Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coconut Cake

Next to the Dobos Torte, this cake ranks high on my favorite list. Rich, dense, and a light, airy frosting all describe this decadent dessert. I don't even like coconut-candies, macaroons, nor anything flavored with coconut milk but I love, love, love this cake!
It was still dark and the birds weren't even chirping when I awoke to start this recipe. Yes, I have been known to sacrifice sleep and/or leisure time to bake for people I love.
Martha advises you to butter and flour parchment and pans before beginning recipe to decrease the time between the end of making batter, to pouring into pan ,to begin baking in a 350 degree preheated oven.
Sifted flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Mixed 1 C of coconut into flour mixture while creaming 3 sticks of room temperature butter with 2 2/3 C sugar. Added 4 whole eggs and 4 egg white one at a time and finally 1 T vanilla. Turned Magnolia down to low and began adding flour mixture alternating with 1 1/2 C of coconut milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Baked for 22 minutes, rotated and baked for 28 more. Done when cake tester comes out clean.
Seven Minute Frosting:
Yes, you actually need 7 minutes of mixing to achieve the right consistency and a cake thermometer to measure the 160 degree temperature of egg whites, sugar, and light corn syrup cooking over simmering water as you stir feverishly. Lucky I have Magnolia to do all the mixing for me, all 7 minutes at high speed.
April called the next morning asking if there was any cake left. Unfortunately, I had eaten the last slice with a nice cup of tea.
The recipe yields a lot of batter that I made a mini cake to share with Daly and the girls. I thought what better cake to have at tea time!

Chicken Noodle Soup

My Anna woke up with sniffles and what would her make her feel better than a hot bowl of her mommy's chicken noodle soup. Studies have proven that having chicken noodle soup when you are sick accelerates the recovery time. A UCLA doctor found that chicken soup contains an amino acid chemically similar to those in a drug used for bronchitis and respiratory infections. Colds often lead to dehydration and a lack of appetiteand and what better way to get liquid back into the system!
It's great when you have everything in your pantry to whip up a pot of soup that costs little to nothing. Cooked chopped onions and garlic in a pot of heated olive oil until onions are translucent. Added chopped carrots and celery with salt and pepper and cooked for about 8 minutes. Added 4 cans of low sodium chicken stock and waited to boil. Mixed in a can of flaky chicken breast seasoning with more salt and pepper and cooked for 5 minutes. Added noodles and cooked for 10 minutes or until noodles are al dente. Sprinkled fresh flat leaf parsley and seasoned to taste.
I never realized the importance of seasoning until I started making soup. I don't like to taste my food while cooking but soup is an exception. The Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten advises to use a good amount of seasoning especially salt or your soup will taste like dishwater.
Anna woke up the next morning sniffle free. Could it have been the soup or could it have been a rubbing of good ole Vicks vapor rub on her chest last night while she slept? I grew up never going to the doctor for illness because my parents relied on Vicks and a can of 7Up to cure anything from coughing, to a mosquito bite, to a sprained ankle. I could be lying dead after being hit by a car and my parents would probably say, "Rub some Vicks and give her some7Up and she'll feel better!" Maybe a bowl of chicken noodle soup could bring me back alive too!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Cookies

The scent of trees from the Northwest, boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, the huge statues of Mr. and Mrs. Claus erected in the center of Ala Moana are things I look forward to at Christmas but I also anticipate the arrival of every shape, flavor, and color of Christmas cookies.
To our delight April, John and the kids came home for Christmas and brought with them cookies from Trader Joe. I am a snob to store bought cookies but these cookies were delicious-fresh, rich dark chocolate, and a right amount of sweet; they definitely did not taste store bought. I keep hoping and praying a Trader Joe will come to Hawaii.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sugar Cookies with Icing

The cookies were such a hit at my birthday party that Angela brought some to work and shared them with coworkers. Her boss at Waikiki Gucci called to order some for her party. What a compliment! She was the easiest customer to please giving me full reign of icing colors and ribbons to choose and decorate.
I made sure my pretty helper decorated a couple for her favorite fan-daddy!

Baked Caprese Salad and Lasagna

My love of baking has ignited an interest in cooking. I was not encouraged to cook because growing up I thought, "Why cook when I already have my dad who can cook anything and everything!" I also realized I like to cook and entertain for small, I stress small dinner parties.
The baked caprese salad is an appetizer sure to please vegetarians and meat eaters. It's a great way to use up leftover baguettes and basil from my herb garden which is growing like crazy.
Sliced baguette into 1/ 2" slices and arrange in a single layer on baking tray. Drizzle olive oil and bake in oven for 5 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove and place tomato and fresh mozarella slices on baguette and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Baked for 5 minutes. Remove and place a basil leaf on top of each bagueete and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.
Lasagna can be expensive to make but if you stock up on ingredients when they are on sale the cost is minimal. Scott and I had a romantic dinner date the Olive Cafe in Wahiawa. Their delicious lasagna motivated me to do some recipe searching and tweaking to come up with my homemade version. My Scott thinks it is unreal and I assume Daly's Scott liked it because he had 2 servings. What an incredible evening of tasty food, excellent wine, scintillating conversation, and company we would love to have over again.

Gingerbread House

An invitation to Grammy Colleen's home for the annual gingerbread house making is gold. Grammy coaches soccer and her kind, happy, and funny demeanor is infectious. Everyone loves Grammy! The festivities began with a sleepover of 20 girls, too excited to go to bed as parents dropped off candies, pretzels, crackers, and snacks for the building project. We plan to take her creation to Baba's house to share on Christmas day.
Anna may not always be excited to bake with me nor prefer homemade baked goods to store bought but I'm glad that she has an imagination. I encourage her to be creative and and to take pride in her work. I also hope that she learns that Christmas is not just about receiving gifts but being with family and friends and remembering Jesus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crumb Cake

If you are a first time baker, Martha recommends this recipe to start with because you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen. After completing the recipe you wonder why more people don't bake with bakeries and coffee conglomerates charging an arm and a leg for their mediocre tasting baked goods.
The amount of butter for this recipe might turn you off but it is essential to achieving the moist cake and crumbly topping. Mix flour, baking powder and soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cream 1 1/4 sticks of room temperature butter and sugar. Add 3 eggs one at a time to ensure that ingredients are well mixed and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture to the batter making sure not to overmix. Add the sour cream.
Pour batter into a 13 x 9" pan. Combine flour, brown sugar, 1 T cinnamon and 3 1/2 sticks of room temperature butter. Use pastry cutter to blend butter into mixture. Sprinkle topping evenly over cake mixture and bake for 40 minutes in a 350 degree preheated oven. Cake is done when a cake tester inserted in the middle of cake comes out clean.
Not only does your house smell heavenly while this cake bakes in the oven but you have a $50 cake that could feed and satisfy an army!

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip

It took not one but 3 people to try and open a gargantuan jar of Costco's marinated artichoke hearts. Who eats this much artichoke anyway? I stress the word try because all our efforts were fruitless. The physical and mental strengths of a yogi, surfer, and Peace Corp volunteer were not even close enough to loosen the cover. What a blow to our egos! A quick dash to the grocer to buy a 7 oz jar solved the problem.
Combine 8 oz room temperature cream cheese, 10 oz chopped spinach. 1/2 C mayonnaise, 1/4 C mozarella, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 6 basil leaves chopped, and the infamous marinated artichoke hearts. Recipe calls for 9 oz but 7 oz will have to do after complaints of chest pains and sore arms, and the declaration that something must be wrong with the jar. Season with 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t black pepper. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes and top with a basil leaf. Serve with crackers.
I have not had one person refuse a bite of this dip. It's that good. Simple ingredients, uncomplicated procedures, and a real crowd pleaser-vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Hana Hou

I should own stocks at our family favorite Au's Garden Restaurant. We celebrated my First Birthday/Baptismal 40 years ago, my dad's 80th Surprise Birthday Party, and everyone else's birthday. This hole in the wall, hidden behind the Board of Water Supply Pumping station in Kalihi is a gem. The food is unbelievably good, the service is quick, and the prices are reasonable. I'd rather drive half way across town for excellent Chinese food than settle for something within walking distance.
The evening couldn't get any better. The people I love most in the world sang me another Happy Birthday with a Liliha Chantilly Cake. Scott insists he didn't even have a piece from the party so I HAD to get another one to make everyone happy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sugar Cookie with Royal Icing

It was a baking kind of morning-cool, overcast, and quiet. Anna slept over at Auntie Collette's house and these cookies require a lot of time and attention so what better time to make these little presents. I call them presents because I make these cookies only for special occasions-showers, birthdays, and holidays.
It's a good idea to make dough the night before and chill because it's easier to roll out and press cookie cutter into. Whisk dry ingredients of flour, baking powder and salt and add to creamed butter mixed with 1 C of sugar, 1 egg, and 1 t vanilla. It can be a challenge for the first time but you'll get a handle of rolling the dough with a pin sprinkled with cold flour and dipping the cutter into flour in no time. Bake in 350 degree oven for 16 min rotate at 8 min.
Royal Icing:
This process takes the whole day-icing and drying. Icing consists of only a box of powdered sugar, 3 T of meringue powder and 6 T of warm tap water. Magnolia comes in handy because icing has to be mixed for 6 minutes. Outline cookie, then add more water to flood.
This cookie is loved by many! I have made hundreds for a North Shore wedding, baby showers, birthdays, holidays and my very own 40th birthday party. I've always enjoyed making this cookie because the reaction I get after they take a bite is worth all the time, energy, and sweat to create it!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie

I get in a "zone" when I bake because not only do I have to concentrate on using correct measurements but I always think of the person who the recipe is intended for. My sister in law April went in for surgery yesterday and I baked this cookie to send good, sweet thoughts to her for a speedy recovery. This is one of April's favorite cookie recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine and has become one of mine too because it's healthy, quick, and filling.
Recipe calls for only 1/3 C of butter to be creamed with white and brown sugars which I thought to be skimpy so I put in a whole block (1/2 C). Added 1 1/2 t vanilla and an egg and mixed with flour, oats, baking powder and soda, and salt. I also thought 1/4 C of chocolate chips not enough so in went 1/2 C along with 1/4 C of toasted walnuts. I made sure not to overmix which will create a tough dough. Dropped dough by tablespoonfuls and baked for 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
We all miss April, John, and the kids. Get well soon April and I'm thinking of you with every bite.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy 40th Birthday

I rang in my 40th surrounded by family and good friends. I felt so loved and blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. My home was full of talented people. The party did not get started until you put on a hat by Angela which were wild, colorful and fun. Kayleen baked the most scrumptious chocolate cream pie-thick, flakey crust filled with creamy, chocolatey pudding. Maha made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies that were devoured within minutes, and Daly made my favorite cake from Martha's Baking Handbook - Dobos Torte. Simo kept eyeing the cake all night wondering if it was real and was pleased to sample a slice that was silky, decadent, and gorgeous.
My Scott did not disappoint me. He drove to town to purchase a Liliha Bakery Chantilly Cake that just melted in your mouth. Collette could not get enough. My parents always ordered a chantilly for every birthday when I was a little girl and it brings back fond memories of growing up.
I approached 40 with frustration and depression before the party thinking I was now an old lady. But being surrounded by people I adored, who all came together to celebrate helped me to get over it. Especially after Bill said he didn't meet Collette till after 40.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pumpkin Crunch

Simplicity at its best! The recipe calls for the most basic ingredients to produce a showstopper and crowd pleaser. A can of pumpkin puree which I stock up when they are on sale, can of evaporated milk, 3 eggs, a cup of sugar, and a teaspoon of cinammon are all mixed together and poured into a 13 x 9 " pan lined with wax paper.
The crunch comes from the box of cake mix sprinkled on the top. Most people choose a cup of chopped walnuts but I prefer the texture and crunch of 1 1/2 C of pecans to be sprinkled on top of the cake mix crust. Evenly pour a cup of melted butter over cake mix and nuts and bake for 50 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
The difficult part is waiting for the cake to cool before you turn it over and carefully peel the wax paper off. It takes hours. Good time to do chores and tackle the pile of papers waiting to be corrected.
Frosting is an 8 oz block of room temperature cream cheese and a cup of powdered sugar blended together with a hand mixer. Be prepared for pieces of cream cheese flying in every direction with this method. Carefully fold half a tub of whipped topping and evenly spread on cooled cake.
Very rich and decadent! I always receive compliments on this dessert.