Tag Archives: yogurt

Eat Your Cake…and Coffee, Too

Today’s tropical recipe is like a coconut macchiato on a plate.  I started with a basic yogurt cake recipe and mixed in some coconut, fresh-ground Puerto Rican coffee beans, and a splash of coconut rum.  Topped with a yogurt-based glaze and toasted coconut, this simple cake will make an appearance on our Christmas dinner table.

Before we get to the recipe, a little coffee tour:

coffee farm


the view



We visited Hacienda Pomarrosa with Kara when she was here in September, and it was an informative and enjoyable morning in the beautiful mountains above Ponce. With our own farming background and recent experience living in the Rheinland, we really liked having an opportunity to visit with Kurt, the owner of Hacienda Pomarrosa (who is originally from Düsseldorf).  The location is a bit off the typical tourist track, but a visit to the farm is well worth the drive, and the hacienda also offers bed and breakfast stays for those who would like to spend the night in the peaceful Puerto Rican mountains.

And now, let’s get to baking!

Coconut and Coffee Yogurt Cake

  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut rum (optional, you can omit and flavor with vanilla if you like)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon finely ground coffee
  • 1½ cups coconut, divided (I used sweetened coconut)

Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan and preheat oven to 350 F.  Beat ½ cup of the yogurt together with the sugar, eggs, coconut oil, and coconut rum.  Stir together and add the dry ingredients, folding in just until well blended, then stir in ½ cup of the coconut.  Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for about 35 minutes, or until it feels springy to the touch and a toothpick tester comes out clean.  At the same time, spread the remaining cup of coconut on a baking sheet and put it into the oven until it is a toasty golden color.

After the cake cools, spread it with this glaze: stir together the remaining ¼ cup plain yogurt, 1¾ to 2¼ powdered sugar (quantity depends on how thick the yogurt is), and ½ teaspoon vanilla.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut just before serving.

cake ingredients





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Roasted Mango + Yogurt Paletas

Boom, roasted mango paleta

Stop whatever you’re doing right now.

You NEED to go make these paletas (Spanish for popsicle).

I’m not joking.

This post wasn’t even supposed to be all sweet, creamy, and tangy. It was supposed to be grilled, crunchy, and springy. But life, it is strange. Sometimes life brings you champagne mangoes for $1/each and you go crazy and buy five. Then you notice that the mangoes are getting a little too wrinkly and decide that roasting them with some habanero-infused maple syrup and a sprinkling of piloncillo for good measure would make them quite tasty. And then you realize that you have some leftover strained yogurt just waiting to go bad in the fridge, and that it’s getting pretty hot outside, and that you’ve been waiting for just the right circumstances to break out your popsicle mold and dig back into Frany Gerson’s Paletas

mangoes ready to roast

maple and piloncillo


These paletas are the perfect end to a spicy meal, or the perfect treat for days when you feel particularly dewy. I adapted them from Fany Gerson’s recipe for paletas de yogurt con moras, or yogurt ice pops with berries, swapping three roasted champagne mangoes for the blackberries. I originally intended on just chopping the mangoes and tossing them in, but I thought roasting them with piloncillo and a touch of maple syrup would make them nicely caramelized and blend well with the strained yogurt.

I was right.

blending blending


Roasted Mango +  Yogurt Paletas
adapted from Fany Gerson’s Paletas

Note: I made these with 1/2 cup sugar in the water mixture, per the original recipe. Since I also add more sugar when roasting the mangoes, next time I’ll add a little less sugar to the water mixture. The paletas aren’t overly sweet, though; I just prefer things to be less sweet. As usual, go with what you feel.

  • peel from 1/2 lemon (no need to chop it)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups plain, unsweetened Greek Yogurt (you can also DIY your Greek Yogurt and make strained yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 champagne mangoes, peeled and cut into thin chunks (see picture above)
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup piloncillo, roughly chopped or grated (or substitute brown sugar)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons maple syrup, optional

1.  Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon peel, lower the heat, and simmer for five minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Remove the lemon peel and refrigerate syrup until chilled.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter the mango pieces on the sheet, then sprinkle on the piloncillo. Roast for 7 or so minutes, until the mangoes start to release some juice and are sizzling a bit. Remove from oven, stir everything around, and sprinkle on some maple syrup, if using. (Don’t add the maple syrup right away or it could burn.) Return to oven for another 5 – 7 minutes, until the mangoes look nicely caramelized but aren’t burnt. If you do burn them, though, I wouldn’t worry too much. You’ll just have toasted mango paletas instead of roasted. No one will be the wiser. Set mangoes aside.

3. Blend the yogurt, honey, and chilled lemon syrup with about half of the mangoes until smooth. Divide the mixture among your popsicle molds. If you don’t have popsicle molds, divide them among cups. If you don’t have cups, try ice cube trays. (Although I hope if you have ice cube trays you also have cups). Use a muffin tin if you have to. Next, divide the remaining roasted mango among your molds. Using a popsicle stick, a chopstick, a fork, or your fingers, push the mango chunks down to distribute somewhat evenly throughout each paleta. If you have a popsicle mold with the lid thing featuring slits for the popsicle sticks, insert the sticks now. If you’re using cups or whatever else, allow the mixture to freeze for about an hour until it gets hard enough to hold a stick in place. If you don’t have popsicle sticks, you could us a skewer. Or toothpicks if you’re using an ice cube tray. Or you could just go buy some.

OR: If you don’t think you want chunks of mango in your paletas, blend all the mango with the yogurt mixture. It will also be delicious. (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

4. Freeze paletas until solid, about three to four hours. To de-mold, run hot water over the mold for a minute or so. The paleta will slide right out.



p.s. I got my popsicle mold here.

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Another little cake

Yep, it’s true – we’ve had this little blog for a year now! I guess none of us ever said why we started this whole thing, so here’s my perspective: we’re all a little obsessed with food, particularly of the homemade variety.  When we lived in Washington state, we didn’t have a lot of money and – I’ve just realized recently – we had a lot of home-cooked meals out of necessity. While back in the day we made homemade frosting because it was just a bit cheaper than buying it from a store, I now love making homemade frosting because it just seems right. You know what I mean? Why should I buy something when I can make it myself and have it taste exactly how I want? That’s what I want you, all of you, to get out of this blog. You can do it – you are a person capable of reading a recipe, understanding directions, and changing them to fit your specific needs. You’ve gotten this far in life, right? What’s a little cooking compared to, say, learning to drive a car? Or learning high school algebra? Or learning to read a complicated book, or that maybe you shouldn’t drink a few beers on an empty stomach and then have a gin and tonic? Compared to those things, cooking is a piece of cake. (Hah.)

I became especially enamored with food blogs my last year of college – probably mostly out of the necessity to procrastinate – and even briefly considered working in a restaurant after graduating.  Oh yes, I had grand plans for that Russian degree. (…) When that didn’t pan out, I still spent hours every day looking through recipes, sending them to my mom and sister, and bragging to them about the delicious results. Eventually we decided “Hey, why not do this ourselves?” So here we are: a mom and two daughters, cooking up a storm, encouraging you to try cooking too, and growing closer in the process. Not a bad deal.

And so without further ado, here is my cake:

This is my kind of baking: a cake with flexible(ish) measurements, adaptable ingredients, and (so far) a very high success rate. No real stress, only one bowl to clean up, and you get to call it a “French Yogurt Cake,” or, if you’re really trying to be fancy, “Gâteau au Yaourt.”

I adapted my recipe from Molly Wizenberg of the blog Orangette. Her cake is adapted from a French recipe which uses a little 125 ml yogurt cup to measure all the ingredients. So handy, those French cooks are! Since I’m not a handy French woman, I do not currently possess a single serving French yogurt cup. But, take heart: those cups are a little over half a cup, so you can measure your ingredients accordingly. Does not having an exact measurement scare you? I challenge you to not be afraid. Just remember: you can do it. You’ve made it this far, haven’t you?

Yogurt cake with berries
Adapted from this Gâteau au Yaourt à la Fraise, or French-Style Yogurt Cake with Strawberries

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I’ve also used fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt – it was delicious)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts (or whatever nut you have on hand – I like walnuts because they’re relatively inexpensive and don’t break my cheap-o “food processor” to grind)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 canola oil (or other neutral oil)
  • zest of one lemon (optional)
  • about 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries (I used blueberries)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a cake pan, round or square, with butter or cooking spray.

Combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, ground walnuts, and baking powder, mixing just to combine. Add the oil, stirring to incorporate. Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, and distribute frozen berries evenly over the batter. If using, scatter the lemon zest on next. Pour the remaining batter over the berries, trying to cover them as well as possible.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the cake feels springy and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If you use frozen berries, the cake may take longer to bake. If you find it browns on the top too quickly, loosely place some foil over the cake to prevent the top from burning.

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes, then turn it out of the pan to cool completely. Cut into squares or wedges, and serve at room temperature. It’s awfully nice on its own, but I’m thinking a little lemon glaze would be lovely, too. The cake will keep for a few days, covered, at room temperature.


P.S. I made the peach butter barbecue sauce, and it’s pretty decent, but not what I want it to be. I’ll show you what I did soon, but hopefully next year my recipe will be better. In the meantime, did you know that making your own mayonnaise is really easy? Here. Watch this video. Then go make mayo. Then close your eyes, try a bit of the mayonnaise, and imagine you are in Belgium.

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A Spelling Lesson and a Side-by-Side Comparison: Buttermilk Syrup and Yogurt Syrup

It was the second day of second grade.  Gosh, I can’t believe I’m going to admit the year: 1966!  I loved kindergarten and first grade, so of course I was happy to be back in school.  Our grandmotherly-looking teacher, Mrs. McN. distributed the first week’s list of spelling words and instructed us to use all of the words in sentences of our own.  Well, I got right to work.  I still remember a lot of those words…. although I probably didn’t notice it at the time, they all had a double consonant in the middle of the word: puppy, kitten, mitten, bottle, waffle….huh?  Why would anyone think “waffle” was a priority word for seven-year-olds to learn to spell?

Anyway, I believe the reason I remember so many words from that list is because of the sentences I wrote.  I don’t know what on earth possessed me, but all of the sentences I wrote were analogies, sometimes even using two of the spelling words in the same sentence: Puppy is to dog as kitten is to cat.  Trust me, I have no idea how I came to be such a little nerd!  I didn’t know that what I was writing was called an analogy, and I don’t know when I ever heard or read one before that, but I was an avid reader and guess I must have come across some analogies somewhere.

After a while, Mrs. McN. collected our work and sat at her desk.  Before long, she told me to come to the front of the room.  Now, I didn’t know anything about abstract thinking back then, but I must have somehow sensed that I had done something unusual with my sentences, because I remember halfway expecting the teacher to say “What a smart little girl you are” or something like that.  But noooooooo, that’s not how it went down.  Mrs. McN. started reading my sentences aloud, growing more agitated and screechy with each one.  By the time she got to “Waffle is to syrup as meatloaf is to catsup,” the woman was practically apoplectic (even though I’m pretty sure I spelled syrup and catsup correctly), and she repeated the waffle analogy over and over.   “What kind of NON-SENSE sentence is this?  You stay inside at recess and write some proper sentences!”

Naturally I was mortified, but I did what I was told.  When I related that story to a fellow educator many years later, she immediately asked what my mother said, and I realized it never even crossed my mind to tell mom about it at the time.  However, the memory stayed with me, and because of that incident I always thought of Mrs McN. as a mean old lady and second grade just wasn’t a great year.  The other thing I’ve always remembered, though, is that waffles and syrup go together like meatloaf and catsup.

So…. I was home alone for dinner the other night, and I felt like eating waffles.

I’ve seen this basic buttermilk syrup recipe in many blogs and websites over the years* and I decided to give it a try.  At the same time, I always like to experiment with my own twist on things and had the idea to try substituting plain yogurt and comparing the results.

Yogurt Syrup

  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (substitute buttermilk if desired)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Put the butter, yogurt or buttermilk, and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil while stirring occasionally.  Pull the pan off the heat and add the soda and vanilla.  The syrup will foam up (with yogurt even more so than buttermilk), so keep that in mind if you double the recipe and be sure to use a big enough saucepan. Yield: about 1½ cups.

Notes: After trying the recipe, I still prefer real maple syrup on waffles, but this is a good inexpensive alternative.  It does have a nice buttery vanilla flavor and I think it would be really good as a topping for a rustic unfrosted cake, especially if the cake is on the less-sweet side.

I definitely like the yogurt version better than the buttermilk syrup.  The yogurt syrup is still sweet, but not quite as sweet as the buttermilk version, and you could cut the sweetness even more by stirring in a little more yogurt after the syrup is done (or use extra yogurt to start with).  If you’ve ever tried the buttermilk syrup recipe and liked it, you will probably enjoy the yogurt syrup even more.

The buttermilk syrup separated into a thinner syrup with a layer of foam almost right away, but the yogurt syrup stayed thicker and foamy all the way through (don’t know if that is an advantage, just a difference).

If you have to avoid eggs, the yogurt syrup with a little extra yogurt added would be an acceptable substitute for vanilla custard sauce.  It doesn’t taste exactly the same, but it would certainly work and would be good on a fruit crisp or that wonderful German favorite, the Dampfnudel.

I think this syrup will keep in the fridge for at least a week past the sell-by date on the buttermilk or yogurt.  Reheat in the microwave or on the stove.

*Because the basic buttermilk recipe is out there all over the place, I don’t know whom to credit as the source.  If anyone knows for sure where it originated, I’d be glad to add that information.  Since we started this blog, I’ve come up with a few “original” ideas for new recipes only to find with a little searching that someone else already thought of them first.  However, I haven’t found any other yogurt syrup recipes, so I think that part really is my own innovation.

By the way, my second-grade analogy experience came to mind this week because I’m reading a great book by Rick Wormeli called Metaphors and Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject.  Recently I was visiting a seventh grade class while students were reviewing physical geography processes, and the teacher had the students describe pound cake, contrasted it with a lighter cake, and compared pound cake’s solid heaviness to the density of the earth’s core.  I commented afterward that it was clear that the kids really got the example, and the teacher told me she was thinking of bringing in boiled eggs with the shells lightly cracked all over to help them grasp the idea of earth’s tectonic plates.   If you have school-age kids, I hope they have teachers like this one instead of Mrs. McN.

Metaphors be with you!


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How to make yogurt better

This will be a short post, but I have something I need to share. It’s so simple, and so good, and it makes yogurt taste, like, 10 million times better.

Disclosure: I’m not a picky person, and I’ll try almost any food you put in front of me, but I’m more than a little picky about textures. Cookie dough? Great. Cake batter? Slimy, ew, no. Pudding? Meh…acceptable, on occasion. Overcooked spinach: akin to slimy lettuce, aka no. And don’t get me started about jello, unless it’s, shall we say, a little edgier than the jello given to children. Or unless I’m sick – but only then. You might be able to see where this is going: yogurt. I don’t like yogurt. It’s slimy. Bleh. I’ve always wanted to like yogurt, but the only way I can manage it is if it’s covered in a lot of granola, covering up the slimy texture.

Until now. I’m still cheating and removing the slimy texture of yogurt, but the result is so good and you need to make it now. This can hardly even be called a recipe.

I make a delicious, fresh, tangy cheese by straining yogurt in cheesecloth. All you do is line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth, place a few gobs of plain yogurt (good quality, whole-milk is best, but I made it with a cheapo nonfat yogurt once, and it was still good) on the cheesecloth, cover with plastic wrap, and place the strainer over a container tall enough to catch the whey without touching the strainer. Let it sit in the fridge for 8 – 24 hours, until the gob of yogurt has turned into a creamy, soft cheese. Put into an airtight container, and store for up to a week or so. That’s it! Oh, and if you by chance ran out of cheesecloth and the only store that sells it in your tiny town is only driving distance and you don’t own a car, you can also use coffee filters. Just so you know.

Of course, I am not the first to make this strained yogurt cheese. Many different countries make this. In America it’s known as Greek yogurt, although the version I make is much thicker than the Greek yogurt available from grocery stores.

My favorite way to eat this cheese is spread on toasted bread with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of freshly cracked pepper. Or spread over toast and drizzled with honey and a touch of flaky salt. It also serves as a beautiful base for tzatziki, resulting in a thicker, more meaty dip than with normal yogurt. You could make a deconstructed dip by placing a mound of the cheese in a pool of olive oil, cracking pepper or salt on top, and serving with flat breads. Maybe add a bit of ground cumin or cayenne, to add some spice. I imagine it would also be good spread on a sandwich with a spicy jam and ham. The possibilities are endless.

Coming up: a post about apples, and a soup I made from different winter squashes and black beans. This is also really good, and you will probably want to make this as well. I wouldn’t hold it against you.


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