Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

If only you could smell the house right now! It smells of warm honey and toasted almonds, a smell that can cure a cold!

It has only been lately that I could have something sweet for breakfast. I grew up eating a salty breakfast, whether it was a cheese sandwich, an omelet, or a labneh dip with toasted pita and olives, one thing for sure, it had to be salty. But after travelling quite frequently to Europe in the past eight years, I started developing a liking for sweet things with my cup of coffee for breakfast. Now I occasionally have a fruit muffin or a pain au chocolat, and for this new acquisition of taste, I decided to bake breakfast-appropriate muffins.

I got this recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella Kitchen, which is a cookbook full of convenient recipes that you could make for lunch or dinner.

Ingredients (make 12)

- 2 apples, peeled and diced

- 1 and 3/4 cups flour

- 2 tsp baking powder

- 1 tsp cinnamon

- 1/4 cup vegetable oil

- 1/2 cup honey

- 1/2 cup brown sugar

- 1/4 cup yogurt

- 2 eggs

- 1/4 cup raw unblanched almonds, roughly crushed

The topping:

- 4 tsp brown sugar

- 1 tsp cinnamon

- 1/4 cup almonds, roughly crushed

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 400F and prepare a muffin tray with muffin paper cups.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, sugar, oil and honey. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, sift the flour and then add the cinnamon, baking powder and crushed almonds.

4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk everything together.

5. Add the apples to the batter and give it one last whisk.

6. To make the topping: mix the three ingredients in a small bowl.

7. Scoop the batter (I use an ice cream scooper) into the paper cups and sprinkle the topping over the muffins.

8. Pop the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

 

 

My Mom’s Niçoise Salad

I am not sure if les niçoises would thank my mom or shoot her for preparing their salad this way! I don’t really know how a typical or authentic salade niçoise is, but I am very satisfied with my mom’s version of it. This is a very nutritious salad that you can have for dinner and could easily pack for a picnic. There aren’t any onions in there (my grandma adds finely chopped red onions to her niçoise but not my mom) and there is no mayonnaise, so you won’t have to worry about it spoiling.

nicoise salad

Ingredients (for two):

- 1 heaped cup chopped potatoes

- 2 handfuls of lettuce

- 1 tomato, chopped

- 2 hardboiled eggs

- 1 can of tuna (I like to use Albacore tuna), drained

For the dressing:

- 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 Tbsp regular yellow mustard
– Juice of one lemon
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds (optional)
– Black pepper

Method:

1. Boil a pot of salty water and cook the potatoes until tender but firm.

2. In the meantime, mix the chopped tomatoes and lettuce in a bowl and keep aside.

3. Now prepare the dressing: Mix the ingredients listed above with a whisk or fork until they become homogeneous.

4. When the potatoes are done, drain them and when they’ve let off all the steam, add them to the vegetables in the bowl, add the tuna meat and mix them all together with the dressing.

5. Serve with sliced hardboiled eggs on the side.

A salad that sounds modest but is really very nutritious, fulfilling and citrus-y!

Tuna and Mushroom Pasta Casserole

If you go back to my baked pasta with chicken post, you will remember that I absolutely love baked pasta!

I bought this new stoneware baking dish and I couldn’t resist putting it to use the moment I put down the grocery bags on the kitchen counter! I usually bake pasta or make gratins using stoneware dishes.

Stoneware baking dishes are made from stone fired at very high temperatures. This kind of dishes distributes the heat evenly and keeps the food warm long after it is out of the oven.

Tuna and Mushroom Pasta Casserole

Tuna Mushroom Pasta Casserole

Ingredients (for two):

- 2 cups penne pasta

- 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, I like them chopped into quarters

- 1/2 cup canned tuna

- 1 tsp butter
– 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
– 2 Tbsp cooking cream
– 1 tsp tomato paste
– Salt, pepper and dried basil

- Shredded mozzarella cheese

Tuna and Mushroom Pasta Casserole

Method

1. Cook pasta according to packet instructions. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of its water.

2. Preheat the oven to 350F.

3. Heat a skillet and throw in the mushrooms without any oil and butter. The mushrooms will let our their water and this way they’ll be more flavorsome. Add the butter and when it melts, add in the tuna and fry for a few minutes.

Tuna and Mushroom Pasta Casserole

4. Add the tomatoes, cooking cream, tomato paste and the 1/4 cup of water that you reserved. Season well with salt, pepper and dried basil and bring to boil, then lower the heat and cover for around 20 minutes. When the sauce thickens, throw in the paste and mix well.

5. Pour the pasta mix into a loaf pan or casserole dish and layer it with the shredded mozzarella, then put in the oven for not more than ten minutes. You just need to melt the cheese. For a golden and crispy cheese layer, broil it for a few minutes.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Without further ado, here’s the recipe (for 12 cupcakes):

- 1 cup flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– A pinch of cinnamon

- 1 egg
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 1 cup peanut butter
–  50g butter, room temperature

- 1/2 cup milk

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Sift the flour into a bowl, add the cinnamon and baking powder. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, beat the egg, add the sugar and whisk well into a creamy mixture. Add the peanut butter and the butter and whisk again until the ingredients have blended together well.

4. Gradually, add the flour and milk, alternating between them and whisking well. Finish with the flour and give the batter one last whisk.

5. Pour the batter into your paper cups and bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out dry.

Divine No-Bake Halawa and Chocolate Clusters

These clusters have simply made my day. Too bad they came towards the end of it!

Halawa and Chocolate Cookies

I love halawa (sweet sesame paste) but I am not one of those halawa fanatics who eat it with butter, bananas and honey as a sandwich. I love halawa straight from the container, scooped out with a spoon and tossed straight into my mouth, especially directly after lunch! Chocolate? I can tolerate it! Halawa and chocolate? Must have died and gone to heaven!

This recipe combines both almost-imaginary ingredients and uses another good friend: tea biscuits. The best part about these clusters: they do not need any baking! The second best part: it takes 15 minutes to prepare them! You will not be able to resist the divine combination of chocolate and halawa. I still can’t believe that I haven’t thought of this recipe before!!

Halawa and Chocolate Clusters

Ingredients (make 20 clusters):

- 150g halawa
Chocolate ganache
– 150g plain tea biscuits
– A handful of sesame seeds for sprinkling

Method:

Prepare the chocolate ganache as instructed in this recipe. Set aside.

In a bowl, break the biscuits into small pieces, add the halawa and give them a mix. Don’t worry if they are too crumbly, they will not mix well as both ingredients are dry. Add the chocolate ganache and with a spoon, mix the three ingredients very well. The mixture will be much softer than a cookie dough, remember there is no flour in this recipe, so do not expect a cookie dough.

With a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon, scoop out the mixture and place on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper. The mixture should yield 20 clusters. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Try it, thank the lord for halawa and then come back and leave a comment on this post! Cheers!

Chocolate Ganache Recipe

This is a basic chocolate ganache recipe.

- 140g dark chocolate

- 1/2 cup cream

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt them in the cream on low to medium heat. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and silky and the chocolate has totally melted.

I will be referring to this recipe throughout the blog, so always come back to check basic recipes on this page.

Sahlab

In Lebanon, sahlab is prepared as a thick sweet drink (somewhere between a pudding and a soup) and is served warm during the cold wet winter. March isn’t the coldest month of the year, but today I feel a little cold and sick, so I made myself a warm cup of sahlab with cinnamon on top and crackers on the side. Yummy!

Sahlab refers to the the plant (Early Purple Orchid or Orchis mascula) and to the drink. I know that sahlab is also part of Turkish and Greek cuisines, but after a modest research, I came to know that sahlab is also used in Albania, Serbia and Bosnia. In Lebanon, flour is made from the plant, which is then mixed with milk and sugar, brought to boil (to thicken) and a few drops of rose water and orange blossom are added at the end. A beautiful thick drink that can warm any sick and crampy body like mine!

Sahlab is sold as a powdered mix that can be bought in packets in supermarkets anywhere in Lebanon. Try to find some where you live, it’s a very delightful drink!

Sahlab

Ingredients (for 2)

- 2 cups milk
– 1 Tbsp of sahlab powder
– 3 Tbsp sugar
– 1 tsp rose water
– 1 tsp orange blossom
– Cinnamon powder for garnish

Method

1. Mix the first three ingredients in a saucepan before placing it on medium heat.

2. On medium heat and while continuously whisking, bring the mixture to the brink of boiling. You will see that it will thicken almost as thick as a pudding.

3. Turn off the heat, add the rose water and orange blossom, give it one last stir and pour in cups or bowls and sprinkle cinnamon powder on top. Serve hot.

To eat/drink sahlab like a Lebanese, crack a few crackers – ka’ek (in photo below) – in your drink.

Sahlab