Dinner is Served

I really enjoy cooking. I find it to be cathartic. In an ideal world I would comb magazine and cookbooks and do something new for dinner each night. Then I remember that I have a job and a family and that we have Taco Tuesday to keep up.

I want to be adventurous with our meals but I find myself defaulting to the same dishes every other week because I can make them on cruise control. Cooking dinner becomes a multitasking adventure when I am also devoting brain space to helping with homework, going through the mail, rebooting lunch boxes and prepping for the next day. And really who doesn’t love Taco Tuesdays every week.

So when my sister-in-law sent us a box of pre-packed meals I was very excited. The box came from Blue Apron and included all the ingredients that you needed, a recipe card, and an insane amount of cold packs. We opted for the family meal which was enough to serve four people. This left a small amount for leftovers the next day.

It is a very clever idea and was great to try something new. All the ingredients come packed according to what you need per recipe, so we got two half full boxes of cherry tomatoes since both recipes called for tomatoes. This leads to a bit of over packaging in my  opinion and there were things that I consider staples like butter and red wine vinegar that are provided in the kits in small amounts.

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Making a new recipe takes more time since you are not as familiar with the process and I found a few of the instructions slightly off, like toasting bread at 475 degrees in the oven (that burned by the way). But overall the food was good. Below is a shrimp and grits dish which was really good with the addition of the vegetables. IMG_3279

I have to say that I do not typically plate dinner like this for Taco Tuesday but it was nice to have something different. IMG_3280

Overall it was fun to try something new but the cost can be a bit high for the ingredients but you are really paying for the convenience. I would do it again in a pinch. In the mean time I am going to try a new recipe every week to change it up a bit. But Taco Tuesday will stay for now.

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Our Staples

I want to say that we are big adventurers.
That we are out there looking for all that is new and different.
But the truth is in Maui that is just not us.
There are things we find ourselves doing year after year that we come here. They have become our staples.

We started going to the Maui Ocean Center a few years ago. It is an aquarium that highlights the diverse sea life in Maui. It can easily be done in a morning and is very kid friendly. And thanks to Disney’s Octonauts my daughter knows more about random sea creatures than I do so she made a great tour guide. She even managed to wow some Australian tourists by rattling off the name of the Hawaii state fish, Humuhumunukunukuapua`a.

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We then went to Aloha Mixed Plate, like we do every other day in Maui.

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This is a low key, all outdoor, and reasonably priced place to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner on the island. They have a good happy hour daily from 2-6 and offer a daily drink special for $5.

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I think we have had closes to everything on the menu. The most popular thing is the Mixed Plate which is always good. Yesterday we got the Chow Fun. This is a mix of well cooked noodles, pork, bean sprouts and green onions in a light sauce.

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I got the teriyaki beef. All the plate lunches come with a side of macaroni salad and white rice. They are filling and around $9-$12.

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Next door is the Old Lahaina Luau, which is one of the best luau’s on Maui. If you head to Aloha Mixed Plate at night you can listen to the music while you dine.

Maui Shave Ice and Pie

For me vacation is getting away from my every day life and routine.

Not rushing out the door to work.
Stopping to enjoy a second cup of coffee on the lanai.
Having the best shave ice at 10 in the morning.

My daughter informed me that she has tragically never had a shave ice. I sprung into action. We went down to Ululani’s Shaved Ice. I don’t want to throw terms like best parent ever but pretty sure that is what my daughter was thinking. They had lots of great favors to choose from. Of course my daughter didn’t go with the typical tropical flavor but rather cotton candy and grape.

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I also wanted to try a new spot yesterday so we went to Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop for lunch.

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It was a great find. Good sandwiches and a nice salad. Portions were generous but it was a bit pricy, $12-$15, for their signature sandwiches. They were worth the price.

We got the Ham’n and pork, pork, mmmm pork sandwiches with the out of the garden salad. Both were a great flavor combination. All served on homemade bread. My daughter got a great PB&J which she proclaimed delicious.

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And then there is pie and who doesn’t love pie. Again please forgive the pictures as this experiment with blogging via my phone is a first time but they were amazing.

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We opted to buy some to take home for dessert later. They were front of mind for my daughter all day. There were pies in the fridge just taunting her. Eat me!

Banana Cream Pie (mini)
I am going to make a bold statement. This is the BEST banana cream pie I have ever had. It was not too sweet and full of banana. The crust was crisp and flavorful. I would buy this agains and again.

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Apple Crumb
A well balanced crumb topping with brown sugar and oatmeal. The apples were firm and the crust was crisp.

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Macnut Choc Praline (mini)
The minis are the perfect few bit size. This pie was rich and creamy. Chocolate pie is not my cup of tea but my family thought it was amazing.

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Monkey Bread

I was looking for something ‘fun’ to make for Thanksgiving morning breakfast. My first thought, “monkey bread’.  My husbands response, “What’s monkey bread?”

Where did I go wrong?

How long have we been together and I have never made Monkey Bread?

This travesty must be righted.

There are several different recipes for Monkey Bread. They all have the same basic set of ingredients so here is the one that I used. I am sure you could class it up and make the bread but come on it’s monkey bread.

You will need:

  • 4 Cans Refrigerated Biscuits (7.5 oz)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 – 3 Teaspoons Cinnamon  (Depends on how much you like cinnamon)
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Butter
  • Chopped Nuts (Optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Open the biscuits and cut them into fourths.
  3. Combine the cinnamon and granulated sugar into a gallon zip bag.
  4. Put all the biscuits in the bag and shake to evenly coat them all. If you are using nuts add them here.
  5. In a small sauce pan melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Mix until dissolved.
  6. I used a springform pan but a bundt pan would also work. I also sprayed the pan. You might be tricked into thinking all the butter will do it but no.
  7. Put all the biscuits into the pan and pour over the melted butter/brown sugar mixture.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size and depth of the pan you are using. (Tip – put a cookie sheet under the pan you are using as it is likely to leak a little)
  9. Once done baking let cool for 10 minutes before trying to turn out the pan. It is easiest to put your serving plate on the bottom and turn it over slowly to ensure it releases.

Best served warm or reheated in the microwave for breakfast for the rest of the thanksgiving break.

Last Minute Cupcakes

I love to bake.

I love to bake things that have multiple steps with a laundry list of ingredients.

But sometimes your child/husband tells you at 8 o’clock at night that they needed a dessert for the school bake sale or company picnic the next day.. That is when I find myself going to the pantry and making my “famous last-minute cupcakes”. They are based on a boxed cake mix ‘classed up’.

You will need:

  • Box Cake Mix (any flavor you like)
  • Whatever additional ingredients the box calls for (mine was eggs, water and Oil)
  • Sour Cream
  • Vanilla
  • Oreos
  • Frosting
  1. Start by making the cake mix per the directions on the box. Then add a 1/4 cup of sour cream and a tablespoon of vanilla. Mix well to incorporate.
  2. Line the cupcake pan with papers and place a Oreo in the bottom of each cupcake paper.
  3. Pour the batter in on top of the Oreo.
  4. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean with inserted into the cupcake.
  5. Allow to cool completely before frosting them.
  6. Pack up for the next day and remind your family that advanced notice is a good thing.

Luggage Tags

Summer travel season is in full swing. A good rule for travel, whether you are going to day camp, the grandparents or around the world, label everything. So I thought what better way to start getting ready for our upcoming vacation than to make luggage tags. I made these as favors for the guest who traveled to my wedding and they were a huge hit. It also gave my daughter a chance to customize one for her own bag.

You will need:

  • Self Laminating Pouches
  • Paper or postcards
  • Stickers
  • Hole Punch
  • Marker
  • Ribbon or Plastic Tag

  1. Cut the paper or postcards down to the desired size. Make sure to cut it smaller than the pouch so you have room to seal it.
  2. Decorate, Decorate, Decorate. I bought some beach themed stickers for our trip this year. My daughter tried to use them all on one tag. She likes a lot of flare.
  3. Write the relevant information on the opposite side of the tag. She opted to have the tags be different colors on each side. So I taped the two together.
  4. Place them inside the pouch and seal it tight. Remember to go over the edges carefully and get any air pockets out.
  5. Take the hole punch and make a small hole in the end. In the past have used a set of tags that was designed to be luggage tags. These are a bit smaller than the ones I used here. I need more room to decorate. 
  6. You can either use ribbon or a plastic strap to attach it to the bag.

Enjoy your trip and Thank You for Playing.

Making Butterflies

Mariposa. Mariposa. Mariposa.

All my daughter seems to talk about lately is butterflies or since she learned the word in Spanish class, Mariposa. “Say it with me mom, Ma-ri-posa.” So this week’s craft is a butterfly.

You will need:

  • Paper Towels
  • Food Coloring
  • Clothes Pins
  • Marker
  • Small Bowls
  • Water

  1. Fill the small bowls with some water and add a few drops of food coloring to make the desired color. Much to everyones surprise, we went for a light purple, light pink and yellow. This was a great lesson in creating color and how we mix colors to get other colors.
  2. Take the paper towel and fold it up. We tried a few different ways, folding it as a square, a triangle and even crumpling it up. We got a kick out of seeing how the different folds made new patterns.
  3. Dip the paper towel into the colors. Depending on how much liquid they absorb you may want to wring the towel out a bit before moving to the next color.
  4. Unfold them and put them out to dry.
  5. Take the clothes pins and with a marker make a face for the butterfly. Yes, I gave a Sharpie to a toddler.
  6. Once the paper towels are completely dry you can assemble your Mariposas. Gather the center of the paper towel to make the body.
  7. Secure it with the clothes pin.
  8. Enjoy your own butterflies.

Thanks for playing.

CousCous

There are a handful of recipes that are my go to for a weeknight dinner when my 24 useable hours are running short. They need to be able to make everyone happy, easily adjusted with whatever is in season, and be on the table quickly. This couscous recipe checks all of these boxes.

I truthfully came up with this recipe by combining things that my family loves to eat. The joy of recipes like this is that you can add almost any combination of veggies and proteins and size up or down the portions. I typically make extra for lunches for the week and just add a bit more dressing when packing them up.

What you will need:

  • Chicken Breast
  • Pearl CousCous
  • Bell Pepper
  • English Cucumber
  • Feta
  • Frozen Peas
  • Frozen Corn
  • Sliced Toasted Unsalted Almonds
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Lemon
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Salt & Pepper

  1. Cook the couscous per the manufacturers directions.
  2. I added grilled chicken to this dish. Chicken can either be grilled while you are making the couscous or you can grill it ahead to save some time. I add a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Cut up one bell pepper and a english cucumber.
  4. Here is the trick to getting it on the table fast. When the couscous is done cooking and steaming hot put it into a large bowl and add the frozen corn and peas. The couscous defrosts the veggies and they in turn cool the couscous down.
  5. Add the bell pepper, cucumber and chicken. Mix them all together.
  6. The dressing: you want this to taste pretty strong in the jar but it will mellow once on the couscous. Mix 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, juice of one lemon, 2 tbls olive oil, 4 tbls red wine vinegar, 2 tbls dijon mustard. Shake well to combine.
  7. Mix the dressing in with the couscous.
  8. Add the feta and stir.
  9. Plate and top with sliced almonds.

An easy dinner accomplished so you can fill a few more of your 24 useable hours.

Dessert and Redemption

I broke my own rule and suffered for it.

As many did this weekend, we were invited to  BBQ with some friends. I was excited to try a new recipe and my daughter was excited at the prospect of playing in a truly amazing playhouse. The playhouse was a huge hit. My dessert was decidedly not.

I choose something that looked amazing in the picture but was yet untested by me. I turned a deaf ear to my husband who said, “Make something you know”. I am going on record and saying I should have listened. I know better.

They were bad.

They were really bad.

So after the disaster of my dessert last night I sought redemption this morning. I found it in the form of crepes.

I love long weekends like this one. The kind where you can actually sit down and have a cup of coffee instead of grabbing it on the way to work. Where you can make a breakfast that has a few more steps than pouring cereal. My inspiration was two-fold. We have amazing organic strawberries and farm fresh eggs this weekend courtesy of my sister-in-laws thursday trip to the farmers market and atonement for the previous nights baking debacle.

I used a basic crepe recipes but there are lots of variations out there.

  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2 Tablelspoons Melted Butter
  1. Whisk the eggs and milk together.
  2. Stir in the flour and salt until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Stir in the melted butter.
  4. Place a small amount of batter in a non-stick skillet and rotate the skillet, spreading the batter as thin as possible.
  5. Flip the crepe over and cook on the other side.

6. We used creme fraiche and strawberries in ours.

7. Fold and serve warm.

Crepes accomplished and the balance restored to my cooking. Thanks to all those who smiled their way through the bad dessert. I promise I will not make that mistake again.

Strawberry Napoleons


I love the unexpected surprise life hands you. They can make for inspiring creations.

On Mother’s Day weekend we went to our local farmers market to get a few things. We stopped to get some organic strawberries, my daughters favorite thing. We asked for the two baskets we typically get but they looked so good I asked for one more. The woman said, “Here a special for you” and gave me half a flat of strawberries. My daughters eyes just lit up as if she had just won the fruit lottery. I graciously thanked her but on the way to the car thought to myself, How will we ever get through all these?”

Insert Happy Accident.

We were having people over for dessert on Mother’s Day and I thought Strawberry Napoleon’s. Now this sounds like something very daunting that you would only ever order in a restaurant but I assure you they are very easy.

At least my way they are.

You will need the following:

  • Puff Pastry
  • Vanilla Pudding
  • Strawberries
  • Powdered Sugar

Recipe

  1. Start with the pudding, as it will need time to set up. You can use a boxed vanilla pudding but it was Mother’s Day. And let’s be honest I was serving this to the woman who gave life to my husband so I classed it up a bit. I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Vanilla Bean Pudding. It was very easy to make and tasted amazing. I was plating 9 desserts that day so I doubled the recipe.
  2. Set the puff pastry out to thaw on the counter.
  3. Cut the strawberries and place aside.
  4. Once the pastry is thawed, un-fold it. Divide each package along the folds (i.e. one sheet of pastry will yield three rectangles.
  5. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake according to the manufacturers directions.
  6. Remove them from the oven and place on a rack to cool, completely.
  7. Start the assembly: take each rectangle of puff pastry and with a sharp knife cut it into three squares. Press two of the squares down with your hand so they are a bit more level.
  8. Spread a layer of the pudding on the bottom layer and top with strawberries.
  9. Repeat on the second layer and stack them on the plate. Top with the remaining square.
  10. Dust with powdered sugar.
Sometimes the unexpected kindness of others leads to amazing things. Enjoy.