Friday, February 28, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1- 10.5 oz can condensed French Onion soup
1 cup water
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, excess fat trimmed
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 pounds baby potatoes, scrubbed and cut in quarters
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, cut into large chunks (I used a few baby carrots instead)
2 cups frozen peas
additional salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup potato flakes (instant mashed potato), as need to thicken stew (I mashed a few of the potatoes used in the stew)
1.  Add chicken broth, onion soup, water, tomato paste, and soy sauce into bowl of slow cooker.  Mix to break up tomato paste.
2.  In a large bowl, season beef with salt and pepper.  Mix to combine.
3.  Add seasoned beef, potatoes, onion, and carrots to slow cooker.  Cover with lid and cook on high for 6-7 hours until the beef is tender.
4.  Before serving, add frozen peas and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 cup potato flakes (or mash a few of the potatoes you have been cooking) to thicken soup.  Add additional potato flakes 1 tablespoon at a time to achieve desired thickness.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Freezes great!!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Maui, Hawaii: Atlantis Submarine

Atlantis Submarine Adventure:  I had debated about doing this on Oahu but we couldn't fit it into our already crazy schedule.  Well, it worked out perfect for us to reserve a time while on Maui.

Here's our experience:

We had to check in at the office 30 minutes before our reservation.  From there we needed to walk a couple of blocks to the dock.  There is a restroom near the dock and seating.  But it was hot and very little shade at the companies loading area.
Group picture ($20 - to be paid on the way back to shore).
The boat in the background is what takes you to the submarine.

Boat ride to the submarine.

The submarine coming up!

There is a blue boat (Roxie) that stays in the water to help and to easily identify to the passenger boat where the submarine is.

Heading into the submarine.

Get to know the people behind you!  Sometimes they have cool stuff that you can only see out their window.
Everyone does have a window to look out.  Unlike a competitor that I had heard about (that doesn't even fully submerge in the water).  

A list of some of the water creatures we might see.


List shows that it is a whitetip Reef shark.

A sunken ship.  They sunk it to create an interesting area for creatures to live.
Picture of the ship sinking process.

Map of the route.
I missed the picture at 130 ft.  But we went all the way to the bottom and sat there.
This little guy hung out at our window for a while.
It seemed as though he was interested in us too!

Above the windows.
Thankfully no one got sick on our trip but I did see a couple of bags from the group before us ;-(

  • The kids were supposed to be free with a paid adult (one child per adult).  This was offered online but the site was down when we tried to do a reservation online.  So, I called in the reservation.  I was given the total at the very end and it did not include the free kids promotion.  I had to request a refund and go through a bunch of red tape....  My point - make sure you are given any promotions BEFORE giving your credit card information.  I should have done this but I was so frustrated with the website problems that I just wanted to be done with it!
  • Don't forget motion sickness medications if you have ever needed them before!

Crockpot Vegetarian Chili

This is spicy but very good!!!  It also freezes great!  I made a large pot so I froze the extra in single servings so I could enjoy this dish during lunch or with a sandwich for dinner.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups water
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 cup frozen corn kernels

Just before serving:
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice

Optional toppings:  
shredded cheese
sour cream (I used plain Greek yogurt).
1.  Put all the main ingredients in a crock pot.  Cook on high heat for 2 hours or low heat for       6 hours.
2.  Stir in salt, cilantro, and lime juice immediately before serving.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Maui, Hawaii: Luau

The idea of going to Hawaii and NOT experiencing a luau is just crazy!!!  We have always liked the one at our resort.  It is the Myths of Maui Luau.  It's on the beach and walking distance from the lobby of the Royal Lahaina Resort.  Here is our experience:

The picture taken of us on the way into the luau.
Yes - we did some shopping for hawaiian gear ;-)

Sunset picture they took of us once in the luau area.
I think we paid $30 for both pictures ($20 for the first picture and $10 for each additional picture).

Seating and the start of the educational portion of the show.

Learning all about coconuts.

Starting a new tree.
Did you know that a coconut tree starts producing after 10 years?
It only produces about 11 coconuts the first year year - then about 50 each year after.
They produce year round.

Traditional way of getting to the coconut.

The coconut "hair" (he is pulling it from around the coconut in this picture) was used for rope.
This "hair" does not disintegrate in salt water.

Once cracked open there is coconut water.
Pull the white "meat" out of the coconut to squeeze out coconut milk.

Waiting for dinner to start.

Getting ready to cut up the big.
Before this we blessed the pig before they pulled it from the ground.

We were able to pay for VIP seats (guaranteed we'd be near the stage).
Now they offer reserved VIP seats online.
It was new just before our visit but the people next to us had it so I asked.
I didn't look at the pricing but it included great reserved seats, souvenir tiki glasses, and much more.
The "free" drinks come in these.  My kiddos loved the pineapple juice drinks.
It was just pineapple juice and ice but it seemed way cooler at a luau ;-)
The kiddos get on stage and learn how to dance.

The show:

My 6 year old son was ready to marry this beautiful princess - LOL!

Pictures on the way out.

Pictures on the way out.

  • There are some vendor craft tables inside the luau area.  Some of these tables were the same ones we had visited in the resort earlier that day.
  • Food:  there was a large variety for kids and adults, traditional luau food and some other more common food.  An example of the kids food:  hot dogs, chips, french fries.  There were also a lot of drink options (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  Most of the beverages were also included in the price of the luau.  There was a small dessert area that had a few familiar options and some Hawaiian options.
  • I have never been to it but I have heard that the Old Lahaina Luau is very well rated when it comes to luau's on Maui.
Wearing a flower in your hair (as it was told to us):
  • A flower worn on the right means that you are single.  The bigger the flower the more available the lady is - LOL!
  • A flower to the left means that you are taken.
  • A flower in the middle means that you go both ways - LOL!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Maui, Hawaii

Maui is such a beautiful and peaceful island and it is the 2nd largest Hawaiian island!  We like to mix things up so we started our adventure on Oahu where there is a lot more populated activities.  It was great to spend the last half of our vacation on Maui relaxing on the beach and taking in all the beauty!

Maui is separated into a few popular beach areas:

Lahaina is the area where we always spend the majority of our time.
There is a lot more to explore than what this map shows!
I always start the trip off (just like any) grabbing brochures and coupon books that seem worth looking through later:

Okay - I guess this is a "something different" activity you can do on Maui ;-)

#2 sounds fun and I have heard that #3 is awesome!!!

Of course I had to stop here!
The ad makes it seem as though its right in the area of the coffee fields.  But, its really just a small store in town...
They do have a variety of coffee for sale, samples (3 or 4 blends at any given time), and staff to help answer questions.  I enjoyed my visit even though it wasn't as big and beautiful as I had expected.

So many options to consider!

And a verity of coupons to work with.

As you can see, some coupons are more desirable than others.
I found these 4 in different booklets so I had a choice of what we wanted.
We used one with our meal and another with our shop purchase.

Amazing view from our resort balcony!!!  Royal Lahaina Resort never fails us!

I love ice water with a wedge of lemon!
Well, ice water with pineapple is awesome too!!
This was at the entrance to our resort.
Most of the days (smaller group on Sundays) we found a craft area in the resort lobby.  It was alike a market where locals could sell their hand crafted merchandise.  There were only 4 vendors but we were impressed.
Personalizing a tiki for us.  The tikis are very strong.
He is using one as a hammer to hit the chisel to carve into ours.

Making tikis.  Made out of Koa trees.
It is illegal to cut down Koa trees so they search the jungle for trees that have fallen.

It's hard to tell in this picture but:
Round eyes for protection.
Eyes up for happiness/love.
Eyes down for good luck.

Having a little fun close to Christmas.

Hanging out by the beach.  Lots of options for kids and adults.

The water was beautiful!

It was surfing season so, as you can tell in this photo, there was a strong undertow!
My daughter was pulled under shortly after taking this picture so we just played in the sand and then swam in the pools.
That was the case for most of our time on Maui.  It was even too strong for me!
We did see some surfing competitions take place :-)

View from our pool!

Swimming in the pool.  I highly recommend a waterproof camera for this vacation!

Coconut tree!
Did you know...?
Coconut trees start producing after 10 years.
They only produce about 11 coconuts the first year but about 50 each year after.
They produce year round.
I learned all of this at a luau (post to come later).

We found this beautiful thing on the ground at the local Costco.  They were all over.
I later found out that it is from a Hawaiian Autograph Tree.  Beautiful but apparently they cause problems.
There is a lot to do on Front Street in Lahaina:

The banyan tree in Courthouse Square.
Very interesting and beautiful in a unique way!

Of course we had to stop here!

Even the tiki's are rocking out in at Hard Rock!

Bracelets for a cause - Imagine a World Without Hunger.

Cool Cat Cafe is a fun place to eat.
It's on an upper level so you can people watch very easily while you eat.

And Cool Cat Cafe has delicious homemade onion rings!

And Hawaiian decorated hot dogs (my son refuses to have any bread with his hot dogs).
Other things to do on Maui:

  • The Road To Hana:  My Blog Post
  • Laua:  My Blog Post
  • Atlantis Submarine Adventure:  My Blog Post
  • Maui Pineapple Tours:  This looked very interesting and educational.  Unfortunately we did not have the extra time to check it out.  Plus, we had just visited the Dole Plantation on Oahu.
  • Sunset Dinner Cruise:  There are so many to pick from!  We did not do a dinner cruise this trip because my kids would have probably been bored.  We did go on a dinner cruise 10 years ago as part of a honeymoon package through our resort.  It was fun but the fruity drinks and the rocking boat didn't settle well with me.
  • Snorkeling:  So many places to snorkel and so many beautiful fish!!!  I highly recommend getting recommendations of safe places to snorkel.  You have to remember that there are sharks and other dangerous predators in the water.  One place that is very well know (but you need a boat to get to) is Molokini.  There are many tour options for this adventure!
  • Scuba Diving:  We have never done this but the opportunities are abundant - including classes to learn how.
  • There are a lot of places to shop!  The bigger chain stores (Costco, Krispy Kreme, Walmart, fast food, Whole Foods, ...) and a shopping mall with a movie theater are near the airport.  I was surprised to see that they had such a variety but no Target store...  We were specifically looking for one.  No Target means that I couldn't live there - LOL!

On the way to the airport I decided to purchase some pineapples to take home.
I had two advertisements and one was near our resort.   However, I didn't realize that until we were already by the airport.
So, I purchased some pineapples from this place.  It all worked out okay but it was above a gas station....
Really wish I would have checked the other place out!

I purchased 3 pineapples and they were packaged so that I could take them as a carry on.  The idea of hauling them around from one plane to the next wasn't appealing but I loved the idea of bringing home fresh Hawaiian pineapple!  We were lucky, the carry on area of the airplane was small so they let me check the pineapples free of charge (no need to see them again until I arrived to my final destination).  The pineapples:  the place I purchased them from already had them packaged so I could not see the condition they were in when I purchased them.  When I got home there was one in great condition and two that had soft spots (either from travel or they weren't great in the first place)...
Note:  Pineapples are supposed to last 1 week when refrigerated.  You can cut the pineapple and freeze it but that just wasn't the same.