Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TWD-Coconut Tea Cake Biscotti with Vin Santo

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A seemingly unpretentious cake until you take that first bite. The subtle coconut flavor takes you by surprise. The coconut tea cake could be the little black dress of easy cakes to serve with coffee or tea. There are many ways to play around with this lovely cake-the juice and zest of lemons, limes and orange complement the coconut flavor, plus one can spice it up with a combination of coriander, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon.  And don't forget to add the rum for a Caribbean twist. The cake would great served with a dollop of lemon curd or toasted and topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce or a raspberry coulis.

Keeping the calories down, I sliced the cake into finger-shaped pieces and toasted them in a preheated 350° oven for 10 minutes, turning several times to evenly brown the pieces, then served them with the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo, biscotti-style. Dipped or not, your choice.  Traditional in Tuscany, Vin Santo (holy wine) is most often made with white grapes and is described as a straw wine since the grapes are often dried on straw mats. Sweetness levels vary with the wine-some can be very dry and some can be ultra sweet. While there are many theories as to how the wine got its name, the most likely origin was derived from its use in religious Mass where a sweeter wine was preferred. Source.

Carmen of Carmen Cooks has the recipe on her blog. This cake is one I've added to my repertoire of easy, yet an elegant and versatile desserts. Visit the  TWD website to see other variations of the coconut tea cake.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Samurai's Garden-A Book Review and a Recipe For Cold Peanut Noodles

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The Samurai's Garden *****


Once again, I'm joining in Food for Thought, the brainchild of Jain of Once in a Blue Moon whose stunning photos are not to be missed. Food for Thought embodies not only the the joy of reading, but the love of food; and for those of us who are also camera aficionados, the satisfaction of making and photographing the dishes that we read about.

Many books I hurry to finish, but The Samurai's Garden is one I wished would never end. A beautifully written book by Gail Tsukiyama about a Chinese college student racked with tuberculosis who is sent to his Japanese grandfather's beach house in Tarumi to heal his body, but in the end manages to heal, also his soul.  The time is 1937,  the Japanese Imperial Army is invading China. Stephen feels lost as a young Chinese man in a Japanese village where most of the young men are off fighting the war. He meets a lovely Japanese girl on the beach, but because of the war, she is not allowed to see him. Matsu takes him to see Sachi, who has banished herself to a leper colony to spare her family and her fiance, Kenzo from the shame and embarrassment of her affliction. Although Stephen is the main character in this richly poetic novel, the four people he meet are dominant. The Samurai's Garden is a moving story of love, the cruel hand of disease, personal tragedy, culture clashes and longing. The plot pales beside the depth of the characters.

Matsu, caretaker of the beach house cooks for Stephen his grandfather's favorite breakfast-bacon and eggs, a Western dish. Other than that, all the food references are to traditional Japanese food. Tea and rice crackers, miso soup, red bean cakes, fish cakes and noodle dishes are abound. There are picnics with foods wrapped in colorful cloths called  "furoshiki", a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, shown below.


In the end, I decided on a cold peanut noodle dish made with creamy peanut butter, toasted sesame oil, chile garlic paste, ginger and garlic and topped with a salad of shredded romaine, carrots in a sesame vinaigrette. Although, not traditionally Japanese, it was close and I knew we would like it. Plus, it's super easy and colorful.


Cold Peanut Noodles
Adapted from Body + Soul Magazine, April 2010

1/2 pound udon noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1-1/2 teaspoon chile garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup water

Salad Ingredients
1 cup shredded or julienned romaine letter or baby bok choy
1/3 cup shredded carrots
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch salt

Cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water. While noodles are cooking, prepare sauce. Whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic paste, ginger, garlic and sugar. Thin with up to 1/3 cup water.

When noodles are done,drain and rinse under cold water. Drain well. Toss sauce with pasta and thin with a little more water if desired. Combine salad ingredients. Divide pasta among 4 bowls. Top with salad.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blueberry Banana Smoothie-Thirsty Thursday

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Thirsty Thursday makes it debut with an easy,healthy blueberry banana smoothie made from non-fat Greek yogurt, honey, organic apple juice; and enriched with wheat germ, a good source of vitamins B and E, iron, heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, among other important vitamins and dietary supplements necessary for a healthy diet.

Originally smoothies were a combination of fruit, fruit juice and ice pureed in a blender. According to Wikipedia, pureed fruit drinks were first sold by health food stores on the West coast in the 1930's. These icy fruit concoctions weren't called "smoothies" until the Waring blender company published a cookbook of pureed fruit drinks using their machines; thus the name. Modern day smoothie can be composed of just about any kind of fruit, fruit juice, yogurt and honey or other sweeteners. There are healthy smoothies, alcoholic smoothies, like the pina colada, for instance, and smoothies made with soft drinks. Many vegetarians and vegans drink smoothies made with green vegetables such as spinach, kale and romaine lettuce. Just about anything goes, it seems! Try this Blueberry Banana Smoothie for breakfast!

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
3/4 cup 0% Greek yogurt
1 cup apple juice
1 medium banana, sliced in the 1-1-1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1-2 tsp honey

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Alternatively, use a hand blender to puree ingredients. Makes about 2-1/2-3 cups. Serves 2-4.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TWD-Dulce de Leche Duos

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Wow! Jodie of beansylovescake picked a winner with these part crispy, part cake-like cookie sandwiches filled with creamy tantalizing dulce de leche, literally "milk candy" in Spanish. Dulce de Leche is available at many grocery stores which carry a large selection of Spanish and Mexican foods. It is easily made from scratch using sweetened condensed milk, but is time-consuming. I froze most of my cookies before filling them, but the filled cookies keep well covered at room temperature for several days making them perfect for entertaining.

Jodie has the recipe on her blog, but also check out the TWD blogroll for other variations of this perfectly delicious cookie.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Raw Food-A Book Review

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Feeling very sluggish from the cold winter and an abundance of comfort foods, I was delighted to receive Raw Food, A Complete Guide for Every Meal of the Day" by Erica Palmcrantz and Irmela Lilja, a team of Swedish raw food professionals. Raw foods consist of fruits, berries, vegetables, seeds, nuts, dried fruits, algae, sprouts, legumes, honey, cold pressed oil and spices. These foods are not heated above 104°F, a temperature which would destroy the enzymes which aid in digestion and absorption of food. Raw food is not a trendy diet, but a lifestyle change to attain a healthier life.

Well written with tantalizing photos of fresh produce, dried fruits and nuts, the authors begin with chapters explaining raw and living foods, the value of soaking nuts to activate the enzymes, steps for beginners to embark upon a raw food diet, kitchen supplies to facilitate the preparation of these foods and how to begin eating a raw food diet. There are recipes for each meal, plus snacks, such as workout shakes, side dishes and even desserts, all healthy and easy to prepare.

The Raspberry Coconut Smoothie pictured above is just one of many flavorful and enticing recipes featured in Raw Food. There are "pasta" dishes using fresh zucchini ribbons as in Zucchini Pasta with Marinated Mushrooms. A Yoga Salad with Pistachio Dressing chock full of raw vegetables like cabbage, spinach, arugula dressed with a soaked pistachio nut dressing made creamy with the addition of avocado. Basic recipes include homemade tahini, almond milk, creamy dressings, pestos, tapenades among others. Fruits pies with crunchy uncooked nut, date and spice crusts, mango lemon balm ice cream, chocolate mousse; all are healthy and flavorful!

Spring is upon us and not only should we clear the clutter in our homes and places of work, but also in our bodies. Raw Food is highly recommended. This review is my personal opinion of this book.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TWD-Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart

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A very delicate chocolate raspberry tart; rich and luscious with a ganache of two chocolates- bittersweet and creamy milk chocolate poured into a fully baked almond nut crust dotted with fresh raspberries, then baked briefly to set the chocolate. This is not a make-ahead dessert, but is best baked and served at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Thanks to Rachelle of mommy? I'm hungry for her pick this week. A short post this week as I have just returned from Disney World in Orlando with the grandkids and my husband is having knee replacement surgery in the morning, so I've hustled to get this posted.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Cocktails-Black Russian and Blood Orange Campari

Print Friendly and PDF While I am on vacation with my family at Disney World in Orlando this week, I thought I would feature two of my favorite cocktails.I will be back to regular blogging next week. Hope you enjoy these libations!

A great coffee drink!

Black Russian Coffee Cocktail

Coarsely crushed ice
1/4 cup vodka
2 tablespoons Sabroso or Kahlua
3 tablespoons chilled brewed coffee

Fill an old fashioned glass with ice. Pour the vodka and Sabroso over the ice and stir. Add 3 tablespoons coffee to the glass and stir. Makes one 4 1/2 oz. serving.

1/2 cup blood orange juice
2 fluid ounces Campari
Ice Cubes
Blood orange slice, to garnish

Pour blood orange and Campari in a glass. Add ice cubes. Garnish with a slice of blood orange

Monday, March 01, 2010

Blood Orange Ice Cream with Blood Orange Caramel Sauce

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The last of the blood orange season seems to be upon us now, but I have enjoyed using them this winter. Just recently, I found some Moro blood oranges in a local grocery store tucked away near the navel oranges.The Moro is an early blood orange and its flesh is one of the more deeply pigmented of the blood orange family,nearly purple red, with the rind having a reddish pink blush when fully mature.

This ice cream recipe comes from Joyce Goldstein's book,"The Mediterranean Kitchen", published in 1989. The cookbook has a fabulous collection of recipes from the sun-drenched countries of the Mediterranean; simple seasonal foods that are unpretentious, yet satisfying and not difficult to prepare.

It takes a substantial number of blood oranges to get enough juice for this ice cream so feel free to use another citrus juice such as the navel orange or tangerine juice; however with tangerines, getting the grated zest is more difficult. A great special occasion ice cream. Serve with oranges segments alone or with this lush blood orange caramel sauce.

Blood Orange Ice Cream

2 cups blood orange juice (about 12 oranges)
4 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 4 blood oranges
9 large egg yolks
1 -1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat the jucie to boiling in a saucepan and boil until reduced to 1 cup. Mix the cream, sugar, and the zest of 3 oranges in a saucepan and heat to barely simmering, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

Lightly whisk the egg yolks until completely blended. Whisk about 1 cup hot cream into the yolks, then whisk into the remaining cream mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3-5 minutes. Do not boil as mixture will curdle.

Strain the custard into a mixing bowl and stir in the reduced juice, the vanilla, and remaining orange zest. Place immediately in a larger bowl filled with ice water and chill, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

Serve with Blood Caramel Sauce. Makes 1 quart.

Blood Orange Caramel Sauce

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup blood orange juice (about 6 blood oranges)
Grated zest of about 1/2 blood orange

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and caramelize ( See Note below). Pour in the juice off the heat using care as the caramel may splatter. The caramel will harden into a mass. Stir over medium heat until the sugar remelts and the sauce is smooth. Chill. Taste, if the caramel is bland, add the zest. Serve at room temperature or warm it over hot water. Makes 2 cups.
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