Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Iraqi Cardamom Cookies

Our February destination over at My Kitchen My World is Iraq and I made these delicious cookies as my Iraqi dish. I found the recipe here at food.com, they are called Hadgi Badah.

Iraqi Cardamom Cookies (Hadgi Badah)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 1⁄3; cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups ground blanched almonds (about 10 oz.)
rose water (optional) or orange blossom water (optional)
6 dozen whole almonds (okay, the original recipe says it makes 72 cookies and that must be if you make them really small, I made them with about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of dough and got 24 cookies, so only needed 24 whole almonds)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheets with a light coating of cooking spray, oil or butter. I lined my sheet with aluminum foil and sprayed it with baking spray.

Sift together the flour, cardamom, salt, and baking powder.

Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs until light and creamy. Stir in the flour mixture, then the ground almonds. I ground my almonds in a food processor and used regular whole almonds.

Pinch off a small piece of dough and hand form into 1-inch balls, moistening your hands with rose water or orange blossom water, if desired. I sprayed my hands with baking spray to make the shaping easier.

Place on the prepared baking sheets and flatten slightly. Press a whole almond into the center of each cookie. I just brushed the tops lightly with the rose water and orange blossom water, I did 12 rose, 6 orange blossom, and 6 plain -- they were all delicious the waters added more of a scent than flavor.

Bake until lightly browned about 12 minutes. I had to bake mine for 14 minutes and used an insulated baking sheet. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


These were delicious, especially if you are an almond fan. The cardamom is noticeable if you are "tasting" for it, but it is a pretty light flavor so I would double the cardamom for a real cardamom flavor punch if that is what you are going for.

I made these with my four year old who had fun putting the almonds on. These were really easy cookies to make. They were an after school snack for my older two and everyone loved these! Picky husband hasn't had one yet but I bet he will like them too. They are somewhat soft and chewy and have a delicious flavor.

I had to share this picture because it really makes me smile, such a goof ball my youngest is! Be sure to check out My Kitchen My World to see what other Iraqi dishes people picked to try, and feel free to join us on our culinary world tour :) -- our March destination is Finland!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Grilled Nectarines with Greek Yogurt, Honey, and Walnuts -- Random Recipe #3

My Random Recipe this week is Grilled Apricots with Greek Yogurt, Warm Honey, and Toasted Walnuts from Bobby Flay's book Grill It!.

I remember buying this book for picky husband a few years ago, he never ever cooks but does like to grill steaks or hamburgers and I thought this might give him some new ideas for his grilling endeavors. I don't think he ever even looked at it, oh-well. After I randomly grabbed this book off the shelf and got ready to flip to a recipe I was thinking "no meat" since I wasn't really in the mood to convert a meat recipe over to the veg side with tofu or tempeh or something (which I do often, but this time I just wanted to make a recipe, not really fiddle with one) and I was pleasantly surprised when the page I flipped to had a beautiful photo of a nice fruit dessert.

This is a very simple recipe, the "parts are the whole" sort of thing, which was fine with me! It also gave me an excuse to pull out my poor electric indoor grill that I never use. Yay for using things that take up space! ;) I already had Greek yogurt, honey, and walnuts at home, so the only ingredients I needed were the apricots. Of course, since it is not stone fruit season here, I was half expecting to not find fresh apricots, which is exactly what happened. The recipe preface says, "If you can't find fresh apricots or they are out of season, substitute fresh nectarines, peaches, or plums. Don't let this recipe go to waste." Okay then. Fresh nectarines it is.

Grilled Nectarines with Greek Yogurt, Warm Honey, and Toasted Walnuts
adapted for an indoor grill from Bobby Flay's book Grill It!

6 ripe nectarines
3 tablespoons canola oil (I used veg oil)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish, optional (I did have mint growing in my herb garden last summer, but none now, of course)

1. Heat your grill to high. With the electric grill and it's temperature control dial I would have liked a little guidance as to what temperature high is, I just cranked it up all the way, which is 425. I know outdoor grills get much hotter, but this ended up working just fine.

2. Brush the nectarines with the oil, place on the grill cut side down, and cook until golden brown and caramelized, about 2 minutes.

Turn the nectarines over and continue cooking until just warmed through, about 2 minutes longer.

I did about 3 minutes per side and had nice grill marks, but they were still pretty crunchy in the middle.

3. While the nectarines are cooking, combine the honey and walnuts in a small pan, place on the grates of the grill, and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. I just combined them in a bowl and microwaved it for 30 seconds.

4. Remove the apricots from the grill and place 3 halves on each plate. Top each half with some yogurt and drizzle the honey-walnut mixture over the top. Garnish wish a mint sprig, if desired. Serves 4.


I was thinking of making these for breakfast for the kids but decided to cook them up at lunch time with my youngest and then serve them as an after school snack. I'm sure they will be a big hit. My youngest loved this, although it is something you will have to cut up into small bite sized pieces for kids, unless maybe grilling them on a real grill would make them softer? Not sure. I was ready to have these with a spoon and soon realized they are a knife and fork kind of treat. All in all I thought this was a very nice simple recipe and can't wait to try it with some seasonal stone fruit this summer. I think that you could also swap the Greek yogurt for some vanilla ice cream for a sweeter dessert, although my little guy liked it with the yogurt very much. Fruit, yogurt, nuts, and honey, what's not to love? Thanks, Bobby! :)

Cheese Topped Onion Soup

This delicious soup was our pick for French Fridays with Dorie this week. I love almost all veggies except for onions (it is a texture thing, I enjoy the flavor), but picky husband adores French Onion Soup so I decided to give this one a go for him and invite my mom, another French Onion Soup fan over for dinner. Years ago for Christmas I even bought her the same Emile Henry onion soup bowls that are pictured in Dorie's Around My French Table book, with the little lion heads on the side.

Look at that huge pot full of Spanish onions!

I had a chance to try out a new bread recipe and it was amazing! Crusty and chewy and soft and tender inside, just perfect for topping this soup. I will be making these baguettes all the time, they were such a huge hit with the entire family.

Look at how much those onions cooked down. I felt they were caramelised enough, I probably could have gotten them a little darker, but after tending to them for at least an hour and fifteen minutes to get them to this shade, I was ready to continue on in the recipe and get this soup a goin'. My only change to the recipe was to use vegetable broth instead of the chicken.

Lovely to have an excuse to buy one of my favorite cheeses, mmm, gruyere...so delicious!

Excuse the not so great photos, I was kind of in a rush to get these into the oven since everyone was hungry for dinner. I toasted little rounds of the baguette before putting them on the soup and covering them with cheese.

And there you have it, one absolutely luscious bowl of French Onion Soup. It was amazing. Even though I do not like the texture of onions, I thoroughly enjoyed the toasty cheesy top and broth. The best part was that picky husband absolutely loved this as well. The kids had something else for dinner, they had no interested in trying the onion soup. I loved the touch of brandy in the bowl, the white wine in the soup and the caramelized onions came together so perfectly. My mom thought the soup was great too, whew! I probably could have broiled the tops of the soup a touch longer, but I was nervous about broiling these bowls, they were "oven proof" but did not indicate if they were broiler safe so I was cautious. Even with pale tops, this was one delicious bowl of soup :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Radicchio Lasagna -- Lasagne di Radicchio

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs
the theme is Lighten Up - C'mon Get Healthy, I know you're probably thinking, hold up a minute, what is lightened up on that big plate of creamy lasagna? Well, not too much actually, but I was trying to be healthy by adding a new veggie to my family's food radar...radicchio!

This bright purple leafy vegetable is said to "provide an antioxidant content rivaling that of blueberries and spinach" -- if you would like to read about how healthy radicchio is,
check out this site. My only real experience with radicchio is restaurant salads, I'd never purchased or prepared it myself, and I figured if any preparation could win someone (specifically my picky kids) over, it'd be a delicious creamy lasagna.

Lasagne di Radicchio
Tessa Kiros -- Venezia

1 and 3/4 lb radicchio di Treviso (I could not find this specific radicchio and just used the round kind, also my two heads of it were more like 1 pound total)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced (I left this off)
1/4 cup white wine
24 lasagna noodles, about 10 by 2 and 1/2 inches (this ended up being a whole standard sized box for me)
6 tablespoons grated parmesan
a blob of butter (I used this but I don't really think it was necessary and would skip it next time)

Bechamel Sauce
7 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup all purpose flour
3 cups warm milk -- I used skim
a good grating of nutmeg

recipe preface: This is as lovely and bitter as radicchio itself, so you have to like the beautiful leaf to appreciate this lasagne.

Cut away and discard the tough white stalk from the bottom of the radicchio. Roughly cut up the rest into chunky strips along the length, wash, and drain.

Heat 5 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skittet and saute the onion until soft and pale golden. Add the wine and cook until evaporated.

Add the radicchio, cover, and simmer over low heat until it surrenders its hardness. Add salt and pepper and cook, stirring now and then with a wooden spoon, until it is soft and there is hardly any liquid left in the skillet. Remove the lid for the last 5 minutes or so.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, and add the last tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the pasta according to the time given on the package, or until almost cooked (it will all go in the oven and continue cooking). Remove, refresh in cold water, and lay out the noodles on a baking sheet lined with clean dishcloths, making a couple of layers as necessary to accommodate all the pasta. I just bring the water to a boil, cook the noodles for 2 or 3 minutes, then remove from heat and start assembling the lasagna while the noodles sit in the pot of hot water, seems to work well for me that way and they don't get over done.

Make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Whisk the flour into the butter, then add a little salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Reduce the heat to low, then begin adding the warm milk. It will be immediately absorbed, so work quickly, whisking with one hand while slowly pouring the milk with the other. When the sauce is smooth and thick, add the nutmeg, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool (it should thicken even more. Adjust the seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 350. Assemble the lasagne.

Dollop 2 large serving spoonfuls of bechamel sauce into the bottom of the oven dish, spreading it to cover.

Lay 6 sheets of pasta over the bechamel, overlapping them in necessary. Six lasagne sheets was too much for my pan, I could get 5 in there while overlapping. Splatter half of the radicchio (not in a neat perfect layer) -- I did a little less than half so I could distribute it more evenly through more layers -- over the pasta.

Dollop some more bechamel over the radicchio and spread gently here and there. SCatter with about 2 tablespoons of the parmesan. Now add another layer of pasta, the rest of the radicchio -- once again, I used it more sparingly since I wanted it distributed in more than two layers, -- some more bechamel (not all of it, save 1/2 cup for the top, and another couple of tablespoons of parmesan. Add the final layer of pasta and cover roughly with the rest of the bechamel. Sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan and add a few blobs of butter. I did add the butter but it was not needed at all and just kind of pooled around on the top, which I was not a fan of.

Bake for 20 to 40 minutes until lovely and crusty here and there. Allow to cool a little before serving. Serves 6 to 8.


I made this one evening while picky husband was working late, hoping to get the kids interested in a new vegetable. Unfortunately the bitter radicchio was just a touch too exotic (read bitter!) for my kids. My daughter liked the lasagna but picked out most of the radicchio. My boys only had a few bites, but they are not really into white sauces, so I think that had more to do with it than the radicchio. I thought the lasagna was delicious but it was a little tough to love the radicchio bites since they were just that bitter. When I started making this, my daughter guessed that the radicchio was red cabbage and I was kind of wishing it was red cabbage while I was eating it in the lasagna, sorry radicchio! I think that if you are a radicchio lover and have grown up eating radicchio often you would adore this lasagna, but for me it seemed to be an acquired taste that I don't absolutely love just yet. It is definitely growing on me though and I would make this again for sure.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

Twinkle, twinkle, little star tart :) Welcome to our 2nd Tuesdays with Dorie baking through the book Baking with Julia. Our featured recipe this week is Chocolate Truffle Tartlets by David Ogonowski.

I was excited to give these a try because I got to use my new star tartlet pans, aren't they cute?

I also used two of my mini heart tartlet pans. I have way too many tart pans! Tarts are just so fun to bake and can be sweet or savory. I think I like the savory tarts a touch better, if they are sweet I prefer them as fruit tarts. Even though Chocolate Truffle Tartlets wouldn't be my first tart choice on a dessert menu, these were pretty yummy and fun to make.

Above is the chocolate tart dough all ready to be rolled out...

Lots of chocolate in this recipe, bittersweet, milk, and white -- oh my! Chocolate overload! After baking them, they almost looked like little Chocolate Brownie Tartlets...

I gussied these up with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a maraschino cherry for the kids. They loved them, success! Picky husband didn't finish his tartlet. He is not a huge chocolate fan. Chocolate desserts are hit or miss for me. This one was pretty good. If you are a chocolate fan I bet you went head over heels for these cute little tartlets. Happy Baking, everyone!

Thank you to our hostesses this week: Steph at A Whisk And A Spoon, Spike at spike.does.stuff, Jaime at Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats, and Jessica at cookbookhabit -- please visit their sites for the recipe if you would like to give these Chocolate Truffle Tartlets a try!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Root Beer Float Cake -- Random Recipe #2

This Root Beer Float Cake is my second Random Recipe, yep, I picked two cakes in a row! At first I was not really excited about this recipe, sure I love a good root beer float, and even in cake form it sounds delicious, but this recipe was a "cake mix" recipe and I don't like to use cake mixes, also the topping on this recipe used a packet of "whipped topping mix," what to do, what to do. I decided to use this recipe as a base but make some "cake mix from scratch" -- pretty much just using the dry ingredients from a cake recipe, and then using the remaining wet ingredients as listed in the recipe. I also made the whipped cream topping from scratch and it was absolutely delicious, so Betty Crocker's Root Beer Float Cake was a stepping stone from this version that I made...

Here is the start of the original recipe, a "fast and fun family treat" -- you can find it here and here online -- I guess the cake mix version is pretty popular! It is originally from this book from 1992, Baking Made Easy -- a Betty Crocker recipe book that you usually find in the checkout lane at the supermarket. I did not buy this one, I'm sure it was passed down to me at some point from someone and I just put it on the shelf never to look at it again. Well, lucky little book was blindly picked from the shelf and got to be the second Random Recipe book. After I decided that I was going to make this cake from scratch I got a little more excited about it :)

I have a ton of the checkout cookbooks on a smaller book shelf so I decided that for my little Random Recipe series I would swap between my "real book bookshelf" and my "tiny book bookshelf" every week. Stay tuned next week for another "real book" book ;) Some people are not fans of these little cookbooks, but I find them fun. They always bring back memories of being a child and grocery shopping with my mom, waiting in the checkout lane while flipping through one of these, if something sounded good, my mom usually tossed the book right on in with the groceries. Kind of nostalgic, these things are.

Root Beer Float Cake

2 and 1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 and 1/4 cups root beer -- I used A&W
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon root beer extract
2 eggs

Root Beer Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons root beer extract
4 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar

Optional toppings:
crushed root beer hard candies (I bought these for this recipe but skipped using them since I liked the texture of just the root beer whipped cream on the cake)
maraschino cherry, just for fun

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Add in eggs, oil, root beer, vanilla, and root beer extract and beat with an electric mixer for about two minutes, until well blended.

Pour into 9 by 13 baking pan, sprayed with non-stick baking spray.

Bake at 350 for about 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and cakes tests dry with a toothpick or cake tester. Do not over bake.

Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Invert onto wire rack to cool completely. Move to serving tray or back to cooled baking pan.

Whip cream, root beer extract, and powdered sugar for about 2 minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Dollop onto individual cake slices, as shown, or for serving to a group, spread over the whole cake. I would suggest doing this as individual slices unless you are serving the whole cake at once. The whipped cream keeps well in a bowl covered with saran wrap in the fridge. I kept it for over 24 hours and it did not separate.


The cake keeps well wrapped in saran wrap and left at room temperature. It stays moist and the flavor seems to deepen if left overnight.

My kids think everything is better with a maraschino cherry on top!
My kids think everything is better with a cherry on top

I was so surprised by this cake! The dry ingredients from this cake mix from scratch recipe (from allrecipes) worked perfectly with the wet ingredients from the original Betty Crocker Root Beer Float Cake cake-mix recipe! Now I have a recipe I can use when ever I find a fun cake-mix recipe to try but want to make it from scratch. The root beer whipped cream was amazing! At first I was worried that the cake would be dry and the whipped cream wouldn't come together, but I shouldn't have.

My whole family loved this cake, even picky husband, he is not a big cake fan so it was kind of funny to see him requesting this as an after lunch dessert. My daughter even asked if I could make this as her birthday cake. I would this again for sure, I'd probably attempt a root beer concentrated drizzle / glaze to soak into the cake, and definitely would serve this with some ice cream. It would be great for those backyard summer get togethers when you need something with mass appeal (kids and adults) that can go together quickly or be made the day before. I'd say Random Recipe #2 was a success for sure!

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