Admittedly, I was a little late to the coconut water party. I finally took notice of those super interesting coconut water bottles start to hit the shelves of my grocery store a few years ago and I was super enthusiastic to jump on the bandwagon. I read all about the health benefits. I'm always looking for ways to flavor my water and I LOVE coconut so it seemed like a no brainer. I eagerly pulled one of each of the different kinds of coconut water from the shelf and put them in my cart, eager to take home and start hydrating.
When I got home, I conducted my own taste test and sampled all of the different types of coconut water. I wanted to love it. I thought I would love it. To be honest, it never actually occurred to me that I wouldn't enjoy it. What's not to like? It's water, it's coconut, it's delicious, right? I tried it over and over again but I just couldn't seem to convince myself that coconut water was as wonderful as it was in my mind.
The fact that I don't enjoy drinking coconut water, isn't going to stop me from cooking with it though. Reducing it and using it as a sauce for chicken and vegetables is my idea of the perfect use for coconut water.
Chicken and Vegetables with Coconut Water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/3 cup coconut water
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon garlic
8 ounces sugar snap peas
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
Slice chicken and serve with vegetables.
This recipe has single-handedly restored my faith in coconut water. This chicken was really good. There wasn't a ton of coconut flavor even though I used both coconut water and coconut oil but it was insanely delicious. Who knew that coconut water was such a great way to flavor vegetables and chicken? Now I can't help but wonder what other things I can cook with coconut water.
Ready for your daily cake lesson? I like to think of cakes as being organized into families with butter cakes and sponge cakes given "parent cake" status.
Butter cakes rely on baking powder or baking soda as the leavening agent to give them their tender crumb. Yellow, white, chocolate and pound cakes all fall under the butter cake limb of the family tree.
Sponge Cake, on the other hand, gets it light fluffy texture from whipped eggs. Angel food cakes, cake rolls and ladyfingers are all delicious examples of sponge cakes.
If you married a butter cake and a sponge cake, you would end up with a chiffon cake child. A combination of baking powder and whipped eggs gives this unique cake it's exquisitely light texture.
And as with most families, there's a black sheep of the cake family - the oil based cakes. Carrot, hummingbird and coconut all fall into this category. They resemble a butter cake in the fact that they use baking powder as a leaving agent but oil takes the place of the butter in these recipes.
I honestly can't choose which type cake I like the best. I bake a lot of cakes and I'm seeing more and more recipes that cross over the cake family boundaries. Butter cakes that use a combination of butter, oil and whipped eggs. They're amazing and delicious even though I don't know exactly where to put them on my cake family tree. Isn't that a perfect example of family though? Imperfect and complicated but lovely and beautiful, just the same.
I'm sharing a recipe for an Olive Oil cake today. This is definitely one of those hybrid cakes. Oil instead of butter, baking powder AND whipped eggs for leavening and baked in a springform pan. I think this one would be the "super fun uncle" on the family tree of cakes.
Olive Oil Cake
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups + 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup milk
Bake 40-45 minutes at 350.
Let cool 15 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Cool completely.
Top with fresh berries to serve.
Hey dad - this cake is butter and lactose free if you use a dairy milk alternative. I think you're going to like this cake.
I have a problem. I'm addicted to chips and salsa. Like really and truly ADDICTED.
I can describe to you the exact moment that I realized that I had a chips and salsa problem. I caught myself walking into the kitchen last week and gabbing a bag of corn chips and pulling a container of homemade salsa out of the frig. That wasn't really the problem. The issue was that it was 9:00 in the morning and I wasn't even hungry! Even at that early hour, my body was craving those salty little triangles of corn goodness along with the slightly sweet salsa with just the right amount of "heat." I caught myself dipping and eating chips almost unconsciously at such a rapid pace that before I even realized it - I had eaten half the bag - in 15 minutes. Yup, that's the moment I realized that I have a chips and salsa problem.
If I could eat just one serving of chips, I wouldn't be so worried. The problem is that once I eat even a single salty fried tortilla chip, I MUST have another. And another. And another. You get the idea. If only I craved celery or carrots, the same way that I crave tortilla chips.
In an effort to regain control of my chips and salsa addiction, I made the conscious decision to stop eating them altogether. (Or at least until my body stopped craving them.) I never realized just how many places served chips and salsa. They are ridiculously hard to avoid. I expected to have to decline the basket of chips and salsa at our favorite restaurants but was caught completely off guard at the chips and salsa sample tables in the grocery store. There I was, trying to fill my shopping cart with healthier snacking options when BAM! - more chips and salsa - right in from of me. Never fear, despite the grocery store attempt at sabatoge, I successfully survived day one of my chips and salsa fast. It was a rough one. LOL
I've armed myself with some new recipes up my sleeve to replace my chips and salsa habit. I love tacos and I'm not about to stop making them so I needed to come up with some new, healthy side dishes to serve with my homemade tacos. This Southwest Tomato and Corn Salad is a great compliment to any taco AND it's a way healthier side dish than chips and salsa.
Southwest Tomato and Corn Salad
1 1/2 pounds rips mixed tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 ear corn, cooked, kernels cut from cob
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon sliced green onions
1 Tablespoon jalapeno, minced
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup queso fresco
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro
Spoon dressing over tomatoes.
Sprinkle with cheese and cilantro.
I've been denying myself chips and salsa for exactly one week now and I have to admit that I still daydream about the crispy fried snack. I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to break that salt craving cycle but I am hoping that I'll eventually be able to eat just a single serving of chips, instead of scarfing down half the bag.
I'll keep you posted on my chips and salsa fast and let you know how it's going. Oh and if I seem a bit more irritated in the next couple of weeks - you'll understand. ;)
Have you ever experienced food regret? I have the perfect story to describe to you exactly what I mean when I talk about food regret. I carefully orchestrated a week's worth of delicious dinners for Ben and I before heading out to three different grocery stores to gather all of the supplies and necessary ingredients to prepare them. Among the tempting meals was an exquisite crab cake dinner. I splurged on expensive crab meat for my dinner because I figured it was an extra special delicacy that we don't often treat ourselves to. Feeling good about my purchase and the upcoming crab dinner that I was going to surprise Ben with, I headed home to get started. I carefully crafted and constructed two of the most elegant and beautiful crab cakes that you have ever seen. I surrounded them with crackers and fresh peaches and presented them to my devoted husband in grand style. I anxiously awaited Ben's response as he took his first bites of my creation and much to my delight, he declared that he "liked" the dinner. Not exactly a raving review but I took it as a compliment and moved on. About 2 hours after dinner had been eaten and cleaned up, I overheard my wonderful husband talking to our daughter on the phone. Somehow the subject of dinner must have come up and I hear him say "mom made us tuna fish for dinner." Whomp whomp. I was so deflated. The entire time that he was eating that delicious (and expensive) crab cake, he thought I had plopped a can of tuna on his plate. Food regret.
I realize that my story might actually discourage you from serving crab cakes to your family and that was not my intent. Just to be on the safe side though - you might want to announce to your family, exactly what it is that you are serving when you make crab cakes. I have no doubt that most of the population will be able to distinguish crab meat from tuna fish. And just to be clear - I thought these crab cakes were really good.
Crab Cakes with Roasted Corn and Fries
1 pound crab meat
1/4 cup panko
3 scallions, minced
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon butter
Corn and Potatoes
4 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 8 wedges
1 1/2 teaspoons old bay seasoning
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Serve crab cakes with tartar sauce, corn and roasted potatoes.
Sheet pan dinners are really popular right now. If you haven't tried them - this is your chance. Cooking your entire meal on one foil lined baking pan is a great way to minimize clean up and maximize your cooking efficiency.
Any day spent outside, amongst animals, is better than any day spend inside - alone. I'm fascinated by animals and I really believe that they have a universal attraction. Maybe it's because focussing on creatures other than ourselves forces us to put aside our own desires. Redirecting our attention from ourselves to animals who have the most basic needs, helps us to prioritize the things that are really important in our own lives.
Zoos are a great way to experience animals but I admit that trips to the zoo weren't always peaceful. Zoo days when my kids were little involved a lot of chasing after excited toddlers who ran from exhibit to exhibit and removing curious preschoolers who had perched themselves precariously on fences to get a better view of an animal. The zoo was exhausting to say the least but I still loved it. There's something about watching animals in their "natural" habitat that calms and quiets my soul - in spite of my tumultuous children. It's no surprise that studies show that interacting with animals can actually lead to lower blood pressure levels in people.
Even though my kids are older now, and technically adults, we still like to make zoo visits as a family. We try and squeeze in zoo visits whenever we travel to a new city. We recently visited the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and I just can't say enough great things about this amazing place. It was such a fun day and we made some great memories.
Talk about getting up close and personal with animals. Every one of the animals appeared to be thriving in the environments that their handlers had created for them inside the confines of the zoo.
So how do you end a fabulous day spent at the zoo? With a very simple and decadent Berries and Cream Torte. Fresh berries and whipped cream layered between a simple sponge cake. Sometimes, simple desserts are the best.
Berries and Cream Torte
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons powdered sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups sliced strawberries
2 cups blueberries
2 cups raspberries
Bake 8-10 minutes at 350.
Top with remaining cookie layer and whipped cream. Top with remaining berries and refrigerate 4 hours.
This red, white and blue dessert would be perfect for your 4th of July celebration! Just a hint. ;)
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