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Hey guys, I'm starting up a Travel Tuesday series which will hopefully keep me on top of travel posts. As much as I love taking photos, the editing part of it is not so fun and we are still working on photos from over 6 months ago, whoops! Today is all about Hawaii, which is one of my favorite places on planet earth. I think it's because it seems to me to have all the comforts of home while still feeling like an exotic vacation. Plus the food there fits my tastes perfectly, it's a culinary dream. I always tell hubby that if every year I could just visit Korea, Japan and Hawaii, I would be a happy camper. So today I'm sharing my top favorite things to do in Hawaii and just a few things I wouldn't recommend. I've only done Oahu so far so some tips will be Oahu specific. Check it out:

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1. Rent a plane to fly
Okay you can't fly if you're not a pilot or student, but you can still rent a plane/pilot for a couple of hours to take you around the island. They will go wherever you want to go and surprisingly didn't cost as much as I expected. Maybe $100/hr if I remember correctly. We went up for two hours and it was plenty of time (like to the point that I started to get bored by the end). We flew over a surfing competition, made a couple circles around some whales, flew over the Dole plantation, etc etc. It was a good time and I highly recommend it. For me, it was the first and only time my pilot hubby has been able to fly me around so it was especially a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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2. Rent scooters and go beach-hopping
This is one of hubby's favorite things to do because it's a cheap and fun way to get around. I'm always a little awkward on scooters or bikes because I get so nervous when cars are passing by 5 feet from me, but even I had a blast scootering around the island.

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3. Do a Food Crawl
For me, vacation is always about food, I honestly form my itinerary around it. On Oahu the places I loved most (all of these I went back to 2-3 times >.<) are Goofy cafe for their tropical french toast, Haunani Shave Ice, Teddy's who has the yummiest cajun tater tots, Kokonuts Shave Ice & Snack for their acai supreme (always half-sweetened), and Ted's Bakery for their chocolate haupia pie.

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4. Hiking
There are so many great hikes and you should never leave without doing a few. This is Koko Head Railway Trail which is basically a stairway straight up and good for if you're short on time or want a great leg workout. Makapu'u Lighthouse trail is a paved trail that's great for a leisurely afternoon stroll with stops for whale watching.

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5. Tide Pools
This one was along the Makapu'u lighthouse trail. You have to hike partway up the trail, then hike down to the pools, then hike back up, then back down the trail. Lol. It's worth it. Maybe wear reliable shoes.

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6. Whale Watching
It's surprisingly addicting just sitting in a good spot and trying to spot whales coming to the surface. Next time I'm there during whale season I think I will do a whale watching boat ride. They're only around in the winter (this was February) but at other times of the year you can visit the west side of the island to see turtles too.

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7. Night Photography
We visited Hawaii right before we got into night photography, so next time we go back we will definitely be setting aside a couple nights to capture the stars over this beautiful island. Even if you have no interest in night photography I recommend doing some star-gazing.

Things I regret:

1. Not getting more photos. This is always a regret, but this trip more than any other. The reason is because it was my first time having my hubby fly me around and I don't really have any good photos or videos to remember the experience by. I also wish I had some underwater photos because hubby always comes back from scuba trips and can only describe to me in words what he saw. What could have solved both these problems is if we'd bought our GoPro before the trip. We have one now, so I won't be making these mistakes again in the future.

2. Not doing more water sports. I am actually not a big water person, so I was very happy there were plenty of fun things to do in Hawaii that didn't include water. There were so many that I don't know if I even touched the ocean once though, so I definitely plan on focusing on water sports next time. I love jetskiing, kayaking, etc.

3. Things that didn't live up to the hype: the Polynesian Cultural Center I found a bit boring and their luau disappointing as well, and Leonard's Bakery gets a ton of hype but their pastry cream was a big let-down to me.

What are your favorite things to do in Hawaii??

So you know the love languages? I'm pretty sure mine are acts of service and gifts. And if I were to guess I would say my hubby's are physical touch and words of affirmation. I know for sure his is not gifts because he has stated on many occasions his disdain for the tradition of gifting. But because he is a sweet boy he makes an effort anyways, and this past Christmas he even surprise gifted me for the first time. At this point in our marriage, and with hubby checking our finances on Minted every day, it is all but impossible to hide any purchases from each other. Sure we could pay cash, but it would hurt my heart not to be building miles with my purchases. But over Christmas we agreed for a 2-week period not to look at our transactions. Anyways, I still like surprise gifts (I'm quite easy to please) because they make me feel like a lot of consideration went into them and I just love surprises in general, but after 5 years of marriage hubby and I are at the point where holidays are just awesome excuses to buy stuff or experience things you wouldn't normally. Which is A-ok with me. Right now I'm about to buy my own Valentine's Day gift haha. Hubby said for his gift he would like for me to go skiing with him this weekend, which is a big deal for me because I have never done winter sports besides once snowboarding in 4th grade at a place pronounced cocaine mountain or in my early college years having a traumatically mortifying experience tubing. Sigh. I do many things for love.

Besides that, I do a have a couple gifts planned for my hubs. One he picked out himself, the other is a surprise diy gift and just for laughs. But I also created a couple homemade Valentine's Day cards as you can see. I'm calling them my Pudding Pop card and my Flower Wreath card. Printable pdfs below if you're interested. Just make sure you choose 2-sided printing. What are your Vday plans?? Do you have any traditions??

Pudding Pop Card
Flower Wreath Card


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What is it about Valentine's Day that makes me love it so much? I don't know if it's all the pink and red appealing to my girly senses, or the welcome excuse to celebrate amidst winter, or if it's a great excuse to bake sweets. Possibly all of the above. I still remember my first V-day with my hubby. He made me dinner, and being the awful cook I was at the time I was quite astounded by the menu: filet mignon, crab risotto, asparagus, and creme brulee for dessert. Besides the asparagus and crab I had never eaten any of those things before in my life. Now that I think of it, that boy really taught me to appreciate good food. In college while I was surviving on ramen and Burger Supreme every day, I kid you not he was dining on smoked salmon and caviar. Okay, minus the caviar. Anyways, I am grateful for the fond memories I have surrounding Valentine's Day, and excited to make some more. What memories do you have? Or any fun plans?

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Raspberry Sugar Cookies
Makes about 35 two-inch cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temp.
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pkg. (1.2 oz) freeze-dried raspberries
  • pink candy melts

Directions:

Pour the entire bag of freeze-dried raspberries into a small bowl and use the back of a spoon or ladle to smash them until you have a mix of about 1/3 powder and 2/3 inconsistent crumbs. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and combine well, then the vanilla and almond extract. Then beat in the baking powder and salt. Mix in the flour until fully incorporated. Then add the freeze-dried raspberries, reserving 2-3 Tbsp for garnish. After the dough is fully combined, form it into two balls.

Take one ball and place it between two long pieces of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Slide it onto a pan and refrigerate for one hour. Repeat with the other ball of dough.

Heat oven to 375F.

After chilling for an hour, remove one sheet of dough. Slide the dough back onto your counter and line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut shapes out of your dough and place at least 1 inch apart on your sheet. Bake for about 7 minutes. Do not overbake. These will ideally have a bit of golden brown only on the bottom, not along the edges, so remove them once you see they are just done. Let cool on a rack. With leftover dough, reform it into a ball and repeat the process of rolling it out and letting it chill in the fridge while you work on the other dough sheet. Continue to repeat the process until done. Let cookies cool completely before decorating.

To decorate:

Place cookies over parchment paper. Melt candy melts according to directions. Do just a handful at a time to prevent it hardening before you're finished. Spoon the melted candy into the corner of a small sandwich bag. Make a small snip in the corner and drizzle over your cookies. Immediately sprinkle with leftover raspberry crumbs. Wait until hardened (at least 5 minutes) before serving or storing.


Thanks to my awesome mother-in-law for the base sugar cookie recipe <3

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #99YourGameDay #Doingthe99 #CollectiveBias

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Guys, currently I'm sitting in front of my computer wondering how to overcome writer's block while watching my hubby pack up all his ski equipment for yet another day on the slopes. Ever since he rekindled his love for skiing and invested in brand new equipment (to be fair all his old stuff was from grade school and ill-fitting) he has been driving to the mountains every single day he gets free. Word to the wise, friends: if your better half asks for skis for Christmas don't do it. He will ski away on them and never come back. Luckily there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, the end of ski season, but also: football. See the big game is coming up in two weeks and I'm pretty sure I can count on him to be home for that at least. (Surely he would not drive to watch it at a resort so that he can ski at halftime right??) Wish me luck, friends. Perhaps the promise of food with be a strong enough pull.

My favorite part of football will always be the food. Getting excited about a game, whether I'm invested in the team or not, is fun, but food makes it even better. Today's recipe is a meaty man-pleasing dip. I dreamt it up a couple of weeks ago and texted the idea to hubby for approval. He gave it swiftly, so I proceeded to the development stage ;) This dip contains two types of meat and every dip ingredient I love in the world. I diagrammed it's anatomy below, check it out. The especially cool thing about this dip is that I bought everything in it from one of my all-time favorite grocery stores: 99 Cents Only. If you shop there too, then you understand my obsession. If you have one nearby and haven't been yet, then let me bring you to the light. When I say I bought everything for this dip at the 99, I mean literally everything down to the taco seasoning and tortilla chips. They even sold the pico already-made so I didn't have to do any chopping. There are specifically two things that make the 99 so awesome: 1) obvi their awesome prices on everything, but especially on produce. Like if everywhere is selling raspberries for $4 in the off-season, I can count of the 99 to have them for just a buck! On top of that they have so many of the brands I would buy at a regular store, but for cheaper. And 2) they have these super unique products that you can't find anywhere else. They're like experimental products or something, and they're awesome. Like last time I swear I saw snickerdoodle flavored Captain Crunch, how cool is that?! There is always something exciting there, I never know what I'll find. Anyways like I said, if you live near 99 Cents Only and haven't been, I hope you've learned your lesson by now. Run over and grab all these ingredients so that you can make this affordable yummy dip for the big game coming up.

So how do you 99? This video gives some ideas. Then check out more money-saving inspo and find your nearest store HERE.


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Meaty Layered Dip
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) chorizo
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) pork sausage
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg Mexican shredded cheese
  • pico de gallo
  • 1 can corn
  • guacamole
  • jalapenos, sliced thin
  • tortilla chips

Directions:

Cook the pork sausage in a pan over med-high. Add about half the taco seasoning packet and continue cooking until done. Remove to a clean bowl. In the same pan, cook the chorizo until done. Remove from heat. Let both meats sit on your counter for a bit, about 5 minutes, until slightly cooled.

In individual clear cups or a large casserole dish, layer the ingredients as follows: refried beans, both meats, cheese, pico, corn, and guacamole. Then add a bit more cheese on top, and garnish with a few slices of jalapeno. Enjoy with tortilla chips.


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This past week was a bit rough for recipe-making. Normally when I'm making something new I end up doing so much research that it turns out quite well if not the first time, then the second. This week I was planning on making a black sesame version of my favorite Japanese cheesecake but that didn't turn out too well and I realized I really only like plain Japanese cheesecakes, they taste the best. So I switched my plan to cream puffs, but after following my chosen recipe to a T (or so I thought...) I ended up with over-salted, flat puffs. So I returned to a trusty recipe from the past and tweaked it to create these babies. I'm very happy with how they turned out, and feel they're finally worthy of posting on the blog. Between hubby and myself we've eaten 10 already, whoops :(

I made this recipe as part of a Chinese New Year recipe roundup with a group of other bloggers. These obvi aren't a traditional recipe, but I wanted to make something new with one of my favorite Asian flavors. Check out all the other delicious #SweetLunarNewYear recipes below. Do you celebrate Chinese New Year?? Are any of your favorite recipes on the list?

Snow Fungus Soup by Vermilion Roots
Indonesian Honeycomb Cake (Bingka Ambon) by What To Cook Today
Chinese Peanut Cookies by Wok & Skillet
Vietnamese Steamed Rice Cakes by A Taste of Joy and Love
Gluten-Free Chinese Almond Cookies by Grits & Chopsticks
Black Sesame Shortbread Cookies by Little Sweet Baker
Ice Cream Mooncakes by Brunch-n-Bites
Coconut Red Bean Pudding by The Missing Lokness
Korean Caramelized Sweet Potatoes (Goguma Mattang) by What Great Grandma Ate
Cashew Nut Cookies by Anncoo Journal
One Bite Pine Nut Cookies by Yummy Workshop
Baked Coconut Walnut Sticky Rice Cake by Jeanette's Healthy Living
Black Sesame Cream Puffs by Pink Wings
Cashew Nut Cookies by Roti n Rice
Mini Peanut Puffs (Kok Chai) by Malaysian Chinese Kitchen
Thousand Layer Cake (Lapis Legit) by Daily Cooking Quest
Pineapple Cookies (Nastar) by V for Veggy
Almond Orange Spiral Cookies by Butter & Type
Three Color Dessert (Che Ba Mau) by The Viet Vegan
Year of the Rooster Mochi by Thirsty for Tea
Korean Tea Cookies (Dasik) by Kimchimari
Sweet Sticky Nian Gao (Kuih Bakul) by Lisa's Lemony Kitchen
Sweet Rice Balls with Peanut Butter (Tang Yuan) by Omnivore's Cookbook
Candied Ginger (Mut Gung) by Plant Crush
Chick Egg Tarts by Dessert Girl
Red Bean Soup with Black Glutinous Rice by Nut Free Wok
Orange Scented Sweet Red Bean by Lime and Cilantro

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Black Sesame Cream Puffs
Makes about 24

Pastry Cream:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1-3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Black Sesame Cream:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  •  about 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp black sesame powder
Craquelin:
  • 3 oz unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted 
  • 1/2 Tbsp black sesame powder
  • black food coloring
Cream Puffs:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 eggs 
  • black sesame seeds (opt.)

Directions:

For the pastry cream: With a whisk, cream together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Continue to whisk in the flour and cornstarch. Set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla extract, and heat until just simmering. Gradually pour into the eggs, whisking the entire time. Pour the batter back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir continuously until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes on the counter top before covering and refrigerating.

For the black sesame cream: With a large clean bowl and beaters, pour in the heavy cream and begin beating. Once it starts to set up, gradually add sugar one tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired sweetness (don't under-sweeten, you still have to fold in the black sesame). Stop beating when you reach stiff peaks. Fold in the black sesame powder. Cover and refrigerate.

For the craquelin: Beat together the butter and sugar. Then beat in the flour and black sesame powder until crumbly. Add black food coloring and mix until combined. Continue adding until you reach your desired color. Form the dough into a ball with your hands and sandwich it between two pieces of parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to about a 13 inch circle. Slide onto a pan and place in the freezer.

For the cream puffs: Combine the butter, water, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Place over med-high heat and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, remove immediately from heat and add the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Place back over medium heat and continue to stir the dough until it forms a ball and a thin layer forms on the bottom of the pan, 1-2 minutes. Let the dough cool on your counter top for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs together well. Add a little at a time to the cream puff dough, combining well after each addition.

Heat oven to 400F. Prep two pans with silpats. Remove the craquelin from the freezer.

Pipe cream puff dough onto your pans in about 1.5 inch rounds. Cut circles from your craquelin similar to the diameter of your cream puffs and place one gently on top of each cream puff. Sprinkle with a pinch of black sesame seeds. Bake like so for 20 minutes until browned. Remove to a rack to cool.

To Assemble: Slice the cream puffs in half horizontally. Spoon a dollop of pastry cream into the bottom of each, pipe the black sesame cream on top, and place the cream puff top back on. Best enjoyed immediately.



Cream puff recipe from Eugenie. Pastry cream recipe from here. Craquelin recipe from David
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