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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mini Fruit Tarts

This recipe has two HUGE shortcuts...but not on flavor! I love homemade tart (not store bought, eww...) but I don't love slaving away in the kitchen to make it. One day I put this together and it was so good that I've dubbed it my mini tartlet recipe!

These taste best when eaten the day they are made, otherwise the cookie gets really soft. Bake the cookies so that they are more crispy than soft.

Makes 24 tarts.

-1 package break and bake sugar cookies (24 pieces)
-1/2 package vanilla pudding
-1 cup milk
-Optional: 1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
-5 kiwis, peeled and cut into rounds (5 slices per kiwi)
-2 cups strawberries (stems removed and cut into slices)
-optional: chocolate chips for melting (I used semi-sweet and white chocolate)

-Arrange cookies on baking sheet and bake to package instructions. (Congratulations, you've just made the crust of your tarts)
-Mix pudding mix and milk according to package instructions. Stir in optional lemon or orange zest and place in refrigerator to set. (That's your custard!)
-Once cookies have cooled, flip them upside down. This gives a slight elevation to the cookie and allows for more surface space.
-Spread 1 tablespoon of pudding onto each cookie. Place one slice of kiwi and one sliver of strawberry on each cookie.
-Optional: Melt chocolate and drizzle over tarts.
-Serve and indulge!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Butternut Squash Salad

This recipe is very appropriate for the fall (I know its technically winter, but the weather in California has been bipolar lately) and the colors are just BEAUTIFUL! Red, green, orange, festive. The vinaigrette and butternut squash are served warm, and they slightly wilt the arugula and make everything taste so good.

Serves 6.

-2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
-1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-salt and pepper to taste
-4 cups loosely packed arugula
-1/4 cup dried cranberries
-1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
-1 avocado, peeled and cut into cubes
-1/3 cup toasted almonds or walnuts

-3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
-2 tablespoons diced shallots
-1/3 cup oil
-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
-salt and pepper

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread nuts on a baking pan and toast for 8-10 minutes. Chop coarsely.
-Toss butternut squash with olive oil, honey, salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes or until roasted. Add the cranberries during the last 5 minutes of baking.
-While the squash is roasting, heat the apple cider, vinegar and shallots over medium heat until the mixture is reduced to 1/2 a cup. Turn off the heat and whisk in oil, dijon nustard, salt and pepper.
-Toss the arugula with the dressing, and layer the butternut squash and cranberry mixture, avocado, toasted nuts and Parmesan cheese.
-Serve warm or cold and enjoy :)

I'd love to connect with you! Like SavvyChef on facebook and follow Savvy_Chef on instagram. Tag Savvychef in your creations and pin the recipes on pintrest :)

Olive and Garlic Cheese Dip

I made this as a spur of the moment appetizer for some guests, and it was a hit! Everyone loved it and I was surprised at how quickly it came together. It's ready in less than 5 minutes!

-8 ounce package cream cheese
-1 cup ricotta cheese
-1 1/2 cups green olives with pimento
-4 peeled garlic cloves
-a couple splashes of hot sauce
-1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

-Toast the chopped walnuts in a skillet or oven until lightly browned.
-In a food processor, puree the garlic cloves, then add the olives, cream cheese, ricotta and hot sauce. Pulse until combined.
-Transfer dip into a serving bowl and garnish with toasted nuts. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, veggies or baguette slices.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


To my fellow chefs,

I know its been a while, and I haven't forgotten about you guys! I promise a bunch of yummy recipes are coming your way soon.

Its raining here, and this type of weather always gets me craving soup. To keep your creative juices flowing, check out my favorite soup recipes:

Tortilla soup...receives RAVE reviews every time!

Chicken Gnocchi made this blog famous on Google!

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hearty and Healthy Chicken Pot Pie

 YUM. I loved this! Probably because I love chicken pot pie in general...but I must say, I've tasted my fair share of not-so tasty ones. Once I ordered this in a restaurant and the middle of it was FROZEN. That was the last time I ever did that...

Anyway! This version is delicious...and healthy! Not a drop of butter! So go ahead, indulge :)

The crust is not flaky like traditional pie crusts. Flakiness comes from cold butter in the dough, which I didn't use. This crust is more like a biscuit or muffin batter. It tastes good with the sauce of the chicken and vegetables because it absorbs the flavor...

-1 pound chicken breast, diced into small cubes
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 cup chopped carrots
-1 cup chopped celery
-1 cup chopped mushrooms
-3/4 cup frozen peas
-1 tablespoon dijon mustard
-1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
-1 tablespoon dried dill
-garlic salt and pepper to taste
-1 tablespoon flour
-1 1/2 cups milk

-1 cup Heart Smart Bisquick mix
-1/2 cup milk
-1 egg

-Heat olive oilk in a pot and add chicken pieces. Cook for 2 minutes and add carrots, celery and mushrooms. Add the Italian seasoning, dill, garlic salt and pepper, and dijon mustard. Cook for 5 minutes or until chicken is almost cooked through.
-Mix the milk slowly into the flour while whisking constantly. Once the flour has dissolved, stir into into the chicken and vegetable mixture. Add the frozen peas. Mix and simmer on low for a couple minutes.
-In a separete bowl, mix the Bisquick mix with the egg and milk until well blended.
-Pour the chicken mixture into a pie dish. Spread the Bisquick mixture on top and bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees.
-Serve and savor each hearty bite!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pumpkin Banana Nut Bread

I promise, this is the BEST banana bread recipe you will EVER try. That's a pretty confident claim, and if I wasn't so in love with this cake I'd never say/write it!

My husband and my daughter both love the banana bread from Starbucks, so I made it my mission in life to make a better version at home.

2. A manageable amount of fat, so I wouldn't feel guilty with each bite.
3. Easy ingredients I already had

You can either make this completely a banana bread or pumpkin bread by leaving out one or the other and substituting the difference. So either 3 cups banana or 3 cups pumpkin.

So here it goes! As the picture says....Have your cake and eat it too!

Makes 16 servings.

-2 eggs
-1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-3 medium sized bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
-1 cup pumpkin puree
-2 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

-1 2/3 cup flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice (or cinnamon)
-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1 cup walnuts
-1 cup chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spread walnuts on a baking sheet. Toast for 8-10 minutes, then chop roughly.
-Whisk sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, for about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil as you continue whisking. Add bananas, pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla.
-In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, pumpkin spice and salt. Stir dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Stir just until combined, do not overmix. Add toasted walnuts.
-Spray a bundt pan OR 2 loaf pans with cooking spray and spread mixture into pans. Bake for 44-50 minutes for bundt pan (baking time will be around 30-35 minutes for 2 loaf pans) or until center of cake is set.
-Slice and serve!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chicken and Mushrooms in Puff Pastry

Consider yourselves lucky. I'm giving you guys a famous family recipe.

My mom is notorious for these pastries. She's been making them for about 25 years and everyone still loves and requests them.  My mom (who is actually a MUCH better cook than I am) came up with this in Saudi Arabia, and always easily found the ingredients for this dish in the various countries she has hopefully my 'out of US' readers won't have a hard time with this.

I decided to give this dish a try the other day and it tasted EXACTLY the way it does whenever my mom makes it. My family will vouch for that ;-)

Makes 24 pieces

-1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded
-1 large onion, diced
-2 1/2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
-2 tablespoons oregano
-1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamon
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 package puff pastry sheets (2 rolls)
-2 cups shredded mozzerella cheese

-Heat a large pot and add the chicken, onions and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes until the onions and mushrooms wilt. Add the oregano, ground cardamon and salt and pepper. Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool.
-Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry in a large 13x19 baking sheet. Spread chicken mixture on top and sprinkle shredded cheese. Top with second sheet of puff pastry. Carefully cut into squares, 6 slices on the longer side of the pan and 4 slices on the shorter end of the pan for a total of 24 pieces.
-Place baking sheet on the lowest rack in your oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes at 475 degrees.
-Slice and serve!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Orange Hazelnut Biscotti with Drizzled Chocolate

This is a spin off of the White Chocolate Lemon Biscotti!  Same recipe but I switched out the white chocolate for semisweet, the pecans for hazelnuts, and the lemon zest for orange zest.

Both versions are amazing!

To see the full recipe, click here!

Friday, October 23, 2009

White Chocolate Lemon Biscotti

Sooooooooooooooooooooo GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD.  Need I say more?

Probably not, but I will anyway, lol. My mom found this recipe and asked me to make it. A week or so later, we were sitting around and I looked it up, turns out it is Giada's recipe from the Food Network. I read through the ingredients and felt it was simple enough, but I skimmed through it really quickly looking for the butter content.  That is my deal breaker for dessert. Too much butter and I'm out. MUCH to my surprise, I didn't find butter listed as an ingredient. So I scanned through again, this time looking for oil...and...nothing! I read some of the reviews and discovered ::SHOCK:: that this DESSERT did not include oil or butter. I was sold.

We bought the ingredients and got to work. As everyone in the family started arriving home from work, they individually commented that it "smelled like a bakery" in the house. The smell of the baking vanilla and lemon zest was so heart warming!

Although butter-free, this doesn't lack any flavor or moistness, because biscotti is made to be crispy anyway. Since I am handicapped when it comes to following recipes, I tweaked the recipe a bit. I decreased the baking time, added vanilla, switched out almonds for pecans, and used more white chocolate. Other than that, I've gotta hand it to Giada on this one...easy...tasty...healthy!

The most annoying part of this recipe is zesting the lemon. It was fun to do because it brought the whole family into the kitchen. Little kids can easily help make this by creaming the sugar and eggs and helping shape the biscotti logs.

Biscotti is an Italian cookie that means "twice baked." People all over the world enjoy these cookies with tea, coffee, or just by themselves! They are baked to be crispy so they soften when dipped into a hot beverage.

Yields about 20 pieces of biscotti

-3 eggs
-1 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-3 tablespoons lemon zest (you can use orange zest instead)
-2 cups flour
-3/4 cup cornmeal
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-3/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts work best)
- 1 1/2 cups white chocolate
-1 tablespoon oil

To make
-Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cream together the eggs and sugar using an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. The mixture will be creamy and a pale white. Stir in vanilla and lemon zest.
-In a seperate bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder. Transfer the flour mixture into the egg mixture and stir just until moistened. Stir in nuts. The mixture will be slightly sticky. Let the mixture set for 5 minutes.
-Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and shape the dough into 2 logs, about 9 inches long and 3 inches wide each. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and using a serrated knife, slice the logs diagonally. Each log should produce about 10 pieces each. Lay the cut biscotti cut side up and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow biscotti to cool.
-Mix white chocolate with oil and melt for 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir and return to microwave for another 20 seconds. Drizzle or dip biscotti into the chocolate and place in refrigerator to harden.
-Serve with coffee or tea!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (Tzatziki)

In my Syrian household, this yogurt is a MUST with the puff pastry pies stuffed with meat and rice! It also goes well as a healthy dip for veggies and by any rice dish that is not part of a stew dish. In Arabic this is called "laban bil khyar" and it translates literally into "yogurt with cucumber" ;) This is very similar to Greek tzatziki sauce and I use this recipe any time I need tzatziki.

Serves about 4 people

-2 cups yogurt
-1 cup finely chopped cucumber
-1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
-1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint, crushed
-salt to taste

-Mix all the ingredients together and serve with "ouzi!"

Savory Puff Pastry Pies Stuffed with Meat and Rice (Ouzi)

Some requests have come in for more Middle Eastern dishes.  I LOVE to hear from the readers, thank you for your comments!  Please always feel free to post on the blog or email me directly at!

Here's another classic Syrian dish, called "ouzi" in Arabic. It is carbohydrate heaven! Puff pastry stuffed with rice! This is paired with a cucumber yogurt sauce and the combination is dynamic! It is very common to eat the rice without filling it in a puff pastry, so feel free to do so. A great idea is to make extra of the rice and eat it as a rice meal one night and then fill into pies for another evening. Wrapped in puff pastry, these freeze very well and are ready to bake right from the freezer.

I always serve this with a cucumber yogurt sauce (laban bil khyar) and a simple salad.

To prepare vegetarian style leave out the meat and include the carrots.

These make 20 mini pies

-1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
-1 tablespoon allspice
-salt to taste
-2 cups calrose rice, soaked in water for 2 hours
-2 1/4 cups boiling water
-1 lb frozen peas
-optional: 1 cup finely diced carrots (the size of the peas)
-10 puff pastry squares

-In a large pot, brown ground beef and carrots with allspice and salt. Rinse soaked rice and add to ground beef. If using fresh carrots, add them now. Cook for two minutes while stirring frequently. Add 2 1/2 cups boiling water and peas. Once mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover rice and simmer for 18-20 minutes. Do not uncover rice during the 18 minutes of cooking time. After the time is up, turn off heat, uncover, stir rice, replace lid and let set for another 15 minutes. Uncover and let the rice cool.
-Preheat oven to 375. Using a rolling pin, extend the dough by 1/4 inch on each side. Cut each puff pastry square in half. Take an individual ramekin and press dough into the cup, letting the pastry extend out. Fill with 1/4-1/2 cup of rice and fold over the edges of the crust, pressing lightly to seal. Flip over onto a baking sheet. Repeat this process until the rice and dough are finished.
-Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden and flaky.
-Serve with  yogurt

Ouzi isn't complete without a side of cucumber yogurt sauce :)

I'd love to connect with you! Like SavvyChef on facebook and follow Savvy_Chef on instagram. Tag Savvychef in your creations and pin the recipes on pintrest :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Grilled Vegetables

I dedicate this recipe to Azza, my pregnant bff who craved this dish from across the country :)

Everything about this dish is wonderful! The flavors are robust, the assortment is colorful, it is healthy, low fat, easy to prepare...the list goes on and on!

I ALWAYS serve up a dish of these at a BBQ, and it really is a nice side dish to accompany all the meat/poultry options. BBQ events are supposed to be fun and relaxing with minimal prep work, and these veggies are no exception! For an even easier version than outdoor grilling, I use my George Foreman grill and they taste just the same as outdoor grilled veggies.

Sometimes I toss all the ingredients together and grill them all at once, but in this picture I grilled each vegetable separate and arranged them as such on the serving dish.

TOTALLY experiment with the vegetables. Everytime I make these veggies the ingredients will differ. I like to add artichoke hearts, fresh bell peppers, corn bits, asparagus...whatever chunky vegetable I have! I would be interested to find out how pumpkin would taste...maybe I'll try it and update you guys :)

-1 cup baby zucchini (if using a large zucchini, chop into chunks)
-1 cup baby yellow squash (if using a large squash, chop into chunks)
-1 cup baby carrots
-1 large red onion, cut into large cubes
-1 cup crimini mushrooms
-1 cup grape tomatoes

-1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
-1/3 cup olive oil
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
-salt and pepper to taste

To make
-Mix all the marinade ingredients together and coat the veggies with the marinade.
-Grill for about 5-10 minutes on a George Foreman grill (depending on your grill and how well-done you like them). If you are using an outdoor grill these will take a few minutes longer.
-Serve and enjoy!

These are equally delicious as leftovers! You can chop them up finely and turn them into veggie quesidellas or use them for the  grilled vegetable couscous salad!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Creamy Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I love this recipe. It looks so pretty, and each bite is a burst of flavor. Rolling the lasagna is even easier than layering a traditional lasagna dish! I made this up years ago when I was looking for a creative twist on pasta in red sauce. It was a hit and I make it pretty frequently for dinner parties. Its a vegetarian dish, loaded with spinach, but still creamy and cheesy!

-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 red onion, diced into small cubes
-5 garlic cloves, finely minced
-1 pound frozen chopped spinach
-8 ounce package cream cheese (go with the light version)
-1/2 cup milk
-2 tablespoons pesto sauce
-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
-1 cup chopped artichoke hearts (optional)
-1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
-salt and pepper to taste
-12 lasagna noodles, boiled al-dente
-1 jar prepared marinara sauce
-Parmesan cheese for garnish (or mozzarella)

-Boil the lasagna noodles in hot water until al-dente. Drain and keep aside.
-Heat olive oil and cook onions and garlic until caramelized. Add the spinach and optional artichokes and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning.
-Add cream cheese, milk and pesto sauce and stir until cream cheese is melted.
-Pour the marinara sauce into a 9x13 baking dish. Add 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning and stir into sauce.
-To roll the noodles, lay them out flat and spread 1/2 cup spinach mixture on each noodle. Roll the noodles and place seam side down into the marinara sauce. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and additional Italian seasoning, then bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


This Middle Eastern dessert has gotten so popular in America that Costco has commercialized it and brought it into their stores! I've got to say, they definitely knew a good thing when they saw it, because these little pastry bites are nutty, crunchy, and filled with sweet goodness!

People who have experiences with phyllo sheets usually shy away from using them because of the annoying process of spreading EACH thin sheet with butter over and over and over. Don't be intimidated, this recipe just breaks the phyllo dough into sets of sheets instead of buttering each individual sheet (I'm not sure of the EXACT number but there is about 50 sheets in each package...and the traditional buttering process is so tedious they feel like a million sheets!)

Here's what sets this recipe apart from has NO butter! My neighbor gets all the credit for the ingenious idea of using butter flavored non stick spray instead of the butter! This cuts the fat BIG TIME and also the prep time!

To serve these in a presentable manner, my friend Amira and her mother place each piece of baklava (after it is baked and cooled) into a cupcake paper cup. The cups mold to the diamond shape of the baklava and look very pretty when they are arranged on a platter.

I especially love these now that the fall is here because of the nutty cinnamon flavor. These hold up very nicely in the fridge and maintain they're freshness for about 10 days.

-1 package phyllo dough sheets
-3 cups walnuts
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tablespoon cinammon
-Butter flavored non-stick cooking spray

Syrup Sauce
-1 cup sugar
-1 cup water
-1 teaspoon lemon juice

*Optional: You can drizzle honey all over the baklava instead of making the syrup sauce. I usually do a mix of both.

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Separate phyllo sheets in half. Then separate each half into 4 smaller sets. Spray a baking sheet liberally with non-stick spray. Place first layer of sheets and spray again with non-stick spray. Repeat this process until the first 4 layers of sheets have been layed out.
-Grind the walnuts in a food processor with the sugar and cinnamon until it is a crumbly mixture. Spread them out on the phyllo sheets. Repeat the layering and spraying process for the 4 remaining sets of phyllo sheets.
-Carefully cut the baklava into diagonal shapes. This is easy to do if you cut diaganoly from the bottom left corner to the top right all the way across the baking sheet. Then when cutting linearly just cut straight down. Make sure to cut all the way down to the bottom layer of phyllo, so the syrup can reach the bottom and to make removal of the pieces easier.
-Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top looks browned and flaky.
-While the baklava is baking, prepare the syrup sauce by heating a small sauce pan on high with the sugar and water. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved. When it begins to bowl, lower the heat to low, add the lemon juice and let simmer for 5 minutes.
-Add the syrup sauce all over the baklava when it comes out of the oven. Allow dessert to cool (this is going to be tough to do!) and serve with tea!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Southwestern Chicken Pasta

The picture is terrible but the recipe rocks!

This started as a copycat version of Red Robin's southwestern pasta, but as it evolved over time it has turned into a completely different recipe! Several of my friends and I make this regularly, and whoever gets to try it always loves the flavors. Just like everything else on this blog: its deceptively easy!!!

For a vegetarian version replace the chicken with 1 1/2 cups frozen spinach. It tastes great!

-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 pound chicken breast, diced into small chunks
-1 large red onion, chopped into strips
-1 each: red, yellow and green bell peppers, julienned. OR use 1 pound bag of frozen bell pepper mix.
-1 tablespoon paprika
-1 tablespoon coriander
-1 tablespoon cumin
-1 package taco seasoning 
-3 cups half and half
-1 pound tri-colored pasta
-salt to taste

-Boil water in a pot and add pasta. Cook al-dente according to package instructions.
-Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pot and add chicken. Once it is cooked halfway, add the paprika, coriander, cumin and some salt. Once chicken is fully cooked, remove from pot and place in a bowl.
-Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot and add onions and bell peppers. Cook until slightly blackened.
-Return chicken to pot and toss with cooked pasta.
-Heat a small saucepan and add the half and half. Stir in taco seasoning. Cook until well heated and just about to start bubbling. Toss the sauce with pasta and serve immediately.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kabobs and Potatoes in a Tomato Cilantro Sauce

Super easy. Super yummy. This is an altered Syrian dish. I personally like this version a LOT more than the classic. The additions are just cilantro and potatoes. Small change but big result ;-)

-1 pound ground beef
-1 onion, quartered
-1 tablespoon allspice
-salt and pepper
-1 cup parsley

-1 large onion, chopped into strips
-1 large Yukon gold potato, washed and cut into strips
-1 large can tomato sauce

-1 bunch cilantro, minced

-Mix ground beef and onion with allspice, parsley and salt in a food processor until the onion in pureed and mixed with the beef. Shape into 2 inch long log shaped patties.
-Heat a pot and brown kabobs until they are halfway cooked. In the same pot, caramelize onions.
-Add onions and kabobs into a slow cooker and layer potatoes, tomato sauce and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 hours on low or 2 hours on high. Serve with pita bread or white rice.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chicken and White Sauce Lasagna

This is not your traditional lasagna recipe. No red sauce, no meat. Lots of chicken, cheese and yummy veggies instead! The sauce came about by me opening my fridge and adding whatever I felt would taste relevant. I think you can leave out or substitute some of the ingredients for this because it isn't one specific flavor that makes it taste good, but rather the combination of smooth creaminess. My home girl Nora made an amazing similar version of this and it reminded me of my recipe, so thank you!

For a vegetarian dish, leave out the chicken and increase the vegetable quantities.

This isn't one of my low calorie/low fat recipes, but soooo worth it...

-1 lb chicken breast, cut into small cubes
-2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (or olive oil)
-1/2-1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
-2 cups fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
-2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped (frozen is ok)
-1 1/2 cups artichoke hearts (I used the frozen bag, not the marinated), roughly chopped
-1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
-1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
-garlic salt and black pepper
-9 lasagna noodles, boiled 2 minutes under al dente
-1 1/2 cups Italian cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, or a mix)
-1/2-1 cup fresh basil (optional)

-1 jar alfredo sauce
-8 ounce package of cream cheese
-3/4 cup half and half
-3 tablespoons pesto sauce
-3 tablespoons fresh oregano (optional)
-3 tablespoons Italian seasoning

-Cook the chicken in a pot on high heat with mascarpone cheese. Once it is cooked halfway through, add the mushrooms. After 3 minutes add the spinach, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper and sun dried tomatoes. Continue cooking for an additional 3 minutes. Season the chicken mixture with garlic salt and black pepper.
-Add the alfredo sauce to the chicken mixture. Stir in the cream cheese, half and half, pesto, oregano and Italian seasoning. Stir mixture and cook on medium heat until it boils. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
-Using a 9x13 inch baking dish, ladle some sauce on the bottom of the dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles and spoon 1/3 of the chicken mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese. Arrange another 3 lasagna noodles and 1/3 of the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with another 1/2 cup of cheese. Repeat the process one last time (noodles, chicken mixture, cheese). Decorate the top of the lasagna with additional sliced red peppers and sun dried tomatoes. Add the 1 cup fresh basil or you can sprinkle some additional Italian seasoning.
-Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shawerma Chicken Wraps

This is as a homemade American version of the Middle Eastern shawerma sandwich. This is my mom's recipe and it is always a great hit for dinner parties. Shawerma sandwiches are a very popular street food in the Middle East, and they are made with chicken or lamb. The Greeks have a similar version called 'gyro' and the Turks also have a version of shawerma called 'donner'.


Depending on the size of the chicken and how much mixture is used in each wrap, these should make about 15-20 large sandwiches. I slice them in half for a total of 30-40 pieces.

-1 rotisserie chicken, remove skin and bones and shred chicken
-1 tablespoon coriander
-1 tablespoon paprika
-10 tablespoons mayonnaise
-5 garlic cloves, crushed
-15-20 dill pickles
-15-20 flour tortillas
-3-4 tomatoes, sliced (optional)

-Mix shredded chicken with coriander and paprika.
-By hand or in a blender, whisk mayonnaise and garlic cloves together.
-Spread about 1/2 tablespoon garlic mayonnaise on a flour tortilla. Spread out 1/3 cup chicken. Place a dill pickle in the middle of the tortilla.
-To wrap, fold the right and left side of the tortilla into the middle. Then fold over the top and bottom of the tortilla. (In other words, wrap burrito style).
-Bake for 20 minutes in a preheat oven at 400 degrees. Remove when the tortilla has started to brown.
-Slice and serve with tomato wedges!

These freeze very well. Freeze after wrapping and bake when ready to eat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cheese Pastries

In Arabic these are called "fatayir bil jibneh" and that means dough/pastry with cheese. I love them. So does every single other person I know that has tried them. I'm not even exaggerating ;-) No Syrian dinner party is complete without them. Regardless of how much is made, if they are served hot from the oven there will never be leftovers. There are many versions these scrumptious pastries, and I am listing the best and the classic.

This makes 8 large pastries. These can be made a day ahead and stored ready to bake on a baking sheet covered in foil.

-1 Pillsburry grands flaky layers refrigerated biscuit dough
-1 cup Queso Fresco Mexican cheese
-3/4 finly chopped parsley
**optional additions:
-Mix 1/4 cup fresh mint with parsley, or 1 tablespoon dried mint.
-Add 1 tablespoon paprika and 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds.

-Preheat oven according to package instructions of biscuit dough.
-Crumble cheese and mix with parsley and optional additions.
-Press down the biscuit until it is shaped like an oval. Spoon 1 large tablespoon of the cheese mixture onto the dough. Pinch up the edge on the longer sides until the edges are sealed and the middle is open, exposing the cheese mixture.
-Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until biscuit is golden and cheese is melted.

ENJOY. I know you will!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Morrocan Honey Chicken Tagine with Raisins

My friend Bushra made this for a recent gathering and it was so flavorful and unique. Luckily it was also very easy to put together, and therefore it became SavvyChef blog worthy!

She cooks this either in a tagine or a regular pot. It is a GREAT dish for the slow cooker because it is supposed to simmer for a long time. As it simmers the sauce thickens and the flavors intensify.

If you're looking for a unique dish to try this is it! I'm not a huge fan of raisins but their texture changes as they cook and they are just so soft and yummy. I made this dish for a dinner party and my guests loved it! Because of the cinnamon flavor and the fact that it cooked in the slow cooker I felt like it was such a great dish to welcome the fall season!

This serves about 3-4 adults.

-1 pound chicken thighs or breast tenders
-1 large onion, chopped into strips
-1 tablespoon butter
-1 tablespoon cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)
-1 tablespoon ginger powder (or 1 tablespoon fresh ginger)
-1 teaspoon turmeric
-1 pinch saffron
-1/2 cup honey
-1/2-3/4 cup black raisins (I also added golden raisins)
-2 cups water
-1/2 cup mixed nuts toasted in cinnamon (optional)

-Heat butter in skillet and cook onions until caramelized. Transfer to slow cooker and add chicken, cinnamon stick, ginger, turmeric, saffron, honey, raisins and water. Season lightly with salt.
-Cover and cook 5 hours on low or 2.5 hours on high.
-Serve with optional mixed nuts. These add a nice crunch! Eat with toasted bread or white rice.

**If cooking stovetop, reduce heat to medium low after carmelizing onions and allow chicken and sauce to simmer for 1 hour.**

Fat Free Cilantro Garlic Dressing

The pictures are terrible but the sauce is good!

You may remember this from the Mexican salad I made in the past. Here is the dressing recipe on its own because I've found that it is a great topping for grilled chicken, shrimp or steak. It is also a great dip for veggies and chips! Get creative!

-1 cup fat free plain yogurt
-1/2 cup packed cilantro
-1 clove garlic
-green tips of green onions
-salt to taste
-seeded jalapeno (optional)
**you may want to use 1 tablespoon sour cream or mayonnaise to thicken dressing**

To make
-Blend dressing ingredients using an immersion blender (or use a normal blender). If the sauce is too liquidy (yes, that is a real word in kitchen talk), add a tablespoon of sour cream or mayonnaise.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Walnut Stuffed Chocolate Covered Medjool Dates

Being a food blog and all, I wanted to pass on this AMMMAAAZZZIIINNGGG food product that I've come across!

How many of you fellow Muslims have wished to have something readily available that represents Ramadan?! I know I always have! Apparently I wasn't alone in that wish, because someone has finally done it!

QUALITY, GOURMET, DELICIOUS treats just for Ramadan! I'm talking about Sweet Pillar Bon Dates! Sweet Medjool dates are stuffed with delectable walnuts and dipped in delish Belgium chocolate...then packaged in a super nice box and shipped anywhere!

Check out the website:

Of course I think its important I mention that I am not part of this business and don't make any money on this! Just a satisfied customer who wants others to share in the yumminess!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Polka Dot Fudge Cookies

My sister Layla made these up and she's getting a patent on the title :) After a quick search I discovered the basic version of this recipe is already all over the internet, but her's are still better ;-)

These are gooey and fudgy and soft and crumbly and JUST SO GOOD. They only take 10 minutes of prep time before they're baking in the oven, and I'm willing to bet 99% of people already have these ingredients in their kitchens. I love when I read a recipe and realize I can make it on the spot because I have everything needed and a bit of time to spare, and this is one of them!

The add-in possibilities are ENDLESS with these: chocolate chips, m&ms (these look SO cool), shredded coconut, nuts, toffee bits, chewy caramels...

Depending on the size (and how much batter you eat) these measurements should make about 36 cookies.

-1 box chocolate cake mix
-2 eggs
-1/3 cup of vegetable oil
-1 cup mix-in (white chocolate chips, etc...)
To make
-Heat oven to 350 degrees.
-Mix cake mix, eggs and oil for 2 minutes until well blended.
-Stir in mix-in
-Shape into rounded teaspoons and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 7 minutes. This is for soft and chewy cookies. Bake an additional minute or two if you want them crispy. Cool for a couple minutes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Zucchini Dip

This is a spin-off of hummus, for those who are bothered by beans, or for those who just want to try something new. I learned this from my mother-in-law, who is a very creative and talented cook :) I make this as a low carb alternative to hummus, or just when I have a lot of extra zucchini lying around. We eat this with pita chips, pita bread, or any assorted variety of veggies. This dip makes a great sandwich or base layer for a veggie wrap.

-4 large zucchini or squash, washed and cut into cubes
-1 cup fat free yogurt
-1/3 cup tahini paste (you can use 1/2 cup for a thicker dip, but start with 1/3)
-1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (this can be replaced with 1 squeezed lemon, but it won't taste as good :) )
-optional: 1 clove garlic
-salt to taste

optional garnish
-pomegranate seeds
-fresh chopped parsley
-sliced tomatoes
-drizzled olive oil
-black sesame seeds

To Make
-Heat pot filled halfway with water and some salt. When water boils, drop in cubed zucchini and cook until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and place zucchini in a medium sized bowl.
-Mash zucchini until it is broken up and smooth. Sometimes I leave it a little chunky for a firmer texture.
-Add yogurt, salt, tahini, optional garlic and pomegranate molasses to the bowl and mash together until well mixed. Garnish with optional toppings and serve.
-Enjoy :)

This holds up pretty well in the fridge, can be kept for about a week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grilled Vegetable and Couscous Salad

I sort of overdid it with the vegetables at my local farmer's market, and now I'm looking for creative ways to use them!
I've had a salad in the past that combined roasted veggies with couscous and I liked it a lot. After searching the internet for a good recipe, I didn't find one I was crazy about, so I basically made this up.

This looks very pretty because of the various colors. Feel free to play around with the veggie mixture, add or omit whatever you want. Other good additions would be artichoke hearts, corn, grilled onions or roasted garlic.

This salad has a bit of a Moroccan feel to it because of the couscous and coriander, but I'm not claiming any authenticity!

This can be served warm or cold. Serves about 4 adults.

-2 cups arugula leaves (fresh spinach or baby spring mix also work)
-1 cup cooked couscous
-3 baby Japanese eggplants, thinly sliced
-1 medium sized yellow squash, thinly sliced
-1 medium sized zucchini, thinly sliced
-1 cup sliced mushrooms
-1 sliced red bell pepper (optional)
-1 cup baby tomatoes
-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

-1 finely diced shallot
-zest and juice of 2 lemons
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-1/3 cup olive oil
-1 teaspoon coriander
-1 teaspoon paprika
-salt and pepper to taste

-Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and roast in an oven or on a grill. I used my GeorgeForeman grill.
-Layer the arugula, couscous and vegetables on a serving dish. Top with feta cheese.
-Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss ingredients together and serve!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sesame Chicken Flat Bread Pizza



-8 flat breads

-4 tablespoons sesame seeds

-1/2 pound chicken breast cut into small cubes

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-3 cloves garlic, finely diced

-3/4 cup teriyaki sauce or dressing

-1/2 red onion OR 3 green onions, julienned

-1 cup carrots cut into matchsticks

-1 red bell pepper, julienned

- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

-1/2 cup chopped cilantro

-salt to taste

To make


-Preheat oven to 425 degree Fahrenheit. Place the flat bread on baking sheet, brush 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle sesame seeds. Bake for 10 minutes.

-Cook chicken pieces in 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce and garlic until cooked through.

-When the flat bread comes out of the oven, spread the remaining 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce on all the pieces.

-Layer chicken, onions, red bell pepper and carrot sticks on the flat bread. Season lightly with salt and sprinkle with cheese.

-Toast in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Turn oven to broil and lower baking pan to lowest rack. Broil for 5 minutes or so.

-Remove from oven and sprinkle chopped cilantro. Slice and serve!