Sep 042012
 

It seemed as though the Universe smiled upon us recently when it brought us a gift: a gift we’d be crazy to pass up. Some friends of ours invited us to join them on their Hawaiian vacation. They already booked the car and condo and all Michael and I had to pay for was our airfare. How could we pass on a Hawaiian vacation deal like that? Of course we said yes! I packed my sunscreen, a pile of books, flip flops and my swimsuit and I was ready!

Our friends, Mike and Susanna and their 4 year old son Hans were wonderful travel buddies. They flew in from Seattle to Kona and Michael and I met up with them. When our plane left from LA, I missed the opportunity for an amazing photo–it was probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen: a bunch of jumbo jets taking off from LA, rising above the ocean and the beaches into the clear blue sky right out our plane window.

I’m going to write only a few posts about Hawaii and give you guys the highlights. It was a wonderful vacation and also the longest vacation I’ve ever taken (beside England over a decade ago). The timeshare condo we stayed in was very nice and had two separate pools, a very small gym (but it was better than nothing) and it was near the downtown touristy area. We bought tons of food and made most of our meals at the condo, which saved a bunch of money.

Michael and I had never been to Hawaii. The Kona airport was strange. We walked off the plane, down some detachable stairs and onto the airport itself. It was all open so you were sitting outside in the humid air surrounded by palm trees while you waited for your flight! Our friends picked us up and we went out to dinner immediately. After eating crappy airport food all day I wanted something GOOD. The sun was close to setting that Friday night.

We ate at Humpy’s Big Island Alehouse. My goal in Hawaii was to eat as much “local” food as I could. That first night I ordered a Kalua Pork entree and it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time. It was my first time trying it and boy was it a treat: pork shoulder roasted in a pit underground with shredded cooked cabbage and rice. The flavors were outstanding and I was so glad I tried it. Michael got the daily catch (don’t remember what it was now but it was a local fish we’d never heard of).

Michael and I both got a Kona Castaway IPA with dinner. We both remarked “it tastes like home.” ;) We watched the sun set on the ocean while we ate our delicious Hawaiian dinner and then went to the grocery store (talk about sticker shock! Holy crap groceries were expensive there).

The farmer’s markets that were all over were great places to get fresh produce at a much cheaper price than the grocery stores.

The next day was a busy one. I woke up early (no alarm needed) and no one else was up so I went for a run. The sun had only been up for a little bit but it was HOT one. The entire trip the weather was between 80-95 degrees but the heat wasn’t too bad. The hard part was the humidity. It was the most humid, muggy place I’ve ever been. I was just always “wet” feeling. It wasn’t too miserable, though.

Back to my run. I ran probably the best I’ve ever run while on vacation. The weather was perfect running weather and in the morning there was usually a cool breeze as I ran along side the ocean. In case you didn’t know, Kona is the home of the Ironman competition so there were TONS of runners and cyclists out there (and they were good too!). I lost count of how many professional runners with completely ripped abs ran by me. Impressive and motivating. It made me really want to get back into running again.

My first run of the trip was 40 minutes and I burned 341 calories. I felt really good during my entire run and it was cool to run without headphones or worrying about mileage. I had the ocean to keep me company. I explored the area and just took in all the new sights and sounds.

After the run, we made lunches to take to the beach. We ended up going to the wrong beach for the first one. I still don’t know which one we ended up at but it was near the Hilton Waikoloa Village. The beach was gorgeous and looked like a postcard, but it was rocky and not a good place to swim. We sat on the beach and ate our lunches and then took off shortly after that in search of the beach we were trying to go to (more on that later).


On Day 3, we drove out to Manini Beach for a picnic lunch. It was a long drive through winding roads and jungle-like terrain. It was kind of how I picture Costa Rica to be. Michael commented on the drive to the beach that it felt like Jurassic Park had been filmed here. That’s kind of what it looked like! The beach itself was rocky but there was some sandy areas for the kids and lots of soft grass to sit on.

I enjoyed just hanging out and relaxing while we ate our sandwiches and fresh local watermelon. We were surrounded by the cliffs and the ocean around us. The weather was little gray that day and ended up being the one day we got rain.

After lunch, we walked around and saw a donkey randomly in someone’s front yard:

And then walked over to the Hikiau Heiau temple near Manini Beach. It had the remnants of an old temple that is now an official monument.

We walked around a bit and then some local guys offered us coconuts they just plucked from the trees. He hacked up a coconut with a machete on the back of his trick and poked a hole in it, letting us drink the fresh coconut water. WOW! So much better than anything I’ve bought in a store. It was truly wonderful.

The stop after the beach was to the Greenwell Coffee Farm. Mmmmm Kona Coffee! The coffee farms were up on the huge crest of the mountain (I think 3,000 feet up?). I’m not entirely sure of what the area was called but it was high up and we learned that it rained every single day there. The tour guide at the coffee farm explained that the mornings were always hot and sunny and the afternoons rained. Every day. Crazy. We did the coffee tour, had the samples, and learned how coffee was grown and made (I honestly had no idea and it was pretty fascinating).

Coffee growing

Our day ended with sushi for dinner. A friend had recommended Sushi Shiono and I am so glad we went. It turned out to be one of the best sushi meals I’ve ever had. I thought the Northwest had amazing sushi…I was blown away by all the seafood in Hawaii!

The sushi was fresh and delicious and it was also super affordable–something you don’t see in Hawaii. Michael and I started with Miso soup and then shared the spicy tuna roll, the salmon roll and then the philly fry roll (deep fried philly roll)! Seriously, if you ever make it to Kona, get sushi here. You will not be disappointed. Another good sign: the clientele was about 95% Japanese. That’s a great sign of GOOD, authentic sushi if you ask me!

My next post will be about the beaches, the swimming, the running…Hawaii was such a wonderful place for outdoor fitness!

QUESTION: Have you been to Kona? What were your favorite things there?

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Aug 212012
 

On my bike ride home last Friday night after work, geared with ice cold water in one bottle and Gatorade in another bottle to beat the heat, I started to fantasize about dinner. Michael was going to be out that night and all I could think about was taking a cool shower after biking in 95 degree weather and eating something awesome. I was famished and craving something with peanut sauce. Don’t ask me where this random craving came from but once I was home, showered and comfortable in the air-conditioned house, I looked through the pantry to find some things I could use.

I decided to make a stir-fry. It’s been ages since I’ve had stir-fry and I love it because it’s simple and you can throw whatever you want in it. I started by making jasmine rice. While that was cooking, I gathered my ingredients. There was a leftover cooked chicken breast that I diced up. I minced some fresh garlic, cut some green onion and lined up the random jars I had: Thai Peanut Sauce, minced ginger, Sesame oil and sriracha. I had a bag of frozen veggie stir-fry mix in the freezer I quickly defrosted. It was something like snap peas, carrots, okra, mushrooms (which I picked out) and onions.

I dug out the wok I hadn’t used in ages and used the Sesame oil in the skillet. The one thing I remember from all those Top Chef-type shows I love was that you’re supposed to make the skillet or wok as hot as humanly possible before adding the ingredients and do it fast! So that’s what I did. There was some splattering of oil but it wasn’t too bad.

Looks like a mess but it was a beautiful mess.

Stir-Fry for Two

Ingredients

  • 2 diced green onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 cup cubed cooked chicken
  • 4 cups frozen vegetables, defrosted
  • Jasmine rice, prepared per box (1/2 cup of rice and 1 cup of water)
  • 2 Tablespoons Thai Peanut Sauce
  • Sesame Oil

Instructions

  1. Cook the jasmine rice as directed and set aside.
  2. Heat the skillet or wok as hot as possible. Add Sesame oil into the skillet and then add the vegetables to it. Sautee quickly, adding the mince garlic and ginger.
  3. After a minute of cooking, add the chicken and green onions and stir.
  4. Add the Peanut Sauce and mix around to coat everything in the wok. Serve over the rice.
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I loved the flavors. Using two spoonfuls of the peanut sauce was just enough for this portion of food. There was a hint of the peanut but it wasn’t overpowering. I added some of the sriracha to it to add some heat. Next time I make this, I will use fresh veggies instead of the frozen that’s been hiding in my freezer for a year.

I would also chop up some real peanuts to add to the top of the dish. I think the crunch of real peanuts and not just the sauce would be a fantastic addition. I loved my dinner and I had one more serving left for lunch the next day. Perfect and fast.

Since I opened that little jar of Thai Peanut sauce, I’ve been looking online to figure out other uses for it. I think my next experiment will be a chicken lettuce wrap with the peanut sauce. Totally looking forward to that.

Before I headed out to the Soap Box Derby the next day, I went for an early(ish) morning run outside. I’ve been stuck on the treadmill all summer when I run because I want to also get some kind of weight workout done too. It’s kind of a hassle to run outside in the neighborhood and then drive to the gym to lift weights but once in awhile that’s exactly what I do.

This particular run was really, really good. I gauge a good run by how often I have to take walk breaks, if I feel fast on my feet and if I don’t have any weird aches and pains. This run was one of the good ones. It was a cool morning, which was nice after the heat wave, and I just enjoyed running outside in the fresh air. I did take a few walk breaks to snack on some wild blackberries along the way.

Then I hurried to the gym to get a good set in with the weights. I WOULD do it at home but the free weights I have are too light (5 and 10 pounds) and the kettlebells Michael has are too heavy (35 pounds).

It felt good to work out with the weights AND run outside for a change. I cleaned up, ate my leftover stir-fry for lunch and met my friends at the Derby. When I woke up on Sunday morning I was in bad shape, though. Lots and lots of sore, stiff muscles. My legs were not happy with me. I think the combination of running outside (which is harder than a treadmill PLUS my neighborhood is very hilly) and lots of squats and lungs made me regret my workout a bit. It’s never fun when you wake up THAT sore…Off to the pool to stretch out those muscles.

After my swim, I went to a friend’s house for lunch. She made her delicious tuna salad and put it on lettuce with lemon cucumbers and tomatoes fresh from her garden. It was a delicious lunch and then we treated ourselves to pedicures. I apologize for showing a picture of feet! I know some people get creeped out by that but I just had to show off the beautiful flower. Usually the art work doesn’t look that great on toenails but this girl was clearly gifted. She said she did some real art of her own on the side. Good for her. She’s obviously talented. And my pretty-flowered toes are ready for the beach!

QUESTION: What’s your favorite use for Peanut Sauce?

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