Making the most of strawberry season

Making the most of strawberry season

There is something sublime about biting into a ripe strawberry on a hot summer's day. Some of us are going strawberry picking. Others (Ladles' Sarah and I) opted for a three-course lunch at The Broken Tulip in Carytown, where we were served this decadent dessert (pictured above).

Sarah Nicholas at The Broken Tulip

It has reignited my appreciation for strawberries. Below are some ways we can make the most of them...

A berry delicious cocktail

Father's Day is next weekend (did you see our gift guide?) and a perfect excuse to spoil him with a seasonal cocktail. Sarah Nicholas of Ladles & Linens invented a refreshing concoction involving fresh strawberries and Prosecco called Rubbing Elbows. "I created this cocktail during quarantine, when I lovingly called it 'The Fiesty Homeschooler.' Time for a name change, thank goodness!" she says.

Get the recipe, and overall summer entertaining ideas right here, where she wrote a wonderful article for Home magazine. 

Writer Fayeruz Regan enjoys a summer cocktail

Strawberry pops are tops

I cannot tell you enough how useful the popsicle molds are at Ladles and Linens. They are an endless source of joy when the sun is scorching and listless kids are looking for a project. The popsicles are healthier and much more inventive than most options. 

This recipe from the People's Pops cookbook calls for fresh strawberries, and is a favorite in our household.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Instructions:

  • Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir a few times, until the sugar dissolves. Then set aside to cool.
  • Puree the strawberries in a food processor, then transfer the berries to a big bowl or measuring pitcher, then add ¾ cups of the cooled sugar mixture, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. At the end, pour in the heavy cream, but do not mix.
  • Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds, leaving a bit of room at the top for expansion. Insert the sticks and freeze the popsicles until they are solid, 4-5 hours. 

Keep it simple

Strawberries can also compliment a regular meal. The sweet acidity is perfect for salads. Try adding chopped strawberies into a salad with goat cheese, walnuts and a balsamc viniagrette. It will taste like summer!

chocolate dipped strawberries

Did you know that you could double the shelf life of your strawberry, just by dipping it in melted chocolate and refrigerating it? You're welcome. 

Strawberries are a great topping for all things breakfast: pancakes, cereal, oatmeal and on a cream cheese bagel.

Enjoy the sweetness while it's in season!

 

June 13, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
father and son in the geat outdoors

Doting on Dad

I've heard many fathers complain that Father's Day doesn't have the same kind of magic that Mother's Day has. They have a point, but it isn't until recently men seemed to notice, or even care.

The modern man pulls his weight around the home. We're now living in a dual income world. This means home life is more precious for both parties. It involves teamwork, and men would like a little acknowledgement, thankyouverymuch.  

Man holding baby in restaurant

This Father's Day, give him something that says, "I didn't strangle you during the pandemic, and that must be something," without actually saying it. Here's a little something for every type of dad...

cocktail gft set

The Sophisticate

Some dads come home and crack open a beer. Others reach for the vermouth and swizzle sticks. If your father is the latter, let him luxuriate in his cocktail ritual with this gift set. And if he's in Lexington, these custom Lexington tumblers were made for him!

grilling

The Grillmaster

Whether he's flipping burgers or basting a bird, you won't find him in the kitchen. No, this father loves the primal mix of fire and meat, taking it back to the way of our ancestors. Reward this grillmaster for all he does with turners, bacon presses, thermometers and other tools made to amp up his grilling experience. 

vitamix is the best

The Health Nut

You know this Dad. He has a gym in the basement, and his assortment of powders and supplements are taking up precious real estate in the kitchen. A Vitamix is the pinnacle to their health journey. Get the pinnacle: Vitamix Ascent Series. Juicing and smoothies will never be the same. The celery juice won't change, though. Sorry.

bloody mary mix

Macho Man

My husband, like my father (don't we always end up marrying our parents?) has an affinity for sauces so hot, that they come with droppers and warning labels. The look on his face makes me question whether or not he even enjoys it, but Ladles and Linens carries actual delicious hot sauce. Clarke and Hopkins have flavors that take you around the world, and their Chesapeake Bloody Mary mix delivers the swift kick they're looking for.  

We see you, dads! Happy Father's Day!

 

 

June 06, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Ring in summer with a build-your-own kabob bar!

Ring in summer with a build-your-own kabob bar!

It's Memorial Day Weekend. The pools are open, the fireflies are out and you're likely going to be grilling.

Writer Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally) was a reknown hostess and I'd cling to her advice about entertaining. Simple but effective, one tip was to have a fourth item at a dinner party. People often trot out the three-dish dinner: a protein, a carb and a vegetable. Ephron stessed the importance of a fourth item to make things feel more decadent, no matter how simple. It could be a bowl of cherries that gives your meal that little something extra.

build your own kabob bar

What's the big idea?

She also wrote that people love to play with their food; Korean BBQ, fondue, etc. The woman was right. So why not apply this when grilling? Make a build-your-own kabob bar!

The magic of a meal like this is that it involves minimal pre-party prep (if you are inclined to do this on a party scale - I always cook for plenty of leftovers at the very least). Aside from prepping the meat and veggies, you'd only need to whip up a side of rice! I mean, and dessert. Obviously.

Presentation matters

Your bar will feature a rainbow-like display of vegetables. The meats shouuld be separated a bit from the veggies with their own sets of tongs, to avoid cross-contamination. Woe betide the stray party guest that pops a tomato slice into their mouth, not knowing that they were grazed by meat tongs.

Remember too that presentation matters. Since the food is all separated by bowls and plates, bring out the good stuff. They will be less likely to break since they're stationary on the table. Or, go with a cheerful, color-infused palate. Whatever you do, make it great.

basting a kabob

Let's get basted

Have a basting brush at the end of the table, dipped into a jar of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Guests can brush their creations before handing their skewers to the grillmaster. If a vegetarian is invited over, have a separate jar for them. And if you really want to have fun, you can display some spices and make thematic suggestions for your guests on a little chalkboard. I'm a sucker for a theme.

Fun kabob themes

The Italian Job: Italian sausage, green peppers, tomatoes, onions and zucchini, with Italian seasoning

The All-American: Steak, tomatoes, potatoes (pre-cooked) and onions, with BBQ sauce

The Chesapeake: Shrimp, onions, yellow squash and tomatoes with Old Bay seasoning

You can use these as a jumping off point. Have fun with it - play with your food. And happy Memorial Day!

 

May 29, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Fayeruz Regan, hostess

Five outdoor essentials for Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend means different traditions for different people. For some it's an annual beach trip, for others it's hosting a backyard barbecue. The one unifier between all celebrations, is that everyone is outside.

When decorating, we're always told to bring the outdoors in. Plants freshen the air and makes us feel less cooped up. But there's a lot to be said about bringing the indoors out. It extends the comfort of your home past your door, so you're not "roughing it" on your own property. 

These essentials will have you waxing and relaxing in comfort outside, no matter where you're spending Memorial Day Weekend!

painted poppy cocktail shaker

Shake it up!

Whatever you're drinking, it should be ice cold. Why not use a shaker that mimics the gorgeous May blooms that surround us? These painted poppy cocktail shakers infuse whimsy into any celebration!

silicone lids

Put a lid on it

Keep bugs out of your cocktails, chips and anything else on your beautiful spread. These silicone lids come in all shapes and sizes, feature a variety of cheery colors and are even oven safe up to 500 degrees!

melamine bicycle plates

Fashion plate

Whether you're packing a picnic or taking a boat out, no one wants to hear the rattle of precious porcelain plates. Melamine is lighter, practically unbreakable and perfect for transport. Not to mention that the selection at Ladles and Linens will bring cheer with its cheeky, splashy designs. 

grill surface thermometer

All Fired Up

Many of you will be out grilling, so why not bring the creature comforts of the kitchen to your little corner outside? In addition to turners, and sturdy aprons, this grill thermometer lets you know how hot your grill is. If you are as obsessed with cooking a ribeye to perfection as my husband is, this device will help you get it down to a science. 

stemless travel cups

Cup to snuff

Whether you're at the beach or a bonfire, these handy cups keep your drinks ice cold. Not to mention the lids keep your precious cargo from sloshing out. In ethereal designs that mimic nature, it will be hard to pick just one. Though you might need to, because they are almost sold out!

May 22, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Kifteh:  Zezty five-ingredient Palestinian meatballs

Kifteh: Zezty five-ingredient Palestinian meatballs

I love that CAVA restaurants have been popping up in Virginia. They have reignited my love for those zesty, tangy meatballs known as kifteh.

One warm spring evening, I was inspired to whip up a large batch. I invited a fellow Palestinian over to enjoy them with me, pictured below. If you live in Richmond, you may have heard of her; journalist Yasmine Jumaa from VPM (our NPR station). She brought homemade tiramisu for dessert, and it was so heavenly, it desrves its own blog post.

While my mother's kifteh had flavor that popped, I traded in the meatloaf-textured baked version for flame-broiled, in all its caramelized and juicy glory. And the recipe is simple!

What you'll need:

  • 3 lbs of ground beef (or if you're fancy, a beef/lamb mixture)
  • 1 head of parsley 
  • 1 large onion (or 2 small ones)
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Fayeruz and Robert Regan

Here's my husband and I, posing by grape leaves that I will soon be stuffing.

Instructions:

  • Chop up the parsley and onions finely (or use a food processor)
  • Toss all ingredients into a large mixing bowl
  • Mix and fold by hand
  • I usually add more nutmeg, allspice, salt and pepper at this point, by tasting a tiny dot of the meat to ensure it pops with flavor. Though our family has been testing it this way for hundreds of years, I understand raw meat may make people uncomfortable. It's not carpaccio! In his case, you can toss a tiny sample on a heated skillet for a quick taste test.
  • Roll mixture into oblong meatballs - the width of a kabob and the length of your index finger
  • Flame broil on the grill until the outside has a slight crunch and the onions are caramelized
  • Test to ensure the insides are still juicy, not dry
  • Remove from heat

Though these meatballs can accompany any meal, you can enjoy them in a traditional way too. Palestinians eat them with warm pita, hummus and a side of tabbouleh. Kifteh is also great atop a file of buttery rice. Then again, what isn't?

homemade tiramisu

palestinian tattoo

May 16, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Homemade kimchi in mason jars

Fermented & fabulous: Three foods that are wonders for your health

Food is medicine, and many people who don't remember this, end up eating medicine like food. 

I've never been one to do shots of wheatgrass, or order a turmeric latte when there's a perfectly good espresso option on the menu. But it's undeniable that what we put into our bodies will dicatate our health. We just need to find what's delicious. Note: It's not wheatgrass.

prepping  a batch of kimchi

 

Instead of popping Tums, Maalox, and the plethora of daily prescribed medications that help us to digest, we can eat foods that aid in digestion. Drugs create unnecessary side effects and prescription costs, whereas certain fermented foods can get rid of bloating, add good bacteria to your gut and flush toxins from your liver.

Lately, my husband's been making giant batches of kimchi, storing them in rows of mason jars in the fridge. I get past my anger at how much space (!) it's taking, because it's the best kimchi I've ever had (and trust me, I get around). Also, it's a workhorse in the health department.  Note in the photo above and below - he is elbow deep! 

homemade kimchi recipe

Here are three delicious foods that work wonders for digestion:

Kimchi

I guess you saw this coming. This Korean staple is eaten with nearly every meal and aids digestion, lowers insulin levels and reduces blood pressure. And it's tasty! Add zest to your ramen bowl with a serving of kimchi. Use it as a hot dog topping in place of sauerkraut (which is also great for digestion). Or make a Korean-style grain bowl with rice, seaweed, kimchi and some sort of protein. Drizzle a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil, and it's perfect!

kimchi fried rice with bacon

And a great guillty pleasure? Kimchi fried rice with bacon, topped with scallions and a fried egg. Trust. 

Kombucha

This fermented tea is fizzy and tart, and available in stores everywhere. Made from either green or black tea, it comes in flavors such as sour cherry and cucumber mint. Kombucha helps to prevent liver toxicity, and test-tube studies have also found that kombucha could help induce cancer cell death and block the spread of cancer cells.

probiotic yogurt parfait

Probiotic yogurt

It tastes like regular yogurt, but has beneficial bacteia for your gut, increases bone density and reduces blood pressure. There are so many ways to enjoy probiotic yogurt. Use it as a base for dips, or to thicken up a salad dressing. 

For a fresh cucumber salad, chop up a cucumber and toss with probiotic yogurt, fresh dill, chopped garlic and salt. It's refreshing, and flushes excess water from your body.

Or layer a parfait with probiotic yogurt, fresh fruit and granola. Grape Nuts work in place of granola as well! For extra protein to keep you satisfied longer, mix in some chopped nuts, flax seeds or chia seeds!

These are just three foods of many that aid in digestion. Use these as a jumping off point, but know that they're in good company, along with miso, sauerkraut, kefir and more!

May 09, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Outdoor living for the win

Outdoor living for the win

On Thursday night, my friend Carla texted a few friends that she hadn't seen in over a year. "Dinner tomorrow night in my back yard?'" Within minutes she got a resounding YES from the group, myself included.

 

Pre-pandemic (when the above photo was taken), our group had to make plans at least two weeks out. As pretentious as it sounds, I couldn't lock in anything before consulting my social calendar. And now, though we are all fully vaccinated, we've become so accustomed to staying in, that a day's notice was all we needed!

Though we'd been friends for 25 years, a little part of me wondered if it woud be awkward when our group got together. Do we hug? Where do we start? Has anyone else been asking themseves these questions?

backyard fire pit

Turns out, our group fell back in just like old times. It helped that they served Basil Hayden whiskey in elegant glasses, started a cozy fire and let us tour their new RV, where small groups ducked in for intimate conversation and to escape high winds that blasted pollen into our eyes.

Then there was the series of gourmet pizzas that Carla whipped up on the outdoor griddle. There was a feta and pepperoni pizza, sausage and veggie, and my very favorite: burrata, pesto and chicken sausage. She's an atist. 

pepperoni pizza

It's very clear that outdoor living is where it's at. For even if we are vaccinated, we're still warming up to the idea of closeness with others outside of our quaranteam. There are still variants of COVID that could affect us. But most of all, we feel the need to soak up every minute of this glorious, fleeting spring.

So I say invest in outdoor living. Build a fire pit, string some lights between the trees and dust off those chairs. Stock up on melamine plates that won't break and cloth napkins that won't blow away. Fire up the grill and serve veggie kabobs, hot dogs or ribeyes. Literally anything, because it doesn't matter. What matters most, is being together. 

girlfriends doing a mirror sefie

strawberry kale salad

tray of assorted cookies

May 02, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Fayeruz Regan in Cairo, Egypt

Hummus: Once you go homemade, you never go back

When I opened my lunch box in elementary school, classmates would eye it for strange cargo. My mother often packed Middle Eastern leftovers, and kids teased me for bringing in "weird" food like hummus.

I felt bad for the kids that teased me. They were the picky eaters that brought the same PBJ and carrot sticks daily, and I knew they were missing out. Ironically, these kids would grow up to shell our six bucks for a tiny tub of hummus at Whole Foods.

hummus

And they're still missing out. Hummus is one of those foods that have an astronomical retail cost, compared to the real price of making it yourself. And it requires zero cooking! When you make it fresh, it's not only delicious. You have so much more control over the flavor and consistency.

Here's how Palestinians make this basic staple:

Hummus ingredients

  • 1 can of chick peas 
  • A little chick pea can juice 
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of tahina sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt to taste
  • olive oil (optional)
  • paprika (optional)

Hummus recipe instructions

  • Drain the can of chick peas but save a little of the water in a bowl
  • Place all ingredients (except chick pea juice, olive oil and paprika) in a food processor and blend
  • If the mixture seems dry, add a little bit of chick pea juice
  • Taste, and if the mix needs a little zest, add extra lemon, salt or garlic
  • If you want to add more tahina to taste, feel free
  • If you'd like to make a better presentation, place the hummus in a beautiful bowl, take the back of a spoon and smooth it out
  • Make a small dip in the top of the hummus, and pour in a shallow puddle of olive oil
  • Dust with paprika for color

And that's it! Once you get comfortable making the zestiest hummus in town (I always use extra garlic) you can get comfortable playing with the recipe. Next time you're blending, you can experiment with a range of tasty add-ons. Just toss the below options into the food processor for flavor and color.

bowl of beetroot hummus

Delicious hummus variations

  • Roasted red pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Pine nuts
  • Bell peppers
  • Basil
  • Cooked peas
  • Jalapenos
  • Spring onions
  • Cooked carrots
  • Chives
  • Beets (pictured above)

 It's easy, it's fresh and it's healthy. Bon appetit, or as they say in Arabic, "Sahtein!"

April 25, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
mother's day gift guide

Mother's Day gift guide

I laugh when I think of my post from last year, when I mentioned that moms needed a little extra love because of the pandemic. Who knew that a year later we'd still be here, only with home schooling and dishes times three?

We're slowly coming out of the woods and should celebrate the scrappy, creative glue that's been holding it all together. Moms! Ladles and Linens is positively stocked with bright, cheerful gifts that go beyond pretty little things. They're practical and make life more delicious!

Melamine plate sets

melamine bicycle plate set

Outdoor entertaining is where it's at right now! Spring is in full bloom and you can enjoy these cheery melamine plate sets when grilling out back, picnics, and boat trips. You'll love the cheeky design, where the ruffled edges mimic paper plates.

picnic melamine plate set

Painted Lemon Cocktail Shaker

painted lemon cocktail shaker

With a adorably vintage design, this painted cocktail shaker looks as happy as that ice-cold gimlet will make her. 

Funny towels

funny mom towel

Make her smile whenever she reaches for the tea towel in the kitchen, which we know is multiple times a day! Ladles and Linens has a wonderful collection of tea towels that liven up every kitchen. Funny ones, floral print ones - even embroidered towels featuring her favorite dog breed!

Luxuriate

beekman beuty line

After a year in yoga pants and hair buns, mom deserves some pampering. Ladles and Linens carries an elegant line of Beekman beauty products. Featuring inventive scents and natural ingredients, she can enjoy lotions, soaps and decadent hand creams.

...and this is just a smattering of all that there is to offer. Whether you enjoy the convenience of shopping online, or wish to visit a store in this lovely spring weather, May 9th will be here before you know it. Happy Mother's Day!

 

April 18, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
pina coladas with umbrellas and straws

If you like pina coladas

Nowadays when my family can't find me, they'll check the back yard, were I'm usually on my hands and knees covered in dirt.

Until humidity finds its way back to Virginia, I never want to go inside. We're bicycling, eating al fresco, and recently invited friends over for an intimate dinner. 

slicing a pork tenderloin

An Instagram poll I created a week ago showed that over 60% of my friends had hidden social activities from social media for fear of being shamed. Myself included. For even if we followed the rules, it seemed there was aways someone more isolated than you who was more than willing to point this out.

people enjoying dinner al fresco

 

But now we're entering a grey area, where many friends and family are getting vaccinated, and spring allows us to get back outside in the open air. We invited over a family of three for dinner on the back patio and it was intoxicating. Not just beause of the pina coladas (more on that in a minute) but the sheer joy of entertaining. The nervous excitement in the prepping. Laughing with friends in 3D, not just watching their lives via social media. And oh, the way the cool evening air pulls the sweet scent from our cherry blossoms.

people having drinks arund a fire pit

But about those pina coladas, they may seem like a thing of the past - 60's tiki culture with a resurgence in the 80s (thanks Jimmy Buffett). But they're a classic. I forgot how delicious they are! Leave the pre-made mixer at the grocery store - this fresh recipe is creamy and loaded with nutrients - it feels almost healthy

Pina Colada Recipe

  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2 cups of frozen cubed pineapple
  • 1/4 cup natural maple syrup (not the artificial kind, or it will taste like breakfast!)
  • Rum (however much you'd like - no judging. But the coconut cream really cuts the bite, allowing for a stronger drink)
  • A teaspoon of coconut extract 
  • 2 cups of cubed ice

Now grab a blender or Vitamix, toss all ingredients inside and blend. Pour and serve with a straw, and if you're feeling spritely, perhaps a toothpick umbrella? 

It will taste like warm weather, sunsets, and gives you the sense that things are slowly but surely returning to normal. 

April 11, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan