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Williams – Sonoma Smoothie Week…Aloe Vera ,Hibiscus & Lemon Non Dairy Smoothie

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January is all about cleanses and new starts. I’m not one for  cliche resolutions, but I do know when I need to recalibrate after periods of over indulgence. These days its about hydration for my body.My mornings consists of smoothies on occasion, but mostly herbal infusions or teas for the commute to work. As for sweeteners I’m not one to shun it, but gravitate towards the most natural sweeteners possible. One could debate endlessly about natural sweeteners, sugars, etc. I will always choose my Swedish neighbors beautiful raw honey or a gorgeous subtle non refined crystallized German Rock Sugar. Natures natural unrefined enhancements. So whats this about? The Williams – Sonoma community wanted to know what I would consider for a Not Your Typical Smoothie theme.

I love dairy but it doesn’t love me unfortunately. So in thinking of a smooth emulsified nutritious drink that’s not your typical smoothie, I came up with the jelly like aloe vera gel, which I had always enjoy in a fruity drinks from the Asian stores, lemon , which cleanses and hydrates me, and my favorite colorful herbal infusion, hibiscus. I knew the aloe vera gel would create a silky icy smooth lemonade type of quencher, a Soothie, as opposed to a Slushie.  For sweetener I melted some pieces of German Rock Sugar with the hibiscus infusion, which is derived from beet juice, and lets the true flavor shine, rather than mask it. So if a smoothie in the classic definition is a emulsified blend of fruits, veggies, ice, dairy and sweetener, this is it. Sweetener from beets, aloe vera juice, lemon, and the beautiful hibiscus. I see a lot of questionable things pass for smoothies in commercial  establishments these days. It’s so easy to make your own goodness. While their are some amazing blenders on the market, this smoothie/soothie is pretty low tech. A powerful blender which crushes ice is all you need.

Benefits of Aloe Vera Gel

Digestive Aid

Supports Joints

Regularity

Reduces toxins

Benefits of Hibiscus

Aides in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol

Antioxidant

Benefits of Lemon

Aides weight loss

Stimulates digestive tract

Potassium

Throat soother

Anti cancerous liminoids

Benefits of German Rock Sugar

Unrefined and less sweet

Doesn’t alter taste as much as refined sugars

Beet derived

Smoothie Week...Aloe Vera ,Hibiscus & Lemon Non Dairy Smoothie
Cuisine: Drinks
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoon of dried Hibiscus
  • ½ cup hot water to steep hibiscus
  • 1-2 tablespoons of German Rock Sugar
  • ½ cup Aloe Vera Gel
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup of crushed ice
Instructions
  1. Steep Hibiscus and German rock sugar in hot water for several minutes and until sugar is dissolved. Cool down naturally or with a bit of ice. Strain.
  2. Add the aloe vera gel, lemon juice, ice, and strained hibiscus infusion to a blender with crushed ice.
  3. Blend until frothy .
  4. Serve immediately.

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Mango Caipirinhas

One of my favorite drinks is a Caipirinha. I remember being introduced to them by an old friend named Andy ,who had a Brazilian girlfriend and sought to educate me on many things Brazilian. We were at a Brazilian music event in Chicago and I drank eagerly  much to my hung over  regret the next day. They taste so good, but will sneak up on you.This cocktail had found a way into my cocktail repertoire.

In Rio de Janerio recently , I stayed hydrated with a variety of juices from the Sucos Bars scattered on every street,excellent icy cold beers, Mate Tea served from a steel drum containers that blend lemon juice and yerbe mate , plenty of water, and wound the day down with  nice Caipirinhas in traditional or exotic fruit varieties like passion fruit or mango. I felt like a Carioca ( native of Rio de Janerio). The abundance and profusion fruits in Rio amazed me. I wish I could have sampled more. Hortifruti has a amazing selection of fruits and vegetables  indigenous to Brazil. The food,climate, and lifestyle make this the perfect destination to visit. I really felt a connection in Rio and will return.

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Caipirinhas are considered Brazil’s national drink. This pleasant sweet yet acidic cocktail with a kick, consists of limes, sugar, and cachaça ( a spirit made from sugar cane juice,as rum is as well)served over plenty of ice. The original simple form is wonderful, but many like to add a fruit infusion, based on the abundance and variety of fruits. If you don’t have cachaça, there is always a Caipiroska  or Caipivodka using vodka in place of cachaça.

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Mango Caipirinhas
Recipe type: Cocktails
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 2 shots cachaça
  • 1 lime cut into wedges, then quarters
  • 4 tsps sugar, preferably raw sugar.
  • half of a mango cubed and cut into small pieces.
  • Crushed Ice
Instructions
  1. Muddle lime, sugar, and mango fruit together.
  2. Add crushed ice to shaker.
  3. Pour cachaça over fruit and ice and shake to blend,
  4. Serve in a chilled glass with the ice.

 

 Influences and Perspectives : Brazil

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Old El Paso Chicken and Pineapple Tacos with Cabbage Mango Slaw

It’s been a good bit of time since I last posted. In that time I’ve been traveling, working, catering, celebrating and creating recipes . Unfortunately it just hasn’t made it to the blog. Where to begin?

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First Certain Someone spent a lovely week at Half Moon in Montego Bay to celebrate a friends wedding. It was the best experience Ive ever had in Jamaica. Imagine your own luxury villa, butlers, maids, sunshine, private beaches, and just being spoiled. We really  needed it. We will  heading to Portugal and Sweden soon for another destination wedding, and to catch up with family and friends.

I’ve been getting some great catering gigs from consulates, a European airline carrier, and just overall great clients. I’m so happy the word is spreading about Coco Cooks.

And last before we get onto the food. Certain Someone turned 40! We decided to have a belated birthday party at the house in July ( In the fashion of the Queen), as its hard to coordinate everyone’s schedules.

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I made the whiskey bottle cake, and commissioned the label and cigar from a great friend who has amazing talent. Check her out if you need customized toppers for your cakes.

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Now onto the recipe! Yes it another Old El Paso post. I was commissioned to do a total of 12 recipes for them, which are figured on their new website. While I don’t normally use prepared ingredients, I’m not naive enough as chef and career woman, that sometimes shortcuts and convenience are OK, especially when paired with fresh ingredients and creativity. Not everyone has the time nor inclination to make there own spice blends, salsa, tortillas, etc. So accepting the assignment and the challenge , where what motivated me. I love a challenge to think out the box. It’s grilling season and one can create all sorts of good things on the grill, or on an indoors grill, it you don’t have a gas or charcoal grill. I love the sight of grill marks . Check out the recipe and other great ones on the site.

Old El Paso Chicken and Pineapple Tacos with Cabbage Mango Slaw
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • For Cabbage Mango Slaw
  • ½ head of small green cabbage sliced thinly or grated.
  • 1 carrot skinned and grated
  • 1 mango chopped into small pieces( no skin)
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ⅛ cup brown sugar
  • ⅛ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pineapple sliced
  • 2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs.
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Old El Paso Hard and Soft Taco Kit.( Contains taco shells, soft tortillas, Taco Seasoning, and Taco Sauce)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 320°.
  2. In a glass dish or bowl marinate chicken with 1 packet of the Old El Paso Seasoning and 2 tablespoons olive oil contained in kit.
  3. In a small bowl add grated cabbage, carrot, chopped mango, cilantro, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. Mix thoroughly and set aside while grilling chicken.
  4. Using an indoor or outdoor grill, preheat to higher setting to obtain a good sear.
  5. Wrap the soft tortillas in the kit in foil and place in oven. Heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Add chicken to grill and cook several minutes on each side until done.
  7. While chicken is grilling, place hard tacos shells on a placing sheet and add to the oven with soft tortillas. Don’t overcook. Turn off oven after 5 more minutes and keep warm till serving.
  8. Remove chicken from the grill and let reat a few minutes.
  9. Add pineapple slices to hot grill and sear on both sides for a few minutes. Remove from grill.
  10. Slice chicken on the diagonal and serve on platter with chopped grilled pineapple slices.
  11. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  12. Serve with cabbage mango slaw, soft and crunchy tortillas, and sauce contained in the kit.

 

 

Kumquat Confit and Kumquat Pistachio Palmiers

The other day I was in Stanley’s and saw a nice punnet of kumquat’s staring at me. Do you look at some foods and think back to your first taste, which may or may not have been pleasant? That’s how I felt with kumquat’s. I wanted to love the cute miniature citrus fruit , but a distant memory of just eating one raw off someones little tree, as child always held me back. Well I’m a big girl now, 43 years of age, to be exact and it was time to acquaint myself with Kumquats again. Surely if  I cooked them down to a confit , almost candy like, they will go down well? And yes they did. Talk about a burst of sunshine and citrus finished with a hint of bourbon and cinnamon. The kumquats picked me up and tickled my tongue, as I ate it on hot buttered bread and black coffee. Preserved kumquat’s are better than orange marmalade in my opinion.The flavor more pronounced, as it’s really all concentrated in the peel.

Certain Someone is not a big jam , preserve type. He loves his  charcuterie, black coffee , good bread and butter on lazy weekend mornings. So while I made a small batch, I wanted more applications for my confit. I had small sheets of commercial puff pastry in my freezer and nuts in the cupboard.

I took my kitchen shears and cut up a small amount of the candid kumquats  to smaller pieces, as the confit was made from kumquat halves. I spread them over the defrosted puff pastry, added a mixture of pistachios and  raw sugar which had been blended to a coarse crumb, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I then carefully rolled them up on either end, to meet in the middle.  The rolls were sliced and dipped in more of the pistachio sugar crumb and baked on a parchment lined baking sheet at 375 degrees until golden. Careful not to burn the bottoms as the sugars from the confit and  sugar crumb will caramelize. Remove from oven and let cook. You will have a nice tea or coffee time snack.


Kumquat Confit
Author: 
Recipe type: condiment, preserves
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Candied preserved Kumquats
Ingredients
  • 1 lb of kumquats, washed, halved, and seeded.
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of Bourbon
  • * apple core
Instructions
  1. Halve and seed the kumquats.
  2. Place in a heavy bottomed pot with apple core.
  3. Add sugar.
  4. Slowly bring up the temp and stir and mash the fruit into the sugar until it starts to liquify slight. You don't want to burn the sugar or cook to fast.
  5. Stir in cinnamon.
  6. Cook on med heat until all the ingredients start to liquify and boil.
  7. Reduce heat until the boil is more like a simmer. Stir periodically and cook for several minutes until the fruit becomes more transparent and candied. This may take about 10 minutes more or less.
  8. The longer the cook time, the more candied the fruit. You want to make sure its spreadable and not to thick.
  9. Turn off the heat.
  10. Remove apple core.
  11. Stir in the Bourbon . The confit will sizzle a bit with the addition of the liquor.
  12. Place in clean jars.
  13. Let cool and cover
  14. Keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Notes
The apple core, loaded with natural pectin aides the thickening.

 

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Homemade Curry Ketchup

Ketchup gets a bad rap. People abuse it to mask sub par food, or load it onto junk food. I mean can you imagine a burger without it? And lets not even mention the sugar content or high fructose corn syrup in most commercial brands. I have always liked ketchup, but wasn’t the type to quickly reach for it to drown everything on plate.However , when Certain Someone first took me to his house in Germany, I fell in love with Curry Ketchup. It’s a German thing and when you go, you must have a Currywurst. Your taste buds will thank you. Needless to say every time we go, or Certain Someone goes, I bring back huge bottles of the stuff.

The other day I catered an event and still had a few leftover very ripe  tomatoes that needed to be used quick. In addition, my organic delivery service gave me a large bag of tomatillos, those small green tomatillos that are covered in a protective leaf covering, and used in Mexican food. I wanted to use them all together and immediately ketchup came to mind. Now if you cant get tomatoes, don’t worry, just use the tomatoes you have on hand, or add some regular green tomatoes for a kick.  Enjoy the freshest, natural taste you can imagine making your own ketchup. Your body will be grateful and your loved ones will appreciate the taste and effort.


Homemade Curry Ketchup
Author: 
Recipe type: condiment
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
A ketchup with a spicy curry kick.
Ingredients
  • 2-2½ pounds ripe tomatoes ( can mix red, green, tomatillos) cut into quarters. Do not peel.
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 inch fresh ginger peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 Black Cardamon pods
  • 3 Star Anise
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 dried Thai Chilies
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, add quartered tomatoes, and all the spices, vinegar.
  2. Turn heat to medium high to get a simmer.
  3. Reduce heat to lowest setting and slowly cook for approx 1 hour . The ingredients should break down and start to liquefy. Be sure to stir often to prevent sticking and burning.
  4. Take a fine wire mesh strainer or a food mill and strain the mixture into a bowl. Be sure to press and extract all the liquid and pulp, while leaving the skins, and spices the strainer.
  5. You should have a thick like sauce. If not thick enough add the strained sauce to a sauce pan and continue to reduce until thickened to the right consistency. Be sure to stir often.
  6. Pour into a clean glass jar and allow to cool.
  7. Refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.
  8. Make approx 2 cups.
Notes
Keeps 2 weeks refrigerated. You can adjust the spices to make more or less heat and spice according to your tastes.