Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (9/19 – 9/25)

I hit a wall this week when it came to cooking. I had a vegan peanut stew on the menu this week but I just could not get myself motivated to make it. When we get home from walking in the late afternoon I just don’t feel like standing in the kitchen. The stew was instead switched over to yesterday when I felt relaxed and ready to slice, chop, measure and stir, and going forward new recipes will be reserved for our day off on Sunday. Otherwise we’re sticking to sandwiches and other easy but healthy dishes that don’t require a lot of effort. I’m feeling very grateful right now for the vegan entrees that we’ve picked up and stashed in the freezer.

I’ve also found myself “over-snacking” this past week. Everything has been healthy: nuts, whole grain fig bars, low salt/low fat chips, but when I’m eating too much of anything or having all three in a day then it’s not healthy any more. I had the most trouble with the chips – although they’re low calorie they are also just salty and crispy enough that I would finish a serving and be craving more and often ended up having two servings. No, no, no. Anyway, I am working on being more conscious of when and how much I snack now. I won’t buy the chips again – too tempting, and will instead stick with a small dish of nuts or a fig bar in the afternoon.

The chili dogs we ate last week were delicious and a fun treat, and we enjoyed our afternoon appetizer and wine along with some good conversation with Bob and Betty on Tuesday. Everything else was easy and satisfying as well, so I’m going to stick with easy-to-fix dishes during the week, and then do my “cooking” on Sundays.

Sunday: Vegan chili dogs; coleslaw

Monday: Roasted red pepper & tomato soup; toasted cheese sandwiches; cucumber pickles

Tuesday: Potstickers, California roll sushi, and a glass of pinot grigio (me) or beer (Brett)

Wednesday: Spicy black bean quesadillas; steamed broccoli

Thursday: Pesto, onion, and feta cheese mini pizzas

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Spaghetti with meatless meatballs; leftover vegetable odds & ends

We’ve enjoyed a matcha Swiss roll and small slices of two delicious pies (blueberry Pina colada and likikoi cheesecake this past week. The pies came from a nearby local pie shop and were very good, but also high-priced so it’s unlikely we’ll get any more from them.

I’m not making anything new next week as we want to use what we have in our freezer before we Big Shop again in October. Everything on next week’s menu is something easy to fix when we get home from our walk as well (as long as I remember to start the rice for the tofu & broccoli stir fry).

  • Grilled vegan burgers (Better than Burgers)
  • Vegan peanut stew
  • Chili shrimp
  • Cheese board
  • Mini pizzas
  • Broccoli & tofu in spicy peanut sauce
  • Zaru soba and chilled tofu (hiyayakko)

The weather was again against us for much of the week, but we did get in six walks. We usually take Sunday off, but walked last Sunday afternoon because we knew we wouldn’t be able to go on Tuesday. It rained most of the day though and whether the walk would happen was touch and go for most of the day, but it thankfully stopped in the late afternoon and off we went. We figured there would be no golf ball finds that day, but they were everywhere! People had apparently been playing before the rain and then abandoned balls out on the fairways when it started getting wet. The rain also caused several balls to roll out of hiding places. We ended our Sunday walk with 13 balls, most in very good condition. It was the same for most of the rest of the week: sketchy weather in the morning but clear enough in the afternoon that we could walk, although Saturday’s walk was cut shortened when it the rain started coming down in buckets about halfway through. Our ball total for the week was 97, tying our previous best week for lost ball finds.

There are more feral pigs on Kaua’i than there are people, and they can be pests. They live in the forests by the golf course but rarely come out in the open.

We did have a scary moment on Thursday: as we came around the edge of the forest on the perimeter of the course I heard the distinctive snort of a feral pig, and not a small one either, from just inside the trees. Brett wasn’t as close as I was and he heard it too. The pig continued to follow us along the edge, and although we couldn’t see it we could hear it and see the trees and brush moving as it traveled. This was just too close for comfort for us so after a few seconds we made a quick right turn and cut across the fairway to the other side of the course and watched the pig trample through the trees on the other side. We know better than get anywhere near a feral pig here!

Home Cooking: Potstickers

xxx

(photo credit: Epicurious)

Several years ago I won a space in a Chinese potsticker (dumpling) class at an auction we attended. I was excited about learning how to make these tasty dumplings because our girls loved them (still do), and would eat them for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and all points in between!

Potstickers (jiaotzu in Mandarin, gyoza in Japanese) are traditionally served at the Lunar New Year in China, where families often get together and make huge amounts of them. They are ubiquitous at Chinese restaurants in Japan, are reasonably priced and traditionally served in a group of five. Potstickers are always available for dimsum, and in most Asian markets you can find a huge variety of these dumplings, with several different types of fillings, in the frozen section. When I didn’t make them myself, I used to buy the big bags of LingLing chicken and vegetable potstickers at Costco. A bag would last us two to three months. We always took them on camping trips as they were easy to prepare from frozen, and in the winter I used them in soup (my potsticker soup recipe was “borrowed” by a woman who entered it in a local contest and won first prize!).

Making potstickers is somewhat labor intensive because of the stuffing, but it’s a great activity to do with older children or with friends. You can save time by buying pre-made wrappers and also using pre-minced ginger and garlic. The wrappers can be made from scratch, but it takes a long time and the teacher at the class I took felt they didn’t always turn out as well as the ready-made ones (which can be purchased at Asian markets and are usually found in the freezer). Potsticker wrappers are round, about 3 inches in diameter, and can either be thick or thin. Thin ones are better if you are going to boil the potstickers, and thick is better for pan-frying (which is how I usually cook them). Chinese and Japanese potstickers usually have a pork filling, but the fillings for potstickers can be made with tofu as well for vegetarians or with ground chicken or shrimp. The teacher suggested that being “assertive” with the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil will give potstickers a better flavor.

While the cost for all the ingredients might seem high, the recipe below makes a lot of dumplings – be prepared! I usually get between 75 and 100 dumplings when using this recipe, enough to last for many, many meals.

There’s a great scene in the movie Crazy Rich Asian where the family has gathered to make dumplings, and they describe wrapping and pleating the dumplings along the lines of putting a baby in a blanket and tucking it in (pleating). The video above gives a quick demonstration on how to pleat – five of them across the top is traditional. If you only want to do three pleats, that’s okay as well (the number four is considered unlucky though).

POTSTICKERS

  • 3 pounds ground pork or well-crumbled tofu, or even a mixture of ground pork and tofu
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1-2 TBSP minced ginger
  • 1-2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 3-4 TBSP soy sauce
  • 3-4 TBSP dark sesame oil
  • 3-4 TBSP rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 egg
  • 3-5 cups finely chopped nappa cabbage
  • 50-100 potsticker wrappers

Mix all ingredients (except wrappers) together using your fingers until well blended, but do not overwork. Take a wrapper, and wet around the outside edge with water using your finger. Place a generous teaspoonful of filling the middle, fold over to make a half circle and pinch well to seal. Make five pleats at the top of the half circle (see video above for how the pleats should look). The finished dumpling should have a pleated side and a smooth side, and curve gently on the ends.

Freeze potstickers individually on a cookie sheet lined with parchment before putting into other bags or containers for further storage.

To pan fry (from frozen), put vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat. Place potstickers on the oil, smooth side down, to cover the bottom of the skillet and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the potstickers begin to brown. Add water to around 1/4 of the height of the potstickers, cover the pan, lower the heat and steam for around 5 minutes or until water is gone. Test one to see if done; if not steam a little longer. Using a large spatula, life the potstickers from the pan and invert onto a plate, so the browned side shows. The wrapper might look wrinkled; this is normal, especially if you use the thin wrappers.

To make boiled potstickers, heat a large pan of water to boiling, then carefully place the potstickers in the water. They will initially drop to the bottom, but then rise to the top; boil for around 6-8 minutes. Be sure your potstickers are well-sealed (pinched and pleated) if you’re going to boil them – we once had a batch that completely opened in the water and made a huge mess.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1 TBSP minced ginger
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 3TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 TBSP rice vinegar
  • chili sesame oil (optional)
  • finely chopped green onion (optional)
  • finely chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat oil over medium heat in a small skillet until a piece of green onion  will dance across the top of the oil. Add garlic and ginger and fry until they just start to turn brown. Turn off the heat and quickly add the vinegar and soy sauce to stop further cooking. Cool to room temperature and add chili oil, cilantro or chopped green onion if desired.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (9/12 – 9/18)

Our freezer is stuffed once again, but other than a package of Italian sausages we’re saving for when the girls are here in December, all the meat we started out with a few months ago is gone. We used the last of the meat sauce on our mini pizzas and then cut up a remaining small pork chop for a pork and pepper stir fry. I’m pretty sure Brett and I will eat meat again while the girls are here, but for now we are meat free! So what’s in our freezer? We have a few vegan entrees that we’ve found at Costco and Walmart, including mini corn dogs (we loved them!), hot dogs, chick’n patties, Better Than Burgers, chick’n nuggets, meatballs, and ground meat substitute. There’s a bag of extra-large shrimp for next week’s menu as well as bags of frozen broccoli, bags of frozen blueberries, yakisoba noodles, some bread and rolls, a few frozen burritos and a bag of burrito filling that will get used this coming week. In other words, lots and lots of healthy things to put together tasty meals. Our freezer may be small but it is mighty!

Every inch is in use in our little freezer.

We now walk later in the afternoons than we did before, and when we get home these days the last thing I feel like doing is standing and cooking. In the past we would have purchased and used lots of processed foods, and although I’m finding myself reaching for some easier- or quick-to-prepare options included some processed vegan items, the foods we’re eating now overall are much healthier – less protein (but still enough), less gluten, less dairy – and we feel much better for it. We’re sticking to smaller portions as well – I still measure and/or weigh everything. I’ve also figured out that by fixing some dishes earlier in the day all I have to do is heat them when we get home. My biggest issue seems to be remembering to fix rice (if we’re having it) before we leave for our walk so that we don’t have to wait for it to finish later.

We didn’t try any new recipes this week except for the zucchini fries, which were so-so (I’m going to look for a different recipe next time). Everything tasted good, there were some leftovers for lunches, but best of all the meat is gone!

Sunday: Coconut squash dal with jasmine rice; cucumber spears

Monday: Chick’n nuggets; baked zucchini fries

Tuesday: Mini pizzas with meat sauce

Wednesday: Pork & pepper stir fry; steamed rice

Thursday: Quinoa salad with feta cheese

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Chick’n patty sandwiches; coleslaw

We’ve been enjoying a treat for dessert the past few days: Bubbie’s mochi ice cream balls, which are made in Hawaii. They have the best flavors (we’ve had green tea, passionfruit, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry with dark chocolate chips, and pistachio this week) and each one contains less than two tablespoons of ice cream, so there’s been no dairy overload. Calories are also fairly low: 180 for two. We finished them last night, so this week’s dessert will include thin slices of leftover pie (we’re picking up a couple of pies from our local shop tomorrow to have when Bob and Betty Lowry come over for dessert) and we also bought another coconut cake and another matcha cake to enjoy as well.

Strawberry with dark chocolate chips and chocolate peanut butter Bubbies. The ice cream flavors are always delicious, but Bubbies’ mochi has unfortunately often been hard and somewhat crumbly, not soft and chewy like mochi should be.

Cheese will feature in a few meals next week because we need to use it up: toasted cheese sandwiches, sprinkled on the chili dogs, on the mini pizzas, and of course on the cheese board. We’re looking forward to the chili dogs and found our favorite chili, Amy’s vegetarian, at Big Save. I’m trying one new recipe this week: vegan peanut stew with sweet potato. Everything except the peanut stew can be fixed in a short time after we get home from our walk but I’ll manage. Tomorrow evening we’ll be enjoying happy hour appetizers with Bob and Betty Lowry which will be enough to count as dinner (I hope).

  • Happy Hour appetizers
  • Vegan chili dogs
  • Tomato & roasted red pepper soup; toasted cheese sandwiches
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Spicy black bean burritos
  • Vegan peanut stew

I must have fallen harder than I realized week before last because it feels like I have either bruised or cracked a rib or deeply pulled a muscle. The pain in my upper right chest has not let up, and while using my right arm can be painful depending on what I’m doing (and hard to avoid because I’m right handed), actions like coughing or sneezing are excruciating. I have been forbidden by Brett to enter the gully again so I’m now consigned to checking the edge. My shoes are too slippery for the slopes inside the gully, and because I have beginning osteoporosis, Brett is worried about my falling again and possible breaking my leg or hip (I am too frankly) but whatever I did to my chest is proving to be motivation enough to stay away.

We often pass by this old fountain during our walks. It must have been gorgeous in its day.

The weather this past week was mostly okay for walking with nice breezes and cooler temperatures once again. I remember having to cut our walks short this time last year because the humidity was so fierce and clouds of gnats were everywhere, but we really haven’t experienced those things at all this year. We walked the perimeter on Monday and Tuesday, got in a lot of steps on Wednesday during our Big Shop, but had to stay home on Thursday because of rain. We were almost rained out again on Friday, but the big clouds hanging over the park eventually changed direction, the rain stopped, and we got in a full perimeter walk (our feet got very wet though). Saturday’s weather was lovely and we once again got in another full walk. We found 50 lost balls this week, most in very good condition, and an overall decent number considering the weather, the reduced number of golfers, and only four days for us at the park. Our ball collecting also finally paid off this past week: we sold three packages of used golf balls in one day!

Staying Healthy: Eating and Exercise (9/5 – 9/11)

This coming week is a Big Shop week, but we’re fairly well stocked up for the time being, so it will be interesting to see what and how much we buy. Our shopping is so different now that we’re not buying meat. We’re still constrained by our small refrigerator/freezer (and can’t stuff the fridge, for example, because then things starts to freeze), but these days we’re on a constant look out for basic vegetarian ingredients we can use to create tasty meals. Hopefully Costco will have their six-packs of organic tofu back in stock, but the truth is we never know what we’ll find there. When we stopped in last Wednesday though we saw lots and lots of fresh produce again, so that will give us some more choices.

We enjoyed our dessert fling with the Costco apple pie and might do that again some day, but we’re otherwise tired of baked oatmeal and looked for some other options last week. I don’t want to go back to baking cakes again as they take up so much room in the refrigerator, and since we’re avoiding dairy as much as possible these days (except for cheese) ice cream is not a dessert option either (and non-dairy ice cream is unfortunately too expensive here). We checked out some different dessert things at Costco last week as they are the most cost effective but they didn’t have anything that worked for us – everything was either too high calorie or too much dairy (or both, like their cheesecakes), and the only pie they had available was pumpkin and it’s too early for that – maybe next month. We got luckier at Times Market and came home with a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake (one of the best cakes ever) and a Japanese matcha Swiss roll cake, another favorite. Costco used to make and sell haupia (coconut cream) cakes – so good – but we haven’t seem them since we arrived last year. Cookies would be a nice option except we know we’d eat too many too quickly. We love having a little bit of something sweet in the evening, but it’s getting a bit more challenging these days.

We ate well last week – the enchiladas and stuffed peppers were delicious as was the kabocha risotto. I love that by measuring and being careful about the amount we eat we can quite literally have our cake and eat it too!

Sunday: California roll salad

Monday: Kabocha pumpkin risotto; roasted zucchini

Tuesday: Stacked chicken & zucchini enchiladas

Wednesday: Mexican quinoa stuffed peppers; pickled cucumbers

Thursday: Mini pizzas with meat sauce

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegan orange chick’n & fried rice

We finished up the lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal on Monday and Tuesday, enjoyed a s’more on Tuesday, and Wednesday through Saturday ate a slice of Pepperidge Farm coconut cake for our dessert. It was every bit as delicious as we hoped.

Pepperidge Farm coconut cake is as delicious as ever.

The only things I see us needing to buy for this coming week are peppers, and feta cheese for the salad (and cheese boards). The pork chop I’ll use for the stir fry is the last piece of meat in our freezer! There was also a small bag of meat sauce but we used it up on the pizzas last week. Going forward, other than eating fish occasionally, it will be vegetarian/vegan all the time. We made it.

  • Coconut & squash dal with brown rice
  • Chick’n patty sandwiches
  • Pork & pepper stir fry
  • Cheese board
  • Mini pizzas
  • Chick’n nuggets with zucchini fries
  • Quinoa salad with feta cheese

Walking was sort of hit or miss for me this week. We did our regular perimeter walks on Monday and Tuesday, but I fell on Tuesday at the end of our walk when we went down a bit into the gully to look for balls. Actually, I slipped on a hillside, the branch I was hanging onto snapped, and I lost my footing which sent me tumbling. A couple of bushes thankfully stopped my fall, because there was another slope down just a few inches below the bushes. I was able to get back up the hill without any problems (and found four more golf balls!), but boy was I sore and more scratched up than I knew when I woke up on Wednesday. I stayed home that day – just didn’t feel good and was still too sore to walk – but Brett headed out and got in a good walk and found lots of balls. Thursday we went to Barking Sands and walked the Waiokapua Trail before spending a few hours out on the beach. Friday was quite rainy but it had mostly cleared in the afternoon so we headed up to the park. It was misting up there but not too wet to walk and we got in a full perimeter walk before the rain really started coming down. Saturday was lovely and I dared myself to go backing into the gully, although with an increased respect for its dangers.

Out on the Waiokaupa Trail. It was hot, but there was a somewhat decent breeze that kept it bearable.

We found a total of 77 lost balls last week. I’m still feeling somewhat sore from my tumble, but have added a regimen of Aleve to my daily meds along with stretching, and that’s been helping (and am picking up a softball this week per Anele’s suggestion). Brett got fairly scratched up on Saturday as well, and we commented on our way back to the car that our kids would be horrified to see what we’re doing these days. They approve the walking, but climbing down into a gully going after golf balls, no so much we think.

Home Cooking: Ina Garten’s Summer Garden Pasta

It takes only two words to describe this pasta dish: easy and delicious.

This seriously had to be easiest dish I’ve fixed in ages, with the fewest amounts of ingredients. If we had a summer garden here that was producing cherry tomatoes and basil, this would be on the menu every week.

The actual dish takes less than 15 minutes to put together. The the only thing that needs to be done ahead of time is marinating the tomatoes for four hours, with the most most labor intensive part of the preparation cutting the tomatoes in half. I used only two pints of tomatoes and wished we had more. And, don’t leave out the red pepper flakes! They add a lovely zing to the dish without adding too much heat.

Marinating tomatoes

Seriously though, only three steps are required in this recipe to create a wonderful pasta meal:

  1. Cut & marinate tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and basil

2. Cook & add pasta

3. Add lots of cheese and serve

That’s it!

INA GARTEN’S SUMMER GARDEN PASTA

  • 4 pints cherry tomatoes (around 75 to 100 cherry tomatoes!)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 18 large basil leaves, julienned
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 – 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a large serving bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic (yes, really two tablespoons!), julienned basil leaves, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt to your preference. Mix well, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit out at room temperature for four hours.

To assemble the dish, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain well and add to the tomatoes and combine. Add the parmesan cheese and blend.

Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and more julienned basil.

Staying Healthy: Exercise & Eating (8/29 – 9/4)

Brett tallied up the total miles walked in August last Tuesday: 87 miles walked in August. That made our total miles walked for the year 758, and if we keep up our current pace we will walk over 1000 miles by the end of the year! From the first of September last year to this year we walked a little over 1,263 miles. I honestly never, ever saw us walking this much when we arrived here, but here we are and we are so much better for it. Our little side gig of golf ball hunting has added to the enjoyment, and I have yet to get tired of the views out from Kukuiolono. Driving up to the park to check it out last year was one of the best things that ever happened to us.

Scenes from around the golf course on Thursday including wind through the palms, dramatic clouds and long views, a rainbow seen from the massive green at Hole 3, and the remains of a wall built by early Hawaiians.

I’m glad now we decided against doing a long distance walking tour, and I almost shudder to think of the distances we would have to be walking now to get in shape for one of those. We know we could do it, but our nearly four daily miles is enough, and when I finish our four miles now I am ready to stop. I am no where near needing a hip replacement, but my hips definitely let me know these days they are there – they’re sore after a walk. Same for my right foot – I have pains there now that weren’t there when we started all this walking. Brett has more aches in his ankles as well. None of it is enough to cause us to slow down, or keep us from walking or doing other things, but they are signs we are getting older, and we know if we weren’t getting as much exercise as we do we would be feeling a whole lot worse and be in much poorer shape.

We enjoyed another full six days of walking last week with five days at the golf course and one shopping day. Monday’s weather was sketchy, but we headed up to the golf course anyway. It wasn’t raining when we started out, but a light mist began about a third of the way though our walk and we were stuck out on the course. We didn’t get very wet except for our shoes, which got soaked in the wet grass and became very uncomfortable. In spite of the weather we still found eight lost balls. Tuesday afternoon we headed into Puhi/Lihue to shop at Costco and Walmart, and along with other errands got in all of our steps. Wednesday was breezy, cool, and overcast – perfect walking weather – and Thursday was still cool but quite humid as well and I felt like I was melting for much of the walk. I stumbled into another lost ball graveyard on Thursday, and walked away with 15 more balls in my pockets. Brett also found a bunch and we ended up bringing home 30 balls. We arrived at the course on Friday just after a storm has passed over and had another great walk, and found an astounding 37 lost balls that day! Saturday’s weather was supposed to be miserable but it cleared up in the afternoon so we got to walk again. We broke all previous lost ball records last week, finding another 97 lost balls to add to our stash!

I had to change up our meat dish this week and fix the basil beef stir fry instead of chicken enchiladas when Brett picked up not one but two bundles of basil at the farm stand for some reason. Basil doesn’t keep well but between Wednesday’s pasta and the stir fry I used all of it. The summer pasta recipe was super easy and delicious and as long as we can get fresh basil we’ll be making it fall, winter, and spring in spite of its name!

Sunday: Broccoli & tofu stir fry with spicy peanut sauce; steamed jasmine rice

Monday: Grilled vegetable ravioli w/ pesto; roasted green peppers

Tuesday: Mini vegetarian cheeseburger pizzas with ground be’f, onion, tomato, dill pickle, and cheddar

Wednesday: Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta

Thursday: Basil beef stir fry

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegetable yakisoba

Looking at the above photos, our pottery bowls sure got a lot of use this past week!

I’m trying our two new recipes next week: kabocha squash risotto in the InstantPot, and some Mexican-spiced quinoa stuffed peppers.

  • Kabocha squash risotto
  • California roll salad
  • Stacked chicken enchiladas
  • Orange chick’n & fried rice
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Spicy quinoa stuffed peppers

Desserts this week have been microwave s’mores on a couple of evenings, but otherwise we’ve been enjoying lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal. The apple pie is greatly missed.

Home Cooking: Broccoli & Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce

This Thai-influenced dish was Meiling’s all-time favorite meal when she was young. She would have happily eaten it several times a week, for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, and she has already requested I make it when she’s here in December. I came across the recipe many years ago in Molly Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and the rest, they say, is history. There was a time I could have probably made the sauce for this in my sleep because I’d fixed it so many times.

It’s actually a very quick recipe to pull together, and is very amenable to variation (substituting chicken or pork for the tofu, for example), but we’ve always preferred tofu. I used to boil the tofu cubes for around 10 minutes before adding them to the stir fry as it “set” the tofu so it wouldn’t crumble, but these days I press the tofu before cooking and it holds it shape just fine.

All the ingredients are low cost, and most, if not many, are items I usually have on hand in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer (frozen broccoli florets can be used, if necessary). Again, chicken or pork can be substituted for the tofu; just stir fry it first and then remove it from the pan while you cook the broccoli and onions. The spiciness of the sauce can also be adjusted by changing the amount of cayenne or chili-garlic paste that’s added (we like it kind of spicy).

Although I usually serve the stir fry over steamed rice, (jasmine rice is especially yummy), I have also tossed the sauce with noodles (spaghetti or rice noodles) for another simple main dish.

BROCCOLI & TOFU IN SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 1-2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sliced onion
  • 1 TBSP fresh grated ginger
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts (optional, especially if using chunky peanut butter)
  • steamed rice

Press the tofu for about an hour before cooking to remove a much of the water as possible (I press between layers of a dish towel to keep the water from going everywhere). Cut into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Make the spicy peanut sauce and set aside.

(If using chicken or pork instead of tofu, stir fry the meat first, then set aside and wipe out the wok before proceeding.)

Heat a large wok or large skillet. After about a minute, add the vegetable oil and then the onion slices. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender.

Add the broccoli florets, ginger, garlic (and salt, if using). Continue to stir fry over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is bright green and just tender. Add the tofu cubes and the green onions, and stir-fry about 2-3 minutes more, until the tofu is heated through.

Pour in the sauce, and stir until everything is coated. The sauce will thicken as it cooks. Serve immediately over hot rice, topped with the chopped peanuts (if desired).

SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter (no added sugar)
  • 3/4 cup very hot (but not boiling) water
  • 5 TBSP rice or cider vinegar
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 TBSP molasses or brown sugar
  • cayenne pepper or chili-garlic paste to taste

Mix the peanut butter into the hot water until well blended. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together. If you use molasses, be sure to whisk the sauce again right before using because some of the molasses can settle at the bottom.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (8/22 – 8/28)

Every week I post what we have for dinner, but what about breakfast and lunch? Well, beyond wanting to overwhelm anyone with photos of every meal we eat, breakfast and lunch are much more simple and, in the case of lunch, usually consist of leftovers from our evening meals. Breakfast is even more simple: a bowl of Cheerios with blueberries and oat milk for me these days, and a bowl of oatmeal with fruit for Brett. I occasionally will make us some pancakes or mini-waffles, but otherwise we stick to the basics.

The above montage shows some of my lunches for the past week, using leftovers and other items that need to be used up. The exception was Wednesday’s brunch of eggplant lasagna at Ku’ulei’s Gourmet in Hanapepe, but in a switch those leftovers were enjoyed for dinner last Thursday. Otherwise I enjoyed a vegan chick’n patty sandwich which used up a piece of avocado; leftover egg roll in a bowl; a bean & rice burrito from the freezer; tomato & roasted red pepper soup; and leftover lasagna. Brett also ate leftovers all week. He is the king of making something delicious out of what’s on hand, no matter how small or how weird a combination might seem, and is a big reason why we rarely throw away any food. I’m the picky eater around here these days in comparison.

Our evening meals this past week were easy and delicious. With a package of ground beef used in the egg roll in a bowl we now only have a package of roast chicken, a small pork chop, another package of ground beef, and a very small bag of meat sauce. It should all be used up by the end of September and we’ll eat meat free until the girls are here for Christmas.

Sunday: InstantPot black bean & rice burritos

Monday: Egg roll in a bowl

Tuesday: Better Than Burger cheeseburgers; three bean salad

Wednesday: Vegetarian cheeseburger pizzas

Thursday: Wednesday’s brunch leftovers: eggplant lasagna (me) & ahi tuna melt (Brett)

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegan corn dogs; three bean salad

One-twentieth of a Costco lattice apple pie

We enjoyed a thin slice of apple pie every evening, but finished it yesterday. We’re having a s’more tonight, and then I’m baking another lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal as there we have everything on hand to make it.

We’re excited to try the garden pasta recipe this week as long as we can get some fresh basil (it got bumped by leftovers last week), and are looking forward to the grilled vegetable ravioli as well. We haven’t had yakisoba in ages, and the tofu & broccoli stir fry is a long-time family favorite that I also haven’t fixed in a long while. The Bulldog sauce used to flavor the yakisoba is vegan versus regular Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies).

  • Grilled vegetable ravioli
  • Vegetable yakisoba
  • Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta
  • Stacked chicken enchiladas
  • Tofu & broccoli stir fry with spicy peanut sauce
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board

After having two days off from walking – Sunday (regular day off) and Monday (rain and high winds as the remains of Hurricane Linda passed by the islands) – we got back to walking on Tuesday and enjoyed cooler temperatures and nice breezes the rest of the week. Thursday was the wild card. It was another trash pick-up day – frustrating because of how much trash shows up in a week – but rain also threatened the entire walk. We cut our walk short by a few minutes and had no more gotten into the car and shut the doors when the rain started coming down in buckets. Friday and Saturday were lovely, although the combination of rain followed by sun meant a gazillion gnat eggs hatched and we had to walk through swarms of them. We had another stupendous week for golf ball finds: 65, breaking our old record. We are eager to walk these days because of the ball hunt and it makes the walk a lot more fun as well.

I am beginning to lose weight again, albeit slowly (less than a pound a week). I was okay with where I was for so many months, weight-wise, but am also happy to see some more weight finally coming off again. I had given up thinking it would ever happen.

Home Cooking: InstantPot Bean & Rice Burrito Filling

Black bean and rice burrito with pepper jack cheese and avocado

I’m not using my InstantPot much these days. I used to fix meat-based dishes in it frequently, but most of the recipes we’re trying these days are easily fixed on the stove top and don’t require the time, heat, or pressure that’s needed to cook meat. This bean burrito filling is a wonderful exception, and the InstantPot makes preparation and clean-up a snap.

There’s lots to love about this recipe. It’s full of flavor and it’s vegan, but it can easily be changed up to include meat (add cooked ground or shredded meat before serving) or rolled with scrambled eggs to make a breakfast burrito. Spoon some over rice and it’s a burrito bowl. It also freezes well – Brett and I have a burrito each for our meal, then roll some of the remaining filling into tortillas, wrap individually in foil, and freeze. To fix, all we have to do is remove the foil and microwave for around 2 1/2 minutes on high. Whatever doesn’t go into burritos is frozen for later – the recipe makes a good-sized amount of filling.

Topping ideas are added at the bottom of ingredients. They can either be rolled into the tortilla, placed on top (and the burrito eaten with a knife and fork), or added on top if making a burrito bowl.

INSTANT POT BEAN BURRITO FILLING WITH RICE

  • 2 TBSP olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded, deveined, and finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (can be adjusted for preference or omitted)
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernals
  • 1 14.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup salsa
  • Regular or whole wheat burrito-size flour tortillas
  • Toppings (optional): shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped avocado, Pico de Gallo, chopped onions, cilantro

Select saute on the InstantPot and allow to get hot. Add 1 TBSP olive oil and saute onion and red pepper for around 2 minutes or until soft. Add the rest of the oil, the jalapeno, and the garlic and saute for another minute. Finally, add salt, chili powder, coriando, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper and saute another 30 seconds. Turn off Saute.

Add black beans, corn, rice, and water to the InstantPot; combine well with onions, pepper and spices. Gently stir in salsa.

Close the lid on the InstantPot, set the vent to sealed; and cook on HIGH for six minutes. Let naturally release for 5 minutes, then carefully quick release the rest of the steam. Open the lid, and fluff the filling with a fork.

Spoon about 1/2-3/4 cup of the filling (depending on the size of the flour tortilla) toward the bottom edge of a warmed tortilla and add the toppings of choice if desired. Roll the bottom edge of the tortilla up and over the filling, tucking it in underneath, then fold over the sides, and continue rolling until the back edge.

The filling can also top additional rice to make a burrito bowl.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (8/15 – 8/21)

More and more vegetarian and vegan products are becoming available these days, although in a limited market like Kaua’i they can be hard to find or expensive. Costco had a couple of plant-based options that we picked up last week, but we discovered a motherload of vegan options at Walmart as well which was quite the surprise. I had never really searched in the freezer section there before and as the doors are almost always frosted over I had no idea they carried such a variety of items. They had several vegan brands available, like Quorn, Field Roast, Gardein (a favorite), and Morningstar Farms, all at affordable prices. They’re not something we use frequently, but they will give us several more meal and protein options.

Last week I found a website that listed 51 vegan products that Costco (supposedly) regularly carries – our Kaua’i store carries three of them. Shopping trips have turned into treasure hunts as we look for plant-based options. Besides what we found at Walmart, last week’s surprise discovery was grilled vegetable ravioli, imported from Italy. They’re vegan, the ingredients look delicious, but we sadly know they most likely won’t be available the next time we shop. We have so far refused to shop at the natural food stores on the island because of their ridiculously high prices. We can occasionally find some vegan/vegetarian products at Safeway, but prices there can be equally high, so the challenge is ongoing, and we’re grateful for what we do find. I never thought I would be thankful for Walmart, but when it comes to food prices here, they, along with Costco and farmers’ markets, are a lifesaver.

We had four Japanese meals on our menu last week: sushi, zaru soba with accompaniments, mabo nasu, which we made with plant-based ground “be’f,” and Japanese-style tofu patties with a pickled radish salad. The vegan ground beef substitute was delicious. I’m not sure how we ended up with so many Japanese meals in one week, but it’s our favorite cuisine, and is light and easy to prepare. Sunday and Monday’s dinners were chosen for the purpose of getting the refrigerator cleaned out before Tuesday’s Big Shop. New cheeses on our board this week were smoked gouda, English cheddar, and a soft Boursin with herbs. We liked the tofu patties and will have them again, but thought the daikon & carrot namasu was just okay. The radish was quite spicy and didn’t work with the pickling mix.

Sunday: Sweet corn ravioli with pesto; roasted peppers, zucchini, and onion

Monday: Mini pizzas with leftover meat sauce

Tuesday: California roll sushi

Wednesday: Zaru soba; hiyayakko; cucumber namasu

Thursday: Mabo nasu; cucumber slices

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Tofu patties; radish & carrot namasu; cucumber slices

We splurged last week and bought a giant Costco apple pie for our dessert for the next several days. Not the healthiest of foods, but cut into 20 servings the calories are the same as a piece of baked oatmeal, and it will give me a short break from baking. Also, after eating pie for 10 days we hopefully won’t be wanting any more for a long, long time. Costco’s apple pies are vegan, by the way.

Below are the meals I’ve planned for this week. We’ll be using up our next to the last package of ground beef to make the egg roll in a bowl, and will try out one new recipe: Ina Garten’s Summer Garden pasta. It looks easy to prepare, and the only cooking required is the pasta. The vegan corn dogs were one of our finds at Walmart. We used to love the ones from Trader Joe’s, and hope these match up.

  • Grilled vegan burgers
  • Summer garden pasta
  • InstantPot bean burritos
  • Egg roll in a bowl
  • Vegan corn dogs
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
A rainbow here sometimes means rain is arriving, not that it’s finished (and boy it did show up last Monday).

We had good week of walking in spite of some questionable weather on a few days. We got caught in the rain on Monday after finishing the perimeter and heading down from the clubhouse, and both of us got soaked as there was nowhere to take cover. On Tuesday we did our Big Shop, always an exhausting experience (nearly two hours pushing a big cart). We thought we were going to melt from the humidity on Wednesday or be eaten by gnats, and Thursday was still humid but very windy and we left just as some rain was arriving. We picked up another full bag of trash off the course that day and at one point had over thirty wild chickens following us, apparently assuming what was in the bag was for them. Looking over our shoulders at all the chickens behind us was like something from a horror film, but they eventually figured out there would be no food and dropped off. Friday afternoon was lovely: not too hot and a nice breeze the entire time we walked, and Saturday was lovely as well.

Our haul on Thursday: 30 lost balls

We found an unbelievable 68 lost golf balls this past week, with an astounding 30 of them found on Thursday, and the other 38 spread out over the other five days we walked. We’re still shaking our heads in amazement as the golf course has only nine holes and no water hazards. We honestly start out every walk at the park hoping to find just one lost ball, but we’re very good at keeping our eyes open and looking in unexpected places and always seem to do better than just the one. On Thursday, as we approached the last hole where we walk (the sixth) we had already found eight lost balls, a very satisfying number. The sixth hole is split over a wooded gully that golfers need to hit over, and we occasionally find balls on the edge of the course near the green, ones that don’t quite make it over are left behind. As we were walking along on Thursday, Brett spotted a ball a bit down into the gully and climbed down to get it; a few steps later I spotted a ball in another section and climbed down as well. I picked up the ball, looked up, and thought I had stumbled into an elephant’s graveyard of lost balls. By the time I came back up to the course I had 12 balls in my pockets, and Brett had found an additional ten of them from the area where he had been. To say we had a very good week would be an understatement: lots of good exercise and lots of lost balls.