Grilled Stuffed Peppers {Whole30 Compliant}

Happy Monday, my friends! I am just finishing up my first Whole30, and I know some people who are getting ready to start one for July, so it seems like the perfect time to share more Whole30 compliant recipes!

Paleo stuffed peppersSo last week I shared a really simple and delicious red sauce- seriously, I make that at least one a week and use it for all kinds of things! Today I’m sharing how I use it in Grilled Stuffed Peppers. For anyone who is not trying to be Whole30 compliant, please feel free to use sausage from the grocery- it’s delicious and you can skip the seasoning process. For anyone that is really sticking to the letter of Whole30 and wants to avoid super-processed meat, you can follow the directions below.

PAleo stuffed peppers 2015These Grilled Stuffed Peppers are perfect for an easy dinner, particularly if you’ve already made the sauce. They’re also good when you have helpers in the kitchen for stuffing, and since the sausage is cooked when you put it in the peppers, you don’t have to worry about anyone handling raw meat. Plus, they’re made with tiny peppers, and everything in miniature is delicious! Seriously, though, the tiny peppers help to balance the meat and veggies, so this dish is an all-around healthy one. I hope you enjoy!

Grilled Stuffed Peppers

  • 1 pound ground pork (or sausage, but skip the seasonings if so!)
  • ¼ sweet yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp fennel
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste!)
  • Salt
  • A bag of mini bell peppers
  • 1 batch of red sauce
  • ½ cup parmasean cheese (optional, not Whole30)

Prep: Chop the onion and garlic pretty finely.  Rinse the peppers, remove the tops and scrape out any seeds. We’ll also blanch the peppers at this step, so they soften. To do that, just bring a pot of water to boil and drop the peppers in a few at a time for 2 minutes each. Remove the peppers, drain, and let cool.

Sausage: In a good sized mixing bowl, knead together the pork, onion, garlic and all seasonings. Wash your hands, then heat a skillet to medium high and cook until just barely browned- don’t overcook the meat here. Salt to taste (I like about two healthy pinches of kosher salt), then add ½-1 cup of sauce to the meat; this will help it stick together.

Assemble peppers: once things are cool enough to handle, stuff the peppers with the meat and sauce mixture- you want them stuffed firmly, so everything stays in, but not so much that they split. It may take a few peppers to find the balance, but don’t worry about it- once everything is covered in sauce they’ll be awesome!

Finish: when all the peppers are stuffed to can start grilling. I make these on a grill pan when I’m cooking inside, or on the veggie section of my grill outside (it has smaller holes). Heat either cooking vessel to medium high and sear the peppers on all sides, until they gain some color. Everything is cooked at this point, so you’re really just heating things through and finishing the peppers. Serve with extra sauce and some more cheese, if that’s something you’re eating. Enjoy!

Bacon, Sweet Potato and Kale Hash (Whole 30 compliant)

I know I started with my red sauce recipe yesterday and promised to show you ways I use it, and I will! But as we go into the weekend, I wanted to first share this breakfast dish. I was a little apprehensive my first Whole 30 weekend- during the week I’m too busy to really care if I can’t be creative in the kitchen. The weekends, though, are a completely different story. Weekends for me are food time- I like to find new recipes, make elaborate meals, and share delicious desserts with friends and family (you all know how much I love Sunday baking for the fire station!). I was really worried that a Whole 30 lifestyle would strip my weekends of food pleasure, leaving behind only eggs and some fruit cups for brunch.

Sweet potato hashOh, but I was wrong…so very wrong. One of my friends pinned this Whole30 compliant sweet potato hash from the Food Network, and my brain immediately starting thinking of ways to improve it. My first thought was that it needed something to balance the sweet from the apples and yams- I love sauted greens, so I thought that kale would be a good option here. From there, I nixed a few ingredients, adjusted the cooking method, and topped it with some fried eggs. What I ended up with was a really amazing breakfast that I’ve made several times, with a few variations.

A few notes: first, I don’t actually like sweet potatoes. I didn’t before, I mean, and I don’t know if I love them now. In this hash, though, with the bacon and kale, they seemed less sweet and more like roasted potatoes- so good! Second, one of my best tips for Whole 30 is to find some compliant bacon! You need to get fat in every meal, and bacon was a great start for many of by breakfasts. Compliant bacon is sugar free, which is hard to find, but I’ve had luck at Whole Foods and specialty groceries. Alternately, you could skip the bacon and use olive oil for a veggie version…then you just miss the delicious bacon essence :)Apple sweet potato hash 2In terms of ease, this breakfast came together in about 30 minutes- the cast iron really helped the potatoes along! It was also a great brunch item that guests loved, without thinking that it was weird diet food. An overall delicious win, in my book!

Sweet Potato and Kale Hash

  • 3 slices bacon
  • ½ sweet onion
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 3 cups kale
  • Salt and pepper, maybe red pepper flakes, maybe some garlic
  • Eggs, if you’d like

Prep: dice the onion into a medium-ish dice, then cut the (un-peeled for potassium) sweet potato and granny smith apple into about ½ inch cubes. Rinse and chop the kale into bit sized pieces. Finally, slice the bacon into narrow strips (I saved this for last so you don’t get bacon juice all over your knife and cutting board).

Hash: heat a cast iron pan to about medium. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, stirring as needed. Remove the bacon from the pan, but leave as much grease as you can- this will help roast everything else. Add the onion to the pan and cook for about two minutes, or until it starts taking on some color. Add the sweet potato, sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt, toss to coat, then cover and cook for about ten minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the apple and the kale. At this point, add about ¼ cup of water and cover the pan for three to four minutes- this will help finish cooking the potatoes and will steam the kale. Remove the lid and check the potatoes- they should be fork tender. If they’re not, cover again with a lid and keep cooking. If they are tender, season to taste (I add garlic to everything, so now is when I would add a clove or two, chopped) and serve hot. If this is your entire meal, think about topping with a fried egg for protein. Enjoy!

Delicious Simple Red Sauce (Whole30 Compliant)

Friends! I mentioned starting Whole 30 in my last Wellness Wednesday post, then immediately fell off the face of the Earth. The thing is, I didn’t really want to talk a lot about it up front, in case I did a terrible job and stopped committing, like, a week in. Here I am, though- almost through Week 4 and going so strong! Just five more days, and my Whole 30 is complete.

{its like hearing angels singing}

So I’ve successfully committed and I’ve seen some great results- I’ll talk more about those next week. What I want to do today is start to share some recipes that have played a big role in my diet lately. (In case you’re wondering, my Whole 30 strategy was very basic- I counted on about a half a dozen basic recipes, with slight variations, to get me through my first time).

Easiest Red SauceToday’s recipe is my Simple Red Sauce (which I’ve been making for years, well before I was even aware of Whole 30). Italian food is one of my comfort foods, and I really wanted to find a way to integrate parts of what I already love into my program menu. I also knew that if I changed too radically, it would just feel like a temporary diet, and not something sustainable. So this red sauce was really key to keeping my food familiar, interesting, and still really healthy.

This recipe has 4-5 ingredients, so it’s pretty simple (perfect for non-chefs!). When you cook with that few ingredients, you really need to make sure to use the best quality you can find and afford. For that reason, I strongly urge you to find some San Marzano whole tomatoes. They’re about $4 for the can, compared something like $1.60 for store brand, but they seriously make a world of difference in the flavor (I know, because I spent so long saying that it was silly to pay extra when the store brand was probably comparable- it’s not). You can usually find these either by the pasta sauce, or in the international foods aisle.

Easiest red sauce2

A few more common questions- why buy whole tomatoes? Because a cooking instructor once shared that they’re better quality than diced or pureed, because you can see exactly what you’re working with, so now that’s what I do. And it doesn’t really take that long to blend them. And why make your own sauce? Because why not? Seriously, though, most tomato sauces have added sugar and other preservatives and weird things. Whole 30 is all about eating as close to nature as you can, so I like my food to be as unprocessed as possible. Short of using actual, ripe tomatoes, this is as good as it gets for sauce…and its pretty good. Just saying :)

Basic Red Sauce

  • ½ sweet yellow onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (optional, I guess)
  • Olive oil
  • 28 oz can san marzano tomatoes
  • Kosher salt

Prep: Dice your onion to your specifications- I go between a fine dice and a rough chop, depending on how I’m using my sauce. Mince your garlic finely (or use squeeze garlic- seriously, that’s one place I don’t blame you for cutting corners). Empty the tomatoes into the blender and pulse a few times until you have a consistency that you like.

Sauce: heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide sauce pan. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and cook on medium or medium low for about 7 minutes, stirring occassionally. You want to onions to get translucent, and start to take on color very slowly- that’s how they start to caramelize and add amazing flavor to the sauce. After 7 or 8 minutes, add the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes on relatively low heat. Garlic burns easily and then gets bitter, so really pay attention once you add it to the pan. When the garlic starts to soften and get really fragrant, add the tomatoes to the pan and cook on a medium heat for about ten minutes. You can put a lid on the pan to keep excess water from evaporating, or leave the lid off to cook out some of the water for a thicker sauce. As always, add some water to thin if you’d like to change the texture. Salt to taste (I usually add two or three generous pinches of salt) and serve however you’d like.

You’ll see next week that I use this with meatballs over zoodles, in zucchini boats stuffed with ground meat, with grilled stuffed peppers- there are so many options, and this is a delicious base for many Whole 30 meals.

This entry was posted in Food.

One item on my blog that I’ve really missed is the ‘What I Read’ series. I’m an introvert and a reader, so when things get overwhelming, I turn to literature. Most of what I read is fiction, and the ‘fluffy-ness’ of what I’m reading is inversely related to how crazy things are in my life. Even so, I’ve managed to read what I think are some really great books lately! I hope you enjoy my first installment of ‘What I Read: 2015’.

LEavingLeaving Time, by Jodi Picoult

Leaving You is the story of Jenna Metcalf, a young girl whose mother abandoned her as a baby. Together with a psychic and a private investigator, Jenna is determined to find her mother and learn what happened the night her mother left. One the way, we learn a whole lot about elephants, which was actually a surprisingly intriguing aspect of the plot. Overall, I found this story very engaging, and was pleasantly surprised by the conclusion. I would happily recommend it to anyone who wants to dive into a pleasant piece of literature- perfect for vacation.

Undress MeUndress Me in the Temple of Heaven, by Susan Jane Gilman

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is the true story of Susan Jane Gilman and a classmate, chronicling their post-graduate round the world adventure. Armed with very little knowledge of the world, and entirely unprepared for what they would encounter, the girls begin their journey in China—and very nearly don’t make it out. I think I was drawn to this book because of my own foolhardly travels when I was in my undergrad, and I was somewhat horrified at each twist a turn. I don’t know what to make of this book- the events within are real, so it’s not like there’s a conflict, climax, and conclusion…well, there is, sort of. But, as in reality, life continued without a very satisfying conclusion. Overall, I was very interested in this book, and I don’t regret spending the time to read it. On the other hand, I’ll recommend it to my sister who is moving overseas in the autumn, but probably not too many other people. So, choose your own adventure with this one!

AllAll the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of Warner, a young German orphan, and Marie-Laure, a blond girl who has to flee Paris following the Nazi occupation. I generally don’t prefer to read anything set in the time of the Holocaust, actually, but Anthony Doerr does a really amazing job highlighting the very common ways that people are inherently good, even in the worst possible circumstances. The stories of the two protagonists are kept separate, for the most part, but the narrative is woven in such a way that it’s not confusing or frustrating at all- it’s just beautiful. All the Light We Cannot See is one of two amazing books that I’ve read this year (even if some of my book club thought it started a little slow) and I would recommend to every single person, regardless of age or gender. It’s just a really good book.

YouYou, by Caroline Kepnes

You is the story of Joe Goldberg, a bookstore clerk who encounters a very desirable customer, and commences with the most creep tastic stalking ever. I must say, this book was very well written, even if I don’t love the story—I had to put it down several times, but I always wandered back to find out what was going to happen next. The thing is, the protagonist is so effective in his stalking and so absolutely nonchalant, that the entire thing is very believable; as in, this could be taking place regularly in my city relatively easily without people realizing. Overall, it’s not one that I texted my sister recommending, because I was really disturbed, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it- it was oddly addicting.

Okay, that’s part one! So tell me- what have you read lately that was really remarkable, either positively or negatively?

Wellness Wednesday Check-In

Friends- hello!

How are you?

I miss you!

Pretty much, I’ve been absent from this blog and kind of checked out of my normal life for a while. This spring was challenging- I was taking a full class schedule and struggling with one particular class; my department was understaffed for bit while demands escalated; Evan and I mourned the passing of two of our family members. It was…it was a really rough time, for a while.

IMG_20150601_202752

You can see that Howie was also having a rough time

But things finally seem to have righted themselves! We’ve been able to find some peace with our losses, work had sorted itself out, and I’ve moved into a new semester. Yay! Now that we’re looking ahead to blue skies, it seems like a perfect time to do a quick check-in on my Year of Wellness.

Overall, I feel safe saying that things are going well. As it relates to financial wellness, I still have a boatload of student loans, but I paid off a substantial loan with our tax refund, so I feel great about that. Professionally and intellectually, I feel like my classes are absolutely contributing to development, and really engaging my mind. Spiritually, the She Reads Truth app (I think I mentioned it just before Easter) has been so helpful in developing a daily spiritual/religious practice. Mentally, I’m pretty sure that my yoga and meditation practices were critical in getting me through this spring- I turned to one or the other of them anytime I felt too out of control.

I guess where I’m really focusing my attention now is physical and nutritional wellness. With all of the insanity of funerals and classes, I quit the hot yoga class that was showing me serious fitness results, and I start to eat things that were convenient…which are not the same as things that are healthy. As a result, I’ve been feeling pretty blah lately- tired and sluggish and just gross.

IMG_20150602_184722

My Whole30 compliant Zoodles and Meatballs

So I’m making some changes! I started a 30 day power yoga program, and am doing a Whole 30 month. It’s only Day 3 of both things, but I feel pretty good. Moreover, I know that in order to make real lifestyle changes, I have to stick with it—so my dedication is pretty serious, at this point at least. I’ll keep you all posted, especially in Insta, if you follow me. I’m really looking forward to seeing some healthy results as I tackle these two projects and I can’t wait to share my progress and strategies with you!

Tell me- what aspect of wellness have you been working on lately? Are you seeing any good results?

May Subscription Box Review: Birchbox and Sample Society

Friends! I’ve been away, and I’ve missed the blog so much! June is my month, though, so get ready for a flood of blogger sharing– starting today, with my May sub box reviews!
Birchbox 2015

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 beauty and lifestyle samples

This month my box included Biore the POREfessional primer, Real Chemistry 3 Minute Peel, Marcelle Hydra-C Hydrating Gel, Mally Beauty Eyeliner in Navy, and Living Proof Instant Repair, along with foil samples for the shampoo and conditioner. The foil samples sent to compliment the Instant Repair were a nice touch, even though the actual sample didn’t do alot for my hair. I’m always happy to see a full sized product, and I’m looking forward to trying some navy eyeliner. The vitamin C product was an okay size, but not remarkable in treatment, and I’m always happy to have more POREfessional samples :) The one product that I was really excited to try, though, was the 3 Minute Peel. Unfortunately, my skin hated it! You’re supposed to rub it in and then it sort of sucks up your dead skin, and as you’re rubbing it the dead skin rubs into tiny balls and you rinse them off. Instead of rinsing off, though, my dead skin kind of clung to my face in clumps, and I had to use a physical exfoliator to get them off…and even then, my skin was kind of rough for a few days. Overall, though, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to try it out– now I know that it’s a product that’s not for me! Although I wasn’t over the moon about my Birchbox this month, it was still a win for me, and a nice experiment!
Sample Society May 2015
Monthly delivery for $15/month
Includes 4-5 full and deluxe sized beauty and makeup samples
This month I received Julep Lip Gloss in Graceful, John Frieda Luxurious Volume In- Shower Treatment, LEnaige Water Sleeping Mask, Versace Eros Perfume, Avene Thermal Spring Water Spray, and Alterna Caviar Repair Multi Vitamin Heat Protection Spray. So last month was the tiny-sample debacle, and I was completely prepared to cancel this month when I read the spoiler– another lip gloss, drugstore volume samples, and a perfume. Then I received the box, though, and I really am pleasantly surprised! First, the lipgloss is small and pink, but it really is a perfect shade, so I might even get the full size. The perfume sample is a delux size and a fun bottle, and I even like the scent. The John Frieda and the thermal spray are kind of misses for me, but the Caviar Repair is a brand that my hair loves, so I’m really thrilled to have a travel sized sample. What made the entire box for me, though, was the Laneige Sleeping Mask. I’ve just started to get into some Asian Beauty products, so was thrilled to see an AB product in the box. And it’s amazing for my skin- I added it over moisturizer before bed the night I got my box, and I woke up to the smoothest skin ever. Love. Sample Society was on the brink of a breakup, but they totally reeled me back in with this box…and I’m thrilled!

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake with Optional (not optional) Baileys

Oooh friends- Imma follow with a salad recipe in the near future, I promise, but today I’d like to discuss this Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake with Optional (not optional) Baileys. Yep.

Marshmallow Milkshake

So in January, I made a diet adjustment to significantly reduce my dairy- including absolutely cutting out ice cream, milk, most cheese…the works. This was actually a really great decision for me, because it made my belly much happier and helped clear up some skin issues. I still love ice cream, though, and so when I (very occasionally) indulge, I make sure it’s so, so worth it….and this milkshake is so, so worth it.

Ask anyone I’ve been camping with, and they’ll tell you that I’m the patron saint of toasted marshmallows—I have very little patience in other areas, but when I can sit for an irrational amount of time waiting for a marshmallow to turn perfectly golden brown and gooey. Fortunately, this milkshake does not require that saintly patience. Instead, these marshmallows get a brief stay underneath the broiler, getting a little more toasted than I usually prefer, but adding some great campfire flavor to the final product.

Speaking of the marshmallows, I love LOVE the new shape that Jet Puffed is offering. It’s a rectangle, okay, but it’s a beefier version of the rectangle that they used to have. Gone is the wimpy, domino size and in its place is a super thick, half-a-deck-of-cards shaped marshmallow. Of course, you can use whatever you like, but I really advocate for this version in this recipe.

Last thing to talk about is the booze! Feel free to leave it out, of course, but there’s a special place in my heart for Baileys. (When I was in college, my roommates and I used to reward ourselves with Baileys as we made our way through the semester. I remember pushing off term papers and then manically righting through the night, and Rach would always send me off to class with a to-go mug of coffee and Baileys to get me through my 8:00. Ah, memories :)) Anyway, the moral of this section is to say that I really like the combination of ice cream and booze, and I think Baileys pairs well with the marshmallow’s toasti-ness. I could also see using Disarono or Godiva liqueur it its place, or even bourbon, but you could absolutely replace with more milk, for a non alcoholic version.

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake with Optional (not optional) Baileys

5 rectangular marshmallows
1 single serving container vanilla ice cream (1/2 cup)
1 single serving container chocolate ice cream (1/2 cup)
2 tbsp Baileys liqueur
2 tbsp milk

Preheat your broiler to low, and cover a baking sheet with foil. Arrange the marshmallows pretty closely, and broil for one to two minutes, until lightly charred. I really, really recommend watching these the entire time- they go from not toasted to burnt in seconds! Once the marshmallow are finished, reserve one, toss the rest in the blender with the rest of the ingredients and give a pulse or two. Transfer to a glass (fudge and graham rim optional) and top with the reserved marshmallow. Enjoy!

Cinco de Mayo Ideas

Happy Monday, my friends! I’m wrapping up finals this week, but I wanted to pop back in and say hi- so, hi!

The weather has finally turned in Columbus, and we’re experiencing temps in the 70s and gorgeous shineshine– just in time for a backyard Cinco de Mayo/End of Finals celebration tomorrow evening. If you’re still planning your menu for May 5, check out some of these Mexican-inspired recipes:

tacos, belize 3Belize Tacos

Cherry Chipotle TacosChipotle Steak Tacos and Spicy Cherry Salsa

Roasted Veggie Shredded Beef Quesadillas 2Shredded Beef and Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas

Chipotle Beef Flautas 3Chipotle Beef Flautas…Taquitos?

Guac and pico2Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

Hatch Chili and Tomatilla Salsa on Ginger Lime Steak Tacos 2Hatch Chili and Tomatillo Salsa on Ginger Lime Steak Tacos

Chicken and Black Bean EnchiladasChipotle Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas with Homemade Sauce

Taco Stuffed Baked Potatoes 3Taco Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Fajita Quesadillas 2Fajita Quesadillas

I hope you can find something in list above to enjoy with friends or family! I’ll be back later this week, with a Wellness Wednesday update, a new project, and a recipe—start getting excited, my friends!

April Subscription Box Review: Sample Society and Birchbox

Monthly delivery for $15/month
Includes 4-5 full and deluxe sized beauty and makeup samples
This month I received Jane Iredale Rio Lip Plumper, Illume Tonka Noir Sample Tin, Benefit Cosmetics the POREfessional, Mt. Sapola Lavender-Chamomile Lotion, Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil VOC and Marc Jacobs Daisy Dream Fragrance Sample. The Jane Iredale uses peppermint to produce some plumping action, and comes in a brown shade that the magazine notes is great for darker skin. It probably is, but that also means that its a bit too dark for me- but really, you can’t please everyone and this is the first time (I think) that anything has been targeted to a darker skin tone, so I wasn’t to broken up about it. I was, however, thrilled to see the travel candle! I am one of those people that actually packs a candle when I go on trips because I like to feel cozy, and this scent is perfect. OK, regarding the POREfessional, the Lavendar-Chamomile Lotion, and the Invisible Oil- I am so happy to see these products, but the samples are tiny, tiny! I got a POREFessional sample from Sephora recently, and it’s actually larger than the one I got in this box, which is really disappointing. This is the second month in a row that I’ve been disappointed with Sample Society and the value/quality of items that I’m receiving, especially since they claim to send 5 deluxe sized samples each month. I’ll plan to see how things work out next month, but if the value isn’t there for a third month in a row it might be time to cancel this sub and try another.
Birchbox

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 beauty and lifestyle samples

This month my box included 12 Benefits Instantly Healthy Hair Treatment, LAQA & Co Sheer Lip Tube Pencil, CLEAN Original Parfum, Not Soap, Radio Body Wash, and Cynthia Rowley Beauty Brightening Illuminator. I knew exactly what I was getting, because I chose the Mad Men California Box, but I still can’t help feeling a little disappointed that Birchbox insists on including perfume samples and counting them towards the five sample items. Anyway, the products- I’ve mentioned before that I really like getting the Not Soap, Radio samples because they are perfect for travelling, and this one is no exception. I was also particularly happy with the Lip Tube Pencil- it’s moisturizing and the color is a nice, soft pink…I think I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. The Illuminator looks tiny and, especially after my Sample Society box, my instant reaction was a little ragey, but you really only need the smallest amount to make a nice impact, so I suspect it will actually last a while. The 12 Benefits Hair Treatment is my only wild card- it claims to moisturize and condition my dry, parched hair and since I just ran out of my usual leave-in conditioner, I’m looking forward to trying it out. Overall, Birchbox gave me a few items that I love, one that I’m looking forward to trying, and a perfume. It’s not my favorite ever, but still a win for this month.

Triple Coconut Macaroon Cake

This cake.

Coconute Cake 3This beautiful, majestic, gorgeous, fluffy, Triple Coconut Macaroon Cake. This cake was so many things this week- on Sunday, it was a perfect ending to a lovely Easter weekend. Today, when I was eating the last bit directly from the cake plate, it was a salve to the sting of discovering (in the middle of the night, during a week of storms) that our sump pump had failed, and our basement was taking on water. On a grand scale, I like to think that this cake was the celebration of the end of winter, and a particularly stressful chapter of life.

Coconut CakeYou may know this about me, but cake is rarely my first choice is desserts. For one thing, I think it’s very hard (for me, at least) to make a cake, especially from scratch, that is delicious and moist and fluffy. Also, I don’t tend to make lovely cakes- my layers tend to get a bit lopsided, and whatever I put in the middle always mushes out, and I can never frost the sides- which is sort of okay, because I actually don’t like frosting! And, to be completely real…I actually really, really love funfetti cake with funfetti frosting (boxed and canned, respectively) and, given the option, I would choose that over nearly all other cake.

coconut cake 2The above reasoning notwithstanding, last weekend really seemed like a cake weekend. I settled on coconut because Evan and I has a series of terrible macaroon experiences (seriously, it’s not like we are macaroon obsessed, but I think we had three or four terribly dry macaroons over the course of one week). At first, I was just looking at a white cake with white frosting, sprinkled with coconut. The more I thought about it, thought, the more I wanted to add coconut to EVERYTHING. And, in the spirit of chocolate dipped macaroons, I added a layer of chocolate ganache at the last minute.

Coconut Cake 4I’ll be honest- the Triple Coconut Macaroon Cake isn’t a one bowl recipe, and it doesn’t come together in 30 minutes. But if you can put in a little bit of effort, I think you’ll be so pleased with the results! This is a moist, made-from-scratch white cake with great flavor. The frosting is a Swiss buttercream, but it’s a much smaller quantity that most SB recipes, and it comes together really easily with the help of an electric mixer. And I mentioned above that I can’t frost a beautiful cake, so I negated that entirely by just layering things and not even bothering to frost the sides. I like to think that ‘naked’ cakes are supa fancy…but I could be making excuses. Either way, I think this is an impressive presentation of a really delicious cake!

Triple Coconut Macaroon Cake

Cake

3 egg whites
1 whole egg, separated
2 cups flour
¼ cup corn starch
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup coconut milk (the canned kind, and use the rest in the frosting!)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Egg Whites: start with a clean bowl, glass or metal. Add all 4 egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form; set aside. (I did this in the bowl of my kitchenaid and transferred them to another bowl. Then I moved on to the next step without washing anything…because I’m lazy.)

Dry Ingredients: sift the flour, corn starch, powder, and salt together…I sifted it together about three times, because I was a little excessive, and I wanted it to be perfectly aerated and light.

Batter: cream together the butter and sugar until they’re light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, and mix well. Then add the dry ingredient and the coconut milk in alternating parts (I went dry, milk, dry, milk, dry). Don’t overmix- just mix until everything is incorporated. Remove the bowl from the standing mixer (or, if your mixing by hand already- keep on keeping on) and fold in the whipped egg whites. I did this is two parts- the first part was less gently, just to loosen the batter up some. The second half of the whip was folded in super gently, to preserve as much of the air as possible.

Bake: divide the batter between two 8 or 9 inch cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 for about twenty minutes, or at 325 for about 35 minutes (the lower temperature allegedly creates flatter cakes, so you don’t have to trim any cake domes, so I always drop the temp and increase time). When a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry, remove from the oven and let cool for ten minutes in the pan, before inverting the cakes on a cooling rack. Allow the cakes to cool completely before topping.

Coconut Swiss Buttercream

¾ cup sugar
3 egg whites
2 sticks butter diced into cubes ~1cm in size
½ cup coconut milk
½-¾ cup shredded coconut

Buttercream: fill a saucepan with about an inch or two of water, and heat over medium. Place a heat proof bowl over the pan, and add the egg whites and sugar. Whisk this mixture often for about five or six minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved (if you rub it between your fingers, you shouldn’t feel any sugar). Transfer the egg whites to a mixing bowl, and whip on high until a stiff meringue forms. The next part is where people can run into trouble. So, test the meringue and make sure that there is absolutely no heat in the egg whites (by test, I mean with your fingers or by tasting). When no heat is left, start to add the butter one chunk at a time. If the mixture ever starts to get weird/soupy, stop adding butter and just whip for a while, before continuing to add butter. After all the butter is incorporated and the frosting is pretty solid in texture, drizzle in the coconut milk until it’s fully combined. Divide the frosting in half, and stir in the shredded coconut to one half. Set this aside.

Chocolate Ganache

¾ cup dark chocolate chips/chunks
¼ cup cream or milk
½ cup shredded coconut

Ganache: microwave the chocolate and the cream for 30 seconds, until the milk is pretty hot. Remove from the microwave and stir vigorously until the mixture comes together in a really lovely, satiny chocolate mixture. Here’s where you need to make some executive decisions- if the chocolate isn’t melted enough, return to the microwave. If the mixture is too thick, stir in some more cream. If the mixture is too thin, add more chocolate. For reference, you want the texture to be thicker than a glaze but thinner than frosting- you want to be able to spread it and have it stay in place.

Assemble the cake: place one of the layers on a platter. Add the chocolate ganache and spread until it’s about ½ inch from the edge of the cake. Next, layer on the frosting with the coconut- I dropped several spoonfuls around the cake and smooshed together, because I didn’t want to spread the ganache away from the center. Top with another cake layer, and spread with the rest of the coconut frosting. Sprinkle on the rest of the coconut. At this point, I thought about drizzling some more chocolate over the coconut, but I held back. If you’re so inspired, though, by all means- add more chocolate! And enjoy :)