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Announcements and Giveaways!

July 10, 2017

Hi Everyone!

Happy summer! I want to thank my Patreons for helping me keep Feast in the Middle East afloat. It is quite expensive to churn out high quality cooking videos, and the only way I can produce these videos more often is through viewer’s help. So thank you so much to those that have contributed, and if you want to see more videos, no amount is too small (even a buck a month helps!) Patreons get all the recipe ingredient measurements and directions in great detail, as well as behind the scenes stories and their names in the credits at the $2.00 level! To become a Patreon, click HERE. I also wanted to announce a giveway because I am so grateful to every single subscriber–if you click “subscribe” on the top of this page,  and, on my YouTube page subscribe HERE , you will be eligible to get my Feast in the Middle East tote bags! You must live in the United States to be eligible. I will be posting a series of vlogs and information on health related topics this month, in particular to weight loss. What many of you may not know is not only am  I an avid cook, but I am a fitness instructor passionate about health and nutrition. I am excited to share a fat loss method that benefits the whole body–helping to shed weight, increase energy, and mental clarity. Best of all this method costs nothing (you don’t need to buy a thing) and is completely natural.  So look out for these videos tomorrow!

 

 

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Busting through a fat loss plateau: Intermittent Fasting!

July 6, 2017

I know this is off the topic of Middle Eastern food, but in some ways this blog has very much to do with a lifestyle practiced in the Middle East for millenia. I am talking about intermittent fasting, the eating plan that has recently taken the fitness world by storm. I have gotten many e-mails about how I maintain a lean frame despite having children and I am not going to tell you it’s because I eat cheeseburgers and cream puffs while doing yoga (isn’t that annoying when celebrities say that?) I am going to keep it real, and I have found that nothing burns the fat off the body like fasting. When I say fasting, I do not mean starving, I simply mean timing your meals out so that there is more fasting that feasting. When you fast for 16 hours or more, you can finally tap into the stubborn fat stores and burn that up for energy. The reason why people can’t lose fat is they have been taught to eat constantly–but what happens is the body gets used to burning the constant fuel but never gets the chance to get to the fat. Not only that, but fasting increases human growth hormone, which makes you look younger. Fasting also gives the body time to heal from any maladies, whether autoimmune diseases or allergies. The ancient Egyptians (and Indians) learned about the benefits of fasting years ago.  But don’t forget to feast as well! It’s important to eat big satisfying and healthy meals so that you can fast for longer periods of time. Forget eating lettuce, yogurt and carrots every 3 hours! Interested in learning more? Check out my vlog below, and let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below!

 

 

 

 

Layali Lubnan- “Lebanese Nights” Semolina Custard with Rose Flower Water

June 27, 2017

My love affair with Layali Lubnan began when I was 10 years old. My mother brought me along with her to a bridal shower, and to be honest the endless conversations and gift opening of fine china bored me to tears. However, the lavish dessert table I eyed in the corner of the room redeemed the whole afternoon. Trays of baklava, semolina date cookies, chocolate kisses and sesame anise cookies lined the whole table covered with white lace. Layali Lubnan prominently occupied the center of the dessert spread–a heavenly looking white custard adorned with chopped pistachios.

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I had never tried this dessert before, but one of the guests who came from Lebanon made the treat for all of us try for the first time. Layali Lubnan literally means “Lebanese Nights” in Arabic, one of the most popular desserts originating from Lebanon. At that age I pondered the name: ‘Are real Lebanese nights filled with white clouds? Are the pistachios supposed to be colorful stars lighting up a foggy evening?” My curiosity escalated to the point where I asked my mother if I could have a piece before lunch. She miraculously said yes, as she could sense my boredom (remember there were no iPads then).  So I took a piece, sat down, and fell in love at first bite. The dessert had two distinct layers, a creamy semolina custard on the bottom, and an fluffy whipped cream layer on the top. The chopped pistachios added a nice crunchy contrast in texture and color, and the whole confection was draped with a lemony rose sugar syrup. As I put the spoon to my mouth I literally smelled the mild fragrance of roses. I felt sophisticated eating Layali Lubnan as a child, and now as an adult, I serve this fancy dessert to the people I love.  And now, I share this recipe with you in this easy tutorial, my latest video:

 

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Grocery List:

Whole milk

Sugar

Semolina

Eggs

Vanilla

Rose water

Whipping cream

Corn starch

Shelled roasted pistachios

 

Lemon

 

 

Kibbeh: The Shepards Pie of the Middle East!

June 6, 2017

“Kibbeh kibbeh kibbeh chameleon…..you come and goooo you come and goooo…”

Ok so I know the Boy George song doesn’t really go like that, but I can’t help but get so giddy and excited that I  break into song at the thought of my favorite food,  Kibbeh. And Kibbeh really is a chameleon, in that you can serve it baked casserole style or fried “football” style. Kibbeh is basically the Shepard’s Pie of the Middle East. However, instead of mashed potatoes as the crust, kibbeh traditionally contains a bulgur and meat mixture as the outer layer. The interior layer contains chili cut garlicky lamb and crunchy golden pine-nuts. In our latest video release,  we show you how to prepare kibbeh two ways. Kibbeh as a main  entrée, makes a hearty meal which you can lighten up with some mixed green salad and a dollop of hummus for dipping on the side. The football shaped kibbeh is richer and makes a lovely presentation for special occasions or even a fun and unique snack for super bowl! This dish can take a little while to make, but you can order chili cut lamb from your local butcher to save you some time dicing meat in the kitchen.

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Did you know that Syria has 17 different kinds of kibbeh? And kibbeh is now a culinary staple even in the Dominican Republic, because Palestinian and Lebanese immigrants brought this delicacy to that region as well. Well its time this treat makes its way to your kitchen too, and we teach you how in some easy steps in the video below!

 

 

 

Grab these staples from your grocery store to get started:

Ground beef (or turkey or chicken if you prefer)

Chili cut lamb (or chopped chicken if you prefer)

Allspice

Bulgar wheat (the finest kind, grade #1)

Onions

Garlic

Cinnamon (optional)

Pine nuts (can use slivered almonds if you wish)

Butter

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

 

 

 

 

The Top Most Mispronounced Arabic Words by Mainstream Media….

May 22, 2017

I give people a lot of slack when it comes to the Arabic language, as it is considered one of the most difficult languages on the planet. In my previous life I was a news reporter, and when I reported on countries all over the world, I looked up the phonetic pronunciations because if I was going to talk about those places in front of millions of viewers on television, I better say those words correctly! Sadly, this is not the case today in politics and mainstream media. You have pundits who advocate invading countries they can’t even pronounce, and reporters who give cringe worthy pronunciations of countries as they try to “educate” us. So while I give the general public lots of slack, these guys on television have no excuse! So, I decided to make a video on some of the most mispronounced Middle Eastern foods, countries, and names. Hopefully you will find this  “coffee talk” useful, and if you have a name people mispronounce all the time, feel free to leave it in the comments below!

 

 

 

Ghraybeh- Arabic Shortbread Cookies (S Cookies)

April 25, 2017

These buttery shortbread cookies seem to appear in various parts of the Middle East with different names. Throughout the Arab world they are known as Ghraybeh, shaped either as the letter ‘S’ or as a diamond. In Greece these are known as Kourabiedes. In Armenia they are known as Kourabia. When my husband was a child, he grew up thinking the S cookies reflected his last name beginning with the letter S, while when my brother was a child, he called them “eth” cookies because he had a lisp. Whatever you call them, you will be mesmerized by the soft melt-in-your-mouth texture at first bite. You can also start your own tradition and mold the cookies into any shape that is meaningful to you. These cookies are great for those with egg allergies because no eggs are used. The ghee (rather than butter) gives these cookies an authentic middle eastern flavor that you just can’t get with butter. I use rose flower extract to give the cookies a nice fragrance, but you can use vanilla extract instead. Dusted with powdered sugar, these cookies are festive and elegant—great for tea parties, showers, christenings, or any other celebration.

 

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What surprises many people is the simplicity of making this cookie–only 3 ingredients! But it is the method that ensures the soft texture. Mainly for the perfect cookies you must:

  1. Make sure you whip up the ghee and sugar for a long long time–so it turns almost white
  2. Don’t overmix when you add the flour
  3. Make sure you use ghee instead of butter–ensures the cookies stay softer longer
  4. Don’t mold the dough into shapes until you refrigerate it for at least one hour, that way the dough won’t be as sticky
  5. Bake on low heat (300 degrees) to make sure the cookies don’t crack or turn brown

I have to admit all hell breaks loose when my brother and I cook in the kitchen, but it’s all in good fun. Check out my new video below to see how easy it is to make this traditional cookie:

In my video, I also give a fun Latin American variation, adding dulce de leche to transform the cookies into Alfajores–or sandwich cookies. You can buy really good quality duce de leche in a can, available in the Latin American section of supermarkets, and you can also get a great dulce de leche from Trader Joe’s! To be honest I also got the ghee from Trader Joes as a shortcut–but you can also make your own clarified butter if you wish. Are you ready for your own cookie making adventure? Try making a buttery batch yourself, and leave me a comment to let me know what you think 😉

Here is the simple grocery list to get you started:

Ghee

Flour

Superfine sugar

Blanched almonds, pine nuts or pistachios ( to decorate)

Rose Flower Water (optional)

 

 

 

 

Feast in the Middle East in the press and Cooking Class in April!

April 12, 2017

For those of you that found my site from the recent articles on Feast in The Middle East in the Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Weekly, welcome to my online cooking family! I was honored to get this coverage here in Silicon Valley, where I have called home for the past 10 years.  Featured in the article is a pomegranate glazed roasted chicken over a bulgur wheat pilaf with herbs, sultanas and pistachios. Leave me a comment below if you would like me to do a recipe video on this one. If you are new and want to get all of my recipes, as well as new uploaded videos, feel free to subscribe to my YouTube page by clicking   HERE  and hitting the “subscribe” button–it’s free!

 

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It was also fun getting interviewed by Peabody Award winning journalist Jamal Dajani on his show “Arab Talk.”  Our conversation flowed between Middle Eastern food and politics, and if you want to check out the interview HERE

 

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And for those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area that want to try my cooking live in an casual cooking demonstration, come join me at Draeger’s in San Mateo on Wednesday night, 6:30 pm! I will be making a Middle Eastern “Mezze” party, full of scrumptious appetizers with wine. I would love to see you there! For more information or to register for the class, click HERE  This class makes an excellent advanced Mother’s Day gift!  Happy Easter to all those that are celebrating.

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