Ina Garten's Carrot Cake Recipe from Foolproof Cookbook

This past Saturday, my friends Cecilia and Julia came over to my condo for a cookbook dinner party. We each chose a few recipes from Barefoot Contessa's Foolproof. Combined with a few appetizers and three bottles of wine, this turned out to be another fun evening with good friends.

For one of my recipes, I made Ina Garten's Carrot Cake with Ginger Mascarpone Frosting. Because I followed the directions exactly I'm not going to retype it: you can find the recipe here.

One of the hardest things about this cake was grating a pound of carrots by hand. I was tempted to use a food processor, but Ina said it would make the cake too wet...and who would want that?

Although I've never baked a carrot cake, I've had them in the past. What I liked about this recipe was that it wasn't heavy in the spice department. The only spice, in fact, that Ina used was cinnamon. Other than that, it was a basic recipe with carrots, walnuts, raisins and vanilla.

I recommend you use golden raisins!

The cake was baked in two separate pans and had to be completely cooled before being iced. My entire condo smelled amazing!

The icing was incredible: mascarpone, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and crystallized ginger! I really liked the addition of crystallized ginger for both the texture and the flavor.

The cake only got the icing in between the layers and on top. I liked that it looked rustic and not fussy. Of course you can make yours look a bit more perfect...but why?

And now for the taste: the cake was incredibly moist and tender. The icing was creamy and not too sweet. Make sure you are not left at home by yourself with this cake or you'll eat it all! I was sure to share this with my friends ;)

And a few shots from different sides ;)

Make sure to come back because I will be sharing three other recipes I made from Foolproof. I definitely recommend this book! I'm very happy I purchased it when I saw Ina Garten in DC!


Russian Blini with Savory & Sweet Toppings: Russian Recipes Revisited

It's the last week of March, so it's time for another Russian Recipes Revisited post.

Whenever I go to visit my family in Seattle, my mom always makes blini for a late weekend breakfast. They are basically crepes that you can fill with either savory or sweet fillings. My mom is an expert at making blini and can probably make them with her eyes closed. They are incredible thin and perfectly round and take up an entire large dinner plate.

Of course my mom doesn't have an exact recipe for the batter. It's just some flour, eggs, milk, etc. Although I've eaten blini on countless occasions, I've never made them before. I wanted a recipe. An exact recipe.

Luckily, a while back I found this incredible book in my library for $0.10.

You can see the recipe for Thin Pancakes for Crepes and Blintzes in the photo below.

The batter was really easy to put together. I just used 1/3 of the sugar the recipe called for since these weren't going to be dessert blini.

Unlike my mom's, my blini weren't large. Nor were they perfectly round. Clearly, this takes practice! Also, I should have poured more batter into my pan. But other than the imperfect look, the blini tasted PERFECT! I especially loved the little crispy edges.

For the savory fillings I had sour cream, sauteed mushrooms, chili, avocado, cheese and chives.
For the sweet fillings I had sour cream, strawberries and fig butter.

Combination #1: chili, cheese, chives, sour cream and avocado:

Combination #2: sour cream, mushrooms, cheese, chives and avocado:

Combination #3: sour cream, strawberries & a bit of sugar:

This is a fun brunch or late breakfast idea. You can invite your friends to come over, make a bunch of blini and have a variety of toppings for everyone to use!

And now I have to figure out what to do for Russian Recipes Revisited for April ;)


Eating Out with Instagram: Zengo, Pound & Dukem in Washington DC

It's almost the weekend! I'm looking forward to a fun cookbook dinner party with a few friends (we'll be cooking from Ina Garten's latest book), a visit to four of DC restaurants serving lamb, and some well needed nap time.

Before I wish you all a happy weekend, I thought I'd share three of the latest adventures in eating out I had: Zengo, Pound and Dukem.

Located in Gallery Place, Zengo has one of the best Happy Hours! From 5-8pm Monday-Friday you can try a variety of dishes averaging at $5!

Two of my favorite dishes on the Happy Hour menu were Achiote-Hoisin Pork Arepas (corn masa/avocado/crema fresca) and Kung Pao Chicken Wings (cilantro crema/peanuts/sesame). If you go, make sure you get an order of wings just for yourself: DO NOT SHARE.

And if you are of drinking age, make sure to get one of their mojitos! Just one was enough for me :)

Although I've been to Pound several times, this was the first time I tried their Happy Hour. I was amazed that for $11 I got an order of Garlic Parmesan tater tots (with house made BBQ sauce and house made blue cheese sauce) AND an order of Veal and Lamb Meatballs. Both of the dishes were a good size and made for a perfect dinner.

And finally, a quick shout out to one of my favorite cuisines: Ethiopian! This was my platter at Dukem. I had to make my own combination because I wanted the four vegetarian sides as well as raw beef. It was great!

That's all folks ;) Have a great weekend and come back next week to see what's been cooking in my kitchen.

PS: all this food was not consumed in one day.
PPS: I paid for all the food myself...just in case anyone was wondering.


What To Do with Leftover Noodles? Fat Noodle Frittata Recipe

Do you remember the Spicy Fat Noodles with Snow Peas I blogged about in 2012? You don't? I thought you have all my posts memorized ;)
Last week I once again went to Chinatown Express with Cecilia, and once again I had quite a bit of fat noodles leftover after eating one of their soups. This times around I ended up making Fat Noodle Frittata with my leftovers.

Here's how this recipe came about:
1) I had the leftover fat noodles
2) I happened to have packets of Italian Herbs alouette spread because people were giving them out by my work
3) I had no desire grocery shopping this past Sunday and needed to make something for a late breakfast/early lunch with what I had in my refrigerator

Ta da!

Fat Noodle Frittata
Serves 4-6

1-2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups fat noodles (or use whichever type of leftover pasta you have)
6 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
3 packets (about 3 tablespoons) Italian Herb alouette, at room temperature (you can also use cream cheese)
salt & pepper
a few pinches red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped basil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. In an oven safe skillet heat olive oil on medium heat, add noodles and saute for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk, alouette cheese, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes and basil in a separate bowl.

4. Pour the egg mixture over the noodles and cook for 5 minutes without stirring.
5. Sprinkle the frittata with Parmesan and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

6. Let the frittata sit for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

This recipe is not only great for weekend late breakfast or brunch, but it also keeps great as leftovers and is perfect to take to work for lunch. Eat it hot, at room temperature or cold.

For other "what to do with _______ leftovers?" check out these ideas:

What to do with leftover BAKED POTATOES
What to do with leftover PIE CRUST
What to do with leftover WHITE WINE
What to do with leftover RICE
What to do with leftover CHALLAH

PS Special thank you to my friend Lera for an early bday present: pretty tomato kitchen towels from Crate & Barrel!


Quick & Easy Tomato Soup for One

Happy Monday! Did everyone have a good weekend? Mine was incredibly relaxing and lazy: exactly what I needed!

Although I made and photographed recipes for two new posts, I did not feel like editing the photos, so today you get an incredibly simple but delicious recipe for Quick & Easy Tomato Soup for One.

Although it's technically Spring (I say Spring starts March 1st), it's still cold in DC. A few weeks ago I was dealing with sneezing and an overall feeling of weakness which lasted for over a week. While home sick, I decided to make tomato soup for lunch from a few random ingredients I had on hand: I loved how it turned out.

Because the "recipe" was so easy and I did not even photograph it with my real camera, I wasn't going to post about it, but my friend Jason thought it'd be a good idea. So here you go!

Quick & Easy Tomato Soup for One


1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 14.5 ounce can Cut Diced Zesty Chili Style Tomatoes by Del Monte (that's what I had on hand, but you can use any other tomatoes: just make sure to add some spices to the soup then)

1/2 cup water, optionalsalt & pepper to taste

shaved Parmesan cheese
home-made croutons*** 

1. Heat olive oil in a small soup pot. Add carrots and onions and saute 5-10 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
2. Add your tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Using a stick blender puree the soup, adding water if needed and seasoning with salt and pepper.
4. Reheat the soup if you have added water and pour into a bowl.
5. Top the soup with shaved Parmesan and home-made croutons.

***To make home-made croutons, take your good quality bread, cube it, and saute in a bit of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Done.

Special shout outs to my friends Cindy and Sangeetha who made and brought me their tomato soup!!!

What do you put in YOUR tomato soup?


Magnolia Ice Cream: Fun Colors & Delicious Flavors

Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day? I don't. I actually don't even like Irish accents...yes, says the girl with a Russian accent. Needless to say, I have deleted a zillion pitches that were emailed to me about this holiday. However, when I saw an email from Magnolia Ice Cream in my inbox, I got excited!!!

Turns out Magnolia ice cream makes avocado flavor: a perfectly natural green food for a St. Patrick's Day. When they asked me if I'd like to try it, I said sure! I love ice cream. I love avocados. Would I love an avocado ice cream? Only one way to find out.

A little bit more about Magnolia:
"Magnolia is a California made, all natural, ice cream line which contains only California pasture raised dairy along with whole fruit purees, most of which are grown on small family farms in Southeast Asia. The tropical ice cream flavors include: Mango, Coconut, Lychee, Thai Tea, Avocado and Purple Yam. While all the exotic flavors are delicious, the green Avocado is sure to stand out this St. Patrick’s Day. In addition to Magnolia® Ice Cream, Ramar Foods also produces a delicious range of all-natural single serve novelty milkbars which flavors feature: Azuki Red Bean, Halo Halo, Purple Yam & Red Bean, Coconut, and Mango."

The nice people at Magnolia company not only sent me the avocado ice cream, but also a variety of ice cream flavors mentioned above, including milkbars!!

Needless to say, I did not need to eat all this ice cream solo, so I invited some of my friends for an ice cream open house!

Aren't the colors stunning??? I've tried the mango flavor months ago when I saw it at a little Filippino store, but was looking forward to trying all the others.

My favorites by far were the mango, Thai tea and coconut. They truly tasted exactly like their names.

The avocado and ube (purple potato) flavors were slightly sweet and delicious, but did not immediately made me think of the main ingredients they were made from. My friend Cindy's almost 4 year old son really liked the Ube flavor which we pretended was blueberry ;)

I love the consistency of Magnolia ice cream: smooth and dense. I'm looking forward to trying their Purlpe Yam & Red Bean variety, which is still sitting safely in my freezer.

Because the flavors of the Magnolia ice cream were so distinct, I did not think we'll need too many toppings. I provided dark chocolate chips and sprinkles, while my friend Cindy brought toasted coconut.

This was a lot of fun!!!!

If you would like to get Magnolia ice cream, it's available at select Whole Foods, Albertsons, Luckys (CA); H.E.B. (TX); Kings, Balduccis (NJ/CT/MD); Morton Williams, Gourmet Garage, Stinky Brooklyn (NY), as well as Asian Supermarkets across the US as well as in Toronto, Vancover, Richmond, and Surrey B.C.

Disclosure: Magnolia company provided their ice cream to me, but I was not compensated for writing this post. All


Nigella Lawson's Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes from Nigellissima Cookbook

Earlier last week, my friend Paige emailed me a link with the subject line "looks like something like you!" It was a link to Diner's Journal and an opportunity to be a part of Recipe Lab and a live video chat with Nigella Lawson. All you had to do was leave a comment and you could be chosen!

I decided to listen to Paige and take my chances and leave a comment:
  • Olga @ MangoTomato
  • Arlington, VA
It would be such an incredible fun to participate in this video chat. I love how unapologetic Nigella is about her food. Her food always looks so appetizing and unpretentious and accessible. Plus, I love when she eats food straight out the refrigerator at night: I can definitely relate to that!

Please pick me :)
I actually got a call from a Staff Editor of New York Times, but sadly ultimately wasn't chosen. Regardless, I decided to make Nigella's recipe for Hearty Whole Wheat Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Cheese & Potato from Nigellissima.

Yes, this recipe has two types of carbs: pasta and potatoes. No wonder I liked it.

I made quite a few changes to Nigella's recipe to make it my own:
1) I increased the amount of Brussels sprouts and roasted them instead of boiling them with pasta and potatoes
2) I doubled the amount of ricotta
3) I tripled the amount of garlic and added peri peri spice
4) I used Colby Jack cheese instead of Gruyere
5) I did not use sage because I don't like its flavor
What follows is the recipe as I made it.

My Version of Nigella Lawson's Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes from Nigellissima Cookbook


2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
olive oil, salt & pepper
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced (about 1")
1 pound whole wheat penne
1 cup ricotta
8 ounces Colby Jack cheese, diced (about 1/2")
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 teaspoons peri peri
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large baking dish (about 10x15": a size of lasagna pan) drizzle Brussels sprouts with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Roast the Brussels sprouts for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cubed potato, bring back to a boil and cook for about 8 minutes.

3. Transfer the roasted Brussels sprouts to the largest bowl you have and add 1 cup of pasta and potato cooking water and drained pasta and potatoes. Mix in ricotta and Colby Jack cheese. Then transfer the mixture back to your baking dish.

4. In a small saucepan melt butter with olive oil and garlic. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the peri peri and then pour the mixture over the pasta. Top with Parmesan and bake at 400F (you'll have to lower your oven's temperature after roasting the Brussels sprouts) for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is a pretty golden color.

5. Allow the pasta dish to stand for 15 minutes before digging in!

This is a rather easy dish to put together and it feeds an army!!! My favorite bites were the ones with cheese, potatoes and Brussels sprouts. In fact, if I make it again, I'd halve the amount of pasta and triple the amount of potatoes. You could also just use potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cheese.

Have you made any of Nigella's recipes? Which ones were your favorite?