Monday, April 27, 2009

April's Daring Baker Challenge: Lemon Coconut Cheesecake with a Showering of Toasted Coconut

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

We were given the recipe and told to be creative with the flavoring...

My take on this cake: Lemon Coconut with a dollop of lemon curd and a sprinkling of toasted coconut.

Decided that Easter dessert would be a great occaision for cheesecake, so I wanted it to be something light and springy. Lemon was the obvious choice for that. Coconut was added because I have another recipe for tartlets that I make during the holidays that uses that combo and I was really craving that flavor.

For the crust, I crushed Trader Joe's Real Vanilla Wafers and added about a 1/2 c of Red Mill Unsweetened coconut.

The cheesecake called for a cup of heavy cream, I halved that and added 1/4 c of unsweetened coconut milk. I also increased the lemon juice to 1/4 cup

Additionally, a half cup of sweetened coconut was added to the cheesecake batter and a tablespoon of lemon zest.

Each slice was topped with lemon curd (I used a recipe from Cook's Illustrated) and toasted coconut.

The results were much better than I had hoped for. This was definately a great finale to our Easter meal. My husband has requested this for his birthday - when someone asks for seconds, you know that you must have done something right!

If you would like to see other great cheesecake creations, click on the Daring Kitchen icon on my site.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:


2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs

1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted

2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract


3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature

1 cup / 210 g sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)

1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

DIRECTIONS:1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Douche" is French for "Shower"

I just finished a ramekin of creme brulee aux framboises...or for those that do not parlez francais...."burnt cream with raspberries".

I picked up this lovely little dessert in the freezer chest at our local Trader Joe's.

The package was a bit heavier than I anticipated, but I didn't spend a lot of time investigating why. Creme Brulee with Raspberries just sounded tres bien (very good), so I bought it.

Inside the box-much to my stupéfaction (amazement)-were two 4oz reuseable ceramic ramekins of cream and berry goodness wrapped in cellophane. Very unexpected -these are nice little dishes! I had to stop and ask myself "what did I pay for these?" $5? (sorry couldn't locate my receipt) At any rate I didn't feel alarmed at the price of these when I bought them, so they could not have been overly expensive.

The directions were simple: Keep frozen, and when ready to eat, just remove the wrapping and empty the enclosed sugar packet on top of the frozen dessert. Place under an oven broiler for 2-3 minutes, remove and let set for 10 minutes. The sugar carmelizes under the broiler, creating a nice brown crust while the cream defrosts. Voila!

The dessert tasted great - the raspberries tasted fresh- and now I have these cute little ramekin souveniers to remember my wonderful dessert experience by. Of course... now that I think about it a set of 4, or 6, or maybe even 8 ramekins would really be nice to have.....

Deux pouces vers le haut ! (Two thumbs up!)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wanted to Show 'er What I Bought.... there was just no way to tie the "shower" theme into this one....I do the best I can.

On Wednesday I went to work, drove around for a half hour looking for parking (yes, it is that bad at Boeing right now!) and then determined that I should just go home and work from there. Well...on the way home (to work), I stopped in at Value Villiage to browse.
I don't get to do this very often, but I really love treasure hunting.

I bought the serving dish below because it called out to me - you really don't need a better reason than that sometimes. I thought it would be a fabulous dish to serve a seafood appetizer on and it is really unique. The smaller dish has a metal holder that allows it to sit at a slight angle. The bottom of the platter is stamped Calif. USA AM-10 and the small dish says AM-11. Not sure which California Pottery company that would be you?

Simon is not crazy about it, but he said he would reserve his final opinion until after he sees what I serve on it (that was a hint...that he wants seafood appetizers)

What do you think?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Asparagus with a Showering of Lemon Butter Crumbs

April is the start of asparagus season in the northwest.

In Central Washington, where I was born and raised, wild asparagus grows in the apple orchards and along the ditches of back country roads. I have fond memories of driving to and from town with my mother- enjoying the lovely spring day -when out of the blue, she would slam on the brakes and exclaim "asparagus!"

I joke today that my mother could spot asparagus alongside the road even at 55 mph. Sadly, I do not think that I inherited this capability.

But nothing tastes better than fresh asparagus and I am always disappointed to find that our local grocery chains neglect these wonderful spears of springtime. The proper way to ensure freshness is to keep the cut ends in water or on ice- you rarely see this done in the produce department.
I prepare aspargus a few different ways.
  • Asparagus pairs well with a simple sprinkling of lemon juice, or a dusting of parmesan cheese.

  • Sunday morning breakfasts in the spring, I often add the tips to a "spring omelet" along with shrimp and grueyer cheese.

  • For a great spring appetizer, wrap a spear of aparagus (I prefer pickled for this recipe) and a dollop of cream cheese in a very thin slice of ham. You can cut these into bite-size portions or present them whole.

This year I served Asparagus with Lemon Butter Crumbs as a side for Easter dinner. The recipe is from Delia Smith- it is very easy to prepare and it has become a favorite preparation in the Cook household.

Asparagus with Lemon Butter Crumbs

Serves 4

finely grated zest 1 lemon

1½ oz (60 g) fresh white breadcrumbs (about 2 slices bread, crusts removed)

You will also need a steamer.

First wash the asparagus in cold water, then take each stalk in both hands and bend and snap off the woody end. Arrange the asparagus stalks in a steamer and steam over simmering water for 5-6 minutes, or until they feel tender when tested with a skewer, being careful not to overcook them. While the asparagus is cooking, heat 1 oz (25 g) of the butter in a frying pan. As soon as it is frothy, stir in the breadcrumbs and cook them, stirring constantly, until they're evenly browned and crispy. Then tip the crumbs on to a plate, stir in the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.

Now put the pan back on to the heat and add the remaining butter. As soon as it is frothy, add the cooked asparagus and toss to coat them in the butter. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Divide the asparagus between warmed serving plates and sprinkle with the crumbs. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Showering of Daffodils!....Well, one Daffodil anyway.

Spring has finally arrived at the Cook home.....

I have been waiting patiently (for weeks, it seems) for my daffodils to "hatch". It seems that every daffodil in the neighborhood has bloomed except for the ones in my yard!

I took time out of my busy school schedule last September to plant about 50 of these lovely heralds of springtime under our big fir tree. We previously had nothing in this patch but a couple of beautiful little hellebores (seen in the background). I am so eager to see the full display! The others seem tempted though, don't they?

My one consolation is that I should have daffodils well after everyone else has moved on to other signs of warm weather! (Oops - Just noticed that weed in the bottom right - better go out and pull that !) Happy Spring!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Future Does Not Look Too Showery At All...

Happy Dance!

Well, I just sent off my Master's degree request and ordered my cap and gown! On June 8th I will be graduating from the University of Washington with my MBA.

I cannot really express (without getting a little teary-eyed) what achieving this degree really means to me. It is just a huge thing to me and I didn't think I would see the day....really.

What has made this journey easier is that everyone in our household has been in college right along with me!

On June 3, Simon will graduate with his Master's degree in Manufacturing Engineering from Oregon Tech. He has a 4.0 grade point average - which I believe is just remarkable.

On June 7, Jake will graduate from high school and Everett Community College. He will receive both his diploma and his associate of arts and sciences degree. He is planning to attend Western Washington University in the fall.

Big party at the Cook house in June!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter in Seattle means...Showers!

The card below says "Happy Easter" in Dutch.
For some reason it always rains in Seattle on Easter. Today was no exception. It is wet outside and stormy, but inside we are warm and cozy. We had a small family meal at midday today with Jake and Simon and my stepfather, Brian.

Our Easter Feast

Salmon pate and crackers,
shrimp cocktail,
deviled eggs
Main Course:
Glazed Ham
Jake's au gratin potatoes
Asparagus with Lemon breadcrumbs
Carrots and Peas
Rosemary Bread
Coconut- Lemon Cheesecake
Ipanema Bourbon coffee (Starbucks)

It was all quite delicious. Jake helped me prepare most of the meal. He is responsible for the fabulous Au Gratin Potatoes (the hit of the party) and the deviled eggs. For the potatoes, he followed a simple au gratin potato recipe, but doctored it up a bit with some bleu cheese and a showering of pancetta. (I will provide the recipe soon!)

Hope you all have a Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Showering a Little Praise on Farmers and Locavores

It is almost that time again...the season for Farmer's markets will soon be upon us! Many farmer's markets start in April and run as late as October, growing in bounty as the season progresses.

Farm food is important to me, because I was born and raised on a farm in Central Washington. If you have ever had a fresh tomato, apple, ear of corn, chicken, potato, cherry, asparagus, beet, carrot, pea or egg...well, then you know what it is like to be spoiled and you should have no doubt in your mind what good food is. You also know just how overprocessed and tasteless much of the food you get at the store is. My grandfather was an apple orchardist and I was raised with orchards all around. When I was young I was taught that if you wanted an apple you could just pick one (the farmer's were generous-just respect the property you were taking it from), but I still remember very clearly the first time as a young adult that I debated buying an apple from the store. Paying for apples seemed so strange. I bought 3 golden delicious (my favorite) at $1.29 per pound and they were so mushy and flavorless I could not eat them.

Living in western washington is challenging, most of my tomatoes have been mealy and they don't ripen as well on the vine during our short (and rainy) growing season. My attempt at corn was eaten by deer and peppers fell short as well. Zucchini and summer squash thrived, as did leeks and salad greens- enough success to make me want to try, try again. Produce from the farm lands of central and east Washington are very accessible here, and west of the Cascade range we have an added blessing of fabulous seafood; oysters, crab and salmon and clams are harvested very near my home.

If you are appreciative of farming- you know that being a farmer is a tough profession. It is for this reason that I want to highlight farmers in my blog today.

Visiting a farmer's market is just one way to keep our farmer's farming. You can find many great resources on the internet, just search on "farmer's markets and (insert your town, county, region here)". If you are in the puget sound region, is a great website for locating markets and farms and for learning about what is in season, and is another good resource.
When I am done with school (many of my most ambitious statements begin this way...*sigh) I plan to explore the locavore lifestyle with a little more vigor. Right now, I am just a little too dependent on fast food and meals that my husband can prepare easily...and I have a horrible penchant for my "study food" (salty, sweet, and junky assortments).
Locavorism - eating what is local and in season- is a great way to support local farms and show some sensitivity to the environment.

A fabulous book on this subject of becoming a locavore is by Barbara Kingsolver, it is called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and it details the year that this author and her family moved from the desert to a family farm where they vowed to eat only what they could grow or find within a close proximity to their home. The book contains some great recipes and information on challenges that face our farmers today- especially those who are trying to preserve and employ sustainable practices.

Another option that Simon and I have used is to order weekly produce from a local farm. Klesick Family Farms delivers straight to our door. The fruits and veggies are seasonal- so they are fresh-organic, and priced better than our local grocery chain. They also sell homemade bread and eggs.

I will be making an effort to get my own garden up and running this year, in spite of my crazy school schedule. I have a cherry tree, a fuji apple tree, blueberry bushes, strawberries and blackberries (in overabundance!) that will require very little effort between now and graduation in June. The garden itself will be a bit more of a challenge- but any time I can get my hands dirty out there, will be like "day spa" time for me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

No Showers Today...only Sunshine and Rosemary

When the weather man predicted sun for the weekend, I knew it had to be true. It seems that Seattle sunshine always makes an appearance on the days I am stuck indoors in class! Couple the sunshine outside with a really useless lecture on internet research and you can imagine that yesterday was absolute torture!

But, alas, this weekend's sunshine was not limited to Saturday alone. Today we got some decent spring weather as well-the kind of much anticipated spring weather that puts everyone around you in a pleasant mood and makes you want to be outside feeling warm sunshine on your skin.

I had some work to accomplish today- homework and a presentation for work tomorrow- but I was determined to not let our sunny Sunday pass by without a getting outside. My vegetable and herb gardens have been beckoning and I am a little worried that my garden is going to be neglected as I realy must focus on getting through my final quarter of school. I spent a few hours cleaning up my raised herb bed this afternoon. It is just a 5 by 5 plot with a thriving clump of chives in each corner. I had planted some rosemary in the center which had wintered over fairly well, but it had taken over the space I resigned myself to the fact that it would have to be removed.

I did some research today and learned that Rosemary is not the best plant for raised beds- it does lend itself well to an aromatic hedge though, and the thought of having a hedge of rosemary just seems really cool.

Another great tidbit is that Rosemary freezes well. I had enough to fill two gallon size freezer bags. It tends to be a little stronger preserved this way.

A few other rosemary hints:
  • You can add a little rosemary to fruit salads and it will sweeten it up like sugar (I am intrigued)

  • My favorite homemade bread is rosemary and seasalt. 1 T per loaf should suffice.

  • Remove the leaves and use the spears for barbequing kebabs. The rosemary will impart a little flavor to the meat and vegetables as it grills.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April is All About....Showers

Just learned that it is snowing in parts of the Puget Sound, but today- here in Monroe,-we just have rain. It is not unlike most days in Western Washington, really (or most months, for that matter), so it certainly won't be difficult to come up with material to write about.

The weather outside is still quite cold and it doesn't feel like Spring at all yet , but the flowers are starting to appear. My white magnolia tree is starting to bloom, a few flowering cherry and plum trees in the neighborhood are beginning to show pink and I am still patiently awaiting for the sunny burst of my daffodils- maybe by the end of the week? (**fingers crossed)

Some Upcoming Home Cook N Blog Highlights I have in the works for you for APRIL:

Fresh in the Pacific Northwest this month:

  • Rhubarb should be making an appearance this month as well as asparagus. I will include a recipe for each of these.

Easter is April 12:

  • I will attempt some fabulous little bird cup cakes

A few good rainy day delights:

  • A meal or two to chase away the rainy day blues

Results from APRIL's Daring Baker Challenge:

  • Just learned the details of this month's Daring Baker Challenge...I am sworn to secrecy, but I will reveal the results on April 27 (with all the other Daring Bakers) and not a minute before. If you are interested in participating in some creative culinaria rather than just watching me have all the fun- visit There is now a Daring Cook Challenge as well- but the results of the first Cook's challenge will not be revealed until May.