11/21/19

Red Velvet Cupcake by Baking Bits


Because I haven't really cooked or baked anything amazing lately (other than a boxed mix of brownies that I fancied up with chocolate chips and a sprinkle of flaky salt), I thought I'd give a shout out to one of my coworkers who has a baking side business and brought in treats to work today!

Thank Brittney!! This red velvet cupcake was a perfect sweet treat!!

11/19/19

Flower Arranging: Hand-Tied Technique


This past Sunday I did two things for the first time: taught a flower arranging class and taught at Hill Center!

After attending a few flower arranging classes, assisting 3 classes at Smithsonian, and being a life-long flower enthusiast, I proposed teaching a class at Hill Center, and to my great joy they said YES.

8 students signed up to learn from me! Yes, I was nervous. Yes, I created an Excel spreadsheet with several flower arrangement "recipes," and yes, I brought home made brownies to sweeten the deal.

After meeting my students and discussing the basics of flower arrangements, learning about their favorite flowers and their first flower memories, we went on a field trip to Trader Joe's to pick up the flowers.


Back at Hill Center, we sipped on mimosas, snacked on the brownies, and I demonstrated how to create a hand-tied arrangement: you build the entire bouquet in your hands and then rubber band it to keep it intact. 

The students then created their own arrangements. They all turned out great!!

All the photos throughout the post are of the arrangement I created with a few extra flowers left over from the class. This "recipe" contained mums, roses, eucalyptus, and alstroemeria. 



Eight happy faces with their gorgeous creations.


I hope to repeat this class again!!Let me know if you'd like to learn this technique.

11/8/19

Melted Green Cabbage from Sababa Cookbook


How do you elevate one of the least expensive and somewhat blend vegetables available in a store? Well, Adeena Sussman figured it out and shared her recipe with everyone in her cookbook, Sababa

After following Adeena on instagram and seeing her repost photos of people making her Melted Green Cabbage recipe, I decided to make it too. 

I used leftover 1/2 of a cabbage I had after making borsch last week. This meant using a smaller skillet and reducing the amounts of other ingredients. I browned wedges of cabbage in olive oil, then added garlic cloves and shallots, white wine and chicken broth, thyme, and then roasted for 2 hours in the oven!

Because I did not brown my cabbage long enough, I broiled it: not a huge deal. I finished the dish with sour cream and forgone the butter.

If I say so myself, the final results are gorgeous! 

10/30/19

Jamie Oliver's Lamb Kofta Meatballs


Earlier last week my friends from American Lamb sent me a few pounds of ground lamb, a boneless lamb shoulder, the cutest socks with lamb on them, and an apron, along with a stipend and asked me to host brunch. Yes, please and thank you!

I made shakshuka, had friends bring over mimosas, potatoes, and a big fruit salad, and then used Jamie Oliver's recipe for Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs with Pistachios, but turned them into meatballs. 

Have you ever thought about putting crushed pistachios into your lamb meatballs? I haven't, but Jamie Oliver has. The nuts added a bit of texture and an unexpected flavor to the balls. Mixed with fresh thyme, chili, cumin, and a good amount of sumac, these were so good, even my friend Jenn who normally doesn't like lamb loved them!

I served the meatballs with a side of tzatziki and pickled red onions. 

The leftovers tasted great reheated in the leftover shakshuka sauce!

Disclaimer: I received the lamb as a gift along with a giftcard. I'm not reimbursed otherwise for this post. 

10/28/19

Zucchini, Dill, and Feta Shakshuka from Sababa by Adeena Sussman


Breakfast for dinner? Meatless Monday? Comfort food? Adeena Sussman's recipe for Zucchini, Dill, and Feta Shakshuka perfectly fits all three categories.

Earlier this month, I won Adeena Sussman's Cookbook Sababa (published by Avery) on instagram from Ellie Krieger, and decided to make Adeena's shakshuka recipe yesterday for brunch with friends.

I've made my own version of shakshuka many times before, but thought I could learn a thing or two from a published cookbook author. 

What I learned is that I've never spent nearly enough time perfecting the sauce by sauteing the aromatics, layering the spices, using 3 types of tomatoes (raw, pureed from a can, and tomato paste), and reducing the sauce to make a flavorful and thick base for the eggs.

Adeena's shakshuka was a great success at brunch, and I had leftovers today for lunch. I am looking forward to making her green shakshuka next!

Zucchini, Dill, and Feta Shakshuka
Reprinted with permission from the author
Serves 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizziling
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
6 medium very ripe fresh tomatoes, finely chopped by hand, or pureed in the bowl of a food processor if you like smoother shakshuka
One 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 small, fresh, finely diced red jalapeno, plus more to taste and for serving
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
6 large eggs
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
Pita or other bread, for serving

Set a rack in the top third of the oven. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, season in the pan with salt and black pepper, and cook, not stirring too much, until the zucchini has released its water and is golden and slightly charred around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, then add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until the onion is lightly golden and softened but not too dark, 9 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the tomato paste, cumin, paprika, coriander, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and the tomato paste is slightly caramelized, 2 minutes. Add the fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, and jalapeno. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce has darkened and thickened slightly, 20 to 25 minutes; season with additional salt and black pepper to taste.

Preheat the broiler during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Stir in the dill and return the zucchini to the pan, stirring gently. Use a spoon to form 6 wells in the sauce, crack an egg into each well. Sprinkle with feta around the skillet and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the shakshuka to the oven and broil until the top of the sauce is slightly caramelized and the whites of the eggs are just opaque but the yolks are still runny, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven (use an oven mitt since the handle will be hot), top with fresh chopped dill and more jalapeno, and serve immediately, or cool to room temperature and serve, sandwich-style, stuffed into pitas or piled on top of bread.

NOTES
1. I used orange pepper because that's what I had.
2. I did not add dill into the sauce itself: only used it as a garnish.
3. I used room temperature eggs as to not shock them too much ;)

10/22/19

Sharba: Lybian Soup Recipe


This past Sunday, my friends Sylvie and Jazmin came over to my condo for a cooking date. The weather, rainy, grey, and cold, was the perfect setting for catching up, eating large bowls of soup, drinking hard cider, and eating fresh out of the oven s'mores cookies.

Sylvie was craving Jazmin's Sharba (a Lybian soup), so that's what we cooked together...she's bossy at times ;) This was my first time trying Sharba, and I now fully understand why it's a favorite for many.

Below is a version of Jazmin's recipe shared with her permission and slightly rewritten to fit my style/format ;)

Jazmin's Sharba
Serves ~ 6
Ingredients
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1.5 pounds goat (bones removed, but not thrown out)
spice mix: 2 tablespoons turmeric, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoons black pepper, 1 teaspoon allspice: add all to a grinder and pulse until fine
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups water
1-2 jalapenos, halved lengthwise (depending on how much heat you like)
1/2 cup orzo
2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon dried mint
chopped parsley
lemon wedges
bread
baba ghanoush

Directions
1. Heat a large cooking vessel such as Le Creuset. Add oil and allow to heat up.
2. Add onions and saute on medium heat until they are golden brown.
3. Add your meat with the bones and about a tablespoon of the spice mix. Allow to brown.
4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, another tablespoon of the spice mix, and jalapenos. Bring to a boil.
5. Simmer until the meat is tender.
6. Add in the orzo and chickpeas. Adjust the seasoning as needed and simmer until the orzo is cooked through.
7. Add dried mint.
8. Serve topped with parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice, a chunk of crusty bread, and baba ghanoush.

NOTE: some of you who like the bones, would love to suck the marrow out of them. Some of you, like me, will want to make sure to pull out the bones after cooking and before serving the soup.

The leftovers will thicken up as they sit in the refrigerator, so you may want to add a bit of broth when you reheat them.  

10/15/19

Taco Tuesday One Pot Casserole Recipe


It's Taco Tuesday! How about using some of the ingredients from tacos, but turning it into a casserole!?

This past Sunday a few friends came over for dinner and I whipped up Taco Tuesday One Pot Casserole!! This dish is similar to a 7 layer dip, but is baked! It also reminds me of shepherd's pie, but instead of mashed potatoes, I used mashed beans. You can easily swap ground beef for ground chicken, or omit the meat all together. This versatile and quick to make one pot dish is great for get togethers and leftovers!

Taco Tuesday One Pot Casserole Recipe

Ingredients
olive oil for the pan
1 small onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (keep 1/3 cup of diced pepper for the topping)
1 pound ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
15 ounce can corn, drained (or use 2 cups frozen corn, defrosted)
4 cups cooked beans, mashed (home made or canned of any variety you like)
8 ounce grated Mexican mix cheese
1/3 cup sliced black olives

To serve: sour cream, guacamole, salsa, chips, and lime wedges

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. In an oven proof skillet (Le Creuset!), heat olive oil. Add onion and peppers and sauté until softened.
3. Add ground beef and taco seasoning and cook until browned.
4. Add diced tomatoes and green chiles and corn. Mix to combine. Heat through.
5. Top with mashed beans and sprinkle with cheese.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted and bubbles.
7. Carefully remove from the oven and top with the remaining diced pepper and olives.
8. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, chips, and lime wedges!

10/2/19

Mini Applesauce Cakes With Cream Cheese and Honey Frosting


Need a bit of sweetness in your life? Who doesn't?

This past Sunday was Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish New Year. Thus, to follow the tradition of eating honey and apples in order to bring in a sweet New Year, I turned to baking. I slightly adapted Julia Turshen's recipe for Applesauce Cake With Cream Cheese and Honey Frosting, and it was a big success. I'll take that as a good omen.


Mini Applesauce Cakes With Cream Cheese and Honey Frosting

1. Halve the recipe.
2. Add 1/2 diced apple to the batter: I used Honeycrisp.
3. Instead of one large cake, divide the batter equally into 10 lined muffin cups.
4. Bake the mini cakes for only 25 minutes.
5. Add chopped crystallized ginger on top of the frosting.

You don't have to be Jewish to make this recipe. Clearly. The batter was really easy to put together and made for a (cringe!!!!) moist cake thanks to the apple sauce and buttermilk. I think you could experiment by adding shredded carrots or zucchini or dried fruit such as dates to the batter.

My frosting turned a bit grainy: maybe because I used brand store cream cheese? I liked that there was no additional sugar (other than honey itself) in the frosting: a bit of sour cream and a pinch of salt definitely helped with not going into a sugar coma. 

I ate 2, brought 4 to share with coworkers, and am freezing the remaining 4 (minus the frosting) mini cakes.

This would be a great recipe to make after going apple picking!

9/30/19

Vegan Overnight Oatmeal With Strawberries & Crystallized Ginger


Oh hi there another Monday! Fancy seeing you here again. My usual Monday-Thursday breakfast in my cubicle is 2 Wasa crackers with smashed avocado and coffee, but for the last week I've tried something different: overnight oatmeal!

This is the second time I'm giving this concoction a chance: the first one was rather unsatisfactory, but perhaps my taste buds have changed.

My twin Anna and my friend Jenny have been making overnight oats for ages, and I finally decided to give this idea another try.

I found out I did not like the combination of yogurt and milk as it made the texture gluey. I now use almond milk!

Vegan Overnight Oatmeal With Strawberries & Crystallized Ginger

Serves 1

1/2 cup oats (regular, not instant)
3/4 cups almond milk
toasted almonds, chopped
crystallized ginger, chopped
strawberries, chopped
bourbon maple syrup

Add oats and milk to a glass jar. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.
Add your toppings in the morning. 
Stir. 

Other combinations to try:
walnuts and grapes
pecans and apples
hazelnuts and pears

Have you tried overnight oatmeal?

9/23/19

Savory Yogurt Bowl With Chimichurri & Vegetables


Bowls, Bowls, Bowls! They are everywhere: quinoa bowls, burrito bowls, oatmeal bowls, etc. Have you ever had a savory yogurt bowl though? Why not!? 

Over the weekend, I visited one of my best friends and her husband grilled churrsaco (Argentinean steak) for dinner, while we made chimichurri, smashed potatoes, and a salad to round up the menu. 

I had some chimichurri left, and used it to make a savory yogurt bowl!

Savory Yogurt Bowl With Chimichurri & Vegetables

Greek yogurt
radishes, sliced
cherry tomatoes, halved
olives, halved
chimichurri
salt
WASA crackers

1. Spoon Greek yogurt into a handmade ceramic bowl.
2. Add vegetables and olives.
3. Spoon over chimichurri.
4. Season with salt.
5. Serve with WASA crackers.

This turned out bright and flavorful and gorgeous, if I say so myself.

You can use whichever vegetables you like and also add fresh herbs. Or even an egg!