A birthday party

August 31, 2012

There was a birthday party last week. It turned out to be everything I hoped for; an intimate celebration for my daughter's third birthday.

Three is an underrated milestone, I think. It marks unofficially the beginning of the child's footsteps in this world. They are incessantly verbal, strive for independence, are infuriatingly rebellious, and are brimming with excitement at their daily adventures. They are starting to form friendships, and are slowly demoting your role as the most important person in their life. Or maybe it's just my dear daughter who is at that stage right now. I see the changes in her happening slowly. Her shy, sensitive, delicate soul is emerging for the world to see.

She has been the center of my life since she was born. We have spent her first three years together, every day; learning and growing. My immense love for her is immeasurable and seeing these natural changes is bittersweet.

Soon she will go to preschool and have a world outside the cocoon I created for her.

And so, for me, her third birthday was a significant event.

And therefore, there were lots of preparations.

I made a few things from scratch, including a Caramelized Onion Quiche, a Mexican-style Pasta Salad, and a Quinoa Tabouleh with Heirloom Tomatoes.

You'll hear about those soon.

But I gave my all to the birthday cake.

For all the past birthday cakes I've made, I unapologetically used Duncan Hines Cake Mix. I figured since assembling the cake is a feat on its own, I wasn't going to spend time making the base from scratch. After all, it would be devoured by all anyhow.

But this time was different. The occasion was different. So I looked around to find the perfect cake that would complement the celebration. It had to be dense and moist, as well as feminine and delicate.

I found it at Miette.

I made their Double Chocolate Cake. A feast of cocoa it turned out to be. This cake was decadent and delicious, yet still retained a lightness that made another spoonful, or three go unnoticed.

I got inspiration for the frosting here. I was attracted to the texture of the tart candy as well as the contrast in flavor between the sweet and tangy.

A success it turned out to be, but effortless it was not.

For some reason my beloved pasta salad went unappreciated. A pity. Not many served themselves this dish and I had some left over, which I enjoyed immensely the following day. On the other hand, the onion quiche and quinoa tabouleh were a major hit.

Overall it was a lovely celebration. I watched my daughter beam with joy at the attention she received from family (or maybe it was the overload of presents that did it for her). I shared my home with those closest to us. We laughed and ate (and I photographed). Gd has blessed us immensely and I'm truly grateful.

Grilled Apricot Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese

August 19, 2012

Apricots are my favorite summer fruit. Or maybe white peaches are. Actually, I enjoy ripe, sweet cherries very much. Ah, it's hard to pick a favorite. Summer's bounty is sweet and colorful, which means I happily stock up on the most fragrant fruits at the market.

And usually that means I overstock.

What's a girl to do with one too many apricots? Especially the white, cottony apricots that were left behind because they felt too firm between my fingers. The ones that might ruin the steady sequence of sweet apricots my palate got accustomed to with their unwelcome tartness. Those get left behind in the fruit bowl, unworthy of being consumed raw.

So, I grill them. And they become perfect again. The cooking process actually brings out some of their sweet, natural juices and mixed with some honey, they'll make your taste buds sing.

This salad is an interesting medley of flavors. It starts with the spiciness of the arugula and is topped off with the distinctiveness of the goat's cheese as well as the sweetness of the apricots and figs. Finally, it's finished off with the strawberry vinaigrette, that adds a touch of tartness.

A fun summer salad to savor before summer drifts away.

This recipe is part of another Kosher Connection LinkUp. The last one which felt not so long ago was a lot of fun! Keep an eye out for future themes.

Chocolate Cashew Balls

August 18, 2012

I made these Chocolate Cashew Balls a short while ago. I adapted this recipe from one I saw over at Elana's Pantry. It is easy, healthy, and chocolatey!

I tried it and ate so many.

My only mishap, which is visible in the picture is that I processed the cashews in the food processor a little too long and so the natural oils started separating and they look "sweaty". They also didn't have the crunch factor that I enjoy in recipes that use nuts. So, lesson of the day: don't over-pulse nuts!

Pecan Blended Iced Coffee

August 16, 2012

Hello, hello.

It's been quiet around here. I went away, actually. To Israel, if you care to know. The holy land, where the cities are vibrant and alive (really, I saw kids playing at the park at 930pm!). The food was delicious of course, but there was one item that captured my taste buds: Pecan Blended Iced Coffee.

See, there's something I find really interesting in myself. I cannot stand drinking coffee (that's blasphemy to an Israeli, which I am). I've had roughly three (unfinished) cups this year, and only because I was tired and hoped the caffeine would revive me, which it didn't. Ironically, I love everything coffee-flavored. I enjoy, even prefer, the taste of coffee in cookies, ice creams, and cakes. I can't explain it. The smell gets me weak in the knees, yet the actual drink elicits a disgusted look on my face.

Now when I'm in Israel, I bid my healthy regimen goodbye and happily order ice cafe, as it's called, everywhere I go. Ice cafe is sort of like an ice blended from Starbucks/Coffee Bean, but it has more character. It's definitely over sugared, which makes it more like a sweet treat and lends to my fondness for it.

And so one lovely afternoon, sitting at Greg Cafe, I was introduced by a very nice waiter to the best ice cafe I've ever had. It had the perfect balance between strong bitter coffee, sugar, and roasted pecans. The nut also added an unexpected crunch and took this drink to the next level.

I became so hooked, that I ordered it every time we were near a Greg (no one could explain to me who Greg actually is!). Even when I was on the way to the airport. I couldn't get enough.

Naturally, it was the first thing I tried to recreate back home. I still haven't hit the nail, but I've come close enough.

This is definitely a refreshing drink worth reaching for your blender.

Let me know if you've tried it.

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