Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SHF #30: Orange Blossom Cake with Candied Orchids

This is what I came up with for a flower themed cake for Sugar High Friday #30 Flower Power hosted by Coconut Chutney. This was a really great theme, forced me to experiment with using real flowers- something I've never done before. I was at the local farmers/public market this past Saturday morning, and I passed by a vendor who was selling fresh herbs. I noticed a little plastic container of fresh flowers also. The nice lady handed me an orchid to taste, she said it was from a vanilla orchid plant. Didn't taste like much, but she had me hooked- I was intrigued and just had to buy the pack of flowers, besides, they were only $1! So with flowers in hand, I came home wondering what I should do with them. Good ol' Epicurious always has good ideas for everything, and so I decided to candy my flowers. And oh what a fun but messy (and tedious) project that was. You can see the results below. But now I decided I needed a cake to go with those flowers, so an orange blossom scented cake evolved out of my foggy thoughts. This cake is heavier- like a pound cake. If I were to make it again, I would make it in loaf pans and serve as a pound cake, no frosting, I would probably have a dollop of lemon-lime curd to go with it. But regardless, the cake still tasted really good and decadent in this form.

Candied Flowers (this recipe is adapted from Epicurious)

Edible flowers (pesticide free, organic, nontoxic)
sugar (I probably used ½ cup or so- didn’t really keep track.)
1 egg white
½ tsp water

Beat the egg white with the water. Then brush your flowers with the egg/water mixture. Sprinkle sugar all over the flower. Make sure you cover the flower completely, otherwise you will have problems with them wilting. Place flowers on a wire rack and allow them to completely dry. According to Epicurious, the flowers can be stored in an airtight container for up to one month. I don’t believe this as some of my flowers (the daisies, but not the orchids) were getting a bit wilty after a couple of days. I found the best flower to use was the orchid, but also the individual petals of the carnation were really nice also.

Orange-Blossom Cake with Orange-Blossom Buttercream and Candied Flowers

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cup sugar
5 eggs
1 grated lemon or orange zest
1 Tbl orange extract
4 teaspoons orange-blossom water
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ cups flour, sifted
1 cup milk + 3 tsp apple cider vinegar Preheat to 350°F. Grease & flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

Beat butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, lemon zest, orange extract, and orange-blossom water. Add the baking powder and salt. Beat in the flour and milk/vinegar mixture alternately into the butter/eggs.

Divide batter between the two prepared pans. Bake cake until golden on the edges, firm, and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Cool cakes on a wire rack.

When cakes are cool, fill the two layers with lemon-lime curd. I really liked Dagmar’s recipe at A Cat in the Kitchen, so that’s what I used. Then use remainder curd to frost sides. For the top of the cake use the following recipe for Orange Blossom Buttercream.

Orange Blossom Buttercream

½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy whipping cream
½ tsp orange blossom water

Beat the butter and sugar well. Add cream gradually, and orange blossom water, continuing to beat until nice frosting consistency. Frost top of cake.

Then decorate cake with the candied flowers.

BBQ Bacon Makes Everything Taste Better

Clockwise from top right: Grilled Asparagus, Red Onions, Potatoes,
Bacon, and Sesame Bread

Mmmm, grilled veggies and bacon. Nothings better than that.

Marinade (dump & pour method):
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
garlic powder
basil (dry)
oregano (dry)
rosemary (dry)
spicy brown mustard
fresh ground pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large dish/pan.

Wash 3 bunches of asparagus and trim ends, add to marinade.

Dip 8 oz of bacon in the marinade and then thread bacon onto a metal skewer.

Slice 2 red onions in half, and add to marinade.

Wash 3 medium sized potatoes. Microwave potatoes for 2 minutes. Flip potatoes over and microwave for another 3 minutes. You want the potatoes to be almost cooked through but not soft. Slice potatoes into thick slices, add to marinade. If potatoes are too soft, they will fall apart on grill.

Allow all vegetables to marinade for a half hour or so. Start your grill, get the coals nice and hot. Grill the potatoes and onions first. While the potatoes and onions are on the grill, place the skewer of bacon on top of them, allowing the flavor of the bacon to melt over the potatoes. Baste with remaining marinade. When potatoes and onions are cooked through, they should be soft and charred on the outside. Take them off the grill. Put asparagus on the grill and put the skewer of bacon back on top, as seen below. Grill asparagus until done. Take hunks of good bread (Italian/Sesame/French/whatever you like) and place on grill for a minute or so. Serve and enjoy.

Skewer of bacon sitting on top of asparagus while grilling.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Browniebabes Treat Chocolate Right

Myriam at Once Upon a Tart has called upon all brownie lovers to answer her Browniebabe challenge, so here is my response to the call.

Brownies bring back a lot of childhood memories for me because they were the very first thing that I ever made all by myself (without mom's help) at the age of 10 years old. I always loved to cook, helping my mom with dinner, cakes, cookies, whatever, but now I was given the chance to make something myself, and brownies are really the perfect place for a child to begin to learn how to cook. The ones I used to make were a pretty basic, really sweet, fudgy dense brownie. But now, 13 years later, I usually prefer the not-as-sweet, cakier brownie that focuses on conveying a depth of intense chocolate flavor. That's right, I said it, I'm in the cakey-camp, terrible aren't I? But not to worry, I still do appreciate those rich, gooey-sweet types of brownies.

It's been a while since the last time I made brownies, so I didn't have a treasured recipe on hand, so I decided to read a whole bunch of recipes on Epicurious. From reading those recipes, I formulated my own recipe. I use less than the common 2 cups of sugar, more than the common 3/4 cup flour. A lot of cocoa was really intensified with some cinnamon and espresso grinds- it might sound funny, but it makes for an amazing result. Also, the addition of dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips give these cakey brownies an extra chocolate pizazz.

Mocha & White Chocolate Chip Brownies

3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup cocoa
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 tsp espresso grinds (or you could use instant espresso)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a large jelly roll baking pan with shortening, and then line bottom of pan with parchment paper and grease parchment well with shortening.

In a large bowl, mix the butter, cocoa, sugar, espresso, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, and then add the eggs 1 at a time, whisking after each addition until batter is smooth. Add milk. Continue beating batter until it is very smooth, almost whipped. Stir in flour. Add both types of chocolate chips, stirring to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and spread it out till even. Bake in the middle of the oven until top is firm and edges just begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 20 minutes, be very careful not to over bake!

Cool brownies in the pan on a rack. Cut into 40 squares and store in an airtight container.

Big ol' pan of yummy brownies

If it's any indication, the guys at work really liked them

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Feast for Easter

Happy Easter everyone! Here are some pictures of my day of food...

Peach cake for breakfast- yum
This is a recipe that I got from my grandma this past summer, and it is just fabulous! It's easy, delicious, and you can use whatever fruit you like- plums, pears, apples, apricots, etc. It is kind of like a fruit cookie bar or a crostata more than a full-fledged cake. The crust is thin and some what crunchy depending on how long you cook it, and the sugar on the peaches caramelizes a bit to make a scrumptious topping.

Grandma’s Peach Cake

In a medium bowl, combine until they hold together:
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
2 Tbs milk

Grease a 9”x13” cookie pan & preheat oven to 400°F. Press dough into the pan.

In a medium bowl, combine:
4 large peaches (more or less), sliced
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs flour
3 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Arrange peaches in a single layer over the dough. Bake cake for 40-50 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through on the bottom and the peaches are soft.

When I think of Easter dinner, I think of lamb. It seems to me like the perfect meat to serve, so fitting for the holiday, plus I don't get lamb very often (even though I love it) so it makes it that much more specialer. This is a recipe that I just kinda threw together, one of those walk in the pantry and start dumping and puring spice in a bag. It is Middle Eastern inspired, sort of similar to a kabob, only I left my leg of lamb whole. I did butterfly it though, in order to make it cook faster and more evenly on the grill.

I Love Lamb!

BBQ Lamb with Middle Eastern Spices

In zip loc bag or other marinating container combine:

1 Tbl Cumin
1 Tbl Coriander
1 Tbl Turmeric
1 tsp hot Paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbl garlic, chopped
¼ cup yogurt
2 Tbl lemon juice
fresh ground pepper

Add to marinade, and massage meat:
2-3 lb leg of lamb, semi-boned and butterflied

Allow meat to marinate overnight in refrigerator. An hour before cooking, take meat out of the refrigerator and sprinkle with:
2 tsp sea salt
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Start your barbeque, preferably the good ol’ charcoal kind, and make sure you have some nice hot coals. Barbeque your lamb to desired doneness (I like it medium in the center, and done on the ends- this way your guests will be able to find a doneness level that they like.) Slice and serve with sauce (recipe below).

Shiraz Lamb Sauce:

In a small sauce pan combine:
½ cup Shiraz wine
any and all dripping/blood from the lamb
½ tsp garlic powder
fresh ground pepper
sea salt

Simmer sauce over low heat for 5 minutes. Sauce will be thin, it is just meant to be a jus of sorts for the lamb. Serve hot with the lamb.

Lemon & Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine in a large glass baking dish:

6 large potatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 red onions, chopped into bite-sized chunks
2 Tbl garlic, chopped
the zest of one lemon
the juice of one lemon
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
¼ cup olive oil

Bake potatoes, covered with tin foil for 30 minutes. Then uncover them, stir and return to the oven (uncovered) and cook till tender and brown, about 40 minutes.

Spiced BBQ Lamb with Lemon & Garlic Roasted Potatoes & Asparagus

Pure chocolate for dessert

Recipes coming soon...

Dark Chocolate & Almond Cake with Anisette & White Chocolate Cream

It's like a chocolate landscape...

Sunday, April 1, 2007

KWV 2006 Steen

I love wine for one simple reason. Every bottle, every vineyard, every region is unique, always a new and exciting experience. And because of that, there are hundreds of thousands (millions maybe?) of new wine experiences that one could possibly have in a life time. Wine is exciting, diverse, and versatile; you can drink it by itself or pair it with food. Wine is produced on every continent (well not Antarctica), allowing you, the drinker, to travel the world through a bottle of wine. Wine reflects where its grapes were grown, says something about the local culture, climate, and people of its home turf. Wine has many virtues, and because of this, I have decided that wine needs to become apart of my food blog, making this a food and sort-of-wine blog. I hope you enjoy, I will warn you that I am no professional wine taster, but I give it my best.

This KWV 2006 Steen from South Africa is a light bodied wine with aromas of tart, sweet green apples and faintly reminiscent of hay. It is a refreshing semi-dry white wine and tastes of tart lemons with a hint of pear. I would treat it much the same way you would treat Sauvignon Blanc, serve chilled, could be enjoyed on its own on a hot summer day, or pair with chicken, seafood, or salad etc. This KWV Steen contains 12.5% alcohol. I think this is a great buy ($7.99), it is delicious, bracing, and a thoroughly enjoyable, easy drinking white wine; great for ringing in the spring time!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The egg that was loved...?

I used to really hate eggs. I thought they were gross, icky, nasty and only fit for making cakes and cookies. As a child I would never eat them in any shape or form. My dad loves to make omelets for breakfast on the weekend, and he would always ask me if I'd like an omelet- NO THANKS! Eggs are so versatile, so common the world over, and yet I just can't stand the smell of an egg cooked all by its lonesome, with nothing else to hide that taste.
But a couple of years ago I started to reform my view of eggs, gradually but nonetheless still reformed. I still won't eat an egg all by itself, be it fried, scrambled, boiled, or poached, but if you disguise the egg with enough fillings, I will love it! I mean truly, there has to be a considerable amount of other stuff in my egg besides the egg, otherwise no thanks, but hey at least it's a start.
When I saw Eating Out Loud was starting a new food event called Food Fight, I said what fun! The theme for this first Food Fight is eggs, so needless to say, I was going to have to use one of my well disguised egg recipes in which eggs were still the feature of the dish. So like I said, over the last couple of years I have started to come to terms with eggs, and this is one of my favorite ways to disguise them.

Maria’s Potato, Bacon, & Spinach Frittata

First, fry in a large skillet:
½ cup bacon, chopped (use more or less if you like)

Once the bacon is nicely browned, allow bacon to drain on a paper towel on a plate. Dispose of bacon grease.

In the skillet that you fried the bacon in, after you get rid of the bacon grease, add:
2 Tbl oil
to the pan and heat it back up.

Add and fry till soft a brown:
2 medium sized potatoes, chopped into smaller pieces

As the potatoes start to brown, add in:
1 red onion, chopped

Once potatoes are thoroughly cooked through, add the bacon back into the skillet. Also add:
1 cup frozen spinach

While the bacon and vegetables fry, prepare the egg mixture. In a medium mixing bowl, combine:
6 eggs
3 Tbl milk
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
1 tsp basil leaves, dry
½ tsp oregano, dry
1 tsp garlic powder

After all of the vegetables and bacon in the skillet are cooked though, sprinkle on top:
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Then pour egg mixture over top of cheese and veggie/bacon mixture. Continue to cook over stove top heat for 5 minutes, and then transfer the whole skillet to the preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm and no longer runny in the middle.

Potatoes, bacon, spinach, and onions.

Eggs poured on top of the cheese.

In the oven we go!

'T' is for tasty and time to eat!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A fresh dinner that says Spring!

Tabbouleh and a nice glass of Retsina

Here's a quick healthy meal that says spring time! Tabbouleh is a salad based on bulgar or cracked wheat and is often found with variations throughout the Mediterranean. This is my variation.


1 cup of bulgar (or cracked wheat)

In 1 cup of hot water. Allow to soak until bulgar is softened, about 1 hour. Pour bulgar into a mesh strainer and rinse with fresh cold water, allow bulgar to drain thoroughly.

Place softened bulgar in a bowl and add:
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 Tbl red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp dried mint leaves (or use fresh if you have it)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper

Mix well. Serve with pita bread or lettuce leaves.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Delicious Dal and Vegetable Curry

It's easy, it's simple, and it's sort of quick. But most of all it's delicious (and cheap)! This was a favorite vegetarian meal that my mom used to make when I was growing up. You see, we lived in a desert on the end of the earth, there was no place to buy meat, the nearest "super market" that sold meat was an 8 hour drive from home. Needless to say we only went food shopping about once a month, and when we shopped, we really stocked up good. So when we bought meat, we would freeze it and bring it home for the 8 hour drive in a cooler. We could only buy as much meat as our little kerosene refrigerator's freezer could hold- and let me tell you- the freezer was the size of a large-ish shoe box. So it was my mothers goal to eat meat only every other night- which meant coming up with vegetarian meals that didn't require many fresh veggies on the other nights. I say not very many fresh vegetables because if you are only shopping once a month, those vegetables that you bought won't last for the whole month. There is however a small town in the desert called Lodwar, and there your could buy the very basics. Potatoes, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes. So those were a heavy influence in our daily cooking. Other staples that last indefinitely are rice and dried beans of all varieties. And so this lovely meal of Dal and cabbage potato curry uses all the staples that are readily available to us throughout the month.

Mung beans, also known as green grams

Green Gram Dal

Bring to a boil in a pot:
1 cup green grams
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
Once the green grams begin to boil, turn off the heat and allow them to set, covered. I let them sit anywheres between 30 minutes to an hour and a half, if you do it for the shorter time, it simply means you have to cook them longer till they are tender.

Meanwhile, fry in a heavy pan or cast iron skillet:
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbl oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Once the onions begin to soften, add and continue to fry:
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp cloves
1 tsp coriander

Bring the soaked green grams back up to a boil and add in the onion/spice mixture. Allow green grams to continue to simmer until they are tender (30 minutes to an hour).

Frying onions and spices for the Dal


Cabbage and Potato Curry

Chop and fry in the cast iron skillet you had used for the onions above:
2 Tbl oil
2 large potatoes

Once the potatoes begin to brown add:
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbl coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbl cumin
1 tsp salt
2 tomatoes, chopped (I didn't have any on hand at the time, so I left them out)
1/2 a head of cabbage, chopped
any other vegetable desired such as green bell pepper or carrot

Stir to combine. The pan may be getting dry and smokey, so add some water, about a 1/2 cup or so, in order to prevent burning and sticking to pan. Cover pan with lid, and cook until all vegetables are cooked, adding water as needed. This is a dry curry, so don't go overboard with the water.

Enjoy your Dal and Cabbage and Potato curry with some basmati rice and some chapatis (if you have time to make them).

Dal on top of Basmati rice and Cabbage and Potato curry on the side

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Beef, its whats for dinner

Because it's just that good...


Marinade (I am a big fan of the dump & pour method- use your own amounts):
red wine vinegar
balsamic vinegar
Worcestershire sauce
liquid smoke
olive oil
spicy brown mustard
garlic powder
fresh ground pepper

Place all ingredients in whatever container you plan to marinate your meat in (I use a zip-loc bag) Add meat:

3 lbs London Broil (beef)

Allow meat to marinate as long as you can, two days is best, but if your in a hurry 20 minutes is OK too. Grill meat (preferably on a charcoal grill) to done-ness desired (I like medium rare- just warm of mooing). Slice and enjoy.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hay Hay It's Donna Day, The Tropical Cheesecake Way!

My all time favorite fruit in the world is passion fruit. In Kenya I could buy a 2 kilo bag of fresh passion fruit for about 80 KSH, which is roughly the equivalent of $1 at the time. Today, in Rochester, I have to pay $2.50 for one single solitary piece of passion fruit. This makes me very, very sad, as I could sit down and eat 8 passion fruits for breakfast (but obviously I don't do that, as that breakfast would cost me $20- expensive!). The alternative to fresh (and expensive) passion fruit, when making dessert, is frozen passion fruit puree. So puree it is.
The other favorite flavor of mine is coconut! I love coconut. Yum, yum yum coconut. I like coconut in all forms, fresh out of the shell, in a drink, dessert, curry, soup, shredded, dried, sweetened, I've even had coconut deep fat fried (I feel like the shrimp guy from Forrest Gump). I remember when I was a kid, as a family we would go on vacation to Mombasa, and when you arrived at wherever you were staying, you would be greeted with a coconut drink, meaning they would drill 3 holes in the top of a new coconut put a straw in it and enjoy. The actual water in a coconut is a bit bland to me, but not too bad. And when you sit by the pool, staring at the beautiful, white sandy beach, somebody will climb a tall coconut palm with a machete to hack down the ripe coconuts. Watch out for falling coconuts!
Anyways, when I saw the Hay Hay It's Donna Day! theme of cheesecake hosted by Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, I said 'self, you should participate'. And here it is. This cheesecake is a creation that I played around with, and I got some of my inspiration from

Passion & Coconut Tropical Cheesecake

To prepare the pan:

Using the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan, trace an outline of it onto parchment paper and then cut out the parchment paper circle. Assemble the springform pan back together. Grease the bottom and sides of pan, then lay parchment round on the bottom and grease the parchment also.

Cashew Crust

In a food processor grind until a coarse meal:
1 cup salted, roasted cashews
¼ cup packed brown sugar

Pour cashew mixture into a bowl and add:
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp cinnamon

Cut/stir in until all the butter is incorporated and mixture is coarse and sandy:
6 Tbl butter, softened, almost melted

Stir to combine:
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 325°F. Press crust into your pan, over the bottom and up the sides as possible (about a ½ inch up the sides), and then pierce with a fork. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, till golden brown. Let crust cool. Once cool, wrap the outside of the pan with a layer of tin foil in order to make sure the filling does not leak out and make a mess in your oven.

Coconut Filling

In a large mixing bowl, beat together:
2 8-oz packages of low-fat cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Then add:
1 15-oz container of part skim ricotta cheese (drained in a cheesecloth lined sieve over a bowl for 5 hours, or overnight, then once all liquid is removed, press cheese through a sieve to help to reduce the graininess)
1/3 cup low fat sour cream
1/3 cup coconut milk
¼ cup rum (preferably a nice golden brown rum- not white rum)
1 ½ Tbl coconut rum
2 Tbl flour
1 ½ Tbl cornstarch

Beat in, one at a time:
5 eggs and the egg white leftover from the crust

Fold in:
½ cup toasted coconut (I use a combination of sweetened shredded coconut and unsweetened desiccated coconut)

Pour filling into the prepared, cooled crust.
Sprinkle over the top:
¼ cup toasted coconut (sweetened, shredded kind)

Bake cake at 300°F for 1 1/2 hour. At this point your cake should be a little bit wobbly in the very middle, but definitely set on the sides. Turn the oven off and let the cake remain undisturbed in the oven (that is off) for 8 hours or overnight. Once this resting period is over, cover and refrigerate cake.

Passion Fruit Sauce

In a small sauce pan combine:
2 cup frozen passion fruit puree, thawed (I use Goya brand)
¾ cup sugar

Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is nice, thick, and syrupy.

Stir in:
1 Tbl rum (the golden brown kind)

If you happen to have fresh passion fruit on hand, you can stir the seeds/pulp of one or two fruit into the sauce if you like.

Allow sauce to cool. Cover and refrigerate.

To Serve:

Loosen the sides of the chilled cheesecake from the pan with a knife. Remove sides of the springform pan from the cheesecake. Gently use a spatula to lift or slide the cake on the parchment paper off of the springform pan bottom and slide the cake onto a serving plate. Drizzle passion fruit sauce over cake. Serve cake with the bowl of extra passion fruit sauce for your guests to add to their own dessert.

Enjoy! Cake, if covered well, can last for a few days or so in the fridge (provided that nobody gobbles it down late at night).