Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Baking 2012

I just got back from a three week trip to Australia. It was one of my "must go" trips that I have wanted to take for about 5 years.  Steve hated to fly and certainly would have freaked out at the length of this trip. My friends Mindi and Aaron were kind enough to move their 8 mos. old baby into their bedroom so I could have his room. Did I mention that he was teething and an insomniac? His older 2 yr old brother was having sleeping problems as well.  Come to find out his little back teeth were also coming in. We all managed to keep our wits about us as they are adorable little boys.

I took about 500 pictures. Do you want to see them?  Seriously, I can't even begin to take the time to go through them although I did put them in labeled folders in my "pictures" file in Windows. Therefore I will get my act together and probably blog more about my wonderful trip in January.

It is the Christmas season so I must bake for my peeps. Missing the main guy terribly but knowing he loved all of the cookies and other goodies I used to make.  This is what I intend to do in the next 10 days, minus one for the Christmas party I am going to and staying overnight.

-Brandied Persimmon  mini breads I made these in 2010
-Maple Sugar Cookie cutouts and I intend to decorate them! ( dough is made)
-Chocolate Filled Hazelnut shortbread-like cookies ( again dough is made)
-Rocky Road, simple and love, love it!
-Chocolate Crackle Cookies, another fav.
Spiced Nuts
Oatmeal Cranberry cookies -DONE!!!

Plus I am going to start my Christmas Plum Pudding as it needs 8-10 days to cure. This one might be a little harder because we used to douse it with it's daily splash of Cognac and give it a stir. It is supposed to be a family participation event. Maybe I'll call in a few of the neighbors.

I had a little setback as I had a "nodule" removed from my arm that required stitches so I need to give it a little time before welding the rolling pin on those roll outs.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

End of Summer Ramblings....

Some of  my magazine subscriptions send 12 issues and some send 10 or 11. They combine two months like July/August or January/February. Well I am doing that too. This is the August/September blog. I'll be away for 3 weeks in September traveling around the East Coast eating, I hope, lots 'o lobster with my cousins and friends!

I have been doing some preserving, baking, cooking for myself, friends and get togethers. Everyone around here will not just come to your house for dinner. It is always "what can I bring"? Nothing, I say, "I am not coming unless I can bring something". I have resigned myself to this tradition and plan meals accordingly. Everyone of my friends like to cook and sharing is a good way to keep their skills fresh and maybe a way to ensure they will be able to eat something they like by bringing it. We all get a little weird as we age.
 I tricked our little group over Labor Day weekend and announced I was having a "Taco Party" so I could clear out my freezer and refrigerator of all things taco-ish. This was the truth but it didn't totally work. My friend Lynda brought two awesome flans and fresh berries, Loretta made delish guacamole and baked chips, Shari contributed a very popular warm bean dip while everyone else brought adult beverages. Always appreciated. It was really nice on the deck so I had antojitos out there: flour tortilla crisps with defrosted bay shrimp nacho and chile con queso baked on top ( like pizzas), salsa fresca that used up some ripe tomatoes and wrinkled serrano chiles, Chipotle chile salsa from tomatillos I got on sale and a few other odd jars of salsas along with house made fried tortilla chips. The margaritas were flowing too thanks to Vilia! The first thing she did when she arrived was make me a fresh squeezed over the rocks Marg. Heaven.
The "taco works" consisted of shredding up odds and ends of cheese, chopping onions, making a big pot of organic black beans with epazote that I turned into a black bean and corn salsa for vege tacos. Trader Joe's carnitas had been lingering in the freezer along with some pieces of Chicken Chipotle Verde that was one of Diana Kennedy's recipes. I even found a bag of almost freezer burned prawns to defrost for a Shrimp and Potato taco filling that was from Diana Kennedy's Tortilla Book.
Vilia heated up a ton of tortillas one by one on my comal. I had fried the thick handmade-like ones earlier and kept them warm. We then set about to demolish the entire table of goodies. During the second round of toasting tortillas the smoke alarm went off, so you know,OH, it was so much fun!

Every year tomatoes are perfectly ripe and abundant right around my birthday. I used to can quarts and quarts of them on my actual birthday and once even called in sick for work when we lived in Chicago to do this. But before I got into the whole canning tomatoes thing I decided to head to the Oak Street beach for a few restful hours in the sun... I didn't even tell Steve as he had already left for work when I decided to play hooky (hehe). It was fun except for the big dude who tried to accost me and then insulted my bare tummy when I rebuffed him and shoved my wedding ring in his face. After Labor Day the beach was sparsely populated so I didn't hang out much longer. I hurried home to can those tomatoes!

Now, I tend to roast my tomatoes for immediate use or to freeze in zip lock bags. Sometimes they are the little ones cut in half , seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted until almost dry. These I pack in jars covered with olive oil and store in the refrigerator. Large meaty tomatoes are nestled in a shallow dish on a bed of basil with a few garlic cloves tucked in and a good dousing of olive oil before baking until they collapse. So yum! You can just squish them over warm pasta, whirl them in a blender for the base of Roasted Tomato soup or puree them for future sauces ( like for the shrimp-potato taco filling). I saved the oil and juices and used it for salads and a light sauce for butternut squash ravioli.

Bed of basil for beauty tomatoes
Seasoned and ready for the 350 oven

Ever since I found a wonderful Mango Bread down in Key West at a "Hippy bakery", I have been thinking of trying to recreate it. It was a sweet yeast bread full of ripe mangoes. I hunted on the Internet for ideas and found one that used the bread machine.  I happen to have some cut up mango so I was off and running.  Welll... the bread was beautiful but the mangoes got totally lost. It was more like a slightly cinnamon flavored dome of  white bread. I think it will be good for French Toast if I ever get around to having a brunch party. The bread machine that I have is wonderful for kneading and rising the dough. I don't particularly like to bake in it and would rather shape the loaves myself to bake on my stone in the oven. Next time, double or triple the mango, add nuts or other dried fruit ( maybe dried mango?) and I will share that new and improved recipe.

The not so Mango bread...

Peaches are winding down. My neighbors have family from the Central Valley that bring boxes of stone fruit over here to us "deprived" beach people. This has been a spectacular year for them. I prefer the yellow peaches as I like the acidity. A few years ago I won a "give away" from one of my favorite bloggers "Tigress in a Jam" it was a book of my choice from her Amazon store. I chose a lovely book by Christine Ferber " Mes Confitures".  She is a master patissier in France and this is her personal collection of jam and jelly recipes. I have a good collection of jamming books and recipes but I have never seen any as interesting as hers.  Last year I made apple pectin which is the base of many of her recipes. What a labor of love (or not) that was. The jars are still in my pantry. I need to decide which recipes to try that would be worthy of my apple pectin making efforts. This year as I was perusing the book, determined to try something, I came across a recipe for "Yellow Peach with Lavender Honey" jam. It called for lavender honey which I did not have but there was a fair amount of sugar in the recipe. My lavender was still blooming so I infused the sugar with it for a few days and used local honey. Since you infuse the peach jam mixture with a few sprigs of lavender in a cheesecloth bag I figured that would be lavendery enough and it was. She even suggested tying a sprig of dried lavender to the jars. I have these neat tags so I glued the dried lavender to them so it wouldn't shed all over the place.

Peach jam set up

Lastly I was lucky enough to find a vendor at our farmer's market that grows Italian prune plums.  I so love those but they are really hard to find and only available at the end of August or beginning of September. The first bag I bought went into a plum galette. The second bag, of about 5#, I used to make my "Asian Plum-Ginger sauce". This is a recipe I developed 28 years ago. It is still written on a scrap of paper with a few odd notes added. Originally I called it "Oriental Plum Sauce" until my sister, Nancy, pointed out that it was politically incorrect to refer to Asians as Orientals. So now I am totally PC.
This recipe is easily reduced depending on how many lbs. of plums you have. What to use it for?  Egg roll or fried won ton dipping sauce by thinning it out a little, baste pork loins or chicken, add to stir frys or serve with a soft cheese. It is so good!

plums, chiles, garlic & ginger
Spicey, plummy, gingery goodness!
All but one sealed, oh, I guess I'll have to eat that one.

                                             Asian Plum-Ginger Sauce
5# crisp plums like Italian Prune or Satsuma ( the red hearted ones), quartered with pits removed
1/3 c.  fresh ginger ( no need to peel), coarsely chopped
3 large cloves garlic,  coarsely chopped
4 small fresh red chiles, if available, or use serranos, coarsely chopped. You may want to take the seeds out.
2# sugar ( about 4 c.)
1 1/3 c. Natural rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce

       Place plums, ginger, garlic and chiles in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until all are chopped into small pieces. Transfer to a dutch oven or other heavy pot.  Add sugar and rice wine vinegar.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and skim as it cooks down about 1-1 1/2 hrs.  Before putting in jars stir in the soy sauce. 
Taste to see if it is hot enough, if not add some sirachi sauce to kick it up.
Water bath in half pint jars for 10 min. 
Makes 8 half pints.

See ya next month with tales from the East Coast:)

Monday, July 30, 2012

I'Scream, U'Scream

When the jingling bells of the Ice Cream Truck were  heard in our neighborhood all of the kids would start running with nickels and dimes clutched in their hands.  We were panicked we would miss it. Luckily there was usually a crowd so I would get in line until my brother Bobby returned with money from my Mom. Our younger sister, Nancy and baby brother Jimmy would be running after him. I already knew what flavor Popsicle they wanted. My favorite was Creamsicle, orange sherbet with vanilla ice cream over the top, Bobby's was Fudgesicle. I think my sister's favs were ice cream sandwiches and all of us liked "drumsticks", the nut covered cones.Those were a little more money so we usually had to settle for fruit-flavored Popsicles which had two sticks so my Mom could split them in half lengthwise.  There were the blue ones ( my other fav), strawberry, orange, root beer, cherry and banana.  The Popsicle sticks provided entertainment after we ate all of the fruit ice off. We would sharpen them on the sidewalk and pretend they were knives. Most often we used them to dig in the dirt or as markers for little plants and flowers in the garden. I miss the Ice Cream Man!

Our house did not have an ice cream maker. I do not remember ever seeing family members or friends make homemade ice cream.  As far as I knew it came in a square box, with the "Sealtest Dairy" logo in limited flavors, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla or the striped Neapolitan.

Later, when I got married and acquired a Kitchen Aid stand mixer I started buying or being gifted the attachments, most of which I still have. One attachment that I coveted was the ice cream maker.  When Steve and I moved from Chicago to Mill Valley, CA I started making just about everything from scratch (the "DIY" movement happens to be back in vogue these days in case you hadn't noticed). I finally purchased the ice cream attachment to the Kitchen Aid mixer.  It is a rather bulky contraption, with the turquoise bucket for the ice, cylinder for the mixture, square drive shaft, Groov-Pin, hub assembly, stop pin, overflow spout and a base to set it on. You have to be a mechanic to get this thing together!  After finally setting it up, the next hardest part was getting the ice. No one had ice makers in their refrigerators, just those lame ice cube trays. Ice sold in grocery stores tended to be large cubes which were hard to feed into the bucket when the churn was set up.  We had the salt and subsequently used a mallet to chop up the ice.  A booklet of recipes came with the machine.  I set the whole thing up on our deck, plugged it in and let 'er rip. The cat freaked out and disappeared.  That was 20 or so years ago. Luckily I didn't burn out the motor as the mixer got quite warm. The ice cream was pretty good as I recall, just a pain to set the whole thing up and clean it afterwards. Honestly, I probably used it less than 10 times. Now it sits in a storage unit with other "stuff".

Fast forward to my current home.  Haagen Daz and Ben & Jerry's were our go to ice creams when we indulged. When Steve started having his throat problems he really wanted ice cream.  I saw a very cool machine on sale at Williams-Sonoma while we were visiting Mill Valley just before his birthday.  It was a Cuisinart that came with two bowls so you could always have one frozen and ready to go. I bought it thinking I would make ice cream that day.  Wrong! You have to freeze the bowl overnight and also chill the ice cream mixture at least 8 hrs. No worries. I just waited until we got home and got the whole thing set in motion.  The booklet that came with the Cuisinart had some pretty good recipes and the sugar was cut way back, which I liked. I was off and churning, experimenting with different flavors and additions which are the fun part. During the last 30 seconds of churning you can add all sorts of things, nuts, praline, brownie bits and more. I have to say I haven't bothered with the "custard style" as I am not usually crazy about the eggy flavor. I found out that fresh fruit freezes into Popsicle-like chunks so I either briefly cook it, chop it finer or puree it.  Also, I didn't have enough heavy cream one time and substituted 1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt, which is the most I would do as the texture would change. It was a bit tangier but if you like yogurt then it is fine.
Once I saved mocha chocolate cookie dough scraps, baked them and folded them the basic vanilla base.  Another very successful combo was blending my girlfriend Sharon's killer cheesecake in with the mocha chocolate cookie crumbs. Very yummy!!! I have used this machine more than 10 times in the two years I have had it.
Cream-peach puree base, mashed peaches

I had a bag of ripe peaches that needed to be used up. Peach ice cream is sublime when homemade. It can be overly sweet which masks the peach flavor so the reduced sugar in this recipe is just the ticket.

Peachy Peach Ice Cream

Ice Cream base:
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. whole milk
2/3 c. sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla (opt.)
  Combine and mix until sugar is dissolved. Chill.
Peel and dice 3 large peaches*.  Toss into a saucepan with the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 c. water.
Heat for 10 min.  Chill. 
Drain peaches and add juice to ice cream base.  Take 1 cup of the peaches and puree either in a blender or with a hand blender.  Mash the rest of the peaches with a potato masher or fork.
Add the puree to the ice cream base. Pour into the frozen bowl and start churning.  About 30 seconds before it is done add the mashed peaches.
Store in plastic containers ( I like empty qt. yogurt containers).  This made about 5 cups. 
Dasher full of ice cream
 The Cuisinart Ice Cream machine Recipe booklet's recipe for Strawberry Ice Cream was the inspiration for this.
The "fifth cup"

*to easily get the peel off of peaches, bring a saucepan 3/4 full with water to a boil. Drop the peaches into it and let sit for 30-40 seconds. Take out with a slotted spoon and dip into very cold water or ice water. The peel slips right off.
Come to think of it I have 2 pieces of cherry pie hanging around. How about Cherry Pie ice cream?! This is the tip of the iceberg methinks.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Salmon Dinner with Bonnie

A few weeks ago I was the lucky recipient of some locally caught salmon out of the San Luis Obispo Bay in Avila Beach, CA.  What to do? Okay,  I'll invite the sister of the fishermen over for dinner. Her brothers are avid fishermen but don't live here full time so they took their bounty home leaving Bonnie and I to fend for ourselves with these lovely fillets. She says she isn't a big fan of salmon but I think I changed her mind. Fresh salmon is a world away from the store bought pale pink stuff from who knows where and when it was harvested.
See the pin bones on the wider fillet? Remove them.

Grilled Local Salmon w. Morel Mushroom Vinaigrette
Braised Lentils, sauteed Morel mushrooms
Mario's Fennel and Corn ragout
Homemade Yogurt Ice Cream w. Berry Sauce
A couple of girlfriends having a good time
 I am currently reading Mario Batali's " Molto Batali-Simple Family Meals". The book is arranged according to seasons.  One of his summer dishes is "Fennel and Corn in Umido".  It was so delicious looking that I had to try it.  The results were just as delicious. It makes a ton, even though I halved the recipe, so I shared it with another friend when she had me and a bunch of other peeps over for dinner. I think we finished it off.
Hopefully you can look this up as I couldn't link it.
This "ragout" is a combination of 2 fennel bulbs,3 cloves garlic,  1 onion, 1 carrot and 1 stalk celery cut and chopped and sauteed in olive oil until soft. About 1 c. canned plum tomatoes are added as well as corn that has been taken off of 3 ears. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with some tarragon leaves and chopped fennel fronds. I love this book and this recipe!

Side dish #2 was lentils done in the French manner ( my fav) although all I had were Italian lentils:

1 1/4 c. French green " Le Puy" or other small lentils
water to cover by 1"
1/2 onion stuck with one whole clove
1 small carrot peeled and finely diced
1 whole clove garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf ( fresh if you have one)
1/2 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. extra virg. olive oil for finishing

Rinse lentils and drain. Place in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients up to the olive oil. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover pan and let simmer 20-25 min. They should be tender but not mushy.  Drain and if you want reserve the cooking liquid for soup.  I chopped up the onion ( discarding the whole clove) and mashed up the garlic and folded them back into the lentils. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the olive oil.
Set aside for further embellishments.

The Farmer's Market had a few baskets of fresh Morel mushrooms...I was shocked and excited at the same time. Bobby Flay demonstrated a wonderful dish of Grilled Salmon with Morel Vinaigrette in February, 2007 on the Food Network.  I saved it in my Recipe Box ( a very handy tool) and have been waiting for the stars to line up whereas I would have wild salmon and fresh morels. He used dried but I held out for the fresh and it was so worth it.  You can use his original recipe here but I had the need to fiddle with it so I sauteed morels, shallots and garlic in butter and olive oil.  I made a simple little vinaigrette with Dijon mustard,white wine vinegar and olive oil like he did and set that aside.   Half of the morels were folded into the lentils and the rest were tossed with the vinaigrette to spoon over the grilled salmon.
To grill the salmon, season with salt and pepper and rub some olive oil on both sides.  These fillets still had the skin on them but I had to remove the "pin" bones. Just run your fingers over the spine of the fillet and take clean needle nosed pliers and pull out the bones. You know those little pliers that are hanging around in the toolbox? Well make sure you wash them well before and after pulling out the bones or your toolbox will stink to high heaven and your salmon will taste of whatever they were used for last. 
Heat your grill. Sounds easy, right? Well I have to tell you this was the first time I have used the propane Weber since Steve passed away. He was the grill master. Now I usually have other grill-types around when something requires grilling. Luckily Bonnie has some experience so she and I managed to get the thing going.  I know Steve always turned off the middle burner and let the side burners heat up for an indirect type of cooking. So I did that.  Mind you we only had 2 pieces of fish so that was plenty of heat. 
Place the salmon skin side down and don't touch it until the skin seems like it will pull away from the grate and not tear. The crispy skin is dynamite. This should take 3-5 min.  Flip over and cook another 3 min. I like mine pretty dark pink inside and not translucent but you can take them as far as you want, just don't dry the beauties out.  They will continue to cook after you remove from the grill too. I remembered to turn off the propane tank which I can't say some of my guests did. 
Back inside and time to plate up!  Toss the reserved morels into the lentils along with chopped parsley and if you want some crumbled goat or feta cheese. Place a heaping spoonful on each plate slightly off center.  Drape the salmon over some of the lentils.  Arrange some of the Fennel-Corn ragout on the plate opposite the salmon.  Spoon the morel vinaigrette over the salmon.
We both couldn't believe how good salmon this fresh tasted!

We were too anxious to eat so I didn't concentrate on food photos this time.

I had a local wine, Shale Oak's Albarino chilled which was perfect for Bonnie who only drinks white. Since I like both I opened a local Rhone blend which is what I would serve today if I was making this again.

A future blog will be featuring the ice creams I have been making using the Cuisinart Ice Cream maker.  This one was a basic vanilla but I didn't have enough heavy cream so I threw in some Greek Yogurt with good results.  A little "clean out the freezer of berries" sauce and we were happy campers!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pupus in Memoriam

The header for this blog is our version of "pupus". My husband coined this term for the lunches I put together on our deck. I have no idea why, he was not a fan of being in Hawaii where pupus are the norm. I mean he liked Hawaii okay but hated the long flight over there and the idea that he was on a crowded island. Anyway "pupus" are what we called our little bites of this and that. It must have been his Swedish heritage and the smorgasbord thing. I loved putting them together on our cute fish plates carried out to the table on a beautiful rattan tray that our friends, the Murphy's gave us one Christmas. There are many photos and memories of these concoctions. I chose today to write about them as it would have been Steve's 69th birthday. The saddest part of his illness was when he couldn't eat anything but soup. He did accompany it with a pint of wheat beer or glass of wine. At least we enjoyed our ocean views on the deck and each other's company.
So, today, I made a small lunch of our pupus and toasted him with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The sun came out long enough for me to eat out on the deck too. 
I found some pretty yummy looking pictures from my "Pupu's" file to share.
After the 4th of July parade in 2010


Smoked salmon, hummus, cheeses, sliced turkey, pickles, the always plate of tomatoes, onions, cukes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh or dried herbs,and sometimes olives. 2011 Pre-birthday.

Looks like a little Mediterranean tuna salad, roasted eggplant hummus, deli ham, grainy mustard, wasabi mayo & veges

For a party, these are great although a little time consuming to gather all of the ingredients. If you don't have enough plates, just put them on a large board in piles with the soft dips and condiments in little bowls. Trader Joe's is my go to for the selection of hummus, artichoke or cheese spreads and tapenades.  An assortment of hearty breads, whole wheat pita breads, cut into quarters and crackers, like Wasa afford the vehicles to pile these goodies onto. Leftover chicken, turkey, tofu, fish etc. are perfect to pile onto slices of veges or breads/crackers. A typical combination would be a smear of mayo (preferably wasabi) or mustard, thin slice of cheese, meat, slivers of onion, tomato and cucumber. Balance between thumb and forefinger and guide to mouth.
Sometimes I make my own smoked salmon spread by putting cream cheese, smoked salmon, a little mayo or heavy cream, Tabasco sauce and dill in a food processor and whipping it up., put into little bowls and garnish with dill or capers.

For a different take on the good ole tuna salad try this.

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

1 can olive oil packed tuna ( Trader Joe's "Dolphin Safe" is my fav), drained ( I don't like the taste of the canned olive oil and would rather add a good EVO)
1 Tbsp. mayo or Wasabi mayo
drizzle of Extra Virgin olive oil ( about 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. capers in brine, drained
2 tsp. lemon juice or use some of the caper brine but not too much
2 Tbsp. chopped celery ( or fennel bulb)
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds ( opt.)
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
sprinkle of salt and pepper

    Combine in a small bowl. It should be moist but not laden with mayonaise, add more olive oil if necessary.  This is great piled into Pita bread halves with greens, tomato and sliced onion.

Happy Birthday Steve we all miss you like mad!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kaua'i, 2011

During my visit to Oahu in December, I took a side trip to the island of Kaua'i the "garden isle".  Airline flights took off every 30 minutes, sort of like commuter trains that fly and they were packed!  Of course it was Christmas vacation time so what did I expect? It is a very short flight so the little kids didn't get too squirmy but they did spread their little germs around. A Merry Christmas sore throat and subsequent laryngitis ensued.
My friends Madalyn and Jeff picked me up at the airport in Lihue and off we went to their side of "Island", Poipu beach which is the southern part of the island. I had no idea which direction we were going, this being my first trip to Kaua'i. The landscape is very lush with pink plumerias,  red & pink ginger and other flora and fauna most of which I couldn't identify.

I met them when they lived in Manhattan Beach, CA before Steve and I got married. They went to high school with Steve in Park Ridge, IL.  We hit it off immediately and shared a love of kitties. Steve and I had never owned a cat but fell in love with "Streaker" the Burmese cat that "owned" Jeff & Madalyn. Well, she had kittens the next year and we got one! Jeff and Steve came up with the name "Barley" as Steve's beverage of choice was beer. Barley came to own us too! She traveled with us when we moved from San Diego to Chicago and subsequently back to San Francisco. I could write another blog on the cats we had and loved and just may one of these days.
My hosts gave me a brief history of how they came to live on Kaua'i and we caught up on our lives since we had seen each other last.  Madalyn was raring to go to show me around. We had 2 days so had to make the most of it.
Their home is beautiful and borders a golf course ( both of them golf).
there is a purple hibiscus bush, pink ginger and plumerias plus the newly painted front door

 It came with a feral cat that had kittens underneath the house, one of which decided to stick around. I think they gave the rest away and the Momma kitty took off. Pancho definitely won their hearts. He was in the process of training them to wake up early to feed him,  give him treats on command and put cushions on the lanai furniture so he could take his naps in luxury while I was there. He won my heart too. The current Burmese kitty in residence, Binky, stayed indoors and pretty much ignored her outdoor competition.
Pancho lounging on the lanai

 Jeff is a vegetarian. I admire him for not eating what he doesn't want to and eating exactly what he likes. He rarely goes out to restaurants for that reason. Madalyn is a fabulous cook and has his menu preferences down to a science. She had the refrigerator stocked so he could make his own lunch or dinner while we were free to explore the island.  We stayed in the first night and enjoyed a dinner of  spinach lasagna, vegetables and salad as well as wine. I think we overdid the wine ( Jeff doesn't drink) but we had a great time talking about Steve's antics in his heyday back in Park Ridge. It made me feel good to laugh about those memories. Too often people are afraid to bring him up in conversation.

 I had a little list of places my friend Tim from Cayucos  had given me so we started checking it off.  The Grand Hyatt Regency and Sheraton hotels were in Poipu beach so we made sure we walked through them. She said they were good places to stroll over to on Sundays and have coffee while reading the newspaper on the lanais. Really beautiful surroundings.
Madalyn at the Grand Hyatt Regency, Poipu

The next day we hopped into M's pickup truck and headed through Lihue and up towards the north coast.  First stop was the Kilauea Point Light Station.

 It was a bit blustery but I loved the views and history.

Nenes, a goose like bird, roamed around and is a protected species. There were hundreds of other seabirds that nested on the cliffs as well.
Nene, tagged

Speaking of birds, Kaua'i is home to thousands of chickens. Hurricane Iniki in 1992 broke open tons of chicken coops and off they went, pecking, proliferating and making themselves at home on the entire island (even Costco's parking lot). They are really pretty but I imagine a bit of a nuisance. Free range (island) or not, I stuck to eating seafood while there.
After the light station we drove north in the rain and wind to Hanalei and Princeville. Not a very good day for photos but a good day for girlfriends hanging out together. I was reminded that Kaua'i is the Garden Island, no droughts, and has the most rainfall in the world! It is the oldest and most northern island in the Hawaiian chain. Check out the travelers website here.

On the way back we stopped in Kapaa for lunch and a visit to a local craft fair.  One of Tim's suggestions was to go to the Pono Market for "box lunch" but at 1:15 pm they were all sold out. We opted for the "Ono Family Restaurant" next door.  It is a favorite stop for locals and tourists. Madalyn ordered the special of the day, Teriyaki beef sandwich and I ordered Grilled Opah sandwich which was delicious. I ate the sandwich open face, Opah, grilled and placed on top of incredible local greens (garden isle!) served with the ubiquitous french fries. It came with a cup of Portuguese bean soup that I am pretty sure had chunks of spam in it. Good though. I had to go next door to the Pono Market to get a beer to go. They wouldn't sell me a simple 12 oz bottle, nooo, it was a 22 oz can or nothing. More than I could finish. A very friendly woman was having lunch across from us and we struck up a conversation. It turned out she was a widow and once she found out that I shared the same status she grilled me about how long it had been me:"four months"...Her "oh my God, you haven't even begun to heal", me: sobbing by now. Madalyn ran interference and we ended the conversation but not before she told me to look for a book by Joan Didion " The Year of Magical Thinking".  I did pick it up when I came home and it was really helpful.

The craft fair up the highway was really good. They had what I called "surfer necklaces" with carved fish hooks, plumerias and various other surfer type charms. Scored for the nephews ( and myself)!

We stopped at Costco so Madalyn could get some food for her Christmas Eve dinner and I picked up a gift card for my hosts back in Honolulu. That is where I spotted this chicken in the parking lot.
Costco parking lot Chicken

K-Mart was next for tee shirts for my nephews. What a great selection they had! I snagged a few for myself as well. 
That evening Madalyn and I went to Brennecke's on Poipu beach. We weren't super hungry so had pupus, Seared Ahi rolled in furikaka, Coconut Shrimp and Thai Chicken Sate were among the offerings. It would have been really neat to be there during the day as it is right on the beach. Check that one off Tim's list!
The next morning we went on a walk through an incredible Orchid garden, one of Madalyn's favorite walks. It is near the Sheraton Hotel that is undergoing renovations. I couldn't believe all of the different species of orchids.

It was time to go... We had enough time for lunch at the infamous "Dukes".  Was that good?! Barefoot bar, on the sand, Kaluah Pork on Taro bun=Mango BBQ Pork, wowzer! Taro bun??? I need to figure out how to make those.
Off to the the Lihue airport and back to Honolulu for Christmas. 
It was a wonderful mini vacation and I will be back, right Madalyn?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christmas in Hawaii

I boogied out of town for Christmas.  Hawaii was my destination. We have friends there so I made a neat little plan to visit Frank and Sandi Kingery in Honolulu along with another couple that I hadn't seen in years and as an added bonus, my long lost nephew, Josh, had recently moved to Oahu. Big reunion!  On top of it all another couple that Steve went to high school with, who we have kept in touch with over the years, live on Kauai now. Okay, how about a side trip over there?  They invited me and I said yes.

It was a smooth 3 hr. drive to Millbrae, a town near the San Francisco Airport, where I had booked a room in a hotel that would keep my car for 14 days included in the price of the room. Such the deal! The airport shuttle picked me up outside of the room at 6:30am in 32 degree weather and off I went. Luckily I saved room to shove my down jacket into my bag.  Hawaiian Airlines was in the International Terminal but the shuttle bus driver didn't remember that so we drove around in circles until he did. It was lucky I allowed enough time as the HA section was chaos. You can't believe the STUFF people take on airplanes and/or check as "baggage". I swear it looked like this guy had a Kayak in his black bag.  No one pays attention to the " it must fit under your seat" rule.  People had backpacks that were taller than they were strapped to their backs to "carry on".  I was just as glad I checked my little could- have- been- a carry on bag and carried on a smaller one.  As luck would have it I got decided to upgrade my seat when I was printing out the boarding pass for $25. Not first class or even Business class but a Bulkhead seat on the aisle. I had no idea what that was but it was closer to the exit so I went for it.
This was my first time flying Hawaiian Airlines. I was pleased with the seat as bulkhead means there are no seats in front of you to recline onto your lap and it was right near the flight attendants' prep area. This was funny because you are privvy to their take on the passengers' antics. For instance, just as the doors were about to close a loud redheaded woman carrying one of those three story backpacks plus two dogs and dragging a wheelie came bounding on. She put one of the little dogs down and kicked it so it would go in front of her down the aisle stating " he is trained and should know better". The other dog apparently couldn't walk as she carried it.When did they start letting animals on airplanes out of carriers?? My arm was on the armrest, unfortunately, and she almost dislocated my shoulder  as she bolted past. This continued all the way to her seat which was, guess where?, right near the seat I gave up for the bulkhead seat.  I am telling you my angel was looking out for me. Babies started crying and people were getting angry back there. The flight attendants wanted to escort her off the plane but for some reason they couldn't (door already closed).  The good thing is we made it to Honolulu while the flight attendants dealt with her ( babies continued to cry and people continued to stomp up to the front to complain).

When I was safely in my friend's SUV with a pretty Lei around my neck I started to relax. It was beauty and warm in Oahu albeit a little breezy.  The first thing we started discussing was food!
Frank likes to cook and loves anything Italian.  He does most of the cooking for his lucky wife, Sandi.
That evening he whipped up a fabulous Lamb and Eggplant curry.  It was a little uncomfortable talking about Steve, for them, I think.  I find this is true with many of our friends as it is still very early with the grieving process.
We discussed the plans for the week. Frank printed out a calendar for me to keep track of the days' activities.  I made reservations to fly over to Kauai so that was put on the calendar. Meanwhile Sandi needed to go Christmas shopping so I was put into service driving the SUV. The Toyota was easy enough to drive, backing down the curvy steep driveway not so easy. Off we went each day. I got pretty good at maneuvering the driveway too.

They belong to the Outrigger Canoe Club so we had a few lunches there as well as the beautiful Kahala Hotel with their dolphins, stingrays, turtles and fish in lagoons around the property.
Dolphin catching his fish treat

We ate dinner in most nights. One night Frank made us a simple but wonderful antipasti dinner. He put out plates of Salumni with pickled vegetables and olives, tuna and white bean salad, simple greens and a killer garlic extra virgin olive oil dip with crusty rolls.
Tuna and white beans

So simple and so delicious

Another dinner was Grilled Hangar Steak on a bed of Organic Hawaiian arugula. We were eating very well. One request I had was to find Ahi Poke. Little did I know I would get more than my share of Poke. It was on the Christmas Eve dinner buffet at the Outrigger Club, served at the Kingery friends house ( two flavors) with little squares of nori and on appetizer menus everywhere.

 Christmas Eve morning I stepped up to the plate and made my Spinach and Mushroom frittata brunch from
Everyone enjoyed that while we watched college football bowl games.

Frank took me to the "drive up" luggage checking station. That was great!  Hawaiian Airlines is the only airline to offer that service.  Totally painless with no lines. After many Mahalo's we said goodbye.
More on my trip to Kauai later!