Salmon Cakes


I am trying so hard not to pass judgment or make assumptions about others. I recently read a story about a certain celebrity couple who left their three-month-old baby home to fly to Paris, to attend a certain celebrity event. The former self would have judged and said, “Dude, what the #%@#? They’re such #$@%-ing awful parents for leaving their newborn, just to satisfy their own vanity!” (By the way, I’m trying hard to curse less too.) But the new self now thinks, “Everyone is entitled to their own choices, and if going away and taking a little vacation from parenting actually makes them better parents, let them to fly to a foreign country and flaunt those mega post-baby boobies!” It’s not easy, but I’m trying!

So, in the spirit of positive thinking, giving the benefit of the doubt, looking on the bright side of life, and glass is always half full, give Salmon Cakes from a canned salmon a try! Canned fish often gets a bad rap but these flaky cakes are delicious!


Salmon Cake
(Adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners, as well as Food Network)


2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, crumbled, bacon fat reserved
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 egg
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon, zested
1 (14-ounce) can wild salmon, checked for large bones
1 baked or boiled russet potato, peeled, and fluffed with a fork
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil


Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Cool the onions for a bit.

Mix the bacon, onion, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the salmon and potato, mixing gently after each addition. Form the mixture into 12 small patties. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and pepper, to taste. Coat the patties in the bread crumb topping. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook the salmon cakes in batches until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add more oil, as necessary. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

I didn’t make the recommended side dishes. Instead, I served the cakes with pasta salad and string beans.


Black Bean Brownies


I’ve noticed that many bloggers I adore have vacated the blogosphere and moved on to other social media in recent years, sharing their thoughts via pictures and 140 characters instead of potentially lengthy, often time-consuming posts. It’s wonderful that I can still take a peak into their interesting lives and delicious food and craft adventures in catchy tweets and sepia color photos, but I miss their creative expressions through vibrantly written words.  Many of them are great epicurean, talented crafters and even better writers, and I miss savoring on their deliciously selected words!

On a separate note, this blog, Lavender and Olive (well, Time for Dinner for most part, until I changed the name), celebrated its six-year anniversary the other day, with more than 500 posts.  Six years!  Yipee!  The readership remains meager (I don’t think my family members even read this blog lol ) and I STILL don’t have a clear point of view (Is this a food blog?  Knitting blog? Sewing?  Soap making?), but this is an extension of my life and I’m really proud of it.  And thank you so much for your continued support.

Cheers to six more yummy years!  In the meantime:  Black Bean Brownies from Melissa D’Arabian’s Ten Dollar Dinners!

Note: I substituted black beans with kidney beans (because that’s all I had in the pantry) but still came out delicious!  I might like this better than regular brownies, with the perfect combination of cake and fudge.  I think I’ll add more beans (maybe a whole can, instead of 3/4 cup) next time because I loved the texture so much (but they don’t taste like beans at all).


Black Bean Brownies
(Adapted From Food Network)


Butter, for greasing pan
3/4 cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup vegetable oil, or olive oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, divided
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 9-inch square baking pan.

In a blender, puree the beans with the oil. Add the eggs, cocoa, sugar, coffee, and vanilla. Melt half the chocolate chips and add to the blender. Blend on medium-high until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the blender and pulse until just incorporated. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until the surface looks somewhat matte around the edges and still a bit shiny in the middle, about 20 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting and removing from the pan. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Cook’s Note: Place a small cutout or stencil on the brownie before dusting to make a design.

Orange Carrot Soup

soup 2

I developed a culinary crush on Melissa D’Arabian back in 2009 when she won the Next Food Network Star with her down to earth and wallet friendly menus, with a dash of her tenacious spirit. Then I cancelled cable and we went our separate ways … until we reunited when I purchased her cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners!

I love buying cookbooks but I rarely cook from them (I read them like a literature), but this one is different. All the recipes look delectable and approachable. They are the culinary version of a girl next door – non-assuming and accessible– just like Melissa herself.

My first attempt from the cookbook:  Orange Carrot Soup (you can find the recipe on the FN website, under the name, Orange-Scented Soup).  The soup is infused with orange zest, which gives this lovely earthy soup a special twist.  I used a lemon zest instead but it was still very lovely.  My husband enjoyed it too, and this will surely become a go-to soup in chilly fall / winter nights.  And yes, the soup cost next to nothing, delivering on her promise.

We paired the soup with Salade Nicoise with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigerette (p.93) from the cookbook for dinner. 

Orange Carrot Soup
Adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners


1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons light sour cream, divided


In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and the onion and sweat until the mixture starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, orange zest and oregano and cook until fragrant, another 1 to 2 minutes. Raise the heat and deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the stock and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the mixture for about 5 minutes before processing.

Process the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into serving bowls and swirl in a heaping teaspoon of sour cream before serving.

I love this cookbook and Melissa’s recipes so much that I created a new categories for it! 🙂

D’Arabian Night: North African Meatballs

melissaMelissa d’Arabian, the winner of the Next Food Network Star and the newest member of the FN family, promises to deliver a meal for four for under $10 in her show called, what else, “Ten Dollar Dinners.” A concept not too original, I must admit, but intriguing nonetheless. In this tough economic time, everyone can use some help in tighten up the belt.

I was really happy that she won the title of the Next Food Network Star, not necessarily because I thought she was the best cook out there, but because of her fighting spirit. In the beginning, no one thought she was going to win. I think many of us, myself included, discounted her, thinking that she wouldn’t last past first several weeks. But week after week, challenge after challenge, she unveiled a little bit of herself to knock nine other contenders out of the race. I took a major satisfaction in watching some of her fellow contestants attempt to throw her under the bus, only to be counter-attacked by Melissa’s culinary roundhouse kicks (don’t mess with stay-home moms, I’m telling you, they are fighters). Maybe I resonated with her because I too am an underdog in life, and it was impossible not to be inspired by someone who defeated all odds to climb to the top.

With that said, an FN personality is nothing without good food, so I decided to put her latest menus to the test, and to see if her recipes can truly live up to the delicious, $10 promise. The first attempt: North African Meatballs!

I went to Trader Joe’s to pick up the ingredients: ground beef, canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, lemon, chicken broth, cumin, parsley, and a bottle of white wine. I also picked up a box of couscous and carrots for side dishes. I already had other necessary ingredients like onion, garlic, cinnamon, brown sugar, and prunes (instead of dates) in my pantry which would be helpful to fit everything into $10 or less.

You can find the recipe for North African Meatballs here.

First, I cooked the onion and garlic in olive oil, and added chopped black olives, lemon zest, dices tomatoes, chicken broth and white wine and let them simmer in a pot in medium heat. Then I added cinnamon, brown sugar, salt and pepper. I added lemon juice (which the recipe didn’t call for) and two extra teaspoons of brown sugar because I wanted to really accentuate the warm sweetness of brown sugar and cinnamon. And wow, I never imagined that cinnamon and lemon zests go so well together!

meatballs soup

While the liquid is simmering, I made the meatball by first mixing egg, tomato paste, and chopped parsley together.

meatballs paste

I added a pound of ground beef to the paste, added cumin, salt and pepper, and made them into little balls. I totally forgot to mix the breadcrumbs … shame on me!

meatballs uncooked

I cooked the meatballs in olive oil until they are golden brown on both sides. They don’t have to be fully cooked at this point.

meatballs cooked

Once browned, I put the meatballs into the liquid and let it cook for about 20 minutes.

meatballs in pot

I also cooked up the Couscous with Dried Dates to accompany the meatballs. Instead of dates, I used dried prunes I already had in my pantry.


Because dinner is not complete without vegetable, here’s Melissa’s Glazed Carrots.


The food was delicious and an absolute delight. I really never explored North African-inspired dishes before so this required me to get out of my culinary comfort zone (it’s my first time incorporating cumin into my cooking) but the outcome was superb. The combination of cinnamon, cumin and lemon brought out such unique and beautifully foreign flavors, and the juicy meatballs cooked in tomato sauce really excited my taste buds!  I have a feeling that these dishes, especially the meatballs, will be making regular appearances at my dinner table.

As for the price (drum rolls, please) … the total of the entire dinner of North African Meatballs, Couscous with Dried Dates, and Glazed Carrots came out to … $12.32! Keep in mind that I did purchase the cheapest Chardonnay available (Two Buck Chuck, baby), and used lots of ingredients I already had in the pantry (and I didn’t even include the breadcrumbs that I forgot to use) so calling this a $10 or less meal is a little bit of a stretch … but I was able to make enough to feed about six people (instead of 4) so I guess that evens out the cost.

I hope you would try these simple but delicious recipes. They are much cheaper than dining out and they are sure to take your dining experience to a whole different continent!

I can’t wait to see what Melissa will cook up this week! 🙂