Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt

The first time I had poppy seeds was in a lemon cake mix Nana made for tea time. I had never seen a cake so yellow before. It was so moist and lovely that there was no way to remove it from memory.

There is nothing wrong with getting a little help from time to time. While I can make a cake from scratch, I happen to love a good shortcut. Like store bought cake mix for example. If you can take it to the next level by adding a personal spin, it feels pat on the back worthy. And since you did not start from scratch, if the results are less than stellar, you can always blame the mix… haha.

Most cake mix hacks ask for a package of pudding mix but for the love of life, I never seem to remember to buy that extra box. So I figured the yogurt would be a healthier stand in to add moisture. I also love poppy seeds and while we are at it, anything with coconut. So that’s it. No magic. In fact, this is a no brainer. To sooth my sense of cheating guilt, I add some real lemon zest (I usually store in my freezer) and then tell myself that this is more than good enough. This recipe is pretty darn delicious, moist and tasty.

This hack uses a box of lemon cake mix. A few tweaks, a favourite plate and you have yourself the perfect bundt for this time of year. This pan is from Wilton and serves as many slices or slivers as you feel you can squeeze out of it.

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“Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt” by loopylocks
Makes 1 bundt cake to serve 8 – 10 people

Ingredients:
1   box of lemon cake mix
1/2 C   unsweetened shredded coconut
2 T   poppy seeds
4   eggs
1/2 C   canola or vegetable oil
1 C   2% plain yogurt
1-2 tsp fresh lemon zest (optional)

Directions:
Set oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer with the flat paddle, add the dry ingredients – cake mix, coconut, poppy seeds. Stir to combine. Add the eggs, oil, yogurt and optional lemon zest. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Then turn to medium-high speed and blend for 2 minutes. Scrape bowl and pour into a pre-sprayed bundt pan.

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Bake for 40 minutes in the middle of the oven. When you remove the cake it should look a bit like this.

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Cool for 15 minutes before transferring to a favourite plate. Once completely cool, you can dust it with icing sugar. Any guilt about not being a Martha Stewart/Pinterest prodigy is gone by this point. Just saying. Plus, if you plate it on something that makes you happy, or better yet, add some Cadbury Eggs at Easter, then all is good in the world again. Enjoy!

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This beautiful “flying fish” plate is by Maggie Bell in Barbados.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

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Poppy Easter Lemon Bundt Cake

 

 

Easy Taco Night Seasoning

Taco Night Made Easy by loopylocks

I have bought pre-made taco seasoning for years. It is relatively inexpensive and easy. No thought or fuss involved. Until one night I forgot to buy some just as I was chopping up the veggies. So I opted to look one up online and make it myself. I was missing several dry ingredients and too salty but it turned out good enough that everyone was a happy camper. So on my next grocery store visit I made sure I got all the vitals and vouched never to buy the packaged stuff again. It is healthier and cheaper too. At a glance, this is all you need. It may look like a lot but most of these spices you likely already have on hand. I store all my dried herbs in my freezer to help keep their freshness.

Easy Taco Night Seasoning by loopylocks

“Easy Taco Night Seasoning” by loopylocks
Makes a single serving (enough for about 1-2 pounds of meat of your choice)

Ingredients:
1 T Chili powder
1/2 T flour (or cornstarch)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed chili flakes (optional)

Directions:
Mix all ingredients together and use as you normally would the store bought seasoning. I alternate between either ground beef or ground turkey (as pictured). To make your own taco night dinner: finely chop and saute a small white onion in one tablespoon of canola oil for 3 minutes over medium high heat. Add meat and brown thoroughly, about 4-5 minutes. Add taco seasoning and combine well throughout. Add 1/2 cup water, stir and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving so sauce can thicken.

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I like to use smoked paprika for added flavour but regular paprika is fine. I generally use this amount of seasoning on up to 2 pounds. You can always add up to an extra 1/4 cup of water if you find it too thick for 2 pounds. I use flour but you can opt for corn starch if you prefer. The water in the cooking of the meat helps to not only distribute the flavour and soften the meat as it simmers but it also helps the sauce to thicken.

I tell myself each time I mix this seasoning up that I am going to make a big batch and just store it in the freezer. But then I go about my business and just make up enough for that night’s dinner. Old habits die hard I guess. Plus it is kind of fun to measure the spices out like you are making magic!

One of the beauties of taco night is that each person can build their own based on likes or dislikes. Keeps complaints at bay, that’s for sure. If our eldest, currently experimenting with being a vegan, was home from university, she would eat this with black beans or brown lentils instead. Our youngest will only entertain meat, cheese and cucumbers. Either way, these two extremes are happy. And while we like the crunch of taco shells, they are a bit on the messy side so we prefer tortilla flaps and make soft tacos, with chips on the side. The visual on the dinner table is art worthy.

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My all time favourite ingredient that is missing in this is avocados. Did not have any when we ate this glorious dinner. You know something, avocados are funny fruits. They are either not ripe enough, or become overripe in the course of one day. Most of mine end up in the freezer for smoothies. In their absence, nothing makes up for a missing ingredient like pepper sauce. Take your pick. I don’t like to play favourites here but if you are ever able to get your hands on some Delish Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce with Cucumber I highly recommend it. Nothing wrong with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce either. Enjoy!

The Magic Helmet

In the name of love, some people turn a simple spoon into an airplane or ‘chew chew’ train to get their children to eat. Sometimes it works. Not always. Papa wore a helmet. It worked like magic. Do you remember what your loved ones did to get you to eat your food? How do you get your kids to eat now? 

Nana and Papa could get us to eat pretty much anything when we were little. It was probably one of the first examples of effective teamwork that I can recall. A bit like the Jamaican relay track team. Our meals were meticulously cut into tiny bite sized morsels by Papa. He could make perfectly symmetrical miniature dice out of any meat. Likewise, he could cut up spaghetti so fine that it resembled rice. Once he had finished and only then, he would pass the baton over to Nana who would make up our bowls of food, usually accompanied by rice, her very own unique macaroni pie or meat sauce. She would then return the baton to Papa who would in turn, work his magic on the home stretch. It was quite the ingenious process.

I am not exactly sure if all this effort was because we were picky children or if Nana was worried that we might choke on our food. I do know that everything they did was rooted in love. Nana firmly belief that fattening up a child was a worthy cause. Every bowl was stirred together with Nana’s secret ingredient: butter. I think when I was young I truly believed that dinner was meant to be shiny. Check my lips in the photo below if you don’t believe me.

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Me (right) being fed by Papa wearing the magic helmet.

Do you remember when my sister snipped off all my curls? I only mention it because the mangy photo above would have been taken not long after that haircut. My unqualified hairdresser of a sister is looking on in the middle, still feeling pretty proud by the look on her face.

Nana actually had two metal covers. We called them helmets because they reminded us of those old war time helmets worn by British soldiers in battle. They were the perfect prop for some of our shenanigans. One was missing the black knob at the top. No one wanted that one. Both were dented from falls as we ran through the house.

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Two decades later, on a trip home to Barbados, we asked Papa to help feed our first wearing the helmet. For old times sake. He happily obliged and took great delight.

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Papa wearing the helmet while feeding our daughter. Barbados. 2000.

Today, I still secretly prefer eating my food all mixed together, preferably in a bowl. Very unladylike but as the saying goes: old habits die hard. There is nothing quite like a one pot meal… chilli, stew, risotto, pilau, soup, porridge are just a few that come to mind. It’s the height of simple comfort. When no one is around, if I make spaghetti, I often attempt to cut up my spaghetti as fine as I can. And yet, I am never able to replicate Papa’s precision, no matter how hard I try. It’s simply what my brain remembers and loves.

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It should then not come as a surprise that I used Nana and Papa’s chop, mix, and butter routine with our kids. I thought it worked pretty well until our fourth. I wish Nana and Papa were here to feed him a bowl of buttery food but he was born several years after they had both passed. Little did I know that despite my best intentions, including giving him David as his middle name, he would become my Goliath.

The day I let our son wear the helmet,  I unknowingly handed all the power to him. When dinner time rolls around, I am powerless and feel like all my batons have been removed. At six, he is my most determined child to use food as his control mechanism.  What will his brain remember when he grows up? And yes, the cliche is true: the baby of the family always gets away with…

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Not forever though. I already see change on the horizon. There may be value in a good old bribe. It works. I can get him to leave just about anywhere with a mere mention of a piece of bubble gum. Just the other day I got him to eat sliced cucumbers by offering him a juice box instead of the water or milk he usually gets. Bribery is my new butter and sugar is the new magic. I know. Not the best choice but for now, it is good enough. Mark my words, this Goliath is going down.

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