Follow on Facebook!

Anything is good, in moderation. I cook because I love to and because I can share with those around me. I crochet for the same reason.

Do what you want to do, enjoy what you do and use it to touch those around you.

Mar 27, 2014

Baked Chicken Spaghetti

Oven roasted vegetables (well, technically, fruit), chicken, cheese sauce, spices - YUM.  You can use plain olive oil or a flavored, such as a smoked tomato.  The hot peppers are optional.  No cake flour?  No problem, use All Purpose flour.  If you don't have an oven safe skillet, use a large skillet and grease a 2 quart oven safe dish.

8 Ounces Spaghetti
1 Pint Tomatoes
1 Tsp Hot Pepper Flakes
4 Cloves Garlic
2 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Unsalted Butter
2 Tbl Cake Flour
1 Cup 1% Milk
1 Cup Half and Half
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar
1 Cup Shredded Monterey Jack
1/2 Tsp Cumin
1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro
2 Tsp Fresh Lime Juice
4 Cups Shredded, Cooked Chicken
1 Cup Shredded Cheese (Cheddar, Jack, Pepper Jack - you choose)

Put water on to boil.  When at a rolling boil, cook spaghetti until al dente.  When done, drain and put into a large bowl with the vegetables.

Menwhile, heat your broiler on high heat.  Line a baking pan with non stick foil.

Halve tomatoes, place cut side down on foil.  Mince garlic, add to pan.  

Put hot peppers (if using) on pan.  Sprinkle all with olive oil, broil about 6 inches away from broiler until browned.  

Remove from oven and put into a large bowl.  until ready to use and reduce oven temp to 350 degrees.

In a large oven ready skillet, melt the butter until slightly browned.  Stir in the flour and stir until well mixed.  Add milk and half and half, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until thickened.    When all incorporated, add 2 cups cheese until melted.  Stir in spices.

Pour over vegetables.  Add chicken.  

Stir until combined.  

Pour into an oven ready pan (the skillet you cooked the roux in, if oven safe).  Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes until brown and bubbly.

Mar 26, 2014

Smoked Mac and Cheese? Yes, really.

Yes, we have gone a little smoker crazy.  Tom mentioned smoked macaroni and cheese.  Most options I found used smoked cheese, not a smoker.  Those that used a smoker I was not happy with, so, why not take a 'standard' mac an cheese and tweak it - so that is what I did.  You can use All Purpose Flour instead of Cake Flour.  The bacon can be omitted - use 1/4 cup butter instead of the bacon grease.

13 to 16 Ounces Pasta (I used 13.5 ounce wheat pasta)
1 LB Bacon, Cut into Cubes
1/4 Cup Cake Flour
12 Ounces Low Fat Evaporated Milk
1/2 Cup Half and Half
1 Tsp Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp Pepper
3 Cups Shredded Cheddar Jack Cheese

Put 1 cup wood chips in to soak.  Prepare smoker for indirect cooking and heat to 325 degrees.  Coat foil casserole pan with cooking spray, set aside.  Cook pasta 1/2 time recommended on the package.  Drain and spray with cold water.  Set aside, as necessary.

Add chili powder to evaporated milk, set aside.

Cook bacon until crispy.  Drain (reserving grease) and put into the bottom of a bowl.

Put 1/4 cup bacon grease and flour into pan.  Whisk to combine.

Add half of the half and half.

Whisk until mashed potato consistency, add remaining half and half.  Whisk until smooth,

Add evaporated milk, half at a time, whisking completely after each addition.  Add 2 cups cheese.

Whisk to combine.

Add pasta and cheese sauce to bacon bowl.

Stir to combine.  Top with remaining cup of cheese.

Take to smoker.  Put wood chips onto hot coals, put mac and cheese on plate cooker.  Close and cook for 1 hour.

Mar 25, 2014

Chicken and Broccoli Lunch

Mix this up, put it in a flat bread, a wrap, a choose.  It is very filling and good for you.

4 Cups Broccoli Florets
1/2 Cup Plan Greek Yogurt
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Tsp Sugar
1/4 Tsp Salt
3 Cups Cubed, Cooked  and Cooled Chicken Breast
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/3 Cup Sunflower Seeds.

Steam broccoli until crisp tender.  Set aside to cool.

In a a large bowl, mix all ingredients.  

Refrigerate for at least an hour and enjoy.

Mar 24, 2014

Spicy Pasta

Quick, easy and with things you should have in your pantry.  Don't like spicy?  Reduce or remove the red pepper.

8 Ounce Rigatoni
6 Slices Bacon
1/4 Cup Chopped Onion
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper
28 Ounce Crushed Tomatoes with Oregano
3/4 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

Cook Pasta to package directions and drain.

While heating water and cooking pasta, cook bacon until crisp.  Drain on paper towel and set aside to cool.

To the bacon grease, add onion and garlic.

Cook until fragrant, add tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Stir.

Cook over medium low heat to thicken until pasta is done.  Drain pasta and add to sauce.  Crumble bacon on top, stir.

Mar 23, 2014

Wood Carving in Hawaii

When visiting Hawaii, the friends we were with wanted to find a Koa wood carving to display.  We learned that Koa wood is from a tree endemic to the Hawaiian islands.  While it is the second most populous tree on the island, it is highly prized for its beauty and has had to be regulated in order to prevent over harvesting and destruction of the species.  Other types of wood we found were Milo and Monkey Wood.  If you are looking for carved pieces, your first stop should be the the Waikoloa Kings' Shops to visit the Ohana Carvers.  They have beautiful pieces made from both Koa and Mila wood.  Our friends found the Koa wood turtle they wanted and we decided on a Mila wood whale tale.  Don't see what you want?  Ask - maybe they are working on something that would be what you are looking for.

Big Island - Where to Eat?

While on the Island of Hawaii, we had lots of options - including eating in our room as it had a full kitchen.  If you are staying on a resort on the north end of the island, you can always eat there.  We often opted to travel to a different location.  These are a selection of our favorites and, of course, our luau.  One of the biggest thing about any restaurant we went to - they were very serious about taking care of you if you knew they had an allergy.

First, you are in Hawaii, how can you NOT go to a luau?  We went to the luau at the Mauna Kea Beach note.  The there were six buffet lines - two each of cold, hot and dessert.  The hot buffet line offered not only the traditional smoked pork but also a smoked turkey option.  Of course, while there, I tried the traditional Hawaiian dishes, as you must when you visit.  This luau has a wonderful telling of the Polynesian story of how the island came into being.

Next stop - breakfast.  I must say, anywhere that offers coconut syrup, order something that uses it.  First up - The Hawaiian Style Cafe.

The menu is extensive for breakfast or lunch.  The pancakes are plate sized.  If the server asks if you want one or two, I suggest one.  I didn't listed.  I ordered the coconut pancake special with a side of pineapple sausage.  I don't think I managed half.

Next, for breakfast, brunch or lunch, we liked the Island Lava Java.  Particularly, the one in Kona.  How could you not enjoy this view?  

Some of us enjoyed the island pancakes while others had lunch (on our Sunday Brunch visit).  They even offer an eggs Benedict option with fish instead of bacon.  Sadly, I never tried it, but it is still there, right?

For Lunch, drive north to the King's View Cafe.

They make WONDERFUL pizza and, while you might be tempted to order Hawaiian pizza, make sure you also order a barbecue pork pizza.  YUM!

For another lunch, or dinner, there is the Kona Brewing Company - especially if you like craft beer.  They offer a 4 pack sampler so you can try multiple beers OR your party can share them.  I discovered Koko Brown and was delighted to learn I can get it at home - at least seasonally.

Finally, the only place we went to for dinner twice - Pueo's Osteria.

Locally sourced Italian food that is fabulous.  The flat pasta is all made in house and the tube pastas are all from Italy.  They offer a Bolognese sauce that is a mix of beef, boar and veal - delicious!  They offer different specials each night as well as an extensive wine list.  The chef was at another four star restaurant and they wanted to transfer the chef to Minneapolis.  If you lived in Hawaii, would YOU want to move to Minnesota, especially after this winter?  He declined the offer and struck out on his own.  I am glad he did.

Mar 14, 2014

Blue Hawaiian Helicopter

Hubby loves to fly.  We were coming to Hawaii.  I KNEW we were going to end up in a helicopter.  The lava flow is very minimal right now, so the longer tours were nixed.  Then, we discovered that Blue Hawaiian had a 1 hour waterfall tour.  Hawaii had a very wet winter, so we opted for that waterfall tour.  For safety reasons, you provide your weight when you book and, when you arrive, you stand on a scale and allow the computer to assign your seat (that means hubby couldn't call shotgun).  Don't let the weight deter you - you have a fantastic view no matter where you sit.  And, if you are in the middle and with someone you know, you can lean over them for pictures.  Speaking of picture, hubby had a light colored shirt on.  Blue Hawaiian also loaned him a darker shirt so his shirt didn't reflect in the windows.

After being fit with a PFD, we watched a safety video then were assigned I number.  I was last, so I could take a picture of hubby grinning from ear to ear, waiting to get into the helicopter.

We started by flying over the resort we stayed at.

Parker Ranch was next as we looked for a place to cross to the coast.  During this time, we learned that the volcano we were crossing is considered extinct and shouldn't erupt any more.  Just then, we passed this area - the clouds made it look like the crater was steaming.

The first valley we came to was one of two that we saw that was accessible by methods other than a helicopter (a third was accessible, but it required a hike over a mountain, this one only required a 6 mile hike round trip).  We could see the beautiful black sand beach.  Shane, our pilot, said that he sometimes sees whales, and we were lucky enough to see them.

We also drove to this point.  This is the view from the end of the road.  We could have hiked to the beach, but at a muddy three miles one way, we opted not to.

The remainder of the flight was an awesome view of many valleys and waterfalls that can only be seen by air and which my camera did not do justice.  It was a fantastic tour and I highly recommend Blue Hawaiian to anyone who ventures to the Big Island.

Mar 12, 2014

Fishing Village

What a relaxing day.  We started with breakfast at a resort that also had a walking path that led to a fishing village.  How can you not have a relaxing breakfast with this view.

After breakfast, we walked along a trail that took us to a fishing village.

There were signs along the way describing how they fished using the holding pond.  It must have been successfully, we saw a wide variety of marine life, including eels and giant puffer fish.  Beyond the fishing village, we enjoyed a variety of beautiful views.  A great way to start our day.