Zahra Cooks Thu, 24 Jun 2010 19:36:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Zahra Moves! Thu, 24 Jun 2010 19:24:18 +0000 I’ve been MIA for a while now, haven’t I???  Not much has happened really, just been getting ready for a move and moving! It’s been tough.

We searched all over the Collin County area for a place that suited our increasingly fancy needs, and we finally went back to our first choice residence and by some miracle, we got it! Been trying to settle in ever since.

I will try to continue at least weekly posts as soon as everything isn’t in a state of utter chaos in the new place anymore. Someone want to come organize for me? Anyone? Hello? Mom???


I will leave you with the picture of my favoritest mug from this adorable little coffee house we stopped in on our way to Corpus Christi for my birthday trip. Round Rock, Texas is the home of Friar Tuck’s Pantry… and these mugs.

After searching far and wide for them online, I found an English supplier who did deliver to the United States. Success! Six of these babies are now sitting in my cabinets.

So here’s to a new chapter of cooking and baking and coffee drinking. Over and out.

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Menu Monday! Mon, 12 Apr 2010 21:38:05 +0000 Last week I posted about this new thing we’re doing around these parts: Menu Planning. I told y’all how I went about deciding what meal to put where and, of course, the mandatory day off. Mandatory for me that is. I’m lazy sometimes you see.

So, as previously discussed, I will share our menu for the week with you, dear internet reader.

Remember, I only plan dinners since breakfast is rushed and lunch is simple. As I get better at doing this, I plan on adding other aspects of the weekly menu. What these aspects may be, I don’t know, but I know they’ll be awesome.

Alright, enough chit chat, here we go:

Monday: Hashbrown casserole
Basic ingredients: potatoes, sour cream, cheddar cheese, onion, parsley

Tuesday: Taco Night
Basic ingredients: tortillas (flour, baking powder, salt, olive oil), cheese, beans, guacamole, cilantro, sour cream, tomato

Wednesday: Portobello burgers
Basic ingredients: portobello mushrooms, buns, tomato, mayo, lettuce

Thursday: Barbeque tofu over rice
Basic ingredients: tofu, rice, green onions, parsley

Friday: Mushroom enchiladas
Basic ingredients: leftover tortillas from Tuesday night, mushroom, cheese, onion

Saturday: Go out/ Leftovers/ Parent’s house

Sunday: Cheese and walnut stuffed shells
Basic ingredients: Jumbo shells, egg, ricotta cheese, nuts, parsley, nutmeg, pasta sauce for under the shells

Here’s to a week of happy eatin’!

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Cinnamon Toast… Muffins! Fri, 09 Apr 2010 16:18:27 +0000 These are divine. A cross between cinnamon toast (which I have newly discovered I absolutely love). This is (with some minor adjustments) a half recipe of the one in Pioneer Woman’s “French Pastry Puffs” recipe. I thought the name Cinnamon Toast Muffins was more descriptive. You be the judge.


I’ve made these a few times now, but after the initial endeavor (documented by these pictures) I’ve only been dipping the top parts in the cinnamon sugar. According to Neil, this makes for a better “This Side Up” muffin.

Let’s get goin.

Cinnamon Toast Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 eggs
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons  ground cinnamon


1. Spray your muffin tin just like this. An explosion in the morning is just what you need to wake you up!


2. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together and set aside.


3. Now, get out this. This is what will make these muffins fabulous.


4. Cream together the shortening and the sugar. It will look something like this.


5. Add in the egg and beat it, just beat it…



6. Get out your 12 mini muffins, muffin pan (clean off the mess first please) and fill ’em up!


7. Set in the oven for about 20 minutes, then remove and let them cool just a bit.


8. Get your dunking stations ready.


I like to keep the muffins in a little towel just to keep them a bit warmer than they would have been just sitting on a cold counter. These muffins are totally cruelty free.

9. Dunk either the tops or the entire muffin in the melted butter and then roll it around in the cinnamon sugar to coat.


Eat these immediately! Go.


Don’t be alarmed if this happens only moments after you’ve set them on the plate. Cinnamon sugar is attractive like that.

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Cool Button Mushroom Sammich Wed, 07 Apr 2010 15:23:09 +0000 Did you know that summer’s just around the corner?? Incredible, I know.

To celebrate this discovery, we’re gonna make an easy breezy cool sammich with button mushrooms. You could just as easily use baby bellas or cremini mushrooms, I just happened to have button mushrooms on hand.

Warning: This is another one of those vague recipe look-alikes. Don’t be alarmed.

Cool Button Mushroom Sammich

About 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Plenty of salt and pepper
Lemon juice from one lemon


Put all your mushrooms in a bowl and drizzle on your olive oil.


Salt and pepper to taste


Feel free to add anything else you want here too. Lemon juice and a smidge of paprika was my choosing.


Put that all into a ziploc baggy and forget about it for about 2 hours. You want the lemon juice to really get into ’em.


Toast up some bread with some cheese. Being really fancy, we only had our whole wheat sliced bread, but no one’s here to judge.


Pile on whatever else you want onto your sammich: tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, sprouts, etc etc. This is purely your choice and don’t let nobody tell you otherwise.


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Snow Kitty Tue, 06 Apr 2010 14:29:47 +0000 Sorry… This isn’t that recent. It’s from about three weeks ago when we had snow.

In Texas.

We  had snow. In March. Crazy.


During this snow, we decided to let the cats out onto the balcony so they could explore. Dante was very cautious about it all but dipped a paw or two into the fluffy cold-ness.


We couldn’t grab the camera fast enough, but Bella came out into the snow as well. She ran out after Dante thinking the 4-5 inches of white stuff was just normal and ended up belly-deep in snow. And then, of course, freaked out and ran back inside.

We have smart kitties.

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How-To Plan, Meal Plan Mon, 05 Apr 2010 20:28:04 +0000 Today, I am going to show you how I have embarked upon this phenomena called Meal Planning. Planning isn’t really my cup of tea. And I have definitely never planned for the things that I will eat later in the day, much less plan everything I will  put in my mouth for an entire week.

To illustrate how poor planning affect me and other people, I will show you a series of images. And at the end, I will explain how to go about meal-planning and my meal plan for this week. Bear with me here, I have a degree in Psychology.


Poor planning leads you to pack only one of your husband’s shoes. The other one was in another bag and neither shoe was worn the entire trip.


Poor planning causes you to be unprepared for spills on fancy jackets. Then, you must hand wash. It is hard.


Poor planning makes your husband upset at you. Fact.


Poor planning makes SpongeBob ugly. FACT.


Poor planning causes an AWESOME dinosaur park to close. SUPER FACT.


In all seriousness, what you don’t want poor planning to lead to is this. You don’t want poor planning to affect your nutrition. (These were fries at the airport in Amsterdam so I don’t think it really counts)

So here’s what we’re going to do from now on (or until I get really tired of planning and hire a chef and retire to the Bahamas): we are going to plan our meals for the week. From Monday to Sunday, all dinners will be accounted for. The previous Sunday, we will grocery shop and we’re going to give ourselves a day off on Saturdays.

How do we go about this, you ask?

#1.  Decide the meals you will be cooking that week. This is much harder than it seems. You want to give yourself enough variety and nutrition, but at the same time, you don’t want to be wasteful to the produce you may buy that week.

Here’s how I started:

Monday: Crock Pot Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna.

alright, easy enough.

#2. List out a general recipe for your meal. You can skip thing of which you have plenty. If it’s a new recipe you’re going to use, then go ahead, list out exact amounts. This is a personal guide for you, so tailor it to your needs. For the lasagna I wrote down:

Filling: Spinach, mushrooms, shredded cheese, walnuts
Parmesan sauce: 3 Tbsp. butter, 2 Tbsp. flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. cayenne, 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup  KRAFT Parmesan Cheese– cooked on stove

#3. Add a column for anything related to the meal you will be making. For the lasagna, I wrote out the need to get everything prepared the night before. I don’t generally do that, so it was necessary to remind myself that I had to do the preparation ahead of time.

Congrats! You’ve gotten one meal out of the way! Let’s move on.

(Note: we’re going to a cooking class on Tuesday, so that day I’ve just blocked off)

#4. Knowing your own consumption rates, determine other meals using the same ingredients. We never go through an entire bunch of spinach or an entire batch of mushrooms, so I knew that this would be a common ingredient for at least two or three meals throughout the week.

I like to mix it up a bit so we’re not eating pasta or rice  two days in a row, so I came up with:

Wednesday: Cheese and Spinach pizza.

again, list out the general ingredient list and/or recipe.

#5. Keep going! I had to do a lot of research. You know, finding recipes you’ve wanted to try out, sure-fire meals you’ve been craving, or just making something different. This is Thursday:

Thursday: Couscous salad with honey vinaigrette and avocado panini

#6. Don’t be afraid of holes or something that’s not totally planned. Sometimes you just can’t come up with enough ideas. Leave it blank. The world won’t come crashing to a halt and your puppy won’t run away from home or anything. You have plenty of time to figure this out. Here’s what my schedule looked like for Friday:

Friday: Neil’s dinner!

You can revisit your plan like I did today and decide that hm. That mushroom bourguignon idea was really somethin’. And if Neil doesn’t feel like thinking about what to make Friday night, that will be the backup plan.

See? Just be cool man.

#7. Give yourself an off day. C’mon. You know you don’t always feel like cooking. Plus, those leftovers really start to pile up sometimes. So take a Break Day.

Now, I could have done that on Friday with Neil’s dinner night, but I decided that Saturdays are just always going to be my off day. That’s because sometimes we go over to my parent’s for dinner, sometimes we go out, and sometimes we just eat leftovers. So that took care of Saturday:

Saturday: Leftovers/Parent’s house/Go out

And that’s it! I wrapped up the week with our Sunday Morning Grocery Shopping and

Sunday: Spaghetti with garlic bread

It takes some organization and time to figure out your schedule and then decide on a food schedule, but I tell ya, it’s well worth the effort. I stayed on target grocery shopping this past Sunday and you save so much more when you know exactly what ingredients you will be using that week.

So go forth and meal plan! Start with just the menu for one week and you’ll just want to keep going from there! I hope to keep this up and I will share our menus on the newly instated Menu Mondays!

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Rhubarb Coffee Cake Mon, 05 Apr 2010 14:16:37 +0000 I have never had rhubarb prior to this recipe.


I said it.

This strange red celery thing had intrigued me for a while, but I’d never worked up the guts enough to give it a try. But boy am I glad I finally did.

(My mom wasn’t sure if it was or wasn’t Revaas… but I have confirmed with Wikipedia that it is.)


I love the mixture of tart and sweet and, from what I gathered from research, rhubarb is highly tart. This coffee cake was fabulous.The cake is just sweet enough for the rhubarb but it’s the crumbs, ohhh the crumbs, that make it delectable. The crumbs, once baked, are big boulders of deliciousness and awesome. FACT.

Note: Coffee cake is the name given to any cake with crumbles on top and not necessarily coffee flavored. Just to clarify.

Alrighty, here we go:

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Rhubarb Filling
3-4 stalks rhubarb (is it politically correct to call them “stalks”??)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, melted
1 3/4 cups flour

1/3 cup buttermilk (1/3 cup milk with about 1 tsp vinegar- let it sit for about 5-10 mins)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into pieces.


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut up your rhubarb into 1/2″ pieces.


2. Sprinkle on the sugar…




…and ground ginger. Mix it all together to coat all the rhubarb and set it to the side.


3. Next we’re gonna make the crumbs. Combine the sugars…


…cinnamon, ginger, and salt, and mix them all together to combine.


4. Pour in the melted butter.


5. And mix until the sugar mixture is smooth. It is imperative to mix the sugars with the butter BEFORE adding the flour in to ensure that your crumbs don’t come out all crumbly. Remember, we want big fat BOULDER crumbs, not wimpy dusty ones.


6. Once your sugar/butter mixture is smooth, then add in the flour and mix until all the flour is wet.


7. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a bowl. This’ll ensure maximum boulder-ness later on.


8. Add your egg and egg yolk and vanilla to your buttermilk. and mix. Set aside for just a bit.


9. In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (oh man, I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely love using my stand mixer and thereby getting to use mixer lingo) drop in your dry cake ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt). Let the mixer start mixing to combine all the ingredients.


10. Pour in half your egg/buttermilk mixture and beat on a higher speed. Then, add in your butter and beat until combined. Pour the other half of the egg/buttermilk mixture once the butter is dispersed throughout. Take out about 1/2 cup of batter and set aside.


11. Scrape out the cake batter into the bottom of a 9″ cake pan (an 8″x8″ brownie pan would be fantastic… but alas, I do not own one of those). And yes, the cake batter will be thick. Don’t be alarmed. Layer on the rhubarb right on top of the cake batter.


12. Dollop on the 1/2 cup of reserve cake batter. It doesn’t have to cover all the rhubarb.

And boy! Did it get dark between the time I put the rhubarb and the time I added the rest of the cake batter!


13. Now, break the crumbs with a fork to separate from the bowl. Try to keep them big and wonderful so break them on top of the cake with your fingers.


Look how fantastic that looks. And into the oven it goes for about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Take it out of the oven and let it cool a bit. Or don’t, I sure didn’t. Enjoy!

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Portobello Stroganoff Fri, 02 Apr 2010 13:33:04 +0000 Happy Friday!

I hope you have super exciting plans for the weekend. I know I do; I plan on spending the least amount of time possible being awake. My life is very exciting. Adventures every second!

So I must say, after becoming a de facto vegetarian, I really do miss a few select dishes since red meat no longer rests lightly in my tummy. Beef stroganoff is one of these dishes. Steak is another but I wouldn’t touch that one with a 10 foot pole these days. I’d be out of commission for a week if I did.

I love the creamy texture of the sauces that envelop the tender beef strips and the general coherence of a plate of stroganoff. It’s perfect.


The sauce is great on its own and you can pour it over any casserole or pasta dish that you want, but what’s truly fantastic is that thick cuts of portobello mushrooms create the perfect chewyness needed in a proper stroganoff.

So here we go! I present to you…


Portobello Stroganoff

About 1/2 lb rigatoni, al dente
2 caps portobello mushrooms
1/2 medium onion
1/2 cup carrots
1 small clove garlic
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup evaporated milk
Plenty of salt
Pepper to taste


1. Get your pasta to cookin’! Cut your portobellos into 1/2″ strips. I know it seems thick but have faith!


2. Set your saucepan on the stove to medium-high heat with about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the portobellos until brown on each side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as you flip.


3. Set aside the cooked portobellos.


4. Now, into the same saucepan, add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and add a crush and peeled garlic clove to the oil. This will make the oil all garlicy without being overpowering. Lower the heat to medium.


5. Remove the garlic when it browns and looks like this.


6. Next, throw in your sliced onions and carrot. Let them sweat a bit, undisturbed. Then, throw on a good amount of salt and pepper and let them cook some more, until transparent and limp and so deliciously caramelized.


7. At this point, your pasta should be cooked to perfection.


8. In a bowl, measure out your yogurt and evaporated milk. Mix well.


All my dishes were dirty, okay? Don’t judge me. (Btw, thanks for the mug Eric!)


9. By the time you’ve done all that, you should be ready to assemble! Get out those lovely mushrooms you cooked before, and throw ’em right over the onions and carrots. Let them hang out in there for a few minutes, just to warm them up.


10. Now, Drizzle all the yogurty goodness. Salt and pepper to taste.


11. Throw on the pasta and mix, allowing all the juices to seep into the pasta and make everything wonderful.


12. Make a mess.


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Chocolate Mousse Wed, 31 Mar 2010 14:42:28 +0000 I have a confession to make: I did not know the difference between mousse and pudding until recently.


I know. What a let down.

I made a chocolate pudding a while back, so it’s only natural that I follow that up with its uncooked counterpart- the chocolate mousse. Because that’s the somewhat ugly truth, this dessert contains raw eggs. So if you’re pregnant or will become pregnant, you probably may want to hold off on this one until later.


Now, I did quite a bit of research on raw eggs before venturing on this mousse-making path.  And the general verdict is, in moderation, it’s totally fine and healthy bodies will be able to digest it, no problem.

So it’s settled! Let’s get to whippin’ up some heavenly mousse!


Chocolate Mousse

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup very cold heavy whipping cream


1. Get out your chocolate. Bittersweet works fabulously here.


2. Put your chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.


3. Put your butter on top of your chocolate in your microwave-safe bowl.


4. Microwave your butter/chocolate! Zap it for about 30 seconds, mix everything around in there, and then zap it for another 30 seconds. Stir until glossy and smooth.


5. Separate the white from the yolk. Add the vanilla to the white and whisk it until stiff peaks form.

6. With clean mixer beaters, whip the yolk until thick and pale yellow.


Isn’t using a hand mixer fun???


7. Add the beaten white and the beaten yolk to the chocolate mixture and gently fold it all together until well incorporated.

8. Whip up your whipping cream until nice and peak-y.


Top your mousse with the whipped cream and add some shaved chocolate for garnish. This was actually better after being refrigerated for about 30 minutes but I wouldn’t recommend waiting any longer. You may not be able to wait that long anyways so that shouldn’t be a problem!

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Baby Nicholas Mon, 29 Mar 2010 19:53:37 +0000
Photo courtesy of Vic Cherubini!

Neil held a baby for the first time since he could remember this past weekend! We were all very proud.

Nicholas Lansdale Cherubini was born March 26th, 2010 at 6 lbs 2 oz. Neil and Vic worked together not too long ago so I got to tag along to the invitation to go see Vic’s new baby boy. And I’m not gonna lie, I was so super excited. I was feelin’ all emotionally charged that I cried on the way out of the hospital. Happy happy tears of course. Hormonally charged tears. Baby-wantin’ tears. You know the kind.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go tend to my baby urges by eating a lot of chocolate. You know the feeling.

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