Saturday, September 25, 2010

Three Chile Turkey Burgers

Turkey burgers are a staple in our house for their ease and health-value. Unfortunately, they can be a little bland. I usually add a little spice to the turkey burger patties I buy (yes, I buy them preformed because they are just so easy that way!). I got a little inspiration when we tried these taco burgers and thought that the idea would translate well to turkey burgers as well. But I'm not a huge fan of taco seasoning packets, so I decided to use the basic flavor ingredients from taco seasoning and just apply directly to the burgers. Since I like the way different chile flavors play off each other, I decided to add a very lightly grilled (canned) anaheim chile to each burger before topping with pepperjack cheese and guacamole. Oh my, these burgers were so good. I don't think my husband could believe he was eating such a good burger at home. We've had them twice and both times he was speechless. I swear the turkey burgers taste meatier with all those other flavors going on. These are spicy, but I find them to be a complex spicy, not a hot spicy. The anaheim chiles are quite mild, and you can control the heat of the burger by adding more or less chili powder, or by varying what kind of chili powder you use. Remember to toast the burger buns a little extra so that they hold up to this burger. With the guac and the pepper, this one can get a little sloppy.

Triple Chile Turkey Burgers
2 preformed turkey burgers (or 1/2 lb of ground turkey, shaped into patties)
1/2-1 tsp onion powder
1/2-1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Chili powder (I used regular, but will try ancho and chipotle soon!)
1 small (4 oz) can whole mild chiles (anaheims)
1 small batch (1 avocado worth) guacamole (homemade is best, even if you are just mixing a little salsa into a chopped avocado!)
2 slices pepperjack cheese
2 toasted hamburger buns
Prepare and heat grill pan. Season turkey burgers with onion, garlic & chili powder. Set aside. Drain can of chiles. Remove two (save remaining for another use or discard). Carefully slice open one side to create one large single layer pepper out of each whole pepper. Using your knife, scrape out as many seeds as possible. Lightly grill peppers until they start to appear dry and just start to show char marks. Remove and set aside. Grill burgers, turning, until no longer pink inside. Top each burger with one grilled chile, then one slice of pepperjack cheese. Slide each burger onto a bun and top with guacamole before adding bun top.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lemon Thyme Chicken

One of the only problems I have been having with my Plow to Porch CSA Delivery is that they almost always include a large bunch of fresh herbs that I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to use up! Basil is easy for me, as is cilantro (which I just give away to my co-workers, hee, hee!), but when I got a huge bunch of thyme, I was pretty stumped. I knew that lemon goes well with thyme and searched my usual recipe sites first: allrecipes and epicurious didn't have anything that appealed to me. I finally just did a Yahoo search, and low and behold, one of my favorite blogs was one of the first to pull up! I should have just searched my Google Reader to begin with! So this great recipe comes from Annie's Eats. I followed it pretty close to the letter and it came out great! I'm looking forward to making this again, perhaps with some different herb combinations (I've currently got parsley & chives waiting to be used up). The recipe had the perfect lemon to wine ratio and although I did cut back a little on the butter, I'm sure it would be even better with all the butter added in for richness. I'm not going to list out the ingredients for this, since I did follow Annie's instructions pretty closely, and honestly, I think anyone reading this should go look at her blog anyway. She is pretty amazing and her blog is awesome! By the way, I still had a ton of thyme leftover after making this! How am I supposed to use it all?!!

Southwestern Quinoa

I definitely grew up in a household where dinner consisted of protein, starch & veggie most nights. As I'm doing my meal planning, my mind often goes back to this concept even when I'm trying to use up all our veggies from Plow to Porch. A big problem with this style of meal planning is that I have a tendency to inhale the starch part, whether it be a pasta, rice, potato or couscous side dish. To combat this problem, I have started experimenting a little bit with quinoa, which is similar in texture to couscous, but much more filling, has more protein and fiber, and is slightly less inhalable while still being quite tasty. I got much inspiration for this recipe from Mary Ellen's Chili Cumin Seasoned Quinoa with Jalapenos, Corn & Red Pepper. Mary Ellen recently had one of her other quinoa recipes featured in Cooking Light Magazine, so I knew she knows her way around a quinoa recipe! This was so fantastic and the fish I served with it worked with the quinoa very nicely (I had picked up a tilapia in lemon sauce at Whole Foods). I ended up making the same dish about a week later since my husband wasn't here to enjoy it the first time around and I of course ate all the leftovers! This recipe also has the honors of being the first time I cooked with a self grown jalapeno. That sucker was extra hot, of course, so this dish was particularly spicy, but I didn't mind! For you cilantro lovers, this recipe begs for some chopped cilantro to be added just after plating. Even this non-cilantro girl almost wouldn't have minded some, it would just have gone really well with these flavors!

Southwestern Quinoa (adapted from Mary Ellen)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 of a small onion, finely chopped
1/2 can of black beans, rinsed & drained
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed (I just rinse in cool water for a few minutes)
Optional: 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1 Tbs fresh chopped cilantro (I didn't use the lime because the fish was seasoned with citrus, but highly recommend some sort of citrus juice flavor with this dish)
Heat about half the oil in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa and toast for about 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, chili powder, cumin and cayenne, mix well to combine; allow to come to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover and cook until liquid is mostly gone, about 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a medium saute pan. Add onion & peppers. Saute until just starting to carmelize. Add corn and cook until heated through. Add beans, stirring gently until heated through. When quinoa is done, pour on top of the mixture in the saute pan and gently fold vegetables into the quinoa until universally combined. Serve warm and top with lime juice and chopped cilantro, if desired.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Honey Mustard Chicken with Rice Pilaf

I don't think I would be able to pull off my Plow to Porch subscription if I wasn't a part of the blog world. Thankfully, many of the blogs I subscribe to are also members of CSAs, so when I am stumped how to use something, I can search for that ingredient in my Google Reader and check out how my fellow bloggers have used it. That was definitely the case with this recipe and kale. Most of the recipes I had seen for kale were more fall or winter style recipes - pasta with sausage and soups. But I found this recipe for honey mustard chicken with rice pilaf that used a big bunch of kale, and I decided to use a leek instead of the onion because I wasn't sure how to use my leek, either. This was quite good. I think next time, I might use a little less kale, or at least chop it a little more so that it cooked down a little more (I didn't have the kale chopped by the time the pan was ready for it, so I chopped a little hastily!), but the flavor combination was great. Maybe I'll just use more rice. Since this was my husband's first kale experience, and he said he really liked it, I consider it a success story!

Honey Mustard Chicken and Rice Pilaf (from Clean Eating Magazine via Pink Parsley & The Mess Pot)
1 1/2 cups brown rice
cooking spray
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/2 cup white onion, diced (I used one leek, thinly sliced)
1 large bunch kale (at least 8 oz), stems removed and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
Cook rice according to package directions. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-high, and mist with cooking spray. Saute chicken for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.Mist the same pan again with cooking spray, and add the onion (leek), kale, and red bell pepper. Saute until just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Add rice to the vegetables and saute until warmed, about another 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.Meanwhile, whisk together the honey, mustard, vinegar, oil, garlic, and 2 Tablespoons of water. Season with salt and pepper.Add the chicken and honey mustard and saute for about 3 minutes, turning chicken often to coat with sauce.To serve, divide rice pilaf among 4 plates, then top with chicken. Drizzle with remaining honey mustard, and sprinkle with parsley before serving

Friday, July 23, 2010

Baked Zucchini "Fries"

From what I understand, a common problem with CSA subscriptions and/or growing a home garden is that zucchini comes in quicker than you can eat it. Sure enough, we got a batch of golden zucchini in our second week of Plow to Porch, but since so many of the blogs I follow are also CSA subscribers, I had already starred a few zucchini recipes. I knew I would make zucchini fries the first time we had a delivery. I love bread crumbs in all varieties, but I think panko is the way to go with this recipe, as it gives the zucchini that extra crunch that makes this dish reminiscent of french fries (they definitely don't taste like fries, though!). This did take a while to make, and since my usual veggie side dishes don't involve much prep work, that was the only negative. But this was a fun, tasty recipe and I know I will make these again (and I already have, actually!).

Baked Zucchini Fries (from Le Petit Pierogi)
1 zucchini, cut into sticks
2 eggs
splash of milk (about 2 tbsp)
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs (I'm going to grind mine in the Magic Bullet next time for a finer consistency)
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
pepper (I added some cayenne as well)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and line a large baking dish with foil and spray with non stick spray.Set up a breading station. On one plate, add flour. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and milk together with a fork. On another plate add panko and cheese and mix together. Season zucchini sticks with salt, pepper and cayenne.One by one, dredge zucchini sticks in flour, then dip in egg mixture, then press into panko until completely coated. Place on baking sheet side by side, until all zucchini sticks are breaded.Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown - flip after 10 minutes and serve hot.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ribs that my Husband Will Eat

My husband used to make fun of me all the time for my picky eating habits. I admit, when he first met me 13 years ago, I was pretty funny about food. I would rule out entire huge cuisine groups as foods I didn't like ("I don't like Mexican food" & "I don't like Chinese food" were a couple of his favorites, especially when he found out I hadn't had any Chinese food before). Obviously, that isn't a problem anymore. I daresay I am MUCH more adventurous that my husband when it comes to food. One of his quirks is that he doesn't much enjoy eating anything that involves bones. Chicken must be boneless. Pork Chops - boneless. And much to my chagrin (yay, Twilight readers!), he does not like ribs at all. Not only do the bones bother him, he is also not a fan of traditional barbeque sauce. But hooray! I finally found boneless country style ribs at the store right around the 4th of July and knew I was all set to research a sauce recipe that would not be sickeningly sweet so that my husband and I could enjoy ribs over the 4th weekend. I decided to go with Scott's Savory Barbeque Sauce on Allrecipes because I pretty much had all the ingredients and it also looked like the sauce was not too sugary and so would work pretty well with my planned slow cooker method of cooking. These turned out really good, and while they weren't true ribs in the traditional sense, I was happy to satisfy a bit of my rib cravings with a recipe I could cook at home and my husband could eat. These were definitely healthier than what I would have gotten at the local barbeque place, so that's a definite added bonus!

Scott's Savory Barbeque Sauce (from Allrecipes, but scaled WAY down!)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
5 oz ketchup
1 Tbs Paprika
1/4 pound dark brown sugar
1 Tbs Salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs Worchestershire Sauce
2 Tbs lemon juice
Mix all well, store up to one month in fridge, or pour over 1.5 lbs boneless country style rib meat in slow cooker. Cook on low 8-9 hours.

Homemade Pesto with Roasted Tomatoes

I have mentioned in a past post that I have been trying to plan meals that involve "cleaner" eating. A major part of that has been signing up for Plow to Porch, a fantastic local organic fruit & vegetable delivery service here in Santa Barbara. I have a very good friend that taught me that eating locally is actually, in general, better/more helpful for the environment than eating organic. I live in Santa Barbara. It doesn't get much easier to eat locally than here. We have a ton of Farmer's Markets (including one that is about a block and a half from home, twice a week), and there are a lot of local farmers growing great things. I even went to high school with twins who were growing up on one of the bigger local farms. So why do I need a special service to eat locally? I hate making decisions! I needed someone else to tell me what looks good week to week and then I could plan my meals from there. I have been so happy with the service so far. It is similar to a CSA (community supported agriculture), but without the season long commitment, and with delivery to boot!

My first box arrived a few weeks ago, and I decided to immediately cook up this homemade pesto with Roasted Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Green Garlic. I roasted the tomatoes & garlic in a 400 degree oven until they were just starting to get color. Meanwhile, I placed a large bunch of basil, a 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts into my Magic Bullet and blended the heck out of it all. When the garlic and tomatoes were done, I added the whole head of green garlic cloves into the pesto as well (green garlic is much more mellow than regular, especially roasted) and blended that up. There was not very much pesto sauce, maybe a couple Tablespoons, and I was worried there wouldn't be enough when I added it to my pasta & chicken. That problem was solved when I poured the tomatoes and their sweet juices into the mix. The juices thinned out the sauce a little (and added so much sweetness!). This was a delicious meal, although the husband thought I used too many tomatoes. Funny, because I could have doubled them and still wouldn't have had enough for me, they were so delicious and sweet! I'm so excited for the fruits & vegetables we get to enjoy with Plow to Porch!

Pesto with Roasted Tomatoes & Green Garlic (my recipe)
1 large bunch basil
1/4 cup + 2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes (mine were rainbow heirloom)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 head green garlic
12 oz boneless chicken breast, cubed
1/2 lb short cut whole wheat pasta (like bowties or rotini)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions. In 9" x 13" roasting pan, mix tomatoes, salt & pepper and 2 tsp olive oil. Cut the top off green garlic head and toss into roasting pan. Roast until juices are flowing and tomatoes and garlic are just starting to carmelize, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, blend basil, walnuts, parmigiano cheese & olive oil in food processor, blender or Magic Bullet until very smooth. Add cooled garlic, separated into cloves and blend well. Cook cubed chicken breast in nonstick skillet until cooked through. Add chicken, pesto, tomatoes and tomato juices into drained pasta and combine well. Serve immediately or allow to cool and serve as a cold pasta salad.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scallops and Asparagus with Sake

Yay, another scallops dish! I had a pretty crummy day on the day I made this (I bruised my knee so bad I could barely walk, simply because I'm a clutz!), and scallops make everything better! I found this recipe in one of my weight watchers recipe books that I hadn't even really looked at since buying it (bad me). This came out so well, it really surprised me. Lots of crisp veggies, the scallops kept their color nicely, and the sauce complemented it all very nicely without overpowering the dish or making it too sweet, like some Asian sauces can. I've also been trying lately to cook more clean (ie: cutting out processed foods, keeping the ingredients simple) and this recipe fit into that plan quite well. I will definitely make this one again, and might try it with chicken next time.

Scallops and Asparagus with Sake (from Weight Watchers "Take Out Tonight" cookbook)
2 tsp canola oil
1 lb sea scallops, muscle removed
2 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound asparagus, cut diagonally into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
2 Tbs sake
1 Tbs reduced sodium soy sauce (I used Tamari)
1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
4 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally (I omitted)
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Swirl in 1 tsp oil. Add scallops. Cook, turning, until golden brown and just opaque in the center, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Return the pan to the heat. Swirl in remaining oil, then add ginger & garlic. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about a minute. Add asparagus, peppers and carrot. Cook, stirring until veggies are crisp tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the sake, soy and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Cook over high heat, stirring, until flavors are blended. Return scallops to pan, stir in scallions. Cook until just heated through. Serve immediately with rice.

Birthday Dinner at Opal

One of my favorite things about birthdays is that we always go out to a really nice dinner to celebrate. We never go out for Valentine's Day anymore, and we rarely go out at all now that I've been cooking so much at home, so it is a great treat to go out to a nice dinner. Dinner for my birthday this year was at Opal, a restaurant that I can't believe we hadn't been to before. Opal classifies themselves as California Cuisine, but maybe I'm just too much of a California girl, because I would just classify it as simply good food. I think of Californian Cuisine as usually foo-foo fancy dishes with far too little food on a plate. Opal has some really inventive dishes, but without too many unique ingredients, so you aren't confused about what you are ordering, and the portions are normal sized. They also have lots of fun cocktails. My husband got his usual martini, but I got a blood orange margarita (ironically, the same cocktail I got at my last birthday dinner!):

You might be able to see just past my husband that we were sitting at a table right next to the window, which allowed both of us to people watch on busy State Street during our meal. It was really interesting to see so many walkers, bikers, etc. in the early evening of a beautiful summer day. On to our entrees. I got the halibut special, as I pretty much knew I would, if halibut was available. This one had an Asian crust (sesame and furikake, I think) Mango Salsa, and mango sauce over jasmine rice (which soaked up the sauce quite nicely):
The husband debated among several dishes before deciding on the Chile Rubbed Filet Mignon. I pushed him towards this one because even though a was having halibut, which I love, I was hoping for a few bites of steak, too! His filet was perfectly cooked (we asked for it between medium and medium well, which is perfect for him, I should remind him to do that more often) and the rich flavor of the chile rub was great. I also really liked the relleno that came alongside, but that was no surprise, since I love all things relleno!

When we finished up, we knew we were going to need to get dessert, since it was a birthday celebration after all, and most of the desserts on the menu looked right up our alley. I was worried about which option my husband was going to try to steer me towards, since he has the stronger sweet tooth, but was pleasantly surprised when we both picked the same thing: A chocolate mousse cake special, for two!
This was very good, and very rich, of course. We probably only got through about half of this! The service throughout was very good. In addition to really working with us to get our steak prepared properly, they also reserved us a great table and then, for the most part, left us alone and didn't bother us, just kept our water glasses full and made themselves available if we needed them. I liked my birthday meal so much that I chose Opal for my team's reward lunch for work the next week with our office director. I got a bay scallop salad at that meal that was also fantastic. I think Opal will definitely be a recurring attraction for R&R in the future (watch out, J+K, we're going to have to take you here!).

Chicken Gyros

This recipe is another one that is very popular in the blogging world. I had hesitated because we don't have much experience with Greek food, but the homemade Tzatziki Sauce really intrigued me, so I had to try it. I also tried making homemade pita, but that kinda failed miserably:
Looks appetizing, doesn't it? I don't think I adjusted the dough enough for our very foggy, wet weather that we have in Santa Barbara at this time of year. It definitely didn't puff up the way it should, and it was really sticky, so I'm going to have to give it another go some other time. I just ran to the store and picked up some store bought pitas. The rest of this recipe was good. The tzatziki sauce was very tasty and fresh, and I could see why a lot of Greek cuisine revolves around this tasty concoction. The final pita product was good, too, but it didn't quite live up to the big hype it has been getting in my blog world. Perhaps I was just jaded by my pita baking failure. I will probably try this again and hopefully it will wow me more next time.

Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki (from Elly Says Opa)
1.25 lbs. chicken pieces
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 batch of tzatziki
sliced tomatoes
sliced onions (I omitted)
4 (pocketless) pitas (I used pockets, because I was desperate and couldn't find anything else!)
Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.
Heat a grill pan. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and then broil until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips. Meanwhile, heat your pitas. Top the pita with the chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions.

Chicken Fajitas

It always really surprises me when I hear people refer to restaurant fajitas as a good diet food. Sure, when you are at Chili's, there is often not many other choices, so getting fajitas and just eating the chicken & veggies is probably a better option than the boneless buffalo wings or the ribs. I just usually find that restaurant fajitas (I'm talking chain restaurants, here) are dripping in oil, and they usually use such poor quality meat that you HAVE to glob on the guacamole & sour cream in order to get some flavor. I have wanted to make fajitas at home for a while now, but our home grill options have been limited in the past (no outdoor area for grilling at this apartment, and most grill pans kinda suck). Ever since we got our new cast iron grill pan for Christmas, I knew I could finally make fajitas at home. Cast Iron is the only way a home grill pan will get hot enough to really work for fajitas. Now that I had the good pan, I tried to decide on a good flavoring. The packets at the regular grocery store all sounded pretty gross to me (so much salt and artificial flavoring!), but someone on the nest cooking board mentioned that Whole Foods carries a delicious, salt-free blend from The Spice Hunter for Fajita Seasoning. I picked up the bottle and - HOW REFRESHING! - I recognized every ingredient! I trust The Spice Hunter because I already use their Seafood Blend for most of our homecooked fish. They are also practically local, based in San Luis Obispo, which is nice. I liberally coated this on the chicken, grilled it up, then grilled the peppers and onion until they were nicely charred. I served this with homemade guacamole and just a little bit of sour cream. Even my husband liked these, and he is not a restaurant fajita fan at all (for the reasons above, plus his hatred of onions). It was a great, natural tasting meal.
Chicken Fajitas (my own recipe, but it isn't much of a recipe!)
3/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
The Spice Hunter Fajita Seasoning
2 bell peppers, cut into strips
1 small onion, cut into strips
Sour Cream
6 flour tortillas
Heat grill pan over medium high heat. Season chicken strips liberally with fajita seasoning. Grill until cooked through, about 2 -3 minutes per side. Remove to serving bowl. Add pepper & onion strips to grill. Grill, turning frequently, until just soft and starting to show some grill marks/color (do this in batches if needed). Add to serving bowl. Toss all ingredients well, then scoop into tortillas and serve with guacamole and sour cream, if desired.

Balsamic-Garlic Flank Steak

Balsamic vinegar. Yum. I've been kind of obsessed with recipes that use it ever since our trip to Hawaii where my fish at Cuatro was served with a swirl of reduced balsamic and a swirl of cream sauce. It is just such a great combination of sweet, savory and sour. I've also been keeping an eye out for good flank steak recipes, since grilled sliced flank steak is such a great protein with a light summer meal. So this recipe from Mary Ellen's blog was perfect for me. It imparted just enough balsamic flavor to have an impact on the steak without overpowering the steak itself. I grilled this on our indoor cast iron grill pan and I have to say, I grilled it to perfection. Perfect done-ness for both of us and great grill marks! Unfortunately, my husband is not so much of a balsamic fan, so I will have to make this for myself on nights he isn't eating with me. He liked it okay, didn't love it like I did. Oh well!

Balsamic-Garlic Grilled Flank Steak
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 tsp thyme leaves (I used parsley, which I have a ton of, from my planter)
One 2 1/2 lb flank steak (Mine was a little less than a pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a blender/food processor (or Magic Bullet!), blend the vinegar, oil, garlic, and thyme until smooth. Place the steak in a large glass or ceramic dish; pour the marinade over the steak and let it stand for 5 minutes (mine stood for about 10-15 minutes). Season the steak with salt and pepper and grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until medium, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice it across the grain to serve.

Margarita Cupcakes!

I have wanted to make these cupcakes from the moment I saw them. They were really popular in the blogging world about a year ago, but I think the moment I saw them on Annie's Eats (seriously one of the best blogs ever), I knew I was destined to make them someday. I decided to go with the easier cake mix version on Confections of a Foodie Bride since I'm pretty new to baking and I knew the audience I was baking for wouldn't really mind. I made these for my office summer barbeque, which took place at my boss' house on a gorgeous day. Of course, my office is so darn health conscious that for my party of 13 people, we went through exactly 13 cupcakes. So the leftovers went to the bike shop, where 4 guys took care of the remaining 11 cupcakes. I made the frosting on these very limey, and that was what everyone kept talking about. Even with following Annie's advice and basting each cupcake with a little extra tequila (and I was using Patron Silver, nothing but the best for my people!), there still wasn't much alcohol flavor, but with the extra lime frosting, there was still a great punch to the cupcakes. This is a great treat for any backyard barbeque, just make sure its a grown up party if you are painting the tops with the tequila. Even though you can't really taste the liquor, I'd say there is enough uncooked tequila in them to be un-kosher for the little ones!

Margarita Cupcakes
9 oz Margarita mix
3 oz tequila
3/4 oz Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)
White cake mix (No-pudding mix works best)
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp lime zest (I omitted, oops!)
1 recipe Lime Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)
Mix together the margarita mix, tequila, and Grand Marnier in a large glass or spouted bowl. You will use 1 1/4 cup of this in the cupcake mix. Put the remainder in the fridge to chill and then consume how you see fit (there won't be much left!). In a stand mixer, add the cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, lime zest, and 1 1/4 cup of the margarita mixture. Mix on low for about 30 seconds and then increase to medium speed for two minutes (the batter will still be a bit lumpy).Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin pan (fill the cups somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 full) and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick registers “done” in the center cupcake. Remove the pan from the oven and cool 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely on a baking rack. When cooled, brush each cupcake with a little more tequila.
Lime Buttercream Frosting
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsp lime juice
green food color (optional)
Add the butter, confectioner’s sugar, salt, food coloring, and lime juice to the stand mixer and mix on low using the paddle attachment until combined. Turn the speed to med-high until the icing is fluffy. Add the icing to a pastry bag or use a spatula/knife to frost the cupcakes.
Note: Use additional lime juice or water to thin the frosting, if necessary.

Chicken Riggies

This is a dish I had never heard of until I had entered the food blogging world. Apparently, Chicken Riggies is a pasta/chicken/peppers dish that originated in upstate New York, which is pretty much as far away from Santa Barbara as you can get in this country, so no wonder I haven't heard of it! After learning of its existence from Elizabeth's Cooking Experiments, I search around on Allrecipes a bit to see some of the other variations that exist. Apparently, it is a very personalized dish, and many households have their own take on the specifics. I decided I would stick pretty closely to the version on Elizabeth's blog, but that I would roast the peppers first to mellow out some of the heat (I'm afraid of raw peppers sometimes) and to deepen the flavor. Of course, because of the roasting, the flavors were a little too mild for my liking, so next time I make this, I will probably double the peppers and I probably won't roast the red pepper for a little texture contrast. I will probably also remove the heavy cream, because although it was delicious as always, I don't think it added enough to the picture to really make up for the calorie bomb that heavy cream always is.

Chicken Riggies
1 lb rigatoni (I used whole wheat penne)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, diced
2 chicken breast halves, cubed
salt and pepper to taste
1 red bell pepper, roasted & chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, roasted & diced
1 Poblano pepper, roasted & chopped
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained slightly
3 TBSP dry sherry
3/4 - 1 cup heavy cream
Cook pasta to al dente. Drain & set aside.Melt butter & heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and saute until almost soft, then add peppers and chicken, season with salt and pepper. Saute for 8-10 minutes, or until chicken is almost cooked through.Reduce heat to low and add tomato sauce and sherry and simmer about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and simmer for 10 minutes more. Toss all with hot, cooked pasta and serve.

Veggie and Sausage Stuffed Shells

I love stuffed shells. They are a little bit labor intensive, but they are one of my favorite "American-Italian" meals. My problem is that my husband does not like traditional stuffed shells (although Mexican Stuffed Shells are among his favorite meals). He has found them too heavy and doesn't like the thick ricotta taste. While reading my "Cook Yourself Thin" cookbook, I saw a recipe for stuffed shells that bulked up the flavor by using zucchini. By the time I had decided to finally make stuffed shells with this technique, I had lost this cookbook, so I just decided to wing it by adding an appropriate amount of shredded zucchini and spinach to the usual ricotta mixture. I used about half of the normal ricotta with these adjustments, but I also added some crumbled cooked turkey sausage to the mix to add another boost of flavor. These were really good, and definitely kept that creamy taste and texture that I love, while remaining light and not as cheesy for my husband. I would probably even be okay with making them without the sausage for a vegetarian meal, but I'm not sure if my husband would agree. I'm planning on using zucchini a lot more this summer, since it is so good when it is in season, and it is easy to add to pastas for a little healthy vegetable kick! The funny thing is that when I finally found my cookbook, I had actually stuck to the recipe pretty closely, even though it had been months since I had looked at it. Good photographic recipe memory, I guess!

Stuffed Shells with Veggies and Sausage (inspired by Cook Yourself Thin)
1 box jumbo shells
1/2 lb turkey sausage, casings removed
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, shredded
1 bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 egg
1 cup skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 jar pasta sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta to package directions, drain. Heat oil in large saute pan. Cook sausage & garlic over medium high until no longer pink. Remove to large bowl with slotted spoon to cool, leaving juices in pan. Add zucchini and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain very well, pressing out as much water as possible. Add to sausage in bowl and let cool. Add ricotta, egg, parmesan and nutmeg and stir well to combine. Pour about 1/2 cup of sauce into 13" x 9" pan. Stuff cooked shells with 2 Tbs filling and place in pan. Top with remaining sauce. Cover and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and top with mozzarella. Bake for 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

I came to the realization that I haven't done nearly enough baking to justify the purchase of my new Kitchenaid mixer. I wanted to make pretty cupcakes. Not just yummy cake with some frosting slathered on, but some that looked beautiful, too. After researching a bit online, I realized that pretty cupcakes come from frosting with a pastry bag and a large tip, usually a star tip. I knew that my first pretty cupcake attempt would have to be double chocolate cupcakes, because I knew even if they came out awful, the husband would still eat them because he loves chocolate cake so much. I found both the cake recipe and the frosting recipe on the Hershey's website. I had heard really good things about the perfectly chocolate cake recipe, and it didn't disappoint. The only change I made was to use about half of dutch process style cocoa and half regular Hershey's cocoa in each recipe. This made the cake really rich and chocolatey, but didn't use up ALL my hard to find dutch process cocoa. I will say though, dutch process cocoa is totally worth it. Just looking at the two versions, you can definitely tell which is which! These turned out so good! The cake batter is way runnier than I would have thought, but it still turned out great. I think my decorating skills were pretty good, too, although I think I will need to make just a little extra frosting next time, since you tend to run out faster when piping instead of traditional frosting. The best part about the frosting is that, while it still isn't exactly good for you, I felt so much better knowing exactly what was going into it. No trans fats when you use straight up butter! I brought most of these to the bike shop and they were devoured in 24 hours, but my favorite was bringing one to the little guy I mentor. His response when I asked him how he liked his cupcake was simply: "I love you!" I've already made him another batch for his birthday!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting (From Hershey's)
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 24 cupcakes.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Chicken Kabobs

We live really close to our area's biggest shopping center, and there is a great Hawaiian/surfer themed restaurant there (Kahuna Grill) that serves Kabobs with teriyaki marinade. The beef kabobs are very yummy, but they are pretty expensive. I decided that this summer, I would try making kabobs at home, and this is the result. I have heard lots of places that although kabobs served at restaurants have a plethora of veggies and protein all together on one stick, home chefs are better served by splitting up the bounty into segregated skewers. This ensures that the items that need to cook longer (chicken especially) are able to get all the heat attention they deserve without burning the more delicate ingredients (tomatoes and, if I had used them, mushrooms). I used about a 1/2 bottle of italian dressing mixed with two extra cloves of garlic and about a Tablespoon of lemon juice. I marinaded about 3/4 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast for about an hour in this mixture, then skewered it along with a little onion, bell pepper, and lots of grape tomatoes. The chicken turned out delicious. I wasn't as happy with the onion & pepper results, probably because I was using an indoor grill. Tomatoes, as usual when heated, were great. This will be a dish I try again, but I will probably try for a more Asian style marinade next time. It does make a beautiful colorful dish, though!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Creamy Taco Pasta

This recipe has been hugely popular in the blogging world the last several weeks. It has been advertised as a homemade Hamburger Helper. When I saw that, I knew I would be making it, but also knew that I wouldn't be telling the husband about it being a Hamburger Helper sub! I love HH and usually make it for one of my meals if my husband is out of town for a week. I can't make it when he is home because he really, really dislikes the stuff. I think one of the reasons he doesn't like it is because ground beef is really heavy on its own, and then you add all sorts of processed, not-good-for-you stuff and it is just wrong! So I knew he would like this meal as long as I made it with ground turkey, since all the ingredients are identifiable and not as processed (though not necessarily good for you). I really enjoyed this fresh, and found that it tasted pretty good as leftovers as long as you added some additional liquid before microwaving.

Creamy Taco Pasta (as seen on Annie's Eats and LOTS of other places, original from Delish)
1¼ lbs. ground turkey
8 oz. dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Packet Taco Seasoning (or use 4 Tbs homemade)
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional, I omitted)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, set aside. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake

I really like the flavor of pesto, but I'm kind of picky about it. It needs to be exactly the right combination of herb/oil/garlic or I am just not happy. I saw this post by Joelen for chicken pesto stuffed shells and I was intrigued. I didn't have any jumbo shells at my disposal, but decided to make this as a casserole by mixing with some medium sized pasta shells. This had a great flavor, but I think making this as a casserole dried out the pasta a little bit. I really liked how the cream cheese dilutes the heavy pesto flavor, though. I would say it "lightens it up" but it is cream cheese, so it isn't really lighter, just not as strong of a pesto flavor. Can't wait to try this again, but in the future, I'll stick with stuffed shells or maybe I'll throw this into a Calzone, as Joelen recommends. On a separate note, Joelen has recently posted a TON of freezer friendly meals, so if you are interested, check out her blog! This is one of those freezer friendly meals.

Pesto Chicken Casserole (Adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures)
1/2 lb short pasta (I used whole wheat med. shells)
1/4 cup prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used store rotisserie)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 Tbs light sour cream
4 oz light cream cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions, but stop cooking a few minutes early so that pasta is a little al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, add chicken, garlic, pesto, cream cheese and sour cream in a small saute pan and warm over medium heat until cheese is melted through and entire mixture is warm. Add parmigiano cheese and mix well to combine. Add drained pasta and mix well. Pour all into an 8" x 8" casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Top with mozzarella and bake in preheated. (Note: To reheat as leftovers, add 1-2 Tbs milk before microwaving)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

I've posted a couple different recipes for stuffed chicken, and it continues to be one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. This chicken was fantastic. I came up with it after my husband's many southwestern inspired dishes in Hawaii led me to realize how well oregano works in Mexican/southwestern dishes. The most important part of this dish was using really high quality pepper-jack cheese (I used Sonoma-Jack) and using panko bread crumbs to give the chicken that crunch that you would expect from a popper. I could see adding some crumbled cooked bacon to the stuffing on this, but I kept it simple here.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken (my original creation)
2 6 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 oz pepper-jack style cheese, sliced into sticks
1 jalapeno, seeds & ribs removed, julienned
1 tsp ancho chili powder (or plain chili powder)
1/4 tsp oregano (I used dried, but ground would work better)
1 egg, scrambled in shallow dish
1/2 cup panko style bread crumbs
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a pocket into each chicken breast by carefully inserting knife into the middle of the thin side of the breast and cutting gently until a good sized pocket is formed (do not cut through to the other side). Stuff about half of the jalapeno & cheese into each chicken breast. Pull chicken back into shape, sealing with toothpicks if required. Sprinkle each side of each breast with oregano and chili powder. Dip each side of each breast in the egg and then in the panko. Place in shallow baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Spray tops of the chicken breasts lightly with cooking spray or oil and continue to bake for 5-10 minutes more or until bread crumbs start to turn golden brown.

Fried Rice - that I like!

If you asked my sister and me what our most hated meal was when we were little, the answer would have been "Tuna" (also known as tuna casserole, a meal you will never see on this blog). In second place for me was "Fried Rice." My family's interpretation of fried rice consisted of leftover rice, scrambled egg, a bunch of soy sauce and a ham steak from the refrigerated section of the grocery store (you know, those thin, pressed into shape things?) diced up. Pretty much, this was all just mixed together in a wok and topped with chopped green onion. It still makes me a little sick to think of it. The difference between this gross childhood meal and icky tuna is that I knew all along that fried rice has potential of being quite tasty with the right treatment, and I've even had some at a local teppanyaki place that I really liked. So I recently decided to try out chicken fried rice at home. I used Joelen's recipe as inspiration, but as Joelen says in her blog entry about it, the best part about fried rice is that it is so adaptable. You can use whatever leftovers and veggies you have on hand, and measuring isn't something that is all that important. This turned out great - the ginger that I used brought a delicious brightness to the dish (although ginger is generally more known for Japanese cuisine than Chinese, it worked here). I also loved the fresh veggies and will probably use more veggies the next time I make this. I also used tamari style soy, which is a little richer than regular soy, and I thought it was great, since the soy flavor is so key to this dish. This definitely blew the childhood ham steak version out of the water!

Chicken Fried Rice (inspired by Joelen)
2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1 inch pieces
4 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp ginger
2 cloves garlic
Marinate chicken in soy with garlic & ginger for about 20 minutes

1 1/2 cups leftover white rice (day old works best)
2 Tbs + 1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup mixed vegetables, chopped (I used 2 diced carrots)
1 egg
1 clove garlic
2-3 Tbs Soy Sauce (this is where I used the Tamari)
1 green onion, chopped into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces (green part only)
Heat 1 tsp oil in large wok or pan over medium high heat. Add chicken and stir fry until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan, add 1 Tbs of oil and add onion & clove garlic and stir fry until just soft, about 1-2 minutes. Push to the sides of the wok and add scrambled egg, cooking until thoroughly cooked through. Add vegetables and cook for about one minute. Add remaining Tbs oil and crumble rice into the wok, stirring to keep the rice "unclumped." Add chicken back in, then drizzle soy into the mixture, stirring constantly until desired color/flavor is achieved. Serve immediately and top with green onion pieces.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hawaii Day 7 - Traditional Maui (Aloha O'e)

For our last day in Maui, I knew I wanted to have a day filled with our favorite traditional Hawaii things. We spent a lot of time in the ocean (had to get more time in on our gorgeous boogie board investment!), visited Maui Tacos for lunch (no pictures, but everyone loves Maui Tacos!), and had shave ice for snack (I had "Root Beer Float" flavor while the husband had "Mounds" flavor). But the most important part of our traditional Maui day, so important that I had reservations made over a month in advance, was our last night dinner at Mama's Fish House. Mama's is not a well kept secret, and everyone we know who has visited Maui in the last few years has headed here. It is always busy, even though they are in a fairly remote location. This is the restaurant you are thinking of when you are wishing for a romantic beachfront location serving delicious food in a mellow atmosphere. They do it right here, and we just love it. It is completely worth the splurge - you will spend a lot here. We started with drinks - I ordered Plantation Punch (rum and juices) and the husband got his traditional Gin Martini. Then, we moved onto the dish I've been dreaming of for the last year and a half - the Ahi Poke. Just look at that picture. Those pieces that look like jello they are so deep pink and shiny? Those are perfectly seasoned pieces of the freshest ahi tuna ever. Served with surprisingly tasty taro chips, grape tomatoes, sprouts and maui onion, this is ahi at its finest purest form. We moved onto our fish entrees from here. This visit, I was able to order the signature mahi mahi dish that the husband got last year. He ordered the ono, which was also good, but we both agree that the mahi mahi is tops. Stuffed with crab, crusted with macadamia nuts, and topped with lobster, asparagus and a light sweet sauce, this is some serious delicious food. We finished the meal with their signature Black Pearl Chocolate Mousse and Liliko'i Cream served in a pastry seashell. Such beautiful presentation, and we devoured it like two people on their last night of a yummy vacation!
Can you believe this perfect rainbow?
So beautiful!

I always think of Gilligan's Island with this view! So tropical!
Walking into the bar area - lots of little decor touches

Our drinks!
Oh, this is heaven!
The husbands tasty ono dish
My delicious mahi mahi dish
The Polynesian Black Pearl dessert
Oh Maui, how we will miss you. But we will return to conquer your shores sometime soon (next year, perhaps?)!

Hawaii Day 6 - Lounging in Maui

My main goal of this Hawaii trip was to make sure that I did enough "nothing." This day, more than any other on our trip, really epitomized that philosophy. We started off with a nice stroll over to Kihei Caffe for breakfast. We both enjoyed our Banana Macadamia Pancakes and the husband was so happy to be able to go out to breakfast, as I had been forcing him to eat cereal at the condo & hotel the entire trip! Walking was a great idea (and that was my husband's call, not mine) as we were able to really enjoy the views that we wouldn't have noticed from the car. A new trend since our last Hawaii trip was paddleboarding. I have definitely heard of this sport back in Santa Barbara, but it is HUGE here in Hawaii, and they even have lessons for tourists. Maybe we'll try it next time - but I've heard it is harder than it looks! We also really enjoyed the flowers along our walk. Everything is so different than back in Santa Barbara (except the hibiscus, which my mom insisted my dad plant at every house we lived at, since it reminded her of home!).
Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes - Kihei Caffe
Paddleboarders at Cove Park

Pretty flowers - I love the yellow hibiscus

After breakfast and our walk, we spent some time in the water and sunning ourselves on the lawn outside our lanai. I think I overcooked it a little, because I was a little burned even while wearing SPF 70 sunscreen - I just LOVED reading outside in the sun and stayed out much longer than I should have. The burn wasn't too bad, but I got a little heat exhaustion that hit me later that night. We ate lunch at the condo and then headed out to buy more sunscreen (I went through an entire bottle of my Neutrogena spray sunscreen in 6 days!) and to finally purchase a boogie board! More on that later... After our errands, we drove down to the most Southern area of the island and stopped at the creatively named "Big Beach." While we love the Kama'ole Beaches that our condo is on, this was a beautiful humungous beach, and I'm glad we visited. It was a little too cloudy to swim here, so we headed back to the condo for our christening of the boogie board!
Big Beach is...BIG!

I have wanted the husband to try boogie boarding on every one of our last 4 trips to Hawaii, but I finally talked him into buying a cheap board on this trip. It was cheaper to just buy a cheap one at the grocery than renting, and we just left this beauty at the condo when we were done. Boogie boarding is so much fun, and I was pleased to find out that it is like riding a bike - I hadn't forgotten how after almost 20 years and was still pretty good at catching waves. Even more fun than riding myself was watching the husband learn how. He was so enthusiastic and we just had a blast riding around, calling out good waves to each other, and generally acting like children.
It takes a real man to ride around on this beauty! $11.99 at Foodland.
We had some difficulty choosing a restaurant for dinner, first visiting a recommended restaurant in our Maui Revealed book that ended up being closed, then heading to Ma'alaea Waterfront, a place with a great view and pretty good food. For the price, I think we would have rather gone back to Cuatro, but we were glad we were able to try someplace new. I had the Broiled Ahi with Hawaiian Salsa and the husband had another Mexican inspired dish - Onaga with Southwestern Flair. We both liked our fish and thought the preparations were inspired, but this restaurant was a little pretentious - they almost seemed offended when we didn't order their traditionally prepared Caesar Salad (at $11 each) and we were kind of laughing at how we really didn't fit in with the elite atmosphere (in Maui? Really?). We headed home where I promptly went to sleep at 8:00 (couldn't even stay awake for LOST!) because of my sun exhaustion.
Fish Dishes at Ma'alaea Waterfront

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hawaii Day 5 - Lahaina Whale-Watching (sorta) Tour

I had decided that for once, I wasn't going to overplan a Maui trip this time. On our last Hawaii trip (which was Maui/Kauai), I really felt like we didn't have enough time to just do nothing because I planned so many activities. For this trip, the only activity I planned was to do a Whale Watching tour because all our other trips have been in November, before whale season begins. Unfortunately, although whale season is early February through mid-May, our early May visit didn't garner any whale sightings. It really was the tail end of the season. We did get to see some unusual (for us) dolphins and we thoroughly enjoyed viewing the Maui coastline by boat. Although the Pacific Whale Foundation does offer "Just a Fluke" coupons good for another visit if you don't see a whale, we were satisfied with our experience even without a whale sighting.

The harbor town of Lahaina

The famous Lahaina Banyan Tree

The view of Ka'anapali from the ocean

Spotted dolphins

More spotted dolphins - the crew kept calling them "toothed whales."

After the Whale Cruise, we strolled through Lahaina for a bit, then had a quick lunch at the Hard Rock. The food was okay, but the view was fantastic, and the waitress gave us a free (huge) Sundae because she dumped a bowl of coleslaw on the ground in front of us (didn't get us messy at all). After lunch, we decided to drive up the coast to see more parts of the island that we haven't visited before. We turned off the highway at Kapalua and drove along the coast the rest of the way back down. It was nice to see the other resort areas, but we aren't any more interested in staying up in this area than before - it is just too fancy for our tastes!
The view from Hard Rock Lahaina
Kapalua Golf Course

The view from Kapalua
After we got back to the condo, we went for a stroll on the beach (again!) and then headed out to one of the best meals we had on our entire trip! Cuatro restaurant received pretty rave reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor, but I probably never would have eaten there if I hadn't read all the reviews. The restaurant seats around 30-40 people (total!) and is located inside a strip mall where the main restaurant attraction is Sensei, which is a great sushi place that gets lines outside the door. Who knew that right around the corner was this little delight! I had read that the Spicy Tuna Nachos were killer, so I talked the husband into ordering even though we aren't usually appetizer people. These are now my favorite appetizer EVER. The basic description is a crispy wonton topped with the insides of a spicy tuna roll, topped with 3 different complementary sauces and served over a bed of local greens. I would simply describe it as fantastic. Our other dishes were amazing as well, and as I was looking at the menu, I actually mentioned that I didn't see much on there that didn't look like something that I would love. On top of all that, the staff was super friendly and several different staff members came over to chat, find out where we were from, how we liked our food, etc., but without being intrusive. If our stay on Maui had been a little longer, we would have come here several times. I am trying to spread the word about this place - I want to make sure they are still here when we come back next time!
The heaven on earth that is the Spicy Tuna Nachos!
Husband's fish - Mahi Mahi "Classic Style" - Mexican blackened fish with house vegetables, rice pilaf,cumin-oregano buerre blanc, and avocado pico de gallo. Declared: "Perfect"
My fish - Monchong "Mauiterranean Style" - grilled vegetables, garlic mashed potatoes, tomato-caper relish, basil buerre blanc, and balsamic syrup. Fantastic presentation, and the sauce was drinkable.