Food I make: Coconut Tres Leche Cake

Coconut Tres Leche Cake

There are 4 things to assemble:

cake

Coconut filling

Milk pour-over

Whipped topping

Cake:

Any Hot Milk Sponge cake recipe – substitute coconut milk for regular milk in the recipe- I make mine from the Joy of Cooking. Be aware that most recipes call for you to bake it in a large pan for rolling or stacking. You can either do that, or you can put it in a smaller pan (I used a round 9″) and cut it in layers. Either stacking or cutting is fine. The point is to have two layers that are relatively level.

Coconut filling:

Dried sweet coconut (NOT sweetened) from Philippines or Malaysia soaked in just enough coconut milk to be paste-like + powdered sugar to taste – chill until needed

Milk pour-over:

Sweetened condensed mlk – whole can

Evaporated COCONUT milk – ¾ can

Regular coconut milk – 1cup

Mix all together. Save for cake.

Whipped topping:

EQUAL PARTS Heavy whipping cream +  Coconut cream (let 1 can of  coconut milk sit undisturbed in fridge overnight then open can and scoop out cream). Soften coconut cream and whip by hand (very quicky) in separate bowl, whip dairy cream. Then add powdered sugar until very soft peaks form then add coconut cream, add powdered sugar to taste. whip until nearly stiff.

TO ASSEMBLE CAKE:

Cover serving plate in aluminum foil. Make sure there is enough foil on sides to reach up to top of cake.  Once cake is cooled, level top by slicing horizontally, just the higher parts. Slice whole cake horizontally into two layers. Set top layer upside down – hard top on bottom, spongey cut side facing up – on serving plate.

Pour half the milk overpour onto bottom layer slowly and carefully. Use aluminum foil to make sure sides of layer is saturated with milk overpour. Once layer is saturated (should not be able to soak up any more overpour) spoon coconut filling onto lower layer. Even out using rubber spatula (cake is easily torn so be gentle) to edge of layer.

Carefully place other layer on top of filled layer. Using a fine-tine fork, pierce top layer of cake repeatedly to make holes that go to or past filling. Use skewer, use clean comb, whatever. Make lots of small holes. 

Pour other half of milk mixture slowly onto top layer of cake. Pull aluminum foil up sides to catch the run-off and hold it in place. You should have a sort of cake bowl of foil holding milk mixture. Fold aluminum towards sides of cake to ensure milk mixture covers cake sides.

Chill cake for at least 4 hours. After removing, pull foil down and allow to run off into sink. Be very careful not to tilt cake over sink too much. You will cry if you drop the cake into the sink. I use a small cake spatula to sort of scrape the run-off around and off the edge of the cake. Cut foil around cake to remove it.

Spread whipped topping on cake – top and sides. Garnish with fruit – we like strawberries – or coconut shavings.

When you cut slices, be sure to cut them very small. This cake is super-rich and super-sweet. A little goes a long way.

Meditation (personal view)

I learned TM when I was 12. My parents took me to a center and I was instructed as an adult. My family would meditate together on occasion but both my parents work schedules were erratic and we never established a regular pattern. I meditated on my own irregularly for many years until I became interested in religion. As I said, my father is a Zen Buddhist whereas my mother is a barely spiritual occasional Quaker. We went to unitarian church when we bothered to go at all.

I became interested in religion because I was brought up as an atheist. My mother was more tolerant of theism but my father was not when I was younger (he has softened his views since) so I was not going to tell him I was searching for something he thought was foolish. I began going to different churches – Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Jewish and an occasional Buddhist service. None of them quite appealed to me in a broad way. I became interested in Wicca and started learning about it when I was about 15. I learned many different variations on meditation mostly referred to as “white light” exercises. Astral Projection was the idea that the body has an astral/ethereal/incorporeal presence that can be taken out of the physical. Naturally I was curious abotu that and began practicing it frequently. It was easy. I learned years later that what i was doing was really a sort of mindful TM or perhaps guided TM – acheiving a meditative state with a goal in mind by focusing my attention on my physical body instead of a mantra. I realized I did not need a mantra – quieting my mind is achievable without it. I could in fact use the meditative state of my body in deep relaxation to focus on anything inside of myself that I wanted to. I explored a lot of myself and who I am on different levels of the self. This tied in nicely to my interest in psychology. I followed several less popular psychiatric scholars (Reich, Piaget, Lacan) and discovered many of the theories they had were a good vocabulary to look within myself and catelogue in a sense who I am and who I wanted to be. I wish I could say I was a regular practitioner but I was sporadic as I was working and going to school as well. I also always seemed to have some boyfriend or girlfriend to take care of as well. INteresting that I was so busy focusing inwards that in the outer life I was drifting aimlessly, unconcerned with where my life was actually going. I realized meditation (at least eh sort I was doing or how i was using it) was becoming a way to create an apathy towards being present. A concept I am familiar with from growing up with Zen. Being present was easy to pretend by being removed and aloof -emotionally detached. It was a good way to avoid being dynamic and making real choices. I realized I also resented what Zen represented to me; a way to avoid emotional turmoil by denying its power and potential. I didn’t want to be an emotional robot forever analyzing everything with logic from an apathetic viewpoint. I had no agency in that regard. I wanted the opposite – to know how to experience the present without being ruled by it. I wanted to be able to feel in control of myself while letting go of control of my environment. acceptance, that elusive paragon of Buddhist “enlightenment” was a lot harder than Zen makes it sound! Especially when the Western interpretation is that one becomes “above” suffering of life by gliding over it rather than mastering one’s reaction to it. Rather than choosing my own state of mind, I was removing my mind from all states. Which was also why I managed to pick up a lot of wounded birds along the way and not know what to do with them.

One of my best friends is a Buddhist priest and he used to call me “Kuanyin” because I worried so much over my own emotional connection to the world that I jeopardized my connection to my own spirit. It isn’t hard to let others crowd out your own self-regard. But what he didn’t understand is that I reject Buddhism’s hyper-focus on lack of suffering. It too often translates into a rejection of emotional power. Buddhism is based on an idealized state – enlightenment but the picture of enlightenment in the West is one of detachment, rather than non-attachment. There is a crucial difference. And Buddhist practice is based on an idealized life that does not exist in the West or most industrialized nations. One does not live like a monk;full of simplicity and self-denial. Self-denial is easy when life only offers you little choices. Sandals or shoes? Robe or wrap? Pffft. Small inconsequential choices that allow a person to believe their state of mind is a clean slate when in fact is it simply in a clean environment. Throw a mirror into a crystal clear lake and your reflection is beautified. Throw a mirror into muddy waters and you’ll see nothing but filth. I cannot possibly expect to achieve the state of mind a monk has while living as a “regular” American. (and believe me, my life has hardly been “regular”) In order to attain some sort of peace within I need to accept and embrace the complicated chaotic state I am surrounded by first.

That is why TM eventually became a failed endeavor: it comes from a state of being that I do not have and do not want. I like running water, indoor toilets, sanitary conditions, transportation, easy access to information, devices that allow me to keep ties to people I love but cannot be near. I want to keep my “modern” life. It does not have to be ostentatious but I do not believe that I must throw away where I am in order to be in touch with who I am. Surely any method of self-actualization can encompass a variety of environmental differences? I don’t think TM does. Yoga does – it does not matter who you are or where you come from when you do yoga. I never was brave enough to try yoga but I have thought about it a lot lately.

On the practical side, TM involves sitting – which is uncomfortable and eventually painful for me. It also involves quietude which I have in rare precious quantities. Most of all, it involves focusing on nothing and becoming “empty”. The Tao has taught me the importance of real emptiness, I do not need meditation for that as a goal. I have different goals that I think go beyond TM – I don’t want to just relax and feel refreshed, I want to be able to actuate my inner knowledge and explore my true self. That is my connection to Godhead, of course, in whatever incarnation she may be. TM failed me there: it was a method to be calm and stop being two eyes peering out from my face but it went no further. If all I need is to relax, I can read a book or listen to music. or sing. Or dance. Or watch my daughter draw. or just be in the presence of someone who is dear to me. Those activities give me relaxation and a sense of connection to godhead because I am connected to someone else. TM just cuts me off from everyone and everything. It makes me feel void, not empty. I become a shell, not a vessel. 

After everything, I truly believe that emotional detachment is the wrong way. Of course being mired and controlled by your emotions is not good – it blinds you to the possibilities of change and you lose agency. But denial of emotions is wrong as well – it forces an artificial state and an unreal expectation. It also leaves you open to exploitation which I have learned enough of to know I want no more of ever. Emotions are powerful when they are examined and used as lessons – sometimes rewarding, sometimes punishing, but always emotions teach us something even if its just “pay attention!” I have acquired amazing energy and resolve through self-examination and realistic goals for my growth. Emotional guidance is something I think never stops teaching. 

and to be honest,what little I have learned from a small study of  Tantra has been far more helpful and introspective than anything I learned in TM or Zen meditation. TM has come to seem like a beginning to me in retrospect. I’ve only been able to understand and practice some Tantra but hopefully with the right circumstances I may be able to get back to it some day. 

From what I read on the Art of Living site, it seems that Sangha is hardly any different than TM or Chopra’s Bliss. Not that that is bad or wrong…

Different meditation styles for different stops along a path. Mine left mantra-laden TM  a while back. I need more than just mindfulness and relaxation. I aim to maintain my connection to godhead. Dharma is important but I want to get away from believing dharma alone will substitute for inner mindfulness. No matter how many rituals I perform or gurus I listen to, it all amounts to nothing if the lesson does not ring my bell inside.

Airbnb Lessons

I’ve been renting out my bedroom on Airbnb for a while now. It’s been interesting and profitable. On the whole, not an unhappy endeavor, but it’s not making me rich by any means. Based on the money I’ve put into it and the money I’ve made and the extra bills I’ve had to pay and the time I’ve spent on it, I’ve come out barely ahead. Still it’s worth it to not be a slave to an hourly job for next-to-nothing. Once classes start again, this will be even more helpful for my life.

There are some things I learned “the hard way” though and there are some things I wish travelers would understanding about staying in “an Airbnb” (Yay for new nouns!) These apply mostly for those of us who also live in the space you are renting.  I can’t speak for commercial hosts.

  1. Stop asking for discounts before booking.  Running an Airbnb is not free nor is it cheap. Hosts pay for many things – some of which you see (like toilet paper) and some of which you don’t (like electricity) so don’t think we don’t  notice when you decide to treat us like a laundromat.  More importantly, we pay mortgage/rent to actually have this space to rent to you, so asking for a discount is entitled. Our bank doesn’t give US a discount. Your being in our space literally costs us money. Airbnb also does everything to make your stay cheaper – the push hosts HARD to give discounts (weekly, first-timers, off-season, et cet) and they push HARD for us to have low prices (smart pricing fluctuates with use). Asking for a discount is annoying. Airbnb doesn’t offer US a discount – we pay them! One time I had a family of 6 staying with me for $17/day. I lost money on that booking but I did learn about proper pricing. Now, once you’ve stayed with us we might be amenable to giving you an extra-special deal, but that runs into the next problem…
  2. Don’t wait to book more time.  Airbnb does everything they can to keep our space booked at all possible times. When in doubt, overbook your rental. If you think there’s a possibility of needing an extra day, BOOK IT. Not because it makes us more money but because you asking us if you can stay an extra day or two the day before you’re scheduled to check-out puts us in an uncomfortable position of having to say “no” to a guest. We’d actually rather have you stay an extra day than have to switch guests more. We’d love to have you stay extra time but it can’t happen when you wait too long to book – we’ve usually already got someone else coming. If you get to the space and it seems decent then as soon as you know you’ll need extra time ASK. I’ve had almost every guest ask if they can stay extra time and every one of them I’ve had to turn down because they waited until the day before check-out to ask.  When someone’s already booked the space, I can’t let you stay extra no matter how much I like you. If you book an extra day and then don’t end up needing it, tell the host and ask them if you can get part of your money back. Some hosts have buffer days between guests and might not have a problem. Even if they say no, you’ve only paid one day. It’s not that bad. Most of all, if you realize you need extra time, do not wait to ask for it. If you do get to do an new booking, you might ask the host to waive the cleaning fee since you’re not leaving in between because…
  3. This is not a hotel. When your garbage is full, please bring us the bag. If you’re really lazy, ask for the trash to be taken out but do NOT let it overflow. Right now, if I had a dollar for every empty water bottle I had to retrieve from behind the bed I’d be able to take my kid to Disneyland. If you share a kitchen, wash your dishes before you leave. If you’re eating/drinking in your room, ask for the protocol. I put coasters in the bedroom and I have yet to see anyone use them (yes,  I can tell). If I supply you towels, please wash them yourself rather than dumping them in my hamper and asking me for another towel. Basically act like an adult. You are renting a space MUCH cheaper than a hotel so appreciate that fact and pick up after yourself. If you are more aware of your surroundings, perhaps you’ll be better at keeping track of your own stuff which leads us to ask…
  4. Please check your stuff before you leave. I’ve “lost” things like towels and cleaning supplies to guests. I am sure they didn’t mean to take those things but it can easily happen if you’re packing to leave and you don’t double-check your stuff. At the same time, I’ve found things guests left behind. So please, check your stuff before you you leave. It may not seem like  a big deal but having to replace stuff other guests will need while having a pile of stuff nobody needs is a mild pain, and it can get expensive. Towels are a minimum of $7 at Target. if you take two that’s $15. If you take a couple of washcloths as well? I’ve basically lost a day’s worth of earnings. How would you like to have a day of work cut out of your check because your boss just couldn’t be bothered to give it to you? That’s kind of how I felt about it. Having stuff disappear is especially aggravating because…
  5. I live here too.  Please never forget that I (and my family) live here too. There is a “house rules” section on the listing but there are some “rules” we don’t don’t think to put on there, so when in doubt, ASK. I allow pets in my space and I’ve already had a guest who thought it was perfectly okay to let their dogs go in my backyard to do their business. This was not okay with me. I had assumed they would take their dogs for a walk to do their business. Having three dogs poop every day for a week meant my son could not mow the lawn. Which meant the grass grew. Which meant I couldn’t spray the yard for mosquitoes. Which meant we were all getting bitten like crazy every time we went outside. My “house rules” section is already long. Now I’ve got to put another rule about where your dogs can poop? I’ve had guests move the furniture, leave doors open, wake me up at ungodly hours, block my car et cet. I can’t possibly write a rule for everything we do here in the house. But I should not have to write rules like “please don’t slam the door at OhGawd o’clock” or “please don’t leave toenail clippings all over the bathroom”  – some things should be common courtesy. That said..
  6. I like having you.  I do Airbnb because I need the money. I also really enjoy the company. I have baked treats for my guests, spent an evening watching TV with my guests, explained how my video game works, offered them alcohol, told them where to get dinner and how to shop for groceries. I like having people over. I hope this enjoyment is not ruined by some bad experiences in the future. When you stay with a host, do not be afraid to be friendly. We mostly like having people over and welcome a chance to get to know you. If you want to be totally private, that’s fine too, but there’s no reason you can’t smile occasionally and say hello as you pass by us.
  7. Please leave a personal message. So much of our success as a host depends on the star review. But the star review doesn’t tell us anything. You have the chance to give us a personal note as well so consider doing that instead of leaving a low star review on any of the categories. I’ve learned a LOT from the personal notes and it’s helped me improve my host game, but people who leave a 4 star didn’t help me at all. I need to know WHY you weren’t completely satisfied. Finding out that someone thought I needed to change out the trash can to one that has a lid? Totally helpful. 4 stars for “cleanliness”? Not helpful.

Resistance is futile

I know it seems terrible that there’s this guy who is literally on top of you, hacking away at you with a machete, but I promise you, me and few other guys are holding him back. You can’t see us, because we’re behind him and we don’t want him to know we’re the ones holding him back, but yanno, calm down,. don’t start screaming or anything because we’re here, we promise. Just imagine how bad it would be if we weren’t here; he’d probably be hacking your head off instead of your legs. So don’t call for back-up. We’ll hold this guy back until he’s tired of hacking at you.
I mean, we knew he was unstable and talked a lot of shit about carving people up when we brought him along to your dinner party, but we didn’t know about the whole machete thing. We thought he was just carrying a baseball bat. No, we can’t pull him off you right now because if we did, you wouldn’t invite us to your next dinner party. Don’t worry, he’ll get tired after a while. In the meantime, you should thank us; he’s only hacked a few of your fingers off so far. We’ll make sure he doesn’t get near your neck. Don’t scream. Don’t call for help. I promise we’re here. Just try to smile and go along with whatever he says. Once he’s gone, we’ll finish up.