Thursday, November 20, 2014

Aloha and Happy Thanksgiving from Lee McKenzie

Hello, Heartwarmers! I hope everyone’s having a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoying the transition from autumn to winter. I’m adjusting to cooler temperatures and waning daylight hours as I bask in the memories of my recent Hawaiian cruise with Handy Man—sixteen glorious days on the MS Zaandam, sailing from Vancouver to the Hawaiian Islands and back again.

The trip included five days at sea on the way to Hawaii and another five to sail back, which seemed like a long time before we embarked but not nearly long enough by the time we returned. Isn’t it funny how that happens?

Here are some photos and anecdotes of our Hawaii cruise and, if you read on, a giveaway.

I couldn’t believe we had the bow of the ship to ourselves as we sailed beneath and beyond the Lions Gate Bridge. Farewell, Vancouver!


I easily developed a routine for the days at sea:

  • a morning exercise class in the fitness centre (the reason for this will soon become apparent)
  • a hearty breakfast
  • two hours of reading and writing in the library
  • cooking demo in the Culinary Arts Centre
  • a three-course lunch in the dining room
  • time spent reading and writing
  • four laps around the promenade deck (the reason for this must now be apparent)
  • dress for dinner
  • drop by the Sip and Savor
  • an hour in the lounge listening to a violinist and pianist play classical music
  • a four-course dinner
  • evening entertainment

And trust me...“wash, rinse, repeat” never sounded better! Still, it was wonderful to say, “Hello, Honolulu!”


Instead of staying in the city, we rented a car and set off to explore the island, and we didn’t have to drive far to find a quiet beach.


After a wonderful day of sand, surf and sightseeing, we waved goodbye to Waikiki and Diamond Head as we set sail for The Big Island.



The next morning we said hello to Hilo.



And yes, the sand is black.



Then we were off to Maui, and the tenders were lowered to take us ashore.



Visitors to Lahaina are greeted by the city’s famous banyan tree. Yes, believe it or not, that’s one tree!


After a wonderful day of shopping and then lunch on an open-air lanai overlooking the water, we set sail once again.

On Kauai we cooled off with pineapple infused beer...



...and were greeted by an unexpected guest at the beachside restaurant in Nawiliwili.


That was the first time I've ever seen a chicken in a restaurant that wasn't on a plate.

 All too soon we were saying farewell to Hawaii and embarking for Victoria.


The return trip was equally memorable. I had entered a recipe contest sponsored by the ship's Culinary Arts Center...and I won! So on October 1, which was also release day for The Parent Trap, my most recent Heartwarming, I hosted that day's cooking demonstration, and the oh-so-adorable Chef Sebastiano prepared my Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Tart.


And here's my award-winning recipe.

Lee’s Tomato, Basil & Goat Cheese Tart

Ingredients

Pastry, enough to line a 10-inch tart pan
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 medium-sized ripe Roma or plum tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus whole leaves for garnish
8 ounces goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

Prepare your favorite pastry, preferably one that’s extra flakey. (In other words, a recipe that calls for lots of butter!) Wrap pastry in plastic wrap, chill in refrigerator for half an hour. This makes it easier to roll. Roll the chilled pastry and line one 10-inch or four 4-inch tart pans. Brush the pastry with olive oil.

Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a skillet. Lightly sauté the garlic for about one minute, just until it starts to brown. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Cut tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and any tough membrane. Tomato seeds are bitter, so don’t skip this step! Roma or plum tomatoes are best because they maintain their meaty texture after baking. Season cut sides of tomatoes with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place tomatoes cut side down in the skillet and cook over medium heat for four or five minutes. Remove the tomatoes to a plate and set aside.

Add the sautéed garlic and chopped basil to the remaining oil in the skillet and cook just until the basil wilts. Remove skillet from heat, add the goat cheese and stir or whisk until smooth.

Spread the cheese and basil mixture in the pastry-lined tart pan. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up, on the cheese. Arrange one or two whole basil leaves on each tomato.

Bake at 400 degrees for about one hour.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Cut the tart into wedges or remove the individual tarts from their pans, place on serving plates drizzled with a balsamic reduction and garnish with a sprigs of fresh basil leaves.

Enjoy! And to be eligible to win a copy of The Parent Trap, please leave a comment! Tomorrow I'll draw a winner and post the name in the comments.

 

Happy reading and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,
Lee
~~~
Lee McKenzie
Writing fifty shades of pink
www.LeeMcKenzie.com

42 comments:

  1. Lee, before I forget it, I loved your book. Now I have to say I'm jealous of your Hawaiian trip. I lived there a long time ago and have been back quite a few times as my older daughter was in a Hawaiian and Tahitian dance group in Seattle and they took lessons there and in Hawaii (of course mom had to go along) But I haven't been back in a few years and your pictures are fantastic and make me long for the islands.
    I hear it froze their pineapples in the last week, however. First time ever. You went at the perfect time.

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    1. It was our first trip to Hawaii, Roz, and we loved it! Can't wait to go back. Yes, I heard about the pineapples. At the end of Sept/beginning of October, they were having record-breaking heat and humidity.

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  2. This all sounds so wonderful! It sounds like a great time. Roz makes me embarrassed I haven't read your book yet, but it is there on my Kindle. Waiting. Sigh. I think I need a cruise for some reading time...

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I would be to embarrassed to reveal the number of books in my TBR pile.

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  3. Oh what a great post! Loved travelling with you :) Wishing for a trip 'overseas' now! Happy writing! Lisa McManus Lange

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    1. It was a wonderful trip, Lisa! Fingers crossed you get to something similar...and soon!

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  4. I so want to do that cruise!! Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Thanks for the chance to win.

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    1. Thanks for dropping, Robin! It was our second cruise and we loved both of them. I wouldn't want to take every vacation on a cruise ship, but every couple of years it's a wonderful treat!

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  5. That cruise sounds wonderful! Especially all the eating parts

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    1. The food was fabulous, Melinda. Even better was the fact that I didn't have to prepare any of it!

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  6. Okay - new rule. Anyone gets to go someplace wonderful, they have to take the rest of us along. Particularly if there's all that wonderful food involved. Was first jealous of all those beautiful spots, then greatly impressed that you won a recipe contest, and now feeling forgiving because the tomato-goat cheese things sound delicious. Was cleaning out a little pantry off the kitchen and uncovered little tart pans! Must be fate! Seriously, happy you had such a nice time. Sure there's a book in there somewhere.

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    1. A group cruise for Heartwarming authors? Muriel, what a brilliant idea ;)

      I hope you're tempted to put those newfound tart pans to use!

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  7. My college roommate lives in Hawaii and has invited us. The dreaded FOF has kept me from saying yes. But, a cruise.... hmmm

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    1. You and me, both, Pamela. Hate flying. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

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  8. What an amazing holiday. Great post

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  9. Wow! Recipes and travel photos--my favorite things to see in a blog post. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Kristine! Going places, eating, going to places to eat...my favorite things, too!

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  10. It sounds as if you had a wonderful time Lee, and I can't wait to try the tomatoe, basil, goat cheese tart. Although I really wish I had fresh, summer tomatoes for it. I've cruised before but I never wrote while doing so. It sounds like a good way to travel.

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    1. I hope you enjoy the tart, Pat! My family loves it!

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  11. Reading this was a pleasure, Lee, and for a few minutes there, I escaped Deadline Hell! Can't wait to try out that tart recipe, so thanks for sharing!

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  12. I like Muriel's new rule! We had our third snow storm of the season yesterday and we're still a month from the official start of winter. After seeing all the beautiful pictures, I have sunshine/warm temperature envy!

    Congratulations on winning the recipe contest, Lee. I'm going to try it, too.

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    1. I've heard so many horror stories about the snow. I'm so grateful that the Pacific Northwest has been spared so far.

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  13. Beautiful pictures Lee, that black sand looks cool, made me think of pirates and pearls, lol Thanks for sharing a piece of your adventure with us, and congrats on both the release of your new book, The Parent Trap, and your culinary feat :)

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    1. Thank you! The black sand is very cool, and I was especially excited to see sea turtles at that beach.

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  14. What a wonderful trip! I love your beautiful pictures! Thank you so much for sharing your travel adventures.

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    1. You're welcome, Brittney! Thank you for visiting the blog!

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  15. While I haven't had a snow storm I still like Muriel's rule! I've always wanted to go to Hawaii, but don't like the idea of getting there. Loved your post.

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    1. Patricia, I can relate. I am a very reluctant flier, but I loved the cruise and luckily I don't get seasick.

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  16. I'm not surprised your recipe won - I've seen your Sunday night food pictures on facebook. Yum.

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  17. Lovely pictures!! The black sand looks interesting, and that chicken too. I'll have to try your recipe. No need to enter me in the giveaway, I already have The Parent Trap. ( :

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  18. What amazing pictures! It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'd love to take a vacation just like yours!

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    1. We had such a great time, Rula. Oh, to have more time...and money! lol

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  19. Gorgeous photos! I am currently staring out the window at rain (which is not SNOW so I consider myself fortunate), but I might start pricing some cruises...

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    1. It's a rainy day for me, too. And I'm not complaining!

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  20. Oh, you make me yearn for Hawaii! Went a few years ago and took our sons (didn't tell them where we were going until at the airport). What a fabulous place. I vote for a HH cruise! The tart sounds wonderful--and so does your book.

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    1. Leigh, I'm yearning for Hawaii and I just got back! What a great surprise for your sons! And yes, if there's a HH cruise, I'm in!

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  21. I'm delighted to announce that the winner of my giveaway...as selected by Random.org...is Britney Adams. Britney, I'm sending a private email to you as well. Happy reading!

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  22. It's been two and a half years since my daughter and I spent a week on Maui. I'd love to return. You are the third person in the past week to remind me of Hawaii's delights. Maybe it's a sign that I'm meant to go back. I hope so. In the meantime I plan to make your delicious goat cheese tart - but with a GF crust.

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