“We must have a cake. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a cake.”
So I am taking stock of my kitchen and what do I find? The left over coconut from my Thai recipe below and about 20 beautiful, fresh key limes that I purchased at the farmers market last week. I remember thinking to myself how incredible they looked in their little carton at the market, and I had to have them. When I got my bag of goodies home, I dumped my little limes out all over the counter excited like a little kid on Christmas. The enjoyment was short lived as I realized I had no idea what to do with key limes. I knew they were smaller, sweeter and more bitter than their standard sized counterpart. I also knew you could marinate meats in them, make exotic cocktails or spice up a salad dressing. All these options would have been a safe bet for me, and I could call it a day, but how much fun would that be? I decided, instead, to do something I never do... bake a cake.
It is no secret that I stink at baking. I wish I were great at it... and so does my boyfriend. The trouble is that baking is chemistry. It's not really a trial and error sort of thing (well not at my level anyway). So to simplify the process, I work off basic principles:
1.) You can make almost any dessert from flour, sugar, eggs, milk, butter and flavorings.
2.) To produce a good result, pay attention to the quantity of each ingredient, the order the ingredients are combined and the methods used to cook. Baking needs to be accurate and precise. MEASUREMENT IS CRITICAL!
3.) Understand that substitution can change a recipe entirely. For example, bread flour and cake flour are not the same, nor are shortening and butter. The end result will be completely different if you substitute one ingredient for another. A good understanding of your ingredients will make your baking more successful.
4.) Pay attention to mixing directions. For example, do not put muffin batter in a mixer... over mixing causes dry muffins (I know this from lots of experience with dry muffins).
Key Lime Coconut Cake:
*You can make your own self-rising flour: For every cup of flour, add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder, whisk together very well and sift. Measure your self-rising flour from there.
- 1 cup organic sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated Key lime zest
- 2 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour* (see below)
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespooons fresh key lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. Toast all of your coconut (1 cup total) in a small baking pan in the oven, stirring once or twice, until golden, about 5-8 minutes. Let the coconut cool. Leave the oven on.
Beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and zest with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Stir together the flour and 1 cup coconut. Stir together the milk, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and the vanilla. At low speed, mix the flour and milk mixtures into the egg mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour. Spoon the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.
Sweet Rum Glaze:
- 2 tablespoons fresh key lime juice
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon rum
Whisk together the confectioners sugar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and rum. Pour over cake.
Sprinkle 1 cup toasted coconut on top of the cake (or more if you like) and enjoy.
- adapted from 101 cookbooks
First, I have to say that this is one of my favorite dishes of all time. It's fresh, fragrant and incredibly simple. I would recommend using full fat coconut broth here... the flavor is much better than using a lighter version.
Thai Noodles in Coconut Lime Broth
- 12 ounces thai rice noodles
- 2 cans full fat coconut milk + 1 can filled with water
- 1 large shallot- minced
- 1 2-inch section of ginger- peeled and minced
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- Fresh black pepper to taste
- As many fresh seasonal veggies as you like. This dish had:
- 1 bunch asparagus (use only top half)
- 1 yellow zucchini
- 1 small radicchio
- 1 package wild organic mushrooms
- 1 head cauliflower
- Serve with a lot of fresh lime and cilantro
Use a large soup pot or dutch oven. Pour coconut milk, 1 can of water and salt into the pot over medium heat. Mince shallots and ginger and add to the pot. Let simmer for at least 15-20 minutes.
While you wait for your broth, place thai noodles in a pot with boiling water. Cook according to directions on package. Drain and season with salt/ pepper. Set aside.
About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, place your veggies into the pot and allow them to cook until just tender... you don't want them to get mushy.
Add a heap of noodles to your bowl then top with broth and veggies. Finish with a little fresh black pepper, cilantro and a good squeeze of lime.
“Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.”
― Paulo Coelho
, The Alchemist
I do not make New Years resolutions. Not that I have anything against it. I just do not think it suits me well. I could make a bunch of promises, but in truth, they would be nothing more than words on a page for me. I am a firm believer in eternal change. Every day I wake up, and I make a decision to do something different than the day before.
That change may be something very small. For example, today I want to try a new coffee shop down the street. By trying that new coffee shop, I will walk down a different path than I usually would, and my whole perspective of my neighborhood changes.
2014 has already ushered in major changes for me. I am now a new resident of California. Road tripping with my 8-month-old puppy and boyfriend for 3,000 miles was a mix of excitement and frustration. I can’t express how amazing it was; however, to see the U.S. in that way. The journey through the West is one that I will not soon forget and hope to make again.
During the trip, we listened to Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist.” If it is not on your list, make it a must read in 2014. It was incredibly inspirational and filled with constant reminders to take chances and live in the present in order to realize your dreams. If I can offer a challenge to myself this year, it will be to do exactly that.
Happy New Year!
Tangerine Kale Smoothies:
- 2 tangerines: peeled and de-seeded
- 1 banana
- 5 strawberries
- 2 leafs of organic kale
- 2 tbsp. protein powder (optional)
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 3-4 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in high powered blender (I used a Ninja) and pulse two or three times to break up the ice. Blend for about 30 seconds and enjoy.
This world is but a canvas to our imagination.
- Henry David Thoreau
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cups (325 ml) ricotta cheese
- ½ cup (125 ml) melted butter, cooled
- ½ cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (60 ml) sugar
- ½ tsp (2 ml) salt
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) grated lemon zest
- Butter, for griddle or pan
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta cheese and melted butter. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Slowly add to the ricotta mixture. Over medium heat, lightly butter a griddle or non-stick pan. Ladle in a spoonful of batter to form small hot cakes and cook until golden brown on both sides. Top with powdered sugar and blackberries.
Soup is probably the best comfort food on the planet. I know, I know… that may be a little over the top, but you have to admit it is pretty high on the list. That being said, for a cold Halloween weekend I decided to try my hand at homemade pumpkin soup. I will admit this recipe is a little time-consuming, but so incredibly worth it.
First Step: Roast the pumpkin.
· 2 medium organic Kobacha Squash (Japanese Pumpkins) or sweet pie pumpkins. Make sure you don’t use the big Halloween style pumpkins here. They look and even smell pretty all lit up, but not so much in a soup like this.
· 2 Tbsp. olive oil
· Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Using a large sharp knife, slice your pumpkins into quarters. Remove stem and insides. Dab olive oil on each slice and coat generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes or until the flesh of your pumpkins are soft. Let cool and chop into large chucks. Discard shell.
· 1 onion, peeled and quartered through the stem then chopped
· 1 cup exotic blend mushrooms, stemmed, caps wiped clean and chopped
· 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
· 1/2 cup olive oil
· Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
· 5 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock
· 1 cup fresh grated cheddar
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch Oven on medium heat. Combine onion, mushrooms, and garlic allowing onion to become translucent but not brown. Transfer pumpkin, onion, garlic and mushrooms to food processor. Add in 2 cups stock; puree until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly add remaining 3 cups stock, and puree until smooth. Transfer soup back to your Dutch Oven and set on low heat to simmer adding your cheddar in slowly. Simmer another 20 minutes, remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper.
Cover to keep warm.
· Green onion, chopped
Fall in the northeast is stunning. Lush greenery begins to turn vibrant yellow, orange and red. The air gets a crisp chill to it and long sweaters come out of retirement. Time seems to slow down as the hustle and bustle of summer fades. In the mornings, I spread a blanket down outside, sip coffee and watch my puppy play in the leaves. It just all feels right.
Roasted Sweet Potato, Kale and Wild Rice Salad
· 2 lb. organic sweet potatoes- peeled and cubed
· 1 lb. organic red kale
· 2 cups wild rice
· ¼ Cup chopped onion
· 1 Tsp. minced garlic
· 2 Tbsp. white wine
· 4 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
· 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
· 2 Tbsp. olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Cube sweet potatoes and coat with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and cracked black pepper. Roast for 40 minutes. Set aside.
Cook rice on stove top according to directions. In a sauté pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Place garlic and onion in your pan and cook until lightly brown and fragrant. Deglaze pan with white wine and add kale. Cook another 1-2 minutes allowing kale to wilt but not become mushy. Place rice and kale in large mixing bowl with sweet potatoes. Incorporate ingredients and toss with dressing (recipe below). Add salt, pepper and parsley to finish the dish and serve warm.
Dressing: In a small bowl combine Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Wisk aggressively for 30 seconds and pour over salad.
“Life can only be understood looking backward. It must be lived forward”
Years ago, as a child, I would sit on a huge old oak tree that fell in my backyard. I remember distinctly thinking how something so massive could simply blow over in the wind. That tree must have lived hundreds of years on this earth. It reached for the sunshine, basking in its wonderful heat, kissed the rain on an early spring morning and endured heavy snow in the bitter cold. It became a place of shelter and protection, other times a place of danger and destruction. It grew slowly, progressive and finally settled into place, rooted forever.
The tree is still there, now a home to moss and fungi, no longer living but still a place of growth and protection. I see my past as that old tree. It’s still there; forever rooted in my memories, but no longer a living place. I can go back to visit them, but there days in the sunshine are over. They now lay dormant offering a place of shelter for the precious moments and growth for the ones I wish I could forget. I smile for the times they flourished and weep for the times they endured heavy storms.
In the end; however, we have to live forward. Those memories will remain a permanent fixture, like the tree on the forest floor, but we are not the tree… this is necessary to remember. We are the entire forest, bursting with life, forever changing and evolving day after day. Where one tree falls, another grows.
- 4 organic Braeburn apples- cored
- 4 Tbsp. softened butter
- 8 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 Tsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup organic granola with almonds
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider
- 1 cup vanilla greek yogurt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Start by coring your apples with a paring knife and spoon, removing all seeds and core, careful not to puncture the bottom of the apples. In your food processor combine butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and granola. Pulse until incorporated. Stuff mixture into apples and place in a baking pan. Cover bottom of pan with apple cider and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Apples should be soft but not mushy. Drizzle drippings from pan over your apples.
Top with vanilla yogurt for breakfast or ice cream for desert.
It's that time of year again! Towards the end of summer and early Fall the market floods with juicy, ripe black mission figs. If you have never tried figs, you are missing out. Their sweet, delicate flavor makes them a wonderful compliment in a number of dishes.
Personally, I am a big fan of eating them as is, or tossing them in a light salad with a little lemony vinaigrette. This time, I decided to try a little different approach and make fig preserves. It's one of the quickest and simplest preparations, and gives you a ton of fun options once you have it made.
1lb. organic black mission figs
3 lemon zest slices- large pieces
1 Tsp cinnamon
½ Tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
4 Tbsp. red wine
Cut figs in half and remove stem. Place in a bowl and add lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla extract, sugar and red wine. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Using a small pot, place fig mixture inside, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 45 minutes uncovered. Note: this is not actually canning fig jam. This method will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Just a warning… this fills the kitchen with the most AMAZING smell. Your friends and or family may believe that cinnamon buns or cookies are in the oven. Enjoy with a toasted english muffin and butter or fresh scones for breakfast.
Now for a brunch cocktail to go with those scones!
To piggyback on the last recipe, I also love figs in a variety of cocktails. This is by far my favorite way to make a flavored margarita.
1 Tsp. fig preserves
½ Tsp. organic agave nectar
1/3 cup orange juice
8 ounces tequila
¼ Tsp. grated ginger (optional)
Rosemary sprig or fresh raspberry for garnish
In a rocks glass combine ice, your homemade fig preserves (see recipe above), agave nectar, orange juice, tequila and ginger. If you have a tumbler, give it a really good shake for about 1-2 minutes. If you do not have a tumbler simply transfer your concoction from one glass to another mixing your ingredients well. Garnish with a rosemary sprig or fresh raspberry.
Living in the city so long I took for granted the simple joy of grilling. I do not know why nearly everything made on a grill tastes amazing, but it does. Over the past month, I think I have used my stovetop maybe twice and the oven once. When it gets hot out, who really wants to be in a sweltering kitchen anyway? Not this girl, and most certainly not after a long day at the office. When I get home the first order of business is firing up the grill with the second order being a tall glass of chilled white wine (some days I switch that order).
- 2 Large Zucchini- cut into rounds
- Olive Oil
- Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Chop zucchini into rounds and rub with olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Place in aluminum foil and top with fresh cut chives. Grill on medium heat for at least 6-10 minutes. They should be still be firm, not mushy.
Tomato and Lemon Stuffed Trout
- 2 wild caught trout fillets- skin on
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic- minced
- ½ cup chopped grape tomatoes
- 2 Lemons
- Salt and fresh cracked pepper
Preheat grill- keep heat low-medium.
Trout has a delicate flavor that is enhanced with just a little butter and garlic. Start by melting a tablespoon of butter with one clove minced garlic. Apply on the meat of the fish then add tomatoes to one side and lemons to the other. Season with salt and pepper and fold fish like a sandwich. Place in aluminum foil sealing off all edges, this allows the fish to steam. Cook 4-6 minutes over medium heat until fish is white and flakey.
It has been an incredible, crazy month and now it is finally time to relax. I have had so much fun, and I cannot wait to share!
First, July began with a new apartment which has made me decide that it is just about time to buy a house! I realized how much I hate moving now which is a huge departure for me. Maybe it is age, or maybe I just feel more settled, but for once I am thrilled to plant roots.
I also took another wonderful vacation this month in Ocean City, MD. I have to admit I am not much of a beach person despite growing up on Lake Michigan, but this trip was very different. Between the great company, some of the best crabs I have ever eaten and yoga on the beach in the morning, I left feeling absolutely wonderful!
Lastly, July delivered us a new family member. We adopted Kona, our 8 week old Border Collie puppy, toward the end of the month. Kona was taken from a high kill shelter in KY at just 6 weeks old. She had one more week of life left when a rescue in PA found her, and her siblings. It has always amazed me that people will not fix their pets, instead opting to throw away these creatures lives. Each year, there are more than 10,000 companion animals who will be born. Sadly, we just don't have enough homes for them. Luckily Kona was exactly what we were looking for, and I am now the happiest new mom on the face of the earth!
So hopefully you can see why I have been slacking recently, but it is still no excuse. I think it is time to get back in the kitchen!
Roasted Yellow Pepper, Arugula and Ugly Tomato Breakfast Pizza
Pizza of any kind is wonderful for breakfast, but in this case it is also healthy! First, let’s start with roasting peppers. This can be done with any type of pepper you like. I used two yellow bell peppers for their mild sweet flavor, but you can switch that up as you like.
Roasted Yellow Pepper Sauce:
· 2 roasted yellow bell peppers
· 1 tsp. garlic
· 5 fresh basil leaves
· ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
· Salt and pepper
To start, clean your peppers and rub a dab of olive oil on the skin. I used the gas burner on my stove for this, but you could also do this in your oven. See oven directions here
1.) Place burner on a medium setting. You don’t want to singe off your fingers in the process!
2.) Set pepper directly over the flame allowing the skin to become charred.
3.) Turn pepper using a pair of tongs until it is well charred on all sides.
4.) Place pepper in an airtight container and allow it to steam for another 15 minutes (this is going to finish cooking the pepper so it is nice and soft).
5.) Repeat for second pepper.
6.) Take lid off peppers and peel off all black and charred pieces. Caution: the peppers can still be incredibly hot! Make sure to let them cool for a moment before handling them.
7.) If you miss a little black, it is ok… it will give the sauce a smokier flavor.
8.) Once the outside is clean you should be able to just tear open the pepper. My suggestion is to just remove the top of the pepper by pulling upward. This should also remove most of the seeds.
9.) Clean any remaining seeds out of the pepper but do not rinse in water.
Now that the peppers are done, tear them apart and place into the food processor with garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pulse until your sauce is just mixed; I like mine to be a little chunky.
From here you can assemble the remaining ingredients. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roasted Yellow Pepper, Arugula and Ugly Tomato Breakfast Pizza:
· 1 Naan flatbread
· 1 cup yellow pepper sauce
· 1 cup arugula
· ½ cup diced ugly (heirloom) tomato
· 2 raw eggs (cracked one at a time into another container)
· Parmesan cheese
· Salt and cracked black pepper
Layer yellow pepper sauce on the Naan then arugula, tomatoes, eggs, parmesan and salt/ pepper. Place in oven for 15 minutes or until egg whites are done.
Note: yolk will still be runny. Bake longer for yolk to harden.