Jena Derman jello cake

Food, but make it fashion!

Feast your eyes on these mesmerizing gelatin cakes by Jena Derman. I found this dessert in Food and Wine and could not get over how a food that's so basic could transform into art.

She uses organic fruit purees for color, and a metal leaf pastry tip to inject petals, made of condensed milk and coconut water. I wish I had the patience to try my hand at something so stunning, but I know my own limits.

dalgona coffee

Like many of us have done during this pandemic, she went down the rabbit hole of online videos and discovered a new hobby. As a collective, we've taken on baking bread, dalgona coffee and other viral trends. This is our first true winter with the pandemic, and if we don't embark on some distractions, we'll be missing out on delicious productivity.

Hot cocoa bombs are the thing that piqued my interest. I ordered a silicone mold, and am planning a sweet Valentine's Day. My son and I are going to make custom hot cocoa bombs and give them away to friends.

gourmet Jell-o shots

In this "new normal," where most of our meals are at home and dishes pile to the ceiling within minutes, let's make those dishes worth it. While I may not have the motivation to attempt gelatin cakes, I'm playing with the idea of gourmet Jello-shots. These elegant and layered concoctions are a far cry from what I was served at frat parties, and I loved those too!

Whether it's one of those fast-paced Instagram recipe videos that feature guilty pleasures, or the carrot bacon trend, try something new. Fill these long winter nights with tasty experiements to shake it up. And don't forget to share it with us!

January 17, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
grain bowl soup

Grain bowls: Get creative with what you have!

Anyone close to me knows that I have an obsession with CAVA. They're like Chipotle, but with actual spices. They make it pop. 

I thought that my passion for grain bowls was a recent phenomenon. But if I think about it, it began in childhood. My mother was introduced to Vietnamese food in the 80s, and got hooked on spring rolls. If pho was treatment for a winter cold, then bun, or vermicelli bowls, were a fresh summertime respite from the heat.

It was the whole package: 

  • Grain: rice vermicelli noodles
  • Vegetables: crunchy lettuce, bean sprouts, fresh torn basil, cilantro and pickled daikon and carrots
  • Protein: Char-broiled meat, crushed peanuts

When I lived in L.A., I had a couple of Korean roommates. They introduced me to Korean food like bibimbap, their version of the grain bowl. In Honolulu, I frequented a food truck that sold fresh poke bowls on the North Shore. And pictued below is a trashy but delicious mac and cheese bowl - a cure-all for hangovers.

mac and cheese bowl

Grain bowls are a perfect meal: Convenient, colorful and complete. Have you ever tried to whip up one up at home? You can use whatever you have in the kitchen, and it's easier than you think. As long as the flavors are complimentary, you can shake it up using everyday items! Presentation is a fun component as well, and you'll get creative slicing up colorful toppings.

I love a good theme, so below I've listed some "starter" bowls; safe combiations that will be the gateway drug for even more exciting iterations: 

Vegan: Quinoa, grilled zucchini, raw shredded carrots, chick peas and spring onions. Drizzle with tahina and a squeeze of lemon

Mexican: Spanish rice, avocados, grilled bell peppers, jalapenos, pork carnitas, crumbled cojita and topped with salsa

Mediterranean: Saffron rice, grilled lemon chicken, chopped cilantro, pine nuts, romaine, crumbled feta and topped with a dollop of hummus 

Chinese: Cold noodles, sesame chicken, grilled egglant, sauteed bok choy, sesame seeds and a few dashes of soy sauce

rice vermicelli bowl

As with many of my posts, I encouage you to have fun. Mix and match. Invent new toppings. And of course, share your successful experiemts with us on the socials - we can't wait to see your creativity!

January 08, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
lettuce wrap tacos

2021: A fresh start

The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve is ...weird. It's this state of limbo where it feels like the holidays but also doesn't. You shuffle around the house unsure of what day it is, gobbling up the sweets you were gifted.

When all is put away, your home feels cleaner. It's a new year and a fresh start. And you need it, because no matter how heartwarming the holidays intend to be, it leaves most of us exhausted. 

eating your colors

 

This isn't so much about resolutions as it is about detoxing, whether from eggnog or problematic family members.  If food is medicine, then a fresh take on the foods we love would be a great way to kick off 2021.

Tweaking your leftover traditions

We're big on tacos, often taking leftover steak or shrimp and stuffing them between grilled corn totillas. But my newest obsession is swapping tortillas for butter lettuce. Butter lettuce gives a fresh crunch, a clean taste and doesn't break as easily as a corn tortilla.

Rule of thumb? Eat your colors! The photo (pitcured top) features leftover turkey topped with kumquats, which are in season and offer a sweet and sour crunch. Highy recommended! Just add salsa or hot sauce, and you have a meal. 

A more meaningful breakfast

chia seed parfait

Another tweak that makes a difference is adding a little life to your breakfast. Many times we scarf down a less-than-substantial meal in a rush. But sugar crashes seem to hurt more on winter mornings, and adding protein keeps you satisfied longer. Just toss some fresh blueberries and almond slices into your cereal. Sprinke flax seeds and coconut into your oatmeal. Chia seeds take on a cool texture in your cottage cheese and yogurt. 

Have fun playing with textures and flavor

Try noodles made from zucchini or spaghetti squash, with a zezty sauce to reward yourself. A little extra butter, garlic and shaved parmesan goes a long way.

Mix and match different foods for texture and color. Mandarin oranges and edamame and great together, tossed with chopped walnuts and a squeeze of lemon. Try to mimic a grain bowl from your favorite restaurant. I like to toss quinoa with a light vinaigrette and top with beets, goat cheese, arugula and cubed cucumber. 

Little tweaks like this take the pressure off of resolutions, diets and, based on what I've been seeing, intermittent fasting. I applaud whatever health journey people are on. My own journey includes chocolate cake. Just remember to eat your colors, don't be afraid to experiment with flavor and enjoy this cleaner, more energetic version of yourself.

Happy 2021!

family new year hike

 

 

 

 

January 03, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
New Year's Eve at home

Add a little sparkle to your low-key NYE

If ever there was a year to celebrate the end of, that year would be 2020. New Year's Eve isn't just a way to celebate better days ahead, but a chance to commend ourselves for pulling through all of the challenges in creative ways. We've got grit!

I know what you're thinking. The global pandemic has made celebrating impossible. Nonsense! Sure, I won't be sucked into a tight sequined dress and teetering on heels in a packed room, then waiting an hour for a Lyft. But how fun was that really?

Those New Year's traditions of yore will be back before you know it, so let's put the comfort in "comfort and joy" and make the most of it in an intimate, cozy setting. 2020 was no ordinary year, so here are some tips to take everything up a notch. Ladles and Linens has you covered!

new year's 2020

Put the yoga pants down

Save that staple for every other day, and try a new kind of confortable. Men, put on a cashmere sweater and some forgiving jeans. Ladies, slip on a cotton dress and warm tights. Unlike stilettos, a sparkly necklace and ruby red lips won't hurt one bit. Rising to the occasion and looking polished will elevate your mood.  

Get bubbly (even if chemically induced)

Buy more Champagne than you think you'll need. An extra glass or two won't hurt. Not as much as home-schooling while maintaining a full-time job. Which is exactly why you deserve that extra glass. Or two. Or...let's just say no one should be judging.

Gourmet all the way

Trade pot roast for prime rib, tilapia for scallops. Steam some mussels and shave some truffles. In short, treat yourself. You deserve it.

oyster platter

Sparkle and shine

Trot out the china and the Champgne flutes. If your meal's going to be elevated, so should the plateware. Light the good candles and bring in a bundle of fresh flowers. 

girls playing poker

Play

Make a silly photo booth to commemorate the year, and spread the cheer on the socials, for friends and family you would have normally been with. Whether you wear masks, or feaure a background that says "We survived 2020," have fun with it. Bust out the board games or set up a good game of poker. 

Reflect

Write down all the good things that came from this year. Whether it was a new hobby you picked up in quarantine, or the extra quality time with your furry friends. Take everything you wrote and fasten them to a cork board, or string them up, attaching the notes with clothes hangers. Remember: if you look for the good, you'll always find it.

 Happy New Year!

December 27, 2020 by Fayeruz Regan
latke topping ideas

You'll like these a latke!

Everyone loves potatoes. Everyone loves pancakes. So what's not to love about potato pancakes? 

My son learned about Hanukkah in virtual school, but his only takeaway were the latkes. "They're pancakes made out of potaoes!" he said, wide-eyed. 'Tis the season, so we shredded up some potatoes and gave it a shot. It was a success! 

latke

 

We got our recipe from the Joy of Cooking book. It's a classic cookbook, and a definitive guide for any recipe you would want to look up. In the past month, we've referenced  latkes, cream of asparagus soup and pumpkin pie cheesecake - all impeccable. But I digress...

Aside from latkes being a solid comfort food on their own, you can also consider them a blank slate for delicious toppings. And if you know me, you know I love a good theme. Try these variations:

  • The Russian: Sour cream and caviar
  • The Nosh: Smoked salmon and whipped cream cheese
  • The Sonoma: Gogonzola cheese and brandied fruit, such as figs or pears
  • The Jock: Melted cheese, sour cream, chives and bacon bits
  • The Piedmont: Truffle oil (white or black truffles) and black pepper

The possibilities are endless. Hanukkah may be over, but that shouldn't stop you. Have a nosh, and happy holidays!!

December 20, 2020 by Fayeruz Regan
holiday sangria

Keep it festive with these holiday cocktails

Whether you're toasting on New Year's Eve or hiding from a political debate in your in-laws' garage, one thing is for certain: cocktails make everything better. A festive drink with seasonal flavors heightens the mood, and with 2020 nearing an end, it's not too soon to start celebrating!

Here are a few of my top picks:

creamy eggnog recipe

Eggnog: Give this creamy classic a kick with with bourbon and rum!

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 fluid ounces bourbon
  • 1 1/4 fluid ounces dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  • With a stand mixer, beat together the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar until the yolks lighten in color and the sugar is dissolved. Add milk, cream, bourbon, rum, and nutmeg, then stir to combine. 
  • Place in a separate bowl and set aside.
  • Put the egg whites in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. While the mixer is still running, gradually add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve.
citrus cardamom gin fizz

    Citrus & Cardamom Gin Fizz - Woodsy, Sparkly and worth the prep! 

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz rosemary syrup (recipe below)
    • 3 oz cardamom-infused gin (recipe below)
    • 1/2 cup grapefruit juice
    • Splash of prosecco, chilled
    • Rosemary sprigs

    Directions:

    • To make the cardamom gin, simply combine gin and whole cardamom pods in a jar, and let sit for about 24 hours. The gin will soak up the cardamom flavor. Then, strain out the pods and your infused gin is ready to go!
    • Simple syrup is exactly as it's described: simple. The ratio for sugar to water  is 1:1 - equal parts. Just pop a couple of rosemary sprigs into the sugar and water as they simmer. When the syrup is done, strain out the rosemary and you’ve got a nice woodsy, wintery simple syrup.
    • Shake up some ice in a cocktail shaker.
    • Pour in the rosemary syrup, gin and grapefruit juice. Shake vigorously for around 30 seconds. Give it that frothy, gin fizz look.
    • Strain the cocktail into a glass filled with fresh ice.
    • Top with a splash of prosecco, a sprig of rosemary, et voila!

      Snow Falling Cocktail - A refreshing peppermint dream - by none other than Ladles' own Sarah!

      Head on over to the Ladles and Linens Cooking School on Facebook, and watch her whip up a batch. Even better, grab the ingredients ahead of time, and make the drink in real time with the video.

      The fact that we've made it this far with all the curveballs 2020 threw at us, really says something. When I toast, it may be for better days ahead, but it will also be a pat on the back. We should all be proud of our preserverence in these uncertain times. Cheers!

      December 13, 2020 by Fayeruz Regan
      merry and bright

      Silver lining, made of tinsel

      When I was a child, we had Christmas carolers in our neighborhood. When they sang, they stared straight at me. The eye contact was more excruciating than when people sang happy birthday. To avoid it, I threw on a coat and joined them. My parents noticed familiar faces in the crowd and waved goodbye, assured I'd be safe.

      It was wonderful. I stayed out late, fueled by cookies and hot cocoa. Looking back on it, it seems like another world. Do people even carol anymore?

      Christmas car

      I think we've all romanticized the idea of Christmas, and much like Clark Griswold, our ideas of what it should be don't align with our reality. Blame it on Bing Crosby and Hallmark movies, but I've got a touch of Griswolditis. I want to sing carols around the piano, but people tend to surround the TV instead. By the end of the day, I seem to have memorized all the offers at the local car dealerships, blaring at a ridiculous volume. Sledding and snowball fights are fun, but ears are muffled by headphones, faces buried in gaming consoles. With screaming kids, political headbutting and everything in between, the chaos dulls the merriment. 

      The current pandemic has changed the way many of us will be celebrating this year. Smaller groups will be gathering, and many are lamenting the loss of their traditions. But what if 2020 serves as a year of reflection? Were the traditions meaningful, or just what we're used to? Maybe your aunt serves cheap wine and your in-laws get overly-competitive about presents with brand names.

      Consider a smaller gathering a chance to try all the things you've wanted to do but were bound by obligation. Here are some silver linings and new things to try:

      Pajamas all day: Ever see this tradition and want to try it, but were bound by well-dressed relatives? Now is your chance!

      Yorkshire pudding and roast beed

      The big taste test:  This holiday, treat yourself to something more elaborate! With a smaller group, you have less stress, more time, and can play around with new recipes. I adore Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, a traditional English dish for the holidays. Or try the Italian tradition of Feast of the Seven Fishes. Bon appetit!

      Think about it: If you stay home with your immediate family, you're likely surrounded by people with like-minded political views. Exhale.

      Stressed spelled backwards: Sick of your aunt's soggy pumpkin pie? Buck tradition with exciting new recipes. Your home will smell like warm sugar if you try baking pastries. You can stir up a batch of homemade ice cream, with chocolate and crushed candy canes.

      chocolate peppermint ice cream

       

      Time travel: Are you used to sitting on jammed freeways over the holidays? By staying home, or even in town, the gift of time has been handed to you. Do something special with it. Watch It's a Wonderful Life or do a virtual yoga class to work off that peppermint ice cream. 

      Games: Now that you're in a small group, you have time for the intimate board games, like Scrabble, which has a four player max. You can play Cards Against Humanity without offending your staunch uncle Carl. An intimate game of chess goes well with a slice of chess pie!

      As you plan your 2020 holiday, remember that if you look for the good in things, you'll always find it. It's the same if you look for the bad in things, so I'd stick with the silver lining.

      I hope you find a new family tradition that suits you better than an old one. I hope you can share this tradition with extended family next year. Most of all, I hope you stay safe and healthy this holiday season. .  

       

       

      December 06, 2020 by Fayeruz Regan
      gourmet hot chocolate

      How to make hot cocoa an art form

      Every food blog will be posting this weekend on creative ways to repurpose your Thanksgiving leftovers. I stand by my turkey jerky post, though I should mention that making turkey stock with the leftover bones comes in handy all year long.

      But I digress. I'm looking past Thanksgiving and into the holiday season, where hot chocolate is usually a pack of powder, mixed with water and microwaved. I'm a firm believer that if you are going to allow yourself a guilty pleasure, make it worth it!

      hot cocoa powder

       

      For starters, you can always make the drink more rich by avoiding water altogether. Use milk, whether whole milk, or a plant-based option like oat milk. Second, you can buy a chocolate powder that's more decadent than Swiss Miss. Ladles and Linens is carrying a Mexican hot chcolate with a hint of vanilla that comes with its own whisk. Lastly, try cooking the hot cocoa on the stove, where instead of zapping it, you can stir (and sample!) your custom creation over natural heat. 

      The possibilities are endless. Here are some fun combinations:

      marshmallows in the microwave

      The Hot Mess

      After you make hot cocoa on the stove, pour into a mug and place a giant marshmallow on top. Microwave until it expands to a ridicuous size, then place it on the counter. While the marshmallow is still hot and inflated, sprinkle on some Lucky Charms-style marshmallows.

      Cocoa Loco

      Mexican hot chocolate calls for hints of vanilla and cinnamon. Ladles has a delicious option, but you can go homemade by mixing in a drop of vanilla extract. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle cinnamon on top. 

      hot cocoa toppings

      Peppermint

      Add some mint leaves into a tea ball infuser, and dip into your hot cocoa as it simmers on the stove. Or just use mint tea. Remove after about a minute, then stir the mix with a candy cane, which you can hook into the mug before serving. It makes a great presentation. But before you do, smash the end of the candy cane to get crunchy little bits. Fill the top of the mug with whipped cream, then sprinkle the candy cane bits on top.

      These flavor combinations are just the tip of the iceberg, and will likely be the gateway drug to other delicious experiments. Happy holidays!

       

       

       

      November 28, 2020 by Fayeruz Regan
      thanksgiving decor

      Happy Thanksgiving from Ladles and Linens!

      For many of us, Thanksgiving will look a little different this year. Smaller groups will be gathering, in an effort to ensure that close friends and family stay healthy through the holidays. 

      family at the historric piper tavern

       

      We all have traditions that we have come to love. We usually make a trip to Bucks County, PA where, on Black Friday, we enjoy 75 cent martinis at the historic Piper Tavern (George Washington at there!) and go vintage shopping at a place where you can fill a bag for $5. The above photo is of my family, already a couple of martinis in. Unfortuntely, we have canceled the trip this year and are hunkering down at home.

      Perhaps we can consider a smaller holiday feast a blessing. No sitting on packed freeways. Less pressure to cook mass amounts of food. A chance to experiment with new side dishes. More time to deck the halls.

      ladles and linens holiday

      I stopped by Ladles and Linens last night to do a bit of holiday shopping, and the place is positively stocked with all things merry and bright. From mercury glass-style ornaments to kitchen gadgets and handsome Le Creuset cookware to help you prepare a feast, it's a one stop shop. 

      2020 has been a roller coaster ride, and pressing pause on a holiday tradition doesn't make it easier. But a delicious meal with those closest to us is still a beautiful thing.

      So treat yourself to something festive, something that will make holiday prep an even bigger pleasure. Remember to take note and share what you are thankful for. In a global pandemic, finding points of light to help us feel gratitude is even more important. And who knows? With all this freedom to experiment, we may even start some brand new traditions. 

      butternut squash soup

      This soup is life-affirming

      Soup is hygge in a bowl, and warms you from the inside out. But this soup...this soup is life-affirming. One sip and your shoulders drop, releasing tension. You will sink into your chair. You will close your eyes just to taste it better. It's that kind of soup.

      butternut squash

      It's coconut curry butternut squash soup and I have yet to make a cute, shorter name for it. Then again, the names of quality dishes always seem to get longer and longer. Seriously. Look at this recipe name in Food & Wine, and it's just a cocktail!

      But I digress. Get ready for the warm and fuzzy. This recipe is a snap. 

      butternut squash soup ingredients

      Ingredients:

      • 1 large butternut squash
      • 1 large onion (or 3 shallots)
      • 1/8 cup butter
      • 1 can of coconut milk
      • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
      • 2 teaspooons of curry powder (to start - add to taste)
      • 1 teaspoon of salt (to start - add to taste)
      • Black pepper to taste
      shallots in butter

       

      Instructions:

      • Peel squash
      • Slice it in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds
      • Chop into cubes (any size)
      • Drop into boiling salt water and cook until a fork can smoothly slide into a cube
      • While the squash is cooking, dice onions and cook them in butter until translucent, put aside
      • Drain sqash cubes through a strainer
      • Once drained, place them back into the pot
      • Add in all of the other ingredients, including pan of onions with butter
      • Use an immersion blender to smooth the contents into a puree
      • Season to taste

      And there you have it!  If you don't have an immersion blender, you can do the same thing in a blender or Vitamix. But the result will be creamy, decadent, and delicious. Fall colors will be more vibrant, and you may have just found a new side dish for Thanksgiving.

      Bon appetit!

       

       

       

      November 14, 2020 by Fayeruz Regan