07 July


Moon Landing Cake

July 20: National Moon Day

“Houston, we’ve had problems.”

Our blog post to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing (1969-2019) is late, the butter pecan boxed cake mix did not have actual nuts in it and the frosting nearly smeared the whole cake surface with crumbs! Despite these problems, and the fact that we have never baked and frosted a ball-shaped cake before, we think our mini moon cake turned out kind of cute (although it looks more like the fictional Star Wars planet Hoth or some sort of giant snowball-asteroid?).

We decided to make this moon cake centerpiece at the last minute for a small group gathering to celebrate National Moon Day and watch the TV specials together while eating moon-themed foods for dinner (moon drop grapes, Moon Pies, shrimp-flavored Full Moon chips, Moon Cheeses and basic chicken salad sandwiches on crescent-shaped bread). Our friends Karen and Ken B. also bought limited edition marshmallow moon Oreo cookies.

Nevertheless, everyone had a nice time celebrating the golden moments of the historical lunar landing, ate festive food and got the gist of our moon cake idea for National Moon Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

Directions

Grease each half of a 3D ball/sphere baking pan set (such as Sunny Side Up Bakery brand or Wilton brand). Prepare cake mix according to the directions on the package. Divide the batter in two, filling each half of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes or more until the middle of the cake is cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

When the cake halves are cooled, slice the top of the mounds to level them. On one of the cake halves, slice a small piece off the bottom to level it so that the cake can sit on its own. Make the vanilla buttercream frosting and stir until it is a spreadable consistency. Use a thin layer of frosting to attach both halves together to make one whole sphere.

Smear a little frosting on the bottom of a cake board and stick the cake in place. Frost the cake (we were unable to make it smooth so we just spiked it by pulling our spatula up randomly from the frosting). Top with a tiny astronaut toy and U.S. flag toothpick. Refrigerate to set. Bring to room temperature before slicing and serving (with ice cream!).

Notes

  • Tint the frosting with a little black gel color/food paste to make the moon surface gray instead of white, if desired.
  • Thanks to fellow Star Wars fan/friend Justin Q. for gifting us with the 3D ball/sphere cake pan. He attempted to make a Death Star cake and had problems so he hoped we would have better luck making Hoth a moon landing cake.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

July:Lebanese Tabbouleh Day (First Saturday in July)

We enjoyed attending the annual Lebanese festival at St. George Maronite Catholic Church when we used to live in San Antonio, Texas. The church was less than 10 minutes drive away from our house so we could easily get to the festival and enjoy the cultural and religious presentations. But, of course, we came mostly for the food!

We have also attended Lebanese, Middle Eastern and Arabic festivals in Houston, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. If available at the food vendor stalls, we would get a full sampler plate so we can taste everything: main entrée, side dishes and a dessert. We had tabbouleh in our combo plates a few times. It’s an affordable side salad to sell and also an easy one to make at home.

Traditionally made with bulgar (cracked wheat), our Arab-American friend Sol S. shared us his recipe version for making tabbouleh with quinoa instead. It is tasty, colorful and healthy and Sol encourages eating this as part of a Mediterranean Diet. Quinoa tabbouleh is also terrific for celebrating Lebanese Tabbouleh Day!

Recipe

From Sol S.

For the quinoa tabbouleh

  • ½ cup quinoa, uncooked and rinsed thoroughly
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, diced small
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 green onions/scallions, chopped
  • ½ bunch flat leaf parsley, stems trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint, crushed
  • 1 Kirby or ½ cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and diced small
  • ¼ red of green bell pepper, diced small

Directions

Rinse the quinoa and drain. Set aside. In a sauce pan, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add quinoa, salt, pepper and water. Simmer for 15 minutes and let rest for 5 minutes (all the water should have been absorbed by the quinoa; if not simmer gently till all water is absorbed). Fluff with fork and let cool.

In a mixing bowl, add the chopped tomatoes, green onions, parsley and mint.

Add the diced cucumber and bell peppers. Stir in the cooled quinoa.

 

For the dressing

  •  juice of large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

In a small cup or bowl, mix together the lemon juice, cumin, olive oil and salt and pepper. Pour into the quinoa salad and mix gently. Refrigerate and rest the salad for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Notes

  • Our friend Sol S. is in the process of writing a cookbook and we are happy to test his recipes for our blog. We are adding a Middle Eastern section under our Theme Menus. Check back soon to see new recipes listed there.

Bastani

(Persian Saffron Ice Cream)

July: National Ice Cream Month

Before Highlander entered Islander’s life nearly three decades ago, she was friends at university with an Iranian-Persian Ph.D. student in the dorm. Ali M. used to joke and tell everyone that he would buy her hand in marriage with 12 white camels. She answered back that he could just buy her some ice cream! So they would walk off campus with a bunch of other dorm friends to an ice cream parlor and enjoy the frozen treats and everyone’s company. When Highlander moved into the same dorm a couple of years later, there were no hard feelings between him and Ali. In fact, he welcomed us in his physics lab where he was working on an experiment for his doctoral dissertation. And we all still went out to eat ice cream for a much needed study break afterwards! Always a funny guy, Ali said he wished the parlor could serve bastani as the 32nd flavor option. Bastani is a traditional Persian ice cream flavored with saffron, rosewater, cardamom and pistachios.

We do miss those dorm days and all our international university friends at the ice cream parlor. So we were happy to discover Persian and Middle Eastern restaurants where we now live and try bastani after all these years. Islander immediately searched for no churn bastani recipes and adapted one for our blog post. It is a delicious dessert to serve during the summer and throughout National Ice Cream Month.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream, divided use, cold
  • saffron, generous pinch
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 1/2 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Directions

In a small bowl, place two tablespoons of whipping cream. Heat in the microwave for 15 seconds. Stir in some saffron threads, pressing on the side of the bowl to release its flavor and color. Stir in the rose water. Chop the pistachio nuts into small pieces.

In a large bowl, pour the condensed milk. Stir in the saffron mixture. Beat the remaining whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the condensed milk mixture.

Stir in the pistachios. Place in a loaf pan or ice cream container. Cover and freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer. Scoop into dessert dishes or wafer cones or serve with wafer sheets.

Notes

  • Bastani is traditionally served with a wafer slice. The final food photo above shows a background of a wafer sheet that we bought at a Middle Eastern specialty grocery store. Bastani can be scooped in wafer ice cream cones for a similar taste.
  • Search our blog for other no churn ice cream recipes.

Vietnamese Coffee Milkshake

July 26: National Coffee Milkshake Day

Good morning, Vietnam—and the rest of the world! For those who have not had their morning “cup of joe” yet, perhaps for the next coffee break, try a Vietnamese coffee milkshake for an afternoon delight. It is a tropical take on the traditional coffee milkshake, with coconut and condensed milk as ingredients. The chicory in the Vietnamese coffee grounds also lends a unique flavor to this recipe.

Thanks to Islander’s BFF, Nan N., who works in Hawaii but sometimes takes business trips to Vietnam, where she got us some souvenirs: a bag of Hanoian black coffee grounds and the special filter press (phin) for our food projects. Making the coffee is almost an art form—and the result is a beautiful blend of colors (so use a glass mug to see the mixtures).

The cooled coffee is strong but makes for a flavorful Vietnamese coffee milkshake, which is perfect for a coffee break and on National Coffee Milkshake Day.

Recipe

For the Vietnamese coffee

  • 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons coffee grounds (coarse, not fine)
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

In glass mug, pour the condensed milk in the bottom layer. In the filter cup, place the coffee grounds evenly. Press down and screw it securely in the cup. Set the filter cup on its base over the mug. Pour the boiling water slowly to fill the filter cup. Cover with the lid to steam it and allow the liquid coffee to drip completely into the mug (about 5 minutes). Stir to blend. Let cool.

 

For the coffee milkshake

  • 1 cup Vietnamese coffee (or strongly brewed coffee), cold
  • 2 cups coconut ice cream, softened (we used “macapuno” young coconut sport-flavored ice cream)
  • ½ cup ice cubes
  • whipped cream
  • toasted coconut flakes

Directions

In a blender, place the coffee, ice cream and ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Pour into a glass. Garnish with whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • Vietnam was a French colony so there is a big cultural influence in its coffee production (French press techniques). The French first introduced coffee to North America through New Orleans, Louisiana, where there is also a large Vietnamese population. Café du Monde brand coffee, which has chicory in it, is a close substitute for Vietnamese coffee for this recipe.
  • Substitute any coffee grounds but use coarse instead of fine grounds so they won’t fall through the holes in the press.
  • Vietnamese-style coffee is very sweet from the condensed milk so we did not add additional condensed milk to the already sweet coconut ice cream.

 

Crème Sainte-Anne

 July 26: Feast Day of St. Anne

Islander’s Daddy’s patron saint is St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the grandmother of Jesus Christ. When Daddy was a poor, hopeless young boy growing up in a poverty-stricken province of the Philippines, he found a tattered card of St. Anne lying on the ground. Someone must have accidentally dropped and lost the card. But Daddy found God through the intercession of St. Anne and went back to the church and got baptized. He believes that this miraculous sign gave him a better and purposeful life. Coincidentally, she is the patroness of the country of his birth where her National Shrine is located in Hagonoy, Bulacan. She is also venerated as the patroness of other places, such as Quebec, Canada, and Brittany, France. For the feast day of St. Anne, we are featuring an old recipe, Crème Sainte-Anne, from the latter country. A prayer card of St. Anne was enough to convert Daddy, and this custard-like dessert could count as edible evangelism as well!

Recipe

(Adapted from “Cooking with the Saints” by Ernst Schuegraf)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, divided use
  • ½ cup sugar, divided use
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup macarons/macaroons (see Notes)
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg plus 3 egg yolks

Directions

Butter four ramekins and set aside. In a saucepan, dissolve ¼ cup sugar in the water. Boil until it is a caramel color. Divide into the ramekins and cool the caramel to set.

Slice a tablespoon of cold butter into four parts and place into the ramekins. Crush the macarons and sprinkle evenly among the ramekins. In another saucepan, simmer the milk but do not boil. In a large bowl, mix the egg and yolks with ¼ cup sugar until creamy. Pour in the simmering milk and stir well.

Divide the mixture among the ramekins (the crushed macaron pieces will float to the top). Place in a water bath (put the ramekins in a larger baking pan filled halfway with hot water). Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the mixture is set. Remove from the oven and cool completely. The custard crème may be refrigerated. Loosen the edges with a knife or toothpick and invert onto a plate and serve.

Notes

  • The macarons/macaroons in this recipe most likely refer to the crisp French almond meringue cookies and not the chewy coconut cookies because this recipe is from Brittany, France. We had a recent Food Flop with our macaron shells and crushed those for this recipe. We also used the three egg yolks leftover from the macaron recipe. Refer to our MacAttack page for various macaron recipes to add a distinctive flavor to this Crème Sainte-Anne.
  • Italian amaretti, which is similar to the French macaron, is a suitable substitute.
  • This crème is basically a flan (custard dessert).
  • Anne shares her feast day with her husband, St. Joachim.

 

Corn Fritters

July 16: National Corn Fritters Day

When we lived in Oklahoma (translated as okla + humma or “red people”), we went to pow wows that served corn-based foods, as the vegetable is sacred and the “source of life” for Native Americans. Besides the fry bread at the festivals, we liked to snack on corn fritters.

Now we don’t have to wait to go to a local pow wow to eat them. We can cook corn fritters at home and snack on them whenever we want—but most especially on National Corn Fritters Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Serious Eats)

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 1 cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen, drained if canned)
  • vegetable oil for deep frying

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, pinch of salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the milk.

Pour the egg-milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter. Add the corn and mix well. Use a rounded tablespoon to scoop the batter and carefully drop in vegetable oil. Deep fry for 4-6 minutes or until the corn fritters are cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot. Yield: Approximately 3 dozen.

Notes

  • Sprinkle powdered sugar after frying to make the corn fritters extra sweet. Or season with salt and sliced scallions for something savory.
  • Search our blog for other Native American inspired recipes.

 

Japanese Cheesecake

July 30: National Cheesecake Day

Some of the Asian supermarkets around town have bakeries built in the corner and we sometimes pick up a few baked goods on our way out to snack on during the drive home. We especially like the cotton-soft cakes, such as the rolled sponges and light layered ones. So when we saw a viral post on a 3-ingredient Japanese cheesecake, we had to try it to see if we can replicate one of the fluffy Asian confections from the bakeries.

This Japanese cheesecake is made with cream cheese and eggs, just like a New York-style cheesecake, but is airy like an angel food chiffon cake and not dense, creamy and heavy. We made ours mini size (6-inch round) and added a little vanilla for a hint of flavor.

Japanese cheesecake is a sweet and simple snack or a light dessert after a big meal and is a good recipe to try on National Cheesecake Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (1 package) white chocolate (we used Baker’s brand), melted
  • 4 ounces (½ package/container) cream cheese (we used lactose-free cream cheese), softened
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Directions

Prepare a 6-inch round spring form cake pan by lining the bottom and sides with buttered parchment paper (cut a 6-inch round circle and butter it and cut a strip at least 21 inches long and 4-5 inches high and butter it). Cover the bottom of the cake pan with a large foil piece to prevent water from leaking into it. Set aside.

In a microwavable bowl, melt the white chocolate according to the package directions. Stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Mix in the softened cream cheese. In a small cup, beat the egg yolks with the vanilla, if using.

Add the egg yolk mixture to the chocolate-cream cheese. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add small portions of egg whites to the above mixture and fold gently until incorporated each time.

Pour the mixture carefully into the prepared spring form pan. Place this pan into a larger pan. Pour warm water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until the cheesecake sets. Turn off the oven and leave the pans for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Place the foil-lined spring form pan onto a wire rack to cool completely. Discard the water from the other pan. Remove the cheesecake from the pan, peeling away the parchment paper, and put on a platter. Chill for about 4 hours before serving.

Notes

  • This Japanese cheesecake tends to deflate a little after it has been taken out of the oven but still tastes light and soft.
  • Substitute the vanilla for other flavorings, such as strawberry, orange or raspberry extract and garnish the finished cheesecake with sliced strawberries, drained mandarin oranges or raspberries. Try coconut extract and sprinkle with coconut flakes.
  • Try our other creamy cheesecake recipes on our blog for National Cheesecake Day.

 

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