Hawaii Blues

Hawaii Blues

{View of the Hanalei Bay from our hotel room in Princeville, Kauai}

Aloha :-) I’ve been the absolutely worst about posting!  Jake and I unplugged a few weeks ago as we left for Hawaii and our return was full of major catchup at work, prep for some exciting events and gearing up for a few product launches in March/April.  There wasn’t even time to think about the fact that I was so sad to be home and that my much anticipated time on the beach sipping on Mai Tais while listening to ukeleles had passed.  Looking back at these pictures of some of my favorite moments was really was bittersweet…. (read more below)… IMG_2842

{Searching for coral and playing on the rocks on the beach.  Hanalei Bay – Princeville, Kauai}IMG_2839

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{Palms soaking in the sun on the walk to our favorite little spot on Oahu}

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{The quiet street to our favorite little beach}

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{Into the blue!  Whale watching near China Walls, Oahu}

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{This one makes my heart burst :-) Happiest and most relaxed I’ve seen Jake in a long time}

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{A glimpse of sun rays over Hanalei Bay from the 7th hole at Makai. Princeville, Kauai}

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{Teeny tiny specks (surfers) riding some HUGE waves.  It’s hard to tell the scale, but with the storm rolling in, they were pretty big!}

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{Storm clouds rolling in over the Hanalei Bay}

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{Straight out of my camera, completely unedited.  Kauai truly is the Garden Island.  How lush, vibrant and amazing… Nature is *effing* awesome}

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{This might need to become a Sunday staple in our household… Belgian waffles + mango + banana + whipped cream + coconut shavings + coconut syrup.  Holy moly. Best waffles at Hanalei Coffee Roasters}

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{On our last day in Hawaii, we rented a car and drove around Oahu to the North Shore. We discovered Shrimp Shack along the way… and thank god we did ;-) Details below…}

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{Half coconut shrimp, half garlic shrimp.  I can still taste this and my mouth is watering just looking at it. Absolutely incredible.}

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{Finally made it to the North Shore}

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{These kids (probably ages 6-10) were THROWING themselves into these waves – getting completely blasted over and over again and having the time of their lives.  Just thinking about their little laughs (I would have been terrified) still makes me chuckle :-) }

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{Being swallowed up…}

IMG_2955{And running back in for more…}

Jake surprised me with my first trip to Hawaii for Christmas.  In fact, Hawaii was our first real vacation alone together in almost five years since we started dating.  We traveled to Costa Rica with his family three years ago (which was amazing) and we’ve taken long weekend trips and traveled back to my hometown in Michigan, but we’d never been somewhere new, just the two of us, for more than 2-3 days.  And we are by no means starving, but our five years together haven’t been a walk in the park either.  With him running a startup turned mid-sized company in one of the hardest, capital sucking industries to make it in (alcohol) and with me now working there, our lives consist of work and very little else most days.  From a financial and emotional perspective, starting and running a business is so ridiculously draining.  I have no idea how he does it, but his drive, tenacity and seemingly endless motivation inspires me every single morning.  However…. we really needed a vacation :-)

Having never been to Hawaii, we decided to spend our first few days on Oahu where we hiked, played in the ocean, went whale watching and laid for hours on the beach.  We went to bed at literally 10pm every night (a rarity in our lives) and got up early every morning to walk along the beach and grab coffee.  We got up to watch the sunrise on our last day there on our favorite little spot on the island before hopping over to Kauai for our remaining three nights and four days.  Ohhh Kauai… Kauai was a little bit of a splurge for us to say the least.  We stayed in Princeville, which we’ve been told is the most beautiful spot on the island overlooking the Hanalei Bay.  The water there is one of the most beautiful shades of blue juxtaposed against a wall of lush green mountains with countless waterfalls cascading down the hills and cliffs.  Kauai was truly the most beautiful place I’ve been in my life.  Unfortunately, we were cursed with rain for almost our entire time there which meant no sun (obviously), no “real” beach time, no hikes that we were looking forward to (they were all too dangerous with rain and flash flood warnings), no helicopter tours…  We attempted kayaking on Valentine’s Day in the Hanalei Bay and made it just in time for a storm to roll in.  We inevitably flipped, I thought I was dying, Jake thought knew I was ridiculous and we eventually made it back to the hotel in one piece.  One really positive part of the rain scenario is that it forced us to relax.  We slept SO much during those few days with the sound of the waves crashing outside our window and we enjoyed every second together talking about so much more than work (who knew?!), drinking wine, reading and making each other laugh… which really is the important part of vacationing with your love… am I right?!

By our third day of rainy laziness, we decided to brave the weather and walked along the cliffs in Princeville to the Makai Golf Club and out to the 7th hole (the most photographed place in Hawaii, apparently).  We were determined to hike to Queen’s Bath, but were warned that it was WAY too dangerous with the rain and high surf so we wanted at least an aerial view from the golf course.  That walk was one of the most crazy, out of body experiences I’ve ever had.  With the storm clouds rolling in over the bay and the warm rain shower that we just finally had to embrace together, while standing on the edge of the earth… I’ll never forget it.  We were soaked to the bone by the time we got back to our room, but it was worth every second and every drop to get out of the hotel and experience the unexplainable beauty that is Kauai.  Pictures really can not do it justice and it makes me sad, but I’ll carry those views and those moments with me forever.

With an even worse storm threatening to possibly delay or cancel our flight out of Lihue the following day, we decided to jump on an earlier flight back to Oahu to hopefully somewhere dry.  Unfortunately, the rain came with us, albeit much lighter rain, so after a little bit of cranky back and forth, we rented a car where at least we could stay dry and headed to the North Shore.  We had until 9:00pm to explore before we needed to be at the airport so we set out for some fish tacos and to see the record breaking waves making local news on the other side of the island.  I’m SO happy we decided to get out of Honolulu that day.  We had such wonderful memories there from the first three days of our trip, but by the time we were on our last day with perpetually wet clothes and tired from our early morning flight with no room to change in, it was time to bid farewell to the Moana Surfrider and explore Oahu beyond the big city.  On our drive, there was a sign for “Shrimp Shack” inscribed on a surfboard and I knew I’d found what we were looking for.  We pulled off the road for the best shrimp I’ve ever had in my life… fried in a food truck across from the ocean, eaten off floral print paper plates while sitting on plastic lawn chairs outside of a funky grocery story in Punaluu.  This was the real Hawaii I’d dreamed of.  An hour later, we were on the North Shore watching scads of what seemed like tiny kids launch themselves into a churning Pacific that pummeled them to the sand over and over again.  We watched partially in awe that people ever become comfortable watching their children get swallowed up by waves 2-3 times their height and partially with sheer joy and entertainment as the kids screeched and squealed with complete hilarity every time the ocean spit them back out.

We drove around for the next few hours, stopping occasionally to get out of the car and breath it all in.  We stopped for dinner at an awesome little Mexican restaurant (I wanted more fish tacos – don’t judge!) on our way to the airport and said goodbye to paradise.  I kept reminding myself while we were there throughout our trip to enjoy every single second because it would all be just a memory in the blink of an eye.  I can’t believe that it’s already just a memory.  But… if there’s anything major we learned while we were there, it’s to not wait another three years before taking a vacation.  I have a feeling we’ll be planning something again soon :-)

Until next time, Hawaii… Mahalo!

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The “Holy Crap I’m Fat” Moment

You people KNOW what I’m taking about… and if you don’t than you’re either 1) Miranda Kerr (a freak of nature) 2) a personal trainer and work out for a living so you can never, ever really feel fat or 3) lying to yourself.  Life is going along its merry way, Halloween passes, the temperatures start to cool (so you’re embracing your fantastic layered fall fashions) and then BAM!  Out of nowhere Thanksgiving rolls around and you WAY over indulge.  But seriously, how many times a year do you get turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied yams or sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and PUMPKIN PIE ALL TOGETHER?!?  So you justify and let it slide, tell yourself next week you’ll be better and then suddenly you’re in the midst of 700 work parties, company retreats, holiday gatherings, Hanukkah celebrations, shopping excursions, picking up a few last minute gifts instead of making it to yoga (or if you’re like me, having an absolute meltdown over finals and not enjoying a single moment of the holiday season AGAIN because for some reason you just HAD to go back to school to pursue your dreams).  And then BAM!  Christmas.  Same story as Thanksgiving, but maybe worse because there are way more desserts at Christmas and by then your stomach is twice the size it was in June so you can naturally eat more.  I know.  Gross.  Amongst all of the travel to see loved ones, you grab a snack in the airport, consume way more Starbucks than usual because the Peppermint Mochas only happen once a year and share your favorite restaurant hot spots “back home” with your significant other.  And then you decide to throw a New Year’s party when you get back from the traveling, cook up a storm, drink way too much champagne and way over indulge AGAIN.  Football bowl games (aka more food/booze) for the next few days (GO GREEN!), and then you hop on the next flight to Vegas because hey, who doesn’t need a little family birthday party/reunion in the CITY OF INDULGENCE after having just indulged your face off for the past MONTH?!?  Of course you make lengthy (yet completely realistic and attainable) New Year’s resolutions (PUHlease), work out ten times harder than you have since October and then reward yourself with two brownies and a cake pop.  I mean FOR REAL.  It HAS to stop.

That being said, I spent last evening Pinning away healthy food inspiration to try to regain some sort of excitement for cooking, healthy, fulfilling food in my own kitchen and here are some of the images/recipes I can’t wait to try out.  Don’t believe me because I’m always snapping shots of cheese, burgers and waffles?  Here is the proof.

{Refreshing. Image via}

{Hearty looking smoothie.  Image via}

{Fresh and simple.  Image via}

{Avocados make me happy.  Must try this one soon.  Image via}

{Protein bowl.  Image via}

{This looks so tasty, my stomach is literally growling now.  Image via}

{Love salmon.  Image via}

{Colorful and refreshing.  Image via}

{Lovely salad.  Image via}

Cheers to making 2012 the year of health and success!

White Chicken Chili

Have you ever had one of those weeks where life takes off running and you spend the majority of your time just trying to catch up?  The vision of a little girl chasing after her older sister and friends down the block keeps coming to mind for some reason and last week, that was totally me – life’s little sister.  That being said, I’ve been a very bad blogger, but I’m anxious to catch up on everything I’ve missed and share a few things I’ve been dying to post about.

In the midst of all of the mayhem the temperatures cooled off and southern California finally started to feel like fall last Tuesday.  Absolutely craving my dad’s White Chicken Chili, I pulled out my Crock Pot and decided to give it a shot for the first time on my own and I’m thrilled that it turned out just perfectly.  I even received a, “Babe, we really need to start using this Crock Pot more often,” ovation from the boyfriend who easily downed multiple servings.  My dad’s recipe is definitely the best White Chicken Chili I’ve ever tasted so I’m finally sharing it with the world… lucky you!  Give it a try and let me know what you think :-)

Ingredients

Chili:
1 1/2  lbs uncooked chicken breast (can be frozen) cut into 1-2″ chunks
2 – 15 oz cans of white beans (drained)
1 – 15 oz can of white corn (drained)
1 onion chopped (sweet/Vidalia)
1 clove garlic finely chopped (I love garlic so I used 2)
1 package taco seasoning
1 – 7 oz can of chopped green chilies
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 – 14 oz can of chicken broth

Toppings:
1/2 cup sour cream (I used low fat)
2 tbls lime juice
Finely chopped cilantro
Fresh shredded cheese (I used Colby-Jack)
Corn tortilla chips (the authentic yellow kind)

Directions

Place cut up chicken in the bottom of the Crock Pot.  Add beans, corn and onion.  Mix the next five ingredients and pour over the top.  Cover and cook on low in the Crock Pot for 8-10 hours.  (I was running low on time so I cooked mine on low for about 4 1/2 hours and then raised it to high for the last two hours).

Before serving use a potato masher to break up the chicken.  (Make sure you do this very quickly with pressure and alternating directions… the consistency should change from brothy with chunks of meat and beans to a very thick and even consistency.  If it is still brothy, keep mashing).

Add shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, a splash of lime juice, cilantro and chips before serving.  YUM!

* Yield: 6-8
**To complete our autumn meal, I made a fresh garden salad and hot apple cider.  For dessert, we enjoyed our first pumpkin pie of the season.  Mmmm :-)

Taco Tuesday

Before I moved to California, fish tacos were a completely foreign concept to me.  As a Michigander who was used to only beef or chicken tacos, I believed that fish had absolutely no place in one of my favorites and I was therefore reluctant to even give it a try.  My mom finally convinced me shortly after I moved to the west coast during one of her visits and I’ve been borderline obsessed with them since.  She sent me the below recipe a few months ago and with a few tweaks, I’ve made it my own.  After trying fish tacos at way too many restaurants to count since my craze began, I can say without a doubt that these are the best fish tacos I’ve ever tasted in my life (without even needing fresh catch).  They’ve been a huge hit anytime we’ve had guests and per numerous requests, I’ve sent the recipe to more people than I can even remember.

Ingredients

Fish:
Tortilla Chipotle Lime Crusted Tilapia Fillets (From Costco… seriously.  Available in their frozen food section).

Southwest Slaw:
1 cup finely shredded green cabbage
1 tbsp. finely chopped pickled jalepenos
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. red onion (very finely chopped)
1 tsp. chopped cilantro (optional)
salt to taste

Sauce:
Ranch dressing
Cholula Pepper Sauce (Original)
Mix ~4:1 dressing to Cholula

Small to medium flour tortillas, Mexican blend cheese, avocados

Directions

Bake fish according to box instructions and steam tortillas to heat/soften.  Slice fillet lengthwise into 2 strips and place on warmed flour tortilla.  Top with cheese, slaw, sauce and avocado.  Fold or roll up to serve.  Perfectly pair your fish tacos with a summery Sauvignon Blanc or your favorite summer ale.

Note:  This recipe is fairly spicy as is.  I LOVE spicy food, but if you’re not a fan, decrease the amount of jalepenos to your liking.  Serves 2 adults/2 tacos each.  I generally triple the recipe as the slaw is better the second day, someone is always joining us for taco dinners and we love, love, love to have leftovers!

TGIF

It’s FRIDAY in LA and I could not be happier!  After some residual tech glitches this week from my catastrophic computer crash last month as I talked about here, I’m ready to step away from the laptop for a few days.  One of my best friends from high school is visiting this weekend so I’m excited to show her around my neck of the woods and check out a few of my favorite spots.  First on the list?  Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach.  A full restaurant review is coming next week so my lips are sealed as to any other details, but let’s just say there are plenty of great IPAs on tap for some refreshing SoCal fun.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Summer Saturdays

Last week was completely chaotic and while it wound up successful, I was a little unprepared for the famous “6 Man” tournament/celebration to sweep the beach on Saturday.  Instead, we played it a little more low-key with some much-needed rest and recovery and by hitting up a few of our favorite restaurants.  Martha’s in Hermosa Beach definitely tops our list of favorite breakfast eateries in the LA area and this weekend (as always) it did not disappoint.  With a stunning beach view, we sipped on mimosas and split our two favorites: The Montecristo and Stuffed French Toast special… just what we needed to put an end to the week.

{Delightful beach-side mimosas}

{Before Martha’s, I’d never had a Montecristo… I was really missing out!  Layered sliced turkey, sliced ham, melted cheddar and swiss on grilled egg-dipped sour dough.  Served with raspberry preserves and syrup for dipping. Aaaaamazing!}

{The Stuffed French Toast special varies from day-to-day.  Saturday’s was stuffed with peaches and cream cheese and served with a side of chicken jalapeno sausage… an utterly perfect combination of sweet and spicy}

Wine Wednesday

While I’ve got a bit of a summer Sauv Blanc obsession, there’s almost nothing I enjoy more than a great red.  Enter Radoux-Ferriere, an utterly perfect blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc are typical components of Bordeaux style wines, however Syrah is not and that is exactly what sets this elegant and complex blend ahead of the norm while putting a California spin on tradition.  Barrel aged and meticulously blended for 24 months, the resulting rich chocolate and raspberry flavors make Radoux-Ferriere the perfect pair to red meat and other rich foods.  We enjoyed this on a recent weekend night-in with a plate of assorted cheeses and I can still remember every bit of the unforgettable savory flavor.  Enjoy Radoux-Ferriere, available exclusively at ONEHOPE Wine beginning next month.  Cheers!