I comb rummage sales, thrift stores and the Maui Friends of the Library shops for old community compilation cookbooks. They’re a window into the culture of island family cooking, a who’s who of church bazaar and potluck recipes.
You know that coveted barbecue chicken marinade recipe you’re always asking Auntie to share? Or your friend’s delicious secret recipe crab dip? She may not give it to you at the family potluck, but you’ll likely find it in these books.
That’s why I was thrilled to find that Ben Franklin Crafts/Ace Hardware/Housemart compiles a local seasonal cookbook for about $10. I didn’t have to scrounge around the Kihei Salvation Army–I just had to shell out a bit more cash than the usual fifty cents for a used book. Their most recent edition, simply called The Amazing Cookbook, gathers recipes around a theme of eating healthy. Each section starts with tips on living healthy or an anecdote about a healthy lifestyle change.
When I bought one at Ben Franklin in the Ka’ahumanu Center, the clerk did a little happy dance for me and said I made his day. Apparently, he’d been hawking them to everyone that day, but I was the first to bite.
A word of warning: not all the recipes in the book are healthy, but the ones that are will have a cute “Healthy Seal of Approval” stamp. The book also features little tastes of food trivia next to a few of the recipes. Stuff like “Eggplants ardent really vegetables, they’re berries,” with a link to the website where that info originated. It adds to the charm of the book.
The recipes vary widely. Teri Morita from the Lihue Ace Hardware starts off the Soups and Salads chapter with a story of how she improved her health by running marathons. Her recipe for “Teri’s Go-To Salad” is a healthy green papaya salad like I’ve never seen, with its own homemade dressing and suggestion that you stuff the salad in spring roll wrappers.
From our own Pukalani Ace Hardware, Manasseh Robidoux offers a recipe for Cashew Chicken Salad that’s phenomenal. It’s got crisp veggies and a peanut butter and coconut milk-concocted dressing. Robidoux includes tips on shopping for curry paste and seasoning the salad.
Recipes submitted from the employees are written in their voice, and often include tips on how they like to eat the dish, what to do with leftovers or what grandma they got this recipe from. They’re gems, and the resulting local culinary history is fascinating.
The sweets section has recipes for magic coconut pie–one that magically makes its own crust when you bake it. Lana Baisley from Lihue shares a Healthy Chocolate Cake that’s become a family tradition. It’s made with black beans and stevia for sweetener. The Baisley family swears that no hint of the beans will remain in the chocolate flavor.
From Lahaina’s Hussey family, we get an Oreo cake recipe that’s a favorite at holidays. I don’t usually like recipes that use instant pudding but this one is irresistible and involves layers of cream cheese and pudding separated by crushed Oreos. This recipe “has become a new family tradition and will be passed down to the next generation,” writes Martin Hussey. “It was originally made to be a frosting, but tasted so good the kids started eating it out of the container.”
Definitely defying the book’s largely healthy theme is a Spam sandwich recipe from Honolulu’s Dean Ramos. It has a glorious aioli sauce on it and uses taro rolls, but you can use turkey Spam to make it slightly healthier.
Authentic sauces and marinades are something I paid close attention to in the entrees chapter; recipes like ginger steamed mu, bourbon marinated steak and hot garlic eggplant can all be modified with other proteins and veggies. For example, Pukalani’s Tammy Gomes says to use her lemon butter and caper sauce on a pecan and panko-crusted Mahi dish, but I also found it went great on linguine.
Go to Hmstores.com for more info on The Amazing Cookbook. So far, the book has raised more than $35,000 for the United Way.