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
creepy Easter bunny vintage photo

Have an egg-cellent Easter with these festive dishes

Happy Easter, from Ladles and Linens! 

Eggs are a symbol of rebirth and new life, so it makes sense that it's thematic to Easter. Easter egg hunts and candies are where you see eggs the most, but I feel like they're underutilized in the meals department. I love a good theme, so why not incorporate this superfood into some splashy egg-centric dishes?

shakshuka

Shakshuka

Shakshuka is simple dish with an exotic name. It sees a gorgeous display of cracked eggs atop an aromatic bed of tomato sauce, peppers and garlic. This one-dish meal can be cooked and served in a cast iron skillet or a stoneware baker. Eaten with a loaf of good, crusty bread, it's pure comfort. 

deviled eggs

Deviled Eggs

Don't forget old failthful! Deviled eggs are a crowd-pleaser, and you can kick them up a notch by making a big batch with a variety of toppers: jalapeno slices for those who love heat, caviar pour les gourmands, and anchovies for the adventurous. 

frittata

Frittata

Like shakshuka, this dish can be created and served in a cast iron skillet or stoneware. If you hate doing dishes like I do, this really means something. Frittatas are the Italian way of repurposing leftovers in an exciting way. The eggs in the dish serve as the base, ready to take on any flavors.

With that in mind, you could have fun with a few different types of frittata. How about a Korean version, with kimchi, bacon and veggies roasted in sesame oil? Or an Italian version, with Parmesan, sausage and sun-dried tomatoes? I love a Greek frittata, with feta cheese, cured olives and pepperocini. 

egg cups in muffin tins

Egg Cups

Whether entertaining or meal-prepping for the week, all you need is a muffin tin to stack the cutest creations that pop in your mouth. Just line a muffin pan with butter, and layer your egg cups before baking at 350. I usually start with a layer of bread to soak up the moistire and keep the base crispy. You can use a tiny pancake, thin slice of biscuit or toast. I love to drop in spinach to make it Florentine style, and the spinach lays flat to create room for the cheese, which holds the whole concoction together. And of course top it off with an egg. 

Pull these out of the oven when the eggs are fully cooked, and watch guests coo over these tiny pieces of art.

Hope you have a wonderful Easter!

 

April 03, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
married couple om a grassy hill

Everyone wants to be that bride

Anyone who plans their own wedding earns at least an associate's degree in event planning. And everyone wants to be that bride. That bride that throws that wedding. The wedding people talk about for years afterward, wistful and laughing. 

Every bride (and the occasional groom) has this goal in mind when planning their wedding. Whether the result was white peacocks on the lawn or boring catered chicken, you have to love the effort. And the open bar. I found triplets from West Virginia who were a classical trio for my wedding music, but doubled as belly dancers for the reception! For fun, scroll to the bottom to see their photos.

couple at a wedding dinnerÔĽŅ

Last year, people who were engaged put their weddings on hold. People who were dating put their engagements on hold. Everyone is chomping at the bit to celebrate, but many who love a good party have been holding out. The good news? Wedding season is slinking back!

2020 was no ordinary year, so their wedding presents shouldn't be, either. Let them stock up on stacks of white plates and bath towels. But will they remember who gifted them? Fact: Couples will never forget who got them a set of boozy tea cups!

whiskey in a tea cup

If everyone wants to be that bride, then give them the kind of presents that that bride would like. Even better, that bride (or groom!) should sign up with Ladles and Linens for their wedding registry. Below, I've hand-picked my top choices for elegant, memorable wedding presents...and stand-out items for a wedding registry!

stoneware spoons

Pardon the pun, but these soup-er stoneware spoons will make every meal more special. These are like little art pieces for your mouth.

padded kitchen mat

These bold, vinyl floormats will beathe life and color into every room.

 

large copper bowl

I currently own this copper bowl, and even when empty, it glows like a standalone centerpiece. But it's almost never empty. The convenient size makes it a catch-all for everything from popcorn to art supplies.

turquoise woven placemats

Give your table a boho chic way to say, "I'm adulting now!" These dreamy woven mats can double duty as a table pad for hot serving dishes.

Cocktails on the porch. That's what I think of when I see this elegant Chinoiserie tray. Haul your bar or kitchen snacks outside and soak up the sun.

Whether you're shopping for a couple or considering wedding registries, know where to go if you know, or want to be, that bride. And those triplets from West Virginia? Check out our photos below...

March 28, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Fayeruz Regan, writer and avid hostess

Entertaining: Dipping my toes back in

It's happening. It's actually happening! The buds are blooming on trees, people are getting vaccinated and we are slowly crawling out of a year-long global pandemic that turned everything upside down.

Like many of you, I have a core "quaranteam" that I see regularly. While those bonds have strengthned with an unbreakable "war buddies" intensity, most of my other relationships have been tethered by social media and attempted Zoom happy hours, which are sterile at best. 

bbq spread, with ribs, salad and corn cake

Now it's time! Ladles and Linens is positively stocked with cheerful spring accessories and entertaining essentials to brighten up your grand reentrance into society!

I'm not talking a crowded house party - "rubbing elbows" suggests cramped get-togethers. In order to say healthy and avoid that ubiquitous online shaming, keep it small. Keep it outside. For even if your loved ones have been vaccinated, there are risks. Between the time it takes for the antibodies to be in full effect and the various new strains floating around, outdoors is ideal. Take advantage of this beautiful and fleeting season!

Picnic

Picnics are an old-fashioned way of slowing down time. Everyone can bring a big blanket so there's more space between friends. Whether you invited them over for a meal or it's a pot luck situation, have a place in the center where people can take turns serving themselves. Bring a little music, some portable cocktails and you will be treating your loved ones to a much-needed respite from their winter isolation.

gourmet s'mores station

Bonfire

Sit some chairs arounnd a fire and host a bonfire!  Build a decadent s'mores station, where people can each have their own stick and a plethora of options. Other candy bars that work with graham crackers are Three Musketeers, Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Make a batch of spiked cider and spend a night catching up under the stars.

Twinkling dinner party

This won't just be any dinner party. This will have a wow factor - something we all need. I want you to pull out all of the Christmas lights. Whether you go for an all-white starry theme or a psychadelic color theme, I want you to hang lights from the branches, the pergola, the basketball hoop, whatever you have outside. Place your outdoor table directly beneath it and let it glow.

Fayeruz Regan under the pergola

To be extra safe, you can space the chairs further apart. This of course means less people around the table, but that's the idea. Smaller groups make people feel more comfortable right now, and it will give you a chance to have a more intimate dinner,  nurturing the relationship.

COVID put a whole new meaning to winter hibernation, and I will relish the way a harsh winter can make springtime that much more sweet. Share your entertaining ideas with us - we're excited to see how everyone is getting back out there!

March 21, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
healthy chocolate coconut bark

Easy five-ingredient coconut bark

Spring is in the air! Warm snaps in March are referred to as "fool's spring," as we could easily be slammed with a snowstorm within a week. But call me a fool! I'm soaking it up until sundown, dinner be damned. (Yes, a food writer just said that.)

Whereas our soggy February saw me indoors belting out mass quantities of food, spring fever has me restless. I don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen, so I've been enjoying this five-ingredient coconut bark. It's simple and since it's sweetened with honey and uses dark chocolate and coconut oil, it's surprisingly healthy too!

chocolate and coconut

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • A pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  • Melt the coconut oil in a pan until it liquifies
  • Add all of the other ingredients, except for the chocolate, stir
  • Line a sheet pan with foil or wax paper, and pour the mixure in
  • Shake pan until the layer is even, then place in freezer until solid
  • Melt the chocoate in a pan, and pour over the top of the tray in the freezer
  • Dust with an extra sprinkle of sea salt to make it pop
  • Freeze until both layers are solid, then break apart and enjoy!
  • Note: Keep in the freezer, as coconut oil melts at room temperature

Since these are stored in the freezer, they can be a cool treat on warm days. Using honey instead of sugar makes it guilt-free. Coconut oil provides immune support, and dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. But most of all, they're scrumptious. 

Now, whip up a quick batch and get back outside before it snows again!

 

March 14, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Middle Easten family making fatayer

Dough my goodness: A day of savory pies

My husband broke ground on a pizza oven in late spring. And by breaking ground I mean literally digging up an 18-inch deep plot of land in heavy Virginia clay (R.I.P. shovel). There were gravel deliveries, a cement mixer - it was a lot. 

Now, you don't need a pizza oven to make the savory pies we made. But when it takes a pile of hardwood and a few hours to get your pizza oven hot enough, you don't make just one thing. The heat lasts for at least six hours, and we took full advantage. True to my winter weekend habits, my home was transformed into a food factory.

Nabil Barbari at the pizza oven

I come from a long line of Palestinians, steeped in the tradition of hospitality. We push food on everyone who comes through the door, but savory pies are for special occasions. They require a bit of prep, so why not make them en masse? Especially if you have space in the freezer!

Regarding the dough, sometimes it's thin and light, other times it's puffy. Whatever your preference, rest assured that you can use this dough for every iteration of pie you like, and you can use your home oven.

My family uses muscle memory and intuition to eye the measurements, and since our recipes have never been written down, I linked to recipes with great reviews. If you enjoy Middle Eastern food, you likely already have a favorite. 

 spinach fatayer

Spinach pies (fatayer) are known for their tart kick of lemon and sumac, and you can find a great recipe here.

sfeeha, palestinian meat pies

Meat pies (sfeeha) are hearty, and topped with buttery pine nuts. Though I prefer the meat to be mixed with tahina instead of yogurt, both versions are delicious. Here's the recipe.

Cheese pies (fatayer bi jibneh) are a savory treat, as pictured in the pizza oven photo above. You can find a recipe here.

zaater manaeesh palestinian food

Turns out a lot of my friends love the spice zaatar - something I thought was a Middle Eastern secret! The flavor really pops, and these zaatar manakeesh pies are simple to make. 

egg fateyer - palestinian food

Like so many do to gussy up ramen and grain bowls: put an egg on it! Fatayer bil bayd used the same dough as any recipe listed above. Simply pinch up some ridges, crack a few eggs, dust with salt and pepper, et voila! If you love a good yolk burst as I do, this is a great comfort food. 

These freeze wonderfully, and are a real crowd-pleaser. Enjoy!

March 07, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
red wine on a bar with art

Five foods you thought were bad for you, but aren't

I remember the way my mom's eyes lit up when I told her she could eat real butter. "Like...actual butter?" she asked. Since the 80s she had been in search for a "healthy" butter alternative. The splashy Fabio commercials for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter distracted her from the fact that the packaging featured questionable ingredients.

Which brings me to...

BUTTER

Vegan butter is a modern marketing spin on margarine. Though I do applaud anyone with the willpower to cut animal products out of their diet (and gory, guilt-inducing content out of their Instagram feed), this product is usually made with unnecessary additives and hydrogenated oils, which clog your arteries. Butter is pure, made with just cream and salt.

 put an egg on it

EGG YOLKS

Simply put, most of the nutrition in an egg comes from the yolk. The egg whites have protein, but none of the vitamins, minerals and healthy fats you need. If you hopped on the egg white train, you're missing out on a lot of nutrients. Concerned about cholesterol? Your brain is made of 60% cholesterol. McDonald's is a little late to the party, trying to market their egg white McMuffins just as the world is waking up from this 90s health trend. 

SALT

Granted, not all salt is created equal. Those concerned with blood pressure can rest easy if they use pink Himalayan salt, as it's lower in sodium, and bursting with vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. And of course, salt is a necessity in our diet, and low sodium levels can cause sleep disruption. 

girl drinking

WINE

Okay, we all have that friend who is a walking billboard as to why we shouldn't drink too much. And we've all been the billboard at least once, as evidenced by my above photo. But it turns out with that people who enjoy at least one drink per week are less likely to have impaired cognitive function later in life - even less likely than teetotallers. And red wine is loaded with resveratrol, an antioxidant linked to increasing levels of good HDL cholesterol.

COFFEE

Addicive stimulant, or nectar of the gods? New research shows that drinking coffee can lower rates of type-2 diabetes, reduce the risk for certain cancers, improve memory and elevate mood. The USDA's updated dietary guidelines say that drinking between 3-5 cups of coffee per day is harmless.

If too much coffee makes you jittery, you can always cut back. Also, consider yourself lucky. It used to make me hyper. Then it just kept me awake. Now it just keeps me alive. 

February 28, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
Terry's Chocolate Orange-inspired hot cocoa bombs

Fight winter blues with decadent cocoa bombs

When the weather outside is frightful, what could be more comforting than a rich mug of hot chocolate? 

Hot cocoa bombs really made the rounds in social media. During the holidays I was too busy to consider making my own. But like many right now, I'm hitting that mid-winter COVID wall, which makes cooking projects an absolute necessity. It gives the family something creative to do for a stretch of time, and drinking them feels decadent as ice storms rage outside.

You can buy silicone shells online, and if you can make a strong shell, the rest is gravy. You must make the chocolate layer thick, because if you don't, the cocoa powder inside will seep out though the holes, which form easily where the shell is too thin. Truthfully, this happened to me. You live you learn. I ended up patching up the thin holes with pieces of melting chocolate, giving the smooth shells a lot of texture.  

Terry's  Chocolate Orange

I'm obsessed with Terry's Chocolate Oranges, and wanted to make cocoa bombs that mimic the flavor. I also wanted to make a cocoa mix less sweet than the store-bought kind. If you'd prefer a more standard recipe, feel free to use ready-made hot chocolate packets, and ignore the steps I took to make homemade filling. For which there will be a lot left over!

What you'll need:

  • 1 bag (12 oz) of semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 box (8 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Confectioner's (powdered) sugar (to taste)
  • White sugar (to taste)
  • 2 dried orange peels
  • 1 bag (12 oz) white chocolate chips
  • Orange food coloring
  • Orange extract
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Sprinkles (optional)
  • Silicone mold

jar of dried orange peels

What to do:

  • It's best if you do this in advance, but take a vegetable peeler and peel the skin off of two oranges, preferably organic and definitely washed. Try to avoid peeling the white pith with it (too bitter). Dehydrate or bake until dry.¬†
  • Cut your silicone mold tray into individual molds. This way, it's easier to pop out the dried chocolate spheres. You can place them in muffin tins to stay upright. And they stack easiy for storage afterwards!
  • Melt your bag of chocolate chips on low heat in a pan, or in a slow cooker.
  • With a spaula, spread the chocolate chip batter into the mold.
  • With the back of a rounded spoon, smooth the chocolate filling around the mold evenly. Check for thin spots or holes!¬†
mixing bowl of homemade hot cocoa mix
  • Place each silicone mold in a muffin tray hole and slide into the freezer to harden.
  • While the molds cool off, dump the package of hot cocoa into a large mixing bowl.¬†
  • Place the dried orange peels into a grinder, grind to a fine powder then add to the chocolate.¬†
  • Add a mix of powdered sugar and white sugar, to taste. Sample the dry mix as you go.
cocoa bomb filling
  • Remove the tins from the freezer, and gingerly pop out the chocolate molds. Place them back into the tins.
  • While upright in the mold, fill one half with a heaping spoonful of hot cocoa mix (not much is needed, as the chocolate shell makes the cocoa rich).
  • Add mini marshmallows inside.
  • Microwave a plate until hot, then place it beside the remaining half of empty shells.
  • One by one, place the rim of the empty shell onto the hot plate until the edges melt, and while melted, press against the filled half shell.
  • Once the tin is filled with complete bombs, place back into the freezer to cool off.
  • While the bombs are cooling, melt half of the white chocolate chips on low in a pan, or in a slow cooker.
  • Add 4 drops of orange extract and a few drops of orange food coloring (play with it), and stir.¬†
  • Take a spatula and scoop contents into an icing piping bag, or a plastic bag with a tiny hole cut in the corner.
  • Remove bomb trays from the freezer and decorate with icing.¬†
  • Before the icing cools, you can also dust with sprinkles.

    And there you have it. After everything dries, these can be stored at room temperature. And once I get comfortable making these, I plan to experiment with all sorts of flavors. Chocolate peanut butter, chocolate coconut, and of course I'll be gifting candy cane versions during the holidays. If you have a cool combination you'd like to share, we are all ears! Enjoy!

    February 21, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
    homemade ramen inspo

    How to build an epic bowl of ramen

    Ramen shops have been popping up in frequency for a few years now. I know I'm not the only one to sit down to a bowl and think to myself, "How hard can it be?"

    Technically, they're a far cry from the anglicised version of ramen from our childhood: Oodles of Noodles. Am I showing my age here? I went to Japan a couple of years ago, and now better understand how the silky broth and unique toppings (pictured below) not only make it tastier, but fill it with more nutrients, making it a more satisfying meal.

    Shinjuku ramen

    And you can easily build an epic bowl at home, using what you have - no chef skills necessary!

    Step 1: The right ramen

    Start by going to the Asian grocery store, and treat yourself to a solid aisle stacked with Ramen from all around Asia, not just Japan. Thailand has some wonderful selections, albeit spicy! If you live in Richmond, Tan A has the best selection. If you are limited in store choices, check out the Interntional aisle in your local grocery store, and stock up on unusual flavors!

    Step 2: The flavor base

    Oftentimes, international ramen comes with not only with a powder flavor pack, but multiple packets filled with oils and hot sauces. Use them all. If you have a little broth in your fridge, whether vegetable broth or chicken broth, you can use this to replace the water that you'll be boiling. If you don't have it, no worries. The flavor packets more than make up for it, and the fun of building your own bowl is using what you have, not going out of your way.

    Step 3: The protein

    Whether fried chicken or pan-seared tofu, you can make it crispy so it can hold up to the water and be a sharp contrast in texture. I'm a fan of Steak-Ums, thin slices of beef made for sandwiches. They are full of flavor, have zero additives (despite the branding!) and get crispy in the pan. I pair it with an egg, to make the bowl extra hearty on cold days.

    Roasted pork and other meats work as well - get creative! In my opinion, you should always have a fried egg. The yolk pops and makes the broth thicker - not to mention it's delicious. Cook your proteins and set aside to place on top at the end.

    Step 4: Veggies

    Open the fridge and see what you've got! Some basics people usually have are onions, which should be shaved thin in order to be slurped up with the rest. If you have carrots, slice down thin strips with a vegetable peeler and boil them with the water if you'd prefer them soft. If not, they make a fine crunch. Mushrooms are perfect, and we use flavorful dried shiitake mushrooms from the Asian grocery store, cooking them with the noodles so they can rehydrate.

    With frozen veggies, you can toss them in the pan while the protein cooks to infuse flavor while heating up, like spinach. Though it's great raw or frozen. So are chopped scallions, broccoli, garlic and ginger. You can do peas, water chestnuts, jalapenos and bamboo shoots - the list goes on. 

    Step 5: The Garnish

    Don't overlook this step - you can get some real flavor out of garnish, such as seaweed, chopped cilantro, or my very favorite herb: Thai basil. You can add crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, Trader Joe's Furikake, wonton crisps, fried onions or drizzle on hot sauce or sesame oil. Depending on the base you choose, the opportunities are endless.

    So many people have asked about my ramen game on Instagram, I posted the below visual!

    how to make ramen at home

    Pour the noodles and broth into a big bowl, then top with the protein, veggies and garnish, which should be prepped while the noodles are cooking. 

    A steaming bowl of ramen on a winter's day can warm you from the inside out, and by piling up a diverse set of toppings, you're feeding your body the protein, vitamins and minerals it needs. And you're likely setting it up so well, that it would be impossible not to photograph!

    Enjoy, and stay warm!

    February 13, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan
    Homemade peanut butter cups for a heart healthy Valentine's Day

    Homemade peanut butter cups for a heart healthy Valentine's Day

    Who says dessert always has to be sinful? If you take the guilt out of a guilty pleasure, you just have pleasure.

    Recently a friend and I made a healthier version of peanut butter cups, and it tasted even better than Reese's. With less sugar, you don't get that crude burn in your throat, and the coconut oil gives it a melt-in-your-mouth smoothness.

    This Valentine's Day, think beyond heart-shaped boxes and do something great for your actual heart. These confections not only have less sugar, but the coconut oil features healthy fatty acids, has antimicrobial effects and is great for your hair and skin. Not to mention they're tastier than anything you'll find in a heart-shaped box!

    healthy peanut butter cup

    Since COVID-19 has limited our ability to enjoy a night out or jump on a plane for a romantic getaway, gift these sweet treats en masse to spread the love. People could really use it these days. It being the dead of winter during a pandemic and all. Let them know that they can have seconds or thirds without regret. What better way to show you care?

    Healthy Peanut Butter Cups

    Ingredients for top layer

    Ingredients for bottom layer

    • 1/3 cup smooth, natural peanut butter
    • 2.5 tablespoons¬†melted¬†coconut oil
    • 1 teaspoon¬†vanilla extract
    • 3 tablespoons¬†unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 2 tablespoons¬†maple syrup
    • muffin liners

    Instructions

    • Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin liners. Spray with coconut oil cooking spray and set aside.
    • In a bowl, stir all ingredients for the bottom layer until smooth.¬†Set aside.
    • In another mixing bowl, stir all ingredients for the top layer until smooth. Set aside.
    • Scoop a heaping 1/2 tablespoon of the chocolate layer into each muffin cup. Then, pick up the muffin tin and shake and tap until the layer is set evenly.¬†
    • Repeat the same with the peanut butter layer, plopping around 1/2 tablespoon on top of the chocolate layer. Pick up the entire muffin tin one last time and shake and tap until your cups are even.
    • Sprinkle each cup with Himalayan sea salt.
    • Place muffin tin in the freezer until firm.
    • Keep them in the freezer fo freshness - we'll see how long they last!

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    happy couple

      February 07, 2021 by Fayeruz Regan