Tres leches cake…….minus the leches

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Tres leches cake gives me life.

Every time I order lunch from the local Spanish restaurant across the street from work, I always include a slice for dessert.

And then I feel guilty after eating a dessert that is so heavy on dairy. And not just milk, but milk in 3 different ways like the name indicates.

So, like all the other cakes & ice creams that I love dearly, I want to find a way to enjoy a healthier version of this decadent dessert.

Since the traditional version uses evaporated and condensed milk, which after looking at the ingredients on the can one day and now abhor, I want to attempt a dairy free version. So I searched and found a few recipes online.  Most of them call for combinations of soy and coconut milks, which sound alright but I don’t suspect will have that same impact on the taste buds.

Then I found instructions to make condensed coconut milk, and my interest piqued even further. My quest is to make a dairy free tres leches cake, using variations of coconut milk. If I can pull this off, it will be epic. Wish me luck.

Purple Sea Moss

I’ve always heard of Irish moss, specifically in reference to the Irish moss drink that is popular in Caribbean countries, and its health benefits. But I’ve never heard of purple sea moss until some friends mentioned they were using it.

I’m learning among a number of things that this purple version is a lot healthier compared to most of the conventional tan colored moss that is being sold on the market.

So eager to try this purple version, I ordered and just received the other day my first batch of purple moss.

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When I opened the package it has a pleasant salt water smell. It literally smells like the sea, which indicates to me this is really natural. It’s my first time working with this moss or any form of Irish moss. I’m reading about people making gels, teas, mixing it with smoothies, etc. I’m in the middle of soaking my first batch right now.

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Having watched a bunch of videos with folks instructing you to rinse the moss multiple times to remove the salt its been preserved with. I’m glad to see I don’t have to take that step with this batch, as it has been dried naturally with no salt preservatives. I really hope this batch retains much of the purple color, but let’s see what happens.

Chocolate Wine

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Greetings folks! It’s been a while since I blogged.  Hope y’all had a happy & healthy holiday season.

I blogged about having bought this bottle of wine at
Rhinebeck last year. I’m finally getting around to drinking it. If you like chocolate and red wine, this is the perfect way to enjoy it together.

“Cocoa Island” from Thousand Islands Winery is a locally produced wine sold in only a few stores. It’s a light bodied red with enough taste of chocolate for sweetness, but doesn’t overwhelm the taste of the wine. It’s lower alcohol content (11%) won’t give you a hangover afterwards, even if you’re tempted to drink the whole bottle, LOL

This, and their Wellesley Island White wine will be among my staples that I’ll always keep in my cabinet.

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

I’ve been hearing a bit more about this home remedy for boosting immunity and treatment of colds & flu. Got even more interested when I read that studies showed elderberry to be just as effective if not more effective than tamiflu for treating the flu. My state is currently experiencing a flu epidemic so although I have my flu shot, I’m always willing to have some extra insurance. Elderberry syrup can be bought at the drug stores for around $15 a bottle. After some google searching, I found out it was pretty easy to make at home.

I ordered a bag of dried elderberries, and following a recipe I found online, I gathered the ingredients together. Elderberries, cinnamon, ginger, cloves & honey.

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Directions stated to boil the dried elderberries and spices together for about 45 minutes. After letting the mixture cool a bit, strain out the elderberries, then add honey and voila! You have syrup.

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Usual adult dose is about 1 tbsp daily for boosting immunity. If one contracts the flu, take the same dose every 2-3 hours until symptoms subside.

Finished works in progress

Made a few hats over the last couple of weeks trying to destash my growing yarn collection & make room for new yarn I might wanna get in the future.

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The beige hat on the bottom is one that I knitted last year. I made a major mistake in the hat by sewing on the cable brim backwards. When you fold the brim the wrong side of the cable is exposed. To my knowledge, nobody seems to notice or care, lol

Autumn to me always means apple season and last week I had a bumper crop of apples from my local food co-op. Thought I’d try my hand at making some apple cider since there was no way I’d be able to eat all three bags I had that quickly. I didn’t realize how easy & inexpensive it is to make, and I’m hooked on the taste. I don’t think I’ll be buying anymore cider from the supermarket again.

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I’m brewing my third batch of cider as I type. The entire apt has the scent of cinnamon, cloves, allspice & nutmeg.

Home made dried fruits

A few weeks ago, I bought an excalibur food dehydrator. Expecting it to be somewhat of an ordeal, it turned out to be a lot easier to use than I thought. Simply add the food to the trays, slide inside the dehydrator, plug into the electical outlet and it starts working immediately. I’m a big fan of granola with dried fruit, and berries were being sold at discount at the local produce stalls so I stocked up.

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The one thing I didn’t expect was the length of time it would take to work. These berries took over 24 hours to dehydrate. Depending on the size of the berries, some took a little longer than others. Despite the time and planning involved, it’s a money saver. For example, I dehydrated 4 pints of blueberries at a cost of $4.00, as opposed to spending about $6.00 for an 8 oz package of dried blueberries at the local market.

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The raspberries & blackberries were eaten straight away. The blueberries I used in some home made granola.

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The possibilities are almost endless. Looking forward to later making dried cranberries, kale chips, and maybe sundried tomatoes.

In a pickle……

Unexpectedly I’m on vacation this July 4th week. Why I say “unexpectedly”? Because when I originally applied for this time off, the boss declined my request because too many other folks applied for the same time. Don’t know whether he forgot or had a change of heart, but when I looked at July’s work schedule I saw the vacation time scheduled. I’m not one for turning down time away from work, I’ll always find something to do, even if it’s nothing.

I tend to prefer spending time getting exercise outside instead of the gym as the weather gets warmer. Spotted while doing one of my exercise walks through the neighborhood:


Heard about it on the radio a few months ago. Saw a few snippets of their performance onstage and kinda wished I had bought tickets. I never got to see Michael either.

After a brief stop as South Street Seaport, I did the tourist thing and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge twice on Saturday. One, for the exercise, and second, to check out my friend Mireille’s trunk show; which I ended up missing completely because according to Mireille, who I met outside the venue, the event was unexpectedly shut down early. If you’ve never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, it’s something you must do at least once in your life, especially if you live here. I envy you folks in Brooklyn Heights who walk across the bridge as your daily commute.

Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty in the distance

I’ve walked across the Manhattan Bridge as well. It’s much less crowded but the view is not as nice, except for taking shots of the Brooklyn Bridge. Plus there’s the noise of subway trains passing by as they cross the bridge.

Last week’s veggie stash I got from the community supported agriculture (CSA) group included 5 large salad cucumbers. Didn’t know what I was gonna do with all of them. I couldn’t possibly eat that much salad. I’m not a big pickle fan, but it suddenly popped in my head maybe I should try making some. I googled some recipes and decided to use the recipe from this blog post:

Bread and Butter Pickles | RecipeGirl.com.

The exception is that I got regular salad cucumbers from the CSA instead of those pretty pickling cucumbers used in the blog recipe. Since they’re for my own personal use, a cucumber is a cucumber. The end result will be the same.

Luckily, I found most of the ingredients I didn’t have already at home, mainly the pickling spices and jars at the local dollar store. Bought multiple jars thinking I would have a huge volume, but it turned out I only needed two. Pickling is a lot easier than I thought, fun to do and the ingredients are inexpensive.

The end result:

Homemade bread and butter pickles

My mom has dibs on one of the jars since I can’t eat all these pickles alone. But they won’t last long anyway. The slices are a little on the crunchy side since I sliced them slightly thicker than what you’d typically find in a supermarket jar, but they taste a hell of a lot better.

A taste of Thai

I’m excited to discover a new thai restaurant opened up in the neighborhood. I found it by accident one day while riding home from work. I happened to glance and see the sign. I was a little surprised given this area is known for mainly chinese takeout, fast food and jamaican take out joints.

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Just as it looks from all the signage on the outside, Tri Thai Cuisine located inside the front of a laundromat. When you walk in, the take out counter is carved out space at the front of the building. To someone not used to hole in the wall style take out spots, the location is a bit off putting but when you consider the only local dining options in this area of harlem is mostly chinese take out, fast food, fried fish & jamaican take out, a thai restaurant is a refreshing alternative.

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laundromat behind the takeout counter

I don’t know why I haven’t heard of it earlier, but according to various sources, it’s been open since late last year. It’s a neat take out counter despite the laundromat in the back. If the sounds of washing machines & dryers in the background don’t bother you, then you’re in for a culinary treat. The menu is limited but features most of the popular thai dishes like curries, pad thai & fried rice. My first trip there I ordered the chicken green curry which was just the right amount of spicy along with chicken shu mai which I had assumed were packaged dumplings but discovered upon taste they were homemade & flavorful. Their curry puffs stuffed with chicken & potatoes were light & full of flavor, reminding me a little bit of indian samosas.

Chicken pad thai from Tri Thai Cuisine

The chicken pad thai had noodles that were lighter than I expected but had just the right amount of flavor and not greasy at all. Along with it I had some vegetable dumplings which while they tasted good, were pretty unremarkable.

I hope they add more items to the menu. At this rate this restaurant is gonna make me forget about chinese takeout. If you’re in the Harlem area, try it out & let me know what you think.

Tri Thai Cuisine
754 St. Nicholas Ave at 148th St.
(212) 234-4711

Fresh Strawberry Gelato

I checked this week’s supermarket circular and saw that strawberries were on sale. I knew they wouldn’t be all that sweet since despite the price, they’re not in season yet. But I couldn’t pass up the sale so the next thing that came to mind was using them in ice cream.

I love ice cream, and when it’s homemade even better. Last year at a relative’s wedding, one of the guests brought over her ice cream maker and with a little help from the family made both butter pecan and lemon ice cream from scratch. I don’t have to tell you how outstanding it was. While stirring the milk and egg custard base over the stove that day I promised myself when I got back home I was gonna break out the cuisinart ice cream maker I hadn’t used in ages & start making some ice cream again.

I searched online for ice cream recipes and decided because to make a gelato instead. Gelato is an italian version of ice cream that is more dense, doesn’t contain much air like store bought ice creams and intense in flavor. It also contains less fat compared to ice cream so that’s a plus too.

This recipe from Bon Appetit magazine intrigued me after seeing it on another blog so I decided to go with this one.

Fresh Strawberry Gelato

makes about 4 cups

Recipe by Katrina and Carmelo Turillo
May 2009

Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar (preferably organic)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/4 cups sliced hulled strawberries
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice

Preparation
Stir sugar and cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk in milk and cream. Whisk over medium heat until gelato base thickens and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Pour into bowl. Cool over ice, stirring occasionally.

Puree strawberries in processor. Strain into gelato base. Mix in pomegranate juice. Chill 3 hours. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to container. Cover; freeze until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

I modified the recipe a bit by using fat free half & half in place of the milk & heavy cream. I also substituted lemon juice since I didn’t have any pomegranate juice. After mixing all ingredients according to directions, I let it cool in the refrigerator until ready to mix in the ice cream maker.

While chilling the custard developed that characteristic pink color indicative of strawberry ice cream. Then I added to the ice cream maker and watched it do it’s magic.

Scoop the mix into a container, allow to freeze and voila! Homemade gelato quicker than the time it takes to run to the supermarket for a pint of Haagen-Dasz. I’ll let you know how it tastes tomorrow.

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