Home… I am HOME

Well, for those of you who aren’t with me on social media, you may not know: we are now in Guam! Yep, thanks to Food Fighters, we are home. (If you didn’t catch the full episode, you can watch the final round HERE.)

We arrived late last night after four days in Tokyo… and Tokyo was amazing. (I’ll have to post that later… there’s too much to cover here.)  We visited a Japanese onsen (which I think will go down as the coolest thing we’ve ever done together as a family to date), ate more ramen than you can imagine, and walked more miles in four days than we’ve done in the last year. The Japanese culture is wonderful… and we had a total blast.

As for Guam, we arrived late last night and  started today at 7am with toes in the sand – and a rainbow!

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Tumon Bay outside the Outrigger Hotel

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Me and my man, Tumon Bay

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From the beach we put plumerias (my favorite flower on earth) in our hair and spent a full day with my dad and family…

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with auntie bobby

Here we are with my dad and my sweet Auntie Bobby.

then ended our evening with a gorgeous island sunset….

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Overlooking Tumon Bay from the top of the Outrigger Hotel, Guam

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View from atop the Outrigger Hotel, Guam

while our kids enjoyed the GoPro and the warm pacific ocean…

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Now that I’m sitting in my bed processing the day, I’m in awe. First of all, I can’t believe we’re home. Seriously? Did I seriously compete on an NBC game show and win the money to allow for this amazing family vacation? And, how can it be that I was raised here? Here? Really? On this little rock of paradise in the middle of the pacific ocean? How can it be that I knew these beaches before the mega hotels and beach bars and millions of tourists? How can it be that these waters raised me? How can it be?

Being back home and watching my kids take joy in the warmth and beauty blesses my heart beyond belief. All I keep whispering to myself is, “Thank you, Father”. What a gift… what a gift.

I can’t wait to share more of my beautiful island home and our family adventures with you – including local food and recipes! Stay tuned – and connect with me on Twitter,  Instagram and Facebook if you can! This is gonna be quite an adventure.

Guamanian Steak & BBQ Potato Quinoa Salad

Nana in the smoke of her outdoor wood stove

Nana in the smoke of her outdoor wood stove

Nothing takes me back to the islands and the days in my nana’s kitchen then the smell of BBQ. The blend of smoke, fire, and food is pure comfort to me. (Now, if every BBQ was only accompanied by rain falling on a tin roof and roosters in the yard, I’d be in heaven.)

With that said, I BBQ steak every chance I get. I don’t do BBQ steak the way most people do, though. No BBQ sauce or fancy rubs. No, for me, I keep it simple – I keep it Guam-style, ‘nana-style’: lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, and black pepper. It’s deliciously aromatic – and the taste of the finished product… um, divine.

What I love most about this simple steak marinade is that steak leftovers are so versatile. You can use the leftover steak in eggs in the morning, you can warm it in a tortilla with some beans and cheese and make steak quesadillas, or you can use it this – the most amazing grilled steak salad you’ll EVER eat: The beauty of this salad is not only that it uses thin strips of Guamanian-style steak, it also uses roasted potatoes and veggies you roast up on the same grill. It’s all done outside – it all takes on a nice smokey flavor – and, it’s the perfect dish for these last days of summer. So, go grab your favorite cut of beef, gather up some red potatoes and veggies, and MAKE THIS.  Once you do I have a feeling it will become a favorite you BBQ year-round.

NOTE: Before I give you the recipes for each item, here’s rundown on how timing this out should work: the potatoes will take longest, so get those on the grill first. About 15 minutes into roasting the potatoes, throw the steaks on the grill. Potatoes and steaks will come off at about the same time; and, while your steaks are resting, roast up your veggies.

First step: Turn your grill on to preheat and prepare the ‘potato pillows’ for grilling: Turn your grill on to medium high to start preheating. Close cover. Chop your red potatoes into small, even squares and place them into a large bowl. Add the parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Pour olive oil over the mixture and stir to coat all potatoes evenly. DSC01897

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Tear off a tin foil square and fill the center with potatoes. (NOTE: Keep the potatoes in a single layer on the tin foil as best as possible for ideal roasting.) Fold the foil around the potatoes into a little pouch – being sure to seal all the sides and keep steam inside. DSC01903

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Once all potato pouches are filled, lay them on hot grill. Turn burners down to medium, cover lid, and grill on direct medium heat (approx 450 degrees) for 25-30 minutes. And look what you’ll get:

Step 2: Marinate and grill the steak. Simply take your choice of steak cut (chicken works, too), and lay it single layer in a dish like this: DSC01883

Sprinkle each side of the meat with garlic powder and black pepper, then pour equal parts of lemon juice and soy sauce over the cuts. Allow meat to marinate for at least 15 minutes prior to grilling. DSC01885

Move your potato pillows to one side of the grill and grill your steaks on the other side; all burners should remain on medium. Grill the steaks on medium direct heat for 6-8 minutes per side (flipping ONCE) for medium doneness. Once you pull the steaks off the grill, cover with tin foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Guamanian Style Marinated Steaks

Step 3: Get your veggies on the grill. Drizzle some olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper over your washed, dried, and trimmed veggies (I used asparagus for this particular recipe, but I also love using sweet bell peppers, too). DSC01914

DSC01918 Grill until slightly charred.

Step 4: Assemble the Salad {4 servings… which means you’ll have a lot of steak and potatoes left over for breakfast – or more salad!)

  • 2 cups of precooked Andean Naturals True Bolivian Quinoa
  • 2 cups of roasted potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped steak (sliced into thin strips for easy eating)
  • 1 oversized handful of fresh arugula

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 large lemon) – then stir to incorporate everything evenly. Taste – and add sea salt and black pepper to taste. You can also add crushed red pepper (or fresh jalapeño) for heat. Beautiful, isn’t it?

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(Want to learn more about quinoa? Check out my brand partner, Andean Naturals – importers of the best quinoa in the world 🙂 )

Happy back to school days, everyone. By the way, here’s a pic of my babies this morning. I told them to hold the signs… they said they would, but they still had to do it their way. LOL back to school

A Dish With Heart: Rustic Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart

Something you might not know about me is this: I was not raised to cook.

My entire life my nana lived with us and she was our nourisher. She made all our meals – from our breakfast toast and coffee, to our after school meal of chicken soup and rice. While she was forced to use a conventional stove while we lived in California, when I was seven we returned to Guam – and she returned to her true comfort zone: her outdoor kitchen.

My sweet nana in the early morning – protecting her hair from the humidity

All the cooking I remember as a child was done over an open fire in a tiny 8×10 tin shack – aka the ‘outdoor kitchen’. Pots black from smoke from the fire. A knife that likely harkened back to WWII days that was so blunt and worn down, and with a blade that curved upwards like the back of a stretching cat. A rusty fridge. A lightbulb hanging by an extension cord that ran out the propped open tin window and into the main house. An old 1960’s rejected office desk with rocks for feet that slanted sideways and made my soup run for one corner of the bowl. Her kitchen smelled of the jungle, and savory meats, and wild chickens – and mosquitos ate me up every time I sat to a meal.

My nana’s kitchen was my heaven.

Growing up with a nana that cooked for me, though, meant that I never was really ‘taught’ anything. I watched. I asked questions about dishes as I got older. But my ‘cooking’ was never more than opening a can of green beans that I’d eat straight with a fork.

Fast forward to today.

I don’t have my nana anymore… but, what I do have is her heart.

My nana’s heart was always to serve and comfort through her food. She cooked to lure you into conversation over a perfectly percolated cup of coffee and inch-thick pancakes or handmade tortillas. She cooked to care for you and to love you – to show you she was thinking of you.  She cooked to wow you with what she could do with a small piece of chicken and some vegetables out of her garden – and to hear you say, “Thanks, nana, that was delicious. I love you.”

So, I cook… and, when I do, I take pleasure in creating things like this:

Mushroom and Black Olive Goat Cheese Galette

Mushroom and Black Olive Goat Cheese Galette

Believe it or not, this amazingly beautiful galette (tart) is sooo easy, so delicious… and soo worth the effort when you see how others respond to this work of art.

Here’s the recipe… but you have to promise: you’ll give it your heart and give it a try whether you were ‘raised to cook’, or not.

For the crust:
The crust is a very basic everyday galette crust and will make TWO galette crusts:

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 10-14 TBSP ice water
  1. Using a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt several times until mixed well.
  2. Add the cubed butter and pulse 8-10 times. (NOTE: DO NOT OVERPULSE. The key to having a flaky pastry crust is making sure the butter (the fats) remain about pea-sized.)
  3. Slowly add the water about 2 TBSP at a time and pulse once or twice after each addition. The dough should begin to clump, but will still be very dry in the bowl of the processor.
  4. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and begin lightly kneading the mixture until it all begins to stick together. (If it is still too dry, drizzle a little more water (about a tsp at a time) into it and toss the mixture with a fork. You want the dough to be sticky enough to adhere together without crumbling, but you don’t want it to be wet. Also, do not over-knead.)
  5. Form two discs out of the mixture, sprinkle flour over the discs, and wrap in plastic. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes prior to using. (If you won’t be using both, you can freeze the extra one for later.)

At this point, preheat your oven to 425 with the rack in the center of the oven, and place a cookie sheet on the rack to heat along with the oven.

For the filling:

  • EVOO for pan
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced and mashed
  • 1 TBSP capers
  • 16-20 small white and brown mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2/3 can black olives, crushed (NOTE: I drain the olive can and then I pour the olives right into my hand over the pan and crush the olives between my fingertips as I drop them in to cook)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Goat cheese
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, washed and sliced in quarters
  • Fresh arugula (see blow)
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Up close…

  1. Sauté all ingredients until mushrooms are tender. Turn off heat and set aside.
  2. On floured surface, roll out one of the disks until the dough is about a 12″ diameter and 1/4″ thick.
  3. Spoon your mushroom mixture into the center of the disc leaving approximately 2-3″ of space around the outside of the filling. (You might have a little filling left over – and it’s delicious right out of the pan.)
  4. Sprinkle your diced cherry tomato pieces and crumble goat cheese over the whole thing.
  5. Fold the outer edges of the dough over the filling in an accordion fashion to slightly cover the edge of the filling. Wash the exposed dough with egg wash (basically an egg with a drizzle of water, whisked until light).
  6. Here is where you might need some help – and you will definitely need patience: Remove the pre-heated cookie sheet from the oven and place it beside your prepared galette. Carefully, using an extra wide spatula and your hands, gently lift the galette onto the hot pan. (NOTE: The key is to support the bottom of the galette as securely as possible so that it doesn’t fall through when you move it. It’s okay if it looses some of it’s shape – just reshape it as best you can when it hits the hot pan.)
  7. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until nicely browned. Toss some fresh arugula with a light drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and spread across the top of the warm galette before serving.

That’s it! When I serve it I cut it in four quarters, and then each quarter into a quarter (like a pizza). It’s a great appetizer – and definitely a perfect ‘wow’ dish to take to a potluck.

Now… go cook with some heart! And, nana: I’m thinking of you today…

My nana - dish towel on her shoulder as she shooed me to the kitchen to eat

My nana – dish towel on her shoulder as she shooed me to the kitchen to eat

Rebel on,
Elisha

Finadene Heaven

Today I want to share a family staple with you: finadene. This ‘condiment’ is a staple of Guam, my island home. We Guamanians serve this with every meal… and it is PERFECT for giving some kick and flavor to whatever you may be eating. Pour some of this over meats, fish, eggs, rice – I even use it as a dressing for my spinach salad and my roasted veggies (once they are roasted).

Finadene is made with four simple ingredients: soy sauce, lemon juice, onions and chili peppers. The best (and most authentic way) to make finadene is with Calamansi Lemons. Sometimes they are referred to as Calamansi limes, Chinese oranges, or just kalamansi. They are native of Southeast Asia, but it seems they’re even being grown in California these days! So, keep an eye out for them. They are tiny little things that pack a real sour punch. (Here’s some photos and a good little article on Calamansi from ‘The Kitchn“.) 

(I get Calamansi when I can, but most of the time I just have regular lemons on hand. So, the finadene recipe I’m sharing with you is for regular lemons.)

One more thing to note: every Chamorro has a slightly different version of finadene… but, this one is our finadene staple. A true taste of my home:

1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup Kikkoman soy sauce (Yes, Kikkoman. Believe it or not, there is a huge difference in soy sauce taste – and Kikkoman is, hands down, the best)
1/4 cup diced white onion
fresh red chili peppers to taste (look for small, bright red Thai chili peppers)
OPTIONAL: You can also add diced green onions and cherry tomatoes into the finadene.  (The best tomatoes will be garden fresh, tiny, and really juicy – otherwise, I’d just skip the tomatoes.) You can also do 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 lemon juice.

  1. Squeeze your lemon juice into a bowl. Be sure not to keep out the pulp – the lemon pulp is a must!
  2. Place your chilies on a non-pourous flat plate (so no wooden cutting boards!) and smash with the back of a fork as thoroughly as possible. (You can also use a mortar and pestle if you have one.) Pour a little of the lemon juice onto the plate so that all the flavor is captured. Pour the chili and lemon juice back into your bowl.
  3. Add your Kikkoman soy sauce and diced onions (and tomatoes if you’re using them).

That’s it! It’s great served fresh, but it gets even better after a couple days.

Yum. Now I’m gonna go pull out some of our BBQ from last night and have a little snack…

Rebel on,
-e.

Coconut Chicken Corn Soup

When I was growing up, one of my favorite fiesta dishes was always the coconut chicken corn soup. It’s such a sweet memory for me: walking in on the nanas in the outdoor kitchen boiling the chicken off the bones, fanning themselves with paper plates and talking about the neighborhood gossip. When it was ready for the party, they’d bring it out in big pots and all us kids would gather round to fill up our cups. It may have been 95 degrees outside, but there was something about a hot cup of corn soup that made us all feel happy.

Now, on days like today where it’s drizzly, cold and the kids are bouncing off the walls from a full day of “indoor activities”, a big, hot pot of soup seems more than appropriate. So –  here’s my recipe for the most delicious coconut chicken corn soup you’ll ever – EVER – eat. And you know the best part? You can pick up a Costco rotisserie and make this in less than 15 minutes… so it’s the perfect “quick and easy” homemade meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 rotisseri chicken, deboned
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup coconut milk (be sure when you buy coconut milk the ONLY ingredient you see is “coconut milk” – I love the Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • black pepper to taste
  • soy sauce to taste (I usually use about 1/8 of a cup)
  1. Sauté the onion in a large pot with just a little olive oil. When onions are translucent, add in the chicken meat, the broth, the water, and the frozen corn. Bring to boil then turn heat down to medium low.
  2. Allow the pot to simmer for about 10 minutes then add in the coconut milk, the black pepper and the soy. Turn off the heat and cover until ready to serve. (NOTE: If you like it more “soupy” than it turns out, just add some extra water.)
  3. Serve over cooked quinoa – and, if you like it HOT, top it with chili paste.
Enjoy!
P.S. Now, I know the american thing is to serve everything with bread. REBEL FROM THIS TRADITION! I add quinoa into each bowl before I serve because it gives extra substance to the meal and makes bread unnecessary.
P.S.S. Sometimes I’ll make this by boiling down the bones of a rotisserie that we’ve eaten at a previous meal. There is so much meat left on the bones no matter how good we try and clean one off… and it stretches my $5.00 rotisserie purchase into TWO full meals. I share this way with you, however, because it’s something you can do on the fly.)