Monthly Archives: February 2013

Lemony Lentil Soup

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My favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Dallas, Afrah’s, serves the most beautiful and bright lemony lentil soup.  I have been attempting to replicate it since I’ve first had it years ago.  Binks ordered it for his whole meal and I scoffed at him for ignoring the other delicious options on the menu filled with juicy grilled meat, soft pita, sauces, and hummus galore.  I have told you before how the old me would never make a meal of soup, let alone order it.  Yet, watching my husband enjoying every bite of his soup made me want to try it instantly.  As if I ever let him eat his meal without stealing a bite.  That’s normal right?  The soup was divine.  Perfectly lemony without being too spiced up, I was determined to find a recipe to closely match the restaurant version.

After trying out a few soups, this recipe has become a family favorite to replace, or dare say replicate, the restaurant soup.  While comforting soups like this are usually eaten during winter for me, the lemon really makes this bright enough to have year round.

Lemony Lentil Soup

adapted from Yummy Supper originally from Soup Love by Rebecca Stevens and Nabil Samadani

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 celery ribs, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups red split lentils, rinsed
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (the juice from the zested lemon should give you enough)

Directions:

  1. Heat large heavy soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add olive oil and heat.
  2. Add green onions, yellow onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, lemon zest, cumin, coriander, cloves, salt, and pepper.  Saute the mixture until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Raise the heat to medium-high.  Add lentils, water and vegetable stock to the pot.  Bring to a boil.  Skim off any foam that develops on the top of the water.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft and tender.
  5. Add lemon juice.  Cook for another 10 minutes over low heat.
  6. Season with additional salt, if necessary.

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Filed under Soup, Vegan, Vegetarian

Isaiah’s Curious George Themed First Birthday Party

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Let’s get some cliché things out of the way:

  1. I can’t believe he’s already 1!
  2. It seems like yesterday I just gave birth to him.
  3. This year has flown by with him.

*He is actually 15 months right now, but this post took a long time.  🙂

Cliché and so so true.  When he turned one I got really sad thinking of how much he’s grown.  From a tiny 7 pound baby to a 20+ pound tubby.  With his big hair, eight teeth and personality, he’s really not at all baby and has become a real boy.  And, it’s been quite an adventure with him.  Just when I think I have something figured out or a semblance of a routine, he changes and then we start again.  There is no relaxing with this kid.

As a crazy obsessed mother, I have been planning his first birthday much earlier than I want to admit.  I wanted it to be cozy and filled with family, close friends and things he loves.  What does this one year old love?  Curious George.  Balloons.  Without being too attached to everything Curious George, we kept the essence through the balloons, colors and some Curious George/monkey-themed items strewn about.  

First, for the invitations, we got a Curious George invitation and door sign, which helped kick off the monkey-themed party.  

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Similar to the one at my surprise birthday, I wanted to have a photo booth for kids to take pictures.  The photo booth was a hit.  Kids, families and parents really got into it.  The only person that didn’t?  The birthday boy.  He couldn’t sit or stand still to take a picture in front of anything.

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My sister, the Pinterest fiend, made a multi-colored balloon garland and decorated corners of the house with bunches of balloons.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.

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One of the main reasons I wanted to post this party is because of all the fun I had planning and putting everything into action.  And, with the menu I had, I had little to no work during the actual party.  I really despise having to be running around finalizing anything after guests arrive.  My house was prepped and ready to go on time.

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As the party was held from 2-5, I didn’t plan a big meal but offered heavy appetizers and desserts.

Menu

We had more than enough variety and just the perfect amount of food but still have a little left over for later grazers – mostly me and my sister.

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Almost everything I made (except the grilled cheese) was make ahead. So, the day of, I was really just warming or baking, which is a much better project than cooking.  The grilled cheese came together in the last 10 minutes.  I will definitely make it again and I’ll show you the method to make grilled cheese for a party.  It’s a game changer.

The day before, I made a smash cake and didn’t focus too much on making it perfect as I fully expected my rambunctious kid to destroy it.  Well, turns out he had no interest in smashing it and preferred to eat it a bite at a time with a spoon!  If he would only do that with soup or any other meal.

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So, because he was so careful with the smash cake, we served it up with the cupcakes.  All of it – gone.  Made me so happy.

Finally, for favors, I wanted a food gift that was quick and easy to make.  Look no further than caramel corn, friends.  I don’t know why I was intimidated at all about trying it.  It was so easy, and a little effort makes a whole bunch of popcorn that really disappear quite fast.  (Recipe coming soon!)  Favors were stacked in Curious George containers to keep the theme of the party even as guests departed.

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If you’ve made it this far in the post, I appreciate you and wanted to share this special day with you.  All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better day with family, friends, and a little boy who eats his smash cake with a spoon.  My outfit was eternally grateful for that, kid.

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Filed under Appetizers, Birthdays, Cake, Cupcake, Favorites, Life, Side Dish, Snacks, Soup

White Chocolate Mango Cheesecake

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Have you seen the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs?  Fully identifying with Janeane Garofalo’s character, crushing on Ben Chaplin and Uma Thurman, and of course the adorable pets, I loved that movie.  But, looking back, the one thing I remember most is the cheesecake scene.  Do you know the cheesecake scene?  An image-conscious Thurman attempts to refuse cheesecake, but ultimately succumbs to being fed each bite by Chaplin.  Aside from the sheer awkwardness of the moment altogether, I remember studying the cheesecake a little too much.  As a child only left with a stash of Maria cookies (thanks, mom!), I longed for something so decadent.

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As strange as the cheesecake scene, I still think of that movie when I eat cheesecake.  Totally weird.

You can use whatever preserves, jam or fruit butter you have on hand.  Mango and white chocolate were heavenly together, but I know this would also work with raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.

White Chocolate Mango Cheesecake

adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese,
    softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fruit preserves, jam, coulis or butter

 

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tbsp white sugar and unsalted butter.  Press mixture into a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 325F.
  3. In a double boiler, melt white chocolate chips and half and half, whisking until smooth.  Once smooth,remove from heat and set aside to cool down.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time until each is fully incorporated.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Pour half of the batter over the graham cracker crust in the springform pan.
  5. Spoon half of the fruit preserves.  Pour the remaining batter over the preserves.
  6. Spoon the remaining fruit preserves and marble the preserves with the tip of the knife.  Marble according to your preference.  I wanted more pockets of mango butter so I didn’t marble as much.
  7. Place the springform pan on top of a cookie sheet filled halfway with water.  Carefully move the springform pan and cookie sheet into the oven.
  8. Bake the cheesecake for 55-60 minutes, until the cheesecake is set (no longer jiggling or wet in the middle).  Once set, turn off your oven, and leave the cheesecake in the oven for an hour.  Do not touch it.  Do not open the oven.  Just leave it.
  9. After an hour, remove the cheesecake and allow it to cool.  Once cool, cover with a plastic wrap, touching the cheesecake as you cover and place in fridge for at least 8 hours prior to serving.

 

3 Comments

Filed under baking, Cake

Recipes for Valentine’s Day

I really don’t like Valentine’s Day.  In fact, I hate it.  And, no – nothing happened.  Nothing traumatic or heartbreaking happened for me to feel this way.  I can think of several other occasions to celebrate love besides a holiday concocted for it.  But, I’ll tell you what.  The best Valentine’s I remember is the first one I spent with Binks.  Specifically, he brought me a box of chocolates, which we ate standing over the sink.  I would take a bite and then give him the rest.  We did this methodically with the entire box.  Best. V. Day. Ever.

So, aside from the creepy flying baby in his underwear, the tolerable thing about Valentine’s is the food.  The glorious decadent food.  In honor of, I’ve put together a list of foods that I think would be great for any Valentine’s.  Happy VD my sweet friends.

1.  Raspberry Coulis

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Drizzle this on – anything.  Pancakes.  Cheesecake.  Straight into your mouth.  Wonderful.

2.  Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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A little on the nose, but who can resist a beautiful red velvet cake?   And, I promise you that this cake is irresistible.

3.  Garlic Bread

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This may not be on the nose and mostly on the breath but this garlic bread is completely worth it.

4.  Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

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I love making and decorating sugar cookies for Valentine’s.  It’s a creative and personal way to show someone you care.

5.  Cream Puffs

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Looking more difficult than it actually is to make, cream puffs are a delicious way to impress a Valentine.

6.  Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

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Pizza is a love in our house and this Chicago style deep dish is a decadent main course for a casual meal with anyone you love.

7.  Funfetti Cookies

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A classic sugar cookie gets an instant glam makeover by adding your favorite sprinkles.

8.  Donut Muffins

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I dare you resist donuts at any time.  Waking up to these in the morning will truly show a loved one how much you care.

9.  Pesto Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers

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All my favorite flavors and ingredients combine to make a dish that makes me swoon.

10.  Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These are a favorite cookie in my house and everyone that tries them falls in love.

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Filed under Desserts, Favorites, Holiday

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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I love coffee cake. I just do. More than just the perfectly crumb cake with a bountiful streusel topping, the cake signifies relationships. Impromptu gatherings or just meaningful conversations take place around these cakes. Usually accompanied by copious cups of coffee or tea, conversations abound with coffee cakes. And, this cake is a classic – simple to make and yields a bakery-like presentation.

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In addition to the decadence of having two layers of streusel, the cake, when cut, is a stunner. The sour cream is a wonderful addition to keep the cake from drying out without making it too heavy.

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And, when you’re with good company, the last thing you need is a fussy cake.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Streusel:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
  3. For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.
  4. Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with half of the streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  5. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork.

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Filed under baking, Cake

Prune Cake

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My mom get ideas. Usually ones that are well deserved of my eye rolls. Her latest? Prunes. Prunes! I tried. The baby tried. Binks, on the other hand, did not. My dad once attempted to make me try prune juice. I wanted to cut out my tongue.

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But, turns out when you cut it up and put it in a cake and top it off with a surprisingly magnificent buttermilk sauce, prunes are delicious. In fact, the prunes lend a great deal of moisture to the cake. So, when I make desserts like this, it bodes well for me to hide the ingredients from my husband. Presented as a spice cake, I gave him a small piece. Without stopping for air, he ate the whole piece and asked for more. My mom, who was also over, requested more than one piece. After I was sure my husband couldn’t deny enjoying the cake, I revealed the magic ingredient – prunes. He paused and said, “it’s amazing!’ Then, he asked for another. I looked over at my mom who looked at me, smiled and said, “I told you so.”

Insert eye roll here.

Prune Cake

barely adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

CAKE:

  • 1 cup prunes
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk

TOPPING:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.
  2. Place the prunes in a small saucepan. Cover them with water. Bring to a low boil and cook until soft and mashable, about 8 minutes. Drain the water and mash the prunes into small pieces. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs to the oil and sugar, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
  4. Combine the four mixture with the egg mixture. Add and stir in the buttermilk until just combined – do not over stir. The batter may be lumpy at this point.
  5. Stir in the prunes.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes up clean.
  7. Meanwhile about 5-7 minutes before the cake is done, combine all the topping ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Continue boiling until the icing turns a light caramel color, 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and pour the topping evenly over the cake. Serve warm or cool.

4 Comments

Filed under baking, Cake, Desserts