Sunday, December 2, 2012

Potluck All-Stars

The holiday season is teeming with potlucks. From work celebrations, to Christmas parties, to family gatherings my calendar is full of them.

My first tip is to plan ahead. Look at your calendar right now and next to the potluck event, jot down what you're thinking of bringing. This way you'll have a chance of remembering this when you do the grocery shopping that week instead of scrambling to throw something together a half hour before the potluck. Which is in the real world, what I ALWAYS do.

This year is going to be different! I am planning ahead people. Below are my potluck go-tos. Most require minimal prep, but if they are more in-depth, I'll be sure to warn you. I'm going to put them in order of difficulty/time involved to prepare.

Have fun this holiday season and remember, eat something before you dive right into the spiked punch. Oh and never eat the booze soaked fruit. Never.

Easiest Peanut Butter Candy Ever

Easy Potluck Ideas (as in, I'd trust my husband to make it if I'm running late. None of these require cooking and can be thrown together in less than 30 minutes)

"Costco" Style Broccoli Salad
Pink Slaw
Magic Bean Salad
Easiest Peanut Butter Candy Ever

Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Mostly Easy Potluck Ideas (as in, you need to cook these ones, but should not take more than 1 hour)

Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Southwestern Meatballs with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce
Positive Self-Talk Potato Salad
Don's Grilled Sweet Potatoes (scroll to bottom of link)
No-Carb Lasagna
Steamer Clams
Avocado Pie

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Kinda-Difficult Potluck Ideas (as in, you may need to prepare these the day ahead but are great if you want to wow the crowd)

Savory Pumpkin Pie
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Coffee Brigadeiros
Homemade Butterfingers
Limoncello (this one needs a couple weeks prep, be sure to read the recipe first!)

Homemade Butterfingers

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blue Corn Pancakes with Garlic Avo Butter & Tomato Chipotle Syrup

Blue cornmeal made its way into my shopping cart last week. I just couldn't resist it when I spotted it in the bulk section. Since Dustin isn't a huge fan of cornbread, I had to put my recipe dream machine to work. Did I really just call my brain a recipe dream machine? This whole food blog thing is obviously going way too far.

Let's have some fun with pancakes. It all starts with blue cornmeal, a little fresh corn and some playful toppings that resemble the usual butter and maple syrup. But don't get tricked, these pancakes are anything but sweet. If you are not into making the "syrup," salsa would work just fine.

These would be great served with sausage and eggs. Breakfast for dinner!

Blue Corn Pancakes with Garlic Avo Butter & Tomato Chipotle Syrup
pancake recipe adapted from Closet Cooking
makes about 12 four inch pancakes

For pancakes:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup blue cornmeal (regular works, too)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 TBL sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TBL butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup corn, about 1 ear (frozen is fine, too)

For butter:
1 ripe avocado
1/2 head roasted garlic (about 6 cloves)
1 tsp lime juice
salt to taste

For syrup:
1 can chopped tomatoes (with juice)
2 chipotle chiles in adobe
1 TBL sugar
salt to taste

In a food processor or blender add the can of tomatoes to the chiles, sugar, and some salt. Blend until smooth. Dump into a small sauce pan over medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Set aside. 

In a food processor or blender add the avocado, garlic, lime juice, and some salt. Blend until smooth. Taste for adequate salt, set aside. 

In a medium bowl mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, mix melted butter, eggs, and milk. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined, try not to over mix. Fold in corn. 

Add dollops of pancake batter to a hot skillet, flipping when bubbles appear in the batter. Top with "butter" and "syrup" and have fun. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Savory Baked Apples with Parmesan and Sage

It's possible you are freaking out because tomorrow is T-gives and you still don't know what to make. Don't freak out. It's turkey. It's potatoes. It's pie. As long as there's enough of it, no one will complain.

But just in case you want to make an unexpected and super fancy side that is (much) easier than pie, I have a recipe for you that I'm really excited about. These baked apples would look awesome next to a turkey, but would pair especially well with ham or any porky product. They look elegant and I love serving foods that are fun and unique.

And before I go I need to say that this year I'm thankful for some really amazing people. You. All of you that read this little blog and leave comments or like my posts on Facebook, you are what keeps me going. Thank you from the bottom of my avocado pie. Sincerely.

Savory Baked Apples with Parmesan and Sage 
serves 4

4 apples
1 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup yellow onion
1/2 cup parmesan cheese + 4 TBL for topping
4-5 fresh sage leaves or 1/2 tsp dried sage
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325. Core apples using a paring knife, taking care not to pierce the bottom of the apple. If you do, all the sweet juices will leak out. This is tricky, but don't worry, no need for perfection here.

In a food processor or similar device, grind up the walnuts, garlic, onion, 1/2 cup cheese, sage, and some salt & pepper. Spoon walnut mixture into hollowed apples, pressing to pack in. You may need more or less filling depending on the size of your apples. Top each apple with 1 TBL of additional cheese. 

Place apples in a baking dish or sheet and bake for 1 hour or until apples are soft and cooked all the way through. Serve as a side to turkey, ham, pork chops or ? Enjoy! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Roasted Chai Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

You might remember the truckload of pumpkins I scored awhile back. Well, what is the hidden gem of the orange squash god? Seeds of course.

I never really know what to do with the seeds. Roast, peel and then eat? Coming from someone who can't be bothered to roll out pie dough, there is basically no way in hell I'm peeling thousands of tiny seeds.

And then I discovered that you can eat the whole seed without peeling it. Oh. I mean duh. But seriously, if I didn't know that, then maybe you didn't either and maybe I just saved you hours of pumpkin seed peeling time that you could use instead to play with your kids who might grow up to be research scientists and discover a cure for cancer all because you played with them more and all because I told you not to peel the pumpkin seeds.

See? I'm curing cancer one pumpkin seed at a time.

Oh by the way, make these immediately and don't share them with anyone, especially your kids. They need more time on the computer doing preliminary research.

Roasted Chai Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
coats about 2 cups of seeds

Seeds from 1 pumpkin, rinsed (or 9 like me, haha. Seriously it was awesome.)
1TBL olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1tsp allspice
2 pods cardamom (shells removed)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 seed from a star anise, outer shell removed (optional)
2 TBL agave or honey

Preheat oven to 400. Place seeds in a pot and and cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes and drain.

Spread seeds on an oiled baking sheet and toss to coat with oil. Roast for 5-20 minutes depending on the fatness of your seeds. Basically, you need to keep an eye on them. They need to be nice and browned, to the point where they are nearly burnt. This is because the crisper they are, the better.

Meanwhile, in a spice grinder or mortar grind cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, pepper, and star anise.

When seeds are done and have cooled a little, place in a bowl with spice mixture and toss to coat. Drizzle the agave or honey in a little at a time, stirring constantly so all seeds are coated. Best when warm. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hawaiian-style Thanksgiving

It's Sustainable Sunday! Let's get into it. Since Thanksgiving is next week, I want to encourage you to incorporate as many island grown ingredients as possible in your turkey day spread.

Speaking of turkey, unless you'll be hunting for your bird on the slopes of Mauna Kea, you won't find a  Hawaii raised turkey in the grocery store. Maybe an herbed-stuffed whole fish will grace your table, or some prime grass-fed beef steaks.

Get real Gwen! I know what you're thinking, there is no way you are going to forgo a turkey dinner for my personal agenda. Ok, ok fine, but will you consider doctoring a few sides then?

Let's start with potatoes. Why mash up some decrepit mainland shipped potatoes that have been rolling around on the bottom of an ocean liner for several months when you can make delicious, fresh and unexpected mashed breadfruit? Below you'll see my recipe for mashed breadfruit with roasted garlic and goat cheese.

Grab some fresh island grown green beans (I've seen them at Costco, KTA and the farmers' market) and some Hamakua mushrooms and you've got yourself a green bean casserole, recipe below.

Savory pumpkin pie

Kabocha squash is widely available and will make the best (sweet or savory) pumpkin pie you'll ever have. Maybe you're up for adventure? Serve some avocado pie.

Will you be serving locally grown dishes at your Thanksgiving this year? I'd love to hear about it. In the meantime, I hope you'll consider trying these sides.

Mashed breadfruit

Mashed Breadfruit with Roasted Garlic and Big Island Goat Cheese
serves 6-8

1 green breadfruit (make sure it is hard, like a bowling ball. If at all soft, find another one)
1 head garlic
2 to 5 oz Big Island goat cheese (found at KTA)
2 TBL butter
1/2 cup Big Island milk (found at all major grocery stores)
Hawaiian sea salt
2-3 sprigs rosemary (if desired)

Preheat oven to 400. Peel and core the breadfruit. Keep in mind the sap is messy and can stain, so use a junk knife. Cut breadfruit into bite-sized pieces and place in a steamer basket. Steam for 20-40 minutes or until very soft. I realize that the cook time is vague, but I have found that all breadfruits are slightly different, which has to do with its stage of ripeness. Don't be afraid to steam the heck out of it.

Wrap head of garlic in foil and roast in oven for 30 minutes.

When garlic and breadfruit are finished cooking, transfer breadfruit to a large pot and mash. Peel garlic and add to mash. Place pot over low heat and add goat cheese (I only added 2 oz or so, but if you want it cheesier, add more), milk, butter, and sea salt. Continue to mash until all is combined and mixture is smooth. Sprinkle with chopped fresh rosemary, if desired.

Big Island green bean casserole

Big Island Green Bean Casserole with Hamakua Mushrooms
adapted from My Life as a Mrs. 
serves 6-8

1 lb island grown green beans
1 TBL olive oil
1 TBL butter
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 package (12 oz) Hamakua mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
dash cayenne pepper
3 TBL flour
1 cup water (or vegetable broth)
1 cup milk
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Blanch green beans in salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain.

In a cast iron skillet heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Saute onion until soft, adding some salt & pepper. Add mushrooms and cook until soft and fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute or so. Add flour and stir to coat. Add water and bring to a simmer, then add milk and simmer until the mixture thickens, 5 minutes or so. Be sure to add salt & pepper along the way, tasting as you go.

Add green beans to the mushroom mixture and stir to coat. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Savory Pumpkin Pie

Savory Pumpkin Pie

After a Halloween birthday party blitz at her house, my friend Patty had a table full of leftover painted, but uncarved, pumpkins. She knows about my squash obsession and offered me nine, that's right, nine lovely orange globes.

I spent the afternoon yesterday roasting, peeling, pureeing, and storing the pumpkin meat. Of course, I also washed, boiled, roasted, and seasoned the seeds as well as experimented with the idea of a savory pumpkin pie.

It looks like we are well stocked up on pumpkin into the next decade. Expect many more squash recipes from me this fall.

My secret pie crust recipe is super flaky

Savory Pumpkin Pie
Serves 4-6

1 pie crust (sorry folks, I don't want to give away my secret pie crust recipe just yet)
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 TBL olive oil
3-4 cups cooked pumpkin (or squash or sweet potato)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 chipotle pepper in adobo (if desired)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste
roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (I served them whole as I can't be bothered to peel them)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9" pie pan with your favorite flour based crust. In a skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and onions and sautee until softened and browned, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Add garlic in for last few minutes of cook time.

While onions are cooking, place cooked pumpkin, spices, salt and pepper, egg and milk to a blender or food processor. (I used my immersion blender for this part if you have one of those.) If you are a person who does not like spicy food, I recommend you leave out the chipotle pepper. Blend until smooth. When onions are done, add those and blend again.

Pour mixture into your pie crust and bake until set and crust is browned, 40-50 minutes. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds to serve if desired.

PS: I think this would be really great to serve at a dinner party or gathering because it's an unexpected combination. You could even serve with unsweetened whipped cream for added flair.

PPS: I was going for a "smoky" flavor profile here, but I think you could play around a lot with how you want this pie to taste. Think of it as a quiche. It would also be great with just onions, garlic, salt and pepper if you want to keep it simple.

Monday, November 5, 2012

1st Place in Kona Coffee Recipe Contest

The Big Island's most important recipe contest of the year was held on Sunday at the Sheraton Kona Resort. The Kona Coffee Recipe Contest, sponsored by KTA and Kamehameha Schools, included dessert and entree divisions divided in professional, amateur, and culinary student categories.

My display table. We went with a "candy shop" theme

I entered the amateur dessert division with my Kona Coffee Brigadeiro recipe and won first place!

Posing with Kona coffee royalty

Let me tell you, the competition was fierce. On either side of me were contestants that had entered for many years and knew all the tricks of the trade. We chatted as we set up our display tables and the intimidation factor grew quite high for me, as this was my first go at this particular contest.

I was so surprised, happy and grateful to have won. Those little brigadeiros (a Brazilian fudgy candy) look humble, but pack a mighty flavor punch. The display turned out pretty cute too, thanks to my helper Rosanne. Thanks also to Renee for cheering me on, and to Ciara and Brendan for bringing me a sandwich when I forgot to eat the entire day. Please see the winning recipe below and don't forget to drink 100% Kona coffee!

My lucky coffee cup ring

The Kona Coffee Festival continues until November 11 with loads of fun activities including a parade, coffee cupping contest, a concert, and much more. See you there.

Kona coffee brigadeiros

Kona Coffee Brigadeiros
A twist on a Brazilian fudgy candy
Makes about 3 dozen

1 cup sweetened condensed milk
½ cup espresso or very strong Kona coffee
2 TBL butter
2 tsp light corn syrup
½ cup cocoa powder
36 Kona coffee beans

In a medium saucepan combine condensed milk, coffee, butter and corn syrup over medium-high heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Once the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to stir for 15-25 minutes or until the mixture thickens, like fudge.

Pour the mixture into a bowl without scraping the sides of the pan, discard what remains in the pan. Allow the mixture to cool in the fridge for 3-4 hours. 

Using a teaspoon, scoop the mixture and roll into balls with butter-coated hands. Dip into cocoa powder to coat and press a coffee bean on top. Enjoy!

You should know that it took me 4 attempts to get the technique for this recipe right. Don't get impatient when you are cooking the batter, it needs to be pretty thick or else it won't hold together. I just don't want anyone to get the idea that this is an easy recipe, it's not! But it is certainly delish and was worth all previous failures. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sustainable Sunday: Kona Coffee

Aloha coffee lovers! I will competing in the Kona coffee recipe contest today down at the Sheraton. If you are in town and want to sample the entries, head on over from 12:30pm to 3:30pm.

I will let you in on the results as soon as they're in. Wish me luck and remember, buy local, it matters. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sustainable Sunday: Eat That Pumpkin

Pumpkin and black bean burrito guts

I was happily sipping an Octoberfest draft and watching a World Series game at our local sports bar yesterday when the Halloween spirit crept up on me. Surrounded by several annihilated revelers with the sun on our backs, we started at a man shuffling drunkenly outside of the bar. He was having a hard time staying upright and we watched him carefully, concerned he may pitch himself into a nearby patch of sharp lava rock. He turned toward us and I gasped at his bloody, bandaged face. If only he could have seen me to benefit from this naive reaction. He was, of course, simply dressed as a zombie for the weekend's Halloween festivities.

Pumpkin casserole with bleu cheese

So now I'm officially ready for tricks and treats. Bring on the candy and costumes and popcorn and cider. Bring on the scary movies and plastic cobwebs and yes, please, more candy. And let's carve pumpkins but let's also eat pumpkins. Here in Hawaii the Kabocha squash is quite common, and since I'm fairly obsessed with its sweet, sweet flesh, I have many recipes at the ready.

Kabocha squash ravioli

On this Sustainable Sunday, find yourself a locally grown pumpkin, try one of these recipes, root for Detroit, and watch Pet Sematary or some such quality horror flick.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Tacos

Squash Sandwiches (2 ways)

Little Slices of Orange

Kabocha Squash Ravioli

Sweet Potato Casserole with Bleu Cheese (sub pumpkin)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sustainable Sunday: Ice Cream Bean

Introducing the world's funnest fruit! Or is it most fun fruit? You'd think a teacher would know this stuff. Anyway, this bean is fun to eat!

Ice cream beans aren't really a bean at all. They are a fruit that grows on a tree right here in Hawaii. To eat, simply split the bean open and eat the white fluff that surrounds the black seeds. Watch this video to see how it's done.

It's a lot like eating a sweet cotton ball. A super delicious sweet cotton ball. I've never had anything like it. Fun in a bean! Bean fun.

These ice cream beans were found at the Keauhou Farmers Market along with armloads of other goodies including mac nut oil, tomatoes, Kabocha squash, limes, and breadfruit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sweet and Sour Poundcake

You take a sour thing. A lemon. You take a sweet thing. Sugar. You mix them. You get another sweet thing. It's science. It's life. It's a lot of short sentences.

The lemon represents the bad times. The time you drove to work in your gardening shoes. Or the entire day you spent in the kitchen and none of your recipes turned out. Maybe you've had a sour year infused with depression or stress or the loss of a loved one.

All of us in the Joy the Baker podcast community got word of some sour news recently. Veronica, a dedicated fan of the podcast, passed away not long ago due to complications in surgery. Tim, her husband, wrote in to let us all know what happened. Tim, my warmest aloha goes out to you.

It's just like that you know. We're here and then we're not here. It's sour. So, just like in this recipe for lemon poundcake, I suggest we add some sugar. Go right now and tell your dearest you love them. Make this cake for a friend. Volunteer your time somehow. Give your co-worker a pat on the back. Call your mom. Think good thoughts.

Because when you add a sour thing and a sweet thing, you get a sweet thing. Veronica's husband Tim suggested volunteering somewhere to honor Veronica's memory. I'm going to start taking a garbage bag with me every time I go to the beach to fill with trash. How can you make this sour time sweet? To begin with, make this cake, and think of Veronica and think of Tim and think of all the people you love.

Sour + Sweet = Sweet

Lemon Poundcake
recipe from Joy the Baker

1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 eggs, room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 325.  Sift together flour and baking powder, set aside.  Cream butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer.  In the mean time, work the lemon zest into the granulated sugar.  This process should take about five minutes, and the sugar will become very fragrant.  Add the sugar to the butter mixture and continue creaming.  Add the lemon and vanilla extract.  Add eggs one at a time, beating for about one minute each.  Scrape down the bowl after each addition.  Slowly add the sifted flour and baking powder.  Don't over mix in the electric mixer.  Bring the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.  Pour into a greased and floured pan and bake for 60- 75 minutes, or until tooth pick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sustainable Sunday: Beef Kidneys

Against my better judgement, and the advice of most on the old internet, I am stewing some beef kidneys. It's just that I keep seeing them for sale in the "grass-fed beef" section at the store and got curiouser and curiouser. There was a big stamp on them that said "Eat Me." So we will.

Let's get straight to it. These kidneys stink to high heaven. And I'm not the squeamish sort. As I've often told my husband, as long as it's dead no amount of gore really bothers me, but the smell is a little hard to take. I followed all of the tips I could find on ridding the kidneys of this smell; I blanched them, rinsed them, salted then rinsed them, soaked them in milk then rinsed them, and braised before adding to a crockpot with lots of veggies and spices. Basically, I cooked the piss out of them. Literally.

...Excuse me while I laugh at my own joke...

So now this stewish concoction is bubbling away in the slow cooker. I'm not going to include a recipe until I've tried it but I will tell you that I used Okinawan sweet potatoes, Maui onion, carrots, garlic, shoyu, ketchup, and a bunch of spices.

Here's to hoping this Sustainable Sunday stew is edible.

Buy local, it matters!

The stew came together nicely. The kidneys taste vaguely of liver. However. There is a smell. Proceed at your own risk.

Beef kidney stew

Monday, October 8, 2012

5 Ways to Get Motivated

Dawson wants my sandwich

As great as sitting on the couch watching episode after episode of Dawson's Creek sounds, there are actually lots of things I really should be doing instead.

Ya know, like painting the badly scuffed baseboards and door jams in our house, submitting first quarter grades, or developing a new recipe for the upcoming Kona coffee recipe contest. But, here I sit,  eating scotchmallows and drinking tea, perpetually mesmerized by Pacey Witter.

People, I'm in serious need of some motivation. I do, however, have a few tricks up my sleeve.

1. Listen to some uplifting tunes. I have a special Pandora station dedicated to my good female friends Pat Benatar, Cindy Lauper, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, Janis Joplin, and Stevie Nicks. They always know what to say.

2. Watch an uplifting movie. Careful here. Some movies seem inspiring because they're our favorites, but films that play too heavily on our nostalgic sensibilities might bring us down even more. "Almost Famous," "The Karate Kid," and "A League of Their Own" are my go-tos.

3. Get out. If you are stuck in front of the TV, go to the next room. If you are stuck behind the wheel, take a different route home. If you are stuck in a dorm room, go to a coffee shop. Get out, get away. Fresh air is good for your synapses.

4. Make a list, set a deadline, divide your work in chunks. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Could this list be a little more cliched? That's why I'm skipping number 5 to say that, you know what? Sometimes nothing works. Sometimes life sits on your head while you're sleeping and all you can do is crawl deeper under the covers. Sometimes when all you want is to be highly productive, creative, and efficient you only get  frustrated, twisted, and buffered down with an inferiority complex.

I don't have that magic touch called "drive," but I do have something else, it's called "grit." Life can keep sitting on my head, but I'll figure out a way to move forward, however slowly. Sometimes this involves chocolate and Joshua Jackson. I can't help that.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sustainable Sunday: Here Fishy, Fishy

Sustainably raised Kona Kampachi

My soon-to-be brother-in-law recently returned from another summer fishing for salmon in Alaska. We love having him home and we also love having our freezer stocked with the freshest and most sustainable fish out there.

Being a northwesterner, salmon happens to be my favorite fish. Unfortunately, I don't buy it much because salmon doesn't exactly swim all the way to Hawaii, and I prefer to buy and eat locally raised or caught fish. Which leads us to today's Sustainable Sunday topic, how the heck do we make sustainable fish choices?

The first thing to do is reduce or eliminate our fish intake. I know, I know we gotta get our omega-3s, but these important fats can be found in lots of other foods including flax seeds and olive oil. Keep in mind that most omega-3 supplements are made from fish oils, so be sure to check the label if you are going that route. Scientists are predicting an end of edible ocean dwelling fish by 2050 if current consumption continues, so I'd say it's kinda crucial that we all take eating less fish seriously.

In real life many of us do eat some fish. Hey me too! So let's figure out which fish to bring home that won't contribute to the overfishing problem. In Hawaii, stores must mark the source of their seafood, but if you live in a place where this is not required, get to know the person behind the fish counter, they are most likely full of helpful information. Also, get to know which fish are local to your area, the less the fish has travelled the tastier it will be. Here are some online resources to help you sort it out:

Monterey Bay Aquarium: find seafood recommendations through their search engine, pocket guides, and iPhone apps.

NOAA - FishWatch: everything you ever wanted to know about fish, including farming practices.

NELHA: if you are on the Big Island and haven't gone on the NELHA tour, it is must. Learn all about Hawaii's energy and aquaculture future.

I hope that helps. If you have any other tips, please leave them in the comments below. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Up Country Bakery & Cafe in Captain Cook, HI

Bagel with lox & breakfast burrito at Up Country

It's not often that I get REALLY excited about a new restaurant. As you can imagine, living in a tourist center means restaurants come and go nearly as often as the tides.

Dustin & Cruiser soaking up some rays outside Up Country

Up Country Bakery & Cafe, located 30 minutes south of Kona in Captain Cook, makes food to get really excited about.

Oatmeal cookies with cream cheese frosting at Up Country

It's your usual cafe fare with an island twist. The homemade bagels, breads, and pastries won't disappoint. Plenty of vegan, vegetarian, organic, and gluten-free options to choose from. Everything we ate here was fresh, simple, affordable, and filling. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, the staff is super friendly, and I'm happy to say I will definitely be back.

I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this review. Check out my other (boring but to-the-point) reviews on Yelp

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What's in my toolbox?

Kitchen gadgets I can't live without currently:

From top left, clockwise

Stand-up knife sharpener. Simply stand on the counter and drag knife through. Takes the guess work out of free-hand sharpening.

Microplane grater/zester. Works wonders with ginger and parmesan.

Madoline slicer. A dream with onions.

Boy scout style can opener. Tried and true, never breaks, super-cheap. I got tired of paying big bucks for can openers that only lasted a year, these little guys never fail.

Wooden spatula. Great for stir-frying and just general stirring. Won't melt, like plastic, or get too hot, like metal.

Last but not least, my beloved woo-woo. Or as most people call them, an immersion blender. Awesome for soups, mine comes with a mini chopping attachment that I use to make salad dressings, pesto, and marinades.

What's in your toolbox? Please share here or visit MauiShopGirl to find out what others have tucked away.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Breadfruit Festival & Cooking Contest Results

Award-winning 'Ulu Gnocchi 

Yesterday we spent the morning at the Breadfruit Festival in Captain Cook, Hawaii. The main aim of the festival is to promote breadfruit use in everyday cooking.

Making 'ulu (breadfruit) poi

The starchy fruit, similar to potato, is a logical replacement for rice, bread, flour, tortillas and potatoes when eaten in the "green" stage. Once the fruit ripens, it can be used in various desserts.

Sam Choy giving a cooking demo

Breadfruit grows abundantly here in the islands, although it is not widely used. We know this because most of our food is imported from abroad, particularly our most common starches. Hopefully attendees were able to learn some new uses for the fruit at the festival, I certainly did.

My 'ulu gnocchi won the heathy choice award!

I currently have a breadfruit and portuguese sausage stew bubbling away in the slow cooker as I type this, inspired by the winning recipe at the cooking contest. My entry, recipe below, got second place in the entree division as well as nabbing the "Healthiest Choice" award of which I am particularly proud. You all know by now how passionate I am about making food that is good for our bodies as well as the 'aina. I hope you will give breadfruit a chance, maybe even by trying the recipe below.

'Ulu (Breadfruit) Gnocchi with Hamakua Mushroom Ragout
serves 4-6

For gnocchi:
1 green breadfruit
1 to 1 1/2 cups flour
2 egg yolks

For ragout:
2 cups alii mushrooms, chopped
½ Maui onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4-5 sage leaves, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
grated parmesan to serve

Peel, decore, and chop breadfruit into bite sized pieces. Steam in a steamer basket for 20-30 minutes or until soft. Place in a large bowl and mash.

When breadfruit has cooled some, but is still warm, add flour and beaten egg yolks. Use your hands to mix and knead until it becomes a ball of dough. Do not over work the dough. Take a small handful of dough and roll into a tube about ¾ inch in diameter on a floured surface using the tips of your fingers. Cut the tube into 1 inch pieces and press each with your thumb to make a small indentation. Place gnocchi on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and continue with the rest of the dough.

Begin making the ragout by sautéing onion, garlic, and mushrooms in the olive oil over medium heat until soft, adding salt and pepper to taste as you go. Add the balsamic vinegar and sage, cover and turn off heat. 

To cook the gnocchi, bring a salted pot of water to a boil. Add a cup or so of gnocchi to the pot at a time, boiling for 1-2 minutes or until gnocchi float to the surface. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and boil the next batch. Take care not to crowd the gnocchi, this is why we cook them in batches. 

Toss cooked gnocchi in the ragout and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Bunch of...

I'm playing along again this week with Maui Shop Girl and her "Just Another Photo Challenge" series. This week the photo prompt was "A Bunch of..." I always have a bunch of something growing in the garden.

A bunch of shampoo ginger.

A bunch of broccoli flowers, which are edible as well as the leaves.

A bunch of basil. Pesto party here I come!

A bunch of papaya. My husband planted these trees from seed last year. It is amazing how fast they grow. Hoping to make some green papaya salad soon, one of my favorites.

I hope you'll join us by taking your own "A Bunch of..." photos. Cheers!


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