7 Must-Try Items at the Tobago Blue Food Festival

As written by Laura for and published by Propa Eats Magazine.
If the drive along the Caribbean coast and through Northside Road’s misty hills doesn’t lull you into anticipation of what awaits at the Tobago Blue Food Festival, the smells that waft into your nose as you exit your car will certainly do the trick. This weekend, the Blue Food Festival marked its 19th year celebrating Tobagonians’ unique creations using the ground provision dasheen. Locals call the root vegetable “blue food” for the indigo colour it embodies while cooking.

Some patrons come to the festival with their coolers (empty to take home spoils from the culinary booths); some just come with empty stomachs and open minds. Dasheen is more than the commonly known leaves that make callalloo, but an extremely versatile root vegetable. The local cooks at the festival show off traditional and innovati

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ve culinary dishes to tantalize patrons’ taste buds and for competition (a.k.a. bragging rights).

As I navigated through the boothsand tables with kids in tow (it is a kid-friendly event, after all), I tasted, talked and observed to compile this list of must-trys at the Tobago Blue Food Festival, so you won’t miss them next year.

Dasheen Ice Cream

Nearly everyone named dasheen ice cream as one thing they couldn’t leave the Blue Food Festival without having. It’s creamy, a bit nutty and just plain good.

Dasheen Wine 

The wide variety of dasheen wine options indicated its popularity. Big bottles and small bottles of the sweet liquor were widely “finished” as the event progressed and in patrons’ hands on the shuttle ride back home. Who knew such a starchy product could  make such a delicate wine?

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Dasheen Punch 

For those looking for a softer beverage, dasheen punch offer

s a creamy sip with bits of the earthy dasheen to add some texture. Alcoholic versions are also available for those who really like a “punch” (pun intended).

Dasheen Khurma

With all the sweet treats available, my kids still selected, devoured and voted dasheen khurma as the best. The little sticks were crunchy, gingery and sugary—not to mention gluten-free, which was really the only difference between them and the sweets you’re used to enjoying.

Bush Meat with Provision 

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If you followed the crowd, it led to you to where the wild things were. Dasheen dumplings and cut-up provision accompanied an array of stewed iguana, tattoo, rabbit, goat and, of course, Tobago’s famous crab. While dasheen took a humble backseat to the wild meat, it served as the perfect partner to sop up all the yummy sauces.

Light Dasheen Fruit Cake

There were very heavy black-cake-like versions of dasheen fruit cake but the lighter ones available offered a feathery alternative using dasheen flour. You can eat whole slice before realizing it’s done. I know… I did that. And no… I don’t regret it.

Blue Food Shop

The by-products of dasheen were just as impressive as the edible creations. And some looked good enough to eat. Seriously, there was one dasheen soap shaped like cake. Soaps, creams, oil, and candles were available for those looking for organic, locally-made home and body products.  Dasheen cake soap

So next year, when you go to the Blue Food Festival, take your sense of adventure. Be prepared for muddy feet (it’s rainy season, you know), try something new (dasheen pizza, anyone?), go on the Dasheen Farm Tour (the largest of its kind in Tobago), and look around to appreciate the beauty of the earth that provides and produces the provision. The charm of Tobago’s culinary heritage integrated into modern innovation will have you coming back for more.

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Lemon Cake with Sour Cream Frosting

So yesterday was my birthday. A big birthday with a big number. How can I be 40 years old already? So in the spirit of still feeling spritely, fresh and bright (yes … yes … I know age is just a number) I made myself a lemon cake for the birthday candles to adorn. Holla to all you other moms that … ahem … *get to* make your own birthday treats.

This was the first time I tried this recipe from 5BoysBaker and it is definitely Cotton-Kong household approved. I used a basic sour cream for the frosting recipe but 5BoysBaker suggest a sour cream lemon frosting here.

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CAKE INGREDIENTS


Cake:

  • 1½ cups sifted flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs , separated
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup buttermilk

Lemon Syrup:

  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons hot water

CAKE INSTRUCTIONS

  1. anPreheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 8×8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. I like the line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit so that the baked cake is easier to remove. Set aside the prepared pan. (NOTE: I like petite cakes so I used two 6″diameter glass Pyrex dishes.)
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in bowl and set aside.
  4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light d fluffy. Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, mix until combined.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, alternating with buttermilk.
  7. Fold in the egg whites.
  8. Spread the batter evenly in a greased 8×8 inch pan. (NOTE: Since I use the 6″ baking dishes, I divide the batter evenly between the two dishes and usually reserve a little batter to make a few cupcakes, too.)
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until top is golden and cake springs back when touched in center.
  10. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan. Poke holes in cake with a fork or a skewer, making sure not to go all the way through the cake.
  11. For Syrup: Combine all syrup ingredients until sugar dissolves, s
    poon over cake while still warm. Let cool and remove from pan.

SOUR CREAM FROSTING:

  • 2.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cups butter, softened
  • 1/3 cups sour cream
  • Milk, if needed to get desired consistency

(NOTE: I usually add more or less sour cream and milk depending on the consistency I want.)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. Frost cake when completely cooled.

Babycakes for my baby

So today Adelaide bamboozled me. Yep … sure did. I’ve prided myself in the past on knowing when she’s faking but this morning she got me. She started to complaining that her “tummy was going in circles” when we were in the middle of breakfast. She (like her dad) can think her way into her sickbed and this has been a thing before. I figured it was the Monday-morning-don’t-want-to-go-to-school blues so I employed my usual tactic and encouraged to her continue getting ready for school. But when she told me 30 minutes later, “Mommy I’m 1000% I don’t fell good,” I second guessed my tough-love approach. So I told her she could stay home. But I DID make her pinky promise (that is the ultimate level of promise between us) that if she started to feel better that she would go to school.

Well … by 10 a.m. it was pretty apparent whatever “ailment” she had wasn’t there so I sat her down and reminded her of the pinky promise. By 10:30 a.m. we were in the car headed for her school. As I drove home, I just shook my head. I couldn’t believe she fooled me. She’s only five years old!

We also discussed why she didn’t want to go to school. It is heartwarming that my little girl wants to spend her days next to me, but it’s also heart-wrenching because she wants to so that she doesn’t have to feel the ache of separation anxiety  when we have to say goodbye for a little while.20160908_173218

So after school I busted out the Babycakes cake pop maker for my baby girl. Grandma gave this little gem to Adelaide as a Christmas gift and it has been a lot of fun. For a while my creativity was stunted and I just made plain ol’ cake pops using a box cake mix because they were easy to make with Adelaide and our decision to make them was usually spontaneous. A few weeks ago clouds lifted from my creative brain matter as I pondered the usual dinner dilemma and I thought, “Wait! I bet you can make all sorts of stuff in this thing!” And sure enough … you can. I found a ton of ideas online and have tried a few already.

Well … today we stayed simple because I was dying to try brownies in the cake pop maker! It was amazing. I used a box brownie mix and followed the directions to make cake-like brownies (I added a tiny bit more water because I like them a bit lighter) and viola! Delicious brownie balls. Some came out looking a little odd but delicious all the same. The brownie balls didn’t last the night and two-year-old Oliver definitely approved.

I recommend the Babycakes cake pop maker because, really, the options are endless with what you can do with it. It’s easy with kids who want to help make whatever you’re making, and the end product usual earns you extra cool-mom points and is just as impressive to adults.

Here are links to three of my favorite cake pop maker idea generators:

6 Things You Can Make in A Cake Pop Maker – Besides Cake by OneGoodThingByJillee

14 Things You Can Make For Dinner In A Cake Pop Maker by Diply

Tips & Recipes by Babycakes

 

 

 

Easy Banana Bread

I am sure I am not the only person who has the all-to-often “Gosh the bananas have ripened already?” problem. So … what to do? One common solution is banana bread. Everyone loves it, right? My sister Sarah included this recipe in the 2nd edition of the Borg Family Cookbook (seriously … one of the best ever) and it is exactly as the title claims: EASY. Not only is it quick and simple to put together but it always turns out wonderful. Ummmm … Maybe too much so because I think I ate half the loaf myself last night.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream
3 ripe bananas
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking soda

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter your loaf pan (or use parchment paper which is my usual way). Bake for 1 hour.

(Note: My family likes the banana bread a little crusty so I usually bake it at 350 degrees until the top is hard.) 

Gingerbread Cookies

One important element of Christmas, for me, is gingerbread cookies. My mother used to make them and hang them on the Christmas tree for my father to munch on the days leading up to the big day. He especially liked them when they got a little stale and crunchy. The aroma of gingerbread cookies always brings back warm memories and big smiles.

I am not a huge fan of molasses flavor so I’ve experimented with lots of recipes and tweaked a few to come up with this easy recipe. I hope you enjoy making them and decorating them like I (and Adelaide) do. I usually double this recipe so I can give some away.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup light soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp molasses*
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup*
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup (you can substitute golden syrup)*

*When I double the recipe I only add 1 tbsp molasses, 2 tsbp maple syrup and 4 tbsp corn syrup. You can adjust the molasses to syrup ratio according to your taste. 

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix butter, sugar, and egg together.
  • Add molasses and syrups to butter mixture.
  • In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon together.
  • Add part of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Keep adding the flour mixture in parts until it is all incorporated into the butter mixture. The cookie dough should be stiff and a bit dry.
  • Shape the dough in a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for about 2 hours. You can refrigerate it up to two days.
  •  Roll out the cookie dough on a floured surface. If you like softer cookies, roll out the dough but keep it a little thick. If you like crisper cookies, roll it out thin.
  • Cut out the cookies with gingerbread man cookie cutter or any shape you like. Place cookie cutouts on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes (depending on your oven and your desired doneness).
  • Cool cookies completely before decorating.

 

ICING RECIPE

I live in the Caribbean and do not use A/C in the day so I love frosting and icing recipes that do not melt! This one dries fast (even in humidity) and is very easy to use.

INGREDIENTS 
Water
Powered sugar
Almond extract

DIRECTIONS
Forgive me for not knowing the exact measurements, I usually just put in some powdered sugar into a small bowl, add water until desired consistency and add a drop of almond extract.

Add food coloring if desired.

Use a spatula to put the icing in a icing bag or a plain ol’ zip-up plastic bag. If you use the zip-up plastic bag, snip a small hole in one corner to apply the icing on the cookies.

Ice the cookies and let them dry before packing them in boxes or presenting them for consumption.