Kwanzaa Culinarians 2014: Cacao Benne Cookies

Cacao Benne Cookies

Make a pot of tea or coffee, light a candle, grab a comfortable seat, and plate a few cacao benne (pronounced benny) cookies. How was your year? Since the time I’ve learned 14 isn’t my favorite number, I’ve cautiously waited for the year of 2014. It’s a painfully honest number. And, when the clock turned 2014 in the midnight hour on January first, I said a silent prayer. God help us. And, as I’ve imaged, this year is a roller coaster of emotions. Russia. Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ebola in West Africa. Mike Brown and other victims of the police. Family members passing. By the time summer arrived, my stomach was jumping to the tune of “War” sung by The Temptations. Since the beginning of human relationships, I’m sure there’s a country or region involved in war somewhere around the globe. Perhaps, due to my sensitivity to 14, this year’s wars and conflicts deeply troubled me. It’s 2014 communicating, “War… What is it good for?… absolutely nothing…”

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Reeling in Summer Memories

Ginger Almond Plum Galette

This summer was beautiful. We went to plays in parks, on broadway, off-broadway and in our community. It wasn’t too hot, and the air conditioner took care of uncomfortable temperatures that didn’t soar high for too long. We hung out with friends, fine-dined and wined our way around New York City.

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The Neighbor with the Fig Tree

Honey Fig Cornmeal Muffins

We once had a kind neighbor who planted a fig tree on the side of their house. They were great cooks. They would share homemade pita bread, and gave Dad a trunk of lobsters when they returned from a trip to Maine. When we first moved into our house, they shared tips on landscaping our front yard. After-school, my sister and I would accidentally leave our house keys at home, and we would stay at their house until our parent came home. The smell of their evening dinner was enticing.

They were generous. And, they broke our hearts when they moved away without telling anyone where they were going. No one had in the neighborhood had any problems or disagreements with them. We woke up one morning to discover they had disappeared. All that was left was their fig tree and beautiful yard.

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An Old-Fashioned Fruit makes a Sweet Comeback

Grapefruit Cornmeal Cake

Citrus season has long passed, but it’s never too late for a Grapefruit Coconut Cake. After all, with limes being expensive (Read or listen about this year’s lime shortages in both NPR’s Tell Me More‘s Michel Martin and Carrie Khan’s articles), grapefruit is proving to be a juicy alternative. That’s not too bad of a comeback, considering The New York Times published a story about the decline of grapefruit’s popularity, which cites similar production and growth problems to limes. The article also discusses grapefruit’s competition with seedless and easy to peel citrus varieties. It’s sour taste doesn’t help its popularity. Despite both lime and grapefruit’s production problems, paying more than a dollar for one lime isn’t realistic.

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Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Plenty of Nuts

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

When the my boyfriend’s father was asked what type of birthday cake he wanted, he said, “It doesn’t matter, but make it with plenty of nuts.” The boyfriend’s father is health conscious and a martial arts instructor. He looks excellent for his age, because he’s always exercising, reading health-related books and playing music. Ask him any health-related question, and he has an answer. Such as repeatedly telling us how nuts are good for {blush} men’s reproductive health, and he explains why without the crass. The decision to make him a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake — with plenty of nuts — was easy.
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