Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long 2011!

Before I let the door hit 2011 on the butt on the way out, let's have a quick gander at what this year brought my way.

In 2011:

I gave up meat. Success! Going meatless led to much more creative cooking.

I graduated and became a teacher.

I visited my hometown of Portland, Oregon for the first time in over 3 years.

I rode my first waves.

I backpacked along the face of a volcano.

I started running and completed my first 5k.

I faced my fears in Denver and caught up with some of the best people on planet Earth.

And turned 29 with a bang.

Let's not forget all the wonderful friends I made this year!

In case you were wondering, my most popular post by far was: Birthday Brownies and a List.

Keep it classy tonight ladies! Talk to you next year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Frozen Hot Chocolate and Eggnog Shake

I wanted to call this post "Faux Frapps" because that's really what's going on here. Why go to Starbucks when you can blend up a treat at home?

Also these blended drinks are good for getting rid of the last dregs of eggnog and plowing into the endless packets and jars of hot chocolate mix you gathered over the holiday.

Plus making a full-on blended drink feels like such a special and fancy treat. Please consider giving yourself a special and fancy treat, it's been, at least for me, an unusually clouded holiday. All there is to do is move ahead, so I'm looking forward to a year of new beginnings. Body and mind detox coming your way after the new year for all who care to join me in stripping away 2011.

Frozen Hot Chocolate
serves 1 (easily multiplied)

1 packet hot chocolate mix
1 drinking glass full of ice
1 cup coffee (or whatever is left in the pot from that morning)
1/2 cup milk
whipped cream

Smoothie TRICK everyone must know about: choose the drinking glass you want and fill it with ice. Then pour desired amount of coffee and milk on top of the ice to fill the glass with liquid. Dump contents of glass into the blender. You'll get the perfect amount every time! This works for all milkshakes/smoothies. For this recipe, make sure you add the packet of hot chocolate mix and blend until smooth. Top with whipped cream. Enjoy!

Eggnog Faux Frapp
serves 2

2 drinking glasses full of ice
1 cup eggnog
2 cups coffee (room temp or cold)

Dump all in a blender and blend until smooth. Add a little milk if too thick. Top with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How to Make Your Own Ravioli

Homemade pasta seems super intimidating. But I'm here to tell you that I made these raviolis with only a food processor, a heavy granite rolling pin, and a little grit.

These little pillows of deliciousness were whipped up for Christmas dinner. Well, "whipped up" is going a little far. You will need a couple solid hours to make this meal happen.

Very worth the effort. Dustin has even dubbed my recent efforts "Delinners," aka delicious dinners. Ok.

Kabocha Squash Ravioli with Mushroom Cream Sauce
serves 4

Pasta Dough
from The Barnes & Noble Essentials of Cooking
2 cups flour
3 eggs

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 TBL olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
2 cups cooked Kabocha squash (can sub pumpkin or butternut)
1 whole head roasted garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt & pepper

2 TBL unsalted butter
1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
2/3 cup cream or half & half
salt & pepper

Heat oven to 400 and roast your quartered Kabocha squash for 45-60 minutes. Wrap the head of garlic in some foil and roast it along with the squash until cloves are soft.

Measure flour for dough into a food processor. Beat eggs in a small bowl and gradually pour through the feed tube while running. Process until the dough forms a ball that rides on top of the blade. If the dough is too dry, sprinkle with 1 TBL water. If too sticky, add 1 TBL flour.

Remove the dough from the processor and knead until supple, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting add the olive oil, onion and sugar to a pan over low heat. Carmelize the onion by allowing it to cook over low heat for about 30 minutes or until thoroughly browned and reduced down. To complete the filling, add squash, garlic, parmesan, and salt & pepper to the pan. Mix and heat through.

Back to the dough. Divide the dough in half. Keep one half covered with the plastic wrap while you roll out the the other. It's important that you not let the pasta dry out. Begin rolling out the dough. Don't worry about the shape, just get it as thin as possible. This will take some elbow grease. Don't worry about tearing the dough, it is very pliable. You seriously need to get it thin though because you will be folding it over.

Once the pasta is rolled out, cut it in strips 3 inches wide using a pizza cutter. Place about a tsp of filling, one inch apart along the strip. Work fast so the pasta doesn't dry out. Fold the strip over, then use a fork to fuse the edges. Cut the individual raviolis using the pizza cutter. You will need to fuse all 3 edges with the fork. Place on a rack or dish when completed, now it's ok if they dry out a bit. Do this part with care so the filling doesn't leak out while cooking. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Boil a large pot of salted water and heat the oven to 350. You will be boiling the ravioli and making the sauce at the same time. Sauce: Heat a pan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and saute until soft. Add the half & half and salt & pepper and turn the heat down to low.

Once the water in the pot begins to boil, add the raviolis and boil for 4 minutes. You will need to do this in 3 batches so as not to crowd the pasta in the pot. When the pasta is cooked al dente, place them in a 9x13 inch dish, topping each ravioli with a bit of the sauce. Top raviolis with the remaining sauce and mushrooms and bake in the 350 oven for 5-10 minutes to heat through.

Top with more parmesan and serve. Phew...Enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Breakfast Casseroles Cure Sugar Highs

There is way too much candy in my house right now. I woke up this morning with a sugar hangover. Is that a real thing? I swear, all the sugar in my system sapped my brain. And any photography skills I may have had.

It's really important to counteract the sweet candy goodness with something eggy and starchy and cheesy.

What a delicious way to celebrate Christmas morning. Yesterday I was really wanting to transport myself back to age 7, when Christmas was IT. The presents, the sparkle, the anticipation, the afterglow.

Christmas is so very different now. We got up, made this breakfast casserole, opened presents, went back to bed, and ate more casserole when we woke up. Two breakfasts is all the afterglow I need these days.

I hope you had a warming, glowing, warm Christmas with a full belly and lots of candy canes.

Breakfast Casserole
serves 6-8 (unless you have 2 breakfasts)

2 large potatoes, diced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 TBL olive oil
2-4 oz cream cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
1 tomato, diced
10 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt & pepper

Place potatoes and onion in a large pot and cover with with water. Boil for 5-7 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain.

Heat oven to 350. Add potatoes and onions to an oiled 9x13 baking dish. Stir in the cream cheese so that the potatoes are coated. You will need to eyeball how much cream cheese to add. Add some salt and pepper. Sprinkle garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes evenly over the potatoes.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with the milk and some salt & pepper. Pour over potato veggie mixture. Top with cheddar cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until eggs are set. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Zen of Christmas Cookies

Baking and boiling. Stirring and chopping. Dipping and rolling and spooning and spreading.

Remember this one thing as you roll your dough and sprinkle your sprinkles: you are making these treats for people you love.

Hold your heart in your hands as you make this food.

Cruzer & Dustin

Love is delicious.

Putting socks on cut up feet. Dang lava rock!

Sweet & Salty Rice Cracker Treats
makes 35 squares

3 TBL butter
1 - 10oz package marshmallows
2 cups arare (Japanese rice crackers)
4 cups rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
1/2 package chocolate flavored almond bark (or any meltable chocolate will work)

Melt butter over medium low heat in a large sauce pan. Add marshmallows and stir constantly until melted. Stir in arare and cereal.

Spread mixture in a waxed paper lined 9x13 inch baking dish with a buttered spatula. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Melt chocolate according to package directions. Dunk rice squares in the melted chocolate and allow to cool on waxed paper.

We wrapped ours up in parchment paper and tied with gift tags for neighbors and friends. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Great Lime Hoax (and green papaya salad)

At the farmer's market this weekend, I came across these lovely little gems. Their bright orange skin and flesh enticed me.

But don't be fooled, these are little limes. A cross between a lemon and a tangerine the Rangpur lime is super juicy, slightly sweet and can stand in for lime in any recipe.

I've been a bit of a podcast junky lately and have enjoyed listening to Spilled Milk, a silly foodie show starring Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton.

They did a show recently on Thai salads and hearing them describe the secrets of Thai dressings, I had to give it a go. The big secret? There is no fat in Thai dressings! No wonder my past salads didn't seem quite right.

So the dog and I headed down the street and picked some green papayas from a feral tree. This salad comes together in a matter of minutes but the bright, clean flavors stay with you.

My new favorite salad.

Green Papaya Salad
inspired by Spilled Milk
serves 2

1 green (unripe) papaya (softball sized)
1 tomato, chopped
1 green onion, white part cut very thin
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 TBL peanuts, chopped (almonds work, too)
2 TBl fresh cilantro

4 TBL fish sauce
4 TBL Rangpur lime juice (other limes work fine)
2 TBL agave
1tsp Sambal Oelek (chile paste)

Peel your green papaya. Cut in half and remove the seeds, then grate. Your papaya should have white seeds inside with light green flesh, the one pictured above was beginning to ripen, that's why it has some black seeds.

In a small bowl whisk dressing ingredients. Add vegetables and mix to combine. Top with peanuts and cilantro when ready to serve. This salad can be made up to one hour in advance. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

How To Save Decrepit Carrots

Cooking with fresh ingredients is one of the most basic of pleasures. It keeps me motivated to maintain my garden and get up early to hit the farmer's market.

But in the real world I also buy the 5 lb bag of baby carrots at Costco which eventually become whitish-orange decrepit imposters of their former selves. Which were not that great to begin with.

Since my husband hates it when food goes bad in the fridge, and I really would rather not waste anything, these decrepit imposters must be eaten somehow.

Enter roasted carrot soup, the saver of the less-than-fresh. I first learned about this soup from my friend Becky. She was inspired by Food52. Since my carrots were seriously really old, I doctored the recipe into an Indian version with lots of spices. It worked out brilliantly.

Curried Carrot Soup
serves 4

1.5 lbs baby carrots
3 TBL olive oil, divided
salt & pepper
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced
4-6 cups vegetable stock (depends on how thick you want the soup)
cooked brown rice
plain yogurt

Spread carrots out on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle about 2 TBL olive oil on them and toss to coat. Sprinkle a good amount of salt on them. Run under a broiler for about 15 minutes, tossing them every 5 minutes, until browned and softened.

In a soup pot over medium high heat, toast the curry powder, turmeric, chili, and cumin seeds in 1 TBL olive oil for about 2 minutes or until aromatic. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes, then add garlic and ginger and saute another few minutes or until onion is translucent.

Add stock/broth and do a taste test to determine how much salt to add, some stocks are very salty. You may also need to add more chile, depending on how spicy you want it. Stir in salt & pepper, and roasted carrots and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer the soup for 5-10 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender (on my Christmas list!) woo woo the soup. If not, add it in batches to a blender.

Serve over some cooked brown rice with a dollop of plain yogurt, enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

No Carb Lasagna

I'm getting stressed. I mean, it's pretty safe to say we're all getting stressed right now. The thing that's stressing me out the most though is the smidgeon of weight I've gained since the summer time.

And I'm really trying not to stress about this thing because it is the damn holidays and there is just no way around eating foods that are dreadfully unhealthy.

So I say to myself, hey, these dreadfully unhealthy foods are also awfully good so you may as well enjoy eating them.

Tips on enjoying dreadfully unhealthy foods:

1. Stick to the homemade stuff. If the only desserts on offer are store-bought pumpkin pie or cake, I'm going to skip those because, in non-holiday world, I can eat those anytime. But it is not any old time when you get the chance to devour your co-worker's candied nuts or sister-in-law's chocolate pie. The time is now for these precious treats.

2. Keep it special. My best food memories are of treats that I only got to savor once in a very great while. Keep it that way.

3. Give it away. So you have a hankering for cookies or pie or salmon pate. Cool. Make some, eat some, then give the rest away. People will love you a little (read: a lot) more.

4. Get a dog. Since we got one I have no excuse anymore to skip a little physical activity because now I gotta make sure the dog gets his walk. It's like living with your personal trainer. Except cuddlier.

5. In between parties and big meals, cook the healthiest food imaginable. This totally cancels the bad stuff out.

No Carb Lasagna
Serves 4
Inspired by Dashing Dish

2 cans stewed tomatoes, drained or 1 jar pasta sauce
optional: 1/2 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 cup frozen spinach
2 Japanese eggplant, sliced to 1/4 inch
1 - 8 oz container ricotta cheese
2 large handfuls fresh herbs (I like basil and oregano) or several healthy shakes or a dried Italian herb blend
salt & pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375. If using canned tomatoes, first cook your onions, garlic, and spinach over medium heat. Add tomatoes and cooked onion mixture to food processor and pulse a few times to get a sauce.

In a 9x13 baking dish begin layering the lasagna by first putting down a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of eggplant. Spread half the ricotta on the eggplant, add some salt & pepper and 1/2 the herbs. Repeat. Top with remaining sauce and parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eggplant Tacos with Cilantro Pesto

Vegetables I'm obsessed with this year: lima beans, Kabocha squash, sweet potatoes, and eggplant.

I'm going to get a little existential on you with some food philosophy. When I cook, it's important to me to honor the essence of the ingredients, to bring out what's fabulous about the ingredient versus trying to alter it or cover it.

When I'm cooking a thing, it's all about maintaining the integrity of the thing. Be it animal or vegetable.

So I think to myself, how can I make these beautiful ingredients: eggplant, cilantro, avocado, and tomato burst into a new thing that's even better than it's original self?

I'm saying this because I don't want you to think of the eggplant as a meat substitute. It's a whole new experience. Let's allow the eggplant to be herself.

She won't disappoint.

Love your ingredients. All they really want in their short lives is to please and impress you.

Eggplant Tacos with Cilantro Pesto
serves 2

2 Japanese eggplants, or 1 regular sliced in 1/4 pieces lengthwise
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, sliced to 1/4 inch or less
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mild chile powder (like chile molido pasado)
1 TBL olive oil
salt & pepper
4-8 corn tortillas
1/2 ripe avocado
feta cheese
hot sauce

For pesto:
2 cups cilantro, stems are ok
4 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup walnuts
juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat oven to 400. Drizzle a little of the olive oil on a cookie sheet. Arrange eggplant, onions, and tomato on sheet, spreading them out as much as possible. Drizzle with more oil. Sprinkle all over with cumin, chile powder, and salt & pepper. Toss to coat. Roast for 10 minutes then remove tomatoes to a plate to cool, add garbanzo beans to sheet, flip veggies to other side, and roast for another 7-10 minutes.

For pesto: Add cilantro, garlic, nuts, lime juice, and salt & pepper to a food processor. Pulse until combined. Slowly add olive oil while pulsing until desired consistency is reached.

To assemble tacos, spread a little pesto on a heat tortilla, add some of your roasted veggies, a slice of avocado, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and hot sauce if you like. We are partial to Frank's. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Home Town - The Big Island of Hawaii

Aloha lovely readers! I'm so happy to be a part of the "My Home Town"series on Meg's blog, Henning Love, today. She has created a wonderful blog space for us to enjoy in Blogland, so check it out! 

Since I write for my blog way out here in the middle of the Pacific, I thought it would be fun to share what makes my hometown great. Please go check out my post on Henning Love



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homemade Butterfingers

This recipe features a key ingredient that you may or may not be able to get your hands on this time of year. Our school got a huge donation of said secret ingredient so in the spirit of "waste not," I got crackin' on my first batch of candy.

This is super easy and does not involve a candy thermometer or even the stove. Just the microwave y'all!

In other news, we randomly acquired a dog over the weekend and are in dire need of a witty name. We already have a cat named Abba Zaba, named for this clip from Half Baked. In that same spirit, we are considering naming him Cuban B. Other options are Scooter, Radar, Cruiser, Johnny Utah, and Kip. What say you dear readers?

The big reveal:

Candy corn! Yup. You gotta have the corn if you wanta make the butterfinger.

Homemade Butterfingers
from Plain Chicken
yield varies depending on size of candy bars

1 - 24oz package of candy corn
2 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 - 24 oz package chocolate almond bark of chocolate candy coating or just use chocolate chips

In a microwave safe bowl, nuke the corn on high for 2 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon and continue to heat them in 15 second intervals until corn is melted, stirring between each interval.

Add peanut better and stir well to combine. In a wax paper lined 13x9 inch baking dish, spread mixture evenly using the spoon to press down.

After the corn mixture has completely cooled, remove from dish and cut into desired sizes.

Melt chocolate according to package directions, usually in the microwave.

Dip corn pieces into melted chocolate, allowing to cool on wax paper. Yummy in my tummy. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Fun and News

What a weekend!

Dustin and I were whisked away for an evening of amazing treats and food at the VIP Sunset Circle. This is an event put on at the Waikoloa Marriott for concierge in the resort area where our business is located. Since we sell activities at our shop, we got to attend. The best part was the restaurant showcase. All of my favorites were there including Merriman's and Sansei. I really wish I'd taken photos of the food but my husband said that would be weird, so we just enjoyed the evening sans blog documentation.

As if that weren't enough, we were running errands today and saw signs at Petco for a dog adoption event. We've been in the market to get a dog for awhile, but were unsure of what we wanted. But there he was, little Cruiser, just waiting for us to scoop him up. So now we are official dog owners of a one year old mixed breed with huge ears and a friendly disposition. Our cat immediately let him know who was boss, which is just find because I was afraid she'd get pissed at us for bringing a dog home and never return. It's looking like she'd rather rule over him.

Hope you all had a good weekend, recipe posts coming soon, just now getting to the end of our Thanksgiving leftovers if you can believe that.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pheasant Stew and Fricassee

My husband has taken up hunting the last couple of years, which is great for me because I grew up hunting and eating game all my life.

Hunting on the slopes of Mauna Kea

Just to be clear, as I've been harping the vegetarianese over the last year, I've got no problem eating meat that's been sustainably harvested. (Wait, is meat "harvested?") I'm just doing my best to avoid industrialized meat that been packaged and shipped to us across the Pacific.


We've had fun creating recipes around the lovely pheasant, urkel, and turkey he's brought home. I had the most fun showing him how to skin and prepare the birds for eating. It reminded me how much more the food is appreciated when you can make a connection with the life (be it plant or animal) that it once was.

D with pheasants

Dustin made an awesome fricassee with the breast meat and I cooked up some stew in the slow cooker.

One of the most difficult aspects of preparing game birds is that they dry out very quickly. You have to have a strategy for keeping the meat moist, which means adding some sort of fat. The recipes below are really just guidelines, ideas to help you in preparing game birds.


Finished fricassee

Pheasant Fricassee
serves 4

Breasts of 2 pheasants, skinned and deboned
1 cup milk
1 glug olive oil
1 cup white wine
5 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 yellow onion
large handful mushrooms, slices
salt & pepper
large handful of mixed fresh thyme, oregano, and sage
1 smoked pork sausage (bacon can sub here)

Marinate the breasts in the milk, olive oil, and wine for at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours.

In a large cast iron pan, heat some more oil over medium high heat and cook up the onions, mushrooms, sausage and garlic with some salt and pepper. Add the breasts along with the marinade and herbs into the pan and turn the heat down to medium low. Gently simmer the mixture until the breasts are cooked through, maybe 20-30 minutes.

Pheasant Stew
serves 4

Legs, thighs, wings, and backs of 2 pheasants (backs may be stretching it for some, omit if you don't like a gamey flavor)
1 cup flour
1 tsp paprika
salt & pepper
olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, slices
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 TBL fresh thyme
2 cups stock

Heat a large pan over medium high heat and add some olive oil. Put flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a paper bag. Add the pheasant pieces and coat with the flour mixture. Brown the pheasant pieces in the pan, making sure not to crowd the pan so they will brown. You may have to do this in 2 batches. As soon as the meat is browned, add it to a slow cooker.

Deglaze the pan you just used with the wine by adding the wine to the hot pan and swirling to loosen the the browned bits. Add this to the slow cooker.

Add the veggies, stock, and herbs to the slow cooker on top of the meat. Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve with rice or biscuits. Enjoy!


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