Strawberry Shortcake with Baked Oats

This is a breakfast cake! A unique take on a strawberry shortcake, made with oat flour (easy to make yourself). This cake is a great way to prep tasty breakfasts for the week ahead.

Ingredients

Cake

5-6 Large Strawberries (Mashed)

4 Dates (soak in hot water for 5 minutes, drain & then mash)

2 Cups Oat Flour

1 Cup Almond Flour

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Baking Powder

3/4 Cup Oat (or Soy Milk)

A Pinch of Salt

 

Cashew Protein Whip

1 Cup Vanilla Yoghurt

2 Scoops Vanilla Protein Powder

1/2 Cup Cashews (soak in hot water for 10 minutes, and then drain)

2 Tbsp Agave (or choice of liquid sweetener)

1 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a square baking tray.

Make your own oat flour in the food processor or blender. Super easy and quick!

Mix together all the ingredients for the cake. The mixture should be thick and slightly sticky.

Pour mixture into the baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely and slice in half horizontally.

Make the cashew whip. Place all the cashew protein whip ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth.

Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of a container, top with half the cashew protein whip and then add the other layer of cake, and then the remaining whip on top. Set in the fridge for 3 hours.

Garnish with a sliced strawberry and a dash of cinnamon! Can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days.

We hope you enjoyed making this breakfast cake!

How did your breakfast cake turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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The Amazing Nēnē – the Hawaiian Goose

Nene
Photo credit: Jack Jeffrey

The state bird of Hawai’i is the Nēnē. It is also the rarest goose in the world – in fact it’s one of the most endangered waterfowl species on earth. Efforts to increase the nēnē population are ongoing and have been successful.

History and decline

The nene are a close relation to the much larger Canadian goose and first migrated to the islands approximately 500,000 years ago. Since their arrival they have adapted to their environment, developing padded toes and claws – most likely in order to navigate the lava rock terrain.

At one time during the 1700s the population of the nēnē likely exceeded 25,000. However, due to changes brought about by the arrival of the Europeans (such as agriculture changes to the environment, and the introduction of predators) the population went into decline. 

The decline of the nēnē was almost permanent. By the turn of the 20th century nēnē were only found on the Big Island and by 1950 there were just 30 birds still alive.

The Nēnē

The nene is a medium-sized goose. They grow to about 25 inches and have a black head, gray/brown body, and webbed feet. They can be found in volcanic areas, alpine grasslands, and in pastures in rural locations. They can live in locations from sea level to 8,000 feet. There are now populations of nēnē on all major Hawaiian Islands. Their diet consists of leaves, seeds and various fruits. Their breeding season runs from October to March. The nēnē mate for life and their nests are built on the ground, making them vulnerable to predators. The nēnē young remain flightless for the first 4-6 weeks.

Nene chicks
Photo credit: Beverley Goodwin / Flickr

Nēnē predators

Dogs, rats, cats, pigs and the mongoose, are all predators of the nēnē. Indirectly – cattle, pigs and goats affect the nēnē by altering their physical environment and potentially disrupting access to food. Management of nēnē populations on Maui now include predator control initiatives such as fences.

Check out this fantastic video of the Nēnē by Mark at AviBirds.com 

State bird

The nēnē became the state bird in 1957. Nēnē, in Hawaiian, means “to chirp, as a cricket; to croak… whimpering, as a sleeping infant.” It is pronounced ‘nay-nay’.

Breeding programs

By 1990 more than 2,000 nēnē had been returned to their native habitats as a result of captive breeding programs. The program at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park also focused their efforts on controlling predators and improving the conditions of the nēnē’s habitat. As a result of programs like this, and on other islands (Maui, Oahu and Kaua’i), there are now approximately 3,200 nēnē in Hawai’i. 

Rainbow-Nene

Where to see them

The best place to see the nēnē on the Big Island is Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. They are often seen on lava fields, in the Crater Rim Trail area, and also near the road itself (Crater Rim Drive) – keep an eye out for the ‘Nēnē Crossing’ signs!

You might also see them on the Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a ʻŌhiʻa Trail (just north of Kona) – for more information https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/puu-waawaa-halapepe-and-ʻohiʻa-trails/

The nēnē population continues to be monitored but still faces significant challenges to their survival from the many introduced predators.

Further reading

There are many birds to discover on the Big Island. Check out our blog on some of our favorites – Top 7 native birds on the Big Island

And for more details on birdlife on the island explore Hawaii Birding Trails.

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Chocolate Cherry Bars

Perfect for the holiday season, these chocolate bars are sweet, chewy and snack-size. These bars can be made with different types of preserves but we went for cherry because it’s such a great combination with chocolate.

This recipe is a variation on a Bob’s Red Mill recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Bars. We used Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour but other brands work just as well.

Ingredients

1½ cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1 cup Rolled Oats

½ cup Wheat Germ

½ cup Brown Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Salt

1 cup melted Butter

10 oz Cherry Preserves

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

½ tsp ground Cinnamon

1 cup Chocolate Chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Add melted butter and stir until the consistency of a crumbly dough.

Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a bowl, combine cherry preserves, vanilla and cinnamon and then spread evenly over the mixture in the pan.

Sprinkle chocolate chips and the remaining mixture over the preserves.

Bake until the top layer is brown and the preserves begin to bubble. Approximately 35-40 minutes.

Cool completely before slicing.

We hope you enjoyed making these chocolate cherry bars.

How did your bars turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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The Mighty Hawaiian Avocado

Everyone loves avocados. Hawaiian avocados have a delicious, rich, creamy flavor and are packed with healthy oils. The Hawaiian climate makes growing avocados easy and they’ve become one of Hawaii’s favorite exports.

200 avocado varieties

There are over 200 different avocado varieties grown throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Cross-pollination is responsible for the proliferation of the avocado varieties. But it’s the Hawaiian climate that’s the reason for why many believe Hawaiian avocados are some of the best in the world. The microclimates and the fertile soil often produce very large avocados with significantly higher amounts of healthy oils. The avocado season usually runs from September to May of the following year.

The main variety of avocado grown in Hawaii is the Sharwil variety (above). Originally from Australia, the Sharwil has a velvety smooth, creamy texture. This variety is often exported to the mainland. They have a classic pear shape and we grow this variety here at the guest house. It grows very well along the Kona Coast.

Did you know that you can freeze avocados?

All it takes is a little preparation and you’ll be eating avocados all year round. First, cut the avocado in half and remove the seed. Smear some lemon juice on the open flesh of each cut half. Wrap each half with plastic cling wrap, careful to make sure it’s entirely sealed. Place the cut halves of the avocado in a freezer bag and seal tight. Freeze and enjoy avocado anytime!

Butter avocados

Perhaps our favorite avocado is the Kahalu’u variety (below), also known as the butter avocado. This variety has a buttery, creamy texture and can grow to twice the size of the average Sharwil variety. The season for the Kahalu’u is from late October to December. We have a Kahalu’u avocado tree here at Horizon. This season we have seen some huge avocados from our tree, many over 1.5 pounds each!

Other popular varieties grown in the islands include the Malama, Yamagata, Greengold, Beshore and of course the popular Hass. The Hass is a smaller avocado with a pleasant flavor but overall contains less oil content than the other Hawaiian varieties. Many of the Hawaiian varieties were named after the families of farmers who discovered the seedlings.

Most avocado trees are not grown from seed but are grafted, a process in which part of an existing mature tree is cut and placed in a rootstock. This process means that there remains consistency in the quality of the fruit with the new trees. The first time yield for an avocado tree is 8 to 12 years, but there is nothing like the creamy, rich texture of the mighty Hawaiian avocados – they are well worth the wait.

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Snorkeling Kahalu’u Beach Park

Kahaluu-bay Kona 2
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

Kahalu’u Beach Park is one the most popular snorkeling spots on the Big Island of Hawaii. While we recommend Two Step and Kealakekua Bay as two of the best, Kahaluʻu Bay has its own charm.

The beach park is located in calm water only minutes drive south of Kailua-Kona. Its easy location makes it the perfect place to snorkel if you are staying near Ali’i Drive, or in one of the hotels around the waterfront.

Kahaluu-Bay-Aerial_Please-Credit-The-Keeper-of-Bay-Production-resized
Photo credit: Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center

The bay itself is well-protected by a fringing reef, providing safe, calm waters for your snorkeling adventure. The water is relatively shallow, at about 4-5 feet deep. Green sea turtles are often seen in the bay as they like to sun themselves on the rocks.

Some of the sea life you might see when snorkeling include: sea urchins, octopus, eels, turtles, and of course plenty of tropical fish such as yellow tang, parrotfish, rainbow fish, and more.

hawaii-snorkeling-at-kahaluu-beach-park-big-island
Photo credit: wanderwisdom.com

Take care to snorkel in the south part of the bay. Traditionally, the north part of the bay is where surfers congregate. But there’s plenty of room for snorkelers and surfers alike! 

Free parking is available at the beach park. There are also picnic tables, showers and bathrooms, and snorkel rentals. Lifeguards are on duty from 9:30am–4:45pm every day.

Keep in mind that this is a very popular snorkeling destination because of its accessibility to downtown Kona. During the busy season (Nov-Mar) it can get crowded. Your best strategy is to arrive as early as possible to avoid the crowds. The ocean will be at its most calm first thing in the morning before the wind changes to onshore. 

The best snorkeling is found in the cove directly out from where you first enter the water. The water is a little clearer further out, due to the fresh groundwater that comes up through the sand near the shoreline causing a blurry effect in the water.

Photo credit: paradiseinhawaii.com

When the tide goes out there are plenty of shallow tide pools to explore in amongst the rocks. The park also has large pavilions for added shade and the beach park is the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch. Don’t have a car? The beach park is close enough to Kailua-Kona you can walk to it (if you’re staying nearby), cycle to it, or make use of the Kona Trolley! 

If your stay on the Big Island is limited then a short trip to Kahaluʻu Beach Park for snorkeling is well worth it. Make sure you get there early to avoid the crowds, and before the parking lot begins to fill up! 

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Key Lime Pie with Almond Macadamia Nut Crust

Key Lime Pie is a classic and we decided to make it with a twist! We had some guests that were gluten-free so the challenge was to create a tasty crust without the gluten. The answer was a combination of almond flour and roasted ground macadamia nuts.

The Key Lime Pie filling recipe is courtesy of Vaughn Vreeland at The New York Times.

Ingredients

FOR THE CRUST

    • 6 oz macadamia nuts
    • 1 cup almond flour
    • A pinch of salt
    • 1/3 cup of sugar
    • 2/3 of a stick of butter

FOR THE FILLING

    • 1(14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
    • 3 large egg yolks
    • 1 tablespoon fresh finely grated Key lime zest and ½ cup juice*
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal), or ¼ teaspoon table salt

Instructions

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare the crust: Lightly roast the macadamia nuts [300 degrees for about 10 minutes] – grind up using Cuisinart. Add almond flout, pinch of salt, 1/3 cup regular sugar and pulse to combine. Add 2/3 of a stick of melted butter and pulse to combine.

Turn out into a pie or tart pan (I used a tart pan with removable bottom) and press to even out bottom and sides. Use a square sided measuring cup to help smooth it out.

Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until the color begins to deepen slightly. Cool completely.

While the crust cools, prepare the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, yolks, lime zest and salt. Add the lime juice and whisk until evenly combined and noticeably thicker, about 1 minute.

*I juiced one lemon first into the measuring cup, then juiced the balance from regular limes to make the 1/2 cup of juice. The zest was only from the limes.

(You may be tempted to prepare the curd in advance, but don’t do so more than 5 minutes before baking, as the lime juice may cause the mixture to curdle.)

Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the curd is set at the edges and slightly jiggly in the middle. Transfer to a rack to cool completely at room temperature, about 1 hour, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

We hope you enjoyed making this delicious twist on the classic Key Lime Pie!

How did your pie turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Rambutan on the Big Island

The Rambutan has an unusual, almost alien-like appearance, with its bright red skin and numerous red pliable spines. But this fruit hides a delicious flesh inside and is definitely one to try during your Big Island stay. 

Where did the rambutan come from?

The rambutan is not endemic to Hawaii. The fruit is native to Southeast Asia and is a relative of the lychee, longan and mamoncillo. The name rambutan comes from the Malay-Indonesian word for hair ‘rambut’, due to the fruit being covered in hair-like spines.

The rambutan

The rambutan tree is an evergreen tree that can grow to almost 80 ft. The fruit range in size from 1-2.5 inches in length. The flesh of the fruit is translucent and contains a single seed. The rambutan is eaten raw by simply cutting open and then extracting the flesh inside (you can also pull apart the skin from the middle if you don’t have a knife). The entire fruit can also be cooked and even the seed is edible.

The flesh itself is sweet and fragrant with a floral flavor. The flesh is jelly-like in consistency and is super healthy, containing vitamin C, iron and potassium. It’s often used in desserts, like sorbets and puddings as well as in curries and other savory dishes. Their shelf-life is short and they are often made into jams and jellies.

You will often find rambutan at farmers markets rather than at your local grocery store as the fruit themselves don’t travel well. Like lychee, they are even better when chilled before eating.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Pumpkin flavored treats are comfort food this time of year. The pumpkin chocolate chip cookie bars are easy to make and perfect for Halloween, or as a treat with your morning coffee. The key is not to overwork the dough as this can change the consistency of the cookie bar.

This recipe is courtesy of Jesse Szewczyk at The New York Times.

Ingredients

¾ cup/170 grams unsalted butter (1½ sticks)
Nonstick cooking spray or neutral oil
1¾ cups/385 grams packed light brown sugar
¾ cup/170 grams canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups/320 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups/9 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

In a saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring continuously to prevent the milk solids from burning. Stir until the butter foams, darkens to a light amber color and becomes fragrant and nutty, approx. 3 to 4 minutes more (be careful that the butter doesn’t burn). 

Pour the butter along with any of the browned milk solids into a large heatproof mixing bowl. Let cool for 20 minutes until warm, not hot.

Heat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch metal or glass baking pan with cooking spray or oil. Line with a piece of parchment paper that hangs over the two long sides to create a kind of sling.

Add the brown sugar, pumpkin purée and vanilla extract to the cooled butter and whisk until smooth and glossy.

Add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cloves and nutmeg (you can substitute pumpkin spice if you don’t have cloves and nutmeg).

Stir with a spatula until a soft dough forms with no patches of unincorporated flour. (Be careful not to overmix).

Add 1 ¼ cups/216 grams of the chocolate chips and stir, taking care to evenly distribute throughout the dough.

Transfer the dough to the baking pan and press into an even layer using a spatula or clean hands coated with nonstick spray or oil. Sprinkle the top with the remaining chocolate chips – press them in so they stick.

Bake until the bars are puffed and the top is lightly browned. A skewer or a knife inserted into the center should come out clean with just a few crumbs attached. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

Let the bars cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour. Using the parchment paper, lift the bars out of the pan and cut into 24 squares.

You can keep the cookie bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

We hope you enjoyed making this Halloween-inspired treat!

How did your cookie bars turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Essential Big Island: Two Step snorkeling

The Big Island has some of the best snorkeling in the state of Hawaii. Two Step is one of those places (along with nearby Kealakekua Bay). We recommend you don’t miss out on this amazing snorkeling spot.

South Kona is perhaps most famous for coffee and snorkeling. Both Two Step and Kealakekua Bay have some of the best snorkeling on the island and in the entire state. Two Step is especially popular because it’s easy to get to and even easier to jump straight into the ocean and start snorkeling.

Two Step Hawaii
Photo credit: bigislanddivers.com

Two Step is the name of the beach and also the name of the two naturally occurring steps inset into the rock at the ocean’s edge. These steps are where you enter the water. It can get crowded at peak times, so we recommend getting to Two Step as early as possible. This way you will beat the crowds and also take advantage of the calm ocean surface which is best for snorkeling. Alternatively, the end of the day can be a less crowded time to go snorkeling too.

You will find parking right at the beach itself but keep in mind this fills up quickly. On the opposite side of the road is paid parking. There is more free parking on the side of the road which approaches the National Park next to Two Step. If you park here it’s just a two minute walk down to the beach. You can also park in the National Park itself.

Entering the water is easy because of the two naturally-formed lava steps (hence the name two step). It’s mostly lava here, and there isn’t much sand. But the snorkeling is easy and there are no currents, making it a perfect place for beginners to try snorkeling. We recommend using a flotation device (either a belt, or even a boogie board) if you feel apprehensive about being in deep water (10-15 feet). Using a boogie board is a great way to simply relax and concentrate on observing the marine life.

Photo credit: Bigislandguide.com

Two Step is popular with local residents and tourists alike. Despite the lack of sand there is still shade and it makes a nice location to set up a beach chair and relax by the ocean. There is also a shallow bay to the left of the boat ramp that serves as a safe place for children to swim, or adults who aren’t confident in deeper water.

Two Step is one of the jewels of South Kona. You’ll see plenty of fish including yellow tang, butterflyfish, eel, parrotfish, and puffer fish, to name a few. You might even see dolphins and the occasional turtle. Keep in mind it’s now illegal to swim with spinner dolphins. A distance of at least 50 yards must be maintained at all times.

There are limited facilities at Two Step. There are porta potty restrooms, but no showers. There are also a few picnic tables.

Two Step is definitely an essential stop on your Big Island journey. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or just a beginner, there is something for everyone at South Kona’s celebrated snorkeling spot.

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Clem’s Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie is a classic British dessert consisting of layers of caramel, banana and cream. Our variation reduces the amount of caramel and adds a layer of chocolate ganache. If you haven’t tried this pie before you’re going to love it! Caramel, banana and cream (and now chocolate) is a winning combination.

Ingredients

14 oz sweetened condensed milk
14 graham crackers
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
nonstick cooking spray
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 bananas, sliced

Chocolate ganache layer
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup of chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and put in a larger baking dish. Fill the larger dish with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the smaller dish. This technique is known as Bain-marie.

Place in the oven and bake for 90 minutes. Check the water level every so often, making sure that it reaches halfway and refilling as necessary. Carefully remove the baking dish from the hot water bath and let cool to room temperature.

Whisk the mixture (now it’s become dulce de leche!) until smooth.

Note: you can make dulce de leche by heating the whole can of sweetened condensed milk using an Instapot. Make sure you follow the instructions to do so carefully. Find out more: https://apressurecookerkitchen.com/condensed-milk-dulce-de-leche/

Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F (180˚C). In the bowl of a food processor, combine the graham crackers and melted butter. Pulse until crackers are finely ground and the mixture has the consistency of wet sand.

Grease a 9-inch (22 cm) tart pan with nonstick spray. Add the graham cracker mixture to the tin and press evenly to cover pan.

Bake crust for 5 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

Spread the dulce de leche inside the tart crust, using a spatula to smooth it into an even layer.

In a small bowl mix together cream and chocolate chips for the ganache. Microwave for 1 minute on high, stir, and then microwave on high for another 30 seconds. 

Whisk until it forms a shiny ganache.

Spread the chocolate ganache carefully on top of the dulce de leche layer.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, until set.

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

Remove the pie from the refrigerator. Place the banana slices over the chocolate layer. Top with the whipped cream, spreading evenly to cover bananas. Serve!

We hope you enjoyed our variation on the classic banoffee pie! Enjoy!

How did your pie turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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