A Strawberry Rhubarb Bunting First Birthday!

Our little Oakleigh Elaine turned ONE!

I had been sewing bunting for weeks in preparation, and on her birthday morning she woke up to a flag filled dining room like I had envisioned. A family tradition started this year that will live on for all family birthdays to come.

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We celebrated on her actual birthday just the three of us. We danced for her birth minute at 4:14 and watched her tear into a cake that evening. Of course she was more excited about kicking it than eating but I was ok with that!

The next day we celebrated in a big way with an open house BBQ party filled with family and friends. The house was cleaned up (as much as an in-construction house can be at least!) and the back yard decorated with bunting and lights. We had hot dogs and burgers, and cut into a huge strawberry rhubarb curb filled chiffon cake after a chorus of “happy birthday”.

It was a very special day.

 

Six Layer Chiffon Curd Cake

I have made this cake with lemon curd and raspberry curd, but for Oakleigh’s first birthday it was strawberry rhubarb filled. The original recipe directions are for a tube pan, but I have had success dividing it into three standard round pans, or one 12x18x2″ half sheet pan. Slice the individual cakes in half and you have the base for a lovely, light, filled cake.

Chiffon Cake

For a 12×12″ 6 layer cake I baked two of these in a 12×18 pan, sliced in half and stacked into 6 layers.

  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Wash a 10 inch angel food tube pan in hot soapy water to ensure it is totally grease free. Or 3 9″ round pans, or 12×18 sheet pan.
  2. Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into sifter. Sift into bowl. Make a well; add oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla, and lemon flavoring to the well in the order that is given. Set aside. Don’t beat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until very stiff. Set aside.
  4. Using same beaters, beat egg yolk batter until smooth and light. Pour gradually over egg whites, folding in with rubber spatula. Do not stir. Pour batter into angel food tube pan.
  5. Baking options:
    1. Angel food pan: bake 55 minutes. Increase heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and bake 10 to 15 minutes until done. Invert pan until cool.
    2. Round pans: bake 15-20 minutes, check and add 5 minutes at at time until done. Cool in pan.
    3. Sheet pan: bake 20 minutes, then add 5 minutes at a time until done. Cool in pan.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Curd

Keeps stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

  • 1 quart bag of rhubarb
  • 1 pint strawberries (the fresher the better!)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs + 4 egg yolks

Cream butter and sugar until thick and pale. Put into saucepan with strawberries, rhubarb, salt and lime juice. Slowly cook until thick, stirring. Strain into bowl and set in fridge. (I did not cook mine long enough and it did not set fully, so I reheated and added two sheets of gelatin and it saved it.)

Whipped Cream Frosting

This was a great find (original recipe here). Not too sweet, easy and holds up well. For layering with fruit curd it make clean lines between each chiffon layer.

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whipping cream

Directions

  1. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.
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Coconut Milk Vanilla Ice Cream (Dairy Free!)

I am on week two of trying no diary. Of course it is fall and that means apple crisp…which is not complete without a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The pints of alternative ice creams at the grocery store were a) too expensive, and b) just not really what I was going for, so I made my own based on my traditional dairy ice cream base, swapping milk and cream for coconut milk!

Verdict: it tasted like frozen coconut cream pie. Heaven! On it’s own it was very coconutty, but when paired with apple crisp resonated pretty true, rich vanilla. I have made a chocolate version that is excellent too.

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Coconut Vanilla “Ice Cream”

  • 4 cups full fat coconut milk (we use Thai brand Aroy-D cartons from our local Asian market)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks

METHOD

In saucepan, heat HALF the coconut milk with sugar, arrowroot powder, and salt until heated through, stirring or whisking constantly (not boiling). Temper egg yolks with some of the hot mixture, and add to pot. Continue cooking until the consistency is of thin pudding. Add in vanilla extract and remaining 2 cups of coconut milk.

At this point I choose to pour the ice cream mix through a mesh strainer to remove any lumps, but this is optional .

Cool ice cream base in the fridge until cold, overnight is ideal. Churn in ice cream maker for ~20 minutes or until done. Freeze in containers for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tea Time: Digestive Biscuits Recipe

If you have ever been to England, you probably know the tea time staple: McVitties digestive biscuits. Crisp and substantial, sometimes covered in chocolate, these are a unique treat somewhere between graham crackers and shortbread…but really, quite different from both. They are getting easier to find here in the US, but I stumbled upon a copycat recipe and decided to give it a try. Verdict: amazing. These are light and crispy and exactly what you want with tea. I expect they will be on regular rotation in our house.

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Digestive Biscuits

Makes 12-14 cookies. I recommend doubling the batch as these go fast!

3⁄4 cup whole wheat flour

1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour

1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄4 tsp salt

1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1⁄4 cup wheat bran

5 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons brown sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons half-and-half

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, bran, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar with a pastry blender. Mix in sugar with the hand pastry blender (food processors or mixers will work, but the crumb and texture will not be as flaky in the final product). Mix in fats with the pastry blender. The mix at this point should be crumbly and uniform. Mix the vanilla in the half-n-half and add to the mix. Mix with pastry blender until it is uniform and resembles soft, crumbly playdoh. Do not overwork the dough.

Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes to make it easier to handle. Roll out dough between two pieces of waxed paper to approximately 1/8″ thickness. Cut into rounds with cookie cutter about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

Transfer to cookie sheets with silpats or parchment. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes (adjust the baking time up to dry them out more if the biscuits are too soft and fluffy), or until golden. Let cool on wire rack.

Optional: spread the backs of the cooled biscuits with melted chocolate and let harden.

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Hummus & Bread

We are on a few culinary kicks. First off, cooking on a one burner induction hotplate. With the kitchen out of full function (and soon to be worse when we rip of countertops, backsplash and add more cabinets!) we are trying to utilize our grill and oven more. Enter: no knead bread. I have read this recipe for years now and decided to give it a try. We are hooked. My modification is using half whole wheat flour and half regular bread flour. Perfect hole-y inside, chewy outside and beautiful to look at.

No-Knead Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour (I use half whole wheat, half bread flour)
  • oat bran
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt

Bake in a cast iron pot with a lid. See method hereIMG_2835[1].

Next up: something to go on that bread, hummus. To be honest, I have never really loved hummus. It was ok, but this changed my mind. It rocked my world and is all I want to eat! With veggie stick, by the spoonful, and best of all, on fresh bread (see above!) Matt’s thrown together version of a fresh lemon pesto hummus is wonderful.

Lemon Pesto Hummus

  • 2 cans beans, drained (garbanzo, white or a combo of the two)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or more to taste…it should have a lemony zing!)
  • 1 cup-ish of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • Optional: sun dried tomatoes

Method: In food processor, blend all ingredients until very smooth. If too stiff, add more olive oil.

All We Did (and a recipe)

After a week back in the office (hello water taxi/bus commute!) I envisioned a weekend of progress on our remodel. Finish the closet drywall, take down the plastic and start priming and painting walls. Right?

Ha. We spent the weekend in glorious slow mode. Sleeping in. Drinking coffee and taking long walks to the beach. We went to two beaches on Saturday and one on Sunday (can you tell we love living on an island?). Spent 3+ hours walking, listening to the waves, picking up agates, sea glass and driftwood. It was magical. We brought home bags of glass. All perfectly frosted and in a beautiful array of colors.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning and sorting glass, cleaning and drying driftwood, and cooking. And sitting in the hot tub. Bending/squatting down on the beach for hours does wear out your back and legs. We made our favorite soup with fresh made chicken stock, and ate in front of episodes of Parenthood and It’s Always Sunny.

The renovations did not get touched. We continued to navigate around the plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling. I did not make any mobiles. Progress on those projects will get tackled this week while we feast on delicious leftovers.

Kale, Sausage, Bean Soup

Our favorite go-to, especially with fresh kale from the garden. Awesome with a hot baguette.

  • 1 package sausage, out of casings (we like spicy Italian)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 32 oz can tomatoes (diced, or if whole, cut into pieces with juice saved)
  • 16 oz chicken stock
  • 16 oz water
  • 2 bunches fresh kale, destemmed and ripped into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 2 cans garbanzo or white beans, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oregano
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parsley
  • Parmesan rinds (optional but totally amazing if you have them)

Cook sausage out of casings until golden, remove and set aside. Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook until tender. Add tomatoes and juice, stock, parmesan rinds, oregano, parsley and kale. Simmer until kale is wilted. Add beans, sausage, basil and extra water and simmer until kale is tender.

Enjoy topped with grated Romano cheese and hot pepper flakes.

 

 

Tuna Pasta

Although the vines may not look like much, the tomatoes on them are oh so good! (I guess next year we need to right-size cages so the tomato plants are actually supported!)

With another dose of rain on the way we picked two huge bowls full of red goodness. One bowl turned into dinner, the other into sauce for the freezer. Cooking two different meals at the same time helps us streamline putting up food (a feat we are still figuring out) so that none of this harvest goes to waste.

This year our favorites were Old Germans and Milanos. We planted 15+ varieties and are going to plant more selectivly next year with just our favorites. Old Germans are a great heirloom slicing tomato with epic flavor. Perfect for tomato salad with feta or mozzarella. Milanos are a good Roma for sauce…much like San Marzanos but seem to do better up here in the PNW. Finally, Sun Sugars have become our favorite cherry variety.

Dinner was our favorite: tuna pasta. Sounds simple, is simple, but really far from ordinary. It is good any time of year with cherry tomatoes, but with a variety of fresh picked flavors and high quality tuna in olive oil, it is divine.IMG_7433[1]

Tuna Pasta

2-3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

½ yellow onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans tuna, packed in olive oil

Olive oil

Fistful of fresh basil

Salt and pepper

Stabby pasta of your choice (we like penne and rigatoni)

Fresh Romano or parmesan cheese

Hot pepper flakes (optional)

Preparation: In medium sized skillet, cook onions in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook until tender. Add tomatoes and oil from the tuna, and simmer until water is mostly evaporated and tomatoes are falling apart. Cook pasta separately in salted water. While pasta cooks, add tuna to tomato sauce and heat through. Tear basil into sauce, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over pasta with ample cheese and hot pepper.

Tales from Belize: B’s Deli

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Our first drive through San Pedro was in the back of a taxi. We worked our way through the maze of one way streets, past the main round about and proceeded north out of town. There were many things to take in, but one detail stuck out in my memory: a little red food stand that was upgrading it’s front waiting area with fresh, white gravel. And then I forgot about it.

A few days later, Matt and I were on a quest for fry jack.  If anything sums up our trip it is the discovery of this delectable food: Cheap, delicious, filling and uniquely flavored to Belize (at least in my mind). What is it, you ask? Picture a cross between Indian fry bread and an elephant ear. Sometimes plain (dipped in honey or sugar) and sometimes stuffed, with exciting combinations like egg and ham or beans with chicken. Sometimes the stuffed jacks are filled then fried, other times just folded over the filling after the dough is golden brown. All are good.

We had sampled fry jack at other places but were in search of the San Pedro version. We were walking along and saw a small red food stand with a handwritten butcher paper sign indicating that our desired breakfast was made fresh inside. B’s Deli. We stepped up, ordered one, and had a seat. Only after we were sitting there playing peek-a-boo with an adorable 2 year old did we realize this was the same place that had only that week added the gravel floor.

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The fry jack did not disappoint. Fluffy and golden and stuffed with chicken and beans. What a breakfast. When we asked how much, $2.50 came as a surprise…Belize dollars. $1.25 for that delicious plate of fried fresh goodness. We were coming back.

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The next day we brought mom and dad. Four fry jacks all around (this time two of ham and egg and two of chicken), more peek-a-boo and full tummies afterwards.

Now the next morning was our final day on Ambergis, so of course we had to make one last trip. You can never have too many fry jacks! We walked up and the woman at the counter was happy to see her repeat customers. We told her that her fry jack was THE best and she asked us if we wanted the secret. She wrote down her recipe and invited us inside to learn how to make them.

We found space in the back of her tiny deli…the whole building was not more than 8×12, and learned the secret to her golden puffy dough. It was only then that we learned how lucky out timing was to eat her fry jack…she had only been open 5 days!

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If your adventures take you to San Pedro on Ambergis Caye, go visit B’s Deli. It is located on the North side of town, across the street from a bicycle shop almost at the bridge. Look for a red building with white gravel. The bubbly woman cooking there is great to talk to, her adorable “hurricane” daughter will bring a smile to your face, and the fry jack is delicious. I cannot wait to have another.