One More Small Anniversary Celebration ~ Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce and 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula

Spicy Salmon with Coconut Watercress SauceWe had our big wedding anniversary dinner celebration on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, which is the day of the week we got married. Our actual anniversary date fell in the middle of the week this year, but we couldn’t resist having a small, pared down celebration on the real date as well. We had lemongrass-crusted salmon with a watercress coconut sauce for dinner. Even though this salmon dish really was easy enough to make on a regular Tuesday, it was very delicious, and it felt like a dish fit for a special occasion. (Good thing, since I think this qualifies as a special occasion! :) )

I was inspired once again by a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. I followed his recipe for the salmon crust, but I completely changed the sauce to make it my own. The original recipe used a cup of beurre blanc, but I replaced it with coconut milk. (It was a good use for the leftover milk from the cheesecake!) I don’t use a lot of butter in my cooking, and the coconut added an additional tropical element. It mellowed the bitterness of the watercress nicely.

Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2, with leftover sauce

Salmon and Lemongrass Crust:

2 salmon fillets, about 6 oz each

1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (white part only)

½ tablespoon minced garlic

½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger

½ tablespoon minced shallot

½ tablespoon shichimi

Watercress Coconut Sauce:

1 bunch watercress, stemmed (reserve 4 sprigs for garnish)

½ tablespoon ginger juice (fresh ginger squeezed through a garlic press)

½ cup coconut milk

Safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine lemongrass, garlic, ginger, shallot, and shichimi in a bowl, and stir to blend. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan of water to a bowl. Place the watercress into a strainer, and when the water is bowling, pour over the watercress to wilt. Warm coconut milk. Combine watercress, milk and ginger juice in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until it is to your desired texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Preheat a medium non-stick saucepan over medium high heat. Evenly coat one side of the salmon fillets with the crust mixture. Drizzle the fillets with a high heat cooking oil, such as safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil. Carefully transfer the salmon to the hot pan, crust side down. Sear until the crust is a little browned. Turn, and finish in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until baked to desired doneness.

To serve, plate the salmon crust side up. Spoon the sauce on the top or side of the salmon fillets. Garnish with reserved watercress leaves.

We paired our dinner with a bottle of 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula red wine. We got married in 2000, and we had our wedding reception at Columbia Winery, so we bought a case of this wine several years ago.  We like to open a bottle on our anniversary every year. It is aging nicely, which I’ll take as a good sign for us! ;-)

Funny note: It began to absolutely pour down rain by the end of our dinner. Luckily, we decided to eat inside with the French doors open once again, so we could enjoy the thunder and showers instead of scrambling inside for cover. ;-) This bottom photo was taken in the middle of the downpour. It was actually kind of fun! It was definitely an anniversary to remember!

2000 Peninsula Red Wine

Wedding Anniversary, Part 3 ~ Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake and 14 Hands Winery Reserve Red Blend

Japanese-Style Coconut CheesecakeThe grand finale of our wedding anniversary dinner celebration was a Japanese-style coconut cheesecake. It was light and fluffy, almost soufflé-like, compared to a typical American cheesecake. The coconut flavor was very subtle, but I served it with passion fruit (called lilikoi in Hawaii) for an added tropical taste.

Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake

This recipe was from a website called Cooking Hawaiian Style. I omitted the butter completely, and I used reduced fat cream cheese, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely.

Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake

Based on a recipe from Cooking Hawaiian Style

Yield: One 8″ cheesecake

Note: Do not substitute homemade cake flour (regular flour mixed with cornstarch) for this recipe. Use a store-bought cake flour.

9 oz. reduced fat cream cheese (one 8 oz. brick plus 1 oz. of another brick)

1/3 cup coconut milk

6 eggs, room temperature – whites and yolks separated

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 cup plus

1/8 cup extra fine granulated sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. cake flour

3 tbsp. corn starch

1. Melt cream cheese and coconut milk in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally to break up cream cheese and combine the ingredients. Remove bowl from heat and allow to cool. Mixture will be thick. If lumpy, use a whisk to vigorously beat the mixture until smooth. Set aside.

2. When mixture has cooled, fold in the egg yolks, flour and corn starch. Fold until thoroughly incorporated.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

4. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and mix again, gradually adding the extra-fine sugar a little at a time until soft peaks form. Note: Soft peaks: mixture should be white and opaque, and meringue will fall onto itself when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

5. Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and fold together until well incorporated.

6. Pour into an 8-inch round spring-form pan that has been lightly greased and lined (sides and bottom) with parchment paper. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the cake so it does not brown.

7. Bake in a water bath for 1 hour 10 minutes. When timer sounds, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes with the oven door cracked.

8. Carefully remove pan from water bath and let stand until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove spring-form ring and serve.

Notes:

•Substitutions are not recommended for this recipe. Be sure to use whole milk, cake flour and extra-fine sugar. If you can’t find extra-fine sugar, grind regular sugar finer in a food processor.

•Sprinkle matcha green tea on finished cake, or top with fresh fruit for serving.

14 Hands Reserve WineWe also paired our meal with a bottle of 14 Hands Winery Reserve Red Blend. We discovered 14 Hands around the 14th anniversary of our first date, so it seemed fitting to close the loop by having a bottle to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary!

14 Hands Reserve Wine

Wedding Anniversary, Part 2 ~ Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Macadamia and Panko Crusted OnoThe main course of our anniversary dinner was another recipe inspired by Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. We had a macadamia nut and panko crusted ono fish, otherwise known as wahoo. (Wahoo! Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;-) ) It’s a Hawaiian fish with a dense but flaky texture, and a mild flavor. We also had a side dish of rice to accompany the fish. The cookbook calls this recipe Happy Rice. :) So all in all, I’d say this is one of the happiest dishes I have ever made. ;-) Wahoo and Happy Rice!

We are lucky enough to have a Hawaiian fishmonger around Seattle called Tim’s Seafood in Kirkland. In addition to a wide selection of Northwest fish, he also gets fresh Hawaiian seafood. I had my choice of some beautiful fish for our dinner! He even makes his own poke.

I used coconut oil on the fish, and it gave it a subtle coconut flavor that was a nice compliment to the macadamia nuts. The original recipe used quite a bit of butter, but the coconut oil was a really nice alternative. This crust would work well with any firm white fish I think. The original recipe was for opakapaka, which I couldn’t find at the fish store that day, so I think any mild fish with a fairly firm texture would be lovely.

Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood

Serves 2, with leftover rice for later

Happy Rice:

1 cup Japanese short-grain rice

1 cup water

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon furikake, plus more for top

Macadamia and Panko Crusted Ono:

4 tablespoons macadamia nut halves

4 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

2 6 oz fillets of ono

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To prepare rice:

Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water, until the water runs clear. Drain the rice and transfer to a bowl. Cover with fresh cold water, and let soak for 1 hour.

To cook the rice on the stovetop, place the drained rice in a saucepan and add 1 cup fresh water. Bring to boil, decrease heat, cover, and cook until the rice is soft and sticky and the water has just evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Combine the rice with ginger and furikake. Use small cookie cutters to form rice into compact shapes. Alternatively, dip your fingers in a bowl of slightly salted water to prevent the rice from sticking and mold 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice into triangles, cubes, or balls. Set aside and keep warm. Sprinkle the tops with more furikake.

To prepare fish:

In a food processor, pulse the nuts until they are cut into course pieces. Add the panko and oil, and pulse it all together until it is a thick paste, but still has some texture.

Coat one side of the ono with the paste. Preheat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium high heat, and when hot, place the ono in the pan, paste side down. Cook until golden, and then flip. Finish the fish in the oven. Cook until flaky, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Taste and say “Wahoo!!” OK, I have that out of my system now. ;-)

Stay tuned for our Hawaiian dessert in the next entry!

Anniversary Dinner

Wedding Anniversary, Part 1 ~ Martini of Spicy Tuna Poke and Dragon Fruit Lychee Sparkling Wine Cocktails

Ahi Poke Martini

We celebrated our wedding anniversary this year with a special Hawaiian-style dinner. We love to explore foods from all around the world. For Valentine’s Day (also our engagement anniversary), we made a sushi dinner, so we decided to go with a twist on that theme for our wedding anniversary by making a few Japanese-influenced dishes from Hawaii. It was a summery meal from the land of endless summers!

The weather was not very Hawaiian-like for our celebration, though. Ha! (But it was very Seattle-like!) It was a little drizzly, and cooler than it usually is around our anniversary. We decided to use that opportunity to set the dinner table in a new place…We kicked open the French doors in the guest room, and ate inside overlooking a sea of candles and tiki torches. :) Luckily it wasn’t too rainy, so the candles stayed lit. It was really beautiful!

I also found some sweet little printable paper orchids on Elli.com. They were free, very easy to assemble, and I think they added a fun tropical touch to our table.

Ahi Poke Martini

I based two of our dishes on recipes from a cookbook called Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. Chef Roy Yamaguchi has several restaurants in Hawaii and the mainland, and this book is a nice collection of a few of his Hawaiian seafood recipes. It was hard to choose what I wanted to make! I may continue to explore the recipes throughout our anniversary month. :)

We started our meal with a classic ahi poke, one of our favorite Hawaiian dishes. :) I loved the cookbook’s idea to serve it in layers in a martini glass, and then garnish with micro-greens, fish eggs, and thin strips of nori seaweed. I dressed the ahi much more lightly than the recipe called for. I used salmon roe instead of tobiko, because it’s local and also natural. I also doubled the avocado, since we love avocado. :)

Martini of Spicy Tuna Poke

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2 as an appetizer

6 oz center-cut ahi tuna, cut into ½ inch dice

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons sriracha

½ teaspoon fish sauce

A few micro-greens

¼ sheet nori, cut with scissors into thin strips

1 tablespoon salmon roe

1 avocado, cut into ½ inch dice

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine mayonnaise, sriracha, and fish sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Add as much or as little of the mixture to the ahi as you like. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Combine the avocado with the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Chill 2 martini glasses. Layer a few pieces of avocado in the bottom of the glass, then add a layer of ahi, another of avocado, and finish with a layer of ahi. Top with micro-greens, roe, and nori strips.

We also made fun dragon fruit and lychee sparkling wine cocktails to go with our first course. The dragon fruit added pretty little seeds and a very mild flavor, and the lychee gave the cocktail a nice sweetness. In a blender, I added a couple of slices of dragon fruit with about a ½ cup of lychee juice. Then I strained the mix, added a little to each champagne glass, and topped the juice with sparkling wine.

Stay tuned for the main course in my next entry!

Ahi Poke Martini

August 1st Anniversary ~ Peaches with Ricotta Honey Cream and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

I like to celebrate the little anniversaries that mark special events in our lives. On this date 16 years ago, Rob and I moved into our current house. It also marks my 19th anniversary of becoming a Seattleite!

To celebrate, we had a steamed Dungeness crab dinner, which is our favorite Northwest dish. Whenever we have crab, it feels like a special occasion! To cap off dinner, I made this summery dessert. Peaches are ripe in the markets now, so I wanted to highlight their sweet deliciousness with a ricotta honey cream and a little aged balsamic vinegar. You could grill the peaches, but we preferred them natural, just as they come. I did use heavy cream, but I cut it in half with a low fat ricotta. Only a little dollop is needed, so I figured a little cream would be fine. It was a celebration, after all! ;-)

Peaches with Ricotta Honey Cream and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table cooking classes

2 ripe peaches

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup low fat ricotta

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

2 teaspoons honey

Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Mint, optional

In the bowl of a food processor, add the cream and ricotta. Process until thick, about a minute. Add the zest, vanilla, and honey, and pulse until combined.

To serve, cut the peaches in half, and place a dollop of the ricotta cream mixture in the middle of each half. Serve with balsamic vinegar drizzled on the top or on the side, and a sprig of mint if you desire.

It’s Seafair Weekend ~ Beach Party Wine Label

It’s Seafair weekend in Seattle! Our neighborhood is right in the middle of the party, which is very fun. :) I watched the air show featuring the Blue Angels from our little swimming beach on Lake Washington. It was pretty awesome to be in the water, on a sparkling summer day, with Mount Rainier out in all its glory. Every once in a while I would need to cover my ears when the jets passed right overhead. ;-)

To celebrate this special weekend, I put together this festive little beach party wine label. The printable is part of a set of free beach party printables from CatchMyParty.com. They are super cute, and did I mention, free? :-) They would be perfect to make any beach party a little more special.

Happy Seafair!

(There is a Blue Angel jet flying in the bottom left corner of the top photo! I was able to catch one flying by with my camera. :))

Bastille Day Celebration ~ Madeleines

July not only has a big celebration for Canada on the 1st and the USA on the 4th, but France’s Bastille Day falls on the 14th. For a belated celebration, I made French madeleines. They are so elegant, but also very easy to make!

I tried a little experiment with this dish, since it is traditionally made with butter (as most French dishes are…Ha!) I made half the recipe the traditional way, with butter. I figured they are tiny little cakes; so a little butter in moderation is fine. I made the other half of the recipe with Earth Balance. I baked them in the same oven for the same amount of time, and observed the difference. I have to say, they were *both* quite delicious. There was not a bad madeleine in the bunch. ;-) The taste is slightly different, but both lovely. The butter version looked more beautifully golden brown, and spread out in the pan a little more. The Earth Balance cakes were a tad lighter in color, less golden. They also were slightly smaller cakes, since they didn’t spread out in the pan quite as much. The photo at the bottom displays the difference…The ones on the left are made with Earth Balance, and the ones on the right are made with butter. Your choice!

I used a tried-and-true recipe from Bon Appétit magazine.

Madeleines

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Pinch of salt

1 cup all purpose flour

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly (or Earth Balance buttery sticks)

Powdered sugar, optional, for serving

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter and flour pan for large madeleines (about 3 x 1 1/4 inches).* Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla, lemon peel and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended.

Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

Dust cookies with powdered sugar if desired.

*A metal mold with scallop-shaped indentations, sold at cookware stores.

South Carolina Kind of Summer ~ Lowcountry Boil

I got hooked on a mystery that was set in South Carolina, and became fascinated with that part of the country. This summer, I continue to read more stories from that region. It’s an interesting and beautiful place that I have not had the pleasure of visiting in person (yet, it’s on my list now!) Reading feels like a kind of virtual vacation, though. :) I am getting to know the place through the stories. I just started a beach read that is set on Sullivan’s Island in the Lowcountry called The Summer Girls. To celebrate that part of the state, I made a Lowcountry Boil, also known as Frogmore Stew. It is a simple one-pot seafood boil, but it feels festive and summery! It would be perfect for a summer party.

I used Trader Joe’s smoked andouille chicken sausage rather than a full-fledged pork sausage. I also used shelled shrimp for ease, but unshelled shrimp would be more authentic. Your choice. :)

Lowcountry Boil AKA Frogmore Stew

Based on a recipe from Southern Living magazine

5 quarts water

1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning

4 pounds small red potatoes

2 pounds chicken kielbasa, chicken andouille, or other hot smoked link chicken sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

6 ears fresh corn, halved

4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp (or peeled and deveined shrimp for easier eating)

Old Bay seasoning, for serving

Cocktail sauce, for serving

Bring 5 quarts water and 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning to a rolling boil in a large covered stockpot.

Add potatoes; return to a boil, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Serve with Old Bay seasoning and cocktail sauce.

Sweet Little Oven Printable

This is a little off the beaten path, but I discovered this super cute little oven printable, and I wanted to share it! I think it would make a sweet little gift box for candies or a cupcake. Or you can just fold it up to put on your desk, as inspiration while you ponder what delicious recipe you would like to cook next!

This printout comes from EatBoutique.com. The creator, Lucy Engelman, was kind enough to offer it as a freebie. (If you plan to print it, I would recommend going to EatBoutique.com rather than printing it from the photo above.)

I hope you enjoy! :)

Happy Fourth of July! ~ Bison Hot Dogs on Homemade Buns; Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad; Blueberry and Raspberry Parfait with Vanilla Yogurt and Whipped Cream

Click photos to expand. :-)

Bison hot dogs on homemade hot dog buns

Red, white and blue potato salad

Sparkling wine with blueberries and raspberries floating in the bubbles…

A red and blue berry parfait (with an equal combination of non-fat Greek vanilla yogurt and whipped cream for a layer of white)…

Fun patriotic decorations

It’s our Fourth of July celebration!

I hope you all have a fun, safe, and happy Independence Day! I’m off to Seattle’s festival on Lake Union! :)

Enjoy it all!

 

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad

From Cooking Light magazine

2 cups fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 10 ounces)

2 cups small red potatoes, quartered (about 10 ounces)

2 cups small blue potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 10 ounces)

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

3 hard-cooked large eggs, finely chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

Place fingerling and red potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Place potatoes in a large bowl.

Place blue potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Add blue potatoes, onion, parsley, dill, chives, and eggs to bowl; toss gently.

Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients. Pour over potato mixture; toss gently to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Note: Blue potatoes are starchier than the others and tend to bleed, so cook them separately. If you need to, prepare this dish a day ahead, but add the blue potatoes just before serving. If your potatoes are larger than the ones we call for, cut them to a uniform size.

Happy Canada Day! ~ Nanaimo Bars

Happy Canada Day! We love our neighbors to the north, and I am always up for an excuse to celebrate another holiday, so I made a batch of Nanaimo bars in honor of this day. :)

Nanaimo bars are typically a rich, buttery, and sugary dessert. If you aren’t familiar with the confection, here is a little about their history. They are so good, but something to enjoy only every once in awhile. Then I found this recipe that is vegan and almost 100% raw, (except for the maple syrup, which makes them even more Canadian!) They are rich, but also full of healthy, good things. With all of the nutritious ingredients, they are like Canadian energy bars that will help you celebrate all day long! ;-) I’m glad I gave them a try. I hope you will, too. :)

The only thing I changed from the original recipe was the amount of maple syrup. I tried using less, and tasted as I went. I ended up using 2 tablespoons less in the custard filling and 3 tablespoons less in the chocolate topping. Just add a little at a time and taste as you go to make them as sweet as you like.

Nanaimo Bars

Based on a recipe from Living Nutrition

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 1/2 cup blanched almond flour

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)

10 dates, pitted

A few pinches of sea salt

For the cashew custard filling:

2 cups cashews, (soaked in water for 2 hours or more)

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of ¼ vanilla bean

1/2 cup melted coconut butter or oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

For the chocolate ganache:

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt

Instructions

For the crust:

Add everything to your food processor, and process for at least 20 seconds, or until it is thoroughly combined into a dough. It should stick together slightly when pinched. If it doesn’t, you can add a tablespoon of water or a few more dates to the mix. Press into a 9×9 inch-baking pan. Place the crust in the fridge or freezer to set while you make the cashew custard filling.

For the cashew custard filling:

Add cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut oil, and sea salt to a high-speed bender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Pour over the crust and smooth evenly with a spatula. Place in the freezer to set for 2 hours.

To make the chocolate ganache:

Place the maple syrup, coconut oil, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt in the blender until creamy and emulsified. Spread evenly over the cashew custard filling and chill for another 4 hours.

Cut and serve.

The little Canada Day printouts are from Catch My Party. I couldn’t resist. :) They are so cute, and also free!

Teashop Mystery ~ Chamomile Muffins

This month, I am thoroughly enjoying a cozy mystery that is set in a Charleston, South Carolina tearoom entitled Steeped in Evil. It is such a descriptive book and the characters are so vividly written, that I feel like I am taking a virtual vacation to Charleston! When I find an absorbing book like this, I often get inspired to make a recipe to compliment the story. It’s my way to get a little more into the storyline, and to make it come to life. :) With this book, I wanted to make something small and sweet that might be served in a tearoom, and I also wanted to incorporate tea within the treat. Chamomile muffins fit the bill! They are perfect to nibble on a lazy and decadent afternoon of reading. I enjoyed some quiet time alone outside on this lovely summer day with a cup of tea, a muffin, and my book. :) I even got out my teapot and poured a glass of bubbly as the fancy teashops do. I felt a little like I was a part of an afternoon tea at the main character’s store, the Indigo Tea Shop.

I based these muffins on a recipe from Joy the Baker. I substituted whole-wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour. I also substituted light olive oil for the butter. The end result was moist, delicate, and delicious! The chamomile flavor really shines through. I didn’t top them with a glaze, but just a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Chamomile Muffins

Based on a recipe from Joy the Baker

1/4 cup light olive oil

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons dried chamomile (from tea bags)

1/2 cup skim milk

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners and set aside. (It makes about 12 standard size muffins.)

To make the cakes:  in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together oil, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, pinch of salt, and chamomile leaves.  Mix on medium speed until the mixture is slightly coarse and sandy.

While the mixture beats, in a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and vanilla extract.

Pour half of the milk mixture into the flour mixture.  Beat until just incorporated.  Pour in the remaining milk mixture, turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for 1 minute, until well blended.

Divide the batter between the prepared cups, filling only half way.

Bake the muffins for 17 to 20 minutes for the standard size, about 10 minutes for the mini size, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan to cool completely before frosting.

Cakes will last, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to three days.

Steeped in Evil is the latest release in the series, but I am looking forward to reading more of the teashop mysteries by Laura Childs. If you are looking for a fun and light summer book, you might enjoy one of these mysteries, too!

First Day of Summer! ~ Banana Coconut Muffins

Happy summer! It is officially here! The weather in Seattle feels a little tropical in the summertime, so I decided to make my tropical banana coconut bread recipe into muffins to celebrate the season. :)

Dividing the batter into individual muffin portions allowed me to use whole-wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour. (I tried using whole-wheat pastry flour in the original loaf recipe, however it didn’t turn out very well.) I like to use whole grains when I can, so I was happy that these turned out wonderfully moist and delicious. :)

Banana Coconut Muffins

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 cup granulated sugar (a little less if the bananas are very very ripe)

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 3/4 cups mashed ripe banana (about 4 bananas)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

Cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 350. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and oil until they are well blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Add the mashed banana and vanilla, and whisk until they are incorporated. Add the flour mixture, and mix until everything is moist. Stir in 1/2 cup of coconut. Spoon the batter into 14 muffin tin cups, (about 3/4 full), either lined with paper or sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I found cute little tropical Hawaiian cupcake flags on a website called Party Planning Center. They are so adorable, and also free! I love to add a little pizzazz to my cupcakes and muffins with printables. Then I don’t need to use frosting or food coloring to make them look festive, and I think they are so pretty!

Swimsuit Season Is Here! ~ Cilantro, Jalapeño, and Cashew Sauce

Greetings from the train between Portland and Seattle! Isn’t technology amazing, so I can write about a recipe while going 75 miles an hour? :-)

When I want to serve something extra healthy, (since swimsuit season is here!), I go back to this recipe again and again. It is from a raw vegan chef named Madeline Eyer who I had the pleasure of working with a couple of times. She is also the author of Essential Green Smoothies. This sauce is a good way to get a lot of fresh veggies into your diet, and it is seriously delicious (and colorful!) My favorite way to eat it is over cooked quinoa topped with a bunch of fresh veggies such as red cabbage, yellow peppers, carrot slices, mushroom slices and chopped spinach.

Cilantro, Jalapeño, and Cashew Sauce

From Madeline Eyer

1 cup cashews, soaked 2 – 4 hours, then rinsed

3/4 cup purified water

1/4 cup olive oil

1 bunch cilantro, bottom stems removed

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 jalapeno, chopped (including seeds)

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon Pink Himalayan or grey Celtic salt

Place all ingredients in high-speed blender and blend until creamy.

Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. Will keep for approximately 5 days.

I hope you are enjoying the warmer, summery days that are here! Maybe even get out your swimsuit. ;-)

Dos de Junio ~ Elote from Elote Cafe

Happy Dos de Junio! OK, it isn’t really a Mexican holiday today. But it is a gorgeous Monday, the sun is shining, and I think there is a reason to celebrate every day. :) I didn’t make a Mexican dish this year for Cinco de Mayo, so I made up for that today. This recipe for Elote has been on my list to try for quite some time, and now that corn is starting to come into the markets, today seemed like a perfect time to make it.

I had this dish in Arizona at a place called Elote Café. If you are ever in the Sedona area, I would highly recommend checking them out! It is such a popular place that people will wait in a long line outside just to experience the food. Get there early is all I have to say! :)

This recipe is based on the signature dish at Elote Café with a couple of small changes to make it a bit healthier. I used reduced fat mayonnaise instead of the full fat version. I also didn’t use the entire amount of the mayonnaise mixture on the corn. I just added a little at a time and tasted as I went until I was happy with the flavor. I had a couple tablespoons left of the sauce in the end. I also grilled the corn inside on a grill pan, since I don’t have an outdoor grill. It worked just fine!  Just make sure you have a fan on, since the husks get a little smoky.

Elote

Based on a recipe from Elote Café

2 ears corn, husks intact

1/4 cup light mayonnaise

1/4 tablespoon Cholula brand hot sauce

1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Pinch of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon chicken stock

1 tablespoon Cotija cheese, crumbled for garnish

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Tortilla chips, for serving

Over a medium-high grill or on a grill pan over high heat, roast the corn until the husks are well charred, about 5 minutes. Turn occasionally so as not to burn the side contacting the direct heat.

Set the roasted ears aside until cool enough to handle, then shuck them.

Cut the kernels off the cob.

When ready to eat, mix the mayonnaise and all the other ingredients through chicken stock in a sauté pan over medium heat.

Add the corn kernels and warm through.

Pour into a bowl and garnish with the cheese, and cilantro.

Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

When I was in Arizona, I also picked up a bottle of local wine by Page Springs Cellars called Mule’s Mistake. It doesn’t sound like a fancy wine, but it is actually quite lovely! It reminds me a little of Oregon Pinot Noirs that we love so much.

Mother’s Day Weekend ~ Healthy Morning Muffins

Almost every Mother’s Day weekend, my mom and I get together for a girls’ weekend to celebrate! We love to spend the time together doing our favorite things like shopping, exploring wineries, and staying up late chatting. :) Given that I am less of a morning person than she is, I made sure she had a bunch of muffins for breakfast when she got up before me. ;-) I decided to make these healthy morning muffins this year.

I replaced the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour, and I also added a tad more skim milk to make sure they stayed moist. I replaced the raisins with currants, since Mom is not a big raisin fan. ;-) I also reduced the salt to a pinch.

Healthy Morning Muffins

Based on a recipe from Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (spooned and leveled)

1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of coarse salt

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup currants

3 tablespoons light olive oil

1 large egg

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon skim milk

4 medium carrots, shredded

1 medium ripe banana, mashed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt until there are no lumps. Stir in oats and currants. Add oil, egg, milk, carrots, and banana and stir until blended.

Fill each muffin cup with 1/4 cup batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature.

The super cute little decorations are from CatchMyParty.com. They have a large collection of free and printable decorations for all sorts of celebrations, and I would highly recommend checking them out! I made cupcake flags and matching votive wraps from the pretty Mother’s Day “Blossoms” design.

Lei Day Celebration ~ Island Salsa

It was about 85 degrees in Seattle today, which felt like a Hawaiian breeze to me! It is only supposed to last one day, and then go back to our usual Northwest weather. Today also happens to be Lei Day in Hawaii, so the unseasonably warm weather was perfect for a little Hawaiian inspired celebration at home. :)

I put a few tropical touches on our dinner tonight to get us into the spirit. :) We had sautéed halibut with an island salsa, and a little jasmine rice with macadamia nuts on the side. Simple and delicious!

The island salsa was from a classic recipe from Bon Appétit magazine. It is tried and true, so I didn’t fiddle with it much. ;-) I think it would also pair well with chicken, shrimp, or even pork tenderloin.

Island Salsa

From Bon Appétit magazine

1 cup chopped peeled pineapple

1 cup chopped peeled mango

1 cup chopped yellow or red bell pepper

2/3 cup chopped peeled kiwi fruit

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon minced serrano chili, seeds and ribs removed

Ground white pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with white pepper and salt. (Can be made 3 hours ahead.)

Happy Lei Day! I hope you enjoy something Hawaiian to celebrate. :)

Sweet Ending to Easter Dinner ~ Rhubarb Rice Pudding

We enjoyed a simple and elegant Easter dinner at home this year. I tried three recipes that were inspired by Sophie Dahl’s cookbook entitled Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes. She’s a British cook I recently discovered, and I like her style. :) She has two cookbooks, and she also had a little cooking show on the BBC.

For our Easter dinner, we enjoyed bruschetta with an artichoke spread, lobster and crab salad, and this rhubarb rice pudding. I have a sweet tooth, so this was my favorite dish of the evening. :) I love the subtle edition of orange flower water and rose water. It made it a little special and spring-like without being overwhelming.

Rhubarb Rice Pudding

Based on a recipe by Sophie Dahl

For the rice:

4 cups skim milk

¾ cup basmati rice

1 cinnamon stick

¼ cup honey

½ teaspoon orange flower water

For the rhubarb:

12 oz rhubarb, cut into 1-inch lengths

½ cup water

1 star anise

½ teaspoon rose water

2 tablespoons honey

First, make the rice pudding. Pour the milk and rice into a medium sized saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, bring to a boil, and then simmer over very low heat, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. At this point, stir in the honey and orange flower water and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes until the pudding is to the consistency that you like. Remove the cinnamon.

In a separate heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the rhubarb, water, star anise, rose water, and honey. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice, until you have a lovely tender pink softness. Remove the anise. Plate the rice pudding and swirl the rhubarb through. Or, conversely, serve the rice with a small dollop of the rhubarb on the top as I did.

Happy Easter ~ Simple Yellow Cupcakes

Happy Easter!

I made a batch of simple yellow cupcakes to celebrate the season. These cakes would be great with any kind of frosting or decoration on top. For example, here’s an idea to try for next year! Ha! They are a good base cupcake, and then you can get creative from there. :) I used a super cute cupcake kit from Meri Meri. I love their products. :) They dress up any ordinary cupcakes, and make them ready for a special occasion!

I started with Martha Stewart’s recipe for yellow cupcakes. I replaced all of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour. I added a little bit more milk (skim rather than whole) since whole-wheat flour can require more liquid for a moist cake. I also replaced all of the butter with coconut oil.

Yellow Cupcakes

Based on a recipe from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (spooned and leveled)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons skim milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line the cups of a standard (12-cup) muffin tin with paper or foil liners. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a liquid-measuring cup, mix milk and vanilla; set aside.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat oil and sugar, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add half of dry ingredients, followed by milk-vanilla mixture, then remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (a 2-ounce or 1/4-cup ice-cream scoop is good for this).

Place tin on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cupcakes 5 minutes in tin, then remove and cool completely on a rack.

Happy Spring! ~ Parsley Cupcakes

Spring is finally here! To celebrate the new season, I made a recipe for parsley cupcakes. It is one of the most interesting recipes I’ve come across in a long time, and I’m glad I tried it. :)  They have a unique herb flavor, and they are intensely green without the use of any food coloring. The original recipe was posted on Food52.com for St. Patrick’s Day. If you haven’t visited that website, I’d recommend it! They have a collection of very unique and delicious recipes to spice up (or in this case, herb up!) your kitchen. :)

I substituted the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour, and I reduced the amount of salt and sugar a bit. I also made this recipe into individual cupcakes rather than a large cake.

Parsley Cupcakes

Based on a recipe from Food52.com

4 cups tightly packed parsley leaves, from about 5 bunches

1 cup tightly packed mint leaves, from 2 bunches

3/4 cup good olive oil

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 plus 3/4 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 340°F. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners. (The recipe makes about 17 cupcakes.)

To make the herb-oil mixture, put a fourth of the parsley and mint in a strong blender or food processor, and blend it on low speed. Use a blender stick to help crush the herbs while the blade is spinning (or stop the machine from time to time to push the herbs back down toward the blade). Slowly increase the speed to medium (or a steady puree, in a food processor) and continue adding the rest of the herbs until you have added all of them.

In a steady stream, add half of the olive oil. Mix on medium-low speed (or pulsing, if using a food processor) until all is combined. Add the remaining olive oil and blend for no longer than 10 seconds. The mixture will look loose and stringy. Scrape out the blender to get all of the parsley mixture, transfer it to a bowl, and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the eggs for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix on high speed until the mixture is very thick and turns a pale yellow color, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the herb-oil mixture.

With the machine still running, add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.

Fill each cupcake liner about ¾ full with the batter.

Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. When a cake tester inserted in the center of one cupcake comes out clean, they are done. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan.