Category Archives: Favorites

Goat Cheese, Pesto & Caramelized Onion Triangles

IMG_2921

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.

IMG_2918

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! 🙂

7 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, baking, Favorites, Lunch, Vegetarian

Banana Pudding

Image

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.

Image

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

Isaiah’s Curious George Themed First Birthday Party

IMG_1626

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.  

photo (3)

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.

IMG_1872

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.

IMG_1909_cr

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.

IMG_1878

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.

IMG_1893

IMG_1895

IMG_1899

IMG_1901

IMG_1900

IMG_1898

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.

IMG_1935

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.

IMG_1920

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.

8 Comments

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

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

IMG_2756

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

2.  Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

IMG_9847

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

IMG_2684

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

IMG_8218

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

IMG_0215

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

6.  Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

IMG_0348

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

IMG_9815

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

8.  Donut Muffins

IMG_0197

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

IMG_0378

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

10.  Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_8492

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)

IMG_2475

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.

IMG_2485

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

IMG_2842

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.

IMG_2839

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

IMG_2526

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.

IMG_2601

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