Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Homemade Dog Food: Labour of Love

Some of the best things in life happen with no planning, when least expected. We had talked about getting a dog and agreed s/he had to be a rescue. The dilemma lay in who would go to the shelter. Neither of us had the strong will to face those sad faces without wanting to take them all home. So, we did nothing.

In a blink, we were already celebrating our third anniversary. We took an impromptu trip to Santa Barbara for the weekend. We had just gotten into town that Saturday morning and out for a stroll along the main street when we heard some barking coming from the road. A car drove by with 3 pups' heads hanging out of the passenger-side window. 

We giggled at how cute they were and continued on our way, looking at the shops, thinking about stopping for coffee (and a pastry - You know me.) when we heard someone call out, "Hey, you guys want a free puppy?"
There she was, a lady rushing to set up an enclosure right on the sidewalk, dropping off the same three pups we saw just earlier. We walked over without giving it a second thought. The lady explained that she couldn't sell them and she did not have the means to keep them. So, she was literally giving them away. To strangers. Off the street. 

I was dying to hold one of them. While I was standing there, trying to figure out if I could manage a puppy, what, with my hubby's traveling, my own job, our planning a baby, blah blah blah, we agreed to take him home. NO one could resist that face.

Shawn found the perfect name for him, Milou, since he is the same breed as the dog in the Tin Tin comics and he has been a cherished member of our family since the day we brought him home.  Milou wears many hats around our place. His main duties include serving as midnight security surveillance, monitoring the local squirrel population, performing as a energy-efficient vacuum cleaner, and earning an Olympic gold medal in Napping. He also does a bit of modeling, on the side.

Milou's devotion to Daisy is astonishing. The day we brought her home from the hospital, he would whimper and rush to her crib every time she cried. He is ever-patient with her, despite all the tail-tugging she subjects him to. One of his most favourite things is chasing the garden hose, ears flopping, bouncing up and down, trying to get big gulps of water.
He is such a lovable character.

When it comes to food, he will never refuse anything from our plates, but he is not a canned dog food connoisseur, not even the fancy stuff. He much rather prefers the healthy chicken dinner Shawn makes for him with care.

Basic ingredients such as chicken, rice, pasta, beans and vegetables all go into the mix. Milou loves this stuff. And who wouldn't? There's so much goodness in there.

Doggy Dinner
Makes about 25 cups

Notes: This recipe yields enough to fill 10 standard sandwich bags, enough to feed our Milou between 31/2 to 4 weeks. One bag lasts about 3 days. We feed him once a day, in the evening. He always has a clean bowl of water and dry food available. Some days, he is hungrier than usual, of course. So he gets a bit more, but we are careful to make sure he keeps his svelte figure. 

Milou is a medium-sized dog. You can easily adjust the recipe to feed your smaller or larger pup.

6-8 lbs chicken, whatever's on sale
1/2 lb brown rice
1/2 lb bulgur (or more rice)
1 lb whole wheat pasta
2 tsp olive oil
10oz bag of frozen peas
2x 10oz boxes frozen spinach
2x 12oz boxes frozen squash
2x 15.8oz cans white, kidney or garbanzo beans, black-eyed or chick peas

Fill a pot 3/4-full with water, cover with the lid and set onto medium-high heat,

When the water begins to boil, remove the lid, add a drizzle of olive oil and the pasta.
Give it a quick stir, put the lid back on.
Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain excess liquid and set the pasta aside.

Transfer the rice and bulgur into another pot and add enough water to just cover them.
Put the lid on and set onto medium-high heat.
Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, drain excess liquid and set aside.

Combine pasta, rice and bulgur into one big pot
Cook the chicken. Shawn usually grills it. Remove skin and bones,unless you got boneless, skinless chicken. 

If your dog is anything like ours, s/he will pick all the chicken out of the bowl, leaving all the beans, rice and vegetables behind. So, chop the meat into small pieces or pulse briefly in food processor.

Add frozen vegetables and beans.
Stir gently to incorporate, cover with the lid and set onto low heat.
Cook the chicken. Shawn usually grills it.

Cut or shred into small pieces.
This step is time-consuming, but worthwhile, because, if your dog is anything like ours, s/he will pick all the chicken out of the mix and leave everything else behind.

Add the chicken to the big pot and mix thoroughly.
Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Transfer into sandwich bags (about 2 1/2 cups each).

Store 1 bag in the fridge, freezing the rest for future use.
Using boneless, skinless chicken breast meat makes the work much easier, but it is more cost-effective to get the whole chicken and clean it yourself, if you can afford the time. It costs less than $30 a month to make food that we feel good about feeding our dog. Frozen mixed vegetables are a good substitute for the spinach and sweet potato. Be sure to avoid ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as onions, garlic, avocados, grapes/raisins, chocolate. 

A few weeks ago, I was, trying to take a photo of our living room with the new kilim rug, when our curious little boy photobombed the shot. So, I forgot all about the rug and asked for a pose.

Ears back, wide-eyed, confident stance, what a handsome devil he is. Of course, you know he's really just looking for a treat and for that, he'll do ANYthing, especially for Daisy who is always willing to reward him.

My favourite time of day starts when work ends and I finally arrive home. As I walk up to our front porch in the evening and rushing toward the door lock, I think about how much happier I am to be there.

I always ring the doorbell to announce my arrival, because I love being ambushed by my welcoming committee. Daisy runs to the door, calling out "Mamaaaaaaaaaa!" and gives me a big hug. My hubby greets me with a smile and a kiss.

And Milou runs toward me, skids and slides across the hardwood floor, then jumps up with his front paws over my knees to say hello (or maybe he is really just looking for a treat).

Making dog food at home takes a bit of time, but Milou is so worth the effort. A big batch lasts almost a month, so it actually saves time and money.

And feeding our furry friend the healthy stuff Shawn patiently makes for him ensures many more happy homecomings for me.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Glittery Eggs + Armenian Easter Cake (Paska)

Why hasn't anyone established "MEAA" for all of us who have serious addictions to Cadbury mini eggs? This morning, I am allowing myself exactly 5 mini chocolate eggs. No more. They are addictive and probably the main reason I love Easter.

This is not my favourite holiday, but has been a busy one this year.

The weather is beautiful today and while Shawn has been in the backyard, sanding the wooden rocking horse he is building for our little blue-eyed beauty, I have been decorating orange-scented Armenian Easter cakes called Paska my godmother made for us. She bakes them in big coffee cans, the way my grandmother used to.

Reputed to be very difficult to make (I will look into this for you), most people just resort to picking one up from a local Armenian bakery.

Since I love a good challenge, you know I am going to be testing recipes for next Easter. And the one at the top of my to-do list is my godmother's. She did all the hard work and I get the fun part of decorating them.

Real marzipan was tinted with a few drops of food coloring and rolled out to about 1/8th of an inch thickness. I placed a plate over the top and traced around the plate with a sharp knife.

It was centered over a round paper doily and draped over the cake. After sprinkling with some powdered sugar, a bowl placed over the top helped shape it around the paska.

Two were made as I had two cakes, one blue and one peachy-red. I mixed powdered sugar with a few drops of water as glue to decorate the tops flowers, small plastic birds, even 3 Cadbury eggs. (Yes, I do keep count.)

One is blue with bright orange poppies, a teeny bluebird and golden cross.

The red one has a couple of birds and 3 pink-speckled chocolate eggs on top.

On the back sits a teeny Chi Chai Monchan monkey and plastic daisy that is really just a button.

They look fabulous!

The day started with a breakfast mainly of hard-boiled eggs, because we had to decorate them for Easter, anyway. Afterwards, Daisy and I got right to work.

A simple formula of food colouring, vinegar and hot water was perfect for dying the eggs. They dried quickly so we used ordinary clear Elmer's glue and fine glitter to decorate them.

Manicure stickers made the cutest embellishments. One has little heart-shaped Union Jacks all over it.
We even have a Hello Kitty egg. That one is Daisy's favourite.

Glittery Easter Eggs
Decorates 2 dozen
Notes: We used 2 shades of fine glitter and 4 shades of egg dye. Experiment with your own favourite colours.

What to Get
Newspaper or vinyl tablecloth to protect work surface
24 hard-boiled free-range white eggs
egg carton
4 coffee mugs
4 big spoons
Food colouring
4 tsp white vinegar
2 cups boiling water

Elmer's clear glue (non-toxic)
2 paintbrushes (so you can work with your own li'l buddy)
2 small bowls
2 little spoons
3 Tb green glitter
3 Tb copper-gold glitter

What to Do
Cook eggs in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Eat a Mini Chocolate Egg.
Remove any cracked ones and eat them the same day.

While the eggs are cooling, boil a teapot of water.
Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water each into 4 coffee mugs.
Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar into each.

For the food colouring, do the following:
Blue mug = 30 drops
Green mug = 25 drops
Pink mug = 30 drops of red colouring
Orange mug = 20 drops red + 8 drops yellow

Using a spoon, gently settle an egg into each mug.
Turn the spoon so that it keeps the egg immersed
under the liquid.
Set a kitchen timer to 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, remove the coloured eggs and
gently place them into the empty egg carton.

Repeat until all eggs have been dyed.

Pour glitter into bowls.
Eat another Mini Chocolate Egg.

Once the eggs have dried (~10 minutes), use a
paintbrush to apply glue over the shell in a random

Put the egg into a bowl and gently roll around the glitter
with a small spoon.
Transfer back to egg carton to finish drying.

Once dry, apply manicure stickers to areas that
have not been covered with glitter.

Display proudly on your Easter table.

Spring is a wonderful time of year that everyone can celebrate. The trees are covered in blossoms, baby birds are heard chirping, the sun comes out of hibernation and makes everything shine. And the Easter Bunny brings plenty of good chocolate.

Daisy and I are now covered in glitter, but we do not really mind because we had so much fun together.
Celebrate the season with these beautiful eggs that will add sparkle to your spring-time table.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Strawberry + Cream Vanilla Sponge Cake

Remember the scene in one of the first Pippi Longstocking movies where she goes to Tommy and Anika's house and their mom is hosting afternoon tea with the ladies? Pippi looks like anything but a lady, 
swiping her finger along cake frosting, stuffing her face with cookies, completely oblivious to the stunned stares from the women around her. Remember that? 

This is the sort of cake you would expect to see in that scene with all the pretty china, dainty table linens and dreamy desserts. It screams Spring is here! And summer is not far behind.

Layers of light vanilla-speckled sponge cake nestled against fluffy cream and juicy strawberries. When I dream about cake, this is what I see.

There have been repeated requests for this cake as soon as I reach for my baking apron. So many of these have been baked chez nous that I can almost go without referring to the recipe. The formula is flawless and full-proof. 
Using quality ingredients never hurts. I have a reputation for splurging on butter and free-range eggs, organic milk, Madagascar vanilla beans. Hope you don't find me snooty. I've been through my fair-share of sponge cake recipes and most demand the patience of a saint.
 "Carefully SEPARATE the eggs."
"Whip the whites til SOFT peaks form." 
"Gently FOLD the dry ingredients into the egg whites."
Then there's always the impending danger of DEFLATING your egg whites.  

Never mind about all the leftover yolks. What to do with them? You can't just throw them away. Think about how hard the hens worked to produce those eggs. The usual sponge cake recipes require so much tiptoeing about that there is hardly any room left for FUN. 

Then this one found me during a typical late-night escapade, scouring the internets for tasty things to make. If you have a stand mixer and short attention-span (like I do), you are going to LOVE making this cake.

It's fun, because you get to do cool new things, like letting the mixer run wild for 4 minutes, then for another 4 minutes. And you do weird stuff like melt the butter into the milk.
But, I haven't told you about the taste. This one is not just easy on the eyes. The cake is airy with just the right amount of sweetness for the cool creamy cream and sweet-tart strawberries. 

In the end, you always get a winner, even if you overbake a bit, like I did last night. And, it's just such a pretty cake. Even those of us who have the cake-decorating grace of a bull in a china shop can do this. Each time. Every time. Guaranteed. Or your money back.
Strawberry + Cream Vanilla Sponge Cake

Adapted from cakeboss
1 cup  milk
1/2 stick butter
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
4 whole grade A free-range eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
2 vanilla beans (or 2 tsp extract)

2 cups strawberries, chopped
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

Grease and flour two 8" round cake pans.

Heat milk and butter in a small pot on low heat. After the butter has melted, remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 325*F.

Sift flour, baking powder & salt together into a clean bowl. Set aside.

Beat eggs in stand mixer with paddle for 4 minutes.  Set the kitchen timer to 4 minutes.

Reset the timer for another 4 minutes and add sugar. Beat until creamy.

Grate zest of lemon and add 1 tsp of it to the mixture.
Using a sharp knife, cut one of the vanilla beans lengthwise down the center
and scrape the seeds and pulp out. 
Add vanilla pulp and eggs to the mixture.
Add the sifted dry ingredients a bit at a time and mix just long enough to incorporate.
Add milk and butter.
Divide batter between the two prepared cake pans and pop into the warm oven.

Bake until fragrant, maybe 35 minutes. 

Meanwhile, wash and chop strawberries into small chunks. Collect them into a clean bowl and set aside.

Insert a clean toothpick into the center of each cake. If
the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready.
Remove from oven and allow the cakes to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Then, turn them onto a metal rack to finish cooling.

Using the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip heavy cream with pulp from the second vanilla bean and confectioner's sugar til fluffly.
Cut cooled cakes in half horizontally. Place one layer of the cake onto a pretty plate. 
Spread about a 1/4th of the whipped cream over the cake, sprinkle some strawberry bits over the cream and set another layer of cake on top.

Repeat layering the cake with whipped cream and strawberries until all 4 cake layers are assembled.
Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Strawberry and Cream Vanilla Sponge Cake is the perfect excuse for you to host your own afternoon tea party, that is, if you are willing to be neighbourly and share your sweets.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bombshell Bars

Finally, there is a cure for brownie cravings: Bombshell Bars, and no one with a sweet-tooth can be trusted with them. Irresistible layers starting with a buttery bottom, creamy chocolate layer, crunchy nuts, chewy coconut, all glued together with a drizzle of caramel.

Are you scared? Yes, well, maybe you should be. What they lack in looks, they make up for in dazzling flavour that promises to draw a crowd.  And, they are better than brownies.

My friend, Michala came over with the original recipe. While the kids played, we mommies got to bake. We changed things up a bit, because that's what people do in my kitchen. Smoked almonds were the craziest thing we did, but proved their worth with a subtle salty punch and hint of campfire smoke. Then, the oven did the rest of the work. Something like magic happened in there when ordinary sweetened condensed milk turned into a chewy, gooey, dulce de leche-like thing. These bars are quick to make, bake and disappear.

Bombshell Bars
About 8 2-inch squares

1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 cups graham crackers
1 1/2 cups smoked almonds
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
pinch coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350*F.
Line a square 8" x 8" brownie pan with foil.
Crush graham crackers into soft butter. Press onto the bottom of the pan.

Put almonds into a clean tea towel and gather into a bunch. Use a heavy coffee mug
of small frying pan to give them a good bashing.

Sprinkle nuts over crust, add chocolate chips, coconut.
Drizzle condensed milk over the whole lot and sprinkle a bit of coarse sea salt on top.
Bake for about 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow the block to cool to room temperature.
Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Cut into 2" x 2" squares and enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk.

Thanks to Michala, my mind is finally clear of brownies, but preoccupied with a new obsession. Forget what you know about blondies, brownies, chews, and squares. You now have the blueprints to make the bombshell of all bars. If ever there was a time I wish I could just reach through my computer monitor and give you a slice of something, it is now. But, I can't. So, you must fend for yourself.

Don't forget to enter in our latest giveaway. There will be THREE winners, thanks to Scott Hawaii!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Accidental Caramels: Three Winners Announced!

Thank you to everyone who participated and very special thanks to the Scott Family.
And now, the winners are...
For the Scott flip-flops, Kassandra Lynn and Robin Fay!
For the box of homemade caramels, Tamara Bennington!
I'll contact you ladies via email to work out the details. Alooooooooooooooha!

It appears I am in the Candy Fairy's good book. The plan was fudge. The result was caramels, purely by accident. Things do not always turn out the way they are supposed to, especially when working with sugar. Fire morphs it into such different forms. You really have to do know you're doing. Of course, it helps to have the right tools (yeh, like a candy thermometer) and good instructions (e.g., recipe) which you are committed to follow.

Our kitchen is very well stocked with all manner of tools and gadgets...juicer, mandoline, food processor, Vitamix, dehydrator, etc. We even have an OXO avocado slicer (which we never use). But a candy thermometer, we have not.

It is not a necessity. Grandma did not have a candy thermometer.
So, why would I need one?
All I needed was a cup of iced water and a few drops of hot fudge to do the necessary testing.

Had I done what my own recipe says to do, I would probably have fudge now. But, I do not follow instructions as I should. The plan was to make a big batch of Island Fudge for my friends at Scott Hawaii to thank them for treating Daisy and me to our favourite flip-flops.

In my defense, I did test to make sure the fudge had reached the soft-ball stage. Once the fudge cooled, it was just too soft and would not hold up under the knife.
So, back onto the fire it went.
It didn't help that I was distracted cooking dinner while the fudge was bubbling away. The colour looked good, lots of nice bubbles at the top of the big pot, all was going well. So I thought, anyway. It poured beautifully into the pan and chilled in the freezer overnight.

The next day, this "fudge" was so hard, it nearly broke the blade of the big knife. So, what I'd promised the folks at Scott was fudge, but what they were going to get (with profuse apologies) was caramel, hard as granite, but devilishly buttery. Pretty little black specks proved real vanilla beans were used. These accidental caramels tasted like old-fashioned candy parlour toffee SO good that I did not care if they yanked all the fillings and crowns right out of my mouth!

Cutting this stuff was a serious challenge. So, in came the cavalry - Hubby to the rescue. Shawn patiently cut the caramel block into small, bite-sized bits. Then, Daisy and I wrapped them up in parchment paper, singing "Rolly, rolly, rolly. Twist aaaand twist." It was a whole family affair, with Milou resting underfoot, ready to catch any bits that may find their way off of the table, headed toward the floor. We had a blast, working together that Friday night.

Then, something unexpected happened. 

While the sweeties sat in the pan waiting to be wrapped, their outer layers turned into crumbly, crunchy crystals, a bit like the way the tops of brownies become in the oven. It was like some kind of sugar magic. The insides softened up and became just the right amount of chewy. They were just perfect and I was so relieved.

Now, I want to tell you how to make these Accidental Caramels, because you really do want to, even if you do not know that you do.

Accidental Caramels
Makes: About 100 1/2-inch caramels

2 sticks butter, cold
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk 
3/4 cup milk 
2 Tb honey
4 cups granulated sugar 
2 vanilla beans or 2 tsp extract
1/2 cup toasted sweetened coconut
1/2 cup crushed macadamia nuts
1 tsp coarse sea salt

    Follow my original recipe for the Island Fudge, but instead of heating the concoction to the soft-ball stage (~235*F), let it go all the way to the firm-ball stage, between 245-250*F. 

    If you do not have a candy thermometer, have a cup of iced water nearby. When you drop the sugar mixture into the iced water and it solidifies, you're there.

    Pour it into a 9x11x2 pan lined with foil and pop it into the freezer overnight. 

    Cut parchment paper into about 100 2"x 2" strips.
    Let it the block reach room temperature before you try to cut it. 
    Cut the caramels into 1/2-inch cubes. Separate them from each other and let them sit another 30 minutes before wrapping them in parchment paper. 

    If that all sounds like a lot of work, today is your lucky day. Enter in our drawing below. Daisy and I will make a batch just for you. (OR) You could win yourself a snazzy pair of Scott Hawaii flip-flops, the real thing. (AND) There will be THREE lucky winners. Scott Hawaii has generously offered TWO pairs of their heavenly slippahs.

    What are you waiting for? Go for it! Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Sunny Saffron Rice Pudding (SholehZard)

    Tis the night before the first day of Spring which marks the Persian New Year! "Nowruz" literally translates to new day. And that is exactly what Spring is, a beautiful fresh start for all of Nature.
    Trees are speckled with pretty little blossoms that fragrance the air. The nightingale serenades the wee hours. The clouds dissipate to give way to sunny days. And, we take queue with a renewed spirit. Time to throw out that closet of clutter and refresh our homes. Out with the old, in with the new.

    Although Armenian, my family is from Iran and we revel in joining the traditional celebrations of our homeland. Nowruz is one of my absolute favourite holidays and demonstrates the unending hospitality of the Persian people. This year, I'm quite late in organizing my haft sin, a table setting dating back to Iran's Zoroastrian roots. Seven items whose names begin with the letter S in Farsi are featured, each one signifying an important element. My set of 7 is comprised of  items readily available in our kitchen:

    -Apple represents health & beauty
    -Garlic stands for medicine
    -Green sprouts grown from lentils or wheat symbolize rebirth
    -Sumac (a tart spice) translates to the sunrise
    -Coins symbolize prosperity
    -Vinegar stands for patience
    -Wild olive fruit (oleaster) symbolizes love
    -Hyacinth represents Spring and Heaven

    A little goldfish is also present on most haft sin tables to symbolize Life, but having a toddler and dog, I can just see its ironic ill-fated future. So, we usually forego getting the little guy.

    The best part of any celebration is the FOOD. There is no better way to welcome Spring than with something sweet. Sholehzard is an old fashioned Persian dessert made of rice and saffron. Its name, which means yellow flame, well suits the bright colour from the saffron.

    Now, before you poo-poo rice pudding, know that I am not usually a fan of mushy things, especially rice pudding. In fact, I would rather forego dessert altogether than eat rice pudding. So. have faith that I would never present a recipe that I did not personally test, taste and love.

    Last night, my sweet-toothed monster dropped by for a visit and refused to leave. I had such a craving for sholehzard that I had to make a big pot of it.

     I must confess that I had neither the time nor the patience to soak the rice as tradition dictates nor to run to the store for cheap quality rice. We usually have very nice basmati rice on hand and when my mother reads this, she just might kill me as she learns I used Tilda last night.

    This saffron rice pudding can be served warm or cold. I prefer it chilled, although I was in such a hurry to taste it that I burned my tongue because I could not wait for it to cool. But, it was so worth it.

    Originally, my first batch turned out really firm when it cooled. But, because I had used a good amount of precious saffron (and the taste was FABULOUS), there was nothing I was unwilling to do to try salvaging it.
    I put the pudding back onto a very low heat and added about 1 cup of hot water, gently mixed in. Luckily, that did the trick!

    Another confession (yes, I have many vices today) is that I have lost Mom's recipe. Since I was in such a rush to make this, I went right to my friend Azita of Turmeric & Saffron. Her colourful blog chronicles the beauties of traditional Persian cuisine with instructions that are easy to follow.

    Saffron Rice Pudding (SholehZard)
    Notes: Traditionally, raw blanched almonds are tossed into the mix, but you can omit the almonds altogether, if you like. Orange blossom water is a lovely substitute for rose water, but has a much more intense flavour. So, use less of it. Cardamom stands in for cinnamon in my version.

    Adapted from Turmeric & Saffron
    Serves 6 sweet-toothed monsters

    12 cups water

    2 Tb hot water
    1 tsp saffron
    1 tsp sugar

    2 cups basmati rice
    3 cups sugar
    1 tsp ground cardamom
    1/3 cup rose water (or 1/4 cup orange blossom water)
    1/2 cup ground raw unsalted pistachios

    Rinse rice until the water becomes clear.
    Measure 12 cups of water into a heavy-bottomed pot.
    Heat on medium until it just reaches a rolling boil.

    Grind saffron with sugar in a small mortar & pestle. Add a couple of tablespoons of hot water
    and allow it to steep.

    Add rice to the pot and cook until very soft, maybe 40 minutes.
    Next, in goes the sugar,
    followed by the saffron and cardamom. Stir and lower heat.
    Allow the pudding to simmer another 10 minutes.
    Turn the heat off and add the rose water. Mix gently.

    Once the pudding has cooled to room temperature,
    transfer to a pretty bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
    Chill in the refrigerator.

    Put a generous handful of pistachios into a clean tea towel and gather like a pouch.
    Using a small pan or rolling pin, give them a good bashing.
    Shprinkle ground pistachios on top of the pudding and serve.

    You cannot help but smile at the sunny face of this dessert. The sweet and fragrant flavour is sheer heaven. And once chilled, it is such a refreshing treat. This one is very easy to make and lasts several days in the fridge, which means you can keep celebrating long after the first day of Spring.

    Weeknights are chaotic in most households as there is the typical mad rush to make dinner, feed the kids, bathe them, read bedtime stories, beg them to fall asleep, then unwind for some brain-numbing entertainment in front of the TV. Last night, Daisy was forever hungry.

    After she had a big bowl of borsht*, a mammoth slice of leftover birthday cake**, 2 fried eggs, she claimed she was still hungry and wanted another egg. It was difficult to figure out whether this was just a ploy to delay bedtime or she was truly hungry. So, we agreed to a small bowl of Cheerios, juice and bedtime stories.
    There had been no time for me to think of dinner. And, since everyone knows a good chef always tastes the goods before presenting them to the patrons, that SholehZard was waiting patiently for me in the kitchen. Maybe that is why I slept like a baby, dreaming about the sunny days ahead.

    * A Russian cabbage-beet soup Mom makes
    ** Vanilla sponge cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries