Coconut Blueberry Pancakes with Coconut Whipped Cream

Sometimes I just love myself. Like when I make breakfast for myself. And not just any breakfast, but something decadent like… Well, like these pancakes!

Pancakes made with coconut milk and coconut oil instead of regular milk and vegetable oil, with blueberries added in and topped with homemade whipped cream made from coconut milk! Mmmmmm…

For the pancakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons raw sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 egg

Optional: handful of fresh or frozen blueberries, or other desired fruit

Directions:
- whisk milk, oil, and egg together. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture until moistened; small lumps are okay.
- heat a skillet or griddle over medium. Use either coconut oil or butter to coat cooking surface.
- spoon 2-3 tablespoons batter onto cooking surface and cook until pancakes have some bubbles that “stick”. Flip over with spatula and cook until browned.

Top with coconut whipped cream or topping of choice.

For the coconut milk whipped cream:
1 can coconut milk (full fat)
2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: cinnamon or vanilla beans

Directions:
- leave can in the fridge overnight. The thick cream and the coconut “water” will separate.
- without shaking the can, carefully open and spoon the thick cream from the top into a mixing bowl. Try not to get any of the water or translucent syrup.
- add other ingredients to coconut cream and whip until creamy and peaks form.

The coconut whipped cream is best used right after you make it. It has the consistency of Cool Whip. I found that it does keep in the fridge for a few days but loses its nice consistency and becomes a little more crumbly - however still delicious! I ate it on top of fruit and with ice cream - and believe me, I was sad when it was gone!

Soup from Scratch

When I’m sick at home, there are few things that are comforting to me, some of which include a steamy shower, a hot tea toddy, and a fresh batch of soup. Today was one of those days, and since I had no soup in my pantry, I had to make some myself. From scratch.
I searched through my barren fridge to find a few, select ingredients that I thought could do, but I’ve never made soup from scratch before. I’m a recipe follower - so how would I know what tastes meld together well?
To my luck, I found this incredibly informative website that actually has some great suggestions - and confirmed that the ingredients I had would work beautifully. Yay, internet!
Here’s the information from the aforementioned website, Simple Bites:

1) Choose a type of fat
Your soup will (probably) need to start with some type of healthy fat, like butter or olive oil.  This is to sauté any root vegetables or other initial flavors.  Pick whatever you have on hand that will mesh well with your flavors.  (I’d choose olive oil if I wanted an “Italian” soup with a tomato base, and butter if I were making a cream soup; otherwise it’s a toss up.)
2) Choose your base
What do you have on hand?  Chicken, beef, or fish stock?  Tomato purée?  Cream or milk?  Choose one — or two.  Stock mixed with tomato purée is delicious, as is stock with milk.  Or even cream with tomato purée!  You choose the flavors you want.
3) Choose your meat
If you want meat, that is.  Is this a chicken soup?  Ground beef (like a chili, or made into meatballs)?  Steak?  Fish?  Choose whatever you like.  You’ll probably want this to match your base (beef with fish stock might not be such a great combination), but use what you have.  I’ve used chicken stock in place of beef stock with great results, especially if I also added tomato.
4) Choose your veggies
Onion is a pretty standard veggie because it imparts so much flavor.  Garlic, carrots, and celery are all fairly common too — though not always used.  There are also beans, potatoes, spinach, kale, corn, and so on.  Use whatever you have, and whatever you like!
5) Choose your spices
Sea salt and black pepper are your two most basic spices, so you will want to include them (well…at least the salt). Here are a few more popular flavor combinations.
Celery seed, marjoram, thyme, parsley, and sage go well with chicken.
Marjoram, rosemary and thyme go well with beef.
Basil, oregano or fennel can be a nice addition to tomato-based soups.
Chilis need chili powder and perhaps cumin.
Cream soups might benefit from a dash or parsley or thyme.
Method
Once you’ve decided on what ingredients to use, making soup is very simple:
Heat a large soup pot over medium heat
Sauté your aromatic vegetables (onion, garlic, celery, carrot) in your fat
Cook your meat if necessary (for example, stew beef)
Add your base (except milk or cream), veggies, meat, and spices
Taste and adjust
Allow to simmer for an hour or two
Taste and adjust again
Add any cream or milk just before serving and heat through

And here’s what I used:
Half of an onion, chopped
Half a carton of beef stock
2 frozen sausages, thawed, cooked, and sliced
3-4 small potatoes, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
A handful of baby carrots
About a tablespoon of tomato paste
Dash of sea salt
Dash of oregano
Dash of garlic powder
Dash of basil
Keep in mind that I don’t usually measure when I cook… so when I say “a dash” I would estimate 1/4 teaspoon, but definitely taste-test and adjust to your liking.
I put everything into my crock pot and cooked on high for 3-4 hours (until the potatoes and carrots were soft). You could also simmer in a covered pot over medium heat for 1-2 hours if you don’t want to use a crock pot. It might be a bit quicker, but I just love my crock pot…
The soup turned out great and definitely made me feel better with such minimal effort.
What soups from scratch have you made and loved? High-res

Soup from Scratch

When I’m sick at home, there are few things that are comforting to me, some of which include a steamy shower, a hot tea toddy, and a fresh batch of soup. Today was one of those days, and since I had no soup in my pantry, I had to make some myself. From scratch.

I searched through my barren fridge to find a few, select ingredients that I thought could do, but I’ve never made soup from scratch before. I’m a recipe follower - so how would I know what tastes meld together well?

To my luck, I found this incredibly informative website that actually has some great suggestions - and confirmed that the ingredients I had would work beautifully. Yay, internet!

Here’s the information from the aforementioned website, Simple Bites:

1) Choose a type of fat

Your soup will (probably) need to start with some type of healthy fat, like butter or olive oil.  This is to sauté any root vegetables or other initial flavors.  Pick whatever you have on hand that will mesh well with your flavors.  (I’d choose olive oil if I wanted an “Italian” soup with a tomato base, and butter if I were making a cream soup; otherwise it’s a toss up.)

2) Choose your base

What do you have on hand?  Chicken, beef, or fish stock?  Tomato purée?  Cream or milk?  Choose one — or two.  Stock mixed with tomato purée is delicious, as is stock with milk.  Or even cream with tomato purée!  You choose the flavors you want.

3) Choose your meat

If you want meat, that is.  Is this a chicken soup?  Ground beef (like a chili, or made into meatballs)?  Steak?  Fish?  Choose whatever you like.  You’ll probably want this to match your base (beef with fish stock might not be such a great combination), but use what you have.  I’ve used chicken stock in place of beef stock with great results, especially if I also added tomato.

4) Choose your veggies

Onion is a pretty standard veggie because it imparts so much flavor.  Garlic, carrots, and celery are all fairly common too — though not always used.  There are also beans, potatoes, spinach, kale, corn, and so on.  Use whatever you have, and whatever you like!

5) Choose your spices

Sea salt and black pepper are your two most basic spices, so you will want to include them (well…at least the salt). Here are a few more popular flavor combinations.

  • Celery seed, marjoram, thyme, parsley, and sage go well with chicken.
  • Marjoram, rosemary and thyme go well with beef.
  • Basil, oregano or fennel can be a nice addition to tomato-based soups.
  • Chilis need chili powder and perhaps cumin.
  • Cream soups might benefit from a dash or parsley or thyme.

Method

Once you’ve decided on what ingredients to use, making soup is very simple:

  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat
  2. Sauté your aromatic vegetables (onion, garlic, celery, carrot) in your fat
  3. Cook your meat if necessary (for example, stew beef)
  4. Add your base (except milk or cream), veggies, meat, and spices
  5. Taste and adjust
  6. Allow to simmer for an hour or two
  7. Taste and adjust again
  8. Add any cream or milk just before serving and heat through

And here’s what I used:

  • Half of an onion, chopped
  • Half a carton of beef stock
  • 2 frozen sausages, thawed, cooked, and sliced
  • 3-4 small potatoes, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • A handful of baby carrots
  • About a tablespoon of tomato paste
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Dash of oregano
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • Dash of basil

Keep in mind that I don’t usually measure when I cook… so when I say “a dash” I would estimate 1/4 teaspoon, but definitely taste-test and adjust to your liking.

I put everything into my crock pot and cooked on high for 3-4 hours (until the potatoes and carrots were soft). You could also simmer in a covered pot over medium heat for 1-2 hours if you don’t want to use a crock pot. It might be a bit quicker, but I just love my crock pot…

The soup turned out great and definitely made me feel better with such minimal effort.

What soups from scratch have you made and loved?

Vanilla Sugar

Since making my own homemade vanilla extract (which is still aging, by the way), I’ve had a few extra vanilla beans hanging around.

One of the things I loved to do in college was make vanilla sugar - it was so easy and I could give it away as gifts in pretty jars. I love it in my tea, coffee, sprinkled over fruit, as dusting sugar when I bake… anywhere you use regular granulated sugar, you can use this delicious vanilla sugar instead.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you’re making gifts or just want a lot in your pantry.

1. First split the vanilla bean length wise, and use the blunt side of the knife to scrape out the seeds, and add the seeds to the sugar. Rub some sugar on the inside of the vanilla pod to get any remaining seeds out.

2. Toss, stir, or shake the sugar in a large container until well-combined. Add the whole vanilla pod to the sugar and store in an air-tight container for at least 2 weeks.

The sugar will absorb the flavor from the vanilla bean. It’s lovely!

Pie crust, three ways

One of my favorite things to make - and easiest things, fortunately - is pie crust. A really good pie crust is versatile and, well, really good

My all time favorite pie crust comes from Martha Stewart and is so easy to make that I have the recipe memorized. Actually, I don’t even have to think to make it. Sometimes I’ll just find myself in the kitchen and a few minutes later, I have delicious pie crust… 

The great thing about it is that you don’t have to make just pies with your pie crust. And you don’t even have to make it from scratch - store bought will work just fine. (However, if you DO want to - it’s super easy and the recipe I use is below).

Here are three pretty easy things to do with this flaky decadence:

1. Create lattice biscuits. It’s reminiscent of pie, but in smaller bite-sized pieces and no filling.

I take my dough, roll it out pretty thin, use a knife or pizza cutter to cut long 1/2”-1” strips, and then weave the strips into a lattice pattern. Then take a cookie or biscuit cutter (I used a 2-inch round one) to cut your shapes from the dough. You have to be somewhat careful that your intricate lattice work doesn’t fall apart - I’ve seen some people do the lattice work on the parchment paper, cut out shapes, then remove the excess dough. That way you don’t have to transfer your cookies; they’re already on parchment paper ready to go. Once you have all of your biscuits, use melted butter or an egg wash to brush on each cookie, and finish by sprinkling cinnamon sugar on top. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes (keep an eye on them; golden brown is perfect). The biscuits themselves are more on the salty side, so I usually serve them with something sweeter, like ice cream, jam, or mango mousse. Fresh fruit would probably be really good, too!

2. Make jar pies. Okay, so these are technically pies. But they’re so easy and cute! And the best thing is, you can hold off on baking and store them in the freezer - that way you can have fresh pie whenever you crave it.

Line a small canning jar (it must be oven-safe! You don’t want it shattering in the oven!) with your dough. Fill it with whatever fresh fruit you desire, or use canned pie filling. I chopped up half of a Fuji apple for my pie, and I made another with fresh, chopped peaches. Mix cinnamon sugar with your fruit, and fill your pie. I used the lid of the jar as a cookie cutter for the top of the pie, placed that dough over the fruit, and used a fork to crimp the edges. Cut slits in the dough to ventilate and either bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (again, keep an eye on it, as ovens differ) or put the jar lid on and freeze.

3. Make toaster pastries. I grew up on pop-tarts, so it makes sense that I would gravitate toward them as an adult. Homemade is always better, though, and with pie crust, you can easily make them!

Roll out the dough as thinly as you can and cut into rectangles using a knife or pizza cutter. Mine were about the size of a 3x5 card, so you could probably use those as a template if you wanted. I just eye-balled mine.

On your bottom pieces, fill with about a tablespoon or two of whichever filling you desire; pie filling, fresh fruit, jam, Nutella… you really have a lot of options! I opted for Nutella. Obviously. Keep the edges clear of any filling so you can seal the pastry.

Use an egg wash (I’ve seen some people use milk? I’ve never tried it) to brush around the edges of the bottom layer, and then place the top layer over everything. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal, and brush the top with the egg wash again. Use a knife to cut slits for ventilation, and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the top (optional).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Mmm!

Our Favorite Pie Crust (via Martha Stewart):

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 stick (8 teaspoons) butter, cold and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

Directions:

  1. Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl, and then add butter. Mix until it resembles a coarse meal with only a few pea-sized pieces remaining.
  2. Sprinkle in the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix well. The dough is ready when it is still crumbly, but will hold together when squeezed in your hand. Add more ice water if necessary, up to 2 more tablespoons.
  3. Transfer dough to your work surface and form into a 3/4” round disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (until firm).
  4. When ready to use, unwrap dough and roll out on floured wax paper.

Happy baking!

Apple & Spinach Grilled Cheese

I was home sick today, but still managed to make myself lunch. Sometimes I surprise myself, even when feeling under the weather. I didn’t feel much like going out, obviously, so I scoured my fridge for something to make. I ended up with a modified grilled cheese sandwich.

I started with sprout bread, spread spicy-sweet mustard on one side (it’s from Raley’s and is called Sweet Heat, in case you are wondering). I had some marbled colby-jack cheese, so I broke it up into pieces on the other slice of bread. I cut half of a Fugi apple into thin slices, and layered them on along with some baby spinach leaves. I put another layer of cheese to help bond to the apples and spinach and keep it all together. Some butter in a hot pan and we’re talking! It was delicious - a great mix of spicy sweetness from the mustard and apples, creaminess and tang from the cheese, crunchy from the grilled bread. Perfect.

Blueberry Cordial

My friend Nicole - who is obsessed with Anne of Green Gables, by the way - suggested I make Berry Cordial (like Anne) for my blog. I admittedly know nothing about Anne of Green Gables - I have never read the books nor seen the film adaptations - but was able to find the recipe from the Anne of Green Gables website.

There are several variations of the recipe online even aside from the AoGG website, some which contain alcohol, and some which do not. I decided to use the recipe from allrecipes.com which contains only 3 ingredients: berries, sugar, and vodka.

I cut the recipe in thirds because I wanted to use what I had on hand without running to the store, but here’s the original recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 quart (4 cups) Vodka
  • 1 quart (4 cups) berries (they suggest blackberries, I used blueberries, I’ve heard any fruit will work)

The first thing I did was sterilize my jar by rinsing it with boiling water. Be careful not to burn yourself! I set the jar aside while I gathered my ingredients, and to allow it to cool a bit.

Pour the sugar into your jar or large enough container, followed by the berries or fruit. Pour in the vodka to fill in all the extra space, making sure to cover the berries.

Seal the jar TIGHTLY and let sit for a minimum of 2 months, shaking the jar about once a week. The sugar will dissolve and the vodka will become infused with your fruit.

After two months, you can strain the liquid through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into pretty bottles.

I read online that the cordial will become smoother the longer you let it age, but you must be sure that your container is tightly sealed.

You can drink your cordial straight, mix it with sparkling water or Sprite, or use it to mix with drinks - even iced tea or lemonade. I’ve also read that some people serve the berries over vanilla ice cream instead of discarding them.

I want to also try the recipe with other fruits, and substituting honey for the sugar. Nicole is making some cordial of her own, and the next time we are able to meet, we were going to trade and taste each other’s homemade cordial!

Homemade Vanilla Extract

One of the things on my Thirty Things Thirty list is to make Vanilla Extract.

I found this blog post by Alexandra’s Kitchen and had to try it!

To make some yourself, you need alcohol - 40 proof or 80% alcohol or higher works best, and vanilla beans. In the taller jar, I used Vodka to create the extract, and in my smaller Ball jar, I’m using Spiced Rum. I’m curious to see how the different alcohols affect the flavor of the extract!

The proportions of alcohol-to-beans depend on how strong you prefer your vanilla. On Alexandra’s blog, the recipe she followed said 1 bean per 3/4 cups alcohol, but I’m using 3-4 beans per 2 cups.

1. Split your vanilla beans length-wise and scrap out the seeds. Put both the seeds and the pods in a sealable container, like a mason jar or other bottle.

2. Heat your alcohol to just a boil, then pour over the vanilla seeds/pods. Let it cool to room temperature before sealing. Store your jars at room temperature for a minimum of 6 weeks, but the longer, the better!

I’m planning on giving away this vanilla extract as Christmas presents this year, so I’m going to let it sit until December! I’ll keep you updated on its progress!

Mango Mousse Cake
I can’t believe I turned 30 yesterday! But my friends put on a beautiful party for me (photos coming soon) and I had a nice dinner with my parents. My mom and I made a cake to celebrate using the mango mousse recipe we made earlier this year. It was so delicious, I had to share how we did it!
You’ll need a cake (boxed or made from scratch), mango mousse already made, chopped fresh mangos, and whipped cream (we used cool whip, I bet homemade would taste even better!)
First, make your mousse. It needs to refrigerate to firm up - should be the consistency of pudding. If it’s too runny, try putting in the freezer for a bit (but don’t let it freeze completely). 
Use your favorite cake recipe, as long as it is a light, fluffy cake. It doesn’t even have to be moist if it is airy - the mousse will absorb into the cake a little bit. For the sake of time, we used a box-mix yellow cake. Use a pan that allows for you to put filling on top - like a large fluted flan/tart pan. Follow the recipe or box instructions.
When your cake is done and cooled, fill the cake cavity with the mousse, then top with the fresh mango. I put whipped cream in a pastry bag and lined the edges of the cake with it.
That’s it! It’s light, refreshing, and delicious. High-res

Mango Mousse Cake

I can’t believe I turned 30 yesterday! But my friends put on a beautiful party for me (photos coming soon) and I had a nice dinner with my parents. My mom and I made a cake to celebrate using the mango mousse recipe we made earlier this year. It was so delicious, I had to share how we did it!

You’ll need a cake (boxed or made from scratch), mango mousse already made, chopped fresh mangos, and whipped cream (we used cool whip, I bet homemade would taste even better!)

First, make your mousse. It needs to refrigerate to firm up - should be the consistency of pudding. If it’s too runny, try putting in the freezer for a bit (but don’t let it freeze completely). 

Use your favorite cake recipe, as long as it is a light, fluffy cake. It doesn’t even have to be moist if it is airy - the mousse will absorb into the cake a little bit. For the sake of time, we used a box-mix yellow cake. Use a pan that allows for you to put filling on top - like a large fluted flan/tart pan. Follow the recipe or box instructions.

When your cake is done and cooled, fill the cake cavity with the mousse, then top with the fresh mango. I put whipped cream in a pastry bag and lined the edges of the cake with it.

That’s it! It’s light, refreshing, and delicious.

Miette’s Graham Crackers

One of my favorite bakeries in the whole world (ok, so I haven’t been to every bakery in the world, but just believe that this one is good!) is Miette Patisserie in San Francisco. Their treats are too cute to eat! (No, not really. I devour them…)

Every time I visit, I’m always drawn back to the same thing: their graham crackers.

Oh my. These are not your store-bought graham crackers. Every bite, filled with crispness and honey… I love these cookies.

Miette Patisserie released a cookbook last year and - guess what - the recipe for these grahams are in it! Of course I had to make them. (You can also find the recipe here.)

I only changed one or two things: I made mine a bit smaller. I used a 2 inch biscuit cutter instead of a 3.5 inch scalloped one - only because it’s what I had. Because they are smaller, I baked them for 6-8 minutes instead of 10-12. This way, the recipe yields about 4 dozen cookies.

Please do yourself a favor and bake these (or visit their shop)!

Update: Re-grow Celery and Romaine
I hate to fail. I will fully admit it. But I guess in this case, we can learn from my failure, right?
That said, a word of advice for anyone growing indoor plants like I am: Avoid putting your celery in a window when it is 110-degrees outside. 
I’m sure you can imagine what happened… My celery wilted and shriveled and my attempts to revive it after the fact, well, failed. RIP little celery plants! Your deaths were untimely! 
Guess I have to start again! But hey - some good news! My romaine lettuce is doing JUST FINE. What a trooper!
(See the original “re-grow celery” post here!) High-res

Update: Re-grow Celery and Romaine

I hate to fail. I will fully admit it. But I guess in this case, we can learn from my failure, right?

That said, a word of advice for anyone growing indoor plants like I am: Avoid putting your celery in a window when it is 110-degrees outside. 

I’m sure you can imagine what happened… My celery wilted and shriveled and my attempts to revive it after the fact, well, failed. RIP little celery plants! Your deaths were untimely! 

Guess I have to start again! But hey - some good news! My romaine lettuce is doing JUST FINE. What a trooper!

(See the original “re-grow celery” post here!)