Monday, March 2, 2015

Every day is a festival

Jamaican Festival Bread is crusty on the outside and airy soft on the inside.
(The painting in the background is by me and is available for sale at
My hubby and I and some other family had a chance to visit Jamaica recently.
When I travel, I like to eat the local food and hang out with the locals. In some places, that means small restaurants, in others in means street food. If I’m lucky enough, in  some places it means getting invited to someone’s home.
On this trip, we didn’t get a home meal, but we did manage to go to a small fishing encampment with a restaurant and bar with only locals. A few hundred yards away, other tourists were eating burgers and fries at an American chain restaurant, probably never noticing the little oasis where we took our lunch.
While Steve and his brother sat back after the meal to discuss whatever it is that brothers talk about at an open air beach bar, I headed over to the tiny kitchen to see if I could talk someone out of the recipe for the sweet  fried bread that accompanied our meal.
Of course I’ll tell you how to make it, the young woman in the splattered green, red and gold apron shouted over Chronixx blasting on the speakers. Everyone in Jamaica can make Festival Bread. It’s a favorite. Despite the name, it is not reserved for festivals…probably more precisely, every day is a festival in Jamaica.
Despite extreme poverty, the Jamaican people are, in general, a happy people. You might say it’s the ganja  that makes them so, but it is an attitude of love and acceptance and the goal of self-reliance that helps put them in a pleasant state of mind.
The bread is commonplace and the recipe is no secret to anyone who bothers to ask.
Crispy on the outside and airy soft on the inside, Festival Bread can accompany any kind of meal. Because it is sweet, it’s probably best with spicy foods to absorb some of the heat.
It takes and hour or so to make (more than half that time is waiting for the dough to rest), so you might want to do it when you have a little time.
Cooking up a spicy meal (jerk spiced veggies, perhaps?), then give this sweet  bread a try…or just make it for a fluffy snack any time.

Jamaican Festival Bread
1 ¼ cups of flour
¾ cups of polenta
½ teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
¼ cup of sugar
·      Sift the flour and stir in the rest of the ingredients, making sure they are combined well.
·      Add ¾ cup more water and stir it up to make a sticky dough.
·      Rest the dough for 35 minutes.
·      Put enough oil to cover a ball of dough half way into the pan and heat it to 350ºF.
·      Form the dough into balls a little bigger than a golf ball (or make little logs and tie them into a knot)
·      Drop the dough into the oil. When they rise up and are golden brown, flip them over and do the same on the other side.

·      Drain them on an absorbent towel and serve.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Not your average fudge, but you'll be surprised at how good it is

I am, by some people’s definition, a health food nut. My hubby is just the opposite. Left to his own devises, he would eat junk food for every meal…he thinks Trix cereal counts as a serving of fruit.
Despite my affinity for healthy food, I still have a persistent sweet tooth. Sometimes even the sweetest, freshest fruit does nothing to calm the cravings for something sweet.
So, I’m always on the lookout for a recipe that tastes like a comforting sweet, creamy treat that won’t add five pounds and a few inches to my waistline. Often, the “healthy alternative” is, indeed, healthy, but it rarely meets my criteria for a great dessert. 
So, when I saw this dessert recipe that featured chickpeas and dates, I figured that my sweet man’s sweet tooth would wither away. And I was pretty sure the healthy snack would wither away in my freezer along with the raw food beet and kale “cake” I made a few weeks back. Tastes OK but it is not the sweetness satisfier I hoped for.
This, I am happy to report, is a tasty, creamy, dessert-type food that even the Trix-lover will like.
Don’t roll your eyes, whip this up in a few minutes and patiently wait the four hours for it to set. (PS If you can’t wait, it’s totally edible unfrozen, but the cold gives it that ice cream texture you might be craving.)
Also, a tray of these fudge treats costs lest than a half gallon of premium ice cream.
Alternate Universe Fudge
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup of salted smooth nut/seed butter
½ cup of milk (almond, coconut, soy…it doesn't matter)
6-8 pitted soft dates
1 teaspoon of vanilla
½ cup of chocolate chips (or use carob)
Sprinkle of sea salt

  • In a food processor add the chickpeas, the nut/seed butter, the milk, the dates and the vanilla. Mix until smooth. About 1 minute.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Place the batter into a parchment-lined 8x8 baking dish or muffin tins.
  • Freeze the fudge for at least 4 hours.
  • Enjoy

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Something cold and sweet to warm you

There is a strange phenomenon that i’ve noticed. When it’s cold, the ice cream stores are jam-packed with customers.
You’d think it would be just the opposite. I rarely even think of cold treats on cold days, but according to the guy serving up treats at a nearby gelato place, there is no such thing as a slow season when you sell frozen treats. Summer or winter, people apparently like their cold sugar.
So there…
If you are one of those who craves a freezing snack in the middle of winter, you might want to try something a little lighter.
It’s not an Italian ice. It’s not a sherbet. And it’s not ice cream. Ice cream is based on dairy produced puffed full of air. Sorbet has neither dairy nor air.
But it IS sweet and cold.
And, it is lighter than ice cream too because you use fresh fruit juice instead of cream or milk.
Give it a try. You’ll love it.

Fresh Orange Sorbet
5-6 large oranges
1 lemon
½ pint of water
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon of Stevia
2 egg whites
  • Juice all the fruit.
  • Remove any pith from the skins and put the skins with the water into a pan and simmer over medium heat.
  • Strain carefully so you end up with a clear liquid. Add the stevia while the water is still hot.
  • Stir to dissolve, then add this simple syrup to the fruit juice.
  • Taste and, if necessary, add more sweetener — remember freezing reduces sweetness slightly, never over-sweeten
  • Put into the freezing tray, freeze for approximately 30 minutes in the freezing compartment.
  • Whisk the egg whites until stiff.
  • Add the partially-frozen mixture and fold together.
  • Return to the freezer and leave until firm – 25-40 minutes
NOTE: If you eat this treat right away, that’s best. Left in the freezer too long, it just becomes a tasty block of ice. One way to avoid that is to add a shot of alcohol (which freezes at a much lower temperature) to the mix. In this recipe, think Grand Marnier, for example. A tablespoon of the booze should be enough.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Thai one on with a tasty slaw

I am not a raw foods person. Except for an occasional salad meal, I like my meals fully cooked, but this recipe sounded good and I knew that with some tweaks, it would be really good.
I found the recipe in a raw "cookbook" (sorry, but it can't be raw cooking...) titled something like "Raw Vegan Pad Thai." To me, if you want something like Pad Thai, have it. Leave the meat out if you want to make it vegetarian. The ingredients in the recipe sounded like a perfectly good slaw recipe so I went with that.
I added zucchini, red bell pepper and cilantro to the recipe and tweaked the sauce recipe a bit by adding pistachios and a bit of orange juice since the oranges are hanging heavy on our tree in the back yard.
The tamarind sauce that is used in this recipe is something that I had on hand, but it is not easy to find, nor is it particularly cheap ($5 to $6 for a 16 ounce jar). You can get something that closely resembles the sauce by simmering a couple of chopped dates in 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice - for the purposes of this recipe...and unless you have other plans for tamarind sauce in your cooking, there's no sense in buying a whole jar of it.
(There is no shame in making something that approximates the taste and texture of something if it's not a product you need in your are the only one who will know it is not the "real deal".)
Wnen I put this together, I knew it was about as much like pad thai as I am like a world champion steak eater. But it is a very good light slaw (not the sort that is weighed down with mayo and sugar that you might find at a barbecue).
This is a hearty entree for a vegetarian (though don't eat too much as it is full of fiber, if you know what I mean. It also makes a good side dish to go with any Asian-inspired vegetarian entree or with any carnivorous meal where a slaw might work,...bring this to a Superbowl party and you'll be a big winner at the buffet table.

Thai Slaw

For the Slaw:
4-5 cups of shredded zucchini
2-3 cups of shredded carrots
1 cup of shredded red cabbage
1 sliced red pepper
1 to 2 cups of sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup of sliced scallions or green onion
A piece of ginger about the size of your thumb
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup of crushed (or whole) pistachios as a topping
Fresh mint

For the Sesame Ginger Dressing:
3/4 cup of sesame seeds
1/2 cup of fresh apple juice
1/3 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of pistachios
1/4 cup of tamarind sauce (see note above)
about a 2" pieces of  fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 - 1 lime squeezed
  • Blend dressing until smooth.
  • Prepare your veggies by slicing, dicing and shredding.
  • Combine sauce and veggies in a bowl, top with dressing and enjoy!