Hi, everyone! My apologies for not having the Flavor of the Week post ready today. My husband was busy updating the plumbing and electrical in the kitchen, and I was kind of helping:

Exposing the pipes to rerun water lines and electrical to sink, porch and stove (he had to replace the plug on that, too!)

He cut through the floorboards to rerun the water line to the kitchen, then cut a hole in the wall to run it out to the porch for our washer and dryer (currently in the kitchen by the front door.)

The pipes were weird: they ran under the floor, then jumped up a few inches to run above the floor (bottom center.) The fridge was propped up on 1×2’s to accommodate for this unusual plumbing design.

The other side of the kitchen sink: the bottom of the wall was removed to run the water and electrical for the washer & dryer. The white box is where the shut off valves will be.

Future location of our washer and dryer, back left corner.

Dinner from the Doctor! My husband said it’s like the Kraft brand in Germany. :)

It’s not burnt, we like our cheese well-done! It wasn’t bad for a frozen thin-crust pizza, but since it was a wheat crust, my belly inflated like a party balloon. Oh well, at least it was the end of the day!

My husband is slowly working on home improvement projects here and there, and I can’t wait for the kitchen to be updated! We’ll be doing some painting and installing new floors in the next few weeks, so I’ll keep you posted on that.

I know some of you are working on home renovations as well, how’s it coming along? Or if you are in the process of moving, what are your plans for decorating your new home? What’s your favorite room to decorate? (it’s the kitchen, right?)

In the meantime, I’ll post the Flavor of the Week by Wednesday, so stay tuned!

Don’t these oranges look delicious? (Image source: http://www.growcitrus.com)

Yes, it’s the old knock-knock joke that could go on and on until you decide to say ‘orange’! One of my favorites to tell, but not to listen to. ;)

It’s been a couple years since I bought oranges, much less ate them. When I started following the Blood Type Diet, there were some fruits that I was supposed to avoid: mango, cantaloupe, papaya, tomatoes, and oranges, for example. I did well on that diet, and some foods I could easily do without…like oranges.

But it wasn’t until last week when I made a batch of  raw Orange Cranberry Oatmeal scones* that I felt like I had to incorporate this fruit into my diet once again. It wasn’t the flavor of these scones that did it (which were awesome, btw) but the fragrant, vibrant, juicyness of the fruit when you slice it, and especially when you zest it. The navel oranges I got were the size of grapefruits, and were incredibly sweet and juicy. Each of these oranges would yield 8 ounces of fresh-squeezed juice, plus some nice bits of pulp that I like to chew on.

Long after eating the scones, the fresh orange taste was still stuck in my head and I needed more of an orange fix. I decided to modify my wheat-free carrot-apple-ginger cake into an orange date cake. This being the first orange cake I made, I think it was a success! After ten minutes in the oven, the kitchen already smelled phenomenal. The taste and aroma from the crazy amount of orange zest made this an incredibly fragrant cake (if our neighbors lived any closer, their noses would be pressing up against my windows!) It’s a moist cake, heavier than a regular wheat flour cake, and I felt that the coconut oil had a more neutral taste than vegetable oil. I used only 1 cup of sugar compared to 2 cups normally called for in a cake recipe, but you won’t miss it. The dates, orange juice and apples give it more than enough sweetness.

*from Judita Wignall’s Going Raw cookbook

This not-too sweet orange date cake is great for breakfast, at home or on the go.

Orange Date Cake
It’s important that you use fresh orange zest and fresh orange juice! 

7 medjool dates, pitted, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
6 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice, with pulp
zest from 2 extra-large navel oranges (about 1/4 cup)
2 cups spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup peeled, cored, finely chopped apple
1/4 cup orange zest (from 2 jumbo navel oranges)
4 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil
additional zest for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Soak the dates in orange juice for 15-2o minutes (you can also soak it overnight in the fridge)

In a large mixing bowl (I use my standing mixer bowl,) combine spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & brown sugar. Stir in shredded carrots and orange zest, breaking apart clumps with your fingers.

Make a well in the center of your flour mix. Add eggs and coconut oil, beating well then slowly incorporating flour. Stir in date and orange juice.

Use the following baking times, or bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean

bundt pan: 33-35 minutes
9″ cake pan: 33-35 minutes
paper-lined muffin tins: 18 minutes
mini bundt cake pan (cake pictured below): 25 minutes

Fresh oranges make all the difference.

Several weeks ago I got a care package from my parents. In addition to mom’s delicious cookies, Uncle Kenneth’s coffee and some nori rice crackers, I had a special request for these home grown beauties:

Mom and Dad’s vanilla

Gorgeous, plump pods of flavor-packed vanilla! My parents have several vanilla plants growing outside the house. They’re orchid plants, and are not easy to cultivate because they require self-pollination from a specific type of insect. To make it even more difficult, the flowers bloom for only one day, making the window of opportunity rather small for natural reproduction. My dad keeps an eye out for blooming buds, so when the opportunity arises, he uses a ball-point pen to transport the microscopic pollen from stamen to pistil, then lets nature take care of the rest.  Here’s the ripening fruit of the plant several days after pollination, the dried blossoms are shriveled and ready to fall off the ends:

Vanilla plant, image source: http://www.orchidsasia.com/vanil16.htm.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? And after several months of staying on the vine, they are ready to be harvested, dried, and used in your culinary delights.

Everybody is familiar with the distinct taste of vanilla, which is often second-banana to chocolate (did you know that both were cultivated by the Aztecs?)  and we often take this rather nondescript flavor for granted. But vanilla is a truly wonderful spice that not only gives its own easily recognizable flavor, but enhances others, including chocolate.

Chocolate just wouldn’t be chocolate without vanilla.

So how about adding some vanilla to your life? Let’s start of with the basics:

Vanilla Bean Syrup – Bring 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add 1 split vanilla bean, scraping both pod and seeds into mixture, stir and let cool. Reserve the vanilla pod and dry completely before storing for other uses. Pour into clean glass jar, keep tightly closed and let sit one day before using.

Vanilla Bean Paste – Scrape a vanilla bean and mix just enough light corn syrup to make a paste. Can use in place of vanilla extract.

Vanilla Extract – In a jar or bottle, add 2 cups of vodka and 6 vanilla beans. Store in a cool, dark place and let age for 4-6 months, shaking the bottle once a week to distribute the flavors.

Vanilla Sugar – Place a split pod in your sugar container for a delicate fragrance and hint of vanilla flavor.

Beautiful glistening seeds from a Tahitian vanilla pod.

Now that you have the basics, here are some recipes to use your newly made concoctions:

Vanilla Cream Soda – Mix vanilla bean syrup with cold seltzer and add a couple drops of lemon juice.

Panna Cotta (from epicurious.com)In a small bowl, sprinkle 1 envelope (1 teaspoon) gelatin over 2 tablespoons water, let soften for about ten minutes. Menwhile, in a medium saucepan bring 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup sugar to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Split a 2″ piece vanilla pod, scraping seeds and adding into milk mixture (alternatively, add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.) Divide between four ramekins, chill 8 hours or overnight. (options: float 1 star anise in each ramekin, serve with fresh mixed berries, or top with fruit compote.)

Spiced Vanilla Peach Jam – This was an accident when I tried making Rem Cooks’ Vanilla Peach Butter by following his recipe for Spiced Peach Preserves. As I was heating the peaches I thought, “Boy this smells great…but where’s the vanilla?” Looking over his post, I realized it was the wrong recipe! After pulling up the correct recipe I decided it would be easier to make a few modifications and simply add the vanilla bean. It still came out tasty, especially by following his lead and having it with cream cheese on sourdough toast…delicious!

Ingredients:

2 cups peaches peeled, pitted & roughly chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
tiny pinch nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
4″ piece vanilla bean, split and scraped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions:

Put everything in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 15 minutes or until peaches break up into smaller pieces. Remove from heat and let cool before transferring to a clean glass jar. Will keep in refrigerator for about 10 days.

This peach jam is great on toast, or as a glaze for chicken, ham, or roast pork loin.

In addition to all this sweetness, vanilla can also be used to enhance the flavor of savory dishes, and on Wednesday I will post a special recipe I concocted to celebrate my second wedding anniversary! Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m talking about:

Vanilla can season even the most savory of dishes!

More vanilla goodness coming your way, so stay tuned!

Welcome to What I Ate Wednesday, another presentation of everyday eats and tasty treats sponsored by the awesome Jenn at Peas and Crayons!

Today I’ll be continuing with the “Flavor of the Week” presented to you in Monday’s post. I’ve been experimenting with several drinks and desserts using lemon sugar, and in addition to Monday’s Lemon Coconut Macaroons, I think a lot of you will enjoy reading about today’s featured recipe which can be the perfect finish to cool you off on a warm summer’s evening.

The past few days presented us with some great weather once again, so we were able to enjoy more super-casual outdoor dining. Breakfast was peanut butter and raspberry jam on sprouted grain toast, scrambled egg with Gouda cheese & onions, German bratwurst from Aldi (mini-sausages with a strong nutmeg taste, I didn’t like them at all!) and coffee w/stevia:

Lunch was a colorful salad with Gorgonzola cheese and some Tostitos chips leftover from the Frito-Lay Gluten-Free Challenge (please check it out, folks!) Now usually I like the tangy taste of chevre with my salads but today I wanted to try an Il Giardino Mountain Gorgonzola I picked up the other day from Sam’s Club (they have a good selection for great prices.) It’s a lot softer and sweeter than other blue cheeses, and not exactly what I was hoping for…but it was okay:

Colorful salad with dots of soft Gorgonzola: there, there….here, and there.

Snack time consisted of more (unphotographed) Tostitos chips and couple of these chewy indulgences. It’s got tons of peanuts and a deep rich caramel, much tastier than the stuff you’ll find in a candy bar:

Two of these are enough to satisfy my sweet tooth…well, maybe three.

On Sunday, my sister made some great barbecue chicken and panko crusted walleye her husband caught the day before. We ate it with potato salad, buttered salt potatoes, and I topped the fish with mayo and soy sauce. We had the leftovers for dinner the next day, and I added some diced pineapple, celery, lettuce, avocado and tomatoes.

Barbecue chicken and a mish-mash salad

Now, on to dessert! After making a couple batches of macaroons I wanted to try another coconut and lemon-infused dessert. I thought a cream pie would be great, something nice and cool to enjoy on a warm evening. I have a favorite chocolate banana cream pie recipe I make every Thanksgiving, so decided to change it up by giving it a light lemon taste in a luscious coconut cream pie. The result was surprisingly good.

The cookie-like crust is flecked with lemon zest and shredded coconut and tastes great on its own. It will stay nice and crisp even after a couple days in the refrigerator. The cream filling had just enough coconut milk to create a luxurious base for a smooth balance of coconut and lemon flavors. Topping it off is a whipped coconut cream sweetened with lemon sugar and sprinkled with lightly toasted coconut and lemon zest.

With the contrasting textures and flavors supporting each other so wonderfully, this dessert is definitely worth a try.

Lemon Coconut Cream Pie
Freeze the pie for an additional 30 minutes, it will taste just like frozen custard.

Gluten-Free Crust (based on “Tart Shell Crust” recipe from Gluten-Free Baking Classics):

1 cup Brown Rice Flour Mix (2 parts brown rice flour, 2/3 parts potato starch, 1/3 part tapioca starch)
1/4 cup lemon sugar
1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2  tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon coconut or vanilla extract
5 tablespoons coconut oil or unsalted butter

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position rack in center of oven. Spray an 8″ round pie pan (or 8″x8″ square cake pan) with cooking spray, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add coconut oil and sprinkle in extract. Mix with a fork until well combined and clumpy. Sprinkle crust mix into pan then gently press evenly over the bottom, but not up the sides.

Bake in center of oven for about 14-16 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside while you make filling.

Filling:

3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup low-fat vanilla soy milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine cornstarch through soy milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook 30 seconds or until thick. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat cream cheese until light (about 30 seconds). Add lemon juice and beat well  to incorporate. Add about 1/3 cup hot custard to cream cheese, and beat just until blended. Stir in remaining custard and blend well.

Pour into pie crust and cover with plastic wrap, pressing to surface of filling. Cool on counter for about 10 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Topping:

1-2  cans coconut milk
1 tablespoon lemon sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream or coconut cream
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1 teaspoon lemon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Refrigerate coconut milk overnight. Open can(s) and scoop out cream at the surface, reserving rest of milk for later use. With an electric mixer beat coconut milk, sugar and heavy cream or additional coconut cream at high speed until thickened. Spread over pie. Mix toasted coconut, lemon sugar and lemon zest and sprinkle on top before serving.

Not too sweet, not too heavy, but just right

Last week I posted a recipe for radler, a refreshing lemonade-beer concoction perfect for enjoying on a beautiful sunny barbecuey day. I was about to make more ginger lemonade and decided to zest them before I cut them in half. Normally I would use the juiced lemon halves when washing dishes (it helps cut grease, I “wipe” my soapy pans with them) but today, in addition to saving the halves for dishwashing duty, I zested six lemons and added a cup of sugar to make a wonderfully fragrant lemon sugar:

The oils from the lemon distribute throughout the sugar, so to help reduce any excess moisture I put it in a large frying pan and heated it on low for about 5 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then. It will stay a bit clumpy because of the oils, so just let it cool down before storing it in an airtight jar and use within a few days.

You can use this sugar in any of your baked goods, tea, or wherever you want a bit of lemony sweetness. Here’s an easy recipe where lemon and coconut are combined to make a light, lemony macaroon. I adapted the recipe from one my sister gave me by replacing wheat flour with coconut flour and adding lemon juice. The macaroons came out nice and chewy with a light lemon flavor and lots of coconut throughout.

Gluten free, dairy free Coconut Lemon Macaroons

Coconut Lemon Macaroons (gluten-free)
Adapted from http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/First-Place-Coconut-Macaroons

Ingredients

1-1/3 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup lemon sugar
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, beaten until frothy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the coconut, sugar, flour and salt. Stir in egg whites and vanilla; mix well.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 325° for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: about 1-1/2 dozen.

 

Thanks for checking out my first “Flavor of the Week” post! Come back every Monday to see a new featured flavor at: https://thefoodery.wordpress.com/flavor-of-the-week/.