Friday, December 12, 2014

What Happens in Vegas, Doesn't Stay in Vegas

"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", that is how the saying goes. Las Vegas, as in Sin City, is known for gambling, smoking, partying, getting wasted and doing things that you will regret later. The good thing is that you don't have to tell anyone. In my case, I don't gamble, don't smoke, don't drink alcohol, don't like loud noises and rarely do things unconsciously and regret them later. The only time I was drugged was when I was doing a medical procedure. (It was the best sleep I ever had in my entire life). Did I mention that my husband hates Vegas? Then why Vegas and what I did?

We had the opportunity of leaving our daughter with my in-laws where she loves to spend time. I have never been to Vegas before and every time I mentioned that I was curious to see it, I got major eye rolling action from my husband. He finally succumbed and I got us a great deal to fly there and stay for 3 nights at the Encore Hotel. So you are still wondering why I wanted to go to Vegas despite that what Vegas is notorious for does not interest me? Come with me, shall you!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rainbows and Unicorns Invitations: Alya's 5th Birthday

Do you remember when I told you that I will be posting a tutorial on how I made the invitation cards of Alya's 5th birthday party themed "Unicorns and Rainbows"? probably not, I made this promise four months ago but I do intend to keep my word, so here it is. If you want to read about the birthday party, click here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cranberry Beans and Sujuk Shakshouka: A Brunch Dish to Impress

I showed you last week how to make cranberry beans in olive oil which is a vegan Middle Eastern dish, I will show you now how to transform your leftovers (if any) into a wonderful comfort food style brunch dish: cranberry beans and sujuk shakshouka! Sujuk will be used with no shame, sorry my fellow vegans and vegetarians. However, you can still make the dish without the sujuk if you consume eggs.
Sujuk is basically a Middle Eastern/Armenian sausage that is heavily spiced with paprika, fenugreek and cumin. The casing is usually from bovine origin. It is fatty and cooks in its own fat, you really don't need to add any additional oil or butter to cook it. Sujuk is very flavorful and is good friends with tomatoes, hence the nice pairing with the cranberry beans in olive oil.
You can find Sujuk sausages at Armenian and Middle Eastern markets. You can substitute Sujuk with any other sausage type you like.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cranberry Beans in Olive Oil, Borlotti Beans in Olive Oil, Fasulya Bil Zayt

Cranberry beans or Borlotti beans are similar to Pinto beans in shape but taste different. The pod itself is so beautiful, it is like a mad artist's project; strokes of every shade of fuchsia. The pleasure of looking at them makes up for their high price of 3.99 per pound. I was delighted to find them at my local Middle Eastern Market and scooped up 2 pounds with the intention to make this dish as soon as I get home.

Monday, October 20, 2014

DIY: Cookie Cupcake Topper

This year I decided to actually blog about all Alya's birthday parties. All those tutorials and recipes that I promised you but never really got around to do it. This year is the year of "No tutorial is left behind" and "No unfinished projects".
 Cookies are so much fun on their own but they can also be cute cupcake toppers! The best part is that you can use leftover cookie dough that is too small to be used for regular cookies to make small cupcake toppers. Last year, for Alya's Cowgirl party,  I made cowgirl hats and boots cupcake toppers from paper, click here to read about it.  This year I thought that I ought to change it up a bit.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tortilla Espanola: Spanish Omelette

I am not a big fan of breakfast. I don't wake up hungry and eager to eat, let alone cook something for me. However, I do know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I can honestly attest to how I eat more at lunch time when I skip breakfast, thus I do my best to eat something. I normally eat a small Labneh or Cheese sandwiches in the morning, click here for my homemade Labneh recipe, here how to make the ultimate Labneh Sandwich and here on how to make Simple Cheese. Sometimes, when my morning schedule allows, usually on the week ends, I make Tortilla Espanola that we eat either for breakfast or brunch with a side of a simple Tomato Basil Salad.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Eid Al Adha and Hajj Sugar Cookies

Eid Sa'eed! Eid Sa'eed is Happy Holiday in Arabic. Eid al Adha is around the corner, in fact it is this week end. We are luck this year because it falls on a week end which means we can have a whole week end of celebration as a family. We also had an Eid pot lock party at Alya's Arabic School last week end. I decided to make these adorable Kaaba cookies. I used the same sugar cookie recipe, the same royal icing recipe, and the same stenciling technique. However, this year, I took it up a notch and I added edible star glitter and edible golden dust details. These cookies did not last for long, they were grabbed by little and big hands and everybody was taking pictures of them. I must say that I was very flattered especially that I spent a lot of time working on them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rainbow 5th Birthday Cookie

I have decided this year to make fancy cookies for Alya's birthday favor instead of giving away favors bags filled with little knick knacks that drive us, parents, crazy. You are welcome parents. Since the cookies were going to be the favors, they needed to be bigger and fancier than usual. Last year I made Cowgirl boots and hats, click here to see; and the year before I made very simple orange and red sugared cookies, click here to see.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Alya's 5th Birthday Party: Unicorns and Rainbows

It is that time of the year again, it is Alya's birthday and she was very adamant about this year's theme: Unicorns and Rainbows. Indeed, we are still stuck in the horse like theme. The theme last year was Horses and Cowgirls. You can read about it here. This year, I tried to convince her that instead of throwing a birthday party we can take her to a farm and ride on real horses and ponies. She insisted on having a birthday party. After last year's birthday party, I was so tired that I vowed not to throw another party at home, well this year, not only did I throw another party at home, but I doubled the size of the invitees and again, I made everything from scratch: nvitations, decor, food, desert and favors. I would like to remind you at this point that the definition of crazy is repeating the same actions and excepting different results. Well the party was a success and the attendance rate was 100 percent which makes me happy...I meant Alya happy. My husband keeps telling me that I throw these parties for my own pleasure; I secretly agree!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Arabic Thank You Card: Square Kufi Script شكراً جزيلاً

Yesterday was Alya's graduation ceremony from the Arabic School. She finished her first year. I am  the room parent for the class and decided with the parents to give the teacher, the assistants and administrators "thank you" gifts. I decided to make little Arabic "Thank You" cards to go with the miniature rose plants that I got. I have always loved Calligraphy in general and Arabic Calligraphy in specific. I also studied Western Calligraphy for three years under the magnificent Carol DuBosch in Portland, Oregon, click here to read about Carol Dubosch. Here is an example of my Western calligraphy practice of different scripts.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad is one of my favorite salads. It is also a great side dish. I served it on Alya's 3rd Birthday Party, click here to read about it. The best thing about this dish is that it can be made in advance; actually, it tastes better the next day which makes it a great choice when entertaining.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Middle Eastern Snacks 101: Green Almond لوز أخضر

Spring is here, at least in California. Actually Spring never left California this year, this has been a hot dry winter. So how do we know that Spring is here? Green Almonds! In the Middle East you know that spring is here when you see green almonds in the store. Green almonds are just young unripe almonds. The almonds are still soft and the shell is still green, crunch and slightly sour. You eat green almonds by dipping them in some salt. I prefer to use sea salt. It is important to wash them thoroughly in cold water because they have some fuzz. I know that I sometimes sound like a broken record but I am so lucky to be living in California where almond orchards are abundant. You can find green almonds in Middle Eastern markets from April to early June. As almonds ripen, the shell becomes hard and inedible, but of course it is protecting a delicious snack inside it. How beautiful and perfect nature is!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Black Forest Cake A La Libanese: Happy Birthday to Me!

The problem with being the baker in the family is that I get to bake everybody's birthday cake and I am expected to bake my own birthday cake! But there is a silver lining to every cloud, I get to pick the cake. Black Forest or Forêt Noire is one of my favorite cakes, but not any Forêt Noire, and definitely not the original German dessert Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. The Original dessert is made with layers of chocolate cake filled with layers of whipped cream and cherries. Cherry liqueur is sprinkled on the chocolate cake before layering it and is absorbed by the cake. Then it is frosted with whipped cream and decorated with chocolate flakes and cherries that had been soaking in the same liqueur.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Baking Essentials: Chocolate Sponge Cake

Chocolate Sponge Cake
Making a Chocolate Sponge Cake is a necessary step to making some wonderful other complex desserts. It is a versatile recipe that results is an airy and light cake. It can also be a wonderful base for any other flavorful liquid. It will absorb juices and liqueurs and the flavor will get better with time. Naturally when I decide to give Chocolate Sponge Cake a try, I found many recipes and all of them seemed easy and delicious but this recipe caught my eyes because the fat is vegetable oil instead of butter. I always welcome a non animal unsaturated fat and it did not disappoint.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Baking Essentials: Preparing Cake Pans

I love baking cakes, they can be be a simple affair such a yellow cake or you can pull out all the stops by layering, filling and frosting the cake. Sometimes you can use shortcuts, sometimes you have to do multiple steps to achieve the oomph factor. However, one thing you have to do is to properly prepare the cake pan. The preparation of the cake is very important to make sure that the cake does not stick to the pan and is released easily without any damages.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Curried Butternut Squash Soup: An Easy Vegan Lunch!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
If you read my blog, you would know that my story with soup in general had a rocky start. I did not believe in soup! Gasp! But just as in any romantic story with happy ending, I learned to love all soups and especially when it comes to lunch. I talk about it here, in my post about Low Fat Chicken Soup. Curried butternut squash soup is a delicious low fat flavorful vegan lunch that could be a great option this Lent season. Being a stay home mom leaves little time for me to plan my meals, let alone any time to cook lunch, hence this soup is the best option. Just heat it and lunch is ready. To keep my metabolism going, I try to eat something every 2-3 hours. So I start with this soup at noon after I pick up my daughter from preschool and in 2-3 hours I make a light sandwich then a Ayran drink, a low fat minty refreshing low fat protein packed drink. Click here, for recipe. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cooking Essentials: Preparing Butternut Squash

Are you trying to eat healthy this year? Did you vow to avoid anything canned? Do you find yourself at the grocery store staring at butternut squash and wondering what to do with it? How to prepare it? Well, you came to the right blog! In this post, I will tell you all about preparing butternut squash. I bought this beautiful winter vegetable from my local farmers' market; you should try it too. At your farmers' market, you will find seasonal organic and freshly picked vegetables and fruits, among other things. Butternut squash is a starchy squash, unlike zucchini and summer squash that have very little starch in them.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Josephine Mardelli Bahdi's Chicken and Rice Dome

The " Sunday Lunch at Grandma" is a universal event. Every culture has its own version and the Middle Eastern version is surely one of the most exciting affairs. This grandma is not mine but I surely wish that I get to be invited to one of her epic Sunday lunches. Her name is Josephine Mardelli Bahdi. Here is her story by her grandson Camille Otrakji. "She is originally from southern Turkey. They moved to Aleppo with their father where she lived until the early 90's. Moved to Montreal since. She was always known among relatives and friends in Aleppo for being a skilled cook. They would look forward to being invited to lunch (Aleppo people love food more than anything in life as you know). I remember when I was young some guests kept eating until they could not eat anymore and then asking her to leave everything on the table until they went for a walk to digest what they could, and come back eat a second round!"

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Ultimate Labneh Sandwich

The Ultimate Labneh Sandwich
"How to make a Labneh sandwich?". "How to eat Labne?". "What is Labni?". These are few of the google search results that I get on my blog everyday. The majority of my audience is not from the Middle East, so they read or hear about Labneh, but they just don't know how to eat it. I previously told you that I make my own organic 2% fat yogurt (read about it here), then I use the yogurt to make organic Labneh (read about it here), and I also use the by product whey to make Organic Cheese (Read about it here).  However, I want to cover an uber important issue, how to make the ultimate Labneh sandwich. The variations are endless, but this is how I like to make my sandwich and I am going to tell you the ultimate secret behind rolling a good old Middle Eastern Sandwich.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Edible Love Letters: Valentine's Day Decorated Sugar Cookies

Valentine's day these days is all about flowers, gifts and candy but what about the art of putting your feelings into words! I decided to make these adorable and romantic edible love letters for Alya's Preschool Valentine's Party. I thought it could be very cute to make these cookies for a bunch of preschoolers who are just learning how to read, let alone write!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Valentine's Day Handmade Popup Card

Hello? Anybody there? I don't blame you if gave up on me. My last post was on November 2013! Valentines's Day is next week! I am sorry for this hiatus, but I really had little opportunities to blog. I wish I can tell you that I was somewhere in Africa helping building water wells and where there is no internet access, but this is not the case. I was on a very long vacation. Actually it is more like a series of vacations. Well, now that we sorted out this, let us move to critical issues: Valentine's Day!

I am not big on Valentine's Day, never been actually. I don't need to be reminded to love and be loved, on a specific day, set by greeting card companies, florists and chocolate makers. However, I noticed that here in the states, the trend in schools is that Valentine's Day is a day of friendship and love.