Monday, May 31, 2010

Little Basil Bouquet

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Did you know that you are supposed to pinch off any flowers that appear on basil plants? As pretty as they look in the garden, once basil flowers, the leaves tend to taste a little bitter. If you're growing basil in your herb garden one way to extend the plant is to deadhead the flowers. To do this, simply pinch off the blooms with your thumb and index finger. This will not only help preserve the plant's flavor but also channel the plant's energies into more leaf growth (instead of making seeds).

What to do with those deadheaded flowers? I like to put them in a cute little vase to enjoy. They really are quite pretty and smell good, too.


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Friday, May 28, 2010

Our Anniversary

So, as I mentioned earlier in the week, Rich and I got to spend a week in Maui for our anniversary! Sounds extravagant, I know... but let me tell you about our amazing deal! First, we got our flights free with frequent flyer miles, and then got a great package deal from Costco.com for the Hyatt in Maui, including a car, and lots of extras like hotel food credit and free buffet breakfast every day! And, on top of that, I even used my American Express/Costco rebate this year to pay for most of the trip.The deal really did seem too good to be true, and we sort of had a running joke before we went that when we arrived at the Hyatt they would not have our reservation and laugh when we tell them the deal we thought we had! I seriously think our week-long trip in Hawaii ended up being cheaper than a little weekend away locally. Gotta love that....what a blessing!

We actually went to the Hyatt for our honeymoon 23 years ago, and I would have never in a million years ever thought I'd be there again. It was very special to return, but also funny how I hardly remembered the place (honeymoon daze?). Here are some photos of the Hyatt. If you ever go to Maui, this is the premier resort to go to. It's on Ka'anapali beach, in west Maui, and it's stunning, elegant, and very Hawaiian.

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The open-air lobby ~ they even had a penguin habitat with 7 tiny African penguins, along with exotic birds and a koi pond, amongst the beautiful foilage.

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The view from our room's balcony. We loved sleeping with the patio door open, listening to the crashing waves at night...and the birds would sing in the morning.

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Some of the spectacular 40-acre grounds ~ swans and flamingoes hung out in this area.


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Sunset on the beach near the hotel. We temporarily ditched our table at a beachside restaurant to grab the last of the sun in paradise.

And here are some photos from our wonderful breakfast every day. As usual, I was the only one taking pictures of the food in front of me, but I'm used to it. I usually had to get two plates, one just for all the juicy tropical fruit I enjoyed each morning and one for the rest of my food (I loved the eggs benedict and their omelette bar, and also splurged on their yummy pineapple/coconut/madadamia nut bread and other pastries!). There is nothing like Hawaiian papaya and pineapple. Eating those fruits was such a highlight of our day.

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The view from the stairs walking down to the restaurant. I told you the Hyatt was amazing.

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Not a bad seat in the house, but there were a few extra special tables we sat at, like this one. Sometimes a swan would swim by.

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I miss this fruit every day!

We were both on the same page for the week: do very little and stay at the resort. Other than one day (Rich's birthday) when we went on a beautiful drive and a short climb down some lava rocks to the Olivine Pools, and two times that we went snorkeling (two great snorkeling places: Black rock on Ka'anapali, and Honolua bay), we spent most of our time reading by the pool or walking on the beach. It was wonderful. I read two very good books: My wife, her shining life by Jim Rosscup, and I will carry you by Angie Smith. I also read a stack of Cooks Illustrated back issues that I scored off eBay! How I enjoy having the time to read a food magazine from cover to cover. The weather was perfect, the pool refreshing, ocean warm and crystal clear, and a constant warm breeze kept us saying "ahhh" the whole time.

As adventurous as we are food-wise, we were perfectly content to go to the same buffet breakfast every day (if you saw it you'd understand why) and eat our lunch at the pool. When you get hungry, you flag down one of the waitresses and they bring you a grilled vegetable/goat cheese wrap, a beautiful salad, or something equally good right to your lounge chair. It was rough, but we finally got used to it.

We did go out to some amazing dinners: Mama's Fish House (best restaurant on Maui, I think), Mala (a great find), Sansei (not the chain we have here; best sushi on earth), Haliimaile General Store, and we also went to a dinner comedy/magic show called Warren & Annabelle's that was the best show we've ever seen. I know, I know - it sounds funny to go to a magic or comedy show and especially on Maui, but it was totally clean and we laughed so hard! Warren did some tricks that we are still scratching our heads about. If you ever go to Maui you have to go to the show - seriously, it was so much fun! Here are a few of the places we ate:

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Haliimaile General Store. Since this restaurant is near the airport, we stopped here right after landing for a late lunch/early dinner. It looks very nondescript, but inside this former "general store" off the beaten path is the amazing creative cuisine of well-known local chef Bev Gannon.

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Our lunch ~ "Sashimi Napoleon" ~ Crispy wontons layered with smoked salmon, Ahi tartare,
sashimi and wasabi vinaigrette, on a bed of Kula greens. A work of art and a giant tastebuds party! I could seriously eat this every day. I loved the Kula greens we were able to have a few times while in Hawaii, and the fresh fish is amazing.


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Mama's Fish House for our anniversary dinner. They gave us fresh leis and surprised us with personalized anniversary wishes printed right on our menus!


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Mama's specialty: mahi mahi stuffed with crab and lobster, sauteed in madadamia nut breading, with pineapple beurre blanc. It just melts in your mouth. Even that lame looking rice was to die for, it was flavored with lemongrass. I practically licked the plate.

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The amazing man I'm married to.

It was so nice to get away with my sweet husband and celebrate the gift from God that our marriage is. We are so compatible and enjoy so many of the same things, and tend to see things very much the same way. We even think alike, even in the little things... one afternoon at the pool, I went and ordered a (virgin!) Pina Colada to surprise Rich - and when I brought it to him he laughed because he had just ordered one too, from the waitress who had just come by! We just had to smile. We thank God that we can enjoy the blessing of a strong and happy marriage - we don't know any secrets or formulas, and we know it isn't anything we've done but the Lord working through us to love Him and each other. We do love this life God has given us, we so enjoy serving Him together, raising our kids together...so thankful for the many blessings He has given us to enjoy. And, that's not all but an eternity to look forward to beyond this....we are blessed indeed.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WDW - Farm Fresh to You Organic Produce

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It really is Way Delicious Wednesday around here now that my Farm Fresh to You organic produce box arrives on Wednesday mornings!

I have been interested in this concept for awhile - organic produce delivery, but the only one in my area that I knew of was one that needed to be picked up at a local park on Saturday mornings. And, frankly, I wasn't willing to give up my coffee-drinking-in-my-pj's Saturday mornings to go drive and pick up a box of produce. But, when I read about the service Farm Fresh to You that offered home delivery, on my friend Carly's blog, I knew I had to give it a try! So, I signed up, got my first box, and was completely delighted! I started with the "regular mixed" box, but quickly realized that my fresh produce loving self needed MORE. So I upped it to the next size, "more mixed." Perfect.

If you're wondering about the specifics of this vegetable delivery, first let me tell you what I got in my box last week for $44:

6 large zucchini
2 large heads broccoli
2 bunches carrots
4 ears of white corn
1 bunch (3 medium) beets
1 bunch celery
1 head cabbage
Lots and lots of red leaf baby lettuce (filled 2 large ziploc bags!)
1 head romaine lettuce
2 brown onions
A good bunch of baby bok choy
2 hass avocadoes
2 peaches
10 apricots
1 lb. strawberries
4 oranges
2 grapefruits

What a great value! All organic, super fresh, and delivered right to my home! One feature that I love is that you can go on their website and designate any items you don't care to receive. As much as I am a produce lover, there are a few things I don't want to find in my box. For example, I don't want any leafy greens that have to be cooked (collard greens, mustard greens, etc. are not my thing) or any lemons or herbs (since I grow them). I also excluded a few other things that I have no interest in like rhubarb, kumquats, rutabagas, okra, and edamame. Anyways, they will kindly substitute another item for you that you will find more useful. For example, in place of the lemon I was to receive last week, I got an extra onion, which is much better for me. You can cancel delivery any week you want without obligation. You can even change your order week to week to a larger or smaller box, or a different assortment - they are so flexible. And, what is great is that on Fridays they post the list of the produce I'll be getting for the next Wednesday, so I know what is coming and can plan what I need to go with it. I usually do grocery shopping on Thursday, so it works out perfect for me.

Can you tell I am stoked about this service?

So, you may be thinking this seems like a lot of produce to deal with..what if I can't use it all? I guarantee you that you will not be able to let this gorgeous produce go to waste. Trust me, you will look for ways to use it and it will be the crown jewel of your meals. We usually inhale the strawberries right off the bat (I would take a bushel of organic strawberries each week!). I served the corn and bok choy as sides with salmon, made a beautiful salad with some of the lettuce using the beets and grapefruit/orange segments, and made guacomole with the avocadoes. We've been eating the carrots and other fruit out of hand, and will use the rest up easily.

You may also be thinking, $44 is a lot to spend on produce for a week. Well, for me personally, it is not, since fresh produce was already a priority for me and I do feed 4 adults - that really is only $11/person per week! It actually feels like a bargain to get my farm box and I feel good about feeding this great organic produce to my family.

So, go check out their website and see if they deliver to your area.
www.farmfreshtoyou.com
If you mention my name and the code #6164 you will get $5 off your first order.


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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blog vacation

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Sorry for the recent silence.... I took a blog vacation -well, actually an everything vacation for a week or so. Rich and I were able to get away for our anniversary to Maui!!! It was wonderful..... As soon as I adjust to not having my bed and all my food made for me, I will be back. :-)

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The mystique of pickles

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Remember these?

I just couldn't resist in a post awhile ago, making fun of the title of these.

I was pretty certain these were pickles when I saw them at the store. I was rather amused by the fact that Ralph's just couldn't say the word "pickle," leaving many of us to ponder "sweet whole" what? But, I brought them home and tasted them, and folks, they are indeed pickles!

But I have come to find out, it isn't just Ralph's that tries to keep this product a mystery. No, Albertson's feels the need to conceal that terrible word pickle as well. However, theirs are not merely called "sweet whole."


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Check it out! To up the mystique, Albertson's calls theirs "sweet wholes."

But, they can't fool me. I could tell by looking into the glass jar that these were indeed "sweet whole."

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WDW - Brazilian Salmon Stew

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Before I impress you with such a title, let me just say this is one of the easiest ways I've ever prepared salmon. Our friends, the Hoyers, invited us for dinner recently, and Nancy prepared this dish, which my husband declared was "one of the best things" he'd ever eaten. I think I agree! We actually all fell in love with it, and I knew my family would expect this dish to be on our table very soon. I promptly put pressure on Nancy to share the recipe, and she kindly obliged. Thank you, Nancy - this will surely be a family favorite.

We eat salmon once a week around here, and I usually prepare it quite simply. I use a dry rub with herbs and a little salt and pepper to season. I spray a heavy pan liberally with Pam, and drizzle a little olive oil in. I heat the pan to medium high (closer to high), and sear the salmon on both sides covered for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness. I love this method. The fish gets beautifully browned and crispy on the outside and stays moist on the inside. I usually serve the fish with brown rice and steamed veggies. Oh, and of course, homemade tartar sauce. It's one of our favorite meals. Emma has proclaimed that she could eat this every night (I think it may have something to do with the tartar sauce).

But, this stew is so flavorful, I know I'll be deviating from the usual every so often to make it this way. Full of ingredients we love, such as coconut milk, lime, cilantro, red bell pepper, tomato, and onion, this dish is a cinch to make. Early in the day, you make a paste of garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and lime juice and massage it into the fish, and refrigerate the rest of the day. About an hour before serving, you simply layer the ingredients in a heavy skillet and cook over the stove for about 45 minutes. We served it like Nancy did, over brown rice, and topped with fresh cilantro. We squeezed a little more lime juice on top, as well. Truly, this salmon stew is so amazingly delicious, try it soon!

Salmon Fish Stew, Brazilian Style Recipe

Marinade:

the cloves from 1/2 head of garlic, peeled, crushed, minced
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (I used smoked)
2 1/2 teaspoons dry cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon (preferably wild), cut into 2-inch pieces (large bite-sized pieces)

Olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced about 1/4" thick
1 large bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, and sliced about 1/4" thick
2 medium tomatoes, sliced about 1/2" thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 14-ounce can thick coconut milk (not "light")
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, 1-2 cups
Freshly cooked rice for serving

Mix together the marinade ingredients. Let the salmon marinate in this paste for at least 2 hours. The longer, the better.


In a large pan (large covered skillet or Dutch oven), coat the bottom of the pan with non-stick spray and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add a layer of sliced onions, and then a layer of sliced bell peppers, and a layer of sliced tomatoes. Place the fish pieces, with the marinade, on top of everything, and start layering again - onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add about half of the fresh cilantro to the top. Pour coconut milk over the top. Drizzle generously with olive oil over the top (several tablespoons).

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through and salmon is tender.

Serve with rice; garnish with remaining cilantro.
Serves 4-6.


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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Taste of Heaven

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April showers bring May flowers!

I love May! For me, there is just a feeling to it. I suppose I first felt that way around my wedding time in May, 1987. Then, I felt it again when I was expecting my first child, Brady, in May, 1989. The weather is changing, everything is in bloom, and there always seemed to be something special to anticipate at that time. That feeling always comes back to me every May. I love it.

Speaking of blooms, I picked this beautiful bouquet from Emma's rose garden this morning. It's right outside her bedroom window. I once saw a gorgeous bouquet of roses in a magazine photo, and I tore out the page and saved it. When it came time to plant this area by her bedroom window, I selected tea roses in all the colors of the roses of that photo. The orange ones are 'Chris Evert', the magenta ones are 'Barbra Streisand,' the silvery-lilac ones are 'Paradise', and the creamy ivory ones are 'Whisper.' There are 7 other bushes in the garden as well, all in the same varying shades. If you want an amazing smelling rose (lemony) then go for the Barbra Streisand. There is just something so incredibly enjoyable about picking roses from your own garden. To me, roses just seem so heavenly in the way they look and smell.

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And, speaking of heaven....Brady's birthday is coming up next week - on the 11th. He was born 21 years ago! Though he only lived 14 1/2 years, what an impact he had on my life. I was thinking the other day, that if I happen to live to be 75, and only 14 of those years were spent with Brady - what a small fraction of my life that actually was. But, oh, what sweet and memorable years those were, and how he touched my life and changed it forever. He is my child. I think of him every day. And I always conclude my thoughts of him rejoicing that he is in heaven. How privileged he is - I so envy him. As time goes on, and I get older, I praise God that I am getting a little closer to reuniting with Brady. The aging process does have a flip side for the Christian! We are slowly dying and creeping toward our eternity with God - what an amazing reality.

For today, these roses will just have to be my taste of heaven. Someday, my faith will become sight!

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