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.


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!

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!



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.