Be sure to check out my Happy Eats Healthy site to see upcoming classes, seminars, for more information on Health Coaching, nutrition information and more!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oatmeal Ice Cream

What the hell, right? Oatmeal Ice Cream? It's almost hard to even imagine what this would taste like, but let me assure ... it ... is ... phenomenal!

With an entire half gallon of fresh Oberweis cream on my hands, I went into ice cream making mode. German Chocolate with Caramel Pecan Swirl, Mexican Fried Ice Cream Pie, and Lemon Jalapeno all churned out of my kitchen (look for the postings of each soon!). There was enough cream left for one more batch but my creative mind blanked stagnant.

A search reminiscent of a Saint Bernard (complete with a small whiskey barrel collar) looking for a lost avalanche victim started in my kitchen - not a cupboard was overlooked for a clue to a new ice cream flavor. Saltine cracker ice cream? No. Green chili ice cream...maybe, but not today. Oatmeal? Oatmeal ice cream. Could it work?  Should it work? Why not?

So oatmeal ice cream it was and I can't be more excited about it. I couldn't decided whether to leave the oats in the ice cream or to strain it out so tried it both ways. The strained oatmeal was smooth and creamy, refined and upscale; while the unstrained oatmeal was creamy and thick yet chewy, outrageous and fun. Both ways are so fat and happy amazing that you can't delay making this ice cream today!

Tips and Techniques: This ice cream is great straight up; but for fun, try a little drizzle of maple syrup and a few fresh blue berries. Or if you are adventurous, reduce a little balsamic vinegar and drizzle just a smattering on the plate. It's an odd, almost stuffy combination that I liked, Dave preferred the maple syrup.

Oatmeal Ice Cream

1 cup cream
1 cup half n half
1 whole egg
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp  salt
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 tbls dark Rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Heat cream, remove from heat and whisk in brown sugar, salt and oats. Steep for 10 minutes. Whisk the egg with 1/4 cup white sugar until fluffy, pale and doubled in size.

Place the steeping cream back on the heat and temper in the egg. Cook to a custard, remove from heat and add the rum and cinnamon.

Place the custard in an ice bath to chill it, then refrigerate overnight. Decide if you want to strain it, or strain half and try it both ways.

Process according to the ice cream manufacturers directions. Fresh ice cream should be eaten within a week.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wasabi, Bacon Blue and Pesto Deviled Eggs and How to Cook the Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Like it or not, hard boiled egg season is upon us. Though short, this season is best known for bright and colorful eggs, happy screaming munchkins and overflowing buckets of smelly, green rimmed eggs.

My goal is to put an end to this season. Well, pink and yellow painted eggs - okay, I'll deal. Crazed kids - sure, once a year is fine. But the over-boiled, rubbery, stinky egg has got to stop!

Below I've detail out exactly how to avoid this tragedy ... cue the chirping birds and singing angels. Ok, now you have beautiful, edible hard boiled eggs - what do you do with them? Classic deviled eggs are back in style (did  they really ever go out of style??) and I Fat 'n Happy them up with pesto, wasabi powder and bacon and blue cheese.

Rejoice at this Fat and Happy 'eggxcellent' egg season, it will be gone faster than the candy coated malted milk balls you hide in your sock drawer.

Tips and Techniques: These are loose recipes, taste and adjust according to your own preference. For a creamier filling use a food processor to mix the yolk fillings. I wanted a more rustic feel with a little texture so I mixed mine with fork; for the the pesto I used the mortar and pestle to keep a it little on the chunky side too.

How to cook the most perfect hard boiled eggs and then what to do with them after.

1. Place your eggs in deep saucepan, fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs by about one inch
2. Set the pan over high heat and bring just to a boil
3. Turn the flame down to a slight simmer
4. Simmer for 10 minutes
5. Immediately place the eggs in a bowl with ice water for a minute or two
6. Remove each egg, crack it leaving the shell on and place back in the ice water for about another five minutes
7. Peel your gorgeous eggs and proceed below.

Bacon Blue Eggs
1 - 2 strips of crispy bacon, crumbled
2 tbls blue cheese
1 tsp mustard
2 tbls Greek yogurt
Fresh black pepper
Olive oil or water as needed
3 or 4 hard boiled eggs

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Mix together the yolks, bacon, cheese, mustard and yogurt. Drizzle in a little oil or water to reach desired consistency and add in fresh black pepper.

Taste test; add more or less cheese and bacon based on your preference.

Fill the whites with the bacon blue yolk mixture, top with a tiny crumble of blue cheese and a small bacon crumble. Enjoy the Bacon Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs!

Wasabi Eggs

1 tsp wasabi powder
1 tsp Soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbls Greek yogurt
2-3 hard boiled eggs
1 green onion

Cut the hard boiled eggs in half. Mix the yolks with the wasabi powder, soy sauce, sesame oil and yogurt; drizzle in water until desired consistency is reached.

Taste this, you may want a bit more powder for more heat or more soy sauce for a saltier flavor- Use my measurements as a guide.

Fill the whites with the yolk mixture and top with thinly sliced green onions; enjoy your wasabi deviled eggs!

Pesto Deviled Eggs

These tasty devilish eggs get a kick from basil pesto. Either make a basil pesto or purchase one for ease.
This is just quick version, I used what I had in the house; almonds instead of pine nuts and a little mascarpone for creaminess. Have fun with it!

3-5 hard boiled eggs
3 tbls slivered toasted almonds or pine nuts, save a few for garnish
2-3 tbls Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (large handful)
2 tbls mascarpone or ricotta cheese
1 garlic clove, chopped
Salt and pepper
Water or olive oil as needed

Make the pesto first. Either in a mortar and pestle or in a small food processor blend the nuts, cheese, basil, mascapone and garlic while drizzling in the olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and pepper as needed.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, place the yolks in a bowl. Mix in the pesto and a few drizzles of water or olive oil until the yolk mixture reaches desired consistency.

Fill the whites with the pesto yolk mixture, garnish with a few slivers of toasted nuts and Parmesan cheese. Enjoy the basil pesto deviled eggs!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

German Chocolate Ice Cream with Coconut Pecan Caramel Swirl

German Chocolate cake says birthday to me. The tall- tiered cake, dripping in caramel frosting with coconut and pecans, crowned with colorful flickering candles on top... Oh happy day!

Ice cream making mode was on thanks to fresh cream from Oberweis Dairy when the image of this German Chocolate cake came to mind. Why not turn that childhood memory into a super yummy frozen treat?

I set out to make a German Chocolate ice cream rather than a basic ice cream with cake mixed in; the result is super creamy and chocolaty delicious. What really brings the full cake flavor together is the layer of caramel coconut pecan swirl. It's basically frosting for your ice cream, but it stays creamy when frozen.

I couldn't resist adding a candle to the ice cream scoop; this is now embedded in my memory in place of that tiered cake. Kids of all ages will love this Fat and Happy rendition of a birthday classic.

Tips and techniques: I felt like I made just a bit too much frosting swirl and did not layer the entire batch with the ice cream; it just depends on your taste preference. Using all of the swirl will just give a little sweeter ice cream.

German Chocolate Ice Cream with Coconut Pecan Caramel Swirl

German Chocolate Ice Cream

2 cups cream
1 cup half n half
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbls cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
4 ounces of German chocolate
1 cup Greek yogurt

Heat the cream, half and half and 1/4 cup sugar over medium heat, just below boiling. While the cream is heating, whip the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until they are pale, creamy and doubled in size. Temper the eggs with the hot cream by adding in just a drizzle of the cream to the eggs at a time. This will keep the eggs from cooking or scrambling.

Pour the egg mixture back into the pan and return to medium low heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and vanilla and continue to cook until the custard thickens. Stir often with  a wooden spoon, check the thickness of the custard by running your finger along the back side of the spoon. If the custard is thickened, your finger line will stay.

Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the melted German chocolate and a pinch of salt. Place the custard in an ice bath to cool. Cover and place the custard in the refrigerator overnight to steep.

Before placing in the ice cream maker, stir in the Greek yogurt. Process according to the ice cream makers directions.

Make the Coconut Pecan Caramel Swirl ahead of time so it has time to cool before the ice cream comes out of the ice cream maker, this can be done the night before and kept in the fridge.

To add in the coconut pecan caramel swirl, the best method is to layer it with the ice cream rather than to swirl it in the ice cream maker. Do layer this when the ice cream comes out of the ice cream maker so it is still a little soft and pliable. Choose the container that will hold the ice cream, add a layer of ice cream and then a thinner layer of the German chocolate frosting. Repeat until you have used up all the ice cream and swirl. . Place in the freezer until solid.

Coconut Pecan Caramel Swirl

4 Tbls butter
5 oz evaporated milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut
1/2  cup pecans

Place the butter, evaporated milk and brown sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring to a soft boil and hold there for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add in the vanilla and pinch of salt. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool, follow the directions above to layer with the German Chocolate Ice Cream.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Coffee Marinated and Crusted Fajitas with Jalapeno Honeydew Salsa

 Are you buying organic, fair trade, shade grown coffee? These toxin free, habitat preserving and safe working condition brews are all to rage for good reason. Sure you'll pay more for these beans but isn't it time we all pay a little more attention to how our basic purchases affect the world?

Getting off my little soap box now - what else can you do with coffee beyond just drinking it? Coffee is an easy addition to desserts but what about using it to prepare dinner? If you think of the bean as a spice, it will open up a myriad of ideas.

My goal was to use coffee in a nontraditional, yet traditional sense. Enter the traditional fajita, soak it in orange juice and coffee, then crust it in ground coffee and peppercorns and top with a spicy sweet salsa. Ya, it's pretty good.

Let's talk about the big question - will the caffeine keep you up? I think it's minimal, if any affect. Dave and I both slept as normal and he doesn't even drink coffee. The more a coffee bean is roasted, the less caffeine it will have (i.e. darker roasts have less caffeine than lighter roasts) so I'll go out on a limb and say that cooking it more may dilute the caffeine content further. Please note the FDA has not approved that statement.

Pick up a bag of coffee (preferably one that protects the environment and the workers) and put a little fat and happy zing in your fajita night.

Tips and Techniques: Nervous about the full coffee crust? Start with the marinade and only cover half of the steak with the ground coffee mixture. Let your taste buds duke it out. The image on the left is the skirt steak with just the marinade (the orange and coffee make a lovely combination) and the image on the right has the crust (bold, almost crunchy and packing a spicy coffee punch). I quite enjoyed the coffee crust as did Dave but it was fun to try it both ways.

Coffee Marinated and Crusted Fajitas with Jalapeno Honeydew Salsa

Orange Coffee Marinade

1 orange, zested and juiced
1 lime, zested
1/2 tbls black peppercorns
2 Tbls turbinado or brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 lb skirt steak

Place all the ingredients in a large plastic bag or shallow seal-able tupperware dish. Add the meat, shake well to distribute, set aside until ready to grill. Marinate the meat at least 30 minutes, up to 1 day. Be sure to bring the meat to room temperature before grilling.

Jalapeno Honeydew Salsa

1/2 c yellow pepper, diced small
1 cup honeydew, diced small
1/4 cup red onion, diced small
1/2 cup jicama, diced small
1 small jalapeno, finely diced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbls red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lime
salt (to your liking but roughly 1/2 tsp)

While the meat is marinating, chop up the veggies. Combine them all into a dish with the red wine, olive oil, lime juice and salt, toss to combine. Set aside.

Coffee Crusted Fajitas

1 small yellow onion
1 small red onion
2 tbls olive oil
Fresh black pepper, pinch of salt
small corn tortillas (or flour if you prefer)
1/4 scant cup coffee beans
1 scant tbls peppercorns

Slice the onions and place on a fajita pan or in a large piece of tin foil. Drizzle with the olive oil, pepper and salt, toss and grill by either placing the fajita pan directly on the grill or tightly wrapping the tin foil together and placing that on the grill. Remove when the onions are nicely caramelized.

In a coffee grinder or using a mortar and pestle, grind the coffee beans and peppercorns together, grind this relatively fine. Pour onto a large, shallow plate. Remove the steak from the marinade and drag through the coffee grounds on both sides.

Wrap the tortillas in tin foil and place on the top grill basket to gently warm.

Grill the room temperature steak over medium high heat for about 2-4 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of your steak), it's better to under cook than over cook. The high heat will sear in the juices with the coffee crust. Remove from heat and let rest for at least 10 minutes. The skirt steak will be the most tender if you slice the steak across the grain at a very sharp angle, in thin strips.

Layer each tortilla with thin slices of the grilled skirt steak, caramelized onions and a scoop of the jalapeno honeydew salsa. Serve with a wedge of orange and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pecan Caramel Shortbread Cookies

I'm not sure how it happened but shortbread is one of my favorite treats, ever! And why not - when done right it's buttery, flaky, melt in your mouth deliciousness. Plus, I love that shortbread can be 'dressed up' or 'dressed down' depending on the occasion; and just simple herb or nut swaps change the flavor with ease.

Today's shortbread cookies tout a lovely toasted pecan flavor which is not to be outdone by the soft, creamy, fluffy caramel filling. As if that isn't enough, each scrumptious sandwich is dipped into a lovely butterscotch, milk, dark or white chocolate - oh yum.

When you need a treat that will wow, these Pecan Caramel Shortbread Cookies will satisfy beyond belief. Take your shortbread to the next level with this Fat and Happy caramel filled cookie.

Tips and techniques: Make these gorgeous sandwich cookies small; the caramel filling and dipped chocolate with two layers of cookies is a lot to eat so the smaller the better. You can always eat two!

Chocolate-dipped, Caramel-filled Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

3/4 cup powder sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup pecans
1 cup chilled butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour

Pulse the powder sugar, salt and pecans lightly in a Cuisinart. Add in the butter, vanilla and flour, continue to pulse just until the dough comes together.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, shape as desired and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the shortbread batter from the fridge and carefully slice into thin cookies and lay on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Try a test batch first of one or two to see how thin you prefer your cookies, this will help you test the timing needed as well.  My cookies took about 8-12 minutes, they should be just golden brown on the underside.  Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the cookie sheet before moving them to a cookie rack.

Sandwiching and Dipping the Cookies
Whipped caramel filling (recipe below)
2 cups melting chocolate

Once all the cookies are cooled and the caramel is whipped, melt the dipping chocolate; do this slowly over a double broiler. You can melt the chocolate in the microwave, but be very careful not to burn the chocolate. Only place in the microwave for 10 seconds at time and stir often.

Smooth 1-2 tablespoons of caramel filling between two cookies, this will depend on how big your cookie is. Set aside until all cookies are filled. Carefully dip one end of the filled cookie into the melted chocolate and shake off the extra.  Set the cookie on parchment paper until the chocolate hardens.

Fluffy Caramel Filling

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Melt the butter over medium heat, add in the brown sugar and bring to a rolling boil. Stir as needed. Carefully pour in the heavy whipping cream and whisk quickly. Allow the caramel to boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Once the caramel has cooled, use a hand beater to whip the caramel until fluffy. Fill the cookies as directed in the recipe above.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Breakfast Tostada with Red Pepper Coulis

Breakfast doesn't have to be boring, even if it contains just eggs and sausage. The key is to find a way to elevate it, spice it up and bring it all together.

In this breakfast tostada, a red pepper coulis (sauce) does just that.  Eggs are scrambled simply with onions and garlic which sit on top of sliced sausages with a crispy tortilla on the bottom. All great stuff - but by turning the red peppers into a sauce instead of chopping them  and adding to the scrambled eggs, this dish is elevated to restaurant quality. 

Change up your breakfast by creating a super easy sauce that will make you feel like you should be paying yourself for it.  I suggest taking it outside with a mango mimosa for a full fat and happy brunch effect.

Tips and techniques: Consider this a loose recipe, the type of tortilla, sausage and cheese are really up to you. And by changing each one of those items you can drastically vary the outcome.

Breakfast Tostada with Red Pepper Coulis 

2 tortilla (wheat or corn, your preference)
4 eggs
1 sausage (again, your preference -German, Italian or a Chorizo)
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, minced
Red pepper coulis (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook sausage in a skillet pan and set aside. In the meantime, make the red pepper sauce, recipe below.

In the sausage pan add in the onions and saute; add in a pat of butter if needed. Place the tortillas on a sheet pan and place in the hot oven to begin to crisp.

Add in the minced garlic when the onions are softened, continue to cook for a few more minutes. Slice the sausages, divide them in half and place on the warming tortillas. Sprinkle the sausages with the shredded cheese and place back in the hot oven.

In the meantime, whisk the eggs with a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour the whisked eggs in with the onions and garlic, move the eggs often with a soft spatula. Keep the eggs a little moist rather than overcooking and drying them out. Toss in the fresh oregano with the eggs.

Remove the cheesy tostada and sausage from the oven and top with the scrambled eggs. Drizzle a healthy amount of red pepper sauce on the top, garnish with a snippet of fresh oregano.  Serve immediately. Serves 2

Red Pepper Coulis

1 large roasted red pepper
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbls olive oil
1/4 cup water or broth

If the red pepper isn't roasted, place it over the open flames of your stove top or under a broiler until the skin turns black. Remove the skin.

Chop the roasted red pepper into small pieces, place in a small saute pan. Add in the minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and the water or broth. Cook over medium heat to fully soften the pepper, about 5 minutes.  Pour into a blender with a good pinch of salt and black pepper, blender on high until the sauce is smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add a few drizzles of water until desired consistency is reached.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bacon and Mustard Greens Pasta

We are heading out of town which means I need to use up all the fridge food. Thankfully I have boxes of whole wheat pasta in the house for such occasions; there are few things as versatile and easy as pasta. You can pretty much pull anything out of the fridge or cupboard and pair with pasta from veggies to meat to wine.

In my fridge is a mixture of a few slices of bacon, a few mustard green leaves and a handful of snap peas along with a few onion pieces and a couple of garlic cloves. Sounds like a tasty bowl of pasta just waiting to be tossed!

This is a loose recipe that should be mixed and matched with what you have available, the amounts are just guidelines rather than hard measurements. No mustard greens?  Use Swiss chard instead. No bacon? How about pancetta or sausage? Because pasta is a basic background staple, you flavor it with what you have available- so it's a great way to use up little odds and ends of vegetables and such. Just saute, toss, top with a little cheese and voila- you have a fat and happy meal and a little cleaner fridge to boot!

Tip and Techniques:  Always save a little of the pasta water to add to your final pasta dish, the starchy water helps to create a sauce and gives it structure.

Bacon and Mustard Greens Pasta

1/2 box of whole wheat pasta
4 slices of bacon
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
4 mustard greens (leaves)
handful of snap peas
handful of cherry tomatoes
2 Tbls fresh thyme
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Cook whole wheat pasta according to package directions.

In the meantime, cook bacon in a large saute pan until desired crispiness is reached. Remove The bacon from pan and set aside. Add the chopped onions to the bacon pan, cook over medium heat until the onion begins to soften and turn translucent. Add in the chopped garlic, pinch of red pepper flakes and the snap peas, toss well. Continuing to cook over medium heat, add in mustard greens and allow them to wilt. Add the tomatoes last along with salt and pepper and thyme, toss well.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Add the pasta, half of the pasta water and the white wine to the mustard green mixture. Simmer for about 5 minutes to meld all the flavors, add in a little more pasta water if needed for a little sauce. Toss in the bacon and parsley. Dress with a good drizzle of olive oil and the Parmesan cheese, serve with a crusty bread.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Recipe Swap: Blueberry Applesauce Wacky Cake with Crumb Topping


When this months Recipe Swap recipe came through for a wacky cake, I thought how fun, and what easy cleanup. A wacky cake is one of a group of cakes that were popular in the depression era; popular thanks to their ease and accessibility to cheap ingredients. Containing no eggs or butter, they are stirred together in the same pan as cooked in.

The recipe swap rules state you must change at least 3 ingredients and/or the cooking method; essentially make it your own. Initially I set out to keep true to the depression ease and simplistic-ness of the original recipe and ingredients, but somehow Grand Marnier fell into my cake and it just went from there.

Instead of using cocoa as the base, this was my first opportunity to use one of my new Strange Ingredients a friend sent in, vanilla powder. To keep the calories down, I opted for applesauce in place of the oil, for that reason, the texture of this cake is reminiscent of a quick bread. When you get a good forkful of the cake, a blueberry and the crumb topping, it makes for one good fat and happy bite.

Tips and Techniques: Switch up the flavor of this cake with ease by changing the fruit filling. Try Strawberries, peaches or apples! If you don't have vanilla powder, either add an extra tablespoon of the Grand Marnier or add a teaspoon of liquid vanilla extract.

Burwell General Store Recipe Swap: Blueberry Applesauce Wacky Cake with Crumb Topping

Blueberry Filling for Wacky Cake
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 Tbls sugar
squeeze of lemon
1 tsp corn starch

Make the blueberry filling first.  Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan, cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use. This step can be done a day or two ahead of time.

Butter Crumb Topping
2 Tbls butter, room temperature
2 Tbls flour
2 Tbls powder sugar

Place all the ingredients on a plate, use a fork to mash the dry ingredients into the butter. Once it is all combined, set aside until ready to use.

Vanilla Powder Wacky Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbls vanilla powder
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup water
1 tsp champagne vinegar
1 Tbls Grand Marnier
5 Tbls applesauce

Have the blueberry filling and the crumb topping ready. Once you add the vinegar to this cake, you need to work quickly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have the one cup of water ready. In a greased 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 baking dish, sift in all the dry ingredients and stir with a fork. Make 3 holes in the flour and place the Grand Marnier in one hole and the applesauce in the second. Quickly add the vinegar to the third and then pour in the water while stirring everything together with a fork.

Spoon the blueberry filling over the top of the cake, and then crumble the butter crumb topping on top of the filling.  Place in the oven until a toothpick comes out just about clean, the crumb topping will not brown so don't look to that as an identifier. My cake took around 40 minutes or so but keep an eye on it - it's better to under cook this than over cook.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly. If serving this warm, a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipping cream would be a fantastic addition.

Please take a moment to visit my fellow Recipe Swappers
Lindsay was the first blogger I asked to do the swap.  I found her blog after a day of surfing around looking for new recipes, and became hooked by the honesty and simplicity written into her recipes. She loves Oregon, its ingredients and Portland's lifestyle, and it shows.

Chef Dennis joined us on the Lemon Cake swap.  A veteran chef in his own right, we are lucky to have his Italian Lemon Pear Cake contribution to the swap.  The rest of his fantastic food blog can be seen at morethanamountfull.

Mari lives in Oregon wine country and is a budding wine connoisseur.  I fell in love with her use of Pinot Gris in the glaze for her (gluten-free!) Lemon Cake swap, which was her inaugural recipe with us. Visit her at The Unexpected Harvest.

Boulder Locavore’s  starting point for the recipe swap is always a local-seasonal-organic combination, though her love of international cuisine and cocktails often work their way into the mix!

Joy, holding down a dairy-intolerant household, doesn't let that restrict her love of flavors and food, in fact, I think it inspires her to do what she does. When you visit her blog, be sure to check out her "ubiquitous about page" and the balcony gardening category.

Monique has been food blogging since 2007, and was very gracious as I talked to her about my personal project of the recipe swap while on a professional work call with her. It must have gone okay, because she joined in, and her first recipe was a BLT-inspired chicken pot pie.  I'm so glad to have her on board.  

Shari is our first International participant!  Writing from down under, we cherish her voice in the swap because she brings the results of additional recipe challenges; the seasons are flipped from where most of us are blogging.  Her first swap was Grandma's Chicken Pie and Drop Biscuits, which she made in the dead of summer.

Jennifer's tag line says it all: Life is too short to eat bad food.  At her blog, Adventuresome Kitchen, you will find a passionate food-type, feeding her family amazing meals and living to blog about it. Jennifer joined in at Grandma's Chicken Pie and Drop Biscuits. 

The Cake Duchess.  The name says it all, and Lora's recipes are rock solid, creative, decadent, inspiring. What other adjectives can I throw at her?  Her innaugural recipe was Grandma's Chicken Pie and Drop Biscuits, a rare savory recipe for her to develop. 

Pola is a new blogger from Italy, transplanted to the cold Midwestern plains. After years of calling mom to check on cooking times and temperatures of family Italian recipes, she started writing them down. In the process, she is hoping to help new friends discover how to cook simple and authentic Italian food. 

Mary is a lifelong resident of the San Francisco Peninsula and was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2007. Her search fora  gluten-free chocolate chip cooke that didn't taste, look or feel gluten-free inspired her blog and she's been happily baking ever since.

Jamie blogs at Random Acts of Food and has a love for food that only an Italian could! She enjoys cooking and baking in all cuisines for her family and friends.  Originally from Long Island, Jamie now resides in Boston with her amazing boyfriend.

Crissy and Lauren are two recent college graduates who are embracing their passion for all things culinary in the smallest yellow kitchen that ever was.  Their balanced diet of equal parts savory and sweet helps them add a little zest to what they do best!

Claire blogs with Texas pride from Dallas. She loves chicken fingers, Law and Order SVU and is left handed. We are excited to have her!

Nay blogs about food at Spicy Living from Portland, Oregon, and joined in on the Lemon Cake swap.  She incorporated lavender and lemon into cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Cindy, co-worker, food lover, all-around awesome person.  I may have guilted her into the swap, and then I found out her knowledge about US restaurants is almost encyclopedic so I know she's game. Check out her quirky and fun blog.

Sabrina Modelle blogs at The Tomato Tart from the San Francisco bay area, and for her first swap (the Lemon Cake) she made a Brown Sugar Lemon Rosemary Cake with Rosemary Caramel.  How's that for inspiration?

A Journey to South Africa and African Bobotie

South Africa was a trip of a lifetime and I'm only too happy to regale stories and share photos with anyone who is willing to listen and watch my 2400 images through an old fashioned slide show.

When I look at the pictures, like the one where the elephant charged us, it brings me back to the trip of a lifetime.

The adventure started in Cape Town, nestled between mountains and ocean, this is a city filled with energy. On one side is Table Mountain which offers an overview of the city after an 1100 meter cable car ride. On the other side is a coast line reminiscent of the California coast with sweeping ocean views, bikers, skaters and bikini clad bodies.

This world class city is also the best place to experience the full range of South African cuisine, also known as "Rainbow Cuisine." Influenced by Dutch, French, Malaysian, Mediterranean, German, and Indian cuisines, there is a plethora of tasting opportunities. South Africans are lovers of meat and it just so happens ostrich is a favorite of mine and it's abundantly available.

Potjiekos (stew-like dishes cooked in pots),
Bobotie (minced curry dish with egg custard topping),
Bitlong (African beef jerky) and
Braai (anything barbecued)
are a few key South African dishes well worth trying.

Traveling south of Cape Town is the Cape of Good Hope where cold Atlantic water meets the warm Indian ocean. If that is not enticing enough, there is the titillating chance of experiencing a baboon sneaking into your car and making off with it. Ok, not really driving off with your car but considering the damage they will do to the interior, you really don't want it back anyway.

One of my favorite parts of Cape Town was the cultural aspects we were able to experience.

There was the Cape Malay (Bo Kaap) community with colorful houses and open spice shops that included the opportunity to prepare and dine on a typical lunch with a  local Muslim family in their house.

Robben Island was a somber experience to see Nelson Mandela's prison cell where he spent 23 hours a day.

And there was the township orphanage we visited. Townships are endless miles of poverty stricken population living in one room tin shacks.

But their generosity shone through as we were invited into a church service - simply emotional and moving. And while these people may not have typical wealth, they have honor in their community and their pride and zest for life shows in their bright and clean clothes.

But let's remember this is a vacation, so from Cape Town to townships to wine country we traveled where we experienced the best meal of the vacation at La Petite Ferme in Franschhoeke. Braised rabbit over herbed polenta, mushroom pate, Impala medallions, caramel drizzled cheese platters and a 500 gram burger, all of it stunning.

This scene from our guest cabin where we spent the afternoon frolicking on the patio that overlooked our own personal pond while watching the sun set behind the mountains adorns my desktop screen.

Our visit just happened to coincide with the height of grape season in Stellenbosch; 30 picturesque miles of vineyards dotting hilly terrain. Bottles of South African wine found their way into our luggage, some were classic Cabernet's but many of our bottles cradle African Pinotage and Shiraz bounties.

The South African pampering continued when three flights and 10 hours later we landed on a grass runway ... only after the herd of zebras slowly grazed out of the way. Our safari guides did their homework on us ahead of time as they served us wine in silver goblets while we marveled at the herd of elephants playing in the watering hole nearby.

On safari we were served warm, comforting meals. Breakfast showed the English influence through fresh tomato slices and beans; the bacon was the best I've ever eaten. Every day we would watch the sun sent from the bush with a sundowner (a drink to watch the sent set with) in one hand and a simple pickle, onion and cheese kabob in the other.

Evening meals were filled with roasted and barbecued (braai) meats under a sky so filled with stars it looked fake. The safari chef even accommodated our gluten free friend with ease.

To explain the safari itself does not do it justice over being there in person; there is something about seeing nature work together that left me in complete awe.

Yes we watched lions eat a cape buffalo and on some level it was disgusting and smelly, yet we couldn't look away. We listened to birds signal warnings, watched dung beetles at work and we saw a mama giraffe morn the loss of her baby. Our pictures speak volumes, but the experience is life changing.

The perfect end to the trip was a helicopter fly over of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; a simplistically flat river filled with hippos and crocs that, unknowingly, falls 108 meters into a winding gorge. A design that could only be accomplished by the power of nature.

We didn't come home with much in the way of trinkets to remember our trip - a few bottles of our favorite new wine and a mask for our wall ... but our minds and hearts are filled with an enormous amount of memories we will never forget.

African Bobotie Recipe

Though unrealistic, I want to relive this trip every day. The next best option is to taste, smell and become enveloped in the dishes we experienced. The recipe below is for an African Bobotie, a curried meat dish topped with an egg custard. As with any culture, everyone seems to have their own version of classic dishes and this is mine, but it says very true to original dishes. I've also added a little cherry chutney with mine, not something we experienced in South Africa but I thought it would be a nice addition. Your house will smell of curry for days, but think of that as bonus!

Tips and techniques:  My first choice in this dish is ostrich, but it's hard to come by in the States ; my second choice is to go with a mixture of ground beef and lamb.  Traditional recipes call for the addition of white bread, I was making this for a gluten free friend so omitted this step. If you want to add in the bread, soak 2 slices of white bread in milk, break apart and add to the meat mixture before covering it with the egg custard.

Curried Meat
1 lb ground beef, lamb or ostrich
drizzle of olive oil
1 cup onions, grated or chopped fine
pinch of ground cloves
1 tart apple, peeled and grated
2 Tbls curry
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbls apricot jam
2 Tbls slivered almonds
2 Tbls lemon juice
1 egg
1/2 Tbls Turmeric
2 bay leaves

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onions and saute until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Sprinkle the curry powder and ground cloves over the onions and stir.

Add the meat to the curry and onions and stir until cooked, break up the meat so it's minced does not have any large hunks. Add the lemon juice, grated apple, raisins, apricot jam and slivered almonds  and cook together for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle the turmeric on top and stir through. Stir in the egg, salt and pepper. If you are using the soaked bread, add it now. 

Taste the mince and add more salt and pepper if necessary Place the cooked mince in a buttered pie dish. Tuck the bay leaves into the mince and pour the egg topping over the top (recipe below).

Bake for about 15-20  minutes or until the custard sets on top. Serve with a spoon of the cherry chutney (recipe below). Enjoy!

Egg Topping
1 egg
1 cup Greek yogurt (original recipes call for milk)
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Stir the ingredients together, set aside until ready to pour over the meat mixture.

Cherry Walnut Chutney (optional)

1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup dried cherries or craisins, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 large shallot, diced
Drizzle of olive oil
2 Tbls apricot jam
1-2 Tbls lemon juice

Toast the walnuts in a small fry pan. Remove the walnuts and add in an drizzle of olive oil and the shallots.  Cooke the shallots for just a minute or two to soften and release their flavor. Add in the apricot jam, just to warm it. Hand crush the walnuts as you add them to the shallots, also add the chopped cherries, parsley, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss and set aside until ready to use.


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