Kate’s Candy

Last week, I introduced a new series here at The Grumbling Belly called Family and Friends. I am inviting people from around the world and across the country who appreciate the connection food has with our lives and community to share their favourite recipes and stories. This week, I am excited to introduce you to Kate from North Carolina. We met while working as Hall Directors in Tennessee almost four years ago and, with our kindred passion for food and people (and other things of course), we soon became great friends. She is a talented cook and baker and this is a wonderful story that perfectly illustrates how food can be so meaningful as well as delicious.


My maternal Grandfather passed away a year before I was born.  He died far too early, when he was only 54.

I have heard stories about my Papa Mac nearly every day of my life.  I have been told how much he would’ve loved me, how much I look like him with my dark hair and eyes, how much of a gentleman he was, and how deeply he adored the women in his life (namely his wife and two daughters).

I grew up missing a man that I have never met.  I think about him often and look forward to the heavenly day when he and I will hug and smile at each other for the first time.  Oh, all that we have to look forward to!

My Papa Mac loved to cook.  He did most of the cooking and baking in the house, enjoying the act of spoiling his three ladies.  His specialties were meatloaf, beef stroganoff, fried fish (that he and his Brother-in-law caught on their beach trip the weekend before), and any food that provided comfort to friends and family.  We still use the recipes he left us, and my mouth waters each time we look through those cards.

Papa Mac had a bit of a sweet tooth as well.  He indulged those he loved (and himself) by making cakes, fudge, and candy.  There is a particular candy recipe that my Mother made often during my childhood.  The main ingredients were dates and rice krispies, which formed a bite-sized log.  Somehow, she lost the recipe and I hadn’t had this particular candy in many years.  A few years ago, I mentioned that this was my favorite “Papa Mac recipe” and I wondered what we could do to recreate an important-to-me childhood memory.  My Grandmother (Gran), Mom, and I started looking through an old tin box Gran kept with recipes from her early-adult life.  There were a few of Papa Mac’s mixed in, so we were hoping to find this particular one.

I’ll never forget the moment she held up the card with my favorite recipe scribbled on it, as all three of us were baffled by its title…

The top of the card read, “Kate’s Candy”.

My Papa Mac named his Granddaughter Kate’s favorite candy recipe after her – before he even knew of her existence!  We tried to explain it away at the time, figuring that there must have been a friend of the family he named it for.  But, I’ve decided to always believe that Papa Mac named it just for me, his Granddaughter that he’ll meet one day in Heaven.

And so, I share with you my favorite recipe, one that my family holds so incredibly dear:

Kate’s candy

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup sugar

1 stick butter

1 egg well beaten

before cooking

Combine all ingredients in a pan and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring constantly.
after cooking 10 minutes
Then add:
2 cups rice krispies
1 cup chopped pecans
When cool enough to handle, make into bite-sized logs and roll in flaked coconut. 

Take some butter and spread on your hands to form candy and roll in coconut.  This is helpful as the candy is very sticky.

Kate's Candy

Set on parchment paper until fully cooled and then serve.

finished product

Making Kate’s Candy with my grandmother and mother

Kate's Candy


New Weekly Feature

pinteresting monday fav

If you have read anything I have written over the past year, you will see that I absolutely love Pinterest and it has literally revolutionized my life! Of course I believe in order to have a healthy mentality about Pinterest, you have to be a mindful consumer. It is easy to get obsessed (I definitely went through that phase) and spend hours re-pinning but more so I think it can become a source to fuel unnecessary dissatisfaction with your life, body image, possessions etc. So I present this obvious caution. Pin what inspires you, pin things you want to try, pin the exciting but don’t let Pinterest make you feel inadequate as a person; whether it’s about who you are, how you look, the kind of parent/spouse/friend you are, or the possessions you have. You can’t put the world’s best chef, best artist, best athlete, funniest comedian, the furthest traveler, wisest scholar etc into one perfectly designed room and realistically compare yourself to all of them and come out feeling awesome!  But, some of their work will be beautiful to look at, inspire hard work, provide great insight and make you laugh when you need it most. That to me is what Pinterest has added to my life (and also its a place for me to put things I find on-line and want to remember because I have the worst memory!)

Having said all that, I am starting a new feature on the Grumbling Belly entitled Pinteresting Mondays! I weekly (in fact multiple times a week) try out new recipes I have found on Pinterest and thought it was about time to start sharing all the great food I have discovered. I won’t be pinning just anything, only the recipes I have really liked, or slightly adapted. I have no interest in berating a recipe that didn’t come out right or insensitively marring someone else’s hard work in their kitchen. If you are interested in following my Pinterest Boards, click here. I would be happy to welcome you into my Pinterest world but you might learn more about me than you bargained for!

For our first Pinteresting Monday, I thought we could explore my all time favourite soup; Tom Kha Gai (Thai flavours with chicken and coconut milk). When I lived near Chattanooga TN, my husband and I frequented a fantastic Thai restaurant (Rain Thai Bistro) and were completely enthralled by each item on their menu. Every time we visited, we had the hardest time choosing what to order especially for an appetizer. Basil rolls or tom kha gai….it was like choosing between our (non-existent) children! So, when I came across a recipe for Tom Kha Gai on Pinterest, I was all in! Now, we could have it at home as often as we wanted and eliminate the dreaded moment at Rain when the server came for our order. I bought all the necessary ingredients, came home, recipe in hand, and a sense of trepidation began stirring in my stomach….what if it wasn’t as good, how could it be? could any soup match the excellence of Rain? Fortunately the recipe is sooooo easy that it was ready in about 20 minutes and my anxiety did not last long! I couldn’t believe how delicious this soup was and even my husband, who is the real Thai tester, could not stop umming and ahhing. I recommend this whole heartedly and have some cheats to make it even easier (and perhaps a little cheaper).

Tom Kha Gai

originally found on myrecipes.com submitted by Jiranooch Shapiro, from Anchorage, AK. (My comments and suggestions are in bold.)

Tom Kha Gai









1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk (I don’t recommend using light coconut milk if you prefer your soups to have a silky texture)

1 can (14 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth

6 quarter-size slices fresh ginger * (or 2 tbsp of tube-see below)

1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in 1-in. pieces* (or 2 tbsp of tube-see below)

1 pound boned, skinned chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-in. chunks 

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce** (nuoc mam or nam pla) (I always use about another 1/2 tablespoon for extra flavour.)

1 teaspoon sugar (this can be omitted without any loss of taste, esp if you add more fish sauce)

1 teaspoon Thai chili paste (Siracha is my favourite)

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

(* If you don’t frequently make other recipes with ginger or lemongrass, they can be expensive to buy and go to waste quickly, so here is a trick I have discovered. Purchase a Gourmet Garden tube of fresh lemongrass and ginger. I have always found them at the local grocery store (even Walmart!) in the fresh herbs section. They last for three months and are the best mess-free convenient alternative. I don’t recommend all their herbs but these two options are very comparable to the fresh ones.)

(** you can find Thai Fish Sauce from most grocery stores in the Asian section. It might seem a bit pricey but it lasts for ages)
In a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, broth, ginger, and lemongrass and bring to boil over high heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chili paste. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is firm and opaque, 5 to 10 minutes. (I do no less than 10 minutes for deeper flavour) Discard lemongrass (if using fresh stalks, otherwise the type from the tube just disintegrates and you don’t need to remove it). Garnish servings with basil and cilantro. (I actually add basil and cilantro the last couple of minutes and I recommend only using fresh herbs here.)

Tom Kha Gai




This soup makes about 4-5 servings and is even better the next day . Once you buy the tube of ginger and lemongrass, and get the fish sauce, this recipe is so easy to shop for and make on a busy week night.

Coconut Nutella Banoffee Pie

Coconut Nutella Banoffee Pie

Nutella is a frequent guest here on the Grumbling Belly and last year I combined it with another favourite, Banoffee Pie. I didn’t think it could get any better until I had a moment of inspiration a few weeks ago to add coconut and have been waiting for the opportunity to try it ever since!

One thing that makes being away from ‘home’ more enjoyable, is the wonderful community of friends we have here in Waco. From the minute we arrived, the other families in John’s PhD program completely took us under their wing and I am daily blessed by their kindness and friendships. Not many people can say that when they moved to a completely unknown part of the country, they had instant community. But, we do and I never take it for granted. One of the families recently had a great opportunity open up and they announced they were going to be leaving. This past weekend we had a lovely going away party for them which is when I decided to premiere my new twist on Nutella Banoffee Pie.

At first my biggest problem was figuring out how to best incorporate coconut without unsettling the already perfect balance of flavours. I have the hubs to thank for this one because it was his question that helped launch the genius that followed. What about a layer of coconut filling? Seeing as I have never made a coconut pie before, I thought it best to consult some southern experts and found the (near) perfect recipe thank to the Food Network and the Neelys.

Banoffee Pie is very sweet and it’s important that any additions only enhance flavour and not add more sweetness. Using my experience with banoffee pie and my small adaptations from the Neelys’ recipe, I made a couple of mini pies to get the layers and textures perfect.  I knew this pie and I would be good friends but I did not anticipate the love blossoming in my soul! In one bite you are hit with individual waves of banana, toffee, Nutella and then finally coconut. Bliss!

Coconut Nutella Banoffee 

(this makes 2 regular sized pies)

Follow Neely’s recipe  for the coconut filling (using only 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp of coconut extract instead of vanilla). Allow to cool.

See Nutella Banoffee Pie from April 8th 2012 for directions on making the toffee. You need about 3 cans of sweetened condensed milk, a large jar of Nutella (or 2 regular) and about 3-4 medium sized bananas.

Assembling the Pie:

Line the bottom of your favourite simple graham cracker pie shell with thinly sliced bananas.

Spoon over a layer of toffee followed by a layer of nutella (I recommend heating the nutella in a microwave safe bowl for about 1-2 minutes on 50% power so that it pours easily)

Next, pour 1/2 the coconut pie filling and gently spread across with a metal spoon trying not to ‘dig’ into the fillings underneath.

Place another layer of sliced bananas and end with a second layer of toffee. Put in fridge overnight.

Whip up some heavy cream with 1/8 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. Pipe little flowers onto the pie and drizzle over some toffee and Nutella. Finish with some toasted coconut flakes.

Coconut Nutella Banoffee Pie

This pie only gets better with time. If you can discipline yourself to wait an extra day, you will not regret it!

Chocolate Coconut Banana Oat Drops

For the first time in a very long while, I have a regular job. Not that I haven’t been working regularly since I graduated college (and way before) but what I mean is that I have now joined the ranks of the 8-5 masses. The age of shift work, or live-in 24-7 days have passed and I am finally seeing the routine of the ‘others’. Especially after the last three years of no personal/professional divide (as a college Resident Hall Director), it is glorious to know that at 5pm I will get into my car, be funneled into the nearest artery of traffic and arrive home with my lovely hubby to my welcoming comfy soft slippers, time for me and the occasional  glass of wine. It may not sound like much to many of you but at this moment, it is just what I have been craving.

With this foreign routine, I am being challenged to rethink and organize my eating schedule for the day and as a result have been experimenting with new dinner, lunch and snack recipes. To save you all the non-essential details of my daily hunger cycle, I will basically say that I need something mid-afternoon to stave off the embarrassingly ravenous grumblings echoing around my office and capturing the attention of all the passers-by. I have been researching snack options and recipes from Pinterest and found some very helpful suggestions that are all working well. One of these were various kinds of home made granola, oat bar concoctions that all looked and sounded great.  During my latest trip to the store, I had accidently forgotten to identify one recipe and add the necessary ingredients to my shopping list. So, in my usual spontaneous fashion, I decided to create my own version with all the things I love and below are the results.

What I enjoy about these is that the dark cocoa powder makes them really chocolatey without adding too much sweetness and you only need one or two to knock that hunger on it’s head. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get these to photograph well so for now you will have to use your imagination! 🙂

Chocolate Coconut Banana Oat Drops

2 tbsp of natural peanut butter

2 tbsp of honey

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups of oatmeal

1 mashed ripe banana

1/4 cup of dutch processed cocoa powder

1/2 cup of shredded coconut (you can use sweet or unsweetened depending on your preference)

1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips


Melt peanut butter, salt and honey on very low heat in a medium pan. Add the oats and then remove from heat. This mixture will not really thicken or come together until right at the end so don’t worry if you feel like it looks a little dry. Stir in the cocoa, coconut and bananas one at a time making sure that each is mixed well before adding the next ingredient. Finally, pour the chocolate chips over the top and stir until they are melted through. (One important fact to note here is that I used good quality chocolate chips that were 66% cocoa. Semi-sweet don’t produce the same fudgey rich results but if you prefer the extra milky sweetness, by all means go with those.) It is at this point that the batter pulls together and begins to look like goey goodness. Let them cool for a few minutes and then spoon little drops onto a parchment lined baking tray. (Feel free to scoop with your clean fingers- the mess makes it more fun!)  Place in the fridge for a couple of hours until hard. This amount of mix will make around 20 drops.

Here is my favourite part about this recipe, you really can’t mess it up too bad by changing any of the ingredients. For example, if you don’t like coconut, subsitute it for something else like cranberries or raisins. The peanut butter flavour is very mild so you can always add more or any nut butter of your choosing. It may be my recipe but it’s your tastebuds so experiment and have fun.

Pancake Week- Coconut Banana

Continuing with our pancake week, I thought for day two I would share with you the variation that began my recipe experimentation in Cyprus 6 years ago. I absolutely love coconut. I  don’t remember where or when I first tried fresh coconut but I remember instantly loving it. Any dish containing coconut almost always become a favourite.

On our honeymoon in Gatlinburg,Tennessee, we ate at the Pancake Pantry and as soon as I saw coconut banana pancakes, I set the menu aside and knew beyond a doubt what my choice would be when our server approached! They were as incredible and if you are ever staying in the Smokies, I strongly recommend a breakfast stop at the pantry.

I had not really ever made American style pancakes until we got married in 2006 and as I mentioned yesterday, it was only because we got our hands on some Bisquick in Cyprus that I remembered our delicious breakfast in TN (and my general love of pancakes) and decided to begin a new tradition in our home. After the first couple of times making plain ones to secure my pancake making skills, I threw in some banana and coconut and was delighted to be able to relive such a wonderful memory from our honeymoon. Now these, are a much loved staple in our pancake rotation. 

Coconut and Banana Pancakes

Add 1 diced ripe Banana and 1 cup of shredded coconut to any batter mix of your choice. I like the texture provided by the coconut but have used 1 tsp of Coconut extract at times when I don’t have the shredded kind.

These pancakes take you to tropical paradise.