Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Coconut chocolate tart

Sunday I had some time to bake again – a dense coconut cake with a thick dark chocolate glaze. The texture of the cake reminds me of a bounty bar, just less sweet. This tart is rich and decadent. And very easy to make. There is not even butter or flour in this cake. Note the time that the coconut flakes and the egg and sugar base mixture need to rest so that the coconut flakes can absorb the mixture. I did not wait long enough, just 10min instead of 30min. The cake is supposed to rise more.

Coconut Chocolate Cake
(for a 9-10 inch spring form)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 120 g sugar
  • 1/2 ts vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 85ml unsweetened condensed milk (almost a small can)
  • 100ml heavy cream
  • 200g coconut flakes (I used unsweetened)
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Lindt couverture, a bulk product for pastry chefs, often found at Lindt Stores)
  • 1 TB butter
In a kitchen standmixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract on medium-high for at least 5min (best 5-10min) until the mixture is really thick and creamy, and changes its color to a buttery white (from a initially more yellowish color). Mix in the salt, cream and the condensed milk until well-combined, and now gentle mix in the coconut flakes. Let the mixture rest for 30 min (don’t omit this step!). The cake dough changes from a more liquid texture (photo below) to a soaked up texture.


Preheat the oven to 360F and spray the springform with a baking spray.

Once the dough is ready, pour it into the springform and bake for 60min. If the top gets too dark, cover with alu foil for the remaining baking time. Remove from oven and cool.


Pour the chocolate chips (or couverture) in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 30sec on high. Stir, and microwave for 30sec, and stir. Repeat until the chocolate is melted (if you don’t do it in step, and stir, the chocolate will burn).

Pour the melted chocolate on the cake, distributed with the backside of a spoon evenly. Let cool until firm. Serve!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Attitude make-over

It's a new week, the cold spell is over (for a while), the sun shines, I might be able to look fashionable again and not like a child of dark vader and the michelin man, but why do I feel so tired already on Monday morning with the outlook of a mile-long to-do list for the coming days and just want to crawl under the covers again ? I think I need an attitude make-over. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Home-made cat toy

Yesterday, I finally got around to a little project I had in mind for a while: making a cat toy with an old amazon shipping box. I cut some holes in the top part and closed it with tape. Some cat toys inside and it was wait and see what the cats would say. Chanelle was excited this morning. At least for 10min, then he ignored it again. He was most interested in the squeaky mouse toy and fished it out of the box. Then, he longingly looked outside the window again.

oh well.




Friday, January 25, 2013

Easy roasted pumpkin seeds

Yes, it is still very cold, but I try to ignore it as much as possible. Because the more you complain the more annoyed you get. So, it is better to not give it too much attention. The cold is a good reason, though, to turn on the oven and bake off the few leftover squashes from fall. Recently, I found a simple trick to save the seeds without much a-do. I simply scoop them out and place them next to the roasting squash slices, no clean up, just a sprinkle of salt and a dash of olive oil. The hot oven roasts off the fuzzy material that ties the seeds together and crunchy seeds are leftover.




Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gangsta weather

It is really cold, Siberia cold, your jeans freezing stiff while walking to the office cold, hiding under your hood so no one recognizes you anymore cold. Frost bite cold. Any outdoor adventures are out for the time being. Can’t wait for this to be over, Monday maybe.

This is a filling, warming winter pasta dish – kale, mushroom, kalamata olives, capers and a anchovy filet. Still steaming hot.

It looks like it's Gangsta weather in Paris, too..

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Upon my word it's cold outside

The arctic cold spell is finally here. Not that it is any different than other usual Maine winters, we've just been spoiled with milder than usual temperatures the last few winters. It's on average -10F for the next 5 days, but Mainers are hardy and still go camping (see below). No, not really camping, but they bring out their ice fishing huts on the frozen lakes, and rivers, drill holes through the ice inside the hut, put some fishing rod through it, equip the place with electricity, couches, beer and satellite TV to watch football (I suspect). Looks cozy, no? Obviously there is also some cooking going on. Fried fish?

Other than that, I am listening to Jane Austen these days on audio books and started to pick up a 1800 British English. My cats  are temporarily called Marianne (Manolo), Elinor (Valentino), Willoughby (Chanelle) and Mrs Jennings (Baby Cat).  Oh well, let the work week begin.

Ice finishing hut in Maine (source)

Sunday, January 20, 2013


The day started with mild temperatures and sunshine. I felt like I need to take a drive and go somewhere. I needed to go...away, on the interstate, alone with my thoughts, and everything left behind: responsibilities, obligations, things to do. Free like a bird. For an afternoon.

But then, I sat down, did bills, watch some more Wallander. About a month ago I found the BBC Four version of Wallander and was instantly mesmerized. One thing I had mourned was that the author of The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo passed away after 3 novels (when he had planned 10). I had seen the Swedish originals several times. Dark, gritty, a cold Swedish landscape, bleak, tattoes, and strange relationships. Much like Maine in the winter. Then, I found Wallander. Similar setting, Swedish gritty dark crimes. Kenneth Branagh plays the British version of Wallander in beautifully set scenery in Ystad, endless wheat fields, beautiful cinematography, and a cop being affected way too much by the crimes, and a dog called Yussi. After watching all nine episodes on netflix, I had to take a break. Because it seem Wallander seemed to never get a break. Every relationship eventually died, the person was killed, or other traumatic events.

Two days agao, I found Wallander the Swedish original. Unfortunately, only the second season is on netflix but another glorious 13 episodes. This series is very different from the UK interpretation. Less gloomy, even funny, very human characters, a blossoming relationship between Wallander and the female prosecutor, Katarina, who is also his next door neighbor at his house by the sea, everyone is more provincial and, of course, speaks Swedish instead of hauling an British accent. Yussi is there, too.

So, now I am glued to the tv. I am also learning Swedish. Tack means 'thank you'.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The weekend

The first week of school left me running on emergency batteries already Friday morning, and thinking of Lance Armstrong's interview the night before, I mumbled in my beard that I could also use some performance enhancing drugs right now to get through Friday. Extra strong coffee, a brownie? I made it alright but crashed in the evening. Now, the long weekend is ahead, it is bitterly cold, freeze your nostrlils shut cold, but I hope to recover and sleep in. Weekend ahoy!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The secret truth

The Cheesecake Factory is one of my all-time favorite US restaurants. Fabulous variety of warm breads in the bread basket, tasty food, skyhigh cheese cakes. The portions must be ones of the biggest I've ever seen in restaurants. Lately I only eat the Vegetable Salad, a huge bowl of fresh chopped vegetables and some cheese. In this case, huge is still ok. CKF does not publish the calories of their dishes, for good reason I guess. In a recent study the Cheesecake Factory's dishes topped the list of dishes with the most calories, with for example, the shrimp pasta dish has 3,120 calories. Wowzers. Same calories as 5 1/2 Big Macs. Bon appetite! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…

It’s been a typical Sunday, way too much to do around the house, which included cutting back 2 beloved plants to remove leaves with ‘fuzz’ infestation, putting them in the shower for solid rise, and then rubbing them down with alcohol. Now I hope for recovery and that the rest of my plants are ok, especially the newly adopted Meyer Lemon patio tree! Other than that I watched 2 new interpretations of an old German Grimm tale, snow white. Both interpretations took quite some liberties with the original  story, but in both stories Snow White was definitely no longer a helpless damsel in distress but sophisticated in all kinds of weaponary. In one  film she did not even eat the apple! Smart girl! No prince to the rescue, she was smart enough to not be too nice and refuse that poisonous apple. While Snow White and the Huntsman is dark and grim, Mirror Mirror is light, colorful and very funny. Julia Roberts makes a very likeable evil queen, Charlie Theron not so much. Mirror Mirror ends with a bollywood-like singing and dancing, double smile.  Oh, and I also saw “Like Crazy”. Who knew Jennifer Lawrence was so cute!

Other than that I tried to recreate yesterday’s chickpea and roasted cauliflower soup, but no cauliflower in my fridge so I had to improvise, I added a potato, some cashew for sustenance and tons of fresh kale. Good soup!


Chickpea and Kale Soup

makes 2 servings

  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 small potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup chickpeas (canned or soaked and cooked)
  • 1 TB cumin
  • 1 ts smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup cashew, soaked for 20 min
  • salt to taste

Soak the cashews first.

In a medium sized pot, heat the oil and fry the onion, garlic and potato pieces. Once getting brown, add the broth, spices and bay leaf, and cook on medium low until the potato is soft (ca 10 min). Remove from heat, and cool. Pour into blender and add the cashew nuts. Beware of steam if blending once the broth is still hot!! – Blend to smooth consistency, add back to the pot, add the chickpeas, and kale. Heat through and serve.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First 2013 trip to the coast

It is unusually mild and it was an overcast day but it was also the last hurray before the semester starts on Monday, so I headed to the coast, Belfast as my favorite Maine hippie town as destination. I made it time for lunch at Chase’s Daily. Since they make meals mostly from produce on their farm I wondered what would be on the seasonal menu, because there is not much left seasonally this time of the year. There was an awesome chickpea and roasted cauliflower soup, and a cabbage and lentil salad. In one of my favorite stores, Brambles, I brought home a little piece of Florida --- a blooming and wonderfully fragrant Meyer Lemon tree with already a tiny green lemon. Good day, allaround.











Friday, January 11, 2013

Winter, oh winter

We are already approaching the middle of January. It’s been sunny, and unusually mild for this time of the year in Maine, which is typically still ‘real winter’, sub-zero temperatures and a few feet of snow. I’ve been crosscountry skiing whenever I got a chance but this week the temperatures rose into the 40s, slight rain, and the skiing quality is perdu. I don’t think the winter is quite over yet, I don’t have my hopes up, and I expect another dump of snow at some time, restoring the skiing conditions. This is also the time when work sends around ‘influenza outbreak’ emails reminding us to wash hands and don’t get within 6 feet of coughing and sneezing people. Fortunately, this is almost doable in a state like Maine where there are just a handful of people in the winter. Nevertheless, I up my orange intake and that emergency-C guzzling. It’s almost the weekend!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Bodymedia Mini

As you might know I am a huge fan of the Bodymedia body sensor that I have been wearing continuously for over 4 years now, and it really has made a difference taking the guess work out of how many calories I really burn each day. Bodymedia presented a prototype of the CORE 2 armband at the current Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and it looks like the next generation sensor will become a lot smaller and can be worn anywhere on the body. Really looking forward to this! The final product should be smaller than a quarter, a definite improvement.

Read the full article at Slashdot here; photo is also courtesy of Slashdot.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Chocolate Amaretto Cake

This is one of the first cakes that I ever made when I taught myself cooking (by my wonderful teacher, Giada Di Laurentiis on food network TV), and it is still one of my go-to cakes when I need a cake for a potluck (or any other cake) fast. Giada originally discovered it in a cafe in Venice, and ‘reengineered’ it. I love the simplicity of crushed amaretti cookies, melted chocolate, grated orange peel and then just a bit of sugar, butter and eggs, and that’s it. I typically make the entire dough right in the food processor and it does not take more than 10 min to prepare. It has the texture of a dense brownie but with an exotic, surprising taste of amaretto. It is simply elegant – like made in Italy by an Italian…. Best eaten with some strong Italian coffee.


Chocolate Amaretto Cake:

  • Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray  
  • 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocoate chips  
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 1 cup baby amaretti cookies (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated orange peel
  • 4 large eggs
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for sifting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9-inch springform pan the nonstick spray. Refrigerate. Microwave the chocolate in 20 second intervals, and stir, repeat until melted (might take up to 5-6 repeats but if you don’t stir it it will burn).

Add the almonds to a large food processor. Pulse until the almonds are a fine meal, and add the amaretto cookies, pulse until they are finely ground, too. Place the butter stick from the fridge with the wrapping paper into the microwave and microwave for 20 sec. This will make it almost liquid and very good to add to the almond/cookie mix. Also add the sugar to the processor and blend until creamy and smooth. Add the grated orange peel and pulse briefly, until incorporated. Add the eggs 1 at a time. Blend until the eggs are incorporated. Clean the sides of the mixing bowl and blend again. Add the melted chocolate. Pulse until blended. Clean the sides of the bowl. Blend again.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the center puffs and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes.

Transfer the cake to a platter. Sift the cocoa powder over and serve.

amaretto_1 amaretto_2


amaretto_4 amaretto_5


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter. Yes, winter.

How was your New Year celebration? Are you full of resolutions and starting with a clean slate? I typically have 1 or 2 goals for the year, but I now try to stay away from any overeager attempts to accomplish too much too fast, which just leads to early January burnout. And who needs burnout this early in the year? These days Maine is as we know it – it is deep winter. Tons of snow, bone chilling temperatures and a woodstove oven that never goes out. Days that are light from 7am to 4pm and the nights are long. Fortunately, by mid February hopefully the worst is over, and the days get longer and the snow melts away. But for now, I better enjoy it.

I headed out skiing today, and had a hot and spicy thai soup right after, I was so cold and hungry.

Happy New Year!