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

Saturday, September 28, 2013

S'more Bites

Let's talk about opposites. Sometimes all I eat are vegetables from the farmer's market and garden and sometimes I can't resist a SPAM musubi or poke bowls with fish from Lord-knows-where. You might catch me making my own yogurt or pasta, but you'll never find me making my own mustard or nutella, because ain't nobody got time for that. Sometimes I make you a healthy coleslaw and sometimes s'mores are just on my brain. I hope you don't mind.

Seriously, I try not to keep sweets in the house because it'll be stuffed in my face faster than you can say high fructose corn syrup. My name is Gwen and I'm addicted to sugar. So I hope you understand that while I tempt you with the cutest marshmallow treats ever, I totally want you to eat your vegetables, too.

S'more Bites
serves as many as you want to make!

1 bag marshmallows
2 cups chocolate chips
4 graham crackers

Melt the chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until chips are melted and smooth.

Place graham crackers in a ziplock plastic bag, seal and crush crackers into a fine meal, a little smaller than the size of rice kernels. Place crushed crackers on a plate.

Dip marshmallows, one at a time, in the melted chocolate and then in the crushed graham crackers. Allow to cool on a drying rack. Serve as a dessert, party favor, holiday treat or snack. Great recipe for kids to make. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cochon Island: Pork Party on the Big Island

You had me at nose to tail. Some of Hawaii's most talented chefs gathered at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Saturday, September 21st to celebrate sustainably raised, heritage breed pigs as part of the Cochon U.S. Tour, now in its fifth year. One of only 18 stops along the way, the Big Island hosted the first stop ever in the Hawaiian Islands...

To read the rest of this post, head on over to HuffPost Hawaii. This is my first post as a HuffPost blogger, wish me luck! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Good times and ono grinds were had by all at the first annual Pupupalooza appetizer contest, part of the Puna Culinary Festival, held at Kalani Oceanside Retreat.

Guests were treated to live music as they selected which pupus to try. Scripts for tasting were sold 10 for $5 which was a great way to keep down the feeding frenzy that tends to happen at free tasting events. Guests were relaxed as they perused the offerings and made their choices, getting the chance to talk with contestants as well as vote for their favorite pupu.

The big winner of the day was Lori Kong, owner of Aloha Lehua Cafe, with her Hawaiian Nachos which took the best overall award and the people's choice award. Other prizes went to Ellen Einhorn (Most Creative), William Butako (Best Presentation), and Josef Schneider (Best Use of Local Ingredients).

As far as cooking contests go, and I have been to A LOT of them, this was one the most enjoyable and best organized events yet. I hope they host this contest again next year.

I didn't place at this contest, but if you are interested, the recipe I submitted is below.

Avocado Kim Chee Potstickers
Gwen Edwards

For potstickers:
·      1 package locally made potsticker / gyoza wrappers  (about 50)
·      1 ripe Big Island avocado
·      1 Big Island, organic egg
·      1 cup locally made kim chee
·      1 chopped Big Island green onion
·      ¼ cup chopped Big Island cilantro
·      ¼ cup chopped Thai basil
·      1 Big Island lime
·      Salt to taste
·      About 6 TBL spoons coconut oil

For dipping sauce:
·      ½ cup Hawaiian shoyu
·      ½ cup water
·      4 TBL spoons rice vinegar
·      4 tsp Hawaiian sugar
·      4 tsp sesame oil
·      1 chopped green onion
·      2 chopped garlic cloves
·      1 tsp chopped Big Island ginger

Make dipping sauce first, so it can marinate.  Combine ingredients in a mason jar and shake well.
In a small bowl, combine and mash avocado, chopped herbs, lime juice and salt.
In a food processer, pulse kim chee until shredded.
In another small bowl, beat the egg.
Working one at a time, fill each wrapper with 1 tsp avocado mixture and 1 tsp kim chee.
With your finger, put a little egg on edge of wrapper, fold over and press to seal.
In a skillet over medium heat, add about1 tsp coconut oil.
Cook 6 – 10 potstickers at a time - do not crowd in pan.
Cook covered for 2 minutes, flip and cook another 2 minutes uncovered.
Repeat until all potstickers are cooked, adding coconut oil as needed.
Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cochon Island September 21 at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

You had me at nose to tail.

Some of Hawaii's most talented chefs, including the Big Island's own Devin Lowder, will gather at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on September 21 for Cochon Island, an event celebrating heritage breed pigs.

Have you ever wanted to meet and taste the food of the likes of Lee Anne Wong (Top Chef), Mark "Gooch" Noguchi (Pili group), Michael Young (Bistro Molokini), or Ed Kenney (Town)? Cochon Island is your chance to not only taste amazing food made by stellar chefs, but to celebrate what the Big Island is best at: quality, local ingredients.

Cochon Island is part of Cochon 555, the fifth anniversary of the Cochon US tour, a celebration of pork all over the country.

From the people at Cochon:
"Host Chef Peter Pahk (Mauna Kea) will curate some of the finest flavors the islands have to offer at this first-ever, pork-centric island event. In addition to the pork feast, guests will also experience each chefs spin on Whole Pig Ramen in addition to pigs roasted whole, and under various delicious influences. There will be a Perfect Manhattan Bar, Chupito (Mezcal) Bar, the famous Cheese Bar, cured meats provided by Devin Lowder of When Pigs Fly Island Charcuterie Company, beer by Anchor Brewing, reserve wines, pork-spiked desserts and more."

Join the fun Saturday, September 21st, 2013 - 2 pm VIP opening ($200); 3 pm general admission ($125). Tickets can be purchased here: Cochon Island

Overnight Specials: The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is offering special room rates for Cochon Island attendees. Resort Rooms start at $275/night for a Mountain View room to $399/night for Ocean View. Event Packages are $499/night for a Deluxe Ocean room. For Reservations or more information, call the hotel’s Legacy Desk at 1-877-880-6524.

This is a sponsored post. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Great Waikoloa Poke Contest

Beautiful amateur contestant poke display

Fish and seafood of all kinds were celebrated at The Great Waikoloa Poke Contest, part of the Hawaii Island Festival, September 7, 2013. Amateurs and professionals competed for top honors in traditional, limu (seaweed), soy sauce, and cooked poke categories. Meaning "to slice," poke can be made with any fish or seafood the cook dreams up, although this contest made a point to only include locally sourced seafood.

Packed house for poke tasting
Aloha was in the air as contestants gathered early Saturday morning to assemble their dramatic display tables and plate their poke entries for the blind judging. The awards were based 100% on taste, with the exception of one award for presentation, judged separately.

Amateur presentation winner
Hosted by the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, the event also included a poke making demonstration, an appearance by the Royal Court, and of course a tasting for the public.

The chefs from Waikoloa Beach Marriott swept the professional division, including the presentation award. Amateur winners were Jason Wood (shoyu), Anthony Carvalho (cooked), Doug Wang (traditional) and Grady (Pono) Bintliff (limu).

My "diner" themed display for the BLT poke. Get it?
My BLT poke entry didn't make the cut, but it was hard not to be impressed by all of the wonderful and creative entries. Overall, this was a fun event overflowing with aloha and I'd love to compete again next year. If you'd like to try my BLT poke, the recipe is below. Mahalo to When Pigs Fly Island Charcuterie for making the awesome bacon.

BLT poke

BLT Poke
Makes about 2 pounds

1 lb ahi
2 TBL shoyu
5 slices thick-cut bacon
1 French baguette loaf, if desired
2 TBL butter, if desired
1/2 lb Waimea tomatoes
3 TBL mayonnaise
2 TBL fresh lemon juice
2 green onions, chopped and divided
3 cups Manoa lettuce leaves, if desired
salt to taste (if needed)

Pre-heat oven to 375. Cut ahi into bite-sized pieces, toss with shoyu in a medium bowl and allow to marinate in fridge.

Line a baking sheet with foil and place bacon slices on top. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until small bubbles form on the bacon. When done, place bacon on paper towel to drain, then chop into small pieces when cooled.

While the bacon is cooking, slice the baguette into very thin slices, about ¼ inch thick.  Melt butter and brush both sides of bread using a pastry brush. Place on a baking sheet and toast in oven about 10-12 minutes, flipping bread once, until both sides are golden brown. [This step is only if desired, can be served without bread, butter and lettuce]

Chop tomatoes and place in a large bowl with the chopped bacon. Drain excess shoyu from ahi and add fish to bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, and one chopped green onion. Add mayo mixture to large bowl and toss lightly to coat. Taste, add salt if desired.

[This step is only if desired, can be served without bread, butter and lettuce] To serve, place one small piece of lettuce on each piece of toast. Top with a spoonful of poke and garnish with chopped green onion. Enjoy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cheese Plate 101

For those not in the know, I am very fancy. We enjoy a fine selection of canned beans in the cupboard, toss rocks for our dog to retrieve and if you're lucky I'll even wear make-up on the weekend.

Another way we keep it fancy is by enjoying cheese plates down at the beach on a Saturday evening. If you live in Kona, head down to Westside Wines where you can buy samples of their large cheese collection for $2-3 plus a great bottle of wine to wash it down.

For this fancy cheese plate date you'll need:

- A decent bottle of wine. White or rose is nice for a picnic, but get what you like.
- A selection of cheeses. If you are lucky enough to live near a cheese store, grab a few small portions of whatever sounds good, try some you've never heard of. Be bold. If you are not lucky enough to live near a cheese store, places like Safeway have some decent cheeses. Or slice up the cheddar block in your fridge, it's no big deal.
- Root through the contents of your refrigerator door for things like olives, artichoke hearts, peppers, pickles, kim chee maybe a sauce or two. Don't worry about trying to pair them with the cheese, just grab.
- Cut some veggies and fruit like cucumbers, broccoli, peppers, carrots, apples or peaches. Fresh herbs are nice.
- Find some bread or crackers.
- Pack up your goodies, don't forget wine glasses, a wine key, a cutting board, small knife, and some napkins.
- Find a picnic spot. We like Otec because we can bring the puppy.
- Mix and match! A little brie with some honey and jalepeno? Truffled goat cheese on toast with olives? Get creative. Get fancy.

The puppy that chases rocks

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Homesick Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing

Homesick Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
Sometimes homesickness strikes. Even in the middle of the Pacific surrounded by blue ocean and warm breezes and endless summer. Real summer time is worst for homesickness as juicy, sun-warmed tomatoes and backyard blackberry patches are an ocean away and no amount of shipped-in store bought berries will scratch the itch. 

Being from the Pacific Northwest originally, we savored our summers like the last M&M in the package; the fall, winter, and spring being one, long gray mass of endless rain. Northwest summers meant garden tomato sandwiches for lunch with just a little salt and mayo, ripe blackberries in a bowl for dessert dressed in milk and sugar, and pan-fried patty pan squash for days and days. 

Summer meant sunsets at 9pm, extending our play time by hours. We'd hobble to the dinner table, fingers purple from berry picking, feet blackened by hot, melting tar on the road to gobble down barbecued chicken, corn on the cob, and green beans. Our bicycles must have logged thousands of miles each summer as we rode around and around the neighborhood, sneaking onto the golf course, or just racing. My shoelaces became untied and wrapped around the pedals one time and instead of unravelling them took my feet out and went flop, flop, flopping all the way home as my shoes banged against the sides of the bike. 

My mom's kitchen table in summer 
On lucky weekends, we'd go to grandma and grandpa's. We'd watch baseball all day long with grandpa, help out in the garden or in the kitchen, and eat grandma's German potato salad, vinegary coleslaw, and chicken and dumplings. 

Since I don't have lush garden tomatoes or sunsets late into the evening, this potato salad will have to do. I like the brightness of the lemon and the unexpected depth of the sun-dried tomato. Would be great for a beach potluck in Hawaii (that ends at 7:30 when the sun goes down) or anywhere you find yourself. 

Homesick Potato Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
serves 8-10

2 lbs red potatoes (or whichever potatoes you like in salad)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
3 TBL olive oil
juice and zest from 1 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
2 TBL capers
2 cups arugula, chopped
1 green onion, finely sliced

Wash and chop potatoes into bite sized pieces. Place in a large pot, fill with water until potatoes are just covered. Bring pot to a boil, then down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a fork. Drain into a colander. 

In a food processor, pulse sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil,  and lemon juice and zest until all is combined and finely chopped. Add salt & pepper to dressing to taste. 

In a large bowl, mix cooked potatoes, dressing, capers, arugula, and green onion until evenly distributed. Best if served 2 hours (or up to 3 days) after preparation so flavors can develop. Try not to miss home. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cream of the Crop: Kona Coffee and Dessert Tasting

Kona Rising Coffee Co. offering up their excellent cold brew

Where can you taste all the very best Kona coffee the island has to offer and work on a sugar high at the same time? At the Cream of the Crop event held every August at the Four Seasons Hualalai of course.

Elite Kona coffee farmers and roasters face off in cupping competitions to see who has the best cup of joe in categories such as organic and estate grown coffees. There is also an amateur and professional Kona coffee dessert competition. Winners will be announced soon, check back here. Entrance, parking and coffee and dessert tastings are all free to the public.

Although it can get very hot at this event, the outdoor venue offers plenty of shade and the ever mindful Four Seasons supplies ice cold water for all. Live music plays in the background and a it's only a short stroll to admire the shoreline or enjoy one of the resort's restaurants. In addition to coffee and desserts, there are plenty of other vendors offering locally made products such as art and clothing.

Coffee highlights came from Kona Rising Coffee Co. and Buddha's Cup. Good luck to all. If you missed the event this year, mark your calendar for next August.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Faking it

Grilled asparagus salad, recipe below

I'd decided to make the perfect birthday bbq fare for Dustin. Teriyaki marinated grass-fed beef burgers topped with swiss cheese, bacon, and grilled, caramelized pineapple slices. A fresh butter lettuce salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs, lemon vinaigrette, and grilled asparagus from the garden. Sticky pineapple upside down cupcakes. And for later, at home alone, a flourless chocolate cake with peanut butter ice cream.

I spent the better part of two days shopping, prepping, baking and assembling this menu, which didn't turn out the way I'd wanted. Per usual.

It all started at the grocery store. In an effort to maintain my locavore status, I sought out grass-fed beef for the burgers but to my despair ended up with a Costco pack of half a ground cow.  At home, the flourless chocolate cake defeated me single-handedly by refusing to combine when folding the chocolate into the egg mixture and by leaking out of the springform pan.

Undeterred, the assembly for the pineapple upside down cakes was a snap but then the teriyaki burgers came together half-hearted as there was not enough ginger and not enough teriyaki marinade and I was not going to the store again. Unfortunately, the pineapple upside down cupcakes decided to fight me when it was time to come out of the pan and turned out ugly. The flourless chocolate cake never did set in the oven.

The next day, a beautiful, sparkling ocean of a day, we headed down to the beach and set up our beach chairs and the bbq. Many of our lovely friends joined us for beers and waves and tree climbing with the kids. When, finally, the food was grilled and the plates set out a feeling of utter disappointment overwhelmed me. Here I was, some sort of food blogger who is supposed to be able to cook well serving too small teriyaki burgers that didn't taste like teriyaki.

The thing is I often don't really know what I'm doing. I never went to culinary school or got any training besides flipping burgers at a sports bar. More often than not, I just wing it and hope for the best. The best doesn't always come. Hopefully the food gods will forgive me, I just wanted everything to be perfect for Dustin's birthday.

Thankfully the pineapple upside down cupcakes were served in near darkness so no one saw how ugly they were. And Dustin liked his flourless chocolate cake anyway.

Maybe it was perfect after all.

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Parmesan, Lemon, and Olive Oil
Very slightly adapted from Cooking Light

  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 6 cups torn Boston lettuce (about 2 small heads)
  • large hard-cooked eggs, each cut into 6 slices 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh parmesan cheese

  • Prepare a hot grill. Place asparagus on a large piece of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss well. Arrange asparagus in a single layer. Grill for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender, tossing once. Cool slightly. 
  • Arrange lettuce on a large platter. Top with asparagus and egg slices. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, juice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over asparagus and lettuce. Top with cheese. Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hot Lava, Hilo, and Chickens

We went to Hilo last weekend to get some chickens. My sister lives there now so it was a chance to soak up some East side fun as well expand our animal family times four. It's nice to have a reason to get out of Kona and even nicer that we now have a place to stay in Hilo.

So we drove away from the dusty traffic and endless vog of Kona, up and over Saddle Road to my sister's cozy rental house near the university. Somehow, her house feels like our childhood home in Portland, Oregon. I don't know if it's the familiarity of her routines, the way she makes coffee at all hours of the day or the perpetual muted TV glow, but staying with her brings me back to my childhood and I wouldn't mind curling up on her couch with a cup of coffee and never leaving.

Being new to Hilo town, my sister and her fiance have been spending a lot of time getting to know the surrounding areas. They had an agenda planned for our weekend before we arrived, which as a planner-type person, made me very happy. First stop, Kilauea Lodge.

Located in Volcano Village, this restaurant and inn has rave reviews just about everywhere. My sister gushed about it as did some other foodie friends. I really want to like this place. And to some degree, I did but one can only conclude that we must have landed there on an off night. The ambience was darling, a fireplace adorned with German beer steins, painted wooden place mats, and stained-glass windows create a cozy space. The wine list was great and even our not-so-good food was definitely made from scratch, noodles and all. Maybe the chef that night was rushed, but everything was under-seasoned and well, just kind of sloppy.

Glowing lava doom in background. Cool, my face looks shiny even in the dark.

A mediocre meal is not the end of the world, in fact we were on our way to see how the world begins. Minutes away from Volcano Village is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, open 24 hours. Lava is most visible at night, think red-glowing fire, so we stopped by the active crater for a peak. I've now lived on Hawaii island for 7 years and have never seen lava, tried many times, but was never lucky enough to catch it. So seeing the glow, deep inside the crater, was special indeed. It felt like Halloween with all the people milling around in the dark, the background a spooky, glowing, steaming crater. Our dog, forever scared of everything, cowered at my knee tripping me every third step.

It wasn't until the next morning, when a 4.6 magnitude quake got me out of bed, rattling the fragile wooden frame of my sister's house, that I realized just how epic watching lava come out of the earth really is.

We drank many mugs of coffee and watched silent episodes of "Roseanne" while waiting for the boys to come home from surfing. Around mid-morning we set off for Kalapana to buy some chickens advertised on Craigslist and ended up in a remote-as-it-gets housing development along the wild Puna coastline. For every cute, well-built home in this neighborhood there was a less-cute, shanty-type home built from plywood, tarps, and screens. Alas, our chickens lived at a screen shanty with a man, probably our own age, who appeared to have never worn shoes. He lovingly gave us tips on caring for the chickens and sent us on our way with two plastics tubs of four full-grown egg laying chickens. Don't worry, there were air holes for them to breathe.

Pahoa Farmer's Market
On our way back to Hilo and eventually back home, we stopped at the Pahoa farmer's market. Pahoa is known for it's abundance of produce and hippies. This market did not disappoint in either area. What surprised me was the amazing number of prepared food choices. It being close to lunch time by then, I dove right in getting Russian potato pancakes with beets, sour cream, and a pickled egg for me and a smoked meat plate with rice and mac salad for Dustin. We shared a refreshing hibiscus tea, which I really ought to try making at home.

By the time I sauntered back to the car, the chickens were panting. This immediately broke my heart and I started to panic. I totally thought the chickens were going to over-heat and die right on the spot. So as much as I wanted to stay and admire the hippies it was back over Saddle Road for us, windows down and back gate up.

Thankfully, the temperatures really drop as you head up the Saddle because the road goes right in between two mountains and makes a hell of an elevation climb. Just as my panic began to subside, probably about half way home, we heard the fluttering wings of an escaped chicken. I caught the dog as he tried to leap for the back seat and Dustin squealed over in the emergency lane. We dove in the back, trying at once to restrain the yelping dog and grab the brave chicken. In seconds it was over, the chicken safely back in the box, and my nerves at code red.

We managed to make it home without further incident and the chickens now happily reside in their coop, made from old pallets. In a week they have already given us eight eggs. I'd say it was a successful trip.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

San Juan Islands Sailing

First of all, I have to tell you guys this has been the most epic summer of my entire life. Better than slip 'n slides and blackberry picking at eight, better than Latin American living at 16, better than hostel jumping at 20, and (maybe) even better than New York City last year. If you've been following this summer, you know that I spent most of my time leading a youth conservation corp team here in Hawaii and camping in some of the most remote places on the Big Island. To top it all off, I spent the last week of summer break sailing in the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

Some of you may know that we plan to drop everything in the very near future in favor of living on a sail boat. We will probably begin our adventures in the Pacific Northwest so we found a charter boat company that offered a "learn and cruise" trip to get some hands-on sailing experience. Through San Juan Sailing we sailed and lived aboard for a week with another couple and a captain who taught us to sail along the way. I am proud to say I am now a legit sailor. LEGIT. And I didn't even get sick once. For the girl who gets nauseous on a playground swing this is big news.

The sailing course included three written exams and a series of practical "tests" that we practiced at sea. Once you pass all three courses you can charter a boat from San Juan Sailing all on your own.

Most nights we anchored in a sheltered bay of one of the small islands where we could row on shore for a little hiking and beach combing. The water was stand-still calm. The other couple cruising with us got their crabbing license so we were lucky enough to have fresh crab on board a couple times. Meals were cooked and eaten family style and luckily all of us got along very well.

We also spent a night at the marina in Friday Harbor, an adorable little port town with scads of art galleries and teeny cafes. We pounded some oysters and sipped on local beer and just about died when the moon rose out of the purple sunset glow. The water is so clear around there, you can see starfish and all sorts of creatures everywhere.

Every morning we would get geared up and sail to a new anchorage. Being out on the water sailing was two parts challenging and two parts fun. I liked learning about navigation and charting and feeling pretty confident that with some practice I'll get the whole sail trimming thing down, too.

Mainly, I'm looking forward to eating fresh crab, fish, clams and mussels often and with gusto.

I spent a lot of time before this trip worrying about being a total sailor failure and letting my husband down. If it weren't for the confidence boost from leading a group of teenagers through a summer of the hardest physical labor ever, well let's just say that boost was needed.

This vacation will sustain me for a good long while.

I can still taste the oysters.


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