Buddha, ahem, Bowl

Ahhh, 2016—feels like yesterday. Reflecting back to the good old days, one strong current that kept me off the beach was the Buddha Bowl trend.

I’ve been composing bowls and plates filled with an assortment of nutritional goodness (usually a compilation of leftovers) well before the name was penned.

Quinoa with Spaghetti Squash and Dill-Almond Pesto

Quinoa with Spaghetti Squash and Dill-Almond Pesto (circa 2010)

But I was loathe to be trapped in the Buddha Bowl wave, revisiting old recipes of healthy goodness and rewriting their names so that they could find their way to a Pinterest board.

It’s the name. Buddha Bowl. Did Siddhartha feast with a Buddha Bowl to celebrate his enlightenment? The concept brings to mind the granola and nutrition bar aisles in supermarkets. Such excessive branding as they fight to capture the latest food fad flag, yet most are loaded with fat and sugar.

And yet. Buddha Bowl. It caught the wave. Great alliteration.


I was delighted to find a lonely beet hidden beneath some potatoes to julienne, stir-fry and add to my Buddha Bowl.

A quick Google of Buddah Bowls yields recipes with a common theme: a layer of grains or seeds (quinoa, farro, couscous, rice) that is attractively garnished with proteins (tofu, nuts, beans) and veggies (roasted, sautéed, raw) all topped with savory dressing, if desired.

Essentially a Mom & Pop diner’s meat and three, hold the beef.

I stirred a stocking stuffer into the composition I made just before eating it—Frank’s Rajila Sweet Ginger Sauce. Goodness, that stuff would make cardboard taste delicious. Oops! Silly me. It’s loaded with sugar.

Ah well. Here’s a toast to sliding off the yoga mat from time to time. Happy New Year!

Recipe: Buddah-ahem-Bowl


  • 14 ounces extra-firm tofu
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus extra for cooking
  • 2 tablespoons or more soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger root
  • 1 large red beet, peeled and julienned
  • 1/2 pound baby bella mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 large bunch chard, washed and sliced*


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Drain tofu. Cut into 3 slices. Place on paper towels and drain until most of the excess moisture has been absorbed (weighting down the tofu with a pan or plate accelerates the process).
  3. Whisk together 1 tablespoon sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and ginger. Marinate drained tofu in mixture, about fifteen minutes per side.
  4. Place marinated tofu on oiled cooking sheet. Bake on center rack of oven until browned, about 25 minutes. Use leftover marinade may be used to season cooked quinoa.
  5. Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package instructions
  6. Place 1-2 tablespoons sesame oil in a medium-sized fry pan. Over medium-high heat, fry beets until crispy, stirring, about 12 minutes.
  7. While beets are frying, heat an additional 1-2 tablespoons of sesame oil over medium-low heat. Cook mushrooms and chard until tender.*
  8. Reheat quinoa if it has cooled. Fill 3-4 bowls 1/3 the way full with quinoa. Arrange tofu, chard, mushrooms and beets over top. Serve.

*When cooking chard, I remove the greens from the stem and cook the stem about 3 minutes before stirring in the chard.

Time: 75 minutes, mostly unattended to prep tofu

Number of servings (yield): 3-4

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Easy Gift Ideas From Your Kitchen

A bottle of wine dressed up in a festive bag is the usual accessory when invited to a holiday gathering. But it’s fun to mix it up. With available time for most folks in such short supply, gifts from the kitchen are becoming a rare gem.

Irish Cream

Irish Cream

This gift idea is almost as simple as purchasing a bottle: make a riff on Bailey’s Irish Cream–the one perenially stocked in the liquor department.

I made my own Irish Cream, divided it between Bell Jars and put a plaid ribbon around the lip. I delivered it to some favorite cousins, who claim ancestry in the Emerald Isle. Here’s the recipe:

In a blender, combine 1-2 cups of Irish whiskey, 1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 2-3 teaspoons instant expresso (or coffee).  Blend on high  until combined. Stir in the cream until incorporated. Keep refrigerated and serve chilled. (Lasts as long as the expiration date on the cream that you used.)

Yogurt and Fig Cake

Yogurt and Fig Cake

Something demanding more time, but a simple recipe all the same, is Yogurt and Fig Cake. (Featured in the recipe below.) A friend and incredible pastry chef, Anna Marie Ascher, once told me that the perfect cake is one you would enjoy eating for breakfast. This certainly meets that criteria.

I might add that the perfect cake for gifts is the size of a loaf pan and easily portable. When cool, wrap the cake in brown parchment paper (so that the topping doesn’t stick), tie with a bit of twine and stick a sprig of holly between the string and paper. Voila!

I can savor this cake for a good two weeks, if tightly wrapped and refrigerated. Try serving with a dollop of freshly whipped cream enhanced with a liqueur, such as Grand Marnier to complement the orange zest. It also freezes well up to a couple of months, ready to thaw when the occasion demands.

Chocolate Truffles with Bacon

Chocolate Truffles with Bacon

Or step it up yet another notch and make your own chocolate truffles. Take a look at the recipes–they really aren’t as hard as you’d think. Craft shops carry small boxes that are perfect for these morsals.

Here are the links:  Chocolate Truffles, and, a bit  more savory , Chocolate Truffles with Bacon.


Vicki's Famous Peanut Brittle

Vicki’s Famous Peanut Brittle

Vicki’s Famous White and Dark Chocolate Bark (the feature picture) and Vicki’s Old-Fashioned Peanut Brittle are other ideas.

The reasonably simple recipes are tailor-made for packing in tins and distributing amongst office mates.

May your days be merry and bright!


Yogurt and Fig Cake


  • Unsalted butter as needed for greasing loaf pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup washed and diced figs, such as Black Mission Figs plus sliced whole figs for garnish, if desired
  • 1/4 cup fig preserves (other fruit marmalades may be substituted)


  1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350˚.
  2. Generously butter metal loaf pan (apx. 9X5X3-inches). Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Combine yogurt, sugar, eggs, orange zest and vanilla in large bowl; whisk until well-blended.
  3. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients. Using rubber spatula, fold in oil. Transfer batter to prepared pan and place pan on baking sheet. Place baking sheet in oven and bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.
  4. Cool cake in an on rack 5 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Turn cake out onto rack. Turn cake upright on rack and cool completely.
  5. Stir fig preserves and 1 teaspoon water in small saucepan over medium heat. Brush 1/2 of hot preserves over cake. Arrange sliced figs on top of cake. Dollop remaining glaze over figs. Let cake cool and set.

Active time: 20 minutes

Baking time: 40-50 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

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Abuela’s Pumpkin Flan with Caramel Sauce for Thanksgiving!

Women that grew up in countries outside of the United States, immigrated to America as young adults, raised families and have grandkids, capture my imagination. They’ve escaped war, poverty and oppression, many bringing only the shirts on their back and the recipes from their homelands. And their stories? Makes my life look like a pony ride at a country fair.

The recipe yields four ramekins and one pie mold, that can be sliced.

The recipe yields about 10 servings. I made four ramekins and one mold, to be sliced into 6 pieces.  Whatever works for you.. I’m serving it for 2 meals to different guests.

Having lived my adult life in a multi-cultural college town, I’ve befriended  many of these women who’ve immigrated to the United States. And they’ve expanded my culinary horizons. Immeasurably.

I’ve posted hundreds of blogs borrowed from their memories through the years. Most recent posts–Babcia’s Stuffed Cabbage Leaves, and  Abeula’s Pumpkin Flan below…these recipes are from my  (semi) fictionalized Polish and Cuban grandmothers who express their love for their family with food.

I just received a comment on a recent cookie post. Julie was channelling her Belfast gran’s sage advise for making cookies, and sharing it with us. Thank you, Julie. Thank you, Gran! R.I.P.

To all of you–I’d love to hear your grandmother’s culinary words of wisdom. It’s some granny thing I’ve got going these days–makes me feel cuddled, safe and loved!

Molds must be baked in a water bath (bain marie).

Molds must be baked in a water bath (bain marie).

Last week I posted that prior mentioned recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves. Abuela’s Pumpkin Flan, as well, needs advance thought and planning. Unless, of course, you are an Abuela, which is the Cuban endearment for grandmother. (Or Aubuelita, or Lita. Depending.) An Abuela can whip up a flan as fast as she can denounce Fidel’s dictatorship. Abuelo’s are greased lightening. Poetry in motion.

If you want to laugh out loud, seriously laugh out loud for four solid minutes, take a look at this YouTube. It compares a grandma raised in the American South to an Abuela raised in Cuba. Maybe it’s because I had Alabama grannies, whatever, but this was sidesplittingly funny to me.

Melting the sugar...

Melting the sugar…

I asked my friend, Guillermo, whose mother was born and raised in Cuba, if this Abuela is a stereotype. I’ve met his mother, a lovely women, and she didn’t seem to fit the category.   He said, indeed, his mother was not so easily pigeon-holed. But this YouTube’s rendering of a typical Abeula, from his experience with his Cuban family and friends was accurate, he said. And very amusing.

The caramel is ready! Careful! It can yield a nasty burn.

The caramel is ready! Careful! It can yield a nasty burn.

Back to flan. Not only have I been in Grandmother nostalgia land of late, I’ve also been craving pudding-ish desserts. Perhaps it’s the comforting texture. I adore Creme Brulée and Panna Cotta, yet, until now, haven’t made a custardy flan. Flan is enjoyed in various guises all over the world, most certainly Cuba.

Besides the ubiquitous Cuban Black Beans and Rice, flan commands center stage at the end of every meal, at every home and restaurant on the island. It can be dolled up with guava cheese, coconut, rum, pumpkin, or expresso. I”m thinking cranberry for next month? Nah. Just seems wrong.

The garnish is optional, but the cardamon mixed into the glaze is a masterful palate pleaser.

The garnish is optional, but the cardamon flavors in the pumpkin seeds take the dish from delicious to extraordinary.

As I do with all recipes that tread foreign soil, I scrutinized many, many recipes for  flans prior to making this. I made the first draft (the recipe below) and, honestly, can stop. Done. It doesn’t need another walk around the park. It is simply delicious. Especially with the optional garnish. Promise.

It’s a combination of half a dozen recipes from Cuban home kitchens that I found on-line. It will be the perfect finish to my Thanksgiving table, or rather two Thanksgiving tables (it’s complicated)–a creamy, lighter departure from the more traditional pumpkin pie.

So, friends, Happy Thanksgiving!  I am thankful for you, dear readers, who enjoy this blog. I am thankful for the myriad folks  from around the world who have found safe haven in the United States, and whose recipes have made their way into my kitchen. I am, especially, thankful for grandmothers.

 You’ll find my favorite holiday recipes  by clicking the gold holiday ball in the right hand column.

Recipe: Abuela’s Pumpkin Flan


  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons mascarpone or cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon crème of tartar (to prevent sugar syrups from crystallizing)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons honey


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To make the custard, in a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs until combined. Whisk in sugar, milks, mascarpone or cream cheese, pumpkin, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. (If mascarpone or cream cheese don’t incorporate well, give it a few whirs in a food processor.) Stir to release air bubbles. Reserve.
  3. To make the caramel, place sugar, water and crème of tartar in a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and boil, without stirring, until caramel turns the color of apple cider, 6-8 minutes. Watch carefully as it is very easy to burn caramel. (At this time, you will also want to bring a separate pot of water to a low boil for the bain marie.)
  4. Remove caramel from heat and carefully pour mixture into mold or ramekin. Even a small bit of errant caramel may cause a bad burn. Swirl it around to coat entire bottom and sides. Let caramel cool and harden, 2-3 minutes.
  5. When caramel has hardened, pour custard into mold or ramekins.  Pour hot water into the baking dish so it cover 2/3’s of the mold or ramekins.
  6. Carefully place baking dish(es) on the center rack of oven. Bake until the center of the custard is set and firm to the touch, about 45 minutes.
  7. Remove from water bath and transfer to a rack until cool. Refrigerate 4-24 hours.
  8. To make the garnish, if using. in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, toss the pumpkin seeds with cardamom and honey. Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper and spread with seed mixture. Bake until seeds are toasty, 5-7 minutes. Cool.
  9. To plate the flan after it has been chilled: Shimmy a spatula around the sides of flam. Place a plate large enough to incorporate flan and hold firmly over flan. Flip the pan, and let flan slide onto plate, allowing caramel to drizzle over the top. For ramekins, do the same thing.
  10. Garnish with honeyed pumpkin seeds, if using, and serve.

* EQUIPMENT: You will need a pie pan, individual ramekins or another mold of your choice. You will also need a baking dish large enough to accommodate the mold or ramekins. It will be used as a bain marie for baking the custard in hot water.

 35 minutes to make the custard and caramel

45 minutes baking time

4-24 hours resting time in fridge

Number of servings (yield): 8-10 SERVINGS

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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