Friday, November 15, 2013

Simple Homemade Organic Middle Eastern Cheese

Making cheese at home is easier than you ever thought! I love cheese, well I adore cheese, cheese shall be in my will! Having said so, I must direct your attention to the fact that cheese can be made at home, from organic, 2% milk and the best thing is that it does not require a lot of work from your part. The cheese needs some time to be ready but you can be out and about, no need to babysit this one. One of my favorite things about this cheese is that you can use the whey you get from straining your homemade yogurt (read here how to make your own organic yogurt) when making Labneh, or Kefir Cheese (read here how to make organic Labneh). I know that you can use the whey in pickling which is on my to do list, but I just love how my pickled turnips turn out using the traditional Middle Eastern method of pickling (read here how to pickle turnips). I decided to research other ways of using this glorious whey. Making Cheese! Who knew!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Handmade Classroom Halloween Decorations

What a fun week we had! It was the usual crazy busy week with preschool, art class, dance class, gym class, Sunday Arabic class and to top it all, it was Halloween! Alya loves Halloween and she made me become fond of it too. I am blessed because she does not care about eating the Halloween candy at least for now. Instead she is content counting, sorting and matching the pieces, and playing candy store with us. Sometimes, she asks for permission to eat a piece of candy after lunch and she usually eats only half.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween Jack O' Lantern Decorated Cookies

Halloween is this week and Alya is very excited! She starts planning her costume a year in advance, she asks when will the next Halloween be right after trick or treating, she wears her costume, and many other improvised costumes, at home all year round. Me? I like Halloween in general, I mean who does not like to wear a costume? I wear my PJs to do my grocery shopping and pretend that it is my costume! Just kidding...I wish!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall inspiration: Decorated Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Cookies
Alya went on her first field trip ever with preschool. She went to the pumpkin patch with her friends. They played on the slides and picked pumpkins to decorate for Halloween. In order to fund this lovely field trip, we had a bake sale at the preschool. I, among other parents, organized it and volunteered to sell the goodies. I also baked and decorated these Organic Handmade Pumpkin Sugar Cookies. How cute they are!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Eid Inspired Sugar Cookies: Stenciling cookies Technique

Eid Al-Adha, like any other holiday in the world is an opportunity to meet with the extended family and an excuse to eat delicious food. Maamool, a fragrant semolina dough stuffed with dates, walnut or pistachio, is usually associated with Eid. Check out my Maamool fail proof recipe with clear instructions here. This year, I wanted to add a western spin on my Eid dessert. I made Palm decorated sugar cookies. I used the cookie stenciling technique. I think that they look adorable!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Basic Technique: Baked Pita Chips

Everybody loves crunchy food such as potato chips and tortilla chips. They tend to be fried and high in salt and fat. When I am craving crunchy food and I am done with eating carrots and apples, my go to recipe is Baked Pita Chips. I believe that it is a great way to teach your kids to opt for healthy snacks. I bake the chips instead of frying them, trust me, you will not miss the "fried" taste. They can be eaten on their own, just like potato chips. They are great for dipping in hummus and artichoke spinach dip. I also love to add them to salads like Fatoosh or use them in Fatteh ( a yogurt based Middle Eastern Dish). They add so much texture and flavor without the calories. They are very easy to make and can be made ahead of time, just store them in an airtight container or a ziplock bag.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Turkish Zucchini Fritters عجة الكوسة على الطريقة التركية

The zucchini/courgette/koussa season is almost over. Everytime I go to my local farmers market I just stock up on these babies. Zucchinis come in different forms and you can enjoy them in so many ways. Last year, in the peak of the zucchini season, my lovely neighbors gave me zucchini from their garden. Who can say no to freshly picked zucchini! I had some French Feta cheese and organic eggs in the fridge, and fresh dill in my garden. I immediately thought of this recipe. You can make it in advance and heat the fritters in the oven.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Potatoes with Garlic and Cilantro or Batata Harra: a crowd pleaser! بطاطا حرة

Batata Harra Or Spicy Potatoes
The weather has been gorgeous lately in the Bay area. I just love California weather! On beautiful days like this, I sit down in my backyard and catch up on my magazine reading: Food, Travel, Health, Decor and Fashion, but I have to admit that my favorite passe-temps is imagining the type of trees, fruits, vegetables and herbs that I want to grow in my huge imaginary backyard of my perfect imaginary midcentury modern house. I also think about layouts, Sunset magazine is surely to blame. My second favorite passe-temps would be creating menus for imaginary dinner parties...that may or may not take place. I love to close my eyes and envision the table filled with scrumptious plates, whether it is a buffet style or seated dinner.  The dish that often pops to mind is Batata Harra, a Cilantro and Garlic Potatoes   dish that literally translates into Spicy Potatoes.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cowgirl Hat and Boots Sugar Cookies

First, let me apologize about my sloppy pictures, I was in a hurry and needed to finish. I hope you enjoyed reading my post about Alya's 4th Birthday Party. I was very excited just writing about it. As you know, I love making sugar cookies. They are delicious and can decorated to go with any theme. I simply decorated them with colored sugar for Alya's 3rd Birthday Party last year, made mustache and bow tie pops for Father's day, hearts for Valentine's day, apples for Teacher's day, fireworks for the 4th of July and now Cowgirl hat and Boots for Alya's 4th Birthday Party!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Alya's 4th Birthday Party: Saddle up!

Alya turned 4 in July but we decided to throw her a birthday party in June because her actual birthday fell during the month of Ramadan and most of her friends were out of town in July. Last year's birthday party was designed around the paper plates that I got on clearance, orange and red circles, and you can read about it here. This year is a "Cowgirls and Horses Year" by excellence. Alya's answer to any question is cowgirl and horses related.
what is your favorite toy "Woody, Jessie and bullseye"

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Karniyarik: Turkish stuffed Eggplant شيخ المحشي

I miss the food scene is Portland, Oregon. We had plenty of restaurants to choose from whenever we decided to eat out. I talked about one here. We dont really have great restaurants in San Jose. Do you have a favorite in San Jose? Let me know! Of course, San Fransisco is only 45 minutes away but parking in the city is a nightmare.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Nadine's Tomato Sauce: One sauce, Many Uses

Homemade tomato sauce
I use tomato sauce more than the average family because our favorite food is from Middle Eastern and Italian cuisines. Both cuisines call for a tremendous amounts of tomato sauce and I have a great tomato sauce recipe that I use for pasta dishes, pizza, lasagna, eggplant dishes etc...
You are going to say that there is a big array of canned and jarred tomato sauces ready for use. My answer to your question is "Do you know me?" I like to make everything from scratch if possible, besides, I find that the store bought tomato sauce lacks depth and flavor. I never met one that I liked. Let me know if you have a favorite.
I use tomatoes when they are in season for my sauce or canned diced tomatoes the rest of the year.
We also use the tomatoes from our garden when in season. Delicious! I talked about them here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Simple Arabic Salad سلطة عربية

Simple Arabic Salad is an oldie but goodie kind of salad. It probably exists in every cuisine but has a different name. It is basically my go to salad when the main dish requires lengthy preparation. However, the secret to the success of this simple salad is the use of fresh ingredients. This is a summer salad by all means. Look for the best seasonal red tomatoes and fresh cucumbers. I beg you, do not make this salad from greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers. I make this salad almost everyday in the summer when my tomato plants are full of red ripe tomatoes. I also use fresh mint from my garden. Nothing, N.O.T.H.I.N.G. tastes better than the tomatoes you plant. Mine are organic as well.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sour Cherry Kabab: Kabab bil Karaz كباب بالكرز

Sour Cherry Kabab 

Sour Cherry Kabab or Kabab bil Karaz is a specialty dish from Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo is a city with heritage and history. It is located at the end of what was the silk road. It was a crossroad of my cultures such as Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Armenian, and French.  I never visited Aleppo and it is one of my major regrets. I visited Syria many times and love every Syrian city and village that I visited. For some reason, every time we visited Syria, we postponed Aleppo because we ran out of time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ayran: A refreshing cold yogurt drink لبن عيران

Have you ever had a yogurt drink called Ayran. It is a very common drink in Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. The Turkish ayran is very foamy. It is my favorite summer drink and my go to diet drink. I love to drink Ayran with meat pies, kafta and chicken or on its own. I make my own 2% organic yogurt, here I show you how I do it. It is delicious, nutritious, low in calories, high in protein and calcium and refreshing. It is also prepared in 30 seconds. What is not to love about it!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Qater: Middle Eastern Simple Syrup قطر

Qater is the sweetener of Middle Eastern desserts. Most of Middle eastern desserts such as Baklawa/Baklava, Kunefe, Namoora, Halawet el Jibn, Qatayef etc...dont contain any sugar, but are rather bathed in this sweet and aromatic thick liquid. Simple Syrup is basically sugar and water thickened over heat flavored with natural Middle Eastern aromas such as orange blossom water, rose water, cinnamon and cardamom. It is also served on the side of the dessert in case some prefer their dessert on the extra sweet side.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Osmaleeye bil Jibne or Turkish Kunefe عثملية بالجبن

I love Arabic sweets and desserts...much more than I like cakes and cupcakes. I love the flavors of pistachio, orange blossom water, rose water and Qater (Simple Syrup). Arabic sweets are usually served in Ramadan to end the fast breaking meal (iftar). In my house, we prefer to keep Arabic sweets for special occasions such as having people over for Iftar or any other party. Osmaleeye (which means Ottoman in Arabic عثملية/عسملية) is often served in Lebanon with Ashta (clotted cream) but in Turkey it is served with cheese.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Forth of July Fireworks Cookies

Happy Forth of July! Every year, my in-laws rent a beach house around the Forth of July week and we all meet up and have our yearly reunion. It is a lot of fun, especially for Alya who is suddenly surrounded by all the cousins and second seconds. Being the youngest, she is the center of attention and  she really enjoys the company. In fact, she does not want anything to do with us, as in her dad and myself. 

Every year, I make a cake to celebrate all the july birthdays

Friday, May 31, 2013

Best Cocoa Brownies

Best Cocoa Brownies
The title of this blog, as true as it is, is not my own creation. It is the name of this brownies recipe. I kid you not. The wonderful and chocolate genius Alice Medrich named it as the "Best Cocoa Brownies" in her "Bittersweet" book, and she is right. They are the best brownies I ever had in my life. I discovered Alice Medrich few years ago and ever since, I have successfully bought every single book she wrote. They were all used books since the majority of her books are out of print. Some are pricy, for a used book, but I have no regrets. Every recipe I made was a success: rich and decadent chocolate flavor but not too sweet. Just the way I like.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Decorated Apple Cookies: Teachers' Appreciation Week

Apple Sugar Cookies
Last week was Teachers' Appreciation week and Alya's preschool planned many fun events to show appreciation. The kids made cards and got flowers. I volunteered to bring in cupcakes for the dessert day and I also decided to make sugar cookies in the shape of apples to thank them personally for all the great work they do for my child. These cookies, like most prettified things, are time consuming, but they brought so much joy to the teachers. I only prettify my cookies on special occasions because I dont like to use food colorant. I hate those cookies that are very pretty from the outside but taste like cardboard. My cookies are the same old delicious sugar cookies but prettier!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Middle Eastern Snacks 101: Green Fava Beans فول أخضر

Green Fava Beans
I am not much of a snacker. I am the kind of girl who likes to eat all my meal from appetizers to desserts in one sitting. I dont like to snack during the day. If I feel the need to eat something between meals, I either gulp down some more plain water or drink some herbal tea. However, I have a weakness to few Middle Eastern snacks. The snacks that grow on trees and are limited to a specific season. I will be writing a series about my favorite Middle Eastern snacks.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Homemade Granola: A nutritious Breakfast and Snack خلطة الشوفان مع المكسرات والفواكه المجففة

My husbands goes to the gym everyday at 5:00 am (I just drag myself to the gym every other day out of sheer embarrassement). He usually eats breakfast at work. Don't get me wrong, they got a cafeteria that can easily compare to one of the best restaurants in town. I mean we have our lunch date at this cafeteria. He eats granola with yogurt, fruit and nuts everyday and he pays 4 dollars everyday for this super healthy breakfast. I challenged him that I can make him an equally delicious breakfast for a fraction of the price. Hence homemade granola.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Seville Orange Marmalade: Not For the Wimps

Seville Orange Marmalade for breakfast

Seville Orange Marmalade brings me back to vacation mode because I often eat it for breakfast when I am on vacation in some fancy resort. I love to smear it on a well toasted piece of bread with some butter. It is like an explosion in your mouth: the bitterness, the sweetness and when you bite into the peel pieces; you are transported into another world! Seville Orange Marmalade is not for the wimps, not for the faint hearted that consider store bought generic strawberry jam is a safe bet (sorry).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pickled Turnip مخلل اللفت

Pickled Turnip
I usually go to the farmer's market around its closing time to get great deals on seasonal offerings. Farmers dont really like to bring back produce home and they try their best to get rid of them by the time they want to leave resulting in decent discounted prices. Turnip,when in season, is often the last item sold (if ever) in the farmer's market. Turnip is misunderstood and underutilized in the US. I heard that it is usually boiled (poor thing) and eaten as a side. Turnip is one of the stars of any self respecting Middle Eastern table and these pickled turnips are my pride and joy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Heart Cookies Part 2

Valentine's Day Treats
Alya sampling the cookies
So you probably know by now that Valentine's Day is around the corner. Alya calls it Valentime with an M (no typing mistake here) and she wants to make a card for her daddy and me (awwwwww). So I am giving the teachers and staff at Alya's preschool those cute Valentine's day Heart Cookies and I am going to show you an easy way to present them.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine's Day Heart Cookies Part 1

An easy Valentine's Day Treat
Valentine's Day is around the corner. Honestly, I am not a big fan of Valentine's day or any other holiday that requires people to go crazy and blow huge sums of money on gifts, chocolate or flowers just because someone said so. I am the kind of girl who loves getting flowers any other day for a personal reason or even better for no reason at all. My husband does that a lot, so no complaints. I certainly don't mind baking a homemade treat for Valentine's Day or any other day.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sugar Cookies Decorated with Colored Sugar from Alya's Birthday Party

Sugar Cookies Decorated with Colored Sugar for Alya's Birthday Party

Cookies make the world a better place! I love baking and decorating cookies and judging by the popularity of my post about decorating sugar cookies with icing sugar, I have a feeling that you will love this post about how to decorate sugar cookies with colored sugar. You can certainly use any color or combination of colors or pattern, the choice is yours. I served these decorated sugar cookies for Alya's 3rd birthday party.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Nadine's Gourmet Chicken Sandwich

Nadine's Gourmet Chicken Sandwich
When I moved to the USA back in 2007, my destination was Portland, Oregon which I have visited prior to my big move. I found Portland absolutely charming, clean and green. The people were kind and accepting. I did not like was horrified by the constant rain and gloomy weather. I come from a country where the sun shines at least 320 days a year and the month of June usually translates to "put on your swimming suit and hit the warm water".