Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review! Vacation Reading

One of the many things we enjoyed doing while on vacation was reading and reading in excess. We spent most of the late morning and afternoon chasing the sun around the lanai and reading. Total bliss. Oh well except for the construction on the neighboring condos... but we'll ignore that for now!

The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle

A simple mystery with a little food / travel to make it interesting. Was by no means a very convincing or greatly done novel, but it wasn't trying to be anything special and was a quick fun read. I thought the first book in his Caper series, the Vintage Caper was much better. Also, he is the same author as A Year in Provence which if you haven't read (or any of his other travel books), it's great.  

Another mystery and a much better one at that:

This story follows an art reproducer who gets tangled up in an forgery of a famous Degas masterpieces stolen in 1990 in the heist of 13  thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. For any art lover, this was excellent and kept me on my toes! I think I finished it with in a day. 

And my favorite read of vacation:

I had originally found this book at Costco a few months ago, but never picked it up. While enjoying Happy Hour at a restaurant near our condo, a couple struck up conversation with us and (among other things) mentioned this book. The book is set in Seattle (although traverses to the South Pole, but I'm getting a head of myself) and is HYSTERICAL for those who know Seattle. The book is written in a series of letters, emails and communications between various characters searching for Bernadette (who disappears and no one knows where!). Quick witted, mysterious and very well written. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jacked Up Banana Bread & Spiced Apple Sauce Cake

After some good travel catch-up yesterday, here are a few new recipes I tried last week:

Jacked Up Banana Bread

Modified, with lots of love, from SmittenKitchen

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed I used 2 because that's all I had. I augmented the lack of banana's with a half a cup of apple sauce left over from my spice cake.
1/3 cup melted salted butter I read this wrong and only used 1/2 a cube (4 tablespoons)... I highly recommend using the correct amount. 
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar I used 3/4 but would have preffered it sweeter. I recommend 1 cup. 
1 egg, beaten I used 2 because that's what my usual recipe calls for. 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour I split this half and half whole wheat flour and all purpose. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve. 

If you are sensing a theme with where I get my recipes, you are correct. I am having a love affair with Smitten Kitchen. Although it has not quite achieved the same depths of love I have for Joy of Cooking. You just can't go wrong there!

Spiced Applesauce Cake

Modified, only slightly this time but also with love, from Smitten Kitchen

This cake came together in a cinch and with a lovely thick layer of cream cheese frosting was quite lovely. That said, I wanted a bit more punch from the spices. It came across as a very lightly flavored cake (both on the apple sauce and spice front). Therefore, I would encourage you to add more of both or perhaps chopped apples to get that good apple spice flavor. 

For cake
2 cups all-purpose flour Again, I split 50/50 with whole wheat and all purpose flour.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon I recommend 1 tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger I recommend 1 teaspoon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves I recommend 1/4 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon nutmug
1 stick  unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 cup chopped apples, any variety (approximately 1 apple)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional), toasted, cooled, and chopped

For frosting
5 ounces cream cheese, softened Really, who is going to only use 2/3 of a cream cheese box. Induldge and just use the whole thing!
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 (1 teaspoon) teaspoon cinnamon I completely forgot to use this. I bet it would be delightful. Also, perhaps Maple Syrup extract?

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter or spray with non-stick cooking spray a 8- or 9-inch square cake pan.

Make cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in apples and walnuts (if using). The batter will look a little curdly and uneven but don’t worry, it will all bake up perfectly in the end.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. 

Make frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Travel Adventure: Maui

I think a vacation in January may be a new requirement for our family. After the hustle and bustle of December (which is always wonderful, but rarely relaxing), a vacation to sunny Maui was just what the doctor ordered. We had actually planned this trip back in June, originally planning to go in October time frame. We then realized while I'm sure we'd enjoy Maui in October, we'd enjoy it significantly more in dark cold January!

This trips goals were very few: eat, sleep, beach, eat, sleep, pool. Need I say more? 

Trip Details
Location: Kapalua at the Golf Villas at Kapalua
Length of Stay: 9 Days
Favorite new restaurants: Merriman's at Kapalua & Leoda's Kitchen & Pie Shop
Best thing I ever ate: 4 way tie between (1) Banana Cream Pie at Leoda's, (2) the calamari / onion ring  / shrimp at Monkey Pod, (3) the Wok charred Ahi at Merriman's and  (4) the Pork Pork...mmmmPork! sandwhich at Leoda's. 

 Hike along the beach at Kapalua

First night's cocktails at one of our favorite restaurants: Mala Ocean Tavern

 Kaanapali Beach

 No Caption Needed

View from our Condo

Another lovely sunset


View from the top of the Golf Villas


Drinks at Monkey Pod

We tried every single one, except for the Pineapple Lemon Tart. 


View from breakfast

Tomato, Avacado and Crab salad at Merrimans