Friday, June 22, 2007

Gettig to know me!

Several weeks ago I noticed this interview meme on Cheryl's site and asked to be interviewed...and I feel bad for taking this long to answer it. But here it is...none the take notes, cause there WILL BE a test! lol

1- What is the best and worst thing about living in Hawaii?
The very best thing? Everything! Well at least the environment/surroundings. I think Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and about as close as you can get to heaven on earth. It has everything you could want from a snowy capped mountain, desolate desert area, to lakes, jungle, and of course the beach! I live for the water and because I grew up only 2 blocks from one of the most uncrowded, crystal blue beaches on the island, I'm spoiled and will not be able to survive very far from the ocean (which is why I'm moving to LA and not Idaho). Included in the surroundings are the people- the perfect mix of every culture brought together in paradise to make one big melting pot. And what comes out of the melting pot? Food! The selection here is mind blowing from authentic regional cuisine to unique local creations like the manapua (pork filled steamed or baked bun) and loco moco (see earlier post).

The worst is being on an island that is the most remote island (farthest from any large land mass) in the world. That means our gas and food prices are high (because they have to be shipped here). When I was growing up, my biggest complaint was that no bands that I liked ever made it out here, and that holds true today. A few of my many favorite musical groups have made a once in a lifetime appearance (to put on a concert here) but it's rare. I was a pop-lover (back in Jr. High) and I had to wait 8-9 years to see the Backstreet Boys live in concert. Other than that though, my complaints are minor. I get a little itchy to travel every so often, but I wouldn't change my HOME for the world!

2- Everyone is getting this question, just because I wanna know! If you were told that you could only have 5 foods and 1 beverage for the rest of your life - what would they be?
Hmmm...This is hard.

The first would have to be ice cream....this was always named as my favorite food growing up. But don't make me name a specific flavor. If I had to pick it would be one of these: Gold Medal Ribbon (from Baskin Robbins-simple never tasted so good), coffee fudge ripple, Birthday Cake Remix (from Cold Stone Creamery), or either Fish Food or that Oatmeal Cookie Batter with Chocolate chunks (from Ben and Jerry's).

The next food (I'm assuming I can name dishes as well) would be a perfect Waldorf salad with mixed greens, crisp apples, sweet grapes, crunchy candied walnuts, feta cheese, and a great dressing. My two favorite places for these salads are Dave and Busters and California Pizza Kitchen.

I would have to include my step dad's Eggplant Parmesan, that I have yet to perfect. He is Italian and his grandparents are from Italy. His recipe is a family tradition and I still haven't figured out how to slice the eggplant oh so thin that it falls apart in your mouth. Oh, so heavenly!

I would have to show my local side and mention my love for raw fish. Either as sashimi or in the local sea-salad poke, it is a great weakness of mine, and if I were to live on only these foods, I would have to have some protein somewhere. I love a nice cut of fresh ahi sashimi straight or on a ball of rice as sushi with a nice shoyu (soy sauce) based sauce to add a touch of flavor and saltiness. Seared is alright, but I could clean a plate of the raw sashimi in no time!

I have to name another sweet-since I am a dessert gal...and that would be chocolate anything. Actually, I would just eat it plain- but none of that white or milk stuff...that's too sweet for me to eat plain. Give me a semi sweet, or a 70% cacao dark bar of good quality chocolate that will soothe me with just a taste. Dark chocolate has me by the soul and it won't let go.

For a drink, I'm going to be practical and name something that is a necessity for the last food listed, milk. An ice cold 1 or 2% glass of milk is perfect to wash down a rich bite of Godiva. I grew up having a 'sip' of milk to calm me before I would go to bed at night as a child (I think it got started when my mother was weaning me), but ever since then I've had a love for this wholesome drink. And I could add this to my first choice in food (ice cream) and get a milk shake...another favorite drink of mine! Okay-for the record, if I wasn't being practical, and chose an alcoholic drink, I'd pick a Bellini with Chambord on the bottom.

3- If you got to work for the Food Network, what would your show be called and what would it be all about?
I not only love the Food Network, but I also love the Travel Channel, so it would be a mix of Samantha Brown's Passport shows, Taste of America with Mark DeCarlo, Giada's Weekend Getaways, and Rachel Ray's Tasty Travels. That's to say I would love to get paid to travel to different places and taste the local cuisine, review the areas, and learn about the cultures and their food. It wouldn't be as crazy as Bizarre Eats with Andrew Zimmerman, but I would like to step out of my comfort zone. It would also give me an excuse to travel and wander past the tourist friendly sights and get to know the people of the area. I don't know what it would be called though, maybe something like "Tasting the World with Anuhea".....hehehe.

4- Tell us your worst baking/cooking disaster, and your biggest success.
Well since this is so fresh in my mind, I'll share with you what helped to make my day yesterday so horrible. I had been given a bag of Chinese candied coconut and had wanted to do a variation of a coconut and lime cupcake including the coconut pieces in the batter and adding a little bit of coconut rum to the frosting. It was a great idea.....only, I decided to improvise on a recipe I found and instead of using 1 and 1/2 cups homemade yogurt, I used 1 cup and added 1/2 a cup of sour cream. I definitely learned my lesson. The cupcakes came out dense and almost rubbery and stuck to the paper cupcake cups when I tried to taste one. The taste wasn't bad, but the texture was and I was so upset that even though my fiance said he liked them and would eat them all...I had already wasted 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups sugar and would not waste more to attempt and fail at frosting as well. Though I've added too much butter or too little sugar in other baking experiments...disappointments like these are as bad as they get and I haven't had a huge "disaster" yet (knock on wood).

When I cook (since I've only been doing it for about a year now), everything that goes right feels like a giant success because I'm so new at it, but then it also feels like I shouldn't take credit because I'm just following directions. I think one of my biggest successes was when I made crepes for the first time (that's a post that will come in a few days). From what I heard, it was hard to make the paper thin pancakes, but I found it amazingly easy. Another thing I was exceptionally proud of was my Black Bottom Apple-Banana Creme Pie since I made that recipe up myself and it tasted so amazing.

5- You work in the travel industry, what has been your favorite place you have ever visited, the worst? And where would you like to go that you haven't?
Every place I have visited has a special place in my heart. It's because I tend to fall in love with the things that make that place unique. I have had the luxury to travel at least once a year growing up, and it's hard to pick a favorite. I really enjoy Mid-California where I spent a couple weeks with my fiance last year strolling around Carmel by the Sea, exploring wineries, biking in Monterey, and riding roller coasters on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. I also love playing in the snow in New England, mountain cabins in Georgia, horse back riding over rolling hills in Wyoming, and all the beautiful National Parks I've seen like: Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone, Sequoia, Grand Teton, name a few. I really love the beauty and culture I found in Australia, and though it was only for a little over a week, I explored rain forests, held a koala, took in the amazing Sydney Harbor, and ate crocodile. Other fabulous out of country destinations I have been are: Bali in Indonesia, Tijuana in Mexico, and Sweden and Denmark (when I was five- so I don't really remember). I can't say I've had a worst place...there are good and bad things everywhere, but what really saddened me the most was the living conditions in Tijuana. (I was there 3 different times to do mission work and build houses with my high school youth group.)

I would want to visit Alaska, the Caribbean, South name a few. But the thing I most want to do is tour Europe. I would love to spend a couple months just exploring France, Italy, England, and most of all Scotland and Ireland. I love foreign accents (they make me melt), and to be immersed in so much beauty and culture would be a dream of mine.

1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Beware, I'm not shy of asking personal questions! Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cream Liquors

I love alcohol that doesn't taste like alcohol, and some of my favorites are the cream liquors. I'm sure you are all familiar with Irish Creme and some may know the delish new flavors Caramel Creme and Mint. Not many people know of the following though, and I hope that they will become favorites of yours as well.

Amarula Cream liquor is a unique drink that is made from an African tree fruit called the Marula fruit. It is harvested and made into marula wine which after two years is mixed with fine cream to create this rich, succulent, and sweet aperitif. It tends to be a little pricey (selling for a little under $30 for the bottle shown), but if savored it can last you a while; this particular bottle lasted me about a year and a month. Once refrigerated it can stay good for two years and alcohol content is 17% or 34 proof. It is wonderful alone, in mixed drinks, over ice cream, and with other desserts. I definitely recommend trying this exotic treat!

Take a look at this cute video that shows what happens when the wild African animals consume the fruit. It really happens!

This pretty pink drink on the rocks is none other than Tequila Rose, a creamy strawberry flavored liquor. Another drink that's perfect alone, mixed, or in desserts, this is a mix of strawberry creme liquor and tequila. It tastes just like strawberry creme, and you can't even tell there is tequila in it! The alcohol content is 15% or 30 proof and it lasts awhile as well (refrigerated of course). The Tequila Rose company also has Java Cream and Cocoa Cream products as well, but I haven't tried them. This a perfect girls night out/in drink, but my fiance can't say he doesn't enjoy it as well. For any strawberry fan, try some of this, you'll be hooked!

Here are some posts that I'm working on that will be put up soon:
Strawberry filled crepe recipe
Chocolate Tiramisu cake
Mele Mac cupcakes
Maui Tacos Restaurant Review
The Willows Restaurant Review
The Original Pancake House Restaurant Review

Using Up Apples

If ever you have too many apples, just look for recipes online. They are such a versatile fruit and bake so well! Here are a couple things that helped with my apples.

These Almond Apple Bars were something I saw on several foodie blogs and I had to try it. The bottom crust of almond flavored shortbread-like cookie was nice and crunchy and contrasted with the creamy cheese layer. I don’t think I used enough cream cheese, but it was still very good with the soft cooked apples and nutty almond topping. It was very crumbly when I cut it though and I lost a lot of the topping.

You can find this recipe for apple bars at Alpine Berry's blog.
This next dish, a rich apple pudding pie was first made in the fall/winter and my fiancĂ© and I both fell in love with it. It is a mix between a streusel crumb topped apple pie and a warm bread pudding. I highly recommend this as a comfort food, but only if you have people to share it with…because I know how easy it is to consume with only three people.

Apple Pudding Pie
Adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens Recipe

1 unbaked 9-in pastry pie shell
3 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
1/2 a cup granulated sugar (or 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup sugar substitute Splenda)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 slices bread cut/tore up (about 3 cups)
2 medium apples (I used Braeburn or fuji)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 AP flour or whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons margarine

1) For crust, line unbaked pie shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake in a 450 degrees F. oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 4 minutes more. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temp. to 350 degrees.
2) For filling, peel, core, and slice apples. In a medium mixing bowl stir together eggs, applesauce, yogurt, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Stir in bread and apples. Set aside.
3) For topping, in another mixing bowl stir together 1/4 cup brown sugar and flour. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts. Pour filling into the prepared pie crust and sprinkle topping over filling. Cover edge of crust with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 30 minutes more or until top is golden and fruit is tender. Serving suggestion, serve with vanilla ice cream.

Makes 8 servings

Thursday, June 14, 2007

This Place Has Soul - Dining Out Review

I have never been to Cuba, or had Cuban food (except for maybe a homey version of Cuban Chicken), so I couldn't wait to come here and expand my horizons.

Inside the tiny restaurant are maybe 10 tables with chairs and a bar, enveloped in deep earthy red, gorgeous and funky artwork, and high ceilings. Some of the tables are bar tables with tall rattan chairs that give the casual feeling of being out doors at a tropical Cuban cafe. There are many different art pieces including several different brightly colored renditions of Mary, and bold paintings of an African feel. On two televisions on opposite sides of the restaurant are black and white slide shows of personal pictures of Jesus Puerto, the owner and founder of this restaurant.

His story, written out on the backs of the menus, is nothing short of amazing. It tells of his dream of owning a restaurant getting crushed when he was diagnosed with spinal meningitis and told that he would either die, or lose his sight or hearing. Miraculously he recovered and set out to do various volunteer work to make something of this life he was grateful for. While spending time in the Peace Corps he worked with various restaurants which eventually gave him the skill and drive to realize his dream of starting a restaurant. This is his second location, his first being in New Haven, Connecticut.

While we were eating, a nice group played live music and after asking for suggestions, played our request of Santana's "Smooth". I wasn't facing the window, and after a few drinks the guitars and ambiance had transported me to somewhere completely different.

We began the meal with drinks, a Mojito for my dad (that was too strong for my taste) and an enjoyably fruity El Presidente for myself. We also ordered the Soul Sampler as an appetizer. This came with 'Deviled crab', fried crab meat in a crispy shell; Emapanadas, one beef and one veggie; and some 'Camarones Bailando' or dancing shrimp marinated in a Cubano-chinois sauce (not pictured). We each had our favorites, mine was the empanadas drizzled in a slightly sweet sauce, my father enjoyed the crab, and Randy is always the shrimp lover.

We each ordered different entrees promising to share. I saw many things on the menu that came with some type of fruit relish and I love the idea of a sweet fruity sauce on a savory entree. I had my eye on the Pollo Soul de Cuba (that I had heard great things about), but because someone else wanted it I went for the fish cooked with the fresh mango salsa served over white rice with black beans and fried bananas. The fish had a good flavor and though I was really excited about the mango salsa, I was dismayed to taste the strong flavor of cilantro. As some of you may know...cilantro is my nemesis, I can't stand the flavor, so I had to hand this dish over to my father. It was fate too because both the other dishes were awesome! My favorite part about my plate and everyone else's were the fried bananas. They were so amazing, crispy on the outside and sweet and soft on the inside. I thought it was such a clever plate garnish.

Randy got the Pollo Soul de Cuba, and the plate was just as bright and colorful as mine was. His entree consisted of a breaded and fried chicken breast topped with a beautiful salsa of mango, guava, pineapple and rum. Though the salsa was delicious and gave texture to the dish, the different flavors didn't stand out against one another, but blended in a sweet relish. I thought that because it was fried it would be oily and fatty, but instead it was good and crisp. Each dish came on a bed of fluffy moist rice that was way too much for anyone to each but gave a nice background for the colors to pop out on and soaked up the juices and flavors nicely.

The dish my father ordered was (I think) the fricassee de pollo, another chicken dish that included chicken marinated and sauteed in green peppers, onions, and Spanish olives and stewed with spices. This meat had the best flavor of all the dishes despite the lack of tropical fruit. It was moist and a bit oily, but very tasty with a nice golden color. We took this dish home, but it was savored the very next day.

For dessert we indulged and got two dishes and a dessert drink. The drink was made from one of my favorite liquors, Amarulla, a creamy sweet drink made from the African Marula fruit tree. The drink was silky and satisfying, and though it was pricey I would recommend trying it at least once. My dad got a key lime cheesecake slice that was tart and rich, and Randy and I shared the guava empanadas. The empanadas were warm and had a smooth and sweet filling of guava puree, but I wish there had been more filling, or a bigger empanada. It came with plantain rum ice cream that was barely sweet but very refreshing. Neither flavor (banana or rum) really popped out, and that was a little disappointing.

The prices for dinner are pretty reasonable but I think I would come back for lunch instead. It was a nice experience with the combination of the great service, exotic ambiance, and live music. I would recommend this place to anyone who is curious about the Cuban experience.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

You'll Get Pie in the Sky...

Summertime really is time for pies. I mean my mother didn't cook much, and as I was growing up, the only real time I had pie was around Thanksgiving, but lately I've seen pie recipes blooming up all over! I guess for you people on the mainland, that's because spring and summer is berry season, and what's better for pies than berries...right? But here in Hawaii, it costs us at least 5 dollars for a tiny pack of fresh blueberries, and since we have all these tropical fruits here, we don't really go with the berry/pie craze like people on the mainland do.

With that said, I don't think I have ever tried strawberry pie. A restaurant here is famous for them, but when I went there to try it, they hadn't made any because it wasn't strawberry season (see how much I know about berries?!). So before I could replicate my sub-par trip to try it, I cam across a lovely recipe at Claire's blog, Cooking is Medicine.

Because I gave you the link above, I'll just let you go to her site to get the recipe, but she not only gives you the recipe for the pie, but for the crust as well (unfortunately my crust was pre-made)! I LOVED this pie and won't be going to any restaurant to have a strawberry pie, for I am a firm believer (even though I've tried just this one) that THIS is the best strawberry pie EVER! I loved the lightness of it and I did use diet 7-up, though I can't remember if my jello was sugar free. Anyways, for a great lip-smacking summery treat, try this recipe. I might just do it again because Costco has a big sale on strawberries!

For a Savory Pie....

I turned to my Better Homes and Gardens - 75 Years of All Time Favorites cook book I found at a garage sale (so far it's supplied DELICIOUS recipes). This recipe debuted in the magazine in 1974 and though it doesn't use very many fresh ingredients, it still tastes amazing. I tinkered with it a big, and the recipe you see below is my finished product. I can see this becoming a favorite in a family with kids, but we didn't have to have kids to mark this as a repeat! Let's just say in a family of three, I was looking forward to having some as leftovers, but by the time I got home from work, it had disappeared!

Spaghetti Pie
6 ounces packaged dried spaghetti
2 Tblspn. margarine
1/3 cup (or more) grated Parmesan cheese
2 well beaten eggs
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped green bell/sweet pepper
1 cup (7 1/2 oz can) tomatoes, cut up
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of salt (to preference)
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1) Cook the spaghetti according to package directions; drain (should have about 3 1/4 cup cooked spaghetti). Stir margarine into hot spaghetti. Stir in Parmesan cheese and eggs. Form spaghetti mixture into a "crust" in a buttered 9 to 10-in pie plate.
2) In a large skillet, cook the ground turkey, onion, and sweet pepper until meat is brown and vegetables are tender. Drain well. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Heat through.
3) Spread cottage cheese over spaghetti mixture in pie plate. Top with the meat mixture. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degrees oven for 20 minutes. When done baking, sprinkle mozzarella cheese over top and bake 5 minutes more, or until cheese on top melts.

Makes 6 servings

What to do with Jack Sparrow? Cover him in ice cream and smother him with more rum!

I just thought I'd share with you an idea for dessert using the Jack Sparrow Rum Cake (from a previous post). Now this is a dessert guaranteed to knock your socks off; not at all a dessert for the kiddies or the light-weights.

I have made bananas (and pineapple once) foster several times, enough to know that it would be amazing with vanilla ice cream and this already rum heavy cake. So unless your smart enough to stay at home when eating this, you might truly take a....

Walk Off the Plank Bananas Foster Dessert
2 Tblsp. butter (I use margarine or low cal butter- not like it helps much in this recipe)
4 bananas, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup dark or spiced rum (I like using Captain Morgan Tattoo Dark rum)

Vanilla ice cream

Four generous slices of Pirates of the Caribbean Rum Soaked Cake

1) Melt butter in skilled over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
2) Add bananas and cook 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
3) Pour rum over bananas. Using a match, carefully ignite liquid, basting bananas until flame dies out. (You don't have to ignite, just pour the rum over and baste)
4) Pour bananas over one slice of cake and vanilla ice cream in individual serving dishes.
5) Make sure you're seated when you enjoy! :)

Serves 4

Thursday, June 7, 2007

I got to use my pastry bag and tips!

I used this recipe to make mother's day cupcakes last month, but I would definately make it again. I gave these cupcakes to everyone, and everyone liked them! I used box mix and a store bought frosting (to use it up), but I bet if you made it from scratch, it would taste a lot better.

I followed the recipe on the back of the cinnamon swirl cake mix box for an orange cinnamon swirl cake, and improvised with the Duncan Hines (?) cream cheese frosting adding triple sec liqour. The non-sweetened orange rind curls on the top were a nice bite of bitter flavor amonst the sweetness of the frosting. The cupcakes themselves were very aromatic and smelled deliciously of cinnamon, orange, and cream cheese. (Oh and I liked this cream cheese frosting much better than the betty crocker one). The cake was very moist and fluffy and I enjoyed eating and giving these cupcakes!

Cinnamon Orange Cupcakes with Tipsy Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
1 Box of Betty Crocker Super Moist Cinnamon Swirl cake mix
1 1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp grated orange peel
Vegetable oil and eggs as called for on cake mix box
1) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan.Make, bake, and cool cake as directed except use orange juice instead of the water and add 2 tsp of grated orange peel.

For Frosting:
Just add 1-2 teaspoons triple sec liqour slowly to one container of Cream Cheese Frosting (I used Duncan Hines) and bit by bit, stirring after each addition (to make sure the frosting doesn't get too liquidy.) Color frosting with equal (I used a little more yellow than red) amounts of yellow and red food coloring. Shave small curls of orange rind for decoration on top of cupcakes.

This is a funny picture of what our orange turned out looking like after using curls and zest for the cupcakes:

**Please check out a new post I made (and had saved as a draft) on 05/24/07 about yummy pasta dishes**