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Homemade Vegan Nutella Recipe!

February 14, 2018

Before I get to the recipe of the day, I just wanted to let you know I have only 2 spots left in my Draeger’s cooking class coming up March 22nd! The class includes a demonstration, wine and light appetizers, and of course a tasting of this special menu I created just for my live guests! To enroll, click HERE. Makes a great gift, date night, or girl’s night out! 😉

Now…on to my special Valentine’s recipe! I have literally been hoodwinked by Nutella for far too long. Falling under the spell of this chocolate hazelnut spread, I never realized that Nutella was just a facade of what I wanted it to be. The traditional Nutella recipe called Gianduja,  originated in Piedmont Italy, back in 1963. The original recipe was a mix of about 70% hazelnut and 20% chocolate. Today, after multiple alterations to the recipe (including another increase in sugar in 2017)  Nutella is 60% sugar by weight–each serving is equivalent to the amount of sugar in 5 Oreos!  Aside from the sugar, Nutella is loaded with oxidized, or processed palm oil. A 2015 study out of the Oxford Academic Journal of Nutrition showed that palm oil consumption results in HIGHER LDL cholesterol than do vegetable oils low in saturated fat. Not only that, but case studies have found child laborers on palm oil plantations. Children described to Amnesty International researchers how they work without any safety equipment, in an environment full of hazards including falling branches, exposure to chemicals, and heavy lifting. On top of all this, this palm harvesting is leading to massive deforestation.

Now for the good news–it is incredibly easy to make your own chocolate hazelnut spread and I show you how in this latest video. My version has half the sugar of Nutella, with all of the richness of toasted hazelnuts. You can cut the sugar down that much more by using Joseph’s Syrup instead of the agave/maple syrup that I use. I also added my favorite new chocolate chips, Lily’s Dark Chocolate Chips which are sweetened with stevia instead of sugar for extra chocolate flavor.  But this paste tastes great without it too, so it is entirely optional.  When I make my own chocolate hazelnut paste, I can source the best organic ingredients possible!

To learn how to make this easy recipe, click on the video below. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Ingredients:

2 cups  Raw Organic Hazelnuts

1/4 cup Maple Agave Syrup

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Dash salt

¼ cup  Organic Fair Trade Cocoa Powder

⅓ cup Almond milk

2 tbs  Organic Sunflower Oil

¼ cup Lily’s Stevia Chocolate Chips

 

File Feb 14, 12 45 17 PM

 

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Fancy Food Show San Francisco!

January 30, 2018

Imagine a gigantic multi-block convention center filled to the brim with every food trend you ever thought imaginable.  Teriyaki mushroom jerky, marzipan petit fours, every kind of artisan chocolate on the planet,  nut butter rich granola bars, super fruit smoothies, artisan ice creams, fresh Italian cannolis,  French jams of fig or rhubarb paired with butter biscuits,  and much more, all ready for your sampling delight. Such is the experience at the annual Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, open to food merchants and purveyors from around the world.  I ain’t gonna lie, covering aisle after aisle of food sampling and you can get a serious case of belly bloatation, or the feeling of a literal washing machine churning in your stomach. But when you are a serious foodie this is the time to throw caution into the garbage disposal, and dive into this Costco sampling experience on steroids! Luckily this year I spent less time eating and more time feeding, doling out samples as a representative of Sadaf Foods, one of my favorite brands of Middle Eastern products. I developed a sampling menu using some of their signature products, like saffron spray, black garlic, California grown pomegranate concentrate, rich feta cheese, and fragrant za’atar.   To share this experience with you, and bring you along virtually, I made a mini-music video, as well as a live video feed of one of my recipes–sesame coated feta pan fried till melted and drizzled with honey.  Hope you enjoy the quick virtual tour!

 

 

My Untold Story-Why I started Feast in the Middle East…

January 18, 2018

Happy New Year to you all! As I embark on 2018 with a lot of bold goals in mind (including the revamp of this website) it occurred to me that many of you have no idea who I am or why I started this project in the first place. Feast in the Middle East at one point in my life was just an idea, and a risky one at that. Switching from my career as a journalist and TV host, to an online show focused on food was daunting to me. All I had was my background in television and an arsenal of amazing recipes. I had no idea where to start to bring those two worlds together. Starting with a small saved up investment, I decided to take on this journey, and now the show has taken on a life of its own, and brought rewards I never would have imagined. While I am no where near where I want to be in terms of YouTube subscribers, I acknowledge every subscriber as an additional global family member to help me propel this show forward with more ideas, recipes, and stories. Which direction would you like to see the show go in as we trail blaze in this new year? If you haven’t subscribed already to my channel (or this blog) please do, and let me know what kind of content you would like to see. Because unlike television, where I had bosses leading the way on content, I love the freedom to cover what I want, and tailor it to the needs of an interactive audience. Click below for my story, and hope to get your feedback in the coming year!

 

 

Getting boozy with wine from Jesus’s time for 2018!

December 29, 2017

Just when I thought I was going to write my very last post for 2018, I realized I forgot to share another fantastic discovery from the Middle East with you!  Today I just released a fun video on the wines of Palestine, where they have been making this wine since the time of Jesus! The varietals of this wine are unlike anything you have ever had before, because the unique grapes are grown in the region of Bethlehem, Palestine (you know, where Jesus was born 😉 The Catholic Salesian missions continued making the wine with founder Don Bosco, who created a more formal winery.  Sales of the wine helped sustain their work in helping impoverished and orphaned  children.  In the year 2000 an Italian vintner named Ricardo Cotarella helped them step up their game so they could mass produce the wine (because let’s face it, they were using medieval equipment)  Their grape varietals are Baladi (red church wine) Dabouki ( a sweet crisp white) and Hemdani Jendali (most like a Sauvignon Blanc)  To see if this wine passed the taste test, check out my informal review below:

 

Somehow I feel more virtuous getting boozy with the wine Jesus drank, plus the proceeds of the wine still benefit disadvantaged children, so it’s a win win situation! For information on where to find this wine, click on this  LINK.

Happy 2018 everyone!

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year-New Video and Announcements!

December 27, 2017

Hope you are all enjoying time with your loved ones as we wind down 2017! This year you witnessed many  new experiments  on my channel, from live hangouts and food festival coverage, to food reviews and hauls, to even nutrition and fitness vlogs. This year I really want to fine tune the channel to serve your needs! Would you like to see more field video pieces, where I visit festivals, food artisans, and foodie events and bring them to you? Do you prefer more recipes? If so, do you like the Arab classics, east meets west fusion dishes, or vegan dishes? Did any of you enjoy my vlogs on nutrition, and how to maintain healthy weight, energy and skin? Or did the videos on Middle Eastern products inspire you to try something new? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below, as I will take them very seriously. In the end I created this channel for YOU the viewer, so I would love to know what kind of content you enjoy! Speaking of content, did any of you check out PART III of my Armenian Food Fest series? Here we explored some more popular desserts and coffee (yes I don’t know how I managed to shove down more food, but by some miracle I did lol) “Psychic” coffee is a popular phenomenon in the Arab world, and it was fun to learn that it is quite popular in Armenian culture too!  Some people swear that their fortune lies in the bottom of a coffee cup. Don’t know what I am talking about? Take a look:

And for those of you that want to treat yourself in the New Year, there are still spots available in my Draeger’s cooking classes! This is a fun live cooking demo experience where I cook and teach you all of my shortcuts and cooking methods to create the same dishes in your home. The demo includes a sampling of 4 courses, plus wine and light appetizers, the recipes themselves, and a Q & A session with yours truly! These makes a great date night idea instead of the standard restaurant night out as well. I truly enjoyed meeting many of you face to face this past year at these classes, and hope to see you again and see new faces as well! For more info, click here: HERE

Thanks again for all of your support! I look forward to sharing more adventures, recipes, and foodie finds with you in 2018!

Hugs, B

dress33

 

 

My New Cooking Classes, Plus-Christmas Gifts from the Holy Land!

December 15, 2017

I ain’t gonna lie, the holiday season always stresses me out to the max. My to-do lists end up being twenty feet long, and as soon as I cross off ten items, I have to add ten more.  But in the midst of all this madness, I try to stay grounded. Most importantly, I am grateful for everything I have, from my family and friends, to what now has become a global community I have met through Feast in the Middle East.  This year I was ecstatic to meet many of you in person at my Draeger’s Cooking School classes!  To be able to throw a Middle Eastern food party, and get feedback on the food in realtime, made the experience that much more fun, as I am usually just talking to a camera! I also got so many insightful questions, from those of you who wanted to learn more about the Middle East in general.  So, I decided to do it all again at Draegers in 2018, with the introduction of two fun menus. These classes also make great Christmas gifts for any foodies in your life (including yourself) My first class on January 11, in San Mateo features a menu centered around the savory and sweet treatment of pomegranate:

• Syrian Muhammara—walnut and roasted pepper dip with pomegranate molasses
• Bulgar Wheat Pilaf with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing, Pistachios and Sultanas
• Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken
• Chocolate Pomegranate Tart with Pistachio and Pumpkin Seed Crust

On March, I will take you on a culinary tour of the Levant, with this menu:

• Roasted Cauliflower with Mejdool Dates, Slivered Almonds and Za’atar Spice Blend
• M’Nazaleh—Palestinian casserole of eggplant, chicken, tomatoes and pine nuts
• Fragrant Garlic Turmeric Rice
• Basbousa—semolina Greek yogurt cake

To register for these classes, just click HERE.  Hope to meet you in person!  But I also have another surprise for you…read on below.

draeg7

 

As a thank you for all of your support, I have partnered with  SEAOFHERBS.COM    to give you 20% off any purchase using promo code BLANCHE20.  Sea of Herbs is a family run company that has been around for 400 years! They use ancient techniques in their products, yielding amazing quality. They have natural beauty products using the beneficial minerals of the Dead Sea, and a beautiful selection of spices that add an authentic touch to middle eastern dishes.  Ask any avid cook from the Middle East living in the USA, and any of them will tell you they ship their spices from abroad, or have a relative buy some for them when they visit the Middle East.  The spices there are more fragrant and potent than any spices you buy here. It is also a great way to support artisans keeping alive an ancient craft while trying to survive in the  tumultuous city of Jerusalem.  For more information on my “favorite things” collection from the Holy Land, click on the video below:

 

Armenian Food Pig Out Session! Part II

December 12, 2017

In my last video and blog I covered how Armenians transformed the fabric of American life, ushering in inventions from the ATM to the MRI to Almond Joy. In this next video, I threw all portion control precaution out the window and decided I was going to sample EVERYTHING the festival had to offer in one day.  When you have Armenian women cooking round the clock for weeks to make everything by hand, what’s a girl to do? I felt like this was going to be a once in a lifetime (or at most a once a year) experience that I couldn’t turn down. Sevana was such a warm and inviting guide, I felt like we were sisters within minutes. I felt a kindred spirit with her passion for her culture’s rich culinary heritage. From flaky filo and buttery puff pastry boregs, to delicate braised veggies dripping in olive oil, to the softest dolmas (or sarmas) outside of my mom’s kitchen, the food was stellar, and the company enhanced the whole experience by a thousand.

To check out my culinary tour of the Annual Armenian Festival and Bazaar in San Francisco, click on the video below:

 

 

 

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