Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peppermint Pretzel Sticks


Aloha Friends!

We are racing towards Christmas and the inevitable flip of the calendar from 2014 to 2015.   It also means you'll be dating things 2014 for at least a month or two of the new year.     Winter in Hawaii looks a little different than in much of the rest of the country.   It's definitely cooler and people are grabbing their hoodies and sweaters for those crisp, cool nights where it gets down to 65 degrees.

I know, right?

Mom and I went to Oahu for a couple days earlier this month to visit the big city and check out the Christmas decorations.    Waikiki was really in the spirit - there are gorgeous trees in all the hotels and shops.  

All the trees!

When we came back, I jumped into my holiday treat-making with enthusiasm, making some old favorites and trying some new recipes.      If you ever need to make something that looks fun and festive while investing less than 20 minutes, pretzel sticks are the way to go.    Get yourself some pretzels and Wilton candy melts or chocolate/white candy bark from the store and you're in business. Use the appropriate colors or sprinkles for the holiday, sports team etc.   

No oven or stove needed.   Just a microwave safe bowl and some wax paper.

This year I found Candy Cane Wilton candy melts for the first time.    They are bright and minty.   I think dipping Oreos might be a solid plan.    

What You Need

Pretzel Rods (or any other pretzel of your choosing)
Candy Melts

What You Do

Melt the candy melts per the package directions.    It's key that you use low power on your microwave.   When the candy is mostly melted, stir it to melt the rest rather than putting it back in the microwave.      You can dip the pretzels into the candy, or use a large spoon to scoop the melted candy and then roll the pretzels on the spoon (that's what I did).  Put the pretzels on waxed paper to set.  

In a climate with no humidity, candy melts dry super quick.   If it's warm and/or humid where you live, put them in the fridge and they'll be set in no time.


Mele Kalikimaka!





Monday, December 15, 2014

Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Hint of Hawaii Toffee Bars


Cookies!

Everywhere you look this time of year, you find cookies.   What better way to celebrate the holidays than to give, receive, bake, bring or buy cookies?    Have you ever brought cookies to an event and had people say "Ugh cookies?"   Not going to happen.

This is my second year participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.    Sharing cookies with someone you've never met and sharing the blog love as well.     Everyone who participates is assigned three people.    You bake your cookies and ship them off.    In return, cookies come your way.  Just like magic.    Not to mention you get introduced to other food bloggers and enjoy treats that you didn't bake.   It's wonderful!

To Give

I sent aloha by mail to Emily @ Life on Food,  Danae @  Recipe Runner and Sarah @ Curious Cuisinere.    If you're looking for some inspiration, hit up their blogs or get to instagrammin'.     You'll also see what cookies they made for their lucky recipients.  

To Receive

I love peppermint everything, so I was excited to get these treats delivered to my doorstep.







Then from Home Cooking Memories I enjoyed a different holiday flavor:  ginger


The Recipe

Now to share the recipe that I made:  Hint of Hawaii Toffee Bars.    Toffee and toffee bars have been a part of Christmas in our family forever.    Now that I'm in Maui, it was logical to add some coconut and macadamia brittle to to the mix.

What You Need

Crust
3/4 cup butter/margarine
3/4  cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted coconut

Filling
1 (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Topping
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, dark, or a mixture)
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/2 cup chopped macadamia brittle (I used Ed & Don's...and sent my cookie swap people a can of the macadamia brittle so they could try it out. You  could also use more pecans, more coconut, toffee bits, etc)

What You Do

1.  Line a 9x13 pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.   Preheat oven to 350.
2.  In a large bowl mix butter and brown sugar.   Ad din egg yolk.   Slowly add in flour.   Add in toasted coconut.
3.  Using floured hands (dough is sticky), press the crust into your pan.
4.  Bake for 20 minutes, until crust is light brown.
5.  In a medium sauce pan combine butter and sweetened condensed milk.   Stir constantly over medium heat until bubbly and then cook and stir for 5 minutes.   Remove from heat.   Stir in vanilla.  
6.  Pour over baked crust.   Spread it so that it covers the whole crust.   Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.  
7.  Remove bars from oven.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.   Bake 1-2 minutes until chocolate is shiny and melted.   Use a spatula to smooth chocolate over the bars.   
8.  Sprinkle with your toppings of choice.   Allow to cool on the counter, then completely cool in the refrigerator.   Use foil to remove bars from pan and slice in rectangles or triangles.   

Enjoy!

To see the roundup of recipes of everyone who participated, click here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cranberry Macadamia Bars



Aloha Friends!

Thanksgiving has come and gone and now we're rolling full steam ahead towards Christmas and (gasp!) 2015.   I've had family visiting over the past two and a half weeks - great fun where we ate, drank and saw all the things.  My Maui  Eats List has gotten longer and longer.

I went back to work on Friday as a feeble attempt to get back in post-vacation frame of mind.   Fortunately I have this weekend to recover from that one day.   After walking to brunch and then going out for gelato, I took mom to the airport yesterday so she could start her journey back to winter (in the form of Western Illinois).    

I made these cranberry bars on Black Friday.    Black Friday is not as big of a thing since we're on a small island, but all the shops and big box stores were open and ready  to take your money.   It was raining and so we put up my Christmas tree and had some mai tais.    Mom was committed to perfecting the mai tai while on vacation and my sister and I were her willing mai tai sippers.  

So if it's winter where you are, and you need to feel a little aloha....make these bars while sipping a mai tai.   You'll be in a Hawaii frame of mind in no time.

What You Need


Base Layer
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts (I used Mauna Loa dry roasted macadamia baking pieces)

Cranberry Layer
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
zest of one orange (I hate measuring zest, so I just go by the fruit)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup whole cranberries (you can chop them if you want, I opted to keep them whole)
1/2 cup coconut flakes

What You Do

Preheat the oven to 350.   Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl stir the flour and sugar together.   With a two knives (or a pastry blender if you have one handy), cut in the butter until crumbly.   Stir in the 1/2 cup macadamia nuts.     Press this mixture into the bottom of the pan.    Bake for 10-15 minutes until light brown around the edges.  

In another bowl combine the 1 1/4 cup sugar,  eggs, milk, orange zest, and vanilla.  Beat until combined.   Pour over the hot crust.    Sprinkle with the macadamia nuts,  cranberries and coconut.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.   If you want to cut in while warm, go ahead.  Otherwise, wait until the bars cool, pull them out with the foil and cut them into bars.   


Meanwhile in Maui...


We totally made the cinnamon roll turkeys that were all over Facebook and Pinterest for our Thanksgiving breakfast

And we went on an early season whale watch and saw the whales!



Don't let the busy-ness of the season keep you from enjoying activities and fellowship with your friends, family and church.     The anticipation of Christmas is always my favorite part.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Maui Staycation Has Begun!

Aloha Friends!

Normally this would be the time of year that holiday recipes would be in full force.    But this week, I'm in staycation mode instead.....eating out instead of cooking in.    My mom and aunt arrived on Wednesday night and my sister flew in last night.   We're off for a week of adventures here in Maui.

I am participating in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year and I sent my cookies off to their respective homes earlier this week.   I heard back from one of the bloggers already that my treats arrived safe and sound.    It's so much fun getting cookies in the mail and benefiting Cookies for Kids' Cancer  too! 

Meanwhile in Maui...

Yesterday we went up to Haleakala National Park.   It was a gorgeous day to go from sea level to 10,000 feet.  

Flowers at Kula Lodge

Summit of Haleakala with Mom

Haleakala Crater

TJ treats imported from Illinois - Mahalo!

Whatever you and your friends and family do this Thanksgiving, I hope that you enjoy your time!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Candy Caramel Corn


 

Candy corn and peanuts are one of my favorite fall snacking combinations.     I'm not sure why I limit it to fall.  Candy corn is, in fact, sold in stores year round.   It's just tucked in small bags in the candy aisle rather than having front of the store product placement.    

Growing up, I didn't care for caramel corn.   Just regular popcorn with real butter, please.   Commercial caramel corn still doesn't do it for me, but if it's homemade or from a small local popcorn place....that's a different story.

Last year at this time, the movers had already come to my house in Colorado and packed up all my stuff.   I was in the midst of goodbye parties and the install of new carpet.   Guess which was more fun?   

Practicing our shakas
   
As I've mentioned before, since there isn't really a change of seasons, it's hard to switch gears into fall mode.  To get in the Halloween spirit, I went to the Haunted Haiku Hike on Sunday.   I've never been on a haunted hike before....though  I have been to something  creatively called Terror in the Corn. 

My list of traditional fall type activities so far this year:  
1) shopping for a Halloween costume             
2) a haunted hike  
3) making this  popcorn


What You Need

10 cups of popped popcorn
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup salted peanuts, divided 
1 cup candy corn....be honest, you can use as much as you want

What You Do

Line two 9x13 baking pans with foil coated with cooking spray.   Preheat oven to 200.
Divide the popped popcorn between the two pans as well as the peanuts.  

In a medium saucepan combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar and salt.   Heat on medium until boiling, stirring consistently.    Allow caramel to boil for 5 minutes.   Remove from heat, and add the baking soda.    Whisk until fluffy.     Pour half of the caramel over each pan of popcorn and use a spatula to toss and coat so that most kernels have a little caramel on them.  

Bake for one hour, stirring every 20 minutes.      When done baking, turn out onto waxed paper and sprinkle the candy corn.   It won't readily stick to the popcorn, so you  may want to push it a little bit. Let the popcorn cool and break into smaller pieces if necessary.       Store in an airtight container.


Other Popcorn You Might Like to Snack On

Thin Mint Popcorn
Macadamia Nut Caramel Corn (with no corn syrup)
Peanut Butter Snicker Corn

What's your favorite fall snack combination?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hint of Spice Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies


Last weekend I was inspired to make two different kinds of cookies (here's the other one).   Cookies cannot stay at home, so these went straight away to work to be shared with all and sundry.     Please note the plate in this picture....that's the only fall color I'll be seeing this year other than on Facebook.   It's also the only fall decoration that I have at all.   So it's possible you'll be seeing it again.    
It's hard to believe it's mid-October already.    Halloween is a big thing in Lahaina, one of the biggest parties in the world, or so I'm told.   My family is coming for Thanksgiving this year and then then Surfing Santa will be back up on display in Ka'anapali and a new year will be on the way!  
I love oatmeal cookies, but not oatmeal raisin.   I've always swapped the raisins for chocolate chips, and these cookies are no exception.    A little cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice gives you a  hint of fall flavors.  
Sit back with a cup  of coffee and a cookie.  Enjoy October before it slips away.
What You Need
2 sticks butter or margarine, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 pkg (3.4 oz) vanilla pudding mix
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips


What You Do

Preheat oven to 350° and line your cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl combine butter/margarine with both granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium speed for several minutes until well mixed.   Add eggs one at a time.   Then add the vanilla and the maple syrup.

In a separate bowl, combine all your dry ingredients:  flour, pudding mix, soda, salt, and spices.   Slowly add to the wet mixture and beat to combine.  Add the chocolate chips and walnuts and either beat at slow speed or stir in with a spoon.

I used a small cookie scoop and made about 3 dozen cookies.    Bake 11-12 minutes if you like soft oatmeal cookies.   Allow cookies to cool a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack.

Recipe slightly adapted from Beyond Frosting 

Meanwhile in Maui...
actually Oahu....

Last week I flew to Oahu for a conference.    Oahu is smaller than Maui with a significantly bigger population.   I read an article this year that referred to the traffic in Honolulu as soul-sucking.  Oahu actually has three interstate highways, H1, H2 and H3. I was only there for a little over 24 hours, so didn't have time to explore Waikiki very much other than note that there are lots of people and an ABC store every 20 feet.   When I checked into the hotel, they had a farmer's market in the lobby that was awesome.   

Market time!
Mango stuffed malasada
Waikiki beach sunset
Any recommendations the next time I'm back on Oahu with more time?  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sweet and Salty Compost Cookies



The good news is that Hurricane Ana has veered away and is not making landfall in Hawaii.   However, the effects of her journey through the ocean have brought us a gray and rainy day. Perfect for hanging out guilt free inside and being kind of  very lazy.    The kind of lazy where you drink your souvenir Door County Coffee and eat a slice of pie.   Legitimate breakfast, right?  


Since moving to Hawaii, I'm more likely to go out for shave ice than ice cream.   However....my favorite ice cream spot on Front Street, Ono Gelato, has a deck on the back overlooking the ocean.   And they sell these delicious cookies called Compost Cookies.  I don't know what all is in them, but it does include potato chips.   This recipe that had some sweet and salty going on already and potato chips were a logical addition.   


Last weekend I made two different kinds of cookies and took them to straight into work on Monday.   Between our employee concierge table and a mandatory manager training, they were gone in no time....with rave reviews.  


What You Need

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1  egg
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 - cup stick pretzels, broken into smaller pieces
1/2 cup Ruffles, or other ridged potato chips, broken into smaller pieces1/2 - cup Kraft caramel bits (surprised to find these - specific baking ingredients are hit or miss here in our stores)
1/4 - cup butterscotch chips
1/4 - cup chocolate chips

What You Do
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.    Line your cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat.


In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.   Then add the vanilla and the egg.  

In a small bowl combine the salt, baking soda and flour.  Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Mix until combined.

Add the pretzel pieces, chips,  caramel bits and chips into the dough and mix together using a spatula.  Use a small cookie scoop (or a big one - your call based on how many cookies you'd like) to put them on your cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on a wire rack.   I used a small cookie scoop and got about 27 cookies.      


Recipe slightly adapted from Mommy's Kitchen


Meanwhile in Maui...


There isn't really a feeling of fall here - in fact September and October can be the hottest months of the year as the tradewinds tend to die down.    Last weekend I went Upcountry and hiked the Waihou Spring trail near Makawao.   That's where I found fall.   It was 20 degrees cooler than it was in Lahaina.   The smell of the pine trees and needles.  The sound of  rushing water.   I felt like I could have been hiking in Colorado or Wisconsin.   Amazing.  





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