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What’s Your McDonald’s?

Have you ever seen this standup bit by Jim Gaffigan, where he talks about McDonald’s? If not, watch it here (and if you have already seen it, why not watch it again? It’s hilarious):

After joking about eating at McDonald’s, and the food served there, he says:

“I know some of you guys are like, ‘Sorry white trashy guy, I don’t eat McDonald’s.’ I have friends who brag about not going to McDonald’s… I’m tired of people acting like they’re better than McDonald’s. It’s like you may have never set foot in McDonald’s, but you have your own McDonald’s. Maybe instead of buying a Big Mac, you read US Weekly.”

This rings so true, and is worth thinking about. It’s true that I never (really, never!) go to McDonald’s. But, my “McDonald’s” is social media. My boyfriend says his is video games.

What’s your “McDonald’s”?

The Best Christmas Cookies {Recipe}

This season I kept it simple. Usually, I participate in a blogger Christmas cookie swap, and end up baking a lot and trying new, interesting recipes, but not this year. This year, Kiyo googled “Cookie recipes,” texted me one of the first results, and I’ve used it twice.

It’s this recipe; the first time I made it, I used two types of M&M’s instead of chocolate chips (because the colors were more festive, albeit more unhealthy), and walnuts (because, ew, why would you ruin cookies with nuts?). They turned out amazing. Everyone I shared them with (admittedly, a small number of people, but still) said that I nailed it. And of course, I took total credit, because for once, I’d followed a recipe almost completely. I thought I deserved a little credit, right?

This weekend I made the recipe again, but I halved it and added cacao powder; and subbed the chocolate chips/walnuts for crushed up Andes mint chocolates. Both sets of cookies came out so perfectly chewy, yet intact. I loved them so much, they were gone in exactly 1 day this time. This is one of the ways I’m keeping it simple this holiday season (the even simpler option would have been to make no cookies at all, but I just love cookies too much to ever go that far).

 

What are you making for Christmas, if you celebrate?

Cheesy Eddie’s {Rochester}

In May, I went to Rochester, New York, for the first time. Rochester is not a destination city; my sister graduated U of R, which was the impetus for a visit. Pleasantly, the city turned out to be more inviting than I expected, and of course, as I always do, I made it my mission to seek out the best food. Luckily, my sister having lived there for the past few years was helpful. Her best advice was a visit to a place which (strangely, I thought) is named Cheesy Eddie’s; and odd name, as it’s a bakery.

cheesy eddie's cookie frosting sandwich

When you hear why it has cheese in the name though, it starts to make sense: Cheesy Eddie’s specializes in cheesecake and carrot cake (which, DUH, is topped with cream cheese frosting). Who doesn’t love a bakery that has an entire category of creations called “Over-the-top Cheesecakes”? Of course, we bought a peanut butter cheesecake, which was satisfying and well-done, but forget that.

 

The Gold Medal goes to a little masterpiece called Jack’s Delight: two chocolate chip cookies, held together by cream cheese frosting. The cookies were perfect: soft with slightly crisp edges. The frosting hit just the right balance of sweet and savory, and the texture was soft but just thick and strong enough to hold the amazing dessert-sandwich together. Of course, it was rich, so I ate half one evening and the second half as my breakfast-dessert (what, you don’t ever eat dessert after eating [leftover pizza for] breakfast!?) the next day. Said “next day” was Lana’s graduation, which turned out to be a record-setting low temperature and windy; and later it hailed. In May. No, really. At least I had the crumbling second-half of my Jack’s Delight to bring a little brightness and comfort to a dreary day. Oh yeah, and celebrating Lana’s accomplishments! JK, Lana, love you! But seriously, I was devastated when we didn’t have time to go back to Cheesy Eddie’s and stockpile Jack’s Delight to bring home to Hawaii. 

 

My boyfriend literally calls me “Cookie Monster,” because I love cookies so much, but seriously, I ask you: Why don’t more people get on the frosting-cookie-sandwich bandwagon? Does anyone else agree? 

Fruit Loops Treats {Recipe}

fruit loop treats recipe

One of the easiest recipes ever (that actually requires heat) has to be Rice Crispie treats. My favorite sugary, unhealthy cereal is Fruit Loops, so recently I had the brilliant idea to swap out the classic cereal for an even more unhealthy and more delicious one. Have you ever done this with your favorite sugary breakfast cereal?

fruit loop treats recipe

Fruit Loops Treats

Ingredients:

  1. 3 tbsp. butter
  2. 1 package (10 oz.) marshmallows
  3. 6 cups Fruit Loops

Method:

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan on low heat. Add marshmallows; cook until marshmallows are completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  2. Add cereal; mix well.
  3. Press onto bottom of 13×9-inch pan greased with cooking spray or butter. Cool completely and enjoy!


Wanderlust Oahu 2016 {Recap}

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I wrote a top-five moments of Wanderlust Oahu 2015 (which you can read here). This year, I was only able to make it up for one of the three days of the festival, so I don’t really have a top-five list to share with you; but read on to hear how my one day went!

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I worked at the Lily Lotus booth again this year (see it in the left corner of the first picture?) which is always fun, since a lot of yogis are interested in this local brand.

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Can you see why? I am actually one of their brand ambassadors, which means that I was able to participate in their photoshoot that day!

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Here are the Shakti Flow master teachers being photographed for the Lily Lotus Spring 2016 collection. I met them down at the beach at Turtle Bay as they were finishing up, since it was my turn next.

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I’ll share all my favorite photos from this shoot in another post, but here’s a highlight! It was so fun to get to try on the Summer 2016 collection and play around doing yoga on the beach, but let me tell you, doing pretty yoga poses on the sand is very hard.

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So, to back-track a minute, here was my very long Saturday:

  • 5 AM: I left my house on the south shore of the island, and made the 1-hour drive up north
  • 6:30 AM: I checked in to the event
  • 7 AM: I was able to take Ana Forrest’s class. It was very tribal, slow-moving but difficult, and I liked being exposed to a style that was totally different than anything else I’d ever tried. I wouldn’t necessarily seek out her class again, but I am happy I got to try it out
  • 9 AM: Lily Lotus photoshoot on the beach
  • 10 AM – 7 PM: Worked the Lily Lotus booth
  • 8 PM: Citizen Cope concert (there he is in the above photo. I got to be super close since I was in the booth at first!)
  • 11 PM: headed home, tired but happy

wanderlust oahu 2016

I only had one meal, since I was busy nonstop all day. I got an order of sweet potato fries, which came with pork and a goat cheese sauce. I opted out of the pork, since I’m mostly vegetarian these days, but unfortunately, this meal was still way too heavy. Yes, it was delicious, but it would have been a better shared side dish, than main dish. I still ate all of it since I was so hungry, but I did not feel good afterwards. I wish there had been more / better vegetarian options.

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Once the sun went down, a whole new crowd arrived for the concert. It was fun to get off work and hang around and have a drink.

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Some friends met me, and one ordered a Nutella crepe (yum! of course I stole a few bites).

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The day flew by even though it was jam-packed. It’s always fun to see almost every person you now who practices yoga, all in one place at the same time! I will definitely be back next year, hopefully for longer! I think I may even turn it into a “staycation” and just enjoy, rather than work.


The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

Let me just warn you now: cookie cravings are a likely side-effect of reading this blog post!

Cookie dough

In 2012, I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (see my post from that year here). It’s a fantastc annual event that partners with COOKIES FOR KIDS’ CANCER, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease.

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Anyways, you pay a very small fee to participate, and that goes to the charity, and the total money raised is then matched by 1-3 other partners. The cost is so small (less than $10) but you have to factor in the price you pay when you go to the post office. I’d forgotten that each box of cookies would cost at least, but probably more, than $10 to send. Ouch!

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Each person is paired with three other food bloggers, so for instance I sent one dozen of my cookies to three people, and three other people sent one dozen of their cookies to me. What a wonderful surprise to come home to!

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I sent my cookies to:

  1. http://www.mykitchenisopen.com
  2. http://mysavoryspoon.blogspot.com
  3. http://www.littleflour.com/

(recipe I used for these Mint Dark Chocolate M&M cookies is at the end of this post)

FBCookie Swap

The first dozen I received were adorable but fruity, and if you know me, you know I don’t really enjoy fruit in my dessert. Luckily, my boyfriend had the exact opposite taste in this department, so he was more than happy to eat them.

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Thank you Just Us Four! Check out her blog (which has professional-looking photos) hhttp://www.justusfourblog.com/ere.

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Next I got a bag of somewhat crumbled but very delicious, crispy tahini cookies. I would never have thought to use tahini and sesame seeds in cookies, but it was great, especially for anyone who craves a slightly savory option. At first the taste reminded me of molasses and peanut butter, before I read the card. Thank you Cats & Commas! Check them out here.

cookie swap
Lastly, I received a batch similar to the ones I sent out: peanut butter M&M cookies. Simple but so satisfying! These had the consistency of peanut butter (even falling apart a little when eaten, but I’m not complaining). Thank you 24 Carrot Life! Check here out here; I am SWOONING over the sea salt chocolate chip cookie recipe she just posted!

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And finally… what cookies did I make?

The 250 Best Cookie Recipes

Well, I used the perfect cookbook to find a recipe: The 250 Best Cookie Recipes by Esther Brody. In the recipe below, instead of chocolate chips, I substituted half dark chocolate M&Ms & half mint chocolate chips. YUM!!!

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Dad’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 7 dozen

  • 3.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 cup softened shortening
  • 2/3 cup softened butter or margarine
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 packages (12 oz. / 375 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional) *I opted out.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C)

Ungreased cookie sheet

  1. In a bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.
  2. In another bowl, beat shortening, butter or margarine and sugars until smooth and creamy. Best in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts, if using.
  3. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (5 mL), about 2 inches (5 cm) apart, onto cookie sheet. Bake in preheated over for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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Coconut Green Tea Pound Cake

coconut green tea pound cake

Awhile ago, when I was living in Astoria, I tried a recipe for Matcha Green Tea Pound Cake made with coconut oil instead of butter. It was GOOD.

 

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Yes, it was still as dense and heavy as if I’d used butter, but the coconut flavor added a great dimension and I enjoyed the results immensely. You could eat just a little, slowly, and be very satisfied.

Although coconut oil and matcha green tea are generally considered health foods, this is a dessert, so I wouldn’t call it healthy. It is made with whole, real food ingredients, so if you’re going to have dessert, this is a great option since it’s best to keep it clean.

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Anyone else have a favorite matcha recipe?

Spooky Snacks for a Healthy Halloween

halloween candy & foods

It’s Halloween tomorrow, and for me this year, that just means pumpkin-everything, candy and Halloween movies.

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Three years ago, Halloween was cancelled in Queens, New York, (where we lived at the time) because Hurricane Sandy had just hit. We lived in Astoria, which luckily, wasn’t hit bad at all. This was the worst of it: a few trees blown over. But, everyone stayed home for the holiday.

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Kiyo and I entertained ourselves that year by creating spooky snacks, like this cucumber with balsamic dressing (a witch’s severed arm?).

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And this jar of blood – beet juice!

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Of course, we’d also stocked up on some unhealthy Halloween candy. What is your favorite Halloween candy? I love Peeps (especially the Halloween ghosts, since they have much less artificial coloring then the others) and chocolate.

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Leave your Halloween candy of choice in the comments! Any other ideas for Spooky Snacks for a Healthy Halloween?

Jimmy’s Down the Street, Coeur d’Alene

Jimmy's Down the Street in Coeur d'Alene

Almost exactly one year ago, Kiyo and I ate a ridiculous, massive breakfast at Jimmy’s Down the Street in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It was on our two-week road trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We began right on the East Coast, at my grandma’s house in Rhode Island, and ended on an island off Seattle (Kiyo’s hometown of Vashon).

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We’d already been driving for 12 days by the time we arrived in Idaho. We probably could have gotten there in half the time, but we went slowly, visiting friends and family, and camping in Yellowstone. We decided to also camp in Idaho, since we don’t know anyone there.

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Fun fact: we had absolutely zero service the whole time we were in Idaho. We came from Yellowstone, and got a big dinner at Five Guys in a random town on the way to our campsite, which was lovely, close to the surprisingly stunning Lake Coeur d’Alene.

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We pitched our tent and Kiyo built a robust fire in the pit.

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We enjoyed the warmth, watched the mesmerizing flames until they flickered out, and went to bed early.

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Kan Zaman, Honolulu

Kan Zaman Honolulu

As you might expect, there aren’t myriad Moroccan restaurants in Honolulu. One of the few is Kan Zaman (which means “Once Upon a Time” in Arabic), located in the heart of downtown. My dad took Kiyo and I out there for dinner right after we moved back to Hawaii about a year ago, and I recently met Kiyo there for lunch. You can sit outside, in the back, and throughout the small restaurant the decor is simple yet perfect. It’s very simple and charming, and you can tell it’s Moroccan, but it isn’t excessive in any way.

The first meal we began with the mezza sampler, which was fabulous. It included (left to right): baba ganoush, warak inab (Lebanese stuffed grape leaves), hummus and taktouka (a Moroccan cooked tomato and green pepper salad). Served with pita bread, this was the perfect starter to share and whet the appetite.

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My second-favorite item was another that we all shared (we shared everything we ordered, which isn’t necessarily what’s intended at the restaurant, but it’s possible and quite easy). Not only does the house-pulled mozzarella with za’atar look beautiful, but it’s fun to eat! Also served with pita, as well as “vine-ripened” tomatoes, which were a little lackluster. I’ve never seen mozzarella like this, and I am a fan (but to be fair, I am a fan of pretty much any and all cheeses).

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We shared two entrees. The first was merguez sausage served over (not much) couscous and steamed carrots, cabbage, pumpkin, potato, chickpeas, onion, tomato and zucchini (I felt like they skimped a bit in serving our portion. Do you see all those vegetables there? I certainly don’t remember tasting pumpkin). The sausage was plentiful and was good, but not the best I’ve had.

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This looks like a plate of just french fries, but actually, it was our second entrée: chicken tajine. Braised with coriander, smoked paprika, cumin, lemon, saffron and olives, it was indeed topped with fries. These were extra tasty since they soaked up the juices from the chicken. It wasn’t the prettiest dish (I especially am wary of all-brownish plates) but it was good. The flavors didn’t pop as much as you might expect, but they were married nicely.

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