26 December 2006

Kwaanza Observance & Food

Kwanzaa is an American celebration that is growing in popularity. Celebrated every year from December 26 through New Year's Day, this seven-day festival sets aside time for African-Americans to commemorate African and African-inspired culture and food, while reinforcing values passed along for generations.


Kwanzaa means "first fruits of the harvest," and appropriately, this week-long festival culminates in a glorious feast on December 31 that draws on a variety of cuisines. At the center of the celebration is the table, set with a bowl of fruits and vegetables, a straw place mat, a communal cup and a seven-branched candelabra with black, red and green candles. And, while the table includes a wide variety of creatively inspired appetizers, main dishes and desserts, the feast is not complete without recipes made with sweet coconut.

1 C. sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 C. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch strips
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 C. butter or margarine
melted Apricot Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix coconut, flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder in medium bowl. Dip chicken strips into egg, then coat with coconut mixture. Place in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with melted butter. Bake 25 minutes or until chicken is browned and cooked through, turning once. Serve with Apricot Dipping Sauce, if desired. Makes about 2 dozen.

Apricot Dipping Sauce:
Mix 1 C. apricot preserves and 2 T. Dijon mustard until well blended.

1/4 C. plus 1 T. flour, divided
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces
2 T. butter or margarine, divided
1 C. coarsely chopped apple
1/2 C. chopped onion
1 C. plus 2 T. sweetened flaked coconut, divided
1 garlic clove,
minced 2 t. curry powder
1 1/2 C. chicken broth

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix 1/4 cup of the flour, salt and pepper in medium bowl. Coat chicken pieces with flour mixture. Place chicken, skin side up, in single layer in shallow baking pan. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken begins to brown.

Meanwhile, melt remaining tablespoon butter in medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Add apple, onion, 2 tablespoons of the coconut, garlic and curry powder. Cook and stir until onion is tender but not browned. Stir in remaining tablespoon flour and chicken broth; bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Pour sauce over chicken pieces. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup coconut. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Place chicken and sauce on serving platter. Serve over rice, if desired.

2 pounds sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 cups)
2 apples, peeled, thinly sliced
2/3 C. maple flavored pancake and waffle syrup
1/4 C. ( 1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1/2 t. salt
2/3 C. sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potatoes in greased 13x9-inch baking dish; top with apples. Mix syrup, butter and salt; pour over apples. Sprinkle with coconut; cover. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until apples are tender and coconut is lightly browned. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Casserole can be prepared in advance and reheated, adding additional syrup, if necessary.

2 C. flour 2 T. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt 1/2 C.
(1 stick) butter or margarine
1 C. milk
1 C. sweetened flaked coconut, toasted

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk and coconut until soft dough forms. Drop dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Serve warm. Makes 15.

1 1/2 C. Shortbread cookie crumbs (about 20 cookies)
1 2/3 C. sweetened flaked coconut, divided
1/3 C. butter or margarine, melted
1 large banana, sliced
1 1/2 C. cold milk
1 package (4-serving size) vanilla flavor instant pudding & pie filling
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, well drained
2 C. thawed frozen whipped topping
Baker's Angel Flake coconut (optional)

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix cookie crumbs, 2/3 cup of the coconut and melted butter in medium bowl until well blended. Press mixture evenly into bottom and up sides of 9-inch pie plate. Bake 10 minutes or until golden. Cool.

Arrange banana slices in crust. Pour cold milk into large bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup coconut. Spoon over banana slices in crust. Gently stir pineapple into whipped topping. Spread over mixture. Sprinkle with toasted coconut, if desired. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set. Store leftover pie in refrigerator. Makes 8 servings

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