S’mores Bark

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A little less than a month ago – it was October – I had this really great plan to have the girls over for a fire pit night. The weather was great for a random October night, and we have a fire pit at home. The boys (and by boys I’m referring to my brothers) usually take full advantage, inviting their friends over to sit around and hang out. I was really excited about the whole thing, I bought the wood and even picked up s’mores ingredients so we could roast marshmallows and sip mint tea. Unfortunately, the plans unraveled and we ended up at a coffee shop somewhere.

The s’mores ingredients – graham crackers, Hershey’s Chocolate, and marshmallows – didn’t go anywhere. I tucked them into the back of my pantry hoping we’d get another chance to get them out soon. Then, Saturday morning rolled around and I woke up with my usually Saturday morning cooking energy. I’m not really sure why or how I came up with the idea to make bark with all the s’mores ingredients I had hidden away.

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S’mores Bark

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mixed dark chocolate and Hershey’s chocolate
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 4 graham crackers, crushed

Instructions

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate 30 seconds at a time, stirring between heating. You really only need about a minute, so be careful not to burn the chocolate
  2. Stir the chocolate until smooth
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the chocolate in an even layer on the foil
  4. Sprinkle the crushed graham crackers all over
  5. And then drop the marshmallows on the chocolate
  6. Broil for 3 minutes, or less. Watch carefully to make sure the marshmallows brown lightly
  7. Allow the chocolate to cool, then refrigerate for t least an hour before serving
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BBQ Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

BBQ Pumpkin Seeds

My favorite brand of mixed nuts is Al-Rifai – a Lebanese company with branches in Jordan. I usually buy myself a few kilos at the airport before my outbound flight home. There’s really no comparison between salted or roasted mixed nuts here in the U.S. and the ones Al-Rifai has to offer. They’re roasted to perfection and the bag never lasts as long as I want it to. Once I get started, I really can’t stop myself from devouring 4 or more servings.

I’ve had roasted mixed nuts here at home. But they’re just not the same. Al-Rifai has some sort of delicious secret ingredients they use to make their mixed nuts irresistible. You won’t believe me until you try it. So the next time you find yourself in Lebanon, Jordan or any of Al-Rifai’s other branches, do not pass up the opportunity to get a mixed bag of nuts.

I mentioned my secret ingredient theory, but that didn’t stop me from making my own roasted pumpkin seeds. I’m still on that pumpkin kick, as you can see. The smoked paprika makes all the difference in this recipe. So before you think about swapping out smoked for plain-old paprika, consider that they won’t have the same roasted flavor.

BBQ Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Separate the seeds from the pumpkin strings
  3. In a medium pot, add the pumpkin seeds and water and bring to a boil
  4. Mix together smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and chili powder in a small bowl
  5. Add ¾ of the mixture to the water
  6. Boil for 10 minutes
  7. Drain the seeds
  8. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray
  9. Spread the seeds evenly on the baking tray
  10. Sprinkle the rest of the powdered mixture over the seeds
  11. Spray the seeds with a thin layer of cooking spray
  12. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly roasted
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Pumpkin Jam

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Can we talk about Pumpkins for a minute? From the day after Labor Day through Halloween you can’t escape pumpkins. They’re everywhere – the grocery stores, the malls, the 7-11, people’s porches – everywhere. Come the beginning of November and magically we’ve transformed from pumpkin everything to Christmas two months early. It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy pumpkins during the season with my pumpkin spice coffee creamer, pumpkin cheesecake and a day trip to the Pumpkin Farm. I’m all about enjoying what every season has to offer. What I do find frustrating is when on November 8, I’m looking to make a from-scratch pumpkin recipe, I get to my local grocery store and there are literally no pumpkins in sight. What is a girl to do?! I may or may not have had a slight panic attack and called none other than my mother (because as we all know, moms have the answers to everything). Lucky for me, she reminded me that there’s a nursery not too far from home that had a ton of pumpkins left. In that moment I was saved from having to use canned pumpkin puree for my homemade pumpkin jam.

Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Jam

Ingredients

  • 1 whole pumpkin
  • 1 1/3 cups Brown Sugar
  • ½ cup Honey
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. Remove the seeds from the pumpkin and cut into large slices
  4. Place the slices on the baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft
  5. Remove from the oven and separate the flesh from the skin
  6. Place the pumpkin flesh into a large pot
  7. Add honey, brown sugar, cinnamon and ground cloves
  8. Stir and bring to a boil, stirring regularly
  9. Once the mixture thickens, place in a blender a puree (or use a hand blender)
  10. Refrigerate before serving
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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cinnamon Pecans

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The last few weeks have been a complete whirlwind between work and travel. From the slow days of summer, to the non-stop early mornings and late nights at work post-vacation, it’s been hard to find time to blog. No excuse is a good excuse, but there you have it – why I haven’t posted in a few weeks.

In an attempt to use up the last slow days of summer, I decided I needed to get out and breathe some new air (that would be my foreign translation of change of pace) and visit some people that are near and dear to my heart. Where did I go? Amman and Paris for a 2 ½ week eating tour, basically. All I did was eat. I made sure to get all my Arabic food cravings satisfied in Amman – falafel, knafeh, fresh figs… just to name a few. And I pretty much lived on pastries, bread and cheese in Paris.

#LoveJo

Jordan, holds one of the 7 wonders of the world and also has a very special place in my heart. Family and friends, they’re who really make a visit to Amman worthwhile.

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#Paris

The city of love. Lucky for me, I spent my time there with one of my best friends, Nonzi. The absolutely amazing host that she is, she took me all over the city so that I could experience it like a Parisian – with a little bit of tourism sprinkled in.

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If you’re interested in what I do when I’m not blogging, follow me on Snapchat and Instagram

Since I’ve gotten back, post work craziness, I got right to baking. I have baked more cheesecakes in the last week than I have in my entire life!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cinnamon Pecans

Ingredients

    For the crust
  • 10 Graham Crackers, crushed
  • ½ stick Salted Butter, melted
  • Cinnamon
  • For the Filling
  • 1 15oz can Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 3 8oz packages Cream Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 4 Eggs
  • For the Topping
  • 1 ½ cups Pecans, crushed
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • Lemon Juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Crush the graham crackers and mix with butter until combined
  3. Press the graham crackers into a spring form pan
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven
  5. Use a mixer to combine pumpkin puree, cream cheese, sugar and pumpkin pie spice
  6. Mix until smooth
  7. Add the eggs and continue mixing on low speed until smooth
  8. Pour the filling on top of the crust
  9. Bake for 55 minutes
  10. Turn the oven off and allow the cheesecake to cool down with the oven
  11. Remove from oven and continue cooling on a cooling rack
  12. Refrigerate overnight
  13. In a small saucepan, mix together the crushed pecans, sugar, cinnamon and a few drops of lemon juice on high
  14. Remove from the pan and place on a parchment-lined baking tray, bake for 10 minutes on 350 F
  15. Sprinkle over the cheesecake
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Eggy Avocado Toast

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Avocados are the best thing that’s happened to food since bread. Once a very California thing has made it’s way over to the East Coast and we’re loving it. Salads, sandwiches, eggs, pastas…you name it, I’ll add avocado to it. So when Sunday rolled around and I wanted something brunchy, but not too heavy, I upped the avocado toast game.

Nothing spells Sunday like poached eggs. You know, like brunch-style eggs benedict poached eggs that complete my Sundays. In the past, I left egg-poaching to the experts, top brunch spots in DC. Not to say I hadn’t tried poaching eggs. I tried. I went through cartons of eggs only to fail miserably at the whole getting the egg and the eggwhite to stay together. So I gave up for a while…Until recently when I found this video for poaching eggs in a strainer. It sounds odd, but I tested it. Take my word for it. I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried and remember, I’m the girl who wasted at least two cartons of eggs trying to get an edible poached egg.

Thank you Health Magazine and Food & Wine for teaching me how to poach an egg! http://www.health.com/health/video/020859576,00.htmlhootPostID=b86c8e403c3ff572604c0bd0b1c5d374

 

 

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Eggy Avocado Toast

Ingredients

  • A couple thick slices of your favorite bread
  • 1 Avocado
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 1 clove Garlic, crushed
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a skillet, melt the butter and sauté the garlic for 1 minute
  2. Add the sliced bread, flipping once – toast on both sides
  3. Remove from heat
  4. In a small bowl, smash the avocado and add salt to taste
  5. Poach two eggs
  6. Spread the avocado mixture on the toast
  7. Top with poached eggs (watch the video)
  8. Serve warm
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Pistachio Cheesecake

Pistachio Cheesecake

I gifted myself a Kitchen Aid mixer for Eid this year during Amazon Prime Day – the sale everyone wasn’t very happy about. I know, a food blogger without a Kitchen Aid, how did I even survive? Can you imagine what it was like mixing everything by hand! It was rough.

The Kitchen Aid is a game changer.

If you don’t have one, I want you to know from personal experience that you are only making more work on yourself. I cannot tell you how much more satisfaction I got from watching the mixer do all the work. Let me reiterate – Game Changer.

Now that I have my Kitchen Aid, there are endless dessert possibilities. And with my love for pistachio-flavored-pretty-much-everything, the mixer will prove well worth the investment.

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Pistachio Cheesecake

Ingredients

    For the Crust
  • 9 Honey Graham Crackers
  • ½ stick Salted Butter, melted
  • For the Filling
  • 6 Packages 1/3 less fat Cream Cheese
  • 5 Eggs
  • 2 packages Pistachio Pudding Mix
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. For the Crust
  3. Crush the graham crackers in the food processor until fine
  4. Mix together the melted butter with the graham crackers
  5. Press the mixture into the bottom of your springform pan
  6. Bake for 15 minutes
  7. Remove from oven
  8. For the Filling
  9. Mix together cream cheese, pistachio mix, and condensed milk on medium speed until fluffy
  10. Add the eggs and mix on low speed until combined
  11. Pour the filling into the springform pan
  12. Bake for 55 minutes
  13. Turn the oven off, keeping the pan inside
  14. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 2 hours, until completely cool
  15. Keeping the cheesecake in the pan, cover and refrigerate overnight
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