Monday, April 27, 2009

Coconut Layer Cake for My friend C.

Earlier in the year, my friend C. and I went on vacation together to the Turks and Caicos. Although we speak nearly every day, unfortunately we are on opposite ends of the country and only get to see each other a few times a year. Last week, C. was in California, not to visit me, but to enjoy a few rounds of golf.

The resort was only about 2 hours from where I lived. C. invited me to come out to the resort and enjoy the pool. Given it was C's birthday a cake was in order. I was going to make C. a carrot cake, oops bad choice. Through the grapevine, I heard that coconut cake was C's favorite. Coconut cake that did not sound that tasty to me. My husband inquired, "look who are you making the cake for, you or C". Valid point it was not my birthday cake. If I did not like it I did not have to eat it.

I am rather peculiar when giving presents, I can only give a present that I like. How often have you gone to a wedding registry and not seen anything on the registry that you like. I have a difficult time, giving something I do not really like. It should not make a difference. If the bride and groom registered for it, they probably like it.

Okay, I will make the coconut cake. After all, when my birthday comes I can have my choice of birthday cake. If I was going to make coconut cake, some research needed to be done. This is not a cake I had ever given a moment's thought to baking. I had no idea what would make a good coconut cake. Turns out that coconut cake is a big Southern favorite.

After doing some research on the web I discovered that I was not the only one making coconut cake. My friend Lisa, at Anali's First Amendment had made coconut cake ealier this month. One of her friends, Shirley had also made coconut cake this month. Who would guess so many people where making coconut cake this month.

I must confess that my coconut cake turned out to be triumph. For never having thought of this cake it was delicious. C. loved the birthday cake. My husband loved the cake. C. enjoyed the cake so much that a large piece ending traveling part way across the country. I am not sure if I should say thank you to C. for having a birthday and liking coconut cake or thank you to my husband for encouraging me to make coconut cake.

Last weekend I discovered something new. The recipe I used was from Epicurious. It is actually not their recipe, but from Shubox Cafe in New Jersey. I made a few changes to the cake. Given that it calls for sweetened coconut milk I reduced the sugar by 1/3 cup thinking that the milk would give the cake enough sweetness. Next time I would reduce the sugar even more.

Our resort was on the golf course. In the morning it was perfect. We were able to sit outside and enjoy the sun rising over the hills.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Breakfast Carbs

What to eat for breakfast? For me this has become an easy decision. A few years ago I went on a modified Atkin's Diet. I eat protein, avoid carbs and devour fruit. Which is why it is a modified Atkins.

However as someone who enjoys exercising I sometimes feel that I need the carbohydrates for energy. It is hard to go for a run or long bike riding without having reserves. Protein alone just does not cut muster in giving your body the energy it needs.

When I changed my diet a few years ago, I started eating cottage cheese with fruit for breakfast. Given I live in Southern California, I have my choice of fruit year round. During the winter months, there is a steady supply of berries, plump red raspberries, fresh blueberries and strawberries. The summertime brings fragrant peaches, ripe nectarines and a variety of plums. For me, I never tire of this breakfast.

But, I feel the need for carbs. Recently I was searching for a new snack, something healthy yet filling. Perusing the web, I stumbled upon Ariela's recipe from Baking and Books for Homemade Granola Bars.

This recipe looked like it would do the trick, however it contained the evil ingredient, "sugar". Except for when I am devouring chocolate eggs, bunnies and jelly beans, I try to avoid sugar. Not because I am dieting, but because there is a history of adult diabetes in my family and I have been symptomatic since I was a teenager. Eat sugar, BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS REACT.

I emailed Ariela, a rather early morning scattered brain email for her opinion on making the recipe without sugar. Given I did not mention the name of the recipe, introduce myself properly I am surprised Ariela was kind enough to respond. If you want to make the granola bars, the sugar is needed to hold them together.

As an attorney, I love it when clients ask for your advice and then go and do what they wanted to do anyway. Well I was now becoming a client, I asked Ariela for advice and then did what I had intended to do all along. Make the recipe without sugar.

Shocking my granola bars did not stick together. But not to fret, I created granola cereal, without the structure of the bars. Depending on what fruit you like want to put in your cereal, Ariela's recipe is a great basic for granola. You can adapt the recipe to your taste.

For those of us, that would never eat oats or wheat germ this is a great way to integrate it into your diet. You really do not even realize you are eating them.


8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups
1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds, approximately 1/2 cup
3 ounces sliced almonds, approximately 1 cup
1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup
1/2 cup toasted shredded coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit. I have been experimenting with my dried fruit, Initially I used dried apples and cranberries, Another time it was apricots, because I had run out of apples. You can use whatever dried fruit you fancy.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven at 350 degrees F. and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Add the dried fruit, along with the vanilla and cinnamon and bake for about 15 minutes longer. Be careful not to overcook the apples.

Serve with milk or yogurt. You can also top off the granola with fresh berries.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rose Bakery's Carrot Salad

Given that I have eaten an entire bag of See's jelly beans in one day, I thought that I would write about a healthy food, carrots.

Carrots are a great vegetable. They have great color and texture. Unfortunately I do not think that they find themselves into too many recipes, except for maybe carrot cake. I enjoy eating the smaller carrots with the tops on...however when I was at the market today I was shocked that they wanted $3.00 for a bunch of maybe 6 of them. I could not do it. So I settled for a bunch of larger skinny ones instead, only $1.49 a bunch, much more reasonable says this frugal cook.

About a month ago I was surfing the web and came across a cookbook for a bakery in Paris, Rose Bakery. What makes this bakery interesting, is that it is run by an English woman and her French husband, and serves English food. How could they possibly succeed in a city like Paris, that has a potpourri of bakeries and pastry shops to choose from? I was not really sure.

Not only has Rose Bakery succeeded in garnering their own little crowd, they have published a cookbook, Breakfast Lunch Tea.

This sounded like a good title, breakfast, lunch, tea. So off went my order and my book arrived. I am very fussy about my cookbooks. I like them to have great photos, with wonderful lighting, making everything look delicious, and leaving me salivating. I may not have purchased this book if I had had an opportunity to look at it in the bookstore, as the photos were not that appetizing.

It is probably fortunate for me, that I had ordered the book from Amazon. The recipes were interesting and after laying in bed reading the book, there were a number of recipes I was enthusiastic to try. Given that this is Holy Week, I thought that it would be appropriate to try the carrot salad. I must say I was pretty impressed with this salad.

If you are in the mood for something healthy and fresh, Rose Bakery Carrot and Seed Salad is your choice.

Rose Bakery Carrot and Seed Salad

Serves 6
1 cup roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
8 medium carrots grated
1 handful chopped chives

For the dressing
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt (I omitted the salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon caster sugar (I omitted the sugar)
about 3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Season the seeds wit the salt, spread them evenly on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes until they are lightly roasted and crisp, turning frequently. Set aside to cool.

Place the carrots in a serving bowl.

For the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, salt, pepper and sugar in a bowl, then whisk in the oil.
Pour the dressing over the carrots and mix well.
Sprinkle with the chives and the cooled seeds.

carrot photo courtesy of GNIKRJ on flickr

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easter Wonders

Spring has arrived and the skies are alive with beautiful blossoms.

I would like to welcome you into a world of Easter treats and delights.

Spring is a time for new beginnings.

Barnyards are full of chirping chicks.

Pink bunnies are a cute addition to any farm.

Mrs. Cottontail is dressed up in her Sunday best, ready for Easter.

These rabbits have a delivery of easter eggs.

The roosters will help the bunnies deliver their treats.


There's a Peep on my Tart

My little pink peep is wishing everyone a Happy Easter.

After checking out the eggs Pink Peep, found her way over to the tart. She is quite the little tart herself, as she invited all her "Peeps" over to the tart. Below is an Eggplant, Roasted Pepper Tart or with all these peeps, should I call it an "Eggplant Peeper Tart".

You may be wondering why there are peeps on my tart. Jennifer at Savor the Thyme is having a contest, where peeps are coming out to savor some healthy meals. I tried to make something healthy, Roasted Eggplant Pepper Tart. I must confess this is not my favorite tart and I would change the recipe if I was to make it again.

This whole peep marshmallow animal eating concept is rather strange to me. Having grown up in Canada, we did not have peeps at Easter, or any time of the year. We had marshmallows, but they were for roasting over a fire pit. I think I took my first taste of a peep tonight. Hmmm....I really did not miss much. I must say, they do come in cute colors.

Did you know that peeps, have been around since 1946? There is even a fan club.

For those of you that cannot get enough peeps, there is peeps lip balms. Serious Eats actually did a review of the lip balms. They come in four marshmallow flavors, grape, cotton candy, strawberry and vanilla. Apparently these are not "authentic" peep flavors.

You can also find Peeps on E-Bay. But if you really want to see some peep creativity head over the The Washington Post Peep Show. The peeps are alive in Washington.

Given that I did not like the tart that much, I am going to talk about roasting vegetables instead of giving the recipe.

Roasting vegetables bring out their aroma. This is quite an easy task. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pepper on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil. You do not want to cut off the stem as you will use it to hold onto when you remove the pepper from the oven. Place the cookie sheet with the pepper in the oven and turn every 20 minutes. It will take about 60 minutes to roast the pepper. When you remove the pepper from the oven, let it cool before cutting it open, as it will have liquid inside.

Roasted eggplants have a variety of ways they can be used. For this recipe, I sliced the eggplant horizontally into 1/4 inch thick slices and brushed olive oil on them. Often times my husband and I will enjoy roasted eggplant for dinner. They are done when the white flesh of the eggplant is soft.

If you want to make an eggplant paste, for baba ganoush or another dish, slice the eggplant in half, roasting it again until the flesh is soft. Remove the eggplant from the oven and scoop out the flesh.

Many vegetables can be roasted, just let your imagination take over, asparagus and zucchini both roast well in the oven, just toss them lightly in olive oil and place on tin foil lined cookie sheet. Often times I will use the non-stick tin foil so the vegetables do not stick to the sheet.

I have heard that roasted brussel sprouts are tasty. Given I despise them, I have not been able to bring myself to try roasting them.

You can also roast vegetables on the bar-b-que.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Easter Calories

As Easter approaches, many of us have visions of what we hope will be in our Easter baskets. Myself I am hoping for a basket full of chocolate Easter eggs, jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. The good yet strange thing about me is I like to save my candy so it lasts for months on end.

I know a little strange, but there is something delicious about opening the freezer in August and having a chocolate bunny to nibble on. This is a habit from my childhood. Although then there were siblings in the house and oftentimes there was nothing left to nibble on.

The advantage to this is that I spread out my Easter calories throughout the year. I am not sure how many calories are in my basket, but better to consume 5,000 calories over 6 months than in a day.

Newsweek, wrote an article about Easter calories and the worst Easter candies. The worst offender is Hershey's Hollow Easter Egg, packing a whopping 660 calories. Wow, is all I can say. I went on to their website to take a look at it. It did not look that big or tasty. Sorry I am not really a Hershey fan. This hollow egg, filled with hershey kisses, has more calories than the Cadbury Easter creme egg.

In France, children and adults enjoy chocolate fish. I know, that does not sound very tasty. While this is not a Easter candy, the chocolate is enjoyed throughout the Easter Season. The celebration is known as Poisson D'Avril (the Fish of April). Chocolate and paper fish are used to celebrate this tradition. While plenty of chocolate fish can be found on April Fool's Day, children use paper fish and run around sticking them on an adult's back, running away as they shout Poisson D'Avril,

This celebration is supposed to be several centuries old. The origin is thought to have originated from someone being sent out to the fish market, to buy freshwater fish when they were not in season. I do not know how many calories are in the chocolate fish, however the paper fish are a sure way not to gain weight.

PS. this is a little strange in the posting-I started writing this on Saturday and actually posted it on Thursday-but it shows the posting as Saturday. oh well.

Silk Tie Easter Eggs

Easter is a fun holiday to celebrate, you get to hunt for eggs and eat chocolate before breakfast. As a child I loved decorating Easter eggs, making an Easter basket and enjoying all the goodies that came along with the holiday. My siblings and I would rehide our eggs after we found them and then find eggs in hidden places for months to come.

One year, my uncle sent me a chocolate Easter egg, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. This egg was the largest egg I had ever seen. The chocolate was so thick, my dad had to use a hammer to break it open. That must have been over 39 years ago, and I still remember that egg.

My husband is now the one who fills my basket with all sorts of goodies and I cook the meal and still decorate eggs. Traditionally I have decorated eggs using food dye. Scouring the web I came across a new way to decorate eggs. Silk ties.

I know using a silk tie to decorate an egg sounds rather strange. This is really a very easy project that anyone can do. You will be surprised with the results.

As you can tell, my kitties were fascinated by their new Easter basket.

The materials are quite simple, a dozen or so eggs, a few silk ties from Goodwill, an enamel pot, twist ties, white cloth and some vinegar. Two important steps are an enamel or glass pot and silk ties.

Head over to Goodwill or another thrift shop and pick up what you consider to be uglied pattered ties. The deeper the color the better. Do not worry about the pattern being something you hope your date would never be wearing. The pattern will transfer on to the egg and end up being quite pretty. Colors also come out different onto the egg, so do not fret about using a black or dark blue tie. You should be able to do about three eggs with one tie. Just remember that you want the ties to be silk.

1. Cut the tie open and taking the silk squares wrap the square around the egg. You want the patterned side of the tie to be wrapped around the egg. Cut out a piece of white cloth and wrap that around the silk. The white cloth may prevent other eggs colors from coloring your egg. I used an old t-shirt. Apparently, cheesecloth does not work. Tie these off with a twist tie.

2. Fill your enameled pot with enough water to cover the eggs. Add 3 tablespoons vinegar to the water and bring the eggs and water to a boil. Use a ladle or tongs to place the eggs in the water.

3. Simmer the eggs for 20 minutes. Simmer them longer if you want to eat the eggs.

4. Remove the eggs from the water and let cool.

5. If you want the eggs to shine, polish them with vegetable oil or shortening.

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