Sometimes I feel like I am being followed around by my own personal fail whale, and I am not Ahab. Or, “Coconut Layer Cake: A delicious summer treat.”


As a 1930s wife, I am

Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!

And I am reminded again of my many failings. And though I don’t put too much stock in this one – Nick took the husband version of the test and was also slapped with a big fat FAIL – it does remind me that I do suck at a great many things. This does, and the cake I made for Sooin.

The cake was delicious: coconut, sweet, and frosted with goat cheese icing. But it was fugly as all get-out, and by now, I’ve run through all the different ways in which it was not my fault (I lost my round cake pans, my apartment was too hot and the icing didn’t set, there was not enough time, there’s never enough time). Tasty though it was, if we’re judging on appearance, I get another big fat FAIL. I wish I made cakes that look like this:

SuperStock_1555R-191028But I make cakes that look like this:

Cake (not pretty).My cake has personality. And character. That other cake is probably made with Splenda and ground-up babies. And it will probably give you cancer. It’s too pretty – you can’t trust it.

Make my cake. Use your round cake pans, cut each layer in half and stack them together, and ice the thing when the weather is cooler. As I mentioned, I made a frosting with goat cheese, and it was lovely – just make cream cheese icing, but instead of cream cheese, use goat cheese. It’s tart and wonderful and will make a rich, delicious frosting that you’ll want to eat with your fingers. But I was thinking about it today, and I think it would have been even better as a layer cake frosted and filled with whipped cream. It would have been effortless, and beautiful if sprinkled with a smattering of toasted coconut.

Coconut Layer Cake

(Two 8-inch round cake pans. Or one 9×13 slab.)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until the mixture is lighter in colour and fluffy. Drop in your yolks (reserve your whites in a separate bowl), and continue to beat.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. While still beating the butter/sugar/egg mixture, add the flour in by the cup. After the first cup of flour, add in about half of the coconut milk. And then add another cup of the flour, and then the other half of the coconut milk. Add in the vanilla, and then the final cup of flour. Beat it.

In that other bowl, whip your egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Once these are all ready to go, fold these into the batter.

Egg whites being folded into batter.What’s folding? It’s easier than maybe it sounds. You’ll literally be folding the batter over the egg whites, combining the two substances gently until one is integrated into the other.

Pour into your cake pans, which you will, of course, have lined along the bottom with perfectly fitted parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the centre clean. Let rest in pans for five minutes, then turn onto racks to cool. I really think you should frost this with too much whipped cream.

Serve. Enjoy. Personality goes a long way.

Blurry photo of cake.

Berry muffins and your leftover rice.

Muffins!You know when you’ve got leftover rice except that it’s not enough to do anything with and you’d usually throw it out? DON’T! Make muffins. It’s summer, and berries are abundant (well, maybe not yet, but they will be), and maybe you’re like me and you’ve reached the age where fibre is your friend … rice or bulgur in the muffins? An easy way to boost your morning routine. I think you know what I mean.

Last night I made fish and a little stuffed tomato salad that included just a smidge of bulgur. I made more than I needed, because I don’t know how to not make too much when it comes to grains, and I ended up with about 2/3 of a cup of cooked bulgur left over. Which is enough for a single salad, but I also had some yogurt in danger of turning on me in the fridge, a single orange, and a collection of mixed berries that needed to be used lest they turned into freezer rocks held together by gigantic stale-tasting ice hunks. So, you know. Muffins.

Berry Muffins with Rice (or Bulgur)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup cooked brown rice (or white rice or bulgur and if you have slightly more than what the recipe calls for, just use it)
  • 2 cups frozen berries (I used 1 cup of blackberries and 1 cup of blueberries with the, like, four single raspberries I had left in the fridge … use whatever berries or chopped up fruit you like. I bet rhubarb would be good)
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir until combined. Add your berries and your rice, and the orange zest and juice. Mix well.

In a measuring cup, melt your butter, then add the yogurt, and if it’s big enough, the milk. In a separate smaller bowl, beat your eggs. Add the both of these to the bowl one after the other, and stir to combine. This is a thick, dense batter, so if you’re hand-mixing this, as I did, be vigorous. You don’t want to find floury bits at the bottom of your bowl.

Grease a muffin pan. Fill the cups with the batter, to the tops.

Muffin batter!

This mixture will make 12 muffins. I hate when the muffins don’t breach the top – when they’re too small they’re like muffin pucks, and you don’t get to enjoy the distinction between muffin top and bottom. Sprinkle with sugar and a pinch of cinnamon, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out clean.

Baked.Once they’re done, let them sit for five minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Racked.I recommend eating one right away, slathered in melted butter and a drop of honey. Rose, my awesome MSN-buddy at work, brought me a jar of lavender-infused honey awhile back, so I will use that, and every bite will taste like summer. You could also use a touch of marmalade, or another something wonderful. Enjoy!

Fish wrapped in grape leaves: Better than fish not wrapped in grape leaves. (Fact.)

Fish and veggies.

Today we were supposed to have pork tenderloin again, something we eat a lot of during the week because it’s so quick and easy. But then yesterday we were at Nick’s sister Sharon’s place, and she handed me a bag of blue cod, because apparently she was the only one at her house who would eat fish tacos so she ended up stuck with a bunch of fish she had no use for. Cue the thirty-year-old man-child giggles over fish tacos, and I end up with a few free fishies and an awesome plan.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a jar of grape leaves at the market and got all excited – I was going to make dolmades, which are pretty much just Greek meatballs wrapped in briny leaves. And then I forgot. And then I got fish. So I decided that today was a day for white fish and lemon zest and garlic and basil and just a dribble of olive oil, and pretending that we’re anywhere but here. Odd how the heat here is unbearable, but if I were mostly naked and being slathered in oil on some Mediterrannean shore by someone named Nikolas or whatever Greek men are called, it would be infinitely easier to endure. Here, I suffer the heat and Canadian Nicholas and his ongoing love affair with Game Cube Zelda, which he has played for hours and hours, for days on end. He is less Greek than anyone else alive.

“You’ve never seen a real game binge yet,” he says. He is going to wake up to find that a terrible fate has befallen his thumbs. And I will be all kinds of surprised.

But anyway.

I had grape leaves.

Fish on leaves.I can’t tell you how many leaves you will need, because it depends entirely on the shape and size of your fillet. I needed five, because the grape leaves varied in size. You may need more, or less, but fortunately you get quite a lot in a jar.

I topped the fish, which was not frozen, with a little bit of lemon zest, some chopped garlic (perhaps too much), some fresh chopped basil, and just a taste of olive oil. A little black pepper, but no salt. The grape leaves are salty enough, so salt once you’ve tasted the finished product. You can’t unsalt a thing.

Wrap the fish in the leaves, covering it completely.

Wrapped fishy.Drizzle the packet in oil, both sides. Then place it on the barbecue or in a pan on the stove. Three minutes per side over medium heat should be more than enough – less if you have a very thin piece, more if you are working with a big thick chunk.

Fishies on grill.Serve with a drizzle of lemon, with fresh vegetables on the side. I chose asparagus, because I always forget that I’ve bought asparagus and wind up with way too much at any given time. I also made a stuffed tomato salad out of a little chopped tomato innards, some grated cucumber, yogurt, a handful of cooked bulgur (which I have on hand because it makes excellent, filling salads for work lunches), a pinch of fresh garlic, and some mint. Very refreshing, and just enough for a day where the air is still heavy with heat and the clouds have started to roll in and make things muggy.

DinnerIt’s started to cool off though, so tonight I will make muffins. If they go as well as I think they will, I will report back tomorrow. In the meantime, I have to go make fun of a 27-year-old boy who’s imagining himself a trotting, dragon-slaying dork elf. This could happen to you:

If I don't mock it in its tracks, who will?
If I don't mock it in its tracks, who will?

Grilled (and then chilled) potato salad, or, “How to Accessorize a Meatfest.”

It’s been oppressive-hot around here, and I have not felt like writing these past few days. We continue to eat, but the act of balancing hot computer on lap has been less than appealing. But then Nick started playing video games for hours on end, so a retreat to the bedroom (to Nick’s non-laptop computer) was in order.

Yesterday was one of those half-naked, stand-by-your-fan kind of days, and though I promised Grace a meatfest, I wasn’t able to deliver it in my apartment. Slow-cooking heats 600 square feet remarkably quickly, and as Canadian Tire was out of big fans, we’re currently operating with just the one. So I made the food, and transported it to Grace’s, who’s apartment was much more temperate.

But one should not make a meal of meat alone. No. I made the ribs that I wrote about before, except that I used pork side ribs this time, and the result was even better. (Also, I noticed that I screwed up typing the recipe for the barbecue sauce, so I’ve now fixed it. Oops. Sorry.) Last week I went to Costco, and confronted by two sets of meat, back ribs and side ribs, side by side, I couldn’t decide what was better. The side ribs worked out well – very meaty. Was pleased. I couldn’t make the full amount, because when I finally got most of these defrosted, the bottom rack was still frozen. Good thing: I don’t have an oven big enough to cook that much meat.

SDC10498Anyway, I decided that we really ought to have a summer salad as well, and maybe something with potatoes – I found some lovely new and purple potatoes at the market that morning. Of course, it was intolerable inside and I certainly did not want to hang out over a pot on the stove, so I decided to grill the potatoes. Every recipe I found for grilled potato salad sounded very good, but it was all for warm potato salad, which was really not appealing. Here is my alternative:

Grilled Potato Salad with Tarragon Aoili

  • 4 cups grilled chopped potatoes
  • 1 cup grilled asparagus, chopped
  • 1 cup grilled green beans, chopped
  • 2 cups whole grape tomatoes
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped

As mentioned, you’ll want your vegetables to be grilled and then chopped. Except for the tomatoes. Keep them fresh and raw for a delightful pop. Once your vegetables come off the grill, allow them to cool for awhile, until you can handle them comfortably. Make sure to parboil your potatoes before grilling: Give them six to eight minutes in boiling water, or until they’re almost done. Fry the bacon. But don’t stand over the stove-top too long.

cooling veggies


  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil (use good stuff. Or use grapeseed oil. Hell, you could even use canola – it doesn’t matter. Use what you like.)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh tarragon

Blend the egg, garlic, mustard, zest, salt, and pepper in a food processor until the garlic has broken down and is in tiny little pieces that you can’t quite see. Slowly pour in the oil (while the blade is in motion). This will produce mayonnaise, which is awesome. Dribble in the lemon juice, and add the tarragon, continuing to process until the herb has been destroyed and thoroughly integrated.

This will make more aioli than is necessary for the salad, but that’s good news. You can use the rest on vegetables, or spread it on sandwiches. Either way, don’t use it all, and don’t throw it out either.

Toss the veggies and bacon with the dressing, as much or as little as you like, and return it to the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Let those flavours sink in!

Serve cold, with meat.

potato saladAnd then we went to Grace’s. And Grace took lovely pictures of the food. She has photography skills.

A plate of ribs in flattering yellow light.
A plate of ribs in flattering yellow light.
Another shot of food in flattering yellow light. Grace has good lighting. I look much better there.
Another shot of food in flattering yellow light. Grace has good lighting. I look much better there.
And now, the eating process in three slides.
And now, the eating process in three slides.
I like how you can see me in the side of this shot, nerding out and taking my own photos of the food. Fail?
I like how you can see me in the side of this shot, nerding out and taking my own photos of the food. Fail?

The result was a delicious feast that I was pleased to have endured a day of heat to make, all things said and done. Grace made margaritas, and we drank wines. And then Grace produced a rhubarb shortcake with whipped cream that was all sorts of revelatory, and I learned that rosemary and rhubarb are a magical pairing that I would like more of. Possibly every day. Holy crap. I wish there was a photo. And with that, I now must figure out how to feed myself while wearing almost nothing and not turning on the stove, as despite the cloud cover, it’s still very warm. Goodbye, for now.


Oh. Um. YES.Work has kind of sucked lately, and it’s partly my own doing, but it’s made me really tired. When I left the office on Friday, the digital thermostat showed 31°C (88°F, I shit you not). And I get really cranky in the heat, and my thighs rub together so they get all sweaty and I feel slick all up in places you don’t ordinarily want to feel slick in at work, which is super gross, and I’m only telling you this because I want your pity. There is no air conditioning.

So, in a genius attempt to beat the heat, I’ve been showing up at 6:45 am, so that I can blow that melted popsicle stand by 3:30. Except that I’ve been riding my bike, so I have to leave at 6:00 am, which, I don’t know if you know this, is REALLY GODDAMN EARLY. I’ve been coming home, shotgunning an ice-cold beer, and throwing myself naked into bed for a hearty nap. It’s all that’s kept me going these days. That, and the lamb. I acquired some ground lamb this weekend.

And yesterday we did the izakaya-thing (ten dollar pitchers on Monday!), so today was a day for an easy home-cooked meal. Something on the barbecue, because it’s freaking hot all of a sudden, and my blood is still thick from winter and I cannot bear the idea of the stove right now. And so, LAMBURGERS!

Lamb burgers with feta and spinach

(Serves four.)

  • 1 lb. lean ground lamb (approximately – it may have been more like a pound and a half)
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Zest of most of a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix everything together in a bowl. Use your hands. Form into patties – this should make about four patties. I made two patties and then rolled the rest into ten meatballs, which I will freeze and then throw into pasta on a night when I’m feeling meatballish and lazy.

Meat on grill.Grill burgers about ten minutes, or four to five minutes per side. Serve on grilled buns topped with sliced tomato, red onion, and tzatziki. I would have added pine nuts and olives, but Nick doesn’t like those, and my blood is too thick for tiffs. I’ve never cared much for sweating.

Lamb burger with grilled zucchini.These are amazing. I couldn’t finish mine, because seriously – that’s a huge burger. But Nick packed in a burger and a half, and then asked for the meatballs.

Meatballs. And now, fed and still very warm, I think it’s naked couch time. And Rumble in the Bronx time. (It’s always naked/Rumble time.) “You got the guts? Drop the gun!” And, “I hope next time we meet, we are not fighting together. I hope we are drinking tea together.” And … good night.

Nothing says “I love you” like a freezer full of meat. This is a post about ice cream.

Admittedly, I am quite terrible when it comes to romance. I giggle at all the serious parts, and when it gets really uncomfortable romantic, I can’t help but make a hilarious fart joke or something equally awesome juvenile. At my wedding, to break up all the awkward love/forever stuff, I made Nick give me a high-five right before the kiss part. I like to think that romantic overtures are his job, because he’s no good at it either, so when he fails I can cry and say it’s all his fault that we don’t sparkle. And then I throw up a little in my mouth.

But Nick has been away for three days, and he won’t be back until late this evening. And he won’t be all that hungry, but it’s been hot out. And our patio is quite lovely, and I thought that a little bit of ice cream would be very nice, maybe with a small aperitif or the fruity bottle of wine I bought yesterday. And raspberries are starting to be reasonable again, and I love them. So even though Nick doesn’t really like raspberries or even care about ice cream, he does inexplicably like me, so in the interest of a little quiet time and catching up, and in a half-assed jab at romance, I decided to make ice cream. With raspberries. But I added alcohol, so at least there’s a small chance he’ll be impressed. And whatever. He won’t eat much anyway, so I might as well make something I like.

I don’t have a churn or anything, and I do have the Cuisinart soft-serve machine but I haven’t had all that much success with it. But several years ago, I took a French cooking class where I learned how to make an easy stove-top ice cream, or “frozen souffle”, and this has proven to be very useful, especially when I want to be impressive but only feel like giving 60 or so percent. Which is pretty much always.

I’ve given the recipe from the class, though for my own purposes, I’ve adapted the recipe a bit, as the original recipe was for a frozen Grand Marnier souffle (and I only had Amaretto), and it didn’t contain any fruit. Also, I’ve found that the fruit falls to the bottom of this, so instead of putting it in ramekins, I put it into a large bowl and scoop it out once it’s frozen so I can control the fruit : cream ratio a bit better. Don’t bother adding the fruit, though – use it as a topping. MUCH easier to deal with later on: Because the fruit separates and I have the coldest freezer ever, the raspberries created a difficult (if delicious) ice shelf that I had to stab hard (several angry times) in order to penetrate it with a spoon. Mash up the fruit or make a sauce out of it. Way better.

Frozen Grand Marnier Souffle

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup Grand Marnier (or Amaretto, or whatever you like … I am going to try this with Irish whiskey and dark, juicy cherries once the right kind of cherries start popping up at roadside stands)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream

Whisk first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Make sure the bowl will fit nicely over a saucepan. Place the bowl atop the pan, which will contain simmering water, of which there will not be so much that it touches the bottom of the bowl. Whisk this over medium heat for about ten minutes.

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Once the mixture on the stove is finished, fold it into the cream. Pour out into four ramekins, or, if you’re like me, a large bowl. Refrigerate for four hours before serving.

The recipe I have insists that you place the mixture into four ramekins fitted with aluminum foil “collars” – strips of foil around the inside, about six inches wide and folded lengthwise in half. As you may have noticed, I’m pretty lazy. I always skip that step, and it doesn’t seem to matter.

For some reason, I could not take a decent picture of these. The only way it would look half-okay was to take the picture on the floor, which I kind of swept with my hand before taking the picture. So my floor is kind of dirty. But it always is, because I never look down there.
For some reason, I could not take a decent picture of these. The only way it would look half-okay was to take the picture on the floor, which I kind of swept with my hand before taking the picture. So my floor is kind of dirty. But it always is, because I never look down there.

And so? Well, Nick was okay with the ice cream. He ate it, and that’s something, and he even said it was good, and he doesn’t usually lie to me. But instead of a heartfelt outpouring of his “I missed you, wife”-feelings, he was more, “oh, wow – you bought a lot of meat this weekend. I love meat!” and then he grabbed my boob. Which I took to mean, “you are the wind beneath my wings and also SUPER HOT – let’s go buy you a puppy.” I did buy a lot of meat this weekend, as we had finally run through the last of the previous meat haul, which I had bought well over two months ago. And he caught nine trout (did I mention Nick was fishing? Nick was fishing), so we have a whole bunch of plastic-wrapped fish carcasses (carcassi?) in a bag in the freezer.

My fridge looks like this but with vegetables, but no one cares about that around here but me.
My fridge looks like this but with vegetables, but no one cares about that around here but me.

I probably could have skipped the ice cream and just made him a meat sandwich. But you know that I really made the ice cream for me. And romance? I don’t really have a tidy conclusion to that topic. Maybe one day we’ll figure that one out. Or we’ll have affairs. But as long as our wine fridge and our meat freezer are stocked, I’m sure we’ll find ways to endure one another in the meantime.