Gilroy Garlic Festival

Gilroy Garlic Festival Logo

Last weekend my boyfriend and I met up with some friends at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  It was a beautiful sunny day, as it usually is around here, and the perfect day to go to a festival.  The Gilroy Garlic Festival is an annual festival that celebrates garlic and raises money for local fundraisers.  The city of Gilroy is known as the “Garlic Capital of the World,” although it’s not the world largest producer of garlic.  However, I am pretty sure all the garlic that is available in grocery store around here is from Gilroy.

What does a garlic festival consist of?  Well enough garlicky food to make you smell like garlic for the remainder of the night and most likely smell like garlic at work the next day!  Gilroy is only a 45 minute drive south from where we live so I have been wanting to go to this festival since we moved here last October. It was a fun experience and I am so glad we were able to go.

Drive To Gilroy

Fog rolling over the hills on the drive south to Gilroy.

Gilroy Sign

I love the Gilroy City sign with the garlic in the “G”

Gilroy Garlic Festival Flaming Garlic Bulb

A huge flaming garlic bulb meets you as you enter the festival.

Rows of Food

One of the food rows, the garlic bread was tasty! Three dollars for a bag with 3-4 pieces…sorry no picture of the bread because we ate it so quickly.

More Garlic Food

More food… love, love, love some garlic fries.

Beer Battered Garlic Fries

What’s better than garlic fries?  Beer Battered Garlic Fries.  ummm yumm

Icey Mimosa

An icey mimosa from the wine tent to cool down

Garlic Wines

Speaking of wine tents, they had garlic wine from a local vineyard that I sampled.  They had a red and a white wine.  It smelled like garlic and then tasted like wine with a garlic after taste.  It was very interesting to try, but I don’t think I could sit down with a whole bottle.

Garlic Ice Cream

Garlic Ice Cream is one of the attractions to the Garlic Festival.  One of the stands give small cones for free, but this stand had different flavors so we decided to try the Garlic Pistachio.

Garlic Pistachio Ice Cream

I am not sure if garlic pistachio ice cream is an award-winning combo, but it certainly was interesting!

Garlic Man

I am not sure what this guys name is but lets call him Garlic Man.   Until next year, Garlic Man!

Sister City

This is the street that part of the festival was on.  I sent a picture to M because I thought the name sounded a little familiar.

2 Sisters 2 Cities Circle

Much better!

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The Classic Margarita

Classic Margaritas

You all know how much I love themed-blogging!  I made all sorts of Mexican food this weekend to share with you this week to help plan your Cinco De Mayo celebrations for this upcoming weekend.  Or, if you are like me and love all Mexican foods all the time, there will be plenty of new recipes for you to try anytime.

I am going to start this fiesta off right with my favorite margarita recipe.  I made this for a group of friends at a bachelorette party I was at last year and for my family last Memorial Day weekend.  It was a hit both times.

Pitchers of Margs

As I have mentioned before, I am not a huge liquor drinker  Until last year I didn’t have to much experience with drinking margaritas.  In search of the perfect after-work happy hour place with two of my co-workers in NY,  we found a restaurant close by that served amazing margarita for five dollars during happy hour.  You are probably thinking that’s a rip-off, but in NYC that is a steal for a drink that is served in a glass cup.  Sad, but true! Anyways, I fell in love with margaritas and especially love them served with freshly made tortilla chips salsa and guac.  Needless to say, we frequented this place a lot and always had a good time.

Making your margaritas at home is always the best because you can control the amount of liquor you want in it and you can put extra salt on the rim!   This recipe makes four drinks so feel free to double or halve it as needed.   Serve with a salt-rimmed glass and ice!

Lime Margaritas

The Classic Margarita
Serves: 4
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 8-12 limes)
  • ¾ cup (6 oz) silver tequila
  • ½ cup (4 oz) orange liqueur
  • lime wedges/slices for garnish (optional)
  • kosher salt for rim of glass (optional)
  1. In a sauce pan, heat up water and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Place simple syrup in a jar or pitcher and let cool.
  2. Using a juicer or citrus press squeeze 8-12 limes until you have 1 cup of lime juice. For easier juicing bring the limes to room temperature and roll the lime back and forth with the palm of your hand against a hard flat surface (like counter-top) and apply pressure to the lime as you roll.
  3. Add lime juice to cooled sugar water. Stir in tequila and orange liquor.
  4. To prepare the glass rub a lime wedge on the edge of glass to add a small amount of moisture. Place some kosher salt on a plate and turn glasses rim in the salt until covered, add in ice and pour in the margarita! Enjoy!

Source- adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride


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Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

Last weekend, my family and I went to Chicago for our cousin’s wedding.   It was a great trip for several reasons.  First, I got to see my family for the first time since Christmas and my extended family since Fourth of July weekend.   Secondly, both my boyfriend and I had never been to Chicago before so it was all new to us.

My boyfriend and I had a better time of getting to Chicago than the rest of our family.  The majority of my family’s flights out of Syracuse got canceled because of flooding in Chicago (which oddly enough didn’t affect me coming from California.)  My two sisters (Our very own M and little M), my brother-in-law, and my nephew (plus soon-to-be nephew) were locked down in Boston because of the search for the Marathon Bomber suspect #2.  One second, I was so excited to see my family and the next my mom called to tell me no one except me, my boyfriend, and my sister C were going to make it to the wedding.  Of course this was right before take-off so for the whole four and a half hour flight, my boyfriend had to console a very sad and disappointed K.   Upon landing, the texts started to come in that everyone scrambled to get new flights and would be coming staggered throughout the weekend, but would all be there for the wedding.

Excited and hungry we got off our non-dramatic SFO-to-Chicago flight and cabbed it into the city.  We quickly checked into the hotel, dropped off our stuff and were on our way to find some Chicago-style grub.   It was windy and cold mixed with a little snow/hail as we walked to find Al’s Deli,  which in my mind is how I imagined Chicago all my life.   Our hotel was in the middle of everything so it was only about a 10-15 minute walk.

Our cousin had listed some places to visit for food in Chicago on her wedding site and Al’s Beef for a “hot dog dragged through the garden”  was one.  As we were ordering, we ordered an Italian Beef Sandwich with hot peppers and I then asked for a “hot dog dragged thru the garden.”  The girl looked at me strange and said “I don’t know what you are talking about,  dragged thru the garden?”  I then explained that I didn’t know what it meant, but my cousin said I had to get it.   The check-out girl went to go ask her manager and he responded with “yeah, that means everything.”  Rest assured, I got my hot dog “dragged thru the garden”  or as I will now just call it “everything.”  We split both and liked them,  but were especially impressed with the hot dog.

Right across the way from Al’s Deli is Portillos.  This place wasn’t on our list, but it looked pretty hopping.  After checking it out on our iPhones, we realized it was also pretty famous for their hot dogs and Italian beef as well.   We decided we had enough room to split another hot dog so we proceeded to do so.  Also very delicious,  and we both sort of liked it more then our first!  Sorry Al!

As we headed back to hotel, we saw all the places for Chicago-style pizza like the original Pizzeria Uno’s.   I promised Matt that we would try some the next day because there was no way I was going to eat more before the rehearsal dinner that night.   The next day, my sister C, my mom, and I got our hair done at this awesome Blow Dry Bar called Blow-By Blow, highly recommended if you are ever in the area.   I also think I found my new love for Blow Out Bars,  mimosas and getting my hair shampooed and styled…ummm, yes please!    My boyfriend and dad went out to get more hot dogs and to possibly try to get a pizza to bring back to the hotel.   The pizza places all had a 45 minute wait for pizzas because that is how long they take to make.   They ended up not having enough time to wait so they brought back more hot dogs for all.   We never did have time for the Chicago-Style Deep-Dish pizza.

The week we got back, I decided to surprise my boyfriend by making a deep dish pizza since we never did get any.    It was surprisingly easy to make and so tasty!   I had one piece and I was so full!   I put turkey pepperoni on ours because that is what we had in the fridge- that’s why its sort of curling up, but you can top with whatever you like.

Slice of Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza
  • 1 ½ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour (in-between 8.1-8.2 oz. on scale)
  • ¼ cup yellow cornmeal (Not corn starch M!)
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1⅛ tsp. instant yeast
  • ½ cups plus 2 tbsp. water, at room temperature (5 oz.)
  • 1½ tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. grated onion,
  • ⅛ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • ⅛ tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Additional Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Sliced pepperoni (optional)
  1. Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and yeast into the bowl of your mixer. With dough hook attachment mix on low speed for about 1 minutes until all ingredients are combined.
  2. Slowly add in water and melted butter and continue to mix on low speed for about 1-2 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides to get all ingredients incorporated.
  3. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and knead the dough for about 4-5 minutes. The dough should become smooth and glossy.
  4. Take a large bowl and add in 1 tsp. olive oil. Using your hands coat the oil on the bowl and add the dough ball to the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place at room temperature in an area without drafts, for about 1 hour.
  5. To laminate the dough, turn the dough out onto a dry work surface. Form dough into an 8- by 6-inch rectangle. Using a spatula or butter knife spread the 2 tbsp. of softened butter evenly on the dough leaving about a ½ inch of un-buttered dough around the edges. Stating at the 6-inch side, roll the dough tightly into a cylinder shape, pinching the ends together. Place the seam side down and flatten the dough into 9- by 2-inch rectangular. Fold dough into thirds, folding up the bottom side and then folding the top side over. Pinch the seams to form a ball. Place the dough ball back in the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Let set for 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  1. This can be done while the dough is rising. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter to a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat. Add in onions, oregano, and salt. Stirring occasionally, cook onions until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. You should be able to smell garlic. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar and increase the the heat to about medium high. Bring the sauce to a simmer, lower heat to medium-low and keep at simmer for about 25 minutes. The sauce should thicken and reduce to about 1¼ cup. Take the sauce off heat and stir in basil and 1½ tsp. olive oil. Set aside.
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Coat a 9-inch cake pan with 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Take dough out on to a dry clean work surface and roll into a 13- inch wide circle. Place the dough in the cake pan and lightly press into the corners and up the sides so that it just reaches the top edge of the pan.
  3. Add the mozzarella cheese to the surface of the dough. Top with the tomato sauce and spread with a rubber spatula so it covers all of the cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and then add desired toppings.
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes until crust in golden brown. Let rest for at least 10 before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

Source- adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Cook’s Illustrated

Deep Dish Pizza

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Day Trip: 17-Mile Drive Pebble Beach

On New Year’s Day, my boyfriend I decided to start our new resolution of exploring California more.  We decided to drive to Carmel which was only about 60 miles from us.  It was a beautiful 60 degree day with clear skies and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see some beautiful views.   {Side note: I was not prepared for such amazing views.  I just thought we would drive to a beach and take a few pictures.  Oh no, it was so much more.  There was 17 miles of beautiful views and 21 points of interest. Good thing we had to whole day to spend there!  I was so surprised that every stop we made, the views were more beautiful than the last.   You can see the progression below!}

At the entrance of the park, you have to pay $9.75 per car to get in and are given a map with all of the 21 points of interest I had mentioned.   You can follow the dotted red line on the road to follow along the 17-mile drive.   IMG_1581
Point 1-  Shepard’s Knoll-  This is one of the highest views and you can have your first view of Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountain.  (Still unaware of what is to come)
Point 2- Huckleberry Hills-  Another High point with a clearer view of the water (Still oblivious.)
Point 5-  BAM!  Hello Pacific Ocean… How you doing?
Still at point 5-  amazing.  Now that I am looking at this picture it looks almost fake it’s so beautiful.
Point 6- Oh baby.  I asked my boyfriend to kiss me on this bench…  he just looked at me like I was weird.
Point 7-  I can’t stop saying- OH MY GOD the water is so blue!
Point 8-  China Rock and a random seagull
I call this one “Lonely Boy on the Rock.”  Don’t worry, I am not just taking pictures of random men- that is my boyfriend!
Point 10- Bird Rock-  There are birds and seals sunbathing on that huge rock out in the water.   Can anyone see the two birds that look like they are in a deep conversation is this picture?
Point 14-  Cypress Point Lookout-  So beautiful!!  Oooo Mountains and Ocean…sighhh.
Point 16-  The Lone Cypress-  Pebble Beach’s Icon…Look familiar?
The sun reflecting off the ocean.   I love this picture because I swear it looks like I can see the curve of the Earth.
This picture is actually from my iPhone- that’s why it’s not as clear as the others.   We had lunch at the The Bench at the Lodge at Pebble Beach.  This was our view from out table…   amazing!

As you see, we had an awesome time with some unforgettable views. There was so many pictures that I needed to weed though to come up with these I have shown you,  as well as many points of interest that I didn’t show.   If you ever have the chance you need to go to 17-Mile Drive in Carmel!  You won’t be disappointed!
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Summer Stay-cation

Sorry for the lack of posts this week…we have been on stay-cation this week and I have been trying to get into a vacation mind set as much as possible.  For the past couple of years, we have rented a little cottage in Nantucket (read more on our ACK adventures here and here), but this year we decided to stay home and explore our new town and surrounding areas for the week.  I have been catching up on a huge stack of magazines, reading books, hitting up the beach, and finishing up a few projects around the house.

I’ve also decided to take a short hiatus from blogging this week to rejuvenate on that front as well.  I’ll be back next week with plenty of posts to kick off September!  In the meanwhile, if you need any end-of-summer recipe inspiration, be sure to check out what we are cooking up this week on our stay-cation:

Have a great week!

Syracuse’s Own- Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

As you know, M and I are originally from the Syracuse area before our big city callings.  Our parents still live in the ‘Cuse so we visit quite often (for our Mom’s amazing cooking of course.)  One thing that Syracuse is known for is a barbeque joint called the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.  Both M and I took our boyfriend’s (now M’s husband) to Dinosaur on their first visits to Syracuse and of course it was a big hit to both.  Every time we go to Syracuse my boyfriend wants to go the Dinosaur BBQ.  What is funny is that they just opened one in Newark, NJ and have had one in Harlem for awhile, yet we only go to the original in Syracuse.

If you have ever seen the episode of Man vs. Food where Adam is in Syracuse – he goes to the Dinosaur BBQ and orders the Pork Sket Sandwich (pulled pork, beef brisket, coleslaw,  cheddar cheese, and pickled jalapeños.)  The last time I was there- I ordered this and it was soooo good but very huge.  Over time, I have come up with a Dinosaur eating strategy so I don’t overdo it and go into a ribs/pulled pork coma (which has happened many times!)  Whatever I order I only eat half and package the rest to bring home.  The food always reheats easily and taste just as good the next day.

Here is the outside
We ordered some Wango Tango Wings as a starter- Sorry the photography is so bad.  I was using my iPhone because I didn’t want to whip out my huge camera in the bar (plus the bar is pretty dark.)
Here are all their sauces they keep on the table.   They sell these in the grocery store and they are so good.  My favorite is the Sensuous Slathering Sauce, which is their barbeque sauce.   I often bring home a bottle or two when I visit my parents.
Moist Towelettes are a must after those wings!
This is the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich with a side of their Macaroni Salad.  It’s the most delicious smoked pulled pork with Sensuous Slathering Sauce topped with their special recipe of coleslaw.  As you can tell from the picture-  it is extremely messy and I can’t emphasize enough the tastiness ( I apologize for the picture quality again!)photo(6)










Here is a look at the bar and you can see my boyfriend’s Mets hat.  This area is usually packed with people waiting to be seated  (We went to lunch at 11:30 to avoid the wait.)
See you again soon Dino!

Have you ever been to any of the Dinosaur Bar-B-Ques?  What is your favorite thing to order there?

My Trip to Costa Rica

I got the opportunity to visit my boyfriend while he is working in Costa Rica.  He brought flowers and wine when he came back to the hotel from work!  ( I had to be creative about finding a vase, so I used our ice bucket with a bag liner.)  They instantly made our hotel room more comfortable ( or maybe it was the two glasses of wine!)
My boyfriend’s co-worker and co-worker’s girlfriend were also in CR at the same time, so we were able to explore the country together.  Better yet, they both spoke fluent Spanish, so we also had our own translators ( I took 5 years of Spanish in Middle/ High School and could only remember a couple of words- hola and gracias.)

The hotel we stayed at had really delicious breakfast every morning.  I had an omelet, fresh orange juice, fresh pineapple, and coffee every morning.  Here was our view while eating breakfast:
We rented a car so we made day trips everyday from our hotel, right outside of San Jose.  One day we visited Volcan Poas (about an hour and twenty minutes away.) There was a $10 admission for each person, but it was well worth it.  We put on our long pants and bug spray and hiked (more like walked because all the trails are paved) to the volcano’s crater.  I was not expecting to see the crater so suddenly when I came to the first clearing.  It was pretty smoky, so it wasn’t until after I got to the ledge of the lookout did I see this.
Yeah it was pretty sweet.  Volcan Poas has the second largest crater in the world so this is pretty awesome.  We then hiked to a lake nearby.  Pretty…
Close to Volcan Poas are the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.  This cost is $35 a person, but was also worth it be because there is so much to do there (it takes about 3 hours to see everything.). The lodge where you enter is very cute and has the coolest bathrooms with stone waterfalls for the sinks.  It also has great views overlooking the rainforest:
We started with the wildlife section.  There are different areas for different rainforest animals.  The best part was the birds which were all around you when you walked through the area.  My favorite part was the toucans.  They were so cute and I got to hold one on my arm!  There he is!
There were also parts for butterflies, hummingbirds, snakes (I avoided this one), frogs (ran through this one), jungle cats, and monkeys. The jungle cats and monkeys were caged separately so there were no real interaction with them.  Although this place was basically a zoo, it was really cool to see all the animals of the area- especially the toucans!
Oh hi!
We then somehow got a ride on a cart pulled by two bulls.  I am not quite sure how this happened since all the interaction was in Spanish, but we got a free bull ride (brought me back to the days of playing Oregon Trail.)
Next, we hiked to the four waterfalls, and once again, I use the term hike softly.  We saw some really amazing views of the waterfalls and the rainforest.  There was so many great scenes for pictures. M and I  got so many great photos of us from our trip which is great because we do not have a lot of photos we love of us together.
We got very close to one of the waterfalls.
We finished the waterfall adventure at another lodge with a gift shop were my boyfriend bought me a toucan magnet and a little monkey ( yeah, I bet my nephew T is going jealous of my monkey because he loves him some monkeys!)

Another day we went to the beach on the Pacific side.  This took us three hours to get to.  It was overcast that day, so although beautiful, the beaches were a little dreary.  We still went in the ocean and it was surprisingly warm!
Another day we drove about an hour and a half to another Volcano- Volcano Izura, which is still active.  We found a small hotel that had a hot springs pool that is heated from the volcano.  We also had our own tour guide, who showed us around the place.
The trip was a lot of fun and soon as you knew it, it was time to go home . :(  There was many parts of the country that we didn’t get to visit because they were just too far to travel in one day.  Even though, all the tour books and websites I read said how bad the roads were – they were not impossible to get around (or so it looked from the backseat:)).  I would recommend staying at multiple hotels to be able to see and travel around the country more.  We wanted to go visit the Arenal Volcano area on our last day but it was 3 and a half hours away and way too far for us to do in one day.

*Trip tip-  The couple we were traveling with have traveled a lot and had a great idea to go to the local grocery store to buy food, snacks, and a Styrofoam cooler for our day trips to save money.  We found a Wal-Mart (of all places) and stocked up on water, soda, granola bars, and snacks.  They do this everywhere they visit.

Overall, it was a really great trip and it was very sad to leave my boyfriend and come back to the U.S.  Although I did miss my apartment and my blog!  Have you ever traveled to Costa Rica?  If so, what was your favorite part?

Christmas in Hawaii

Happy new year everyone!  I just got home yesterday from our Christmas holiday trip to Hawaii.  We spent 9 days in a cottage in Lahaina, Maui and 2 days in a hotel in Honolulu.  Husband M and I went to Hawaii on our honeymoon, but we never got a chance to make it to Maui.  We decided Christmas would be a great time to make the trip there.  It was such a fun, memorable vacation and I wanted to share a few of the recipes I made while we were there.

Our lanai had a great view of Lanai!

On the night we arrived, we were too tired from the trip to grocery shop and cook.  Fortunately, I had rented some baby equipment from Akamai Mothers and utilized their grocery service to pick us up some milk, coffee, yogurt, and fresh fruit for the morning.  When Baby T had a 4am jet-lagged wake-up call, it was a welcome sight!  We also woke up to the beautiful view seen in the pictures above and below.  Those mountains remind me of the tv show Lost!

The next day, we made a grocery list and planned a few nights of meals.  In addition to the regular grocery store, we found a local market and a fish store to pick up some authentic Hawaiian food.  At the fish store, we bought marlin, opah, shrimp, and walu (more on the walu in a bit!)  Here is the recipe I used to cook up the first two fish:

Grilled Local Fish with Chili Garlic Compound Butter in Foil Packets with Scallion Rice

-4 fish fillets (any type of white fish would be good, but I used marlin and opah)
-salt and pepper
-4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softenened
-1/2 tsp chili powder
-1 /2 tsp grated orange zest
-2 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
-2 garlic gloves, minced
-2 tbsp diced green chilies (from a can)
-1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1/2 red onion, diced
-3 scallions chopped
-1 cup white rice
-2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat a grill to medium heat or preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, combine with a fork the butter, the chili powder, the orange zest, half of the garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.

In a medium bowl, combine the green chilies, the orange juice, the remaining garlic, the beans, onion, 2/3 of the scallions, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Mix well to combine.

Lay out 4 squares of foil and place a fish fillet on each square.  Spread the butter mixture evenly over each fillet.  Then, divide the bean mixture up and place on each fillet.  Fold up the edges of the foil to seal the packet.

Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package directions.  Once done, stir in the remaining scallions and set aside.

Place the packets on the grill, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes.  Or, you can bake the fish in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the fish is cooked thoroughly.  (We had trouble with the grill that night so we ended up doing a combination of both and it still turned out great!)  Open the packets and plate them.  Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve with the scallion rice.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats


Right before I left, I happened to see Sunny Anderson make Hawaiian Pork n’ Greens on the Food Network.  We decided that would make a great Hawaiian dinner for Christmas Eve.  The only changes I made were that I omitted the white pepper and chicken broth, used pork chops instead of tenderloin, and grilled the pork (vs. cooking it in the oven.)  Here’s a picture of the final result:

For our Christmas dinner, we grilled up shrimp, steak, and bread and served it with garlic herb compound butter.  At the local market, we had picked up some really tasty homemade Asian salad dressing so we used that to make a side salad.

Now onto the walu…Husband M was trying to give us the true local experience and asked specifically for special local seafood at the fish store.  They recommended the walu.  I decided to cook it up in this great recipe for fish tacos by Aarti Sequeira (host of Aarti’s Party on the Food Network.)  We decided to look up what a walu was right before we started cooking it up…we were definitely surprised by what we found!  It’s also known as escolar, Hawaiian butterfish, and it’s known for causing…err, how do I say this…gastric symptoms within 30 minutes to 36 hours of consuming (thus also known as the ex-lax fish).  We freaked out at first, but then read if you consume less than 6 ounces at a time and grill it, it would not cause any side effects.  We did up going ahead and eating it, but I’m pretty sure it was on the back of our mind with every bite.  Fortunately we did not experience any symptoms from eating it.  It was quite a delicious fish, but be aware if you see it on a menu as I read that many restaurants serve it without informing their guests of the potential side effects.

At another organic grocery store, we found purple Maui sweet potatoes.  I cut them up into fries and baked them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It was a tasty treat!

I loved using all the local produce that is quite different than what is grown in New England:

I also loved being able to open an entire wall of glass to cook al fresco each evening!

We had a cocktail each evening for sunset and I made Bobby Flay’s version of the Mai Tai.  Here is what the sunset looked like each night:

I also made smoothies each morning with a combination of Fage Greek yogurt, fresh Maui pineapple, papaya, a squeeze of lime juice, guava nectar, orange passion fruit juice, and ice.  I really want to get into the habit of making smoothies for breakfast on a more regular basis, but I never seem to find the time!

It was great to have a Mele Kalikimaka in Hawaii and I would definitely recommend experiencing it yourself sometime!



Something fishy…

We just returned from our first vacation with Baby T!  We went to Grand Cayman for the trip and it was much easier to travel with him that I thought it would be.  I think he loved the warm air- he took great naps down there.  T was excellent on the plane rides as well.  American Airlines even gave him a certificate to mark his first flight and the captain announced it to the whole plane.

One day for lunch, we stopped at a restaurant known for their fish tacos…the Sunshine Grill.  They were excellent!  When we returned home, I’ve been craving to have them again.  Over Christmas, I had seen the Food Network show Aarti Party and I was drooling over the fish tacos she was making.  She also recommended pairing them with Allagash White beer, which is easy to find around here as it is from Portland, Maine.  I made them last night and served it with the beer pairing- they were amazing.  I definitely recommend trying out this fish taco recipe!  (For a quick shortcut, I recommend just buying some coleslaw mix instead of chopping up a head of cabbage.)


Nantucket Birthday Clam Chowder

The day before we left for our 10 day vacation in Nantucket, Husband M had his 30th birthday.  Since we were pretty busy packing and tying up loose ends before we left, we were only able to have a small celebration.  I made one of his favorite easy summer recipes…Martha Stewart Everyday’s Grilled Steak with tomatoes and scallions and a brownie from the farmer’s market.  His Aunt T had thrown him a big birthday party in Maine the weekend prior and I also had plans for a lobster bake while we in Nantucket.  His work also threw him a afternoon party with freshly baked cookies, so all in all, he had 4 birthday parties this year.

For the Nantucket lobster bake, we ordered pre-cooked lobsters and steamers from Sayle’s fish market.  Our little cottage did not have air-conditiong and the day of the party happened to the hottest day we were in Nantucket.  Thank goodness we bought pre-cooked lobsters…I can’t imagine how much hotter the place would have been if I had been cooking lobsters for hours.  They did a great job packing them and they stayed warm for quite awhile.

For a starter, I decided to make a batch of clam chowder.  We were having 10 people over in all and this recipe I put together made well over this amount (if served as an appetizer).  I used Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything No-Holds-Barred Clam Chowder recipe as the base and tweaked it based on a few other recipes I have made in the past.

Nantucket Birthday Clam Chowder

Serves 10+ as an appetizer

-1/2 pound applewood smoked bacon (or similar high quality), chopped
-2 cups minced onions
-5 cups peeled and chopped baking potatoe
-4 tablespoons flour (I used wheat)
-2 teaspoons dried thyme
-7 five-ounce cans of clams
-4  eight-ounce bottles of clam juice
-2 cups milk
-2 cups heavy cream
-2 tablespoons butter
-fresh chopped parsley
-oyster crackers

Fry the bacon in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon with a with slotted spoon and put aside.  Cook the onion and potatoes in the bacon fat until the onion softens and is translucent (10-15 minutes).  While they are cooking, drain the canned clams and reserve the drained clam juice.  Add the flour and thyme to the onion and potatoes, and combine.  Add the 4 bottles of clam juice and the reserved clam juice from the cans.  Cook until the potatoes are tender (an additional 10-15 minutes).  At this point, I turned off the heat and put the lid on the pot to keep it warm until the guests arrived.

About 5 minutes before I was ready to serve the chowder, I added the salt, pepper, milk, and cream (put the milk and cream out for about 20-30 minutes to get to room temperature so it does not curdle when you add it).  Add the drained clams and bring to a low simmer.  Add the butter on top of the chowder- the clams will be finished cooking once the butter melts.  I served the chowder with the chopped parsley and oyster crackers on the side.


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