Thursday, May 31, 2012

Easiest Peanut Butter Candy Ever

My friend Rachel put in a request for a peanut butter cookie recipe just as I was making these candies. Even though it's not a cookie, I'd call that perfect timing.

Time does have a knack for being perfect, doesn't it? That can be annoying, all that perfect timing business. Sometimes we just want to know ahead of time what the heck is going to happen.

I'm happy to share that next school year I'll be going back to teaching middle school. Tweens are the best. She might hate me for sharing this here but my sister is getting married! I'm heading off to New York in less than two weeks AND my dog and cat tag team just brought a live bird in the house. Timing is awesome! Let's eat some candy.

Easy Peanut Butter Candies
This recipe featured on Foodie Friends Friday
makes about 12

1 cup peanut butter
2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup chocolate chips, almond bark, or other meltable chocolate

In a small bowl combine peanut butter and coconut so that the coconut is completely coated. You can add more coconut or peanut butter at this point, depending on how sticky you want it. Using a spoon and your hands, form mixture into balls and place in mini cupcake papers or line them up on a waxed paper lined baking sheet. Mine were TBL size, but you can make them as big or small as you like.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat and melt chocolate according to package directions. Usually this entails heating for 1 minute, stirring, then heating again in 15 second intervals until melted. Spoon a little melted chocolate on top of each peanut butter ball.

Place in fridge for 30 minutes or so to allow the melted chocolate to harden up. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kona: the world's best coffee

We have a very special Sustainable Sunday post today. We're going to discuss all things coffee, since right here in Kona, Hawaii some of the world's best is farmed.  Today's adventure was selected for the Foodbuzz 24x24, I am so thrilled to be part of this fun event once again.

Many coffee farms on the Big Island welcome visitors for tastings and tours. Some are small and humble, some are quite grand. We planned to stop at as many farms as possible, starting with Mauka Meadows. This farm has expansive gardens complete with fountains, gazebos, and manicured walkways that guide you to their tasting area. We grabbed our first tasting of the day and snuggled into a little gazebo to enjoy our picnic breakfast.

Coffee can be paired with foods just like wine. Due to the superior quality and flavor of Kona coffee beans, it is generally gently roasted to medium or dark, never burned to disguise "off" flavors (this can be a common technique for lower-grade coffee roasting). Kona coffee's smooth yet bold flavors pair well with baked goods that are not super-sweet, allowing the coffee to shine. I made some macadamia nut scones for our picnic breakfast (see recipe below) to be enjoyed with lemon curd or fig jam. It was a great pairing, I love that scones have a rich flavor without a lot of sweetness.

Our next stop was Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC). They have a small road-side kiosk that overlooks the gorgeous Kona coast and their well-tended coffee farm. We tasted several different coffees in cute little mugs while the helpful staff clued us in on the hard work that goes into each bean. Kona coffee is picked by hand, and because the beans are only harvested when ripe, each tree must be picked several times before the season ends.

The winding Mamalahoa Highway takes you through the thickest of coffee country, passing family farms and wonderful "old Hawaii" scenery. Don't miss visiting these farms: Hula Daddy, Mountain Thunder, Buddha's Cup, Kona Blue Sky, or Greenwell Farms. There are many, many more if you continue down towards Captain Cook and beyond. Your coffee buzz will keep you going.

We called it a day at Kona Joe, where the coffee trees are trellised like grape vines. They have a beautiful outdoor seating area and coffee bar, perfect for a picnic.

For lunch, I wanted citrus flavors, which also pair well with Kona coffee. It also needed to be something that could sit in a cooler in the car for half a day without going south. A panzanella salad with a lemony dressing seemed like just the thing. I wanted the salad to be hearty enough to serve as our entire lunch, so in went the eggs, sardines, and roasted veggies. See recipe below.

Kona coffee can be found at most fine coffee retailers around the world or online at the websites I linked to above. Expect to pay about $25-$40 per pound, depending on the grade. Or you could always come to Kona and experience this tour for yourself. A great time to join is in November for the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. Hope to see you then! Please see the recipes for our picnics below.

Macadamia Nut Scones
serves 8
base recipe from Joy the Baker

1/2 cup macadamia nuts, crushed
3 cups flour
3 TBL sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
3/4 milk

Pre-heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Add butter pieces to dry ingredients, you want the butter to be cold. Working quickly with your fingers, incorporate the flour and butter until the butter pieces are the size of small peas.

Whisk the egg and milk together in a separate small bowl. Add milk, egg, and nuts to the butter and flour mixture. Mix with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. It's ok if it's not a solid mass as long as the milk moistens all the flour.

Work the dough into a rectangle on a floured surface. You want the dough to be about 1" thick. Use a butter knife to cut out triangular scones. Place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until firm and slightly browned.

Serve with lemon curd, fig jam, or your favorite spread. Enjoy!

Panzanella Nicoise (bread salad with a French twist)
This salad is featured on Easy Natural Food.
serves 4

zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
salt & pepper

1/2 loaf crusty bread (day old even better)
1 eggplant, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cucumber, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 green onions, both white and green parts, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can sardines in mustard
3 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn

This salad is meant to be made ahead of time so that the ingredients can meld together. It's so great for a picnic because the longer it sits, the better it gets. You could even assemble it the night before, but make sure you don't add the bread until up to 30 minutes prior to chow time.

In the bottom of your salad bowl, add the lemon zest, juice, garlic, pepper flakes, and cheese. Whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to incorporate. Taste and add salt & pepper as desired.

Pre-heat oven to 375. Tear or cut bread into bite-sized pieces and place on a baking sheet. On a separate baking sheet, add chopped eggplant, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Toast bread for 10-12 minutes or until browned. Roast eggplant for 20-25 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool.

While your oven is working, chop up your cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, and onions and toss them in the bowl with the dressing. Remove sardines from can and roughly chop them. Discard any remaining mustard sauce left in the can. Add sardines and sliced egg to salad bowl.

After the eggplant has cooled, add to salad bowl. Place toasted bread in a separate bag until up to 30 minutes before you want to eat the salad, then toss well in bowl with the rest of the ingredients. You want the dressing to coat all the ingredients. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

5 Reasons to Love Life

1. School is out for summer. Today was the last day for students and teachers in Hawaii and we are loving it. Looking forward to a break full of beach days, New York awesomeness, cooking galore, and with a little luck, some backpacking.

2. Nature brings you down to size. Last weekend I skipped over to Maui for a backpacking adventure with my girl Marie in the crater of Haleakala. There's something about hauling your butt and a heavy pack down into a really old rock formation to gaze at majestic mountain views, gawk at shooting stars, and share nips of whiskey with an awesome friend to bring the best of life to the forefront.

3. Limoncello. Lovely, lemony, liqueur. This drink embodies summer. While visiting my sister at an archaeological dig in Greece, we sipped gallons of the stuff. Except it was creamy, and I have not been able to score it in the states. Did you know there is a Mauicello? I will most definitely forgive it's lack of creaminess. Get on it. I guess this means I'll be making my own creamy limoncello. Recipe to follow(?).

4. Anchovies on pizza. I am a major salt and briny flavors fanatic, and anchovies gives you just that. Putting them on pizza, a little goes a long way, provides a punch of flavor. If you love all things briny, try it.

5. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Friends move away. Jobs are iffy at best. School years end, summers begin. Books close. Windows open. Without changes our lives would be a dreary gray mass of unending time.  Let's embrace change, let's love it even. I love change. There, I said it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sustainable Sunday: Sweet Potato Salad

For those that are new here, every Sunday I post a recipe for a sustainable meal, made from locally sourced ingredients that is. It has been great fun hearing about the Sustainable Sunday meals you all have come up with, too. Rosanne shared her smashed potato recipe, Tami found local asparagus to go with her freezer full of wild game, and Patty served her lovely family a lunch of fresh bananas, avocados, eggs, and veggies right from her back yard. I love it, I love it, I love it!

To make it easier for all of you out there who are dying to share your very own Sustainable Sunday recipes, I've included a LinkyTool below that will allow you to link your recipe to this, and future, posts so that we can all see what you've made. If you are not a blogger, please continue to send me your photos and messages and I'll be sure to give you a shout out.

On to the recipe. I've been wanting to make a sweet potato salad for a long time, and finally all the ingredients aligned. If I had a Vitamix, I'd make my own coconut milk, but the canned version will have to do for now. This salad is light and bright, perfect for a bbq or potluck.

Coconut Lime Sweet Potato Salad 
serves 2 (can be easily doubled)

2 purple sweet potatoes (Okinawan)
1/2 cup coconut milk
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 red pepper
salt to taste
1 green onion, sliced

Steam the potatoes until soft with pierced with a fork. Allow to cool, then cube.

In a medium bowl, whisk coconut milk, lime juice, ginger, pepper, and salt together. Add cubed potatoes and green onion, stir to coat. Enjoy!

Sweet potatoes found at Costco. Lime, ginger, and salt found at KTA. Onion from the garden. Red pepper and coconut milk were not locally sourced.

Sweet Potato Salad

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sustainable Sunday: Breakfast for Mom

Mom lives in Washington. I'm here in Hawaii. If you were here mom, this Sustainable Sunday breakfast would be all yours. Ka'u coffee, papaya, soft-boiled egg. This photo does not give the deep magenta of these maple hibiscus any justice.

My mom always encouraged my natural love for cooking. When I was little, all I ever wanted to do was bake. Armed with a tiny whisk, mini baking pans, and my mom's blue checkered childhood apron, we'd scour the dessert pages of Betty Crocker's cookbook, lingering over the full-color spread of a hopelessly ornate gingerbread house we could only dream of building. I'd usually fixate on a recipe for Bonnie Butter Cake, a triple layer, all butter batter covered with French silk frosting. I did eventually make this cake, but mom knew to steer me toward the more doable cookie section.

Baking with mom taught me a lot. When my little arm grew tired from mixing the batter for chocolate chip cookies, she didn't bail me out. She knew that no lesson on perseverance could be stronger than mixing cold butter with flour and sugar with a fork.  When we accidentally used pancake mix instead of flour in our peanut butter cookies, I learned that mistakes can sometimes be better than what you were aiming for. And boy were those cookies puffy! Things are not always what they seem either, mince meat pie sounded great to me, but when I proudly presented it to those at our Thanksgiving table, no one would touch it except mom and me. It was pretty awful, but that didn't stop her from encouraging me to try new things. I'll never forget the pride of opening the oven door to the glory of my first lemon meringue pie. Who knew egg whites could create such magic?

Most of all, and without knowing it I'm sure, mom taught me that cooking requires a sense of touch. We didn't have a KitchenAid, or a food processor, or even a blender. I have whipped cream with a whisk. And cut in butter with a fork. And kneaded dough with my hands. Now I know how to feel when the pizza dough is ready to rise, or if the biscuits need a drop more water. Working with my hands is what I love about cooking because making food is something you feel, in your hands, in your heart. Thank you mom, for giving me the chance to experiment in the kitchen. Someday I'll make you a Bonnie Butter Cake that looks even better than the picture.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Read, Eat, Sip, Repeat

We all have our rituals when we're sick. Mine include eating lots of ramen because my body starts craving carbs. Plus the hot broth helps soothe the throat. Right? No. In real life Top Ramen (only the red "beef" flavor) is a comfort food to me. It sends me back to the summer days when my brother and sister and I stayed home watching Matlock and Perry Mason, waiting for our parents to come home from work. We took turns making lunch and the selection revolved between macaroni and cheese, cans of pork and beans, cheese sandwiches (not grilled), and Top Ramen. I like mine with a little broth, not too much, seasoning packet thrown in first. This process was always a point of contention. These days I'm throwing in extras, a fried egg, some green seaweed for crunch.

Usually I want to drink clear pop all day long, but decided against all the sugar. Above is a ginger, lemongrass, and lavender tea made by chopping the herbs up and letting them steep for a good while in a French press. It was very soothing.

My throat was pretty sore for a couple days, so I stuck to soft foods, like this avocado, banana, and rice milk smoothie. That's a little cocoa powder on the top for good luck. Please don't be frightened of the next picture, but I am going to show you my nightstand.

If you got scared, it's ok, my husband goes through stages of shock at my messiness. The Herb book was dusted off to find some natural cold and flu remedies. And clearly, I've got quite the stack of books to get through. I've recently finished The Memory Palace and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for a book club. I've read my way through everything Abigail Thomas has ever written. And now I'm sinking my teeth into a collection of books by M.F.K. Fischer called The Art of Eating. In the very first chapter of this book, she talks about her Aunt Gwen. It was meant to be.

Today is the day I need to feel better!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Meatballs for New Friends

This is me with my new friend, Kelly. We have a little story to tell you about this small world of ours.

Kelly and I both listen to the Joy the Baker podcast. (You should, too by the way). Joy and Tracy assigned their blog-writing listeners some homework, so I wrote this post: Five Things I Love Right Now. My post was then linked to the podcast show notes that Kelly happened to be scrolling through. She clicked on my blog and thought, wow those pictures look like my hometown.

A few clicks later and Kelly began to see photos that looked more and more familiar. She wrote me an email. And guess what?

We are neighbors! Kelly lives right across the street from me. Over the years we've exchanged Christmas cookies, but never really got the chance to talk. So we got together for pupus and drinks, talked the neighborly gossip, and shared stories about fixing up our homes. Because who else can you talk about that with?

Kelly brought over Caramelized Mushroom and Shallot Bruschetta from Tracy's blog (how fitting) and some yummy sangria. She made the bruschetta with Alii mushrooms and Puna goat cheese. How sustainable of you Kelly.

I whipped up some Southwest style meatballs (recipe below), guacamole, and semi-homemade taco chips from corn tortillas.

It's so great to have a neighbor who likes cooking as much as I do!

Southwestern Meatballs with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce
makes 25-30 meatballs

1 lb ground grass-fed beef
1 egg
1/4 cup panko or breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 chipotle chili in adobo, chopped
zest of 1 lime
juice from 1/2 lime
salt & pepper

Dipping sauce:
1/2 cup plain or Greek yogurt
2 TBL fresh cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Oil a rimmed baking sheet or pan. In a large bowl combine beef, egg, panko, garlic, onion, chili, lime zest, juice, and salt & pepper to taste. Roll into golfball size. Place on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

To make dipping sauce combine yogurt, cilantro, lime and salt & pepper to taste in a small bowl.

Place meatballs on a platter to serve with dipping sauce on the side. Enjoy! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ka'u Coffee Brigadeiros (another winning recipe!)

Yesterday was the Triple C Recipe Contest for the Ka'u Coffee Festival held at the Ka'u Coffee Mill in Pahala. Participants entered their best recipes for cookies, candy, and crackers inspired by Ka'u coffee. The contest was held in order to celebrate the grand opening of the Ka'u Coffee Visitor Center, complete with live music, the unveiling of a beautiful mural, and lots and lots of some of the world's best coffee to taste. We all know Kona coffee is good, but did you know Ka'u was named the #1 coffee growing region in the United States?

Of course I had to enter the contest! Ka'u coffee is so good all on its own that I wanted to design a recipe with intense, unmistakable coffee notes that showcases just how flavorful this coffee is. Inspired by a recipe for coconut brigadeiros found on the Parsley Thief, I crafted the recipe to make that Ka'u coffee shine. Plus, my heartstrings get pulled for any dessert that includes sweetened condensed milk.

And wouldn't you know it, the judges liked it, too. These little candies won first place in the amateur candy division. So proud of these little candies! And so proud of Chelsea Lynn Kauionalani Rosario, the contest's overall winner with her biscotti.

Major tip to those who live on the Big Island or are planning on visiting: take the time to drive through Pahala on your way to the volcano, particularly Wood Valley Road. It is so gorgeous, timeless old Hawaii gorgeous. And be sure to grab a coffee, some beans to take home, and a biscotti from the Ka'u Coffee Mill along the way. In fact, there will be more Ka'u Coffee festivities next weekend (May 12), this is your change to explore the beauty of Ka'u!

Ka'u Coffee Brigadeiros

Makes about 3 dozen

1 cup sweetened condensed milk
½ cup espresso or very strong Ka’u coffee
2 TBL butter
2 tsp light corn syrup
½ cup cocoa powder
36 Ka’u 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, May 6, 2012

Sustainable Sunday: Liver & Onions

Last week we discussed the powers of vitamin B12. The richest sources of B12 come from meat, eggs, and milk. And the absolute stand-out source is a little something called liver. My local grocery (KTA) carries grass-fed beef liver for a very reasonable price, so I knew my time had come.

I had a vague memory of my dad eating liver when I was a kid, so I called him up when it was time to prepare it. His mom, a single parent to five children, served liver and onions regularly in their South San Francisco home. True, liver is one of the cheapest cuts of meat out there, but hearing my dad (now a pescatarian) lovingly describe how to cook it to the perfect medium-rare, made me look at liver as a comfort food rather than something my grandma served just to survive.

Dad describes liver as having its own mild flavor. It definitely does; sort of a mineral taste, sort of rich, but subtle and mild all the same. Texturally it reminded me of a tender steak, which was a relief since I was expecting mush. Even my husband liked it, and he's a little picky when it comes to strange foods.

This photo explains what I thought of it.

Liver & Maui Onions with Alii Mushrooms and Sauteed Chard
serves 2

1/2 pound grass-fed beef liver, sliced to 1/4 inch thickness
1 Maui sweet onion, sliced
1 cup Alii mushrooms, sliced
2 TBL mac nut oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon

Heat a skillet or pan over medium heat. Add the mac nut oil, onion, and some salt & pepper and saute until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute some more, maybe another 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and onions have begun to brown.

Turn the heat up to medium-high, pushing the onions and mushrooms to the side of the pan so they don't burn. Add the liver slices, seasoning as you go with salt & pepper on both sides. The liver should be cooked between medium-rare and medium. If you cook it longer it gets rubbery. I cooked mine for 2 minutes on each side, but be sure to keep an eye on it, it cooks very fast.

Plate the liver by spooning onions and mushrooms on top. Using the same pan, over medium heat, squeeze the lemon juice into the pan and scrape the browned bits off using a wooden spoon of spatula. Don't even think about throwing this out! Add your chopped chard, some salt & pepper and saute until it cooks down, but retains its bright color, maybe 5 minutes. Add chard and juices to your plate. Serve with a lemon wedge if desired. Enjoy!

Liver, oil, and salt purchased at KTA. Onions from Costco. Mushrooms from the South Kona Green Market. Lemons and chard from my garden.

Want to participate in Sustainable Sunday? Learn all about it here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Brought to you by...

This blog comes to you out of creative desire, hunger, and daily inspiration. The ideas shared on this blog definitely do not come out of the center of my brain, they are fed by the wonderful work of those around me, including many of you, the fabulous people who take the time to read these words. Let's get inspired! Below are some of the lovelies that spark my imagination.

Local rangpur limes

1. Locally grown and made food in Hawaii. Every time I go to one of the farmer's markets (usually Keauhou) I want to high five all the farmers and fist pump wildly. I refrain, but only barely. Seriously though, did you know that islanders can now get locally raised pork, beef, veal, lamb and chicken at farmer's markets and stores like KTA? Not to mention the gorgeous eggs, mushrooms, vegetables, fruit, coffee, and chocolate. All of this lovely produce has inspired me to start a little something I call Sustainable Sunday. Click the link to find out what it's all about! And please, please, please do your taste buds a favor and head out to your nearest farmer's market asap, the inspiration is endless.

Farmer's market booty, including Ka'u onion

2. The onion family. Do you know how much I love leeks? Eat leeks. Lots of them. And Maui sweet onions and scallions and the green part of the scallion and shallots. Fresh, local onions are blowing my mind. Onions are totally my current favorite vegetable.

3. The Cannelle et Vanille blog is my internet happy place. I go here for the beautiful photos and food styling. I like to imagine myself wearing a white, gauzy dress and prancing through the fields of one her unreal shots of the Spanish countryside.

Jessica getting her marathon on

4. There's this girl I know, her name is Jessica. She is suuuuuper smart AND she just passed the New York bar exam. The best part is, she's my friend! Congrats Jessica, you inspire the hell out of me.

Me and Rae hiking into the "Third Valley"

5. There's this other girl I know, her name is Rachael (or is it Cindy?) She is soooooo rad BUT she's moving away in only a month. We've been cooking together lately, I'm trying to impart what little kitchen wisdom I have to her before she leaves. She's a total natural cook. I'm inspired by the way this girl lives, she is pure love. Of course I'm sad she is leaving, but even more overjoyed to call this chick my friend.

My kitchen, where it all happens!

6. There are these other people I know, YOU. Yes, you reading this while drinking coffee in your worn-out yoga pants. You always leave nice comments, you make my recipes, you send me pictures of your food. I love you guys. Seriously. Writing this blog has been a sparkling, glowing beacon of light in my life and the fact that you read it means the world to me and inspires me to keep going. Thank you for reading, listening, eating, commenting, being.


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