Sunday, March 30, 2014

Food in Paradise

Hi everyone!  I'm glad to be here posting today because I have some exciting dishes to share with you.

MGG and I just got back from a wonderful relaxing trip to paradise! Paradise being Hawaii that is.
It's been such a long time since we had a real honest to goodness vacation full of luxury and pampering, plus a huge dose of relaxation.

I love Hawaii and haven't been back for many years, so it was time.  Plus, MGG had never been before so we had decided on a spur of the moment trip, pulling out all the stops and went 1st class all the way from the plane ride to the resort.  Wow, talk about being spoiled!  I certainly resisted coming home.  I was thinking of all kinds of sneaky ways to get us to stay..a day, a week more, forever!

But unfortunately my antics didn't work and we had to return home.  Totally relaxed, but not ready to go back to work.  Dang work....who made up that duty anyway?

One of the best things other than the views, was the food, which is what I wanted to share with you today. We stayed at a resort that had about 8 different restaurants.  This was perfect because we had a choice of gourmet tropical restaurants, Asian cuisine, and some down home favorites such as burger joints, ice creamery (excellent homemade ice cream!) and even pizzas (with a Hawaiian twist as well).  

A friend of my highly suggested that we try CJ's New York Style Deli for downhome diner style breakfasts. The first day we headed over there and found it was a wonderful quaint deli style restaurant that was open air style.  Everything over there is pretty much outdoors.  The best thing about this restaurant was the hidden talent of the chef!  Wow!!!  The food was so good that we ended up eating there several times.  You can tell by my pancakes below, and MGG's french toast that the food is generous.  These were both so light, tender, and fluffy that I knew I was in heaven just by the food.  Oh and bringing in the 'tropicalness" to the dish was the coconut syrup they served with the dishes.  Man oh man!  Excellent stuff, not overly sweet like you would think.  I have to recreate that for sure.

Walking around the village we ran across a great little store called The Honolulu Cookie Company.  The make homemade shortbread cookies.  They are darling little cookies shaped like pineapples and they come in all sorts of flavors.  From standard shortbread, to lichee fruit flavored ones.  This was a gem of a store.  We picked out a sample of our favorites to take back with us as you see here.  Pineapple happened to be may favorite and MGG likes the dark chocolate dipped ones.

We also took a day to tour the island.  This was just fabulous, seeing the more rural side of Hawaii. Stopping at roadside beaches, hiking, and touring temples made for a fun filled day.  When we returned we sprang for a huge salad.  This Chinese chicken salad we picked up at a local restaurant was outstanding.  Again enough food fro two to eat.  And we did!

We ate a variety of dinners while we were there.  From Japanese food served Benihana style to upscale tropical cuisine.  Hawaii is full of gourmet dining.  The fresh fish was outstanding.  MGG had a field day eating the sushi, and mahi mahi.  This particular night we dined at the Tropics restaurant on the beach.  Watching the sunset I had to partake in some tropical libation.  My dinner consisted of a heavenly steak that was so tender and juicy.  Served with garlic mashed potatoes and island vegetables.  MGG had mahi mahi this night and I forgot to take a picture of it because I was so enthralled with my steak.  Oops!

We were so full from dinner that we ordered a dessert to go. After a late night evening in the resort bar listening and dancing to Hawaiian music (love it!) we headed back to the suite for dessert out on the lanai. We shared a key lime cheesecake adorned with a mango sauce and another shortbread cookie.  Sublime!

So if you ever find yourself in Hawaii take the time to enjoy the cuisine.  All the chefs are outstanding and the food is absolutely deslihhhh!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Fling Salads!

Hooray for Spring!

It's springtime and that means lots of lightened up foods, fresh ingredients, fruits (yea!) and salads.  Everyone loves salads right?

Since we are able to get outdoors more, the flowers are blooming and I'm feeling like eating lighter food...I wanted to share with you some of my favorite salads for springtime.  

There are so many to choose from I could go on and on, but I pared it down to 6 excellent salads.  All of them are light and have unique flavors that you won't be able to resist! These are perfect for eating light and healthy.  Just what the doctor (and my body...) ordered after a long winter filled with comfort foods, soups, and stews.  

So take your pick and try a new salad.  The flavors will make you say "Wow" and your body will thank you too!

Artichoke and White Bean Salad

California Salad

Tex-Mex Salad

Edamame and Orange Salad

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Asian Chicken Salad

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grilled Pork Chops with Ancho-Avocado Orzo

Sometimes it's nice to just chill at home, watch a little F1 on TV and have a nice meal.

This is exactly what we did this past weekend.  Taking some downtime, some time to really re-connect by doing everyday things and being together.  Sometimes it's best to just be and to enjoy each other's company without going out.  To work together to make a nice dinner, talk, watch a little TV, do the dishes know what I mean?

It's soothing to just enjoy your loved ones company.  We like to curl up on the coach before dinner and grab the tablet and share favorite songs on You Tube, radio stations on Pandora, or watch a show on Netflix.  Then it's off to the store together to gather some ingredients for a special meal (but quick) that I've had my eye on.  Even going to the store together builds the connection as you discuss favorite ingredients for a salad, or show each other something new that the found.

Back home it's in the kitchen to prep for Frilled Pork Chops with Ancho-Avocado Orzo.  Oh Yum!  This recipe is all about the side dish...yes, the side dish.  The pork chops are just simple grilled chops.  Use your favorite cut.  The side dish is pasta (orzo) mixed with a lot of southwestern veggies to cut the carb count.  Top it with a heavenly sauce made from roasted chiles, ancho chili powder, and avocado and you have one heck of a tasty dish!

Note:  to make this go a little quicker it is good to cook about 1 cup of dry orzo.  You will need 2 cups cooked in this dish and any leftover cooked pasta can be made into another salad, or used in soup.

MGG was on cloud nine eating this dish. (love that!)  He helped with the making of the sauce and cooking the chops. A little kitchen banter and lots of laughter made this dish all the more special.  The flavor profile is outstanding.  Not too hot, but it has great zip in the sauce.  Dial down on the ancho chile powder if you don't care for the heat.  

Served with a salad and some hot rolls, this was a winner! Enjoy!

Grilled Pork Chops with Ancho-Avocado Orzo
adapted from Diabetic Living Magazine
Serves 4

2 fresh anaheim chile peppers
4 bone-in pork loin chops, thin cut
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 avocado, halved, seeded, and peeled
1/2 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
2 cups cooked orzo pasta
1 can reduced-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Preheat broiler. Halve chile peppers. Removing the seeds and ribs. Place chile pepper halves, cut sides down, on foil-lined baking sheet. Broil about 7-8 minutes or until peppers are charred. Wrap in the foil and let stand about 15 minutes. Gently remove skins and peel off and discard. Coarsely chop peppers and set aside.

Trim fat from pork chops. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the black pepper. Heat grill pan over medium heat. Cook pork chops on hot grill pan 6 to 8 minutes or until no longer pink , turning once. Let stand 3 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, in a blender combine chile peppers, avocado, milk, lemon juice, ground ancho chile pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and blend until smooth.

In a large bowl combine orzo, black beans, cherry tomatoes, and corn. Pour avocado mixture over ingredients and toss until well combines. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Serve pork chops over orzo mixture.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Farmhouse Scramble

Recently MGG and I were talking about trips our family's had taken when we were young.

One of my stories was about my dad driving us from California to Pawhuska, OK where my grandmother lived. We were good at taking long trips.  We often went camping all over the country every summer so our trips to Oklahoma were exciting.  

I recall that several times we would end up in Ponca City and viewed the bronze Pioneer Woman statue that was on display there.  Looking up at that tall woman and child made me feel the strength of the women that dared to move west, raising families, defending property and honor, while making a home to those she loved.

Pioneer 2.jpg

We would then travel on to Pawhuska to see my grandmother.  Pawhuska is a small town in Indian Territory, of which part of my heritage is from.   I always thought of her home as a sort of farm as she had geese, chickens, ducks, and dogs all around as well as vegetables growing (even though she actually lived in a large property in town).  My grandfather was the town sheriff and I loved visiting him down at the station.  

Grandma and Grandpa fooling around!

But what I remember the most is the breakfasts everyone would gather in the kitchen to make.  I would sit on a stool and watch the black cat clock on the wall with it's eyes and tail moving back and forth (remember those?)  Then the smells of bacon, eggs, and potatoes would hit me and I knew I was in for something special.

She would make something that I've dubbed as "Farmhouse Scramble".  Pretty much everything was all in one dish.  The onions, potatoes and eggs were all mixed together in a scramble. Some toast and sausage on the side...delicious!

It's always fun to reminisce about good times.  It's amazing what little details that you remember, and possibly some amazing food dishes too!

This is my take on grandma's Farmhouse Scramble.  You can add other vegetables if you like, to jazz it up to your family's taste.  It's that easy...but oh so good!

Farmhouse Scramble

Serves 2

3 Tbs olive oil
4 baby red potatoes, diced
¼ onion, diced
Salt & pepper
4 eggs
Splash of milk
2 Tbs cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat the oil in large nonstick ovenproof or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Fry the potatoes until tender and golden brown. Add the onion and salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk together the eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Add the eggs to the potatoes and onions.  Cook, gently moving the mixture from side to center with a rubber spatula, scrambling the eggs.  Sprinkle on the cheese and cook until the eggs are set but still moist.  Serve.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A wee bit of Irish...

St Patrick's Day is around the corner!

We usually party with Leprechauns while eating some Spotted Dog and Irish Stew.  

Not this year.
We'll be starting a much needed vacation.

But, still being in the Irish mood...(they tell me it's in the blood) I am sooooo going to make these dishes I found when we get back.  

So for now I'm sharing the pics and links with you of the Irish-esque treasures I found. 

The Nutty IrishmanRecipe

The Nutty Irishman - Yum Yum!

Irish Cream BrowniesRecipe
Irish Cream Brownies

Irish Bread Pudding with Caramel-Whiskey SauceRecipe

Notice how I picked all the boozy dishes?  Hmmm, I love me some Bailey's!

Maybe you'll join me in the adventure of making one of these dishes as well.  If you do be sure to come and tell me how it went.

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Butterscotch Coffee Cake

I've secretly loved coffee cake for years...

Well, okay, it's not really a secret.  But I do, I do love coffee cake.  I remember my first cinnamon coffee cake, the yellow cake with the crumb topping piled high.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven!  Then came my mom's coffee bundt cake with the swirl of cinnamon and nuts inside.  Man was that good.

So over the years MGG and I have enjoyed a variety of coffee cakes.  He loves it with his coffee, and I love it for breakfast with my hot tea...or dessert...or a snack...okay and dinner too!

Today I wanted to share one of our favorites.  This one is full of chocolate, peanut butter, and butterscotch.  Oh, how I love hot melted chocolate.  It just does it for me.  The 3 flavors together are outstanding.  I love this recipe since it is easy to pull together.  Using some help from a can of biscuits you don't have to make a dough.  This is perfect when you want to through something together quickly and still have the results be full of flavor and company worthy.  

I have a dozen different coffee cakes to share with you.  I better get baking!

What is your favorite coffee cake?

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Butterscotch Coffee Cake

serves 6

1/2 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 can of large buttermilk biscuits (8 count)
4 Tbs. of butter, melted
2 Tbs chocolate chips
2 Tbs peanut butter chips
2 Tbs butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 inch cake pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl mix the sugar and cinnamon.

Separate the 8 biscuits.  Cut each biscuit in to quarters.  Dip quarters in melted butter and then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.  Place in the prepared pan, covering the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle all flavored chips over the dough quarters.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through the center.  Cool 10 minutes in pan. Serve.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

BLT Pizza

One of our favorite foods is pizza.  I mean who doesn’t love it?
All that saucy and cheesy goodness.  Yum!  I think my love of it started in at the pizza parlors going with my parent. Then in my teens it’s where we would all gather to hang out and eat pizza after the football games or on a Friday night with a pitcher of rootbeer.

A definite staple throughout the years.  But I’ve also found that as our age increases so does our palate, and our health concerns and we tend to not eat pizza as often as I’d like.  I know that MGG doesn’t go for all that melted cheese any more.  “Light cheese” or cheeseless pizzas are becoming the norm with him.  I still crave my standard pepperoni and mushroom, I just can’t give that up!
Still, we find that we are now eating pizzas with salad on it!  Some wonderful spicy greens topped with some fresh tomato chunks and some shavings of Parm, with a sprinkle of lemon.  Another great way to eat pizza, if I must say.
One of my mom’s most beloved sandwiches is the BLT.  Something quick to put together and you still get some protein and veggies. She loved it.  So in honor of my mom, MGG and I decided to put together BLT Pizzas.  (jazzed up a bit).

These are perfect as a lunch entree or even as a snack.  Taking a twist on the original pizza dough I’ve used toasted English muffins which lend a crunchiness to the crust and really support the toppings.  Swap out the lettuce for some spicy arugula, add turkey bacon, tomato, and a little marinara sauce, and a tiny bit of cheese and you have the makings of a BLT Pizza!  MGG loved this without the cheese and saved some fat and calories.
We thought these turned out great.  Healthy enough to eat a little more often!  Pizza yeah!

BLT Pizzas

serves 4

1/4 cup marinara sauce
2 whole grain English muffins, split and toasted
1/2 cup arugula leaves
1/4 cup chopped, seeded tomato
1 slice turkey bacon, crisp-cooked and chopped
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

Preheat broiler. Spread marinara sauce evenly over English muffin halves. Top with arugula, tomato, and bacon. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.


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