Monday, October 31, 2011

Toasted Coconut Cream Waffles with Greek Yogurt... and the Changing of the Seasons



It's been so fun and inspiring this month to see all the seasonal, creative and festive recipes and decorating ideas that everyone is coming up with.  I love when everyone gets as excited for the holidays and changing seasons as much as I do.  In reading a few of my favorite blogs, I'm also reminded of how much those seasons vary in other parts of the world.  While I'm getting excited about pumpkins, chocolate spiderwebs and my favorite pair of boots, people on the other side of the equator are happy that it's no longer snowing, they're dusting off their ice cream makers to prepare for the warm weather to come and testing out new custard bases for frozen treats.





When I lived in China, I didn't look forward to the summer quite as much, because with the heat came the dreaded humidity, although the bone-chilling wind coming off the sea in the winter was no picnic either!  My brother has been living in Hawaii for the past few years, and he talks about missing the experience of four seasons, as weather in Hawaii is much more mild throughout the year - never extremely cold or extremely hot.  And I'm sure my friends in England just want to see a glimpse of sunshine through all the clouds and rain!

My brother-in-law teases my sister that she, like me, is a little fickle when it comes to the seasons - as much as she longs for one to come, she's just as ready for the next one after that.  I think this is partly the fault of stores, though, since they start stocking Halloween costumes in July and Christmas decorations in September, so you can't help but think about and mentally prepare for what's coming!





And I suppose when you're tired of winter, that's the time to take a little vacation (if you can afford it, that is!).  I always start dreaming of tropical weather in January, although I've never been able to take a tropical vacation.  My list of dream vacations continues to grow:  Maine in the Fall, "somewhere" tropical in the Winter, Italy in the Spring, and Greece in the Summer...  tasting seasonal food, soaking up the warm, dry sunshine, walking along the beach, and enjoying the Greek way of life - where good food and fine taste makes for good living and a healthy life.  Now that's something I could really enjoy.  And something that I will do my best to bring into my life, and those around me, this holiday season.





Spring and Fall compete hard with each other for first place as my favorite season.  I love Spring for rescuing me from scraping ice off my car, feeling cold all the time and my ghostly pale skin which desperately needs a kiss of sun after winter.  Seeing all the spring flowers, leaving the house without bundling up, wearing a fluffy white skirt for the first time in 7 months...  it's those little things that make me happy.




But then there's Fall...  the fire colored leaves, the nip in the air, the way a dog's bark or an airplane passing overhead carries a different sound, sweaters and boots, warm fires, fuzzy slippers, sugar cookie candles, baking and all things pumpkin...  And even though Fall in Colorado is short (we've already had a major snowstorm), I still love the season because I know that the snow that fell yesterday will likely be gone tomorrow when the sun comes out again.

Halloween weekend was one of those relaxing weekends where we actually didn't have a schedule or anywhere we had to go, and were able to just enjoy some time together.  We carved our pumpkins (mine, sweet and innocent with pretty vines and leaves from a Martha Stewart template, and Jamie's, a zombie pumpkin eating a dismembered foot complete with red gel food coloring for blood).





We roasted pumpkin seeds in the oven, low and slow, to get them as crisp as possible, although the husk is always still slightly chewy.  I seasoned one batch with olive oil, salt and pepper, and the other batch with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  The Halloween pie was made and taste-tested, with most of it wrapped up in the freezer and a couple pieces saved to take to my parents.

And Saturday night, we went out to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant where I had the most amazing coconut chicken curry with potatoes that I'm determined to figure out how to make.  And to end the day, a scary movie, of course, since it was Halloween.

It's all these simple ways of enjoying the season that makes life so good!




After tasting that amazing coconut curry Saturday night, I had coconut on my mind, so Sunday morning I concocted a recipe for Toasted Coconut Cream Waffles.  These waffles are crisp and hearty, with Greek yogurt, coconut milk, toasted coconut and pecans baked into the batter which gives it lots of flavor and texture.  And while the batter is very thick, the cooked waffle has such a nice texture that doesn't get at all soggy when topped with honey or syrup.

I used up all my Greek yogurt in the batter, but as we ate the waffles for a late breakfast, I kept thinking about what could make them even better.  And I think a dollop of Greek yogurt on top of the waffles, mixed with honey and a little coconut extract would be just the thing to really enhance the coconut flavor, so I've included that in my recipe below.  These waffles would also be wonderful topped with some fresh slices of pineapple.

I'd love to hear what all of you do to enjoy the season! :)

"As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: http://www.fageusa.com/community/fage-greek-getaway"





Toasted Coconut Cream Waffles


·         1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, divided
·         ½ cup chopped pecans
·         1 cup all-purpose flour
·         ¼ cup brown sugar
·         1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
·         ¼ teaspoon baking soda
·         ¼ teaspoon salt
·         ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
·         1 egg
·         1 ½ cups Fage Greek yogurt, divided
·         2/3 cup sweetened coconut milk or coconut cream
·         6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
·         ½ teaspoon pure vanilla
·         ¼ teaspoon coconut extract
·         2 tablespoons honey (plus extra honey, agave nectar or syrup, for drizzling)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spread the coconut flakes and pecans on a baking sheet and toast until browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Watch the coconut carefully – it can go from golden to burned very quickly.

Take the coconut and pecans from the oven and set aside.  Reduce the temperature to 200.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, ¾ cup of yogurt, coconut milk/cream, melted butter and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined – batter should be lumpy and very thick.  Stir in the pecans and half of the toasted coconut, reserving the rest of the coconut to sprinkle on top of the finished waffles.  Set the batter aside to rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat your waffle iron and cook the waffles according to your waffle iron’s instructions.  I measured out 1/3 cup dollops of batter to yield 8 waffles.  Keep the cooked waffles warm on a baking sheet in the 200-degree oven while you cook the remainder of the batter.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¾ cup of Greek yogurt with the coconut extract and 2 tablespoons honey.  Serve the waffles with your choice of honey, agave nectar or syrup, topped with a dollop of the coconut honey yogurt, and sprinkled with the remaining toasted coconut.

Yields 8 waffles (2-3 waffles per person).