Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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“Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.”  Fran Lebowitz

I’m okay with raw carrots, I really am.  But I think carrots really sing when they are cooked.  They belt out their ultimate deliciousness when they are roasted.

You know how roasting vegetables caramelizes them and makes them nice and sweet?  And tender and delicious?  Well, dribble some coconut oil and a heavy dusting of Moroccan spices into the mix and you’ve got a winner.  I would be proud to serve these vegetables to anyone.  Next time I will add some chunks of onion and garlic.  Make a lot, because you will not want to run out.  Consider yourself warned!

Roasted carrots and potatoes with Moroccan spices final
Roasted Potatoes & Carrots with Coconut Oil & Moroccan Spices

1 large potato {peeled if not organic}, cut into chunks
3 large carrots {peeled if not organic}, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
Coconut oil
Freshly ground salt & pepper
Moroccan Spice Mix {recipe below}
2 cloves of garlic, mashed into a paste

Cut the potatoes, carrots & onions into pieces that will cook in about the same amount of time.  Put in a bowl large enough to comfortably {& neatly} toss the vegetables with the coconut oil & seasonings.  Start with about 1 tbsp. of coconut oil; if that coats all the vegetables nicely, then that’s enough-you don’t want greasy vegetables.  Season with plenty of freshly ground salt and pepper, and a generous dose of the Moroccan Spice Mix.  Line a sheet pan with foil, then spray with pan spray to prevent sticking {I used coconut oil spray}.  Arrange the vegetables on the pan in a single layer.  Roast in a 375 degree oven, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.  You can leave them in for a while after they are tender, because they will turn a lovely golden brown, which makes them super tasty.  When they are golden brown, put them back into the big bowl.  Add the garlic paste and mix it all up.  The heat from the vegetables will cook the garlic and impart a delectable garlic flavor.

Serves about 3 roasted vegetable lovers

Moroccan Spice Mix

2 tsp ground cumin {preferably whole seeds toasted, then ground}
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder  {I used my homemade chili powder; use whatever chili powder you like}
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
Mix it all up & store in a tightly lidded jar.

Homemade Chili Powder

3 T sweet paprika
1 T ground cumin {preferably whole seeds toasted, then ground}
2 T oregano {preferably Mexican}
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder {yes, there is the occasional use for garlic powder!}
1 whole dry ancho chile, broken up
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp coriander seed

Put all ingredients into a small food processor or blender, and process until the pieces of ancho chile are ground.  Store in a tightly lidded jar.

Bon Appetit!


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“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”  ~John Dewey

For some reason, I am having a hard time settling down to write.  My mind has been wandering quite a bit lately, as I think about my friends in the Central Kitsap School District who gathered together again this past Monday, after about 8 weeks of well-deserved summer vacation. This is the week of back to school teacher meetings, sprinkled with moments to prepare classrooms for the children, who are coming next week.  Going back to school is a mixed bag of emotions; it means the return of early morning alarms, and giving up your free time but at the same time, you get to see your friends and the kids again for the camaraderie and excitement of a fresh new year.  Here’s hoping for a wonderful school year for all!

I’ve wanted to write about yogurt for a while now.  We eat yogurt because it tastes good, but also because it is a healthy food.  If you want to eat yogurt for its health benefits, there are a few things to be considered.  Cultured or fermented foods, of which yogurt is one, provide beneficial bacteria for your gut, which is a good thing.  But all yogurts are not created alike.  Look for yogurt that contains the most variety of live active cultures; the more the better.  Yogurt that has fewer ingredients is better for you.  Some yogurt is full of added sugars, colors, stabilizers and other such ingredients which are not needed.  We like to buy plain low-fat yogurt, specifically Nancy’s.  Using plain yogurt allows you to customize your yogurt any way you like.  Plain yogurt is like a blank canvas.  Here is a generic “recipe” to follow to create a fabulous yogurt breakfast.  It’s really up to you to add whatever you like.

Put some yogurt in a bowl.

Add fruit if you want.  This can be frozen fruit, fresh fruit, fruit jam that you have made preferably with minimal added sugar {like our peach jam that I told you about}.

Add a grain.  This can be cooked quinoa, brown rice, 2 tbsp of Buckwheat Chia Crunch, raw oatmeal {regular, not quick cooking, which can make your blood sugar spike} or granola {this granola is our current favorite-I reduce the maple syrup to 1/2 cup and the brown sugar to 1/4 cup}.

Make it nutty!  Toss in some nuts or seeds and maybe some cacao nibs for a little nutritious chocolate “punch.”

Mix it all up & taste it.  If it needs a little sweetening, add a little local honey or Grade B maple syrup.  Maybe a few splashes of vanilla would be tasty.  Once you get used to plain yogurt, you will find the presweetened stuff way too sweet.  If we use a drizzle of maple syrup or honey it is most likely for the nutrients more than the need for additional sweetness.

Sprinkle with cinnamon {tastes great & is good for your blood sugar}.

Enjoy your nutritious bowl of deliciousness!

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Buckwheat Chia Crunch for Yogurt

1/4 c hemp seeds
1/4 c buckwheat {I prefer untoasted buckwheat groats.}
1/8 c chia seeds
1/8 c ground flax seeds {best to grind your own in small quantities as needed}
1/8 c dried fruit, cut into small pieces {optional}

Mix together in a small jar.  When ready to eat, shake it up so you get all of the ingredients.  Use about 2 tbsp per serving.

Makes about 3/4 cup

Here are a couple more ways that we like to jazz up our plain yogurt.

savory yogurt This is my savory breakfast yogurt.  It includes diced cucumber, tomatoes, minced jalapenos, cilantro, cumin & a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  It is delicious with a Ry-Vita Cracker spread with butter, or a buttered piece of toast.

mixed berry yogurt This has Buckwheat Chia Crunch, unsweetened flake coconut, cacao nibs & mixed berry jam {made from Costco frozen mixed berries & a little sugar}.

This is an excellent article about. the healthy bacteria in our bodies.

Sources:
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth {Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.}
Super  Foods {Steven Pratt, M.D.}

Nut Lovers Bars with Dark Chocolate & Coconut

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“There’s a rule in baking.  When you smell it, it’s done.  I don’t know about the science here.  But it’s a good indicator.  If you’re in the other room enjoying the nice smells of your cookies, you better get up and take them out!  ”   Frank Mentesana {Once Upon a Tart}

Nut Lovers Bars with Dark Chocolate & Coconut

My Nut Lovers Bars with Dark Chocolate and Coconut are great because. . .

  • they all bake at the same time.   No rotating of cookie sheets or baking multiple batches.
  • they are a layered cookie, and go together quickly.
  • several of the ingredients are heart healthy and/or what some consider superfoods {walnuts, almonds, pecans, dark chocolate and coconut.
  • they are deliciously crunchy, chewy & tasty at the same time.
  • they are visually beautiful!  The nuts sport a lacquered look when they come out of the oven.  Add a little pearl dust and they are even prettier!
  • people like it when you bring them to potlucks.

Seriously, if you like nuts and chocolate, you should bake these cookies.  They are gorgeous, scrumptious & easy to make.  What more could one want in a cookie?  The ingredients play nicely together so that even those who do not like coconut enjoy them.

Nut Lovers Bars with Dark Chocolate & Coconut

½ cup butter
1 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs {about 8 whole sheets}
2 cups chocolate chips {I use Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet}
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut {flaked or shredded}
About 3 cups nuts {I use walnuts, pecans & almonds.  I break the walnuts & pecans, and cut the almonds into thirds.}
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the butter in a 13”x9” pan and let it melt while the oven is preheating.  Mix graham cracker crumbs with the butter and press evenly in the pan.  It looks like you don’t have enough to go around the whole pan, but you do.  It isn’t a thick layer.

Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips, coconut & nuts.  Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over everything.  I drizzle it going one direction and then drizzle it going the other direction until it’s all out of the can and onto the cookies.

Bake cookies for about 30” or until nuts are golden brown.  You want the cookies to have some golden color before you take them out; the toasty nuts is part of what makes them so delicious.  I like to brush them with edible pearl dust, but if you don’t have any handy, they will be just as good.

Closeup of Nut Lovers Bars with Dark Chocolate & Coconut

Around the Web. . .

This is totally cute!  Check out this video of Seattle chef Jesse Smith making naan bread with his adorable little girl Avalon.

Spilled Milk {a podcast about food-recipes, info with some humor thrown in}

Bon appetit!


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The Bee’s Knees & Catnip

“We lived for honey.  We swallowed a spoonful in the morning to wake us up and one at night to put us to sleep.  We took it with every meal to calm the mind, give us stamina, and prevent fatal disease.  We swabbed ourselves in it to disinfect cuts or heal chapped lips.  It went in our baths, our skin cream, our raspberry tea and biscuits.  Nothing was safe from honey…honey was the ambrosia of the gods and the shampoo of the goddesses.”    Sue Monk Kidd  The Secret Life of Bees 

People eat honey for a variety of reasons-as a sweetener, because it tastes good, it has health benefits {if you eat the correct honey}.

Honey Bear  Before we go any further, let’s talk about The Bear.  If you eat honey from The Bear,  I am suggesting right here and now that you give up the plastic honey bear.  Sure, he’s convenient and cute, but how tasty is plastic squeeze bottle honey?  And, how many nutrients are in plastic squeeze bottle honey?  The “bear honey” bears no resemblance whatsoever to raw unfiltered honey; they are completely different foods.  If you want some health benefits from your honey, look for local honey that hasn’t been filtered or heated.  This kind of honey contains plant polyphenols called flavonoids; these flavonoids have antioxidant activity and are important to human health.  In general, the darker the honey, the better it is in terms of its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities.  Also, the harder the honey, the better it is for you.  We do not eat a lot of any kind of sugar, but we love this Maui Wildflower Honey that we find at the Upcountry Farmers Market .  Without a doubt, it is the best tasting honey we have ever eaten, it is dark and delicious with complex flavors.  It’s the bee’s  knees!

Maui Wildflower Honey

How do we eat honey?  Here are a few of our favorite ways to eat this sweet treat:
* drizzled on yogurt
* a wee bit in salad dressing {i.e. French dressing, mustard vinaigrette} smooths out the dressing’s acidity
* on freshly baked biscuits, cornbread or muffins
* in yeast bread
* licked off the spoon!
* great in hot tea or hot lemon water in the unfortunate event of a sore throat-this really works!

How do you like to eat honey?  What kind do you like?

Honey is still sugar, so I’m not saying that you can eat it with abandon.  Moderation is the key here, as it is with many things.  Please do not feed honey to children under one year old, as there is a risk of botulism.

Just a spoonful of honey

Sources of information:
* Super Foods Health Style: Proven Strategies for Lifelong Health {Steven Pratt, M.D.}
* The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth {Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.}

The Actual Cat Mint

Catnip

Occasionally, Gerald and Sharon like to enjoy a glass of Cabernet while they are cooking dinner.  Gerald bought me a pot of catnip {highfalutin cats may call it catmint, but I’m told that the end result is the same} at the farmers market, and I sometimes enjoy some before dinner; in fact, I find that when I have a bit of “nip” I don’t tend to eat as much, and I feel fantastic!  it’s a win-win situation, because Gerald and Sharon are watching my figure.  Sharon snapped a few photos of me after I noshed on some catnip this afternoon.  I highly recommend regular nibbling on catnip for felines everywhere!
~ Jack

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Restaurants of Maui-Nuka

Welcome to . . .

Nuka Sign  When we go out to eat, it is usually to enjoy a meal that we would not prepare at home.  We love the food we make at home, so don’t go out very often.  There are a few restaurants on Maui where we look forward to dining, and we visited one of them tonight.  It is relatively new, opening on March 22, 2013, and is located in Haiku.  This gem of a restaurant is called Nuka, and we love it.  We have eaten at Nuka about 8 times now, and have not been disappointed once.   

The owners did a beautiful job of designing a space that is visually beautiful and comfortable for our dining pleasure.  From the Venetian plaster walls to the artwork to the stunning bathrooms, Nuka just feels good.  The servers are attentive and helpful if you are looking for a recommendation, or need help making up your mind.  And let’s not forget the food, which is amazing.  The food is delicious and exquisitely presented.       

Nuka Menu

Before I tell you what we ate, I should say something about the way we like to order our food.  When we go out for a nice meal, we never order everything at once.  When all the food comes out at more or less the same time, your dining experience can be quicker than it should be.  We like to order one thing, and while we enjoy our first dish, we ponder over the menu and decide what to order next.  Doing this allows us to have a leisurely dinner, rather than a quick one.  Now, on to the food!

Baked Mussels  We started with one of our favorite dishes, Baked Mussels in Dynamite Sauce.  I have no idea what is in Dynamite Sauce, but the name is certainly apropos; it is a dynamite sauce.  The mussels were cooked perfectly, leaving them hot, tender and moist.  It is a rich dish, but not overly rich; I could have easily eaten the entire order myself.  There were four mussels, but I forgot to snap a picture until we had each eaten one. 

Nasu Miso Eggplant  Next we had the Nasu Miso Eggplant, which is half a small eggplant topped with sweet miso and broiled.  Even if you don’t care for eggplant, you may enjoy this dish.  It does not have any of the bitterness that can be present in eggplant.  It is slightly sweet from the miso, with a little crunch from sesame seeds sprinkled on top.  Yum!

Nuka Bowl with Wild Salmon  Our next dish was another favorite of ours called Nuka Bowl with Shio Koji Salmon.  At the bottom of the bowl is the most exquisite tasting rice, freshly milled in house.  It is a mouthwatering dish.  The rice is artfully topped with bean sprouts, thin cucumber slices, purple cabbage, shredded carrot, basil, fresh mint, crushed peanuts and sprinkled with a delicate sesame lime dressing.  The Nuka Bowl is a work of art and scrumptious.  Our salmon was meltingly tender.

Ahi Tataki  The Ahi Tataki was not only stunning to look at, but delicious as well.  The ahi was seared and sliced and then dressed with sesame oil and ponzu. 

Asian French Fries  Nope, we aren’t done yet!  We have never had French fries in a Japanese restaurant, and this is the first time we tried them at Nuka.  Very tasty indeed.  These are Asian French Fries with furikake and wasabi aioli.  Like all the best fries these fries were light, crispy and tasty with a dip in the aioli. 

And. . . last, but not least. . .   DESSERT!

Double Scoop  When you go to Nuka, you must save room for the house made ice cream.  You get two scoops of the same flavor, or two different flavors-green tea and black sesame are the choices.  The ice cream is served with fresh mint and two chocolate “cigars.” 

Whether you live on Maui or are a visitor, I hope you will stop by Nuka.  It is a fabulous dining experience that you will appreciate, if you enjoy great food, excellent service and a beautiful setting.  The prices are reasonable too!  If you don’t want to wait, you should get there early; they open at 4:30 and can be full by 6:00, with a line out the door.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

View from the car Haiku to Paia  This is the view from the car going from Haiku to Paia.  Gorgeous!


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“Reach as high as you can, and then reach a little higher.  There you will find magic and possibility.  And maybe even cookies.”  Marc Johns

If you have ever landed at an airport in Hawaii, one of the first things you probably noticed while walking through the naturally air conditioned part of the airport, is the balmy air and the sweet scent of tropical blossoms.  I love that!

large jasmine treeI am fairly certain that this tree is responsible for the sweet scents of jasmine flowers wafting into our house.  Sometimes the fragrance floats in on gentle trade winds, and other times on blustery winds that are commonly felt {and heard} in Pukalani.  A little jasmine aromatherapy while you are washing dishes or on a walk is a pleasant reminder that you live in paradise!

Jasmine

Sauteed Green BeansI made these green beans last night. . .they are. . .in a word. . .amazing.  There is a high probability that I will never, ever steam green beans again.  Unless the planets line up just so, I will probably never, ever blanch and then sauté green beans again.  I sautéed my beans in a smidgen of Organic Valley Pasture Butter {1 tbsp to be precise}, in my trusty cast iron skillet, over medium high heat.  I stirred them around until they started to sizzle and develop a tasty char, and then covered them for about 5 minutes, until they were perfectly cooked.  Into the pan went a minced clove of garlic and some crunchy fleur de sel.  The result was a mélange of delicious flavors from the butter, the perfectly cooked beans, crispy garlic bits and crunchy salt.  These beans were polished off quickly, and will be made again and again.

Last week, I made these delicious cookies to take to work.  I had a whole plateful of them. . .apricot bars topped with sliced almonds and sprinkled ever so lightly with gold pearl dust powder. . .on a coral plate. . .they looked gorgeous.  And guess who forgot to photograph them for her blog?  Didn’t even occur to me until I was washing my empty plate.  So 3 days later, I made them again, and took them to work {the people who were there both days were happy!}.   I decided to carry them in the 8″x8″ dish I made them in, for easier transport; not as pretty as a coral plate for sure.  So I took a few out and put them on a coral plate to photograph.  This picture does not do them justice, and for that I apologize, but I assure you they are quite spectacular to eat.  Next time I make them, I will repost this recipe with a beautiful picture of these cookies in all their splendor.  Hmmm, when should I make them again?

apricot bars

Apricot Bars

About 18 graham crackers
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs from about 8 full sheets
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes {shreds will work, but I like flakes better}
3/4 cup chopped apricots

Line the bottom of 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with graham crackers. You can put 3 full sheets in one direction, and then fill the remaining space with however many crackers will fit.

Combine milk, water and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture comes to a full boil; remove from heat, stir in butter.  When the butter is almost melted, stir in graham cracker crumbs, sliced almonds, unsweetened flaked coconut and apricots {read a short bit about the difference between California dried apricots and Turkish dried apricots-we prefer California apricots}.  Spread hot mixture over graham crackers. Top with 9 more graham crackers. Press down until even and firm.  Top with icing, then sprinkle with sliced almonds.  I happen to have pearl dust, so sometimes I like to sprinkle a little golden shimmer over the top-very pretty.

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp soft butter
½ tsp almond extract {don’t be temped to use vanilla; the almond extract makes these cookies}
About 1 tbsp milk

Beat together adding milk as needed. Sprinkle with sliced nuts if desired. Chill until firm.  These cookies improve with age, so don’t gobble them up too early.  Cut into small squares.

Reading: 
Vegetable Literacy {Deborah Madison}
Eating on the Wild Side {Jo Robinson}
Yes, Chef! {Marcus Samuelsson}

Musically Speaking-On the Playlist:
Alt-J

Matthew Dear
Underworld
Jaguar Ma


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“Lettuce is like conversation; it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.”  Charles Dudley Warner

Red Leaf  LettuceRed Loose-leaf Lettuce

Did you know. . .

. . . . . .that all lettuces are not created equally?  More on that in a second.

We are quickly approaching Saturday, and that means getting creative to eat all the fruits and vegetables from last week’s farmers market.  We have half of this glorious head of red leaf lettuce left.  It is happy lettuce.  Why is my lettuce happy?  We’ll get to that in a moment.  But first, a little background.  I am reading an interesting book called Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson.  You may think that it sounds like a book that Euell Gibbons might have penned; Gibbons was an authority on noshing on wild foods, but Robinson puts a different spin on eating “wild.”  Robinson discusses how many nutrients have been bred out of the foods we eat to make them more palatable {i.e. sweeter, less bitter}.  She also talks about which varieties are the most nutritious and how to prep, store and eat them.  It isn’t the kind of book that requires you to sit down and read it cover to cover, although you could do that.  To me, this is a great reference book that should be on the bookshelf of everyone who wants to eat food that is as healthy as possible.  And now, back to those happy leaves of lettuce.  According to Robinson, there are 2 rules of thumb for selecting lettuce with the highest phytonutrient content.  The first is color.  You may think that the deep, dark green romaine that you have been eating is the best, but indeed it is not.  Lettuces that are red, purple or reddish-brown are the richest in phytonutrients.  The second factor is even more surprising.  Would you have ever guessed that lettuces whose leaves are loosely arranged on the head would be more nutritious than those that are tightly compacted?  Not me for sure.  Well, it turns out that the leaves that are exposed to the sun’s damaging UV rays produce antioxidants, which are a kind of “sunscreen” for the plant.  Because a loose-leaf head of lettuce has many leaves exposed to the sun, more of the leaves produce the phytonutrients that are so good for us, and we benefit when we eat them.

Now that you know what to look for in a head of lettuce, I’ll tell you why my lettuce is happy.  It has been properly prepared so that it will retain and even increase its nutritional value.  Robinson states that when you get your lettuce home, you should pull the leaves off and soak them for 10 minutes in very cold water.  The leaves’ temperature will drop, which slows down the aging process.  Soaking them will help to maintain crispness.  After soaking, spin or towel dry them thoroughly {I could not live without my salad spinner}; moisture on the outside of the leaves invites decay-you want the water inside the leaves.

Red Leaf Lettuce Cleaned and Bagged

Label the pin-pricked bag and you can reuse it for the next head of lettuce.

Tear up the leaves before bagging them.  What’s that you say?  Tear up the leaves now, not when I make a salad?  Apparently, another way a plant defends itself {against gnawing animals, for instance} is by producing phytonutrients to “fend off the intruder.”  The antioxidant value of the lettuce is doubled by tearing up the leaves prior to storage {the tearing being like the animal gnawing the leaves}.  Place the greens in a Ziploc bag and prick it 10 {quart size bag}-20 {gallon size bag} times with a needle or pin.  The reason for the pinpricks is for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide; the lettuce does not stop respiring {breathing} on harvest.  If you seal it up in a bag, then it uses up all of the oxygen and the carbon dioxide level rises, and it will die from lack of oxygen.  If you leave the lettuce in the open, then it respires too quickly, and uses up its stored sugar and antioxidants, making them unavailable for you. Prepare your lettuce correctly and eat within a few days for best quality.   And enjoy that salad knowing that you have done everything you can to make it more nourishing!

Champagne vinaigrette. . .it sounds so elegant.   As a kid, I loved Girard’s Champagne Dressing; not so much now, because I don’t buy prepared salad dressings.  They are full of ingredients that aren’t necessary for good dressing and they are expensive.  Homemade salad dressings are so much better than prepared dressings, and I always have the ingredients to make some kind of dressing, even if it is just extra virgin olive oil and vinegar {or other acid}.

Salad with Grapefruit and Blue Cheese

We had this salad for dinner tonight.  The salad was composed of the red leaf lettuce, grapefruit sections {supremes to be exact}, red onion, toasted walnuts and blue cheese.  I didn’t actually whisk together a vinaigrette, but simply showered the salad with freshly ground salt and pepper, then drizzled it with Champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Yum!  It was not only beautiful but delicious as well.