Monday, April 30, 2012

Kauai: Part Four (the grand finale!)

Somehow I got my days mixed up. The following Pirates montage actually happened on our second trip to the North Shore, day nine of our vacation. Repeat ahead:

Sam made himself a sword out a stick and Maddie had the awesome idea of adding a leaf as the knuckleguard (yeah, I had to google that term). In these photos, Sam was spinning and dropping to the ground, lunging and parrying like nobody's business. It was quite a sight. No eyes were injured in the process, thankfully, though at some point Sam did pick up the phrase, "Poke your eyeball out!" Clear as day. Hmm...

After a morning on the beach and a delicious lunch from Hanalei, we headed to the bay to check out the boats. It was only $25 to rent a kayak for the afternoon, so the four of us hopped in and headed out on a grand adventure. Considering we'd never taken the kids in a boat before, we decided to leave our phones and cameras onshore. How I wish we'd taken at least one shot! We took the boat way out in the bay, caught some waves, landed on a sand bar, played pirates, and rode the tiny waves as they crashed on the sand. The kids LOVED the kayak trip and it was the happiest we'd all been, in the same place, at the same time, on vacation. Everyone was happy. It was awesome. But we have no pictures to share. Boo-hoo.

On our way home from the North Shore we stopped in Kapa'a for a delicious dinner at the Mermaids Cafe and a papaya-date-coconut shake (oh my, the goodness) from Java Kai. We spent dinnertime wondering how we could open a Java Kai franchise in Danville. Honestly, why don't we have a full-service, brewed to order Hawaiian coffee bar with made to order fresh juices and fruit smoothies? Something for everyone, grain free, sugar free, delicious, ono.

I started day nine by spending a little time on my own. Went shopping at a local Kauai craft fair and SCORED two new pairs of earrings and a new necklace for awesome prices from two cute jewelry designers. Then I also picked up a cute bag. The fibers are hand-picked, dried, and woven or braided together before being woven into the bag. So cute. I'll post pics eventually. :)

The four of us hit the Lihue Farmer's Market for lunch. Here the family samples some dried squid (which we also purchased and they all ate):

After lunch (an assortment of dried squid, thai steamed curry fish--amazing, and a seven-fruit juice), the kids played on a little covered stage and found this "REAL," amazing sword. They both know all the appropriate sword-slashing and -presenting moves. Their lips are bright orange from the squid.

We had an early dinner, meeting up with our friends Ben, Emily, Asa and Nora on the great lawn for some running around, frisbee, and jump rocket time. Asa and Maddie really enjoyed each other's company:

Sam, when feeling spunky/feisty, has this little phrase, "Poo Poo Paw." This is the face he makes after saying it. When I was editing photos, I said to Ben, "What do you think is going on in this picture?" His answer: "Poo Poo Paw!" Sam just kills me with his cuteness. God totally knew what he was doing in making three year-old boys so darn cute (because they sure are naughty!)

I mean, honestly, could he get any cuter? Consider the following:

Profile shot:

Before hitting one last hula show at the Hyatt, we grabbed some shave ice with the kiddos. At the shopping center across the street is this amazing shade tree. I'd love to take it home with me.

We took about 50 photos and 10 videos of Sam eating his shave ice. It was so incredibly funny. He was eating it so fast and getting a headache plus coughing and shivering. But he refused to slow down or stop eating! So his little hands quivered as he spooned bit after bit of shave ice into his mouth. "Cold! Cold! Cold!" he would yell. "Slow down," he admonished himself, all the while shivering, shaking, coughing, drooling, laughing. It was awesome. Then Maddie copied everything Sam was doing so we would look at her. That wasn't as awesome. 

 Our friends met us at the Keiki hula and we danced the night away. It was so much fun.

On our last full day of vacation, we made the most of it. We were on the beach at 8 in the morning, playing in the shallow waves and feeding the fish. Maddie saw a few saddleback fish and some pencil fish as well. (At night she would look through pictures and pictures of Hawaiian fish and ask about all their names. She has an incredible memory.) Still no snorkeling, though.

Sam enjoyed quite a long morning of boogie boarding with Daddy:

There was some SERIOUS sand wrestling to be done:

This is when Dads come in really handy. Mama likes to sit on a towel and read. Daddy doesn't seem to mind getting every inch of his body covered in coarse, dry sand. Nor do the munchkins, obviously:

I think they're playing sand monsters in these photos.

After a long, restful nap, we hired a local nanny and Ben and I went out on a four-hour date. YAY and DOUBLE YAY for date night. First we had drinks and a ceviche appetizer at the Beach House. The sun was starting to set and it was bee-yoo-tee-ful:

After looking at the dinner menu ($30 for a piece of grilled fish, which we'd been making and eating all week), we ditched the beach house for a little place called the Shrimp Shack. We grabbed two plates of curried shrimp to go and took it back to the Kiahuna Beach to watch the sun go down. There we sat, our paper plates on our laps, as the sun went behind some rain clouds. Then it poured for about ten minutes. We took our plates "to go" under the awning of a beach hut. When it cleared, we paused for some pics:

Ben gives the old shaka brah

Kiahuna Beach

Me, post-cocktails, posing up a storm

We walked down the beach to the Sheraton where the sunset was growing increasingly colorful. We caught the sliver of a moon:

We chatted with a sweet couple on their honeymoon, and they snapped our picture: 

 When it came time to return the favor, I seriously could NOT figure out their point-and-shoot. It would only focus in the middle, the flash kept throwing the lighting off, I couldn't get a decent background color and it was embarrassing. I offered to take one with my camera and email it, but they were happy with the few I snapped.

Last day on Kauai. Le sigh. Fresh sunrise or strawberry papaya for breakfast. The little fruits are a cross between oranges and limes and you squeeze them right on the papaya to enhance the flavor. So good.

Before heading down the beach (bright and early again), we saw a little friend hanging out on the tree outside our condo:

We grabbed some sand toys from the beach hut and Sam proceeded to entertain the sunbathers with his robot routine:

Maddie was content to play in the sand all morning. I probably asked ten times, "Last chance to go in the water! Are you sure you don't want to snorkel or boogie board before we go home?" More eye-rolling. 

Sam, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of the water. After all the boogie boarding the previous day, he was eager to try out body surfing. He caught so many little shorebreak waves. I'm not sure who was having more fun, Ben or Sam.

After one last ride on the boogie board, and a little tumble in the shallows, he was finally ready for a break:

 One last sibling shot on the beach!

 Maddie thought she was just going in to play in the waves. Ben thought she wanted to body surf. Her face shows clearly how that turned out:

 Our sweet, adventurous girl was having pretty much NONE of it in Kauai. But it was fine. She was happy to do her "own thing." All the time. She's growing up so fast! Hard to believe this is our last trip to Kauai before she starts school. Won't be going for twelve days in April next year!

After a long nap and a shower and packing the car, we walked around the Kiahuna gardens for a bit. Maddie demonstrated her tadpole-catching skills learned from the nanny the previous night:

Success! She loved those little tadpoles!

And then a nice man from Orinda offered to snap one more family shot. Now we have family photo bookends, one from the start of the trip and one from the end! Hooray!!

(by the way, the guy from Orinda has 19 grandchildren and had all sorts of tricks for getting our kids to smile and open their eyes. As you can see, some of the tricks were more successful than others).

We enjoyed one last chichi and pupu hour at Duke's while the kids played in the grass and on the beach, just yards away from our table. Then we watched the stand-up paddlers until it was time to go.

One last trip: Wailua Falls at dusk. It was beautiful!

And that concludes our Kauai trip! Aloha and Mahalo, beautiful Kauai!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Brunch: Almond Flour Waffles & Pancakes

Today's brunch brought to you by my good friend: delicious, nutritious and satisfying blanched almond flour. Generally, I eat a high-protein breakfast that sticks with me and lasts until lunch. I either have eggs or yogurt smoothies most mornings. Even before I started following a no-grain diet, I wasn't much of a pancake or waffle girl; the high-sugar, high-carb combination would sit in my stomach, make me feel nauseous, and I'd be hungry again before lunch. With almond flour, I get a high-protein, light and delicious waffle that, when paired with sauteed apples and cinnamon, is reminiscent of an apple fritter. 

My favorite recipe is based on one from Eat Well, Feel Well by Kendall Conrad. She has a knack for taking tried and true favorites and altering them to be grain-free but flavorful. When I first tried this recipe, I wrote in the margins of my book, "Delicious! Tastes almost normal!" In my quest for gut-healthy recipes, I've found either, 1) I love the recipe and make it over and over, or; 2) the recipe is nothing like its grainy counterpart (i.e., sandwich bread) and so I never make it again. These waffles are definitely, thankfully, in the first category.

Because I always have a drawerful of apples, my usual topping for these delicious waffles is a handful sauteed in butter, honey and cinnamon. The flavors go well with the light crumb of the almond flour batter. Below is the recipe for the waffles and sauteed apples, as well as a few variations I created while on vacation. I've also included a few tips for getting the best results working with almond flour. Enjoy!

Almond Waffles with Sauteed Cinnamon Apples
Altered, just slightly, from original recipe by Kendall Conrad 
Serves 8

2 cups blanched almond flour (I buy 5-lb. bags of Honeyville brand off Amazon)
4 large eggs
8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda 
pinch of salt

Sauteed Apples:
4 apples, cored, peeled and sliced thinly
1 TBS butter or coconut oil
1 TBS cinnamon (see my post on chai about using good cinnamon)
1 cup honey

To make the waffles:
Preheat a waffle maker. If making multiple waffles, you can preheat your oven to 200F to keep the waffles warm, or just toss them to your family piping hot as they come off the maker.

Combine all waffle ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well combined. I use a dinner fork but I suppose you could get fancy with a whisk, if that's more your style.

Grease the waffle iron with a little bit of butter. I just grab the stick, holding the papered end, and shmear it all around. Once again, if you're less lazy fancier than me, feel free to apply butter or even grapeseed oil with a paper towel or, even more elegant, one of those oil misters.

Add 1/4-1/3 cup of batter to the waffle maker. Cook it for a few minutes, or until golden brown. Do nto overcook! Almond flour cooks quickly. Set on the oven rack to keep warm (or toss through the air like a frisbee to your waiting child).

To make the apples:
Melt butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add apples and shake the pan a few times to coat well. Cover and cook for several minutes until apples start to soften. Then, add cinnamon and honey and continue to cook, uncovered, until apples are soft and caramelized, or your house smells like apple fritters and you can't possibly wait one more minute to eat.

To serve:
Put a waffle on a plate. Spoon apples with extra honey-cinnamon sauce into the waffle pockets. Devour. Lick your plate clean. Then come back and leave a comment on this blog letting me know how grateful you are that I introduced you to this deliciousness. :)

To store:
Waffle batter will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge. To make additional waffles, you'll need to let the batter sit out for a bit to come up to room temperature, or nuke it for a bit in the microwave. Cold almond flour batter will not cook in the middle and burn on the outside. It needs to be pourable.

Cooked waffles can be stored, wrapped in plastic wrap or sandwich baggies, for a day or two. To reheat, pop in the toaster for a quick crisp- and warm-up. 

For a treat, turn leftover waffles or pancakes into sandwiches by spreading peanut butter and sliced bananas in the middle.


When we went to Hawaii, I brought along a batch of the waffle mix (the dry ingredients, anyway) and mixed up some batter in our condo. Because there wasn't a waffle maker, I tried making pancakes. They were awesome, so much so that I don't hesitate for a minute in offering you these two delicious variations on the waffle recipe:

Almond Flour Pancakes with Sauteed Bananas

Batter recipe same as above

Sauteed Bananas
1 TBS or small pat of butter
2 ripe bananas, sliced
1 cup honey
1 TBS cinnamon (optional)

To make the pancakes:
Preheat a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Slowly pour well-whisked, room temperature (just in case you happened to pull pre-made batter out of the fridge) batter, in 1/4 cup measurements, onto the hot pan.

Watch as bubbles start to form and then begin popping on the surface of the pancake. Carefully slide your spatula under half of the pancake, lift gently, and somersault it over itself back onto the pan. (The first time might be tricky, but you'll see what I mean. It takes a certain finesse. If a little bit plops out and your pancake does not stay perfectly round, it's okay. It will still taste amazing.) Allow the second side to cook for just a minute or until golden brown. You don't want to overcook these lovelies.

Repeat with other pancakes. Like the waffles, these can be kept warm in a 200F oven while you continue cooking with the remaining batter.

To make the bananas:
Melt a pat of butter in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 sliced bananas and cook until golden brown, flipping over once during cooking. After the flip, pour in 1 cup of honey and 1 TBS cinnamon. 

To serve:
Pour the bananas and cinnamon honey over the pancakes and dig in. (These are amazing both with and without cinnamon).

To store:
Batter can keep for 2-3 days in fridge. Cooked pancakes can be stored in plastic wrap in fridge and reheated in toaster, microwave, or 200F oven.

Almond Flour Pancakes with Caramelized Pineapple & Coconut Flakes

Batter recipe same as above

Caramelized Pineapple
1 TBS or small pat of butter
1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh coconut shavings (substitute dried unsweetened coconut flakes)

To make the pancakes:
Preheat a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Slowly pour well-whisked, room temperature (just in case you happened to pull pre-made batter out of the fridge) batter, in 1/4 cup measurements, onto the hot pan.

Watch as bubbles start to form and then begin popping on the surface of the pancake. Carefully slide your spatula under half of the pancake, lift gently, and somersault it over itself back onto the pan. (The first time might be tricky, but you'll see what I mean. It takes a certain finesse. If a little bit plops out and your pancake does not stay perfectly round, it's okay. It will still taste amazing.) Allow the second side to cook for just a minute or until golden brown. You don't want to overcook these lovelies.

Repeat with other pancakes. Like the waffles, these can be kept warm in a 200F oven while you continue cooking with the remaining batter.

To make the pineapple:
Melt a pat of butter in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add diced pineapple, cover, cook until golden brown, stirring a few times. Remove cover, add honey and turn up the heat slightly, to medium high, stirring frequently as pineapple caramelizes in the honey. Remove when pineapple chunks are soft, caramelized, and/or you can't possibly wait another second to taste the goodness.

To serve:
Stack up your pancakes, pour a healthy serving of pineapple on top, and garnish with coconut shavings. 

Honestly, this is my favorite combination. It is so, so good.


So, which one are you going to make?

Come back and let me know!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sabbath Adventures: Chichis & Pupus with Friends

While we were still in Hawaii, we texted our BFFs the following:
Friday: Chichis & Pupus
We're bringing some of the islands home!

Tonight we gathered for a much-needed reunion of the clan with a pupu spread to knock your socks off:

Some people might just think of throwing together chips and salsa. Oh no. We done did this thing up ri-ight. Steamed artichokes, grilled vegetable paninis, brie & mango quesadillas, fresh veggies, coconut-cashew chicken and fish sticks, almond shrimp with papaya butter, fruit, and grilled mahi mahi with coconut curry vegetables. Double to the yum.

Ben shook up some mai tais. I threw together some gut-friendly chichis and pomegranate-lime vodka tonics. (I'll post recipes if folks are interested).

We dined.

And then we played.

Chess nerds unite!

KK was the pet kitty in her cage.

Free at last!

Sidewalk chalk + girly love = precious

aaand...they were still at it when i finally pulled my biggest kid away to head home.

Nothing like a night with friends to start your weekend out on the right note.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Kauai: Part Three

This trip to Kauai was more than just a vacation. Our year has been full of transitions, the biggest being my pastor hubby leaving his position of eight years to start a new church plant in our community. God has made it abundantly, amazingly, graciously clear that we are to give our lives to seeing our area transformed by the gospel. In leaving our comfortable, supportive, stable church and entering the world of church planting, raising support, and being on our own, we've encountered some major stressors. After eight years at our big church, we were looking forward to taking a much-needed sabbatical this year. We started saving up money and exploring options. We really hoped to get to the Holy Lands. But God had other plans. By the time it was clear we would be sent off from our church to be local missionaries, we realized there would be no long-term sabbatical. So we used the money and our gifted flyer miles to spend some much-needed family time together as a buffer between one job and the next. And if you're going on a family vacation, there's pretty much no better place to relax, recuperate and recharge than the beach!

That's me, with Bali Hai in the background. South Pacific turned the pointy peak into a magical island. For us, it's just a beautiful photo backdrop. On our seventh day, we took a trip to the North Shore. Tunnels Beach is an incredible snorkeling location. There are two reefs, an inner one with all kinds of amazing fish and sea turtles to see, and an outer one that is unlike any other coral reef formation I've ever seen. Because I was still recovering and not feeling as strong as usual, I took very short swims in the shallower, closer reef formations. After a few close encounters with the unpredictable ocean while swimming outside the reef, I've become a very safe snorkeler. I always pay attention to where I am in relation to the beach and in relation to the open water. Since I was alone, I was especially careful. I mostly stuck to the backside of the inner reef, where it drops off into open, sandy water.

In about twenty minutes' time, I saw hundreds of fish, a few kinds I've never seen before. The most brilliant, fluorescent, vibrant colors and some of the craziest faces. I watched parrot fish eating the hard coral and observed as they shot it out their backsides, pooping sandy bits of coral back into the sea. I could hear their beaks pecking away at the coral! I saw trumpet fish, including one with large teeth that had its mouth open as it swam along, catching its lunch. And I also saw about ten sea turtles around the reef, all different sizes, feeding and swimming and just being awesome.

My little buddies spent most of the morning playing pirates and mermaids in the shade and exposed roots of the enormous trees that line the back of Tunnels Beach. When not using their imaginations, they were helping me look for smooth white shells in the coarse sand.

Look: Maddie is actually posing for a shot! It's a miracle!

My sweet, sweet girl. She's such a beauty, inside and out.

On the way back South, we stopped at this little overlook to snap a quick photo of the beautiful, verdant taro fields. Thank you, taro fields, for providing me with the delicious wrapping of my precious pork lau lau. Moment of silence.

We grabbed fish tacos (me, sans tortilla) at local taco truck hotspot on Hanalei Bay (famous because we named our golden retriever after the beautiful, 2-mile long crescent-shaped beach). Then it was time for dessert, Hawaiian style. You know what that means: shave ice. And there's no better place on the island than Aunty Kuiny's spot in Anahola.

On the same property as the shave ice place is a funky little shop that sells the strangest assortment of items, from fresh fruit to dusty old jewelry boxes to shell trinkets. And, there's this picturesque little baptist church:

 In the shade of the awning, my girls' eyes were at it again. Killing me softly. She was a fairly willing participant. After all, she was waiting for her shave ice to arrive.

Since Maddie was a baby, we've always remarked on her upside-down half-moon smiling eyes. In this picture, she's pointing them out for me:

While Sam slept in the car, Maddie ate a shave ice as big as her head.

She did NOT nap that day. 

Day eight started bright and early. I woke up around 4 and Ben left for a deep-sea fishing adventure around 5. By the time Maddie and Sam rolled out of bed, I was starving and so I made us all almond flour pancakes with carmelized sugar pineapple and coconut shavings. This breakfast was da bomb. (Recipe forthcoming).

The kids wanted to go to the pool. Since Dad's not a big fan (hello, we're in Hawaii, we swim in the OCEAN), I treated them to a morning of swimming. Except that day they were exceptionally crabby and difficult. They had been asking for days to go swimming at the pool, and so I packed my book and magazines, ready to sit poolside lay prostrate on a lounge chair while they frolicked in the sandy-bottomed kiddie pool. Except they laid on me, whined at me, and did this most of the morning:

Why, yes, that is my five year-old daughter rolling her eyes like a fourteen year-old. Awesome. I tried everything to get them swimming on their own: getting in the pool with them (imagine that), going down the water slide, splashing, playing, feeding them snacks; nothing interested them. FINALLY our friends (who happened to be visiting Kauai at the same time) showed up, and it was the best. thing. ever. The kids were reinvigorated and with the new friends and pool toys, they hopped right in. I was so exhausted by this point that I ordered them lunch from the poolside restaurant (grilled cheese and french fries for $7 plus tax plus pool boy tip) and I called Ben and told him he needed to come pick us up on his way home from fishing because there was NO WAY  I was walking these crazy bones back to the condo.

What, me? Attitude? No, I'm pleased as punch:

Adorable little stinker.

That evening we went back to the Hyatt in Poipu for drinks. We all needed it. Maddie posed by the pool with her plumeria blossom after watching some hula:

Peeking at the black swan on the hotel grounds:

Next up: a trip back to the North Shore, more swords, and more shave ice.