Yes! We have bananas (& an awesome giveaway)

Oh yeah - this is just a fraction of the bananas we harvested at our last place - a single bunch yields a LOT of bananas. We visited friends and gave them big bags of bananas - gotta love those surplus fruit giveaways! Speaking of giveaways...

The giveaway is now over - thanks to everyone who entered!

I'm hosting an AMAZING giveaway over at Baking is Hot, for a Le Creuset Baker's Gift Pack. For the giveaway I picked a sweet array of beautiful, practical, high quality (and sexy!) goodies any foodie would love. (I'll admit, I want all of the items - I developed a crush on the brand after housesitting a home full of Le Creuset pots and pans.)

And if you already have what you need and don't need any new stuff, enter anyways and gift these fantastic heirloom goodies out to the ones you love. :)

xo Patty

Day of the Dead Skull Cookies

Happy Día de los Muertos! Here in Mexico, November 2 is a very special day, a time to spend with family and connect with deceased relatives and friends and celebrate life. I think it's a very beautiful tradition.

Traditional treats and happy sugar skulls are part of the deal too. It's funny that up north (Canada and the US) skulls are usually portrayed as dark and evil, but down here they're often cheery and whimsical.... and sometimes very sweet too. To celebrate, C and I decorated our own little skull shortbread cookies. It was muy divertido (very fun!)

I used a couple of chilled rolls of cookie dough (from my last slice-n-bake cookie experiment) and after slicing 1/4" rounds of dough, I pinched the "chin area" and flattened them a bit more with my fingers to make a basic skull shape. No cookie cutters required - and they all turn out a little different. I threw them in the oven, and 5 minutes into baking had a good idea how to define the face. So I pulled them out of the oven and worked on half of them - leaving the other ones smooth. With a fork, I pressed down gently to make teeth. Using a chopstick, I pressed the fat tip in to make eye sockets, and the small tip to make the nose cavity. Yum. ;) Since they were already partially baked, they ended up cracking - which was actually pretty cool since skulls do have cracks and fissures. Check out my last blog entry to see how they look without the icing - they're pretty nice looking plain too.

The decorating was super fun. C got in on that action. I was inspired by these cookies, and these chocolate trees (learning that the fine lines were made using a ziplock bag as an icing bag with a tiny piece of the corner snipped off). I don't have a lot of fancy kitchen stuff here - but I do have ziplock bags! I made 3 simple icings (just squishing the ingredients right in the bags to mix):

White: 2-3 Tbps icing sugar with a few drops of rose water and just enough water to make a thick paste.

Orange/Brown: 2-3 Tbps icing sugar, ~1/4 tsp cinnamon and just enough water to make a thick paste. (mine was pretty dark because it had about 1 tsp of canela)

Dark Brown: Melted semi-sweet chocolate. (This worked very well, but I wasn't able to stack these cookies because the chocolate stuck to the other cookies. For cookies that need to be stored efficiently, I'd make an icing sugar icing like the ones above, but with vanilla and cocoa.)


Senior Skull courtesy of Crispin (Gracias!)

This was seriously my first time making "fancy" decorated cookies. (Not counting the gingerbread men from kindergarten - or my recent iBooster app cookies hehe...) I was delighted with how easy and fun it was - and how effective the ziplock baggie icing bag/tip technique was.

Making funny little decorated skull cookies for Día de los Muertos is going to be a yearly tradition for us from now on - as well as remembering our beloved deceased relatives, sharing stories about them, and celebrating life. :)

What's simple, sweet and a gives you a boost?

I have something really wonderful to share. My sweetheart and I have been working on a top-secret project for the past little while - and after an intense and fun month of hard work it's finally ready!

It's called iBooster, and it's a sweet, simple, easy-to-use iPhone app that helps boost your confidence. We put together a little website that describes our app - you can also check it out in the iTunes App Store.

I made these funny little chocolate spice shortbread cookies to celebrate! I wanted them to look like the iBooster icon, which is a soft square, so I formed cookie dough into a log, wrapped it in plastic wrap, then flattened it by pressing down onto the log with a small cutting board, rotating the log a quarter turn, and then flattening it again. I then chilled it till firm, and sliced 1/4" cookies. I made a little stencil by printing the logo onto a transparency, and then cutting the shapes out with an exacto blade. I placed the stencil on a cookie, gently sifted icing sugar over it, then carefully removed the stencil. (Next time I'll try dabbing icing over the stencil too.) The cookies are made with blue maseca corn flour, coconut oil, cocoa, cinnamon... will share the recipe when it's just right - but as you may know by now, I like to tweak my recipes a million times before I share them. ;)

We'd love your feedback on our app, so please let me know what you
think! This is just version 1.0 of iBooster, and we plan to tweak it and
add more great content in the coming weeks. :)

Can you tell by the !!! and :) that I'm excited? :D

xo Patty

Mexican Grapefruit

Mexican Grapefruit

Hola amigos! Made it though my first hot steamy Mexican summer - it was intense. On the property we were housesitting, we reveled in a tropical garden harvest of sweet bananas, amazing papayas, fragrant limes, and wonderful coconuts. Talk about perks!

It has just started getting cooler now, and grapefruits are appearing in the markets again. My favorite way to enjoy one is to prepare it like this:

Mexican Grapefruit

With a serrated knife, slice it in half and cut around the inside of the peel and through the center segment membranes (this makes it easier to eat with a spoon). Sprinkle the following over both pieces, approximately:

1 tsp (or more) of muscavado sugar
2 tsp (or more) of fine tequila (I like Cazadores reposado)
salt to taste

Enjoy! And make sure to drink the juice left in the bowl. :)

Amaranth Squares

amaranth squares

My first guest post! Check out the story and recipe on La Fuji Mama for these delicious nutritious gluten-free super-easy no-bake amaranth squares. :)

Coconut Woman

Right now it's super hot here in Mexico (like +40C with humidity, and getting hotter) so baking has taken the back burner so to speak, but that's cool because I love making all kinds of food - hello jicama salads and no-bake amaranth squares! (Ok, I did just bake a sticky red banana pudding - yum...) Now that the rainy season has started, the plants are happy again and we have quite the selection of exciting produce available, from mangos to sapotes to pitayas. I've also been super-busy with my other blog, as well as design projects, not to mention the amazing adventure that is life - it surprises me how much of my time is taken up living!

All this to say my blog posts here will be very sporadic for the next little while, but I still have time to reply to your comments and emails (which I love) and if you need a fix of healthy baked goods, there are some fabulous healthy (as well as gluten-free and vegan) recipe links from folks all over the world on Baking is Hot. :)

And what about the picture? Well, that's me posing with the fresh coconuts my sweetheart bravely retrieved from 2 different coconut palms on the lovely property we're living on this summer.  I was so enamored by these 2 beauties that I said "Quick, take a picture, I feel like Coconut Woman!" (Thanks for indulging me C, heehee.) Right after this, he hacked them both open with a machete (another brave feat, swoon...) and we enjoyed one of our favourite drinks - fresh coconut water with some fine aged rum. ¡Qué riquísimo!

Really Awesome Black Bean Brownies

I've been playing around with black bean brownies for a while now, because they're so delicious and nutritious. Think about it, a dark chocolaty brownie made with protein and fiber-rich black beans that's also lower in fat and sugar than a traditional brownie but still has all the chocolate and flavor. Breakfast! They seem to make a lot of sense here in Mexico, the land of black beans and chocolate, so it's not surprising that my amigos here love them.

I've made 4 different variations of black bean brownies in the last few months, and all of them were super-yummy, but my most recent batch was awesome. I nailed the ingredient ratios, making a dark fudgy complex brownie that plays off of 5 different kinds of beans: black beans, cacao, carob, coffee, vanilla. I also used just enough natural sugars, just enough flavorful fat, just enough dark chocolate, and just enough booze to make these decadent and beautiful tasting without going over-board and making a sugar-coma inducing empty calorie-packed brownie. So as rich as these are, they're rich *and* healthy: full of fiber, protein, natural sugars, antioxidants, and love!

There is one unusual ingredient in these that may be hard to find, and that is carob syrup. I managed to score some in a little Asian import shop in the Zona Libre (the "Free Zone" between Mexico and Belize). Carob syrup is naturally sweet and delicious, great stuff, and you can probably find it in Middle Eastern grocery stores. But if you don't have it, you can still make these brownies and they'll be delicious with or without carob.

Really Awesome Black Bean Brownies
(aka 5-Bean Brownies)

Puree and blend together:

2 c cooked black beans
2 large eggs (or egg substitute)
*1/4 c carob syrup
1/4 c agave nectar or honey
1/4 c Kahlua liqueur (or brewed coffee)
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 c coconut oil or unsalted butter (melted)

Sift together, then blend into the wet ingredients:

1/2 c cocoa (preferably not Dutch cocoa)
2 Tbsp tapioca starch (or corn starch)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (use 1/4 tsp if your beans are salty or using salted butter, otherwise use 1/2 tsp)

Mix in:

1/3 - 1/2 c chopped dark chocolate

*If you can't find carob syrup, substitute 1/4 c carob syrup for:  2 Tbsp honey or agave + 2 Tbsp water +  3 Tbsp carob powder
*If you don't like carob, you can substitute 1/4 c carob syrup for:  1/4 c honey or agave +  2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Sugar-free: use brewed coffee instead of Kahlua. Substitute the chocolate for unsweetened carob chips (or sugar-free chocolate).

Egg-free or vegan: I'm pretty sure an egg substitute for 2 eggs would do the trick - if anyone tries please let us all know in the comments. See comment #18. Thanks Jen!

Grease and dust a smallish pan - I use a 10" x 7.5" stainless steel pan greased with coconut oil and dusted with icing sugar mixed with a bit of cinnamon (cocoa or carob works too). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 till set - about 20 min. Allow to cool to room temperature then cut into squares. Store in a sealed container in the fridge - they'll firm up a bit - I really like these cold out of the fridge.

A Healthy Mexican Brunch

Thought I'd share a pic from a light brunch we made and enjoyed with friends on our lovely deck overlooking a beautiful lake this Easter. Since it was Easter, I was feeling a bit sentimental and wanted to dye some eggs, so I dyed them naturally using beets. (We have a red food-coloring allergy in our household, so natural dyes are a must.) Next in the image (clockwise) is fresh guacamole (tip: put the pit in the guac to help it stay green), fresh green salsa, banana bread made with ground oats, chocolate, and pecans, raw jicama (my new favorite veggie) and carrots, tuna and olive oil, and yogurt dill dip. We also had baked tostadas (for eating with the guac, salsa and tuna), fresh squeezed local orange juice, tropical fruit salad, and delicious Chiapas coffee. ¡Que rico! How delicious! (The literal translation is more like "how rich" but here they tend to use this expression for anything that's really good.)

The dill dip is something I enjoyed as a child in the summer with fresh carrots. (I think it may be a Ukrainian thing, because my Mom and Grandma would make a similar dip.) I got my Mom to bring me dried dill from Canada just so that I could make this dip to enjoy with the sweet local carrots. This is how I make it using local ingredients:

Yogurt Garlic Dill Dip

I always free-style this dip, so feel free to play with the amounts of ingredients. I remember there being some sour cream in my Mom's recipe, but I prefer yogurt. Mix together, to your taste, approximately:

  • 1 - 1 1/2 c natural full fat (or Balkan style) yogurt (you can strain some of the yogurt liquids if you like in order to make a thicker dip - in the same manner you would make tzatziki)
  • 1 medium clove of fresh garlic (crushed and finely minced - start with one, then add more to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (start with this, then add more to taste)
  • 2 tsp dried dill (or 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill)
  • a bit of lime (or lemon) juice and/or a bit of finely grated zest (to taste)

Store covered in the fridge. Allow to sit overnight before serving - especially if using dried dill. Keeps for about a week. Enjoy with raw veggies.

Quick & Easy Oat Bread

I love fresh corn tortillas, crunchy baked tostadas, savoury tamales, fresh popcorn and homemade cornbread as much as the next muchacha. But sometimes I need a break from corn. Since I have limited access to ingredients here in Mexico, where corn is king, what's a girl to do? Well I recently came up with my new favorite quick bread, that's very similar to cornbread in taste and texture, but made with grounds oats. It's quick and easy to make - and keeps well in the fridge for slicing and toasting or pan-frying.

Recipe: Quick Oat Bread

Enjoy ♥