Jambalaya Rice Cakes

The internet is immense and voracious. Sometimes it devours things completely. Like some of your favorite recipes when you decide to move from WordPress.com to a self-hosted site.

I don’t know how it all happened. All I know is when I opened up my shiny new site in self-hosted land, half of my favorite posts were missing, pictures lost, and links broken. I started to rebuild. I apologize once again for all the re-uploaded posts I’ve spammed my lovely readers with while trying to restore them to their homes. After a while, I gave up on trying to restore them and have just been diligently working on them, waiting for a chance to let them see the light of the Internet again.

One of these is the backbone for the star of what has become one of my favorite collaborations – making variations on an Eggs Benedict Theme with The FarmGirl Cooks – the jambalaya rice cakes sitting beneath that beautiful Cajun Eggs Benedict that kind of stole the show. I keep looking back at these pictures in amazement. Kasha, you and your fresh grown greens and gorgeous plates are all rock stars. We need to do this again!

As I’ve been looking through the pictures from our shoot, I’ve been craving the sweet sticky jambalaya rice cakes at the bottom of it all – and as luck would have it, I not only found the pictures I originally shot of this recipe, but I found the recipe card itself. It was buried in one of my cookbooks instead of in my notebook or in my recipe box along with all the rest of them.

Since we were talking about tasty, budget conscious food earlier this week, this is a good recipe to carry on that discussion with. Jambalaya, like a lot of Cajun food, was made to stretch a budget by taking a small portion of hearty, healthy ingredients {the shrimp in this case} and beefing them up with a lot of fillers {rice, onion, broth} that would be tasty and keep you full. It’s pretty inexpensive, nice and filling, and on top of that, in both its regular form and in this rice cake form, it’s pretty tasty!

Jambalaya Rice Cakes

What you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • oil for frying {yes, I keep mine in recycled wine bottles}
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked shrimp

How to make it:

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet and while that’s melting, go ahead and chop everything that needs chopping. There’s a lot of dicing to be done, and trust me, the earlier you get that done in a recipe, the better.

2. Start by sautéing the shallots. I don’t know what people imagine when they think of the smells of heaven, but I think there are two top contenders – the smell of fresh lavender and the smell of shallots sautéing in butter. Oh. My. God.

3. When the shallots are starting to get soft, add the bell peppers and let them soften just a little {cook about a minute}. You want them to be fairly crisp when you add the other ingredients or else when you add the rest, they’ll get mushy.

4. Add the chicken broth and Old Bay Seasoning and let the whole mixture come to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and then add the rice. Stir it occasionally, and let it cook down for about 20 minutes.

5. Let the rice mixture stand for about 30 minutes or until it has cooled completely.

6. Combine the rice mix, eggs, flour, and shrimp together in a large bowl until it makes a nice doughy mass. Roll the mass out on a cutting board and cut it into cakes with a biscuit cutter {and as you might know, I think there is no better biscuit cutter than a mason jar}. Place the cakes on a baking sheet, cover with parchment, and chill for 30 minutes so that they set up nicely.

7. Heat the oil in a large pot until it’s nice and hot and bubbly {translation: about 375F}. Fry the rice cakes for about 3-4 minutes each side or until they’re a nice golden brown.

8. You can serve and enjoy…

…or you can place it on the freshest of fresh arugula on a nice antique plate, top it with a fresh egg and fresh made Hollandaise, crack some salt, pepper, and paprika over it, and take a pretty awesome photo.

And when you finally lose control, stop photographing it, and devour it, you’ll discover it’s damned delicious.

Who’s feeling gourmet now? Anyone cooking anything interesting? Please share – I love to look at and try new recipes around here, whether they’re simple and clean everyday cooking to downright fancy for special occasions!


Good Food for the Busy and Budget-Conscious

Don’t worry – this is not the onslaught of a host of “tip” or “tutorial” posts. But hopefully it will help those who think they don’t have enough time or money to make the most of home-cook meals reconsider their position for a moment.

I get a lot of comments and questions from friends, family, and readers in general on all the recipes and dining that goes on around here and I feel really fortunate that most of those are positive. But every once in a while I get the inevitable money and time questions. How can we afford to eat the way we do? How do we have time to cook meals just about every night? I work – a lot - and even though my husband works from home, he spends the majority of his day crunching out digital models on the computer under the gun of an east coast deadline. We. Are. Busy.

The truth is that at face value, home-cooked meals can seem like the realm of the elite foodie with flexible hours. I’ve been reading a lot of studies that cite the price of organic and healthy fruits and vegetables, the problem with affordable transportation, and the amount of prep time a healthy dinner can take.

However, eating fresh and healthy food doesn’t have to be a luxury. You can eat healthfully and well on a budget, without having it devour all your time! Healthy, natural food has never been more available, both in variety and in price. And food doesn’t have to be full of luxury ingredients or exotically prepared to be good.

Here are just a few tips and tricks I’ve learned – from being a creative gourmand who is definitely, thanks to paying off debt and loans and trying to renovate a house for sale, on a budget!

1. Meal plans are your friend!

If you don’t learn how to do anything else on this list, learn how to make a good solid meal plan. There are plenty of apps that can help you with this, but really you can just do it with a calendar. I do our meal plan in a free calendar our insurance company sent us. Still, when you plan your meals out, you put more thought into what you’re eating, make sure you get good nutritional variety, and save money at the grocery store – both because you’re not just impulse purchasing but because you won’t have to throw out as much stuff later because you forgot you had it.

I plan out as many of the “meal plan disruptions” as possible – social engagements, either for work or with friends, travel, and the days that we’re planning a date out or a restaurant review. Then I pencil in the rest of our meals around that. It helps me balance eating at restaurants with lighter meals at home, make sure we have a healthy amount of nutritional variety, and figure out how to best plan the shopping for the month. And yes, I generally try to do it on a by-month basis.

2. Multi-purpose your meals.

When making your meal plan, you need a good balance between nutritional variety and multi-use items. You don’t want to eat the same thing every time, but you want ingredients you can use in several meals throughout the week. That will not only help you benefit from buying in bulk, but will make sure you can make good use of leftovers. For example, if I’ve grilled chicken at the beginning of the week, I can grill extra and serve it up through the week reheated with vegetables, chopped over a salad, mixed into pot pies, thrown into a casserole, or a dozen other things. Likely, those other things will have similar vegetable combinations in them as well. This also saves time, because when I’m cooking and re-using items, I don’t have to start from scratch.

That being said, left-overs are a great thing and so is your microwave. Forget using your microwave to make TV dinners. Reheat your own home-made TV dinner, or even cook some things from scratch. Seven minutes and you’ve got a fresh baked potato! This is magic.

My dad has a whole rhythm where he only really cooks a couple times a week. He just makes many more portions of the meal than he and my mom actually need, and the extras go into the freezer. He can do that with a number of entrees and just make fresh vegetable sides to go with them later on – and when he’s got a decent stockpile going, he and Mom can go a couple weeks without cooking and still have variety.

3. Figure out your shopping rhythm.

How often do you need to buy bulk items? How often do you shop for fresh items? A meal plan definitely helps with this, but so does really taking the time when you move to a place to figure out what you can get where, and when it pays to shop in bulk.

We buy a lot of our staples that can be stored in the pantry or frozen at Costco. That’s a car trip for us probably twice a month, and each time, we usually come away with a huge bag of chicken breasts, a bag of fish cutlets, packages of grass-fed ground beef, potatoes, freezable greens, and probably the best deals on wine ever. I laughed once when I saw a Mark West Pinot Noir on a restaurant menu for $45 a bottle – we get it at Costco for about $9.

We make smaller trips to the grocery about once a week to get smaller amounts of more perishable items, and the nice thing is, it’s only about a mile walk from our house, so we can walk there with our canvas bags and get some exercise while we shop. It’s a good way to nab the cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, and other things we need to use more quickly.

Finally, we hit up our farmer’s market once or twice a month. This is more of a treat than anything else, but occasionally, we do find some great deals. That’s kind of a unique situation to Hawaii, though – we get a deal on locally grown things at the farmer’s market because we’re not paying the cost of mainland shipping. On top of that, our purchases from the farmer’s market last longer – we’re not dealing with losing freshness time on them due to the time it took to ship them from somewhere.

4. Stock your pantry.

Potatoes, onions, and carrots last a long time, even with that shipping time. They’re also the basis of dozens of different soups and casseroles. Best of all, they don’t take up fridge space – you can just stick them in a box in your pantry or cupboard.

Then, let’s not discount canned things. Don’t be afraid of cans. You can recycle cans, and the things in them might not be farmer’s market fresh, but they’re still pretty close nutritionally and if you’re using them in something baked or simmered like a stew or casserole, you won’t even notice. I tend to save the fresh things for meals where I need the ingredient to shine. In a pot pie or shepherd’s pie, I’m using canned veg. And I know that shattering sound I just heard was your illusions. I’m sorry.

Still, try heating up Campbell’s heart-healthy beef stew and pouring it over mashed potatoes and tell me good food is hard and expensive to make. It’s darn tasty, under $5, you can feed four people with it, and you can make it in under 20 minutes.

5. Stock your freezer.

While it’s really nice to have fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs, the frozen varieties are really just as good for you when it comes down to it. I stock up on bags of frozen vegetables at Costco, or I buy the bulk ones there as well, slice off what I need for the immediate future, and bag the rest in the freezer. The same goes for meat. Again, Costco is my best friend. I buy a large pack of chicken breasts, mid-grade stakes, or fish, parcel them out into packages, and separate out what we’re using that week and what goes into the freezer.

Honestly, I think I spend more time bagging groceries and freezing them than I do cooking them. Set aside enough time on a weekend, though, and you can put whole meals together in freezer bags that you can either cook up when you get home or throw into this great time saver…

6. Put your crock pot to work.

A crock pot is this busy girl’s favorite invention, next to the microwave. You can make soups, stews, casseroles, and pretty much any one-pot recipe you can find in a crock pot. If you prep everything the night before, all you have to do is throw it in the next morning and set the timer, and your food will be ready by the time you get home! You can usually find a good model with a timer for under $60.

Back when we were living in Sleepy Hollow and making ridiculous commutes, I even made ravioli in the crock pot. It was a little dry but it wasn’t bad, and I’m tempted to try it again, just for the heck of it.

7. Get motivated to cook.

Telling yourself that you’re going to do a better job of cooking isn’t enough. It’s a lot easier to make eating a healthy meal a priority if it is a priority, more than sitting on the couch and watching TV or whatever else happens in the house at the end of the day.

Food is fun, or it should be. Blogging recipes and sharing them with my husband and friends has majorly motivated me to expand my culinary abilities, and after practicing and stretching my creativity, it takes me no time at all to chop things up or whip something together. Either that, or it just doesn’t feel like that much time, because I really enjoy it.

Whatever motivates you, whether it’s saving money by not dining out, cooking for friends and getting compliments on your food, tackling a new recipe, or trying a healthy eating regimen, grab onto what keeps your energy up and pushes you to practice your cooking. If you find the fun in it, you won’t mind heading to the kitchen after a long day, and it will become a lot less tempting to phone for takeaway.

8. Treat the meal like an event.

I get my husband in the kitchen with me every once in a while and it’s a lot of fun for us to make something together, especially if it’s a tasty treat or dessert for a special occasion. When we have friends with kids over, if the kids are interested in helping or learning about cooking, I give them things to do suitable to their age level. With a little instruction, pretty much anyone can shred lettuce or herbs, grate cheese, or knead dough.

Sharing good food is one of the warmest, most social things we do as a species. I’ve been in so many business meetings or negotiations that seemed tense, until someone brought in the food, and it never fails to amaze me how a good meal can diffuse a situation. It’s really hard to get up in arms at someone when you’re breaking good bread with them.

Staying away from overly processed foods and eating healthfully doesn’t mean you have to be Julia Child. It also doesn’t mean you can only shop at the organic market or get your food from the CSA. All it takes is some good solid planning and the motivation to do it. And sooner or later you’ll figure out that you can get a good, tasty one-pot meal for four for less than the price of a meal at McDonald’s – and a meal that actually has flavor and nutrition to boot.

Did I miss anything good out there? What are your tips and tricks for eating well on a budget?


Sunday Currently, vol. 36


Reading…Management f-Laws by Ackoff, Addison, and Bibb. One of my professors back at UVa recommended it to me ages ago, and I read it back then but kind of forgot about it. Now it’s clicking in a whole new way.

Watching…the TV version of The Transporter. It’s good campy fun with lots of action and beautiful cars. By the way, I probably should mention I have a major thing for sleek, fast luxury autos. Still, the couple of episodes I’ve watched haven’t been so much about the action and cars as they have about the people Chris Vance’s transporter character Frank meets on his journeys.

Listening…to the rain and wind from another tropical storm that tried to be, and then met the massive mountain known as Mauna Kea. We don’t take storms lightly around here, but they don’t often survive the mountain.

Smelling…the beautiful scent of coffee. Our old Hamilton Beach brew station finally died so we went out and picked up a new coffee pot last weekend. Nothing fancy, just a plain old-fashioned model, but it does a wonderful job!

Wishing…that it snowed here. Okay, I know I’m weird. We were watching Living Alaska on the DIY Network the other day and they showed a gorgeous cedar house with a huge fireplace and enormous bay windows giving views of glittering snow, and I just felt heartsick. It’s been summer for me for a year and a half now. I. Need. Seasons.

Wearing…running shorts, tank top, socks. Because if this rain lets up for two seconds, I’m throwing on my shoes and I’m out the door. I’ve got the running bug today!

Loving…the feel of the holidays coming up. I’m really looking forward to seeing family. I don’t know why, but I’m definitely getting island fever right now, and I need some family time and some cold weather, pronto.

Wanting…to stop feeling island fever and actually enjoy the islands. We’re almost at the halfway point of this tour in Hawaii, and I really don’t want to wish it away!

Feeling…pricklings of stress. I don’t know why, but it might be all the upcoming travel we have or the impending holidays. “The pressure of Halloween? You never know what to go as.” If you haven’t seen My Blue Heaven, well, it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s Steve Martin and Rick Moranis in their prime and it was filmed in my home town.

Pictures from This Week…

From top left: 1) Asparagus and goat cheese breakfast tarts. 2) Buffalo fried deviled eggs at REAL a gastropub. 3) Someone thinks he’s getting scraps from the kitchen. 4) Gorgeous morning moon. 5) Pulled pork sliders at REAL a gastropub. 6) A beautiful day at the Mililani Farmer’s Market. 7) Margherita Pizza from Bonfire Pizzas at the Mililani Farmer’s Market. 7) Pear Gorgonzola Tarts with maple drizzle – recipe coming soon! 8) Out at Orchids for brunch.

Read Up

Weekly Reads…

Posts This Week…

What’s on your mind currently? Link up below and share!


Opportunity Doesn’t Always Knock

Image via
Image via

On one side of the street, Le Saule Pleureur, with its one Michelin star, courts the critics and fame with truffles and fois gras and all those other guilty pleasures we pretend we don’t swoon over {or is it just me?}. On the other side of the street, Maison Mumbai open-grills exotic dishes in air filled with music and spice. Between the two restaurants lies 100 feet, but they might as well be worlds apart. Right? Right.

Still, in “The Hundred Foot Journey,” there’s a very significant journey that takes place, and that’s Hassan’s. He’s the son, head chef, and heir to Maison Mumbai, and yet he has dreams of Michelin stars, classical cooking, and taking his talents to another level. Even if the feisty owner of Le Saule Pleureur weren’t trying to drive his family out of business, there are enough other people telling him “NO” when it comes to his cooking ambitions that he should just give up and be content with his lot.

Right? Wrong.

To paraphrase Coolidge, there are plenty of people in this world who have talent. However, the world is full of unrecognized and unappreciated talent, of neglected ideas, of great things that people have rattling around in their heads that fail because no one even gives them a chance to start.

I’ve heard this lament through my entire career. We talk about the enormous number of people leaving military service because their talent goes unrecognized on a regular basis without laying the blame where it belongs – not on an institution that fails to recognize new and good ideas, but the people who fail to persist when persistence is the most necessary thing, the people who give up when their busy, overtaxed supervisor fails to pay them enough attention to realize their talent, and the people who cannot muster up the ingenuity to get around the unimaginative gatekeepers that stand between them and success.

There is nothing in the world that takes the place of persistence. The persistent person doesn’t give up when the answer is “NO” over and over again. He or she holds onto that idea and simply looks for another way. Sometimes that involves taking a risk, and seeking out a decision maker in the position to take that idea and run with it. Sometimes that involves seizing an opportunity, and being ready with the pitch when the right person comes by for a discussion.

Hassan had his pitch ready. He knew his audience. He understood Madame’s omelet trial. And he won.

Don’t let your ideas die on the vine because someone else didn’t recognize them, or worse, because you didn’t take the time to make them known. Most of the time, opportunity won’t knock on your door. Sometimes, you have to be sitting in opportunity’s doorstep and have it trip over you on the way in to get noticed.

In honor of Hassan’s work, I’d hoped to make you a fine herbs omelet recipe – but I had some puff pastry to play with, and my work turned into a breakfast tartlet instead. Quel domage.

Breakfast Asparagus Goat-Cheese Tart

What you’ll need:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry {or about 10 oz}
  • 6-8 stalks asparagus, diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 eggs + 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup goat gouda {or other sharp flavored cheese}, thinly grated
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to make it:

1. Preheat your oven to 375F.

2. Let the puff pastry warm for about 10-15 minutes until it’s nice and pliable. Then roll it out and cut it into 4 square pieces. Make about a 1/2 inch slice at each corner so you can fold the sides up into a border, and brush the border with the beaten egg.

3. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the shallot and asparagus and sauté lightly until the shallot and asparagus are both tender, but not too soft. You don’t want them to get mushy.

3. Mash the goat cheese with a fork to break it up, and then sprinkle it across the four pieces of puff pastry fairly equally. Add the shallot and asparagus to each of the pastries, and top with the grated goat gouda. Yum!

4. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted nicely.

5. Crack an egg carefully over each of the pastries. Make sure it doesn’t drizzle over the sides of the pastry, or else it will burn. My goal is to get the yolk sort of centered, but if you’re familiar with eggs…they kind of do what they want. Don’t worry about it – they’re still tasty.

6. Bake another 8-10 minutes, until the egg is fairly solid. 6 minutes will get you a runny yolk, 8-10 will get it done so it doesn’t go everywhere {that’s generally my husband’s request – he doesn’t like his eggs too runny}.

7. Let cool 5 minutes and serve with a few cracks of fresh sea salt and pepper!

And prepare for the disappearing act…


If there’s something you want, you have to be willing to persist in going after it. There will be gatekeepers that stand in your way, naysayers who doubt what you do, and people who are too busy with their own problems to notice what you have to offer. Don’t wait for opportunity to knock. Go and stand in its way, and teach it to bake something amazing.

Happy weekend!



ATVs at Kualoa Ranch

Hey, adventurers! This post is going to be a bit of a throwback post, but I can’t help it – I’m too excited about this adventure to not share the pictures! I couldn’t find them for the longest time but finally stumbled across them in my archive. Guess I need to clean up my digital desk as much as my real desk!

My husband isn’t a “things” person, and we’re continuing on our quest to downsize our stuff, so I sometimes get pretty stumped when it comes to getting him birthday gifts. I’ve taken to outright asking him, and that has usually resulted in a pretty cool adventure for both of us. One year, we went flying helicopters. His last birthday, he wanted to ride ATVs.

We debated between going out to the track in the Kahukus where I used to ride dirt bikes, but then I stumbled across the Kualoa Valley movie set tour, and that turned out to be just what he was looking for! Granted, we couldn’t ride our ATVs much faster than a putt-putt {especially with a frightened tourist slowing everyone to a crawl}, but we weren’t too bothered by that. It was fun just getting to ride, especially since my husband was a first-timer, and the views were totally worth it. Check them out!

Kualoa Valley ATV Ride-6210

The ride itself was absolutely beautiful, but all these pictures probably look pretty familiar to you all – since there have been over 100 movies and TV shows filmed here within the valley! Kualoa provided its combination of rugged mountains and lush greenery to Lost, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Journey 2: Atlantis, Godzilla, Mighty Joe Young, Jurassic Park, and more. As part of the deal, a lot of the film crews left pieces of their sets here in the valley for folks to come and see. Here are a few favorites.

We had a lot of fun playing around on this mache and thin concrete set from Atlantis. Even though it was surprisingly flimsy, given how substantial it appeared at first, the set designers put an incredible amount of detail into the project, down to the shells that were embedded in the “stone.”

All in all, this is a great way to tour around the different sets, see some wonderful vistas, and enjoy recognizing scenery from some of your favorite movies! Don’t expect a lot of adrenaline, because the ride is pretty slow, but if you’re a beginner, it’s not a bad way to figure out how an ATV works. Next, we’ll move up to the beach buggies :)

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Tips for the Kualoa Ranch ATV Tour

  1. Close-toed shoes! They say it several times on the website and in the literature, but still people show up in their slippahs {a.k.a. flip-flops}. Bring your sneakers!
  2. If you need a ride out there, make sure you plan – the ranch only picks up between 7:00am-7:30am at selected hotels, and that’s whether your tour is at 9:00am or 11:00am.
  3. Bring a cross-body bag or a small backpack. You don’t go fast but you will bounce, and a purse will go flying. You don’t want your camera or important items to be lost on the trail.
  4. Pack some light snacks and water, especially if you do a 2-hour tour {Kualoa offers both 1- and 2-hour tours}, and there isn’t a lot of shade on the tour, so wear sunscreen and a hat.
  5. Kualoa Ranch is an active cattle ranch that raises grass-fed beef and brings in super-fresh seafood, all of which they serve on-site in the ranch style buffet. It’s not fancy, but it’s fresh and hearty. They also do breakfast, but I haven’t tried that.

Kualoa Ranch

To reserve a tour, call 808-237-7321 or click here.

ATV tours range $69 for one hour, $99 for two hours.

Must be 16 years old to participate.

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The husband’s birthday is coming around again and I’m looking for more birthday ideas! Do you have some great birthday resources or go-to’s for your significant other, for family, or for friends?


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