Friday, August 22, 2014

Salted Caramel Cookie Butter Ice Cream

I sort of feel like I don't have to type anything about this ice cream, because as soon as you read how quick and easy it is to make, and then when you taste it and your eyes widen and your pupils dilate, you'll just GET it. Eat it alone. Don't bother with a bowl. Nobody did in this house. Or make it into waffle ice cream sandwiches with a sprinkling of sea salt. That's how I liked it because its so darn pretty looking, but the truth is it doesn't need anything additional.

My kids and I had a lot of fun doing this together. We made it right before bed time (IN 10 MINUTES) and the next morning it was good to go! I was feeling very nervous about it at first because the mixture is soft when first mixed and I was hesitant about what the consistency would be like. So the next morning I took a spoon and tried it straight from the freezer and then quickly refrained from having more! With giddy excitement I texted my family that we were having an ice cream sandwich party at my house that afternoon!!! I even served this to my husband's nephew as breakfast one morning :)

This was my first attempt at making ice cream. I've never felt like I would use an ice cream machine enough to want to add another bulky piece of kitchen equipment to my collection...then I came across a picture on pintrest and immediately went to Trader Joe's to get the stuff. Then I waited and waited until I knew I'd have a captive audience in my home who could eat this quickly enough so my husband and I wouldn't gain 10 pounds enjoying it on our own. The day this opportunity came we didn't bother with then I waited and waited again for another opportunity to remake it and take some shots for you guys. And here it is, my dears. I hope you enjoy!


Adapted from
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream

 -2 cups very cold heavy cream
-1 14-ounce can (fat-free!) sweetened condensed milk
 -2/3 cup Cookie Butter
-1 cup speculoos cookies broken in half
-1 tablespoon vanilla extract
-about 1/2 jar of fleur de caramel from Trader Joe's (1/2 cup)

-In the large bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat cream and vanilla on high speed for several minutes, just until stiff peaks form
-While whipping cream, in a separate large bowl, stir together remaining ingredients (condensed milk and cookie butter)
-Once cream is ready, fold it into cookie butter mixture. Stir in broken cookie pieces.
-Pour 1/3 the amount of ice cream into a large sized tupperware. Pour out a layer of the caramel. Don't mix. Scoop another 1/3 of the ice cream over caramel and then pour more caramel. Repeat a third layer using remaining ice cream and caramel. Using a butter knife, give a VERY LIGHT swirl to the caramel on top. Cover with saran wrap and then tightly seal with the lid of container.
-Freeze for 8 hours or overnight
-To make into sandwiches use the butter waffle cookies from Trader Joe's.

I'd love to connect with you! Follow me on instagram as savvy_chef and tag #savvychef in your creations :)

The cookie butter/condensed milk mixture alone is amazing

Ready to be covered and frozen


Chocolate Chococolate Chip Zucchini Cake

I couldn't get a picture before someone stole a few loaves!
This stuff...I don't know whether to call it a cake, bread, bar or brownie....but its incredible! The flavor is so amazingly rich, deep and decadent you'll feel like you're cheating with every bite you take. And that's the best part. It's so secretly healthy you almost want to scream that out loud with every morsel you inhale. Zucchini is in abundance during these summer months, and this recipe is a way to sneak it in without anyone knowing. I was so pleased with this cake that I couldn't help myself and told everyone who tried it all about the zucchini...except the kids!

Since I'm a chocolate fanatic, I really load it up with cocoa powder (woohoo, another guilt-free factor...extra anti-oxidants!), so go ahead and scale it back a little. I'm really in love with the intense dark color of this cake...whenever I see a light colored chocolate cake I'm immediately unimpressed without even taking a bite. The darker the color, the deeper the flavor!  Since the chocolate chips are mini, its little soft bites of chocolate that don't harden even when cooled, mmm! I've baked it in mini loaf pans, as cupcakes with colored marshmallows, as gifts in loaf trays and brownie style in a baking pan. My favorite way...and the fastest...was in the 9x13 pan because that's when it was the most moist and fudgy.

I'm going to be totally honest with you guys...what made these really irresistible is the peanut butter frosting. SADLY, I don't have any decent pictures with the frosting and the I can't post that recipe until I remake it...which is a good excuse to head into the kitchen right now, if you ask me :D For now I recommend frosting this with a yummy fudge sauce. I like the one from Trader Joe's because its easy to understand the ingredients. Healthy eating is not all about low fat foods! Stay tuned for the PB frosting :)

For the kiddos...a little marshmallow is ok when you've got all that zucchini hiding inside ;)

-2 eggs
-1 cup sugar (plus up to 1 cup more for a sweeter cake...the kids definitely prefer it sweeter. If you're not frosting it, definitely use a total of 1 1/2 cups of sugar)
-1/3 cup melted coconut oil
-2/3 cup applesauce
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-2 cups grated zucchini (don't use a zester to grate zucchini or your cake will stay too mushy, and don't use a grater with large holes because you will be able to see the zucchini pieces. Medium sized grater is best)
-2 squares melted semi-sweet baking chocolate (or 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, to be added with dry ingredients)
-2 cups flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 cup cocoa powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 to 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

To make
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with coconut oil spray (I buy mine from Trader Joe's, or use another non-stick cooking spray)
-Using a mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, coconut oil, applesauce and vanilla until well combined, about 2 minutes. Then add the grated zucchini and melted chocolate squares.
-In another bowl combine dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix together and add to dry ingredients while mixing together. Mix until everything is well combined but don't over beat the batter or it will get tough as it bakes. Fold in chocolate chips and pour into pre-greased pan.
-Bake between 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool before you slice.
-Top the cake with powdered sugar, chocolate fudge or peanut butter frosting
Straight from the oven, and pre-frosting. The smell of chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon is mouth watering

These were such cute 'thank you' gifts for my son's teachers!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mediterranean Turkey Wrap

Today I bring you an easy but unique turkey wrap. This can easily be made into a vegetarian sandwich if you prefer. I make a lot of things that are either too complicated to post (grape leaves, kibbeh, etc.) or too easy (using shortcuts like a boxed mix or ready sauce) and this falls into the 'too easy' category.  A lot of you have reached out to me for these easy recipes, so here is a good one :) My 4 year old surprised me and had a whole wrap!

You can grab everything from one store for this (Hi, Trader Joe's!) and it takes minutes to assemble. I use the yogurt and cilantro dip for various things, and I especially love it in this wrap because its a healthier and more flavorful alternative to mayonnaise. Be careful not to layer the dip as the first ingredient because it will make your bread go soggy faster.

Makes one wrap

-1 lavash wrap
-1/4 cup arugula or spinach leaves
-1 slice of Havarti cheese
-3 slices deli style turkey breast (omit this for a veggie sandwich)
-2 tablespoons cilantro and chive yogurt dip
-3 strips roasted red pepper
-3 slices avocado
-black pepper to taste

-Place lavash bread with the long edge spread horizontally. Lay out cheese in a row about 1/4 of an inch from the edge of the lavash bread.
-Layer ingredients over each other in the order listed: arugula, cheese, turkey,  ONE TABLESPOON of cilantro and chive yogurt dip, roasted red pepper, avocado and black pepper.
-Spread remaining one tablespoon of the cilantro and chive yogurt dip lengthwise along the end portion of the lavash bread. This will help seal the sandwich together.
-Carefully wrap the sandwich over three times. Cut horizontally and serve.
-Enjoy :)

This are some of the ingredients that specifically come from Trader Joes

Follow me on instagram @ savvy_chef and tag me in your creations, I'd love to see what yumminess you cook up :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Balsamic Fig and Arugula Pizza

When I enjoy something, I can't just 'like' it, I have to 'LOVE' it.  And when I love it, I think about it constantly, talk about it annoyingly and just let it consume me completely. The 'it' I keep referring to in this case is my current obsession: fresh figs! I heart them with all my heart. So much so that I refuse to look up the calorie count for figs because I want to eat them without mentally calculating anything.

Since I'm obsessed (rightfully so) I try to figure out how to incorporate them into every food category possible. Fig jam has been a long time favorite of mine, and if you haven't tried Trader Joe's fig butter, I suggest you run over there now and grab a jar.  Fig balsamic vinegar came next, found in specialty shops and farmer's markets. Dried figs are a must in my home, and soon I'll share my fig truffles recipe with you guys.

But, I bring you my latest and greatest.  I thought about this recipe and researched "the internets" long and hard for the best combination. There's nothing like this out there, I'm very pleased to admit ;)  The sweetness of the honey blends perfectly with the softness of the figs, and the balsamic glaze is a tart and sweet combination to the figs. The smoked mozzarella adds another dynamic of flavor that is mellowed out with the creamy ricotta. The crunch of the nuts, the tang of the red onion...this pizza is a culinary delight to your taste buds!

Makes 1 pizza

-1/2 cup cornmeal (optional)
-1 pound fresh pizza dough
-1/4 cup honey
-8 ounces smoked mozzarella log, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
-8 ounces ricotta cheese
-2 cups fresh figs, cut in half or quartered
-1/4 cup fig balsamic vinegar (or best quality, thick vinegar glaze you can obtain)
-2 cups arugula
-1/4 cup finely diced red onion
-1 tablespoon walnut oil (or olive oil)
-1/3 cup chopped walnuts
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To make
-Preheat oven to whatever temperature you bake your dough. I usually bake mine at 400 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet or pizza pan with non stick spray and sprinkle cornmeal over the pan. Shake the cornmeal around and tap out the excess into a sink. Stretch out your pizza dough and bake halfway on LOWER rack in the oven, about 6-8 minutes for my dough.
-Remove half baked pizza dough from the oven and arrange sliced mozzarella diagonally on the crust, about 1 inch apart across the dough. Then spread ricotta in the gaps between the mozzarella pieces. Arrange figs, flesh side down, on top of the cheese. Sprinkle the pizza with black pepper. Return to the oven and bake about 10 more minutes on the MIDDLE rack.
-While pizza is baking, mix together arugula, red onion, walnuts, salt and oil in a medium sized bowl.
-When the mozzarella is melted and the figs look a little caramelized, remove from the oven and drizzle the balsamic glaze on top. Lightly spoon the arugula mixture all over the pizza, slice and serve. I sliced the pizza into 24 slices using a baking sheet.

Follow Savvy_chef on instagram and tag me in your posts, I'd love to see what you make :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Loaded Tea-Infused Granola

Granola all filled and pretty for my family

 I miss you guys! It's been 9 months since I posted and that pretty much coincides with when my life became insanely hectic...but thanks to instagram, I'm back and motivated to share a bunch of easy recipes with you. Just because I haven't been blogging, doesn't mean I haven't been cooking and I've got an archive of yummy stuff to share with you!
I really enjoy granola, but every time I look at the nutritional information I find it's loaded with fat...not my idea of a healthy food. When I consume a high calorie, high fat item, I like it to be sugary, gooey and hopefully full of chocolate ;) Making granola myself has given me the ability to incorporate all the flavors I love and remove the ones I don't.  I've made this a lot recently...for reasons I can't describe making granola makes me very happy! I love the process, I love the smell that fills up the kitchen, I love the quick cleanup, I love the way little alterations will make the texture go from soft and chewy to nice and crispy, and I really love that if stored properly this will sit around for a while.  I've been tripling this recipe the last few times I made it and the results are stellar every time!
Like everything I share with you guys, its easy to make and comes together fairly quickly. Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, they're just spices and typical pantry staples. Feel free to switch out the fruit and nut combos (but if you don't like the results don't blame me for it!) to accommodate what you have on hand. 
We eat this alone, as cereal or as a topping to Greek yogurt and fresh fruit.
Adapted from Alice's Tea Cup
Makes about 7 cups
- 2 1/2 cups rolled or quick oats
-1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (I like to use at least 2 kinds. My favorite combo is the sesame honey cashews from Trader Joe's and chopped almonds)
-1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I use equal amounts golden raisins, orange cranberries, and apricots)
-3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
-1/4 cup sesame seeds
-1 tablespoon flax seeds (you can use up to 2 tablespoons)
-1 tablespoon chia seeds (you can use up to 2 tablespoons)
-1 tablespoon cinnamon
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 tablespoons ground flavored tea (This is the SECRET to this delicious granola, and you can play a lot with the flavors depending on what tea you use. I use my spice grinder, open about 3 bags flavored herbal tea and grind to a fine consistency. You can also just place the tea on the palm of one hand and rub your palms over each other quickly to crush the tea. I especially like ginger peach tea and honey vanilla chamomile).
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1/2 cup honey, plus more for drizzling
-1/4 cup melted coconut oil
To make:
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil (for easy cleanup) and spray with non stick cooking spray (I use a coconut oil spray)
-In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (everything EXCEPT the vanilla, honey and coconut oil). Mix well
-Add the vanilla, honey and melted coconut oil and mix very well. I use my hands to make sure the honey isn't clumping and all the oats get wet and coated.
-Spread evenly on the greased baking sheet and pat down firmly with a spatula.
-Bake on the middle rack in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
-Remove granola from oven and flip over in sections using a spatula. Press down firmly and drizzle honey over the granola.
-Return to middle rack in the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes.
-Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. Break it up into pieces and store in an airtight container.
-Enjoy :)
*To make crispier granola, drizzle less honey and spread into a thinner layer. Bake for the full 10 minutes.
*To make chewier granola, drizzle more honey, spread into a thick layer and bake for 8-9 minutes.
Check out SavvyChef on instagram #savvy_chef and tag me in your creations!
Greek yogurt, granola, strawberries and peaches

Prepping the granola...lots of ingredients but it comes together quickly
I've doubled and recipe and it still goes fast!

Making granola is a great recipe for kids! Just measure, dump and mix!


Friday, October 25, 2013

Coconut Almond Chocolate Muffins

These are for all the chocolate lovers of the world. I threw in some extra flavors like coconut and almonds into the mix, but don't be fooled....chocolate heaven is awaiting you with each bite.

This recipe came about because I was itching to finish up my buttermilk before it went bad. I'll buy the carton for pancakes and then scrounge around trying to find other uses for it. For muffins and cakes, buttermilk is magic. The acidity in the milk acts as a self riser for your batter. Whenever I have some on hand I replace regular milk with buttermilk and for recipes that I had previously used plain milk I see a difference in how high the muffins/cakes rise. It's awesome!  I also feel like the buttermilk gives my desserts that "professional bakery" taste that many home recipes are lacking ;-)

Makes 16 muffins

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon (or 2) ground espresso coffee beans (or insant coffee crystals)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut oil (if firm then melt)
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chips (milk, semisweet or dark)
3/4 cup chopped almonds
optional: toasted coconut flakes

To make
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with baking cups
-Mix together flour, cocoa powder, white and brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, coffee and salt.
-Add coconut oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Take care not to over mix so your batter doesn't get tough.
-Add chocolate chips and almonds.
-Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.
-Sprinkle optional toasted coconut flakes if using.
-Bake on bottom rack of oven for 18-24 minutes, starting with the lowest baking time and inserting a toothpick into the middle to check if baked through. Muffins are done baking when a few crumbs are stuck to the toothpick.

*Reheating left over muffins for about 15 to 20 seconds before eating the leftovers melts the chocolate chips again and makes them super delicious

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Spinach and Pomegranate Salad

This salad is so simple to make but it looks and tastes like an elegant starter fit for the fussiest of company! It is loaded with vitamins to boost immunity during the cold/flu season.  My daughter cheers for joy when I make it because she loves the tang of the sumac and the sweetness of the pomegranate...not to mention the fact that it is void of her nemesis: tomatoes ;)

Toss the salad RIGHT before serving, and keep it in the fridge if you are going to prepare it earlier in the day. My experience with salads has taught me that serving them cold will ensure that the salad retains a crisp bite to it :)

 I also use this same recipe for my spinach fatayir (empanadas/pastries) but that will come another day. Stay tuned ;-)

Serves 5 to 6 adults

-12 ounces baby spinach
-3/4 cup fresh pomegranate kernels
-2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
-juice of 1 small lemon
-2 tablespoons sumac
-1/3 cup good quality olive oil
-salt to taste

To make
-Roughly chop spinach.
-Add pomegranate seeds, red onion, walnuts.
-Top with lemon juice, sumac, olive oil and salt
-Mix until well incorporated and serve
 -Enjoy :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Balsamic Mushroom and Onion Calzone

There is just something so satisfying about breaking into a sauce-smoothered dough to have cheese and delicious ingredients spill out! I had some extra pizza dough on hand recently and I rummaged though my brain (and fridge!) to see what I could fill it with...the result was a super yummy calzone that had my family wishing I had more leftover dough :)

Serves 6
-1 lb pizza dough, split into 6 equal parts
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 large vidalia onion, sliced into strips
-1 lb fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-2 tablespoons fresh tarragon or 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
-salt and pepper to taste
-2 cups shredded cheese (I recommend an Italian blend of mozzarella and parmesan)

-1 tablespoon olive oil
-4 large tomatoes
-3 cloves of garlic
-2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
-1/2 cup water
-salt and pepper to taste

To make
-Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
-Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray
-On a clean surface sprinkled with flour, roll out each mound of dough to about 8-10 inches x 4 inches
-Heat olive oil in a skillet and cook onions for about 5 minutes until halfway cooked. Add mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and continue cooking on medium heat about 5-10 more minutes, until the onions have caramelized and the vinegar has reduced to a glaze. Stir in the tarragon and remove from heat.
-Place about 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup onion and mushroom mixture on on side of dough. Sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese on top of onion mixture. Fold over the long end of the dough and crimp the edges closed. Repeat with remaining dough and mixture.
-Arrange calzones on baking sheet and bake for about 12-17 minutes, or until the top is golden and the dough seems cooked. Cooking time will vary depending on your dough.
-While the calzones are baking, prepare the sauce by heating oil in a sauce pan. Puree tomatoes and garlic and add to the heated oil. Add seasoning, water, salt and pepper and cook on medium heat until the sauce has thickened and reduced to desired consistency, about 10 minutes.
-Remove Calzones from oven and put onto individual serving plates. Spoon about 1/2 cup sauce on to each calzone and serve.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mexican Lasagna

When I first came up with this, I made it three times in one week. For the same people. Yes. It is that good! I played with it each time that week, but the first way was definitely the best. I can describe this lasagna on and how cool it is to make it with flour tortilla instead of lasagna noodles, or how delicious that top layer of tortilla is because it gets crispy and crunchy in the oven, or how refreshing the sour cream is when drizzled on top...or you can just make it and discover your own list of favorites!

Serves 6

-6 8 inch flour tortillas, cut in half
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 large onion, finely chopped
-1 bell pepper any color, finely chopped (or 1 cup frozen mixed bell pepper medley)
-1 whole chicken, cooked, meat removed from skin and bones then shredded (I buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it myself)
-4 cups salsa
-1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
-14 ounce can black beans
-1 cup corn
-1 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning
-1 tablespoon cumin seeds
-1 tablespoon dried coriander
-salt and pepper
-16 ounces sour cream
-3 cups shredded cheese
-1 cup diced green onions

To make
-Heat oil in a pot and add onions and bell peppers. Cook for 5 minutes. Mix in shredded chicken, 2 cups salsa, cilantro, black beans, corn, taco seasoning, cumin seeds, coriander salt and pepper.
-Spray a 9x13 baking dish with  non-stick spray.  Spread a thin layer of salsa and place 4 tortilla halves to create a layer of bread along the bottom. Spread 1 cup salsa on top of bread, then spread 1 cup sour cream.  It will look messy, but don't worry.  Add 1/2 of chicken mixture over sour cream. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese. Repeat layers (tortilla, salsa, sour cream, chicken mixture, cheese) 1 more time and end with a layer of tortilla bread. Do not put salsa on top layer.
-Sprinkle cheese on top layer of tortilla and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top layer has browned.  Remove from oven and drizzle with sour cream then sprinkle with diced green onions.
-Slice and serve

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies

This is what it looks like pre-baked

bake to puffy goodness :)

sliced and ready to go!

I hope you're ready for another easy brownie recipe, because here it comes! One day I figured brownies and cookies would be an awesome combination, so I started researching recipes. All the ones I found required baking brownies and then making a separate egg-less cookie down that gets spread on top after the brownies are baked.  Sounds kind of weird...and time consuming. So I did my own experimenting and confirmed my hunch that this was super simple to do.

I took these bars to a dinner party and the reaction was "Brownies...AND cookies?!...Amazing!"

These are really dense, so a nice cup of milk is a great way to wash down them down!

Use your favorite brownie recipe and your favorite cookie dough recipe...or use a mix like I did!

-1 box brownie mix, prepared as directed
-1 pound chocolate chip cookie dough (feel free to use the refrigerated kind, I don't judge ;-))

To make
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Prepare brownie mix and spread in 9x13 inch baking pan.
-Scoop tablespoons of cookie dough evenly all over the pan.
-Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until brownie seems set and cookies have puffed up slightly.
-Let cool and then slice into bars.
-Devour with a cup of cold milk :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I love anything pumpkin, especially desserts. Fall is my favorite season because of the breezy weather, beautiful colors on leaves, soup and hearty stews, and pumpkin!!!

I came across this recipe a while ago and have been waiting for an opportunity to try it. I must admit though, making these cupcakes was a really stressful experience. I started out with a recipe and quickly realized that I didn't have the accurate measurements for most of the ingredients. I measured out my brown sugar and didn't even have a 1/4 of what I needed, I was short on cocoa powder, the recipe called for too much butter (3 sticks in the batter!) and so forth, so I ditched the recipe and nervously did my own thing. My sister was "helping" by standing over my shoulder making comments like "This is really not your day" each time I discovered another lacking ingredient. There was even a supermarket run when I got to the frosting and discovered another shortage of supply on powered sugar.  I ended up spending 4 active hours on these cupcakes, and the result was a lot of drama and a very messy kitchen.

Another result? DELICIOUS cupcakes!!! The moistness is indescribable, a credit that goes to the pumpkin. With the cocoa powder and the pumpkin the cupcakes don't taste completely like chocolate or pumpkin, and the spice from the pumpkin mixture means you don't have to add anymore on your own.

These shouldn't take you guys as long as it took me now that there is a recipe you can follow, just make sure you have enough of the ingredients :)  These make a LOT of cupcakes, which I took as a great opportunity to share with friends, neighbors and teachers.  Don't panic at the butter/oil/sugar content, if this recipe was cut into 1/3 (12 cupcakes) the quantities are very reasonable.

Frost the cupcakes before you are ready to serve them, and store the frosting in the refrigerator and the unfrosted cupcakes on your counter-top.

Yields 36 large cupcakes or 24 large and 48 mini cupcakes

-3 cups flour
-1/4 cup cocoa powder
-4 teaspoons baking powder
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-3/4 cup salted butter (1.5 sticks). If you don't have salted butter use unsalted + 1 teaspoon salt.
-3/4 cup vegetable oil
-4 cups sugar
-7 eggs
-2 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
-4 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1 cup buttermilk
-2 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (pie filling)

Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Frosting
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
-12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) cream cheese at room temperature
-4 cups confectioners sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-3/4 cup canned pumpkin (pie filling)

To make cucpcakes:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.
-In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Drizzle in the oil and continue mixing.
-Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated in the batter.
-Melt the baking chocolate and stir it in, add the vanilla.
-Switch the mixer to its lowest setting and alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in two separate batches. Mix until everything is well combined. Stir in the pumpkin.
-Line cupcake pans with baking cups and fill the cups about 3/4 full.
-Bake the large cupcakes 20-25 minutes (mine were perfect at 23 minutes) and the mini cupcakes for 13-18 minutes (Mine took about 16).

While the cupcakes are baking prepare the frosting.

To prepare frosting:
-Use a mixer to cream the cream cheese and butter until perfectly smooth. Make sure you start off with room temperature cream cheese and butter so it does not get clumpy as you mix it.
-Switch the mixer to its lowest setting and the vanilla and pumpkin puree.  If you over mix the frosting will be too runny. If that happens its ok, just place it in the freezer while the cupcakes bake and cool and it should be a little firmer when you are ready to frost.
-Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost them and sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top of the frosting.
-DEVOUR and enjoy!!!

P.S. Happy Birthday Sarah and Kifah!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

This is my favorite pizza. Its saucy and spicy and just smack-your-lips delicious! I've borrowed all of the flavors of buffalo wings to top a delicious crust dusted with cornmeal. This is pizzeria style at its best!

-1 lb pizza dough (see my recipe at:
-2 tablespoons cornmeal
-1 cup buffalo wing sauce
-2 cups shredded cheese
-1/2 pound cooked chicken breast, diced
-1 cup finely sliced celery
-1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
-1/2 cup blue cheese dressing (or ranch)

To make
-Preheat oven to what is directed for cooking pizza dough. If you have a pizza stone, sprinkle cornmeal and lay rolled out dough on top of it. If your pizza pan has holes in it do not use the cornmeal.
-Layer the pizza with buffalo sauce, shredded cheese, chicken, celery and green onion.
-Bake for about 12 minutes or whatever is directed for your pizza dough.
-Remove pizza from oven and drizzle blue cheese dressing.
-Slice and serve. When I use a pizza stone I like to roll out the dough into a square and cut the slices into squares for more of a rustic style pizza.
-Enjoy :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sukseh (Nutella Cookies)

If you've been to Syria chances are you've tried this dessert. I LOVE it. It took me a while to come up with this version. The traditional way to make it is with lots and lots of butter. The problem for me is I can eat a heavy dessert as long as I'm oblivious to exactly how much fat went into it, but if I've made it then I know how bad it is and I just feel guilty...

Not to say that this is a "healthy" dessert in any way because the butter got replaced with Nutella! When its Nutella though, you just can't resist :)

Makes 24 bars


- 2 tablespoons butter
-1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
-2 tablespoons cocoa powder
-3 tablespoons powdered (confectioner) sugar
-2 tablespoons Nutella
-1/3 cup of milk
-2 1/2 cups roughly broken tea biscuit cookies

To make
-Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or saran wrap, letting the paper extend over the edges to be folded over later.
-Melt the butter, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, Nutella and milk in a medium sized saucepan on medium heat. Stir constantly to incorporate the ingredients and to melt the chocolate chips.
-Once the mixture has melted turn off the heat and add cookies. Mix until the mixture has coated the cookies but do not over mash them.
-Transfer the mixture into the lined loaf pan, patting it down to make sure it is evenly distributed. Fold the extended paper over the top of the dessert to cover the mixture and place in the freezer for 4 hours to set.
-Once set, remove from the freezer and take the paper lined dessert out of the loaf pan. Let thaw for 10 minutes and then slice into 8 pieces. Slice each piece into 3 to create bars.
-Enjoy :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pesto Gorgonzola and Pine Nut Flatbread

My mom and I ordered a pizza with these toppings on it recently and we were wowed at the combination of the yummy flavors. So I did what I do best and I went home and made my own version :)  Using flat bread instead of pizza dough worked better because its quicker and you can control how many you make instead of ending up with a huge pizza.

This is a bit of a refined pizza because Gorgonzola cheese has a strong flavor, as does the pesto. But if you like these ingredients then you will love them together!

You can easily alter the quantities of this recipe to make however many pieces you want.

Makes 1 flat bread

-1 flat bread
-2 tablespoons pesto
-2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
-2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese crumbles

To make
-Spread the pesto evenly onto the flat bread. Sprinkle with pine nuts and Gorgonzola cheese.
-Toast in a toaster oven or a skillet until the cheese has melted and the flat bread has reached desired crispiness.
-Cut into 4 slices and serve
-Enjoy :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Arugula Salad (Salatet Jarjeer/ Wild Rocket)

I LOVE THIS SALAD. It's so crispy and tangy and refreshing. This is my staple daily salad that I make my family because my daughter really enjoys it and takes a second serving!

I copied this from various restaurants in Syria. It reminds me of summers with my family in the Middle East, which is partly why I like making it so often. The star of this salad is the sumac. Sumac is a small berry that gets dried and ground into a purple spice with a sour taste. I haven't seen this in chain grocery stores, but it is a standard spice in Middle Eastern markets. The rest of the salad is very simple, especially since the arugula is pre-washed, which makes it an ideal candidate for weeknight dinners.

Serves 4 adults

-1 package arugula leaves
-2 large tomatoes, diced
-4 Persian cucumbers, diced
-2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
-juice of 1 lemon

-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 heaping tablespoon sumac (purple colored spice found in Middle Eastern markets)
-salt to taste

-In a bowl combine the arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions. Top with lemon juice, olive oil, sumac and salt. Stir to combine and serve immediately to avoid wilting.
-Enjoy :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ramadan Chocolate Date Bars

To the almost 2 billion Muslims out there, I wish you all a blessed Ramadan! This is the holy month where Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual relations from sunrise to sundown.

However, as soon as the sun sets, people get their grub on! I find this dessert a festive treat because the dates provide lots of energy after a long day of not eating.

I learned this delicious NO BAKE, dairy-free dessert from my mother in law. I'm not sure who she got the recipe from, but it is a cross between the Middle Eastern culture (dates) and the American culture (cereal)...however, the ground cardamom pushes it over to the Middle Eastern side ;-)

This freezes extremely well, just make sure to seal it tightly. I really enjoy making this and having it around because it is quick to put together for last minute guests, and it will last for quite a while in the refrigerator.

Dates are an excellent source of fiber and potassium, and their natural sugars give a boost of energy. This means you can enjoy them guilt free :)

-3 tablespoons butter
-13 ounce baking dates (pitted and pureed)
-4 cups crushed Honey Bunches of Oats (or corn flakes) cereal
-1 teaspoon ground cardamom
-1/2 cup shredded coconut
-1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
-1 teaspoon oil

-Melt the butter in a saucepan and add pitted dates. Stir in crushed cereal and ground cardamom. Use your hands (I recommend wearing disposable gloves) and mash the mixture together until everything is well incorporated.
-Butter a 9x13 inch pan and then spread date mixture evenly into the pan. Smooth out the top with the palm of your hand, then sprinkle the coconut evenly over the date mixture.
-Melt chocolate and oil for 30 seconds, then stir until all the chocolate is melted. Spread over the date mixture and refrigerate until the chocolate has set, at least 30 minutes.
-Cut into 1/2 inch x 1 inch thick rows or any desired shape.
-Enjoy :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tomato Pomegranate Soup

I was having a craving for soup AND pasta, so I decided to rummage around my pantry and fridge and see what I could come up with.  The result was pretty good and passed the child taste test, which is a mark of a truly good recipe :)

I liked this soup because of the unique sour taste of the pomegranate molasses and pasta.  Best of all, prep time is only 5 minutes and it comes together very fast! Feel free to substitute another small pasta in place of the penne, in fact I think next time I make it I will use elbow macaroni because the penne was a bit long and I cut them in half in my bowl.

Serves 4

-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 small white onion, chopped into thin strips
-1 large Italian squash, diced into small cubes
-1 cup small pasta (penne or elbow)
-1 can tomato paste
-6 cups broth (or 1 bouillon cube and water)
-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
-salt to taste
-1/4 cup diced fresh cilantro

To make
-Heat olive oil on high heat in a pot and saute onions until semi soft, about 3-5 minutes.
-Add the water, pomegranate molasses, salt and tomato paste and stir until blended.
-When the mixture boils, add the pasta and squash. Cover and let soup simmer for 10-15 minutes or until pasta is cooked. If the pasta absorbs too much water, add a little more water and tomato paste.
-Stir in diced cilantro and enjoy :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cookies and Cream Brownies

I made these recently for a Eid party I attended, and it got rave reviews. In fact, my husband's nephew said these are "brownies from heaven" and "I'm abdicating my throne as brownie king." This was actually a problematic comment because he makes the BEST brownies but decided to hand over the torch to me, so his mother asked me to post this recipe so he can make it on his own.

These are rich and fudgy, with a smooth frosting and crispy cookies. Don't be surprised if the plate is licked clean :) Since the base is a brownie mix, it takes all of 5 minutes to whip these together and throw in the oven!

-1 brownie mix, prepared as directed on box (9x13 pan size)
-4 cups crushed oreos (about 1/2 of a package)
-1/2 tub vanilla frosting (about 1 cup)
-1/2 tub chocolate frosting (about 1 cup)

To make
-Prepare brownie mix as directed on package, and stir in 2 cups crushed oreos.  Bake as directed (minimum baking time) and remove from oven to cool.
-Spread chocolate frosting evenly over cooled brownies. Spread vanilla frosting and sprinkle remaining 2 cups crushed oreos.
-Cut into 24 squares and serve.
-Enjoy :)