Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Willy Wonka In My Hood

As if living in absolute paradise wasn't enough I just found out that Willy Wonka lives in my hood. Thank you Groupon for this amazing find right under my nose. I couldn't resist a chocolate making class at Kokoa Bar located just a few blocks away. My husband and I spend a fun filled hour with a group of like minded chocolate loving individuals, rolling up our sleeves and creating some beautiful chocolates.  Richard, our chocolate instructor took us on an unbelievable journey from beginning to end of the chocolate making process through personal stories and a beautiful video. I think my favorite part was all the bon bon sampling and Richards love for supporting local island product. Sending out a big Aloha to Richard (aka Willy Wonka) and all his work at Kokoa Bar.


Chocolate Facts
  • "Kokoleka" is Hawaiian for chocolate
  • Hawaii is the only US state which produces cacao
  • Cacao bean (also cocoa bean)
  • Three main varieties of cacao beans are used in chocolate: Criollo, forastero and trinitario.
  • Criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market
  • If your chocolate sauce seizes, try adding a warm liquid a tablespoon at a time while stirring
  • In Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho, chocolate syrup was used as fake blood in the shower scene

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hard Pumpkin Cider Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

My husband picked up some Hard Pumpkin Cider at Whole Foods Market last week and I thought "hmmmm strange" and then I tasted it and thought "Not too bad" and then my brain went into overdrive and I thought "Cupcakes!" These cupcakes are moist and full of pumpkin pie flavor. Top with a classic cream cheese frosting and you will have a hit treat just in time for Halloween.

Makes 24 Cupcakes


For Cupcakes

3  cups all-purpose flour

3/4  cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon salt

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1  cup granulated sugar

1  cup firmly packed light brown sugar

8  tablespoons  (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3  large eggs

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 can  (12 ounces) 100% pure pumpkin

1 bottle (12 ounces) hard pumpkin cider

For Frosting

2  (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1  cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1  pound (4 cups) confectioners' sugar, sifted

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside. 
  3. In another medium bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed combine granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add butter, eggs, vanilla and pumpkin. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. About 1 minute. Add cider,  continue to beat until just combined.
  4. With the mixer on low speed slowly combine the bowl of wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir with a rubber spatula at the end to ensure the batter is well mixed. 
  5. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, 20 to 24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or tops spring back when touched. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack. 
  6. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and butter until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down sides. Reduce speed to low and add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and beat until well blended.
  7. To finish, use an offset spatula to spread each cupcake with frosting. Top with a fun Halloween candy. 

  • Feel free to make this recipe using another hard cider. There are so many out on the market. I've made this with a hard pear cider with beautiful results. 
  • Try adding chocolate chips, or even bacon bits to the batter.  
  •  This is the brand of cider used for this recipe California Cider Company. Please feel free to try another brand that you find. 
  • An ingredient I cannot live without when baking is vanilla bean paste and I use it just as I would vanilla extract.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ahi, Opah, Opakapaka Oh My!

If you're looking for a unique experience while visiting Honolulu and don't mind getting up before the sun rises then come check out the Honolulu Fish Auction located on Pier 38. This is the closest you will get to experiencing the famous fish auction in Tokyo that is unfortunately closed to tourists.

The auction bell rings at 5:30am so get there about 30 minutes before to take in all the sights. You will rarely have an opportunity to see this many types of whole fish in one room so bring a camera. Mahi Mahi, Opah, Opakapaka, Shutome and of course Ahi all going to the highest bidder.

Now that you've successfully found Pier 38 I would suggest trying Nico's Restaurant for lunch or dinner. Any restaurant located beside a fish auction is bound to support fresh local catch. I suggest the Furikake Pan Seared Ahi or the Fish and Chips. So ono. (Ono means "delicious" :).

Honolulu Fish Auction: 1131 N. Nimitz. Pier 38. Monday - Saturaday
Note: Best to wear pants, bring a sweater and wear closed toed shoes.

Heather Baker

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Time Saving Tips in the Kitchen

Time saving and efficiency in the kitchen are key to a successful meal. Over the years working in professional kitchens, running a catering business and finding my own tried and true procedures as a private chef. I find these tips hold true not only for the professional but for the home cook as well.

  •  Organize your home kitchen like a professional. Hold your key tools (tongs, spatula, whisk, Microplane zester, tasting spoons, etc) in a utensil holder on your counter. Store your knives on a magnetic bar or in a block on your counter. A pot rack is also a great time saver even if you have a small one holding your frequently used pots and pans. The less time you spend bending down opening cupboards or searching in your drawers for tools the more time you will have to cook.
  • The moment you walk in the door head straight to the kitchen and place a pot of water over medium heat and preheat your oven. This is such an easy tip but it makes all the difference in the world. There is nothing worse then having all your food prepped and ready to go and you then have to wait. It's a good practice to always have something on the go while you are attending to another task. So even while you are changing from a hard day at the office or answering some important emails, by the time you get to the kitchen you will have already saved time.
  • Fresh food requires less work. Fresh food is the basis and inspiration for all of my cooking. Not only because of the taste and visual appeal but it means less work. Since you have that pot of water on the go, crank it up to a boil, add some veg, drain, toss with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pan sear a couple chicken breasts, add onion and potatoes and finish cooking in your preheated oven. 
  • Keep a garbage out within arms reach.  Designate a bowl near your work area or simply pull your garbage out from under the counter.  
  • Learn a few basic culinary techniques and stop reading off a recipe. I love a good recipe don't get me wrong but if time is of the essence I never read off a recipe (unless I'm baking). Pan sear, roast, deglaze, blanch and saute are just a few techniques to get you to a stellar meal in half the time. 
Heather Baker

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Season Season Season

In the off chance you are using a big 'ol' box of table salt to season your food, please please please STOP! Seasoning your food properly is key, and what you use to season your food can make or break a dish. Try using kosher salt (Diamond Brand Kosher Salt) for seasoning your food as you cook. Easy to pick up with your fingers and you'll find you don't need to use too much, I find kosher salt brings out the natural flavors in food as apposed to adding a "salty" taste. My next fave is Maldon Sea Salt and especially their "smoked salt". This salt I use sparingly, a little goes a long way. I don't cook with it per se but tend to add to a dish near the end of cooking or simply finish a dish with it. Lightly sprinkle on a grilled steak and I bet it will be the best steak you've ever eaten. Also beautiful for the sweet side of things, finish a caramel sauce or even a chocolate sauce with a beautiful sea salt. Give it a try and let me know what you think. I thing you will be pleasantly surprised how one small ingredient change can take your day to day cooking to a whole new level.

Smoked Maldon Sea Salt, one of my faves and the book "Salt" by Mark Kurlansky a good read.

"Salt" by Mark Kurlansky

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Streetlight Cadence

Living in the heart of Waikiki you cannot help but find amusement at the nightly acts, street performers, artists, singers and guinea pigs on surfboards. Oh you see it all here on the strip of Kalakaua Ave and for the most part I give a smile as I walk on by or a little chuckle. It takes something truly outstanding to stop me dead in my tracks and that is what happened last night. Please have a listen to "Streetlight Cadence" Indie/Rock/Folk/Classical, outstanding. Enjoy.


Please visit the Facebook page for Streetlight Cadence 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sushi Sliders

It is my goal to visit every farmers market on the island of Oahu. I get an instant high from seeing all the glorious produce that Hawaii has to offer, the pride from the farmers and the forward creation of all the good eats to be had.

May I introduce you to the Sushi Slider. Found these beauties at the Kailua Farmers Market  and all I had to do was find where all the fuss was coming from. The woman at the front is hollering out orders, taking orders, calling out names and even showing some serious patience to the woman who went on and on about her food allergies and all the substitutions she requested. Not really knowing what I was getting into I just asked her what I should get. The "sampler platter" it is. As I received the plate holding a lovely array of crispy tempura kale and eggplant bases, topped with the freshest Ahi tuna and drizzled with spicy aioli and kabayaki tare (eel sauce) and dotted with chive rounds I realized my error. I only ordered one plate to share with my husband. Trust me on this, order two plates, you will not want to share.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bird Bar Addiction

My name is Heather Baker and I have an addiction to Bird Bars. Not just any bird bars, the ones from Down to Earth and only from Down to Earth, no substitutions please. This is my happy place, pure joy, my guilty and yet not so guilty pleasure. I have been dying to get my hands on the recipe for these little beauties for quite sometime now. I didn't think in a million years that Down to Earth would divulge this gem of a recipe. My heart fluttered with anticipation as to the Google results that might pop up. Success and here it is in all its glory. The possibilities are truly endless, I added in some shredded coconut but you could play with adding some dried blueberries, ground flax, almonds, chia seeds.........


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Immersing Myself in Nature

It doesn't matter where you are in the world I strongly recommend getting outside and immersing yourself in nature. It does wonders for mind, body and soul. And if I keep hiking "Koko Head" I will have some serious buns of steel.

When I lived in Toronto I had High Park to walk through and when in Ottawa I had the Rideau Canal to skate on. Hot or cold, easy or challenging, solo or with an entire entourage just get outside.

I've been living in Honolulu for about 2 months now and people are shocked that I have not yet hiked Koko Head. Koko Head is a crazy hike straight up, 1208ft, it's Hawaii so the sun is beaming on ya all the time. Well, I consider myself to be in pretty good shape and I now feel like this to be a bit of a challenge and hey why not. Saturday morning Koko Head hike here I come. So truth be told I am in fact not in shape and Koko Head told me so. But I did it. And after seeing the cutie patootie girls running up and down this monster I now have my next challenge:)


Yay I made it!

I heart you

Stellar view. Hanauma Bay on the left.

Time to go down.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tweetin' some aloha...

"Non GMO Foods and Our Right to Choose"

I will admit the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms seems rather daunting, frightening and complex. I am a lover of food, a chef, culinary educator and a local food advocate. This is a topic I need to know more about. If you happen to find yourself on the island of Oahu:) please join me in attending the " Free Stop GMO Event" organized by Down to Earth Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 from 7pm to 9pm. "Non GMO Foods and Our Right to Choose".


Monday, February 27, 2012

Gettin' Down and Dirty

What better way to enjoy Sunday morning than gettin' down and dirty for a good cause. "Friends of Hanauma Bay" were hosting their Hanauma Bay Clean Up. If you're not familiar with FOHB you should check out their web site. They are a volunteer based 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to the conservation of coastal and marine environments, emphasizing stewardship of the natural resources of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter and stay tuned for the next clean up. Grab a friend, family, workmates, create a team and have fun with it. My friend Becky and I arrived with coffee in hand and a goal to get as much garbage into our bag as possible, and I feel we succeeded. And for the rest of the day? Well it doesn't hurt to be at one of the most pristine places on the island for snorkeling. Pack a lunch and your snorkel gear and you are set my friend.


Hanauma Bay

Somewhere in there is Becky.
Becky on a mission. Gonna get that garbage!

Now that's a big ol bag of garbage. Sweet. Now let's hit the beach.

Perfect snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


People always ask me "What drew you to Hawaii, enough to uproot your entire life". I believe the reason can easily be expressed with "Aloha".

"Akahai," meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness;

"Lokahi," meaning unity,to be expressed with harmony;

"Oluolu," meaning agreeable,to be expressed with pleasantness;

"Haahaa," meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;

"Ahonui," meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

"Aloha" is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.
"Aloha" means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return.
"Aloha" is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.
"Aloha" means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.