May 18, 2016

white chocolate torte with fresh fruit

I had fun making this cake, although it was a bit complicated. I was inspired by those tall Japanese cream cakes that I've been seeing online mostly in the Japanese food and travel videos I love to watch :-)

The special occasion cake looked impressive and colorful with an assortment of our favorite fresh berries and fruit all piled on top. To start off, the cake itself wasn't too sweet. The fresh fruit and toasted chopped nuts (I used macadamias) made the frosted cake even less sweeter. There was a complete balance of flavors - sweet, creamy and slightly tart. This torte will make an attractive centerpiece for any special celebration.

I plan to make this with a basic sponge cake next time. Perhaps more like a fluffier strawberry shortcake than a dense torte.

The torte was baked in two 9" round cake pans then split to make four layers (shown above). Butter, melted white chocolate and confectioner's sugar were mixed together for the frosting that went along the sides and top. Fresh whipped cream went in between the layers and was also piped on top. I may just try an all whipped cream frosting next time.

The cake recipe was adapted from Land o'Lakes White Chocolate Raspberry Torte. Fruits in season are great to use, however, I may do a tropical version of this cake next time with mango, pineapple and papaya or other available tropical fruits.

May 10, 2016

summer melon drink

Just because it's almost summer and it feels like it with temperatures shooting up to the 80's these past few days...I thought about making this melon drink. It's a simple concoction made with grated or shredded cantaloupe, sugar and water. Cantaloupe is actually called "melon" in the Philippines.

In Manila, it's very common to use this particular shredder gadget to make the cantaloupe "strings" as shown above. At the local markets, it's also a common sight to see melon vendors making this drink right at their stalls. Chop the shredded cantaloupe in smaller pieces if the strings are too long. Transfer them to a pitcher, add water, sugar and ice cubes. The amount of sugars depends on the sweetness of the fruit. For me, this is also one of the best ways to make a not so flavorful cantaloupe much better and more enjoyable. This melon drink never fails to bring back memories of hot summer days in Manila :-)

April 2, 2016

more Hawaii travel ~ part 3

As we have discovered, a week long stay wasn't enough to see everything the Big Island has to offer. What we had was just a sampler and there are many more areas to visit next time. In the meantime, here are a few more highlights from the Big Island.

tourists and cliff divers at South Point
early morning breakfast stop at Aloha Lehua Cafe
in Pahoa on the way to Lava Tree Park

Lava Tree Park in Pahoa was another off the beaten path attraction and a pleasant stop on our day drive around Puna. It was a quick and easy walk around the circular path that can be done in less than 30 minutes. The signs and posters were very informative with all the details describing how the lava trees were formed.

Lava Tree Park and signage

March 29, 2016

more Hawaii travel ~ part 2

After spending a week in Maui, we headed on to the Big Island. It was an easy 40-minute flight with Hawaiian Airlines. A glimpse of the Big Island from the plane is shown below.

the Big Island as seen from the plane and a welcome drink on
board Hawaiian Airlines, a surprising treat for a quick flight
as we approached landing, the most amazing coastline
welcomed us
this quiet strip in Hilo was our home for a week
sunrise views from the rental condo veranda
fish dinner at Seaside Aqua Farm ~ conveniently located 
just across our condo building ~ fried aholehole
(a local fish) and furikake salmon with pasta shown above 

lava cliffs at Volcanoes National Park
A most fascinating combination of snow-capped mountains, active volcanoes and lava fields on one side, cool rainforests thriving with tropical plants and flowers, waterfalls, the most amazing coastlines with black, green and red sand beaches, towering cliffs and unique micro climates. These are just a few things that best describe the Big Island of Hawaii.

the active Kilauea crater at Volcanoes National park

March 10, 2016

more Hawaii travel ~ part 1

It has been almost 2 months now since we got back but Hawaii is still in my mind :-) It was the most unforgettable two weeks in Maui and the Big Island. These pictures are proof that paradise on earth exists.

in Maui, we drove by Ho'okipa Beach everyday
from our Haiku rental place
lava on the beach along the Road to Hana
small waterfalls are a common sight along
the Road to Hana

It was hard to capture the beauty of the Bamboo Forest in pictures. It's one of those that you have to experience to truly appreciate the sounds (the bamboo made a neat percussion sound as they swayed with the breeze), the colors (monochromatic green from young to mature bamboo) and the zen moments within the tall and lush bamboo. There was a portion of the hike when the bamboo got so thick that it turned dark in their midst. The impressive Bamboo Forest can be found at the Pipiwai Trail, one of the most popular and key stops along the Road to Hana. Such a unique experience!

February 17, 2016

tropical fruits in Hawaii

Below are some of the fruits in season that we tried in Hawaii. Just for these tropical fruits alone, I would go back in a heartbeat :-) It must be the unique combination of rich volcanic soil and micro-climates that make fruit trees grow so well out there. I would rate our fruit tasting experience as almost perfect. Not a single one disappointed us.

just one of the hundreds of avocado varieties in Hawaii :-)
From the first Maui avocado (shown above) that our very acommodating host left for us at the apartment, we were quite impressed with the natural sweetness and intense flavors of all the fruits. This avocado variety was buttery and had a very smooth texture that melted in the mouth. We knew that it would be difficult to get back to regular grocery fruits again :-)

We stopped by the Ono Farms roadside stand in Hana town. It gave us a chance to unwind and buy some local Hawaiian fruits. We started our day early so it was a pleasant break from the twisty one-lane roads and bridges of the famous Hana road. Organic starfruit, banana varieties, Maui Gold pineapples, papayas and breadfruit are shown above.

Fruit and vegetable stands like this one (shown above) are a common sight along country roads in the Philippines. This cute one along the Hamakua Coast in the Big Island with its attractive pink sign (shown below) caught our attention.

February 10, 2016

food memories at Maka by Mana ~ Maui, Hawaii

Our week in Maui wouldn't have been complete without trying out the local restaurants...and we sure found many outstanding ones that made our stay more memorable.

classic acai with fresh papayas, bananas and strawberries
Maka by Mana located in the colorful town of Paia easily became our favorite. We went to this raw food place four times :-) Very fresh and amazing local fruits and vegetables were the main draw here combined and blended in a way that was surprisingly so flavorful. The cool interiors of the restaurant, shown below.

At Maka by Mana, our first introduction to the world of raw food was unforgettable. Shown above, this savory open-face breakfast sandwich with warm sesame waffle bread was served with coconut cream cheese, avocado slices and capers. The classic acai breakfast bowl was a hit with us as well as well as the matcha green tea latte that my husband ordered every time. Shown below, our light lunch with spiralized beets and carrots salad and live falafels which were served with kale and dehydrated wraps.

raw pies and kombucha tea at Maka by Mana

The busy town of Paia was along the way to our rental apartment so we passed it everyday we were in Haiku where we stayed. For us, this restaurant was one of the best reasons to keep going back to Paia despite the traffic we had to deal with there. That just goes to show how much we enjoyed this restaurant as we really don't have patience when it comes to traffic :-) Parking was challenging but we later discovered their exclusive customer parking conveniently located just across the restaurant.