Maui Part I: The Restaurant that Stole my Heart

I’ve been away from this blog for too long. But I have a wonderful excuse! I was resting and relaxing in the tropical paradise of Maui. It was a wonderful vacation. And it ended much too soon for my liking. Every morning I would wake up (at 4am because the baby was still on Calgary time) and make myself an earl grey tea latte to enjoy on the balcony. Kristine and I would sit on the balcony with our babies and watch the sun rise through the palm trees and over the ocean, where we would often see whales breaching.

This was our view

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In our condo we had a kitchen where we prepared a lot of delicious meals (future post to come) but we also managed to sample many of Maui’s fine eating establishments.

The obvious favourite was Fred’s Mexican Cafe in Kihei which we ate at three times. This place served the best mexican food I have ever eaten. Ever. The best. For realsies.

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Todd was crazy for the Chicken Tortilla Soup which had a light broth but was incredibly flavourful with many different layers of spices and flavours. The broth was served with large pieces of roasted chicken, half an avocado, grilled corn salsa, monterey jack cheese and garnished with crisp tortilla chips. Incredible! I spent half an hour dissecting and analyzing the soup in order to recreate it one day. As my husband demanded “If you make nothing else for the next year, you have to make me this soup. You have to!”.

I’m up for that challenge! So stay tuned….

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My favourite dish at Fred’s was the Pescado Taco. This was a grilled fish taco that changed my life. It was that good. The pieces of marinated fish were large, not small chunks like other more disappointing tacos we sampled (ahem, Maui Taco). The sauce was tangy with a bit of spice to it which was a nice accompaniment to the crunch of the lettuce, cabbage, and tomatoes.

So good. I’m currently scheming on how I can get back to Maui for those tacos.

Oh and I guess the beaches were okay too.

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Super Bowl Party Buffalo Chicken Dip

I know, I know, the Super Bowl was two weeks ago and this post is old. Fair enough. But I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and spending much less time on the computer. But I promise that good eats are following.

I promise!

The Super Bowl is taken very seriously in our house, as my husband loves football.  Every year, our group of friends take turns hosting the party and every year, I look forward to attending.  But not for the game. Nor for the hilarious mess of a half time show. No, I do not go for the football but for the food. It might as well be called Super Buffet of Excellent Noshing as far as I am concerned because I have no idea who is playing or what the score is.  All I care about is what’s on my plate and how I can get it in my mouth.

This year, I had two parties in one day: a bridal shower in the morning for which I made my Caramelized Onion and Brie Tart and then a Super Bowl Party at Andy and Amy’s for which I made a Buffalo Chicken Dip. The tart was a hit (as always) and the Buffalo Chicken Dip became a new favourite (especially with our friend Jorge, who loved it so much that he requested that I give the recipe to his wife who then had to make it the next day!).

The original recipe came from the Rachael Ray show and can be found here. It’s basically every wonderful thing that you get when you order a plate of wings at the pub. The only thing it’s missing is the beer and carrot sticks. The first layer is cream cheese and I used light cream cheese. The second layer consists of a deli chicken which I substituted for diced roasted chicken thighs, buffalo chicken sauce ( I used Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce), and 2 tbsp of melted butter. I also added a 1/2 tsp of garlic salt and pepper. The third layer calls for blue cheese dressing.  I bought fresh blue cheese crumbles and had intended to add it to ranch dressing but of course I didn’t have any on hand. You top it all off with shredded cheese, I used a nacho mix. Bake in the oven and serve with nacho chips.


Homemade Pasta Boot Camp

Last week I had the most fabulous day learning how to make fresh pasta with my cousin Catherine and her sweet baby, Ruby. Now to be honest, I was a little nervous about  making my own pasta ever since the Great Gnocchi Debacle of 2002. Without getting into the gory details, it was an ignominious failure. And although ten years have passed, the memory is still strong ((silent shudder)). However, I had great faith in the culinary abilities of my cousin and therefore was eager to learn and VERY eager to test out the Kitchenaid pasta attachment!

And it ended up being a great experience!

The day started out with a kind stranger paying for our Tim Horton’s order, followed by a surprise visit from cousin Briley, her son Evan and my grandma Noonie and ended with a delicious plate of fresh homemade pasta. I now have renewed confidence in my own ability to make fresh pasta and am jonesing to own the Kitchenaid pasta attachments for myself (I don’t think I can wait for my birthday in July and will have to dip into my shoe fund…)

We made three different kinds and each was a variation of a basic egg noodle recipe:

  1. Basil and cracked pepper linguine
  2. Red Chili Pepper Rigatoni
  3. Plain bucatini

Basic Egg Noodle Recipe from the Kitchenaid Pasta Attachment manual

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups of sifted flour (which we didn’t sift)
  • 1/4 cup water

Place eggs, water and flour in mixer bowl. Attach flat beater to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix for 30 seconds. Remove flat beater and attach dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and knead 2 minutes. Hand knead dough for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Cover with dry towel and let rest for 15 minutes before extruding through pasta maker.

Variations:

Basil and Cracked Pepper: Crush peppercorns in mortar and pestle and to basic egg dough with 2 tbsp of basil paste

Red Chili: 2 tbsp of red chili pepper paste and 1 tsp of chili powder added to basic egg dough


Wontons

Wontons aren’t just for chinese restaurants. Nope. They are easy to make right at home to be enjoyed whenever you want them. My grandma Noonie and I have been making wontons for several years now and we can whip up a couple of batches in less than an hour. We use store bought wonton wrappers and one package makes a few dozen.  My grandma and I like to use bbq ground pork cutlets from the IGA. It sounds strange. But trust me, the bbq spice really adds something to the filling.

Mixing the meat and ingredients in a medium bowl with my favourite assistant.

Wrappers brushed with water

A teaspoon of filling placed on every wrapper

Wontons

  • 2 packages of ground pork cutlets
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  • water

In a medium bowl combine the first 7 ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Spread your wonton wrappers onto a clean, flat surface and using a pastry brush, brush the edges with water. Put a tsp of filling in the centre of the wrappers and pinch together. Working in small batches, put the raw wontons in a pot of boiling water until they are floating about 7 minutes. If you aren’t going to eat them right away, place them on a cookie sheet until cool and then freeze before packaging.


Squash and Lentil Curry

Fun fact: The only month out of the entire year that I really enjoy is July.

July is fresh and green and warm and bright. My birthday is in July. Growing up, I went to summer camp every year for a week in mid-July. The month is full of excitement for festivals and camping trips and vacation days. Food just seems to taste better.  In July gardens are growing, the produce is fresh and barbecue’s beckon to be grilled on.

You know what the opposite of July is?

January. Good ol’ cold, dark, and dull January.  There’s a sad lull, a let down from the bustling activity and cheeriness of Christmas and New Years. In Alberta, the temperatures drop so low that all motivation to go out and get groceries is outweighed by the lure of staying in my pyjamas all day and eating nothing but cereal until the milk runs out and I have to switch to dry crackers. And then when I finally venture out to get groceries because my baby has made it clear that plain cereal is not acceptable, the produce is embarrassing at best. I find myself wandering the aisles pining for brighter days.

But you know what makes cooking in January much, much better?

You got it: my slow cooker!

As you know, I love my slow cooker. The only thing that makes up for the lack of fresh produce is the slow caramelization of sweet root vegetables. On a particular cold day I concocted a squash and lentil curry recipe I found in the Company’s Coming Slow Cooker Dinners cook book (Cookbook #1). It was everything I hoped it would be: creamy, spicy and sweet. As I cuddled my baby on the couch, our condo filled up with the flavourful aroma of spicy curry.

This was originally intended to be a vegetarian recipe using vegetable stock but I used chicken stock and added boneless, skinless chicken thighs to make it more heartier.  The recipe also called for peas (which I don’t care for) and cashews (which I don’t have on hand).

Squash and Lentil Curry (adapted from Slow Cooker Dinners, Company’s Coming)

  • 3 cups Chicken Stock
  • a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp curry paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups butternut squash
  • 1 1/4 cups of green lentils
  • 1 cup chopped yam
  • 3 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1/3 cup of plain yogurt

Combine first seven ingredients in your slow cooker and add the squash, yam and lentils. Stir and cover, cooking on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Before serving, add the spinach and yogurt. We enjoyed it with brown rice and raw vegetables on the side.

 


New Year’s Resolutions Worth Breaking

Okay, so I fully realize that a proper posting referring to the New Year and any resolutions, goals, etc. should technically be posted on New Year’s Day or close to it.  But I’m just impressed that I’m getting this posted in the month of January.  It’s the small victories, people!

#1 This year my greatest goal is to do less. Yes, it is to take on less, to volunteer to less, to not start on a million new projects. I am the queen for taking on too much.  I say yes to everything! And then when I realize that I’ve taken on too much, I have an ugly, sobbing, red-faced break down complete with crying on the phone to my mother that life is too much and I have no time to myself, and on and on and on. It’s too much and I’m cutting it out! So I’m not going to volunteer on any committees, or throw 4 baby showers, or crochet a bunch of blankets.

I’m just saying No!

#2 Doing less, allows me to do the most important thing and that is to focus 100% of my energy on my baby and husband, especially after I head back to work at the end of April.

#3 That being said, I want to continue with this blog with a minimum of two posts per month.  And aren’t you all in for a treat! I received a gift certificate for digital photography lessons. Woot woot! My goal is to improve on the food pictures I take. So stayed tuned!

#4 And with continuing with the blog, my goal is to make one recipe from every cookbook I own.  And I own a LOT of cookbooks. This is not to say that every posting is going to be a recipe from a cookbook, but by the end of the year I hope to have made a new recipe from every cookbook in my awesome extensive collection.

#5 Take better care of myself. I feel like everyone has a version of this one. For me, it’s to exercise a bit, eat healthy, and work on stress reduction. I’m going to start running again and complete a 5km race by the end of the year (see I’m already taking on less. In the past I would have signed up for a half marathon. I’m a resolution super star!).

#6 Every year my family makes goals. And every year I include these two and I fail miserably at them: keep my room clean and get organized. Many years ago, my mother said I could have a baby if I could keep my room clean because she feared that I would lose the baby in my bedroom.  Luckily for me, having a clean room is not how babies are made. Even better, I have a loud screamy baby who I can find with ease in any room of the house, regardless of the clutter and piles of paper. But, (sigh) I will aim to work on getting more organized anyways. Keeping my fingers crossed that this is the year!

And thus ends my list of goals aimed at being a better wife and mother, better blogger and a better all around person. I look forward to failing at #6 for the 32nd consecutive year!

Did you make goals/resolutions? Which ones are you looking forward to breaking?


Turkey Noodle Soup

In an attempt to cure my cold, I whipped up a batch of turkey soup from the Christmas turkey carcass. Going home with the leftover turkey makes Christmas dinner last that much longer.  Having it in soup form just makes it that much more awesome.

I love making soup stock.  I love throwing in all the vegetables together with the carcass and a few spices and then waiting for it to marry and become soup magic.

I diced onion, celery, carrot and garlic. I sauteed them in a little olive oil, added the turkey carcass, peppercorns and a bay leaf. I then filled up my big soup pot with water until the carcass was just covered. When the water started to boil, I turned the heat down to a simmer and left it on the stove for three hours.

During that time, we bundled up ourselves and our sweet girl and took her for a ride in her new sled.

She screamed the entire time we were outside. She did not want to be in her snowsuit, she did not want to wear the penguin hat and she did not want to be in the sled! But Todd and I enjoyed ourselves for the brief period we were outside.  So that counts for something.

And when we got home, our apartment smelled amazing (well Todd said it smelled good. I still couldn’t smell anything. Boo)

When the stock was done, I strained it and added a new batch of carrots, onion and celery, some cooked macaroni and turkey.

It was delicious!

But then we forgot the pot on the stove over night.