The weather outside? It’s frightful. After spending a week and a half in the mid-to-high-60s, beautifully temperate climate of Kuwait (ed note: this weather is only applicable in the “winter” months), I retuned to D.C. only to face blisteringly cold winds, sagging holiday decorations, and a chill in the air. Welcome to January?

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Despite the warmth, the idea of winter was all the rage. From thick sweaters to hearty soups, everyone but me embraced the idea of needing to create warmth. This lentil soup recipe (dubbed the Jarjouhi Lentil Soup, after the creator), was one of the many delicious meals I had — and I immediately filed it away in my mental recipe Rolodex for a bitterly cold day.

I’d like to say that this soup has the power to take away the January blues – it’s that magical. While I won’t go into the health properties of lentils (every hipster food blog out there has taken care of that for me), I will point out that this soup won’t break your “oh-my-god-it’s-the-new-year-time-to-get-healthy” resolution when you have multiple bowls. And, to make it even more waist-line friendly, you can opt to leave the macaroni out.

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hurricane sandy is upon us. landfall is imminent, the impact still questionable. after experiencing “hurricane” irene in 2011, i question whether or not meteorologists actually know how bad sandy’s bite will be. at any rate, i am prepared. i’ve gathered all the ingredients for some of the best rainy-day-spent-indoors dishes that i know: macaroni & cheese, “magic” casserole, as a friend calls it (really, broccoli, mushroom, & chicken), and apple & butternut squash soup. oh, and of course, a few cans of soup and beans.

i suppose my definition of hurricane comfort food differs somewhat. my mac&cheese involves truffle oil, white cheddar, and 20 minutes of baking time. and apple & butternut squash soup? not your usual quickie, power-outage fare. i obviously have all these dishes in mind because i fully expect the impact of sandy to be minimal. check back with me in a few days; should my power go out, i’ll certainly be eating my words.

but, back to the soup. i like this combination of apple and butternut — the flavours really are quite complimentary, and add a nice little twist to an already delicious soup. the recipe can certainly be made without the apple, if that’s not your thing, but it’s worth a try.

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i’m here today to talk about chicken. roast chicken, specifically. growing up, this dish was a staple at my house. and, oh, the smell! there was nothing better than coming home from school to have the scent of chicken, vegetables, saffron, and other spices roasting away. particularly in the cooler months (growing up in kuwait, winters were… scarce), the entire meal just screams coziness.

the greatest part, however, is how ridiculously simple it is to make. serving roast chicken immediately draws thoughts of slaving away over a hot stove, mixing spices to get the flavour exactly right, and time-consuming efforts. in actuality? roast chicken is probably the easiest thing i’ve ever made. boys and girls, keep this recipe in your hat for those times you just need to impress someone.

i think what i like most about this is the simplicity. there’s a reason shows like top chef always have at least one challenge dedicated to the basics — it boils back to the idea that before you can run, you need to walk. the same holds true for cooking, i feel. before you can attempt to make the crazy masterpieces that renowned chefs make, you need to learn how to cook the simple foods, the staples. roast chicken is one of these staples.

and don’t think that this needs to be served in any specific manner. the meat (which ends up so tender and juicy) can be used for a ton of different dishes: in salads, sandwiches, with rice, with pasta, by itself. versatile, simple, and delicious. really, isn’t that what food is all about?

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i have been on a “do it yourself” kick recently to create my stocks and sauces from scratch. i’d almost mastered chicken stock when i decided to give tomato sauce a whirl.

though this may seem obvious to some, i was slightly surprised that the sauce wasn’t quite as creamy as your usual canned, store-bought sauce. perhaps creamy isn’t the right word. maybe velvety? at any rate, while canned tomato sauce comes out completely smooth and blended, my homemade tomato sauce comes out a little less smooth – but still completely delicious.

i used the sauce to make chili. and i have to say – i really was able to taste the difference when i use the from-scratch sauces as compared to the cans. it really is ridiculously easy. the biggest difficulty comes from time. the sauce requires 2-3 hours of simmering time, but hey. all you need is to settle down with a marathon of your latest tv obsession (“game of thrones,” anyone?) or pop in a good movie and let the sauce bubble away.

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cabbage rollsi love cabbage rolls – just ask my mom. every time i head home to the middle east, my mom asks what special meal i’d like her to cook for me. the answer, every time, is cabbage rolls. you’d think that living half a world away would be enough incentive for her to cook up her daughter’s favorite meal, but, no such luck. when we were kids, cabbage rolls would be a treat for my brother and me. it’s not that it’s a hard dish, or contains expensive ingredients that stopped my mother from whipping it up. it was the fact that you couldn’t whip it up. cabbage rolls are time-consuming, and require a two to three hour window of time to create.

the first time i made cabbage rolls on my own, i recognized just how tedious this meal is. this is not a dish you just go and make on a whim, should you have a craving for them one night. the dish requires patience and lots of it. cabbage is a delicate vegetable, and rushing through will end up with torn leaves, rice and meat everywhere, and tears of frustration (i learned this the hard way).

i was reminded of the dish, and it’s complexities, when a friend sent me a recipe she had found online. my goal over labor day weekend was to take time creating a dish totally from scratch, and this was it. i used some of these instructions as my guide, but made adjustments, based on the way my mom would make hers. one big change? we always top our rolls with tomato sauce. i actually made mine from scratch. but that’s a recipe for another time. Read More