Papaya Time!

If I was living in Michigan right now I’d be getting apples, pears and pumpkins at the farmer’s market. Because that’s what I’ve done my whole life. Until this year. When you’ve lived with four seasons your whole existence you don’t even realize how life sort of revolves around the seasons.  I have to say that it’s a little strange going into the credit union and seeing it decorated for Halloween when it’s 82 degrees outside. It’s pretty much never 82 degrees in October in Detroit. And there are never papayas at the farmers markets there… never. In October in Michigan you go to the cider mill and drink apple cider and eat cinnamon donuts. You buy apples and pears and pumpkins. That’s just what you do.

But apples and pears don’t grow well in Hawaii. You can certainly find them, but they’ve traveled long distances and Mike and I are making a commitment to buy and eat local as much as possible.  I’ve been getting to know the local fruits and experimenting with ways to use them. Mike and I found some beautifully ripe papayas, which he loves (and grew up eating) so we bought one. I wanted to surprise Mike with a papaya concoction so I made little yogurt boats out of it. They were so delicious I thought I’d share the recipe here…


I’m still working on my Photoshop skills so this picture isn’t as great as the real thing. But, trust me, it was yumsicles!

Papaya Yogurt Boats

1 papaya, halved and seeds scooped out (make sure to get non GMO papayas…yuck!)

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon raw local honey

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

2 drops Young Living lime vitality essential oil

1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Cut a small slice off the back side of each papaya half so they lay flat on the plate. Mix together yogurt, honey, lime juice, lime essential oil and half the lime zest. Spoon yogurt mixture into the hallows of the papaya halves. Top with remaining lime zest and pecans.


Farmer’s Market Day

I can’t imagine life without farmer’s markets. They are seriously one of life’s best things. I really feel that most people today are so disconnected from their food that they really don’t even realize how they are potentially poisoning themselves on a daily basis. This can be easily changed.

Sure, I get it. Convenience foods are, well they’re convenient. So much easier to go home after work and pop in a ready made dinner from Costco then pack yourself a Hot Pocket or Lean Cuisine for next day’s lunch than to slave over the stove making something from scratch. We are all tired and over-worked. We all need a break whenever we can get one. But what if it were just as easy to make something healthy from scratch as it is to buy something already prepared, or almost as easy? What if shopping at your local farm market could make a difference in ways you don’t even understand? Would you do it?

I’m going to give you 10 reasons right now to go visit your local farmer’s market and buy most, if not all, your food for the week. Feel free to comment below to let us know how it went. Go ahead and share the name and location of your local market. I would love to hear about it!


The Kaka’ako market is our favorite market on Oahu so far (we haven’t been to all of them yet).

10 Reasons to Shop at Your Local Farm Market

  1. You get to know who’s growing your food: It’s been my experience that farmers are super open about their products. They love sharing about their farms, how they grow or raise the food they sell and will even give you recipes or cooking tips for the things they sell. You also get to interact with the people who actually grow what you eat, thereby giving you a more intimate relationship with your food. Mike and I know many of the farmers at Eastern Market in Detroit by name. We are getting to know some of the farmers at the Kaka’ako Market  in Honolulu where we’re now shopping almost every Saturday. We love talking with them!
  2.  It’s less expensive: I don’t know if I need to expound on this one but, for the quality of the food you’re getting, you are paying less than what the product is worth. We bought radishes at the market this morning for $1 a bunch. The same radishes, grown on the same farm are for sale at Whole Foods for $4 a bunch. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw them! Go to the source… it’s typically less expensive.
  3. You know where your food is coming from: Here in Hawaii, 85% of the food is imported. 85%!! And this place has some of the most fertile soil and most optimum growing conditions in the world! It’s not that different on the mainland. Just look at the little stickers they put on top of the wax coating they put on the apples you buy… it will tell you in tiny little words where your apple came from.
  4. You are supporting someone’s small business: Listen, life is not always easy. And for some people, life is a lot harder than for others. Anyone who chooses farming as a career is not doing it to get rich. They are doing it because they care about the Earth, they care about people and they care about food. Do you think any of the the Big Ag companies give a flying fig about any of those things? Hell to the no they don’t!
  5. It tastes better: Just try it for yourself-do a side by side comparison. Buy a vegetable or piece of fruit from a farm market then compare it to one that you bought from some random grocery store. No brainer.
  6. It’s fun: Going to the farmer’s market is literally the highlight of my week. I get to talk with my farmer friends, plan menus on the fly based on what’s in season (yes they have seasonal fruits and veggies in Hawaii too), and sample all kinds of yummy stuff (for free). Plus I get a bit of fresh air and exercise in the process. What’s not to like?
  7. You get connected with your food: Interacting with the people who grow your food helps you to understand that there is more to nourishing your body than just popping something in the microwave. Your food comes from the earth. It is part of you.
  8. It can help educate your kids about food: When I was a teacher I would ask my student where they thought their food comes from. I can’t even tell you how many of them said, “The grocery store. ” or “Costco.” Seriously.
  9. It’s more humane: I’m talking about animal products here. It is absolutely sickening how food animals are treated in this country. While I’m not a vegetarian, I make a big effort to buy meat and other animal products (eggs, cheese, etc) from small farms or stores that carry humanely raised animal products. When an animal’s life is spent in misery and it dies in terror, it is going to be full of toxic energy. You are what you eat.

    Ma’o Farms is part of a nonprofit group that helps train youth in organic farming practices.
  10. It’s better for the earth– Small farms are much more invested in sustainable growing practices.  The owners are typically much more concerned with and connected to the land that on which they work. In addition, many farms have non profit components where they train youth in farming practices. Keep Growing Detroit ( The Grown in Detroit stand at Eastern Market is part of this) in the Detroit area and Ma’o Farms here in Hawaii both have big outreach programs that are making a difference in their communities.

I have to give a caveat… not all farm stands are created equal. Some of them are not actually farmers but importers or resellers. Get to know the people at your market. If they have stickers on the peaches that say, “Grown in Georgia” and you live in Illinois, you know they’re not local. Do your homework and use common sense. And eat local!

Amen ( I just felt I had to write that because I feel like I’m preaching at y’all…sorry if I was being preachy… I just really believe in this, you know?)

Green Papaya: Fruit or Veg?

As someone who tries to eat local organic food as much as possible, it has been a bit of a challenge figuring out what to do with some of the local fruits here. I mean, we don’t have local bananas, soursop, pineapples and papayas in Detroit. Because, you know, they don’t grow there. Lucky for me, I love me a good challenge!

One thing I really love that is hard to find in  Michigan is green papaya salad. Typically you might find this on the menu in a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant, but it’s sort of rare to see them in Detroit. Too bad because that is one delicious salad! Although papaya is a fruit, when picked young it has a mild taste and crunchy texture and is used as a vegetable in Asian cooking.

At the farmer’s markets here in Hawaii, you can often find shredded green papaya in bags. This is super handy if you don’t want to shred the papaya yourself. However, we scored this amazing peeler set when we went to the Kakaako market one Saturday, it’s called the Wiki Wiki peeler set and it is amazing! Look what it did to our papaya…

The Wiki Wiki took the outer skin off this papaya like nobody’s business
Then the second peeler turned the papaya into perfect shreds… what the what?

I think it’s the serrated blades on this thing that make it so amazing. I can’t believe I’m so excited about a vegetable peeler, but, come on! That is pretty cool if I do say so myself!

Another thing we bought at the farmer’s market was Hawaiian chili pepper water. It’s a condiment that is used a lot here and, I have to tell you, I am addicted! I will try and figure out a recipe one day so that everyone can share in my joy. It’s not a traditional ingredient in green papaya salad but I personally think it should be. Our family agrees. Even my mother-in-law said that she likes my green papaya salad better than the ones in the restaurants here. I am giving credit to the chili pepper water for that!

Green Papaya Salad


1 green papaya, shredded

1/2 cup Chinese parsley (cilantro), chopped

5 green onions, chopped (about 1/2 cup

1/2 Japanese cucumber (or any small seeded cucumber such as English), thinly sliced

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half (optional)

1/2 cup chopped peanuts (roasted and salted)


Assemble salad ingredients in a large bowl. This may be done up to one day ahead of time (except wait to add peanuts until just before serving)






Make sure to warn your guests not to eat the chili pepper (unless they love spice). You can also remove it just before adding the dressing to the salad.

1/3 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon shoyu or soy sauce

1 Tablespoon Hawaiian chilipepper water (or 1 teaspoon hot sauce mixed with 2 teaspoons water)

2 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup)

1 Hawaiian or Thai chilli pepper, cut in half and seeded

2 drops Young Living lime essential oil

1/2 teaspoon salt



Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Mix dressing ingredients together well in a small bowl then pour over salad. Toss well and serve.

Come to mama you delicious salad!

Hawaiian Pidgin: A Beginner’s Guide

Here’s a little grade school refresher for you… Hawaii is a state. It is actually the 50th of the 50 states in the actual United States of America. I know it’s not connected by land to the other 49 states, but it’s a state. People here speak English because…well, because it’s a state (although this is highly controversial in Hawaii because of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government in 1893 among other reasons which I do not feel qualified to write about).

I’m beginning with this refresher because I can’t tell you how many people have asked my husband Mike what language they speak in Hawaii as well as whether or not it was difficult for him to come to the mainland and have to speak English. He usually tells them that, because the Hawaiian language was actually outlawed for many years, people here mostly speak English. Except the ones who don’t. Just like everywhere else in the U.S. The reaction is usually one of surprise.

I know, right?

So, for our purposes today we are calling Hawaii a state and the official language here English (controversy is duly noted). But today we’re actually going to talk about another language that is widely spoken here in Hawaii… Hawaiian Pidgin; also known as “ōlelo pa’i ai” (pounding-taro language). It’s based in part on English, began with speakers of different languages trying to communicate with each other and has evolved to form a full-fledged, geographically stable language… how cool is that? It’s like English, Hawaiian, Japanese, Tagalog, and Chinese had a baby and it came out as Hawaiian Pidgin (yes, I know 5 people can’t make one baby-we’re pretending here).

Pidgin can be difficult for a new-comer to understand. The first time I heard it I thought to myself, “What the hell is he saying?” But, with Mike’s help, I slowly began to figure it out. It is actually very entertaining to listen to and even more entertaining to try to speak. When Mike and I pretend that our dogs are talking, we make them speak in Pidgin. For example, one of our dogs might say to the other, “Hey uncle, look at dat cat. Dats one lolo mudda. He all buss up. Stay away from dat bugga.” Try it… you’ll like it.

Some Pidgin Words and Phrases to Know

Bugga-Someone or something not good. Sort of like bugger. But worse.

Dakine-Literally “the kind” but really means more like, “you know what it is” or “that one.” Somehow people know what you’re referring to when you say dakine. I’m still not sure how.

Rubbish-Trash. But no one says trash. They say rubbish. It even says “Rubbish” on the trash chute in our condo. And the one in Mike’s mom’s condo. They must make the chutes special for Hawaii. Or get them from England.

Cau cau– to eat. If someone says, “Hey brah, you want go cau cau?” you should go. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to eat some local food.

Pupus-Appetizers or snacks. Not poop. I know, it does sound funny when someone says, “You like eat pupu?” Try not to laugh.

Tree– Three. Ya, I got tricked on this one. One night at about 4am some drunk guy was yelling outside our window, “Hey u tree faggots! Come back hea! I gone kick yo ass you tree faggots.”

I said to Mike, “What’s a tree faggot?” He hasn’t stopped laughing yet.

Holo holo-To take a trip, go around for shopping or fun. Good times.

False crack-To sucker punch, usually in the face. Try to avoid this.

Cute da bebe– The baby is cute. In the Hawaiian language (as in many other languages) the adjective comes before the noun. So many phrases in Pidgin have a different grammatical structure than standard English. If you understand this, it makes it easier to figure out what the hell you’re hearing.

Ainokea– My favorite word in Pidgin. Basically means “I don’t care.” You’ll see it on T-shirts written like the name of a place (Āinokea, Hawaii). This cracks me up.

No bodda-Don’t bother me. Leave me alone. Don’t worry about it. You have to take the context into consideration with this one. Sometimes on the same T-shirt with ainokea (No Bodda, Āinokea). This also cracks me up.

Buss up– Broken. A piece of crap. As in, “Wat happen brah? Yo car, it all buss up.” Translation: What happened to your car man? It’s a wreck.

Mahu– A transgender man. Don’t go around calling people this. You might get false cracked.

I know this is just the tiniest tip of the Pidgin iceberg but I hope it’s gotten you wanting to hear more of this fantastic, colorful language. To learn more click here for an online Pidgin dictionary or search YouTube for Andy Bumatai’s Daily Pidgin Show for a hilarious introduction to Hawaiian Pidgin.






Beach Necessities: Sunscreen, Towel and Compassion?

It’s a perfect day for the beach… sun is shining, breeze is blowing, temperature neither too hot nor too cool. So you pack your bag with all the necessities: sunscreen, water, etc. and head out the door. On your way you notice a man who looks like he’s experiencing some distress. He appears a bit unsteady; he has a wild look in his eyes. He mutters something to a lady on the street. She moves away from him. You see all of this but you’re in the car with the window rolled up and the air conditioning on so you drive on.

At the beach you find a great spot. Not too close to anyone… there’s plenty of room. You get everything unpacked and start putting on your sunscreen when suddenly there’s a bit of a commotion. The man from  earlier has made his way to the beach, as if following you, and is headed in your direction. His appearance is unkempt; long, scraggly reddish beard, dirty clothes, pale face smeared with God-knows-what. He is most obviously homeless. And mentally ill. Your heart rate increases slightly and you look around to see if anyone else notices this person who is both out of place and fits in at the same time. No one does.

He continues towards you. His gait is labored, eyes glassy as he staggers along and drops down about six feet from your towel. He immediately passes out. You look around again, hoping that someone else has witnessed this but everyone carries on; eyes focused on books and cell phones…some eyes closed to take a little nap in the sun. What do you do?

I’ll tell you what we did… we moved our stuff down the beach a ways. But that man’s face has stayed in my head for months. In a perfect world, a world much more compassionate than ours, we would have asked him if he was ok. Or someone would have offered him some help. But there he lay, face planted in the sand, looking to all the world as if he had passed on from here.

This problem of homelessness is not new. It has been ongoing since forever and seems to have no good chance of being solved anytime soon. It’s everywhere. In Detroit you expect to see homeless individuals wandering the city streets but you rarely see them in affluent suburban areas. Here in Hawaii, among the beaches and palm trees, the homeless camp in parks, next to vacant buildings, on the sidewalk… anywhere they can find a spot. They are everywhere (except maybe the most touristy of areas). It seems completely daunting.

The availability of affordable housing is a huge issue that makes homelessness inevitable for many people. It’s heartbreaking to see these camps. To see a father with his young son trying on clothes in the middle of the Salvation Army Thrift Store because all their belongings, packed in suitcases, won’t fit in the dressing room. To see an old lady laying on a neatly made mattress right next to a building; the contents of her former residence, stacked like walls all around her. Completely heartbreaking. And all I seem to be able to do is to tuck away these images in my sub conscience and to pray for those souls whenever their faces bubble to the surface of my mind. I don’t know what else to do. It plagues me.

I saw my homeless friend yesterday-the one from the beach. He was sitting on the sidewalk next to the grocery store that’s near our place. He was crouched down, holding a children’s book about Jesus. He was leafing through the book, muttering to himself, completely focused on the book. Mesmerized by its images.

I walked on. And said another prayer.

Soursop: A Spiky Fruit with Big Taste


This week is turning out to be Tropical Fruit Exploration Week for me. Mike and I loaded up on all kinds of mysterious fruits (to us anyway) at the farmer’s market and now I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. Not a bad problem to have and actually pretty fun! I’m also learning a lot about which fruits are indigenous to Hawaii and which fruits were brought here for cultivation (well they all were brought here by someone or something but I think you know what I mean).

Today’s experimental fruit is soursop. I didn’t even realize that I had seen products containing this fruit before. As a big fan of Mexican grocery stores in Detroit, we’ve actually seen it called by it’s other name; guanabana. You can find it at E &L Mercado in Detroit in the freezer section as pulp or in the juice section. They might even have it fresh… who knows?

Soursop has a sweet and sour flavor; a bit like guava, and a creamy yet fibrous texture. It has been noted to have some quite amazing health benefits ranging from cancer prevention to curing a hangover… sign me up!  It’s porcupine-like appearance makes it seem a bit daunting but I went ahead and decided to turn it into a smoothie.

cut-fruit-1First things first… you need to extract the pulp. I read that it’s easy to slice the fruit in half then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Um… no. That didn’t work so well as the fruit is extremely fibrous and sticks to the exterior of the fruit like crazy. In addition, there are some really big seeds in there which were popping out all over as the spoon was just digging into nothing. I made a big, sloppy mess of the first half. No bueno.

So, for the second half, I decided to cut of the outer peel. This worked much better! I was able to then cut it into chunks and push all the seeds out. I collected all the pulp in a bowl and just pressed it with my fingers to make sure that I had gotten all the seeds… phew!

I decided to make a smoothie with the pulp since it was breakfast time, I was hungry, and I was getting tired of my usual smoothie ingredients. I also thought the creaminess of the fruit would be a nice texture in a smoothie and also that blending it would help to break up all the fibre. I have to say, it was pretty delicious! Muy bueno!

Soursop (guanabana) Smoothie


Pulp of 1/2 soursop, about 3/4 cup (you can also use frozen pulp which would actually be much easier)

1 small banana

3/4 cup frozen fruit (I used pineapple and mango)

3/4 cup fresh kale or spinach leaves

2 scoops protein powder- I use Young Living Pure Protein Complete; vanilla spice flavor

1 1/2-2 cups coconut milk


Place all ingredients in a blender and process on high until smooth…yumsicles!



A Green Orange… wait, what?



That’s right, this orange is green. My husband Mike researched this phenomenon and found out that oranges are actually subtropical fruits, not tropical so their color depends on where they’re grown. When the weather cools (in a subtropical climate), the skin turns orange. But here in Hawaii, the weather stays hot so the chlorophyll is preserved and the fruit stays green. That explains why every local orange I’ve seen has been green… and juicy…and sweet… and very orangy.

We bought our oranges at the Kakaako Farmer’s Market in Honolulu from the Ma’o Farms stand. Ma’o is an organic farm located in Wai’anae, an area that has a high rate of poverty and all the trials that come along with it. The farm not only grows delicious organic produce but it serves the community in many ways; offering youth programs including a Farm to Fork program where school children can come be connected to the Ãina (land), and a farm to college program where students learn about agriculture while earning a college degree. To learn more about Ma’o Organic Farm click here.

So what do you do with a green orange? You eat it silly! They’re super delicious just peeled and eaten whole but you can also use them in cooking just like any other orange.

With these oranges I made a super easy, really refreshing no added sugar orangeade. If you don’t have access to green oranges, you can substitute any juicy orange (duh).


One orange, juiced

5-10 drops liquid stevia (optional) or to taste

2 drops Young Living orange essential oil

2 cups water

Mix together all ingredients and pour over ice. Yes, it’s that easy!

first blog post


Aloha mai no, aloha aku;
o ka huhu ka mea e ola `ole ai.

When love is given, love should be returned;
anger is the thing that gives no life.

Aloha! My name is Shelly Bennett. I moved to Honolulu, Hawaii on the beautiful island of Oahu about a week ago with my husband Mike Spencer. This is the first time I’ve ever lived farther than 30 minutes from the city of Detroit. Detroit is in my blood. So much so that my very first blog that I started in 2010 was called “Little Miss Detroit.” I guess you could say that this blog could be called “Little Miss Detroit Moves to Hawaii.” But I’m not calling it that and I’ll tell you why…

Mike and I moved here so that he can do some research related to health. He’s done a lot of work with the African American and Latino populations in Detroit around diabetes and he’s hoping to do some similar work with the Native Hawaiian population now. Sadly, all of those populations have a much higher incidence of diabetes. But the difference with Native Hawaiians is that there are far fewer people of Native Hawaiian decent and so that means there is less funding and less people looking to study that population.

Mike was born here. Many of his ancestors were born here going back as far as anyone in his family can recount. His father believed that their line were ancient royalty before the time of King Kamehameha The Great and that they had to go into hiding on the island of Maui for a time after being conquered. I like that story so I’m going with it. Personally, I believe that Mike’s ancestors are calling him back here. I think they want him to do some work towards restoring pono to these lands (more on pono later). I am proud to be here on this journey with him and I’m looking forward to sharing our adventures with all of you.