August 24, 2014

Coconut milk cake recipe and a way to impress a friend

On a lazy Saturday afternoon when a friend called me to say she was in the neighborhood and she was going to stop for a visit I immediately I head to the kitchen to prepare something to serve to her. You see, I am from the countryside of Minas Gerais and hospitality means food, it's unthinkable to have a guest and not having some homemade food to offer to them. 

At first, I did not know what to cook but as I always have an emergency kit to bake a cake: sugar, butter, flour and eggs, I decided to bake a cake. 
In Brazil, it's very common to have cake with coffee, milk, tea, or fresh fruit juice for an afternoon meal,  we call it lanche, a small portion-meal served between lunch and dinner.   

This cake is easy, quick and delicious, it does not require fancy techniques or ingredients, just mix everything in a blender and pour the mixture into a cake pan. It's all about the rich sweet scents of baking a cake.

Coconut Milk Cake in a Blender

Ingredients:
 3 eggs
♥ 1/2 cup milk
♥ 200 ml coconut milk
♥ 1 1/2 cup sugar
♥ 2 cups all-purpose flour
♥ 6 tbsp butter (at room temperature)
♥ 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (about)
♥ 1 tbsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°F. 
With the exception of the baking powder, puree all the ingredients in a blender in the order they are above.
When well mixed add the baking powder and blend a little more, about 20 seconds.
Butter and flour a cake pan (any round cake pan you'll do).
Bake on the middle oven rack for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick place near the center comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and let the cake cool for at least 10 minutes.

I said it was a simple cake, right? But sometimes I have a problem, I get carried away and does not know when to stop. This cake is simply yummy as it is, it does not need any frosting or glaze, but I wanted to impress my friend, so I decided to add some simple frosting. 

Condensed Milk & Lime Frosting

Ingredients:
♥ 1 can condensed milk
♥ juice of 1 1/2 lime
♥ lime zest and berries to garnish

With a fork whisk together the lemon juice and the condensed milk until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Spread the frosting with a knife and sprinkle some lime zest. Pretty easy, right?

I know my friend loves berries so I decided to treat her with them as well. Besides being nutritious berries are so pretty, it's a way to dress up any cake, don't you agree?



August 12, 2014

In the mood for fresh food

Last weekend, I grabbed a basket and headed up to my friends and neighbors' house, Lucia & Mark, which is a small farm in the heart of the town. My mission was to pick some organic vegetables and eggs right there at the spot.

I keep a small herb garden at the deck, and B. started a small garden in our backyard last year, but it does not compare to our friends' garden. 

They have flowers, fresh eggs and produce. Every year they plant, harvest and store for the cold days of winter, eating fresh and organic throughout the year, and that is a blessing. 

These two photos are from our small garden, and I can't wait to taste our tomatoes and eggplants.

I've been experimenting different tasty ways to cook with vegetables, specially in the summer when I find them fresh, they are so full of flavors.

That's my friend picking some fresh produce for me.

We got back home with yellow squash, onions, zucchini, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, some beans and kale as well. So much inspiration to experiment in the kitchen.

I never cook beets because B. does not like them, but looking at these beauties I felt inspired by them and decided to cook something simple and delicious, a health attempt to change his mind - baked squash and beets, light and fresh.


Baked Summer Squash & Beets

It is really easy, and it's darn delicious, packed with all things good and healthy. Not only was it delicious, but B. had a chance to eat beets for the first time and ask for more. So perfect!

This recipe is prepared in just a few steps, and frankly, I didn't have a plan, I just knew I wanted to prepare an easy dish using fresh ingredients I had at home. 

Ingredients:
 2 zucchinis
 2 yellow squash
♥ 2 beets
♥ olive oil
♥ pomegranate balsamic vinegar
freshly grated parmesan cheese
♥ salt
♥ freshly grounded pepper
♥ fresh herbs (I used lemon-thyme, oregano, basil from my garden)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice the vegetables and toss with the other ingredients but the grated cheese, which should be sprinkled at the top. If the dish you use is small you can have more than one layer of vegetables, in this case sprinkle cheese on top of each layer.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes.


August 3, 2014

Caramelized Banana Compote with Vanilla Ice Cream

There was a time my family lived in a house with a big garden filled with fruit trees: avocado, orange, lemon, lime, blackberry, papaya, passion fruit, guava, jaboticaba, and one of my favorites, banana. In the U.S., a single type of bananas dominates, but in Brazil we have 5 delicious kinds: nanica (dwarf), prata (lady's finger), da terra (plantain), ouro (sugar), maçã (apple or silk).

All year around we had fresh fruit in our backyard, and one of my family traditions was never to waste them, so besides just picking and eating them we would make smoothies, jams, jelly, preserves, spreads, compotes, never to waste a fruit even when it got overripe.

I made this recipe with only 6 bananas because that's what I had, but you can always adapt the ingredient quantities depending on how many bananas you are going to use.

Caramelized Banana Compote
Makes 2 serves

Ingredients:
♥ 6 ripe organic bananas
♥ 1 cup demerara sugar
♥ lime juice of half lime
♥ 3-4 drops pure vanilla extract (some people use cinnamon, or clove extract)

Slice the bananas. Bring enough water to cover the bananas to boil; place the sliced bananas in the water and turn the heat to medium low and let them cook; don't stir and don't cover the pan.
When it foams up drain the bananas and place them in a plate; squeeze the lime juice on top of them so they don't get black.

Place the sugar in a saucepan over low heat stirring constantly until it is crumbly. Pour a cup of boiling water into the pan and stir until the sugar  dissolves. Voilá, you have just made some syrup. ♥ Always be careful not to spill boiling water on yourself when you pour it over the crumbly sugar.

Add the bananas into the syrup, and then the vanilla extract, cover the pan and let it cook slowly to a gentle boil for about 15 minutes. Once the mixture is getting thick stir it until it reaches a paste-like texture. The compote does not need to be too thick as it will thicken once out of the heat.

Top it with vanilla ice cream and savor it slowly.


July 29, 2014

Art Crush on Instagram

When I came across with Simone Wittgen's photos on Instagram they immediately touched my heart. Just a cute girl doodle, a piece of fruit or vegetable and a simple quote, and instantly I have a smile from ear to ear. And this is what I think makes her lovely creations captivating, they are unique, simple and fun.

Simone lives in a village in the south of the Netherlands and works as a communication & marketing consultant, but her passion is photography, and through her illustrative work she can freely express her creativity with her photos. I contacted Simone to have her permission to post her artwork here and she graciously sent me these ones so I could share them with you. She's such an inspiration to me and perhaps can be to you, too.

PhiloSophietje, that's how she named her series of doodles, quotes & photography. Philo for philosophy refers to the quotes and Sophie is the cute girl's name.

Meet Miss Saigon!  In addition to her doodle series, Simone now is having fun creating pretty face-foliage girls, and Miss Saigon is my favorite. 

Simone has been working on a project of a postcard online shop so you can own as many as you want of her lovely artwork. Anyone interested can email her @ simonewittgen@gmail.com.


I hope you are all having a super summer, I mean, for the ones on the north side of the Equator. Yesterday was super, rainy and sunny, but wait a minute, rain & sun together? Yes, and I knew I would see it, and there it was, a beautiful & colorful rainbow in an awesome bluebell sky. I love Summer!



(images: Simone Wittgen)



July 18, 2014

Happy

At the first week of July, I was fortunate to participate in a food styling and photography workshop held by Béatrice Peltre,a food writer and stylist, photographer and blogger, who teamed up with her friends Leigh Metcalf and Alison Bell for this memorable experience. The workshop happened  in a beautiful countryside setting in East Sussex, south of England, at an eco-friendly farm. I was so excited to spend a week at a farm in the English countryside. 


Our group included people who came from Chile, Sweden, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and the United States. A desire to learn about food styling and photography from someone whose work we admire and get inspired by brought us together for that wonderful week. 

Béa is a wonderful down to earth person, a successful woman who knows her craft well, and yet, patiently, is generous to share her knowledge and experience.
The workshop consisted of hands-on exercises and local visits, like a fish smokery, pick our own fruit at a nearby farm, picnic at the beach, and dinner at a real English pub.

I was apprehensive about this trip, you see, I'm not a photographer, I'm not a cook. I take photographs because it makes me happy, I cook to see other people happy,  I don't have techniques, I don't know much about either of the them. When I cook and when I take pictures most of the time I'm just following my instincts, which is good but it's not enough.

Photography is a relatively new love in my life, when I am taking pictures I feel happy, but I'm not a numbers girl, and camera numbers and settings make my head spin, but after reading about them over and over again, and practicing, and talking to more experienced photographers I am start understanding the fundamentals of photography and how the numbers affect the photos, and this is rewarding and gives me hope that one day I'm going to consider myself a real photographer.

Styling fruits, vegetables and flowers is fun and relaxing, they are beautiful by themselves, but styling fish for a photo shoot, oh that can be tricky...


We styled and took photos of a picnic at the breathtaking Seven Sisters "white" Cliffs.


I felt like a child at a candy store when we visit a cherry orchard. It was  the first time I've ever been to one, and it was magical.


These two photos courtesy of Fran Aménabar

June 15, 2014

Homemade Cherry Yogurt

Living in Brazil my breakfast was healthy and easy to prepare: delicious Brazilian coffee, fresh bread, fresh squeezed juice, cheese, fruits and homemade yogurt.

My morning ritual has become simpler since moving to America. Only on weekends I have fresh squeezed juice, no time to do it during the week, and instead of fresh bread I have waffles and coffee, but one thing I can not live without is homemade yogurt. 


A great experience of leaving in a another country is that we get to know and eat different food, like cherries, for example, I had never had cherries before I moved to America, and it was love at first bite. 

I often make homemade yogurt, and many times I add fruits to it, choosing the ones that are in season. This weekend I chose to make cherry yogurt.


This is my mother's recipe, it's a healthy, fresh and summery food, and it can be made with any berry of your choosing, or any fruit you can puree and add to the yogurt.



Homemade Cherry Yogurt

I make homemade yogurt in the simplest way possible. Some recipes say you should place the mixture in the oven, I don't do that, and it works. I use the ingredients below, but you can replace them to the ones to your taste, i.e. 2% milk, goat milk, honey, condensed milk, maple syrup, etc. Do not use ultra-pasteurized or UHT milk. 

Ingredients:
♥  4 cups organic whole milk
♥  6 oz organic plain yogurt. For future recipes you can use the plain homemade yogurt to start new batches.
♥  cherries to taste
♥  sugar to taste

For the puree: Blend some pitted and diced cherries to a puree consistency, do not juice them.

Boil the milk, remove from heat and allow it to cool to lukewarm temperature. Whisk together the yogurt and the lukewarm milk until smooth.
Transfer the mixture into a tight recipient with lid, I use a plastic jar, and wrap it with a blanket. Place it in a warm place and leave it undisturbed until thickened and set, about 10-12 hours. When the yogurt is set, refrigerate it for about 3 hours.

Once the yogurt is chilled, stir the fruit puree to it.

Enjoy this healthy recipe, it's delicious, rich and fresh.

June 6, 2014

A thank you note & a flower bouquet

 I would like to thank everyone and each one of you who took the time to express their sympathy with words of encouragement and kindness, I'm deeply touched and grateful.
Thank you! 


I like to create fresh flower arrangements and place them here and there around the house, and then take pictures of them, naturally. Like mixing & matching colors is a constant learning process to me so is creating flower arrangements that flow with movement and ease, and I am particularly thrilled when I feel I did it right.



I wish you all a very nice weekend 


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