Dreaming of an Island …

I don’t know about you, but I am a huge fan of tropical anything – except mangoes, for some reason. Anyway, this coconut cake is a bit of a ‘cheater’ recipe, inasmuch as a cake mix and instant pudding are used, but oh, it is really very good.  

I’ve made it as a cake in any and all sizes, from jumbo to mini cupcakes, and have even baked it in a loaf pan, then cooled, thinly sliced and toasted the frosting-free cake to enjoy as a cookie with a cup of hot tea. 

Coconut-Rich Cake

1 box white cake mix

1 pkg. 3.4 oz instant coconut pudding

1 cup water

1/3 cup oil (I usually substitute melted butter for the oil)

4 eggs

2 tsp coconut flavoring, or vanilla extract, or vanilla paste

1 1/3 cup flaked coconut (sweetened, but to reduce the sugar, unsweetened is fine)

Frosting, optional

Preheat oven to 350*.  Prepare baking pans – line cupcake tins, spray cake pans with my personal favorite Baker’s Joy, or line sheet pans with parchment paper.

In large bowl, mix cake mix, dry instant pudding, water, oil (or melted butter), eggs and extract/flavoring. Beat about two minutes, then add coconut, mixing just until well blended.

Pour batter into prepared bakeware. Bake for 25 minutes for cake, or until top springs back from light pressure and top is golden.

Serve with fresh fruit, drizzle with chocolate, add a scoop of ice cream, or frost with coconut, vanilla or chocolate frosting and sprinkle generously with flaked coconut.

Enjoy!

I’d love to hear how the recipe worked for you – did you serve it for a special occasion? Did you dress it up or scale it down? 

Oh, and as you already know, even though I sometimes mention brand names, I do not in any way benefit from doing so. I just have a few tried and true ingredients, tools or gadgets that I’m happy to specify in the hope you, too, find them to be helpful.

Beach Party Pearl Cookies

These cookies are not actually made, as much as they are compiled. However, if you need a cute dessert for a summertime party, but don’t have much time, these cookies might be the solution you’re looking for.

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The shopping – or ingredient – list to make one dozen cookies is a walk on the beach-easy:

2 dozen cookies – I found these almond flavored shell-shaped cookies at Dollar Tree.

24 tablespoons (or 1 1/2 cups) flavor-compatible frosting – homemade or not

1 dozen candies – Sixlettes, M&Ms, gumdrops, etc.

Pipe or drop about two tablespoons of frosting on the flat side of one half of the total cookies, being a little more generous with the frosting near the front of the cookie.

Place the second, unfrosted cookie on top of the first, on an angle <  like a clam shell.

Using the tips of your fingers, or kitchen tongs/tweezers, place one candy inside the cookie, resting in the thick frosting. The idea is to make it look as if there is a pearl inside each cookie sandwich.

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Courtesy of skeeze on Pixabay

I used a few additional ingredients to create what I envisioned as individual aquariums – but the end result left plenty of room for improvement!

Using individual plastic cups, attempt to stuff edible blue Easter grass inside said cups. Divide the S’mores variety of Goldfish cookies into one dozen fairly equal portions, and tuck, poke, and shake the fish evenly-ish into blue grass filled cups.

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Top the cups, now overflowing with wild edible blue Easter grass, with one clam cookie.

Wrap each cup with plastic wrap – telling yourself that the plastic wrap makes it look kinda-sorta like an aquarium. In truth, it does little else than contain the out of control Easter grass and prevent those little S’mores fishes from S’mimming away and all over the floor!

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And there you have it – a mini-aquarium complete with ocean, fish, and a clam bearing a pearl!

Happy Summer!

Getting Fresh on Valentine’s Day

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What can be tastier than a big bite of juicy, sun-warmed strawberry? Possibly a berry dipped into billows of lightly sweetened whipped cream, or generous slices of the crimson fruit scattered over crisp greens and drizzled with honey-yogurt dressing.
Although fragrant, luscious, fresh-from-the-farm strawberries won’t be available in our area until mid-April, in order to celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 14th, we’ll just have to make do with the best quality fresh or even frozen berries from the local grocer.

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To celebrate this incredible fruit, here is an easy recipe for cream puffs. Simply fill with sliced berries, add a dollop of freshly whipped cream and you are all set to present a dessert similar to that family favorite, strawberry shortcake, but lighter and far more delicate –  perfect for Valentine’s Day, National Strawberry Day on February 27th, a special anniversary, or Mother’s Day in May, when the berries will be at their peak.

CREAM PUFFS

Pre-warm eggs in their shells in hot, but not boiling water.

Heat to boiling point in sauce pan:
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in:
 1 cup SIFTED bread flour
Stir constantly,quickly, and with vigor over medium-low heat until smooth and velvety by pressing dough against the side of the pan, then rolling into ball with spoon again and again for 1-2 minutes. Do not let the dough stay still in the pan or else it may burn.

Place dough in large mixing bowl, allow to cool slightly – tepid or lukewarm is fine. Very quickly, adding only one at a time, and beating well after each addition:

 3 or 4 whole eggs

To determine if a fourth egg is needed, check the consistency of the dough. It should be soft, not dry.

Drop from spoon onto parchment lined baking sheets, making eight smaller or four large dollops. Bake at 450* for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown and dry. Allow to cool slowly by opening oven door, and avoid drafts. Some cooks prefer to poke a toothpick into the sides of the cream puffs to release any steam trapped inside. I have never needed to do this, but it might work best for your kitchen and location.
Cut off tops with a sharp knife (or pull apart), scoop out filaments of dough, if necessary, and fill with fresh strawberries, raspberries, chocolate mousse, sweetened whipped cream, etc. Dust tops with confectioner’s sugar.
** Because these puffs are not sweetened, it’s possible to fill them with tuna salad, creamed chicken, etc. and served as a savory dish instead of a sweet.

 

 

It’s Not Too Late …

… to start your New Year off right!

So, did January First with all the bells and whistles, dropping spheres and stunning pyrotechnics slip past you? Did the hours in the day shrink as the demands on your calendar went berserk?

Never fear. Fortunately, there is such a thing as a Legal Holiday – so you have options.

January 2nd is not only a legal holiday, but this year it is the one and only day when you can watch the Tournament of Roses Parade since it was decreed wayyy back in 1893 that no such parade would ever take place on a Sunday.

(It’s true – – https://www.pasadenaweekly.com/2016/12/29/never-on-sunday/  )

Well, if a parade the size of the Rose Parade can celebrate the new year a full 24 hours after the actual change – give or take a second – then who is to say that you can’t cook up those collards, ham hocks and blackeyed peas any day you choose this first week – or month –  of 2017?

Yup – that is this week’s recipe, and if I say so myself, it’s pretty good stuff! No, not as delicious as some of those bowls overflowing with steaming perfection from the kitchens of Southern cooks I have had the pleasure to share a table with, but pretty tasty in its own way.

And I have to warn you – I added some of this, and left out some of that as I went along. I know, I know. Sacrilege. Danger. Indigestion.

But truth be told, every cook, no matter from whence they hail, tweaks and messes about with perfectly wonderful traditions, if only for lack of proper ingredients, or because a lot of the fun of cooking comes from experimentation and luck. Lots of luck, sometimes.

Well, here you have it – this year’s recipe for starting the New Year off right – on whatever day you opt to mark the occasion!

Ham Hocks and Blackeyed Peas

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1 bag dried Blackeyed Peas

Water

Onion – 1 medium, chopped

Carrot – 1 or 2 depending upon size, sliced

Celery – 1 stalk, sliced

Salt, Pepper, Mrs. Dash, or other herbs/seasonings to taste

 

Boil about 3 quarts of water. Carefully inspect and rinse the blackeyed peas, being sure to remove any small pebbles or debris. Dump peas into a stock pot or large pan and cover with boiling water. Let sit in boiling/very hot water for 2+ hours to pre-soak. They can be soaked overnight, if more convenient.

Place smoked ham hock, jowl, shank (a good chunk of tasty pork-something), into a crockpot. Drain the blackeyed peas and dump into the crockpot, on top of the pork. Pour fresh water – boiling or tepid – into crockpot, enough to generously cover the contents. Add chopped and sliced veggies, stir once or twice.

Cook on Low for 8-10 hours, until blackeyed peas are cooked and the liquid is a lovely rust or brown color. Add seasonings late in the process after tasting the ‘pot likker’ to determine what it might need. Some ham hocks and jowls are so flavorful, you won’t need to add anything. Sometimes it just needs a little pinch of this or a handful of that.

While that’s cooking, you can make the

Collard Greens and Ham Hocks

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1 bunch – or more – Collard Greens, although any green will work. If you prefer turnip, beet, kale or spinach, that’s great. Just make sure they are green in keeping with the idea behind the tradition.

1 Ham Hock – again, feel free to use the pork item of your choice

Salt, Pepper, etc. – to taste

Water

 

The most time consuming part of this process is cleaning the collard greens, but it is also the most important part. I begin by pulling the leafy part of the greens from the stem. That stem can be woody, tough and bitter, so don’t bother with cleaning or cooking it. This is a good time to inspect the leaves for too many buggy bites, or wilted edges. Collards are pretty tasty even in the field, so look at the number of holes as a sign of good flavor!

After the leaves are ready, I use a large pot, fill it with fresh, cold water, shove all of the leaves into it and add a bunch of salt. Then I act as if I am washing socks – push, swirl, move, lift, shove, stir. After a few minutes of this, I dump the water, and repeat the rinsing – leaving out the salt – no less than three times, feeling for grit or sand with my fingers. If need be, I will rinse each good sized leaf individually.

Then – if I remember to do this step – slice or chop each leaf. The easiest way to do this is to simply layer the leaves one on top of another, roll them up, as if you were making a very green wrap, and slice the small end. As you can see in the photo above, I skipped the slicing part – or tearing or chopping, whatever you prefer – and cooked up big leaves. No matter – they tasted just fine!

Toss the slices into a stock pot, add the ham hock, jowl, whatever you’ve chosen as your pork delight, and pour in plenty of fresh, cool water. You will need a generous amount of water since those collards will float to the top of the pot, but will cook down into something amazing over the course of 6-8 hours.

Bring the concoction to a boil, and boil for about an hour, although I used so few collards, that I turned my pot down after 30 minutes or so. Most of this kind of cooking is by gut, by feel, so do what you think is right and you’ll be fine. Simmer the pot for as many hours as is necessary to turn the collards soft and the meat to fall off the ham bone. Stir it a few times during the process, but don’t baby it.

You can add salt, pepper, seasonings – even bacon grease or chopped crispy bacon to the pot.

When it’s finally done, serve the collards with the blackeyed peas and don’t forget the piping hot cornbread with lots of butter …

 

and the South Carolina strawberry and freshly made whipped cream tartlets for dessert!

 

 

Please visit Creatzart and DiscoveringHome to see some of the places the recipes on Sinclaire Monroe’s Kitchen come from or have been inspired by – and please consider participating in Jane’s Day of Service on February 28th this year.

Thank you for reading and following and sharing. I wish each of you a healthy, safe, and wonderful New Year.

Whewsh!

I will return soon with new recipes, local dining and fun shopping ideas – and even a few cooking factoids. Until then, I am catching up on all of my work now that I am a …

A2Z-Badge Survivor 2016

Z is for Zebra Cupcakes

Zebra Cut Out

Whew! And here we are – this baking/blogging marathon is nearing its end after quite a busy month!

Before I share this month’s final recipe of the Blogging A to Z Challenge with you, I do want to thank each and every one of you for visiting this blog; for liking and sharing and commenting on the posts.

I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to visit your blogs and websites – what amazing talents you possess and share with all of us. Thank you!

And now for the recipe …

ZEBRA CUPCAKES

1 bowl prepared batter of your favorite chocolate cake

1 bowl prepared batter of your favorite vanilla cake

Preheat oven to 350* and place paper liners in each of 24 cupcake tins.

Using only one flavor at a time, place one tablespoon of cake batter in each muffin tin, being sure the batter is even and reaches the edges.

When done, carefully place one tablespoon of the second flavor in each tin, again making an effort to spread the batter evenly and to the edges.

Repeat as often as you are able, filling each tin 2/3 full.

Bake until done, according to cake recipe directions.

Allow cupcakes to cool, then decorate with white frosting drizzled with chocolate – or the other way around!

Devour and enjoy!

Zebra Cut Out

As you might imagine, the completion of this Challenge is just the beginning of a fresh, new year for this and my other two blogs

Creatzart.com and DiscoveringHome.com 

and like you, I am impatient to get underway and looking forward to many more shared culinary adventures!

Thank you.

 

Y is for Yellow Donuts

Some days are just doughnut days. Along with a big glass of cold milk or a hot cup of aromatic coffee, a fresh doughnut can make even a Monday morning feel … well, better.

But it isn’t always possible to get to the bakery before work, and those days-old prepackaged wonders at the convenience store only make the idea of a fresh-baked, still-warm pastry even more tempting.

So, here is an easy and quick substitute until a trip to a proper bakery can be arranged.

 

Yellow Donuts

1 box Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix (or any flavor you might like)

1 cup water or milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

  • Combine all ingredients and mix until combined, but do not over-beat.
  • Preheat mini doughnut maker according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Pour mixture into doughnut wells, and cook per instructions, or until golden brown. Using wooden tongs to remove the cooked doughnuts is very convenient.
  • Frost or generously dust with powdered sugar.

A note about cake-mix doughnuts: I did not know what to expect when I made this, my very first batch of cake-mix-doughnut-maker …rings. Well, these are not exactly the consistency of cake doughnuts, but they are not just ring-shaped cupcakes, either.

I was surprised to find that after 24 hours, the frosting, and/or the powdered sugar melds with the cake to create a much improved and fairly reasonable doughnut facsimile.

Because I discovered a brand new mini-doughnut maker at a thrift store for under $10.00, I was happy to give this recipe a try, but I don’t know that it would have been worth four times that much just to conduct this experiment that resulted in good, but not amazing, quasi-doughnuts.

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