Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake

The Food Revolution Ambassadors are celebrating our second anniversary this month. So, for our first challenge for September we were tasked with making a celebratory food. We've just finished up birthday season at my house so I know a little something about celebrating. Eight family birthdays in six short weeks. Of course, CAKE is the first food that comes to mind when you think of the word celebrate. That's a lot of cake! We get creative and do ice cream cake, cookie cake, cupcakes of course and this year - a new one - my son picked whoopie pies for his celebratory treat. Now, I'll admit, I'm not a fabulous baker. During the 365 days that I worked my way through the Food Revolution Cookbook there (luckily) wasn't a whole lot of baking involved. But that means my baking muscles haven't been worked like my cooking muscles have.  I've never had a successful "bake a cake from scratch" experience but I was intrigued by the Hummingbird Cake recipe that came with our challenges this month. I love the name and I love that it is a sneak peak of Jamie Oliver's new cook book, Jamie's Comfort Food, which is being released in the US today.
Not to give away the ending first, but I actually did it! This Hummingbird Cake was the first cake I've made that was not from a box that didn't end up in the trash. 
The cake, like most comfort food, involves time but the result is a refreshing cake that was perfect on a late summer day. The bananas and the pineapple make the cake so moist and although cream cheese frosting isn't my favorite I loved that this frosting has lime zest and juice in it. Now, the last part of the recipe is to make a pecan brittle topping. It might be tempting to just skip this part. Don't do it! One thing I learned from my Food Revolution is don't skip anything in a recipe.  Look at it as great practice in the kitchen and another step towards being a better cook. It may sound intimidating but the pecan brittle was easy to do and it made the cake so delicious!
So, if you are looking for a special occasion treat, give Hummingbird Cake a try! You'll be glad you did.

Hummingbird Cake 

Cake: 1 cup olive oil, plus extra for greasing, 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3 cups superfine sugar, 4 medium very ripe bananas, 1 x 15-oz can of pineapple chunks, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 oz pecans
Icing: 3 cups confectioners' sugar, 2/3 cup unsalted butter (at room temp), 7 oz cream cheese, 2 limes. 
Brittle: 1/2 cup superfine sugar, 2 oz pecans

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line two 9-inch cake tins. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a mixing bowl, then add the sugar and a large pinch of sea salt. Peel the bananas and mash them up with a fork in another bowl. Drain and finely chop the pineapple and add to the bananas with the oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until combined, then fold into the dry mixture until smooth. Finely chop the pecans and gently fold in, then divide the batter evenly between your prepared tins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until risen, golden and the sponges spring back when touched lightly in the centre. Run a knife around the edge of the tins, then leave to cool for !0 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, to make the icing, sift the confectioners' sugar into a free-standing electric mixer, add the butter and beat until pale and creamy. Add the cream cheese, finely grate in the zest of ! lime and add a squeeze of juice, then beat until just smooth – it’s really important not to over-mix it. Keep in the fridge until needed. To make a brittle topping, place the superfine sugar and a splash of water in a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Shake flat and don’t stir it, just swirl the pan occasionally until dissolved and lightly golden. Add the pecans and a pinch of salt, spoon around to coat, and when nicely golden, pour onto a sheet of oiled greaseproof paper to set. Once cool, smash up to a dust (you’ll need about half to top the cake)

To assemble the cake, place one sponge on a cake stand and spread with half the icing. Top with the other sponge, spread over the rest of the icing, then grate over the zest of the remaining lime. Scatter over the brittle dust and decorate with a few edible flowers, such as violas, borage or herb flowers, if you feel that way inclined. With a cup of tea on the side, this will make everyone who eats it extremely happy. 

Recipe taken from Jamie's Comfort Food.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Happy Birthday Food Revolution Ambassadors!

It’s hard to believe but the Food Revolution Ambassadors are celebrating their 2nd birthday. I remember two years ago when I was asked to be an ambassador and I’ve loved getting to know my fellow ambassadors from all over the world. We keep in touch in our group on Facebook, have google hangouts and follow each others cooking adventures on Twitter and Instagram. It is a great group of humans and I’m so lucky to be a part of it. A huge thank you on this anniversary to Jamie Oliver and his amazing staff who keep us up and running and inspire us too!
Happy Birthday JOFR Ambassadors!

And now…on to the September Monthly Challenges! Here are the challenges I’ll be working on this month. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and let me know if you’re trying any of these out as well. I’d love to hear from you!

September Monthly Challenges
1). Celebrate! Wish the awesome Food Revolution ambassadors a happy 2nd birthday and do some celebratory cooking. 
2). Speciality diets. Whether it is vegetarian, diary-free, gluten-free or vegan, share recipes and photos of your go-to special diet recipes.

3). Back-to-school! This year as US schools head back they are improving the snacks and beverages sold through the #smartsnacks rule. Find out what changes have been made at your local schools.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cook More.

The end of August snuck up on me and I didn’t get my last post up yesterday but I couldn’t let such an important challenge sneak by so here it is…

August Challenge #3 Share with us your top tip for food education. What one skill or piece of advice would you teach to/share with others?

I love this challenge. When I started cooking my way through Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Cookbook four years ago, I had no idea how to cook. Fast forward four years later and I’ve cooked my way through the book, had a pretty successful blog, taught cooking classes, written articles for Jamie’s website and the Food Revolution Ambassadors are about to celebrate their second anniversary. My favorite and probably the most unexpected part of my journey though has been the emails and comments from family, friends and strangers who have been inspired by what I did. The most common thing I hear is “I’m JUST like you were and I don’t know where to start!” 

What I always tell them is that you don’t need to do something crazy like I did. My idea actually started very simply with a New Year’s Resolution to “Cook More.” That’s it. Just decide you are going to cook more. Get your family involved. Don’t be scared. Just jump in there and do it. If you’ve read my blog from the start you will know that things did not always go smoothly in the kitchen when I was learning to cook. Give yourself permission to laugh and have fun. As long as you don’t burn the house down (I’ve had a few fires during my Food Revolution) it will all be okay. Once you’ve decided to “Cook More” you can add a bit at a time. Try a new recipe a week. Go to the Farmer’s Market. Get your kids in there to help you in the kitchen. It will come. Just laugh, have fun and cook more.