Boards, Boards, Boards!

Valentine’s Day Board

I would happily make a board for just about every occasion. I love a large tray of assorted goodies to choose from. When I make a large board, I feel like we have nibbles that last for hours. And, well, they’re also very pretty! If made well. Which is surprisingly easy to do. My kids love participating in the process.

Some tips I have for putting together a board:

  • Pick a color palette. Either do so by the season (Fall – deep reds, oranges, yellows, golds. Winter – whites, reds, jewel tones, holiday colors. Spring – Bright and cheerful pinks, yellows, greens. Summer – Also bright, and keep it light. Lots of summer berries to choose from!)
  • Accent herbs and greenery. Herbs and greens really help beautify the board. Fall and winter, use herbs such as rosemary, sage, or thyme. Use greens such as eucalyptus and spruce. Spring and summer, use mint for a fresh touch, and find bunches of bright greenery at your local grocers. Use the greens to fill in gaps on your board or place a sprig on top of your cheese.
  • Flowers. Stick with seasonal flowers from your grocers. Hypericum berries are a fun accent, but they’re not edible.
  • Bread and crackers. Slice a baguette on a diagonal. It’s nice to have a mixture of bread and crackers. I almost always have a baguette and Carr’s water crackers. Then, I like to use an assortment of entertainment crackers. Cranberry crisps or rustic, artisan crackers. Firehook Mediterranean crackers. Really, depending on your board, there’s so many options. Have a couple stapes, bread and water crackers, then get creative! Cornbread crisps, pita crackers, Ritz, graham crackers…
  • Cheese. I like to always offer a Brie, it seems to be the most popular. Other favorites, aged cheddar, manchego, balsamic flavored cheese. I opt for a variety of soft and hard cheeses. Depending on the amount of people your serving, and the size of your board, you may only have one cheese or you may have 5!
  • Jams and other condiments. Have little pinch dishes with small tasting spoons arranged on your board with jam, honey, quince paste, and/or balsamic glaze. Typically, where cheese is sold in your grocer, there’s often condiments that pair well with them. I recommend Mike’s Hot honey! Also, Costco sells large blocks of honeycomb, Cut pieces off to put on top of your brie or goat’s cheese. Or place pieces in a small dish.
  • Meats. Prosciutto (always), I bunch pieces up around the board. Salami. Whatever you choose, arrange them by either bunching them, folding them, or laying them in a whimsical, curvy line.
  • Fruits. Try to go seasonal, but if the berries look good in the winter, for sure add some to your board. There’s no real rules here! Persimmons, pears, pomegranates, figs, oranges, sugared cranberries, etc. for the fall and winter. Apricots, grapes, cherries, melon, berries, etc. for spring and summer. I like to tuck little dark chocolate or white chocolate chips into my raspberries. I steer away from fruits like apples and bananas that tend to brown quickly. Dried fruits are always a great thing to include! Dried figs, apricots, mangoes, dates, golden raisins, etc.
  • Nuts. Whatever you like, pistachios. walnuts, cashews, cinnamon coated almonds, spicy peanuts, etc.
  • Pickels and/or olives. Cornichons, olives, other pickled goods.
  • Sweets! Include some chocolate or yogurt covered fruits, nuts, or pretzels. My favorite is chocolate covered espresso beans. Sometimes, we make exclusively treat boards! For Hanukkah we fill a board with blue, yellow, and white frosted sugar cookies, marshmallows, gelt (chocolate coins), blue gummies, yogurt covered treats.

Once you have gone shopping for the above items, have fun! I have found my kids rummaging through the fridge and cupboards, gathering items and arranging their own boards for an impromptu tea party. This is a great, engaging activity for kids. My daughter loves using her creativity to fill and design a board. Put on your favorite tunes and create something beautiful and edible!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Peanut butter cup pie

This years birthday dessert was a childhood favorite of mine. In the 90’s, my family and I would frequent all the hot spots, Denny’s, Coco’s, Marie Calendar’s, and of course, Baker’s Square. I mean, if the place didn’t have a pie selection after the meal, it wasn’t on my radar.

No matter the time of day, I’m always down for a French Slam from Denny’s. As for Marie Calendar’s, their chicken pot pie was the only savory pie I loved. I’ll never forget the excitement of being able to purchase them in the frozen section of the grocer. Then, Baker’s Square offered my favorite slice of pie, Peanut Butter Cup Pie. In 4th grade, this would be my birthday treat of choice.

I wanted to recreate this pie for my birthday this year. As I get older, part of me wants to hold onto childhood and once again enjoy some favorite memories. And this sensational pie is certainly a sweet memory. It’s decadent, rich, creamy, flavorful, and quite simply, a masterpiece.

I scoured the internet for recipes to make each layer of this pie. It consists of a peanut-graham cracker crust, unique to Baker’s Square, a layer of dark chocolate French silk, a layer of chunky peanut butter cup silk, and topped with fresh, fluffy whip cream, chocolate peanut butter cups, roasted peanuts, and a drizzling of chocolate ganache and caramel. Enough delicious stuff to send you into a food coma. Honestly, as I write this blog, I’m already thinking I need to make this again.

Let’s start with the crust. You can make this simple crust a couple days in advance. My advice would be to enjoy making each layer of this pie and tidy up the kitchen after each layer. Listen to music and lose yourself to the process.

Prepare your ingredients:

Peanut-Graham Cracker Crust

  • 10 graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
  • 8 tbsp melted butter
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt

Step 1: Add graham crackers, peanuts, sugar, and salt to the food processor.

Step 2: Pulse until fine crumbs.

Step 3: While processing, slowly add the melted butter and process until it resembles wet sand.

Step 4: Gently press into a 9″ round pie dish, starting in the center and working your way up the sides.

Dark Chocolate Silk

Adapted from Taste of Home, French Silk Pie recipe

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar

Step 1: Combine sugar and egg in a small saucepan and cook on low, stirring constantly, until it reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from heat

Step 2: Stir in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Cool to 90 degrees F (lukewarm). Stir occasionally.

Step 3: In a small bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture and beat on high speed for 5 minutes.

Step 4: In a medium bowl, beat the whipping cream until it begins to thicken and add powdered sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form.

Step 5: Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the whip cream until just combined.

Step 6: Pour into the crust and chill while making the next layer.

Chunky Peanut Butter Silk

Recipe adapted from Handle the Heat, Peanut Butter Pie recipe

  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar plus 1 tbsp, divided
  • 1 cup whipping cream

Step 1: In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, cream cheese, and 1 cup of the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Approximately 3-5 minutes.

Step 2: In a separate large bowl, whisk the the whipping cream until it begins to thicken using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Add in the remaining 1 tbsp of powdered sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks begin to form.

Step 3: Gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture.

Step 4: Gently add the peanut butter layer on top of the French silk layer.

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Step 1: Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the whipping cream until it begins to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.

Step 2: Add the whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a large drop flower tip, or your favorite tip. Do your best to pipe out lovely swirls of whip cream at the edge of the pie and one in the center. Or simply spoon dollops of whip cream around the edges and the center. It’s all going in your belly anyhow and you’re about to cover the pie in peanut butter cups, chocolate, and caramel. So don’t worry about your whip cream designs.

Toppings

Sprinkle on some roasted peanuts. Cut approximately 15 mini peanut butter cups into halves and quarters and pieces and cover your pie how you please.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (chips or chopped bakers chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Step1: Cook the ingredients in a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. You can put a heatproof bowl over a pot of water, just make sure the water isn’t touching the base of the bowl.

Step 2: Let it cool then drizzle it over the pie.

Caramel

Halve this super simple recipe https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/easy-caramel-sauce-recipe-2041446 and drizzle it all over your pie.

Chill for 4 hours to overnight before serving. Whoever you share this with will forever be in your debt.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Milk Tart

Recipe from https://www.africanbites.com/milk-tart/

The children and I have been scouring the internet for the best recipes from around the world! COVID-19 won’t stop us from “visiting” different countries and learning about them. Our favorite way to explore new places is through desserts! We’d love you to join us on our journey and watch our videos as we will teach you about a new place and then show you how to make one of their most popular desserts. Scroll to the bottom for the link to the recipe and to the video.

This Milk Tart recipe is a huge winner in our house. Thumbs up across the board for this sweet pie crust that’s filled with what I describe as a sweet, cinnamon and nutmeg infused pudding. It’s smooth and the warm spices in the milk really come through and taste divine. It’s served chilled, which is important to us as we are dealing with temperatures of 110 degrees F here in AZ. Added bonus, it’s super easy to make!

Milk Tart is a popular South African dessert. The country of South Africa is located, just like it sounds, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. In all of Africa, there are over 2,000 languages spoken. South Africa has 11 official languages. Many of its residents speak several languages fluently. I find this fascinating. I am fluent in only one language. For years I’ve been working on improving my Spanish, but I’m nowhere near fluent.

Another interesting fact about South Africa, is it’s main water source comes from the snow-capped peaks of Lesotho. Lesotho is a tiny country that is located entirely within the borders of South Africa. Its nickname is “Kingdom of the Sky” because the whole country is located over 1,000 meters above sea level. So wild.

Speaking of wild, Africa is well known for it’s wildlife. South Africa only accounts for about 1% of the Earth’s land mass, and yet it is home to an abundant amount of wildlife. Ranging from birds, fish, and plants, to mammal and reptile species. The country also works very hard to preserve its wildlife. Dozens of it’s animals have become endangered and are nearing extinction due to illegal hunting and habitat loss. To learn more and find ways you can help, check out African Wildlife Foundation, or awf.org.

Now, the past is so important to our future and I try to teach that to my kids as much as possible. The world is much like a child, continuously growing and learning from its mistakes and our successes. Constantly striving to be even greater. So I’d like to briefly discuss South Africa’s past.

Some of the earliest human fossils ever found, which date back over 2 million years, were uncovered in the limestone caves of Sterkfontein. This cave formation is in northern South Africa, near Johannesburg. These great discoveries have earned it the nickname, “Cradle of Humankind.” (NatGeo Kids, Facts About South Africa)

In the 1400s, European ships began stopping off on the coast of South Africa to load up on supplies before continuing their journeys elsewhere. In 1652, the Netherlands established the southern city of Cape Town, and Dutch farmers began settling there. Then, because of wars happening in Europe, the British gained control of the Cape Town colony in 1806.

In 1910, the British joined four colonies and created South Africa. This was the beginning of apartheid, a practice of segregation separating whites from black South Africans. This lead to decades of conflict.

In 1963, one of South Africa’s most prominent leaders and the head of the anti-apartheid African National Congress, Nelson Mandala, received a life sentence in prison for alleged “terrorist” activities. He worked tirelessly on abolishing the unjust apartheid policies. After 27 years in prison, he was finally freed. In 1993, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights work. In 1994, he was elected President of South Africa and it wasn’t until then that apartheid was finally abolished. 1994! That was not that long ago, I was 11 years old! People my age lived through that period of time. https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/geography/countries/facts-about-south-africa/

After learning only a small amount about South Africa, we hope it makes you want to learn more! We are providing a list of books that are set in South Africa. You can find more about this list at https://coloursofus.com/23-childrens-books-set-south-africa/. This website also has toys, clothes, and more! Check it out. Look for these books at your local library, bookstore, or on Amazon.

Preschool Books:

  • Not So Fast, Songololo by Niki Daly
  • At the Crossroads by Rachel Isadora
  • Jamela’s Dress by Niki Daly
  • Halala Means Welcome!: a book of Zulu words by Ken Wilson-Max
  • Somewhere in Africa by Ingrid Mennen
  • S is for South Africa (World Alphabets) by Beverely Naidoo
  • One Child, One Seed: A South African Counting Book by Kathryn Cave
  • Gift of the Sun: A Tale from South Africa by Dianne Stewart
  • A South African Night by Rachel Isadora
  • My Painted House, My Friendly Chickenm and Me by Maya Angelou

Elementary Books:

  • Count Your Way Through South Africa by James Haskins
  • The Mother of Monsters by Fran Parnell
  • The Herd Boy by Niki Daly
  • Once Upon a Time by Niki Daly
  • Armien’s Fishing Trip by Catherine Stock
  • The Day Gogo Went to Vote by Elinor Batezat Sisulu
  • Goal! by Mina Javaherbin
  • The Soccer Fence by Phil Bildner
  • Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom by Chris van Wyk

Middle School and High School:

  • Journey to Jo’burg: A South African Story by Beverely Naidoo
  • South Africa (Enchantment of the World) by Ettagale Blauer
  • Zulu Dog by Anton Ferreira
  • Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book by The Nelson Mandela Foundation

Now, for the recipe!

Kitchen tools you will need:

  • 9″ springform pan or 9″ removable bottom tart pan
  • food processor
  • small saucepan
  • whisk

Print out the ingredients and steps you need from here:

https://www.africanbites.com/milk-tart/

Watch our short lesson about South Africa and see us make this 2 part recipe for delicious Milk Tart here:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Pavlova with Pastry Cream

Find the King Arthur pastry cream recipe at kingarthurflour.com or watch How to Make Pastry Cream – Bake it Better With Kye on YouTube.

Wow, this dessert is a stunner! What I love about it, too, is all the possibilities! This light, airy, and delicately sweet dessert is perfect summertime, and berries are in season! It really makes for an exquisite centerpiece on any table.

This Australian dessert is named after a famed Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who was touring Australia and New Zealand in the 1920’s. The chef who came up with the dessert pulled inspiration from the soft and billowy tutu. Filled with clouds of whip cream and topped with sweet berries, this dessert instantly became a favorite and enjoyed world wide.

Traditionally pavlova is topped with whip cream and berries, but there are so many ways to enjoy it. The meringue only requires egg whites, so I like to find a way to use the egg yolks and make a pudding, lemon curd, or pastry cream to fill my pavlova. Some ideas for your pavlova:

  • Fillings: pudding (chocolate, vanilla, banana, lemon, etc.), lemon curd, pastry cream (vanilla, chocolate, lemon, coffee, etc.), whip cream
  • Toppings: berries (macerated or tossed with sugar, lemon zest, and mint), peaches, bananas, chocolate chips or chocolate shavings (white, milk, and/or dark!), chocolate or caramel drizzle, lemon zest, sprinkles, m&m’s, nuts, mint

Find the combination that speaks to you. Much of baking is science, and measurements and ingredients need to be so precise. When you get an opportunity to be creative, take it and have fun! I LOVE coffee and I’m thinking a layer of coffee flavored pastry cream, a layer of coffee flavored whip cream, and topped with chocolate covered espresso beans and a chocolate and caramel drizzle would be divine. However, letting kids take over the decorating and giving them full control is a great way to boost their confidence. My kids are always so proud of their creations, especially when I stand back and let them do it how they want. It might end up overflowing with whip cream, sprinkles, chocolate, and fruity peoples. I’d like to say this might stop me from eating too much at once, but if I’m being honest, I love fruity pebbles.

In the video, I show two different ideas for toppings, The first is a pavlova filled with vanilla pastry cream, a layer of whip cream and topped with lemon zest, pistachios, and Demerara sugar. The next one I filled with pastry cream, a layer of whip cream and toped it with berries, white chocolate chips, mint, and demerara sugar. https://youtu.be/E8zRSTbneF4

Now, when making this pavlova, you are working with egg whites. Egg whites are incredibly finicky and there are several important things to know before hand. They must be warm or room temperature or they will not whip up. This has something to do with the protein in the egg white. Just trust me on this. Also, if ANY egg yolk, and I mean even the tiniest droplet, is in your egg whites, they will not whip up. Furthermore, if the bowl you are mixing them in is not clean and dry, they will not whip up.

Another great tip before you begin, you can make the pavlova a day in advance! Also, if you’re using pastry cream, this can be stored for up to two weeks and makes a yummy treat all on its own!

Prepare you ingredients:

Pavlova

  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (or white wine vinegar)
  • pinch of fine sea salt

Whip Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Toppings

  • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries)
  • white chocolate chips
  • mint
  • Demerara sugar

Or…

  • lemon zest
  • chopped pistachios
  • Demerara sugar

Kitchen Tools:

  • Standing Mixer or hand held mixer with whisk attachment
  • baking tray lined with parchment paper
  • 8 or 9-inch cake pan to trace a circle onto parchment paper

Pavlova:

STEP 1: Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

STEP 2: Mix 2 tsp of the sugar with the corn starch.

STEP 3: Using room temperature eggs (it is important), add the egg whites to the bowl of the standing mixer. If your eggs are not room temperature, you can give them a 10 min warm water bath to remove the chill. Save your egg yolks in an airtight container.

STEP 4: Using your whisk attachment, turn on your standing mixer (or hand held mixer) to medium-high speed for a couple minutes.

STEP 5: While whisking, add the salt.

STEP 6: While still whisking, now add your sugar a tablespoon at a time. This should take about 3 minutes. Do nut rush your meringue.

STEP 7: Still whisking, add the sugar and corn starch mixture.

STEP 8: Remove bowl from the standing mixer and add the lemon juice and vanilla, gently folding them in.

STEP 9: Using an 8 or 9-inch cake pan, trace the bottom of the pan onto a piece of parchment paper. Then, flip the piece of parchment paper over (you don’t want led on your pavlova), onto a large baking tray. This circle will be used as a guide for the size of your pavlova.

STEP 10: Use a spatula to scoop out your pavlova and form a circle with a slight well in the center.

STEP 11: Reduce the temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and put your pavlova in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes.

STEP 12: After 45 minutes, rotate the baking tray and continue baking for another 45 minutes. DO NOT open the oven door when done.

STEP 13: After the additional 45 minutes, let the pavlova cool in the oven for an additional hour and a half or over night.

Pastry Cream: Look up recipe on KingArthur.com or watch https://youtu.be/MlHsLwZpNHU

Whip Cream:

STEP 1: Put the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla in mixing bowl.

STEP 2: Whip until soft peaks. Do not over whip.

Assemble your pavlova:

Fill with a layer of pastry cream, a layer of whip cream. Top with berries, chopped mint leaves, white chocolate chips, and Demerara sugar. Or top with lemon zest, pistachios and Demerara sugar. Or top with whatever you like!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tres Leches Cakes

Recipe adapted from American Girl Around the World Cookbook, Williams Sonoma

These single serving cakes are refreshing little spongecakes soaked in sweet, milky goodness. I’m pretty sure my daughter has been dreaming about them every night since we made them. When I say “sweet dreams” at bedtime, I’m not joking around.

Tres Leches is a popular Latin American dessert. Latin America includes countries in South, Central, and North America. It is not defined by borders, but by shared language, culture, and historical experience. It includes most of the South American continent, but goes as far as to include all the countries in the Americas that speak a romantic language derived from Latin such as French, Spanish, or Portuguese. 

Some interesting facts about Latin America from elnomad.org (check out the link for more fun facts!):

  • Over 90 uncontested tribes live in Latin America.
  • Mexico City sinks ten inches every year!
  • In the small town of Yoro, Honduras, it rains fish twice a year!
  • 20% of the world’s oxygen is generated by the Amazon Rainforest.

To learn more about the amazing Amazon Rainforest watch this YouTube video:

Now, that you have learned a little something, it’s time to reward yourself with a Latin American dessert.

Tres Leches is Spanish for 3 milks. This dessert is a light, airy cake that is soaked in 3 different kinds of milk: heavy cream (or whole milk), evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. This cake is best served cold so it’s a great cake for these hot summer months. 

It’s really a fun and surprisingly easy dessert to make! Watch us and see for yourselves how to do it:

Prepare you Ingredients:

Cakes:

  • 1-2 TBSP unsalted butter, for greasing the muffin pan
  • 1 (12 or 14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 oz) can of evaporated milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Kitchen Tools Needed:

  • muffin pan
  • 13×9 glass dish
  • large bowl
  • medium bowl
  • whisk
  • wooden skewer (or other hole poking device)

STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 12-cup muffin pan with butter.

STEP 2: In a 13 x 9 inch glass dish, pour in the tres leches: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream (or whole milk). Whisk them together and set the dish aside.

STEP 3: In the large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt.

STEP 4: In the medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla until well combined.

STEP 5: Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and whisk gently until just combined and batter is evenly moistened.

STEP 6: Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.

STEP 7: Bake for 18-20 minutes until cakes are light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

STEP 8: Right out of the oven, poke several holes in each cake with wooden skewer.

STEP 9: While still hot, carefully invert cakes onto a wire rack. If you greased your muffin pan well, they will come out nicely!

STEP 10: Place the cakes in a single layer in the glass baking dish with the milk mixtures, the tres leches. Generously spoon the tres leches over each cake.

STEP 11: Let the cakes soak up all the milky goodness and cool completely in the baking dish for approximately 1 hour.

STEP 12: Carefully transfer the cakes to an airtight container, arranging them in a single layer. Pour the tres leches into a separate container and cover tightly. Refrigerate both the cakes and the tres leches for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. Spoon tres leches over the cakes as needed to keep them moist.

STEP 13: Make the whipped cream. With an electric mixer, beat or whisk the cream, sugar, and vanilla. on low speed until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip until the cream holds medium-stiff peaks, 3-4 minutes longer. Do not overwhip!

STEP 14: When ready to serve, let the cakes stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Put the cakes in individual bowls or plates and spoon tres leches over the top so it pools at the bottom. Add a dollop of whip cream and savor each sweet bite!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sheer Khurma

Recipe adapted from http://www.CookWithManali.com/sheer-khurma/

The kids and I made this elegant dessert for our Muslim friends who celebrate Eid. Eid ul-Fitr (pronounced eed-ull-fit) marks the end of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month long and a time for spiritual renewal and closer connections God. It is the most sacred month of the year in the Islamic culture.

Although we don’t observe, I’m always fascinated by people’s faith and culture and enjoy learning more. Knowledge is power and with it comes understanding. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from food and drink. This excludes the elderly, the young, the sick, and the pregnant. This disciplined practice requires a great deal of strength and patience. Eid ul-Fitr is the large festival and feast that takes place at the end of Ramadan. It’s also known as the “Festival of Breaking the Fast”, so there is of course lots and lots of food!

Watch these kids do a wonderful job of explaining Ramadan and Eid.

Back to this sweet and creamy dessert that we made, Sheer Khurma. Sheer means “milk” in Persian and khurma means “dates”. This is a significant and traditional dessert that is prepared for many Eid celebrations. The variety of ingredients create a medley of textures and flavors that work well together. You’ll find there are many different variations of this dessert, but they all include milk, dates, nuts, and vermicelli (thin rice noodles).

My daughter and I are pretty particular about our food. And I’m particularly a fan of smooth and/or creamy desserts, such as, ice creams, puddings, creme brûlée, flan, etc. When I was researching sheer khurma, I was not so sure this would be something I would enjoy. A pudding that requires chewing? I thought not. But, I was wrong, it surprised me and I really enjoyed it. The creamy, sweet milk, the soft, thin noodles, the chewy dried fruit, and crunch of the nuts made this such a pleasure to eat! It somewhat reminds me of eating a sweet, milky bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts. It just works.

My kids are very choosy eaters, but it doesn’t stop me from cooking and baking things for them to try. When I say choosy, I mean, my daughter refuses to eat ketchup if it’s a different shade of red! So, she doesn’t use ketchup until that bottle is out and we get a new one.

I find desserts to be an easy way to introduce the kids to new flavors and foods that they otherwise don’t eat much of. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!” I wasn’t even sure the kids would try this desert because of the nuts. I was again surprised, both my children loved it! My daughter had several bowls of it! To say my mind was blown is an understatement. She really likes desserts that have rosewater in them. To me, it sometimes tastes too perfumey. She has loved rose water cupcakes, Persian love cake, and now this sheer khurma. All desserts with rose water and often cardamom.

Many sheer khurma recipes call for powdered milk or evaporated milk, to thicken it up. We did not have any, but I liked it thinner anyhow.

Watch the kids and I make this tasty dessert and then try it for yourselves!

RECIPE

adapted from http://www.Cookwithmanali.com/sheer-khurma/

Ingredients to prepare:

  • 2 TBSP ghee
  • 10-15 cashews, chopped
  • 10-15 almonds, sliced or chopped
  • 10-15 pistachios, chopped
  • 10-15 golden raisins (or 20-25 black raisins)
  • 7 large medjool dates (or 10 deglet dates), pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup broken vermicelli
  • 1 liter whole milk
  • 4 TBSP sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp rose water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Kitchen tools:

  • large saucepan
  • wooden spoon
  • slotted spoon

STEP 1: Heat ghee in large saucepan on medium heat.

STEP 2: Once hot, add the nuts, raisins, and dates. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the nuts are fragrant and golden brown. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside.

STEP 3: Add vermicelli to the pan. Roast for approximately 3 minutes until it starts becoming light, golden brown in color.

STEP 4: Add the milk to the pan and stir. Increase heat to medium high and let the milk come to a boil, stirring frequently to keep noddles from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

STEP 5: Once the milk comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let it low boil for approximately 8 minutes.

STEP 6: After 8 minutes, milk should be reduced and slightly thickened. Add sugar and mix well.

STEP 7: Add the nuts, dates, and raisins back to the pan and mix well.

STEP 8 : Add the rose water and cardamom and mix well.

STEP 9: Cook for about 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat.

STEP 10: Remove from heat and transfer pudding to a serving dish or dishes. Serve warm or chilled.


Banoffee Pie

This decadent pie will satisfy any sweet tooth. Layers of dulce de leche, banana, and whipped cream will transport you to a state of no worries. It’s so dreamy, you won’t want to wake up!

Banana + Toffee = Banoffee. This delicious duo of flavors seems as right as rain. Topped with whipped clouds of cream and shaved chocolate and it becomes an ultra luxurious pie that is sure to impress your friends. Unless you decide not to share. We wouldn’t blame you.

We made this delightful dessert for my husbands birthday. He was born and raised in London, England. The kids and I wanted to make him a special dessert that we knew he would love and that would also remind him of childhood. Then maybe he wouldn’t feel so old. Just kidding.

Banoffee Pie is very popular in England. Due to COVID circumstances, we were unable to get our hands on McVitie’s Digestives (an English cookie) to make our crust. McVitie’s Digestives are hugely popular in Europe and pair perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee. You can find them at some major grocers, otherwise they can typically be found at World Market stores or other specialty stores, or you order them from Amazon. If you do get a pack of these biscuits, I highly recommend you use them for your crust! Or just top them with some dulce de leche, whip cream, and chocolate chips for a single serving treat!

Digestive Crust:

  • 10 Oz Digestives
  • 10 TBSP unsalted butter

Grease tart pan or pie dish. Melt the butter in large saucepan on the stove. Put Digestives in food processor and pulse until fine crumbs. Stir processed Digestives into melted butter and stir until evenly coated. Press crust mixture into tart pan or pie dish and place in the fridge for at least 20 min or until ready to use. No baking required!

In our video, we ask children to locate England on their globes, they’ll see it belongs to the continent of Europe. One very impactful personality from England is Tim Berners-Lee. He’s the founder of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the reason we have information readily available at our finger tips. Thanks to him, I’m able to share this recipe with all of you!

We first came across Time BL when playing Go Fish with our daughter. We’re big fans of The Purple Cow brand. They make every day games into educational opportunities. Which is exactly what I’m working to accomplish with baking. We have a couple of their Go Fish games, one being their Genius Thinkers edition, where we first encountered Tim BL. https://www.the-purple-cow.com/products_list/1/2121/Card%20Games

Tim BL invented the World Wide Web in 1989 and it has become the most powerful form of communication. It affects almost all aspects of contemporary life, such as, how we create/get news, research, shop, work, date, cook, etc. In 2004, Tim Berners-Lee was awarded knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2009, he founded the World Wide Web Foundation, which seeks to established the Web as a human right and ensure it truly benefits humanity. (Artlyst.com)

“The Web connects people, not just computers. It belongs to all of us and its future will be shaped by the energy and creativity of all who use it.” – Tim Berners-Lee

I hope that in sharing all these sweet recipes, I’m shaping the Web with positive energy!

Click here to watch the video of us making this pie.

In the video, we made our dulce de leche by baking it in a water bath. It worked, but did not come out as thick as I would have liked. Below, I provide a different method. I’d say it’s even easier, and the result is fantastic.

This is a recipe you’ll want to keep on hand. Pull it out when you want to impress and delight your friends and family!

Prepare Your Ingredients:

  • 2 – 14 oz cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • 14 graham crackers
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp butter, for greasing pie dish
  • 1 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • chocolate shavings or chocolate chips, for garnish

Kitchen Tools:

  • large pot
  • tongs
  • can opener
  • spatula
  • food processor
  • 9-inch tart pan or pie dish
  • cooling rack
  • large bowl
  • electric beaters

To make the dulce de leche (can be done the day before or several days ahead of time):

STEP 1: Remove the labels from the 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk.

STEP 2: Place the cans in a large pot of water, submerged by at least 2 inches of water.

STEP 3: Bring water to a boil.

STEP 4: Reduce heat to medium-high and keep at a low boil for 3 hours.

STEP 5: Make sure to check on the water level in the pot frequently. I added more water about every 45 minutes to maintain the water level. Keeping the cans submerged by at least 2 inches of water.

STEP 6: Turn off the stove and remove the cans from the pot using tongs. Cool to room temperature.

STEP 7: Open cans, pour into a medium sized bowl and stir well. Cover and keep in fridge until ready to use.

To make the crust:

STEP 1: Grease tart pan or pie dish with 1 Tbsp of butter. And pre-heat oven for 350 degrees F.

STEP 2: Break up graham crackers into the food processor.

STEP 3: Add melted butter.

STEP 4: Process until the mixture resembles wet sand.

STEP 5: Press the mixture evenly into the greased pie dish and and up the sides.

STEP 6: Bake the crust for 5 minutes.

STEP 7: Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.

Assemble the pie:

STEP 1: Using a flexible rubber spatula, spread the dulce de leche into the pie crust.

STEP 2: Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight.

STEP 3: In a large bowl, beat the whip cream and 1 Tbsp of sugar until soft peaks form. Do not over beat.

STEP 4: Remove pie from the fridge and arrange banana slices over the layer of dulce de leche.

STEP 5: Top the banana with heaping spoonfuls of the whip cream. This will create a dreamy, cloud-like aesthetic.

STEP 6: Garnish with chocolate shavings or chocolate chips or lightly dust on some cocoa powder.

STEP 7: Devour a slice!

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Persian Love Cake

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, Yasmin Khan

With spring often comes feelings of hope and new beginnings. Mother Nature comes to life after a restful winter. The outdoors becomes bright and cheery, much like this cake!

With each bite, it is like a springtime explosion in your mouth. Floral essence and tart lemon, beautifully complimented with a touch of cardamom. This yellow cake is then beautifully topped with lemon icing, dried rose petals, and bright green pistachios. The colors create a visually stunning cake and the flavor is equally as impressive.

The rose water used in this cake is a common ingredient in many Persian desserts. If you’ve never had it before, it can take some getting used to. Honestly, the first time I tried it, I was taken aback by its strong floral flavor, making me feel as though I was eating perfume. It’s an ingredient I may have never known about if it weren’t for the invitation to my friend’s Nowruz party.

I’d also never heard of Nowruz. So, immediately I did some research and find out Nowruz is the Persian New Year. Knowing that I want to bake something to bring to this gathering, I discovered that rose water is a common ingredient in Persian desserts. I made delightful mini rose water cupcakes for the party and they smelled like a fresh bouquet of roses. I tried one and thought, “Oh, no. I must have used too much rosewater. These taste like perfume!” I brought them to the party and told my friend I wasn’t so sure they turned out right. To my surprise, she LOVED them!

It was something about her thinking they were so delicious and encouraging me to make them again that made me give rosewater another shot. I suppose I can be easily influenced by others. Sometimes, that may be a detriment, but I find more often than not it opens my mind and allows me to enjoy more of what life has to offer. Her love for rosewater made me appreciate it more and even acquire a taste for it.

That being said, when I came across this cake, I immediately thought of her and Nowruz. As I said, Nowruz is the Persian New Year. It is the celebration of spring and marks the first day of the new year in the Iranian calendar. I felt so fortunate and grateful to have been invited to my friends celebration. It was over the top fabulous!

Nowruz typically falls between March 19-21. It symbolizes rebirth and renewal and it celebrates the link between humans and nature. Families prepare a Haft-seen table which includes 7 items that start with the Persian letter “seen” or S.

  • sabzeh (wheat, barley, mung bean or lentils) – rebirth
  • seeb (apples) – health and beauty
  • senjed (dried oleaster berries) – love
  • samanu (wheat pudding) – affluence
  • soma (sumac) – the color of sunrise
  • series (vinegar) – age/patience
  • seer (garlic) – cleansing of body and environment, medicine

You will also find items such as these on the Haft-seen table:

  • Iranian patries
  • dried fruits and nuts
  • candles (enlightenment and happiness)
  • mirror (self reflection)
  • decorated eggs, one for each member of the family (fertility)
  • a bowl of goldfish (life)
  • crystal bowl of water with an orange in it (earth floating in space)
  • rose water (for its magical cleansing powers)
  • national colors (green, white, and red)

One doesn’t have to be Persian to appreciate the beauty of this celebration and take part. There is so much more to this enchanting holiday! You can often find local community celebrations taking place in your city. My friend has gone from hosting around a hundred people at her home for this event, to now making it open to the public. Along with a few others, she hosts the Persian New Year Festival in downtown Scottsdale. You can find more information about it each year at http://www.persiannewyearfestival.com/. It’s a great family fun activity including everything from local artists, fire dancers, music, and traditional Persian food.

Even if you don’t decide to partake in all the festivities, you should make this cake. If not to celebrate Spring, how about to celebrate mom or grandma? It’s so pretty and impressive, it would be the perfect Mother’s Day dessert.

When we made this cake, we learned a bit about fractions and science (solutions, homogenous and heterogeneous mixtures). Watch the video to learn with us and see this stunning cake come together!

A few of these ingredients may be found at some specialty stores. I made this recipe a few different times to try substitutions. I found that Caster Sugar makes for a lighter fluffier cake, however, it was still super delicious when using regular, granulated sugar. Using fresh ground cardamom was a fun way for us to use our mortar and pestle, however, I made with a 1/4 tsp of ground cardamom and again, it was still super delicious.

I found dried rosebuds and rosewater (Nielsen-Massey) on Amazon.

Ingredients to Prepare

  • 1 3/4 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 C plus 2 TBSP superfine (caster) sugar (I have also made using regular, granulated sugar and it was still fantastic)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 12 cardamom pods or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3/4 C all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 3/4 C almond flour
  • Zest of 1 lemon plus 1/4 C fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 TBSP rose water (less if desired)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of find sea salt

Icing

  • 1 1/4 C confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cold water
  • chopped pistachios and dried rose petals (optional), for garnish

Kitchen Tools Needed

  • 8-inch spring form pan (I used a 9-inch, worked great)
  • parchment paper
  • large mixing bowl
  • hand mixer
  • mortar and pestle (if grinding your own cardamom)
  • cooling rack
  • small saucepan
  • skewer or dowel to poke holes in cake
  • whisk

STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 320 degrees F and grease an 8-inch spring form pan and line it with parchment paper.

STEP 2: In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter and 2/3 C sugar until light and fluffy.

STEP 3: Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated.

STEP 4: In a mortar and using pestle, crack the cardamom pods to release the seeds. Discard the pods and grind the seeds to a fine powder.

STEP 5: Add cardamom, flour, almond flour, lemon zest, 3 TBSP of lemon juice, 1 TBSP of rose water, baking powder and salt to the cake batter and beat until smooth.

STEP 6: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 45 minutes, a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let it cool slightly.

STEP 7: Make the simple syrup. In a small saucepan, bring the remaining 2 TBSP of sugar, 1 TBSP of lemon juice, 1/2 TBSP of rose water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

STEP 8: Poke holes all over the cake and pour the warm syrup over the cake. Let the cake cool completely (at least an hour), and remove from the pan and transfer to a cake plate.

STEP 9: Make the icing. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of cold water until smooth. Spoon the icing over the cake and garnish with pistachios and rose petals.

STEP 10: Serve and enjoy!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Softest Sugar Cookies

Adapted from the back of a Wheat Montana all-purpose flour bag

This is the BEST sugar cookie recipe! These cookies are super soft and topped with a perfect layer of vanilla buttercream frosting. They will remind you of the round sugar cookies you get at the store, but a million times better.

When I saw this recipe, I was immediately drawn to it because it used sour cream. Anytime a cookie or cake recipe calls for sour cream, I know it’s going to be delicious. This recipe was no exception.

We made these cookies to celebrate Earth Day. Our mother Earth is truly magnificent and exceptionally sweet. So, it’s no surprise that we chose to bake the most magnificently sweet sugar cookies!

Before we got started we talked a lot about our planet. Discussed some fascinating facts. It’s the third planet from the sun and it’s distance from the sun, along with its moderately thick atmosphere, means it never gets too hot or too cold. It maintains the right temperature for water to stay liquid, allowing life as we know it to be possible. Life on Earth began around 3.8 billion years ago. Humans have had a tremendous influence on Earth’s surface. Our influence is even visible from space! The planet’s night side, is lit up with electricity. We have also changed the atmosphere and climate and have replaced large areas of natural ecosystems with farmland and cities. (Smithsonian Knowledge Encyclopedia SPACE!)

Nighttime Earth

There are so many ways we can help our mother Earth. It’s our duty to protect her after all the gifts she grants us. Most of us are familiar with the 3 R’s (reduce, re-use, and recycle). How are some ways you reduce, re-use, and recycle?

In our family, we use silicone straws as often as possible. We use reusable plastic baggies, reusable grocery bags, and reusable lids on our dishes instead of plastic wrap. We have a whole cupboard full of glass and plastic storage containers. We also have a drawer full of washcloths and towels that we use to clean up spills and wipe down counters. The kids know to grab a towel or washcloth and after using it, they put it in a container on top of our washing machine. About once a week we wash a load of these towels and have significantly reduced the amount of paper towels we use. Furthermore, we have a drawer full of cloth napkins. My daughter likes to keep a large box full of recyclables, such as, toilet rolls, scap paper, milk cartons, etc. This is a box she then uses to build crafts. For one of her most recent creations, she used lots of recyclables to build a robot for a school project.

Homework Machine

For us, these have all been easy changes and allowed us to feel good about our part in helping mother Earth. We still have a ways to go and probably more changes we could make, but it’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing what works for you.

We challenge you to make one or two changes in your house. What is something that you think would be easy enough to do and can help protect our Earth? Ride your bike more often to coffee, dinner, or ice cream? Use recyclables to create “food” for your play kitchen? Share your ideas in the comments! We love hearing and trying new things!

Now, on to this drool worthy sugar cookie recipe. Watch this video to see how we made our cookies. Then, make your own and let us know how they turned out!

Softest Sugar Cookie

Ingredients to Prepare:

  • 1 1/3 C sugar
  • 1 C butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 5 -5 1/2 cups flour

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  • 5 C powdered sugar
  • 1/4 C milk (preferably 2% reduced fat), room temperature
  • 8 TBSP butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • few drops of food coloring (optional)

Kitchen Tools:

  • Stand mixer with paddle attachment or electric hand mixer
  • fine mesh sieve and fork (sifter)
  • cookie sheet
  • cup with circle rim or circle cookie cutter

STEP 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit

STEP 2: Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla in stand mixer, or with electric hand mixer, for 3-5 minutes.

STEP 3: Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy, approximately 2-3 minutes.

STEP 4: Mix soda and sour cream and add to creamed mixture.

STEP 5: Sift together baking powder and flour and blend into mixture until dough begins to take shape. Start mixing at a low speed and work your way up to high. Dough should be easy to handle and roll out.

STEP 6: On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to approximately 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. This is a soft dough that spreads slightly when baked, so does not work well with very intricate cookie shapes.

STEP 7: Bake on an uncreased cookie sheet for 9 minutes. Make sure they are about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

STEP 8: While cookies are cooling, make your buttercream frosting. Add half the powdered sugar (2 1/2 cups), milk, butter, and vanilla to your mixing bowl. Use stand mixer or electric hand mixer and beat for 5 minutes. Start at lowest speed so that your powdered sugar doesn’t explode out. Work your way up to high speed.

STEP 9: Add the rest of your powdered sugar and beat for an additional 5 minutes. Mix in food coloring if you are using.

STEP 10: Frost and decorate your cookies!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Healthy Chocolate Shake

Sometimes we can be a little healthier and use natural sugar. Not often. But sometimes. This is one of those times and with a perfect recipe to make delicious chocolate shakes!

We make this shake almost daily. It’s a perfect mid-morning pick-me-up. The adult additions are optional, but HIGHLY recommended. I run on caffeine. That may not sound healthy, but this is a no judgement zone.

We typically eyeball the ingredients and add them straight to the blender to save on dishes. Feel free to change up the ingredients to your liking. Maybe more chocolate, less honey, more almond butter, less almond milk. Watch this video to see how we make it.

Ingredients to Prepare:

  • 1/4 C Cacao Powder (or cocoa powder or chocolate syrup)
  • 1/4 C Almond Butter (any nut butter will work)
  • 3 TBSP Honey
  • 1 C Almond Milk (any milk will work)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Bananas
  • 4-5 C of ice

Adult Additions:

  • 2 TBSP Cacao Nibs
  • 2-3 shots of cooled espresso
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Equipment Needed:

  • Blender

STEP 1: Add ingredients and blend. Pour out kid shakes.

STEP 2: Add adult additions if wanted. Pour out adult shakes.

STEP 3: Everyone enjoy and feel good about their healthy choices.

Rating: 1 out of 5.