Coco Cooks has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 5 seconds.

If not, please visit and update your bookmarks and RSS feed.


Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

If you are looking for some Kentucky Derby Party ideas for this weekend, check out my latest post for

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes...A Review

What can I say. I was lucky a second month in row to obtain a copy of Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros through Library Things Early Reviewer Program. This has to be the most beautifully designed and written cookbook I have come across in awhile. Both travel memoir and cookbook, Tessa offers up a wealth of recipes from various chapters in her globetrotting life between Finland, South Africa, Greece, Cyprus , and Italy. Half Finnish and Half Greek-Cypriot, Tessa recollects memories and recipes from her grandfathers in Finland and Cyprus. It took me a long time to decide what to prepare from this book. Both the savory and sweet recipes are mouth watering. With some new life changes and diet changes,I gravitated to the Greek sections, as the flavors of the Mediterranean are perfect for one trying to reduce salt intake. Cherished family photos , drawings, and honest non slick styling capture the essence of the food.This book will have a place of honor in my vast collection of cookbooks.
Stuffed Vegetables
This has to be the favorite of what I tried out so far. Hollowed out array of Zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, stuffed with rice, and the vegetable pulp, and slowly roasted with potatoes in lemon , Olive oil and tomato juices. The uncooked rice is mixed with the ground beef and pork and seasoned with mint, paprika, salt and pepper and the vegetable pulp. Potatoes are quartered , and all is placed in a baking dish with tomato juice, water, and olive oil and slow baked for 1 1/2 hours. Served warm or room temperature.Its generous recipe that feeds 6-8, and I reduced it , but still ate off for days. Perfect for a family or easy but filling entertaining. It 's presence makes quite a statement on a any table.
Lemon Oregano Chicken
A simple dinner of a whole chicken , spatchcocked, and broiled in lemon juice, olive oil, butter,and oregano. First browned in skillet , then placed in a broiler, the chicken cooks in a reduced time while full of flavor.
Here are some highlights of the various regions Tessa covers:
Finnish Recipes
Lingonberry or Cranberry Jam
Sipis Strawberry Cake
Finnish Mustard
Greek Recipes
Octopus Stifado
Tava (Cypriot Baked Lamb and Potatoes with Cumin and Tomatoes)
Pita Bread
Loukoumades ( Deep Fried Honey and Cinnamon Syrup Puffs)
Mastika Ice Cream
South Africa
Prego Rolls
Barbecued Spare Ribs
Milk Tart
Olive Oil Bread
Fried Mozzarella and Anchovy Filled Zucchini Flowers
Baccala with Red Onions
Chicken, Coconut, and Cashew Curry
Caramel Ice Cream
Ludi's Chicken

Stumble Upon Toolbar


The Daring Bakers Make Cheesecake...POM & Blackberry and Caramel Pecan Banana

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
What can I say about cheesecake? I grew up with a mother who loved to make them. And she was good. The richer the better. You always hear of these quests for the perfect cheesecake. When I saw this recipe I thought it was pretty simple compared to the lengths I saw my Mommy go through. But I loved that this challenge opened up the floodgates of variations and creativity. I decided to make mini cheesecakes for my Ladies Easter Brunch. Certain Someone was away and I was cooking for my girlfriends and aunt.
I choose two types of toppings. Recently I received some POM Wonderful in the mail and needed to create some recipes with it. I made a savory one to be posted later, but decided to give the ultimate anti oxidant rush and make a topping with POM and a basket of blackberries I had in the fridge.
I also had a brainstorm later on to make a Banana Caramel Pecan topping. Since my guest had varied tastes , I decided on both since they would be in mini forms.

I used heart shape mini cheesecake forms, and some adorable cupcake papers I found , that are produced in Sweden. Aren't they beautiful?

I didn't really account for the size in correlation to the baking. I will admit the cupcakes came out better than some of the heart forms, which were over puffed , cooked,and cracked. Nevertheless, none was wasted , and all were topped. I saved the few cracked ones for myself.
The reactions were very positive with my guests trying to decide which one to try. I enjoyed them myself. I heard the frozen leftovers went over to other relations , and they loved them. I had some excess cream cheese and made a mini one for a coworker as she loved cheesecake. It got beat up in the transport, but she was in hog heaven, or so she told me.
Thank you Jenny for choosing your friends recipe and breaking it down for us in a non complicated , non fussy way. Be sure to check out partners in baking.
POM & Blackberry Topping
1 pint blackberries
1 bottle POM Wonderful Juice
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in a few tsp of water.
Wash berries and dry. Add them to a sauce pan with sugar and POM Juice. Heat to a boil until berries start to burst. Add cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Remove from heat.
Pecan Caramel Banana Topping
1 banana
1/2 cups whole Pecans
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan add sugar. Turn heat on and carefully melt until it starts to brown. Do not burn. Reduce heat and add the heavy cream and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat. Add in pecans and set aside to cool.
When ready to top cheescake, slice banana . In a skillet lightly brown the banana in butter on each side. Put caramel pecan mixture on cheesecake and top with sauteed banana.
Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 sticks of cream cheese,
8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

DIRECTIONS:1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.
Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!
Some variations from the recipe creator:
** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries - heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stovetop blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon - cook until berries burst, then cool)
** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel - take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website - just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).
** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.
** Mexican Turtle - add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.
** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of "coins" of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.
Some variations from Jenny (from JennyBakes):
**Key lime - add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.
**Cheesecakelets - put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Akara ( Black Eye Pea Fritters)...My Legume Love Affair 10

Akara is a typical West African snack made of Black Eye peas.Its confusing because I have seen many names and spelling for this dish. The Congo Cookbook cites 11 names for this dish. I remember eating these when my father made them as a child. I actually posted these once before on the blog as a New Years appetizer since they had the requisite black eye peas. that would bring in good luck for the year. What made my fathers so yummy was the addition of chopped shrimp . What I love about this recipe is that you can play around with your spices and additions. Along with the traditional ingredients I choose to add ground shrimp powder, minced sun dried tomatoes for extra flavor. I also purchased a small bottle of palm oil in the African shop. Palm Oil is favored in West African cuisine and highly coveted. You can debate on the health aspect of it, but one thing is certain, its aromatic and imparts a wonderful flavor and research is backtracking and taking a second look at it.I say all in moderation. Palm Oil gets its rich red color from beta carotene. If you don't have or want to fry in palm oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil work just as fine.

1 1/2 lbs of Black Eye Peas soaked overnight in water
2 tbsp rice flour
1 small onion chopped fine
1 green bell pepper chopped fine
2- 3 eggs to bind
1 tbsp ground shrimp powder
4 sun dried tomato's minced
1 tsp curry
1-2 chilies chopped( depends on your spice heat threshold)
salt and pepper to taste
palm, vegetable. or peanut oil for frying

Rinse the black eye peas which have been soaking overnight.In a food mill grind the beans . Take a blender or food processor and add the ground beans , eggs,and some water . Mix until you you have a light paste( not to runny, but enough to hold shape while frying). Add your dry seasonings and chopped onions, peppers, chilies and sun dried tomatoes.
Add a few tablespoons of oil in your fry pan. Heat the oil. Carefully drop spoonfuls of the bean mixtures and fry until golden and done in the center. Be sure to turn the bean cakes as you fry to make sure its fries evenly.

Akara is my second entry( a savory one as compared to sweet one before) this month in MLLA 10... Starters and Desserts created by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook. You still have time to submit your entries this month. Starters, desserts, light snack, etc. Get creative with legumes!

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Well I Thought I was the Cake Diva... Nasturtium 40th Anniversary Cake

Those of you that have been reading Coco Cooks know I dabble in Cake decorating. In fact that's is how this blog came to be. My firsts posts were on my ventures into Cake decorating and sugar craft. This year I finally mustered up the nerve to enter The 4th Annual Student Cake Decorating Competition sponsored by the French Pastry School Chicago. Its for students at both culinary and high school level , of which I fall into neither. But they said as long as I wasn't a professional , I was good. So I paid my $10 donation as entry fee, to benefit Esperanza Community Services and got to work thinking of a 40th anniversary themed cake. I choice the nasturtium flower and accents of Ruby as they are symbolic of the 40th anniversary.
Earlier in the month I started making the gum paste flowers and leaves using a rose cutter and stretching and manipulating the petals to form the Nasturtiums. Then I went back over and brushed color and shimmer over the flowers to give more detail. You can call my style Impressionistic. I let thse dry for sevral days to become hard.

The cakes were actual cake dummies of 6, 10, and 12 inch. I decided to stick with simple white fondant as there would be a lot of color with the flowers. I rolled the fondant, took about 3 Wilton boxes, and centered with a wooden skewer.
The flowers and leaves were applied with royal icing and I made more flowers on the fondant with royal icing using the brush embroidery method. That's piping the icing and taking a damp brush and stroking int outline inwards to create an almost raised Waterford type of effect on the fondant.

Chef Laura Ragano gave an excellent demo with Wayne Johnson of local NBC on basic sugar craft and how she made her cake for Esperanza and a television segment with Wayne earlier in the week. While they did this Celebrity Cake Decorator Nicholas Lodge judged with other experts from Wilton and the community.

I wish I had a picture of the High School levels 1st prize winner. My Blackberry ran out of memory. The boy was phenomenal and it was great to see his family and friends go all out to support him.

This cakes creator was 18 and drove all the way from Massachusetts to compete. She hopes to go to French Pastry School and placed 2nd!

Here is the Culinary level in which I was competing.The first and 4th cakes on the table placed 1st and 3rd respectively.
Certain Someone was very supportive with emails and said mine was still good and to hurry up and get my frickin license so I can make my cakes and sell them.The Twitter and Facebook support was awesome and uplifting. The organizers said the they would email the judges comments for feedback and I am looking forward to hearing what they have to say. My theories are that I didn't include any writing or anything pointing to a 40th anniversary or Esperanza . My images were more symbolic. Maybe my style isn't as neat and precise and I have always had a more painterly style. The teachers in school always pointed this out. I plan to study more int actual anatomy of the flower to be as realistic as possible. Competition is tough and plays at all your insecurities, but the trick is to move on learn from it. Next time!

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Adzuki and Sesame Cookies ...My Legume Love Affair 10

Anybody that knows me well enough knows that I love to stray from the normal. I probably could have been way more popular or understood if I didn't try to be so different . I guess that's the artist in me always trying to recreate and interpret. This month I have the fortune to host the fabulous Susan's of the Well Seasoned Cook, My Legume Love Affair 10. I chose to place a theme on this popular event for Starters and Desserts. I know that may stump some regular participants, but that's what I view what events are for, challenges.

This year I have been fascinated with the Adzuki bean. I used in a Daring Bakers Challenge as an ice cream flavor. In most of Asia, particularly Japan you will find Adzuki beans boiled to a a paste, sweetened with sugar, and used in all types of desserts and sweets. I decided to use the starchy and moist Adzuki paste I made from scratch,
you can but it ready made, with rice flour and rolled in Sesame seeds, This is a grown folks cookie. Not overly sweet , and a nice shortbread like texture with the nuttiness of toasted sesame . Enjoy with a cup of tea and relax.

Adzuki and Sesame Cookies
makes about 40 cookies
recipe can be divided in half
3 cups Rice Flour
1 cup sweetened red bean paste * can be purchased ready made in Asian food stores.
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
12 tablespoons butter or 1 1/2 sticks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
sesame seeds to roll
In a mixing bowl cream brown sugar,butter, vanilla, and egg. Add red bean paste to creamed mixture. Gradually add in increments the dry ingredients( rice flour, baking powder, baking soda). Mix until well incorporated but not do over beat as you don't want to much air in the dough. Take mixture and roll into two logs. Take a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle sesame seeds. Roll the cookie dough logs on the wax paper until well covered with the Sesame seeds. Wrap securely in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F . Line cookie sheets with parchment or a Silpat. Slice cookies about 1/2 inch thick. Place on cookie sheet. These don't spread so much in baking but still leave space between cookies. Bake fr 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let the cookies sit on pan for about 2 minutes. Carefully remove and let them cool on wire rack.
* Red Bean Paste
I made my own Adzuki Paste.
Soak a small bag of small red beans ( Adzuki) in water overnight. Drain and rinse. Boil beans for about 1 hour or more if needed until soft enough to mash. About the last half hour of boiling add brown sugar to taste ( about 1 cup) and more water if necessary. If water goes down add more as needed . Cook down until beans are soft and water is low. Take an immersion blender and puree. Add about 1/2 cup vegetable oil to keep mixture moist. Store in airtight container.

You still have time to submit you enteries for My Legume Love Affair 10... Starters and Desserts. My Legume Love Affairs Deadline is April 30.Enter to win the great book !

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Easter Sunday...Dungeness Crab,Spinach and Salmon En Croute

Christian, Jewish , Agnostic, Atheist this time of year heralds renewal, new beginning, and rebirth. I was fortunate to spend Easter Sunday cooking for my Auntie Mame and two special old girlfriends. One was Gabi who I've only known for a few years, but through many twists and turns was instrumental to me meeting Certain Someone.
And Deborah, and old Shopgirl friend of mine from when I first moved to Chicago who is one the nicest, elegant , and giving people you can ever meet. I always remember how she was the first one of my 'friends' who showed up at the house when my Mommy died. Schedules keep us apart so I felt Easter was perfect to get us reacquainted with a girly lunch with Certain Someone away in Europe.

In the previous post I gave a link to articles I had written for the Ebony site. This lunch used some elements from that post but made some changes. I served the salmon in a new way,
Asparagus Spears with Hollandaise
And Hot Cross Buns!
Gabi and Deborah brought some excellent wines . The highlight being a dry Tokaji from Hungry.
Dessert will be revealed later on this month so hold tight. I will tell you they were a success! This time I decided to place the salmon on a bed of sauteed spinach on puff pastry. The topping had a Dungeness Crab Imperial . Via Twitter one night watching the Number One Ladies Detective Agency, I struck up a conversation with the people of Ocean Harvest out of Charleston Oregon.
They checked out my site and offered to send me Dungeness Crab. How could I refuse!Please check out their informative site. If you are a seafood lover it has chock full of information and they also offer low Mercury Albacore Tuna. It's a wonderful thing to see such pride and dedication in a family owned business.
Dungeness Crab, Spinach and Salmon En Croute
Serves 4
4 fillets of salmon
1 package of Puff Pastry
2 5 1/2 oz cans Ocean Harvest Dungeness Crab drained
1 bag of spinach washed and dried.
2-3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
Old Bay Crab Seasoning
1 Tablespoon capers
Olive Oil
1 egg beaten
Sea Salt
Defrost puff pastry and divide each sheet in half. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. In a sauce pan melt a little butter and olive oil. Add spinach and saute until wilted.In a small bowl mix the crab, mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay, and capers.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush inside of Puff pastry with egg. Place spinach on top of pastry. Add salmon fillet on top. Sprinkle with sea salt. Place a mound of crab mixture on top of salmon. Spread along the length of fillet. Dust with Paprika. Fold up ends and sides to encase the edges of salmon.Brush outside with egg. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden and salmon is done.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Easter Recipes

In case you are looking for some Easter recipes, check out what I put together for Enjoy!

Stumble Upon Toolbar


My Legume Love Affair 10...Starters and Desserts

My Legume Love Affair 10…Starters and Desserts

I am so happy to host this months My Legume Love Affair 10 this month. As I always love a challenge, I decided to put a theme on the event. This month’s entry must be either a Starter or Dessert. I can think of several dishes already. In Asian cuisine, it is not unusual to find desserts made of Adzuki or Mung beans. Moreover, I was just reading the Rooibos teas is in the legume family. Is this helping you? Susan of the Well Seasoned Cook is the brainchild behind this phenomenal event which draws a large volume of entries each month.

Here are a few facts about MLLA 10:
*All recipes must have a legume as the star ingredient. A legume is
A pod, such as that of a pea or bean, that splits into two valves with the seeds attached to one edge of the valves.
Such a pod or seed used as food.
Legumes are not to be confused with the French term for vegetable. Think beans, lentils, pulses, and/or the sometimes edible pods that contain these seeds, and derivative products like tofu that are made from soy.
*Multiple recipes are permitted, but only the first submission is counted towards the random drawing.
*Recipes to other events are permitted.
*You don’t have to a blog to enter.
*Photos are preferred but optional. Please be sure send your photo in a reasonable size not to exceed 400 pixels.
*Recipes from your older archives are permissible, but must be updated with the event info and links. Archived posts need to be re posted as current.Or you may link to your older recipe in your most current post as an FYI with all the pertinent info and requirements for the current MLLA10.
*Feel free to use the badges on your post.
*You must link your entries to both my post and the MLLA Host Line Up
*All geographic locations are eligible for drawing.
*Last day for submissions is April 30. Email cococooks[AT]hotmail[DOT]com.
*Roundup will be posted the first week of May.

The prize for the Random Drawing will be The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Preserving and canning is such a lost art. With the economy being what it is what better way to reduce waste and preserve the flavors of your favorite fruits and vegetables?

Stumble Upon Toolbar