Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Don't Freak Out

Aloha friends!

After much thought, stress eating, and consideration I have decided to change the name of my blog and move all of my content to a new website.

People were starting to call me Maggy, and well you know, that's not my name.

So if you've reached this post and want to continue to follow this blog, please visit Gourmet Gwen.


I sincerely hope you like the changes. If not, I'll be leaving this blog up and live for awhile so people don't get lost.

Happy cooking,


Monday, October 28, 2013

Artisan Kona Coffee

A rainbow of coffee beans
At least a thousand chickens come running as I pull into the gravel drive of Mele Maluhia Farm, where Kona Rising Coffee is grown, harvested, and roasted. From tree to table, Maria DaSilva and Shawna Gunnarson are the artisans behind a truly special product.

It's 5:00pm, about an hour away from sunset and time for the animals to get fed. Not only do they grow coffee, but the farm may as well be considered an animal sanctuary housing sheep, goats, pigs, geese, and turkeys, most of them rescued from dire straits. Shawna shows me around the farm, feed buckets in hand, tailed by geese and sheep. The 4,000 coffee trees on site are all organically grown, and because Kona coffee trees are indeterminate, meaning the beans do not ripen all at the same time, mechanically harvesting beans is out of the question. Every bean is picked by hand. In a typical year, that amounts to about 3,000 pounds.

Shawna leading the way through the coffee trees

The mother-daughter team then take that harvest and "pulp" the beans, that is removing the outer red skin, ferment them, dry them, hull them and roast them. Phew! I surely minimized the steps involved here, so you should know that tree to table coffee making is laborious, especially when producing a gourmet product like Kona Rising does. Maria and Shawna estimate they spend about 20 to 30 minutes creating their coffee per pound. Did I mention their yield is about 3,000 pounds? You do the math.

And it's more than just the time spent on producing the coffee, but the attention to detail that goes into each step that impressed me most. Kona Rising does not roast their beans until ordered, ensuring the customer receives their order at it's peak of freshness and tastiness. As Shawna described the roasting process, she began picking over the green, un-roasted beans in her hand, tossing out any bad ones and explaining that each pound that's roasted gets the same special treatment. Find out more about their specialty roasts here.

Coffee ready to be roasted

Passionate coffee drinkers themselves, Shawna introduced me to the world of coffee cupping. In their tiny roasting kitchen, she heated water to exactly 195 degrees then measured out exactly nine grams of three different roasts, freshly ground, into each cup. The cups must also be a standard size and color and after previewing each roast by smell, added exactly four ounces of water to each cup. We waited about, no exactly, three minutes before using a special cupping spoon to remove the floating grounds and then sampled each coffee by slurping it as loud as possible. This allows the coffee to hit all your taste buds, plus it's pretty fun. Cupping in this way is done when coffee is being judged for quailty. Judging is typically based on fragrance, aroma, flavor, acidity, body, uniformity, and balance. Like wine, coffee tasting is complex. Get a first hand glimpse of competitive coffee by attending the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival cupping competition on November 6th and 7th.

Over wine and cheese over looking a calming koi pond, Maria and Shawna describe the work they've done on the farm since taking it over in 2006. Most of the 4.5 acre property was overgrown at that time and needed to be cleared of invasive trees and shrubs to make way for more coffee trees and a slew of native trees and plants they've added since then. The farm had been using conventional practices for over 50 years, meaning it took some time to convert the land to the organic methods they use now.

While I would have liked to spread out my sleeping bag under the stars right next to the fire pit and stay awhile on this peaceful farm, it was time for a shot of espresso for the drive home. Not only do these farmers drink coffee all the time, I think it must run through their veins.

Going to cupping school

*Kona Rising Coffee Company is sponsoring me in the upcoming Kona coffee recipe contest on November 3rd. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Line Up for TechConKona on November 2

TechConKona is a powerful business | technology | solutions conference. The event will bring together change agents, thought leaders and innovators. It all happens on Saturday, November 2 from 8:30 - 4:00pm at the NELHA Gateway Center in Kona. Come participate by registering here

At TechConKona, attendees will master how to use technology to boost the bottom line with immediate results. TechConKona is an eye-opening and exciting networking, educational and synergistic event for current and future business owners.

For half of the conference, speakers and panelists will focus on the technologies you can use to reach clients faster, easier, cheaper, and more efficiently than ever before.  The other half, speakers and panels will talk about the changing face of being green- and how it’s more possible than ever to have a healthy planet by using new ways to connect, communicate and run business.

Keynote Speakers are:
Henk Rogers – Video game designer and entrepreneur.  Best known for bringing Tetris to the world, Mr. Rogers, a Big Island resident, is founder and Chairman of the Blue Planet Foundation, which is currently working on ensuring Hawaii is moving towards it’s energy sustainability goals. Mr. Rogers is a proponent of food security on Hawaii Island. He will be discussing how technology and sustainability intersect for the benefit of all island residents.
Sonny Bhagowalia – The State of Hawaii’s first Chief Information Officer.  Mr. Bhagowalia has headed IT in multiple federal agencies including the US Department of the Interior. He is now working with the state of Hawaii to increase broadband access for all of the islands. He will be discussion the island wide wifi access initiative, and is encouraging small business to share their concerns with him. Sonny’s goal is investing in people. He is working to use the government workforce and provide them with the things they need and grow them in their jobs. He believes in giving people something exciting and a reason to stay here in Hawaii and not go to the mainland.
Chef James Babian – Chef, restaurateur, and Food Network participant. Chef Babian is known as an expert in  the sustainability movement of local, organic food on the Big Island.  A champion of the concept of creating menus using “seasonal, artisanal, and regional” cuisine, Chef Babian will discuss his experiences in food sustainability on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Speakers include:
Michael Kramer – Adviser for Natural Investments LLC, founder of the Hawaii Alliance for a Local Economy and board member of the Sustainability Association of Hawaii.  Mr. Kramer is the voice of green business in Hawaii, helping pass legislation to establish a new corporate structure in Hawaii, the Sustainable Business Corporation. Mr. Kramer will discuss the Think Local Buy Local campaign for local businesses and his work on the Big Island.
Amber Bieg – Sustainability expert, green business consultant, and strategic marketing consultant.  Ms. Bieg works in the San Francisco Bay Area on cutting edge projects including www.fibershed.org and www.thefoodcommons.com . These projects use technology to re-localize production of products and she will be a great resource for local farmers, food producers, restaurant managers, chefs and more.
Scott Schang – Manager at Broadview Mortgage, Orange, CA.  Mr. Schang is a successful business owner  and entrepreneur who helped pioneer inbound/content marketing in his field by utilizing the WordPress blogging platform, search engine optimization and Google analytics. An expert in SEO, website development for small business, and online marketing, Scott will share his knowledge about successfully marketing small businesses online.
Julie Ziemelis-Owner, Ziemelis Communications in Kona, Hawaii. Ms. Ziemelis is a local blogger, social media expert and marketing professional. Ms. Ziemelis is an influential online voice for Kona utilizing a variety of online social media platforms. She will share success stories, case studies and mobile applications to help you get your online marketing game ON!
Denise Laitinen-Big Island Blogger and Firewise Communities Hawaii Communities. Ms. Laitinen, a Stanford graduate, has been a Big Island journalist/writer for many years. Denise will focus her discussion on “Think Local, Hire Local” and will contribute her extensive knowledge in using social media platforms for outreach and marketing on the social media panel.
Won't you join us?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mini S'mores

Did you know in my real non-internet life that I'm a teacher? Yes, it's true. Some of you have been reading this blog since I was still in school getting a teaching degree, inspired by this kid to do so. Besides cooking and eating, I also have a real passion for working with people with disabilities, which is why I teach special education.

This year I have five wonderfully diverse students and three educational assistants who keep me on my teaching toes. I don't talk about teaching much because this blog has actually become my escape from it, but you should know that I have a very real love/hate relationship with my job.

I love laughing everyday at work. I love kids. I love watching kids grow and learn. I love discovering their talents and skills. I love the other teachers I work with, they work so much harder than I could ever hope to. I love exposing other people to the fact that people with disabilities have just as much to offer as anyone else.

I hate paperwork. I hate having to watch my back every second of the day. I hate being told what to do by every adult who comes in my class (I do what I want, jeez!). I hate feeling like a marginal teacher because I teach special ed (can you imagine how the kids feel?). I hate enforcing stupid rules.

Is it getting too real here? I know I write with a lot of pronouns when I get all excited, so excuse me for that.

What I really want to share with you today is this fun recipe for mini s'mores that I did at school with my class. This recipe is really more of an activity to be shared with kids, friends, students, grandparents or whoever might be interested in miniature things. The reason I bring this up is because they do get pretty sticky and don't do well in a bag or bowl because they just clump together. Originally I was thinking of giving them out as goodie bags or gifts, but don't do that, it just turns into a mess.

Instead, find some time with your loved ones and just enjoy making these mini s'mores, it's a hoot and kids go crazy for them.

Mini S'mores
Makes as many as you want to eat!

Golden Grahams cereal
chocolate chips
mini marshmallows

Ingredient amounts are not listed because you'll decide how many to make.

Lay a single layer of Golden Grahams on a plate, giving each piece about 1/2 inch of room. Try to choose the unbroken pieces, it just looks nicer. Place a chocolate chip on each piece of cereal. Microwave for 10 seconds or until chocolate is a little melty. Microwaves vary so much, so keep a close eye it.

Now place a mini marshmallow on top in each chocolate chip, taking care to press down a little so the marshmallow will stick to the chocolate. Microwave for another 10 seconds or until the marshmallows are melty.

Top each s'mores with another Golden Graham and you have yourself a mini s'more.

Once again, I tried to store these so that I could give them away as gifts but it was a no-go because they just stick together. I also tried making them in the oven which also didn't work because of the super quick cook times. Just have fun with these minis and eat them right away!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Taste of the Hawaiian Range Foodie Highlights

Feeding the crowd at Taste of the Hawaiian
You know it's going to be a good party when a line of chefs file into the ballroom a few hours before go-time, each toting a case of beer. This line happened to be led by Mark "Gooch" Noguchi, champion of food sustainability and, although he lives on Oahu, supports Big Island events whenever he's able.

Thirty five chefs cooked up dishes for the crowd to enjoy at Taste of the Hawaiian Range on October 4 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Each chef was assigned a different cut of meat, most worked with locally raised grass-fed beef, while some chefs tackled goat, sheep, lamb, and feral pig. Food was served from booth displays, both inside the ballroom and outside near the water.

Although rain poured on the long line of waiting, hungry guests right at the start of the event, they were not deterred. Big Island folks know how blessed and precious rain is in Waikoloa so they soaked up it right along with the thirsty plants.

Upon check-in at the event, guests are given a map showing where each chef would be serving food as well as which cut of meat they would be working with. I spent a good 15 minutes studying the map, circling my top choices as it was highly unlikely 35 samples were going to fit in this belly. Below, my favorite dishes, in no particular order.

Tripe gyros from Blue Dragon
Beef tripe gyros with ho'i'o salad from Blue Dragon restaurant. Located in Kawaihae, on the west side of the Big Island, Blue Dragon is known for solid food, a commitment to using local ingredients, and live music under the stars. Now, I'm not normally a fan of tripe, but these guys worked some magic, the gyros were crunchy and full of flavor.

Meatloaf by East Hawaii Community College
Both East and West Hawaii Community College culinary programs were represented, and I hate to say this because I really wanted to like the West side's dish better, but the charming bacon wrapped meat loaf made by students from the East side campus was a smart, creative dish and was my favorite among the two campuses.

Gnocchi with oxtail ragout by Four Seasons Hualalai
From the Four Seasons Hualalai Beach Tree restaurant came a homey gnocchi dish with oxtail ragout. I wanted to curl up in a corner with a blanket and a big bowl of this gnocchi.

Skirt steak from Chef Noguchi
Chef Noguchi, mentioned above, made us a beef skirt steak with beets, beet puree, and inamona served in a lettuce leaf. It was nice to have some veggies in the mix.

Lamb chorizo by Chef Kenney
Ed Kenney, of Town restaurant, also made it out from Oahu. Chef Kenney made lamb chorizo with pickled beets and muddled cucumber. As usual, amazing yet simple flavors.

Other highlights was the Squash and Awe booth by Anna Peach, a guerrilla farmer in Waimea growing heirloom squash varieties, and the hard working students of Kanu O ka Aina, Kamehameha Schools, and UH Hilo for making it a zero waste event. All paper products were recycled and food scraps composted.

Hope you can make it to the Big Island's best foodie event next year.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cooking With Grass-fed Beef

At the Taste of the Hawaiian Range agricultural festival on Oct. 4 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island, Chef Hubert Des Marais, of the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, led a grass-fed beef cooking demonstration. He had all sorts of tricks and tips for cooking the sustainable Hawaiian meat product.

To read about these great tips and get the recipe for the meatballs above, visit HuffPost Hawaii to read the rest of my article. Mahalo! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Favorite Grass Fed Beef Recipes

Beef tongue tacos made with Hawaiian grass fed beef

I'm headed off to the Taste of the Hawaiian Range today, a celebration of Hawaiian agriculture highlighting grass fed beef. Luckily, several different cuts of grass fed beef can be found in many locations on the Big Island and is served at many restaurants. If you'd like to try cooking with it at home, I've got some recipes for you to try below.

Grass Fed Steak with Kona Coffee Marinade (scroll down to find the recipe at the bottom of the post).

Liver and Onions with Alii Mushrooms and Sauteed Chard

Shredded Beef Tongue Tacos (my personal favorite)

Southwestern Meatballs with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce

Grass fed steak with coffee marinade


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