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Superbowl Recipe Roundup!

February 5, 2016

Everyone knows that the Superbowl is all about the food! And the commercials. And the halftime show. And oh yeah, the actual game hehe. So as you can see I really have my priorities, and chances are you have similar priorities because you’re here too, checkin out the FOOD! So, let’s get to business, here are my top three recipe picks for Superbowl noshing:

  1. MACHOS or my Middle Eastern Nachos are all the rage in my family. You can get more details in the blog below, but my right hand man Chris at Eldridge Media was kind enough to create a shorter version of this video for those of you in a rush to put it all together before the guests come over. So here is the video for “Macho Light”

 

 

 

2. GAME DAY GARBANZO BEANS: These vegan babies are chewier, spicier, and more filling than chips. Plus, you can use them instead of croutons for a salad, or as a topping for tomato or butternut squash soup–YUM!

 

 

 

 

3. ARAYES: GRILLED MEAT AND PITA SANDWICHES: Forget about the same old burgers, just broil these sandwiches in the oven–crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Dip into my cucumber yogurt sauce for a garlicky and creamy twist!

 

 

4. The mother of all Middle Eastern dips is hummus, but please don’t buy the crappy store bought versions–make your own in 5 minutes, then top with some veggies, like garlicky mushrooms!

Here is the Hummus recipe:

 

 

Now go ahead, get crazy and top the hummus with some serious goodies!!

 

 

Now you are all set, these three recipes are all you will need to eat like a champ this Sunday ;)

Macho Nachos!

January 20, 2016

The nacho obsession in my family began when my siblings and I were in grade school at a sports spirit rally. Like  most children, we didn’t really have high culinary standards, so salty crunchy chips drowning in a fake cheezy sauce hooked us immediately. In high school we looked forward to our parents’ night out so we could raid the kitchen our own way. Thinking we were teenage cooking ingenues–we piled cheese a foot high on stale chips and plopped it into the microwave. Regardless of  the rubber coated mountain that resulted, we were proud of our DIY nacho achievements. As adults our tastes grew a lot more sophisticated, as we tried nachos with the works topped with beef,  onions, tomatoes, chiles and sour cream. I think there are two categories of people–those that won’t touch nachos if their life depended it, and those that will dive  full throttle  into a nacho plate with no regrets–never mind the aftermath of  meat sweats and lactose intolerance. Honestly these days I can’t afford to go on nacho binges anymore and still fit in my jeans the next day, regular nachos can do a double duty on the booty. How can I enjoy this treat somewhat guilt free? Alas, my machos were born. 

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Machos are essentially middle eastern nachos, packed full of lean protein, fiber, and yes,  real cheese. I swapped out tortilla chips for crunchy pita chips. The thicker the pita chip the better for holding more toppings without breaking apart. Instead of ground beef I used lean ground turkey, though you can easily use ground beef if you’re a serious carnivore, or ground seitan crumbles for a veggie version. Instead of orangy cheese “product” I used real mozzarella which has lower saturated fat than most cheeses. I also added zesty feta cheese, because a little bit goes a long way. Instead  of  “salsa” a cucumber tomato salad does the job of adding a juicy and crispy texture.  I replaced traditional sour cream with Arabic style “tarator” sauce, a nutty tahini sauce which you can get  from my shawarma video. If you like a bit of spice, feel free to amp up the macho factor with a big splash of  hot sauce.  I had to pass this recipe to my picky brother first, cause he is really serious about his nachos. Aside from some snide remarks towards player Jed York in the video, he slayed that platter of nachos!  Once I got his approval I was good to go. ;)

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You can serve these machos in a platter, or in bowls, so each person can dig in with a fork. You can check out my video step by step instructions below–Happy macho munching!

Here is a shopping list for reference:

Ground turkey (or beef or seitan)

Onions

Garlic

Olive oil

Mozarella and feta cheeses

Pita Chips (any flavor you like, make sure they are sturdy)

Allspice, salt and pepper

Salsa: Cucumbers and tomatoes

Tarator sauce: Tahini, yogurt, lemons

If you think you will give these macho nachos a try, hit like, drop me a comment, or better yet, share a pic of your creation! Happy superbowl munching!

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Have you ever thought about turning your favorite cookie into a cake? Meet my Ma’amoul Cake!

December 16, 2015

Well I have–too much actually. About once a year I get to indulge in Middle Eastern buttery cookies that are so time consuming to make, that my family has to form an assembly line to work on them for about 4 hours. The cookie is called Ma’amoul, a semolina shortbread pastry filled with either dates or walnuts.

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Arab Christians eat them during Easter and Epiphany, and Muslims eat them at night during Ramadan and on the Eid al-Fitr holidays. These cookies are hugely popular in Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gulf States, and are shaped like domes or doughnuts. They can be decorated by hand or formed into patterned wooden molds. Some say the wooden molds symbolize Jesus’s cross, the sugarless crust refers to the sadness of Christ’s death, and the filling is sweet to symbolise the resurrection.

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One day I thought, why not take the flavors of this annual labor intensive cookie and put them into an easy to make cake that I can enjoy any time of the year? Hence my Ma’moul cake was born.

 

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To mimic the flavors of the cookie, I created a cake that is not too sweet, so it’s ideal for breakfast and tea parties as well as dessert. Most traditional cake recipes add 2 cups of sugar for the batter, and 2 cups of sugar for the frosting, and I halved both without sacrificing flavor. The filling, which is usually the most decadent part of any cake, is actually the healthiest part! A blend of fiber filled dates and anti-oxidant rich almond butter with a touch of maple syrup create a sweet and creamy caramel flavor without refined sugar.  The added cinnamon and nutmeg are the same flavors you would find in any ma’amoul cookie. To add another authentic touch, I added cherry kernel powder called mahlab to the batter. Mahlab is an aromatic spice from the seeds of the St Lucie cherry, which grows robustly in the Mediterranean and has been used in Middle Eastern baking for centuries. The cherry stones are cracked to extract the soft and chewy seed kernels, which are ground into a powder. The flavor is a combination of bitter almond and cherry, and can sharpen any sweet baked goods that you make this holiday season. You can find Mahlab powder in most Middle Eastern markets, but it is entirely optional for this cake.

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To mimic the look of  the donut shaped date ma’maoul, I baked the cake in a bundt pan, then cut the cake in half horizontally and spread with the date filling.  You can also double the entire recipe to make a large 2 layer cake.  Here is my video tutorial of how to put this cake together!

 

Shopping list:

Cake:

Sugar

Butter

Eggs

Cake flour

Baking powder

Vanilla extract

Coconut cream

Mahlab powder (Optional)

Filling

Mejdool dates (The juicier the better)

Almond or cashew butter

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Maple syrup (optional)

Frosting:

Cream cheese

Confectioners sugar

Optional toppings:

Coconut, Chopped candied pecans, dusting of cinnamon

Holiday Decorating Ideas

December 12, 2015

I realize that while I can cook, I lack the patience to decorate. I take a minimalist, modern approach–which allows me think less about decor haha! My mother is not only an amazing cook, she is an incredible artist–she can recreate paintings by Degas and Sargent, and…she can also create a mean table setting. I think she puts Martha Stewart to shame! Let me show you her Christmas decorating extravaganza this year for some inspiration:

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This year her tree theme was red and gold. Sometimes she does blue and silver, other times silver and white. She has accumulated a ton of ornaments from after Christmas deals, but the dollar store is also a good place to look for color themed ornaments on the cheap. Michael’s is a great place to get berries, ribbons, and candles, and other accents.

 

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Find a dramatic centerpiece as inspiration, and decorate outward. My mother found this beautiful centerpiece at Costco of all places! Then she worked to include red accents throughout the table.  Notice above there is a separate table behind the dining table. This is one of those easy to store lightweight foldable tables. She likes to use that for the food buffet. That way she doesn’t have to remove the decor from the actual dining table to fit the food!

 

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Never underestimate the power of a plate setting–it makes every guest feel special. Coasters in metallic colors give a rich look–and cloth napkins are always on sale at after-Christmas sales at places like Target and Kohl’s. The golden apple napkin ties are from Michael’s. Candles always add a nice intimate touch without much money.

 

 

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I mean really–LOOK AT THIS TREE! It’s always a shame to take it down as it took so much effort to coordinate.  Below you can see the table in all of its richness. A table runner, like the gold and creme one in the center, adds dimension and color contrast.  Now I will be back with a dessert idea for next week so stay tuned!

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It’s that time of year again-Time to make Burbara!

December 7, 2015

Just a refresher for new followers of this blog, it is time for the feast of Santa Barbara among Palestinian and Lebanese Christians, which means heaping hot bowls of Burbara! Burbara is made to celebrate the feast of Santa Barbara–for a history and recipe to this delicious bowl of goodness, click on this LINK . Happy eating and stay tuned for a unique Christmas cake recipe that I am SUPER excited about sharing soon!

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Hashwa-Arabic Style Dressing for your Thanksgiving Feast!

November 19, 2015

Let’s face reality – Thanksgiving is not the ideal time to go low carb.

The holidays are the ideal time to put away the protein shakes, the sprouted tortillas and the egg-white omelets and celebrate togetherness by reveling in some luxurious carbohydrates. My mother is known for putting everyone out into a sleepy stupor after her lavish dinners. Here is a photo to give you an idea of what I mean:

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Perhaps some of you are searching through dog-eared recipes in old cookbooks for a tried-and-true stuffing recipe or browsing the Web for a new dish to spice up your holiday table. The following two Middle Eastern recipes celebrate both old and new traditions in my family in the form of carbs. After all, if you’re going to splurge, why not make a side dish using high-quality ingredients with maximum flavor?

Hashwa is the Arabic word for “stuffing.” This recipe is more than a century old, yet still very versatile for today’s palate.

For Thanksgiving, my mother would stuff Cornish game hens or turkey with Hashwa instead of traditional bread stuffing. This meat-and rice-based dish is great as a side or stuffing for game or vegetables like tomatoes, squash, zucchini or even grape leaves simmered in a tomato-kissed broth.

The addition of aromatic spices – allspice, turmeric and nutmeg – sets Hashwa apart from other rice-based dishes, as do the crunchy, pan-fried nuts that go on top. Pine nuts are the traditional topping, but my mother used slivered almonds when pine nuts weren’t available. Middle Eastern home cooks traditionally like to use Uncle Ben’s or converted rice because the rice turns out fluffier, but jasmine or even basmati rice will do. So if you are feeling adventurous, here is your ingredient list and and instructions, now grab your grocery bag to get the easy to find ingredients, and let me know how it goes!  Check out my latest video to give you step by step instructions:

Ingredients

3/4   pounds lamb, finely chopped  

1 tbs butter  

1/2   onion, finely diced  

3  cloves garlic, minced  

1   teaspoon salt  

1/4   teaspoon nutmeg

1   teaspoon ground allspice

dash turmeric

1  cups rice (like Jasmine)

1 3/4  cups chicken broth  

1   tablespoons olive oil  

11/4  cup each pine nuts, slivered almonds or a mixture of both  

To make stuffing:

Soak rice  for about 30 minutes. This will make the rice fluffier.  In the meantime, brown the lamb in  olive oil.  Add onion, garlic, salt, nutmeg and allspice. Saute until lamb is browned.  Set aside. Now time to prepare the rice. Add the butter to a saucepan, and stir in rice, salt to taste, and a dash of turmeric.  Then add the chicken broth. Once mixture starts boiling  cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed by the rice.

In a separate skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to nuts and sauté until golden brown.  To serve as a side dish, plate the rice, and top with the meat, then the nuts. To stuff a bird, mix everything together so the flavors and textures are evenly distributed.

From my family to yours, hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving! Drop a comment below or subscribe to my channel for more easy yet adventurous recipes!

 

 

My Latest Mini Documentary on the Lebanese Festival

November 13, 2015

If I want to submerge myself into a different culture without getting a plane ticket I just hit my local ethnic food festival. I feel so grateful to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where these food festivals abound–from Greek and Filipino to Polish and Portuguese. One of my favorites is the Lebanese Festival in Redwood City, California attracting 10,000 people every year. This festival is most definitely a foodie paradise, where the advice on their brochure says ” Plan your meals–avoid an angry stomach by taking a breather between meals, and remember we have take away containers to continue your feast at home.” Good advice, because with all the juicy shawarma, felafel fried on the spot, tabbouleh and kibbeh it’s easy to get carried away. Here I am annoyed cause my phone starts blowin up right before I wanted to dive head first into my feast.

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A close up of my chicken kebab, tabbouleh, hummus and rice with housemade pickle–this is the comfort food I grew up on–the mac and cheese substitute of my childhood.

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I even tried a new drink particular to Lebanon called Sharab al-kharroub, which means “carob drink” The mildly sweet beverage had notes of date and cocoa, which was so refreshing in the hot California sun. I loved the addition of pine nuts on top, which added a nutty flavor and fun crunchy texture. Made me think–why don’t we top beverages with goodies like this more often?

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And the Lebanese fest people were right, my eyes were more hungry than my stomach, so all the excess desserts had to be packaged to take home. Here are slices of buttery rich kenafe, a mamoul bar (shortbread filled with dates) and basbousa, or yogurt, honey and semolina cake.

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But even more than the food, the Lebanese volunteers that put this festival together really made this event shine. Over 100 volunteers from the Christian Maronite Church called Our Lady of Lebanon put countless hours into hand making every felafel morsel, every marinated shred of beef, and every pastry. The Lebanese have always been known as the most fun loving people of the middle east–when people of other Arab nations want to party they travel to Lebanon. When they want to watch the latest and greatest music video, game show, or films they watch Lebanese television. The Lebanese resilience is so legendary that they even have underground bomb shelters that have been converted into discotheques!  But underneath it all, they are a people that have been through a lot of upheaval and pain from war throughout the decades. In this mini-documentary, it was my intent to capture the spirit and essence of the Lebanese people, I hope you enjoy watching it and I would love your comments and feedback!

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