Posts

Oven-Baked Beef Kebab with Eggplant

 

Enjoy this personal twist on a traditional family dish that’s fun to assemble and easy to bake! They’ll come out moist and flavorful every time!

Ingredients

 

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 eggplants
  • 18-20 fingerling potatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tsp. Aleppo red pepper
  • 1 tsp. mint
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup bulgur #1
  • 4-5 mini bell peppers
  • 1 bunch fresh mint for garnish

Sauce

  • 1 tsp . Olive oil
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 tbls. tomato paste
  • 1 tbls. red pepper paste
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Sugar
  • 2 tsp. dried mint
  • 2 cups water

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the eggplant (I prefer Japanese eggplants) in just three sections (don’t need to peel the entire skin)
  3. Cut the eggplants just over an inch wide
  4. Optional: Lightly season eggplant slices with salt and grill. You may also fry them or simply add them to the dish raw.
  5. Chop half the onion (the other half will be used for the sauce).
  6. Add the chopped onion to the ground beef in a large bowl
  7. Add bulger, salt, Aleppo pepper and dried mint to the beef
  8. Mix all ingredients well by hand
  9. Chop the other half of the onion
  10. Heat very little oil to a frying pan and add the chopped onion
  11.  Add salt, tomato paste, red pepper paste, dried mint, water and sugar
  12. Whisk all ingredients together, when sauce starts bubbling, remove from heat
  13.  Cut the edges of the fingerling potatoes so that they are the same length as the slices of eggplants.
  14. Assemble the dish by layering the bottom of the baking dish with some of the sauce (Just enough to cover the bottom).
  15. Make small meat balls with the beef mixture and place around the pan, alternating between beef, eggplant and potatoes.
  16. Add the remainder of the sauce on top of the diesh
  17. Slice the baby bell peppers and add to the top of the dish.
  18. Cover with foil, bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
  19. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes.
  20. Garnish with fresh mint and serve!

 

Shushan Darzian is the founder and owner of Ladybugs Catering & Events. Her passion for food, presentation and exquisite detail drive her mission to provide outstanding service for her clients. As a former educator, she is committed to life-longing learning and loves to travel. She resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons.

 

Tips on Hosting a Dinner Party

Hosting an event and catering and event both have similar responsibilities—-however, the essential difference for a host to keep in mind is entertaining both our guests as well as ourselves. Being a part of the event is just as important as planning it and sometimes it’s easy to exclude ourselves from the fun because we’re so preoccupied with managing the details. Preparation is important— to plan the event and dress the part—it is equally important to feel included in the festivities. I truly believe it’s important to not only look the part, but to be a part…and enjoy the occasion!

I recently hosted a very special dinner for my cousins. About eight years ago we realized that as our lives got busier with work and our families, we saw each other less and less. It was hard for us to accept distance when we were raised together and had been very close since childhood; so we made a pact to have dinner together once a month, just us. Each of us takes a turn hosting this important dinner, and we have the chance to catch up, share laughs, play games, eat good food, and enjoy each other’s company! Our rules are simple. The dinner is intimate, it’s with cousins only, we prepare the food instead of ordering it, and we don’t use plastic ware. Of course there are some exceptions—life happens. Sometimes our children join us, and we have an opportunity for more games, more bonds, and hopefully more traditions to pass onto them. What’s most special about our deal is that we created it between cousins and it has grown into our tradition.

I truly believe it’s important to not only look the part, but to be a part…and enjoy the occasion!

Recently, it was my turn to host and I had a few things in mind for the dinner. My job as the host is to prepare great food, drinks, and entertainment. Consideration for your guests is important for any event—their likes and dislikes—when planning. Knowing my cousins, I realized they hated cocktail hour, and I needed to give them what they really wanted: sitting together at the table, talking and enjoying delicious food. With this in mind, I made cocktail hour face-to-face, with the same space for conversation but with more food within reach for us to munch on. We sat at the table with low floral centerpieces and a middle runner filled with food. The table was a grazing station with a variety of appetizers and dishes spread across the table. My goal was to have the food flow naturally, just like the conversations we’d be having at the table!

For any event I give myself the freedom to be creative—and while I admit I do procrastinate a bit when it comes to my own events—-I am mindful that planning is important and preparing is necessary. These are a few things I always consider:

  1. The food—I have fun with preparing the menu for my guests, and especially with my cousins, I like to ask what each prefers to eat.
  2. The theme—this is vital for the ambiance—it’s important to set the tone of the evening for guests and the added effort shows you care. In selecting the theme, I always consider the season. The menu selections for the event are usually custom tailored to seasonal food items. The colors of the season also inspire both the table setting and arrangements which contribute to the overall ambiance.
  3. The entertainment—my family loves playing games, these are often competitive but always end with love and laughter!

 

Whether entertaining or hosting, preparing or planning, I always remind myself to enjoy the process. Some of it comes with experience and trying new things, but I like to have fun and be creative every step of the way.

 

For more tips on hosting and how I prepare for an event, click here!

 

Shushan Darzian is the founder and owner of Ladybugs Catering & Events. Her passion for food, presentation and exquisite detail drive her mission to provide outstanding service for her clients. As a former educator, she is committed to life-longing learning and loves to travel. She resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons.

Recipe: Fourth of July Caprese Salad

A fun twist to a classic Italian salad.

Supplies

  • star shaped cookie cut out set (You can find it at Michael’s or Amazon)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 to 5 blue basil stems
  • 1/2 block Karoun Nabulsi Cheese

 

Directions

    1. Start by slicing the tomatoes into halves and transfer it to a bowl.
    2. The cheese is one-inch thick. Cut it in half to make it 1/2 an inch thick. Use different sized star shaped cookie cutters to cut stars
      out of the cheese slices. Add the cheese stars to the tomatoes.
    3. Add blue basil.
    4. Dice your cucumbers in a diagonal. Use the smallest size star shaped cookie cutter to cut stars out of your cucumber slices. Add the slices to the salad. 
    5. Drizzle olive oil on top of your salad and enjoy! 

 

Shushan Darzian is the founder and owner of Ladybugs Catering & Events. Her passion for food, presentation and exquisite detail drive her mission to provide outstanding service for her clients. As a former educator, she is committed to life-longing learning and loves to travel. She resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons.

Recipe: Watermelon Salad

Try this easy, refreshing and fun salad. A perfect activity to do with your kids!

 

Supplies

  • star shaped cookie cut out set (You can find it at Michael’s or Amazon)

 

Ingredients

  • 1 small watermelon
  • 2 ounces of feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries
  • 4 to 5 stems of mint
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey

 

 

Dressing

  1. Whisk your lemon juice and honey together.

 

 

Directions

  1. Cut the watermelon in 1/2 inch thick slices. Use different sized star shaped cookie cutters to cut stars out of the watermelon slices. Place your cut out watermelon pieces in a large bowl.
  2. Add blueberries, crumbled feta cheese and mint.
  3. Drizzle your dressing on top of your salad and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Shushan Darzian is the founder and owner of Ladybugs Catering & Events. Her passion for food, presentation and exquisite detail drive her mission to provide outstanding service for her clients. As a former educator, she is committed to life-longing learning and loves to travel. She resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons.

 

 

 

Down In New Orleans

New Orleans—the city of vibrant music, spicy cuisine, and people celebrating life!

My recent trip to The Big Easy was a wonderful experience that brought together great friends, great music, and great food. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton in the heart of the French Quarter, where we were met with authentic New Orleans gumbo. New Orleans is a melting pot of French, Creole, African, and American cultures and cuisines. I had some expectations going in—mostly for good food and music—though not all of them were met (scroll down to read why). Still, I was enchanted by the city— its rich history, the music playing everywhere day and night and of the warmth of people who truly seemed happy.

St. Louis Cathedral

New Orleans has so much to offer visitors and most places are accessible by foot or street car. Walking the streets of the French Quarter and Garden District is a wonderful way to soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of city. Colorful flowers and beads decorating buildings, musicians on street corners strumming their guitar as they sing, music spilling out the windows of jazz bars, and Cajun spices filling each restaurant. One fun way to sightsee while learning about local history is taking a Carriage Tour, which I highly recommend. There’s so much history in New Orleans and sitting in a horse-drawn carriage while admiring the cast-iron balconies of the French Quarter is a great way to learn about how the city evolved as well as its rich heritage. What stood out to me particularly was the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. It is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Its location overlooking the square and waterfront is a breathtaking sight, but just standing in front of this historic place of worship made me feel like I was somewhere special, somewhere important.

 

I was enchanted by the city— its rich history, the music playing everywhere day and night and of the warmth of people who truly seemed happy.

Another glimpse of New Orleans is by the St. Charles Street Car, which is an affordable way to connect you to the Garden District. This is a charming neighborhood filled with lavish homes and rich greenery of its oak trees. The Garden District is home to many celebrities and filled with boutique shops, elegant restaurants, and cute cafes. While in the Garden District my friends and I visited Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I had no idea of how people were buried there or the ceremonies involved, and the tour was very enlightening—it was definitely worth it! Fun fact: The tombs are above ground because of heavy rainfall and are mostly all family tombs. That means each tomb is the final resting place for not only the recently deceased, but likely an entire lineage of that family.

We also took a Bayou Tour and visited a plantation—two unforgettable experiences. The Bayou Tour was surprisingly beautiful and scenic. Water lilies, frogs, birds, Cypress trees and Spanish moss were all around as our speed boat coasted through the swamp. We also got to see some alligators up-close! While our tour guide fed one alligator I was right next to him, looking directly at the gator. My friends panicked as I leaned forward off the boat—but I was so caught up in that moment, feeling fearless I stretching my arms forward to capture the moment with my phone camera.

Feeding time!

The Oak Alley Plantation tour was amazing to behold. In our tour we visited the slave quarters, where the slave stories were told as if they were living in the present and we learned about the importance of sugar for the plantation. My favorite part was the entrance—the tall oak trees lining the path, the branches cascading above as they intertwine and the bright green leaves woven together! Every tree was named and absolutely breathtaking to see.

Unfortunately, I had some disappointments on the trip. I was looking forward to the beignets at the original Cafe Du Monde, my hopes were high for the savory dessert New Orleans is famous for. The café did not meet my expectations—the beignet was doughy, flavorless and covered in powdered sugar; the café selection was limited to beignets and coffee so the experience was less than satisfying. Luckily however, our hotel had the most delicious, fluffy, hollow beignets served with a side of flavorful sauces—I highly recommend tasting these! I also recommend dining at Doris Metropolitan for delicious aged meats and sweet bread as well as Pêche Seafood Grill for crab claws and oysters galore.

A trip to The Big Easy is well worth it—enjoy the jazz clubs, walk the French Quarter, tour the cemeteries, visit the National WWII Museum, walk the waterfront along the Mississippi River, and eat crawfish and alligator tail. Most of all, enjoy the heart of the people and the life of the city!

 

 

 

Shushan Darzian is the founder and owner of Ladybugs Catering & Events. Her passion for food, presentation and exquisite detail drive her mission to provide outstanding service for her clients. As a former educator, she is committed to life-longing learning and loves to travel. She resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons.