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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 :)

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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.