Saturday, February 27, 2010

Makino Chaya Buffet & Bento - Hawaii

Makino Chaya is a Japanese Buffet chain that many flock to especially on their birthdays because depending on your age, you can eat for free or get a 50% discount.  Military also receive a 10% discount!

Personally, Makino Chaya is my least favorite buffet right now because I think the quality of the food is going down, but it is still a decent buffet particularly when you are hungry.

There's seafood, lobster, wagyu beef, crepes, sushi, and much more!  You can also order items off the menu.  The first time I ate at Makino Chaya, I was surprised they had takoyaki and shave ice.

The first time I went to Makino Chaya, I can't say I didn't enjoy myself.  After I had okonomiyaki, shave ice, crab legs, & sushi, I was sold.  The other night when I went to Makino Chaya, however, it seemed like the quality of the food and the amount of items available went down significantly...I didn't enjoy it there as much.

And to make things worse, I was chewing a piece of tako when I felt half of it in my throat and the other half in my mouth.  A very scary situation indeed and a little funny when I think about it too.  I could have caused a scene.  Luckily, I was able to pull it out of my mouth, dragging it out of my throat.  Yay!

I really only enjoyed the fresh pineapple, some of the sushi, the crab legs, and the wagyu beef.  But that's about it ... I would like to think it was me, but there was something different about Makino Chaya this time around.  I would like to give the buffet another shot though. 

The next time I eat there, I will let you know if it's improved.  The one thing I can say is that our server was wonderfrul.

There were frozen pieces of ice in my ice cream. 

Although I may not have enjoyed the buffet the other night, the bentos at Makino Chaya are a deal!  In the morning, they sell bentos for less than $5.00  

There are different types of bentos, so choose the one you want most.  Just know that bentos sell fast!  I ordered the garlic ahi.  It was dry.   I should have selected the steak & shrimp bento.  It was much better!  If the Misoyaki Butterfish didn't sell so fast, I would've chose it instead.

If you go to Makino Chaya, let me know what you think! 

An Approaching Tsunami towards Hawaii!?

When I said it was a crazy month, I wasn't joking.  I came home late last night, only to wake up to phone calls from friends and family concerned about the approaching tsunami which may soon affect all Hawaiian islands in the next couple of hours.  I turned the news on and this doesn't seem like the typical tsunami warning that quickly fades into a tsunami advisory, as a 3 inch wave fizzles by the time it reaches shore. 

Instead, sirens went off at 0600 and at 0700, signaling residents to turn on their televisions or radios to keep abreast of the situation.  People in lower lying regions have been instructed to move to higher ground, while fire trucks are roaming these neighborhoods to ensure everyone is aware of the possible danger approaching the islands.

Before 0600, I didn't hear a peep outside.  It was quiet and you could tell people were still sleeping, unaware of the events that began to brew since last night.  As soon as the sirens went off at 0600, however, I immediately noticed a commotion outside. I can still hear people getting into their cars, driving away, as they quickly head towards super markets and gasoline stations to prepare.  Others return with bags of groceries, relieved to finally get through the long lines.

As the governer declares a state of emergency, we are instructed to stay off the roads, to conserve water, and to be prepared for a loss of electricity.  The good news, however, is that the expected wave may only be 6 to 7 feet, which may not cause much damage, if any at all.  Although everyone must still be prepared (just in case) because the dynamics of a wave are complex. 

In times like these, I'm glad I live somewhere in the middle of the island.  And I'm glad I also have enough food and water because I know how painful it is to wait in those long lines!  I only hope that the tsunami warning pans out to be a small wave that fizzles by the time it reaches shore.

My heart goes out to the people in Chile though.  I cannot imagine being put through such devastation and they will definitely need as much help as they can receive.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An American Classic - Oatmeal Raisin

It was a long day of hard work!  There's nothing like unwinding at home...

At the moment, I'm baking Oatmeal Raisin cookies - a classic.  A co-worker of mine really wanted Oatmeal Raisin, so I had planned to make it for a couple of weeks now.  He's helped me a lot these past few weeks, showing me the ropes, so the least I could do is bake him his favorite!

Here's a recipe from Sun Maid Raisins (click on link below):

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe

I must be very tired!  I added a little too much milk (3/4 cup more), then a pinch too much of baking soda to my batch of cookies, but luckily things are A-OK.  I noticed my cookies were "sizzling" too, but it appears to be normal.  It's my first time making oatmeal raisin (suprisingly).  I'm more of a chocolate chip girl, but these oatmeal raisin cookies are already inspiring me to come up with my own cookie creation. 

I was suppossed to enter a cookie contest this past weekend, but I couldn't think of a recipe in time! Now, it's my goal to finally come up with my own cookie for the next contest. 

I remember when I was in college, my sister entered a cookie contest.  You could see some of the competitors sizing up the competition, walking around to see what types of cookies others had.  I never thought a cookie contest could be so intense!  One of the ladies sitting nearby offered my sister and I some cookies she made. I pretended to enjoy the cookie, but it was the worst cookie I've ever had in my life.  In fact, it scared me to eat it because it didn't taste like it should be edible. My sister took a bite and mumbled, "I can't eat this cookie..." as she quickly hid it into her backpack to avoid being rude.  "Isn't it good?" the lady asked.  All I could say was, "Yeah, it's great.  What did you make it from?"  Till this day, I wonder.

Well, the Oatmeal Raisin recipe is a classic you'll enjoy.  There are quite a few ingredients though!

You can't forget the raisins!

After scooping all the dough to make 3 dozen cookies ...

Ready to bake batch #1

A plate of Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

After baking the cookies, I finally had a chance to try one and I love it.  The Sun Maid Raisin cookie recipe is a keeper. 

Besides finding an awesome recipe from Sun Maid, I also learned a little bit about cookies today ...

It's my first time making Oatmeal Raisin.  I really hope my co-worker enjoys it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Better Place

The month of February has been rough.  Besides my dryer problems and a major water heater leak in my home among other things, nothing can compare to the tragic news I learned of last night.  Before going to bed, I looked at my phone and noticed a text message.  One of my best friend's from high school sent me a message that her sister had passed away.  I could not believe it.  It bothered me the entire night and all day today.  I called her as soon as I could.

At only 38 years old, I never expected her sister to have a stroke and pass away at such a young age.  It breaks my heart for her family.  Thankfully, they are coping quite well for such a tragic loss.  I know I will have a hard time at the funeral.  Funerals are always tough.  They never get easy for me.  Although I do learn a lot from each one because they allow you to reflect on your own life.

My fondest memories of her sister are the times spent in high school.  She taught us how to first dance.  I also remember when she took us cosmic bowling.  We had such a blast!  My funniest memory of her, however, is when she blasted the song "I like Big Butts" as we drove home that night.

I'm glad that she is in a much more peaceful place now and I only hope the best for the loved one's she has  left behind.  Mel, you will truly be missed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Easiest Pie Ever - Pecan Pie!

I decided I would make a pie today - a pecan pie.  I know I mentioned how lazy I felt today about heading to the store, so I decided to make a pie based on the ingredients I had on hand.  What could be easier than a pecan pie? I can't believe how easy it is to make one.  It's unbelievable.  It takes only 5 minutes to mix the 6 ingredients together.  Then, you pour mixture into a deep dish pie shell and bake for about an hour.  How easy is that?  My dad could even do this.


1 cup Karo light corn syrup
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups (6 oucnes) pecans
1 unbaked 9-inch deep dish pie crust

Stir the first 5 ingredients thoroughly using a spoon.  Mix in the pecans.

Pour into pie crust.

Bake on center rack of oven for 60 to 70 minutes.  Cool for 2 hours.  Store pie in refrigerator.

TIPS:  Pie is done when center reaches 200F.  Tap center surface of pie lightly; it should spring back when done.  For easy clean-up, spray pie pan with cooking spray.  If pie crust is over-browning, cover edges with foil.

Well, I wish I could show you the end result, but it's baking at the moment.  I guess this will be the dessert for tomorrow's lunch! I'm not sure how pecan pie tastes, but I hope it's good. 

As I wait for it to finish baking, I can now sit back and watch T.V. .... I may have to make pecan pie more often.

Nestle Toll House Famous Fudge

I've made several types of fudge, but today's recipe is from one of my favorite desert books:  Nestle Toll House's Semi-Sweet Morsels "Best-Loved Recipes."

I'm having a hard time thinking about what I really want to make for tomorrow.  I really want to make a pie, but I'm feeling a little lazy about heading to the store.  I made fudge because it's easy and it tastes good, but I'm now wondering if I should make one more desert.  I really want to. Tomorrow at work, we'll be making lunch and I really want to add a desert to the meal.

For now, I hope you enjoy this simple recipe. 


1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup (5-fluid-ounce can ) Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line 8-inch square baking pan with foil.

Combine sugar, evaporated milk butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan.  Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 mintues.  Remove from heat.

STIR in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract.  Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted.  Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
Lift from pan; remove foil.  Cut into pieces.  (Makes 49 pieces)

I can't wait to try the fudge.  It was unusual to add in marshmallows, but hopefully it will add a unique flavor to the fudge.  There are a lot more ingredients and steps in this fudge recipe compared to other one's I've made.  I hope it turns out great!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mix Plate Cafe - Vietnamese and American Food

On Monday, I ate at MixPlateCafe, across from Honolulu Community College on Dilingham.  (It's where the old SPOTS used to be).

Now, newly renovated, MixPlateCafe is a clean and comfortable place to enjoy a nice lunch or dinner.  The service is great too.  I love places with good service and friendly people. 

For those of you who love Vietnamese food, here's another great place to try.  Every Vietnamese restaurant is a little different from the next, so it's always fun finding the next best place.  The hours are also wonderful.  There aren't very many restaurants open past 9 p.m. in Hawaii, so MixPlateCafe will be a new place for me to stop by at night to eat dinner.

It's nice inside and there's also entertainment - 2 large, flat screen T.V.s

Combination Pho

Seafood Egg Noodle Soup

Spring Rolls

Pork and Shrimp Salad

Pho is an "easy" Vietnamese food to eat.  It's a great, comforting soup with very mild flavors.  It's one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes around and if you haven't tried it yet, you need to.  It's that good! However, if you always eat Pho and would like to try something else, give Seafood Egg Noodle Soup a shot!  Egg noodles add a distinct touch to soup, which I'm sure you will enjoy. 

I thought the Seafood Egg Noodle soup was really good at MixPlateCafe, but I liked the Pho even more.  My husband, on the other hand, thought it was too oily and prefers other locations.  (It really does depend on personal preference).  I would've traded my soup for his because I really liked it.   I'll have to try MixPlateCafe again to be a better judge of the food.

It's funny because I thought the food at MixPlateCafe tasted a bit unique and different than other Vietnamese restaurants, which is why I can't judge the food as quickly.  I will return to try more items, but I did enjoy the food a lot because it was different. 

If you check it out, let me knwo what you think!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Healthy Appetizer - Spicy Edamame

Recently, I had a small gathering at my home for my online business.  I prepared a number of appetizers, while we ate pizza and hot wings for dinner.

One of the appetizers I made is Spicy Edamame (Soy Beans) adapted from "Hawaii's Best Quick and Easy Recipes" by Jean Watanabe Hee.  It's SUPER fast to make spicy edamame and very, very easy too. 

1 pound frozen edamame
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 2 thai chili peppers, minced
Salt to taste

Although I enjoy the recipe featured in the book, I find that it's better to only lighly coat the edamame with salt, even if you enjoy salty foods.  I've never heard of a "Hawaiian Chili Pepper" either and I live here.  Instead, when I make Spicy Edamame, I chop 2 thai chili peppers and only use about a spoonful of salt or at least enough to lightly coat the edamame.  I also increase the amount of garlic to add extra flavor. 

If edamame is an unusual food to you, maybe you'll learn to enjoy it seasoned.  There are a lot of benefits in soy and it's a healthy snack too.

I am definitely looking for more edamame recipes and would love to know how they make it at the store.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The 2010 Great Aloha Run - Honolulu, Hawaii

I woke up at 2:00 a.m. this morning, so that I could volunteer at the annual Great Aloha Run.  It wasn't easy to wake up, but it's totally worth the experience.  It's my third year volunteering at the Great Aloha Run and my second time at the starting line.  Next year, I will run the 8 miles for the first time.

The actual run begins at 700 a.m.  We were there for hours, maintaing the crowds, while also directing runners to their designated locations.  It's always fun to interact with the runners.  Afterwards, we pick up trash and other items left behind, which can be totally gross! 

There are always older people collecting the cans and bottles.  You can tell they need the extra cash, so we always give them what we collect and they are truly appreciative.  Collected clothes items are donated too.  It's amazing how many people leave their sweaters behind.

Early in the morning, hardly anyone was around!  It seemed like forever.  I really wanted to see the elite runners, but none were around yet.  All the news crews were posted outside though.  In all honesty, today was one of the nicest days for a run.  Last year, it was cold, rainy, and windy.  But this year, it was beautiful!

Can you believe how empty the area is?

Throughout time, it got busier and busier.  Eventually, there were thousands of people.  In fact, this was a record breaking year with nearly 24,000 runners.

Before the race, we took the barriers down and let the people onto the street to post.  It can become chaotic.  I can see how a stampede can occur if there isn't enough crowd control.

First, there are the elite runners and the wheel chair participants. Then, the US Military runs in formation thereafter. 

There goes the US Air Force

The Army

After the US Military, the rest of the runners can begin.  People are in the sections that best fit their running times.  The good news is that you are given a device that monitors your running time from the time you pass the starting line until you cross the finish line, so it really doesn't matter what section you are in. Although it would be better in the front since you have less people to get through if you run fast.   

There goes some of the final runners passing the starting line.  In 8 miles, they will cross the finish line at the Aloha Stadium, where they will receive a "Finisher's T-Shirt," beverages and food items.

Every year, there are also people who dress up. I didn't see as many people dress up like last year. My favorite costume this year would have to be the man in a hooter's outfit. He wore super tight clothes and short shorts. It was SO funny. I wonder what I'll see next year ....

It's my third year volunteering, but next year I will run the Great Aloha Run.  I have to do it at least once in my life and next year would be the perfect opportunity.  I can't wait!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day @ Oceanarium Restaurant - Waikiki, Hawaii

 The first time I went to Oceanarium Restaurant, it was Thanksgiving Day. I was nearly 10 years old.  At the time, I had a clever idea to starve myself until lunch time, so that I could eat as much food as possible for our spectacular Thanksgiving Day buffet lunch at Oceanarium. 

By the time we got to the restaurant after driving in circles to find the place, however, I was sick to my stomach.  I couldn't even take a single bite of my food.  A waiter passed by, commenting, "you must be really full!" My parents laughed.  If only the waiter knew ...

By the time I got home after eating absolutely nothing at the buffet, I suddenly felt hungry again at home.  My parents weren't too pleased, although we laugh about it now. That was my most memorable experience at Oceanarium Restaurant - until tonight.

It's almost Valentine's Day, so my husband and I thought it would be special to take my parents out to dinner.  We decided to go to Oceanarium Restaurant.  I always thought it was an interesting restaurant with a gigantic aquarium inside, but this would be the first time I actually had the chance to try the food too.

Inside the restaurant, it was a bit crowded.  There were people lining up by 8 p.m.  Luckily, we had reservations for 7:00 p.m. and beat most of the crowds.

The restaurant is actually two stories.

It's relaxing to watch the fish and the sting rays swim in the aquarium.  I tried so hard to capture a sting ray in the window.  They sure do swim by fast!  Everytime I tried to take a photo, the sting ray would disappear and I couldn't capture it on camera.  When I finally got the chance, a waiter happened to pop into the photo accidentally.  It's kind of funny. I tried!

The buffet at Oceanarium Restaurant was really, really good! I was impressed (truly) by the food.  It was better than I expected.  In fact, it exceeded my expectations.  There was a lot of fresh seafood and a variety of it, which instantly sold me.  There was tako and ahi poke, slabs of sashimi, lomi lomi salmon, oysters, muscles, sushi, and more. 

I also loved the fresh fruit and the tasty main dishes.  I love fresh pineapple (if you haven't figured this out from my other posts).  The creamy garlic mashed potatoes and prime rib were full of flavor.  My all time favorite had to be the salmon main dish though.  I have no clue how they made it, but it was soft and seasoned to perfection (in my eyes at least).  I couldn't stop eating it.   

There were also deserts and a chocolate fondue fountain to dip fruit in.  The strawberries were incredibly sweet.  I indulged in the peanut butter cheese cake and ice cream.  I wanted to eat more desert, but I would've exploded if I ate any more.  The Haupia pie looked sooooo good too.  I guess there's always next time.

The salad bar was my favorite because of all the seafood, vegetables, and fruit.

I wish I could've taken a photo of more of the main dishes, but there were too many people around.  I didn't get to try everything, but the salmon (right) you cannot miss.  It's a must try.

I thought I could eat more than I did, but I had a late lunch.  I was able to eat two plates of wonderful food though. 

My first plate:

My second plate:

While we were eating, I noticed signs dropping in the water with "Happy Birthday" written on them.  I wondered what was going on until I noticed a man in diving gear.  The diver swam towards the glass and held up a sign next to two tables.  One girl had been celebrating her birthday and was surprised by the note.  Then, the diver swam to the other side of the restaurant and held up a sign for a couple celebrating their anniversary.  It was really sweet!  It's a creative way to surprise someone for sure.

I love watching the fish swim.  It's so relaxing. 

We really scored a deal tonight too!  On Fridays, there definitely are deals at Oceanarium. For one, my dad drank three beers and it only cost $3 each.  The buffet was also discounted since it's Friday!  Instead of paying $35.00, it was only $27.00 ... What a deal!  It was the best surprise ever.  There are some buffets that cost $30.00 per person and offer a lot of food that isn't always the greatest, but at Oceanarium I can at least say that the food is good and worth the price.

It isn't easy to find a great, yet affordable buffet in Hawaii.  However, if you go to Oceanarium Restaurant on Fridays, it's a deal because where else can eat that much seafood for $27.00 dollars?  You will not only be able to eat to your heart's content, but you will also be able to indulge in a variety of FRESH seafood and healthy entrees.  I really had a great time at Oceanarium today.

I would highly recommend reservations because it was PACKED like crazy.  Also, be sure to bring a camera if you want to take photos of the fish.

Oceanarium Restaurant has a great buffet!  I'm glad I finally know what the food tastes like.  The quality of the food was excellent too.  I would return.  More than aything, I'm glad everyone had a great time tonight. 

Happy Valentine's Day!


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