My Valentine Red Velvet Cake

Valentine Red Velvet Cake

Kids had few days off school as part of their winter break and instead of taking them to a ski vacation we flew to sunny Dubai and stayed at one of our favorite resort Atlantis the Palm, where kids had an amazing time on the beach with mommy (myself hihihi)  and friends. We’re lucky to have so many friends living in Dubai, which always makes of our vacation an unforgettable one.

Back to my kitchen and to my baking passion, an old recipe of a red velvet cake shouted at me across the room to urgently make it; I was so powerless over its lusciousness and didn’t hesitate for a second.

I usually prefer dry cakes without any frosting on, but this combination of red velvet cake and vanilla cream cheese frosting is gorgeous and I’m sure once you try it you will stay hooked.

I had fun writing words with my children to top each slice of the cake, we wrote much more than we needed as some of them got broken while peeling them off the paper, but no one minded eating an extra piece of chocolate, they clearly have a sweet tooth like mommy.

Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp red food coloring
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 450g / 16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups icing sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark chocolate to make the toppers (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 185°C. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla.

Mix together cocoa powder and food coloring to form a paste and add it to the egg mixture.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture, gradually to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk, beat until well incorporated, making sure to scrape down the bottom of the bowl with a spatula.

Mix baking soda and vinegar together and add.

Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake 30-40 minutes, until cake springs back when gently pressed with finger.

Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Whisk together cream cheese and butter until smooth.

Add, sugar, vanilla and salt and beat on medium-high speed until well combined.

Spread the cream cheese over the top of one of the cakes and on top (bottom up). Now spread the remaining cream cheese to cover the cakes from all sides, and decorate if desired.

To make the toppers: Melt chocolate over a bain-marie and fill it in a squeeze bottle or a piping bag. Write words (like love, kisses, hugs, xoxo, valentine) on a wax paper and wait few minutes to cool. Once the chocolate is hard, peel it off the paper and insert it gently in the cream.

Caramelized Onions Tartelettes with Black Olives

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I baked many tartelettes during the holidays some sweet and others savory. I involved caramelized onions with tarts, poultry and oriental recipes, it always adds to my meals an intense, roasty, lightly sweet taste close to jazz.

When onions are cooked slowly, all the natural sugars in, caramelize, without the slight addition of sugar.

Mini tarts are bite-sized and enticing. They work as an appetizer on a cocktail party or a casual gathering with friends. The puff pastry is crisp and each tart is carved with love.

I sometimes make two batches; one with feta and olives and the other with goat cheese and figs. Once you know how to make you tart shells an endless variety is found on the blogosphere. Enjoy the recipe below with friends or relatives and hope it results with echoes of smiles and happy bellies.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 250g / 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • ¼ cup feta, crumbled
  • ¼ cup black olives, pitted and halved

Preparation

  1. Melt butter with oil in a skillet over low-medium heat. Add onions and thyme, and cook (without stirring) 7-10 minutes, or until onions are golden.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry, and cut out 7cms circles and place onto the baking dish. Pierce dough with a fork.
  4. Spoon feta cheese in the center of each circle. Top it with onions. Decorate with olives.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the dough starts to rise and turn golden color.

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

IMG_4570MayaOryan

Panzanella salad is one that I remember to prepare when I have a slightly stale French loaf. I love home-made croutons, and when flavored with garlic or cheese I can nibble at that all day long.

This salad uses simple ingredients, like tomatoes, red onions, basil and a couple of cucumbers to add some crunch. The sharp taste of the dressing is a good match and will appreciatively contrast with the croutons.

Don’t forget to pull out your best quality extra-virgin olive to make it!

 

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup extra virgin oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 day old, loaf French baguette or Italian bread, cut in croutons size
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, diced
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or apple vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. Heat olive oil for 2 minutes, then drop the garlic inside and leave it to cool.
  3. Scatter the bread pieces on a baking tray and brush or drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the garlic olive oil. Place the baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake about 5-7 minutes on each side.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.
  5. To prepare the dressing; discard garlic cloves. Add vinegar, shallot sugar and salt to olive oil and whisk.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, basil and bread (croutons). Toss all in the dressing and serve immediately.

Apple Tart

AppleTartby Maya Oryan

It’s raining again and I’m kind of sick of it. I’m so happy I booked my vacation to sunny Dubai and this is my light at he end of the tunnel. By coincidence I read this morning an old post written by Ishita, a Dubai based blogger, whom I met 15 months ago at FBC. Her story conjured up a decade of tinsel memories lived in a city I still call my second home.

Back to the main task and through this mission of cooking from whatever available ingredients at home, I spot my red apples starting to loose glam. I thought, why not use my frozen piecrust and bake this no-fail easy recipe that anyone should give a try. The blend of cinnamon with fresh apples, tangy lemon, and vanilla ice cream makes of it a true delight in every spoonful.

And don’t forget each baked pie is a labor of love:)

Apple Tart

Ingredients

  • 250g/1 ready-rolled frozen shortcrust pastry (or pâte sablée), just thawed
  • 6 large red apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (more or less, to taste)
  • 3 tbsp limoncello (if not available lemon juice}
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Caramel sauce, to drizzle (optional)

 Preparation

  1. Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon and juice in a bowl and cover. Allow to macerate for half an hour.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  3. Roll out dough on floured surface. Transfer to pie dish. Trim excess and flute the sides. Pierce crust all over with a fork.
  4. Arrange apple slices decoratively over the crust –pour remaining syrup over all.
  5. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Drizzle with some caramel and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

To prepare your own crust try Martha Stewart short crust dough

Makhlouta

Food Styling by Maya Oryan - Photography by Serge Oryan

Food Styling by Maya Oryan – Photography by Serge Oryan

Mornings are the worst when one is sick. I still have the cold and waking up in the morning with a persistent cough and a very dry throat.

My beloved husband came to bed this morning, with some freshly squeezed OJ and told me: “I cooked Makhlouta for the kids and you”.

I guessed he was cooking Makhlouta as I heard the pressure cooker whistling;-) It’s still awesome news, no! He knew I was too sick to enter the kitchen. How sweet of him!

I love how he didn’t say lunch or dinner, he said Makhlouta his favorite meal -and mine- on a cold winter day like today.

Makhlouta is a Lebanese traditional stew that means “mixed” because it consists of a mixture of pulses and beans. There’s no straight recipe, it can be any kind of 5 to 7 pulses and grains. Open your kitchen cabinet or check your pantry and take a handful of every grain you have there.

I grew in the heart of the city and my parents never cooked Makhlouta for us, while my husband grew in a Lebanese village called Baskinta situated at an altitude of 1250 meters above sea level. The winter in Baskinta is cold and snowy, so many dishes are pulses based and Makhlouta is a meal you can eat twice a week. Now that we are married, anytime I ask him what to cook, his answer would be anything with whole grains.

Makhlouta is loaded with fibers and protein, its simple ingredients makes of it a very easy vegetarian thick soup.

This recipe uses pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, whole wheat, brown rice and cracked wheat but feel free to use any 5 to 6 variety of your choice like broad beans, white beans, red kidney bean. The most common is to use brown lentils, but this recipe uses a mix of 3 colors lentils as we had an organic mix in our pantry.

NOT ONLY HE COOKED FOR ME, BUT HE ALSO TOOK THIS BEAUTIFUL, MOUTH-WATERING PHOTO! SERGE YOU’RE A TREASURE!

Makhlouta

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup mixed 3 colors lentils, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup brown rice, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup Burghul or cracked wheat, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup whole wheat
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 cup pinto beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked in water overnight
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin (optional)
  • Extra virgin Olive oil, to drizzle

 Preparation

  1. Drain and rinse the beans and the chickpeas. Place it in a pressure cook, cover with water and let cook.
  2. In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the onion until wilt and brown.
  3. Add lentils, rice, burghul, whole wheat and water and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the cooked beans and chickpeas, with their water, stir in tomato paste. Season with salt, and cumin if desired, and simmer until everything is tender.
  5. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

Tip 1: If you’re not using a pressure cook, place the beans in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer. Let it cook until tender; this might take a little over an hour, depends on how fresh are the dried beans.

Tip 2: While soaking the beans, you may rinse and change the water after a couple of hours, if you want. Use a lot of water as the beans will grow in size and volume.

 

Thai Coconut Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Noodles

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It has been really cold outside the last couple of days; winter has definitely arrived, temperature has dropped, and the wind is whipping up rain, thunder and grey sky.

Since I have the cold, I feel that there’s nothing better than cocooning inside my home and cozying up to the fireplace while sipping home made hot chocolate or a hearty warm soup.

Being sick is not fun especially when your nose is so congested that all food seems tasteless. I was craving for spicy meals and intense flavors when this recipe came to my mind.

It was ready in no time mostly because I had all the ingredients available. I love this soup, it’s creamy, flavorful and easy to prepare. Add chicken and it will become a complete meal.

Enjoy!

Thai Coconut Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Noodles

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 thumbed-size piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced (green part only)
  • ½ cup shiitake mushrooms fresh or in a jar, sliced
  • 100g noodles
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation

  1. Heat oil and cook ginger and curry paste for 1 minute.
  2. Add chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk, carrots, green onions and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add noodles and cook for further 2 minutes. Stir in lime juice and season with salt. Serve hot.

Creamy Hot Chocolate With Cinnamon

Hot Chocolate by Maya Oryan

My Christmas shopping started in Paris, I was there just 2 weeks before Christmas, it was the perfect time of the year to visit the city and enjoy its chic boutiques, festive decorations and fairy lights.

I stayed in the 16th arrondissement, not too far from Trocadero and Eiffel tower, despite the cold weather I made sure to walk every day outside and take a hot chocolate break in one of the Parisian gourmet cafés to warm my hands and satisfy my taste buds.

Paris is where the best hot chocolate is found! Enriched with a little cream or milk, Parisian hot chocolate is served thick, velvety and rich. The luxury comes from the excellent quality chocolate concoctions they add.

Cocoa contains flavonoids, antioxidant-rich pigments that relax blood vessels and promote cardiovascular health, but also if consumed in large quantities it can expand my waistline, therefore I like to flavor my drink with cinnamon or vanilla and drink it in an espresso-size cup.

Traveling with my lifetime friend Nidal!!

Time for a selfie with my lifetime friend Nidal!!

Creamy Hot Chocolate With Cinnamon 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or cow milk)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon (or more)
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup 70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt (preferably fleur de sel)

Preparation

  1. Bring milk and cinnamon to a boil. Let simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in vigorously cocoa powder, chocolate, sugar and salt, until mixture is frothy.
  3. Divide among 2 mugs and garnish with mini marshmallows or cinnamon sticks if desired.