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Monday, September 29, 2014

Mulukhiya (Simmered greens and chicken) with rice

I grew up eating did 99% of Syrians and most other Middle Easterners of the world. My  memories of summer's in Syria or California are filled with images of my child self picking the fresh leaves off the stems of literally a huge CARTON filled to the brim with 30 pounds of mulukhiya. I think its because of these long and endless sessions of picking leaves that I actually really disliked this dish as a child lol. My mom tried to make it fun for us by renting movies and buying ice cream to entertain us while we picked...but the job was just too tedious. After the hours spent picking the leaves, my mom soaked them several times in huge buckets of water to clean them. This step would take her all day. At the end of that night she would lay out clean bed sheets on all flat surfaces in the kitchen and dining room and spread the washed leaves in a flat layer to dry out. This step took several days, as the leaves had to completely dry and even crisp. At this point she packaged them into bags and froze them to use throughout the year. When the leaves dry out they shrink significantly so after everything was said and done we'd have enough mulukhiya for about 6 meals or so that year. In the opion of a child, so. not. worth. it. In the opinion of an adult, still. so. not. worth. it.  My mom disagrees (probably why my Middle Eastern food will never taste as good as hers!) and still goes through this process every summer. Whenever I drop by and she's got the leaves spread out and drying I'm hit with a wave of nostalgia from the smell that fills the house.

I've been cooking in my own kitchen for quite a while now, and I'm proud to say I've never picked a mulukhiya leaf :) Nowadays the cartons are sold picked and ready to be washed and dried, but the traditional mothers aren't satisfied with the quality of those leaves and prefer to do it the good 'ole fashioned way. I prefer to walk through the freezer section of a Middle Eastern market and pick up a few bags of picked, washed, dried and frozen mulukhiya. Probably the taste is not exactly the same, but its close enough and definitely worth the lack of hassle.

Now that I've finished my rant on my history with fresh mulukhiya, I'd like to share that I frequently make this dish following the same steps but switching out the mulukhiya for another green...often which is fresh. The flavor isn't the same, but everything still tastes good and regardless of which green you use, its extremely healthy. I use leftover lemon garlic sauce from my sheesh tawooq recipe, and if you have leftover chicken, use that (without the potatoes) for this meal and you'll be halfway closer to a finished dinner. Serve this with short grain rice cooked with vermicelli noodles or toasted pita bread for an ethnic meal that will transport you back to simpler times and fuller stomachs :)

Serves 5

-1 teaspoon oil
-1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
This is the mulukhiya I used this time
-1 teaspoon all spice
-1 tablespoon coriander
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
-1 tablespoon lemon pepper (optional)

-1 teaspoon oil
-28 ounces frozen "molokhia LEAVES" (make sure not to buy minced). You can sub this for spinach, kale or chard. If using fresh leaves, use about 6-8 cups
-3 tablespoons of lemon garlic sauce OR 3 tablespoons minced garlic
-1 tablespoon red pepper paste (optional, but delicious)
- 1-2 cups chicken broth or water
-1 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
-1/2 cup dry toasted sliced almonds
-lemon wedges for serving

-Heat a large pot with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add cut up chicken breast, all spice, coriander, salt, pepper and lemon pepper and saute about 5 minutes until chicken is browned on the outside but not cooked through.
-Remove chicken to a bowl and return pot to stove. Add another teaspoon oil and frozen greens. Saute 5-10 minutes until water starts to dry up. Add lemon garlic sauce, red pepper paste, 1 cup water and salt.
-Return chicken to the pot and simmer on medium low heat for about 35 minutes. Greens should be tender but not too mushy. As they cook, you may add more water as necessary to have a little bit of a sauce but not a soupy mixture.
-Once the greens are cooked and chicken is tender, stir in the fresh cilantro. Adding this at the end brings a brightness to the dish in terms of color and taste.
-Plate in a bowl and cover with sliced almonds.
-Serve with pita bread or rice with lemon wedges on the side to be squeezed individually on each plate.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Caramel Apple Gingerbread Tart

I'm so proud of this recipe! Creating it was the culmination of why I love to cook and bake.  I take something I love (these cookies) and combine it with other flavors I love (caramel apples) and present it in a new and beautiful way and it's a hit! I wish I could say everything I create is amazing but that would be a huge LOL.

When I posted the browned butter ginger molasses cookies I told you guys something great was coming your way, and I was referring to this yummy tart. An added bonus was I still had enough leftover dough to bake some extra cookies!!! I love baking with spices like ginger and cinnamon because in addition to eating this deliciousness later is that the smells emanating from a hot oven are stronger than any scented candle :)

To save time in this recipe, and because frankly it's just so PERFECT, I use a prepared caramel sauce from Trader Joe's. Make your own or buy another brand if you'd like, but make sure the consistency is like fudge and not something too liquidy (like a caramel syrup) or it will run all over when you cut your tart.

Serves 8

- 2 3/4 cups of browned butter ginger molasses cookie dough
-1/2 cup prepared fleur de sel caramel sauce (Trader Joe's)
-1/2 tablespoon corn starch
-4 apples, peeled. Chop up 2.5 apples into small pieces and thinly slice the other 1.5 apple into very thin slices. I use an apple slicer and then take each wedge and re-slice it with a knife into 4 more slivers.
-1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1 teaspoon brown sugar (or cinnamon sugar grinder from Trader Joes)
-1/2 cup cinnamon chips (Hershey's brand. If you don't have access to these you can skip it)
-coconut cooking spray (or other spray/melted butter)

Baked crust

To make
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Spread out cookie dough into 9 inch tart pan. Push dough up EVENLY to the edges of the pan and then prick with a fork all over, including the sides. This will prevent it from puffing up unevenly as it bakes.
-Place tart pan in the preheated oven on the MIDDLE rack for 12-15 minutes, until it starts to look baked and brown.
-While the cookie dough is baking, mix the caramel sauce with cornstarch in a medium sized bowl. Add the CHOPPED apples and make sure they are well mixed.
Slightly overlap the apple slices along the edges
-Remove the baked crust from the oven and line the edges with the SLICED apples, taking care to overlap them slightly and let the tip of the apple slices extend to the top of the crust. Its ok that the apples will have an empty spot under them, that will be filled with caramel later.
-Take the bowl of chopped apples and caramel and spread across the middle of the tart.
-Sprinkle cinammon chips all over the top of your apple mixture.
-Mix together the ground cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl.
-Spray coconut oil or melted butter over the sliced apples along the edges of the tart and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture. This will help it brown nicely and give the sliced apples a rustic dried look.
-Return tart to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the apples look cooked.
-Remove the baked tart and let it cool.
-You can drizzle more caramel over the edges when it comes out of the oven for a shiny look on the sliced apples.
-As it cools the crust will firm up a bit. If you like a super soft cookie crust, serve it hot, and it would be delicious with ice cream. I liked it most straight from the fridge the next day :)
Check out the caramel sauce!

Straight from the oven and ready to be drizzled with more caramel


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sheesh Tawooq (Chicken and potatoes with a lemon garlic sauce)

This is the dish that is most often requested from me by my friends. A few months ago I hosted a cooking party and this was what I demonstrated...don't be discouraged as you scroll to the list of ingredients...yes, there seems like a lot but A) most of them are spices, and B) if you're trying to prepare in advance this is a great recipe because you can get the chicken marinated and ready and the sauce mixed up the day before you need to cook this. This makes it an ideal dish for entertaining. The leftovers are awesome too because the chicken and potatoes just absorb the flavor from the sauce and taste even more amazing than when they were first made.  I learned this recipe from my mom. The potato part of this dish was french fries, and they were always yummy. But they were fried....and I don't fry. Anything. Ever. So the roasted potato version of this recipe was born and it has gained such a following that my mom doesn't make her's with french fries anymore either :) In fact, she doesn't make it at all and requests it from me whenever she wants it!

There are several key ingredients that contribute to the moistness of this chicken. First is the yogurt. It's such an amazing tenderizer, I always use it in any marintaed chicken recipe! Second is the vinegar. Because of its high acidity, this is a key ingredient for tenderizing AND getting rid of that gross chicken-y smell and taste. I don't like to season my chicken with lemon because I've found that it dries it out and makes it easier for the chicken to burn faster, but the vinegar still gives a good tang.

So go ahead, try this out and let yourself be pleasantly surprised at how quickly it came together and how delicious it is!

Serves 5


-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes

*Chicken Marinade
-1/2 cup fat free yogurt
-2 tablespoons white vinegar
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
-1 tablespoon ground coriander
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 teaspoon ground cardamom
-1 tablespoon red pepper paste
-optional: 3 garlic cloves, mashed
-2 tablespoons McCormick steak seasoning (optional but I ALWAYS season chicken and meat with this and I LOVE it)
-salt and pepper according to taste ONLY IF YOU ARE NOT USING steak seasoning mentioned above. Otherwise don't salt and pepper the                                                     chicken


-2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into 1 inch cubes (you can use any other kind of potato, but I like like the texture of Yukon gold and I love that I can skip peeling them)
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 tablespoon mashed garlic (about 3 cloves)
-1 tablespoon red pepper paste
-1 tablespoon McCormick steak seasoning or salt and pepper to taste

-3 cloves of garlic (use more for a spicier sauce), mashed (only use fresh garlic for this part of the recipe)
-2/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
-1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. If you use 1/4 cup your lemon flavor will be stronger.
-1 tablespoon red pepper paste (yes, I'm obsessed with this stuff)
-salt and pepper to taste

To make
-Prepare chicken marinade by mixing all the ingredients in a ziplock bag, foil tray or any other container in which you will be placing the chicken. I like to use something disposable to speed up cleanup.
-Once the ingredients for the marinade are mixed together, taste it and adjust seasoning ratio to your liking. Sometimes I add more salt, sometimes I add more spices.
-Place cut up chicken in the marinade and stir around until all the pieces are coated in the marinade.
-At this point you can refrigerate the chicken up to 24 hours. The longer it sits in the marinade the more flavorful it will be. If your are short on time, a quick 30 minute marinade is good enough.

-Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil (I'm all about the breezy cleanup!) and add the potatoes, olive oil, garlic, red pepper and seasoning and stir to coat all the potatoes.
-Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are soft on the inside and browned on the outside.
-Once you remove the potatoes from the oven, place the marinated chicken on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 25-35 minutes, until it is tender and cooked through and slightly browned on the outside.

-Prepare the lemon garlic sauce by mixing together the fresh garlic, lemon juice, oil, red pepper paste, salt and pepper in a small bowl. This refrigerates really well and can be made in advance.
-Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and plate your potatoes on a serving platter. Add the chicken above the potatoes and drizzle the sauce over the chicken and potatoes.
-Serve and enjoy :)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chipotle Black Bean Quesadillas with Cumin and Chive Dipping Sauce

This quesadilla was sort of a happy accident...I didn't even plan on posting the recipe (hence the lack of great photos) but so many of you have requested it after my instagram photo that I figured you'd be happy to find out how easy it was! I recently mentioned I've been trying to focus on more vegetarian dishes, and this dish was born as a replacement to chicken quesadillas. It's embarrassingly simple. I kinda don't want to tell you about it. But hey...we all need those "halfway there" meals, right?

I made these to take to a girl's night and they vanished pretty quick.  I heard that the ones I left at home for my family also disappeared. So I'm thinking these babies are either pretty tasty or they have a magic component that makes them vanish into thin air...

Serving: 1 quesadilla

-1 10 inch flour tortilla
-1 Morning Star chipotle black bean veggie burger (I purchased at Costco)...alternatively if you don't have access to these veggie burgers you can mix a 15 ounce drained can of black beans and same sized can of drained corn with 1 tablespoon taco seasoning, but it won't have the exact same texture or flavor that everyone is raving about.
-3 tablespoons shredded Mexican blend cheese
-cooking spray
-1 teaspoon taco seasoning

To make
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
-Spray tortilla with cooking spray and sprinkle taco seasoning over the oiled side. Fold over flour tortilla in half to make a half moon, with the seasoned side facing out. Open the tortilla up and sprinkle half the shredded cheese.
-Remove the veggie burger from package and break it up to fit over the cheese. Don't worry about precooking the veggie burger.
-Sprinkle the remaining portion of cheese and close the tortilla into half moon shape.
-Place onto a baking sheet and bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the tortilla crisps and cheese melts
-Remove from the oven and cut in half.
-Serve with dipping sauce.

Cumin and Chive Dipping Sauce

This sauce is very versatile and one I make to accompany many dishes. I switch up the flavors a little bit every time but I've found that my basic version is everyone's favorite, so that's what I'll share with you :)

-1 cup plain yogurt (I usually use fat free)
-2 tablespoons milk (start with 1 tablespoon and add more to desired consistency)
-2 tablespoons dried chives (or diced fresh green onions)
-1 teaspoon cumin seeds
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1 teaspoon ground coriander
-salt and pepper to taste
-optional: 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro

To make
-Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until everything is incorporated and smooth.
-Serve and enjoy!

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Browned Butter Ginger Molasses Cookies

I've been making these cookies for several years. They're the perfect chewy and soft gingerbread cookies. The recipe originates from a tea shop in New York called Alice's Teacup. Everything I've ever made from this cookbook is amazing.  So much so that if the cookbook has a recipe for something I'm looking to make, I won't do anymore searching for a better version. For a food blogger, that says a lot about my confidence in these recipes :) This past year I've been OBSESSED with anything salted caramel, and I'm constantly trying to sneak that flavor into anything I bake. So naturally this year when I went to bake these cookies again, I thought "Duh!" browning the butter will give a caramel-y flavor to these cookies without actually adding any more calories. Woohoo! And thus the transformation has taken place.  Browning butter is so fun and it adds such a depth and complexity to any baked good. I really think that 99.9% of the recipes out there will taste a million times better with browned butter. Especially this one. The nutty caramel aroma and flavor that the browned butter adds to these cookies just screams FALL.
Let's talk fall. Back to school, routine, cooler weather, the changing color of leaves, and the excuse to bake anything with pumpkin (look for lots of those recipes coming your way soon.)  I wanted to pass this recipe on for those who are itching to bake a fall-flavored treat and haven't gotten a chance to get some pumpkin yet. I spent a lot of time yesterday searching for the perfect pumpkin debut recipe for this season, only to get into my kitchen ready to start and discover that the can of pumpkin that I keep on reserve had been used up :/ Then I remembered these babies and all was right in the world ;)
Probably my favorite thing about getting rid of summer heat is that baking becomes fun again! During the summer I seek out recipes that don't require the use of my oven, and during the fall I seek out those that do! Between the amazing aroma that comes from browning the butter and the spicy scents of cinnamon and ginger as these bake, members of your family will be racing to the kitchen to get a taste.
Head's up! I've actually made this cookie dough as the base for a new recipe I'm working's going to be awesome and I can't wait to share it with you all! More fall flavors (with actual caramel!) and no pumpkin. I know there are lots of fall lovers who just can't get themselves on the "We love anything and everything pumpkin" bandwagon. I'm here for you guys.  So make your first batch into cookies and get ready to enhance on these flavors again!

-2 1/4 cups flour
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 teaspoon  ground ginger
-1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
-3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
-1 cup packed brown sugar
-1/4 cup white sugar
-1 egg
-1/4 cup molasses
-1 teaspoon vanilla
Additional 1/4 cup white sugar for sprinkling on cookies after baking

Rounded spoonful's are flattened and ready to bake

To make
-Brown your butter: Heat a medium sized frying pan on medium heat. Add butter and whisk gently as it begins to melt. Keep whisking as the butter foams. Continue to whisk as you carefully watch for the color of the butter to go from light cream to a light brown. The aroma will start to smell like caramel...this is my favorite part! At this point remove from heat and continue whisking, making sure to scrape down the sides of the butter so nothing burns. If your butter has a lot of brown specs in it (some of the butter solids burned) then place a fine strainer over your mixing bowl and pour it through. Place the mixing bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes until the butter cools and begins to slightly firm up. *alternatively you can skip this step and use room temperature butter...
-Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a 2 quart bowl and set aside.
-Once your browned butter has cooled down, remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the brown and white sugar to the butter and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the egg, molasses and vanilla and continue mixing until mixture is smooth and well blended.
-At a low mixing speed, add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time until the dough is mixed.
-Transfer the batter back into the 2 quart mixing bowl that had the dry ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. I like to refrigerate the dough for a few hours. The flavors will absorb each other better and chilled cookie dough tends to bake better. You may also just refrigerate in your mixing bowl, but I like to transfer it to a Tupperware because I don't always bake all the dough at one time.
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-After your dough has chilled sufficiently, remove it from the fridge and form tablespoon sized balls of dough and place them 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Using the back of a spoon, slightly flatten the balls of dough.
-Bake 8-12 minutes @ 350 degrees or until the cookies have spread out and are slightly browned on top.
-Remove from oven and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Cookies will crack as they cool to get the charmingly rustic look of ginger molasses cookies.
-Enjoy :)

*Your cookies will not bake properly if your dough isn't chilled!
*I make the dough up to 5 days in advance and bake when I'm ready...the flavors set in really well and the taste is amazing!

Nutritional Information
Serving size: 1 cookie
Servings: 20
Calories: 162
Fat: 7.5g
Saturated fat: 4.5g
Total carbohydrates: 23.1g
Sugar: 12.1g
Protein: 1.8g

Straight out of the oven and piping hot!

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Three Bean and Corn Salad

Looking for a quick salad that can either serve as a side dish or a vegetarian entrĂ©e? You found it! Making this took me all 1, 2, 3...10 minutes (in fact, you should know that writing this post took me about 5 times as long as making it!). Anyway, I live for these recipes :)  When you pick up the stuff to make this, go ahead and glance at the nutrition labels. The fiber content is outstanding, and the protein is a plus too! Lately I've been trying to vary our food intake with more plant based and less meat centered meals. Growing up in a Middle Eastern household, most of our traditional cooking involves meat, a small portion has chicken, and vegetarian dishes are mainly sides. This salad is inspired by my friend's mother in law, because as soon as I tried her version I went back for seconds and thirds!

Some leftovers tossed with fresh arugula made a quick and nutritious lunch

Yields 8 servings at 3/4 cup each serving

-15 ounce can red kidney beans
-15 ounce can white kidney beans (also called cannellini beans)
-15 ounce can black beans
-2 cups roasted fresh corn kernels or 1.5-2 cans corn kernels
-1/2 cup diced red onion
-1 cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
-juice from 1 large lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning (optional)
-salt to taste
-1 large avocado, chopped into cubes (about 1 cup)
-diced jalapeno for an extra kick
-toss this salad with arugula, kale or any other green you'd like!

*Note: If you are not using lemon pepper, you may need 1 more tablespoon lemon juice and a dash of black pepper.

To make
-Open, drain and rinse in a colander the cans of beans. Once the water has drained, add them into a medium sized salad bowl. Add fresh roasted corn (or rinsed and drained canned corn), red onions and cilantro.
-Add lemon juice, lemon pepper, olive oil and salt. Mix to combine and once everything is well mixed, gently mix in the chopped avocado.
-Serve and enjoy!

Nutritional Information
Serving size: 3/4 cup or about 6 ounces
Servings: 8
Calories: 196
Fat: 7 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Trans Fat: 0 grams
Total Carbohydrates: 28 grams
Dietary Fiber: 8 grams
Sugar: 4 grams
Protein: 8 grams

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