Friday, July 29, 2011

Star fruit

It's one of those weeks where life is very busy so this post will be short and sweet. Sweet like the star fruit, also known as carambola. A fruit that was in abundance where I grew up, and one that I knew would be liked, I scooped up a couple at my local whole foods store.

Both kids went nuts over the shape, and since they're in season during the summer, the fruit was juicy and delicious. I recommend peeling the thickest part of the skin which is on the tips of the 5 ridges, then slice thinly and serve. I know a person who peels all the skin off, but it's time consuming, and you're missing out on some fiber. A ripe star fruit will be a golden almost translucent yellow, and the ribs will be slightly brown at peak ripeness (another reason to trim it). And if your kid happens to be in the "yellow-beige" foods only phase of their life, this might scrape under their radar. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Buckwheat pancake or lefse or tortilla thingies

Lately I've been experimenting with doing oatmeal in the slow cooker. I'm also trying to clear out the pantry of some older grains and found a bag of kasha (also know as buckwheat). Buckwheat is actually not a type of wheat and is gluten free. And although I don't focus on gluten free as much as I used to, I still like to experiment if something looks good so I can pass it along if someone else is interested. I was looking at this bag of kasha and wondering what to do with it. I thought I'd give it a go in the slow cooker (2 cups uncooked kasha in 8 cups water; 6 hours on Low). Not so good. It had the consistency of over-boiled potatoes. I thought too bad it wasn't potatoes, I could make my husband's grandmother's recipe for lefse. LIGHTBULB! Why not try a gluten free kasha version of that? I pushed 3 cups of the kasha through the potato ricer, and wondered what sort of GF glour mix to do. And darn if I wasn't out of xanthan gum (which acts as a stabilizer, and gives some lift and fluffiness to gluten free baking). But I found King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Pancake Mix buried in the back of the pantry. It already has a mix of GF flours, xanthan gum, sugar, and salt added. Hmm. So here's where I went with it:

3 cups kasha pushed through a ricer; add 2 cups GF pancake mix

Combine until it looks like small crumbs. You might have to use your hands.
Then add 1/3 cup milk and mix together until you get a dough consistency. Add a tablespoon
milk at a time if it's too dry until you get the ball of dough. Use any kind of milk or dairy alternative here. I used milk on half, and So Delicious coconut milk on the other. There was no difference in taste or texture.

Take about 1/2 cup size, roll into a ball. Cover a cutting board or smooth surface with plastic wrap.
Place dough ball on top and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap.

The plastic wrap makes rolling out a GF dough easy. Roll it as thin as possible without it cracking.
Move to the side and repeat plastic wrap - dough - wrap - roll, until all the dough is rolled into pancakes.

Place in fridge for about 15 minutes. Chilling will help it separate from the plastic wrap a  little easier and without as much chance of ripping. It is a delicate dough so every tip helps. Heat a skillet over medium heat, brush with a little butter or olive oil. Place pancake in skillet, cook for about 2 minutes, flip and cook for another minute or two.
These were best served immediately. The next day they were a little cardboardy which is why I think refrigerating and then cooking when you want to eat them would work best. The kids liked theirs with a little brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on. E even asked for a second one. 

I ate mine spread with some homemade apricot jam, and rolled.  :) 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chocolate Blackout Cake

No story this week. Just a recipe for a fabulous chocolate cake because I needed a change from berries. :)

Chocolate Blackout Cake (from Blue Ribbon Desserts cookbook)

Give the pudding and the cake enough time to cool or you'll end up with runny pudding and gummy cake.
Serves 10 to 12

1 1/4cups granulated sugar 
1/4cup cornstarch 
1/2teaspoon table salt 
2cups half-and-half 
1cup whole milk 
6ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
2teaspoons vanilla extract 

8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), plus extra for greasing pans
1 1/2cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for dusting pans
2teaspoons baking powder 
1/2teaspoon baking soda 
1/2teaspoon salt 
3/4cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder 
1cup brewed coffee (you can use decaf)
1cup buttermilk 
1cup packed light brown sugar 
1cup granulated sugar 
2large eggs 
1teaspoon vanilla extract
1. For the pudding: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.
2. For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl.
3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.
4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.
5. To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Maybe more, but that's how long it lasted here.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blueberry Pie

BLUEBERRY PIE (from Cook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts) 

Use your favorite pie crust recipe. You need two pie crusts. I used the Foolproof Pie Crust recipe from another cookbook by Cook's Illustrated. (Can you tell I'm an avid fan?) My top crust went on a little off center. I'm still perfecting my pie crust technique!  :) 
This was eaten by everyone in my family (except my youngest). 

  • Foolproof Pie Dough
  • 2 1/2cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus more for work surface
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 2tablespoons sugar
  • 12tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2cup vegetable shortening , cold, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4cup vodka , cold (see note)
  • 1/4cup cold water
  • Blueberry Filling
  • 6cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) (see note)
  • 1Granny Smith apple , peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
  • 2teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 3/4cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 2tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca , ground (see note)
  • pinch table salt
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1large egg , lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water


  1. 1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. 2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. 3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. 4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  5. 5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.
  6. 6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.
  7. 7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.
  8. 8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve. 
    Look, no oozing! It was delicious!

Blueberry Coffee "Cake"

This week I decided to cook to the theme presented by America's Test Kitchen Fresh Food Challenge: Blueberries. I made a blueberry pie - in fact I made two and I will post them separately. For the challenge though, I made a different recipe because pie seemed like a default choice. One of the other choices in the Blue Ribbon Desserts cookbook was a coffee cake with a berry filling. Reading the recipe though, it wasn't really a cake so much as a cinnamon roll style dough wrapped around berries. Sounded yummy anyway. I was already taking the day off work for personal appointments, so after those were over, I went shopping and got to work. Since the dough makes two "cakes", I made the berry filing and the almond cream-cheese version. The recipe gives instructions for freezing one of the cakes, but I chose instead to give half of each to my neighbour.  :) 

Blueberry Ring Coffee "Cake" (from Cook's Country Blue Ribbon Desserts)

Makes 2 rings
Blueberry Filling
2 1/2cups fresh blueberries
3tablespoons sugar 
1 1/2
tablespoons fresh lemon juice
tablespoons water
tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
Almond Filling
1tube almond paste (7-ounce)
1/2cup confectioners' sugar 
4ounces cream cheese , softened
1 1/3cups warm milk (110 degrees)
1/3cup honey 
8tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
3large egg yolks (reserve whites for topping)
2teaspoons vanilla extract 
4 1/2cups all-purpose flour , plus extra for work surface
1package  rapid-rise yeast (or instant)
2teaspoons salt 

1 1/2cups confectioners' sugar 
2ounces cream cheese 
1/2teaspoon vanilla extract 
2tablespoons milk 
3large egg whites 
1/2cup sliced almonds 
1/2teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 1/2cups confectioners' sugar 
2ounces cream cheese 

1. For the berry filling: Stir all ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and shiny, about 2 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before putting on the dough. 
(If you use almond filling: Fit standing mixer with paddle attachment and mix almond paste, confectioners' sugar, and cream cheese until smooth. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.)
Almond cream cheese filling
2. For the dough: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, shut oven off. Lightly grease large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and grease with cooking spray.
3. Mix milk, honey, melted butter, yolks, and vanilla in large measuring cup. Mix flour, yeast, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn mixer to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. (Dough will be sticky.) Turn dough onto heavily floured work surface, shape into ball, and transfer to greased bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough is nearly doubled, about 20 minutes. 
4. On lightly floured work surface, divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll dough into 18 by 9-inch rectangle with long side facing you. Spread with half of filling and roll up dough. 
Rectangle of dough with blueberry filling.
I trimmed excess dough to get exact measurement using a ruler.
The engineer in me couldn't resist. 
Brush top edge with water, then press to seal and transfer, seam side down, to parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Shape each cylinder into ring. Using paring knife, make cuts around outside of dough and shape as shown in photos 3 and 4.
Dough in ring shape, and notched with grooves 1 1/2 inches apart
Almond ring on the left, cut in 1 inch pieces.
Excess dough was rolled and filled with extra almond filling.
Blueberry ring on right, cut in 1 1/2 inch pieces.
5. Cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray and return to oven until rings have puffed slightly, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and heat oven to 375 degrees.
6. For the topping: Whisk reserved egg whites in small bowl, then brush rings with egg whites. Sprinkle with almonds and bake until deep brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating pans halfway through baking. While rings are baking or cooling, whisk confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla in small bowl until smooth. Drizzle icing over baked coffee cakes and serve warm.
Oops I forgot about the topping!! These were gone within a day so what they don't know.....

Tip for freezing the second coffee ring if you decide to: 
A Coffee Cake in the Freezer
To freeze one coffee cake: Transfer shaped ring (prepared through step 4) to large plate and wrap in two layers of plastic and then foil. (Unbaked ring can be frozen for up to 1 month.) The night before baking, transfer frozen ring to refrigerator. The next day, unwrap ring and transfer it to baking sheet lined with parchment paper that has been greased with cooking spray. Proceed with step 5, letting dough rise in oven that has been heated to 200 degrees and then turned off. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with almonds, bake (on middle rack), cool, and ice as directed.

Potato & Beet Salad a la Julia Child

I am not a big potato eater, and so I had to ask why I should do a post about potatoes. Because my 4 yr old keeps asking for potatoes. Because both my kids think "Potatoes" means french fries, and I wanted to show them that there are other yummy ways to eat a potato. My husband loves them and even has a Potato cookbook with a very concise history of the potato. He read it out loud to anyone who would or wouldn't listen (his kids and myself) when he first purchased it. I am ambivalent about them generally. I grew up in the West Indies and although there were potatoes available, I don't recall growing up eating a lot of them. The prevalent starches were rice, cassava, breadfruit, pumpkin and dasheen.  
The question then was what type of potato recipe should I do? I decided to go with Julia Childs' recipe for Salade A La D'Argenson (Potato & Beet Salad). I seriously thought if the potatoes were pink, it might go over better. Silly me! The other grown person in the house said " not potato salad." But he ate it. It was quite good to me. The potatoes were creamy and the sweetness of the beets with the tanginess of the mayonnaise made for a nice combination. Apparently, my kids are not ready to be sophisticated foodie types.  E said 'I don't think I can eat pink potatoes mom' and the 4 year old said "Those aren't potatoes". So I have a little more work to do, starting with no longer calling french fries "potatoes". 
And for those of us who are ready to be sophisticated, give the recipe below a try!

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette: 
* 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp dry mustard
* 6 tbsp olive oil
* 1 tbsp minced herbs of choice (I used chives)

First make the 'Sauce Vinaigrette' or French dressing. Julia says to beat together the vinegar in a bowl with salt & mustard, then beat the oil in by droplets. I have to say I don't make my own dressings generally because I am lazy and don't want to drizzle oil with one hand while whisking with another. My solution? That's what a kid is for - put all ingredients in a mason jar, screw on lid, and give it to a little sous chef to shake. 
If that sous chef gets tired or gives you a look like the one in the picture is giving, go to Plan B and use another sous chef who loves to move and shake anything she gets her hands on. Even if said sous chef prefers shirtless-ness. Good help is scarce these days.

Ingredients for potato salad
* 2 cups diced, peeled potatoes
* 2 cups diced cooked beets or canned beets
* 4 tbsp minced shallots or green onions
* vinaigrette
* 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise 
*3 tbsp fresh minced green herb of choice (I used tarragon)
* 1 cup of one or a combination of the following: green peas, cooked and diced green beans, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, diced raw apples, diced cooked meat of choice.(Julia likes to list options)
Boil 2 cups of diced, peeled potatoes until fork pierces easily, about 20 minutes.  Let them cool just slightly, They need to be warm for tossing. Toss with the vinaigrette, beets, and shallot in a large bowl.  I used 1 can (14.5 oz) of already diced beets that were drained first. I've never cooked beets from scratch and I am sure they would taste much better fresh, but I didn't really plan to do this recipe until the last minute. Add salt & pepper if desired, cover bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours. 
Mix the herbs with the mayonnaise, and gently fold into the other ingredients. Stirring it in will mash the potatoes. Choose one of the options, and fold into the salad I used a combination of steamed french-style cut green beans and grated raw carrot. The recipe says it makes a quart. It made enough for hubby and I to have four 1-cup servings. (This includes the small amount served to the kids)

Potato & Beet Salad with green beans and grated carrot

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strawberry Cream Cake

This is by far the best dessert out of Blue Ribbon Desserts to date. I made it for a friend's birthday/ladies night. It has a wow factor visually, and an 'oh my!' yum factor when eaten. It barely lasted 24 hours!

STRAWBERRY CREAM CAKE (Cook's Illustrated/Blue Ribbon Desserts)
* 1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
* 5 large eggs at room temperature; 3 separated and 2 whole
* 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
* 2 tablespoons water
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 lbs fresh strawberries, medium or large (about 2 quarts); rinsed, dried, and hulled
* 6 tablespoons sugar
* 2 tablespoons of Kirsch (cherry brandy; or do like me and use cognac or rum)
* pinch table salt
* 8 oz cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups heavy cream

1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a round 9x2-inch cake pan (or 9-inch springform pan) and line with parchment paper.
Whisk cake flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tbsp sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs, and 3 egg yolks, melted butter, water and vanilla until smooth.
2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Increase speed to medium high and beat until soft peaks form, about 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one third of egg whites into batter. Gently fold remaining egg whites into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour into prepared pan, and bake 30 to 40 minutes - until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto greased wire rack. Peel off parchment paper. Invert cake again and cool completely before assembling, about 2 hours.
3. FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING: Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 

Put a sign on the bowl to keep strawberry monsters away! 

Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.

4. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).

5. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Using large serrated knife, slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours. 
(You can also make the cake ahead of time, wrap in double layer of plastic wrap and freeze. Thaw unwrapped at room temperature for 2 hours when ready to use)


Saturday, July 2, 2011


Cracked Conch
Live conch
We were on vacation for just under 2 weeks. And as much as I enjoy blogging, there was no way it was happening during vacation. I gladly went with little technology while gone. And E went with very little new food. It stands to reason - she was in new surroundings, new weather patterns (let's just say she is glad thunderstorms are not common at home since they freaked her out), new people, and a complete lack of routine. But she did try cracked conch and ate her whole plate! Maybe because it was deep fried that she ate it. I didn't care. I thought she would gag over it as conch can be a little chewy, similar to calamari but with a sweeter taste. If she had seen what it looks like before hand, it might be a different story. As you can see, the live conch does not look all that appealing, although the shell it lives in is quite pretty.  My personal favorite way to eat this is conch salad - like ceviche using conch. And as can be expected, my little lovely looked at it with a serious frown. She didn't even comment. Perhaps it was because the music was too loud, or the day was particularly hot. When asked what her favorite part of vacation was, she emphatically replies the beach. When asked about the food, she frets a little and says she prefers food at home. While I could be disappointed that she may not be a foodie like her mama, I am not. I take it as a high compliment that she likes her 'home food' above all others. :)

(BTW, all these photos were "borrowed". Goldie's at Arawak Cay was too dark for my phone camera to pick up the greatness that was lunch that day.)
Conch Salad

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