Friday, May 31, 2013

Lora’s Avocado Tomato Feta Salsa

When I lived in Kuala Lumpur, I got together once a month with a lovely group of ladies, ostensibly to play Pokeno.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, we did play, but the best part of the evening was definitely the potluck meal we shared.  We took turns hosting and if we were playing at your house, you were responsible for the main course.  The rest of us brought appetizers and side dishes and salads and desserts.  I don’t remember who was hosting when Lora made this lovely salsa but, after that, we hardly ever let her sign up to make anything else.  And, of course, she had to share the recipe.  I made it again a few weeks ago for my sweet neighbor’s even sweeter daughter’s third birthday celebration.  All the accompanying parents seemed to love it and even some of the children were digging in, with the tortilla chips.  Its delicious flavors made me miss my Pokeno ladies so I was grateful for new friends.

2 ripe avocadoes
4 red ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped (Lora says:  You can substitute, but make sure they are quality tomatoes. It makes a difference!)
1 small purple onion
1 small red chili pepper or 1 green jalapeño
1 bunch cilantro or fresh coriander
4 oz or 85g feta cheese
1/4 cup or 60ml olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt (I used Maldon flakes.)

Mix your salt, cumin, vinegar and olive oil to make a dressing in the bottom of a mixing bowl.

Cut the avocados into halves.  Remove the seeds and, using the tip of your knife, cut just down to the peel, going first one direction and then perpendicular.  

Scoop the avocado out into the bowl and toss lightly with the dressing.

Core and chop the tomatoes.

Share a little with your helper, if he has been a good boy.  

He adores tomatoes! 

Mince your pepper, removing the seeds if you would prefer your salsa to be less spicy.  

Peel and dice the onion.

Trim the tough stalks off of your bunch of cilantro.  Chop the leaves roughly.

Crumble your feta cheese, if purchased whole.  

Add the tomatoes, pepper, onion, cilantro and crumbled feta to the avocado bowl.  Mix everything gently.

Chill, covered, in the refrigerator, until ready to serve.  If you can leave it for half an hour or more, that would be good since it allows the flavors time to merge.  

Serve with warm toasted pita wedges or tortilla chips.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Piña Colada Muffins #MuffinMonday

A quick question for you, as I pack my bags to fly back to the US (BECAUSE MY FIRST BABY GIRL IS GRADUATING FROM UNIVERSITY!) for reasons that don't seem possible, given that I only feel about 24 myself.  Have you ever cooked or baked with coconut oil? This is my first time and I have to admit it reminds me of beaches and Hawaiian Tropic suntanning oil.  But in a good way.  Combining it with pineapple in these muffins, I am back on my honeymoon in Barbados, sipping piña coladas.  While the health-professional jury is still out, it seems that coconut oil does have some benefits.  All I can tell you is that it was a great way to add coconut flavor to my muffins, without actually adding more fat in the form of grated coconut, in addition to the usual canola or butter.  Which makes me think it might be a good addition to curries as well, instead of coconut milk.  What do you think?  Coconut oil, yay or nay?

2 cups or 250g all purpose flour
1/2 cup or 115g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup or 180ml milk
1/4 cup or 60ml coconut oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup or 120ml pineapple syrup (from canned pineapple)
About 3/4 cup or 140g canned pineapple, drained weight

1/8-1/4 cup or 10-20g sweetened flaked coconut for decoration (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by greasing or lining with paper muffin cups.

Drain your small can of pineapple and reserve the syrup.  Chop the pineapple up with a big knife.  Or a small knife.  I’m flexible.

Set aside a small pile of pineapple for adding to the muffin tops before baking.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.

In another bowl, whisk together milk, coconut oil, pineapple syrup, vanilla and eggs.

That's the coconut oil.  I don't know what I expected it to look like since bottle
was not see-through but the white surprised me. 

Add all the milk mixture to the flour mixture.

Gently fold just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Then fold in your small pile of pineapple bits.

Divide your batter relatively evenly between the 12 muffin cups.

Top each cup of batter with a few pieces of the reserved pineapple and sprinkle with a few coconut flakes, if using.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until muffins are golden.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing muffins from tin.  Cool further on a wire rack.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Texas Sheet Cake with Pecan Frosting

Chocolate cake topped with chocolate pecan icing! Texas sheet cake is baked and served in straight from the pan so it's easy to transport. Great for picnics or potlucks!

This week the Sunday Supper group is getting ready for summertime fun.  Picnics and family reunions in parks or at the beach!  What’s a picnic without dessert?

This cake is moist, chocolaty and altogether delicious.  I got the recipe many years ago from my friend, Sharon, who is an excellent cook as well as a delightful person with a great sense of humor.  She is also from Louisiana, so that explains a lot.  I almost always have the ingredients on hand and it's quick to put together.  You don't even have to get out your electric mixer (although sometimes I do) because it can be mixed by hand.  But the best part of all is that it is baked and frosted and served straight from the pan, so it is easily transported to a picnic or potluck or party.   If you want to make your life even easier, bake it in a disposable aluminum pan and you won’t even have anything to bring home to wash up.  Because I can assure you, there will be NO CAKE left.

Many thanks to our host for this week’s Sunday Supper, Katy from Happy Baking Days!  If you haven’t met her yet, go on over and say howdy.  She’s cute and sweet and always shares lovely recipes from her happy kitchen.  I know I have at least a few readers who cook and bake gluten-free and Katy can help you out there!

For the cake:
2 cups or 450g sugar
2 cups or 250g flour
1/4 cup or 20g cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter 115g, softened
1/2 cup or 120ml buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or other light vegetable oil
1 cup or 240ml water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons or 90ml milk
1/4 cup or 20g cocoa
1/2 cup or 115g butter
16 oz or about 450g confectioners or powdered sugar, sifted (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease and flour a 13x9x2 inch or 33x23x4cm baking pan.

Toast your pecans in a skillet over a medium flame.  Shake the pan regularly until the fragrance of toasted nuts tells you they are done.  This takes just a few minutes.  Chop the pecans roughly and set aside.

Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, blend together the two eggs, softened butter, buttermilk, canola, water and vanilla.

Pour your dry ingredients into the wet ones, stirring or beating until you have a smooth, rather thin batter.

Pour into your prepared pan, and bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting.

Mix the milk and cocoa in a heavy saucepan and stir, stir, stir.  I used a whisk because the cocoa sometimes doesn’t want to mix in right away.

Add the butter and, over medium heat, stir until the butter melts.

Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sugar and vanilla until smooth.

Finally, add the pecans.

When the cake is just out of the oven, spread the frosting evenly on the HOT cake.


My apologies for not taking a photo of the cake being served.  I took this along to a ladies lunch and we were too busy eating to remember pictures!

Update: I MADE IT AGAIN. See, I told you it was a favorite.  So here's the photo.  This time I used Hershey's Dark Special Cocoa (Special Dark Cocoa?) so it was even more fudgy and delicious.

Make sure you check out the links below for more great picnic party ideas!

Salads and Slaws
Sandwiches and Mains