Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lilikoi Bars

In the two plus years that I've lived in Hawaii, I've learned new words,  eaten different foods,  worn fewer clothes, and gained an appreciation for SPAM.

My first month on Maui, I went to a party and was introduced to lilikoi margaritas.    I had no idea what a lilikoi was other than it grew on their fence and it was mighty tasty with tequila over ice.

Lilikoi is the Hawaiian word for passion fruit.   Here it's popular as a syrup for shave ice and in cocktails.  Lilikoi is not something you'll often find in the grocery store (but maybe at a farm stand)...more likely you'll get them from friends and neighbors.

There is a young lilikoi vine growing in my backyard.    I've gotten six fruits from it this month.   Friends and neighbors took care of the rest....and they consider it a fair trade - fresh produce for baked goods.

Backyard produce
I've mentioned  the size of Maui produce before, including the epic Haiku avocados and farmers market lemons the size of softballs.    I just picked up this giant lemon at the  market.   I used the zest from the whole thing, but only used juice from half (about 4 tablespoons).   The rest of the lemon was put to good use in lemonade.

Lemons the size of kindles
I found the recipe for these bars over on The Little Ferraro Kitchen, plus great instructions on how to actually get juice from the fruit.  So amazing in every way!

What You Need

1 cup (half pound) butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups of flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt

6 eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup lilikoi juice (10-12 lilikoi, depending on their size)
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons lemon juice (half of the monster lemon above)
zest of 1 lemon

What You Do

Line a 13x9 pan with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350.   You can  wait a little on the oven, as the dough needs to chill, and if you haven't prepared the lilikoi juice, that will take a few minutes as well.  

To get the lilikoi juice, you have to do a little work.   Slice the fruit in half and scoop the juice, pulp and seeds into the food processor.    Pulse briefly, 20-30 seconds just to help separate the pulp from the seeds.   Pour the contents of the food processor into a strainer over a glass liquid measuring cup. Use the back of a spoon to push as much juice as possible through the strainer.    

To make the crust, beat butter with a hand mixer.   Add sugar and cream until light and fluffy.   Add flour and salt until just mixed.  Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting board, form into a ball and then flatten dough in preparation for putting in the pan.    

When the dough is in the bottom of the pan, use floured fingers to push it all the way to the edge and to build a little lip all the way around (to help hold in the filling).   Put the pan with dough into the freezer for 15-20 minutes while you're making the filling.  (Now is a good time to preheat the oven if you haven't already)

To make the filling, whisk the eggs, sugar, flour,  lilikoi juice, lemon juice and lemon zest, until combined.   It will smell wonderful.    When the crust is done chilling, and the oven is preheated, pour the filling over the crust.

Bake 30-35 minutes until the filling is set.    I set my timer for 30 minutes and the middle was still jiggly, so I ended up baking for 35 minutes.

Cool before slicing.   
I put my bars in the refrigerator to chill before slicing and then for storage afterwards.     
You won't have to store them long...they're that good!

Meanwhile in Maui

It's whale season again.   Hooray!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

It may come as a surprise to those enjoying a solid cold winter elsewhere, but we do get winter weather here in Hawaii.   It's in the low 70s (or gasp, the high 60s) at night, at sea level.   If you live upcountry, it's even cooler.     When I read all the cold weather, slow cooker recipes, I want to get in on the fun, even if I'm not wearing socks or sitting by the fireplace. 

I don't miss many restaurant chains from the mainland, but there are times where soup in a bread bowl from Panera would be the perfect meal.   This soup makes me think of sitting by the fireplace at the Panera in the DTC back in Colorado on cold winter day.         

What You Need

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts,- two large ones will do it and frozen worked just fine
1 cup uncooked wild rice, I used Lundberg Wild Blend Rice experimenting from the bulk bin at the natural food store
2 cups, total, of chopped celery, carrot and onion
6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (or improv here with sage, thyme, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
2 cups 2% milk (the original recipe called for whole, but I don't usually have that on hand...I did know that my normal choice of skim milk wouldn't make the soup as creamy as I'd like, so 2% was my personal soup compromise of the day)
3 tablespoons white wine
salt and pepper to taste

What You Do

Why I loved this recipe so much was that it really was easy.   Take the whole chicken breasts, rice, veggies, chicken broth and seasoning and put it in the slow cooker on low for 7-8 hours.    

Walk away.  Go to work, walk the dog, take a nap, hit the beach, read a good book, visit with your neighbors, or curl up by the fireplace.

Come back and use tongs to pull the chicken breasts from the pot.   Use two forks to shred them and then put the chicken back in the pot.  

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.   Add the flour and let it bubble for a minute.   Add the milk, and whisk the mixture together.   Then add the wine (if you're drinking it at the same time, that's totally fine....especially if it's cold out).    Add this roux to the soup going in the slow cooker.   If you want to change the consistency of the soup, you can add additional milk at this time.    Let it cook a little longer so that it's all combined and full of hearty goodness, then dig in.  

Bonus if you have a bread bowl on hand.   

Recipe source:  This soup recipe comes from Pinch of Yum, one of my favorite food blogs to follow

Meanwhile in Maui

Friday night's sunset was glorious.  
If you're thinking that Hawaii is calling your name in 2016, come.

Other soups you might enjoy:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Traveling the World and Eating Potato Chips

Here's the truth.    I want to travel the world and eat chips.
When I'm on vacation, I enjoy eating.   Including fine snacks purchased at the local mini-mart or 7-Eleven.   

On our recent family trip to Myanmar and Thailand, my sister and I were on the lookout for addition to all the elephant pants in all the land.     I think I came home with the fewest pairs of pants. 1 pair of elephant pants and 2 pairs of elephant shorts - since I live in a tropical climate.  

I digress.    This should be all about the chips.    Not pictured are the chicken satay and scallop butter garlic chips that made it through 4 airports and the longest Saturday ever of flying.   

Potato Fritter - Purchased on a quick escape from our horse cart in Myanmar.   After eating these, they are henceforth called Mouth on Fire Chips. 

Chiang Mai Corner Mini Mart Assortment - The first bag of Lays has no English whatsoever.   The best vote from my friends on Facebook was Creepy Lip Flavor.    In reality.....lime and something else.     The center bag was french fries with chili sauce.  The chips were shaped like fries and the chili sauce came in a separate packet.   The bag on the right was Sweet Basil.   It was hard gauge the flavor since there were only 6 chips in the bag.   Really.

Namtok Hotpot Lays - A tasty find in the Chiang Mai Airport and a solid accompaniment to our iced coffee.    I'm guessing that the man on the label is a celebrity chef.    Is it just me, or are Hotpot flavored chips in short supply in the US?  

What's your favorite way to snack on vacation?    

Monday, November 9, 2015

Easy Four Berry Cobbler

Last week my sweet tooth got the better of me.    This cobbler was the result.

I wanted something sweet.   I scouted the fridge.   The freezer.   The cabinet.   Nothing jumped out at me.     Surely there had to be something that could be quickly and easily put together.

Back to the freezer.    A bag of mixed berries.    A bag of cranberries.

Cobblertown, here we come!

What You Need

For the fruit layer
3 cups of frozen berries - 2 cups of mixed (blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry) and 1 cup of cranberries {any  berry combination of your choice will be delicious}
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the cobbler topping
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup oats - I used old fashioned
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

What You Do

Preheat the oven to 375.
Coat an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine the frozen berries, sugar, starch, water and cinnamon.   Stir until any corn starch chunks are broken down.    Pour into the 8x8 pan.

In a small to medium bowl, cream sugar and butter.  Stir in the milk and vanilla.   In a small bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt, then add to the butter and sugar.  Stir to mix into a batter.  Spoon the cobbler topping over the fruit layer.   It won't cover everything, but it will be close.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until topping is baked and the fruit is bubbling hot.     I highly recommend eating it straight out of the oven.    And then for breakfast until pan is empty.

Meanwhile in Maui

We had managers outing a few weeks ago and went out on a sunset sail.   Such a beautiful evening!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cream Cheese Banana Bread

My neighbors have a banana tree.   Proof that I'm not in Colorado any more, right?

Their tree was going crazy and they gifted me with some of their bounty.    I couldn't eat them all at the time, so I put a few in the freezer for smoothies or baking.

Baking won out.    Surprise, surprise!

I've used the same base recipe for years, Basic Banana Bread, from Cooking Light magazine.     It's great on its own or with any  mix-ins or toppings that you want to put with it.

This time, I opted for a cream cheese, cheesecake-esque, layer in the middle.

What You Need

Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (2 or 3 bananas - you can  measure or just go with what you have on hand)
1/3 cup plain (or vanilla) fat-free yogurt
5 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup  sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Cream Cheese Filling
1 egg
1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour

Combine filling ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth.   Then you're ready when it's time.
(filling recipe from Averie Cooks)

What You Do

Preheat oven to 350 and spray silicone 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray.   If you're using a metal or glass loaf pan, I would encourage you to line it with foil and then spray.

In a large mixing bowl, beat bananas, yogurt, butter and eggs.   Add sugars and beat until combined.

Combine all dry ingredients (flax through allspice) in a separate bowl and whisk together.

Add dry ingredients to banana mixture until just blended.

Pour 2/3 of the banana bread batter into your loaf pan.  

Gently pour and smooth the cream cheese filling over the batter layer.   Use a rubber spatula to get the cream cheese filling to all the corners.      Pour remaining banana  bread layer on top, making sure that the cream cheese layer is covered.

Bake for 55 minutes.      Remove from oven, let cool in pan on a rack for at least 10 minutes.
Gently remove bread from pan (which is why I love my silicone pan...makes this so easy) and continue to cool.  

Enjoy when you are ready.    There is no wrong time for banana bread.

Meanwhile in Maui

Good friends of mine from Colorado were visiting this week, so we explored all over the island.

Pictured:  Haleakala National Park 

Do you have a go to banana bread recipe?   Please share!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Caramel Apple Bars

The world of pumpkin spice has gone insane!    

I was in Target this week just counting all the different things that have been spiced...whether they need to be or not.   Coffee,  creamers, baking mixes,  M&M's,  candy corn, Oreo's, nuts, you name it, it's been PS'd.

My sister is so annoyed by the PS'ing of everything that her Facebook wall has been taken over by her friends posting every random PS thing they find.

They find a lot.

Apples are different.     They take the stage with pumpkin in the fall, but in reality, apple treats are delicious year round and don't need to be defined by a season.  And with PS being a pushy diva, poor apples aren't center stage, but are reduced to singing in the chorus.

I'm not having that.   Not.  At.  All.

So here, we give the apple it's time in the sun.   Shine, apple, shine.

What You Need

For the bars: 
1 stick salted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup chopped pecans, plus ¼ cup whole pecans (for the top)
2 large apples, I used Braeburn, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes ( strict measuring was going on here

For the caramel topping:
½ cup of Kraft caramel baking bits
1 teaspoon heavy cream

What You Do

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I used a little cooking spray on my 9x9 silicone baking pan.   If you're using a metal or glass pan, I would recommend lining with foil and then greasing it.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl beat together butter, sugar and egg with a hand mixer until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add chopped pecans and apples, and stir by hand until combined. Add flour mixture, and stir until combined.

Spread batter in pan.  In a small microwave safe bowl, combine caramel baking bits and heavy cream.  Microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir.   Heat for another 30 seconds if necessary.

Drizzle the caramel over the batter and then strategically place your pecans wherever you want them to go.    

Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then cut into bars.   These are also great right out of the oven while still warm, they will just be a little messier when you cut into them.   Nothing wrong with that, right?

Recipe Source:   Foodie Crush

Meanwhile in Travel

When I went to Colorado on vacation last month, I finally hiked the Hanging Lake Trail.

If you want to know more about this hike, read more here.   

Whether you are in the apple or pumpkin camp, I hope you're getting as much as your heart desires this fall!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Everything is Better with Praline on Top

Praline Brownies

This week I have determined that everything is better with praline on top.    

What is praline?  The dictionary says a confection made with nuts and sugar.     Most often, it's brown sugar and pecans.    If you hit up gas stations in the southern part of the US, you may run across them right by the checkout lane.

I made praline candies when I lived in Indianapolis.    Successfully.

When I moved to Colorado, I managed to ruin them twice due to the altitude and my candy thermometer my first year.   After wasting money in pecans and heavy cream, I decided that pralines were no longer on my Christmas candy list.  

Back at sea level, I'm willing to go at it again.

And why limit my praline-ing to just brownies?    

Praline Pancakes

Don't pancakes deserve the pecan, butter, cream and sugar confection?

Of course they do!

Sometimes, I just confection myself by eating it straight out of the bowl.   Sugar really does melt in your mouth.

So if you want to praline's what you need to know.

What You Need

6 tablespoons of butter, sliced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

What You Do

In a medium sauce pan, combine the butter, whipping cream, brown sugar and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute.   Stir frequently.  

Remove from heat, add the vanilla and powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth.   Stir in pecans.

Let the sugary goodness sit for five minutes.   The sugar on the top might harden a little, but not to worry.     Pour the praline mixture over the treats of your choice - brownies, cookies, pancakes, etc.

Praline Brownies

Praline brownies were devoured in record time at my office this week.    Make your favorite brownie recipe.   I used the Ghiradelli dark chocolate brownie mix and made a 8x8 pan of brownies.    After the brownies cool completely, make the praline topping and pour over the top.    

The topping makes plenty, so you can have a thick layer of praline, or reserve some for other things.   Like pancakes.   Or eating with a spoon.

I was completely inspired to praline things after reading this recipe over on Cookies and Cups.   Check it out!

When was the last time you had a praline?  
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