Category Archives: Favorites

Goat Cheese, Pesto & Caramelized Onion Triangles

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to call this.  If Awesome Puffs was a bit more descriptive, I would have said that.  

I recently went to a party that served no food.  A birthday party.  Not even cake.  Just bottled water – and a shortage at that.  Booze would be a distant dream.  I was stupefied.  In all fairness, I do have a tendency to go overboard with the food.  Feeding people is my passion.

With that said, if you come to my house for anything, I will do everything in my power to feed you.  Whether I cook or order in, you will not leave without eating.  If this rouses images from Misery, I wouldn’t blame you.  I even gave my FedEx guy muffins!

Why you ask?  Could it be that my mom will absolutely take offense and give you the stink eye if you don’t eat at her house?  Or could it be that I myself would want to eat if I went to someone’s house?  Whatever the reason, we all benefit with food.  And these triangles.

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What started out as a random experiment turned out to be a family and guest favorite.  These pastries are easy to assemble and easy to store in the freezer for lunch, guests or a great filling snack.

Goat Cheese, Pesto & Caramelized Onion Triangles

yields 8 pastries

Ingredients:

Directions:

 

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. Unfold your puff pastry sheets (working one at a time) onto a lightly floured surface.
  3. Most puffed pastry sheets I worked with already come divided in four.  If so, just separate at the perforations.  If not, roll out to about 16 inches and cut into four squares.
  4. On each puff pastry squares (you should have 8), spread with a tablespoon of pesto on one half of the triangle, leaving about 1/2 inch border on the puff pastry.
  5. Top with approximately a tablespoon of goat cheese, tomatoes, and onions.  Just put enough that you can close the triangle without tearing.
  6. Fold the clean part of the triangle over and crimp around the edges with a fork.
  7. Repeat with all remaining squares until you have 8 triangles.
  8. You can freeze at this point in a airtight container or bag.
  9. Bake in a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Allow the pastries to cool on a cookie rack so they maintain their crisp crust.
  11. If you have extra ingredients, make a sandwich! 🙂
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8 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, baking, Favorites, Lunch, Vegetarian

Banana Pudding

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The title should really be – Best. Banana. Pudding. Ever. Ever.

As a Texan, I take my banana pudding pretty seriously.  I’ve seen serious atrocities attempt to pass as banana pudding.  My ideal banana pudding must be vanilla pudding, with banana and vanilla wafer cookies.  The most important part to know is that it’s vanilla pudding with bananas.  Not banana flavored pudding.  But, the banana flavor, after sitting, will get into the vanilla pudding.

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I totally agree the ingredients in this recipe may not be the most traditional, but oh good gravy it’s good.  The sweetened condensed milk adds the perfect amount of sweetness while the whipped cream keeps it light.  The vanilla wafers get cakey after sitting and these seemingly separate ingredients blend wonderfully.  Cohesion – it works.

Banana Pudding

barely adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 box mini vanilla wafers
  • 6 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch dish with wafers and layer bananas on top.
  2. In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer.
  3. Using another bowl, mix the cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. 
  4. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. 
  5. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining bananas and then cookies.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

8 Comments

Filed under Custard/Pudding, Desserts, Favorites

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Desserts, Favorites, Holiday

Toom Sauce (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

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If ever there was a recipe that was greater than the sum of its ingredients, it is this one.  This sauce is heaven.  Heaven.  This sauce is worth the garlic breath.  My family and I frequent a Mediterranean restaurant that offers this freely.  And, I take advantage.  I use it on everything – fish, chicken, eggplant, falafel.  At home, I use it on my sandwiches, eggs and samlon.  It’s creamy and rich in all the right and healthful ways.  I had no idea what was in it.  Without knowing more at the time, I swore there was mayo in it.  Then, I found out that this sauce is a mayonnaise .  Just like mayonnaise, toom sauce is an infusion of garlic and vegetable oil.  Just that.  Many recipes add potatoes which is not necessary at all if this recipe is done right.  This sauce is pungent and has a bite like wasabi.  It has a bite that can be reduced with more oil.

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It is imperative that directions are closely followed.  You have to work with a thin stream of oil.  Do not rush it.  Ingredients should be at room temperature.  Use vegetable oil.  Do not substitute olive oil.  Work with fresh garlic.  You will know if it’s fresh by squeezing the whole bulb and it shouldn’t move that much – the garlic bulbs should be firm and tight.  Make sure the lemon juice is free from pulp and seeds.  The better the ingredients and attention to detail at the outset, the better the final result will be. Also, there should be NO water at all in your food processor, or spoons or anything.  It could break the sauce.  Finally, be patient.

Toom Sauce (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)

adapted from Chef Kamal

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peeled garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

  1. In a food processor (completely dry – no water, remember), add the garlic and salt and run it until the garlic is finely minced – about 30 seconds.
  2. Stop your processor and using a spatula (without any water) scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Run the processor again in 30 second increments, scraping after each time, until the garlic turns pasty.  This should be done after 4 times.
  4. Scrape the bowl finally and then turn on the processor – this time, you won’t be turning it off until the whole process is complete.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the oil in a thin stream (cannot stress the thin part of this) until fully incorporated.
  6. Alternate to add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice in a thin stream until its fully incorporated into the garlic mixture.
  7. Then, add the oil in 1/2 cup increment following with the tablespoon of lemon juice until everything is used.
  8. You may notice at this point that the liquid hasn’t come together.  If so, it could be that you didn’t use a thin stream and it broke the mixture.  If this is the case, run the processor for 5 minutes.  If it still doesn’t pull together, turn off the processor, scrape down the mixture and run it again for 5 minutes.  It should pull together to some extent.  But, if it doesn’t, it’s still usable as a great marinade.  This is why I stressed the use of a thin stream.

11 Comments

Filed under Favorites, garlic, Vegan, Vegetarian

Guacamole

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True to toddler form, my child’s eating habits are variable at best.  Foods that he loves one day becomes old news the next.  One constant in his life (and mine) has been guacamole.  I attribute it to the fact that I probably consumed guacamole more than I care to admit while I was pregnant and nursing.  Chipotle should have just been on my speed dial.  This has to be one of my favorite dishes – ever.  Similar to other dips, I can and have (on numerous occasions) made a meal of chips, guacamole and salsa.  What can I say?  I’m a Texan through and through.

I’m quite particular about what constitutes great guacamole.  Unlike most places that use tomatoes in their guacamole, I am harshly opposed to that ingredient anywhere near this dish.  Tomatoes add too my liquid and a distracting element to the dish.  Also, I’ve tried almost every onion type (shallots, green onions, white, etc.) and nothing seems more compatible with avocados quite like red onion.  Also, I prefer the taste of serrano as opposed to jalapeno in guacamole but serrano is spicier.  So, pick your pepper accordingly.

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Most telling is that my husband, who really hates most things avocado, ate this happily.  Happily.  Not out of any obligation to consume this nutrient-rich food with wonderful healthy fats.  Happily.  And, nowadays when there is a dish that all three people in the family love – mission accomplished.

Guacamole

yields 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large (or three small) ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 jalapeno or 1/2 serrano pepper, minced (seeded if you want less spicy)
  • juice from 1 lime (about 3 tbsp)

Directions:

  1. Cut the avocado in half and scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl.  Using a fork, mash or stir around until you reach a consistency slightly thicker than what you ultimately want.  (I prefer a whipped texture that only has a few chunks of avocado in it.)
  2. Stir in onion, cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice.  Start with one half the lime and then add in more as  you want.  Stir until fully incorporated.
  3. Taste for salt and lime and add as necessary.

 

10 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Favorites

Baklava

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Meet one of my favorite desserts – EVER.  It’s not hard considering that I’ve admitted that my favorite food is all things Mediterranean.  Luckily, baklava is just as easy to make as it is delicious.  All in all, this recipe is just the same set of steps repeated over and over again to create a buttery and flaky dessert that’s sure to wow your guests.

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I am going to just say that baklava is an addiction.  It’s a rare treat reserved for special occasions in our house, but once available, I wish someone would ration this.

Baklava

adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz) package of phyllo dough, thawed
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 16 oz  chopped roasted nuts (I prefer a mix of pistachios and walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar

Syrup:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 clove of cardamom (or a pinch of ground cardamom)
  • 1 tsp rose water (optional)
  • 1 2-inch piece of orange peel

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Using the melted butter, butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13 pan.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the nuts until you reach your desired consistency.  I prefer a mixture of finely ground nuts with some chopped pieces mixed in.
  3. Toss together the cinnamon, cardamom, nuts and white sugar.
  4. Unwrap the phyllo dough and place under a damp cloth so it does not dry out.
  5. Place two sheets of phyllo dough in the pan and brush the phyllo with butter lightly with a pastry brush.
  6. Repeat with two sheets until you have a layer that’s 8 sheets deep.
  7. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the nut mixture over the phyllo dough.
  8. Place another two sheets of phyllo and brush lightly with the melted butter.
  9. Repeat with the nuts and the phyllo dough.
  10. Top the last layer with another 8 pieces of phyllo dough.
  11. Using a sharp knife cut the phyllo dough (into diamonds or squares) within half an inch from the bottom of the pan.
  12. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the phyllo is golden brown and crisp.
  13. After placing the baklava into the oven, prepare the syrup.  In a saucepan, mix together the sugar and water and heat over medium heat until the sugar is melted.  Add the vanilla extract, honey, cinnamon stick, cardamom, rose water, and orange peel.  Allow this mixture to come to a boil and reduce heat to let it simmer for about 20 minutes.  Remove the cinnamon stick, cardamom and orange peel.  Let it cool while the baklava bakes.
  14. Once the baklava is done, remove from the oven and immediately pour the syrup over the phyllo dough.
  15. Cool and cut all the way through.

13 Comments

Filed under Desserts, Favorites

Your Favorites of 2012

This year has been a whirlwind.  As this year, unlike any other, winds down, I’m reminded of all that’s happened here in this very little blog space.  I took some time this week to look back on all the recipes, especially those that were popular among you, my readers and friends.  Presented in ascending order or popularity, I present your favorite posts/recipes of 2012!

 

10.  Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Broccoli, and Walnuts

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9.  Dosa & Coconut Chutney

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8.  Oven Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

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7.  Summer Squash Gratin

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6.  Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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5.  Banana Cupcakes with Butterscotch Buttercream

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4.  Spinach Pesto Omelette

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3.  Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

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2.  Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Chocolate Glaze

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1.  Oreo Cake with Oreo & Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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3 Comments

Filed under Favorites, Uncategorized

Banana Bread

Call this a staple.  Everyone should have a banana bread recipe in their collection.  And I’m ready to hear what your favorites are because after many years of searching, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the one.  The one that can make mothers forget why you picked a fight with them last week – er, and  yesterday.  The one that can win over mother in-laws.  The one that you don’t just make because you have ripe bananas, but the one that you wait for bananas to ripen so that you can make.  The one that has been tried and tested everyday for a week and still tastes great.

Have I lost you?  Let’s back up.  Banana bread is easy … and it’s hard.  First, it’s easy because it is an easy way to use up a lot of ripe bananas.  I tend to stock up.  My fault because once I see a speckle, I will not eat it.  Second, it’s easy because I haven’t tasted a banana bread that didn’t have banana flavor.  That leads to the hard part of banana bread.  Who knew it was so complicated?  Almost all banana breads I’ve made and tried tend to be gummy, too dense and greasy.  All except for this.  After some considerable searching, I found a recipe that is packed with banana flavor without the weight, and a sugary crust that make each bite as wonderful as the first.  Let’s say that bread should be bready and this remained bready for four days after – the longest I could the bread around in my house.

A slice of this and my mom forgot all about my bad attitude.  For a solid day.  There’s magic in this bread.

Banana Bread

adapted from Annie’s Eats via Cooks Illustrated

Ingredients:

  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 5 large, very ripe bananas, peeled
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Lightly spray a loaf pan (about 9 x 5 inches) with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; whisk together, and set aside.
  3. Place 5 bananas in a microwave safe bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and make several slits in the wrap to allow steam to escape.
  4. Microwave on high until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the bananas to a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl and let drain, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes (you should have ½-¾ cup liquid).
  5. Transfer the reserved banana liquid to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook until reduced to about ¼ cup, approximately 5-10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the bananas and the reduced banana liquid.  Mash with a fork or whisk until fairly smooth.  Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.
  7. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the banana mixture.
  8. Fold together, just until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Do not over-mix the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.
  9. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the assembled loaf.
  10. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool at least 15 minutes in the pan before removing.

12 Comments

Filed under baking, Bread, Favorites

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

I love a one-pot main meal. Even if it is a side dish. A healthy side dish at that. Earthy quinoa mixed with hearty chickpeas and tomatoes with a crisp refreshing lime dressing is really comfort food for the summer. I have made this dish often and have failed to obtain a picture of it as it disappears from my kitchen quickly.

I initially bought quinoa to eat for breakfast, in place of oatmeal. However, I find myself finding savory uses for quinoa instead. Well, what I mean is that I made this recipe and I make it at least once a week. It’s simple, delicious and healthy.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Gourmet and cooking the quinoa from Edible Perspective

Yields approximately 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • zest from 1 lemon
  • juice from the 1 zested lemon
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (15 oz) can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium sized red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, olive oil, and salt.
  2. Cook the quinoa. In a pot, over medium heat, add the cup of quinoa and roast for approximately 2 minutes. Add two cups water, increase to medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Stir once and reduce the heat to obtain a simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes (don’t dare open the lid). Once 15 minutes is up, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat. Leave covered for 5 minutes. After five minutes, uncover and fluff with a fork.
  3. Add the cooked quinoa to the dressing and stir to coat evenly. Let it sit for 5 minutes so the dressing will have a chance to absorb.
  4. Mix in remaining ingredients and adjust salt as you see fit. Go easy on the pepper.

7 Comments

Filed under Favorites, Side Dish, Uncategorized

Vanilla Bean Cake

I remember my early baking days. They consisted of making a cake mix in a 9×13 pan (the only one my non-baking-interested mom had). Once the cake was done, my family would eat it – without frosting. That’s how we ate cake. It wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My parents would enjoy their piece of cake with tea, while my sister and I ate it with milk.

Nowadays, with my discovery of frosting for those who love the sugar and those who want something more subtle, my cakes are rarely frost-less. Recently, when I had extra Swiss meringue buttercream, I wanted to pair it with a vanilla cake to see how the flavors would work out. Beautifully. Just beautifully.

I found the recipe on My Baking Addiction, which if you have not perused, you should and be warned that you will find yourself wanting to make everything you see. I made this.

A light yet flavorful vanilla bean cake, which held up and complemented the subtle sweetness of the strawberry buttercream. Using both the vanilla bean seeds and extract allow the flavor to really shine in this cake without being overwhelming. The seeds in the batter bake up beautifully and stand out against the pale yellow cake.

In preparation for company, I made half of the batch into cupcakes and the other half as one layer of cake. I served the cupcakes to the guests. I saved the cake for myself to remember the same experience I had as a child…to eat a really good piece of cake.

Vanilla Bean Cake

recipe from My Baking Addiction

yields 2-layers of an 8-inch round cake or about 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • seeds scraped from one vanilla bean or 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. If you make cupcakes, line with cupcake liners. If you are baking cake layers, grease two eight-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large and separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the milk and eggs. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, on medium heat, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds, until the mixture is very light/pale.
  5. Add the vanilla extract until fully incorporated.
  6. Carefully add and mix in half of the milk mixture until all is combined.
  7. Then, mix in half of the flour mixture until fully combined.
  8. Add the remaining milk mixture until combined. Finally, add the flour mixture until incorporated.
  9. Once everything is incorporated, beat the mixture for a good 2 minutes to ensure that everything is smoothly combined.
  10. If making cupcakes, spoon evenly into the cupcake liners, filling 2/3s full. Bake between 18-24 minutes until it passes the toothpick test.
  11. If making cake layers, divide between the two layers. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test.
  12. Cool completely before frosting.

3 Comments

Filed under Cake, Cupcake, Desserts, Favorites, Uncategorized