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11 Signs That you Grew Up in Middle Eastern Home….

October 18, 2017

Part of my mission with this Feast in the Middle East project is to increase cultural understanding. There were certainly some unique cultural experiences that I had in my upbringing as a first generation Arab American that some people might find a little kooky.  Conversely, if you grew up in a Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian, Armenian, Greek, or even Italian household, some of these experiences might resonate with you, and make you think “Oooh I am not the only one!”  So, I hope if you had these experiences as well growing up you will feel validated!  If my video below sounds completely foreign to you, hopefully you have gained a deeper understanding of Middle Eastern culture. If you have experiences to add to this list, please leave them in the comments below! I will be uploading a new healthy dessert recipe next week, but in the meantime, hope you enjoy this video:

 

 

 

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Middle Eastern Lentil Lettuce Cups with Butternut Squash & Tahini Dipping Sauce

October 10, 2017

There is a fun element in vegan cooking that you just don’t get with meat based dishes. You get to tap into the fruits and vegetables of the season, and think of using them in creative and fanciful ways to appeal to the whole family. You can even get children engaged in vegan cooking by starting at the farmer’s market. In the fall the market is brimming with crimson pomegranates and apples, golden with butternut squash, persimmons and clementines, and violet with fresh eggplant. Once you pick your selected vegetables together, you can then engage them with a fun dish that features their vegetable of choice–like my Lentil Lettuce cups with Butternut Squash and Mushrooms.

 

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This dish is so hearty and earthy you won’t miss the meat. The addition of mushrooms adds a meaty component and extra protein as well–yes mushrooms have protein too! I love incorporating lentils in vegan cooking because they everything you need in a perfect food: protein, fiber, iron, and tons of flavor when mixed with the right spices and vegetables. The butternut squash and onion add beautiful color and a caramelized sweetness. Wrapping this warm fall harvest in lettuce wraps makes the whole eating experience fun and interactive for all ages. It also slows down eating, forcing one to eat mindfully and savor every bite.

 

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Want the easy recipe? Click on the video below and cook with me–and if you want more vegan recipes, please let me know in the comments below!

 

 

Grocery List

Lentils (I love the precooked kind at Trader Joes)

Onion

Garlic

Butternut Squash

Mushroms

Olive oil

Cumin

Turmeric

Salt and pepper to taste

Butter lettuce

Tahini

Maple Syrup

Lemon Juice

Liquid Aminos

IS YOUR OLIVE OIL FAKE? 5 ways to find out!

October 4, 2017

Just as Whole Foods claims everything in their store is GMO free when in reality that is far from the truth,  many olive oil producers claim their oil is pure and extra virgin, when their oil is not even close. Even though the label may say “Cold pressed, organic, extra virgin olive oil, made in Italy,” the reality is you can’t find that criteria in an olive oil for $4.99 a bottle (unless the bottle is super tiny). The truth is many producers take rotten olives, or worse, soybean or canola oil and add chlorophyll or beta carotene to make the oil green—or they deodorize the oil  to erase any bad smells or flavors. There are olive oil “mafias” that try to control the many aspects of oil production in Italy and beyond, because it is a very lucrative product.

 

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Even our own FDA cannot monitor whether the oil you buy in the United States is truly organic or not.  And to add to the confusion, the average American palate cannot recognize the true flavor of olive oil, as their tastes have been eroded by the glut of mediocre olive oils. Olive oil commercials do more damage when they tell consumers to  value a “mild smoothness” of flavor versus the robust, rich, fruity and peppery taste of good quality oil. There is indeed quite a bit of corruption in the olive oil industry, but that should never stop one for seeking the real deal, as the health benefits are astounding.  Really amazing olive oil is very difficult and expensive to produce, but have hope–it’s out there! There are ethical growers and producers that take their olive oil very seriously like an art form– from Italy, Spain, Palestine, and yes, California. I have listed some of my favorites below, based on research and taste tests. But if you want to really know the 5 tips on how to choose the best olive oil (and make sure it isn’t fake) check out my latest 5 minute video:

 

EXCELLENT OLIVE OILS (that pass the test for ethical standards and great flavor):

California Olive Ranch  (CALIFORNIA) 

Corto EVOO 500ml (CALIFORNIA)

Organic Fair Trade Nabali Extra Virgin Olive Oil (500 ml) (PALESTINE)

Crudo Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2016 (500 ml) (ITALY)

Valdueza Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 500ml (SPAIN)

 

Strawberry Pomegranate Molasses Ice Cream Pie (Yeah it’s a Mouthful)

September 26, 2017

In PART III of my Pomegranate Molasses Series, I focus on dessert! Growing up, did you ever eat that throwback ice cream pie that had hideous ingredients in it like Cool Whip and Jello? When I got older and realized what Jello and Cool Whip were made of, I vowed never to eat that junk again (even though as a kid I might have liked that pie….just a little bit) So I decided to give this pie a makeover using the best and freshest ingredients I could find, and I love this new version so much more!  Check out my strawberry ice cream pie with pomegranate molasses and pistachio pumpkin seed crust!

 

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The crust is gluten free and has only 3 ingredients: pumpkin seeds, pistachios, and maple syrup–so it’s full of good fats and anti-oxidants. The filling is a simple mix of fresh pureed strawberries (you can use frozen when fresh is not in season) pomegranate molasses, whipped cream, and condensed milk. The pomegranate molasses gives this pie an extra tart and fruity flavor, but it’s optional.  Make sure to thaw the pie out for at least 20 minutes before serving! Now for a short time only, my friends  at  SADAF are offering my viewers 10% off any purchases if you use the promo code: BLANCHE.  Just to put it out there I am not sponsored by Sadaf, but I believe in their products and wanted to find a way to reward my viewers and subscribers with a good deal!  This is perfect for those of you that have asked me where to source Middle Eastern ingredients as you might live in an area that does not offer these products.  Now, are you ready for the recipe? Click on the YouTube below! And if you want me to do a series on any other Middle Eastern ingredient, please leave it in the comments below! 😉

 

 

 

 

My Television Appearance on Check Please!

September 23, 2017

Hello fellow foodie friends! I am excited to announce that I am on the most recent episode of the restaurant review show called “Check Please” on PBS!  With technology moving at a lightening pace, it warms my heart that this program has lasted through the test of time. This show focuses on the culinary arts of extraordinary people in our community here in the San Francisco Bay Area. What’s great though is you can also watch the episode anywhere in the world, as I will provide the link below.  But to catch it on your television screen,  below are the remaining show times (including tonight):

Saturday, September 23, 2017 – 7:00pm (KQED 9)
Sunday, September 24, 2017 – 1:00pm (KQED 9)
Monday, September 25, 2017 – 7:30pm (KQED
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 – 1:00pm (KQED Plus)

 

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So for those that haven’t seen this show before, “Check Please” is a roundtable of 3 restaurant reviewers, led by the lovely show host, Leslie Sobrocco. Each guest gets to pick their favorite restaurant, and has to try the restaurant picks of the other two guests. Of course I had to pick a Middle Eastern restaurant that I felt reflected authentic food my grandmother would make, called Waterfront Pizza. You can check out the full episode below:

 

 

So which restaurant do you think you would want to try the most? Leave your comments below! 😉

 

 

Pomegranate Series Part II: Molasses Glazed Chicken

September 13, 2017

In PART I  of my pomegranate molasses series, I shared with you my recipe for a quick and easy vegan bulgur pilaf with pomegranate molasses dressing. While that can be a main dish for most vegans, I know the carnivores be asking me: “Where the protein at?”  Thankfully the protein is just as quick and easy to prepare as the grains–Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Chicken is life:

 

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This glaze almost has a teriyaki flavor, without all of the excess sugar plus a heavy dose of anti-oxidants from the pomegranate! This is one of my favorite go-to meals on a weekday night, as well as a great dish for entertaining. The chicken is fork tender, sweet and a little tart, with a new ingredient in culinary circles: black garlic. Black garlic is garlic that has been fermented, retaining all of the sweetness and ditching all the pungency. The texture is so silky, rich and decadent you can spread it on toasted bread and crackers with a drizzle of olive oil. The flavor is a cross between truffle mushrooms, caramel, and dates.

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Just a reminder that if you don’t have a middle eastern market in your neighborhood, one of my favorite online stores for ingredients is Sadaf. Sadaf carries excellent quality black garlic, bulgur wheat, pomegranate molasses, sultanas, and a host of other fresh spices, fried fruits and grains.  I did not receive any monetary compensation from them, but they did extend a coupon code to all of my subscribers! So, to get 10% off, use the promo code BLANCHE at SADAF.COM   Are you ready to make the recipe? Click on the video below and let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

 

 

Grocery List:

1 pound boneless dark meat chicken

Pomegranate molasses

Honey

Garlic or Black Garlic

Olive oil

Avocado Oil

Pink salt…pepper

Parsley

 

 

NEW THREE PART SERIES-On Pomegranate Molasses!

August 30, 2017

PART ONE: Bulgur Wheat Pilaf with Pomegranates, Herbs, Sultanas and Pistachios! 

When people ask me where I get ideas for recipes, I always respond the ingredients inspire the recipes!  A collection of  fresh herbs like mint gathered from the garden, a bag of ripe pomegranates from the farmer’s market, some grains I have left in my pantry, or an exotic condiment like pomegranate molasses all feed my recipe creations. As a matter of fact it was this combination of ingredients that inspired me to make my Bulgur Wheat Pilaf with pomegranates, herbs, sultanas and pistachios!

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This pilaf is like a bowl of jewels, made colorful with sparkling pomegranate seeds, parsley, mint, pistachios and sultanas, or golden raisins. The flavors and textures are at once chewy, crunchy, nutty, sweet, and savory.  I serve this dish in the summer as part of a barbecue (as the salad can be eaten at room temperature and is not perishable) or as part of a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast.  Pomegranate seeds are available now all year round in places Trader Joes, and I always keep a supply of pistachios and pine nuts in my freezer ready to go. But the best part of the salad is the dressing, which is so simple and robust because of the pomegranate molasses, which is at once sweet, rich, and tart. That is why I will feature a 3 part series on this very ingredient, to show you how you can incorporate this anti-oxidant rich sweetener into your side dishes, main courses, and desserts!  For the recipe on this insanely delicious bulgur pilaf,  click on the video below:

 

And I realize there are many of you that might not have pomegranate molasses in your neighborhood, so you can cook down pomegranate juice in a saucepan on low heat until it turns syrupy. Or, if you want the real deal, I have partnered with one of my favorite companies called Sadaf, so you can get 10% off your purchase by using my name BLANCHE in the promo code!  You can just visit: http://www.sadaf.com/

I really hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do, and leave your comments below!

Ingredient List:

Fresh Mint

Fresh parsley

Pomegranate seeds

Chicken or vegetable broth

Sultanas (or any other dried fruit you like)

Shelled, roasted, and salted pistachios

Bulgur #3 (largest variety)

Pomegranate molasses

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

 

 

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