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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Coconut Basil Paletas

Coconut Basil Paletas Ingredients

I recently had a trip to an uptown shop, where I had my pick of almost any flavor of gelato.  I must have caught a fever, because I decided to forgo my natural choice, my most-loved chocolate.  Instead, I chose, *gasp*, coconut basil gelato.  Deep, rich chocolate will remain my first true love, but coconut basil is more than just a fling!  Shhhh!  Don't tell Ghirardelli!

With weak knees and palpitating heart (remember, I just fell for a new flavor) I knew I must replicate it in my favorite form, the paleta.  My best guess at how to make this flavor was thrillingly delicious, combining the nutty sweetness of coconut with a zing of freshly picked basil!

Coconut Basil Paletas Recipe
Original Recipe by Cindy Best

2 cans coconut milk (not low fat)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
15-20 fresh basil leaves
Heat 1 can of coconut milk on low in pan on stovetop, add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Pour mixture into food processor, add the second can of coconut milk and basil leaves.  Pulse until basil is in very small bits.  Add coconut and pulse 3-5 times to stir.  Pour mixture into molds.  Freeze for 30-45 minutes, add sticks, freeze 6 hours of overnight.  This pop, though appearing milky, is actually an ice paleta, as most that are fruit based.

Heat 1 Can Coconut Milk and Sugar
Add Heated Mixture, Second Can Coconut Milk and Basil
to Processor and Pulse

Add Coconut and Pulse
Pour Into Molds
Cool and Nutty, Sweet with a Zing of Freshness

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cookie Coaching

Birthday Cookies for Mom
Second Try (after Kim)
When I first began to decorate cookies I had recently resigned a ministry job with children.  With an empty nest at home, that calling had become my whole heart.  Post employment, I had long hours to fill, and this task combined my love of baking and my desire to do for others.  Bonus:  none of my friends or family ever said no to free cookies!

As mentioned in a previous post, I had jumped into using royal icing after merely skimming one recipe, and had made delicious, though not-too-lovely cookies.  I posted a photo of those first cookies on my Facebook Timeline, and my friend Kim, who happened to be a former student I had taught when she was in fifth grade, inquired about them.  She had begun decorating cookies with royal icing just a few months ahead of me, but she had read recipes, searched out blogs and prepared for weeks and weeks before she made her first batch.

Kim is a loving and generous person.  She offered to send me blog links, tips she had gleaned, recipes, and basically everything I needed to bake a better batch of cookies.  This is one of the favorite parts of my cookie story:  Kim, who was my Language Arts student when she was 10, flipped the script and became my cookie teacher 20- um, ahem, -something years later!

The maxim every teacher in the world has quoted "practice makes perfect" is mostly accurate.  In my case, I'd say  practice makes gradually better and better.  I continued to be coached and taught by Kim, and encouraged by the positive reaction friends had to my Easter cookies and my flower and bird cookies for Mom's birthday that spring.  I was having a lot of fun, and cookies could fill many hours.  They were a simply a nice little hobby until I met the Angry Birds...  (to be continued)

Check out Kim's fantastic page Barefoot N Baking and give her a "like."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Celebrate a Faithful Life

Celebrating A Faithful Life

This set of cookies celebrates a woman's life filled with the beauty of faith and grace.  As I dreamed on these cookies, I thought of the responsibilities of her life.  Daughter.  Pastor's wife.  Mother.  Teacher.  Counselor.  Friend.  In all of these she is a woman of faith.  More recently, an unbidden role crept into her life.  Cancer patient.  The family wailed and cried when the diagnosis of incurable ovarian cancer was determined.  For a while we refused to accept a new reality for her, a woman who was otherwise healthy and active, who went marching into retirement with dreams of travel, helping those in need and working in her beautiful garden.  This wasn't the plan!

Although travel was mostly set aside, and helping others became spoken encouragement instead of delivering Meals on Wheels, the call of the beauty and peace in the garden remained.  The two surgeries, endless rounds of chemo and perpetual needle sticks/IVs/exams became something not to be simply endured, but seen as tools, the hoes and herbicides, to manage and beat back the weeds of disease.  As these implements were welcomed, strength was gained and better health flourished.  She was able to tend her beloved day lilies and all her blooms.  The beauty there fed faith in God's grace, that love she relies on when the world says "all is lost."  The garden says "here is My beauty, offered to you now and eternally."   

This set of cookies celebrates my mother's life, filled with the beauty of faith and grace.  It represents her favorite day lilies, cone flowers, hydrangeas, and blueberries, little birds and rabbits.  I honor the life she gave me, her firstborn daughter, her love and gentle counsel through the years.  I am blessed by her respect for me, and the thousands of ways she has offered encouragement through the joy of our lives together and the pain of loss.  I celebrate my mother's love of God's beautiful garden of this earth and her faith in His eternity.   

I love you, Mom!

***These cookies are part of a collaborative project designed to honor Anita of Sweet Hope Cookies ( for her tireless work on behalf of those living with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).  I have followed Anita's work for quite some time, and finally met her in Salt Lake City at Cookie Con.  She is full of joyous mischief, witty remarks and is a constant blur of action living her love for others out loud.  Anita works for support of ALS patients because her brother Randy died from the effects of this debilitating disease.  I feel a kinship with her, as my grandfather, my mother's father, was stricken with this illness when I was a young girl, and died a few years later.  It is my intent to follow Anita's path of generosity and deep care for others through cookies.  I find it quite apropos to celebrate the life of my mother while celebrating Anita's inspiration, as they each have added so much sweetness to this world!*** #CelebrateLife

Celebrate Life Collage - 20 Cookie Artists Inspired by Anita of Sweet Hope Cookies

Image Map

This clickable photo takes you to each cookie artist's Facebook page or blog.  I hope you will read how each has celebrated someone she loves while honoring Anita's inspiration.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Faith and Flour

Who would have believed it would be cookies?

A wise woman, my pastor, in fact, taught me that all believers are given dominion (Genesis 1:26).  At the time I was wrestling daily, if not hourly, with purpose.  It was agonizing, and I ended many days feeling empty, when my aim was to be fruitful.  I had experienced a heartbreaking change in my professional life.  I resigned the job, but it had not been my plan.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit pushes you, ready-or-not, out of a dangerous and deadly-to-the-spirit situation.   A year later, belief was strong, but my faith needed a giant boost.  Reflecting on dominion in a totally different way, thanks to Pastor Shelley, I could step one foot before the other not knowing the plan, but having faith that whatever God had waiting was unbelievable good.

With many, many unfilled hours stretching before me I decided to bake.  I had frozen paletas (Mexican style fresh pops) all summer, but it was cold outdoors with the coming of winter.  The oven was the more attractive option.

I had seen lovely cookies somewhere online, skimmed a recipe, and waded in softening the butter and measuring flour.  The cookies were simple for a girl who thought the best toy ever was an Easy Bake Oven.  But royal icing?  I was ignorant that it is tricky, taking knowledge and finesse.  This mystical icing is as fragile as fairy dust, and takes the bloom of the peony and the sweetest song of the lark to love it into a workable form.  

Upon finishing the cookies, my kitchen featured several hundred drips of royal icing in rainbow colors on the counters, floor, and sink, truly every surface.  I am not easily vanquished, even by meringue powder, so I kept at it.  But I'll be honest, though I was proud of those cookies, I still didn't see dominion.  I'll share more of the story in the next few posts.  If you struggle with purpose,  I hope you'll find something for your encouragement here.  

My First Cookies 
She's Come a Long Way, Baby!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paradise Found in Pineapple Guacamole

Pineapple Black Bean Guacamole

Want a fresh treat that tastes like paradise?  This guacamole is it!  With a tropical twist of pineapple added, you'll be singing holy guacamole!  

Pineapple Black Bean Guacamole
2 medium avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1/4 cup salsa verde
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh or canned pineapple
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced*
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 T minced garlic
1-2 T lime juice to taste
1/4 t ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Cojita cheese, crumbled

In a large bowl mash avocados.  Stir in salsa verde until combined.  Add pineapple, beans, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper, and stir.  Cover and chill 2 hours.  Sprinkle with crumbled cheese.  Serve on warmed tostadas or with tortilla chips.  *Use kitchen gloves and eye protection when handling jalapeno seeds to avoid burns. 

Salsa Verde Ingredients

Now this is where it gets really fresh:  Make your own salsa verde with tomatillos, poblanos, cilantro and more!  Don't use the canned stuff.  It is easy to do and your taste buds will thank you!

Salsa Verde
2 poblano peppers
4 tomatillos, quartered
2 avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1 T white vinegar
Pinch of salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Put poblano peppers under preheated broiler on a sheet pan.  Cook for 8 minutes, turning every 2 minutes until skin is charred.  Remove from broiler and allow to cool for 10 minutes until skin separates from the flesh.  Core, seed and peel the charred skin from the peppers.  Place in food processor.

 Add tomatillos, avocados, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, vinegar and seasonings to the peppers.  Pulse until salsa is smooth.
Salsa Verde

Pineapple Guacamole Tostada with Fruit Salad and Black Beans