I think this is the first time people really aren’t into the holiday spirit. I know some people dread Christmas because of the added stress of gift shopping, but Thanksgiving is when people really relax, indulge, and enjoy each other’s company. This year no one is even talking about Thanksgiving. Whatever side of the election you were on, I know it has been an emotionally exhausting time, from people unfriending each other on Facebook, to arguments at the water cooler, to protests in the streets. For many the transition from this election madness to Thanksgiving is almost schizophrenic, like how are we supposed to forget everything and just settle down to a table of turkey? Well, I am here to say that it is more important than ever to celebrate Thanksgiving. This can be a time of hope and healing, and focusing on what we have versus what we don’t have. A time to show others you truly love them and how grateful you are to have them in your lives. And a time to appreciate the food we have–in many war torn nations around the world from Syria to Yemen to Venezuela any kind of fresh food is a luxury. So, to help you get started in preparing your Thanksgiving table, I am going to share a recipe for a simple and humble root vegetable that is vibrant in color–the sweet potato.
I love the Japanese idea of umami, that “other” sense of taste that you really can’t describe, a combination of sweet, sour, and salty. These sweet potatoes have all of the those flavors and then some. Lemon juice offers a tanginess, maple syrup and honey a sweetness, tahini a creaminess and richness, pistachios some nuttiness, and sweet potato an earthiness. Put them all together and you’ve got a winning side sweet potato dish that does away with those artificial tasting marshmallows you see in Thanksgiving recipes. This dish also can cater to people with all sorts of diets, whether gluten free, Whole 30, vegetarian, vegan, or paleo–so it’s great for entertaining. I had fun experimenting and developing this dish for you all, so I hope you enjoy this recipe and give me your feedback!
As an aside, a lot of you have sent me e-mails asking why I don’t post videos more often, the easy answer is I don’t have the budget to post a video more than once a month. Feast in the Middle East is a collaborative effort, where I develop the content, but depend on my team to bring you these instructional videos, so that the video, lighting, and editing look professional. My ultimate goal would be to share a video recipe with you once a month, and if you are in the mood feel free to sponsor us on Patreon. Even $1.00 a month from many people will help us reach this goal.😉 If you are interested please click on this LINK.
So are you ready to give these sweet potatoes a go? Click on the video below, and I have provided a grocery list below the video for your next shopping trip.😉
2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Chopped Pistachios (without the shell)
My latest video is in response to many of YOU, the viewers, who wanted a video on how to entertain guests from the Middle East. During the summer I released a video about what to expect if you are INVITED to a Middle Eastern home. However many people are finding themselves in the reverse situation, having to do the entertaining instead of the “guesting” (Is that a word? Well it is now.)🙂 Many of my viewers have significant others that are Arabic and want to impress their current or potential in-laws. Some are hosting friends from abroad. Some of my viewers have unusual situations, like teaching German to Syrian refugees and wanting to engage with them socially. Whatever your situation might be, I hope you find this video useful! If you want me to create more cultural videos like this, leave any topics you want me to discuss in the comments below. I think this kind of dialogue is great for bringing people together, dispelling stereotypes, and creating mutual understanding. So, here is the video below, have a great weekend everyone!
Do you find yourself wanted to pull out all of your hair during this election? Do you just want to run into a closet with a jar of Nutella and make it all go away? Maybe you fantasize about buying that bungalow on a beach in Bora Bora, just to stay there for the next four years. Well have no fear, I invite you to calm your senses and feed your soul with my Avochocolado Mousse recipe. I know, that sounds simplistic. How can we cure the world’s ills with chocolate? Of course we can’t do that, but we can make our lives a little sweeter and more enjoyable in a small healthy way each day. This mousse is made entirely from plant based foods that you can feel good about, and find in any supermarket:
Now you might be thinking..”what the hell is that avocado doing in there Blanche? This ain’t guacamole!” But, hear me out, avocado is actually a fruit, and when you mix it with sweet flavors, it really works. This mousse is rich and creamy, and pairs beautifully with berries. It’s also dairy free and pretty much sugar free, because all of the sugar comes from the dates. I do add a couple of spoons of maple syrup in the video, but that is entirely optional. I must admit I do torment my carnivorous brother with vegan surprises, and he was pretty skeptical about this treat, until he tried it. It was love at first bite:
So, are you ready to try avochocolado? I promise you won’t regret making it if you are a chocolate lover, I mean just look at that lusciousness!
To get you started, here is a grocery list:
Package Mejdool Dates (make sure they are really soft)
Nondairy milk of choice (almond or cashew work great)
Cocoa powder (preferably free trade)
Maple syrup (optional)
Now for the tutorial, click on the video below. I would love to know what you think if you do give it a try. If you are too scared to try it out let me know in the comments!
Sometimes…you just want a healthy simple side dish to put on the table without much effort. Sometimes..you have to let go the fear of carbs and embrace the potato–the beautiful high fiber potato without the addition of cheese, frying, or all of that other food sabotage. Seriously why are people afraid of potatoes? They are rich in vitamin C, folate, and have three times the potassium of a banana! I wanted to make a side dish video that was appealing to beginning cooks, because many of you cooking newbies have been asking me for easy recipes. This potato salad is dairy free–no artery clogging mayonnaise in the mix, but the flavor is garlicky, tangy, and fresh from the added parsley and pickles. Feel free to add some olives too for extra vegan richness just like the pic below:
As you might notice I also added purple potatoes because I love the different color and flavor. You can use any kind of white potato you want– red skinned, fingerling, or Yukon golds all taste lovely. This salad was ubiquitous in our childhood picnics to Napa Valley, where we went to escape the cold San Francisco summers. “Salata Batata” goes great with a barbeque, or top with some cubed smoked tofu for a complete vegan meal. The only thing I was unsuccessful in doing in this video was to get my brother to take my picnic basket.
For the recipe tutorial, click on the video below, and in seven minutes you too can enjoy this flavorful salad!
2 pounds potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Kalamata olives (optional)
I remember the spontaneous days in my twenties when I used to set aside a little money from every paycheck to take a trip to a new country each year. Ever since I had children though I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to, and my trips end up being big rowdy family reunions. I do find cruises are a nice way to travel when you’re with a large group of people with different interests and ambitions. Today cruises cater to the youthful and active, as well as to the more laidback and even sedentary crowd. My father’s idea of vacation is chillin on the balcony looking at the ocean with a good drink and a bag of pistachios. My mom loves shopping at all the ports and playing rounds of bingo. My hubby loves fine culinary experiences and musical theater. My kids love any good beach or pool. My brother and I love water sports and adventurous land tours. My sister just loves a spa treatment and a good steak. So, we learned that today’s cruises offer all of the above, and this year we decided to book a vacation on a new ship, the Norwegian Getaway. With its expansive bars, cheerful (often singing and dancing) staff, specialty dining, ropes course, bowling alley, high end theatrical performances and water slides I knew no one would be bored on this ship.
And here’s a funny thing: I learned that many people are fearful of going on ships because they don’t want to gain any weight or are afraid of getting seasick. Well, as someone that gets motion sickness from a playground swing, I can tell you I have never been seasick on a cruise. These ships are so massive that there would have to be a serious storm for you to feel any movement. Make sure you book a room in the center of the ship on the lower floor just in case to avoid any sway with windy days. As for fitting into your clothes on the plane ride home, here are some eating tips that will allow you to indulge without busting a gut:
1) For breakfast, I stick to simple eggs, either poached or sunny side up. I load up on raw fruit and a bowl of oatmeal with very little brown sugar and cinnamon. Notice, breakfast consists of whole unprocessed foods. Pastries and greasy meats are not going to give you energy, but weigh you down and bloat you from excess sodium and high glycemic carbs.
2) For lunch pile your plate high with veggies–either salad form, steamed, or any kind of vegetable you can get your hands on. After you finish all the veggies, then go for some lean protein, like chicken, white fish or shrimp. Forget the desserts at lunch, because they are not as good as the desserts at dinner.
3) I save most of my calories for dinner. Often I will order two or three appetizers in lieu of an entree so I can sample lots of different flavors. I will always order lobster if it’s on the menu, or scallops or shrimp. Seafood feels indulgent and is very filling–yet lower in calories and fat than red meat or even chicken.
4) For dinner I always get a dessert, from chocolate lava cake and tiramisu to profiteroles or souffles–I eat at least 50% of dessert with lots of tea cups filled with hot water.Yes I really ask the waiter for hot water. I learned to do this from my Asian girlfriends–who are all really tiny yet can surprisingly pack in those calories! Their theory is that the hot water helps digestion and melts the fat. So there you have it, an ancient Chinese secret that works for them🙂
5) Now the activities to burn the calories are really important as well. I end up exercizing in some form on vacation at least 4 hours a day! What do I do other than swimming, snorkeling, or waverunning in the ocean? Watch the below video to find out🙂 In the following video I also give highlights of our summer trip, where 12 members of my family got to see Costa Maya Mexico, Isla Roatan Honduras, as well as Belize. What are your thoughts on cruising? Do you have any favorite ships or cruise ports? I would love to know! I will be back with a recipe next week so check back soon! Best, B
Do you get more excited about shopping for food than for clothing? Then this next video is literally for you! I have listened to all of the many comments and e-mails asking me to do a grocery haul in a Middle Eastern Market. What I intended to do in this video is demystify exotic ingredients and give menu suggestions so you will know exactly how to shop for your next Mideast feast. I chose Mid East Market in San Bruno because they have a great variety and quality of Arabic food right in the heart of Silicon Valley California. From spices and grains to cheeses and fruit based sweeteners, I break everything down so you will be a pro after watching this video🙂
So, get ready, set, and join me on this mideast foodie tour below:
I really do get way too excited about food shopping lol😀
As someone who has worked primarily in television and on camera, it was a refreshing change to let my hair down and talk about Feast in the Middle East on the radio! Linda Khoury is the host of “Arabiyaat”, a podcast that is regularly featured on KPFA radio in the San Francisco Bay Area. Arabiyaat is an audio space for Arabs in the Middle East and the diaspora to explore their identity and heritage–creating a common ground for Levantines, North Africans, Gulf Arabs, Muslims, Christians, and everything in between. In this discussion we talked about : 1) The importance of preserving the history and methods of Arabic food 2) Why Food Network still hasn’t caught on to Middle Eastern food, and 3) how veganism can play a significant role in health and environmental preservation, and 4)How to maintain the soul of the recipes while keeping traditions in our fast paced world. I also gave Linda a sneak peak of an upcoming Feast in the Middle East dessert recipe with a couple of surprise ingredients! To listen to the podcast click on this LINK . I encourage you to check out her podcast regularly to give you a different perspective of the Arab world. Thanks for your time and lend me your thoughts…is the Food Network providing useful cooking programs? What do you think is lacking? Thanks for your time fellow feasters!
Blanche talks to Linda Khoury on the set of Arabiyaat