Oct 282014
 

Goodbye summer!

Fall is here. We were soaking up the sun in Hawaii when Fall officially arrived to the NW. We got back to cooler temperatures, leaves turning colors and pumpkin everything. It seemed too soon and out of place. But after a week or so of being home, I started to settle in and welcome the coming autumn weather. Cozy sweaters, fires in the fireplace, hot tea, and soup.

from http://livinginportlandor.blogspot.com/

from http://livinginportlandor.blogspot.com/

I found this recipe somewhere…it’s not a blog I’ve ever read and I honestly don’t know what search I did that brought me to it but once I found it I thought, I need to make this! I knew Michael would love it. He’s a huge fan of spinach and wants to eat more of it. I have not-so-fond memories of cooked spinach from my childhood. In fact, they were so horrible that I never ate spinach again until I met Michael. I remember we were first dating and he made me this Greek scrambled egg breakfast with spinach in it and I wrinkled my nose and said “I hate spinach.”

Lo and behold, I didn’t hate spinach. I just hated the frozen spinach slop defrosted in a microwave and used as a side dish at dinner. Ever since then I’ve found that I actually quite like it and it went GREAT in this recipe. It was one of the highlights I think.

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I cooked the veggies in a skillet and heat the tomatoes and broth in a separate stockpot. It’s actually a wedding gift! Le Creuset stock pot from Michael’s coworkers. Very generous gift that we will use often. This was the maiden voyage of said pot.

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So I cooked the onions, carrots and celery separately and then added that to the stockpot of broth. The recipe was vegetarian but had options to make it not vegetarian. I didn’t have vegetable broth so I used about 1 cup of leftover beef broth and the rest was chicken broth. I had some leftover hamburger meat I needed to cook up so we browned that in the skillet with the garlic and then added that to the pot, too. I’d say it was roughly about the amount you’d use for one hamburger. It wasn’t much and I wish it had been a little more.

Here is the recipe:

ITALIAN ORZO SPINACH SOUP

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Calories per serving: 300-400 calories depending on servings

From: http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/italian-orzo-spinach-soup-recipe/

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) DeLallo whole wheat orzo pasta, or other whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 4 cups loosely-packed spinach
  • salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, until soft. Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, orzo (pasta), thyme, oregano, rosemary and stir to combine.
  2. Bring soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
  4. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is bright green and wilted.
  5. Season with salt and black pepper to taste (if needed). Serve warm.
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I’ve never had orzo before (shocking) and I liked it a lot! Kind of a cross between brown rice and tiny pasta…I got roughly 7 servings out of this recipe. I topped the soup with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Michael said it was okay; I liked the recipe a lot but I’d make one change: I’d use spicy ground pork in it. I think the spice would go great with the rest of the flavors.

So while the evening darkened outside and we settled in to watch The Walking Dead, we ate our soup and felt it warm us from the inside. I love soup weather! We shared a few glasses of a sweet, smooth Malbec wine and it went perfectly with the soup.

I had some leftovers that I ate for lunch during the week. It was less soupy then because the orzo soaked up most of the broth. Despite that, it was still really tasty and it might even have been better the next day. I liked this dinner and would make it again. I’d probably also make some biscuits to go with it. Perfect fall meal for not many calories!

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Oct 272014
 

When we were planning our honeymoon we had it narrowed down to Maui, Kauai, Cancun, and Costa Rica. Costa Rica got eliminated pretty quickly, even though we both really wanted to go. We just didn’t want to spend 10+ hours flying from Portland to Houston to Costa Rica then to drive hours to get to the coast. Cancun was crossed off because it was the start of hurricane season and not that I was particularly worried about a hurricane, I just didn’t want to travel that far and have it rain every day!

So it came down to the two Hawaiian islands. We went to Kona a few years ago and loved it but one of the downsides were the beaches. They were definitely not the postcard perfect, sandy beaches I imagined. There were a few nice beaches we found but they were quite a drive from where we were staying. We found one beach we liked and ended up going back to that one several times because the rest of them were so rocky. Kauai is my dad’s favorite island and so many people raved about it. But we also heard some not so great stuff about it (i.e. boring, not much to do, not touristy, really windy, etc). It was such a polarizing thing. We decided to go to Maui because we KNEW what we were getting–there were no mixed reviews. You were getting perfect beaches and touristy stuff. Okay by us!

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We stayed in a condo in Kihei, south Maui, and I am glad we did. There were so many great beaches near us and we didn’t have to drive an hour to get there. It was easy to go out to the beach, swim, snorkel and then 10 minutes later be back at the condo taking a shower. I would definitely stay in Kihei again. It was more relaxed than Lahaina.

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Big Beach/Makena

When we first arrived in Maui Monday afternoon we picked up our rental car, made a stop at Costco and Safeway, grabbed a snack at Da Kitchen, and then went to our condo. It was like 3 in the afternoon by this time and we immediately changed and went to the beach.

Our condo came with every beach toy you could want. Great snorkel gear, frisbees and balls, beach mats, beach chairs, boogie boards and umbrellas.

Big Beach was beautiful. Picture perfect. Gorgeous white sand that felt like we were walking through softened butter. The parking lot was large and easy to find a space and the walk to the beach was short. The beach was uncrowded and so large that even if it was crowded you wouldn’t be on top of your neighbor.

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It was a fabulous “time to unwind” beach. Not a fabulous swimming or snorkeling beach. The waves were huge. It could have been the time of day, too, but the waves and shore-break were just too big to attempt swimming and definitely not snorkeling. We just kind of splashed around in the warm water and relaxed on our beach towels in the sunshine.

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It was also pretty windy.

 

Kapalua Bay Beach

The second day of our trip we went to this beach. It was up near Napili/Kaanapali north of Lahaina. It was in a resort heavy area but the beach wasn’t overly crowded. Maybe on a weekend it is.

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This was a fabulous beach! There was great swimming and snorkeling and there were two giant sea turtles right at the shore that would pop up out of the water. I also saw a few turtles while I was snorkeling around looking at the neon colored fish. It was way cool.

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The only downside was that it was so far from our condo. It was about an hour drive from Kihei, where our condo was.

Ulua Beach

This was a great little hidden beach in Wailea. It had great snorkeling and swimming.

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We went to this beach twice. What I loved about Maui was that most of the beaches had great facilities. Bathrooms, several outdoor showers. They were clean and well maintained. A lot of them had lifeguards. They also had good parking options. Some of the bigger ones even had multiple parking lots. We never felt like we couldn’t get a place to park. Ulua Beach had a good lot and we got primo parking twice.

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Picture perfect, right?

Kamaole Beach I

Our condo was directly across the street from Kamaole Beach 1. It wasn’t a great beach for swimming or snorkeling. The waves were huge and the water was super murky. However, it was GREAT for boogie boarding and just splashing around. The beach was fairly small and could be crowded. It shrank even more when the tide came in and spots got limited.

Robyn's Birthday

We could see the beach from our lanai, which was an amazing way to eat breakfast every morning. :)

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Robyn's Birthday

Mostly we just walked on this beach at sunset. It was perfect for that.

Wailea Beach 

Hated this beach! It was tagged as one of the “best beaches in Maui” and I so don’t get it. It was in Wailea (fancy resort area south of Kihei) and the beach was in front of the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resort (which looked amazing). So why did I hate this beach?

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Mostly the people. It was a small-ish beach and it was pretty crowded with guests from the Four Seasons. None of the beaches in Maui are private, but it definitely felt like a private beach. The people were just gross. Seriously. There was this woman that was yelling at her nanny on her cell phone who was apparently watching one of her kids up at the pool and she was ignoring her other two little kids playing. Then the wait staff came by where the lounge chairs and umbrellas were set up taking food and drink orders. It was just SO NOT what I wanted.

Plus the waves were really big and didn’t look great for swimming or snorkeling plus there were a bunch of gnats flying around that were really gross and annoying. It was the only beach we experienced any of this type of unpleasantness and we didn’t stay long. We packed up and back to Ulua Beach 5 minutes away.

Maluaka Beach

This was our last beach of the trip! It was one of my favorites. The beach itself was amazing. It was a little difficult to find but once we did, I was glad. It was in front of the Makena Golf Resort (which is actually where we considered staying before we decided to do a condo instead).

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The beach was super quiet and chill. It was mildly crowded but never felt crowded. People were chill and respectful and everyone was having fun.

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We got there around 9am on our last day in Maui and ended up staying until almost 2pm! We loved it and didn’t want to leave. The swimming was fantastic. The water was pretty calm. Later in the day the waves got bigger and it was just fun to jump around and ride the waves.

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I did a lot of snorkeling and saw some fish and one turtle. We ate our picnic lunch on the beach and then I went out for one final snorkel/swim round. I had a great time swimming around the rocks on the south end of the beach. I decided I was done and we packed up and started to go. That’s when I saw this:

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Um…? What?

So apparently a shark was sighted RIGHT WHERE I HAD BEEN 5 minutes before. Like for reals. Someone else on the beach said that it was spotted and then someone else said that there was a turtle bitten in half (not sure if I believe that part).

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A lifeguard was out in the water on a jet ski telling everyone to get out of the water and he was zipping around looking for the shark. I never saw it but…that was kind of freaky. Good thing it was our last day! CRAZY.

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