Kauai North Shore

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I just got back from a little vaca in Hawaii, and it was AWESOME. Everyone who’s been to Hawaii already knows that, and if you haven’t been, everyone else has already told you that. I spent part of my time on the North Shore of Kauai and I’d highly recommend it. Below are some photos and quick suggestions of stuff to do.

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Hiking — When driving west on the North Shore, past Hanalei Bay, you’ll eventually get to the end of the road. Literally. There is no road going through Napali Coast State Park, but there’s plenty to do right there at the dead end. The Kalalau trail begins there, and even if you just hike for a couple of miles, it will take you up to a couple of beautiful viewpoints of the beach behind you and the cliffs ahead. Keep going for waterfalls and adventure.

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Beaches — All of the beaches in this area are good, too: Tunnels, Ke’e, and Ha’ena. There’s nice stretches of sand and some tree shade, with typically calm, crystal clear  waters and some great snorkeling. Parking can get crowded but you should be able to find a spot in one of the lots, and there’s a dry cave across the street from Tunnels Beach.

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Kayaking — The popular spot for kayaking in Kauai is Wailua, but if you want a far less crowded and more relaxed paddle, try the Hanalei River. It’s easy going, especially in the morning, and heading one way takes you into a nature reserve, while heading the other takes you to the ocean. No need to book ahead, and a rental is good for 24 hours, so come and go as you please.

This is only a snippet of fun stuff on the North Shore, let alone the rest of Kauai. Note that your chances of rain are higher in this region, but showers tend to be short and the landscape is ultra lush. Aloha!

 

Kauai North Shore

Pressure Cooking Wheat Berries

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I’ve recently added wheat berries to my diet! Pretty exciting stuff. You can find them relatively easily in Whole Foods or another health market, and even though you can easily spend $200 in a health food store, wheat berries are pretty affordable. Here’s some stuff to know if you want to add them to your life:

Hard wheat berries, also labeled hard red wheat, are the most nutritious. They are chewier than the soft variety, but not too chewy (if you ask me). They also take the longest to cook, and often call for soaking, but it’s no big deal in a pressure cooker.

Soft wheat berries, sometimes labeled soft or pearled white wheat, are lightly processed for easier cooking and eating. They are more tender and take less time to cook.

To cook wheat berries: Add 1 cup of rinsed and drained wheat berries, 4 cups of water, a pinch of salt, and a glug of oil to an electric pressure. Cook at high pressure for 30 minutes (for soft berries) or 40 minutes (for hard berries) and use a natural release. Drain.

Serve as a grain in soups, salads, or other savory dishes. Make a breakfast bowl with yogurt and fruit. It’s all goooood.

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Pressure Cooking Wheat Berries

Instant Pot Ultra Thoughts

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I recently received the newest Instant Pot model, the Ultra, thanks to the kind people at Instant Pot HQ. Note that I did not receive it in exchange for a review or any other coverage, I just thought I’d share my thoughts about the Ultra for those that are considering upgrading or are comparing versus an older model. So here we go!

Steam release — There are two major upgrades to the Ultra, and one of them is the steam release. Instead of a single steam valve that you turn to seal or release, the Ultra has a separate button. This is great for two reasons:

  1. You don’t have to touch where the steam is releasing, making it a little safer and less likely to scald
  2. It automatically resets to sealing when you open the lid. Even though I’ve used the IP a bazillion times, I still forget to close the valve sometimes on the old model. The Ultra makes this impossible by closing the vent automatically.

Note that when you press down the button for a quick release, it takes longer to release the pressure than older models. You can force it to release steam quicker by pressure down the button harder, but then you’ll have to stand there the whole time pressing the button.

Cooking Options — The Ultra has even more automated cooking settings, which is all well and good, but I rarely use any of them other than Pressure, Sauté, and Yogurt. But! With the Ultra, you can make some over-arching settings to the whole machine, as well as on a per-use basis. I’m a big fan of these options:

  1. You can turn the sound off. You may not want to turn the sound off, but with the amount of recipes I make in my IP and the amount of beeps it makes (especially the Ultra), sometimes I just want some peace and quiet. Note that it won’t beep at all, even when food is done cooking, so this is not for everyone/all the time.
  2. You can disable the Keep Warm function. I pretty much never use this function and the vast majority of the time I want it turned off, so as to not inhibit the release of pressure or scald delicate items on the bottom of the pot. Unfortunately you can’t turn off the function universally, but you can turn it off beforehand each time you cook something.

Backlit Display and Knob — The most obvious differences are the backlit display (which was already available on the Duo Plus) and a knob that you turn and press to make all selections. The knob takes a little getting used to, but for no specific reason I like it. I think with all of the options on this version of the IP, you need a knob instead of a million buttons to push.

Another Thing I’ve Noticed — In my experience thus far, pressure takes a lot longer to release with the Ultra than the older models. Just keep this in mind when budgeting time for a recipe. I honestly sometimes end up slowly releasing the pressure when I just can’t wait any longer.

All-in-all, the older models still work great, and it’s up to you if the jump in price is worth it. As someone who uses an Instant Pot all the time to test recipes, I’ve very much appreciated the revised steam release and the extra adjustables. But I also still use my old IP all the time. Long live pressure cooking, regardless of what cooker you choose!

Instant Pot Ultra Thoughts

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but it’s for good reason, I swear! I am (drum roll please) writing a new cookbook! It’s another electric pressure cooker cookbook, but with more fun, interesting recipes for those ready to take the next step in their pressure cooker relationship. It’ll have lots of fun flavors and dishes and will incorporate the pressure cooker as part of your functioning, 21st century kitchen.

So in the meanwhile I’ll try to put up a blog post or two, but you’ll be hearing much more from me after the summer. It’s summer anyway, you should be sitting by a pool and reading a thriller-romance, not reading my dumb blog.

Keep an eye out for the cookbook via St. Martin’s Press, due out next spring!

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Link Round-Up, 5.31.17

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I wrote stuff and things! I hope you like.

You can find me on Twitter here.

Link Round-Up, 5.31.17

Super Easy Key Lime Pie

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I looooove key lime pie, and now that summer is fast approaching, it’s an excellent warm weather dessert. It requires minimal cooking, is refreshingly tart and creamy, and is served nice and chilly. Plus, there’s a super easy recipe for it just below this paragraph. Don’t believe me? TAKE A LOOK!

Key Lime Pie

For the crust:
7 oz graham crackers or ginger snaps, pulverized into crumbs
1 pinch salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh key lime or lime juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated zest
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine the cookie crumbs, salt, and butter. Press into the pie pan in an even layer and up the sides.
  3. Bake for 8 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.
  4. Combine the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice, and zest. Whisk until well combined and pour into the pie crust.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until set and just a little jiggly. Let cool completely.
  6. If using the whipped cream: whip the cold cream and sugar in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks form. Spread or pipe on top.
  7. Chill pie for 2-3 hours before eating. Store covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Super Easy Key Lime Pie

Some Random Things I’d Like To Recommend

I do not consider myself an expert on pretty much anything, let alone what you should be spending your money on. But! Here are a few of my favorite things as of late, Oprah-style, should you be interested. Sure wish I could give them away to each and every one of you. YOU get a Uniqlo shirt! YOU get all-natural deodorant!

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This Uniqlo shirt — The high neck and half-sleeve make my neck and arms look long and slim, and the material and ribbing are soft. Plus, it’s 10 freaking dollars.

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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders — I am a big Saunders fan, but this novel really blew me away. It is unusual and touching and funny and sad and I’ve thought about it a lot since reading it.


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Schmidt’s Sensitive Skin Deodorant Stick
— If you’re anything like me, you’ve been desperately seeking a natural deodorant that doesn’t leave you smelling like a gym sock or make your pits burn. This one works great for me! I have the geranium scent.

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Numi Rooibos Chai Tea
— I love making my own Chai tea, but I am often lazy and want tea right NOW. This caffeine-less rooibos tea has a nice balance of spices and tastes great with a little dollop of honey.
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Volunteering or Giving to Planned Parenthood
— I’m a volunteer and a donor and it’s awesome, and you should be, too!

Some Random Things I’d Like To Recommend