Sunday, June 28, 2009

Caribbean Jerk Rice


I have had jerk every which way, on every kind of meat and fish and I can't believe it's only recently that I got the idea to try it with rice. We served this with stewed chicken. I used a mild jerk because of the kids but you could certainly go hotter if flames shooting from your tongue hot, is your thing. This was made with parboiled white rice only because we were out of brown rice. One of the healthy food changes I have made over the years is to cook with brown rice as much as possible and not the 'fake' Uncle Ben stuff that looks very polished.


It looks like what the gourmet folks would call wild rice. Around here it's what we lovingly call 'nasty rice'. It took some getting used to, but by mixing it with parboiled white or Uncle Ben's brown we gradually grew to enjoy it. I can tolerate ( note I did not say enjoy ) a meal of 100% brown rice. The most the kids will tolerate is a blend of 75%brown and 25% white. We all agree that we can enjoy a 50/50 blend and we are unanimous about the fact that while you can get us to eat it, Pelau with brown rice is just wrong!


* 1 cup chicken broth
* 1/4 cup raisins
* 1 1/2 teaspoons jerk seasoning
* 1 1/4 cups rice
* 1 tin pigeon peas

The jerk seasoning has salt so I don't add any additional salt. If you don't have access to a good commercially prepared jerk seasoning you can make your own.


1. Combine chicken broth, raisins, and jerk seasoning in medium saucepan. Cover and bring to boil on high.
2. Stir rice mix into boiling mixture.
3. Cover, return to boil, and cook 2 minutes stirring occasionally.
4. Reduce to low and cook for 20 minutes covered, without stirring, or until rice is tender.
5. Stir in peas cover and cook 5-6 minutes until peas are heated.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day - Guinness Brown Bread Ice-Cream


As I write this, my father is slumped dejectedly on the sofa, holding his head as the West Indies cricket team loses spectacularly to Sri Lanka. After the first three wickets fell, West Indies had only one run on the scoreboard. Wow! This is serious and it is guaranteed to put him in a bad mood. For the next couple days, we will have to endure constant grumbling and muttering in undertones about how "dem boys throw way de wicket."

It's true that my dad loves his cricket but here is something else that he loves - Guinness ice-cream. Fortunately I have some tucked away in the freezer for Father's Day tomorrow that will hopefully lift his spirits.

Outside of the odd Irish priest, you're not likely to run into an Irishman on our shores, yet there isn't a man in my family who doesn't love this ice-cream which is obtainable only from street ice-cream vendors.I wonder how it became so popular and if this is a favourite of other Caribbean islanders as well?

I just love the sharp, bitter, flavour and the contrast of the sweet in this ice-cream. Unfortunately the texture of most ice-creams bought from street vendors just isn't up to standard. My gold standard for ice-cream texture and flavour is Häagan Dazs®. The kind bought from street carts is icy and or chalky - not creamy. I have always wanted to improve upon this but I did not have a recipe until I stumbled upon Murphy's Guinness Brown Bread Ice-Cream. Go to their site if you want to see a totally delectable, makes you want to eat it, not melting, nicely styled scoop of ice-cream. I guarantee it will make you want to have this. The rest of their site is worth browsing as their ice-creams are unique. Have a penchant for goat cheese I'm not kidding-you'll find it there.

I've made Murphy's Guinniss Ice-cream twice before and both times the ice-cream never set up past a very soft serve consistency. Granted I make a horrible custard, but suspecting that there might be too much alcohol in the Murphy's version which can cause ice-cream not to firm up, I tried another recipe using less stout and ......well almost! It firmed up nicely but the texture was still not what I was looking for as the custard was just a wee bit over cooked.

Finally, like the West Indies team I just threw in the towel and opted for an eggless version. Love it! Because it doesn't contain eggs or cream it is economical to make and a very forgiving recipe. I cooked the bejesus out of that 'custard' and it was not ruined! Why did I cook it so long? Well... if you've been reading carefully, which most probably you haven't because unlike myself you have a life and have just been skimming along, hoping at some point I'll stop blathering and just get to the recipe already - I suck at making custard.

Okay, so here it is the recipe already!

Guinness Brown Bread Ice-Cream

1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Guinness stout


In a heavy saucepan whisk together the water and the cornstarch and simmer the mixture over moderate heat, whisking, for 2 minutes. Add the milks, the salt, and the sugar, heat the mixture over moderately low heat, whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved, and remove the pan from the heat. Let the mixture cool completely, stir in the Guinness. Put into your ice-cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions

* I must have cooked this for about 10 mins before I finally figured out it wasn't going to get as thick as an egg custard.

Guinness brown bread ice-cream,crumbs

*used leftover bread crusts to make this and tore them by hand because I find that the food processor gets them too fine and then they just get lost in the ice-cream.

Brown Bread Crumble
Can be made in advance or while the 'custard' cools.

1 Cup stale brown bread crumbs
7 Oz brown sugar
2 tablespoons Guinness stout

Put the sugar in a pan, add the 2 tbsp. Guinness, and cook until it is melted and completely liquid. Do not let it get too dark. Remove from the heat.

Stir the bread crumbs into the melted sugar, then spread on a baking tray and cook in the oven at 350F for about 20 min, until the sugar is caramelised and the crumbs are crispy. Keep an eye on it, though, that it doesn’t burn.

Cool the crumbs, and add to the custard base according to your ice-cream maker's directions.

The flavour is superior and as as to that elusive texture, ooooooooh so close.
Guinness brown bread ice-cream

*Entered in Social Media Ice Cream Social, by Savor The Thyme, Scotty Snacks and Tangled Noodle

Friday, June 12, 2009

Teacher Appreciation Cupcakes


It's Teacher Appreciation Week at my son's school. Darn Internet and the dissemination of American culture. Now I have to go bake stupid cupcakes for a hitherto unknown celebration. Seriously though, teachers these days get such a bad rap that it is a sweet idea to show my children's teachers some love for the great job that they are doing.

Again thank you Martha's people for sucking me into the "it's a good thing," hype. Yes there were a million easier ways to decorate these but this method gave me a way to use up some Marzipan I had bought on a whim a month ago.

Making the apples was fun and reminded me of playing with modeling clay. I made them the day before. Well actually after showing her how to do them I drafted my daughter to make them for me - delegate, delegate, delegate, I always say. They look more like cherries or maybe tomatoes but I'm not complainin'. The teachers loved 'em.

The cupcake recipe I got from the book Hello Cupcake. They were completely flat and didn't rise at all. Maybe that was deliberate in order to pile on all the decorations....they were however lovely and moist and very tasty. I love that all the cupcakes in this book are decorated using nothing more than a ziplock bag, a technique that I also employed when decorating my son's birthday cake. I frosted these using Martha's Swiss Meringue Butter Cream which was light and very yummy.If I had stopped to think about it I should have realized that this frosting was going to be a very, very pale yellow and not white as shown in the pictures ( artistic license heh heh.) If I make these again I must remember to use a cream cheese frosting.


Thursday, June 11, 2009



Porridge was not eaten in this house a lot, dare I say it, before kids. What really made it a regular addition to the breakfast menu was a high cholesterol result on my hubby's medical test. A lot of people talk about it being comfort food. I totally get how a bowl of something warm might appeal to those in colder climates but I just think it's gross. Babies apparently love it and it is one of the first foods we give them....I don't remember eating a lot of it as a child....I do remember lots of American style cereals. These days it still is very à la mode to toss out local porridge in favour of quick American breakfast cereals.

One morning I was choking down my oatmeal glop, all the time wearing my mmm, mommy thinks it's delicious face,so as not to scare the kids or my husband, who has in fact once said that my eating-oatmeal-face is worse than my morning face (I am not a morning person), when it occurred to me that maybe I should try out our local porridge. Surely I would find one that I like.

My porridge adventure began with cornmeal and continues with what Vincentians and Tobagonians call Farine. Sadly, this is not going to be the one that cures my aversion of this food. I did love the flavour, it tasted like cassava pone but I'd rather eat pone. Again, I'm done in by the icky texture.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Perfect Ending


Growing up, dessert was not a tradition in my home. As such, when dining out, I will usually end my meal simply, with a cup of coffee. I am of the ( not popularly held) opinion, that cloying sweets, heavy pastries, cheesecakes, towering cakes and the like are meals onto themselves, deserving of having my full attention on their decadent surfeit. Such treats just cannot be fully appreciated on an already full stomach. The times that I do end a meal with a dessert, it is often a small portion of something light.

It's not much to look at and rather plain-Jane looking, as far as desserts go. But it's a simple, easy to make dessert that is not overly heavy or sweet. You can find the recipe for this in The Multi-Cultural Cuisine of Trinidad & Tobago. For those of you who are afraid of using the raw eggs called for in this recipe, here is a vintage version Pineapple Ice-Box Cake from a newspaper clipping dated 1962! The eggs are cooked in this recipe.

Yeah, I make this with raw eggs and have done so a gazillion times with no ill effects. You see when I'm in the kitchen there is oftentimes a toddler attached to one leg, a screaming baby in the background and a husband calling out for help - the real baby:-)... suffice to say I don't have time to stand around stirring eggs over a double boiler. Okay, okay, I'll come clean. I don't own a double boiler. To be sure the one time I tried cooking the eggs in my makeshift version of a double boiler they curdled. Hey it was either pastuerized eggs that day or save my genetic egg (now a toddler) who was about to curdle himself via the I wonder what would happen if I stick something in this socket method. Anyway the jury is out on the raw egg issue and there are arguments both for and against. Disclaimer: It should be obvious that I am not a medical doctor , so my opinion counts for squat. Do what is best for you and yours. What I can attest to is that, this is a perfect ending to a meal.

Delectable Gruel?


I fall into the category of folks who hate porridge. Hate might indeed be a somewhat mild word. Fortunately I was a child of the 70's, a time of economic wealth for my country, so Kellogs cornflakes featured more often on our breakfast table than bowls of porridge. My dad often talks of farine and the cornmeal porridge of his childhood yet strangely these things were never prepared for me. The memories I have of porridge are few and vague. But in all those memories it seems that cream- of-wheat was the gruel du jour. It arrived on the table as a steaming-hot, grey, mass, and left as cold, congealed, hardly touched lump - the colour and texture of papier-mâché. As unappetizing as it was, it wasn't the lack of taste that was this dishes undoing but it's texture. To this day I have a hard time swallowing porridge and I spend such a long time trying that it invariable turns into cold lumps as I dawdle over consumption. I have always imagined that this was what cardboard would taste like if macerated with water.

Okay , now I am an adult and not forced to eat porridge anymore so why then do I continue? Well the health benefits of oats have persuaded me that their consumption are worth my effort. Besides there are not many foods that I do not like and I am thinking that perhaps it's an acquired taste. So this month I am on a quest to acquire a taste or more accurately a tolerance for the texture of porridge. Additionally, it seems a pity that I have never tasted some of our traditional porridge mixes from times past.

So here is my review. This was anything but bland, the aromas of this cornmeal gruel tantalized and really put me in a positive frame of mind for trying something new. I could not wait to taste this; it smelled sooooo good. Anyone who loves porridge should love this, sadly it did not make me a convert. The texture was still gag inducing. Still I will not be defeated. I will try farine (cassava porridge) next.

When life throws you breadcrumbs...

bread pudding

...make bread pudding. Okay, so it was really bread crusts and ends of breads that were left over from making sandwiches for Marley's party. It seemed such a waste just to throw them out. As you know, bread pudding is a good way to use up stale bread. Well I got to thinking that it might be a good way to use up my left over crusts. What? You say, surely I am crazy since most recipes for bread pudding tell you to throw away the crusts. Never you mind, here are pictures of my perfectly delicious, frugal, pudding made only with crusts and an unusual ingredient (for me anyway) courtesy Miss Norma. All I can say is yah mon!

Monkey's Swan Song


M no longer sucks his thumb. I am soooooo proud of him. Early on I introduced the pacifier hoping it would replace the thumb. It never entirely did. If he did not have his 'sucker' he'd revert to the thumb. He was pretty much contented one or the other.

Around 3yrs, I noticed that excessive sucking was precipitated by his 'lovey' Mikey Monkey. He'd be fine playing, watching TV whatever- no finger sucking- until he saw monkey. We had a chat and it was agreed that Mikey was only for night time. At about 3 1/2 yrs, I was chatting with him about how big he was, almost 4 (he wanted to be 4 so badly he was walking around telling anyone who'd listen that he was 4). Anyways one night I said to him that big boys of 4 don't suck their finger or walk around with monkeys and he should think about giving him up. Immediately he said, "OK, I'll give him to A. I was stunned and then I realized, maybe I was the one who wasn't ready to give up monkey!
"You don't have to do it right now." I said, "You can think about it and then when you are 4 give him up."
"Uh uh," he said, " right now," and he hopped out of bed, went to the other room and rather unceremoniously (it seemed to me), tossed Mickey into his baby brother's crib. " A can have him."

Back in his room I asked, "So how are you going to sleep without sucking your finger?" Sure enough he had a plan for that too. He put both his hands under his bum and by the time my bedtime story was over he was fast asleep sans thumb sucking!!!He hasn't sucked his finger since. I am amazed because I had anticipated a battle of apocalyptic proportions when the time came to quit.

So as a sort of farewell to Mikey monkey I decided to bake a monkey cake for M's 4th birthday. I wanted something that involved minimum cake decorating skill as I wasn't prepared to run out and buy specialty equipment that would not be used again. I decided to make Martha Stewart's somewhat, sinister-looking, sock-monkey cake because the video how-to made it look easy enough. I should mention that I gave little thought to the fact that Martha has people to do this stuff for her, until it was 1:00am and I tried to reference the video to see how to attach the ears and found that the video link was no longer w-o-r-k-i-n-g. Martha and her staff were properly fire-trucked and it sooo WAS NOT a good thing!


Lacking the recommended Martha Stewart 8 1/2" bowl, I used one of my regular stainless steel mixing bowls. I eyeballed the dimensions which turned out to be a bad idea since I ended up with a flatter wider monkey's head. Fortunately the diameter was 9" so I quickly whipped up another regular round 9" base layer. Bonus, as I did not then have to slice the cake in half to frost the center.

Martha advises that the cake be frosted 3 hours before it is actually needed. I frosted this cake the day before and I am glad I did as I learned something that maybe already obvious to you bakers out there; a butter-cream frosting is not well suited to tropical weather.I had to keep putting it back in the fridge so the frosting could firm up as it was very messy to work with it. The whole time DH kept giving me the "why did you bother to embark upon this project when we could have ordered a perfectly acceptable store bought cake," evil eye.

But you mothers out there understand right? Homemade cakes create memories. I remember my own mom baking a cake for me and loading it onto the stroller to bring it to my pre-school which was a 3 min walk from my home, for my birthday. Beside homemade cakes are soooooo much better than those dry up specialty cakes that sit on the shelves for days; all iced perfection on the outside but they are dry dry and tasteless.

I am pleased with the final result. It did take a bit of effort and my end result looks decidedly more homey than Martha's but that is the point of a HOME made cake isn't it? Some advice for anyone wanting to try this cake. It is important to make an 8" diameter cake not 9" like I did. Why? Because 8" gives you some allowance for the addition of the ears so that your cake cover will fit. My cake cover touched the ears and once the frosting hardened up in the fridge the tips of his ears were ripped off and had to be repaired when we removed the cover.

As to the taste of the cake....I altered Martha's recipe by using freshly grated nutmeg which IMO pairs better with banana than cinnamon. I also tossed in some chopped up caramels. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Diabetes do I hear you I hear you calling? I reduced the sugar to 3/4 cup and after tasting it could probably go as little as half cup in the future. The kids gobbled it up. Let's face it, so long as there is frosting, children aren't fussy about the taste of the cake itself. The adults however all felt it was missing a little one could quite say what, until my MIL suggested rum. Ahhah! A little rum sprinkled over my slice. Just Perfect.

PS. I checked my mom on the pre-school cake story and it just goes to show that you can't trust all your childhood memories. My mom remembered the particular birthday and cheerfully informed me (while giving my husband the thumbs up) that it was a perfectly acceptable store bought cake that she brought to my preschool that day!

Also M disappeared at some point in the day and was eventually found hiding behind the sofa 'tiefing' a little suck finger with Mikey:-)!

Chocolate HeartBeet Muffins


I made these muffins because I became bored with banana muffins. Before kids, muffins were not something I ate a lot. Now they are a staple in my home simply because they are quick and easy to prepare. They are the working mom's answer to having breakfast on the table in under 2 minutes. The process is simple, measure wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients, dump everything in one bowl. A quick stir just enough to combine and voilà - a quick breakfast or healthy snack. Bonus! They freeze well. A couple seconds in the microwave and you’ve got breakfast in seconds for those rushed mornings. Around here we usually have a healthy banana-oat-bran, or whole wheat muffin, only because bananas are a year round fruit and readily available. Additions to the banana theme might include dates or raisins, or pecans or walnuts and as a treat chocolate chips.

I am always on the look out for great tasting, healthy, recipes. So my interest was piqued by several online recipes for a chocolate beet cake with the cutesy name, Can't be Beet Chocolate Cake. Several sources suggest that beets are an effective defense against heart disease and can lower blood pressure. They are high in antioxidants and may even prevent cancer. Wow! Here's the thing. I do not like beets. My kids do but I don’t. I do however love chocolate and that's being touted these days as being good for your heart, right?

I decided that this would make a great heart-healthy breakfast muffin. The first obvious adjustment was to lessen the amount of oil used. One recipe called for a cup of oil-not very heart healthy. Because it was going to be a muffin and not a cake it didn't need a lot of sugar, besides beets are fairly sweet AND more importantly I needed to leave room for a few chocolate chips. Okay so the addition of chocolate chips may seem over the top but in my experience low-fat, low-sugar baked goods end up being rubbery and dry. The chocolate chips counteract this by providing small bursts of creaminess to the texture of the muffin.

So this recipes makes a strange amount because I wanted to use a full can of beets with no leftovers. I hate when recipes call for part of a can of something which usually ( in spite of intentions to use later ) just ends up growing mold in the fridge.
Makes ?  cupcakes


* 1/2 brown sugar
* 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
* 2 large eggs
* 1 egg white
* 1/4 cup cocoa powder
* 1/2 cup beet purée
* 1 cup non fat plain yogurt
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 cup whole wheat flour
* 1 cup all-purpose white flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips


As I said before muffins are what I call dump cakes. Dump dry ingredients in one bowl and stir. Dump wet ingredients in another and mix. Dump both in one bowl and mix with a fork until just combined. Don't over mix or beat or they will be rubbery. Easy peasy right?

So here is the final verdict - big hit with the family. DS did however think it could be improved upon. "Next time make it like this" he said, pointing to a picture of a mile-high frosted cupcake in one of my recipe books. "Put frosting and sprinkles and it will taste great!"

Others have posted that family and friends were completely astounded to learn that the secret ingredient in their chocolate cake was beets. Sadly my family is not in the habit of eulogizing the food that they eat and were suitably unimpressed by the beet factor or the quirky name. My own thoughts were that the beet flavour was only almost completely covered by the chocolate. Maybe I was aware of it because I knew it was there. The rest of the family did not know until I told them.

Well as much as I originally started off trying to create a healthy breakfast muffin the next day my son prevailed and we did put frosting and sprinkles, transforming the last one into a tasty dessert cupcake? Now that's a two for one recipe that would appeal to any multi-tasking mom!