Thank you for joining me on the blog today 🙂 Please help me welcome a special guest! I’m excited to have Amy M. Reade here with us. Amy’s latest release HOUSE OF THE HANGING JADE sounds like a wonderful, intriguing read … and don’t you love the cover? I think it adds even more intrigue to what this story is about. Check out her guest post for an awesome insight into her main character, get a yummy sounding recipe, and then don’t forget to enter her giveaway!
Take it away Amy!!!
A Day in the Life of Kailani Kanaka
Not too long ago, I moved back home to Hawaii from Washington, DC. If you know anything about the winters along the east coast of the US, and particularly in the mid-Atlantic and northern states, you can probably appreciate why I just couldn’t take it anymore. My ex-boyfriend, Geoffrey, lived in New England growing up and he didn’t mind the harsh winters. That is something I’ll never understand.
Now my days are spent along the Kohala coast of the Island of Hawaii (often called the Big Island), enjoying the abundant sunshine and soft trade winds. No blizzards here.
But before you go thinking it’s all fun in the sun, I must tell you that there are some strange things going on in the house where I live. I was lucky to find a job as a personal chef for a family that lives in an oceanfront home right on the Alenuiha’ha Channel between the Big Island and Maui. I live in the house with them, in my own suite of rooms, so I’m always there to prepare meals and clean up afterwards.
At first I thought living in that magnificent house would be paradise, but I’ve found that nothing is as it seems. The parents are always fighting about something (that is, unless they’re not speaking to each other). And the kids are the ones who suffer- Justine is only nine years old and she’s a sweetheart. She’s wise beyond her years, probably because of the strife she’s witnessed in her own home. And Marcus- being a teenager is never easy, but he’s got the added stress of his parents’ dysfunctions. And he doesn’t like living in Hawaii- he wants to go back to California, where the family came from.
And don’t get me started about the things that began to happen soon after I moved in. Let’s just say there was a dead body involved, and a visit from a person I didn’t wish to see.
But enough of that. I’m here to tell you about my day, which involves lots of cooking. The kids leave for school early, so I get up at dawn to make their breakfast. They love granola, anything with fruit, cinnamon buns, and huevos rancheros. Keep reading for my huevos rancheros recipe!
Once my employers, Lars and Barbie Jorgensen, have eaten (not together, of course), I clean up and generally have the morning to myself. I love to be on the water and I keep my kayak in their garage, so all I have to do is take it down to the ocean’s edge and I can get paddling. There was a time when I couldn’t bring myself to kayak because of something that happened in the water…but you’ll have to read about that. I don’t like to talk about it.
Often there’s no one around for lunch- or there may be one or two or more people. It all depends on whether Lars and Barbie are home and whether they have guests.
After lunch I start preparations for dinner. I like dinner to be elegant, yet simple. When she hired me for this job, Barbie indicated that she wanted her family to start eating lighter meals, so most of my meals have fish or lean meat as the entrée. I also serve lots of salads and fresh vegetables. All the food I serve is abundant in Hawaii and I like to shop locally. I like to serve dessert, but it, too, is usually light and made with fruit.
When the kids get home from school, I insist on giving them a choice of homemade snacks. When I first started working for the Jorgensens, they had a cupboard for snacks that was filled with chips, cookies, and all manner of processed, salty, fatty foods. Now the kids enjoy things like hummus and veggies, fruits, and yogurt.
I’m trying to get the kids interested in cooking, and I think I’ve managed to hook both of them. Marcus loves making poke (pronounced “poh-kay”), a salad of raw fish that’s popular in Hawaii, and Justine recently made a chocolate cake for her dad all by herself (sort of).
Once the dinner dishes are done and everything is cleaned up, I set out the things I’ll need to make breakfast in the morning and start the cycle all over again. But once those preparations are done, I have the evenings to myself. My favorite thing is to read on the lanai, sipping a glass of wine and listening to the waves shoosh onto the shore below.
The evenings aren’t always peaceful around here, but when they are, it’s paradise.
Huevos Rancheros à la Kailani (how’s that for multi-cultural??)
4 corn tortillas (6-inch)
1 T. olive oil
15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
4 large eggs
¾ c. reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
3 c. chopped tomatoes
1 c. red onion, finely diced
Pinch ground cumin
¼ c. fresh cilantro, minced
2 T. lime juice
1 T. jalapenos, diced (the hotter you want the salsa, the more seeds you leave in)
½ t. salt
¼ t. freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place tortillas on baking sheet and spritz with cooking spray. Bake approximately 7-10 minutes or until tortillas are crisp. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on them!
- Make the salsa: Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil. Mix together all salsa ingredients and place mixture in skillet. Heat for several minutes, until salsa begins to thicken. Remove salsa from skillet and set aside.
- Prepare the beans: Add the beans to the same skillet you used for the salsa. Smash some of the beans with the back of a spoon. Add the garlic and enough water to make a paste (not more than ½ cup). Cook over low heat until garlic is fragrant and mixture is warm. Remove mixture from skillet and set aside.
- Put a pat or two of butter in the skillet. Crack the four eggs into the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat until whites are set and yolks are the desired consistency (runny tastes best, in my opinion!)
- Place tortillas on four plates. Divide beans among tortillas, then top each with a fried egg. Place the desired amount of salsa on top of each egg, then sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Pass the remaining salsa at the table.
of the cold winters in Washington, D.C. and disturbed by her increasingly
obsessive boyfriend, Kailani Kanaka savors her move back to her native Big
Island of Hawaii. She also finds a new job as personal chef for the Jorgensen
family. The gentle caress of the Hawaiian trade winds, the soft sigh of the
swaying palm trees, and the stunning blue waters of the Pacific lull her into a
sense of calm at the House of Hanging Jade–an idyll that quickly fades as it
becomes apparent that dark secrets lurk within her new home. Furtive whispers
in the night, a terrifying shark attack, and the discovery of a dead body leave
Kailani shaken and afraid. But it’s the unexpected appearance of her
ex-boyfriend, tracking her every move and demanding she return to him, that has
her fearing for her life . . .
I knew I should have stayed home.
I bent my head as the wind whipped down Massachusetts Avenue, hurling snowflakes at my face, stinging my cheeks with hard, frosty pellets. The icy sidewalks were treacherous, making my walk to work precarious and slow. There were very few others brave or foolish enough to be out in this weather. I passed one man out walking his dog and silently praised him for being so devoted.
I finally arrived at the restaurant. I stamped on the snow that had piled up against the front door and slipped my key into the lock with fingers stiff and clumsy from the cold. Once inside, it only took me a second to realize that no one else was there. On a normal day, one without a blizzard, my assistant Nunzio would already have come in through the back and flipped on the kitchen lights before I arrived. I groaned. Even Nunzio, whom I could always count on, had stayed home. I moved through the darkened dining room and turned on the lights in the kitchen. As they blinked to life, I heard a heavy knock at the front door.
Hurrying to open it, I recognized the face of Geoffrey, the restaurant’s owner and my current boyfriend, bundled up in a thick scarf and hat.
“Kailani, what are you doing here?” he exclaimed, brushing snow off his boots in the vestibule.
“Someone has to be here to get things started,” I answered testily. “I don’t think we can open today,” Geoffrey said. “There’s no way the delivery trucks can get through, and I don’t think we’d have any customers even if they could.”
“You mean I came all this way for nothing?” I whined. Geoffrey smiled down at me. “Sorry. I just assumed you’d know not to come in on a day like this.”
“Why did you come in, then?”
“To catch up on paperwork. Plus, snowstorms don’t bother me.” “Ugh. They bother me. Well, I guess if you don’t need me here, I’ll head back home.”
“Want me to stop by later?”
I didn’t, but I nodded. Geoffrey and I hadn’t been dating for long. He was already becoming a little too clingy.
He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “Be safe getting home. I’d call you a cab, but there isn’t a single one on the streets.” “Believe me, I know.”
I trudged home the same way I had come, the snow falling even harder now and blowing sideways, making it difficult for me to see. When I finally made it to my apartment building, I clumped up the stairs in my heavy boots and stood inside my apartment, leaning against the door for several moments to catch my breath. It took me a while to peel off all my layers. I left them lying on the floor while I heated up milk on the stove for hot chocolate. As the milk warmed, I gazed at a canvas photo that hung in my front hall. It was a faraway view of the beach, taken from my parents’ backyard, overlooking the black sand and the curling waves of the azure Pacific Ocean.
“We’ve got to go home,” I said aloud to my cat, Meli, as she stepped daintily around me. This wasn’t the first time I had expressed this sentiment to Meli, but this time she stopped and looked up at me. She blinked and twitched her ears.
It was the sign I needed.
I watched the snow continue to fall for several hours from the warmth and safety of my apartment. Meli and I curled up on the couch while I tried to read a book, but I couldn’t concentrate. My thoughts returned again and again to palm trees and warm, caressing trade winds, to the faces of my mother and father, of my sister and her little girl. Geoffrey eventually stopped by, bringing with him an icy blast of air as I opened the door to the hallway.
He laughed. “Looks like this storm may never end.”
I invited him into the warmth of the apartment. “Take off your stuff. Want some hot chocolate?” I called over my shoulder as I walked into the kitchen.
“Sure,” he answered, struggling with one of his boots. I joined him in the living room a few minutes later. He was trying to stroke Meli’s chin, but she apparently wanted none of that. Her ears flattened back and she squirmed out of his reach.
I handed him the mug of hot chocolate and sat down opposite him. “Geoffrey, I have news,” I told him warily, knowing he probably wouldn’t be as happy as I was.
“What is it?”
“I’m going back to Hawaii.” I waited for his reaction.
“That’s nice. It’ll do you good to get out of this weather for a while.”
He obviously wasn’t getting it. “No, not for a while. I’m moving back. For good.”
I was right. He was not happy. In fact, he looked stricken, his eyes wide and his mouth agape. “What do you mean, for good?” he asked, choking on his hot chocolate.
“I mean, I just can’t stand it here any longer. I’m never going to get used to the weather, I miss my parents, and my niece is growing up without her auntie. It’s time to go back. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’ll miss you, Geoffrey, but this is what’s best for me,” I added, trying to soften the blow.
He looked like he was struggling for words.
“But . . . but . . . what will you do?”
“I’ll do the same thing I do here, Geoffrey. Sous-chefs are not unique to DC.”
“Okay, but what will I do? Without you, I mean?”
I felt sorry for him. He looked crestfallen.
“Geoffrey,” I said gently, “there are lots of women in Washington who are looking for someone as wonderful and kind and handsome and successful as you are. I have to do what my heart is telling me to do, and that’s to go back to Hawaii.”
He nodded slowly, his eyes downcast. “Is there anything I can say to keep you here?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“When are you leaving?”
“I don’t know. I just made the decision this morning.”
He sighed and leaned back against the couch cushions, holding his mug on his lap and staring into space.
“Geoffrey? You okay?” I asked.
He set his mug on the coffee table and pushed himself up from the sofa. “I guess I should get going, then. Will you keep working at the restaurant until you leave?”
I was surprised that he wanted to leave already, but I didn’t mention it.
“Of course. I’ll give you plenty of time to find another fabulous sous-chef.”
I watched Geoffrey as he walked down the hallway of my apartment building. His shoulders were stooped and his gait slow. He looked like a forlorn little boy. Poor Geoffrey. At the end of the hallway, right by the elevator, he turned around and made a pleading motion with his hands and walked back toward me.
“Kailani, how can you just throw away all the time we’ve spent together?”
I was a little taken aback, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. Such dramatic statements were normal with him. “Geoffrey, we haven’t really spent too much time together. We haven’t been dating very long.”
“But doesn’t that time mean something to you?”
“Yes, of course it does. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and we’ve had fun together. But it’s time for me to go home. And I’m afraid a long-distance relationship just isn’t possible. It’s too far away.”
“There’s got to be a way, Kailani. I just can’t stand the thought of losing you.”
“I’m sorry, Geoffrey. I’ve got to go. I’ll see you at work tomorrow.” I closed the door gently and stood there until I heard the ding of the elevator.
I waited a few hours before calling my mother since there was a five-hour time difference between DC and Hawaii.
She and my father were both thrilled by my news, as I knew they would be. They had a million questions for me, like when I would be coming home, where I would be looking for a new job, and whether I could live with them for a while.
“I don’t know!” I laughed. “I’m going to start putting out some feelers right away for jobs in restaurants and resorts along the Kohala Coast. Someone must need a sous-chef. Or even a head chef. But I’ll be home soon, don’t worry. I can’t stand another day of this winter weather.”
I hung up, promising to keep them posted about my job hunt. Suddenly, the winter seemed a little warmer.
bestselling author Amy M. Reade is also the author of Secrets of
Hallstead House and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor. She grew up in northern New
York, just south of the Canadian border, and spent her weekends and summers on
the St. Lawrence River. She graduated from Cornell University and then went on
to law school at Indiana University in Bloomington. She practiced law in New
York City before moving to southern New Jersey, where, in addition to writing,
she is a wife, a full-time mom and a volunteer in school, church and community
groups. She lives just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean with her husband
and three children as well as a dog and two cats. She loves cooking and all
things Hawaii and is currently at work on her next novel. Visit her website at or at her blog.