DSC_0195I strongly believe that all areas of life should be inspired by art. Maybe not in the traditional sense when you think of it, but anything with an artistic and creative base. This roots from my upbringing in a household of artists, exposing me to original oils and watercolors on the walls by my grandmother and mother, art classes and innovative summer art camps led by my mother, and photography sessions with my dad to perfect the observant eye. Will also grew up in an artistic family, tracing back to his great-grandparents who all met in art school and went on to do marketing design for the auto industry, to his grandmother who has her own original art displayed around her charming home in Santa Barbara, to his aunt who is a professional artist (and I think some of you may actually have some of her coloring books – her current professional medium; her son is also a professional artist), his other aunt who’s art was done through jewelry and purse-making from kimonos which one of her daughters has now adopted, to his own mother who produces art in several mediums, most recently through felting and watercolor.

I am spoiled rotten. I think anyone who’s read anything on this blog might agree. But seriously. How many other people out there come home to meals like this on a regular weeknight? I imagine not many. If I didn’t have Will, I’d probably be pretty proud of myself for cooking one or two meals a week, and not just eating frozen food out of a box every night (Trader Joe’s Butter Chicken, I’m lookin’ at you). It seriously takes me a minimum of two hours to make anything in the kitchen (even if it’s easy), so if it were totally up to me, I’d always be cooking my dinner the night before I actually want to consume it – too much effort. But instead my husband is unreal and I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to enjoy gourmet meals on the reg. You also know that not every evening is a three-piece Turkish meal, but often it’s not too far off.

Well, after a brief Facebook poll, the Moroccan dish was the winner for the first recipe back on the blog in a few weeks! Bet you wouldn’t have guess it involved prunes, would ya? These little guys get a bad rap for being for old people who need to drink their prune juice, but honestly, they are super similar to figs and added a really nice, sweet touch to this tagine recipe! This was a great new recipe to try, as it involved different veggies than we typically involve in tagine recipes. This was the perfect recipe to try for winter, since it involved sweet potatoes and carrots, which are both plentiful and hearty in the colder season. We highly recommend you give this recipe a shot (even if you’re nervous about the prunes) because it is sustaining, flavorful and makes wonderful leftovers. If you don’t have a tagine, then a Dutch oven or any other casserole dish with a lid, will work just fine!

This recipe, my friends, is going to be the one to end them all. We have never made nor tasted a hummus as perfect as this. Will’s discovery of this on Smitten Kitchen was food blog gold. When he first told me he was going to try a new hummus recipe and asked if I would assist in peeling all the chickpeas, you can imagine my reaction: hesitant, annoyed, but also curious. When he backed up his question informing me that it was from Smitten Kitchen, I realized he might be about to make something heavenly. I assisted with peeling all the chickpeas and in the end it was the right decision – that extra five minutes of my life was entirely worth it.

Well hello there. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you all here. I was busy with travel things, work things and….oh wait, I’m out of excuses already. I’ll admit: I kind of forgot I had a food blog for a couple weeks there. But after cooking two awesome recipes from our favorite food bloggers, I realized “Hey! I’m taking pictures of these recipes….why am I doing that again?” And then I remembered that oh yes, I too had a small little food blog where I share the joys of our kitchen and those who are kind enough to share with us. And it’s kind of a fun thing, believe it or not. I thought maintaining Cooking With Willis while in grad school was hard. Maintaining Cooking With Willis while adulting is harder, for sure.

I’m sure you’re not terribly surprised to see another harissa dish up on the blog this week, after our how-to that was shortly followed by our tagine dinner. However, I bet you weren’t expecting to see it combined with cauliflower. What a weird little vegetable. I think of it as an albino broccoli, but without some of the great flavor you can achieve with a fresh head of its green counterpart. But what is enticing about cauliflower is that you can pretty much shape its flavor to be whatever you want, because it is so neutral! When I came across this recipe on Pinterest, I jumped on it since the harissa was only about two weeks old. I had been wanting to try a cauliflower recipe (just like Brussels sprouts, it had been on the “to try” list) and this one seemed like an appropriate first step. Despite one of my favorite blogs publishing a cauliflower-based cookbook, the timing with the harissa seemed appropriate, so I jumped on it. I decided I could be a big girl and make it myself for one of the nights Will was busy with class, to have ready when he got home…

Ohhhh do I have a good one for you today! This is another old favorite, similar to turkey burgers and chicken peanut curry in the sense that we make it often but have never blogged about it. Never fear, because our go-to tagine meal is here. The reason a lot of our food is heavily Middle Eastern-influenced is because when we were undergrads, Will spent a summer studying abroad in Morocco. Being the main chef in our household, I’m sure it won’t surprise you that he inspired by the food that he had while abroad and as we transitioned from being undergraduates to “real people,” his recipe choices were reminiscent of his time in Morocco. This has proved to be a good thing, as a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean diet is full of grains and fresh veggies, moreso than some other cultural foods. As a result, I’m sure you’ve noticed from the blog we have a varied recipe collection, lovingly referred to as “ethnic” (despite that term rubbing both of us the wrong way, as academic types). However, despite the terminology, I hope that this blog has introduced you to more global recipes and has helped you to see that they are sometimes not as complicated or intimidating as you may initially think – I know it has helped me learn that!

If you don’t like spicy things, you probably don’t need to read any further. I don’t usually dissuade people from reading my posts, but this is hands-down the spiciest thing we have ever made. Bring tears to your eyes, burn your mouth, fire-breathing spicy.* But that’s the fun part about it! We love our spicy foods, as I’m sure you can tell, so it did not surprise me in the least when Will said he was going to attempt to make homemade harissa. Me being the lover of spicy things slightly more than Will, highly encouraged this decision. He decided to make it to go along with a tagine dinner we were making for two of our lovely neighbors, who are willing to try most things we cook. Only slightly before they arrived to eat, the harissa was done and we tested it. Needless to say, we were equally shocked as to what Will had made in that tiny little Mason jar! It really only seemed edible in the smallest of doses, which in a way actually makes it kind of perfect.

We have a lot of new kitchen toys. A lot. So many, that it’s mind-boggling to keep up with them each time we cook! This recipe featured:
-new Le Creuset dutch oven (and a Wolfgang Puck one, not featured here, but also new and exciting!)
-new Turkish cookbook from our favorite Turkish family, the Kiran’s
-new onion chopper
-new cutting boards
-new Pampered Chef measuring pour cups
-new wooden utensils
-new pinch pots
-new plates/bowls

See what I mean? A lot of new toys (and this is only some). All the fun! We feel so spoiled by all the outpouring of love from our friends and family and our kitchen is certainly happier for it. I think I hadn’t realized how far the blog has impacted with those we know and love, because people really went nuts with an outpouring of fun kitchen gadgets because I think they knew we would use them, no matter how bizarre they may be! So many thanks and much love in return, friends.

You know I’m always ready on the weekends with a new coffee or breakfast recipe! This one is a little different than a latte but packs a punch all of its own. Inspired by Will’s favorite Moroccan cookbook, he started making this recipe on the weekends on a fairly regular basis. There’s just enough spice to make you aware of its presence, but not so much that you’re overwhelmed by the contingent of flavors. You may think we’re crazy for suggesting putting black pepper in your coffee, but I promise it’s balanced by the array of sweeter and more powerful spices. When we’re out of milk and want something a step up from regular French press coffee, this is what we turn to.