Off on an Adventure!

The production end of Mauka Girl Creations will be on hiatus until July while my best friend and I go do some traveling!  I am planning to blog here as often as possible to talk of our adventures and (if you know us at all!) the food and drinks we will be discovering.  We are currently in the Honolulu Airport awaiting our flight to Los Angeles where we will embark on a 10 hour flight to Paris, before hopping over to Edinburgh for a 10 day adventure. Then we go to Provence, and end our travels in Paris.  So stay tuned – it could be fun!

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Fools and Fanatics and Wiser People

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
Bertrand Russell

I came across this quote today after having a pretty rough day yesterday.  This applies to so much in our current lives – politics and dietary choices seem to be the most prevalent at the moment.  Be forewarned, this is not a food post today, more of a journaling one.  I learn a lot by my time spent in the kitchen creating.  I truly believe in the restorative powers of slowing down, making food, creating, and knowing where your ingredients come from.  Listening to America’s Test Kitchen podcasts and watching Michael Pollan’s Cooking series on Netflix are two activities I highly recommend while in your kitchen!

The wiser people are ignored since they typically think and take their time – cooking, reading, or deciding, by researching,  what non-elixir options are right for them.  Eat whatever you want.  If you believe a certain food has adverse effects on your system, don’t eat that food. But do not turn to me like a turn of the century snake oil salesman and tell me that it is bad for everyone and your way will cure all ills.  Did you ever think that maybe your constant stressing over what and what not to eat, constantly modifying your order when you go out, and worrying about why everyone around you is not following your lead could be having just as many adverse effects on your system?

Focus instead on the Super 6- six factors that can most likely add years to our lives, and life to our years. Feet, forks, fingers, sleep, stress, and love.  Engage in physical activity, eat a balanced diet, do not use your fingers for smoking, get good quality sleep, mitigate stress in your life, and have a good social circle of family and friends.  This came to me via David Katz, MD through this article – http://css-wellness.blogspot.com/2014/09/feet-forks-fingers-sleep-stress-and-love.html.

I try my hardest every day to be active and eat well.  And I do not give myself enough credit and love.  As wise as I feel I am, I still get sucked into thinking I need to be at a certain weight or size, although logically I know that my body makeup is very different from the person next to me and it is impossible for me to ever look that way!  But I am trying. I do not smoke, that one is easy!  I feel I get good quality sleep (I also firmly believe in the restorative power of naps!).  The last two are the toughest.  I want to surround myself with good people where I currently live so I put myself out there, and in return I get…nothing.  Which is where the breakdown of yesterday came from.  Things are better today.  I know I will be okay and when push comes to shove there is that love all around me.  But possibly some changes need to be made.


We are all going to make mistakes and feel embarrassed about that time we did fall for the “cure all”.  As long as we accept and learn from those mistakes and embarrassments, all will be well with our worlds.  And in the meantime, just remember that “you don’t need a phony elixir to lead a healthy long life.” – Christopher Kimball

 

Accidental Kosher Dill Relish & 2 Recipes

Although I am a couple of days late, this post is in honor of National Can-It-Forward Day, which occurred this past Saturday, August 1st.

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I do love a good kosher dill.  What makes a pickle “kosher” you ask?  Well, according to wikipedia, a “kosher” dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.  I also notice that other spices are typically added, such as bay leaf, mustard seeds, and hot pepper.  I have done a bit of experimenting and have found a lovely flavor combination that all starts with the Dill Pickle recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and using the kosher-style variation.

The flavor of these pickles was everything I had hoped for, although the texture was a bit on the mushy side, but not so much that they could not be salvaged in some way.  I strained the finished product and placed the brine in a saucepan to heat.  While it was heating, I took the pickles (not the spices), and transferred them to the food processor.  A few pulses later I had a lovely, chunky, relish consistency which then got added to the hot brine.  A few minutes was all it took to heat the mixture through, then I filled the jars and processed as normal.  This relish is a great addition to my repertoire, making it particularly enjoyable for those who prefer a relish that is not sweet.

I have since made another batch of kosher dills, this time using Ball Pickle Crisp.  No longer do I want to run the risk of having mushy pickles!

Kosher Dills
Kosher Dills – another week before I can try, but they look delicious!
KOSHER DILL PICKLES
Yield: About 7 pints
  • 8 pounds 4-6 inch cucumbers, washed, 1/16 inch of blossom end removed, cut lengthwise into halves or wedges
  • 3/4 cup sugar, preferably organic
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt or kosher salt
  • 1 quart white distilled vinegar
  • 1 quart water
  • 3 T. pickling spice (I prefer to make my own (recipe to follow)
  • 1 head green dill per jar or 1/2 tsp. dill seed per jar
  • 1 bay leaf (per jar)
  • 1 clove fresh garlic (per jar)
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (per jar)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed (per jar)

Combine sugar, salt, vinegar, and water in a large saucepot, tie pickling spice into a spice bag using a piece of cheesecloth and bakers twine.  Add the bag to the brine, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pack cucumbers into hot, prepared pint jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Add 1 head dill or 1/2 tsp dill seed, 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp mustard seed to each jar.  Ladle hot liquid into jars, remove air bubbles, add more brine as needed to reach 1/2″ headspace.  Add 1/8 tsp Pickle Crisp to each jar.  Adjust 2 piece lids, process jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

I usually allow 4-6 weeks for these pickles to sit to develop the best flavor.


A delicious array of spices to make your own Pickling Spice
A delicious array of spices to make your own Pickling Spice
DIY PICKLING SPICE
  • 3 Tablespoons Black Peppercorns
  • 3 Tablespoons Whole Allspice
  • 3 Tablespoons Coriander Seed
  • 3 Tablespoons Mustard Seed
  • 3 Tablespoons Juniper Berries
  • 1 Tablespoon Whole Cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon Dill Seed
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick, broken into pieces (I found that a mortar and pestle did this job wonderfully!)

Pour all spices into a jar, seal, shake to combine.  Use any time a recipe calls for a mixed pickling spice.

A couple of tips:

  • For these pickles, use a pickling cucumber.  They have less water that a traditional cucumber.  Here in Hawaii the closest thing I have found is a Thai cucumber, which works beautifully.
  • Only use kosher or pickling salt.  Table salt has added iodine, which will cause your pickles to discolor and give them an “off” taste.


For The Love of Beets

I love beets.  I love their flavor.  I love their texture.  They are my favorite vegetable.  A magic word combination on a restaurant menu is “beets and goat cheese”.  Yum!  And I LOVE pickled beets.  Just simply pickled and vinegar-y, with a touch of sweetness.  At any salad bar, I would make a bee-line for the pickled beets to top my salad.  Imagine my disappointment when every pickled beet recipe I came across and every wonderful friend who ever gifted me a jar just was not up to snuff.  So yes, I am also a beet snob.  They were too sweet and full of too many spices.  So I never bothered making them.

Enter “Food In Jars” by Marisa McClellan.  I can not thank her enough for including this pickled beet recipe!  It is everything I have always looked for in a pickled beet – vinegar-y with a touch of sweetness and a hint of ginger.  So I must share it with you!  This recipe has no modifications, which is unusual for me.  I often make changes to either make the recipe my own, incorporate unusual ingredients, or make them safe for canning.  None of these were necessary here!

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Gingery Pickled Beets                                                                           Makes approximately (3) 1-pint Jars
INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 Pounds Beets, Any Color
  • 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2 T. Pickling or Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup Sugar (Preferably Organic)
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • (1) 2-inch Piece of Fresh Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Scrub the beets, removing the greens and long roots.  Place the beets in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium, and simmer until the beets are just tender, about 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your beets.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  when the beets are cool enough to handle, rub the skins off with your fingers.  (Wear plastic gloves to avoid stained hands.)  Cut the beets into wedges and set aside.

Prepare a boiling water bath and 4 regular mouth 1 pint jars.  (Going off recipe for a minute – if you do not know this process, refer to Marisa’s post at her blog for details).  One change I would recommend – let them sit in the pot of boiling water for 10 minutes before filling with anything in order to thoroughly sterilize them.

In a pot, combine the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, cinnamon stick, and ginger slices.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low until ready to use.

Jars filled with beets, ready for the addition of the brine.
Jars filled with beets, ready for the addition of the brine.

Pack your beet wedges into sterilized jars.  slowly pour the hot brine over the beets in each jar, making sure to tuck 2-3 ginger slices into each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Use a wooden chopstick and gently poke it around the edge of the jar interior to dislodge any bubbles.  Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.

Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel, apply the lids, tighten the rings finger tight, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, if between sea level and 1,000 feet in altitude.  For avery additional 2,000 feet of altitude, add 5 minutes to the processing time.  (e.g: If you live at 5,000 feet, your processing time would be 20 minutes).  And if you live in the tropics, process everything for 20 minutes!

– from “Food In Jars”, by Marisa McClellan

I find that these beets are delicious within a couple of days, but TRY to let them cure for a week before enjoying.  Confession time – after taking the first picture of the full jar of beets, I promptly ate the ENTIRE jar.

All gone!
All gone!

Storing Vanilla Beans

This weekend I stayed home, recovered from the after effects of the flu bug that bit me the weekend prior, and made 14 batches of preserves to take to the Farmer’s Market this week.  It was busy, but fulfilling.

I also learned how to store vanilla beans.  I buy my vanilla beans in bulk and, knowing the time and effort it takes to produce vanilla beans, the last thing I want is for them to get any mold on them or dry out.

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After a quick internet search (isn’t it amazing how so much information is right at our fingertips?), I discovered the key is to store them in an airtight container, away from as much light as possible.  And airtight means something more substantial than a Ziplok!

I divided the beans into small bundles – you don’t want to have to open and reseal every time you just need one or two – and busted out the trusty vacuum sealer.

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After sealing them into bundles of 12, their height fit perfectly into a quart Ball jar.  Bonus that it is one of the Heritage Collection green jars to keep out light!  IMG_1430

I labeled the jar with my oh-so-fun Brother P-Touch labeler, and now my vanilla beans will be viable for a year or more!

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Vanilla beans can be quite affordable by buying in bulk – I purchased mine on Amazon.  They add such wonderful depth to dishes, and having a reliable storage method makes the purchase totally worth it!

Changes!

So many new things going on and I am not prioritizing my blog time! I am hoping making this more of a priority will be one of these new changes.
In the meantime…
I have registered my new business name with the state of Hawaii – Mauka Girl Creations. The catalyst to doing this is a bill introduced into the Hawaii State Senate that would allow cottage food production in the state of Hawaii. For a state as isolated as we are, self sustainability is not just a buzzword, it is a priority. Economically this law could be huge for the state. People would be able to create their products and actually make some money to support their families. And, for me, to do the work I love, in the place I love, would be such delicious icing on the cake! So I am closely following the bill’s progress and submitting testimony when I can. My hope is to keep things updated here!
And I have also started a new job as the production manager at the Kauai Juice Co. This is a fantastic small business that started out making delicious kombucha and kale chips. 2 months ago they began producing cold pressed juices and nut milks that are so healthy and so ono (delicious).  For more on what they do you can always check out their website at kauaijuiceco.com. They actually approached me, having heard about my chef training. It was an exciting and humbling day for me – having a friend with enough faith in me to recommend me for the management position, and the owners of the juice company having the faith and trust in her to go for it and hire me on the spot. Everyone is very excited!
And, the final big change about to occur is the building of a gourmet pantry! The one thing lacking in our wonderful home is the kind of kitchen storage I really need. We buy in bulk, I do a lot of canning, and we own large kitchen equipment (yes, yes, as well as a lot of kitchen equipment…) So I just happened to say to my husband, “could you imagine how awesome it would be if the guest room was a pantry?” And by saying it out loud, I could not stop thinking about it. So we have agreed the guest room is to become a pantry! After an office/craft room, a walk in pantry has always been a dream room to have. The progress of the transition will hopefully be documented here!
So, busy, busy – but in a fabulous, “new” way!
Aloha –

Is It Possible?

Is it still possible to find our passion later in life?  I am always inspired by the fact that Julia Child found her passion in her 40’s – it means there is still hope for me!  But I often get discouraged that I don’t have a ready answer to “What do you do?”  My training makes me a pastry chef, but my lifestyle and desires do not.  I do not want the daily grind of being in a restaurant.  I do want to do something useful, something that I enjoy.  So my latest notions have me, once again, looking at teaching intimate cooking classes…  Each day brings new ideas and new support from great friends, so I think, with time and patience, something beautiful will reveal itself.  

So, on that note, I have been doing some fun things in the kitchen.  I just finished a much needed cleanse and am determined to still enjoy wonderful food and wine, but keep losing weight and make better decisions about my food choices.  So when I saw some friends had shared these nut bars, I thought that it was a perfect opportunity to make a healthy snack that I can have on hand.  They are a bit high in calories, but they cannot be beat for the good fats and protein they contain.  They also are very reminiscent in taste to those 7 layer dream bars (the ones with coconut, butterscotch and chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, nuts, graham cracker crust, and butter) but so much better for you!  Don’t get me wrong, I will rarely turn down a 7 layer bar, but for something to constantly have in my freezer, these bars are probably a better choice…  And, as usual, I have done some tweaking to the recipes.  This time it was not so much ingredients or amounts, but more technique changes that should make them a bit easier to contend with.  They are modeled after KIND bars, but much less expensive and you have the ability to mix and match your nuts and fruits.  Thank you to thenourishinghome.com for the original recipes.

 

CHEWY CHERRY CHOCOLATE BARS (grain free)

Yield: 8 bars

1/3 cup (4 oz.) honey

2 T. (.6 oz.) coconut flour

1 T. (.8 oz.) almond butter

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1 cup (2.5 oz.) unsweetened coconut flakes, roughly chopped

1 cup (5 oz.) chopped raw cashews

1/3 cup (1.2 oz.) chopped macadamia nuts

¼ cup (2 oz.) mini chocolate chips

¼ cup (1.3 oz.) chopped dried cranberries or cherries

APPROXIMATE nutritional info (per bar):

356 calories, 23 g fat, 35 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5.4 g protein

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FRUIT & NUT BARS (grain free)

Yield: 8 bars

1/3 cup (4 oz.) honey

2 T. (.6 oz.) coconut flour

1 T. (.8 oz.) almond butter*

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1 cup (2.5 oz.) unsweetened coconut flakes, roughly chopped

1 cup (5 oz.) pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts*

½ cup chopped dried fruit

            I used ¼ cup (1.5 oz) apricots and ¼ cup (1 oz.) goji berries

 *To make these bars nut free, substitute sunflower seed butter for the almond butter and sunflower seeds for the walnuts.

APPROXIMATE nutritional info (per bar):

255 calories, 16 g fat, 25 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6.1 g protein

Directions to assemble bars:  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line an 8×8 baking dish with a strip of parchment paper, leaving 6-8″ hanging over each side (this will help pull bars out after they have cooled).  In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients, making sure coconut, nuts, and fruit are chopped first!  

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One tip – give them a good medium coarse chop.  You don’t want it too fine or powdery, the bars will be really gooey.  And you don’t want them chopped too coarsely, they won’t stick together.  Mix together well (your hands work REALLY well for this, I do wear gloves, though).  

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Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Fold parchment strips over mixture and, using a measuring cup, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan.  

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Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and let cool completely in the pan.  Once cool, pull out with parchment paper strips, cut into 8 bars, wrap each individually, and store in the freezer. 

 

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Enjoy!  Until next time –