture!” Now, of course, each one is precious. Even more so now since Uncle Jack passed away this year.

Anyway, I woke up crying. It felt like Aunty Marilyn was moving away from but I didn’t know where to. The feeling of my family getting dim in my mind’s eye, like fading old pictures, made me quite sad. I miss them. All my old aunties, sitting on the back seat of The Bus, dressed up in their muu muus, hats, bandanas and shell purses. They would see me get on the bus, probably leaving Community College, and shout “Stevie! Stevie! E nei!” The many, many family dinners at the house on Lunaai, or at our house on Hui Kelu, or at the beach. Spending time with my dear cousin Laurie and getting the drama bug from her and my sister, Eve. Braving King Intermediate with my dear friend, Peter Jones (who I owe an email–Peter, I didn’t forget). You get the picture. I’m having one of those bittersweet moments.

This holiday season (whatever you want to call it) take my advice. Enjoy every moment. Even the ones where someone has a little too much to drink and starts singing “Stormy Weather” with great gusto. Oh, and don’t miss the ones where the two old aunties break out an ukulele and tissue paper and comb and bust into a hilarious rendition of “Meleana E”. This year I’m planning to make new memories but I know the old will be with me always.

Mele Kalikimaka! and Hauoli Makahiki Hou!

The Hansen Girls Cheesecake

This is my favorite cheesecake. The recipe comes from the daughters of my wonderful friend Pat Hansen, now deceased. I have several recipes that make me think of Pat whenever I make them but this one is the most delicious. I would post a picture but, to be honest, it has never been around long enough to take a picture.

Download PDF version of this recipe

The Pan

  • Butter liberally a 9 inch springform pan
  • Line the bottom with a parchment or wax paper circle
  • Dust with graham cracker crumbs (about 1/4 cup)
  • Preheat the oven to 350°

The Crust
Mix together the following dry ingredients and nuts then the melted butter. Press into the bottom of the springform pan and set aside.

  • 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cups melted butter (unsalted)

Bake for 10 minutes then take it out of the oven and set aside while you work on the filling.

The Cake Part 1
Using your favorite mixing device cream together all of the following ingredients. Spoon the mixture into the springform pan and flatten. You don’t have to make it perfectly flat. Just distribute it as evenly as you can.

    • 2 pounds cream cheese (that’s 4, 8 ounce packages, at room temperature if possible)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Bake for 30 minutes.

The Cake Part 2
While the cake is in the oven mix these ingredients together in the same bowl you used for the cheesecake. You can even scrape up any cheesecake leftovers in the bowl and mix into these ingredients. When the cake has been in the oven for 30 minutes open the oven, pull out the shelf and spread this mixture evenly over the cake. Bake for another 10 minutes.

  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3/4 granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Take the cake out of the oven and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Thinking about BBQ

I’m in Dallas, TX this week so, naturally, I’m eating some BBQ. A few times. A student of mine pointed me to the Texas Monthly online magazine where BBQ is big and every BBQ place in TX eventually gets a review by their “BBQ snob”. Based on the snob’s recommendations I went to a place called the Baby Back Shak two nights ago. Evidently, the owner is from Memphis so his ribs are Memphis style. Memphis style usually involves some kind of pork, in this case baby back ribs, which is dry rubbed generously and smoked low and slow for a long time. BBQ sauce, served on the side, is thin and tangy. Best pork ribs I have had since the long gone Public Eye in Memphis.

The next day in class students wanted to know how the BBQ was, which became a lively conversation. BBQ is an important topic among those who love it. Speaking with another student I learned about something called a “smokenator” which I have every intention of purchasing for my Weber and smoking something as soon as I can. Friends, I’ll let you know how it works out.

Tonight I’m hitting another place that is known for Texas style brisket, which is a big deal in Dallas. Can’t wait.

My Favorite Mac-n-Cheese

Favorite Mac-n-Cheese

Favorite Mac-n-Cheese

This recipe is essentially Martha Stewart’s “Perfect Macaroni and Cheese”. I have made a few alterations based on my own taste. The thing I really like about Martha’s recipe is that the proportions of ingredients seem to be just right. If you have ever made a mac-n-cheese that was like a dense brick of macaroni OR macaroni swimming in white sauce (less likely) then you know what I mean. I have made this probably 6 or 7 times and it comes out the same every time.

Download PDF version






  • Liberally buttered 9 X 13 glass baking dish (use metal if you want more crunchy edges)
  • 7 slices of fresh white bread with the crusts removed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 block) of unsalted butter
  • 5 ½ cups whole milk
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg (if fresh, about 4 or 5 swipes of the nut across a grater)
  • ¼ fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (Martha’s recipe calls for ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Just not enough for me. I suggest ½ or more. Make it once with ½ and see what you think then adjust to your own taste.)
  • 4 ½ cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar ( you may, of course, substitute some other cheese but the salt content and the tanginess of sharp white cheddar is really ideal)
  • 2 ½ cups (about 16 ounces) grated Gruyere (Martha suggest you can substitute 1 ¼ cups—or 5 ounces—grated pecorino. I think it’s too salty. I would stick with the Gruyere.)


  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Remove the crusts from the bread and tear roughly into ¼ to ½ inch pieces. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and toss the bread with the melted butter to give it a little coating. Don’t add more—trust me this is plenty.
  3. Peel and crush the garlic roughly. Put into a pot—uncovered—with the milk on medium heat. You want the garlic to steep and for the milk to get hot—not boiling. If it looks like it is about to boil turn it down to low.
  4. Boil the macaroni for 2 minutes less time than the instructions recommend. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside to drain.
  5. In a large deep pan, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and foamy add the flour and whisk. Cook, while whisking, for 1 minute.
  6. Pour the hot milk into the pan through a strainer to remove the garlic pieces. Continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and smooth. This will take about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Whisk to incorporate completely.
  8. Add 3 cups of the grated cheddar and 1 ½ cups of the grated Gruyere cheese and stir until it is completely melted and incorporated.
  9. Put the drained and cooled macaroni into the cheese sauce and stir and fold until all the noodles are evenly covered.
  10. Dump the mixture into the baking dish and smooth it out (don’t press it down).
  11. Spread the rest of both cheeses evenly across the mixture.
  12. Spread the bread over the mixture.
  13. Place in the middle of the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  14. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

High School Carrot Cake

High School Carrot Cake

Mini High School Carrot Cake

I was given this recipe by someone—I don’t remember who—when I was in high school and I still love it. I just made it again a few minutes ago and this time, in small paper baking cups.

These cups are slightly larger than cupcakes and with straight sides mini panatone cups. It is so easy and quick you will love this.
Download a PDF version







  • 9 X 13 glass baking dish, buttered and dusted with flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts would be my recommendation)
  • 1 ½ cups canola oil
  • 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple with juice
  • 2 cups grated carrots (that’s about 3 ½ carrots)


  1. Set oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and chopped nuts.
  3. Add to the bowl the oil, eggs, pineapple and grated carrots.
  4. Mix completely.
  5. Pour into the baking dish and smooth out.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes or until a knife can be inserted into the center and comes out clean. You may have to adjust this to less time based on your location and humidity. I notice when I bake this in smaller dishes or in small paper cups the baking time has to be reduced by about 4 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before frosting. I don’t like to put frosting on these. Just a dusting of powdered sugar is enough to let people know you didn’t forget the frosting.


Quick complaints

I don’t have a lot of time but I have to say this to someone:

Adobe . . . . please, please, PLEASE STOP updating my software every 5 minutes.

Whatever happened to the days when software releases were planned and delivered on a release schedule of, say, once a quarter? It seems like everytime I login lately either Adobe or Firefox has yet another update. Don’t get me wrong, I love things to work, but I think if the engineers would concentrate a little more on quality releases they wouldn’t be fixing things every 5 minutes.


Oh wait, I had one other thing to say . . . about Edgefield and the Alison Krauss concert last night. Edgefield, good sound and good booze. Alison . . . amazing as usual. Portland people . . . PLEASE LEAVE YOUR PHONES IN THE CAR AND STOP WALKING AROUND. Good grief. How about plan for a couple of hours of good music without Facebook and all your mobile crap?

Ok, now I’m done. Now I’m going to post on Facebook. Yes, I get the hypocrisy.

Dr. Fun has left the building

A little over 10 years ago I started a new job at a fairly small startup software company in my wonderful Portland, Oregon. The day I was hired nine people were laid off. I remember thinking . . . yikes. There were a lot of struggles as the company tried to figure out how to fire the assholes and keep the good ones.

My office (sort of cube actually) was very near a play room containing a pool table, chess board, pinball machine, guitar, leather couch and a huge flat screen TV with a bunch of popular video games. People would drop into that room for fun whenever they needed a break. I remember hearing guitar almost every afternoon. At lunch the couch was a popular spot where gamers would gather and compete with people in another conference room at a large screen TV there. At times I was irritated because I’m one of those people who works best in silence but still…it made me feel good to hear multiple renditions of Stairway to Heaven on a daily basis.

We had some great traditions, like themed release parties. When a new software version was ready to release a party would be held with a theme. So, for example, if the theme was “South of the Border” there would be a margarita bar. Those days it was not unusual to see someone with a beer on their desk while the party wound down. There was also this tradition built around a mystery person named Dr. Fun. The Doctor was an unnamed person who was responsible to–every so often–find a way to spend a little company money to create a fun event for people to attend. Just because.

Well, those days steadily disappeared as we became a larger and more responsible organization. No more rec rooms, no more themed parties with alcoholic drinks, no more Dr. Fun. The company has tried to keep the feeling that used to be there but it is really not possible. A drink ticket is a cold remnant of a warmer occasion and no matter how much I want to get into the new “recess” I just don’t like it. The whole metaphor of controlled play bugs the hell out of me and, frankly, the frantically happy announcements about an upcoming “recess” sound so fake and condescending I am just too rebellious to attend.

Today I attended what felt like a funeral. A week ago we learned that the company had been purchased by a large, Public Equity firm. As a part of the metamorphasis many people were released from their jobs today–people who had worked for the company for almost 10 years–people who knew Dr. Fun personally. The meeting to discuss the restructuring felt more like a funeral than a business meeting. I attended by phone and even I had a tear in my eye and a very sad heart.

I’m not saying that I think the choice to become part of this huge PE firm was a bad choice. It may be the best business decision we have made in some time. Time will tell. What I am saying is I am sad. I miss my old friends, the ones that made me feel so comfortable when I was the youngster, the ones I drank a little too much with at company parties, standing on the cold upper deck of a riverboat, the rain in our faces. The ones with whom I stood in a very long line full of colorful characters to watch a matinee of The Lord of the Rings. Thanks Dr. Fun. Rest in peace. I will miss you.

Steve’s Tiramisu








I learned to love this in Italy so I came home and learned to make it. It is a combination of a lot of other recipes with my own twists. I think it is quite good. You decide. I make it when I need cooking

Download PDF version of this recipe

This recipe will make one 9 x 13 pan of tiramisu. Best consumed within 3 days of construction but it will be good for almost a week refrigerated.


  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup dry marsala (Wine section—usually near the port. You may use other flavored “spirits” like brandy. I have used Benedictine and it was good but a little too sweet. I suggest you keep it authentic.)
  • 8 ounces softened (room temperature) mascarpone (plain—no flavored stuff)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups brewed espresso
  • 2 ounces good, semisweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup rum (light rum, not too expensive but not crap either—bacardi works fine)
  • 2 teaspoons real (natural) vanilla extract
  • 50 or so ladyfingers
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  • A 9 x 13 square glass baking dish

Making the pieces

  1. Chill a glass bowl in the freezer. You will whip the cream in this bowl.
  2. Put the glass baking dish in the refrigerator to chill.
  3. Leave the mascarpone on the counter to bring it too room temperature.
  4. Make the espresso. If you are making it yourself, use Italian roast or French roast. Something dark and strong.
  5. Drop the chocolate in pieces into the hot espresso. Stir it to incorporate the melted chocolate into the espresso. Add the rum and vanilla and mix. If you need to heat the espresso slightly to melt the chocolate that is fine but don’t boil it. Set it aside to cool.
  6. In a large double boiler, with a wire whisk, cream together egg yolks, sugar and salt. Add the marsala slowly while whisking over gently simmering water. Be sure the water is not too hot. You don’t want scrambled eggs. Continue to whisk. The mixture will double in volume and become very smooth and thick. Take off of the double boiler and set aside to cool to about room temperature. This mixture is called zabaglione. This process usually takes me about 10 minutes.
  7. While the zabaglione is cooling down, whip the cream in the chilled bowl to soft peaks.
  8. Stir the mascarpone into the zabaglione until completely incorporated. Fold in the whipped cream—gently.


  1. Spread a thin layer of the zabaglione mixture in the chilled glass dish.
  2. Give the espresso mixture a good stir to be sure the chocolate is not all at the bottom of the dish.
  3. Quickly dip the ladyfingers into the espresso mixture being careful to not over soak them. They will soak up the espresso very quickly. I usually give each side a 3 second dip. You might consider dipping one then breaking it in half to see if it is soaked through. You don’t want mush but you also don’t want a crunch in the middle.
  4. Place the lady fingers in a layer in the glass dish. Cover with a good amount of zabaglione mixture.
  5. Repeat. I recommend layering in the opposite direction. You should have two layers of lady fingers covered with zabaglione mixture.
  6. Refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 4 hours. Lightly dust with cocoa right before serving. If you want, you may  sprinkle with semisweet chocolate shavings instead but . . . I think that is just too much.

Mom’s Ginger Cookies

My favorite ginger molasses cookie from Mom. Christmas is not complete without them.

Ginger Cookies








Download a PDF version

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (or more) ground ginger (I like 3 tablespoons myself)
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together well in a large bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients together separately.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.
  5. Form dough into balls about 1 inch diameter.
  6. Roll balls in sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 13 minutes for chewy for 15 minutes for crispy cookies.
  8. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to paper towels to completely cool.

Pok Pok who’s there?

It seems that everyone in Portland is gaga over Pok Pok’s “street Thai” food so Jeff and I decided to check it out on date night two Fridays ago. For a short, video description of Thai food see the interview with food critic and author David Thompson.

To begin with I’ll say I really like the place–physically. There is a lot of outdoor space and even in the rain we were warm and dry. Also, we were there early enough that we did not have to contend with the long wait they are known for. I have also read comments about the wait staff being rude. We thought everyone was very nice and informative.

Now, before I describe the food, I have to say that I did not imagine Northern Thai “street food” could be that expensive. We had a drink while waiting for our table and another during dinner. When we were seated the waiter told us the dishes are small and intended to be shared, which is typical of this branch of Thai cuisine. If you know us you know that I am not a small man and Jeff, though he is slim, is tall and can eat much more than I. We were hungry and both had a drink in us so we asked for appetizers. There were only two on the menu: a small bowl of spiced, roasted peanuts and some shrimp chips, so we had both. They were inexpensive ($2 each) so not a budget buster. They were, however, a waste of time. I have had better shrimp chips (in pink even) from Longs Drugs in Hilo. I suppose if you were really eating Thai on the street you would not be waiting so an appetizer would be unnecessary. We ordered four (small) dishes which were as small as promised. So, if you are adding things up, four drinks, two appetizers, four dishes and one sticky rice. The bill came to $83. Seems contrary to the common understanding of street food.

Now about the food. Good Thai food, particularly of the street variety, is spicy hot with chilies. I expected that. But this food was volcanic. Even Jeff thought one or two dishes were too spicy hot and he loves this in Asian food. When I saw in a few reviews that people complained the food was too hot I thought to myself “weaklings”. Personally, I like food with flavor and if the spice adds to the flavor of the food then I’m for it. I think, however, that some people have grown to equate spicy hot with tasty and I cannot agree. The Muu Paa Kham Waan (grilled boar collar meat) was so piquant it was almost a chore to eat. It could have been any kind of meat and I would not have known. I do not recall a bit of flavor. We even left a large prawn on the plate, much to the surprise of the waiter, because we both could not endure another bite. I have since learned that overly spicy hot food actually discourages the appetite and my experience now confirms it.

It was also distracting to have prawns that were completely whole, with shells and all. Cooking in the shell did not preserve any flavor or moistness, in fact, it kept the flavor that was to be imbued through whatever marinade or sauce was used during cooking from getting to the edible flesh of the prawn. I have had prawns this way many times in my life and I might have enjoyed them that night if the shell had produced something unique or if I were not distracted by drinking everything on the table to preserve my lips.

I love sticky rice in all forms. It came in a cute little rice basket wrapped in plastic wrap which I understand is standard practice but . . . I prefer my sticky rice wrapped in a leaf on a flat plate. It’s easier to grab. My recommendation is that you should have at least one order of sticky rice per person.

Our final opinion: We might go to the take out window sometime and grab something to go so that we can taste some of the other dishes but we have no plans to spend an evening there again. It was expensive, too spicy hot and overall just a little over impressed with itself.