Thursday, November 14, 2019

Butternut Squash Creme Brûlée

It is that time of year again when I re-visit one of my all-time favorite fall recipes, and possibly the sweetest way to cook with butternut squash: my Butternut Squash Creme Brûlée. We all know that creme brûlées are rich deserts but this version is a low calorie recipe as it uses half and half instead of the traditional heavy cream. This does not mean that it is lacking in richness; butternut squash puree adds a velvety texture and the perfect fall flavor - I think this would become one of your favorites as well. My update this year is a little bit of coconut whipped cream and some pomegranate seeds when serving. 

Click here for the recipe. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Pilaf

Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Pilaf 
Serves about 5

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, diced 
2 sprigs of thyme
4 leaves of sage
3 cups cubed butternut squash
2 cups basmati rice
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups water 
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds 
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. In a large saucepan over medium high heat, cook the shallots, thyme, and sage in the oil for about three to four minutes until the shallots have softened and begin to brown. 
2. Add the butternut squash and cook until the edges have browned. Add the rice and salt, and cover with about 3 cups of water. Bring up to a simmer then cover the pot and reduce the heat. Continue to cook until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. Remove and discard the thyme and sage leaves. Fluff with a fork before serving. Serve topped with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Chetna Makan's Lemon and Turmeric Cake

Chetna Makan was a finalist on the 2014 season of the Great British Bake Off and I enjoy following her cooking on Instagram. Recently, she posted a video of this cake and, based on the combination of flavors, I had to try it. Lemon together with turmeric is not a common cake flavor but, not surprisingly, this turned out to be the  most delicious lemon cake I have ever tasted. (I'm not ashamed to say, between my husband and I, it was devoured in about 48 hours.) Having watched season 14 of the GGBO, I'm not surprised that  these flavors work - Ms Makan is the unofficial authority, in my opinion, of combining the exotic with the traditional in ways that produce delicious results. Another great aspect of this cake is it's ease of preparation: combine all ingredients, pour into a prepared pan and bake. An easy, delicious cake. You can't beat that. 

Lemon and Turmeric Cake
Adapted from Chetna Makan
Makes one 9" x 3" loaf 

3/4 cup butter, room temperature 
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup self rising flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp turmeric 
zest and juice of one lemon

1. Set the oven to 350 degree F. Grease and line a 9" x 3" loaf pan. 
2. Mix all the ingredients until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes until a toothpick test comes out clean. 
3. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before inverted and glazing. Pour into the glaze while the cake is still warm. 

For the glaze:
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice 
2 -3 drops of yellow food coloring 

Combine all ingredients until smooth. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Stuffed Pumpkin with Shrimp and Cheesy Grits

This month, it is all about pumpkins at our house. My boys are spending many an evening and the past couple weekends helping me carve or create decorative, painted pumpkins for our fall-themed front porch. We may have gone overboard with the number of pumpkins out there already - they just love this part of fall. And I love watching them embrace the change of the seasons, and everything that it entails. The slighty cooler temperatures, the beautiful colors of the craning leaves, and of course, all the flavors and ingredients of the season.

This time of year, I love to incorporate pumpkin in our dinner plans. Stuffed pumpkins, admittedly, require a little bit of preparation but are a show stopper at the dinner table.  For this recipe, I used  pie pumpkin but acorn squash and kabocha squash can be substituted here. To serve, simple cut in half from the top down. Expect a little spillage, the filling is grits after all.

Stuffed Pumpkin with Shrimp and Grits
Serves two

For the pumpkin:
1 small pie pumpkin
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper

For the Shrimp and Grits:
2 cups of water
1/2 cup stone ground polenta grits
salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, gruyere or smoked gouda re all good choices here)
1/2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil

To prepare the pumpkin: 
Using a damp paper towel, wipe the pumpkin clean. Cut the top off in about two inch around  the stalk. Discard the top. Then scoop out the guts (seeds and stringy bits.)  Once all of the guts have been removed, brush the interior with the vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Place upside down on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes until fork tender. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool slightly before filling. 

To Prepare the Shrimp and Grits: 
Bring the water to a boil and add the grits, salt and pepper. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Set aside while you prepare the shrimp. 

Combine the shrimp, garlic, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.  Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and cook the shrimp for about two to three minutes on each side. Try not to over cook as the shrimp will continue to cook in the oven. 

To assemble:
Gently flip the pumpkin right side up. Spoon the prepared grits into the pumpkin, stopping about an inch or two below the top, then layer the cooked shrimp on top. Return to the 350 degree F oven and bake for an other 15 minutes. Serve warm. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This cake has two cups of zucchini nicely hidden in its chocolatey interior. But, please, do not tell that to my four year old. He has devoured may a slice without the slightest idea that his mummy is deceiving him. Obviously, this deception is for his own good - like many four year olds, it is a herculean task to get any sort of vegetables in his diet. Therefore, his mummy will continue to make zucchini chocolate cakes, I mean plain old chocolate cakes, as long as necessary. Not that I mind because this is an absolute cinch to make; simply a matter of adding a mixture of wet ingredients to a mixture of dry ingredients and popping it in the oven. Possibly the hardest part is the one hour it takes to bake plus the few minutes of cooling.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake 
Makes  one 9" x 3" cake

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour*
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 salt
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini **

For the glaze
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 oz  semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F, and spray a 9 x 3 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, and vanilla. Mix in the zucchini followed by the dry ingredients.
4. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 50 to 60, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool thoroughly before glazing.

For the glaze:
Add the cream and chocolate chips to a double boiler. Stir until the chocolate chips have melted and a smooth glaze has formed.

* You can, by all means, use all purpose flour here. I like to substitute a little bit of whole wheat ever I can simply to bump up the fiber content of many of my baked treats, another little trick my four year old know soothing about.
**When measuring out the zucchini, it is important not to tightly pack the measuring cup, as this can result in too much moisture and ultimately your cake batter might over flow in the oven.  I would recommend placing your loaf pan unto a baking sheet to avoid having to do unnecessary clean up.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Figs

By far, the months of August and September are my favorite when it comes to the beautiful variety of produce, both local and imported,  available at farmers markets and grocery stores here. Currently, I can find at least three varieties of figs at my local grocery store, and I am eating them pretty much every day. In smoothies, in salads, grilled and topped with creamy mascarpone, as a snack, you name it. Over thirty years ago when I was growing up in the Caribbean, figs were unavailable there but I have been curious about them, having seen them in numerous recipe books; they looked so luscious and exotic. Thankfully, they have lived up to my expectations when I finally did get to taste them for the first time, and I have been hooked ever since. 

Figs add a lovely bit of sweetness that compliments many ingredients well. You would find the same holds true when served with any kind of roasted squash, as it is here. This recipe is as simple as  it is   versatile. You can serve it as it is shown here, which is as a side dish, or combined with fresh greens for a hearty salad or even as topping for pizza. How ever you choose, I hope you do get to pick up some of these delicious fruit before the season is over. 

Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Figs
Serves 4-5

6 - 7 cups cubed butternut squash
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 chopped oregano 
1/4 cup chopped mint 
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups cubed or crumbled feta 
6-8 fresh figs 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
2. On a large baking sheet, combine butternut squash, oil, salt, pepper, and half of the oregano and half of the mint. Arrange in a single layer, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. 
3. While the squash is roasting, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat for about 3  minutes, just until they start to glisten and turn golden. (Careful, pine nuts burn very quickly. )
4. Once the squash has roasted, combine with the toasted pine nuts and the remaining ingredients, and arrange on a serving platter. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

No Churn Peach Ice Cream

This is quite possibly the easiest ice cream recipe I've found so far. We are at the end of summer but you can still find some delicious peaches that would work nicely here. Feel free to adjust the recipe for more sweetness depending of the ripeness of the peaches you do find. 

No Churn Peach Ice Cream
Makes about a quart
(Adapted from Food 52)

4-5 very ripe peaches
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
1 cup plain yogurt 
1 cup sugar 

1. Halve the peaches, remove and discard the pits. Cut the peach flesh into small cubes. 
2. Place the peach cubes  in a food processor and pulse until somewhat smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Pour into a baking sheet about 9" x 13”. Freeze until solid. (This took about three hours with the size of baking sheet I used.)
3. Remove from the freezer and break into pieces. Add to the food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately or store in the freezer. Once frozen, allow to thaw for about 5 minutes before scooping out. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Grilled Peaches

Grilled peaches are a summer staple for my family. They are simple and very quick to make, not to mention quite tasty. Serve them just off the grill as is or with a scoop of your favorite ice cream for extra decadence. 

Grilled Peaches 
Makes about 6 servings

3 whole peaches, halved and pit removed
agave or honey

1. Prepare your grill to medium heat. 
2. Drizzle honey or agave over the cut side of the peach halves. Grill cut side down for about 3 to 4 minutes until you get sufficient grill marks. Serve with an extra drizzle of honey or with ice cream. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Summer Berry Pavlova

Almost every pavlova recipe begins with a brief history of the dessert, each one with a reference to its contested origin of either Australia or New Zealand. What is not contested, however, is the beauty and absolute deliciousness of this dessert. 

Making pavlova requires a bit of patience and could entail a few episodes of trial and error (it was not until my third attempt that I began to see decent results). This patience will be rewarded with the most luxurious of desserts that I think you would come back to every summer (to showcase those summer berries) or whenever the mood strikes.  

Summer Berry Pavlova 
Makes about 4 servings 

2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp cornstarch 
whipped topping
raspberry sauce 
fresh summer berries such as raspberries, strawberries and red currants

For the whipped topping:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 
2 tbsp sugar

For the raspberry sauce:
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 sugar 

1. Set the oven to 275 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside. 
2. Add the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar to a stainless steel mixing bowl. Whisk at medium speed for about 3 minutes until foamy. Slowly increase the speed of the mixer to high, while adding the sugar and cornstarch. Continue to whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks. 
3. Carefully spoon the mixture unto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet to form a raised circular disc of about 1 1/2 inch to 2 inches high. Place in the oven, and reduce the oven temperate to 250 degrees. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let the pavlova cool completely. Once cooled, gently lift off from the parchment paper and place on a serving dish. Top with cream, raspberry sauce and fresh fruit, as desired. 

For the whipped topping: Whisk the whipping cream with an electric mixer. As it thickens, add the sugar and continue to whisk until just firm. 

For the raspberry sauce: Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil. Stir well, crushing the raspberries as you go. Cook over a gentle simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and pass through sieve, discarding the seeds and pulp. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Water Melon and Cucumber Salad with Feta

Nothing says summer like a sweet watermelon, and nothing says summer salad like this sweet and savory watermelon and cucumber salad with chunks of feta. Feel free to drizzle on your favorite vinaigrette right before serving. 

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad with Feta
Makes about 6 servings

1 small, seedless watermelon
1 cucumber
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
fresh mint leaves
edible flowers such as violas, if desired

1. Using a melon baller, scoop out the watermelon. Cut the cucumber into thin slices.
2. Combine the melon and sliced cucumber with the other ingredients and arrange on a large platter, garnishing with violas. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Burmese-Inspired Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk and Turmeric with Sweet Potato

This is one of the most delicious curry-type dishes that I have tasted in quite a while and I have eaten a lot of curry dishes. It is also the first Burmese-style dish that I have tried and, while I have never been to Burma,  the confluence of spices and ingredients seems to be a great reflection of Burma's geography and  history with its neighbors. Burma is neatly tucked in between India and Thailand so it is not surprising that  turmeric and coriander, two of the stars of Indian cuisine, and the Thai staples coconut milk and fish sauce are main ingredients in the fragrant marinade.  The ingredient list is extensive for sure but, step-wise, this is a pretty un-complicated dish to endeavor, and your effort and time would be well worth it. 

Burmese-Inspired Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk and Turmeric with Sweet Potato
(Adapted from Sara Jenkins)
Serves 4-5 

1 1/2 lbs organic, free range chicken legs 
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp turmeric powder 
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp vegetable oi
2 whole garlic cloves
1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 shallot, peeled
1 dried chili
1 bunch fresh cilantro 
1/4 cup coconut oil 
1 cup cubed sweet potato
3 cups chicken stock
1 up unsweetened coconut milk 
2 tbsp spoons fish sauce
1 lime, juiced 
salt to taste 

1. Marinate the chicken with the ground ginger, turmeric, coriander and vegetable oil. Ideally, marinate over night but, if pressed for time, half an hour in the refrigerator would do.
2. In a food processor, mince the garlic, fresh ginger, shallot, chili and cilantro.  
3. Add the coconut oil to a heavy-bottomed pan set over medium heat, then add the sweet potato cubes and fry until golden brown on at least two sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken to the remaining oil in the pan and allow to brown. Season with a pinch of salt. Add the shallot-ginger-chili-cilantro mixture and cook for about two minutes until it starts to look a bit grainy. Do not burn. Add a couple tablespoons of the chicken stock and let reduce until the mixture is soft and cooked. Add the rest of the chicken stock and the reserved sweet potato and bring to a simmer. 
4. Simmer the soup for about half an hour until the chicken and sweet potatoes are cooked through. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice and coconut milk and bring back to a simmer. Stir in a quarter cup of cilantro leaves and salt to taste before serving. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Colorful Vegetable Trays - How I Sometimes Get My Toddler To Eat His Veggies

One of the most challenging things I do on a daily basis is try to encourage my toddler to eat vegetables. To give him credit, he does eat those spicy black bean quinoa burgers from Trader Joes (the ones that were voted one of the best veggie burgers on the market). Besides that, the only substantial sources of vegetable nutrition comes from any that I am able to discreetly sneak into foods, such as kale blended into a green smoothie, grated zucchini baked in a chocolate bread,  finely ground peppers and mushrooms incorporated into taco meat, and not forgetting fruit and vegetable pouches - those are heaven sent.

Like most toddlers, mine is attracted to colorful foods. And if he can get involved in its preparation, he will be more prone to  trying it at least once. To that end, I recruit him quite often to " help" me in the kitchen. One of the things he loves to do is spiralize vegetables, in spite  of his deep-seated vegetable aversion. (Of course, we use the spiralizer together and he is never without adult supervision whenever he is in the kitchen.) Much to my surprise, every vegetable that he has spiralized, he has tasted. So far, cucumber has been added to the list of foods he now eats. Carrots? Beets? Still off the list but Rome wasn't built in a day. 

It is a challenge trying to encourage healthy behaviors in toddlers. I think the best we can do is lead by example and continue to have healthy options for food available. I try to have a colorful vegetable platter (ideally one that he and I have prepared together)  on the table most evenings, as often as time, my patience and energy level would allow. Sometimes, my toddler would eat a few pieces - last night he ate two slices of cucumber and a slice of radish. Other times, he runs from the table screaming for three scopes of  ice cream. He likes to keep things interesting, as interesting as I like to keep my vegetable platters.  

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Cherry Coconut Overnight Oats

Overnight oats is one of those perfect breakfast foods. It is quick and easy to make, and full of good properties such as fiber and protein, that magical nutrient combo that can keep you satiated until lunch time...on most days! 

For me, its appeal has to do also with its versatility. Overnight oats can be made with any combination of dried or fresh fruit plus additional flavorings: blueberry and almond, cinnamon and raisin, cherry and vanilla. Possible flavor combinations are endless. When it comes to the liquid ingredient, you can use any type of milk, it all depends on your preference or dietary restriction.  

This combination of cherry and coconut is one that I am currently enjoying on mornings. Shredded coconut adds just the right amount of sweetness that I am looking for, as well as additional fiber. And the protein? That comes from the soy milk. This  is a delicious and healthy breakfast that certainly keeps me full all morning. 

Cherry Coconut Overnight Oats
Makes 2 servings 

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup dried cherries 
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut 
1/4 cup coconut yogurt
1 cup soy milk 

1. Mix all of the ingredients together. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate over night. 
2. The following morning, remove oats from he refrigerator and stir to determine if it needs additional liquid to reach desired consistency. Pour into serving bowl, and top with additional coconut flakes and fresh cherries, if desired. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Leek and Potato Soup

Today is January first, the beginning of a new year. The last year had been a good one, with the birth of my second son (we are now a family of four), a couple of amazing family vacations, and many occasions for laughter and adventure. I am looking forward to more good things this year and, with two boys now, something tells me adventure we would have.

The past few days have really been indulgent - it was the holiday season after all -  so I am looking forward to eating lighter and incorporating more of  plant-based slant to my cooking this year.  
Soups are an easy way to fill up while consuming less calories, and lends it self nicely to the incorporation of vegetables.  This leek and potato soup is nutritious and totally vegan and, when paired with a generous piece of fresh baguette, is  perfect middle-of-winter food. I have chosen to drizzle a chili-infused oil at the end but this is quite optional. 

Here's to your good health. Happy New Year! 

Leek and Potato Soup
Makes 4 servings

2 tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, trimmed, thinly sliced and washed thoroughly
3 scallions, sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 average-sized russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 quart vegetable stock
1 1/2 cup plain soy milk
Chili oil, optional* 

1. Heat a dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil followed by the leeks, scallions and thyme. Season lightly with salt.  Cook until the leeks have softened well, stirring occasionally, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Take care to reduce the heat to low, if necessary, to prevent burning.
2. Add the potatoes and vegetable stock. Stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 30 minutes. 
3. Turn off the heat, and remove and discard the sprigs of thyme. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Stir in the soy milk and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm drizzled with optional chili oil. 

*To make the chili oil, add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil to a sauce pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp crushed chili flakes. Warm the oil and chili, being careful not to burn the pepper, for about two minutes.