veggies and watermelon, quick and easy

I love to cook, probably because I love to eat. By the way my recent visit to the doctor bore good news, my muscle inflammation is at an all-time low, in the mid-200 range, 20+ points above the desired max. Unfortunately the bad news is that my cholesterol count is still too high, over 200. Statins are not an option because of my tendency toward muscle inflammation. So doc and I decided that I’d continue to focus upon dieting and exercising. I’ve done it before, 20 years ago when Weight Watchers and 4-mile walks contributed to a cholesterol reading of 162. But can I do it now when metabolism is on the down-swing, not on the up-swing, and looking at a peanut can pack on 10 pounds? Well, stay tuned…

Eating fruits and veggies is a conscious act, unlike savoring a slice of Hawaiian sweet-bread, slathered with butter, real butter, and chocolate peanut butter. There’s not as much crunch and fiber as the healthy stuff, but there’s a whole lot more mouth-watering, sensory overload, smooth-as-silk flavor. But never mind what I’d rather, here’s a tip for those lacking time and motivation to prepare the good-for-you stuff. Just figured this one out for myself, and I like its simplicity, versatility, and the taste’s not so bad either.

I purchased a prepared, large veggie platter from Costco for $9.99. At home, I distributed the veggies into quart-size storage bags. My bags contained sweet baby carrots, plump cherry tomatoes, bite-size pieces of broccoli, and another of cauliflower. A tub of Litehouse peppercorn ranch dip came with the platter. I munched on these assorted veggies randomly throughout the day, sometimes spooning a little (goes a long way) of the dressing on them. I also served the raw veggies as a side to a meal of chili. Finally, I tossed the broccoli pieces and cherry tomatoes in with salad greens along with other items like sliced almonds and blueberries. Then scooping a couple of tablespoons of the dip into a small bowl, I added a little water to thin its consistency. Pouring the homemade dressing over the salad contents, I combined them until everything was nicely coated. I do this with all creamy dressings so that we eat fewer calories, but enjoy the same mouthfuls of flavor.

For the price of individual packages of carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, not to mention a jar of dressing, the Costco platter was quite a savings. And there’s always waste in purchasing big bags of carrots, a carton of cherry tomatoes, a head of cauliflower, and a head of broccoli, as well as having half-empty bottles of dressings sit in the refrigerator for weeks or months or years. (I’m guilty of years’ worth of liquid dressings that have congealed beyond recognition. I’ve yet to toss some out.) Each one of the aforementioned, packaged items can run half, or higher, the price of Costco’s veggie platter. The convenience of not having to cut up the heads of broccoli and cauliflower is an added bonus, not to be downplayed when fast foods are more tempting than good foods.

Watermelon is a favorite of my daughter’s. I use to serve it up regularly for play groups at our house. Though it’s not so commonplace for us anymore, my husband and I are still fans when the fruit is in season, like now. I still dish it up as I did for toddlers, …oh so long ago.

I recently bought a third of a watermelon. I first sliced it crosswise into pieces we’re accustomed to eating. Then I slid the knife between the edible red portion and the pale green rind, cutting around the entire rim, separating the red from the green. Finally, I sliced lengthwise across each side of the red, juicy fruit, separating it into bite-size chunks. Leaving the fruit intact, we ate the chunks directly from the fruit “bowl.” With some adjustment the same method for cutting and eating can be done with whole or halved watermelons.

For those of you who bypassed the “hawaiian goodies” detailed in a previous post, this one’s for you…

bon,bon, bon appetit!!!…hugmamma.

hawaiian goodies

I share this with you because I can no longer partake of these scrumptious delicacies as I would like to do. Doctors orders. Having high cholesterol, and a genetic disposition for diabetes and arthritis (both aggravated by too much sugar intake), I haven’t enjoyed these baked goodies in quite some time. While I would love to have them on hand just for a nibble every so often, one bite into this sumptuous, buttery snack and I’m hooked until every wrapped piece is “pau.” That’s Hawaiian for “gone, kaput, finished.”

So, you dear reader, are in luck, or bad luck, depending upon your perspective. If you decide to open this “Pandora’s Box” don’t fault me for the consequences. I pass this along because I can’t keep it to myself. That’s how great I think these yummy delights are, and you know how fussy I am about details by now. By the way, don’t succumb to “knock-offs.” Someone generously gave us look-a-likes once, and I could tell they weren’t the real thing. So buyer, beware! Remember my mantra “If you don’t enjoy eating something, don’t waste the calories!” I guess I should add that if you do enjoy something, beware the calories! I leave it to you to decide which applies, when you sample these delicious Hawaiian goodies. Good luck in deciding…

Big Island Candies, established in 1977, boasts “Hawaii’s Finest Handmade Cookies & Chocolates.” And I’m here to tell you, they’re not lying. Their macadamia nut shortbread cookies are “to die for.” I live to tell the story. “The famous award-winning diagonally dipped shortbreads” are coated with milk chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel chocolate. Or there’s the chocolate shortbread dipped in mint, the coffee shortbread dipped in dark chocolate, or the coconut shortbread, or the chocolate chip shortbread, or the lemon shortbread.

Your choice selection comes in a variety of boxed packages: the chocolate dipped original shortbread, the dark chocolate dipped original  shortbread, the coconut shortbread, the mint dipped chocolate shortbread, the dipped chocolate shortbread assortment, 2 types of the caramel chocolate dipped shortbread, the lemon shortbread assortment, the dark chocolate dipped coffee shortbread, the dipped original assortment, the lemon shortbread combo, the dipped shortbread assortment, the shortbread assortment, the original shortbread, and the chocolate chip shortbread. All of these are offered in a variety of sizes, i.e. Gold Box, Small Gold Box, Small Gift Box.

Besides their cookies Big Island Candies bakes and sells other items like their Kohala brownies, golden macadamia nut, chocolate covered macadamia nut and dark chocolate covered coconut. They’re very rich and dense, so they’re to be savored, not gulped in bunches like the cookies. Then there are items which might appeal to gourmet palates, green tea macadamia nut shortbread cookies, ultimate chocolate chip cookie, and the chocolate drink mix. For those liking a little “snap, crackle, pop” Big Island Candies offers the almond wafer crunch bar, the corn chip crunch bar and the peanut butter bar. (My mouth is watering.) Truly different are the Mika mints described as “A smooth and lightly whipped blend of dark and milk chocolate, cream and butter with the cooling touch of mint coated in dark chocolate for a truly decadent treat.” Just as delicious it seems is the Macnut toffee and the Hawaiian macadamia nut biscotti. Beyond my comprehension, but maybe not yours, is the Hawaiian red chili toffee where BIC claims “We carefully cook our Hawaiian red chili butter toffee in small batches to bring out its rich butter taste and crunchy bite. It is studded with roasted almonds with a touch of hickory smoke salt and the subtle heat of the small fiery Hawaiian chili pepper. We coat it with rich dark chocolate for a tantalizing treat.” Sounds like a smokin’ hot, eye-popping snack!

And finally, the list wouldn’t be complete without Hawaiian macadamia nut chocolates in a variety of box sizes. If this old standby doesn’t excite your taste buds how about Hawaiian crunchies, containing crisp potato chips, macadamia nuts, and creamy milk chocolate, or Hawaiian macadamia nut rocky road, or Hawaiian macadamia nut crunch, or Hawaiian macadamia nut caramel cluster, or truffles?

For several years my husband has given a number of these mouth-watering snacks to staff, as Christmas gifts. Needless to say, we’ve not heard any complaints, only sighs of “ono-licious,” Hawaiian for “yummy in my tummy!” BIC can send out pre-packaged, wrapped gifts like Ha’Aheo Basket (large, medium,small), Kona Basket, Chocolate Mailer, Cocoa Box, Orange Mini Pillow, Salmon Colored Sheer Bag With Beans, Brown Oval Box, Fall Butterfly Keepsake, Sable Box, Purple Metallic Sheer Bag, Fall Amazonia Glitz, Purple Ballotin, Signature Tin, Mauna Kea Basket (large,small), Fall Lovely Glitz, Lei’Ahinahina (Hawaiian for “silversword”),Copper Ballotin, Fall Flutter Tin and Cherry Blossom Mini Takeout.

I know I’ve left nothing to your imagination, except perhaps, the price. The goodies, which taste like homemade, are priced well for what they are, “boutique” delights. The shipping might be the deal breaker. But as a special treat for yourself, your “significant other,” someone’s birthday, or holidays, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

If you think this has been a “paid commercial,” you’re wrong. I’m handing off something I’ve held near and dear to my stomach for years. You do with it what you will. But if you do make a purchase, maybe you can mention my blog and this post. Maybe as a “thank you” they’ll send me the Petite Box of Hawaiian Crunchies #1201, or the small gift box of Chocolate Dipped Original Shortbread #3450, or the Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Clusters #1206.

Big Island Candies toll-free #1-800-935-5510 or online @www.bigislandcandies.com.

eating my heart out, while you fill your “opu” (Hawaiian for “belly”)…hugmamma.

surrogate fathers

Reflecting back to my fatherless childhood, I was one when my father died, I probably pined for a male figure to parent me alongside my mom. But I don’t remember obsessing about it, although there were times when certain individuals were present in my life who I wished were my father.

My earliest recognition of just such a man was Uncle Lot. I adored him even though he was not really an uncle; “calabash” relatives were commonplace in extended Hawaiian families. Bronzed by the sun, silver white hair framing a handsome face, I imagined he loved me like a precious daughter. He and our Aunt Miriam, spinster brother and sister,  lived next door to the first home I ever knew, conveniently located across the road from the beach. When not frolicking on the sand or swimming in the warm waters, we’d be playing with Melabee, a German Shepherd belonging to auntie and uncle. We were always invited into their antique-filled home where we snacked on little sandwiches or small, scrumptious desserts. I always loved curling up in Uncle Lot’s lap, burrowing my sleepy head into his chest heavily scented with cologne. I’d rest there while he, auntie and my mom chatted amiably among themselves. I never wanted to leave when it was time to return to our house.  Their home was so much grander, filled with beautiful things, and food more delicious than was our usual fare. As a child I never understood aunty and uncle’s relationship. They were related, but they seemed so comfortable in each other’s shadow, like husband and wife. But they weren’t married, so I wanted Uncle Lot to marry my mom. Of course it was a child’s fantasy, and there it remained.

As a kindergartener I remember we were in a different home, one that I would live in until I moved away to college. Our Chinese landlord lived next door. At first it was “Popo” (grandmother) to whom we paid rent, but upon her death, her son Ah Sing assumed the responsibility. I became long-lasting, best friends with his daughter, an only child for many years. A brother was born into the family when my friend was in high school.

Ah Sing took pity upon my situation, a fatherless child with a mother struggling to support her young family. He would include me on outings with his daughter. One vivid memory is of a visit onboard a navy submarine docked  in the harbor. I still have a small, black and white photograph somewhere, of me perched on a metal seat on an outer deck, long, black hair caught up in the breeze, a furtive smile on my lips, a shy glance directed at the camera. My girlfriend’s mom was not as receptive toward me however, perhaps because I wasn’t a fit companion, being poor. No matter, I became a fixture at their home because I was like a sibling my friend wanted, and another daughter Ah Sing cherished.

The only physician I recall visiting as a child was Dr. James Fleming. His shoulders seemed broad, as though he could carry the weight of the world on them, well… at least that of the sick who visited his office. His hair was a sandy blonde, he wore spectacles and he always had a smile on his face. His bedside manner was comforting, especially to a child who rarely saw a doctor because it was an expense my mom couldn’t regularly afford. But like other generous people in our lives, Dr. Fleming discounted  our fees and never pressured my mom for payment. Receiving a lollipop or large, orange gumdrop was one reason I behaved during an appointment, but more importantly, Dr. Fleming felt like a father if only for the time I spent with him. When I was much older, my mom told me that he had offered to adopt me since he had no daughters, only 3 sons. You can imagine how elated I felt, and disappointed, that I never got to live the fairy-tale life of the Lahaina Flemings. But more than anything, I would have liked to have felt the love of a father like Dr. Fleming wash over me.

My father-in-law, now deceased some 20 years or so, treated me like a daughter. When I first spent time with my husband’s family, I thought my father-in-law didn’t like me. I always seemed the butt of his ribbing. Teasing was something I grew up with as the youngest, and I wasn’t particularly fond of it. I never had the wherewithal to fight back, and felt I must not be loved, or liked. Increasingly, as I was around him more, it became obvious that I was a favorite of my father-in-law’s. I guess I was a combination, pretty Hawaiian girl like his wife, Catholic raised and educated, attending college, with lofty ambitions that might rub off on his eldest son. But best of all I could out-talk the “Portugees,” as he would love to tell me, himself being Portuguese. We could banter back and forth endlessly. My father-in-law, looking much like and behaving very much like my husband, was the closest I ever came to having a father. So it saddened me to see his body, and spirit, deteriorate through the 8 years he survived after a massive heart attack which destroyed 50% of his heart.

And then there’s my husband. A Catholic seminarian a week prior to our first meeting, he had changed his mind about being called to the priesthood. Having left home after completion of 8th grade, he had spent the next 4 1/2 years studying theology. I’ve often joked that God was preparing him for an even greater task than leading the faithful, and that was keeping me on the “straight and narrow,” which he has successfully done for 40 years.

Because I was fatherless as a child, it was imminent that my daughter bond with her dad immediately. So I didn’t look to either my mom or mother-in-law for help when our baby was born. I wanted my husband, myself and our daughter to forge a strong and loving union which would survive the ups and downs of whatever lay ahead. And to this day, our strength as a family continues to thrive upon the foundation upon which it was built. We enable one another to follow our passions, knowing that our love and support is always available 24/7.

So while I may not have had a father of my own to nurture and guide me, there were those to whom I could look for the wonderful qualities that I would one day find in a husband. So I thank my “fathers”, of whom only Ah Sing survives, on my lovely, island, childhood home of Maui.

 very fortunate to have had surrogate fathers, love me…hugmamma.