Here's a favorite activity from my own childhood that now keeps my two little girls occupied for long periods of time. I will simply make a batch of bread dough, and divide it in three - one part makes a loaf for mommy and daddy, and one part for each of the girls to create to their hearts' content. They both get a baking sheet and we have had fish-shaped rolls, snails, lady bugs, and more... decorated with raisins to add the eyes, dots and other accents. The girls always think it is fun to create something, and it is equally fun to help mommy cook, so this is a winner on all fronts! That is, unless the two-year-old decides to eat the dough instead... So this is an activity that is best done supervised. :-P

 

 

Here's my go-to recipe.

 

3 cups warm water
2 Tbs dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar

 

Mix and let sit until it is bubbly.

 

Add:
3 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil

 

Gradually add flour, kneading until you have a dough that is not sticky but still soft. Make a ball, place in oiled bowl and let rise till double. Punch down, shape and let rise again. Bake till golden.

 

I often replace 1/3 of the flour with ground millet, to make a nice whole-wheat type bread. We can't get whole-wheat flour here but using something like millet, oats, cornmeal, etc. gives you a more substantial bread.

 

Stay tuned for an article on baking without an oven - coming up soon!

For us in arid West Africa, one of the fruits we can find more easily at some times of the year is papaya. This is good news, since papaya is an excellent source of vitamin A and C, and also a good source of folate, magnesium, potassium, copper and vitamin K.

However. Contrary to the universally loved mango, papayas tend to be less well-liked. I used to be one of the people that thought they were bland and just.... not good. My husband says they lack in acid and that makes them so tasteless. Whatever the case, with a few tricks our family has really learned to love papayas.

First of all, there is a huge difference in varieties. Try the big ones that are very dark orange or almost red. They can be delicious. But the real magic trick is lemon juice sprinkled over papaya chunks. It just adds the missing factor and turns papaya into a treat! Orange juice can be substituted though lemon or lime is best.

Here are a few more ways we enjoy papaya:

Tropical Smoothie

3 cups frozen papaya chunks
5 small frozen bananas
2 cups water
1 cup milk powder
Vanilla or coconut flavoring

Blend all in blender till smooth. Add sweetener if desired - most of the time this is plenty sweet without! Coconut flavoring really adds that special touch. Coconut milk would also be an option.

 

Yogurt Smoothie

5 cups frozen papaya chunks
4 cups yogurt
Sweetener to taste
Vanilla

Blend till smooth. This really deserves the name smoothie- it is so silky! The tartness of the yogurt makes up for lack of it in the papaya. Yum!

 

Also, if you haven't read the article about using papaya for a pumpkin substitute, be sure to go check it out here!

 

Any other ideas? How does your family eat papaya?

One of our most commonly-available vegetables when we lived overseas was cabbage. In the States, I almost NEVER use cabbage. So it was an adjustment to learn to put cabbage in everything - stirfry, fried rice, soups, etc. But still my favorite way to use cabbage is by making coleslaw - and this creamy version with a special crunch is the BEST!!!

Special Slaw

1/2 head cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, shredded

1 T.  finely chopped onion

1/2 c. mayonaise

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

1 pkg Ramen noodles

Combine cabbage, carrot and onion. In seperate bowl, combine dressing ingredients. Add to vegetables and mix gently.

Crush ramen noodles in package before opening. Toast in skillet (with a tiny bit of oil) until brown and crispy. Sprinkle over coleslaw right before serving for a delicious treat!

Do you have a favorite coleslaw recipe?

Avocado. That smooth fleshy fruit that is almost not a fruit. A treasure trove of nutrients- boasting of vitamin C and other antioxidants, potassium and fiber and a high healthy fat content. I never used them much in the states, both because I didn't grow up on them and because they are so expensive most of the time. But when you can by them for the equivalent of ten cents at every corner....! Now I use them quite a bit.


There's the typical guacamole, of course, and we really enjoy that with our rice and beans. I often add avocado to smoothies for more nutrition and fat content. (In fact, when I made some pumpkin pie smoothies one day, with no avocado, my two year old son was scared to try it. Smoothies are meant to be *green*, in his experience!)

Because of their fat, avocados can be substituted as butter in baking. I was delighted to discover this, as butter is unavailable where we are, and I am not too keen on margarine. Recipes online will say you can substitute one on one for butter...  adding a bit more liquid since avocado will not melt like butter and baking at a lower temperature. The problem I have had is that...things turn out tasting like avocado, with a rather bitter edge. I've done only exchanging half the margarine for avocado,  but still wasn't able to hide it. Once- the first time I tried it- I made cookies that turned out a lovely shade of green and tasted delicious with no hint of the avocado bitterness. Was it the sweetness; all the sugar in the cookies covering the avocado, whereas something like bread wouldn't have enough sugar? I leave that to you all to experiment. =)


A little fact I was glad to learn from my sister-in-law: to keep avocado from turning brown, keep its' seed with it. Plop it in the middle of the guacamole or keep it on the half you didn't use and put back in the fridge. Why does it work that way? I don't know, but it does!

Here's a recipe I did find, adapted to my available ingredients and tastes. It uses a lot of avocado, which is nice if you have plenty on hand that need used. (By the way, you can freeze and use avocado later as well. Not for this dish though, probably. =) I am guessing at the amounts- I am not a measurer!


AVOCADO KEY LIME PIE

2 or 3 large avocado, depending on size
2 bananas
4 limes (actually, I used lemons...not key limes =)
1 pack of coconut cream powder
1/4 cup sugar
dash of vanilla, if desired

Put everything in blender and blend thoroughly till smooth. The mixture
will have a lovely pudding-like texture. Chill with grated lime peel for
garnish and enjoy! If your leftovers turn brown over the top, its' okay-
it's still yummy!

 

How do you use avocados? I'd love to see your favorite recipes!

In my family growing up, chocolate cake was a rare treat. It was a birthdays-only special, and  there were only five of us, so at most we had it five times a year. In my husband's family, on the other hand, chocolate cake is a complete meal. :-) I don't know if there's much he enjoys more than a piece of chocolate cake in a bowl with milk poured over it. Needless to say, I have learned to make chocolate cake a little more often than five times a year. :-)

I have two favorite chocolate cake recipes. They both come from a great cookbook called "The Basics and More Cookbook". (More about cookbooks in a future post!) My husband's favorite is actually an oatmeal cake. It is super-moist and tastes great even without frosting. I made it three or four times before I told him that it has oatmeal in it (he doesn't like oatmeal!). The second is better if you're living in a primitive setting. Although you do need cocoa powder, you don't need butter, eggs, or milk for this yummy cake!

 

And then there's the big question - what about frosting? Powdered sugar can be difficult to find - and if you find it, beware! It could very likely taste more like soap than sugar. Are there alternatives? I have often made chocolate syrup or caramel syrup to drizzle over each slice of cake when serving. Of course fruit is a great topping, especially for other types of cake besides chocolate. :-) I have also made peanut butter "frosting" by heating PB and regular sugar together. What are some alternatives that you've used?

 

 

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

1 c. quick oats

2 c. boiling water

2 c. brown sugar

1 c. butter or oil

4 eggs

2 tsp baking soda

1 T. hot water

2 c. flour

1/3 c. cocoa

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

Pour boiling water over oatmeal. Cover and let cool. Cream sugar and butter. Add beaten eggs and vanilla. Dissolve soda in 1 Tbsp hot water and add. Add oatmeal mixture, then sifted dry ingredients. Grease a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes.

Wacky Cake - aka Egg-less, Butter-less, Milk-less Cake

3 c. flour

2 c. sugar

6 T. cocoa powder

3 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 c. water

3/4 c. oil

4 T. vinegar

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

 

Do you have a favorite chocolate cake recipe? What's your favorite way to serve cake without frosting? Or your favorite frosting recipe that doesn't use powdered sugar? Please share!!