Among all the February celebrations, my warmest is my hubby’s birthday. For the past couple of years, my daughter and I started a habit out of baking a cake on that day. I don’t often bake, so this makes this day extra special as it gives us the opportunity to share memorable, exciting, messy, one-off funny/panicky moments in the kitchen before we polish everything up before daddy comes home for the big surprise (well perhaps not-so-surprise anymore as he’s starting to notice the tradition now).
This year my daughter and I decided to bake a… Zucchini Cake! Credit for this idea has to go to my daughter’s amazing former nanny who introduced us to this cake.
I know some of you may be cringing and despite the nutritionist in me, I myself was initially skeptical, but the result is AMAZING and it’s almost impossible for someone to figure out that Zucchinis were involved in the mix! In effect, none of the people I served this cake to suspected this twist. So here you’re thinking, why should I ever try a Zucchini cake and to that I’d say:
- Zucchini replaces the butter and gives the necessary moist to the cake (ideal for people trying to cut on fat-calories since Zucchinis have close to zero fat!)
- Introducing vegetables in cake-baking with your kids is a great way to promote vegetables to them as appealing and fun
- It is actually VERY TASTY IN ITS OWN UNIQUE WAY and you will only believe me once you try it so here’s the recipe:
Ingredients (10-12 servings cake):
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. canola or other mild vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups blended zucchini (about 1 large)
- Preheat oven to 350° F (175°C). Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan.
- In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Mix eggs and oil and add to the dry mix. Add blended zucchini and stir.
- Pour the evenly mix into the prepared pan. Bake 60 minutes in the preheated oven.
- Cool the cake completely before decorating it with your favorite garniture. Here I sprinkled on my beautiful blossom-shaped Bundt a bit of confectioners’ sugar then left the final touch to my daughter who decorated it with her favorite fresh berries!
In the past few days London has been blooming with the most exquisite of Springs and unseasonably great weather has made it possible for me to take it all in and get inspired… so much so, that I opted to organize my second daughter’s 1st birthday as a picnic birthday in Hyde Park. Everything went to plan… except → see the left chair in the penultimate picture…
🌀 So today ultimately felt like a battle between my relentless desire to get the sunny season really started and the weather reminding me that it’s still April in London and that there are no weather guarantees around here! (a.k.a chill (literally) ! we’re not in the Mediterranean!)… I’ll call it a tie! 😉
Riddle me this, riddle me that, can you guess what this edible flower-looking thingy is?
With its hilarious knock-offs (think Canal street with a Lebanese touch), to fruit colors that will knock you off your feet, to colorful characters of all ages (think old men sipping Turkish coffee & smoking shisha at local cafés with the colorful Hamra-shopping local fashionista walking by) Hamra street (Hamra means in English the red one) may be shunned today by the Beirut fashion snobs as a destination for the masses, but I certainly recommend a stroll through it to tourists as a way to get a more local feel of west Beirut and a taste of a stretch that has not wavered throughout all the Lebanese turmoil as one of Beirut’s main commercial streets. You’ll note that there is an efforts being made to bring back some lost glory and prominence to Hamra and that it certainly looks nothing like its dodgy depiction in Homeland.
Whether directly from a chimney, a street vendor or even the oven, roasted kastana (arabic & greek for chestnuts) are guaranteed to transport you to cosy land, bringing back fond memories of prior times you gathered around a chimney with family and friends and most importantly they will warm you up!
As I’ve already discussed in a previous post about nuts, chestnuts are also a great source of fiber which lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease. Kastana is a great option for an afternoon snack on a cold day and complements an afternoon tea very nicely.
While people often go for the marron glacé version during the holiday season, i’m not a fan from a nutrition perspective as they’re pumped with sugar (but I won’t deny that the marron glacé deserts can be quite delicious, so perhaps limit those unhealthy versions to very special occasions (e.g. over the holidays in a bûche de Noël / Yule log)). If you’re really looking to try a healthy variation from the classic roasted version, remember that chestnuts can be eaten raw – they will have a different texture (crunchier / harder) and the taste will be a bit stronger, but I find they make a great addition to a drink (warm or cold).
Of course, for the ultimate experience, you have to pop on this tune while you enjoy your kastana!
My mom’s idea of supporting me through the pre and post labor phases has meant for the most part cooking and cooking some more… of course she went way overboard and I’m enjoying every bite of it, each bringing back unique childhood memories and a lot of comfort as it reminds me that I have the support I need to go forward…
I particularly want to focus on Meghleh, a traditional Middle Eastern pudding served as a treat to family and friends after the birth of a new baby.
Meghleh has been flowing in my house for the past couple of weeks and I have consumed industrial amounts of it! Not only is it smooth, delicious, festive and addictive but more importantly for breastfeeding mommies, it can give you a much needed and quick energy boost to cover those extra calories you’ll still need to insure your milk supply while benefiting from its healthy ingredients:
- Spices: caraway and cinnamon (Grandmas swear that those spices help stimulate the breast milk production)
- Rice flour
- Toppings: shredded coconut, raw walnuts, pine nuts, almonds and pistachios, each boosting your diet with filling protein, fiber, healthy unsaturated fats and important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
You know labor is near when you’ve downloaded your contractions app to keep track of their length, intensity and frequency and your mom moves in and brings with her delicious delicacies to make the wait bearable!
Upper left: dried grapes (malban) with raw walnuts
Lower left: fresh-from-the-field green almonds
Right: Pickled mini eggplants stuffed with peanut & spices