My gosh, they do feed us well here

At the commencement welcome, one of the conference chairs of SALA made a joke about how we’re going to talk well and eat well. I’m not sure I’m talking all that well (still tired and a little out of it!), but my gosh, they do feed us well here.

Breakfast & lunch for two days are included in your registration, along with a very hearty closing reception that they said could easily be your dinner that night; coffee and tea service is also laid out throughout, which has been very handy for me, as I duck out of my room, grab some hot coffee, and duck back in to work a little more.

But just look at what they’ve served us so far! (I forgot to take photos of the avocado tartine and the fig tartine at breakfast, but they were very pretty.) One slight tweak I’d suggest for the hotel — I love that they used chicken thighs instead of breast, in terms of flavor, but personally, I wouldn’t have served it on the bone for a buffet like this. Too difficult to eat while sitting on low couches, managing drinks, etc. Nothing that requires knives!

I think my favorite, flavor-wise, was the combination of the curried salmon w/ the roasted sweet potatoes. Mmmm… I liked it so much I decided to skip dessert and go back for seconds of that instead. The roasted potatoes were also perfectly done, and delish.

#serendibwriting
#serendibkitchen

Kavi loves organizing things

Kavi doesn’t have a problem with the red and green M&Ms mixing it up sometimes — she just loves organizing things. You should have heard her when I lightly jostled the tiered server while getting ready to take these photos. She gasped in dismay: “I worked SO HARD on that, Mommy — if you messed it up….!”

Thankfully, I had not. 

Late night bark-making with Kavya

Late night peppermint bark-making with Kavya. It’s funny how she reminds me of my mother. Kavi is painstaking — see how she’s carefully pushing the bigger peppermint pieces down so they stick well? This is how my mother cooks, with fine attention to detail and much care.

I’m trying to teach Kavi more of my slapdash carefree ways — I’m a big fan of ‘good enough!’ — but she is resistant.

Kavi did enjoy the smashing of the peppermints, though.

Peppermint bark, next level! Okay, I don’t think this is really bark anymore, to be honest. Molded peppermint chocolates? But regardless, cutest snowflakes. 

Kavi likes these, but is disappointed that the mold only has two snowflake patterns — “Snowflakes are supposed to be all different!” Fair critique! Winter holiday mold-makers, take note.

Gluten-Free Sri Lankan Love Cake

Success! Gluten-free Sri Lankan love cake; I substituted 1/2 fine polenta & 1/2 almond flour for the semolina, and it came out great.  Beautifully golden, the way love cake should be.

Honestly, there really isn’t so much flour in this anyway, since it’s mostly cashews, eggs, dried fruit, & sugar, so I suspect many substitution options would work fine; next time, I may try Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten-free baking flour (which is mostly rice flour, I think).

 

*****

Love Cake
(two hours, including baking time; serves dozens)

Some say this Portuguese-derived cake was baked to win the hearts of suitors, while others say it’s because of the labor of love involved in all the cutting, chopping and grinding of the fruits, nuts, and spices (much easier these days with access to a food processor). But regardless, it tastes like love: sweet, tangy, and fragrant. My mother says it doesn’t taste right without the crystallized pumpkin, which you can find at Indian grocery stores, though honestly, I like it just as well with the candied ginger. A perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

8 ounces butter, softened, plus more for greasing
16 ounces raw unsalted cashews
10 ounces fine granulated sugar
10 egg yolks
Zest of two limes
Zest of one orange
Juice of two limes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
3 drops rosewater extract (or two teaspoons rosewater)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces fine polenta
6 ounces almond flour
3 ounces candied ginger and/or crystallized pumpkin, minced as finely as possible
5 egg whites
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 250. Grease a 9Ă—13 baking dish with butter and line it with two layers of parchment paper. Grease the paper with butter.

2. In food processor, grind cashews to coarse meal.
3. In a standing mixer (paddle attachment), beat 8 oz butter and granulated sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks and mix well. Add zest, juice, spices, honey, rosewater and vanilla; mix well.

4. Add semolina and mix well; add cashews and candied ginger / pumpkin and mix well.

5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff; fold gently into cake mixture.

6. Spoon batter into prepared pan; bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until firm to the touch. (Alternatively, spoon into buttered & floured (Baker’s Joy makes this easy) mini tea cake molds (Nordicware made the excellent one I used for this) and bake for about 40 minutes.)

7. Let cool completely in the pan, dust with confectioner’s sugar (optional), cut into squares and serve.

Gluten-free Christmas village love cake.
 

Imagining people opening these packages with delight

Tamarind-chili marshmallows — they look a little deflated in the mixed sweets bags compared to the other marshmallows, and I hope people don’t mind — that’s just what the tamarind does to the marshmallow. It still tastes good, I promise, even if it’s not quite as fluffy.

It’s so satisfying, packing up these larger packages, with the sweets and the soaps and all; I’m just imagining people opening them on the other end, hopefully with delight. 

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#serendibhome

This didn’t quite work

This is an experiment that didn’t QUITE work — I wondered if I could make a sort of bark with milk toffee and chocolate. I usually have a lot of milk toffee bits left after cutting it into squares, and while Anand is happy to eat them all right out of the bowl, it seemed like they might be useful in something.

I have to admit, while it tastes fine (and bittersweet chocolate actually does a good job of balancing the sweetness of the milk toffee), I *almost* didn’t even eat it, because it looked so bad when I was stirring it in the bowl. I mean, it didn’t really look like food!

It looked better once spread out on parchment, hardened, and cut up into bark pieces. But still, I’m not sure I’d make it again. Maybe I’m just shallow — I want my food to look good too.

If you have milk toffee bits left over, I’d recommend stirring them into vanilla or dark chocolate ice cream instead.

#serendibkitchen

Sweet Treats and Island Relaxation

We’re really getting very close to finishing Kickstarter shipping on Feast. All the simple packages have been done, and now we’re finishing up the fancier ones, the Sweet Treats and Island Relaxation packages. Gods willing, those will all be going out by Wednesday this week, when the USPS pick-up is scheduled. Some of the marshmallows are pictured below — gingered chai and honeyed rosewater with saffron. Mmm…

Then we’ll just be left with the ‘problem cases,’ where for whatever reason, something is unclear. Addresses missing, orders that don’t seem to match up pricing and items, etc. — we’re going to have to write back to a few dozen people and try to sort out what happened on those.

We’re trying to get these sorted as fast as possible, but we’ve been fighting various illnesses around here that are really slowing us down — poor Stephanie got here and started working this morning, and then got felled by a migraine; she kept trying to power through, but eventually admitted defeat (a solid hour after I told her to just go home and rest…).

It’s hard to stop when we’re so close to the end, but at the same time, if we work tired and brain-fuzzled, we’re just going to make mistakes that will require fixing later. We’re double-and triple-checking every order and still, I’m sure some errors slipped through. If you didn’t get something you ordered, then PLEASE, let us know, and we will do our best to make it right!

#serendibkitchen

Gold-dusted, chocolate-covered coffee beans

So, Anand is in 4th grade and Kavi is in 7th grade. Anand’s current teacher happens to be Kavi’s favorite teacher ever, and it’s that teacher’s birthday today. Kavi really wanted to make her a present. The teacher likes Star Wars, her college, and coffee — we couldn’t figure out what to do on short notice with the first two, but coffee seemed do-able. So last night, we took 30 minutes (most of that was waiting-for-the-chocolate-to-set time) and made some chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Instructions: Melt chocolate for 2 minutes on 1/2 power in the microwave; stir until melted, putting back into microwave for 30-second intervals at 1/2 power if needed. (I think it took us about 3 minutes total, but microwave powers differ). Spoon a little into each mold, add coffee beans, spoon the rest of the chocolate to fill the molds. (Two cups of chocolate chips filled a tray of 15 chocolates for us.) Move to fridge until set (maybe 10-15 minutes). Unmold and brush with gold dust.

It’s probably not the best way of infusing coffee into a chocolate, as the end result is a bit crunchy! But I didn’t have a lot of energy for experimenting with actual recipes for things like coffee cream last night, so this had to do.

 

I happened to have these sweet containers on hand for the upcoming Colorful Holiday fair (I’m thinking I want to try making passionfruit chocolates — either passionfruit cream or with dried passionfruit or possibly both!), so we were able to package it up nicely.

The edible gold luster dust makes it look quite fancy! And Kavi did it all, start to finish, herself (including writing her teacher the SWEETEST note). She particularly enjoyed popping the chocolates out of the mold, and painting on the sparkly edible dust. (If you look carefully, you may note that she put some sparkle dust on her lips too at some point when we were waiting for the chocolates to be ready to unmold…)