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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:



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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Easter Menu: Musakhan- Palestinian Chicken Made Easy!

March 29, 2017

There is a tiny Palestinian village called An’arreeck, where a famous dish called Musakhan originated. Musakhan means “warmed” or “heated” in Arabic. It’s a gorgeous dish of roasted chicken baked on bread topped with caramelized onions and toasted pine nuts. To this day you can find older women baking the bread in a “taboun” or clay oven in the same village. I made a series of videos for this very dish in my Feast in the Middle East debut  in 2010. I picked this dish because it is so special to me, Musakhan is fancy and rustic at the same time, fun to eat and easy to prepare!

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Back then I use a television pilot format, basically the videos added up to 30 minutes with room for commercial breaks in between. Are you kidding me? So much has changed since then! According to Time Magazine, we now we all have the attention span of a goldfish, so I knew I had to compact this recipe for YouTube’s fast paced video culture. I found Musakhan is a real crowd pleaser at dinner parties, and also makes a cozy meal for the family any day of the week. My family always fights over the pieces of juicy bread at the bottom, full of meaty flavor, browned and crispy around the edges. If you don’t have sumac on hand, you can substitute allspice, although sumac has a more delicate and tangy flavor. Many Middle Eastern grocery stores sell sumac in bulk for a very reasonable price. Sumac is actually the ground bulb of a flowering shrub. It is deep purple in color and adds a tangy, lemony flavor to dishes, and is used to garnish many Middle Eastern dishes as well because of its beautiful color. This dish has been a real hit at my cooking classes, and now you can make it too! Just click on my new video below and let me know what you think in the comments section!



If you don’t have sumac in your neighborhood, this is a great //” target=”_blank”>BRAND that I love to use.

And I also love this line of organic spices, and they have a great //“>ALLSPICE.

Grocery List

1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs 


Olive oil



Lemon juice

Pine nuts

Pita bread (or flatbread)


Salt and pepper to taste

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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.



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:



Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper



Garlic Powder

Chicken or lamb



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:


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!


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. 🙂


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! 


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!




All-purpose flour

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Baking soda

Baking powder



Greek yogurt

Coconut oil

Coconut sugar


Vanilla extract

Semi sweet chocolate chips



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