Before Tom Sawyer, before Huckleberry Finn, when Mark Twain was an underpaid wanna-be newspaper reporter, he found himself in Hawaii. In 1866 at just 31 years of age, The Sacramento Daily Union sent him on assignment to the Sandwich Islands, present-day Hawaii. He spent four months in the islands, sent back 25 letters and was paid $20 a dispatch. 

No glaze. Just plain. Confectionary sugar. Very tasty, toasted. Easy to freeze.

It wasn’t until 1947 that a collection of those letters was turned into a book, Letters from Hawaii. One present-day East Coast reviewer called it ‘a foretaste of genius and the best travel writing about Hawaii I have ever read.’ The book is still available today. Although Twain never returned to Hawaii, late in life he wrote, “What I have always longed for was the privilege of living forever away up on one of those mountains in the Sandwich Islands overlooking the sea.”

When planning a hike/walk and you say, “Meet you at the goats,” everyone knows where they reside. Just remember, don’t mess with the King.

In the Eighties and Nineties Michael and I vacationed in Hawaii often. We visited every island, toured the war memorials in Honolulu and enjoyed all that was available to a tourist. Now, almost twenty years since our last trip, unlike Twain who never was able to return, I wanted one last trip to those old haunts. 

Our version of En Plein Air. We each received a Paint-by-Number kit for Christmas. Our only complaint, the numbers were tiny. Note the glasses.

But once again Covid ran interference to all my plans. Having arrived in Maui to face the increasing Omicron surge, island hopping, Pearl Harbor,  revisiting special restaurants and mixing it up with the tourists on Kaanapali Beach and Lahaina’s historic Front Street were off the table. Surprisingly, my time here has taken on an amazing personality of its own without the possible discomfort a walk down memory lane might have pulled up. I have pictures…

While this unglazed Poppy-Seed Tea Loaf is a Plain Jane, it’s my preference. Toast it in the morning. A tasty addition to afternoon tea or coffee. And, dessert with a little whipped cream or fruit mix on top.

The Ae’o is the Hawaiian Black Stilt, a sub-species of the Black-necked Stilt we see in other states.

Although endangered, these Stilts seem to be thriving at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in West Maui.

The Auku’u, Black-crowned Night Heron, seems happy as well.

“Ooooommgawd is this amazing!!!

This cake batter is mixed by hand. I love that.

I’ve got a little baking adventure for you. No electric mixer needed. A cinch to throw together. No outlandish ingredients required. And if you’re over holiday sugar and sweetness, how about plain and simple. This Poppy-Seed Tea Cake’s texture is ‘a delightful cross between the close grain of a poundcake with a spongecake’s bit of bounce.’

The Gemini is the same catamaran (an updated version) that Michael and I always went on.

The number of humpback whales here may vary from year to year, but NOAA scientists have estimated that as many as 12,000 humpback whales migrate from their feeding grounds off Alaska to breed, calve, and nurse their young in the warm waters of Hawai‘i each year.

Whale watching. This is why I returned to Hawaii. There were 45 people on the catamaran. When the captain spotted a pod of Spinner and Spotted Dolphins feeding at the front of the catamaran, he sent all the kids on board to the bow to have a look. The spinners are such showoffs.

Thanks to Omicron, I am still my personal chef this winter. Not complaining, I have a dream kitchen here in Maui. In Dorie Greenspan’s January “EAT” column in New York Times Magazine, she wrote about her grandmother, childhood memories and poppy seeds. In ten years of cooking through this woman’s cookbooks, I’m entitled to gush over Dorie and her recipes. This is a three-gusher.  

 Having already baked several of these loaves, I prefer plain. The glaze glams it up, adding a tad of sweetness. I’m baking half-glazed, half-plain today for my neighbor. Friends here played taste testers. Leslie’s response is the caption above. The cake apparently also passed muster with her husband with the “WOW” factor. Let’s just leave it there.

Malasadas, Hawaii’s favorite fried treats, are Portuguese yeast-leavened doughnuts enriched with eggs and butter and milk. No holes. Rolled in sugar. The fillings I chose were Haupia (coconut), Lilikoi (passion fruit) and blackberry. And, yes, I managed to eat all three but paced myself!

DORIE’S POPPY-SEED TEA CAKE  by Dorie Greenspan, EAT, New York Times Magazine

Ten Servings


For The Cake:

Butter and flour for the pan

1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 Cups of Sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon or tangerine

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons of lemon or tangerine juice

11/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

51/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup poppy seeds

For the Glaze (optional) :

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds, for sprinkling


  1. To make the cake, center a rack in the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 81/2-inch loaf pan. Place the pan on two stacked baking sheets OR an insulated baking sheet.

2.  Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Put the sugar in a large bowl, add the lemon or tangerine zest. Rub together with your finger until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the eggs, one by one, whisking in one vigorously before adding the next.  Whisk in the juice and vanilla and then the heavy cream until smooth.

3.  Add the flour mixture in three additions, using the whisk to gently stir the dry ingredients into the batter. When the flour is incorporated, add the butter in two additions, again stirring gently with the whisk. You should have a thick, smooth, shiny batter. Switch to a flexible spatula and stir in the poppy seeds. Scrape the batter into the pan.

4.  Bake until it has risen and cracked along the center and, most importantly, a tester inserted deep into the cake comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes. Take a look at it after about 45 minutes and tent it loosely with foil if it’s getting too dark too fast.

5.  Transfer the pan to a rack, cool for 5 minutes and then run a table knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Unmold the cake and then turn it right-side up onto the rack. Cool to room temperature. 

6.  Stir together the confectioners’ sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice until smooth. If needed add more juice, a drop at a time, until you have an icing that falls slowly from the tip of a spoon.  Spread it over the cooled cake to coat evenly, sprinkle with poppy seeds and let stand until set. 

7.  Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for about 4 days. Unglazed it can be stored up to a month. 

Early Morning in Launiupoko



Did anyone besides me need a nudge into 2022? If only we’d had a Trailer like the movies with some teasers as to what’s ahead. I’ve always trusted that I can bloom where I’m planted, make the best of any situation. Right now the situation is 2022, we’re in it, let’s sparkle.

I’m still in Maui and recently found a 20-year old timeworn book of recipes, The Hali’imaile General Store Cookbook. The General Store, 19 miles from me, is still in business. When first glancing through the recipes, it fell open to a dog-eared page with directions to Italasia Shrimp and Scallop Pasta. While more Italian than Hawaiian, Chef Beverly Gannon claimed the dish was an instant hit with customers.

Italasia Shrimp and Scallop Pasta

With Omicron at our doorsteps, most of us will be pulling together more meals at home. Following the holidays, we meal-makers need easy and tasty. Why argue with a dog-eared recipe? Who doesn’t deserve a macadamia nut or two in their future? Need more kick than basil pesto? Use cilantro, the chef’s suggestion.This is simply-made comfort food. With a green salad and country bread, it’s a 5-star home-cooked meal.


Leslie is a long-time Aspen friend. She and her husband Bob divide their time between Aspen and Maui. She’s been very generous in introducing me to Maui.

The County of Maui includes four islands: Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, and Kahoʻolawe. Launiupoko, where I live, is a spacious unincorporated community in West Maui with about 700 residents. When the holiday crowds departed I had planned whaling excursions, birding trips and the like but that’s delayed another week or so.  Despite the Covid resurgence, I still walk/hike on local beaches, the Honokohau Ditch Trail  and up into the hills and mountains behind my house and hit the beach to watch the sunset.

Part of one trail is lined with Papaya Trees.

This is my Easter Island Trail


I was invited to join eight others for an extraordinary hike through the privately-managed Merwin Conservancy. Never heard of it? This small arts and ecology organization is the conservator of a lush and rare 19-acre palm forest that two-time Pulitzer prize winning poet W.S. Merwin, over a thirty year-period, planted and tended on land designated as agricultural wasteland.’  

I’m posting this photo of Leslie and Sara Tekula who led our group to provide a background glimpse demonstrating how 2,740 palm trees fit onto 19 acres.
This is a Spotted Begonia. It is edible.
This palm has a rather spectacular or peculiar (take your pick) root system.

This magical experience included a hike into the Peʻahi Stream valley, historical and botanical conversations and poetry readings by program director Sara Tekula. With over 2,740 individual palm trees, featuring more than 400 taxonomic species and 125 unique genera with nearly 900 different horticultural varieties, the late Merwin’s garden is recognized as a living work of art and one of the largest, most extensive palm collections known to exist on earth.

UKU ( Gray Snapper )

Uku – Christmas Eve Dinner Using a rub that included ancho chile powder, ground coriander, garlic, oregano, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper, this delicate, mild snapper was seasoned perfectly and cooked to perfection..

Before Omicron became more than a pest, I enjoyed dinner on Christmas Eve with 10 other vaccinated, tested and, fortunately as of today, Covid free. Although the crowd-pleasing Opakapaka, was on the menu, recent storms made it difficult to find. Make that, none at all in fish markets. Some chefs believe uku is the most overlooked/under-appreciated of the Hawaii bottom fish.


ITALASIA SHRIMP and SCALLOP PASTA adapted from The Hali’imaile General Store Cookbook by Beverly Gannon

Serves: 4

Cilantro Pesto

1/4 cup whole macadamia nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic
1/1/2 cups of chopped fresh cilantro (basil is a tasty substitute)
1/3 grated Parmesan Cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


Shrimp and Scallop Pasta

1/2 pound dried farfalle pasta
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1 pound sea scallops

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese


  1. For the pesto combine the nuts, garlic and cilantro (or basil) and pulse until a paste forms. Add the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and pulse 3 or 4 times. With the motor running, add the oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thick and smooth. Measure out 1/2 cup for this recipe. Refrigerate or freeze the leftover pesto for other uses.
  2. Bring a large pot filled with salted water to boil. Add the pasta, stir well and cook for 6-8 minutes until al dente. (If you live in high-altitude, al dente will take 8-11 minutes.) Don’t overcook. Drain, place in a warmed bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of pesto. Cover to keep warm.
  3. Place the cream and the remaining 6 tablespoons pesto in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens.
  4. While the sauce is reducing melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and scallops and sauté for 3-4 minutes until almost cooked. Pour the reduced sauce over the shrimp and scallops and heat for a few minutes longer until the seafood is cooked through.
  5. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to cook. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, minced cilantro and chopped macadamia nuts and serve.

HAU’OLI MAKAHIKI HOU 2022, Readers. ( Happy New Year.)



Last week I flew to Hawaii, scooting out of Aspen just before snow, snow and more snow. Maui will be my sunny slice of paradise until mid-February. For seven years I’ve traveled solo every winter, sharing those journeys, hits and misses, with you. 

Blackened Mahi Mahi Salad

Having had my wings clipped the past 2 years and still dealing with Covid regulations, I’m not as breezy about this year’s travel. But pent-up wanderlust won out over Anxious, Reticent and Careful. I’m still carrying around the Careful baggage but taking it on the road.


Raucous roosters are laying claim to Maui’s rural neighborhoods where I live. Residents are crying, ‘fowl.’ Descended from the Red Junglefowl, orphaned by hurricanes, storms and bored chicken farming hobbyists, most locals say it’s nothing to crow about. This Iowa girl loves them.


Can we all agree that with any airline it’s a tough ride these days. That’s why I’m sharing this sad but gracious story of a crew and its passengers united in grace. 

Just as my plane was taking off from DIA (Denver) for Maui, the pilot did a quick turnaround, landing back at the airport. An elderly man, diabetic, needed medical attention. The only doctor on board, sitting next to me, hurried to help the crew. Shortly after the jet bridge was put in place, the Paramedics boarded our plane. A seizure. A stroke. The gentleman died.

We sat at the Gate for 3 hours. United, DIA and the city of Denver needed to deal with this tragedy by the book. The atmosphere in the cabins was subdued, respectful and throughout the process I heard no grumbling nor one complaint.

Three hours later, the bridge was removed. We departed with the  crew putting on smiles, returning to work. Although they appeared to shake it off, this was a young crew, a first-time event for everyone. My seat mate, the only passenger who shared their experience, got busy and spent the flight quietly reassuring each of them they had done everything possible, providing the couple dignity and grace throughout the process.

This is America’s humanity as I know it.


Wherever I travel it takes me a week to find my footing but with a little friendly help, I’d call every day since my arrival an adventure.   

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t purchase Starbuck’s pricey java but I do support its Been There Series and have about 40 mugs from the Across the Globe Collection. I found some 100% Kona coffee on my counter when I arrived. I like Kona Brewing Co.’s Big Wave Golden Ale. Leoda’s Pie Shop is an institution in nearby Olowalu. So far I’ve tried Pineapple-Macadamia Nut and this Banana Cream.
This big boy seems happy to share Kaanapali beach with us.
These two books were on my wish list and waiting for me here. Merry Christmas, Mom, from Melissa. Towles’ book is our book club’s choice this winter.
To mention I arrived with no appropriate Hawaiian clothes is an understatement. I’ve scrambled to put together a wardrobe. Today it’s “shopping for pants day.” Black capris, heavy material, no, just no.
Maui sugarcane company HC&G harvested its last 36,000 acres of cane five years ago but sugar sticks, smoothies, the like, are still sold in local farmer’s markets, food trucks and roadside stands. Grown and Delivered by pickup truck in Maui.
The good news: This seed capsule is gorgeous and when dried, is a crafter’s delight. The bad news: The Autograph Tree is one of the most invasive plants in Hawaii It is an epiphyte on its host tree and eventually kills it.

If you want to see more Maui photos, check out my hirschfrench Instagram #mauilife daily photo. Beginning with Ceviche (first photo above), I’ll get back to making and posting recipes in my next blog. My friend, Leslie, is making Opakapaka for Christmas Eve dinner so maybe she’ll let me share some pictures with you.

Wherever you live, please be joyful and stay healthy over the holidays.



How was your Thanksgiving? If happiness is homemade, I hope your plate was loaded with memorable, familiar food and gratitude for it. While my family was celebrating in four different places last Thursday, we all went to bed well-fed, warm, safely in our homes/dorms and healthy. That means everything.

Red Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup


Miniature Vegetables from our Valley’s Two Roots Farm. Hotel Jerome, Prospect Restaurant

Before I introduce the amazing Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Soup that will be your lifeline to survive December, here’s some news. (I’ll be brief.) 

Do you like board games? I’m a fan which my friend Frances Ginsberg knew. She suggested I order Wingspan. Although one person can play this game (I do) it will be great with a group.

During The Great Plague of 1665-66, Sir Isaac Newton, a 22-year old student at Trinity College, stayed at home to avoid the sickness. While there he invented Calculus and discovered  the Laws of Gravity and Optics. While I’ve not risen to Newton’s level, during the past 19 months of pretty constant isolation I’ve finally accepted the reality this virus is the world’s newest resident. 

These three books are all worth reading. Although two are fiction, “The Dressmakers of Auschwitz” is non-fiction, brutal and tough. Be warned.

Most of my friends came to this reality long before me, resuming a near-normal albeit safe Lifestyle. I’ve envied them. I wasn’t brave enough nor ready. Now I’ve decided, if not now, when? 


Two Vaccination Shots; Check. 

Booster; Check. 

Flu Shot; Check. 

Annual Physical; Passed. 

KN95 Masks; Ample Supply. 

Antigen Quick Tests; 5.

Who knew frozen water and asphalt could create such a lovely image? Thank you, Jane Carey, for spotting this as I was about to tramp over it.

For a dry run, last Monday I drove to Denver to see the Whistler to Cassat, American Painters in France Exhibit at the newly, spectacularly renovated Denver Art Museum. It was a beautifully mounted, thoughtful show and will be up until March 13. Such a joy to see. 

Since that three-day trip went well, next week I am leaving to spend 8 weeks in Hawaii. Michael and I went to those gorgeous islands many times. I want to re-visit the memories one more time. In mid-February I’ll repack my bags and fly to Paris for 6 weeks. This has not been an easy winter schedule to organize but I did my best…..and will share it all with you.

I’m not much of a souvenir shopper but I used to pick up Starbuck’s mugs at cities and countries we visited. I have about 40. Former Saudi Airlines pilot Jim Cain used to bring me mugs from the Middle East. He is gone now but pre-Covid, his wife, Karen, used to stop by, we’d grab those mugs, pour some coffee and remember Jim.

Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Soup (possibly a Martha Stewart recipe)

The red lentils don’t retain their color. The squash and lentils are both softened and can be puréed to the degree you wish.

“Really good soup!  The lentils cut the sweetness of the butternut squash…just right.”  Donna Chase

I made two versions of this delicious soup using chicken broth and then vegetarian broth. Quite honestly I thought the vegetarian which I made for my friend, Donna, was more flavorful than the chicken. In a hurry? Buy cut-up frozen squash in a bag. Although I prefer my soup a bit chunky (I call it rough), you can purée this to a smooth texture.  


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 cups (2 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into one-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 11/4 teaspoons table salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, picked over and rinsed 
  • 5 cups chicken broth (or, vegetable broth)
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Chopped pecans or walnuts, a dab of Greek yogurt and dash of smoked paprika for topping.


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.Toss squash, 1 tablespoon oil, smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper together on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until squash is well-browned and tender, about 25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile heat 2 Tsp. olive oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat until  shimmering. Once the oil is hot add  the shallot and garlic and sauté just until soft, about 3 minutes. Add shallot and garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add remaining tsp smoked paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the red lentils, broth remaining salt and pepper bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about15 minutes until the lentils are completely broken down.
  3. Stir squash into lentil mixture, blend with an immersion blender until smooth (add up to 1 Tbs water as needed to thin soup). Season with salt and pepper to taste Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  4. Combine Greek yogurt 1 Tbs water, remaining 1 Tbs oil, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt in small bowl. Serve the soup dolloped with yogurt mixture, sprinkled with smoked paprika and drizzled with extra oil.
I made cornbread to eat with the soup. With the leftover or stale cornbread, make croutons or during the holidays, make stuffing.
Tart Cherry Buttermilk Scones, also a great taste with this soup-.



In today’s post we’re going to skip the tricks, not even begin a conversation and just concentrate on the treat. With apologies to other pumpkin bread recipes, it’s time they step aside. Why is this pumpkin loaf so special? What starts with brown butter and ends with slathering softened maple-cinnamon butter on top packs a (pumpkin) punch!

Happy Halloween, Loyal Readers. 

This recipe works. A fail is not possible.
In Colorado we can’t decide if it’s Indian Summer, Autumn or Winter. This week Mother Nature chose winter which translates to Independence Pass being closed to cars.

MAPLE-BROWN BUTTER-PUMPKIN LOAF with CINNAMON BUTTER adapted from Kayla, The Original Dish

YIELD: 1 10x5x3”Loaf Pan



1 stick (¼ lbs) unsalted butter

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour*

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin puree

½ cup sour cream

½ cup maple syrup

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)


1 sticks (½ lb) unsalted butter, softened

1/2-1 tbsp maple syrup with warm maple syrup, for drizzling (optional)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp kosher salt

Before I began dismantling my kitchen in anticipation of winter rentals, I made a last, nice meal, Provencal Beef Daube with Italian Egg Noodles. Similar to Beef Bourguignon which features mushrooms, baby onions and carrots that are cooked separately and then added to the stew, a daube is flavored with spices like cloves, oranges and olives and cooked with the veggies and meat.


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Generously grease a 91/2-10x5x3” loaf pan with butter. 
  2. Melt the butter stick to a 2 qt saucepan over medium heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the butter is browned, swirling often, about 6 minutes. Once deeply golden brown with dark brown speckles running throughout, turn off the heat to let the butter cool for about 5 minutes.

3. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. 

4. Put sugar in a separate bowl. Whisk in the cooled brown butter until smooth. Crack the eggs into the bowl and beat with a mixer or hand mixer well.

5. Add in the pumpkin puree, sour cream, maple syrup, and vanilla extract one at a time, mixing until smooth between each addition. Working in batches, sprinkle in the dry ingredients, mixing gently until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.


Ready for the oven.

6. Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a small knife inserted comes out just barely dry (there should be no runny batter left, but there should still be moisture). Cover the bread with a piece of foil and let sit for 10 minutes.

7. Remove the foil and allow the pumpkin bread to fully cool in the pan. When fully cooled, run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and carefully remove. Cut into slices and serve with a swoosh of cinnamon butter (recipe below) on top and an extra drizzle of warm maple syrup, if desired.


When the loaf came out of the oven, had cooled a bit but was still warm, I brushed some cinnamon butter on top to give it more flavor and a shiny look like a glaze.

1. Combine the softened butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor or mixing bowl.

This loaf tastes (and, cuts) even better the following day. Make the cinnamon butter at your convenience.

Blend until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

To Serve: You can serve this bread at room temperature or heated for about 10-15 seconds in the microwave.

To Store: Wrap the cooled bread tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for approximately 3-4 days. Store the cinnamon butter in an airtight container in the fridge. Allow the butter to soften at room temperature before serving.

To Soften Butter: Allow the butter to sit out at room temperature until soft to the touch, usually a couple of hours, depending on the temperature of the room.*

*Note:  If baking at high-altitude, I recommend using King Arthur or Hungarian High Altitude Flour. 

Hello, Old Man Winter.