While it lasts

It's nearly November and the weather still allows us the luxury of eating in the garden. While it lasts, we try to grab as many meals as we can on the patio. This Saturday morning was a beauty; blue skies, warm breezes, the scent of Jasmine, and a house filled with giggling girls.

And, eating on the patio gave me a few more moments of relaxation before I tackled the cookie crumbs, lemonade spills, and the microwave popcorn arson scene in the microwave from lasts nights sleepover.

Banana Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze
adapted from theKitchn

2 ripe bananas, mashed
milk, approximately 2-4 tablespoons
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter. Pulse until the butter pieces are no bigger than pea sized. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Alternately combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and cut in the butter until the butter pieces are no bigger than pea sized.

Combine the mashed banana with enough milk to equal 1 cup. In a small mixing bowl combine the banana, and yogurt. Mix well.

Pour the banana mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until just combined  The dough will be slightly wet and sticky. Turn out onto a floured surface and gently pat into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or floured glass cut out the scones. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps and repeat.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the scones are browned and firm to the touch.

While the scones are baking make the glaze. Melt together the butter and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar has melted. Add the vanilla and stir well. Add the powdered sugar and whisk to combine. Drizzle over the top of the scones after they have slightly cooled.


“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” 
― John Henry Jowett

With the events of the past few weeks put in perspective, honest conversations shared, suitcases packed and unpacked (yes J, unpacked), stories heard, hands held, laughter shared, I find myself wanting to tell a lot of people thank you.

Thank you Lauren for sharing a cup of coffee with me every morning. I covet those few moments to catch up.

Thank you Julie for showing me a sweet new spot of respite, conversation and friendship.

Thank you friends from the "Hood" who loved on us long distance.

Thank you Micha for making me laugh.

Thank you to my family, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, who stormed heaven and sent words of encouragement.

Thank you Singapore small group for your faithfulness to me and my family.

Thank you Faouzi for picking up my daughter and taking her home when you noticed she had missed the school bus.

Thank you ACST family for being resilient and moving forward even when at times you weren't sure you had it in you. I knew you did.

Thank you Bredy boys and our security staff for being so brave.

Thank you Hager, your sweet, gentle spirit brings me joy.

Thank you Andy, McKenna, and Morgan for being my soft shoulder to lean on, and my strong hand to hold.

Oh there are more people to thank, and forgive me if you weren't mentioned. I hope your feelings aren't hurt, but if they are, may I offer you a cookie along with my heart felt thanks?  They are buttery, and tender, and topped with warm cinnamon and sugar. A very cozy cookie made for sharing with the people you are most thankful for.

Snickerdoodle Blondies
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup packed dark brown sugar *see cooks note
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter softened to room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. Set aside.

With electric beaters, beat the sugars and butter until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add the dry ingredients, blending on low speed until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Mix together the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cool the bars completely. Remove from the baking pan using the parchment paper as a "sling" and slice into 24 bars.

*Cooks note: The original recipe calls for 2 cups of brown sugar. The brown sugar available to me is very dark, much more so than a dark brown sugar in the US, and can be overpowering in some recipes. I wanted less of a molasses flavor and so I only used 1 cup. I also think if you wanted to gussy these up for company you could make a quick cinnamon flavored glaze to top the bars with but truth be told, they're fantastic as is.


The past few days have been a wild ride.

The adrenaline that carries you through moments of uncertainty and fear has gone.

I'm left with emotions that swing wildly from anger to sadness to mourning to defiance.

The embassy was breached. Our flag was burned. There were terrible videos and photos of angry young men posted to Facebook. They were unsettling.

Photo from clickondetroit.com

Our school was set on fire, looted, vandalized. Again, there were terrible videos and photos of angry young men posted to Facebook. They were maddening.

Photo of a looted and burned classroom

Opportunistic looters. Nearly every computer from the school was stolen.

And then, yesterday, our flag was raised yet again over the embassy. Our school is being cleaned up. There are pledges of help.

Photo from the American Embassy Tunis

There is hope.

During this rough time we had many friends staying with us. We were glued to the TV, the internet, and each other.

Over glasses of wine and mint tea and tears and laughter we shared this meal.

Moros y Christianos, simple, humble black beans and rice. The name translates to Moors and Christians. I didn't make my usual recipe for this dish, this was made on the fly with what was in the pantry. I had brown rice, cans of black beans and some homemade salsa in the fridge.

Moros y Christianos
2 cups brown rice
2 cans of black beans rinsed and drained
2 cans of diced tomatoes in puree
1/2 of a red onion finely minced
1 heaping tablespoon of cumin
2 teaspoons of chili powder
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2-1 jalapeno seeded and finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cups finely chopped cilantro

Cook the rice according to the package directions. While the rice is cooking combine in a mixing bowl the tomatoes, onion, cumin, chili powder, olive oil, jalapeno, salt, lemon juice and cilantro.
When the rice is cooked stir in the beans and salsa. Heat through and serve with diced avocado.


We've been back in Tunisia for a couple of weeks. Enough time to acclimate to the heat, (Sort of. Okay, not really at all), clean out the tumbleweed sized dust bunnies that grew during our absence, and take in whats available at the markets.

Going to the market is a once or twice a week affair, lots of inspiration to be had except at this time of year.  There really isn't a lot on offer. There is a pretty reliable supply of eggplant, zucchini, and plum tomatoes, but not many other vegetables. In another week or two the markets will be busting with goodness but for now....ratatouille and baba ghanoush rule. You can also find piles of stone fruit and heaps and heaps....and heaps of figs.

If you find yourself with kilo, upon kilo of figs, make this cake. It's rich, slightly crunchy around the edges from the brown sugar caramel, and has great texture from the cornmeal in the cake batter.

I think I'll have another slice and google some zucchini recipes.

Fresh Fig Upside Down Cake
Adapted from Food Blogga
Serves 12

1/2 cup butter
1 cup bron sugar
6-8 figs cut into quarters
12 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Plain Greek yogurt or creme fraiche for serving

Preheat oven the 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper.
Melt the butter over medium heat, add the brown sugar and stir until melted. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Place the figs in a concentric circle around the pan.

In a medium bowl beat the butter, sugar, and honey until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just combined.

Gently spoon the batter over the figs and spread to cover the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean when poked in the center of the cake.

Remove the cake from the oven, allow to rest for 10 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan and carefully turn the cake out onto a serving platter. Serve with the yogurt or creme fraiche.

Banana Cream Pie in Jars

For my parents party, as mentioned in the previous post, we served pie since they prefer that to cake. I toyed around with making several regular sized pies but wanted something that was a little more portable and easy to serve. Thanks to my Pinterest obsession I was inspired to make the pies in small canning jars. The steps may seem a little tedious but I recommend having all the components ready, then these will come together in a snap.

Banana Cream Pie in Jars.
Serves 24
2 boxes of Nilla wafers
1 1/2 sticks of butter melted
6 bananas
6 cups whole milk
16 egg yolks
Seeds scraped from 2 vanilla beans
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
4 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Dried banana slices
24 half pint canning jars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Crush the wafers to very fine crumbs. Mix with the melted butter until the mixture resembles sand and sticks together when a handful is squeezed. Divide the crumb mixture between the 24 jars, approximately 2 heaping tablespoons. Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom of the jar. Bake for 8 minutes, set aside to cool completely.

Once cool, place 5 or 6 slices of banana on top of the crust.

Make the pastry cream filling. In a large saucepan heat the milk and vanilla bean till the milk comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light in color. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently whisk in the cornstarch. Pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Next pour the tempered eggs back into the milk and place the pan over medium heat. Stir constantly but gently with a whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the mixture boil for 30 seconds stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Strain through a sieve into a bowl to remove any cooked eggs or lumps, cover with plastic wrap and cool completely. This can be made up to 3 days ahead. Spoon evenly among the 24 jars, approximately a heaping 1/4 cup.

Combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed until soft peaks are formed.  Divide the whipping cream among the jars. You'll use approximately 1/4 cup of the whipped cream to cover the pastry cream, garnish with a dried banana slice and chill until ready to serve, not more than 4 hours.

A party for people who didn't want a party.....

My parents are hitting some milestone birthdays this year so my siblings and I hatched a plan to celebrate them while I was home for the summer.

I should let you know that my parents are on the introverted side of the spectrum. They are also on the "Don't make a fuss" side of the spectrum as well and had made it known that if we planned a PARTY, they weren't coming.

My sister and brother and I began making plans. It would be a small family gathering. A casual afternoon BBQ at their home. Everyone home by 8, so mom and dad could watch the ball game. We divided up the details and set to work. Now, I am not proud of this but I should confess that, I am the oldest child and, well, I'm bossy. So when I say that my siblings and I planned the party, we all know that means I took over and told them what to do. They're good sports.

There you have it.

But we come from a long line of extroverts who think it is criminal to not plan big celebrations for these life events. I should go on record that while I too am on the introverted side, our family parties are one of the things I miss the most about living overseas. The gatherings are large. You will eat too much, and it is highly likely that you will be kissed by a stranger (or be coerced into singing a song, playing charades, or acting in a skit). Just so you're warned.

So I wasn't entirely surprised when I got an email from my cousin. "Mom said that you guys were planning a party for your parents in August and I wanted to know the date". Oh bugger.

And so we found ourselves planning a birthday celebration for people who did not want to have a party.

We (I) decided to stick with the original plan. A casual BBQ at mom and dad's house, triple the amount of food we were planning to serve and tape the game to watch later. Easy, peasy.

We served Pulled Pork Sliders, and Potato Salad, and since my parents aren't cake people we had pie. Lemon Meringue Tartlets, Banana Cream Pie in jars*, and Brownies for the kids. As party favors I found these adorable cookies by Sugar and Flour on Etsy. They were super tasty and cute to boot!

All in all it was a smashing success of a party. The birthday boy and girl even had a good time.

*recipes to follow

Give 'em a try

These brownies.
I didn't have much hope for them. Sort of like the boy I sat next to in third grade. Every time it was his turn to be "up" during kickball I had this sinking feeling that an epic fail was about to occur.

Instead of glasses and a runny nose, there is tofu and a gluten free flour blend. I decided, much like the boy in grade 3, that I would politely give them a try. How bad could it be?

I loved these. Like really, loved them. They are rich and fudgy and don't taste like they might be made from things that are good for you. They are eggless and gluten free and can be made with vegan margarine if that is your thing. I added cinnamon, almond extract, and a chopped dark chocolate bar that had a punch of chili. Feel free to add what makes you happy, chopped nuts (which I find blasphemous), chocolate chips, peanut butter etc.

Oh and that boy? While I didn't fall in love with him, we became great friends.

Chocolate and Chili Brownies
adapted from here
1/2 cup butter or vegan margarine melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
7 ounces of silken tofu pureed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup of gluten free flour
3 ounce bar of dark chocolate with chili such as Theo or Lindt

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl combine the butter and cocoa powder. Stir them together well and let them sit for about 3 minutes. See note below.
Add the sugar, pureed tofu, and extracts and blend well. Next add the salt, cinnamon and flour and stir until everything is incorporated. Add the chopped chocolate and then spread the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

*Allowing the cocoa to "bloom" in the melted butter amps up the cocoa flavor. Cocoa powder contains solid particles of fat and protein that have flavor molecules trapped inside. The warm liquid (whether water, milk, or butter) bursts the molecules and increases the flavor of the cocoa.
*The batter will not be like traditional brownie batter. It is thicker, about the consistency of peanut butter, and will need to be evenly spread in the pan.
*The brownies will still look wet at 25 minutes but baking them longer will only dry them out. Take them out of the oven at 25 minutes and resist the temptation to cut into them until they are cool.
*I find it better to store them in the refrigerator.

Those Darn Goodbyes

One of the things on my list of "What makes Shelly happy" is the fact that many of the friends we have collected while living overseas also spend their summers in the Pacific Northwest.
We get to catch up on what happened in their part of the world while we were apart, things like teenagers learning to drive, the concern over aging parents, the news that you need trifocal lenses, and friends heading off to new posts. I love living life with these people and the time we get is NEVER enough.
We have now reached the goodbye phase of summer, actually I prefer a "see you later", it seems so much nicer to me than goodbye.  The first goodbyes years ago as we left for our new life in Singapore were very heart wrenching. I remember standing in my friends driveway, my heart filled with dread knowing I wouldn't see her for a long time. With tears streaming down her face she looked me in the eye, punched me in the arm, and said "I never liked you anyway, hose head".
I'm sure it was said with ALL the love in her heart.

Tonight is one of those "See you later" BBQ's. My husband was taking some graduate classes this summer at the local university and found out that one of his fellow students owned a vineyard. That little bit of information turned into the discussion of having a gathering at the tasting room to celebrate the end of their time together. I haven't met these people, but I find that giving people cookies is a nice way to hello and then, well, see you later.

Peanut Butter Blondies with Toffee and Peanut Butter Glaze
For the blondie:
1 1/2 cups butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cups peanut butter flavored chips
2 cups toffee bits with milk chocolate such as Heath brand
For the glaze:
1/2 cup peanut butter flavored chips
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 11X15 inch baking pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter, peanut butter, dark brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat until lighter in color and fluffy about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat well to combine.
Whisk together the baking powder, salt, and flour. On low speed, add this to the butter mixture and mix well.
With a wooden spoon stir in the chocolate and peanut butter chips. Spoon into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Generously sprinkle the toffee bits over the top of the peanut butter batter.
Bake for 35-40 minutes.
While the blondies are baking make the glaze. In a medium size saucepan over medium heat combine all the glaze ingredients and stir until melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool.
When the blondies are completely cool drizzle the glaze over the top and allow to set for an hour or until the glaze feels firm to the touch. You don’t want a runny glaze running all over when you cut the blondies.
Makes 24 generous sized blondies.

Well that was Awkward and Painful (And there's a Give Away)!

Have you ever done something and even though you were by yourself, and there were no witnesses, you were still embarrassed?
Today after running errands I came home to change my clothes to go for a walk. I got my foot stuck in the leg of my jeans, lost my balance and fell over the exercise bike. I ended up stuck between the bike and the wall.
Did I mention that in the midst of falling I sustained a rather large and deep scratch to my backside that started bleeding rather briskly?
I should also confess that while I was using a mirror to get a visual on the wound to bandage it, I slipped off the edge of the bath tub.
I have since recovered, nearly, from the indignity of the afternoon.
Although I do have to type standing up.

In addition to sharing with you my mortification I had two other things in mind to share with you.
First of all this.....

For our friends wedding anniversary brunch I also made this Buckwheat and Banana Bread. Despite looking rather uninteresting and a little homely, it was a lovely addition to the table. The buckwheat flour gave the loaf a really nutty taste and aroma. I definitely will be making it again.

And then I really wanted you to see these....

I found these aprons at the Bellingham Farmer's Market. They are the handiwork of Twigg and Bek, very talented, sassy, and funky textile artists. The aprons are made with quilting fabrics and they are really special. The colors are vibrant and you just can't help but feel creative and happy while wearing one. Now, here's where the fun comes in. I have one of the aprons, the second one from the left to be precise, to give away to one of you lucky readers.

So, here's what you need to do. Leave a comment about one of your most awkward or embarrassing moments. On Friday July 20 I'll choose a winner. Make sure to leave your email address so I can contact you.
Can't wait to hear your stories!

Buckwheat and Banana Bread
adapted from Martha Stewart
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour, or whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed, ripe banana
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coarse sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch loaf pan and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and beat well until incorporated.
In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and blend until just combined. Add the banana, sour cream, and vanilla and then stir well.
Pour batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with the coarse sugar, and bake until tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 1hour-1hour 10 minutes.
Let rest in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a baking rack.

Oh Happy Day

What a glorious week we have had. The sun has been shining, the skies are clear, friends are abundant, and the iced coffee is flowing. Make that iced coffee and Mimosas.

It's important to stay hydrated.

We don't usually throw down Mimosas every morning but today we had friends over for brunch. The fabulous M and B are celebrating 25 years of wedded bliss and we wanted to toast them. We've been friends for a long time, and lucky for us they will be joining us in Tunisia in August. Woo Hoo!

We spent the morning talking family, and future, and laughing a ridiculous amount. If you don't have friends who make you laugh a ridiculous amount go find some right now.

With the Mimosas we ate these. Melon with prosciutto and a drizzle of lime and olive oil. Lots of black pepper and a little mint made them sing. They come together in a snap so you can get back to more important things, like laughing your head off with old friends.

And don't forget the importance of staying hydrated.

Melon with Prosciutto and Lime Drizzle
Serves 4 as an appetizer

8 slices of melon, about 1/2 of a melon peeled and seeded
8 slices of prosciutto, each slice cut in half lengthwise
cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of a really fruity olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

Wrap the prosciutto around the melon slices and place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper.
In a small bowl combine the lime juice, olive oil, honey, and mint. Drizzle evenly over the melon slices and serve.

Failure to Launch

Not that I'm complaining, well I am a bit, but summer has failed to launch in the great Pacific Northwest. We still turn the heat on in the mornings, wear fleece, and snuggle under a blanket to watch TV. Yes it is July 3.

But things could be worse. We could have raging wild fires, power outages, and temps of 100+. What's a little rain......

Speaking of failure to launch.....

Don't you just hate it when this happens! I was bringing dessert to a friends house last night and made this Almond Poppy Seed Pound Cake, I was serving it with whipped creme fraiche and berries. At the last minute I thought I would make a glaze to hide the cakes disfigurement.

As you can tell I ended up with a cake that looked like birds did their business all over it. Lovely.

Thankfully they are good friends who will look the other way when someone serves them up questionable looking baked goods.

Or maybe the wine clouded their judgement.

Almond Poppy Seed Pound Cake
adapted from here
1 cup of butter at room temperature
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of sour cream
6 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 325. Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. Add the sour cream and beat until light and fluffy.
In a medium bowl stir together the eggs and the almond and vanilla extract. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Alternate adding the flour and the eggs to the butter mixture beating well to combine. Add the poppy seeds and stir to combine thoroughly.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour 15 minute to 1 hour 30 minutes.
Cool completely then unmold onto a serving platter.

Looking Forward

2 more sleeps.
Our flight home leaves in two days. The past ten months have whizzed by in a whirl of newness. New country, new language, new culture......And now in TWO days, 2 pinch me I can't wait days, we will be on our way back to Seattle for the Summer.

We'll be trading.......
This is my dining table during finals week.
 and Mediterranean views

Les Thermes de Antonin

For a well used backyard

My backyard at the height of summer!

Visits with family and friends, sleeping in, bald eagles, osprey, hikes to Oyster Dome, wine tasting, BBQ's, s'mores, and.....well, here I'll just send you a little link love to all the places I am going to see the next 8 weeks.

Skagit River Brewery, because life is too short to drink bad beer.

Bellingham Farmers Market, one of the top 10 farmers market in the West according to Sunset magazine.

San Juan Islands, this archipelago of 172 islands needs no introduction.

Chihuly Garden and Glass, I saw one of his installations in Venice Italy years ago and I can't wait to see this new exhibit at the Seattle Center.

The Breadfarm, Fig and Anise Panini, Sour Cherry Lemon Bread, Cocoa Nib Shortbread.....sigh.

Samish Bay Cheese, Oh Lord. I'll leave it at that.

There is so much more so you'll just need to stay tuned.....

Afternoon Tea

I originally made this cake for an afternoon tea. But truth be told, we ate it for breakfast the next morning. We also ate it for second breakfast, and maybe again after lunch. Maybe another time later that day but we won't go into that.

And while I'm being truthful, when I say we, I meant me.

The pistachios are front and center, swirled through the batter and then added to the top for even more crunch. Their violet and green color certainly makes for a pretty cake. But once you take a bite, I think you'll be surprised to find how the orange and lemon flavors really steal the show.

Pistachio Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze
Adapted from Bon Appetit
For the cake:
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons of grated orange zest
2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons of orange juice
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 cups flour
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped divided
For the glaze:
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 325. Grease and line with parchment paper a 9 inch loaf pan.
For the cake:
In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Add the zest and citrus juices and mix well, the batter will look very curdled at this point. Do not despair, it will come together when you add the dry ingredients.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and blend to combine. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Fold in 3/4 cup of the nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth the top and sprinkle evenly with the remaining nuts.

Bake for 1-11/2 hours or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

For the glaze:
While the cake is baking make the glaze by combining the orange and lemon juice with the icing sugar. Stir well until the sugar has dissolved, and then set aside.

When the cake comes out of the oven poke the surface with a skewer evenly. Spoon the glaze over the top of the warm cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

On the Patio

It seems like Spring has just sprung and now here we are firmly headed toward Summer. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy once again living in a place that has 4 distinct seasons? With balmy breezes, clear blue skies, and the sound of crashing waves in the distance, we find ourselves spending more time on the patio.

This recipe is my new favorite "Come on over and share a glass of wine with me" snack.

They are just great with an icy cold Rosé, and some Pecorino cheese or olives. Sharing them with great friends is a given.

Chipotle and Rosemary Spiced Nuts
Adapted from Ina Garten
3 cups whole unsalted cashews
2 cups whole walnut halves
2 cups whole pecan halves
1 cups whole almonds
Vegetable oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves chopped
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl combine all the nuts with the vegetable oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, and chipotle powder. Stir well to coat the nuts evenly. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of rosemary and stir again.
Spread the nuts in one layer on the sheet pan and roast for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and glazed. Check the nuts every 7 minutes and toss with a spatula to help them brown evenly.
Remove the nuts from the oven and toss with 2 more teaspoons of kosher salt and the remaining rosemary. Toss well to combine. Let the nuts cool to room temperature, stirring frequently so they do not stick and clump together.
Check for seasoning and serve warm or at room temperature.

Or, How About This.....

Another way to use those biscuits. Split and top them with shredded chicken that has been liberally doused with a sweet and spicy sauce. This is best eaten on a sunny weekend evening, sitting in the backyard with beer and great friends.

BBQ Chicken Shortcakes
6 large biscuits
4 chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts
Canola oil
1 medium onion chopped fine
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons molasses
6 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
salt and pepper to taste

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Once the water boils, add 2 teaspoons of salt and the chicken breasts. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the water to a plate, cover and let cool. One the chicken has cooled enough to handle shred it into fine strips. I do this by hand, just pull it apart. This is a great job for kids.

To make the BBQ sauce, heat some canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute an additional 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup.  Cook until the brown sugar dissolves and the mixture bubbles. Add the tomato paste, water,Worcestershire sauce, and cumin. Stir well to combine. If the sauce seems a little too thick add more water. Allow this to simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If you find that the sauce tastes very acidic, add the baking soda, this will balance out the sauce. Taste again and adjust any seasonings.

To serve, mix the chicken with the sauce and warm through. Warm and then split the biscuits, Divide the chicken mixture evenly on the bottom biscuit half. Top with the remaining biscuit half and serve. You can serve these with chopped onion, and cheese if you wish. We like them as is.


I love biscuits. Morning, noon, or night. Plain, or fancy. Leavened only with baking powder or with a little yeast thrown in. Oh yes, biscuits make me swoon. These are flaky and tender, helped along with a large dose of cheddar cheese and made slightly extravagant by the use of heavy cream as the liquid. They are great on their own but they are wonderful as a side to, well, just about anything. They are best eaten the day they are made but if you have a couple left over, split and toast them, then top them with scrambled eggs, a little more cheese, and if you're feeling it, some bacon.

You can thank me later.

Cheddar and Black Pepper Biscuits
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
10 tablespoons chilled butter cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Additional heavy cream, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and paprika

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, and cayenne pepper. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the heavy cream and cheddar cheese and toss with 2 forks until the dough clumps and comes together. If it seems too dry add more cream a tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft but not too sticky.
Gather the dough together and knead it very briefly on a floured surface, just to make a smooth, cohesive dough.  Roll the dough out into a 12x12 square about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into 12 square biscuits, brush with heavy cream and sprinkle each biscuit with some sea salt, pepper and paprika. Place on baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Cake for Six

My house is filled with teenage girls. Six of them. Since last evening there has been hysterical laughter, hushed whispers, an obscene amount of snacks consumed, a great quantity of pizza consumed, hair curled, prom dresses tried on, movies watched, and music playing.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

I made them this snack cake. It is moist, rich, and relies greatly on really good peanut butter. Use one that is just peanuts and very little else. You really want the peanut taste to shine through.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Streusel Cake
Adapted from Epicurious
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter cut into small pieces
1 cup peanut butter
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9X13 inch baking pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor place pulse together the flours, sugar, butter and peanut butter.  Remove 1 slightly heaping cup of this mixture and set aside. This will become your streusel topping.

To the remaining mixture add the eggs, milk, extract, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Pulse to combine into a smooth batter. Using a rubber spatula gently stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.  Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth evenly.

To the reserved flour mixture add the chopped peanuts, cinnamon and remaining 1 cup of chocolate. Mix together well and sprinkle over the top of the cake.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cooks note:
*You can make this without the food processor, just have your butter slightly cooler than room temperature and proceed as you like.
*Today when I made this cake I had to cook it for more like 45 minutes. My oven is very wonky so your cooking times may vary.

Al Fresco

The weather has been glorious lately. I really can't remember the last time I saw a cloud in the sky. With weather like this there is no excuse to not eat every meal out of doors. Tonight I made a quick salad and we sat outside and laughed and talked until the mosquitoes made things a little uncomfortable.

White Bean and Tuna Salad with Preserved Lemon and Mint
4, 15ounce cans of white beans rinsed and drained well
2 large shallots minced
1 preserved lemon or the zest of one large lemon
1 cup flat leaf parsley chopped fine
1 cup mint leaves chopped fine
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2, 8ounce cans of solid-pack tuna in olive oil, drained

If using the preserved lemon rinse it well under running water, scoop out and discard the lemon flesh, then chop the lemon rind finely.
Combine the beans, shallot, preserved lemon (or zest), and herbs in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the beans and let sit for 20 minutes.
Before serving break up the tuna and stir it through the salad.


I'm feeling better. I'm not sure if it was the crystal blue cloudless skies, laughing with friends, or the knowledge that we've hit the homestretch. Just a month now until we go home.

Or, maybe it's the butter. Butter that has been browned until it smells all nutty and makes your nearly grown children come into the kitchen to wonder what in the world you are making.

That was some butter I tell you. I splurged and bought some French butter. It was serious butter, not butter you would buy everyday, unless of course you lived in France and could buy it everyday. This was luxury butter. It must have taken some very happy cows to make butter that good. After browning it I slipped in a split vanilla bean while I waited for it to cool. That was pretty genius on my part. The warm butter infused with the vanilla. Sigh. It smelled great.

I used the browned butter to make my favorite type of cake, a simple bundt cake, but one with a little cha cha from the browned butter and vanilla beans. I served the cake with the first of the season raspberries and some sweetened and whipped creme fraiche.

Feeling even better now.

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake
Adapted from Miss in the Kitchen
1 cup unsalted butter, browned, and cooled until set (see cooks note)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
4 cups all purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Vanilla Glaze
2 cups icing sugar
1 vanilla bean split and scraped

Preheat the oven to 350, grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the scraped vanilla bean, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Blend on low speed until combined.
To the flour mixture add the browned butter, sour cream, milk, vanilla extract, and eggs. Beat on low speed to combine. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes or until fluffy.
Pour cake batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the cake springs bake when touched and a testet inserted comes out clean.
Cool the cake completely.
For the glaze, in a bowl mix together the icing sugar and enough milk to make the glaze the consistency you like. Add the scraped vanilla bean and mix well.  Pour over cooled cake.

Cooks Notes:
*How to Brown Butter.
Heat a medium sized heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Slice 1 cup of butter into tablespoon sized pieces and add them to the pan. Stir the butter frequently until melted.
You will notice that once the butter has melted it will begin to foam. Soon the foam will subside and lightly browned bits will begin to form on the bottom of the pan. Watch the butter carefully as it can quickly turn from nutty brown to acrid black in the blink of an eye.
Once the butter begins to smell nutty and the milk solids have browned on the bottom of the pan remove the pan from the heat and pour into a heat resistant container to cool.
*At this stage I slipped a split vanilla bean into the brown butter to infuse it, you don't need to do this but the house smelled fantastic!
*I made the brown butter the evening before I made the cake so that it could cool completely and set up. I left it at covered at room temperature as my kitchen is fairly cool, but you can certainly put it in the refrigerator, allow the butter to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.


I have a small case of the blahs.
I hope you understand, there's nothing to worry about.
Nothing is terribly wrong.
I'm just...blah.

So to snap out of it I've been trying a few things. New music for starters, Jack Johnson Best of Kokua Festival  will lift the grumpiest of spirits. Try it! And for some reason, I have been listening to a bit of KC and the Sunshine Band and the Bee Gees. My daughters are more than a little horrified by that last confession. Last week while humming away to Boogie Shoes I looked up to find my youngest standing at the kitchen door with her mouth agape.  She then uttered, "Good God" and called for her sister. I'm sensing an itunes intervention soon.

But the sun is out, God is good, and we'll be home in 42 days. That last part is probably the source of my "Meh" state. But 42 days is not long at all! Gee things are looking up already.

These flowers hanging over the edge of our fence do a lot to cheer up our mornings.

If you have been reading this blog you know that on Saturdays my friend Lauren and I head to our local market to pick up the weeks fruit and vegetables. Everything is locally grown in Tunisia, very little of our food supply is imported. It has been a great joy to cook with the seasons, celebrate what is in season and anticipate what is to come. The market stalls are really a beautiful sight, and ever inspiring. Just this week the giant bunches of mint were begging to be made into a mint chutney or the occasional afternoon mint julep. Stone fruits are starting to make an appearance, the tomatoes are gorgeous and bursting, and there were even a few punnets of raspberries.

My weeks haul. The scent of the melon perfumes my kitchen. It's intoxicating.

After seeing what was available at the market, I had a craving for a big garden salad with crispy homemade croutons and a Ranch style salad dressing. Now Ranch dressing isn't something that we can buy here so when the cravings hit, it's good to have a greens grocer that has a steady supply of fresh herbs. Chives, flat leaf parsley, and dill, added to a little creme fraiche and a few other ingredients and I'm well on my way to chasing away the blahs.

Now, if you'll excuse me, KC and I have a date in the kitchen.

Creme Fraiche and Green Herb Dressing

1/2 cup of creme fraiche or sour cream
1/2 cup of mayonaise
1 large garlic clove minced
4 tablespoons of minced chives
4 tablespoons of minced flat leaf parsley
4 tablespoons of minced dill
Juice of half a lemon
sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except the milk and salt and pepper. Use the milk to thin the dressing to the consistency you like and then season with salt and pepper. Add more herbs, garlic, whatever you like to make this yours.
It's great with baked potatoes, on top of salads, and as a dip for chicken.

The Road to.....

Hell is paved with good intentions.
That's what my Mom told me once. I tend to think it may occasionally be true. It was this past week at least.

My week didn't actually go to hell. I had things I intended to write about, recipes that I have come to really like and wanted to share but then life happened, and friends came to visit, and no pictures were taken (how could I not take pictures of these people and the fun we had) and time just got away from me, (and clearly punctuation has gotten away from me) and the things I wanted to share with you were neatly spooned into storage containers and zip top bags and set in the refrigerator to make someone a happy lunch this week.....

It was an oddly quiet week and for some reason, even though I had great plans and plenty of time, I just couldn't get around to writing, or more precisely, I couldn't find the words to say what I wanted to say. Half our family was gone for a soccer tournament in Spain (I know. We don't feel bad for them) leaving the other half a little lost as to how to spend our time. The house was just too big, and while there was warmth and laughter (Morgan and I do know how to have a good time together) we just missed sharing life with the rest of our little tribe. Thankfully the weekend came and with that friends. Thank goodness for friends.

There were sleepovers, and giggly girls wanting to be fed, and baking, and marinating, and second guessing on an appetizer that I served at a BBQ. Olives warmed in a honey and sherry vinegar reduction. I bought this crazy huge jar of honey at the market a few weeks back. It was an impulse buy.  Well that's not entirely true, it was more pressure, hard sell, and lack of language skills that lead me to trade money for a giant jar of honey. Honestly though I am not a honey person and it could take me the better part of a year to get through all this honey. This recipe though called for 2 cups of the stuff, WOO HOO!

I cooked the olives, tasted them, got scared. Let them sit a bit, tasted them again. Not so scared but now concerned. Was this a recipe that I made because of the beautiful pictures, and intriguing ingredient list that in reality would just be weird?

Nah, it was good, addictively so. Salty, sweet, sour, sticky goodness. I'm all set if my intentions this week head South.

Warm Olives with Honey Gastrique
adapted from Tyler Florence Family Meal
3 cups Sherry vinegar
2 cups honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 large fresh sprig of rosemary
Grated zest of one orange
Grated zest of one lemon
5 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
1 pound of mixed olives, unpitted

In a large shallow skillet combine the vinegar, honey, and olive oil. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Add the bay leaves, rosemary, orange and lemon zest, garlic and olives.
Simmer uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to a thick syrupy consistency.
Serve the olives warm.

My Day Thus Far.......

Here is how my day started.
4:15 am, pushing the bounds of my "morning personhood", the call to prayer sounds. The speaker is directly across from our bedroom window. I think I can drift back to sleep.
4:45 am, a pack of neighborhood stray dogs begin howling at the rising sun, joining in chorus to a random rooster, and other birds.
Since the world is waking up around me I may as well get up.
I turn on my laptop, make coffee, consider what I might make for breakfast for the sleepover girls.
Sip coffee, look at Facebook, throw together a dough to make cinnamon rolls.
5:45 am, some sort of alarm I have never heard starts sounding from an upstairs bedroom. It is not unlike the sound of police sirens at full volume.
The sleeping teens, including the owner of the blaring alarm, do not stir from the downstairs guest room.
I run upstairs and find someone's Blackberry phone ringing away to the morning alarm.
I try to turn it off but only manage to hit the snooze. Hmmm, how to turn off the alarm. I am not at all familiar with Blackberrys.
Ah, that must be the volume button, that can buy me some time until I figure this out. Oops, nope not the volume, I may have just changed some settings. Shoot.
The alarm sounds again. I hit a button and accidentally call someone named Tinta. Tinta isn't happy. At least I think she isn't happy. I can't tell because she doesn't speak english.
I hit another button and end the call. I think. Phew.
Okay, what is that button.......Oh good Lord. I accidentally take several pictures of the floor and closet. I also may have possibly taken a video which I really hope doesn't have sound.
I may have said some unkind words about the phone.
The alarm sounds again. I have figured out the snooze function and hit it.
I google how to turn off the alarm. That doesn't work.
I google how to turn off the DAMN phone.
The alarm goes off again, this time the sound is a little muffled because it is at the bottom of the laundry basket. Snooze is hit again.
It is now 6:30. I consider backing over the phone in the driveway.
Instead, I wake up the sleeping girl, which I should have done 45 minutes ago, and have her turn off her phone.
Good morning.

Brown Sugar Caramel Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from the Pioneer Woman
For the dough:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 package yeast
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
For the filling:
1 cup butter melted
1 cup dark brown sugar lightly packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup butter at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon maple extract

To make the dough: Over medium high heat warm the milk, butter, and sugar. Just warm it through, don't let it simmer. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl, stir together the yeast, flours, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add the milk mixture and with a dough hook blend until a soft dough forms, or using a wooden spoon stir the dough until it comes together. Spritz the dough with a little oil, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.
While the dough rises make the filling and frosting.
For the filling: Stir together the butter, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On low speed add the powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Add the extracts and combine. Set aside.
To assemble: Turn out the risen dough onto a floured surface. Knead to bring the dough together. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the filing mixture over the surface and roll up. Pinch the seam closed and slice into 12 equal rolls.
Place in a 15X10 inch baking pan (you can use a 9X13 but it will be crowded), lined with parchment paper. Cover with a towel and let rise again for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375. Bake the rolls for 15-18 minutes. Immediately after removing from the oven spread the rolls with 1/3 of the frosting. Let cool for 15 minutes and frost with remaining frosting before serving.

À Bientôt

Sweet friends came to Tunisia this past week. They will be moving here in August and to say that we can't wait is an understatement. I'm counting down the days I'm so excited. 132 days. Sigh, it's like waiting for Christmas.

Yesterday was their last day here for a while, we squeezed in a few more cups of coffee, important chats, a little site seeing, a little getting lost....... Just enough to leave them excited to return minus the getting lost part. It was a beautiful day, the sky was impossibly blue, the Med a crystal clear turquoise pool, the day was warm but there was enough of a breeze to keep you the perfect temperature.

To ease into the day I made a coffeecake. It was very moist, and rich with a crunchy caramelized topping. I think it set the mood for a perfect final day until we see them again soon.

À bientôt, see you soon Marty and Bridged!

Saturday Morning Coffeecake
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups dark brown sugar, divided
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9X13 inch baking pan.
In a food processor combine the flours, sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, and salt, pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If you don't have a food processor whisk together the flour, sugar and salt and cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 2 cups of the crumb mixture, and place the remaining crumb mixture in a medium mixing bowl.
To the mixing bowl add the baking powder, baking soda and mix well. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla and stir well to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.
To the 2 cups reserved crumb mixture add 1 cup dark brown sugar and the cinnamon. Mix well and sprinkle the crumbs over the batter. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 35-40 minutes.
If you can manage it, allow the cake to cool slightly before serving. I dug in right away and have the burned roof of my mouth to prove it. Totally worth it though.


I wanted to show you the beautiful blue skies we've been having of late. Is this a great reason to get out of bed in the morning or what?  I'm kind of strange, I am very much a morning person. Actually I am very much an early morning person, and it's even better in my book if that morning is a Monday.

I know, strange right?

If you are however not a morning person, I make the case that these muffins might just persuade you otherwise.

Morning Muffins
Makes 2 dozen
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups grated carrot
2 apples grated
1 cup grated unsweetened coconut
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar lightly packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup olive oil
6 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Coarse sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the zucchini, carrot, and apple. In another mixing bowl whisk together the coconut, flours, cornmeal, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the zucchini mixture and stir well to combine.
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup mix together the oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold together until just incorporated. The mixture may be a bit lumpy.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin tins and then sprinkle each muffin liberally with coarse sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to sit in the muffin tins for 5 minutes then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Kefta Mkaouara

We are wrapping up our spring break holiday here. The girls went off to Singapore to see old friends, and we played host and tour guide to Andy's brother Mike here in Carthage. I was hoping to get to the gym regularly, meet a friend and her newly adopted daughter for coffee, drive out into the countryside, and get around to that "to do list". The reality however consisted of my coughing and wheezing, and alternately guzzling cough syrup and popping Tylenol for the first half of the week. Bronchitis is not a fun way to spend a holiday, though I'd take it over the stomach flu anytime.

While the cough and congestion lingers a little I was feeling well enough for a short outing here and there by midweek. Andy and I made it out to the ruins of Utica. Utica was the first Phoenician colony founded in North Africa. It was a sweet spot, the ruins aren't as impressive as Dougga, but they are easily navigated, and it's a nice place to stop for a picnic lunch and stroll through the hills.

On our walk through the hills we came cross a young man tending his cattle and then a few feet further down the path we ran across some sheep. The lambs were adorable, springing straight up in the air.

Another outing led us to Le Musee National du Bardo, the Bardo houses an impressive collection of mosaics taken from all over Tunisia. I was set to be underwhelmed, but the museum turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. Not all the exhibit space is open yet, there is extensive renovation going on. It will be fabulous when completed.

This mosaic of Poseidon was one of my favorites.

And the door....

I have a well documented thing for doors.

I don't know why this one wasn't painted blue as is the custom. Sometimes if they have the Star of David, as this one does, they will be painted yellow. I loved seeing this in its natural wood state. I think it's beautiful.

We also tried to treat Mike to local delicacies. There were a few Shwarma, and local seafood spots that were hit and at home, while not cooking authentically Tunisian/North African, I incorporated some of those flavors into what we ate. Beans with preserved lemon, Harrisa glazed chicken, and on Mike's last night I did a little research and made a tagine. Kefta Mkaouara, is a tagine of highly seasoned meatballs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. Typically at the end eggs are poached on top, I omitted that step as I liked how the tagine looked and tasted without the addition of the rich egg yolks. Maybe next time.

This meal comes together fairly easily, we served it with couscous but I read that it is tradition to serve it with bread. The tagine is placed on the table and each person uses the bread to scoop out meatballs and sauce. Definitely next time. I used all beef for the meatballs though the recipe calls for a mix of lamb and beef. I also didn't use optional cinnamon in the meatballs, use it if you like.

If you don't have a tagine don't worry, a dutch oven or wide saute pan works just as well.

Kefta Mkaouara Tagine
adapted from Paula Wolfert
For the meatballs
1 lb. ground beef or lamb or a combination of the two
2 slices stale sandwich bread, crusts removed and the bread ground fine
1 medium red onion minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the tomato sauce
3, 15 ounce cans of tomato puree
1 medium red onion diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, your preference
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Olive oil
3-4 eggs (optional)

For the meatballs:
In a large bowl mix together the bread crumbs, onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, cinnamon if using, cayenne pepper and the fresh herbs. Add the ground meat and knead all the ingredients to gether. Form the meat into walnut sized balls and set aside. 
Heat a large shallow saute pan over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute the meatballs in batches until browned, but not cooked through. Set the meatballs aside while making the sauce.
For the sauce:
In a dutch oven, tagine base, or saute pan heat some olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, brown sugar and salt. Saute for another 3 minutes. Add the tomato puree, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. Add half fresh herbs reserving remainder for garnish.
Add the meatballs, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through. 
If desired, break the eggs over the top of the meatballs and cook until the whites are solid and yolks are partially set approximately 7 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved herbs and serve.
To serve:
Kefta Mkaouara is traditionally served in the same dish in which it was cooked with each person using bread for scooping up the meatballs from his own side of the dish. Couscous is also lovely served with this tagine.