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Toasted Coconut Muesli

10 Dec

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I can hardly believe that half of my sophomore year is already over. It seems like just yesterday that I was hopping on a plane to New York for my summer internship, and now I am already sending out applications for next summer. It’s been a while since I have contributed to this space, and for good reason. This past semester was filled with exciting new projects and responsibilities, a packed class schedule, and time spent trying to find my niche on campus. I certainly haven’t forgotten about Let’s Live La Vida, but it has taken a back seat in the past few months.

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With any creative endeavor, it is so important to expose yourself to new perspectives and ways of capturing a subject. I have wrestled with DSLR photography for years, vacillating in my approach while never being entirely satisfied with the results.

I recently spent an afternoon with my uncle Avo, an excellent photographer with a very organic style, to observe his approach towards food photography. His creative spontaneity is the perfectly foil to my fastidious and careful manner. I knew working with him would allow me to depart from my perfectionist mentality.

While I have always tried to display food in its simplest form, my uncle showed me how to let the subject speak for itself. Rather than fuss with styling minutia, vibrant color and light are all you need to create a beautiful and intriguing image.

I picked up my camera again this morning and applied some of my newfound skills. Megan Gordon, author of the lovely breakfast cookbook Whole Grain Mornings, introduced me to this recipe for toasted coconut muesli. A lighter, less oily version of granola, muesli has become a staple in my pantry. I love that it is not too sweet, with just the right amount of crunch to liven up a bowl of yogurt.

Recipe barely adapted from Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon

Megan recommends stirring in the dried mango once the muesli has cooled on the baking sheet. To prevent the dried fruit from getting too hard, I like to mix it in separately for each serving. 

  • 2 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup dried mango or other dried fruit of choice (optional)

Yields about 3 cups.

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss together the rolled oats, wheat bran, coconut, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt.

2. Heat the coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan over low heat until warmed. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until everything is evenly coated. Spread evenly across the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on baking sheet. Stir in dried fruit, if using.

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Bill Granger’s Coconut Bread

17 May

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Certain meals occupy a special place in my heart, not simply because of delicious food, but the memories that accompany these experiences. When my family and I traveled to Australia last year, we visited a Sydney breakfast institution called Bills.

Bill Granger, the restaurant’s owner and a prominent Aussie chef and cookbook author, emphasizes a fresh and easy-going approach to cooking. For breakfast, Bills specialties include silky scrambled eggs, cloud-like ricotta pancakes topped with bananas and honeycomb butter, and organic sourdough toast smothered with fruit preserves. Other than being one of the tastiest breakfasts I’ve ever had, Bills’s bustling, light-filled atmosphere and welcoming service encapsulated my trip to Australia.

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While Bills offers a short and simple menu, every dish was masterfully executed using high-quality ingredients. My family and I each ordered the famous scrambled eggs (there’s a reason the New York Times crowned Granger the “Egg Master of Sydney”), and selected this coconut bread as a sweet complement.

Despite its humble description, this loaf boasts rich coconut flavor and a tender, sturdy crumb. While it is wonderful enjoyed plain, Bills serves it grilled, cut in thick slabs, with a dollop of butter and honey on the side. Best of all, every bite transports me to that sunny morning spent in a foreign country, enjoying vibrant, unfussy food with the people I love.

Recipe courtesy of the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 tblsp unsalted butter, melted or melted and browned, if desired
  • Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.

3. Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies with Coconut and Dates

24 Jan

If you search “perfect oatmeal cookie” on Google, you will find millions of unique renditions on the classic recipe. Perfect means something different to everyone. Your personality, tastes, and interests influence your idea of a perfect date, concert, or meal, for example.

Generally, I find that cookie connoisseurs are divided into two groups: thin and crispy versus soft, thick, and chewy. These oatmeal sandwich cookies fall right in the middle–subtly crunchy and golden on the outside with a soft, almost fluffy center. The brown sugar lends a deep butterscotch flavor, spiced up with the addition of coconut flakes and chopped dates. When sandwiched together with a tangy mascarpone filling, these oatmeal cookies become a grown-up version of a favorite childhood snack.

 Recipe barely adapted from The New York Times

This recipe yields fairly large cookies. If you prefer more manageable, bite-sized sandwiches, I suggest scooping rounded teaspoons of dough.

  • 3/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tblsp honey
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tblsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 5 tblsp granulated sugar

For the filling:

  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tblsp mascarpone cheese
  • 3 tbslp confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Yields about 36 cookies; 18 sandwiches.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread coconut flakes on a non-stick skillet. Over medium heat, toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly colored and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until light. Gradually add the brown sugar and honey, then beat until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl when necessary. Beat in vanilla.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and 1 tsp cinnamon. With the mixer set on low, beat flour mixture into butter mixture until just combined. Beat in oats, dates and toasted coconut.

4. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir together granulated sugar and remaining 2 tsp cinnamon. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, then roll balls in cinnamon sugar; transfer to baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between dough balls. For smaller cookies, reduce the size of the balls.

5. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Make the filling: Using the electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in mascarpone, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl. Sandwich about 1 tablespoon of filling between two cookies; repeat with the remaining filling and cookies.

Chocolate-Coconut Sheet Cake

21 Jan

When I walked into the library on Friday, I spotted the February issue of Martha Stewart Living on the magazine shelf, and decided to actively procrastinate for a few minutes. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I stumbled upon the Valentine’s Day, all-chocolate dessert spread. Imagine a page covered in silky chocolate, entitled “Truly Madly Deeply,” staring at you as you prepare to buckle down and write an English self-assessment- now that’s a real distraction. But I couldn’t resist the temptation to peruse the recipes, and this chocolate-coconut sheet cake immediately caught my attention. I’m sure you can guess how I ended up spending my Friday night. 😉

Chocolate and coconut are two of my favorite ingredients, and together, well the photo speaks for itself. This is the moistest, most deeply chocolatey cake I have ever made. Buttermilk and brewed coffee are key, and premium Dutch-process cocoa powder accounts for the cake’s rich, almost midnight black color. Taste-wise, every bite is straight out of dessert heaven. Each forkful contains three layers: wisps of tender coconut shavings on top, the fudgey, almost gooey center, and the phenomenal, aromatic cake. I probably sound a bit strange as I passionately describe this baked good as though it has a life of its own, but it’s the weekend before mid-terms, and what’s a girl with a sweet tooth to do? 

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients 
For the cake:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*, plus more for dish 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
1 1/2 tsp baking soda 
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk**
3/4 cup warm, strong brewed coffee
3 tblsp safflower oil (I used olive oil)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 

For the topping:
1 stick plus 2 tblsp unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar 
6 tblsp unsweetened cocoa powder 
3 cups finely shredded, dried, unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup warm, strong brewed coffee 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; line the bottom and two long sides with parchment, leaving an overhang. Butter parchment, and dust with cocoa powder. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Gather flour mixture into a mound, and create a well in center. Pour eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla into well, and whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth. Pour batter into dish, and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake until set, about 25 minutes. Even if the center looks a bit fudgey, it will continue cooking once you remove it from the oven. It is key not to overcook it. 
2. To make the topping, melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Sift confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and coconut in a large bowl; combine with a spoon. Stir coffee and vanilla into melted butter, and pour over coconut mixture. Stir to combine, and immediately spread evenly over warm cake. Let the cake cool completely on wire rack.

*I recommend using Dutch-process cocoa powder, if you wish to achieve a darker color and richer chocolate flavor. However, natural cocoa works fine as well. Here is a link to a photo that demonstrates the contrast between a cake made with Dutch-process versus natural cocoa. David Lebovitz also has a wonderfully detailed post that explains the differences between the two kinds. 
**If you do not have buttermilk on hand, not to worry! You can make your own simply by measuring out 3/4 cup of milk and adding the juice from half a lemon to it. Let the milk sit for a few minutes until it curdles on the top, and you are ready to go. 

Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars

22 Sep

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is 

Ingredients 

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut 
1/2 cup raw sliced almonds 
1/2 cup raw whole almonds, coarsely chopped 
1/4 cup flaxseed 
3 tblsp whole wheat flour 
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1/3 cup packed coconut oil 
1/3 cup honey 
1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks 

Makes 8-12 bars, depending on how big you cut them. 


1.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line an 8×8 square pan with parchment paper. 

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, shredded coconut, flour, flaxseed, sliced almonds, chopped almonds, salt, and chocolate chunks, mixing very thoroughly until combined. In a small bowl, combine honey and coconut oil, microwaving on high power for 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each increment, until coconut oil is melted. Stir vanilla extract into coconut oil mixture, then pour the entire mix over the dry ingredients.

3. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir until all of the ingredients are evenly coated in the coconut oil. Press the dough into the pan, pressing with the back of the spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature before placing them in the refrigerator for an hour to harden. Remove from the fridge and cut into squares. Serve immediately, or return them to the fridge for later consumption.
Now that reality has sunk in and school is in full swing, every day is a race from one class to the next, onto the yellow bus to tennis matches, and finally back home where I glue myself to a chair for long, treacherous hours of homework. In order to maintain my health and sanity in this crazy whirlwind of a schedule, I need snacks. And not just your run-of-the-mill sliced apples or suspiciously neon orange “flavor blasted” goldfish, but a hearty, satisfying, and delicious item that I can eat on the go. Enter Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars- a nutty, chocolatey, oat-y treat that is both satisfying and good for you. These trump my favorite store-bought granola bars in both flavor and freshness. They’re made from whole ingredients you can find in your pantry and that are easy to pronounce, unlike the mystery products listed on the backs of many wrappers. As hectic as my life has become in the past month, escaping to this nutritious homemade snack gives me the right boost of energy to keep going.