Coconut milk + Chia seeds + Lemon zest = a yummy, healthy treat!

The ingredients for a lovely treat!

The ingredients for a lovely treat!

Life has been very busy these days. It happens every Spring. There is more light in the day, sunny afternoons meant for beers and laughing with friends. There are weekend getaways with friends who will shortly be moving on from Prague. And there is the Elementary School musical that I have been working with all school year. On Friday, we have show number one so this week is all about marathon rehearsals and very little time for creating in the kitchen. But I like a little something sweet when I am tired. Instead of turning to chocolate or other bad calories, I am preparing my healthy treats for the week.

1 can of coconut milk, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1 tablespoon honey- that is all this recipe needs. Of course you can jazz it up how you want. I have thought about adding a little cinnamon or chocolate chips or even mango purée. Today I was feeling the sunshine and decided to add lemon zest! All you have to do is put the ingredients in a bowl, mix until whipped and then leave in the fridge overnight. I prepare portions in small jars and as my Kindergarten learners would say- easy peasy.

Sweet, zesty, and yummy

Sweet, zesty, and yummy

 

Thanks to my Twinsie for serving this at brunch. My sweet tooth thanks you…

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Rhubarb, oh rhubarb! by L

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Rhubarb… love the name, the color and the tang. Therefore, on a recent visit to my local farmers market, I couldn’t resist  bringing home some stalks. However, I’m not an expert with this vegetable, (sometimes called a fruit too,) so I was a bit unsure about how they would end up on our plates.

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Thank goodness for the Internet! One thing I did have in mind was to use this herbaceous perennial in a dessert to celebrate my husband’s birthday. But, have you ever heard of a rhubarb birthday cake? Yep, me neither.

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However, a strawberry rhubarb tiramisu for a summer birthday was a fine runner-up. I found this delicious recipe from  http://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/stovetop-cooking-method/strawberry-rhubarb-tiramisu/  The only substitute  I made was to use a cup of orange juice instead of 3/4 cup of orange juice and 1/4 of Grand Marnier. It had to be a toddler friendly dessert.

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All that’s left to say is that this tasted absolutely divine. Now go and find some rhubarb before the season is over!

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Party Cake by L

Party cake!

Party cake

Lately it seems like I’ve been baking every dessert recipe featured in Jamie Oliver’s book, The Return of The Naked Chef. The naughty treat that I will be writing about is called “Party Cake,” and rightly so. This cake is full on! We are talking chocolate, cream, strawberries, raspberries and MORE chocolate. It’s a true celebration for the taste buds.

Getting ready for the party.

Getting ready for the party.

This cake was baked in honor of fellow TPB contributor, Nikki. Only the best party cake for our birthday girl! This combination of chocolate with fruits swimming in sweetened cream equaled a deliciously moist birthday cake. Thank you Jamie O. for another fine recipe.

Adding the finishing touches.

Adding the finishing touches.

The finished product will make your honored guests think you slaved all day and night preparing this gorgeous delight. However, the required task is not at all daunting. It’s been the easiest fancy birthday cake I’ve baked in ages! Now, go bake one too. Party or No Party. Bake it, you know you want to! And please tell me all about it.

This slice has party written all over it!

This slice has party written all over it!

Party Cake from Jamie Oliver

Ingredients-

Cake:

3 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder

200 grams caster sugar

200 grams butter

3 large eggs

200 grams of self-raising flour, sifted

1 rounded teaspoon baking powder

1 handful of flaked almonds

200ml double cream

1 large handful raspberries

1 large handful strawberries

Who's birthday is it?

Who’s birthday is it?

Chocolate topping:

100 g butter

100g best cooking chocolate

100g icing sugar

3 tablespoons milk

Pre heat oven to 180C/350F

Line the bases of 2 X 20cm/8 inch cake tins with greased parchment paper.

Mix the cocoa powder with 4 tablespoons of boiling water until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and butter until fluffy, add the cocoa mixture, eggs, flour and baking powder.

Mix well, fold in the nuts.

Divide the mixture between the tins.

Bake for about 25 minutes.

When cooked, allow to cool then remove from the tins.

Topping:

Melt the chocolate topping ingredients in a bowl over some lightly boiling water.

Stir until blended well and allow to cool.

Whip the double cream to soft peaks and sweeten with a little sugar to taste.

To assemble the cake, remove the grease proof paper from both sponges.

Spread the cream on top of one of the sponges.

Then sprinkle it with the fruit.

Place the other sponge on too and press down.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake and smooth it off.

Then drizzle the chocolate topping over the whole cake.

Let the topping firm up before serving it.

Enjoy with your fellow party-goers!

 

Two Nut Chocolate Torte and it is Gluten Free! by L

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If you are looking to indulge, this is the cake! I found this recipe in a hand-me-down copy of Jamie Oliver’s The Return of the Naked Chef (thanks C.M.) It calls for a favorite combination of mine: Chocolate and Nuts. Although the recipe says you can substitute any kind of nut, I followed Jamie’s instructions to a tee. For my next round, I might try it with hazelnuts or pecans.

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Besides having a fantastic dessert to look forward to, another sweet thing to come out of this baking experience was the chance to reconnect with my ol’mixer. It is a powerhouse of a kitchen gadget, something like a Kitchen Aid, but I think this one really rocks the house. I pulled out my Bosch MUM out of the pantry, dusted it off and gave it a quick whizz. After sitting idle on the shelf for over 2 years, it was still in perfect condition. Before the children were born, this machine had a very important place on my kitchen counter and was used very often. When the twins arrived, good ol’ Bosch got shoved aside by the Avent bottle sterilizer.

Well, it’s back and I can honestly say, it’s getting a lot of use again.

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Two Nuts Chocolate Torte (from The Return of the Naked Chef, by Jamie Oliver)

(Note: We enjoyed the torte more the day AFTER it was baked. It seems like the flavor and texture could use a bit of settling in time. If you are looking to really indulge, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche. SOOOOO good!)

150g of ground almonds

150g of finely ground walnuts

300g of your best quality cooking chocolate

1 teaspoon of cocoa powder

255g butter

100g caster sugar

6 large eggs, separated

salt

Preheat the oven to 190C

Line or grease the bottom of your spring form or baking tin.

Place nuts, chocolate and cocoa in food processor and whizz for 30 seconds to break up the chocolate.

Put aside in a separate bowl.

Add the butter and sugar to the food processor and beat until pale and fluffy.

Keep the processor running and add the egg yolks, one at a time, then mix together with chocolate and nut mixture.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks.

Gently fold in the egg whites into the chocolate, butter and nut mix.

Pour all the mixture into the tin.

Bake in the oven for around an hour.

To test if the torte is cooked, insert a toothpick or tip of a knife in center of the cake and hold for 5 seconds.

When it is removed, it should be clean.

Enjoy with some ice cream, whipped cream, greek yogurt or creme fraiche!

Cranberry Pear Pecan Coffee Cake

Cranberry Pear Pecan Coffee Cake

Cranberry Pear Pecan Coffee Cake

My mom LOVES pecans. When she comes to visit and I happen to be baking, she never fails to ask if pecans were added to the mix. If my mother could, she would dump cups and cups of pecans into every bowl of batter. I like pecans too, but I’m not one to get too nutty over it.

A quick peek at Union Square Market, NYC

A quick peek at Union Square Market, NYC

During my latest visit to NYC, I got a chance to stroll through Union Square Market. A few minutes into my walk,  several tables stocked with fresh ruby cranberries quickly captured my attention. In the Czech Republic, cranberries usually appear with a dish as a sauce for fried cheese, roast duck or as dried cranberries sold in packages. I have yet to cross paths with a barrel of the fresh kind in any of the markets or major grocery stores.  Although they weren’t on my grocery list, I couldn’t resist bringing a huge bag of these luscious dark red cranberries home. I did however, hold back from running my fingers through the deep baskets of berries. My 2-year-old daughters would have loved that!

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On the train ride back, I started to think about what to do with so many cranberries. I wanted something easy, moist and to have on hand for breakfast. When I got to my parents’ home, my daughters were still napping, so I sneaked in some internet time. After a bit of surfing, I found a recipe that called for cranberries, pears and buttermilk. I could sense that this cake would satisfy my craving for a moist cake to go with my morning coffee.

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Gathering up my baking tools and ingredients, my mom popped into the kitchen. “Are you going to bake?” she asks.

“Yep,” I replied, knowing exactly where this conversation was headed.

“Is there going to be pecans? Will it be a crunchy cake?” she asks.

“Of course, Ma,” I answered back immediately, even though I knew the original recipe didn’t include pecans.  So, here’s my version inspired by my mom’s passion for pecans.

photo-2Cranberry-Pear Pecan Coffee Cake

(adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large pear, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, buttermilk, butter and vanilla.

Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fold in the pear, cranberries, 1/2 cup of pecans and orange peel.

Transfer to a 9-in. spring form pan coated with cooking spray and dusted with flour.

Combine brown sugar, remaining sugar and 1/2 cup of pecans.

Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Perfect Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares by L

Pumpkin and pecans sharing the spotlight!

Pumpkin and pecans sharing the spotlight!

This is a two-for-the-price-of-one recipe. If you’re a fan of pumpkin pie AND a fan of pecan pie, imagine them both together! Did you? Can you picture all that sweet yumminess together? Well, that’s exactly what you get with this recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares.

So happy together!!!

So happy together!!!

My mom was cleaning out some of her kitchen cupboards and found a number of tattered recipe cards. She asked me to take a look at them, just in case something caught my eye. Otherwise, they were all heading out to the recycling bin. Halfway done with the stack, this recipe caught my eye. How could I go wrong with a combination of pumpkin and pecan pie? I didn’t. Best of all, the steps were so easy to follow and this will surely be added to my list of favorite autumn desserts to bake!

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares (adapted from my mom’s cupboard)

Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup old fashioned or instant oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

Filling:

1/2 cup of granulated sugar (3/4 if you prefer something sweeter)

1 3/4 cups of pumpkin puree

1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk

2 large eggs

2 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Topping:

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Pre heat oven to 180C/350F  degrees

Combine flour, oats, brown sugar and butter in small bowl. Beat at low speed or blend with fork or hands until crumbly. Then press onto an ungreased baking pan, 13X9 in.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Combine the sugar, pumpkin, milk, eggs and spice in large mixing bowl.

Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes, pour over crust.

Bake 20 minutes.

Combine pecans and brown sugar in small bowl.

Sprinkle pecan topping over filling.

Continue to bake for 15-25 minutes or until fork or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before serving.

Best if served with some fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!

Goodbye Summer Fruit Pudding by L

Yep, Summer’s gone. Totally gone. The temperatures have fallen. Sweaters, thick jackets and wooly hats have replaced our tank tops, flip-flops and shorts. Our sidewalks are now scattered with red, yellow and brown leaves. Apples of every size and shape, pumpkins big and small and the scent of mulled wine can be found at the stalls of our Farmers’ Markets.  Autumn has come to town.

Summer's delight

Summer’s delight

Luckily, I was able to squeeze in this lovely dessert full of summer’s fruity collection. One last goodbye. One last delight. One last bite of summer.

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This pudding comes from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, The Return of the Naked Chef.  (Thanks Claire!) His recipe called for peaches, but it could be easily substituted for other fruits. Whichever way you decide, I’m sure it will be a winner.

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It tastes best warm and with a dollop of anything that is white and creamy: a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche.

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Let me know which fruits you decide to add! Enjoy!

The recipe in Jamie Oliver’s book is called “Sheila’s Pudding,” but is based on the classic Eve’s pudding (made with stewed apples). Since I’ve continued to play with the recipe, I think I’ll call it- Liezel’s Pudding!

Liezel’s Pudding (adapted from The Return of the Naked Chef)

About 2 cups of mixed fruit: I used nectarines, peaches, blueberries and plums.

Except for the blueberries, cut the rest of the fruits in half and remove the pits.

1 vanilla pod, scored and seeds removed

4 teaspoons demerara sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

125 g butter

125 g caster sugar

2 eggs

125 self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180/350.

Put fruits in a saucepan together with the sugar, vanilla seeds, cinnamon if using and 4 tablespoons of water.

Simmer for 5 minutes.

Then place on a well-greased and lightly floured ovenproof dish or bowl.

Beat the butter, caster sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.

Then add flour, mix thoroughly and spread over the fruit.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes.

Remove and serve with something cold, creamy and white! (Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or creme fraiche)

Have Your Carrot Bread and Eat it Too! by L

Whole Wheat Carrot Bread

Whole Wheat Carrot Bread

I have a sweet tooth. I love cakes, cookies and ice cream. I love pies, chocolate and muffins. I love pancakes, waffles and …I think you get the picture. I don’t love getting on the scale and watching the pounds/kilos increase. Fortunately, I have two active and energetic toddlers to help me burn those unwanted calories, and a bunch of healthier recipes to help maintain my appetite for sweets.

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This recipe comes from one of my mommy friends. If you follow the blog, you may know that I have been trying to create some variety into our breakfast rotation. Little P has long been protesting against the warm and nutritious bowl of oatmeal served first thing in the morning. “No,” she says with authority, as her head and little index finger sway from side to side. I get it. The oatmeal has become boring and tiresome. I quite enjoy my piping hot bowl of porridge in the mornings, but I completely understand. Not everyone can eat this mush, day after day.

Mommy friend, L to the rescue! By chance, we happened to see each other at one of Prague’s many beer gardens ( lucky us!) Like most moms, she came prepared. Inside her “mom” bag were canisters of food, ready to nourish her little ones as soon as their hunger signals appeared. One of these containers housed some bread that snapped up my daughters’ attention. L kindly shared some slices with us. After scarfing down their pieces, they quickly returned for more. Clearly, I had to get this recipe.

L’s version was made with zucchini. This moist whole wheat bread can be eaten for breakfast or as a snack during any part of the day.  It hits the spot when I am craving cake, but doesn’t leave me feeling guilty after every bite.

Whole Wheat Zucchini or Carrot Bread

1 1/2 cups zucchini or carrots, grated.

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup honey or brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/2 cup nuts (optional)

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Beat together oil and honey, then add eggs, vanilla and zucchini or carrots.

Sift dry ingredients and add to the vegetable mixture.

Add nuts and raisins last, if using.

Bake in a greased loaf pan at 180/350 for 45-60 minutes.

Careless Carrot Cake Recipe by L

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eggs +

carrots =

carrots =

Carrot Cake!

Carrot Cake!

Ok, maybe you need a few other ingredients, but these two were the ones that came directly from last week’s visit to my local farmers’ market. This is another recipe that I’ve had for some time and not exactly sure where it came from. It’s a low-fat carrot cake recipe (although I think it’s got a lot of sugar, so not really sure how this helps,) that is super moist! I happen to like that in a cake and it’s all thanks to the buttermilk.

This recipe must have come into my life before the time of the internet because it’s recorded in ancient script. When I get a craving for this cake, I realize I missed something during the act of copying the recipe down. Each time I  review the ingredients and steps, I notice that a very key player in this baked treat is missing: the carrots. No where is it written in the recipe or list of ingredients about how many carrots are needed. Therefore, I wing it based on the kinds of carrots I have stored in my bin. Somehow, it always turns out perfect! Thank you baking gods!

recipe documented in old skool style

The recipe documented in “old skool” style, minus the carrots.

Carrot Cake

9 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 large carrots, grated

Frosting (optional)

1-2 packages of cream cheese

1/4 cup butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

crushed toasted pecans

2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Pre heat oven to 350F degrees or 180 C

Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Mix butter and both sugars for 5 minutes.

One by one, add the eggs and egg whites.

Then add the vanilla.

Combine all the dry ingredients.

Slowly add some flour and then some buttermilk.

Continue to alternate the addition of the flour and buttermilk.

Then stir in the carrots.

Bake for 30 minutes or until center comes out clean.

Let cool for ten minutes before adding the frosting.

Directions for Frosting:

Beat the first four ingredients at medium speed.

Then add the powdered sugar and beat at low-speed until well combined.

Let it chill for 30 minutes before using.

Top with crushed pecans if you like.

My Mama’s Leche Flan- an Easter must have! by L

Got eggs?

Got eggs?

Now that the Farmers’ Markets are back in full force, I often pick up a carton of ten lovely brown eggs to add to my basket. Eggs are taken quite seriously at the markets. Some stands only specialize in selling eggs and of course they come in all sizes: small, medium and large.

My mom’s Leche Flan recipe calls for a big rally of egg yolks, but don’t let this frighten you away. After you take a bite, you won’t even think twice about your cholesterol increasing or your blood sugar doubling. This rich sweet, creamy caramel custard has always graced our family’s table at Christmas and Easter time. Since it only makes a bi-annual appearance, there was never any reason for me to fear its’ intense calories and sweetness. Although, after you realize how easy it is to make, you might have trouble only baking it twice a year.

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Leche Flan

1/4 to 1/2  cup of Sugar

8 egg yolks

1 1/4 cups of Condensed Milk (about 1 can)

1 1/2 cups of Evaporated Milk (about 1 can)

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Grated Lime Zest (optional)

-Heat oven to 180C or 325F degrees

– Pour sugar in a 8” round baking tin: silicone or aluminum works fine

-Over a low flame, hold the pan over the heat and let the sugar caramelize. This can take a few minutes. This is the trickiest part of the recipe. You don’t want to burn any fingers and you don’t want the sugar to burn.  As the sugar is melting, swirl the pan around so that the bottom and the edges are evenly coated. Put aside when done.

-In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, both milks, along with the grated lime zest and vanilla. Stir and mix all ingredients well.

-Pour into the baking pan. Cover pan with foil.

-Using a larger baking pan that can hold the flan, place it in the oven filled halfway with water (bain-marie.)

-Then place the flan inside the steam bath.

-Bake for 1 hour.

-When done, let cool and refrigerate  for at least 2 hours until ready to serve. (I usually make this dessert the night before)

-When you are ready to serve it, be sure to carefully flip the flan over to display the beautiful caramelized top and let the syrup fall along the sides. I slide a knife along the rim to loosen it and then take the platter where it will be served, place it on top and flip it over as quickly as possible.  Garnish with mint or berries.