Friday, March 31, 2017

HELP WANTED: Kona Coffee-Spiked Banana Muffins

Yes, I made it! I pledged to write one blog post per month… at least the first three. This was to match my record last year. Now, I need to beat it... but it may need to wait until May.

Coffee-spiked banana muffins
This post really is a call for help. During our last trip to Kona, I was inspired to make Kona coffee banana bread or muffins. I think I was inspired after indulging in way too much Kona and Ka’u coffee. Oh, that magical Hawaiian elixir is so ono and so mild that it did not upset my tummy. It did not help that Kona coffee was all over the place in Kona (duh). There were several cool coffee places overlooking the ocean (again, duh). Oh yes, there was that trip to the coffee plantation too.  Needless to say, that trip was #caffeinated.

The banana bread part comes from the upcountry in the Big Island. Banana bread is a standard treat in Hawaii. When you go Captain Cook or coffee country, there is no lack of stores that sell banana bread. I always get a slice or three when we’re up there so I have provisions for the rest of trip.

Once we came back home, I looked for a recipe as a starter. I think the most promising one was an old recipe from the Washington Post on a coffee-spiked banana bread. I healthified and Maddified it with tropical ingredients like coconut oil and macadamia nuts. Since the weather is getting warmer, I muffinized it to cut down on baking time. 

Sheesh, who am I kidding... I LOVE MUFFINS!

Here’s the call for help: I baked it twice but the coffee flavor does not pop. Don’t get me wrong – the muffins were delicious, but it seems to me that the coffee should be more prominent. I tried to add coffee grounds in it (I don't think that helped with flavor, but it did on caffeine content). I even consulted the original recipe in the Mosswood Cookbook (Yes, It happened to be in my collection).

So... Here’s what I have so far.  Does it need more coffee or am I getting too caffeinated? Or perhaps Kona coffee is just too mellow.  Anyways, as the Hawaiian’s would say… Please kokua. Mahalo nui.

Mad Gourmet’s (In Progress) Kona Coffee Spiked Banana Muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or oat flour
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup strongly brewed black Kona coffee
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or macadamia nuts
  • 1 Tbsp ground Kona coffee (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins or line them with liners. 
  2. Whisk together the flour, the salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Stir together the mashed bananas and coffee in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.
  4. Combine the oil and the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low speed until incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well blended, then add the vanilla and almond extracts.
  5. Gradually and alternately add the flour mixture and the banana mixture to the beaten egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour one. Do not overmix, or the batter will be tough. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  6. Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pans.

P.S. I'm thinking of renaming these to Caffeinated Muffins. What do you think?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mad Gourmet's Vegetarian Poke

Vegetarian Poke
My next recipe was somewhat inspired by a story when we were in Kona for Fourth of July. On the way to the parade, one of the parade participants and I were exchanging what our favorite luau food is. Surprisingly, the discussion turned to poke. I shared with my new friend that I have a vegetarian poke recipe. He was surprised. He had never heard of a vegetarian poke (This was not a surprise to me because my Hawaiian hula teacher once told me that if you will rarely find a Hawaiian vegetarian). 

My new friend was somewhat curious on what was in it, so I explained that it had mushrooms, macadamia nuts, onions, seaweed... His reaction: "Oh... It's like a salad" We both laughed and proceeded to enjoy the parade!

I guess it kinda is.

However, this made me realize that I need to write about my veggie poke. I have been meaning to write about this for a while now, since I made it for Thanksgiving years ago. But you all know how my schedule has been like... Crazy. Time flew by... It has been so long that I misplaced the recipe. I searched and searched and had no luck. So I had to recreate it...

Now, why did I choose veggies, Technically, poke does not need to be made with raw fish. poké in a Hawaiian means "to cut," so (I think) anything cut in pieces is technically pokè. The more popular versions of poké are made of ahi or octopus. Since I cannot have raw fish anymore, I need an alternative.

Hence my version....

Actually, I think this recipe was somewhat based on Sam Choi's poke recipe. I had to start with something, right? I also remember borrowing components from a vegetarian mushroom poke that I found and is now lost.  I knew wanted to use mushrooms, specifically Portabella, as a substitute for the fish. It already has a good meat-like texture.

My other challenge was to replicate the unami flavor of a fish-based poke. The answer was seaweed and soy! I used ogo in this version (from a Poke mix) but I think the seaweed snacks provided more flavor in this case. The Mac nuts should add a burst of protein and texture. I suppose one can use

Try it for Meatless Monday.... And let me know what you think.

Mad Gourmet’s Vegetarian Poke


  • 1 Portabella Mushroom (about 6 inches diameter)
  • 3 Tbsp seaweed (I used half ogo in the poke mix (follow the directions on package) or strips of seaweed snacks)
  • 1/2 medium-sized tomato, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp red onion (You can use a bit more – but I’m not a big fan of raw red onions)
  • 1-2 Tbsp of macadamia nuts, unsalted (I’m a fan of this, so 2 Tbsp!)
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • For garnish: 1-2 Tbsp green onion, chopped

  1. Scrape gills from undersides of mushrooms with spoon, and discard. Cut mushrooms into bite-sized pieces (for me, 1/2 – 3/4 inch).
  2. Combine all the ingredients except for the green onion. Mix well. Allow flavors to blend for 1 hour before serving.
  3. Garnish with the chopped green onion before serving.

Fish and poke bowlHope you enjoy!

I really love this recipe. I get the “poke” sensation, but not miss any meat.

If you prefer, you can make it pescatarian by adding cooked fish to your bowl, I did that the next day because we had extra ahi. Served with taro chips, it's a perfect lunch.

P.S. For more poke ideas, check out Aloha Hawaii’s Poke Page. 

Mahalo for reading. Aloha!