Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce

Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce

Happy spring.  What a wonderful time of year and not just because the weather improves, the flowers bloom and the birds sing.  As a cooking enthusiast I am thrilled those ridiculous diets that so many agree to in a fit of New Year Resolution mania, fall away.  The New Year’s resolution that swears off carbohydrates forever.  The plan to lose 56 pounds a month by converting three meals to three shakes, no, make that three cookie bars a day.  It even looks silly on paper, Cookie bars for dieting?!?  Stop the nonsense and come to the dark side. We eat lasagna so we’re so much more pleasant to be around.

Don’t get me wrong, many diets have been born from solid theory.  Somewhere along the line however, they are molested into a ludicrous plan that lacks sustainability. The American diet is filled with an almost unlimited supply of over processed carbs.  On the surface, it is a super smart move to eliminate some carbs from our diets but they take it too far.  Recently I picked up a low carb cookbook and was floored at the nonsense it touted.  They measured the diced tomato and onion at ¼ cup each with a side note mentioning NOT to use a ½ cup each.  The side note stated that there are carbohydrates in tomatoes and onions.  A separate entry specifically identifying that tomatoes and onions are problematic in the carbohydrate category.  Really?  Is that a joke?  We look at someone grossly overweight, a mountain of misshapen flesh, lumbering slowly down the street and say to ourselves, “Well, it’s those onions, man.  And he needs to lay off those tomatoes too.  They’re going to kill him”.
This isn’t an AA program where you need twelve steps to eliminate this enemy from your life.  Carbohydrates naturally occur.   They aren’t the enemy.  Inactivity, laziness, lack of daily exercise, those are the enemy.

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The other diet that could make me slap seemingly intelligent people is the bar diet.  They eat a cookie bar for breakfast and a cookie bar for lunch then a sensible dinner.  First off, the cookie bar is a 2 inch by 4 inch by 1 inch rectangle.  Your cell phone is significantly larger than this “meal”.   It’s called calorie restriction through lack of food.  Add to that these so called health bars have an ingredient list so long it barely fits on the wrapper and I challenge you to pronounce more than 50 percent of the ingredients.  Good rule.  Can’t pronounce it?  Don’t eat it.

So take my advice.  Go for a walk.  Go for a run.  Lift weights until your muscles buckle.  Then come home, make yourself this delicious dinner of Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce over a bed of rice with your favorite greens.  Eat it and enjoy.
Eat, Drink, EXERCISE and be Merry,
Lisa

Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce

Small bag of shredded sweetened coconut (7 ounces)
2 fillets of haddock or other firm white fish trimmed to uniform pieces for even cooking
1 egg and 1 tbsp water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon (zest and juice)
2 Tbsp heavy cream or whipping cream (Coconut milk will work here but it is significantly better with the cream)
½ cup plus a splash of Malibu Rum
2 Tbsp non peril capers drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cornstarch
White pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Zest your lemon into a bowl and juice your lemon over the zest.  This softens the zest so you don’t feel it in the final product.  Set aside.  Sprinkle the entire bag of coconut on a clean, dry, unlined cookie sheet so it is in a thin layer.  Place in the oven and babysit.  Don’t walk away.  Do not open email or check face book.  You don’t have the luxury of forgetfulness here.  Open the oven every 3 to 4 minutes to check and make sure the coconut is toasting perfectly and not scorching.  You will have to take the sheet out of the oven once or twice to shake and maneuver the darker coconut out of the corners and lay back into a thin layer again until it is perfect shades of tan and brown with only flecks of white coconut remaining.
Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 300 degrees.  When the coconut cools, 10 minutes or so, take out two shallow dishes or pie plates.  Place the egg in one dish, whisk egg and water together.  Place the toasted coconut in the second dish.  Dredge the fish into the egg wash and press into the coconut.  Coat both sides thoroughly.  Heat a 10 inch skillet on medium high.  Add the olive oil.  Once the oil is shimmering put each fillet in the pan.  It will only take 3 or 4 minutes per side depending on how thick your fillets are but fish cooks quickly.  Once cooked remove to a plate and place in your oven while you cook the sauce which only takes about 7 minutes more.  Wipe out the inside of the skillet with a paper towel removing the remaining oil and bits of coconut that fell off.  Still at medium high heat add the butter.  Once melted add the Malibu Rum, the lemon, the lemon zest and the cream.  Simmer for a few minutes.  Place the cornstarch in a small cup and add some of the liquid from the pan to warm and make slurry.  Once the cornstarch is incorporated in the liquid pour into the pan with the rest of the sauce and let simmer for a couple of minutes.  This will thicken the sauce.  Add the capers and a sprinkle of white pepper.  The sauce is done when it coats the back of a spoon.  Place the fish over a bed of rice and drizzle the sauce on top.
This is an extremely quick dish once you have the toasted coconut. I make toasted coconut for this dish plus some other desserts so I actually toast large batches and store it in Ziploc baggies.  DSCN0082[1]

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon Ice Cream

The premise of most food blogs is simple.  Daily posts singing the praises of delicious food.  The constant barrage that everything food related is whimsical, fun and easy.  The overall tone brims with positivity punctuated with a plethora of exclamation points demanding you try it; concludes with very pretty pictures.Warm Fall day

I plan on having pretty pictures. Not now but someday.  Today my photography fetish is on hold due to a learning curve of my new camera.  However, the rest of the time I have no intention of following the trends.  First off, I certainly cannot maintain a genuinely upbeat demeanor over everything food related.  After all, there is food shopping which happens to be the bane of my existence.  I love to cook. I HATE to shop.  Actually hate is not a strong enough word. It is my nemesis.

Mostly, I shop at the supermarket that is the cheapest, as does everyone else.  These trips don’t resemble anything they show you on TV.  No one is coming from a fashion shoot, smiling, recyclable bag in tow.  This is general population shopping represented by a diverse and often disgusting group.  Maybe you are lucky enough to have a similar bunch; the ‘still in my pj’s at four thirty in the afternoon’ shopper.  The ‘malodorous pervert whose rank aroma perfumes the air for two or more aisles’ shopper.  The ‘cough phlegm all over hands and touch every piece of fruit’ shopper.  The list goes on and on.   Someday, I will have the financial resources to have someone shop for me but in the meantime I am cursed.  Unhappily I traipse aisle to aisle, begging those shoppers who won’t release their terror grip from their half-filled carriages to please excuse me.

There are days when I’ve managed to make it relatively unscathed through the aisles but hardly ever through checkout with my mood intact. No matter my efforts at ordering the bagger around I leave lugging improperly filled grocery bags home only to be disappointed that those unblemished tomatoes I worried myself in picking out have been completely molested.  Those flawless bananas that traveled from El Salvador unblemished somehow can’t make the last 10 yards from my car to the kitchen without bumps and bruises.

At this point you may wonder why you should read on if I plan on telling long winded opinionated digressions that may have nothing to do with the recipe below it.  You are your own person and can certainly just scroll down the page to the recipe.  However, there will be a time, and probably soon, when you find yourself behind an inconsiderate shopper, that person who has no idea that anyone else exists, the person blocking the entire ice cream section hanging onto their unpaid groceries like a cart of gold.  You will be annoyed; you will think of me.  We will share a knowing glance.  Maybe it won’t happen at the store itself but when you go home to find your delicate items crushed beneath several large can of diced tomatoes; again you will think of me. I will call the inept bagger disgusting names on your behalf, expressions that will make a sailor blush.  Then there will be the day you come out to the parking lot to find three carts terrorizing your car like an unruly gang.  Right after you finish muttering your expletives you will think of me, ranting my own stream of obscenities in a far off supermarket and we will bond.  You will remember this rant and know that you are not alone.

I cannot promise a site oozing with nothing but positivity but I can promise a bit of honesty, the occasional voice of dissent and delicious recipes.  Make sure you have these ingredients on your next shopping list and try this ice cream.  It is heaven on earth.                                                             Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Lisa

I experimented with the number of cinnamon sticks and found less is more

I experimented with the number of cinnamon sticks and found less is more

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Quick Note – Use both cinnamon sticks as well as ground cinnamon.  The sticks add a spicy heat and a layer of depth that you wouldn’t get with just the ground spice.
Making ice cream doesn’t require special skills as much as it requires patience. No matter how fantastic it smells resign yourself to the fact that you may make it today but will enjoy tomorrow.
1 ½ cup whole milk
1 ½ cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
4 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
¼ teaspoon vanilla

3 egg yolks

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the milk, cream, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan.  Slowly bring to a simmer while continually stirring the mixture with a heat proof spatula.  Plan on a little patience in this process, you don’t want to scald the milk. Continue to cook the cream mixture for about 10-15 minutes.   In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks completely.  Take a measuring cup and scoop out some of the hot cream mixture and stream it ever so slowly into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time.  It is important to do this slowly so you don’t curdle the eggs.  This warms the eggs so you can now take that eggy cream and stream it back into the saucepan.  Add the vanilla.  Stir in the cinnamon.  Lower the heat on the stove.  The mixture should barely bubble.  Continue to stir and cook this mixture until it coats the back of a spoon. This is your custard base.
Take off the heat and plunge the entire saucepan into a larger bowl filled with ice.  Keep the saucepan in the ice bath and occasionally stir for 15 minutes or so.  Remove the cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and discard them.  Chill this mixture in the refrigerator.  (I personally have worked myself into a frenzy by this point and want to hurry up and put it in the ice cream maker already but it will really make your life so much easier to chill the cream thoroughly.  Trust me.)
Take the mixture out of the fridge once chilled and freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Pina Colada Recipe For Your Summer Vacation

Pina Colada Recipe For Your Summer Vacation

Pina Colada- The ideal summer refreshment

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Nothing says summer vacation like a frozen Pina Colada. To me, this drink is intrinsically linked with Disney World and my Dad. During my teenage years, our family Disney trip occurred for two weeks in July. For those of you who have never visited Florida in July it is the equivalent of walking on the sun. Heat takes on an entirely different definition.

Our routine was pretty simple. Day:Pool. Night:Park. My mother and I would roll out of bed and flop onto beach chairs by the pool. We proceeded to roast our skin until the afternoon thundershowers or 4pm, whichever came first. My father worked nights so he slept through the morning into the early afternoon. My Dad, the man who never wore shorts in my lifetime, would get dressed in his daily attire of black dress shoes, black socks, black belt, tan dress pants and a button down shirt. Short sleeve of course, it was summer after all.

His route would be routine as well. Strolling from the hotel room, down the elevator, across the hippopotamus ballerina shaped hedges to the pool bar. He would order one frozen Pina Colada. The vision of a grown man, fully dressed passing partially naked sun worshiper sipping an umbrella topped drink still accompanies my first sip. He bought that drink for me, his under aged daughter. He would always steal a sip or two then pass that frozen glass of coconut heaven to me. I would spend the next 10 minutes cooling down, one brain freeze at a time. If this transpired today my father would be arrested for child abuse but thankfully it was long ago, in a galaxy far far away.

I’m still one to enjoy a frozen Pina Colada by the pool. During that last heat wave I wanted to wash down my morning multivitamin with one but refrained. Honestly, I worried more about the calorie content than the alcohol content.
In the spirit of summer vacations I plan on celebrating with the perfect Pina Colada. You should too.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

The Perfect Pina Colada

Fill the blender with ice just up to the top, Add 1/2 can of Cream of Coconut, 3 oz pineapple juice and 4 oz of coconut rum ( or light rum).  It will look like there isn’t enough liquid but there is.  Blend until all the ice is incorporated.  Add straw and sip away.

 

 

 

Blackberry Brandy Sauce

Blackberry Brandy Sauce

10 oz frozen blackberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons blackberry brandy
1 tablespoon sugar if needed

Place all the ingredients minus the sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until the frozen berries are thawed and broken up.  Put the mixture into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Be careful because the heat of the liquid can cause the top of the blender to pop off spraying blackberry sauce all over the kitchen.  Please keep a hand on

the blender while whirring.  Taste. The liquor adds sweetness but the sauce shouldn’t be unusually sweet. Sometime different berries are more tart than others so if you need the sugar add it now and pulse into the mixture.  Pour through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Press all the liquid out with a spatula. This step is necessary otherwise the seeds will ruin the texture of the final product.  Discard the seeds and refrigerate until needed.  Spoon over individual slices of cheesecake.

This sauce is also phenomenal over good vanilla ice cream.

New York Style Cheesecake

New York Style Cheesecake

1 lb ricotta cheese                    ½ tsp lemon juice
2 pkg (8oz ea) cream cheese                ½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup white granulated sugar                3 tblsp corn starch
4 whole large eggs                    3 tblsp flour
1 pint sour cream                    ¼ cup melted butter
10” Spring form pan – buttered

This recipe is far from having any difficulties; it just requires time and patience.  If you can manage those two things you will be heavily rewarded.
Do NOT preheat the oven.
All ingredients should be at room temperature with the exception of the sour cream, leave that in the fridge until folding into the cake.  With a hand mixer, blend the ricotta cheese and cream cheese well.  Blend in sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated.  Add vanilla, lemon juice, cornstarch, flour and butter.  Mix well, and when I say mix well this mixture should be so blended it could be poured in a glass to drink.  It takes a bit of patience and probably a full 7 -10 minutes of beating with a mixer.  Fold in sour cream until there is no distinct white trail of the sour cream.
I have a love/hate relationship with the spring form pan.  Love it because you just lift it off your cake.  Ta Da!  Hate it because it wants to leak unless it is put together properly and even then it still wants to seep out liquid into the oven.  I always put it together, take it apart, put it back together and repeat until I am positive it is on correctly and then I place it on a large piece of aluminum foil and crunch the foil around the underneath just in case a bit of liquid seeps out.
Pour the perfectly blended batter into a 10” buttered spring form pan.  Just like the Chinese restaurants warn. No substitutions!  Do not substitute Pam or other spray, the pan needs to be buttered, no way around that fact.  Also, butter each piece of the pan individually.
Place in cold oven.  Turn heat to 325 degrees.  Bake for one hour.  Timer.  One hour.  Exactly.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!!!!  ALL CAPS!  YES, I AM YELLING AT YOU!  DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR!  Your cheesecake wants to crack, desperately.  Do not open the oven door while cooking under any circumstances. No peeking while it’s cooling, remember that curiosity killed the cat and cracks cheesecakes.  Leave it alone.   Turn off the heat but leave the cheesecake in the oven until all the heat has dissipated, probably a MINIMUM (yes more shouting) of two hours.  Chill cake for another 4 hours before serving.
Now you may be wondering, where is the crust?  This cheesecake is crustless by design and lacks nothing because of it.  I have, at the request of my hubby, made the same recipe with the traditional graham cracker crust.  If you decide at some point to try it with a crust make sure it is thin along the bottom and up the sides.  This batter fills the pan.  If you have the benefit of a see through oven door you will see this cake rises and then kind of settles back down.  A really thick crust will cause spillage.  Cooking and baking brings enormous amounts of pleasure.  Cleaning cheesecake batter off the bottom of your oven does not.
Now for decades I served this cheesecake with the very traditional strawberry topping.  Over the years I have experimented with dozens of cheesecake recipes and found a recipe for a blackberry sauce that I think is to die for.  So now I offer both strawberries for the traditionalists and this for me.  The original recipe was out of a Nick Stelino cookbook and was paired with an orange flower walnut encrusted cheesecake. I have altered the blackberry sauce a bit and infused it with blackberry brandy.

Desserts First

Desserts First

Desserts First, The Cheesecake Obsession

When I say that my mother was obsessively clean I am speaking about the OCD type compulsion where it was a sin to walk on the carpets of the house. “I just vacuumed and your putting FOOTPRINTS ON THE VACUUM LINES!” compulsive.

As you can imagine, a woman who slaved to maintain carpet crop circles did not appreciate crumbs on the counter.  She incessantly screamed about not wanting anything on the countertops, items such as bowls, knives or measuring cups.  I rebelled by persistently trying to bake.  Beginning around the tender age of ten I craved to measure and mix. At my neighbor’s house I was drawn to the sounds of the kitchen by clinking pans and the whir of the classic hand mixer. I was enchanted by the notion that you could cream together butter, sugar and eggs until the house was filled with the scent of cookies or cake. My mother was distraught by my never ending request to create confectionaries. I was prohibited from this calorie infused, mess inducing activity unless there was a family birthday looming.

New York Cheesecake

New York Cheesecake

By the time I discovered the power of the recipe our kitchen dichotomy was cemented in place. Since I loved to read, those instructions were the magic wand I discovered so distinctly in the seventh grade. What happened in the seventh grade?  A local cheesecake shop shut their doors.  Maybe more accurately they decided to take their boatful of cheesecake scented cash and head to the Bahamas for much deserved R&R but never-the-less….the heavily guarded recipe made its way from a woman who previously worked at the shop to our neighbor.  This neighbor was my friend’s mom who loved to bake.  She promptly made the cheesecake and all of the adults I knew ate it slowly, moaning and rolling their eyes back with every bite. Someone would mutter, ‘it’s so rich” and then someone else would counter “yes but so light.”

This recipe was given to my mother, who wasn’t going to take the time let alone wreak havoc on the counter with containers required to make said cheesecake.  Therefore, the next birthday was my opportunity to recreate the recipe.  I followed the recipe as if it were instructions to undetonate a bomb, which means I followed it down to the letter.  The result was a dessert so smooth and delicious that everyone who ate it argued there was no way I had made it…. it was too good.  For decades, this was my go to recipe when I was required to bring a dish to a party or work event.  When I needed to impress my soon to be in-laws, I confidently placed this cheesecake on the Thanksgiving table and awaited the accolades.

I freely admit I am obsessed with the little high that comes from providing so much pleasure in a forkful of food.  That swell of pride is where my lifelong addiction with baking began.  As with any true compulsion the more I was prohibited from doing it the more desirable it became, so as an adult I bake ferociously as I am free to do so.  Additionally, I spill silky flour and drop bits of sugar recklessly onto my counters as I do it.
I have never calmed the urge to bake so I tend to do it often.  I bake to relax, to share and to enjoy. Eventually as I began cooking as an adult the baking obsession morphed into a full blown cooking habit.

When I decided to write about incorporating liquors into food, liquor laced desserts were easy to come by.  People have been infusing liquor with desserts for hundreds of years.  The realm of baking with liquor and spirits is so established that you can open any of your existing cookbooks and find rum, Grand Marnier and amaretto lurking in existing recipes. While getting organized I found I had to specifically stop writing down fantastic ideas for liquored up desserts because I was beginning to amass an encyclopedia.  I continue to bring my focus to provide a well rounded guide to adding spirits to all areas of the menu, from appetizer through dessert.  However, since baking was my first love in the kitchen and the above mentioned cheesecake was my first success, I feel compelled to begin my website with the dessert that started it all for me.

Cheesecake with Strawberries

Cheesecake with Strawberries

New York Style Cheesecake

1 lb ricotta cheese                                      ½ tsp lemon juice
2 pkg (8oz ea) cream cheese                   ½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup white granulated sugar             3 tblsp corn starch
4 whole large eggs                                     3 tblsp flour
1 pint sour cream                                       ¼ cup melted butter

10” Spring form pan – buttered

This recipe is far from having any difficulties; it just requires time and patience.  If you can manage those two things you will be heavily rewarded.Do NOT preheat the oven.All ingredients should be at room temperature with the exception of the sour cream, leave that in the fridge until folding into the cake.

With a hand mixer, blend the ricotta cheese and cream cheese well.  Blend in sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated.  Add vanilla, lemon juice, cornstarch, flour and butter.  Mix well, and when I say mix well this mixture should be so blended it could be poured in a glass to drink.  It takes a bit of patience and probably a full 7 -10 minutes of beating with a mixer.  Fold in sour cream until there is no distinct white trail of the sour cream.

I have a love/hate relationship with the spring form pan.  Love it because you just lift it off your cake.  Viola!  Hate it because it wants to leak unless it is put together properly and even then it still wants to seep out liquid into the oven.  I always put it together, take it apart, put it back together and repeat until I am positive it is on correctly and then I place it on a large piece of aluminum foil and crunch the foil around the underneath just in case a bit of liquid seeps out.

Pour the perfectly blended batter into a 10” buttered spring form pan.  Just like the Chinese restaurants warn. No substitutions!  Do not substitute Pam or other spray, the pan needs to be buttered, no way around that fact.  Also, butter each piece of the pan individually.
Place in cold oven.  Turn heat to 325 degrees.  Bake for one hour.  Timer.  One hour.  Exactly.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!!!!  ALL CAPS!  YES, I AM YELLING AT YOU!  DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR!  Your cheesecake wants to crack, desperately.  Do not open the oven door while cooking under any circumstances. No peeking while it’s cooling, remember that curiosity killed the cat and cracks cheesecakes.  Leave it alone.   Turn off the heat but leave the cheesecake in the oven until all the heat has dissipated, probably a MINIMUM (yes more shouting) of two hours.  Chill cake for another 4 hours before serving.

Now you may be wondering, where is the crust?  This cheesecake is crustless by design and lacks nothing because of it.  I have, at the request of my hubby, made the same recipe with the traditional graham cracker crust.  If you decide at some point to try it with a crust make sure it is thin along the bottom and up the sides.  This batter fills the pan.  If you have the benefit of a see through oven door you will see this cake rises and then kind of settles back down.  A really thick crust will cause spillage.  Cooking and baking brings enormous amounts of pleasure.  Cleaning cheesecake batter off the bottom of your oven does not.

Now for decades I served this cheesecake with the very traditional strawberry topping.  Over the years I have experimented with dozens of cheesecake recipes and found a recipe for a blackberry sauce that I think is to die for.  So now I offer both strawberries for the traditionalists and this for me.  The original recipe was out of a Nick Stelino cookbook and was paired with an orange flower walnut encrusted cheesecake. I have altered the blackberry sauce a bit and infused it with blackberry brandy.

Blackberry Brandy Sauce

10 oz frozen blackberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons blackberry brandy
1 tablespoon sugar if needed

Place all the ingredients minus the sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until the frozen berries are thawed and broken up.  Put the mixture into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Be careful because the heat of the liquid can cause the top of the blender to pop off spraying blackberry sauce all over the kitchen.  Please keep a hand on the blender while whirring.  Taste. The liquor adds sweetness but the sauce shouldn’t be unusually sweet. Sometime different berries are more tart than others so if you need the sugar add it now and pulse into the mixture.  Pour through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Press all the liquid out with a spatula. This step is necessary otherwise the seeds will ruin the texture of the final product.  Discard the seeds and refrigerate until needed.  Spoon over individual slices of cheesecake.

This sauce is also phenomenal over good vanilla ice cream.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry,
Lisa