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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“The kitchen, reasonably enough, was the scene of my first gastronomic adventure. I was on all fours. I crawled into the vegetable bin, settled on a giant onion and ate it, skin and all. It must have marked me for life, for I have never ceased to love the hearty flavor of raw onions.”  James Beard (1903-1985)

First of all, I have to tell you that I am super excited about the class that I signed up for, which starts this Tuesday!  It’s called Science & Cooking:  from Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science.  It is offered through Harvard {yes, that Harvard!} and it’s free.  Scientists and chefs will be getting together to teach this course about the science of cooking.  Check it out!

This week’s farmers market find- freshly dug sweet Maui onions!  Yum!  We have been waiting for these & now they are here.

Group of Maui onions 1 Just about everyone has an opinion about onions.  We go through a lot of onions at our house, which is a good thing, because onions are a healthy food to eat, and they add great flavor to food. Group of Maui onions 3 We love all kinds of onions- green onions {aka scallions}, shallots, leeks, white onions, pearl onions, yellow onions and sweet onions {Maui, Walla Walla, Texas Sweets, Vidalia, etc.}.  They can be enjoyed raw, cooked or caramelized so that they are brown, sweet and jammy. Closeup of peeled  new Maui onion This onion was delicious in a salad with arugula, steamed beets and thinnings from the basil seeds I planted a few weeks ago {apologies to those who will not be growing basil outside for awhile!}.

Young Basil Seedlings 1

I hadn’t thought to pair basil with arugula, but it was a good match.  I consulted the Flavor Bible, which is one of my favorite books, and that is where I saw that basil and arugula go well together. Arugula salad with basil thinnings I dressed this salad with my usual arugula salad dressing of fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper. Closeup of arugula salad with basil trimmings I have not always been an onion lover.  Like many kids, I ate my spaghetti with butter {I still love noodles with butter!}, salt and pepper.  I don’t remember if I had cheese on it, but if so, I’m sure it was that awful stuff in the green cylindrical can; you know the one to which I’m referring.  I think it was the onions in the spaghetti sauce to which my immature palate was objecting, but I’m not really sure why I didn’t want to eat spaghetti sauce.  I had no problem eating chili or beef stew, which definitely contained onions.  My mom’s {and now my recipe} delicious potato salad was eaten {by me} before the celery and onions went in.  It must have been the crunch, in addition to the onions, that I did not care for.  Crunch did not belong in creamy soft potato salad, in my opinion.  Mind you, I was not really a picky eater.  I ate just about everything, except celery, onions and this dressing that my grandmother made to dress dandelion greens.  It was some kind of cooked dressing, and I really did not like it.  In fact, I amazed my relatives with the quantities of food I consumed.  “Does she have a hollow leg?” they wondered.  “Where does she put it?” they inquired. Raw onions became a part of my diet in my early 20’s, when my husband returned from a business trip to Atlanta, GA with a sack of Vidalia onions.  He bought them at the airport, like tourists buy Maui pineapples at the Kahului Airport.  Boy, were those onions ever good; nice and sweet and perfect mingling in a bowl with sliced cucumbers, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  My mom makes great cucumbers and onions with apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper; I’m sure I just ate the cucumbers way back when.  Now, I can’t get enough onions.  Thankfully, most kids grow up and expand their food horizons to include foods they wouldn’t touch in their youth, but now find delicious. Several techniques can be employed to make onions more palatable, as well as make them more suitable for a particular dish.  The way an onion is cut makes a huge difference on how it tastes in any given recipe.  Click here to view a Fine Cooking video on a few different onion cutting techniques. I usually cut onions 4 different ways: Large Dice– Large dice is great for onions that will be cooked in spaghetti sauce, stew, vegetable soups, this quesadilla filling and that type of thing.  The large dice holds its shape during cooking, but at the end will be soft and pleasant to eat. large dice onion Minced- Minced onions belong in guacamole, potato salad, coleslaw, some bean salads and places where you don’t want to bite into a big piece of raw onion, especially when that onion isn’t a sweet variety. Minced onions Lyonnaise– Lyonnaise is also called “pole to pole” because you are cutting the onion in crescent shapes from the root end to the blossom end.  It is my favorite way to cut onions!  I love this cut for green salads, cucumbers and onions, pickled beets and recipes where I want to see the onion, and taste it, but not have big chunks.  When I cut this way, I always thinly slice the onions if they are to be served raw.  Even a strong onion {i.e. not a sweet variety} is palatable when thinly cut pole to pole. Lyonnaise cut onions 3 Sliced- Sliced onions are cut across the equator, and are great served raw or caramelized on a burger, sub {hoagie, grinder, etc.} or other sandwich.  I think onions for sandwiches should always be sliced paper thin; pile them on, but they must be thin or they will slide right off {Tomatoes too should be thinly sliced, but my mom will disagree with me here.} Sliced red onions If you are tired of your green onion slices rolling off the cutting board, try slitting the white part of the onion lengthwise, so you have half-moon slices-no more mischievous onion slices rolling around!

Not just a tasty vegetable and seasoning for many foods, onions have numerous health benefits.  Click on this link to the National Onion Association for nutritional information, tips and recipes.

This is  how one amongst us spent his day. . . not an ounce of friskiness in this pussycat! Jack napping

How do you enjoy onions?

Bon appetit!


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A Favorite Lunch

Did you know. . .
. . . that sardines packed in their own oil or extra virgin olive oil are full of good for you omega-3 fats?  It is thought that just 1/2 gram of these fats can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Avoid sardines packed in vegetable oils, as they are not healthy fats.

Anyone for anchovies?  How about sardines?  I know, I know, these are a couple fish that cause many people to turn up their noses.  Not me though; I love them both.  My intention was to write only about sardines, but I figured as long as we are on the subject of unpopular fishes, I may as well tell you how we like to eat anchovies.  Perhaps our way of eating anchovies will work for you as well, that is, if you want to give them a try.

Once upon a time, I too was among the myriad of folks who did not care for anchovies, as was my husband.  One rainy evening, we were eating pizza at Tony’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, a favorite Italian restaurant of ours in Bremerton, WA.  That is the night we learned how to eat anchovies.  The secret to liking/loving anchovies on your pizza, according to our waitress, is to order them on the side.  Wow, that really makes a difference!  The salty, fishy flavor permeates the pizza if you bake the anchovies on the pizza, but if you have a little plate of anchovies on the side, it tastes pretty good.  You get an occasional salty punch from the little bits of anchovy.  We have happily eaten anchovies on our pizza ever since!

I have been eating sardines for as long as I can remember.  We had tins of sardines in our pantry when I was growing up, and I admit that even though I ate them, I thought they looked kind of gross.  My recollection is that they were not like the nice sardine filets that we eat now, which are every bit as nice looking as a beautiful piece of fresh salmon {except they aren’t pretty pink}.

Wild Planet Sardines

One of my favorite quick lunches is a “fish cracker” and a salad.  And no, by “fish cracker,” I am not referring to those fishy-shaped crackers that you are probably familiar with. . .the ones with no redeeming nutritional value.  My idea of a “fish cracker” is a Ryvita cracker with a plump, meaty and delicious sardine on top.  Of course, there are additional toppings to make it extra tasty.  This is a favorite lunch of mine because it is quick, tasty and super healthy.

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I understand if you don’t like anchovies, and don’t want to give them a second {first} chance.  But if you like fish, and haven’t gotten into sardines, I highly recommend them.  The health benefits of sardines {& anchovies} are many:

  • They are low on the marine food chain, so toxins like mercury do not accumulate in them.
  • Anchovies and sardines are chock full of healthy omega-3 fats, which impact mood, circulation, glucose, insulin metabolism, blood pressure and heart health.
  • In particular, sardines are high in protein, B vitamins, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.  Talk about a powerhouse of nutrition in one little can!  They are my idea of a great “fast food!”

Sources:

The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.

The Perricone Promise, Nicholas Perricone, M.D.

A simple salad of arugula {aka “rocket”} and thinly sliced onions, dressed with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper, goes well with fish crackers.  It’s one of our favorite salads.

Arugula Salad with Onion and Lemon Vinaigrette

Arugula Salad with Onion and Lemon Juice & Extra Virgin Olive Oil


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“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living.  For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”    Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’ (1949)

Have you noticed a change in the weather in your area?  Maybe the mornings are a bit dewier than they were last month, and a sweater hits the spot in the evening.  We have noticed that the mornings and evenings are a little cooler here on Maui, even though the days feel about the same, nice and warm.  The first day of autumn is just around the corner {9/22}, which means it’s time to get out the soup pot.  Our soup pot is never far from the stove.  Even though we live on Maui, we eat a lot of soup, and surprisingly most of it hot soup, not cold.  We live at about 1200 feet altitude, on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, so it is often cool enough to enjoy soup, especially when the trade winds are blowing, as they are now.  While it may feel warm outside in the sun, the breeze can feel cool in the house.  We eat soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The soups we enjoy are all healthy; they are full of vegetables, high in vitamins and minerals and nutrient dense.   I realize that people who live in places with 3 or 4 seasons probably don’t eat much hot soup in the summer, but like I said earlier, ready or not, autumn is on its way.

If you haven’t made home made soup, I encourage you to try out a few recipes; you will be rewarded with several delicious meals that don’t have to be complicated to prepare.  There are some elaborate soup recipes out there, but the ones I make are pretty straightforward.  I assure you that the soup you create from top notch fresh ingredients will be far superior to any soup you get from a can.

This minestrone is one of our new favorite soups, and I highly recommend it.  This is the link to the original; what follows is my adaptation.

Lentil, Celery and Tomato Minestrone

adapted from the recipe by Martha Rose Shulman, who is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”

1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 onion, halved
A bouquet garni made with 2 sprigs each thyme and parsley, a bay leaf, and a Parmesan rind
1 1/2 quarts water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced {mince & let sit for 10 minutes for health benefits}
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
About 1/2 small head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Very thinly sliced celery, from the inner heart, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Combine the lentils, 1/2 onion and the bouquet garni with 1 quart water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add salt to taste, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Chop the remaining onion. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute, and add the canned tomatoes with their liquid and the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant.

3. Add the lentils with their broth, the tomato paste, salt to taste, an additional 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add the cabbage.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper, stir in the parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with thinly sliced celery heart if you want some crunch, and passing the Parmesan at the table.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6Celery Minestrone Ready to Eat

Like most soup, this is even better the next day.

Nutritional information per serving (4 servings): 276 calories; 4 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 49 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams dietary fiber; 392 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 17 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (6 servings): 184 calories; 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 32 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams dietary fiber; 261 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 11 grams protein

Notes:

* You may use any lentils that you like.  I usually use brown lentils, but if you like your lentils to hold their shape, you may want to use the French green lentils {lentils du puy}.

* I highly recommend the celery & Parmesan garnish.  Generally speaking, I find that if a recipe has a garnish, it’s best to put in the extra effort to put it on your soup.  A garnish can take your soup to a higher level!

*Please, please, please do not use what they call “Parmesan cheese” that comes in the green can!  Use the real thing; if you don’t use the real thing, you won’t have the Parmesan rind which adds a huge amount of flavor to your soup.  It really does make a difference!  Get more ideas on using Parmesan rinds to elevate your dishes to a whole other level here.

* If you do not have any kitchen twine, put it on your shopping list, and then you can tie your bouquet garni with a green onion top or chive {don’t tie too tight or they will break!}.

Bon appetit!


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“Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.”  Clifton Fadiman

Before we get to tonight’s dinner, these quesadillas, I have some lovely flower pictures from today’s walk to share with you.


And now for the quesadillas!

quesadilla on plate

There are quesadillas, and then there are quesadillas worth eating.  If you would like a quesadilla that is more than a white flour tortilla filled with melted cheese, then keep reading.

Our quesadillas are filled with cooked spinach or Swiss chard {a lot of it}, roasted peppers & cheese.

We love quesadillas and have been tweaking our current recipe for over 5 years, and think they are now just about perfect.  There have been several versions of this recipe, each change making an improvement on an already good thing.  It is our favorite meal to cook, and one we make weekly.  This is truly a “team meal” for us.  I prep everything and my husband does the cooking.  While he is cooking, I clean everything up so that we only have 2 plates to wash when we’re finished eating.  We are a well-oiled machine when it comes to making quesadillas!

Before I get into the details of how to make these scrumptious quesadillas, I should tell you about the tortillas we use.  We eat food that is good for us {at least 95% of the time}, so it was important to find tortillas that are healthy and taste good.  Often times, breads that are healthy taste like cardboard, or if you’re lucky, hay.

Perhaps you have had the unfortunate experience of buying tortillas for a recipe, and then having them go moldy in the refrigerator.  These are the tortillas that we like & here is how we take care of them so they are ready when we want a quesadilla or a wrap.

Fresh Tortillas in Bag  These are tasty tortillas that we can feel good about eating!

blog freezing tortillas  Stagger your tortillas on a cookie sheet & freeze.  They will curl a little, but you can easily put them bag into the bag you bought them in.  They won’t stick together like they would if you just put the whole bag in the freezer.  I used to separate them with a piece of wax paper; totally unnecessary!  When you are ready to use them, put them on a plate, and flip them a few times while they thaw, so that they aren’t as curled.

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Quesadillas with Spinach {or Swiss chard} & Roasted Peppers

This is more of a guideline than a specific recipe, as far as amounts are concerned.  Feel free to adjust quantities & ingredients to your liking!

2 large whole grain tortillas

2 quarts raw spinach or Swiss chard, washed carefully and thoroughly dried, then cut into strips {I mince the stems & sauté them with onions, jalapenos & garlic}

Peppers, cut so that they are in relatively flat pieces {bell peppers, poblanos or Anaheims are all great here}; we use 1 bell pepper, or about 3 smaller size peppers

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced {add more or less depending on how much heat you like}; or you can use dried red pepper flakes, Serrano peppers, etc.

3 cloves garlic, minced & allowed to sit for 10 minutes {to achieve the health benefits}

Approximately 4 ounces of cheese, thinly sliced {we like Gruyere because it is a delicious low fat cheese that melts well}

The most time consuming part of this recipe is the prep; once everything is sliced and diced you are ready to put your quesadillas together.

Spray a large pan with pan spray, and then add a film of olive oil.  Sauté the peppers over medium heat, until they have a bit of color and are beginning to get tender.  They do not have to be completely tender.  Remove peppers to a plate lined with a paper towel, and blot to absorb any extra oil.

In the same pan, sauté the onion, jalapeno, garlic and stems over medium heat until almost tender. Add the leaves and toss everything together for about a minute, or until leaves are just wilted.  Remove from the heat.  The leaves should be glossy, dark green and gorgeous.

You are now ready to put your quesadillas together!

Place tortilla on a dinner plate.  On half the tortilla, place the cheese, top with peppers and then the greens. Spray a skillet {we use cast iron} with pan spray and then film with olive oil.  Fold the tortilla in half and put in the skillet preheated to medium to medium-low.  The objective is to crisp the tortilla, heat everything through, melding the cheese with the greens and peppers, without burning the tortilla.  Flip the quesadillas several times;  if you flip one, flip the other.  My husband, the quesadilla cook, said he flips them at least 3 or 4 times.  Adjust the heat so that they do not brown too quickly on one side.  Serve them with the cheese on top, so gravity can draw it down through the greens and peppers.

Cut into thirds or fourths & eat immediately.  I cut the quesadillas with my kitchen shears, cutting through the top tortilla first, and then cut the bottom tortilla with the filling; this ensures the filling not squishing out when you cut them.  We eat ours with Tapatio Hot Sauce {a lot of it!}, and sometimes with a little sour cream or plain yogurt {ok, I sometimes put plain yogurt on mine}.

Notes:
My husband says that a nice glass of red wine is really nice while you are cooking these, and I concur!
* We tried soft goat cheese in these, but weren’t crazy with the results.  We love goat cheese, but not here.
* Go easy on the oil-you don’t want your quesadillas to be greasy.
* Be sure your greens are thoroughly dry, so that they aren’t too wet {soggy quesadillas not great}
* Use a sturdy tortilla.  We tried brown rice tortillas, and while they were super tasty, they cracked right down the middle when we folded them.
* The first time you make these, you may want to make a thinner quesadilla, for ease in turning.  They can be a bit tricky to turn over.
* Jarred roasted peppers are fine!  Before we moved to Maui, we used the jarred piquillo peppers from Trader Joe’s.
* I LOVE a good mouth burn, and usually get one with these quesadillas.  But if you don’t, leave out the hot peppers, simple as that.
* If your quesadilla is a little spicier than you like, sour cream or plain yogurt cools it off very nicely.

Bon appetit!


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Salad with Purslane & Ribbons of Parmesan

“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it.  If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”  Author Unknown

I do not know if purslane comes out of the ground easily or not, but I have seen it defined both as a weed and a valuable plant.  Purslane is purported to be a healthy plant that we should be enjoying.  It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Check out the articles at the end of this post if you would like to read more about purslane’s health benefits.  My husband bought our first bunch of purslane 2 weeks ago, at the Upcountry Farmers Market.  It’s great!  What I like most about purslane is its chew, due to the fact that it is a succulent.  I think it has a subtle flavor, not at all assertive, but just tasty. . .green.  Apparently it grows everywhere, but I can’t say I’ve encountered any on my walks around Pukalani, where we live.  You will most likely not find purslane at your local grocery store, but look for it at your farmers market.  Or grow it yourself; from what I’ve read, it is easy to grow.

When I cleaned the first bunch of purslane, I meticulously removed the leaves from the stems.  I discovered on the second bunch that “de-leafing” {is that a word??} the stems is not necessary, and that the stems also add a bit of chew to a salad.  The leaves are in clusters on the stems, so that makes them pretty in a salad.

Salad with Purslane & Ribbons of Parmesan

This is not a tossed salad, but more of a composed salad, which I think is prettiest served on a plate. The ingredients are few and the salad is delicious.  When you start with excellent ingredients, you do not need much to create great food.

Place a layer of tender lettuce on a plate.  Some good choices are Bibb, Manoa or red leaf.  A crunchy lettuce like romaine doesn’t work in this salad.  Texture is important in this recipe; there is a pleasant “chew” but it isn’t a crunchy salad.

Top the lettuce with some onion that you have sliced paper thin.  Use whatever type of onion you prefer, although I wouldn’t choose green onions for this.  Slicing the onion super thin makes it seem less pungent, making it easier to eat for the “non-onion types.”

Now add a scattering of paper thin purple cabbage.

Top with purslane, preferably in clusters of leaves, as opposed to individual leaves; this adds to the salad’s texture.

Sprinkle the salad with some pumpkin seeds that you have pan roasted, preferably in coconut oil.

Season the salad with freshly ground salt and pepper, then sprinkle with fresh lemon juice {about 1/4 of a juicy lemon per salad} and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.  Use a light hand with the dressing, as you don’t want your salad to be swimming in dressing.

Finally, take a vegetable peeler and shave some nice ribbons of fresh parmesan cheese over the salad.

Salad with Purslane and Ribbons of Parmesan

Related articles

Bon appetit!


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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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“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