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Kalua Pork

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While traveling on the island of Maui, we were told to try many dishes and drinks – Moco Loco, Poke, POG, Mai Tai’s, Hawaiian varieties of fish and Kalua Pork, or Kalua Pig which brings me to Hana. Heavenly Hana.

The road to Hana is known not as a destination, but a journey. It is all about the drive along the way. Stops galore with sights that constantly take your breath away. Breathtaking not only for the hair-raising dare-devil, barely two lane road (but mostly one car sized road) drive up perilously treacherous hairpin turns overhanging the ocean hundreds of feet below, but also for the sheer beauty of nature. It’s a journey that should be on everyone’s Bucket List.

We got a late start and hubby took the wheel on the way up. We hugged the hillside so close I swore we were going to take off a side mirror, climbing to over 1400 feet on a road that twisted and turned as it carved in to the hillside on a path, I swear, was made for goats. There were lots of turnouts so there were an abundance of walking and stretching of leg opportunities to take photos, but they handled few cars and one needed to mind where walking, lest you end up bumped off the side!  Up, then back down again, then up even higher, then back down again. Despite the potential for car sickness or other calamities, it was completely and utterly worth the ‘thrill’ of the ride.

We saw painted eucalyptus trees. Trees who’s bark looks like it was painted with an artists watercolor palette. We saw small remote towns who grew Taro in small fields out on a volcanic spits where the waves crash and spray like a steam iron on overload. We saw palm forests that looked like they were out of Jurassic Park, literally. The scenes for the opening of the original Jurassic Park were filmed in one of the valleys on the way to Hana. We saw cattle, bamboo forests, gorgeous plants and flowers one only sees in florist shops, growing wild. We saw Tarzan vines, and roots that looked like the rudders of a ship and were nearly as big. The canopy of the forest was overflowing with beautiful vivid orange tropical flowers, reminiscent of the image in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ when Bilbo climbs to get his bearings. We saw lots and lots of rain, but then it is a rain forest. That part of the island can an average of 12 feet of rain. There were secluded waterfalls and caverns with their crystal clear blue pools.

We made it all the way to Hana, where the sands are black and the waves are big. It’s a quaint isolated little town, where they were friendly to the tourists. We grabbed a coffee at the local market (which reminded me very much of a Ben Franklin 5&10) and then it was my turn to drive back down. As it was getting late in the day we decided to stop at this teeny tiny little tin covered hut, (which we passed on the way up) that sold Kalua Pork, for an early dinner. It was pouring rain at that moment and it sounded like the heavens above were coming down on us, what with the tin roof and all. A woman standing on a platform behind a counter, with a couple of food steamers and an ice cooler, was serving a nice selection of fish, shrimp and Kalua pork tacos or bowls, ‘homemade’ mac n’cheese, hot dogs and chili. I choose the Kalua Pork bowl. There were giant condiment bottles labeled with masking tape ‘HOT-garlic/chili’, ‘BBQ’, ‘Sweet Chili Sauce’ along with soy, Tapatio, ketchup and mustard. I went for the BBQ, garlic chili and soy. Oh, it was mighty tasty. Sitting there in that forest, hugging the side of the road, with the rain beating down loud enough to make it difficult to talk among each other was absolutely wonderful.

Sometimes in circumstances like that, you wonder if the food was really as good as you thought. Was it? Or was the ambience and scenery so amazing that the food benefits by association? I’ll never know. Kalua Pork on it’s own isn’t all that hard to make based on the recipes I looked up. Maybe it was the atmosphere, or the smell of the rain forest, or the leaves its’ steamed in. Maybe it was the picnic bench covered with a vinyl cloth, or the man next to us in his handmade banana leaf brimmed hat. Maybe it was the chickens pecking about next to us, or the music of the rain on a tin roof. All I know was that it was amazing. It was amazing, and I hope to be back again in my lifetime.

Just because it’s checked off the Bucket List doesn’t mean I can’t repeat it, right?

(The photo up top was taken from my iPhone, during a break in the rain. Quality suffers, but you can find many other professional quality photos online)


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Christmas & New Years is ‘Family’ Traditions

Merry Christmas to everyone, I hope you had a wonderful celebration of the reason for the season! 

Christmas is a time for family, whether it’s your own small family unit or a gigantic gathering of all the relatives. It’s about LOVE and LOVE is meant to be shared. For our family, that means having others over who may not have family around to share the day with. We have pretty much been on our own since my husband and I were married, so we have continued this tradition for going on 24 years now.

When my own children were born, we decided (since we were on our own) we needed to create some traditions to fill the void and make it feel special. And so we did. I thought I’d share our families traditions through the holidays. I hope you enjoy as much as we do. 

Christmas Eve: We have done this night with the only variation occurring these past couple of years my daughter sang at the midnight Mass service. This year, however, she was back on the 5 o’clock service so it was back to normal. Every year we dress for Christmas Eve Mass, go to service, come home and have the same meal. Food is an important tradition in this house! Baked Ham, Scalloped Potato, and a green vegetable. This year was creamed spinach (which was amazing) and a garlic-chili broccoli. When my daughters were younger and received presents from relatives, we’d open those presents on christmas eve (santa delivered presents for them to open christmas morning) as they were calling each relative to thank them and wish them a Merry Christmas. It was much less hectic than trying to get ahold of someone on Christmas Day! Every year, as is tradition, every one gets new PJ’s. We then put on our new PJ’s, I make a big batch of hot cocoa, pour it in Santa mugs and we pile in the car to drive around and look at Christmas Lights. Then home to check Norad’s ‘Santa Tracker’, just to be sure Santa had not passed them by. 

Christmas Morning: I have had to change this a bit now that we are gluten free. For years I did Wolfgang Pucks Quiche Lorraine (it’s simply amazing), an Apple-ginger Strudel cake and tropical fruit salad. This year to accommodate my daughters gluten intolerance (and it seems dairy is bothering her now also), I did ham & cheese omelets (cheese optional), a gluten free monkey bread, maple glazed sausage links, and a limoncello fruit salad. It was delish, and I believe it is the new menu going forward! While the food is baking, presents are shared. 

Christmas Day: We open our house up to anyone who feels like swinging by for a cup of cheer and one of my husbands famous Bloody Mary’s. I make a smattering of light appetizers, Stacys dip (see previous post), spinach dip, crudite, various cheese and hard salamis, fruit, and little sweets I’ve made over the holidays, like the butter crunch toffee. One year it was quiet with just another couple who stopped by, other years its packed to the rafters with little room to move.

Christmas Evening: Is the grand finale! Roast Prime Rib Beef, Yorkshire pudding, sautéed green beans, loaded baked potatoes and to top it all off, my mothers famous cherry cheesecake. And then we all fall in to a food coma and watch Christmas movies. Almost always we watch ‘Scrooge’ featuring Albert Finney. (honestly? the best version ever)

New Years Eve: My mother is the one who started this tradition. Being from the west coast and close to Hawaii, on NY’s eve we would always have what she termed as ‘Pu Pu’s’. This is a hawaiian term for a variety of appetizers or small bites. Some years I would do oil, cheese and chocolate fondue, other years it would be a mixture of ribs, rustic bread, and finger veggies. It just all depended upon what I felt like making. Then it would be a leisurely picking all evening long, until the ball dropped and champagne was popped. 

These are our families traditions, which have made this time of year very special to us. The one thing of importance, in my opinion, is to keep perspective of what you can reasonably accomplish, who you want to spend it with, and why you are celebrating in the first place. Christmas is not about the material things, it is a time of joy for those of us who are followers of Christ. It is the celebration of God’s abundant and endless love, proven by His sending of His only Son, born as a human child, to atone for original sin. We no longer are condemned to eternal death and separation, and that is truly a reason to be joyous! New Years is a time to contemplate the past year celebrating both the joys and sorrows, look forward to the new one with all its potential hopes and dreams. 

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas as the joyous birth of Christ, it is a time for everyone to celebrate LOVE. For moms like me, that is expressed through food and fellowship. However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe, joyous and yummy New Years Eve. 

Oil Braised Garlic Chicken

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Oil Braised Garlic Chicken

If you have never tried oil-braising, you are missing out!
No, it does NOT make food greasy, but it does seal in moisture, flavor and will have your loved ones pushing each other aside to be first ‘dibs’.

It’s so very easy: Season liberally with salt and pepper, and brown your bone in chicken, skin side down, in an oven proof, heavy bottomed skillet or roasting pan. I prefer a cast iron. Make sure to preheat your oven to 375. Once the meat is browned, add olive oil (yes, olive oil. it is a good fat, and healthy for you. plus, it really adds to the flavor. DO NOT WASTE EVOO, just use regular old olive oil)  to about 1/2 way up the meat level. Add lots of peeled garlic cloves using this tip for easy and fast peeling. The garlic which ends up being braised along with the meat, comes out soft, creamy and mellow. It’s delicious to spread on crusty bread, served on the side. (Or GF biscuits in our case).

Give the oil a head start by allowing the pan with chicken, garlic and oil to stay on the heat for a couple of minutes. When the oil is hot, put the whole thing in to the oven. (Please be careful when dealing with hot oil. This is why I like my cast iron pan that has 2 handles to hang on to it securely, not splashing oil.)

Braise until meat is cooked through, about 45min to an hour depending upon the cut and size of the meat. (use a thermometer to ensure its cooked to correct temp) Breast meat will cook more quickly than thigh meat. Do not attempt to make this with boneless-skinless chicken. I fear it would just dry out with the cooking time needed to really cook the garlic. When it’s done, it will come out of the oven looking like the photo above, bubbly, moist and tender.

Serve with mashed potatoes or root veggies and a nice green salad, or roasted broccoli or cauliflower.

With my easy peeling technique, there is no reason to be discouraged about peeling 40+ cloves of garlic.
Plus, leftovers (if there are any) are delicious on homemade pizza, in casseroles, or in eggs. What isn’t good in eggs?