Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hana Fresh Farm Market

Today, my husband and I went on a "road to Hana" bus tour in Maui.  Lunch was included at the Hana Fresh Farm Market.  There was an all-you-can-eat buffet set up.  We were each given banana bread, and then we helped ourselves to a make-your-own-salad.  There were roasted potatoes, brown rice, wilted veggies, fish cooked with turmeric, chicken, and flank steak.  To drink, there was sweet tea, water and coffee.  My husband and I made our selections, each choosing to try all of the meats.

First of all, the banana bread was good.  I grew up eating banana bread that my mom made, and I have a couple awesome banana bread recipes of my own, so I wasn't overly impressed.  I'm used to banana bread, but we are in Maui, and they do grow bananas here, so I understand why they serve it everywhere here.  It was moist and good and one of the best parts of the meal.

The salad options were acceptable.  They had leaf lettuce, Parmesan cheese, basic veggies, tomatoes and 2 salad dressings, buttermilk ranch and champagne vinaigrette.  I went for the vinaigrette.

I didn't try the rice or the wilted veggies, but my husband did, and in his words, "it was okay but nothing to write home about."

My absolute favorite part was the potatoes.  They tasted like they were soaked in butter.

As far as the meat, I think of turmeric as a seasoning usually used for Indian food, so I was expecting something spicy and well seasoned.  It was very bland.  The chicken was even blander.  I don't know that it was seasoned at all.  The steak tasted like it was soaked in soy sauce, and my wimpy plastic silverware could barely cut through it.  I like meat pretty well done though, so some people were probably even less satisfied than I was.  Needless to say, we didn't go back for seconds.

If you go to Maui and go on a "road to Hana" bus tour, this is probably where you'll have lunch.  Just know not to get your hopes up.  Fresh doesn't always mean delicious, although it can if it's well cooked and well seasoned.

Happy eating!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Maui Brewing Company

Coconuts and Berries - Beer Cocktail
For dinner tonight, we stopped by the BrewPub at the Maui Brewing Company.  The decor seemed very industrial.  I liked the touch of using kegs for overhead lighting.

My husband and I aren't really beer drinkers, but I decided to try one of the beer cocktails.  I tried the Coconuts and Berries.  They actually brew a coconut beer.  Crazy awesome.  The Coconuts and Berries was an interesting combination, tasty, but I don't know that I'd get it next time.

Beer Battered Brie
When we were trying to decide where to go for dinner tonight, we looked at the menu online, and when we saw that the Maui Brewing Company had Beer Battered Brie for an appetizer, we were sold.  We love triple cream brie and baked brie, so we knew this would be worth trying.  It was even better than I expected.  In the picture to the right, you see a toasted baguette on top followed by the beer battered brie and caramelized pineapple sauce.  Oh my goodness.  The sauce had chunks of pineapple in it.  The combination was absolutely sensational.  I would definitely order this appetizer again.

baguette topped with beer battered brie and pineapple sauce
Then we shared the Tortellini which was stuffed with goat cheese from Surfing Goat Dairy (located on Maui) and topped with macadamia nut pesto creme sauce.  It was very rich and delicious, but the dominant flavor was definitely the pesto.  I didn't taste macadamia nuts.  I had to scrape off some pesto to taste the goat cheese, which was good as well.  I enjoyed this entree, but next time, I'd probably try something else.

We really wanted to try the Beer Battered Bread Pudding for dessert, but when we asked our waitress, she said that it's discontinued and that they need to update the menu.  That was pretty disappointing for us.  We went dessert-less tonight.  Oh, well.  The baked brie was almost like a dessert.

Until tomorrow, happy eating!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kahana Sands Restaurant & Bar

Mai Tai and Happy Hour menu
Today, we went to the Kahana Sands Restaurant & Bar for happy hour.  This restaurant is at the hotel next to our hotel.  At first, we were a little annoyed by the super-slow service (I guess no one's in a rush in Hawaii) and the fact that water kept getting splashed on our table (there was a pool right outside the restaurant, and a couple kids were bouncing a ball in the water).  We eventually got our waitress's attention and moved a few tables back.  Then, all was well.  We were there between lunch and dinner, so we checked out the lunch and dinner menus.  Both looked fine, but we were drawn in to the happy hour specials.

I ordered a Mai Tai while we looked over the menu.  At only $4 during happy hour, I was truly happy!  The happy hour cocktail specials were the Mai Tai, Pina Colada and Lava Flow.  I can make pretty good Pina Coladas and Lava Flows, so I decided to go for the Mai Tai since I'd never had one before.  I was impressed that it was delivered to the table in the same size glass that water comes in.  I had expected something much smaller for the price.  It was so good that my husband (who usually doesn't drink) tasted it and promptly ordered a Mai Tai for himself.  I ended up drinking two over the course of dinner.  For the price, how can you not?  As for food, we decided to stick to the happy hour specials.  We tried the deep fried calamari, the breaded shrimp and the shrimp quesadilla.

Deep Fried Calamari
The calamari was our least favorite.  It was good, but we've had better.  I liked the fried shrimp better than my husband did, but it wasn't amazing.  It was a little doughy, but the shrimp tasted fresh.

Breaded Shrimp
Shrimp Quesadilla
The shrimp quesadilla was a winner.  They were generous with the shrimp and the cheese.  I loved the red tortilla and the slightly spicy dipping sauce too.  We ended up ordering a second one.  I would be perfectly happy going back to this restaurant just for Mai Tais and shrimp quesadillas.

Pineapple Creme Brulee
We weren't sure if we were going to order dessert, but the pineapple creme brulee sounded really good.  As I mentioned in yesterday's post, creme brulee is one of my husband's favorite desserts.  We asked the waitress about it, and she said that the pineapple creme brulee is her favorite dessert (and not just at this restaurant, but her favorite dessert anywhere!).  We decided to try it.  It was served inside a pineapple, which was super cute.  It was really good.  I love fruity, tropical desserts, but I wouldn't say this was the best creme brulee ever.

In short, we may very well be back to this restaurant for their Mai Tais and shrimp quesadillas while we're here.  We might even stop by for dinner sometime.  They have 50% off certain entrees every night.  If we don't feel like driving somewhere, we definitely know we won't leave hungry here.

Happy eating (and drinking)!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Duke's Beach House - Maui

Aloha!  My husband and I are currently in Maui, so get ready for some tropical restaurant reviews!

We just arrived today, and after our 5+ hour flight from LAX, we were pretty hungry.  We ended up wandering down the beach to Duke's Beach House.  Their menu includes Hawaiian favorites that include locally-grown ingredients.

the view
The restaurant is located at a beautiful resort set back a bit from the beach.  The decor is very tropical, as you'd expect. They have life music during happy hour.

Mango BBQ Ribs and Huli Huli Chicken
My husband ordered the Mango BBQ Ribs and Huli Huli Chicken which came with macaroni salad and rice.  It was like a luau on a plate.  He thoroughly enjoyed it, but he was envious of my meal.

Arugula and Farro salad with fresh island fish
I ordered the Arugula and Farro salad with the fresh island fish.  The fish was probably the best I have EVER tasted.  It was perfectly seasoned and flaky whitefish.  Maybe the fish is this good everywhere in Maui, but so far I'd have to say that Duke's does it right.  I'd go there again just for the fish.  The salad was delicious, but the fish was hands down incredible.  The salad included goat cheese from Surfing Goat Dairy which is located on Maui along with fire-roasted squash, tomatoes (I'm not a tomato person, bu these were great) and basil lemon vinaigrette.  Yum!

The dessert menu was too tempting to resist.  One of my husband's favorite desserts ever is creme brulee, so he just had to try the Trio of Creme Brulee which included Kona espresso, Tahitian vanilla and Hawaiian vintage chocolate.  They were all tasty, but the Kona espresso was our favorite.

Trio of Creme Brulee
Chocolate Martini
I treated myself to a Chocolate Martini for dessert.  I didn't officially get carded, but the waitress did ask if I was over 21.  That always feels good.  The Martini was good and a perfect ending to the meal.  I must admit that this was my first Chocolate Martini (I've been wanting to try one forever), so I don't have a lot to compare it too.  I enjoyed it, but I'd probably try something else for dessert at Duke's next time.

Happy eating (and drinking)!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review of The Cheesecake Factory

It may be a chain restaurant with dessert in it's name, but for my husband and me, it's one of our favorite restaurants.  A couple years ago, I think we ate there at least once a month.  We've been trying to get out of our restaurant bubble lately and try new places, but for my husband's birthday, he wanted to go to our old standby, The Cheesecake Factory.

Mexican Tortilla Salad
I usually always end up with a "usual" at restaurants, and The Cheesecake Factory is no different.  My usual there is the Santa Fe salad.  The cilantro peanut vinagrete has a huge influence on that.  For years, I've known that I've needed a new usual.  My husband and I used to buy the cilantro peanut dressing by the bottle and replicate the salad at home, so it didn't make going to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner as much fun; I knew I could basically make the same thing myself (first, with the help of their dressing, and later by using the Cilantro dressing from Trader Joe's).

So, yesterday, I decided to try something new.  I went with the Mexican Tortilla Salad off the Skinnylicious menu.  It may not have been a drastic change from my old usual (one salad to another), but it was a refreshing change.  In fact, "refreshing" is how I would describe the taste of the salad.  It had a light lime flavor, and overall, I think I found a new usual.

Chicken Bellagio
My husband also has a usual at The Cheesecake Factory, Chicken Bellagio.  He discovered it several years ago when it was featured on a special seasonal menu.  He was thrilled when it made it to the official menu.  It's too rich for my taste, very rich and creamy, but my husband loves it. 

bread basket
Another reason we love The Cheesecake Factory is the bread basket, particularly their brown bread.  I must find a recipe and learn to replicate that bread at home.  I love the honey flavor and the oatmeal sprinkled on top.

Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake

And, of course, there's the cheesecake.  We've tried probably at least half of the cheesecakes on the menu and probably a few that are no longer on the menu.  We tend to prefer the cheesecakes that don't include layers of cake or brownies, etc.  We want all cheesecake, and we each have our favorite, our usual.  Mine is the White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.  My husband's is Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.  Since it was his birthday, we shared his favorite.  It's rich and awesome.  I do love chocolate and peanut butter and cheesecake!  The peanut butter fudge stuff on top of the cheesecake is amazing.

It was a delicious meal at one of our standbys.

Happy eating!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

R.L.Buller & Son Premium Fine Muscat

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were shopping for Australian wine in our favorite wine store.  We were really impressed with the Hunter Valley wineries when we were in Australia, so we thought we'd see what Australian imported wine we could find.  We like our wine sweet, so we specifically looked for wines in the dessert wine section.  We bought one bottle of Moscato (our favorite type of wine), which we drank later that weekend.  I don't remember the brand, but it was pleasant, not spectacular.  We also bought a bottle of R.L.Buller & Son Premium Fine Muscat, and we just got around to opening it tonight.

It's imported from Victoria, Australia, and like many other dessert wines, it's a half bottle, which is plenty.  The lid is a screw-top instead of a cork, which may not seem classy, but it's certainly practical.  A screw-top bottle also seals better than a cork.  I'm not against embracing technology.

The Muscat has a high alcohol content for wine at 18%.  This is intended to be sipped.  It is also very sweet.  It's like drinking candy.  In short, it's a really delicious and flavorful dessert wine.

When in Australia, my husband and I bought a bottle of Muscat that reminded me of this Muscat.  It's nice to know I can find a similar taste close to home. 

Baked Peppers & Mushrooms with Lobster Ravioli

peppers and mushrooms before baking
It's really hard to go wrong with baked veggies.  There are so many combinations, and they're so easy and delicious.  Tonight, we went for a colorful combination of bell peppers - one red, one yellow and one orange plus some crimini mushrooms.

Baked Peppers & Mushrooms

Servings: 2

1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
16 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
2 oz olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Slice the bell peppers.  Put the peppers and mushrooms in a baking pan and drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and TexJoy (to taste).  Stir the veggies and drizzle with another tbsp of olive oil and more TexJoy.  Stir the veggies again and spread out evenly in the baking pan.  Bake for about a half-hour or until all the liquid evaporates and the veggies are very tender.

peppers and mushrooms after baking

Tonight, we paired the veggies with Lobster Ravioli.  I tried making ravioli from scratch once, and it was a failed experience.  I may try it again sometime, but in the meantime, I've been exploring the pre-made, ready-to-boil ravioli at Trader Joe's.  This was my first attempt making the Lobster Ravioli (actually, my husband made it), and we were quite pleased.  We just tossed it with a little butter, olive oil and salt and pepper.  

just-boiled ravioli

the inside of the lobster ravioli
I was skeptical at first, but there actually is lobster in the lobster ravioli.  It's shredded, not chunked, but it's still pretty impressive for grocery store ravioli.  I know we'll be buying this again.  I definitely recommend checking it out.

To serve, divide the veggies evenly between 2 plates and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Happy eating!

plated lobster ravioli with baked bell peppers and mushrooms

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


My husband says that when he was growing up his dad always had a bottle of Malibu rum on his boat.  Now, we always have a bottle of the classic coconut-flavored rum in our cabinet.  I love the tropical taste and always find it amusing that it's imported...from Canada.

One of my favorite drinks involves Malibu mixed with my one of my favorite sodas...Diet Mountain Dew.  Of course we call the combo, Malidew.  The tropical coconut taste pairs really well with the lemon-lime soda.  I'm sure you could use the regular non-diet version of Mountain Dew, but we usually only buy diet soda.

1 can Diet Mountain Dew
2 ounces Malibu

Pour the Malibu in a tall glass.  Pour the Diet Mountain Dew over it, and enjoy.

This drink always makes me happy, and I figure the alcohol cancels out the caffeine.  At least, that's how I justify drinking Mountain Dew late at night.

I've tried using different flavors of Malibu (mango, pineapple, etc), but coconut is definitely my favorite.

Happy eating, er, drinking!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Baked Potatoes & Onions

When you think of a baked potato, you probably picture a whole potato wrapped in tinfoil.  I love those at restaurants when they're coated in sea salt, but they can take awhile to cook.  Speed up the process and make it a meal with this recipe that's somewhere between a loaded baked potato and baked french fries!

Baked Potatoes & Onions

4-6 as a side dish
2 for an entree

6 medium potatoes
1 large onion
2-4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
1/2 c sour cream

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Wash the potatoes and slice as if you're making french fries.  Then slice them again the opposite direction so that you have rectangular chunks.  Put the potato chunks in a large bowl, and fill the bowl with water.  Slosh the potatoes around with your hands to rinse them, and then drain the water from the bowl.  Fill the bowl with water again, rinse and drain the water.  Repeat this process a third and final time.  (Rinsing the potatoes really well gets a lot of the starch out and prevents them from being gluey.)

Cut the onion in half and slice against the grain so you're forming half-circles.  Cut each half-circle in thirds to form rectangular chunks.  Put the onions in the bowl with the drained potatoes.  Add about 2 tbsp olive oil.  You may need a little more depending on how big your potatoes are.  You just need enough so that they all get a touch of oil.  Add seasoning (TexJoy, salt, pepper) to taste.  I like my food heavily seasoned, so I sprinkle the seasoning until I see a nice coat of color on the potatoes.  Then I stir the mixture really well, add more seasoning and stir again.

Transfer the potato mixture to a large baking dish or baking sheet.  If you have a cookie sheet that has a lip around the sides, that would be perfect.  Ideally, the potatoes will be a single layer in the baking pan. You may need to use more than one pan.  However, not to worry if your potatoes are stacked on top of each other.

Put the baking pan in the preheated oven.  If your potatoes form one layer, set the timer for 20 minutes.  Baking times vary, but the potatoes are done when they're crisp, golden brown and you can easily stick a fork in them.  If necessary, taste one to see if they're done!  If your potatoes are not in one layer, set the timer for 10 minutes, take the baking pan out of the oven and stir the potato and onion mixture so that everything bakes evenly.  Place the baking pan back in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes again.  The potatoes may need 30-40 minutes total cooking time.  Stir every 10 minutes.

When potatoes are done, take the pan out of the oven and transfer to a serving dish.  Sprinkle evenly with cheese (cheese will melt in a few minutes), and place dollops of sour cream on top.  Enjoy!

The hardest part of this recipe is all the chopping.  You can make it a little easier with this nifty gadget to the left.  We bought ours at Bed Bath and Beyond.  One push, and a whole potato becomes perfectly chopped fries.

I grew up in Ohio farm country, and my grandparents grew potatoes on their farm.  That's probably one reason I love eating potatoes so much.  I'm sure this will be the first of many recipes featuring my favorite starchy vegetable.

Happy eating!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Porto's Bakery - Burbank, CA

inside the Porto's in Burbank
If you live in L.A. and you haven't been to Porto's yet, why not?  You must eat there!  If you don't live in L.A., and you ever visit, you must go to Porto's.  It's not in Hollywood with all of the touristy places, but if you go to a TV show taping or a Warner Bros backlot tour, you can easily stop by the Burbank location. 

What is Porto's?  A Cuban bakery and cafe.  The prices are fair, the food is delicious, and the lines are always long (but worth the wait).  They have delectable cakes and pastries, but they also have a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, coffee drinks, etc.

If you want to check out the menu/locations/hours: http://www.portosbakery.com

my sandcastle wedding cake
My husband and I actually had Porto's cater our wedding.  The Burbank location doesn't do wedding cakes (or at least they didn't at the time), so we went to the Glendale location.  We were having a beach theme, and I had found a picture of a sandcastle wedding cake that I wanted them to create for me.  When I showed the picture to the cake decorator, she immediately said she had done one like that recently.  I felt so relieved knowing that my cake was in good hands.  I loved tasting all of the cake/frosting/filling options, and I was very pleased with the finished product on my wedding day.  On wedding anniversaries, my husband picks up a Cuban cake with pineapple and custard filling (the same type of cake we had for our wedding). 

from left to right: cheese roll, cubano, potato ball, meat pie
the inside of a potato ball
Earlier today (after shooting a video for careersighted.com) my husband and I stopped by Porto's for dinner.  We always each get a Cubano.  It's just the best sandwich ever; turkey, ham, and swiss on Cuban bread.  We also get potato balls (mashed potatoes filled with ground beef and deep fried), meat pies (puff pastry filled with ground beef), and cheese rolls (kinda like a cheese danish but better).

None of this is healthy, but boy is it delicious!

Are you drooling yet?  Stop by Porto's and pick up a variety.  They have seating in the cafe, but it's often crowded and hard to get a table.  We always buy too much on purpose.  Everything reheats well.

box of cheese rolls
Happy eating!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Breakfast Quesadillas

Brunch by any other name is eggs for lunch.  One of my favorite quick and easy go-to meals for breakfast, brunch, lunch or even sometimes dinner is what I call "breakfast quesadillas."  Below is the recipe for 1 serving. 

1 flour tortilla
1 ounce shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper
cooking spray

Spray frying pan with cooking spray and preheat.  Scramble egg in bowl with an ounce or so of water.  Pour egg into hot pan and let sizzle and fill the bottom of the pan to form a round circle.  Sprinkle with half of the cheese and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Fold egg in half to form a semi-circle.  Once golden, slide egg onto a plate.  Re-spray pan with cooking spray.  Put a flour tortilla in the pan and cook until it starts to bubble up and the bottom is lightly golden.  Flip the tortilla over and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Let melt slightly.  Put the egg on top of one half of the tortilla.  Fold tortilla over egg.  Transfer to plate and cut in fourths.

This recipe is very easy to double.  My husband can usually handle a double batch.  In that case, I cook 2 eggs in the pan at the same time and don't fold the eggs in half; leave the eggs in the shape of a circle, sprinkle with cheese and transfer them to a plate.  Then I cook one flour tortilla on both sides and place it on top of the cheesy side of the eggs.  Then I cook another flour tortilla on one side, flip it over in the pan sprinkle with cheese.  Put the uncheesy side of the eggs on top of the flour tortilla in the pan.  Once the bottom tortilla is golden brown, transfer to a plate and cut in 8ths. 

I like the gooey cheesy taste of this easy entree by itself, but my husband likes topping the quesadillas with sour cream or salsa.  Side dish suggestions are fresh fruit or a salad.  In the picture above, I have the quesadilla paired with mixed greens topped with chardonnay vinaigrette, Parmesan cheese and TexJoy.

What's TexJoy?  Why, only the best seasoning mix ever!  It's made in my husband's hometown of Beaumont, Texas, and we order it online.  We usually order the 28oz Spicy Steak Seasoning and sprinkle it on almost everything.  One lasts us over a year.  http://www.texjoy.com/store/p/199-Spicy-Steak-Seasoning-28-oz.aspx  If you don't like your food spicy, they have other varieties available. 

Happy eating!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Multi-Grain Waffles, Cinnamon Apples & Orange Juice Cocktail

In the search for a healthy waffle recipe, I discovered one that’s absolutely delicious at EatingWell.com.  http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/multi_grain_waffles.html

The only change I made to the recipe was adding nutmeg in the same quantity as cinnamon.

In a Belgium waffle maker, the recipe made about 4 full waffles.  You can easily break them apart, freeze and reheat the leftovers in the toaster.  I’m so excited about having my own homemade frozen waffles that are so delicious, so healthy and so easy to reheat for a scrumptious breakfast in seconds.

The picture shows a waffle topped with cinnamon apples which are also so easy and healthy to make.  The flavor also goes really well with this waffle recipe.  Here we used a golden delicious apple, but you can use whatever you like.


1 apple (chopped in bite-size pieces)
sugar (or Splenda, my sugar-substitute of choice)

Put the apple in a microwave-safe bowl and add cinnamon and sugar to taste.  Microwave until the apple is tender and juicy.  Start with 1 minute and test the apple.  Microwave cooking times vary.

Oh, and what’s to drink?  Freshly squeezed orange juice with amaretto liquor.  It’s an amazing combination and the nutty flavor pairs well with a waffle and apple breakfast.  One part amaretto to 3 parts orange juice.  You can make it stronger if you prefer, but this is just breakfast after all.  Pace yourself!

Happy eating.

Birthday Comfort Food + Spinach Salad Recipe

What to eat, or what not to eat: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler to cook from scratch
Possibly eating healthier in the process,
Or to order pizza from down the street,
And enjoy every bite?

Ah, the nightly debate. My husband and I usually eat dinner together, so the daily question is, “What do you want to do for dinner?” We both like to cook, but sometimes we just want something quick and easy. It can help to plan ahead, but we also have our frozen entree and pizza delivery stand-bys for when it gets late and we’re just too hungry and tired to put in any effort.
Tonight, however, we didn’t eat at a restaurant or slave in the kitchen. My mom had us over for dinner as an early celebration for my husband’s birthday.

carrot cake
The menu:

Macaroni and cheese (not sure where the recipe came from, but it’s one of my mom’s standbys)
Cheeseburger meatloaf (Paula Deen recipe)
Spinach salad (made up by my mom)
Carrot cake (family recipe)

meatloaf, mac&cheese, spinach salad

Granted, this wasn’t the healthiest meal, but it was quite tasty in the comfort food sort of way.  The only healthy part was the spinach salad, so in an effort to help the greater good with recipes that get us to eat our greens (and because that’s the only recipe I have on hand), here is the easy and delicious spinach salad recipe:

9oz baby spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped oregano
1 c chopped onions
optional: bacon, shredded cheese, chopped bell peppers

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until combined.

Voila.  It’s that easy.  This is great as a side dish and has become a staple at my mom’s house.  It’s also great as a topping on sandwiches.

That’s all for tonight.  Happy eating.