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Palestinian Maqlouba-A Savory Layer “Cake” الفلسطينية

January 18, 2017

Alright my friends, many of you have asked for it. You got it. The MOTHER of all recipes….right here right now. Palestinian Maqlouba is like no other dish, a one pot meal with drama, artistic expression, and every food group melding into one flavorgasm. Maqlouba in Arabic means literally “upside down,” because this dish is essentially an upside down layer “cake” of savory goodness. The layers consist of seared meat, either lamb of chicken, roasted vegetables, from cauliflower to eggplant, caramelized onions and rice all cooked in a meaty and rich broth. Once cooked the dish is turned upside down at the table in a very dramatic fashion so that diners can witness the art they are about to devour. The maqlouba is then covered with toasted almonds and pine nuts, and divided into bowls with a side of creamy Greek yogurt.

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THIS is the comfort food I lived for as a child. I dedicated this cooking video to my grandfather Ibrahim, the debonair and charming man who lived in three piece suits and loved started conversations with strangers to get smiles out of them. Maqlouba was his signature dish when he was entertaining. His home was a sort of grand central station for guests from all over the world, whether a bishop from the Vatican, an ex-Kurdish military colonel, a Jordanian royal,  a Palestinian musician,  a classmate from Egypt–or friends he made on his travels. His maqlouba was filled to the brim with tons of lamb to show respect to his guests. Many years later his memory lives on every time I make this dish. I use chicken instead of lamb because it’s a taste preference in my family, but you can’t go wrong with either.  I am excited to share this traditional family recipe with you, let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Are you ready for a taste adventure? Click on the video below 🙂

 

 

 

Grocery List:

Cauliflower

Onions

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Allspice

Turmeric

Garlic Powder

Chicken or lamb

Rice

Garlic

Pine Nuts (optional)

Almonds (optional)

Greek Yogurt (optional)

The Rumi Awards! And other updates

January 11, 2017

Hello Everyone, how are you all doing? I am still recovering from the insanity of the Christmas and New Year’s season–I am sort of in hibernation mode 😉 With the incessant California rain I thought it would be a good time to share with you my experience at the Rumi Awards! I was excited to be the main emcee for this massive traveling event, which is aiming to be the largest gathering place outside of Hollywood for international artists, fashion designers, singers, fashion models & media professionals. A record 300 artists from all over the world participated this year in the historic Scottish Rite Theater in Oakland. The event theme was “Ancient Vision with  Modern View.” The ancient part refers to Rumi, a 13th century poet and philosopher whose singular message was that of love. In a world today fragmented by war and religious divisions, it was awesome to be a part of a program that emphasized togetherness of communities all over the world to share art and talent with a large audience.  The glam factor was certainly there, with gorgeous people in gowns of all colors treating the entire venue as a cat walk:

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Here is a behind the scenes look at putting a show like this together. Hope you visit again soon, as I will have a classic new Middle Eastern recipe up that has been in high demand!

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On a foodie now, tt was great to have my avochocolado recipe featured in a recent food column, if you haven’t tried this rich and creamy yet vegan and plant based chocolate mousse it’s time you give it a try! Unlike junky desserts, everything in this mousse is high in nutrition to help your body run like a machine for the new year. 🙂

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And just in case you missed it from my previous blog, you click on on the recipe video here for step by step instructions below. Happy New Year and I look forward to sharing a new classic Middle Eastern recipe with you next week!

 

 

 

Holiday Traditions, YouTube Changes, and Your Input! ;)

December 27, 2016

Hi Everyone!

Hope you all had a restful Christmas and getting some quality time with family, friends, and the chance to reflect instead of rush, talk instead of text, and day dream instead of drive. 🙂  I thought I would share with you some of our wacky family traditions. Sometimes the wrapping paper is more meaningful and fun instead of the actual gift. In other words, sometimes it is the simple things that can make you happy. No need to put a price on a good time with loved ones.  I also included some of my mother’s divine Christmas tree and manger decorating tips to inspire you as she has me 😉

I have enjoyed sharing with you my recipes and vlogs throughout 2016. Unfortunately, YouTube has changed its algorithms and structure, so that it has been harder for me and other creators to reach our subscribers. In the past, I was able to reach most of my subscribers every time I uploaded a video. Now, YouTube has added a new notification feature. There is now a bell to the right of my profile picture on my  HOMEPAGE  If you click on the bell, you will get a notification when I upload a video, but if you don’t, you won’t know about my latest channel uploads. This effectively makes viewers take 2 steps to see any creator’s content (first subscribe, then click on the bell). Because of this change, and other algorithm changes, my viewership has decreased by more than 50%, dashing any hopes of mine to grow my channel. I was seriously thinking of quitting my channel, because there is so much work that I put into my videos, but no way to get my videos out to a larger audience.  It is unclear why YouTube has made it so difficult for content creators to grow their audiences, but it is a shame. YouTube created a platform for me to share the love of an ethnic cuisine ignored by corporate, or mainstream media. Many other small creators like me turned to YouTube as a fun media space to share our unique content and interact with our viewers in a way that television could never mimic. Now YouTube is slowly morphing into another corporate channel outlet. I still have tons of recipes and vlogs I want to share with you, but engagement is key. Every like, comment, view (or yes even dislike) on YouTube is key to keeping my channel afloat. It also helps me gauge what kind of content you like and dislike–ultimately I am inspired by YOU!  So, I will try to wade this out and see what happens this year. If you are also a content creator and have experienced the same issues, I encourage you to share your experience below, perhaps we can build a strong network and learn from one another. I also would love all of you Feast In the Middle East viewers to leave a comment to let me know what kinds of recipes and topics you would like me to address in future videos. I have opened a Patreon account if you want to keep this production going, as I have a full crew of amazing people that help me make these videos happen. For our Patreon information, CLICK HERE.

Thank you for your support and have a safe, happy, and joyful 2017!

Hugs, Blanche

Healthy Holiday Baking Hacks-Chocolate Zucchini Bread in 10 minutes!

December 17, 2016

Tis the time of year where the days don’t just run by, they literally sprint –with an ever expanding to-do list. The frenzy starts with decorating the home inside and out and planning out the Christmas cards to send to people all over the planet. I always get lazy with this one and just take a pic of the kids outdoors somewhere when they happen to have their hair combed with clean clothes on. Holiday parties, piano concerts, and ballet performances go into high gear. Menu planning starts early, as I try to figure out the most compatible appetizers and main courses for people with various dietary preferences and restrictions. As far as gifts are concerned, I prefer the handmade variety over buying “stuff” that ends up in landfills. I love showing the special people in my life appreciation through homemade baked goods. I strategically plan baking when I’m stressed out the most, as this activity provides me therapeutic breaks during this hectic time of year.The process of measuring and mixing flours, butters, and spices is calming, and provides the added benefit of filling the house with a beautiful aroma and warmth on cold days. But best of all I get to give away the goodies so I don’t eat them all myself! 

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Aside from making baklava and cookies (baklava will be an upcoming video) I love making simple and healthy quick breads. Now my chocolate zucchini bread is almost magical, in that it takes under 10 minutes to make if using a food processor. I was inspired to make this bread when I had a bunch of cored out zucchini I used for another Arabic dish called “khousa mahshi. In this dish you core out the zucchini and stuff them with rice and meat. No one ever told me what to do with the cored out part of the zucchini which I didn’t want to waste!  So after experimenting with the healthiest ingredients I could find, my chocolate zucchini was born. Why add chocolate? Because it is the perfect disguise for the green vegetable in the bread, and the kids don’t even notice!

Now here are 4 healthy swap outs to make moist and satisfying quick bread:

  1. Sub any oil and butter  with coconut oil and or Greek Yogurt. The Greek yogurt does an especially amazing job of keeping the bread fluffy and moist, plus it adds a good amount of protein so that the bread is filling!
  2. Instead of regular sugar, use coconut or date sugar which is less processed. Coconut sugar is actually lower on the glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar as much.
  3.  Vegetables also add a moistness and delicate flavor to breads. The veggies most compatible with sweet breads are: zucchini, pumpkin, avocado and even beets.
  4. If you are baking for someone with an egg allergy, use 1 tbs of flaxseed meal to 2 1/2 tbs of water–whisk before adding to the bread. Applesauce or mashed bananas (1/4 cup for every egg) are also great binding agents.

Now are you ready to bake with me? Click on the video below and get started! A grocery list is provided below 🙂  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

GROCERY LIST

Zucchini

All-purpose flour

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Baking soda

Baking powder

Salt

Cinnamon

Greek yogurt

Coconut oil

Coconut sugar

Eggs

Vanilla extract

Semi sweet chocolate chips

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My New Cooking Classes in the San Francisco Bay Area!

December 3, 2016

I love Christmas, but not the landfill that surrounds it. I would much rather make homemade treats, or give gift certificates that support local business than buy “stuff” that ends up in the junk pile. If any of you have foodie friends, and want to give a gift of a culinary demonstration with a sampling of delicious food, I have got the idea for you! I will be working with Draeger’s markets to bring Feast in the Middle East to Bay Area foodies through cooking classes in 2017! These classes also make great Valentine’s or Mother’s Day gifts. 😉 So far the first class is on Wednesday February 8th, when I take guests on a culinary tour of the Levant. The menu will feature:

*Syrian Muhammara Dip Featuring Walnuts, Roasted Peppers and Pomegranate Molasses
*Egyptian Cucumber Tomato Salad with Mint and Parsley
*Palestinian Mussakhan— sumac and lemon seasoned chicken baked on flatbread and topped with caramelized onions and toasted pine nuts
*Layali Lubnan “Lebanese Nights”—soft semolina custard scented with rose water and topped with whipping cream and pistachios

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In April I will be celebrating spring with  a Middle Eastern Mezze Party, featuring:

Hummus with Sauteed Mushrooms and Toasted Pine Nuts
Arayes—“Bride and Groom” pita pocket sandwiches stuffed with seasoned beef kufta
Zucchini Pancakes withHerbs, Parmesan Cheese and Chickpea Flour Topped with Cucumber- Mint Creme Fraiche
Sahleb—rose-scented dessert beverage topped with pistachios, coconut and cinnamon

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These cooking demos also include wine and light appetizers. If you are interested in attending these demos CLICK HERE  I look forward to sharing great food memories with you!

Best wishes, B

Middle Eastern Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce…

November 18, 2016

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.

 

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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!

 

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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. 😉

 

GROCERY LIST:

2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams

Olive Oil

Maple Syrup

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Chopped Pistachios (without the shell)

Tahini Paste

Lemon

Tbs Honey

Onion Powder

Dried Mint

 

 

 

New Video: 7 Tips for Entertaining Guests from the Middle East!

November 3, 2016

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!