Tag Archives: meals for the whole family

Banana Brûlée Bread Pudding

Ta da! Banana Brûlée Bread Pudding! Made with challah, a toddler and love. I haven’t shared many recipe posts since Baby Bird #2 joined us. Baby is actually very easy tempered. It’s Little Bird that keeps me busy! Fortunately, she loves cooking and is legitimately a big help in making our bread pudding/french toast combo (you may remember the Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast or the Zucchini Bread Pudding.) This morning she buttered the pan, beat the eggs and milk, and ripped up the challah and added it to the pan (only stealing a few bites!)

Banana Brûléed Bread Pudding

Bananas are a common addition in our house, but the brûlée topping is something I have been playing with since seeing a friend on Google+ share her Panettone Pudding which she brûlées to make it all that more. Lin uses a blow torch, but since that is one of the few gadgets my kitchen lacks, I finish the bread pudding under the broiler (or the “bread and butter pudding” under the “grill” as she says) to get that crisp brûlée top. The first go got a little too burnt, so check it frequently!

homemade challah

My mom texted a picture of her homemade challah last night. (Yes, she texts now, crazy.) I did not make challah from scratch. But I did remember that I had half a loaf in the freezer. For those in San Diego, Charlie’s Best Bread makes a great challah, very light, eggy and sweet. And for those not in the know, challah is simply the best bread for french toast and bread pudding. Add a little vanilla ice cream, and take the Banana Brûlée Bread Pudding into dessert!

Banana Brûlée Bread Pudding Recipe

  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 1/3 to 1/2 loaf of challah or other bread (at least one day old)
  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk (any milk or milk substitute will do but I like whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • (optional) 1 Tablespoon of sweetener of choice
  • 1 banana, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Take a stick of butter and liberally rub the bottom and sides of a large baking dish. Tear challah into small chunks and scatter in the dish.

Beat the eggs, and then mix in milk, vanilla and cinnamon. You may not need much sweetener if you are topping with the sugar crust. Mix well, then pour over the bread. Top with the banana slices. Bake about 20-30 minutes until just completely set in the center (by set I mean it looks solid vs. liquidy.) Remove from the oven and liberally sprinkle with the sugar.

Melt the sugar with a blow torch OR turn the broiler up to max, and put the pan on the closest rack. After 2 minutes, check every minute until the sugar melts and turns brown and then take out and let cool slightly. Enjoy!

banana brulee bread pudding


Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Latkes

This year as Hanukkah approached, I craved matzo ball soup (usually associated with Passover.) My husband did not complain about having to eat matzo ball soup and proclaimed my soup to be one of his top ten favorite dishes. (Recipe is here.) But as we came to the final night of Hanukkah, I couldn’t resist making latkes. This year I tried a variation with Brussels Sprouts, based on a recipe from foodwanderings.

Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Latkes

I substituted our sweet potatoes from the garden instead of regular potatoes. Our sweet potatoes are only slightly sweet, almost a cross between a regular potato and a sweet potato and are very tasty. I didn’t have fresh mint or dill but used fresh parsley and fresh cilantro. I loved her suggestion of cumin seeds and used both the seeds and ground cumin. The cumin worked really nicely!

Click here for the original Brussels Sprouts and Potato Latkes recipe. I served it with leftover cranberry clementine compote (acknowledging Thanksgivikkuh) and a puree of parsnips and winter vegetables. I think it would also be lovely with the traditional applesauce and sour cream. Since there was a lot of batter after making enough small latkes for the three of us, I made one large “hash brown” with the remaining batter and baked it in the toaster oven at 400°F for 20 minutes. It was easy to reheat in a pan the next day.

Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Latkes


Little Bird LOVED Hanukkah. At 26 months, this is technically her third Hanukkah, but this is the first year she really got to experience it. With all the counting candles, it is the perfect holiday for a toddler!


Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka with Cardamon

Finally! This is a recipe I have been wanting to share since I first made it six months ago. I made up this variation of lamb moussaka after going to a new Middle Eastern grocery store in town and finding pomegranate concentrate.* This pomegranate and lamb moussaka with cardamon instantly became a “keeper,” a regular go-to meal in my rotation. I have since made it about ten times and my family loves it.

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka

Traditional Greek Moussaka layers sautéed or fried eggplant, a meat and tomato sauce, and is topped with Béchamel or white sauce (butter, flour and milk.) Some say it is analogous to lasagna for Americans, but I say it is more like a Shepard’s pie. My take on the classic Greek dish highlights tart pomegranate instead of tomato paste or sauce and flavors the meat with fragrant cardamon. I also lighten it up by making a quick egg and milk custard with Greek yogurt instead of Béchamel, and by roasting the eggplant slices instead of frying. Both changes also make the recipe a little faster. I was inspired by two of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants, a Persian restaurant, Soltan Banoo, that serves an amazing pomegranate soup, and a Lebanese joint, Mama’s Bakery, where I love the beef shwarma, heavily scented with cardamon.

*About pomegranate molasses vs. pomegranate concentrate: Pomegranate molasses is a sweet and sour syrup used in Middle Eastern cuisine. As a “secret ingredient” in stews and sauces, it gives an amazing flavor that can be hard to place. Pomegranate concentrate tastes similar, but is made solely of reduced pomegranate juice, without the added sugar, preservatives and flavor enhancers molasses often has. If you don’t have either, substitute pomegranate juice, ideally reduced a little to make it more concentrated in flavor. Or just use the more traditional tomato paste!

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka Recipe

  • 2 medium to large eggplant
  • coconut oil spray or 1 Tablespoon avocado oil, coconut oil or olive oil

For the meat layer:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • onion, carrot, celery, garlic
  • 1 pound ground lamb and/or beef
  • 2 teaspoons cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate concentrate, molasses or juice (find at middle Eastern stores like North Park Produce and if you can’t find it, substitute tomato paste)

For the custard layer:

  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • Pistachios, chopped kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese

Peel, slice and salt the eggplant. Let sit for 30 minutes to draw out excess moisture and bitterness. Then pat dry and roast in a 425°F oven with a little oil until soft, flipping the slices once. (Notes: Lately I like spraying both sides of the eggplant with a little sprayable coconut oil. It distributes a nice, fine layer. Otherwise eggplant can soak up a lot of oil. Olive oil is classic, however, I try to not to use it over 325°F. Both coconut and avocado oil have higher smoking points.)

Sautée the onion, carrots, etc. in a large pan. Add the meat and spices until the meat is just browned. Add the pomegranate concentrate or tomato and turn down to a simmer until cooked through.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the yogurt, milk and seasonings.

To assemble, put the meat layer down first in a 9″ by 13″ pan. Top with the eggplant slices, then pour the custard batter into the pan. Sprinkle on the toppings then bake 25-30 minutes at 350°F until the egg is set.

Click on any photo in the gallery below to expand and see the steps.

Pin the recipe to save for later!

Pomegranate and Lamb Moussaka

Enjoy! This dish freezes well. I made a double batch in preparation for new baby. After baking, I froze it whole. To reheat it, I let it defrost in the fridge for a day and then warmed it in the oven until the center was hot.

Farewell to Summer Fig + Feta Salad

With the fall equinox, the season finally seems to be turning in Southern California. It seems as though the rest of the country has moved past apples and onto pumpkin, but we are still picking tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. (Complaining of SoCal problems sounds like humble bragging.) I’m sharing my favorite fig and feta salad as a farewell to summer. Our tree’s fruit are in their last stages and our mint barely survived the last heat wave. I had wanted to first post my feta recipe, but at this stage of my pregnancy, I don’t have the time or focus for a long cheesemaking post, like this one on chèvre.

fig + feta salad with mint and balsamic

Little Bird thoroughly enjoyed figs straight from the tree this summer. There is something lovely about eating them slightly warm from the sun. Here she is showing one of her best buddies where to find the ripe ones:

Picking Figs

As I wrote the recipe (below), I felt a little silly typing out the ingredient list. With only the four ingredients in the title, it seemed a little pointless. This combination is so flavorful and balanced, it doesn’t even need salt and pepper!

fig + feta salad with mint and balsamic

Fig and Feta Salad with Mint and Balsamic Vinegar

  • Figs
  • Feta
  • Mint
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Gently rinse figs. Cut off stems and then cut in half. Arrange in a shallow bowl or plate. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and chopped, fresh mint. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar or a balsamic reduction. Gently mix and serve.

fig + feta salad with mint and balsamic


Simple, Easy Recipes for Summer Dinners

I love summer. I love having extra daylight in the evening. Best of all, our garden is at it’s peak. I often slack on grocery shopping. Driving home from work, I will approach panic and then realize, between the garden and the chickens, I can pull together a simple, easy dinner recipe without having to stop and buy any extra ingredients.

Easy, simple recipes: spaghetti squash pesto and zucchini frittata

The other night was a classic example. Our refrigerator was extremely bare. But I had recently made fresh goat cheese, our chickens are laying eggs, and we had giant zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, a spaghetti squash, garlic and plenty of herbs all from the garden.

Easy, simple recipes: spaghetti squash pesto

As soon as I got home from work, I threw the spaghetti squash whole into the toaster oven. (The regular oven works fine, but the smaller squash fit in the toaster oven, which saves energy and keeps the kitchen from getting as hot.) After about 45 minutes at 350°, it was soft. I cut it in half, pulled out the flesh, discarding the seeds and shredded it with a fork. Click here for the pesto recipe. This time I experimented by throwing in an avocado from a friend’s tree. It made it extra creamy.

Easy, simple recipes: zucchini frittata

Next up was a frittata. I sautéed the zucchini and garlic in some ghee a friend made, had Little Bird stir, stir the eggs, and then mixed in tomatoes and thyme. After baking, we topped it with our fresh chèvre rolled in truffle salt. For the full frittata recipe, click here.

Victory Gardens for the win!