Category: Recipes

Chocolate Pomegranate Cakelets

Chocolate Pomegranate Cakelets

Valentine’s Day happens to be one of my favorite days of the year. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because it’s supposed to be a day for celebrating romance. As a matter of fact, while romance in the movies is adorable, it freaks me out in real life. Do people really want giant bears, and to be drowning in roses?! Sure it looks great in a styled Instagram photo.  But let’s be practical here.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be crammed in an overpriced restaurant with 50 other couples sitting one foot away from each other like ducks in a row listening to each other’s conversations. That’s not to say Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be acknowledged. I won’t say no to flowers on Valentine’s Day, or cheesily asking if I’d be your Valentine. However, I’d much rather have someone show love by randomly picking up my favorite snacks, or sending me relatable memes, or if you’re crafty or artsy, I’ll seriously appreciate something you made by hand. It’s the millennial in me, I guess. That’s me — but don’t think for a second that when friends ask me what they should be doing for their significant other, I don’t come up with cheesy elaborate schemes (something along the lines of romantic movie level showing affection).

Chocolate Pomegranate Cakelets

I, however, love Valentine’s Day for an entirely different reason. Aside from the fact that  it’s a themed holiday and I love themes, and that everything comes in my favorite color — Pink– it also happens to be someone very special’s birthday. This person is the inspiration behind Measuring Cups Optional, the core of our family, and the glue that holds all the aunts, uncles and cousins together, despite how spread out we are across the globe. Valentine’s Day is my favorite day because it’s my Tayta’s birthday!

We’re celebrating with Chocolate Pomegranate Cakelets. I used a combination of my favorite “Hob” cake molds (which can be found in The Shop), and heart-shaped cake molds I picked up at Michael’s. No cake molds? No problem. You can also use a muffin pan.

Chocolate Pomegranate Cakelets

I’m absolutely blessed to live close enough to my Tayta that I can stop by any day of the week to drink Turkish coffee and watch whatever the latest Turkish Soap opera she’s following. It’s these little moments that mean the world to me. I may or may not also collect recipes while I’m there, by jotting them down in my notes, or recording video of her giving me all the steps and measurements to even the most complicated dishes.

It’s fitting that Tayta’s birthday falls on Valentine’s Day. She has so much love for each of her children and grandchildren. I’m telling you, we all think we’re the favorite. Although, I’m starting to think she strategically makes everyone feel like they’re the favorite, and we’ll never quite know who the real favorite is.

Chocolate Pomegranate Cakelets

NOTE: The Hob cake molds only require 15 minute bake time, while the larger heart shaped molds, and cupcakes require 25-30 minutes.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Pomegranate Cakelets

 

Chocolate Pomegranate Cakelets

Ingredients

    For the Cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray for cake molds
  • For the Frosting
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate juice
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

    For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Spray cake molds generously with cooking spray
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. Stir until combines
  5. Add in eggs, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and pomegranate juice and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
  6. Bake “Hob” molds for 15 minutes
  7. Bake cupcake-sized molds for 25-30 minutes
  8. Cool completely before frosting
  9. For the Frosting
  10. Beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth a creamy, about 2-3 minutes
  11. Add vanilla extract and pomegranate juice and beat until combined
  12. Add in the sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until smooth
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Garlicky Roasted Asparagus & Tahini Soup

Garlicky Roasted Asparagus & Tahini Soup

It’s February! For better or for worse, February is the longest short month of the year. On Friday, our dear friend Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, making everyone up and down the North East groan in despair. Hasn’t this winter been brutal enough?! And just to bring the point home, we were slammed with below freezing temperatures again early this week. It doesn’t look like we’re going to be catching a break anytime soon.

The only solace we have are warm, cozy soups. Garlicky Roasted Asparagus & Tahini Soup, for example, steaming mugs filled with Nutella Hot Chocolate, and lots of chunky layers. I may or may not have a set of grey fleece PJs with a fleece-lined hood that I rock every chance I get.

I’m obsessed with soup, as I’ve stated over and over in all my soup posts. Lately, I’ve been adding tahini to soups as a substitute for heavy cream. I find that tahini brings out more flavor, and is lighter than using heavy cream. Tahini is a paste made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds. It’s used in hummus, baba ghannoush, and some Middle Eastern sweets. It’s also used on its own as a dip for beef and lamb shawarma. We always have a jar of tahini in the cupboard. Be careful, though, if it’s been sitting for a while, it’ll need to be stirred really well before use.

Do you like tahini? If so, what do you use tahini for? Let me know in the comments.

Garlicky Roasted Asparagus & Tahini Soup

Garlicky Roasted Asparagus & Tahini Soup

Garlicky Roasted Asparagus & Tahini Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Asparagus
  • 5 coves Garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 parmesan rind * Optional
  • Salt, to taste
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup Tahini Paste
  • Juice of 1 Lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Toss the asparagus and garlic in olive oil, then spread evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, until the asparagus is slightly charred
  4. In a medium soup pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat
  5. Add the onions and parmesan rind (optional) and sauté until translucent
  6. Add in the roasted garlic and asparagus and stir until combined, add salt
  7. Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil
  8. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes
  9. Use an immersion blender to smooth to your desired consistency. NOTE: You can also blend the soup using a standing blender. Have another empty pot available. Using a ladle, spoon the soup into the blender and blend until smooth. Then return to the pot. Use the additional pot if you have too much liquid for the standing blender.
  10. Stir in tahini and lemon juice and heat on low for 5 minutes
  11. Serve with toasted bread
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Garlic Yogurt Chicken Salad

Rotisserie Chicken and Garlic Yogurt Salad

We’re keeping it simple today with Garlic Yogurt Chicken Salad. No fuss, no mess, no extra dishes. I just haven’t had the time to deal with complicated dishes. 

I’ve been MIA on the blog front for the last two weeks. While no excuse is a good enough excuse, I have to tell you guys what I’ve been working on. It’s been a combination of social overscheduling, craziness at work, and working on some new additions to the blog. 

I hope you’re following MCO on Instagram. For those friends/followers who do, we haven’t completely lost touch. I’m always updating MCO’s story with everything from what I’m cooking to what I’m eating, to some of the fun activities I’ve been doing. So even when I’m bogged down with my life outside of the blog, I’ll always have some time for Instagram. Real talk: I love hearing from you guys. It makes my day when you reply to my stories, or send me messages. 

Now, you’re probably wondering, and waiting to find out what’s new here at MCO. Are you ready for the unveiling of two fun and exciting additions to Measuring Cups Optional?

  1. Notice anything different? How about MCO’s new logo? It’s taken some time, but I finally decided on something I’m in love with, and it’s here to stay. MCO has been long overdue for rebranding. I’ve finally committed the time and energy to making it happen. I hope you all love it. Now, all MCO’s social media pages will feature the new logo. 
  2. I’m also really excited to announce the addition of “The Shop.” The Shop is where you can see, and buy, all my favorite kitchen gadgets. I use so many different things and I want to be able to share them with you. Moving forward, if I reference a certain kitchen tool or gadget, or you see something on my Instagram story, you’ll be able to find it in The Shop. To get there, click on “The Shop” in the menu bar from any page on the blog. 

Like the new changes? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Stay tuned for more …. in the meantime, let’s enjoy some Garlic Yogurt Chicken Salad. 

Garlic Yogurt Chicken Salad

 

Garlic Yogurt Chicken Salad

Garlic Yogurt Chicken Salad

Rotisserie Chicken and Garlic Yogurt Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1/2 Red Onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Sumac
  • 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
  • 1 medium pita bread
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together chicken, onions, sumac, seven spice and salt until well combined
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together plain yogurt, lemon juice and garlic
  3. Slowly stir in the yogurt with the chicken until coated
  4. Cut the pita bread into triangles, place on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil
  5. Broil for 2-3 minutes, flip over and broil for another 1-2 minutes until slightly browned and crispy
  6. Serve the toasted pita bread with the chicken salad
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Goat Cheese and Herb Popovers

Goat Cheese and Herb Popovers

I mentioned last week that we could start eating healthy again this week … but these Goat Cheese and Herb Popovers are just too good to pass up. What’s another week? Also, it’s just too cold to think about going outside, let alone going outside to the gym.

Since New Year, and actually just a few days before New Year, we were hit with some seriously freezing temperatures. I’m talking highs in the teens, and morning and nights below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Bomb Cyclone is what they called it – how do they even come up with these names? Seriously. In any case, it’s been miserable.

It reminded me of my grad school days up at Syracuse. I’m telling you, it snowed from October to about April. True story, it was 43 degrees on graduation day. Graduation day was in May. Syracuse days were my favorite days. Despite the fact that it was so cold we couldn’t feel our faces most days, it was a memorable time in my life. I made some amazing friends. The girls I met changed me. They expanded my perspective on life, and I hope they can say I had the same impact on their lives. We quickly learned that cold is not cute, layering is essential to survival, snow boots were necessities, and the shortcut through Clarendon Street was well worth the risk of dying an icy, downhill death.

Because it was so cold, we spent most of our free time at my apartment studying, cooking, or watching whatever the must-watch TV shows were at the time. We made group trips to the laundromat. Of course, since I had the SUV, I went around picking up the girls, and their multiple hampers. It’s amazing how much laundry we accumulated when we basically lived in leggings and sweatshirts. We found the best chips and guac place right behind my apartment. And Wegman’s was life.

When we made it to the Newhouse buildings, we tried not to leave unless we absolutely had to. Luckily for us, Newhouse 1, 2 and 3 were conveniently connected through a series of hallways. I may be a little biased, but Newhouse III is the most beautiful building at Syracuse University. My favorite place was the graphics lab. It was massive and basically encompassed in glass. Oh right, and all the computers were Macs. How amazing is that?

It’s been nine years since we were last together. I often remember my Syracuse crew, and while some of us have lost touch, we’re all connected through one form or another of social media. We’ll have to consider a reunion. 

 

Goat Cheese and Herb Popovers Goat Cheese and Herb Popovers

Goat Cheese and Herb Popovers

Yield: About 12 popover

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Milk, warmed
  • 4 cups Flour
  • 8 Large Eggs
  • 1 ½ heaping tablespoons Salt
  • 8oz Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Savory, chopped

Instructions

  1. Put your popover pan in the middle rack and preheat the oven to 350 F. The pan should heat up with the oven. (you can also you a muffin pan)
  2. Meanwhile, warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  3. In a bowl, wisk the eggs, then slowly add in the milk, and set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the herbs, goat cheese and salt.
  5. Slowly add the dry mixture to the eggs and milk and combine until mostly clump-free.
  6. Remove the popover pan from the oven and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  7. Fill each cup ¾ of the way and top with the cheese.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan half a turn and continue baking for 35 minutes.
  9. Serve warm.
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Date Filled Cinnamon Rolls

Date Filled Cinnamon Rolls

Happy New Year! And Happy Date Filled Cinnamon Rolls! (we can hit the gym next week)

2017 was one heck of a year. I celebrated a major milestone birthday. Then had a magical summer and fall to follow. I did a ton of international travel. 2017 was my year. I felt energetic, brave and empowered; like I could take on the world. I didn’t let life beat me down. Chocolate Cake, may or may not have had the power to pull me out of a pretty brutal disappointment. As I look back, 2017 was good to me, for the most part. I guess there’s no such thing as perfect.

Date Filled Cinnamon Rolls

 

2018 will be the year of me – Me, Zayna, and Me, Measuring Cups Optional. 2018 will be my selfish year. Why? Because it just so happens that if you’re not just a little bit selfish, the world will eat you up alive. Sounds horrible, but also true. See, in 2017 I learned a very valuable lesson: I am the most important person to me. I’m the only person who can bring myself happiness and help myself reach my goals. Yes, family and friends are the best. They provide invaluable moral support. I couldn’t live a day without them. But I was missing something really important—looking out for myself. I was too busy bending over backwards for other people last year that I lost sight of myself. As December came to a close, I realized that for the last year, everyone else was looking out for their own best interests. They made choices. They made decisions. They did things to make themselves happy, to get ahead, to get what they want, despite others, and sometimes, at the expense of others. I don’t condone being selfish at the expense of other people. That kind of selfishness ends up doing more harm than good, hurting the people who matter the most to you — oh yea, and karma has as a way of coming back around.

Date Filled Cinnamon Rolls

This year, my small change is to put me first, and MCO, of course! I have so many exciting things coming to the blog this year, I really can’t contain my excitement! I was hoping to launch some of those things today, but they just aren’t ready yet. Womp womp. That’s alright … stay tuned. So many exciting things to come in 2018.

Date Filled Cinnamon Rolls

Date Filled Cinnamon Rolls

Date Filled Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: 12 Rolls

Ingredients

    For the Dough
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • For the Filling
  • 1 12oz package medjool dates
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • For the Frosting
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange blossom water

Instructions

    For the Dough
  1. Place milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top
  2. Wait 5 minutes, then add 3 tablespoons butter, salt, sugar, egg and flour
  3. Use a dough hook, and turn the mixer on low speed, slowly increasing the speed as the dough holds together
  4. Add flour to the bowl as needed to keep it from sticking
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and put in a draft-free place (like a cool oven) for 1.5 hours
  6. For the Filling
  7. Pit the dates, then soak in boiling water for 15 minutes, then drain
  8. Use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment to mash the dates
  9. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar
  10. Continue to mix until well-combined
  11. Prepare the Rolls
  12. Preheat oven to 350
  13. Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough to about 12in x18in
  14. Melt 3 tablespoons butter, use some of it to brush the dough, set aside
  15. Between two new sheets of parchment paper, roll out the date mixture
  16. Remove the top sheet and flip into on the dough, peel away the remaining parchment paper
  17. Starting on the long side, roll the dough and date mixture together, keeping a round shape
  18. Use unscented/unflavored dental floss to cut rolls about 1 inch apart
  19. Place in a parchment-lined baking dish
  20. Bake for 20-25 minutes
  21. Make the frosting by whisking together the powdered sugar, whipping cream and orange blossom water
  22. Frost the rolls as soon as they're out of the oven
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Middle Eastern Spiced Rice and Chicken

Middle Eastern Spiced Rice and Chicken

I’ll be honest, this recipe was supposed to be “red rice and chicken,” but, obviously, the rice isn’t red. It’s likely due to several factors; the brown spices I used, my not caramelizing the onions, pre-packaged chicken stock. Honestly, I can’t quite put my finger on the exact reason why my rice isn’t red, but I’m not even disappointed. Despite this being a red rice fail, it worked out perfectly as a modified kabsa.

Middle Eastern Spiced Rice and Chicken

Kabsa is a Saudi national dish made of spiced rice and meat, usually served in a giant platter for everyone to enjoy. We used to have Kabsa fairly often when I was younger. I spent most of my childhood with my half Saudi cousins. Like most Arab-American families, my cousins were my best, and only friends, until we started school. Even then, we all went to the same school. It’s for that very reason I’d been exposed to Saudi culture early on — the food, the traditions, the dancing. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, I mean, at age 5 you don’t know the difference between Palestinian and Saudi, or American and Palestinian. You have no sense for these things. There were much more important things to worry about, like when we could go outside and play in the treehouse. Or could we actually stay up until midnight to sneak to the kitchen for a “midnight snack?”

I have vivid memories of us all getting together for dinner at my aunt’s house around a giant silver platter filled with spiced rice and meat, Kabsa. The rice was so spiced, I could smell it before I got to the table. There were sides of pickled turnips and olives, as well as a pretty big bowl of salad. P.S. if you’ve never mixed your vinegar and olive oil-dressed salad with rice, you’re seriously missing out!

It was more than just about the dinner. It was about being together, and it was almost always about our parents trying to drill table manners into our heads!

Middle Eastern Spiced Rice and Chicken

Middle Eastern Spiced Rice and Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable
  • 1 6oz can Tomato Paste
  • 1 Black Lemon
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on
  • 4 tablespoons Seven Spice, divided
  • 4 Whole Cardamom Pods
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Blanched almonds for topping

Instructions

  1. Prepare the basmati rice by washing the rice 3-4 times, discarding the water every time. Cover with lukewarm water and set aside for 30 minutes. When ready to use, drain the water
  2. Prepare the chicken by keeping the skin on and using your hands, rub the chicken generously, back and front and all over, with 2 tablespoons seven spice and olive oil
  3. Heat a large skillet with two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat and place the chicken, skin down in an even layer. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the skin is crispy, then remove and set aside
  4. In a large pot, heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil and sauté onions until translucent, add garlic and sauté for another minute until fragrant
  5. Add tomato paste to the onions and stir, add in the rice, hot pepper, cardamom pods, black lemon salt and seven spice
  6. Stir until combined, and cook for 1-2 minutes
  7. Add the seared chicken pieces and cover with the rice mixture
  8. Add the chicken stock and bring the rice to a boil
  9. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes
  10. Use a fork to fluff the rice, avoid breaking the chicken, and place in a large serving platter
  11. Top with fried almonds (fry 1/2 cup almonds in vegetable oil until slightly browned. Remove immediately)
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