Collaborating in the kitchen…

Ever come across some goings-on-about-town in your ‘hood and think “omg, I’m THE coolest person for knowing this totally  underground awesome thing exists” then find out it’s been going on for, like, 3 years?  That happened to us a few weeks ago.  But whatever, it was still fun and I’m still wicked rad (that’s what the kids are saying these days, right?).

Things like farm-to-table restaurants, pop-up kitchens and cooking classes as a night on the town are popping up everywhere and here in SoCal all of them are going strong.  My foodie friend Emily was in town, so along with gorging ourselves on Mexican deliciousness, we ventured to the frosty confines of a wholesale seafood warehouse for Collaboration Kitchen, a culinary collusion between Specialty Produce, Catalina Offshore Products, and local chefs.   The instructions were vague (mostly because they came from B half-reading his email out loud):  show up.  dress warm.  bring wine.  Well OK then.  We’ve apparently been missing out on quite the to-do.  Even local celeb Sam the Cooking Guy was in attendance enjoying the chow with his wife – prompting B to scold me for not stopping to say hi when scooching past him to get to the rest room.  Which would have been particularly classy because I would have been doing the pee pee dance while asking for a photo with The Cooking Guy.

Sadly, the photos are crap, but the food was interestingly delicious.  This particular Collaboration Kitchen featured chefs of Baja and made me want to brave rush hour traffic and the overwhelming compulsion to outlet shop to cross the border for a taste of the up and coming Baja restaurant scene (which, from what I hear is 100% worth it…a trip is in the works for the not so distant future).  You can find the whole line up and recipes on Collaboration Kitchen’s Facebook page, but here are a few things I managed to capture:


The Scene from the “running late and easily confused” seats


Shrimp Huatape – Flor Franco


Big Ass Fishy


Half eaten Green Pargo & Escabeche – Chad White


Oyster & Potato Soup – Diego Hernandez-Velasco Baquedano
I expected to hate this – I’m not a fan of oysters at all.  But when in Rome and all that…I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t taste (or feel) like a baked potato covered in phlegm.

IMG_2232Just in case you didn’t believe me.  There was a glacier approximately 23 feet from my folding chair.

IMG_2236Erizo Style Fish “Pibil” Tacos – Javier Plascencia

(also half eaten…I have very clear priorities)

IMG_2237These boots were made for walking.  And storing silverware between courses.


The give-away of the night – Andrea’s Truffles
These were seriously the bonus round to end all bonus rounds.  I don’t even like truffles and I’m moving into Andrea’s house or wherever she makes these as soon as she lifts the restraining order.

But seriously…order these.  We liked them so much that I’m traveling 3000 miles with 80 of them next weekend.  If they make it that far. I should probably NOT carry them on – for safe keeping.

A huge thank you to Specialty Produce, Catalina Offshore Products, and all of the talented  chefs who made this Collaboration Kitchen happen…I’m sorry we didn’t find you sooner, but we’ll certainly be back!

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Cupcakes. Lazy, tasty cupcakes.

So, not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I haven’t been posting a whole lot lately.  I have no excuses, I’ve just been completely unmotivated.  It’s like I moved into a new house and don’t want to touch anything for fear of getting it dirty or something.  Which is ridiculous, because everything I touch gets dirty.  I’m like Pigpen from Peanuts (except without the assumed cartoon-like stench).

A friend’s birthday pulled me out of my funk, but it being a school night and all, I didn’t get too crazy.  I actually doctored cake mix and frankly, I may never make chocolate cupcakes from scratch again (that’s totally not true, but these are damn good).

Here’s what you need.  Well, this and some chocolate chips, but they were an afterthought.  I took a picture and it sucked. I’m sure you can stretch your imagination that far.


This batter comes out thicker than regular store bought cake mix, which makes it way easier to put in the muffin cups.  Also, it makes it easier to shove spoonfuls into your face.  If you were so inclined to do something like that.


The birthday boy loves the cinnamon cream cheese frosting I put on roughly 73.8% of baked goods – admittedly, this isn’t saying much because you could put it on a hairball and it would still be delicious.  So that’s it.  Simple.  Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate chips.  Frosting.  Done.


Oh.  And I drizzled some Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce over the top.  Because it is magic and makes everything even better than cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  So, by default, I think that makes these the best cupcakes in the world.  Possibly in my zip code.


Then the party was cancelled due to circumstances beyond my control, so I was forced to eat no less than 4 cupcakes because CHILDREN ARE STARVING, young lady.  Probably everywhere but my house.


Go make these.  No one will know you’re faking it.

Doctored Chocolate Cake Mix
P.S. How amazing do THOSE cupcakes look!?

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix*
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix*
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup warm coffee or 1/2 cup water. I used the coffee.
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

* These are not the weights I found – but the cake mix was the standard size at my store (14.25 oz) and I used the small box of pudding mix.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and espresso water mixture. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined.  If adding chocolate chips, stir them in.

3. Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well (mine actually made about 30).

4. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes.

5. Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are cool, prepare your frosting (recipe here).

Devour at will.

Posted in Baking, cooking, Cream Cheese, cupcakes, dessert, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

And then I resolved to have more creative blog titles…Happy 2013!

Back when I was a kid (and by kid, I mean 20), old people (and by old people I mean 35 year olds) used to tell me that the older you get, the faster the years go by. I smiled politely and waited for them to leave for the early bird special at Coco’s. Unfortunately, now that I’ve turned the corner on old age, I’ve realized that their wisdom of the ages is painfully true. The years have started to fly by like the strobe lights on Space Mountain. But what those geezers didn’t tell me is that while the years pass with an increasing rapidity, they also seem to contain more. Not more “stuff” (though stuff accumulation is something I struggle with), but more meaning, more memories, more laughter, more tears, more depth.

I’ve never been a big “new year, new chances, new choices” kind of person. Fall has traditionally been my time of self-reckoning. I think New Year’s resolutions are generally a recipe for bad self esteem (admittedly, that might have something to do with my impressive lack of follow thru). But as this New Year approaches, I’m struck by how this one feels somehow different. Maybe it’s just that I felt this year more than past years. Maybe the more years I get, the more I appreciate each one. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the tequila.

This year, more than any other I can remember, I’ve laughed so hard I never thought I’d catch my breath. I’ve been overcome with such profound sadness it’s felt like nothing short of drowning. I’ve been content and restless and my heart has been so full of happy it actually felt as though it might burst. I left the first house I shared with B and celebrated the holidays in our new home with (most of) our nearest and dearest.

This year, my beautiful sister-in-law married a great guy on a balmy night in March. My best friend and I got to see each other twice in one year! Too many friends to count made tiny humans and the heavens received a new angel. I left a whirlwind trip back east with fresh perspective, a soundtrack in my head, and, after almost two decades of dormancy, a rekindled friendship that is one of the highlights of my year. It’s amazing the things you find when you’re not looking.

This year, I looked in the mirror and really saw the years. The millions of smiles and the hours of laughter buried in the wrinkles around my eyes. The late nights and early mornings. The red-eye flights and too much wine. The amazing summers spent lifeguarding and lounging without the company of my friend SPF. Everyone (including me) complains about wrinkles or aging from time to time, but there is a lot of living reflected in our faces (and hands, and bodies) if we take the time to appreciate it. This year, I did. I do.

This year, a new love helped heal a broken heart:

Image 2

This year, I met famous people:



This year, I felt at home on an island:


This year, I took a metal chicken on a road trip:


This year, I took a whole lot of photos of things that made me say “what the CRAP?!”:


This year, I saw the sun rise and set on the Atlantic and Pacific:



I think there was some cooking and baking in there too.

As the sun sets on 2012 I leave you with all the cliches (though I actually mean them). May 2013 bring you peace, laugh lines, balance and love. Hug the people you care about. Say “I love you” often and without reservation (to people you love, not strangers…that might get you arrested). Slow down. Life is short, difficult, and wonderful. Enjoy the ride.

And the bubbles.


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On the second day of Christmas…

my true love gave to me…another adult beverage!  My true love still can’t rhyme.  And my true love might think I’m a saucy lush.  But that’s OK, because being a saucy lush at the holidays is delicious!

But first, can we talk about this:

Image 4

Because it sounds absolutely disgusting.   So of course I bought it.  And you know what?  It IS disgusting!  Hooray for having fabulous instincts!

This, however, is not disgusting.

Image 6

And this tasty beverage I actually made from scratch.  Here’s a picture of milk in a saucepan to prove it.

Image 3

You’re convinced, right?  Good…so anyway.

Once again, the brilliance of Chubby Bunny‘s creativity makes me look smart.  Or clever.  Or something.  Or it makes me want hot booze chocolate.  Chocolate + peppermint + marshmallow.  Red velvet hot chocolate was the obvious choice.

Just in case peppermint marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate and hot chocolate aren’t enough of a sugar rush for you, I highly recommend dunking the holiday Jo-Jos (the best thing about Christmas at Trader Joe’s) into the magic beverage.  You’ll be bouncing off the walls, but that’s ok, the booze will temper that in a couple of minutes.


So, you should make this.  Put booze in it or don’t, it’s delicious either way.  But you should definitely put the marshmallows on it.

Boozy Red Velvet Hot Chocolate
beverage adapted from:

4 C 2% milk
1 dash water
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp. red food coloring
4 oz. peppermint schnapps

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat.
2. Add a splash of water and sugar, and chocolate chips, constantly stirring gently.
3.  When almost melted, add the red food coloring and stir.
4.  When chocolate and sugar are melted, pour into mugs and stir in schnapps.  Top with marshmallows and enjoy.


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On the 1st day of Christmas…

my true love gave to me…a boozy drink with marshmallows in it.  My true love can’t rhyme.  Also on the 1st day of Christmas my mother the rest of you gave me crap for not posting anything in a month (um. give or take).  I liked the first gift WAY more.  But she’s you’re right, I haven’t posted in forever…so here’s what you probably didn’t miss but I’ll tell you anyway missed (and then we’ll get to the magic of boozy beverages):

1.  We moved.  To a house with a double ovens (!!!!!!).  In which I have baked precisely nothing (from scratch) because along with a new house came hosting Thanksgiving for 2 families 13 days after moving.  And then I lapsed into a coma for 2 weeks. Ok, not a real coma, but I hit a domestic wall (that was before I hit a door with my face in an overzealous trip to the bathroom, but that’s a totally different story).

2. The second anniversary of my blog, which was on November 3rd.   I suck.    You can go here to read the very first post (and marvel at how truly little I’ve evolved in 2 years) and then you can throw cupcakes at me for punishment.  Please aim for my face. It’s already messed up from the aforementioned door.

3.  I found these.  I really want to get them for my dog, but he’s about 872 times the size of the petite little model dog and I’m pretty sure he’d look at me all “bitch, PLEASE” if I tried putting them on him.  Then he’d sit on me.  And probably fart.

4. My BFF came to visit and we ate a metric butt-ton of food.  Some of which earned it’s own post.  It’ll be one of these days of Christmas. Perhaps 7.

5. I made cheesy photo cards for the first time since the obligatory wedding photo card with our new address and photos taken with my iPhone (because we’re pros  like that).  I even signed the dog’s name (because I’m insane like that).  Then after they shipped, I figured out there was a typo on them.  I begged the company to send me new ones, which they sort of agreed to, but they’re in no rush to fix the fact that I’m a sleep deprived moron (selfish bastards).  Those of you who know me can expect a card sometime in 2013. It may or may not have a typo.  It’ll be like a game.  If you find it you win (it’s really only a moral victory though…no prizes will be given).

6. Some other stuff that I may or may not get around to writing about but I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, so I won’t tell you about it yet (or ever, we’ll see).

So, back to the boozy beverages…

Thanks to Chubby Bunny, this happened:

Image 1

That, friends, is spiced (and spiked) eggnog with Chubby Bunny eggnog marshmallows.  And some donuts my friend Jessica had a weird craving for at the grocery store.  Which is good because, you know, they made a good prop.

Now, before you go thinking I got all Martha Stewart on the eggs in my fridge, I’ll tell you that I spiked store-bought eggnog and spiced it up myself.  Mostly because egg yolks gross me out.  Oh, and I’m lazy.  So pay attention, this recipe is complicated:

1 mug of fresh eggnog
rum of choice to taste (I probably put in an ounce.  ish.)
extra spice to taste (I used cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)
Microwave ’til hot.  Or heat in a saucepan if you don’t believe in microwaves or something.
Top with amazing marshmallows from Chubby Bunny (that’s the most important part).

Drink while making fun of the eggnog company’s marketing campaign.  Because seriously?  That doesn’t even make sense.  Except for the eat, drink part. That always makes sense.


By the way, when I told my friend D that I was actually getting around to writing a new post but it was a rambling, incoherent mess, she replied with:  “I’ll edit it for a dollar fiddy.”  When I didn’t respond instantly she followed that up with “Haha.  Just kidding.  I just like the term “a dollar fiddy”.  So, she didn’t edit this (to be clear.  I didn’t want you thinking she has horrible editing skills).  Yet somehow I still feel like I should send her $1.50.  Weird.

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Easy like Sunday morning

I thought I should take this rainy Sunday morning opportunity to inform you that I am a culinary genius.  Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone (that I think I’m genius, not the actual geniusness of it anything).   It’s rare that I actually make something I thought of all by myself (or at least with minimal enough influence from the interwebs to believe I came up with it myself).  But I’m staking claim to these (unless I’m blatantly stealing from someone out there…then I’m sorry. I promise I didn’t see your idea first).

I was in the store filling my cart with random crap to further clutter the drawer that drives B batshit healthy and nutritious food choices and saw these:

Marshmallows have been around approximately 857 years and these were just invented?  What the crap, marshmallow making people?  (and by marshmallow making people, I am referring only to the commercial producers of spongy, shelf stable for 40 years variety, not the creative masterminds behind Chubby Bunny – who, P.S. just came out with Snickers marshmallows that you should go buy because they sound fantastic).

Admittedly, there is a Rice Krispy Treat recipe on the back of this bag, but who wants plain old RKTs (ok, me, every single day.  but that’s not the point.)?  A few months ago I decided that since the s’mores craze was taking over the country leaving cupcakes to cling desperately to their 15 minutes of fame, a twist on the traditional RKT using Golden Grahams and milk chocolate chips would be amazing.  I was right, as evidenced by my snarky gay friends fighting over the last one at a party, then telling me about each other’s metabolisms for 20 minutes.

Anyway, I’m a huge supporter of pumpkin and graham crackers (I’m so completely obsessed with Ethan Adeland‘s pumpkin s’mores that I made them for breakfast the other day), so revisiting the Golden Graham Krispy Treat seemed obvious.  And delicious.

You should do this.  Today, if possible.  Oh, and don’t be scared when the marshmallows look absolutely disgusting when they’re melting.  Be patient and that something disgusting will turn into magic awesomeness.  For the record, that is the same advice I give B on particularly scary hair mornings.  I think he’s still waiting.

See?  Gross.  But then you put the GG in and it looks like this:

And all is right in the world again.  Then you invite a friend over to watch so good bad TV so you don’t feel bad about eating half the pan by yourself.

Even though, really, you’re the one who ate half the pan because you also made pumpkin cheesecake specifically for said friend, so she’s eating that instead.  Details.

Best part, these are super easy (like Sunday morning), so when you finish the pan give them all away, you can whip up another batch before anyone notices.

Pumpkin Golden Graham Bars
(adapted from:  the depths of my genius brain)

1 bag pumpkin flavored marshmallows
1 box Golden Grahams
3 Tbsp butter
cooking spray for pan
Optional:  Milk chocolate for the top

1.  Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray
2.  Melt butter over medium heat in a large pot
3.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted (ignore aforementioned grossness)
4.  Stir in Golden Grahams and stir until coated (or til the cooling marshmallow is sticking more to you and everything within 4 feet of you than the cereal)
5.  Quickly press the mix into pan (I spray my hands with cooking spray or use waxed paper).
6.  Top with shaved milk chocolate if you want (I did this, you just can’t see it in the pictures).

Other things that would be good…mini milk chocolate chips stirred in at the last-minute.   Or top with chocolate and mini marshmallows for that extra special sugar high.

Posted in Baking, cookies, dessert, fall, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Why today is awesome.

1.  It’s Friday.  Which means that tomorrow I can sleep in after the dog wakes me up at 3 AM chasing invisible mutant zombie bunnies.  Fuzzy bastard is cute but nocturnal.

2.  New shoes.  I’ve worn the same pair of black pumps since 2004 (no, I don’t time stamp my shoes.  I know this because I bought them for an interview my first year in law school. I didn’t get the job, but I loved the shoes).  And I walk like a drunk baby giraffe in heels to begin with, so new shoes scare me.  And I’m cheap, so everything I buy is on clearance and never quite right.  So I sprung for big girl shoes to replace the ones that even the cobbler declared unsalvageable after bringing them in for new soles the 3rd time.  It’s true what they say about good shoes doing great things for your mood (I have no idea who actually says that, but it’s still true).

3.  These.  Portion controlled brie?  How do I nominate someone for the Nobel Prize of Awesome?


4.  This sign.  In a coffee shop.  Where evidently there is a proliferation of purchases made with counterfeit currency.    “So, yeah, that’s not a real hundy, you caught me.  Maybe the picture of Kevin Costner dressed as Ben Franklin gave it away.  Think I could get that back?”

5.  I made a version of this last night for dinner.  I’ll tell you all about that soon.

6.  New kitchen counters.  We’re moving in a month, so finally getting the counters we’ve talked about for 2 years right now makes perfect sense.  We’re freakin’ geniuses like that.  But they’re SO. PRETTY.

6.  (and this is the best one of ALL).  MY BEST FRIEND IS COMING TO VISIT.  In less than 2 months!  She lives 3000 miles away, we’ve been friends for almost 30 years (holy flaming crapballs), and we share a brain. Which is awkward, given the time difference and all.  It’s been over 3 years and 2 kids (hers) since she’s been here and my liver is almost healed from last time.  From the moment I woke up to the text that said “IT’S ON. What weekend in December works?” I’ve been giggling, on the verge of tears, and grinning like a bigger idiot than I actually am.  B is fairly sure I’ve taken up sniffing glue. Further proof he just doesn’t GET ME.

May your weekend be as fantastic as my Friday.

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Then I went to sea. In a donut.

Not kidding.  Not experimenting with hallucinogenic snacks (but that would have made for a crazy donut ride).  Fall may be in full swing on the other side of the country, but here in SoCal we’re having an absurd heat wave. So we did what anyone longing for that crisp cool fall air and the sound of leaves crunching underfoot would do.  We BBQed in a donut while floating in the Pacific.

Learning how to drive the donut.

{I would like to point out on an only-vaguely-related note that Al Gore and his interwebs have finally gone too far.  At first I thought it was awesome that you could see into my car from space, but now I’m pretty sure they’ve bugged my office and possibly my bathroom and I’m feeling a little violated.  You know how after you send a completely personal and private email to someone about salmon or bridesmaid dresses or sock monkeys and suddenly every banner ad your computer can fit on a page has something to do with the topic of that email?  Yeah. Weird. But kinda cool in a nerdy, I’m too cool to care about Big Brother kind of way.  But when banner ads start reflecting the topics of your conversations? CREEPY and STOP IT.  I told someone at work about “the donut” and the next thing I knew, not only was there an ad for it, but the next day there was a Groupon for it.  Either I am remarkably on trend or there’s a microchip in my brain recording my conversations for marketing purposes. And, wow, that would explain that strange alien dream.}  But anyway…

Proving that we (probably) wouldn’t crash.

Though it looks like it should, the donut cannot be spun around using the table like the teacup ride at Disneyland (I tried), so we just puttered around, anchored, and cooked deliciousness.

kebabs + veggies = endless summer

B is the master of ALL the bbqs. Even the ones in donuts.

When we picked the orange orb of adventure, we were specifically instructed: “no getting air”.  Which immediately led to a brainstorming session where we could to jump this thing off a ramp.  Failing a suitable boat-jumping venue, we ate more food.

‘shrooms marinated in carne asada sauce. best meat substitute ever.


And then we puttered back under the covetous glares of people on “real” boats with bows and afts and ports and starbords and all sorts of other crap that round floaty bbq boats don’t have.  Because they’re too cool for directions.
In this case, though, jealousy is not a sin.  It’s a requirement.

Our lovely co-captain, Sayzie. Being a good sport despite having no idea where she was going.

The lovely Jessica

Donut-induced food bliss.  No actual donuts necessary.

Happy Indian Summer!

Posted in cooking, food, Travel, Uncategorized, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The scariest (and most delish) vacation ever.

You may remember that I confessed my completely rational childhood fear of being buried alive by molten lava a while back.  Once I got over my crippling belief that the sunset was actually the red glow of magma coming to get me, this was not a fear I struggled with on a daily basis (I’m far too busy dealing with my fear of clowns and dentists for things like lava these days).

Anyway, cut to B and I planning a vacation to Hawaii.  The Big Island, to be precise.  Like any good tourist, I booked tickets and a hotel, bought the highest rated guide book out there and immediately read none of it.  I always tell myself I’ll read it on the plane, then I feel all pressured because B expects me to be the tour guide but I haven’t actually planned anything and I don’t speak the language and can’t figure out the currency and I’m a total failure at tour-guiding.  I find that history is dead set on repeating itself, so I didn’t read the stupid book on the plane because we watched Battleship (aka The Worst Movie Ever Made) instead.  Then I ate some soggy crap I bought at the airport and read a magazine and BAM we were there.  And it was dark, so we got food and crashed, vowing to explore in the morning.  Imagine my surprise when I woke to discover the ENTIRE F*ING ISLAND is covered in lava.  And roads.  But they had to move the lava to make the roads.

Lava. Lots and lots of it.

That’s not actually true.  About 7 square inches of the island are covered in coffee plants that make delicious coffee and that is secretly the entire reason I wanted to go to the Big Island to begin with.  (I should note here that I’m not a complete twit and I knew that there is an active volcano on the island and that there was even the possibility that I would be lucky enough to get in a small watercraft at 4 in the morning and go play in the white water to see lava flowing into the ocean.  I figured I’d be so excited about the ridiculousness of everything I just said to forget my fears and be in the moment.)  However, the lava knew I was coming and ceased to create life altering dramatic experiences for tourists a few days before we arrived.  It’s thoughtful like that.  So, we set about exploring and, as always, eating our way across one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  And we went to the volcano and I didn’t even have a (visible) panic attach or accidentally knock anyone into the volcano.  That would have been awkward.

For the record, B gave up being vegetarian for vacation (and I ate fish for almost every meal).  He started things with a bang at the Hawaiian Style Cafe:

I’m fairly certain that’s fried rice, spam, fried chicken, pork chops and a fried egg topped with gravy.

Mine is healthy.  It has fruit on top.

Banana mac pancake goodness

There was fruit. Under a tree. On a road that I’m fairly certain was not on any map.

Beach picnic of local poke and cold beer

Followed by a nap with this view

Hey look! A sign for things I will NEVER DO.

And a cute little lizard having lunch.  I’m all about cute (cuz I’m gonna get to the terrifying part later).

This place is why I want to marry Yelp.  Without Yelp, we would have driven right by Super J’s.  Turns out, they were on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” and will play you the clip while you eat your food without asking.  But they’re so awesome that you won’t even care.  You’ll wish you were in on the secret and didn’t end up here because you were both starving and cranky and willing to go to the first place a phone told you wouldn’t make you sick. They serve 2 things.  Have them both.  Be forewarned that your spouse will randomly say Lau Lau completely out of context for the rest of the trip.

Chicken Lau Lau (I couldn’t bring myself to eat pork…but there is no veggie option at Super J’s. When in Rome and all that…)

They hope this will last “3-4 days”. Sometimes they run out.

warm malasadas. like donuts, but good.

Beyonce and Ben Affleck have a show-girl cousin in Hawaii.

The weirdest thing I ate in Hawaii…it’s a grilled cheese. but opened faced. with an elaborate salad on top. huh.

Flaming coffee and salad sandwiches? Ok. I’m game.

It was at this point in the trip that we headed to the other side of the island to “see the volcano”.   My fears were abated because everyone we’d asked (and I asked everyone I met) said the lava wasn’t flowing this week.  Of course, they said it like it was the most disappointing thing ever, rather than celebrating the fact that there was no possible way they’d end up vaporized on their way to work.

Seriously? What the CRAP!??

Even the museum people know middle earth is a magma bomb.

We visited this museum (of terror) after deciding we’d join an unsanctioned illicit hike to the edge of the volcano after nightfall.  Because I completely lost my mind.  And it was glorious.

The following conversation took place immediately before we saw this:

Me: Did I ever tell you about how, when I was a kid, I was convinced that the sunset was a lava flow coming towards my house that would trap us?
B: No.
Me: Really?
B: I’m pretty sure I would have remembered that.
Me: yeah, I saw it on 3-2-1 contact.
B: You saw the sunset turning into lava on 3-2-1 contact?
Me: No, I saw lava. The sunset thing was a product of my very healthy but overactive imagination.
B: Right.
Me: So, in my nightmares, my family would be in a VW Beetle and the lava would cool over us and we’d be trapped. Which is weird, since we never had a Beetle.
B: That’s the weird part?
Me: Holy crapballs!!! It’s like Hawaii staged this to screw with me!
B: Who are you?

So, that happened.

This was remarkably terrifying but actually very cool once B convinced me that there were not families trapped in cars under the lava.

remarkably good Thai food in Volcano Village

One of the top three meals on the island. Grilled hebi sandwich and yucca potato salad.

Cafe Pesto.  Decidedly touristy sounding, but recommended by a local.  And delicious.

more hebi. I didn’t know what it was either.

Our last real meal was at the Four Seasons for lunch.  Everyone told us it was worth it…and it was.

This is a seafood hotdog and sweet potato (though I think they’re yucca) chips. The best part about this meal was the view. And the cute little fry basket the chips came in. I’m a sucker for packaging.

Oh, and this.  I heart spicy drinks.

Everywhere we went, the people were amazing, the scenery beautiful, and the experience remarkable.  There was a lot more food and even some activities, but I didn’t get photos of it all, including my top 2 meals on the island.   If you find yourself in this lava encrusted paradise (and you should), make sure to check out The Blue Dragon – hands down the best meal we had in a fun, locals atmosphere.  If you’re looking for fancy with a view and don’t mind paying hotel prices…the Water’s Edge at the Hilton Waikoloa is pretty damn fantastic.  And no, none of these places are paying me to say anything about them. They should though.  Seriously.

Mahalo, Hawaii. And thanks for all the fish.

Posted in food, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Warning: muffins may cause distraction

I have no idea what to say about these muffins, other than: go make them.  Right now. Every single day Some days, things pop into my email in the morning and I get all excited to make them but then realize I’m stuck in that stupid place I’m told I need to go in order to get paid. ALL DAY.  Hours and hours of just thinking about making ALL THE THINGS.  It is terribly distracting, particularly since my requests to have a convection oven and stove put in the break room are continually shot down.  These clowns clearly don’t understand how much more productive I would be if they’d just let me cook for my team all day.  On this particular day, I’m pretty sure I answered “when do you expect to have a draft?” with “GRAHAM CRACKERS!”  I’m also pretty sure my co-workers have taken to completely ignoring me when I spout culinary non-sequeturs.

The beauty of these muffins is that they look like muffins and taste like muffins, but they have chocolate in them, so they could pass for dessert too. Which, of course, just means you can eat them at every meal.  Not that you couldn’t do that anyway…I don’t judge.  Go ahead, eat trout almondine or something else decidedly dinnery for breakfast.  Really, that’s not weird.

Generally I get all panicky and upset when a recipe I want to make the minute I walk in the door involves a bunch of prep (and by “prep” I mean waiting for things like butter and eggs to come to room temperature) because I know I’ll lose interest or see a moth and whatever brilliant grand plan I had for making the best muffins before I pass out is shot to hell.  That’s what makes these even better.  No boring prep.  Just make and eat.  My kinda recipe.

As (almost) always, sift all the dry stuff together.

Don’t worry if you don’t have pre-crumbed grahams on hand…making the crumbs after a long day can be both cathartic and delicious.

Add the chips at the end to avoid over mixing (try not to shove half of them in your pie hole before you get to this point like I did).  Oh, and I used semi-sweet chips instead of the prescribed milk chocolate because “operation clean out the kitchen drawers” is in full swing and I’m not allowed to bring new ingredients into the house for fear of public lynching.  Usually I’d say it doesn’t matter, but I think these would actually be better with the milk chocolate.

Graham cracker crumb topping = best topping ever

This should be on everything.  Like vegetables.  And trout almondine.

Bake for 15-20 minutes and you have breakfast.  Or dessert.  Or gratifying emotional eating binge. No? Just me? Ok then.  Whatever, remember a minute ago when I didn’t judge you for eating salisbury steak for breakfast?  Tit for tat, people.

Personally, we’re fans of cream cheese on muffins in this house, but do whatcha want.

Yes, I took the same photo at different angles.  I liked them both. You’re welcome.

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Muffins
(posted by: howsweeteats who is kinda my hero)

2 cups Flour, All Purpose
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
½ cups Sugar
1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 cup Whole Milk
⅓ cups Canola Or Vegetable Oil
1 whole Large Egg
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
¾ cups Milk Chocolate Chips

¼ cups Flour, All Purpose
¼ cups Light Brown Sugar, Packed
¼ cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
½ teaspoons Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line muffin tins with liners or spray well with cooking spray and set aside.

For the muffins, in a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and graham cracker crumbs until blended. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine the milk, oil, egg, and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir in by hand.

Using an ice cream size scoop, fill each muffin liner or tin with 1 scoop, about 2/3 full.

For the topping, in a bowl mix the flour, brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon and stir to combine all the dry ingredients well. Add the melted butter and mix well until crumbly and looking like wet sand.

Top each muffin with 1 heaping tablespoon of crumb topping. (or approximately half a fist full if you’ve already thrown the tbsp measure in the sink and don’t want to clean it)

Bake for 16-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean (keep an eye on them if your oven runs hot…mine only took 15 mins).

Makes 15(ish) muffins.

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, Cream Cheese, cupcakes, dessert, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments