Roasted Butternut Squash and Veggie Soup

Hope you all are enjoying your weekend so far! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I made some yummy recipes last weekend when it was cold outside and I hoped to share a few of them with you.  The cold didn’t last long, yesterday’s high was almost 90.  Welcome to Texas weather.

My favorite was the soup I made. I’m a terrible food photographer but I did take a pic of the finished product. If you thought soup was hard to make, think again. This is really easy and really good for you too! It takes some pre-dinner prep work but will make your house smell great all day.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Veggie Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium size Buternut Squash

2 celery stalks

2 cups mini-carrots

1 cup chopped cauliflower

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp nutmeg

Vegetable Broth

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

 

Directions:

Roast all vegetables first. Cut the butternut squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds/pulp. Rub the inside with olive oil and sprinkle with salt pepper and nutmeg. Place flesh side down on baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for almost an hour.

If you have room in your oven, roast the other vegetables at the same time. In a 9×13 baking dish, combine the garlic, carrots and cauliflower. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for almost an hour.

Once all the veggies are roasted, scoop out the squash flesh into a bowl and put aside. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, saute onion and celery in 2 tbsp olive oil until softened. Add squash and other roasted vegetables to pan and mix well. Pour in vegetable broth until all veggies are completely covered and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Put all contents into a blender (careful, it’s hot!) and puree until smooth and creamy. Add more broth if the soup is too thick for your liking.

Pour into serving bowls and enjoy!

YUM!

Hula Dog or Bust!

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday.  I have a great Travel Tip Tuesday post in mind but will save it for next week.

Thursday we had planned to have lunch at the Kahala Resort located about 15 minutes away from Waikiki in the “posh posh” area of Oahu.  Apparently so posh that our taxi driver said the houses in that neighborhood range from $15 to 40 MILLION dollars.  Yes, why have one trillion when you can have one million??  Haha.

Early that morning my dad and husband rented a kayak and took it out for an hour.  I enjoyed watching them and took a few pictures.  Then we grabbed a beach umbrella and vegged out for a few hours before lunch.  Once everyone was dressed and dolled up for the Kahala, we boarded the cab and off we were.

As the cab pulled up to the Kahala I can see why this is considered ultra-luxury.  The lobby is an open air one (which I just love) and down one of the hallways there are several framed pictures adorning the walls of all the celebrities that have stayed at the resort.  Nicholas Cage, Billy Joel…even Snoop Dog to name a few.  The restaurant in which we had reservations is named “Plumeria” and the restaurant is also in an open-air setting right on the garden area with the ocean in the background.  Pure, raw beauty.

Inside the Kahala Resort Lobby

Another Lobby Shot

Hubby and I

Dad and I

 

We met up with my Hawaiian family members who had lunch with us.  Prosecco to start and yummy fruity iced tea to follow.  I had a salad and then had the fish tacos for my main entree.  They were so incredibly good that I didn’t even stop to take a picture before devouring them.  Fresh and spicy grilled huge chunks of Mahi-Mahi on a flour tortilla with cabbage slaw and some sort of tangy dressing.  Probably the best fish tacos I’ve ever had.

After lunch came coffee and dessert, which I did get pictures of.  I had the “famous” bread pudding and loved every minute of it.  By the time lunch was over I felt about 10 lbs heavier and was convinced I would need to be rolled out of my chair and out of the restaurant!

Bread Pudding

Mango Sorbet

Vanilla Flan

 

After lunch we explored the resort grounds and watched the resident dolphins get some training time with guests who had enrolled in their dolphin experience.  It was really nice to see them so close up.  I love a dolphin smile.

Dolphin Area

I took these pictures from the grounds of the resort and enhanced them with my iphone apps.  These are probably my most favorite pictures from the trip.

Dolphin Habitat Area

View of back of the resort

Pool Area

This little island sits out off the resort grounds all by itself

View from our table

More beauty

 

After lunch everyone was stuffed but we slowly got back to our normal state and went back out to the beach for a few more hours.  The girls took a paddleboard out for a while and said that they saw sea turtles swimming about below them.

That evening we were all still pretty full from lunch but my husband had heard about the “Puka Dog” which is from Kauai and featured on the Travel Channel.  The founders split into two separate entities and one moved to Oahu just outside the International Market Place.  Serving the exact same style Hawaiian hot dog, this one was named “Hula Dog”.  My husband was dead set on finding the place and trying one.

The difference between one of these hot dogs and a normal hot dog is that the bun (similar to a subway roll) has a hole in the middle in which the hot dog (or polish sausage) is inserted and the sauces are squeezed in around it.  They have some pretty unique sauces that are only available in Hawaii and that is what all the rage is about.

Sister of the Puka Dog

We walked around that night for what seemed like forever and finally located the place.  My husband then does the unthinkable…he orders his Hula dog with REGULAR mustard!  What?  He said he was afraid to order something “exotic” in case he didn’t like it.  The Hula dog and a fresh lemonade was $10.  I really wanted some noodles of some sort, my son wanted pizza and the girls weren’t that hungry.  So we hit up the food court at the open air mall for Japanese noodles and pizza and then moved on to the ABC Store for the girls to get small sandwiches, chips and soda.  The ABC store was packed and it was already around 9pm.

My Seafood Noodles — I’m not sure what all was in it but I ate it anyway!

Once again I had to finish off the evening with something mixed with vodka on ice (I promise, I only drink like this on vacation!) and some quiet time on the lanai.  I really didn’t know how I was going to manage without this once I got back to Texas!

A Little Pipi and Pupu Never Hurt Nobody!

On Tuesday we woke up early as usual and I took my morning spot on the lanai as I sipped coffee and enjoyed the breeze.  The waves were looking good that morning and there were several surfers out taking advantage of them.  I took a walk with my mom down the street to the post office so she could mail off postcards and then to the ABC store (for about the 5th time already) to grab some sunscreen and a pair of earrings for that night’s luau.  We planned for today to be a relaxing, lazy day.

Just as our bodies were getting used to the time difference, we finally all got up and out to the beach around 1030 that morning.  The kids spent some time on the sand and in the water until around lunchtime.  My husband rented a standup paddleboard for an hour and he did great on it. He also took our daughter out and she loved it.   I tried my balance and had a fleeting thought that I would take it out a little ways but with the first bobble decided against it.  I have impeccable balance during yoga but couldn’t quite get stable on that damn thing.  The fear of falling off and hitting the rocks below pretty much sealed the deal that I was NOT about to try it.  My son wanted to try it so he climbed up onto his knees on the paddleboard.  My husband gave him a slight push at the same time my son is yelling…”No, I decided I don’t want to do this!” but by that time it was too late.  The waves had started to push him sideways and towards the jetty.  I just know he was panicking inside as he looked petrified and didn’t move a muscle.  My husband had to fumble over the rocky ocean bottom to make his way over there to “rescue” him.  Being that my son is a bit dramatic, this story will forever go down and retold as the time Daddy tried to push him into the rocks.   It’s ok tho,  Adam gets his redemption on day 5.

For lunch we thought we would try the snack shack below our condo.  The beef eaters in the family got burgers, others got steak and rice.  My mom and I do eat some fish so we got the crab salad pita which was really, really good.  Eating from there was cheap and the food was good.  If you are ever in that area of Waikiki beach you need to check it out.  Sorry I forgot to take pictures!

After lunch we decided to all get showered and changed for the luau.  The bus was going to pick us up around 4pm at the Hilton Hawaiian village to take us to Germaine’s Luau.  It was a short walk to the bus area and we got there a little early so I was able to do some people watching.  There was one lady who’s perfume was so strong I felt faint and I prayed that she wouldn’t be on our bus.  Then, there was this younger woman who walked up in an extremely tight hot pink dress which barely covered her you-know-what.  She was not a small woman and I was instantly embarrassed for my children who had to bear witness to the disaster.  When she sat down it was like that Sharon Stone scene from Fatal Attraction however it was not a movie set and she was definitely no Sharon Stone!  It never ceases to amaze me the poor choices people make.

We found our luau guide and boarded the bus.  Instead of Hawaiian music playing, it was more like current pop hits and I was a bit confused but hoped that our guide would be entertaining us anyway during the ride.  The drive to Germaine’s is only supposed to be about an hour however because of the traffic on this particular day, we left at 420pm and didn’t arrive at the luau until close to 7pm!  It was stop and go, bumper to bumper the whole way until we were off the highway. Our guide’s name was Alika (pronounced ah-lee-kah) and had some pretty funny jokes going during the start of the trip.  He must’ve run out of things to say because about halfway through he decided just to engage the Australian group in the back in conversation for the remainder of the drive.  Little did we know how much these Australians would be drinking during the luau….

During the ride we learned some interesting things.  Like…did you know that the Hawaiian term for beef is “pipi”? (pronounced pee-pee) and the Hawaiian word for appetizer is “pupu” (pronounced poo-poo)?  Alika told us that we probably weren’t aware we would be eating pipi and pupu at the luau.  No, no sir…we were not but by golly from the price we paid for this we were going to eat it and like it!

After the long ride, we were herded off of the bus and over to an area where we were all “leid”  (again) and had a picture taken. Our shell leis would serve as a place holder once we made the mad dash to find a seat.  Once that was all over, first things first….drinks.  They give you 4 drink tickets but the drinks are served in tiny cups.  We were able to purchase souvenir glasses that were twice that size and get twice the drink for the same # of tickets.  That’s what we did.  I ended up having probably close to 5 Blue Hawaii’s and a Mai Tai since I had used my tickets and had to finish the rest of the ones my husband ordered but didn’t drink.  All I know is that they were strong and really yummy.

Picture of our Luau Picture

The Luau started with the ceremony of unearthing the pork from the pit.  There’s a fancy name for it but I can’t remember.  I really didn’t want to watch it but my daughter wanted to see so I went with her and grabbed some pictures.  Then they released the tables a few at a time to go hit the buffet.  My plate consisted of regular salad, macaroni salad, green bean salad, lomi lomi salmon salad, coleslaw, sticky rice, fried mahi mahi and the coconut milk custard dessert.  The meat eaters enjoyed all those things plus the pork, teryaki beef and baked chicken.  It was an all you can eat buffet.  I didn’t go back for seconds but my kids sure did.  I was really happy and relieved that they enjoyed the food.

My Plate

The show took place during the entire dinner and myself, my niece and my daughter even tried our skills at the hula on stage.  It was a very, very fun evening and the entertainment was wonderful.  Just perfect for my kids who had never been to Hawaii before.  Some people have called the luau “hokey” and even though it was at some parts, it definitely epitomized the spirit of Hawaii and the Hawaiian culture.

My Handsome Men

The bus ride back was definitely interesting.  Our fellow riders, the Australians (as we came to call them the “drunk” Austrailians) had certainly enjoyed themselves as well. While most of us were on the more subdued side of buzzed and the kids were tuckered out, they were hootin and hollerin like crazy in the back of the bus.  It was quite funny to hear the group of them singing to One Direction’s “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” with their slurred Australian accents. At one point their outbursts became a bit on the raunchy and inappropriate side and Alika had to remind them there were kids on the bus.   Thank goodness there was no traffic on the way back!

I took a few good videos of the luau which will be posted onto our YouTube channel as soon as I get a chance to sort through everything!

As we settled in back at the condo I changed into my PJs and poured myself a vodka tonic.  I was able to get some good pictures of the moon over the ocean on my SLR camera (which I will post as soon as I have the chance!) and relaxed with my nook on the lanai.  All was right with the world!

Lentils: The Other White Meat

I don’t know why I’m writing about lentils…but as I was cooking up a batch yesterday evening I thought it would be good to share why I love lentils so much.  If you’ve read my other posts you know that I am a vegetarian but my family is not.  This usually results in me cooking two separate dinners….one meaty, one non-meaty.  Sometimes I have a real hard time coming up with new and exciting things to make for myself…but here’s where the lentils come in.

Lentils are versatile.  You can put them in anything.  they are also great meat imposters.  In most recipes that call for ground beef, you can substitute cooked lentils and no one would ever be the wiser.  I make a mean chili with lentils and I was able to successfully fool my son (who is a very picky eater) into thinking he was eating meat.  Not to mention, lentils are very healthy for you; they are high in fiber and protein.  I will usually cook up a batch of lentils and keep them in a Tupperware container in the fridge.  that way, during the week I can add them to anything I am cooking in a pinch when I have nothing else to make myself.

Of course, on their own lentils make a great Greek-type salad.  I’m going to make some this weekend and post the recipe, so keep your eyes out.

Here are some meal ideas in which you can use lentils in place of meat:

~Veggie Burgers
~Chili
~Tacos / Taco Salad
~Meat Sauce (for pasta)
~Lasagna
~”Hamburger” Helper
~Soup

Are there any favorite lentil ideas you would like to share?  Let me know!

Lentils….they’re what’s for dinner.

Hawaiian Vegan Wraps with Cilantro Lime Rice. Vegetarian version too!

 

Cilantro Lime Rice

Long grain or Brown rice

¼ cup lime juice

1/3 package McCormick Mojito Lime Seasoning

Chopped cilantro

Cook rice according to package instructions but substitute ¼ cup of the water for lime juice and add seasoning.  When done, add cilantro to taste and fluff with fork.

It’s like Franks Red Hot Sauce….I put this S*** in everything!

Mojito Lime Portobello mushroom Wraps

2 large portobello mushroom caps, chopped

2/3 packet McCormick  Cilantro Lime seasoning (or to taste, I love this stuff)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 giant burrito size flour tortillas

Shredded Cheese

Chopped cilantro

Butter/margarine

In bowl mix mushrooms with olive oil, vinegar and seasoning.   Toss to coat. Saute mixture on medium heat until mushrooms are cooked through and have the consistency of meat.

Mushroom “meat”

Layer cheese, cilantro and mushrooms on tortilla.  I like to add some of the rice too.

Vegetarians eat good too ya know!

Roll up burrito style.  Brush on butter each side and grill on griddle until both sides are golden and crispy.

Yummy Yummy in my tummy!

Spicy Sauteed Shrimp with Garlic Brown Rice

This is a heart healthy light meal that will have your tastebuds dancing for joy! 

Image

Ingredients:

 

Brown Long Grain Rice

1/2 white onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Red Pepper flakes to taste

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp basil leaves

2 tbs Olive Oil

Vegetable Broth

1 lb cleaned,  peeled shrimp, deveined

 

Preparation:

 

Prepare rice according to package directions, except substitue vegetable broth for water to add flavor.  Set aside

 

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbs of the olive oil, add garlic and onion.  Sautee until onions are tender.  Add salt and red pepper to taste.  Spoon garlic mixture into prepared rice and stir to mix flavors.

 

In same skillet, heat remaining 1 tbs of olive oil and sautee shrimp until pink (about 3-4 minutes).  Season with basil and salt to taste.  Add additional red pepper flakes if you like it hot!

 

Serve dishes separately or mix together for a spicy, garlicky shrimp and rice bowl!

Vegetarian Chili

The picture I took for this just didn’t come out quite right so you’ll have to use your imagination.

It is a quick meal to put together as long as you pre-cook your lentils! Even my husband liked this lentil-packed chili just as much as the real beefy kind.

Ingredients:

1 cup pre-cooked lentils
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can red beans
1 packet chili mix (I prefer French’s Chili-O)

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and cook until boiling! Add cheese or toppings, Yep, that’s it!