A Hawaiian Thanksgiving

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Aloha! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving day!

I spent the last month or so preparing for my Thanksgiving trip to Maui. My hubby has been out there for about two months on business. I was very excited about seeing him and of course, going to Maui for the first time. Previously, it had been about 10 or more years since I've been to Hawaii, specifically Honolulu, Oahu.

I apologize for the lack of photos. I don't have a digital camera. It's at the top of my Christmas list for sure! I found these photos online that pretty much capture what I saw during my time there.

I arrived the day before Thanksgiving around dinner time, PST. We decided to go to the nearby village of Lahaina for dinner. Seems like a great place for shopping, eating, and people watching. We went to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for dinner. It reminds me of when I was little, my parents and I would eat at Denny's when we were on a road trip. As an adult, I now think of Bubba Gump as my Denny's. I had Lt. Dan's Pomegranate Punch and a Shrimp Po'Boy. Po'Boys take me back to my (only) trip to New Orleans pre-Katrina. They're cheap, delicious, and messy.

Thanksgiving day we flew out to Honolulu to meet up with Lauderdale's uncle and his family. They kindly invited us to stay at their place for Thanksgiving. Lauderdale's uncle "Jefferson" and his daughter "Lotus" picked us up at the airport. Jefferson's wife, "Hibiscus", was at home finishing the turkey. Hibiscus is originally from the Philippines. Having several Filipino and half-Filipino relatives, I already knew to expect a lot of Filipino/Chinese food alongside the turkey.

Also in typical Asian (not just Pacific Islanders) fashion, there tends to be several relatives who show up with more food. Unfortunately for me, my favorite Asian party food, Lumpia Shanghai was absent. I suppose it was just as well as I'm prejudiced and think my mom's lumpia is the best.

Lauderdale and I were still full from lunch which consisted of Kahlua pork and cabbage (OMG, that is good!), black bean and corn salsa, white rice (the Asian equivalent of potatoes), and tortilla chips. So after the turkey, stuffing, salads, rolls, pork adobo, ahi poke-reminds me of a Hawaiian ceviche, corn on the cob, and cake, I was falling into a food coma.

The following morning, we had plenty of time to kill before our late-afternoon flight back to Maui. Jefferson and family treated us to The Original Pancake House. Being the ever-ready traveler, I had done research on local Hawaiian "must-eats". Macadamia nut pancakes was one of them as was Eggs Benedict. (Apparently, there are several variations of the retro egg dish.)
I was so happy to see macadamia nut pancakes on the menu. Wow, those were so good! My honey had the coconut pancakes which were also delightful.

We went to a swap meet afterward which helped burn off the breakfast. Then we headed off to a macadamia nut plantation. They had samples of freshly brewed coffee (macadamia nut flavored, of course) as well as samples of flavored (and plain) macadamia nuts as well.

After shopping elsewhere, we had time for a quick, late lunch at their home before we had to go to the airport. Our flight was short and my honey decided to take me to Lulu's for dinner. It's a fun casual place with lots of flat-screen TVs, oak (?) tables, and friendly service. I had to try the Maui onion rings. Maui onions are famous for being sweeter and milder than 'regular' onions.
I had mahi-mahi, a firm white fish which is sweet and doesn't taste "fishy".

On Saturday morning, I wanted to try another local favorite I found during my pre-trip food research, CJ's Deli & Diner. CJ's Deli is known for large portions and budget-friendly prices. I finally had the Eggs Benedict. The sauce wasn't the straightforward typical hollandaise sauce but it had a unique "island" twist to it. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to discern what the twist was but I cleaned my plate, including the potatoes. Part of me wonders whether or not I should have gone with the white rice instead. It was very enjoyable.

We went sight-seeing most of the day. Maui nightlife is very different than what I am typically used to. Turns out Lulu's seems to be a popular local hangout. So we went back there for dinner, drinks, and dancing. I had a coconut curry chicken sandwich which was very light and flavorful. The curry was used like a glaze rather than the curry soup I had envisioned. I chose to get garlic fries asking my hubby if it was ok. He ordered Death Valley hot wings so I supposed we were evenly matched. Those garlic fries were amazing! Sadly, I never seemed to have room for dessert!

Sunday was my last day in paradise. We decided to have brunch at Aloha Mixed Plate, another local favorite which is mentioned on Fodor's. Not only was the food wonderful, you get a beautiful ocean view while you eat. The plate lunch is a beautiful culinary concept and is very satisfying. You can choose 2 or more entrees. All plate lunches come with macaroni salad and a scoop or two of white rice. Mini plates have a half portion and one scoop of rice where as you get the macaroni and two scoops of rice with the regular.

Check out this blog for a review and pictures of Aloha Mixed Plate: http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/maui/.

I wanted to try as much as I could so I got their Hawaiian plate: Kahlua pig and cabbage, Lomi Lomi Salmon, poi, macaroni salad, rice, and a coconut dessert called haupia.

The lomi lomi salmon is a refreshing and colorful dish. At first glance, it reminded me of salsa. I really enjoyed it. It would be great to have in summer.

Now for the poi, I have heard not so great things about it. I found the poi to be a bit bland with a slight bitter or sour taste to it. There is also no 'body' to it-it's like liquid or pureed taro.
The haupia was light and refreshing. It reminded me of a similar dessert that I might have tried at a couple of dim sum restaurants in California.

We also tried their coconut prawns which had fried noodles in the coconut batter. I thought it added a visual appeal but sadly didn't add to the texture. I think panko would have been a better choice but maybe they wanted to be different?

We had missed the Saturday morning swap meet by an hour. So we spent a few hours at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, a local mall.

It was back to the airport to pick up Lauderdale's co-workers. The guys were starving and wanted sushi. My hubby had taken me to Genki Sushi previously.

It's a chain of conveyor belt sushi places. Most of the menu items ride on a conveyor belt. You just grab whatever looks good. Of course, you can order special items not seen as well. It was pretty good but I was hoping to try a different sushi place instead. Perhaps another time.

A few hours later, it was my final airport trip and time for me to go home.

I had a wonderful time and am hoping to return to Hawaii again in the near future.

Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'll admit it. I like (kitchen) gadgets. For me, they simplify tasks and often save some time and effort. Here are some of my favorite kitchen things.

The Alligator Chopper best for chopping slices of onions, potatoes, celery, carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers. It's pretty easy to use and gets uniform cubes done. No more onion tears!

The next must-have is the Microplane Grater/Zester.
I first saw this grater in a cooking class and a light bulb went off in my head! It makes grating and getting lemon/lime/orange zest a breeze. I use mine for grating hard cheese, ginger, and citrus fruit.

Another favorite of mine is the food chopper from The Pampered Chef. It makes mincing a couple of cloves of garlic a cinch. I find this helpful for releasing a little aggression as you have to push down on the handle several times to chop. It also comes apart easily and you can put it in the dishwasher.

Speaking of garlic, I found a great device for peeling garlic. Not sure what the "regular" way of removing the pesky skin is. I recommend the garlic peeler.

My next favorite item is one that I didn't think I would buy or use or like. It's a citrus wedger. It neatly slices limes or lemons in uniform wedges in one swift motion. Very handy if you're like my husband who likes a lime wedge in his Corona.

Another citrus related gadget is the lemon squeezer. This one allows you to get maximum juice without the seeds. I usually put a small bowl underneath as a spoon won't do. Trust me. I've used lime and orange wedges in here as well and it's equally effective.

If you're like me, you'll find this next gadget useful-an herb mincer. It has four blades that chop most herbs quickly. You can control how fine you want your herbs. The only ones I don't recommend using the mincer for are rosemary and thyme. Works really well on parsley and cilantro. You just roll it back and forth in different directions. It opens up for easy cleaning. Be sure to open it and rinse it really well before washing.

Another favorite gadget (for now) is the ball whisk. Sound weird, works wonders. This whisk shortens whisking time. No more batter clumps in the whisk. You can use it to whip up to 8 eggs or 1 1/2 pints of cream.

Birthday Dinner

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Last Saturday, my hubby and I drove to LA to see our good friend, 'Pico' and his wife, "Orchid". It was Pico's birthday and they had made reservations for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, Velvet Margarita. The restaurant had a very cool, edgy, and fun atmosphere. It kind of reminded me a little of El Dia del Muertos since there were flames and skulls along the bar. Their friend, "Lily" had joined us for dinner.

The walls were covered in either red or blue velvet (naturally) depending on what side of the restaurant you were sitting at. On the ceiling at the entrance, there were dozens of black sombrero hats acting as tiles. There were a couple chandeliers and giant TV screens with old movies playing.

I had reviewed the menu a couple nights before. I was surprised and delighted to see one of my favorite dishes, chicken mole. As for appetizers, I have been known to order my go-to, fried calamari. But when I saw ahi tuna ceviche, I knew I had to try it. There's something so fantastic and refreshing about ahi tuna that I adore. Orchid makes an excellent ceviche with imitation crab so I was curious to try ceviche with fish.

The drink selection sounded fabulous. I enjoy margaritas but I saw a drink called Royal Velvet which was served in a pineapple. How fun is that? I didn't bring a camera otherwise I would have taken a picture of the Royal Velvet drink. Lauderdale ordered the same drink.

The restaurant served these beautiful red tortilla chips with a bean dip and 2 different salsas, one mild and one medium-hot. I'm not sure what it is about the chips but these were addicting. The mild salsa was my favorite as I'm very sensitive to spicy foods.

All dinner entrees offered a salad or soup. I chose the House salad which consisted of mixed greens and an orange vinaigrette dressing. Lauderdale got the Caesar salad, which is another one of my 'go-to's'. The soups, Tequila Shrimp Bisque, and Turkey Vegetable Aldondigas, both sounded good but I had to save some room for dinner (and dessert).

The ceviche was excellent with the ahi tuna being neatly cubed. The problem with many ceviche recipes is that they often include a jalapeno pepper in it. I could instantly tell there was jalapeno, hopefully sans seeds. My hubby likes heat. He didn't even notice the jalapeno. I definitely was reaching for my water in between bites. Overall, it was tasty but if we get to go there again, I'll stick with the fried calamari.

Now, the chicken mole was fantastic. I'm sure that it was mole poblano, if you want to get technical. For those of you who aren't familiar with mole poblano, it's a thick, rich sauce with hints of chocolate. It's a very time consuming and labor intensive sauce to make. Definitely not for beginners. Some friends of mine have told talked me out of wanting to make mole from scratch. I understand it can take several hours or even days and many, many ingredients to make a good mole. The mole was served with red rice and beans. The red rice was light, moist, fluffy and made a great foil for the spiced mole. I'm not a huge fan of beans but I tried a couple bites. They had a light sprinkling of thinly sliced scallions or green onions on top. I thought that was a creative touch.

The ladies wanted dessert. At this point, I was wondering if I could manage a couple bites. We decided to get the apple empanadas a la mode. I'm a big fan of empanadas, having had them with my Filipino-Chinese relatives. Empanadas are similar to turnovers, made with dough and then stuffed with either a sweet or savory filling. Although they are usually served as appetizers, they can be eaten anytime or on the go. The apple empanadas reminded me of the apple pies they have at McDonald's only these were much better.

We had a great time. Looking forward to our next visit.

Baked Pita Chips

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I would like to thank the caterer, Dee Biller, for giving me the original recipe for these baked pita chips. I have tweaked a bit and find the following recipe works better for me. Lauderdale and I sometimes will eat them by themselves. Very addictive- I have been making these chips for the last week and a half!

Baked Pita Chips

  • 4 plain pita bread (I used a store brought brand and they worked out for me)
  • 1/3 cup melted unsalted butter (I used Challenger but any brand works)
  • (Optional) Freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

  2. Tear off aluminum foil to fully line both baking sheets.

  3. Take one pita and cut it in half. (The brand I used had a perforated line in the middle). Cut 1 half and cut it into 4 wedges. Take 1 wedge and tear into 2 pieces along the 'seam' or top of the pita wedges. Repeat this entire process with remaining pita bread.

  4. Melt the butter in a prep bowl or measuring cup in the microwave for 25 seconds on regular temp (not High). If butter is not entirely melted, try microwaving the butter for another 10-20 seconds. *Times will vary depending on your microwave model.*

  5. Place each chip in a single layer onto the cookie sheets.

  6. Once the butter is melted, brush each pita chip with the melted butter.

  7. If you are using the cheese, take the grater and the Parmesan wedge and shred the cheese directly over the pita chips. Use as little or as much as you want. Be sure to cover the chip thoroughly otherwise the chip may become too dark.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes and check to see if the chips are golden and crispy. If they aren't quite right, try 1 or 2 more minutes. *Times vary with oven models as well.
  9. When chips are done, allow them to cool. Store the chips in Ziplock bags at room temperature.

Cookbooks I Love- Part 1

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hello everyone, to get my blog started, I thought I would list some cookbooks that I love. Some I own and others I plan on buying someday. These cookbooks are in no particular order.
*Disclaimer*: I am a Food Network fanatic so if you're not a FN fan, this is probably not the blog for you.

  1. How to Boil Water by Food Network Kitchens. Explains the basics: boiling water, making hard-boiled eggs, sauce, etc. Great pictures. Has helpful hints that I liked.

  2. The Classic 1000 Chinese Recipes edited by Wendy Hobson. Organized by category (e.g. appetizers, eggs, rice, tofu, marinades and condiments). No pictures- just straightforward recipes.

    Sample recipe: Sweet and Sour Pork:
    Serves 4.
    1 lb. lean pork, cubed
    1 Tbsp. rice wine or dry sherry
    1 Tbsp. peanut oil
    1 tsp. curry powder
    1 egg, beaten
    4 oz. cornstarch
    oil for deep-frying
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    3 oz. or 1/3 cup sugar
    2 oz. tomato ketchup
    1 tsp. wine vinegar
    1 tsp. sesame oil

    Mix the pork with the wine or sherry, oil, curry powder, egg, and a little salt. Mix in the cornstarch until the pork is covered with the batter. Heat the oil until smoking then add the pork cubes a few at a time. Fry for about 3 minutes then drain and set aside.

    Reheat the oil and fry the cubes again for about 2 minutes. Remove and drain. Heat the garlic, sugar, tomato ketchup and wine vinegar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil then add the pork cubes and stir well. Stir in the sesame oil and serve.

  3. Cafe Nervosa: The Connoisseur's Cookbook by Frasier and Niles Crane. If you're a fan of the TV show "Frasier", you will love this book. There are some quotes from the show which I think make the book seem more 'authentic'. There are some recipes named after the characters (e.g. Daphne Moon-Style Muffins, Bulldog's Big BLT Croissants) and more traditional named recipes (e.g. Chocolate-Hazelnut Biscotti). You don't have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this delightful assortment of recipes but it helps a little. Helps if you like or love coffee though as Cafe Nervosa is the (fictitious) cafe spot that the Drs. Crane frequently visited in Seattle.

  4. The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger. I like her healthy approach to food without being preachy or political. It has gorgeous photos, nutritional information per serving, and tells you what vitamins and minerals are in the recipes. My husband, "Lauderdale", who is a regular meat-and-potatoes guy had no idea that the steak tacos with cucumber-avocado salsa were healthy!

  5. You've Got It Made: Deliciously easy meals to make now & bake later by Diane Phillips. I had the recent pleasure of attending a cooking class featuring Ms. Phillips. I love her idea of make now and bake later. This has helped me avoid spending way too much money on takeout! If you are a slow cook, like me, you might want to start super early on some of the recipes. I absolutely love the Chicken Florentine Casserole.

  6. Fast and Fabulous Chicken Breasts by Phillis M. Carey. Ms. Carey is one of my favorites! I have been to many of her cooking classes. It may sound a little silly but this chicken book has changed my life! Like many people, I know chicken breasts are healthier than dark chicken meat but I seldom found a good recipe where the chicken wasn't dried out or stringy (or worse- *shudder*). Her mantra is to pound chicken before cooking and it will always be juicy, delicious, and will cook evenly every time.
    Rinse and pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels. Have 2 decent sheets of plastic wrap separated. Place 1 chicken breast on one of the plastic wrap sheets. Take the other plastic wrap and cover the chicken. Make sure that the chicken is secure between both sheets-nothing hanging out or exposed. Take a smooth-edged meat pounder (this is the one I have) and start at the "fat" end of the chicken and lightly pound to an even 1/2 inch thickness.
    Back to the recipes, they are easy, delicious, and (usually) quick to prepare. I love the fact that her recipes are like formulas and easily interchangeable- ex. almonds vs. pecans.

  7. Semi-Homemade series by Sandra Lee. I know there are some people who don't like Sandra but I absolutely love her philosophy of 70% ready-made products and 30% fresh. I actually really got into cooking more thanks to her entire series. When I was single, my idea of cooking was opening up a Lean Cuisine and nuking it in the microwave. If I was feeling fancy, I would get one of those meal in a box and throw it in the oven. My best friend or bestie, "Pink Tulips", and I were watching her "Semi-Homemade" show on FN. I can't remember what foods were featured but I felt a light bulb turn on. Went out and got one or two of her Semi-Homemade books and my culinary journey began. One of my fave Sandra recipes is the Cajun Turkey Burgers with Cayenne Curly Fries.

  8. I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking by Alton Brown. I'm an AB fan for sure. I appreciate him explaining the science behind cooking and baking while making it fun and quirky. For some reason, many people shy away from baking. Not sure why- I often prefer baking than other types of cooking. AB has plenty of tips and recommendations including gadgets. I'm a total gadget gal-look for a future post on my favorite gadgets.

  9. Down Home with the Neelys by Gina and Patrick Neely. After I got cable TV for the first time last year, I discovered the Neelys. The Neelys are all about barbeque. I don't have room to grill otherwise I'd be eating BBQ most of the time! Besides BBQ, this great and personal cookbook has some Southern dishes that I can make-Gina's Collard Greens and Nana's Southern Gumbo.

  10. Emeril's Delmonico by Emeril Lagasse. I LOVE Emeril! I fondly remember watching "Emeril Live!" with my mom and positively drooling over his dishes. I love Cajun and Creole food with a passion. This cookbook has simple to complex recipes and they will delight and challenge you.

    I will save save some other favorite cookbooks for another blog. Have a fantastic day!

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