Sweetened Condensed Milk Pound Cake

Pound Cake_3

We’ve all noticed the latest feature Instagram rolled out with. In case you missed it, I’m talking about Stories. Stories make the Instagram experience more personable — for better or for worse. You can follow your favorite bloggers (or friends) and hear their voices, follow them around the world and experience a day in the life of … whoever. 

Many have expressed their love/hate/frustration with the new feature, stating that Instagram basically stole Snapchat’s thunder. I would have been okay with Snapchat, but for the blog it was missing one key feature that really deterred me from using it for the blog, or at least not as often as I would have liked to. And that is, the ability to seamlessly switch between accounts without having to log in and out. 

I like to keep my personal life separate from my blog life. That’s not to say I don’t share some of my personal experiences on the blog anyway. But there are things I share on my personal snap chat account that wouldn’t necessarily be interesting to my blog followers. That being said, there are also some things that are better shared on the blog account, and not so much on my personal account. For that, I am happy Instagram incorporated this feature. Although, there definitely need to be some updates/changes. For starters:

  • I need a way to filter out who I want to follow and who I don’t. It’s super overwhelming to go through all the stories without knowing who’s next. I’d still like to see their photos, just not necessarily their stories.
  • There has got to be a better way to see your views. I don’t always want my oldest story to show up. 
  • The Type A in me has to clear notifications…which means I have hundreds of stories to tap through. I’m talking a good 1-2 hour chunk of my day watching and clearing stories.

In conclusion — oh man, this is starting to sound like a term paper — I’m sticking with Instagram stories for MCO. I can’t completely break up with Snapchat. So, friends, you can still follow my random stories on there! 

See you on Instagram … 

Pound Cake_4

 

Pound Cake

 

Sweetened Condensed Milk Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 4 Eggs
  • 4 tablespoons Melted Butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt, pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat butter, condensed milk, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder
  3. Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients
  4. Beat until smooth
  5. Pour into a loaf pan
  6. Bake at 325 for 1 hour, 15 mins
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Carrot Curry Soup

Carrot Curry Soup

When you think soup, you think a steaming bowl in a cozy corner on a chilly day, right? That’s what I generally think when I conjure up an image of soup.

Now imagine it’s 97°F, the day after the hottest day of the year, you have the chills, you’ve lost your voice, and you’re battling a stuffy/runny nose along with a hacking cough. Pretty little picture I painted there, huh?

Unfortunately, that was the state of my misery last weekend. Lucky for me, it was also Sunday, which meant that the doctor’s office was closed. So I dragged myself out to CVS where they have this neat little service called Minute Clinic. You can reserve your place in line online, which saves you so much wait time. Take your insurance card, because it’s essentially like visiting the doctor, co-pay and all. Did I mention they’re open on Sundays?! Well, we figured out what was wrong — I had a virus [insert distraught emoji here]. So no magical antibiotic for me. Just lots of rest, nasal sprays, cough medicine and Tylenol. As frustrating as being sick is, it’s even more frustrating in the summertime.

And that’s how I ended up making a steaming bowl of soup in the middle of July. Despite the circumstances, the soup is an amazing soup (more suited for the months of September-February, but that’s beside the point). A couple things to note with this soup:

  • Notice that I used grape seed oil instead of olive oil or vegetable oil. We’ve been using grape seed oil a lot more for a number of reasons a few of which include: grape seed oil has a higher smoke point compared to other vegetable oils, it’s great for your hair and skin, good source of vitamin E, has zero trans fat and it’s virtually flavorless.
  • I didn’t have vegetable broth, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to change out of my PJs to get some. So I substituted some Maggi (mixed with hot water). Maggi is pretty awesome in that sense. It’s an easy chicken bouillon powder that’s super versatile.
  • I’m not big on spicy food, but I added some extra sriracha to give it at extra kick

 

Carrot Curry Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • 1 lb Carrots, chopped
  • 3-4 cups Vegetable broth, or Maggi cube dissolved in 3-4 cups water
  • 2-3 tablespoons Curry Powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons Cumin
  • Salt, to taste
  • Sriracha, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the grape seed oil in a medium pot
  2. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent
  3. Add the carrots, and stir in with the onion
  4. Add half of the cumin and some salt
  5. Cover and cook on medium-high heat until the carrots have softened (about 15 minutes)
  6. Add curry powder and the remaining cumin, stir into the vegetables
  7. Add the vegetable broth (or Maggi mix), stir and bring to a boil
  8. Once boiling, use an immersion blender to smooth the soup to your desired consistency
  9. Add Sriracha and simmer on low for 5 minutes
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Kubbeh Batata [Potato Kubbeh]

Kubbeh Batata (1)

From personal experience, sometimes just eating someone else’s cooking is a lot easier than trying to recreate it yourself (even when you asked the auntie what she would do). So here’s my story.

Once upon an amazing work project ago, I helped set up a number of media interviews for a high-ranking general. As part of that whirlwind experience, I, along with a journalist and TV crew were invited over to the general’s home for a feature on his daily life, and lucky for us his wife was making dinner and made us try her home cooking. The spread was definitely something to write home about. But I distinctly remember trying something I’d never had before – Kubbeh Batata. Well, that’s not true. I’ve had Kubbeh Batata in the form of a casserole – Palestinian-style, if you will. But this was different. This was little balls of kubbeh with a potato dough stuffed with ground beef. It was amazing, and I’ve only had it a handful of times after that, when I’m treated to Iraqi take out.

A number of years later, I decide, out of the blue that I want to try to make Kubbeh Batata on my own. I will say, it was a very humbling experience.

I learned that sometimes on the first try, you don’t get it right. You make 30 or so little kubbeh balls, perfectly shaped and when you fry them and go to flip them over, they completely fall apart. At that point, I thought I might have to give up and just call my new creation Arabic-style hash browns. Hang tight, you might actually see that on the blog soon!

But I persevered through and I actually did it! I ended up with a decent amount of Kubbeh Batata.

Here are some things I would do differently to ensure they don’t fall apart when you fry:

  • Cool the pre-fried balls in the fridge for an hour or so to keep the shape
  • Be patient and wait until the bottom side is browned before CAREFULLY rolling the kubbeh ball to the other side.

In all, I give myself a B. I had a few testers who loved them and said that they turned out well. Next time … Kubbeh Batata Palestinian style (casserole). It’s much less time consuming, and so much easier on my nerves.

Kubbeh batata_4

Kubbeh Batata [Potato Kubbeh]

Ingredients

  • FOR THE DOUGH
  • 5 russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice, cooked
  • FOR THE STUFFING
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) of Seven Spice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. FOR THE DOUGH
  2. Wash, peel and boil the potatoes in a large pot until soft
  3. Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of rice with turmeric and cardamom powder and allow to cool before using
  4. In a food processor, process together the rice and potatoes until smooth, but not liquid
  5. FOR THE STUFFING
  6. Sauté the chopped onion in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  7. Add the ground beef and brown
  8. When about half-way browned, add salt and seven spice to taste
  9. Continue cooking until the beef is browned
  10. Add the chopped parsley and mix well
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Olive Oil Zaatar Bread

Zaatar Bread

Baking is an exact science. It’s exact measurements with little room for experimentation. That’s not to say it can’t be done … there’s just a higher probability of making a mistake and essentially ruining your entire baked good. In conclusion –you guessed it—measuring cups are definitely NOT optional when it comes to baking.

It was a long process, mostly waiting. Waiting for the dry yeast to react, waiting for the dough to rise, waiting for the dough to rise again, and then waiting for the bread to bake. It’s a serious test of patience (I’m speaking from experience, here). I will say, though, that I learned some valuable things during this experience that I’m more than happy to share:

  • First of all, if you’re working with dry active yeast (namely the kind in the jar where you can scoop out as much as you need), then you need to keep it refrigerated or in the freezer after opening. As my coworker mentioned, “it’s alive.”
  • Second, when you mix your water and dry yeast, wait for it to bubble up. If it doesn’t bubble up, it means your dry yeast isn’t working, which means that your dough isn’t going to rise.
  • Keeping your covered dough in a warm, draft-free spot basically means keep it in the oven (with it off), or in the microwave.

In terms of time commitment, prep, wait and baking time took about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I added some cushion time for accidents, needing to get ingredients out of the cupboards and snapping/oogling your creation. All things considered, it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment when the bread is out of the oven and ready to be devoured.

Zaatar Bread_4

 

Olive Oil Zaatar Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons zaatar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (1 for bowl, 1 for dough)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer, use a spoon to mix together water, sugar and dry yeast.
  2. Let stand for 10-15 minutes (it’ll get really bubbly)
  3. Attach the dough hook to the mixer
  4. Add 2 cups flour, zaatar, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix on low speed for about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Use a rubber spatula to bring the sides down, if they get stuck
  6. Add some more flour if the dough gets too sticky
  7. Coat your hands in four and shape into an oval.
  8. Place in a medium bowl coated with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm draft-free place (usually an un-warmed oven works) and wait 1 hour until the dough rises.
  9. Once the dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half, shaping into two ovals
  10. Place on a large, lightly olive oil-coated baking sheet
  11. Cover again with plastic wrap, put back in the cool oven and wait 45 minutes
  12. Preheat oven to 400
  13. Uncover the dough, brush with olive oil and bake on an upper middle rack for 18-20 minutes. It should be nicely browned, but not burnt.
  14. Remove and cool on a cooling rack before serving.
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Cashew Butter

Cahew Butter

Move over almond butter, there’s a new kid on the block. Like all things, fashion and food alike, we go through phases of fascination – or fads. We went through the carb-free Atkins phase, the “I must be allergic to gluten” phase, the cupcakes are the new dessert phase; we’re still in the gourmet donut phase, Pho everything phase, and don’t forget about the Nutella and Biscoff phases. Like all great food phases, we indulge until there’s something better.

We’ve sufficiently moved past peanut butter into an all nut butters phase. I’m sure you’ve at least heard of, if not tasted, almond butter. It’s delicious by the way. But be careful! Make sure to read the ingredients on your jar of almond butter. The best (and healthiest) almond butters are made with almonds (duh), and only almonds. If your jar indicates other ingredients, it had better be because you’ve picked up the jar with an added flavor – like chocolate. Otherwise, ingredients should read “almonds.” Believe it or not, the best almond butter is Costco’s Kirkland brand. Yes! You read that right; Costco.

My full intention when I walked into Costco on a random Tuesday afternoon was to get almonds to make homemade almond butter. I left with beach towels, cashews, Ziploc bags, salad stuff, snacks … oh yea, and almonds. As usual, I overspent and over bought, but I didn’t forget the almonds! Then when I got home, I decided I didn’t want to make almond butter anymore. Side note, I realized we still had a jar of Kirkland almond butter in the fridge. So I dusted off the food processor and experimented with cashews.

It works. Just stick the cashews in the food processor and let the machine work its magic. However, it takes patience (something I’m lacking). I watched the food processor crush the cashews and swirl them around and then … nothing. It honestly felt like the food processor wasn’t doing anything. I was ready to file this one under “failed kitchen experiments,” which would have sucked because I had already posted it to my Snap Story.  Just when I had run out of patience, I looked inside to see creamy cashew goodness being formed!

I’m just relieved this didn’t turn into a fail.

 

Cashew Butter

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Unsalted Cashews
  • Food Processor

Instructions

  1. Add one cup of cashews to the food processor and process until crushed (7 seconds, max)
  2. Add another cup and repeat, continue until you’ve added all 3 cups of cashews
  3. Turn the food processor on and let it work its magic – it will feel like nothing is happening. Be patient
  4. Once the contents start to become creamy, use a plastic spatula to scrape down the edges
  5. Continue to process and scrape the sides down until completely creamy
  6. Don't forget to refrigerate!
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Pistachio Skillet Cake

Pistachio Skillet Cake

Every so often I get so distracted by everything else going on in my life, that I completely slack off and procrastinate posting on the blog… and for that I’m sorry! That’s not to say I haven’t been busy cooking/baking and working on numerous DIY projects. I just haven’t had the discipline to sit down and write about them.

If you want to keep up, please follow the blog on Instagram I promise I post all my experiments on there.

There really has been a lot going on over the last two months. Lots of work, tons of social time with friends and family, and, most notably, I celebrated my birthday (my last year before the big 3-0)! Let me share a few fun things that have happened over the last two months (I’ll work my way back from April):

I find Birthdays to be the best time of year! It’s not about your birth DAY, per se. It’s about celebrating the few days before and the few days after with the people you love the most.

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Did a little DIY—two months in the making, because the roses had to dry, and mostly because of procrastination.

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I went to Philly for a couple days, and basically ate my weight in food. Philly cheese steaks, cannoli’s, rose-shaped crepes … the list goes on. But I sprinkled in some tourist attractions.

 

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I baked some mad dulce de leche cupcakes stuffed with caramel for a friend’s birthday. They were incredible. There was a little DIY sprinkled in there. 

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Brunch season was upon us. And I started off this year’s season with a waffle bar brunch and these adorable pineapple fruit bowls.

 

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DC at Cherry Blossom Season. That is all. Well, let me just say that the last time I braved the crowds was about two years ago with Nonzi. 

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I experimented with salad. Probably one of the best salads I’ve made. Roasted Cauliflower and crunchy chickpea salad over mixed greens with tahini dressing.

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Adventure is almost my middle name. Okay fine, adventure within the limitations of comfort (I support glamping). Not that this was very adventurous, but I spent a couple days up in Baltimore where I indulged in brunch and visited the aquarium. I haven’t been to the Baltimore aquarium since I was probably 10 years old. It’s still amazing.

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February 14 is not special because it’s Valentine’s Day. It’s special because it’s my Tayta’s birthday. And this year, the love of my life celebrated another year with us… and it was as fabulous as ever!

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And this brings us back to where I abruptly left off…

 

Pistachio Skillet Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 box Pistachio Pudding Mix
  • ½ tsp Almond Extract
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • Chopped Pistachios

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Grease a 9” cast iron skillet or baking pan
  3. Cream together sugar and butter
  4. Add pistachio pudding mix and beat
  5. Add eggs one at a time and continue beating
  6. Add salt, vanilla and almond extracts, beat
  7. Add sugar and flour
  8. Beat until smooth (it’ll be really thick and hard to spread, but that’s okay)
  9. Spoon into your greased pan and use a rubber spatula to flatten the cake
  10. Sprinkle with pistachios
  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes
  12. Allow to cool – top with powdered sugar or rose petals
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