Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lemon Balm Buttermilk Scones With Lemon Chips

When I planted lemon balm in my herb garden last year I had no idea it would turn out to be so prolific. This turned out to be a good surprise. 

It came back this year three times as big as last year. Good thing I cannot get enough of putting this herb called Melisse in German in filtered water, iced tea and salads.

Consequently, I am always looking for new ways to bake and cook with it. 

Recently I hosted an English language table on our herb and tomato planted NYC terrace for my United Nations spouse group. Our group runs seven different language tables a month and I like to host the English one on our terrace in warm weather. 

My theme, like last year, was herbs. The concept was for members to visit, smell, taste and discuss the herbs in English. We even made some herb infused salt for guests to take home with them. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Coconut Ginger Layer Cake

This cake has made an appearance twice this year at two different events. It's been a huge hit both times. 

I love me a coconut layer cake and usually prefer one with a white cake base. This one has a yellow cake flavored with ginger and laced with coconut flakes. The yellow cake actually works better with the ginger flavor. 

The cake has ginger extract and powdered ginger. The buttercream is also tinged with ginger flavor and studded with coconut flakes. I pressed coconut flakes into the side and top of the cake and covered the top with chopped crystalized ginger.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Roasted Beet Tarragon Hummus

I hate beets. There. I said it and now I cannot take it back.

For years I have struggled to like them but they have always tasted like dirt to me.  What brings me back to them again and again, is their beautiful color. 

What I have learned over my years of beet hating is I kinda like them in small doses, but only when their flavor is diffused or transformed a bit.  I once served them thinly shaved and caramelized in a Thanksgiving salad. They were delicious.

I used one medium sized beet in this hummus. The tahini and the tarragon mitigated the strong beet flavor and I loved it. And the color - wow.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Peanut Butter Rosemary Cookies

Three cookie varieties I grew up with were Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies, Quaker's recipe for Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies.

My mother was a working mom with little time to luxuriate in the kitchen. However, she was also extremely nutrition conscious. Aside from some boxed pastries she occasionally picked up from the Entenmann's Factory store, located by the school where she taught, everything sweet at home was homemade. My European Grandmother loved those pastries, by the way. 

This trinity of classic cookies, all simple to throw together with easily sourced ingredients, were the first ones I learned to make as a child. It's no surprise I return to those recipes again and again. Sometimes I am in the mood for creating the classic versions, or, in the case of introducing these cookies experiences to someone for the first time (non-Americans).

Other times, I like to riff on them, adding unexpected or exotic ingredients. I don't know when this peanut butter rosemary combination made its way into my imagination, but I am glad it did.

Two batches later, these are ready to share with you.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Yogurt Lemon Balm Torte

Every spring I look forward to growing a selection of interesting herbs. Last year, for the first time I planted lemon balm, I don't know how I lived this long without it. It's such a wonderful addition to any herb garden. 

Lemon balm contains multiple properties including a calming effect and a natural anti-viral. It is also a delicious fresh herb addition to everything from salads to scones. It also grows abundantly and returns every year. 

This beautiful torte is not a recipe you can whip together before guests come because the various stages of the recipe take quite a bit of time to create. The majority of that time is refrigerating the layers in various stages. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Few Words on Why You Should Care About Sustainable Palm Oil


Several years ago, during extended travels in Malaysia, I made an unforgettable stop at Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary. As we drove through fields of palm tree farms, my guide explained to me the negative effects of Palm oil harvesting. 

The biggest impression on me came when he explained workers often cut trees down to make room for planting more palm trees. Rarely do they look up. Too many times a mother orangutan is in the tree. When the tree falls, she makes sure to fall on her back to protect the infant in her arms. Most times, the mother does not survive the fall and the infant does.  If the baby orangutan is lucky, it is not killed (the body buried and hidden) or smuggled elsewhere to be sold on the black market. The more fortunate of them are taken to Sepilok to be raised and released into their sanctuary.


This is only one of the evils of unsustainable palm oil production affecting humans and animals. Other devastating consequences can be large-scale forest conversion, loss of critical habitat for endangered species, including rhinos, elephants and tigers, soil erosion, soil and water pollution, eviction of forest-dwelling people and social conflict in communities. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Rhubarb Lavender Cake

As promised, here is the other rhubarb cake, simple to make but with sophisticated flavor. This lavender spiked cake comes together very quickly.

The best part is the no fuss, no muss with the rhubarb. You don't have to cook it down or chop it into tiny pieces. Large pieces of the stalks are pushed into the lavender scented cake batter before baking.

Once the cake is removed from the oven, let cool completely, sprinkle with powdered sugar and if you like, some extra dried lavender to make it even prettier and done.