Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cape Cod Potato Chip Codfish

Cape Cod Potato Chip Codfish
I recently spent five days at my favorite place in the world: Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I am extremely lucky that my wonderful grandparents bought a modest vacation home in Harwich, MA back in the 1970s and the house is still owned by my family, namely my parents and my Aunt.  There is only one summer of my life (when I spent 6 weeks in Italy, so no complaints there) that I haven't spent at least a week, if not more, vacationing at the home.  One of the best parts about visiting the family homestead is seeing my kids enjoying the same things that I did thirty years ago with my brother.  They are developing the same love and appreciation for and building memories of the place that brought me so much joy as a child.

It wasn't until this last visit, over Easter weekend with just my husband and the two kids, when I realized how much I still don't know about the area.  My husband had to spend a great portion of the weekend working on the computer, so it was up to me to drive everywhere and keep the kids occupied without just relying on the beach (it was a bit cold and windy).  I honestly have never driven alone that much before at Cape Cod and it was like I was rediscovering the whole place as an adult.  I swear I could never get tired of it's pure beauty and totally understand what drew my grandparents to the area so many years ago.

As a child, one of my favorite non beach places to visit was the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory where you can literally peer down onto the factory floor and see the chips being made from start to finish.  It is really fun to see, and of course it smells amazing in there and you get free samples at the end.  We took my son there a few years ago and of course we need to make another trip soon for my chip loving daughter.  However, being a health food junky, I don't often let myself indulge.  But my parents had been at the house just days before we arrived so they thoughtfully left a jumbo family size bag of original Cape Cod chips.

Obviously, we could have eaten them straight from the bag without a problem, and did that with our lunch a few days, and on a hike at the Cape Cod National Seashore, which made me laugh because it seemed so perfect and so wrong at the same time... (junk food while exercising?) The second day we were there however, I was washing dishes and thinking of my grandpa and trying to decide what kind of fish to cook for dinner when the idea hit me.... what if I use chips instead of ritz crackers for the traditional codfish combination that my grandpa loved so much?  I had brought a bit of thai red chili paste with me from home with the intention of sauteing some shrimp in it, but I scratched that idea as this recipe formed in my head.  I did look up online to see if anyone had used chips as breading on fish before, and like I suspected, I am not the first.  But the rest of the recipe is all mine.  And without going into too much unnecessary description, let me assure you that this meal tasted even better than it looked.  Honestly one of the best meals, and best fish dishes I have ever had.  And it was purely, perfectly, Cape Cod.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mini Almond Cupcakes

Mini Almond Cupcakes
Happy Easter everyone!  Aren't these treats cute?  I made them for an Easter party at the gym daycare where I work out, and although kids can be picky about anything that isn't a brightly colored cupcake or a chocolate cookie, I know that a few smart kids, and a bunch of adults, enjoyed these mini cupcakes.  To be honest, they are my second attempt using almond flour, since my first try came out a little odd*, and although I always eat what I make no matter how strange looking it turns out, I was happy when I peeked into the oven this time around and saw perfect little cupcakes forming. The trick is in the combination of almond and coconut flours that I used which makes a perfectly light, moist and intensely flavorful cake.  This recipe made enough for 24 mini cupcakes as well as a 9- inch cake, so although I brought most of the minis to the party, I was able to enjoy the whole cake at home with my husband, over the course of a few days.  And it was honestly one of the best, non chocolate, treats I have ever had.  I definitely plan to make it again, probably for my birthday next month, in the form of a three layer strawberry shortcake recipe.  Stay tuned for more ideas!! And Happy Easter 2014!!!!

* photos of my slightly disastrous first attempt are displayed at the bottom of the page.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Whole Wheat Tropical Cupcakes

Whole Wheat Tropical Cupcakes
I am always on the search for a healthier cupcake recipe that will provide a few nutritious ingredients while still feeling like a treat.  My daughter loves cupcakes, but since I try to turn even the most healthful of muffins into "cupcakes" by adding a layer of peanut butter or cream cheese on top, she doesn't really trust me anymore.  So imagine her surprise when I made these and they really do taste like cupcakes. Granted they are a bit hearty since they are made with all whole wheat flour, so if your family is pickier than mine or not used to whole grain texture, you could definitely use half white flour as well.  I just try to stay away from simple carbohydrates as much as possible and leave treats like that to occasions when I am not in control of the baking process (like a friend's birthday party or an event at school, etc...)

Instead of the usual butter and sugar used in most cake recipes, I opted for organic virgin coconut oil and raw honey.  Not only do they add an intense tropical flavor, but they provide hidden nutrients that you would not expect in a cupcake.  Coconut oil* has been shown to boost the immune system, aid in weight loss, digestion, blood sugar regulation and the maintenance of a healthy level of cholesterol, among other things.  It is a saturated fat and as such, should be used sparingly, but as someone who does not consume a large amount of saturated fat often found in animal and dairy products, I consider it a vital part of my everyday diet.  Raw honey, which I don't use very often since it is quite expensive, is one of the healthiest sweeteners available.  It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties while providing a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and phytonutrients.  Of course regular honey, maple syrup, or even plain white organic sugar could be used in place of the raw honey, if desired.

I made these for a bake sale at my daughter's preschool because as an avid baker it is hard to say no when asked for donations.  But all too often I have seen my healthful treats (usually made with expensive organic ingredients) get passed over for brightly colored cupcakes and old fashioned chocolate chip cookies.  I just can't bring myself to make something that I wouldn't normally serve my own family.  I added the Nutella frosting and the chocolate eggs on top in the hopes of attracting kids and I think they were my most successful sale yet.  I just hope that everyone who purchased one enjoyed them as much as my family and I did.  And I can rest assured that I helped to add a slight nutritional boost to someone's afternoon snack.


* http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/organic-coconut-oil/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil.html  
* http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil