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
One recipe request I have received most often lately, is that for Katayef, also known as Qateyef. These fluffy little pancakes are filled with either nuts or cheese then drizzled with a rose and lemon scented syrup. If you go to any Arab country during Ramadan, you will see bakeries churning out these pancakes by the hundreds each day– the dessert of choice after a late night Iftar or Eid feast. I only wanted to post a video after my mother and I perfected the recipe, and we had a blast taste testing along the way.
As kids my sister and I literally gorged on this dessert until how shall we say– we got really sick? As kids we didn’t really have a reason to stop eating, so I remember sneaking and inhaling at least a half a dozen of these confections during one of my mother’s parties. Let’s just say now as an adult I know better– I can now stop at eating just two. Yay for self control! (though I ain’t gonna lie it’s really hard!) For this latest video I experimented with one filling that was so rich and creamy I had to harness a willpower of steel. Can you guess what that filling might be?
In any case, feel free to experiment with any kind of filling you like–from walnuts and pecans to pistachios and chopped cashews. Not a nut fan? Try any kind of fruity jam–and if you don’t have farmer’s cheese, you can also use ricotta or cottage cheese. This dessert is the Arab answer to Italian cannoli or Eastern European blintzes. Are you ready to try this treat? Grab the items from your pantry or store from the list below and check out the video! Be sure to click on the on the box on this page to the right that says “Sign me up!” to subscribe to my blog. That way you can get my latest recipe videos, for free of course. Also if you haven’t already you can check out my Instagram posts for almost daily recipe ideas. Let me know what you think–if you tried the video, send photos my way on my Instagram or Facebook page and I will share them with fellow feasters!
Orange blossom or rose flower water (optional)
Mexican farmer’s cheese (or ricotta cheese)
But I did. As I sat there interviewing iconic Chef Hoss Zare of Fly Trap Restaurant, he revealed to me a big secret that would change the course of his life after a more than 25 years in the restaurant business. But now that the information is public, I can reveal that he will leave Fly Trap Restaurant to go and document the culinary world in Iran and bring his knowledge back to the United States. Part of me was super excited for him, yet I was also sad that he would leave this legendary restaurant that he built with cuisine no one else really offers in the San Francisco Bay Area. He not only created a restaurant, but a family like community of loyal patrons who come to get their regular dose of “Hossy Hugs” as well as a bite to eat.
I was also surprised that underneath his optimism, warmth and hospitality was a lot of pain that he had suffered with his own health and family. He suffered unimaginable pain and loss back in 2007, which he revealed in this interview. Between his tragic loss and the stress of managing a successful and fast paced restaurant, Chef Hoss also suffered a heart attack just three years later in 2010. He revealed how he managed to heal in this interview–the power of cooking is real. So, I know this is a departure from my regular cooking videos, but I hope to leave you all inspired. I look forward to seeing what he will share when he gets back. He gave me a hint on what culinary focus he is going to take, but I guess I will just have to keep it a secret until he gets back. :)
You can check out the interview below, and let me know if you want to see any more chef interviews in the future.
Mainstream media paints the people of Iran with two extreme brushes: either they’re Islamic fundamentalists in beards and dark cloaks fantasizing about nukes or ….half naked, binge partying, yacht driving, drunk on Patron, flamboyant rebels on Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset. From meeting and knowing Iranian Americans thoughout my life, I have to say my impressions don’t match that of my descriptions above. One thing these people consistently are though is hospitable, polite, usually well dressed and highly educated people. Out of my Iranian friends, one is a psychiatrist, another an engineer, another a renowned doctor, another a real estate developer. Heck, even my dentist that I adore is Iranian. There is one particular Iranian chef in San Francisco I have kept in touch with for years, and I always admired his culinary genius. That chef is Hoss Zare.
Hoss has this disarming smile and teddy bear persona that immediately makes one feel at home in his landmark restaurant called Fly Trap in San Francisco. He gives patrons of his restaurant “Hossy Hugs,” invites children to the kitchen to participate in cooking and show off their creations, and interacts with his fans from all over the world on his Instagram Page. His trademark dishes include pistachio meatballs with red harissa, honey, and pomegranate, as well as lamb shank stew with turmeric and preserved lime. Hoss and I have kept in touch through Facebook over the years, and I immediately thought of him when I wanted to give Feast in the Middle East viewers exposure to Persian cuisine. When I asked him to come up with something vegetarian for the show, he did not let me down. He took such simple ingredients and whipped them up into a crunchy, chewy, zesty, meaty…vegetarian koofteh.
Koofteh is spelled a hundred different ways, and prepared a thousand different ways, but it’s basically a Middle Eastern meatball. In the Arab world, koofteh is made with meat and onions, in the Tabrizi region of Iran where Hoss is from, it usually has meat with grains in it. I have provided a shopping list below, but I can’t emphasize enough–don’t worry about exact measurements. If the mixture is too watery to make patties, add more panko crumbs. So here is Part I where Hoss shares his easy crowd pleasing recipe. Check back next week for Part II, where Hoss shares his personal story of tragedy, loss, hope, and inspiration. I have provided a shopping list for you below. Please leave me a comment if you would like to see more chef exclusives like this!
Pinto beans (or chick peas)–about a cup
Black beans (or any other kind of beans)– about a cup
Salt and Pepper
Bulgur wheat (or quinoa, or any other grain)–about a cup
Panko breadcrumbs –about 1/3 cup
Za’atar–about 1 tsp
Cumin– about 1 tsp
Cilantro–some chopped, some set aside for roasting
1 Egg (optional for Vegans)
1 large Tomato
How are you all doin? I always love getting feedback from you, so when I got A LOT of questions from people on what to expect in a Middle Eastern home, I decided to make a video about it. There was a myriad of reasons people wanted answers. 1) Some people had significant others that were Arab and wanted to impress the family 2) Some had no idea what to expect and even had some fear because their only perception of Middle Eastern people came from network media (not good) 3) Some wanted to show their gratitude for the dinner invitation in a meaningful way, so hopefully they could get invited again lol.
So here’s the funny thing about all this. Generally I have been posting well thought out cooking videos that take many many hours to make. From the personal investment to make it happen, to ingredient hauls, recipe experimentation, to shooting, wardrobe, make up, presentation, editing, music, lighting–each 6-10 minute video has countless hours of prep behind it. When I made this latest “tips” video, I was winding down from my work commute and really didn’t have to put much thought into it, I was basically reflecting my life experience. And do you know what happened? According to my YouTube analytics, this video got more views in the first 3 days than any other video I put out in the last 6 months! Which makes me think, are viewers more interested in hearing me vlog than watching me cook? Would love to hear your opinions in the column below!
So with that being said, here is the video. And I just want to let you know I was driving super slowly like a granny cause there was tons of traffic. I basically treated my cellphone like a front passenger in my car, only it was better because I never had to turn my head to the right, I could just look straight ahead.🙂