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

Burghul with Lentils – VEGAN

Another easy and flavorsome vegan recipe. Follow the easy steps and you will not go wrong!

This dish is typical village food. My grandma used to tell us that burghul (known in the West as bulgur) and lentils are the healthiest things you could eat. Mind you, my grandma barely knew how to read or write, but she was from the village, she grew her vegetables and milked the cows for milk, so she knew what she was talking about.

There are several kinds of burghul, there’s the fine kind that you might have seen in tabbouleh, and there’s the coarser kind that is usually cooked the same way as rice and often replaces rice as a side dish for stews. This recipe uses coarse burghul.

Burghul with Lentils

Ingredients (serves 4)

- 1 cup coarse burghul
– 1/2 cup of green lentils
– 3 cups water
– 1 onion, finely chopped
–  2 Tbsp vegetable oil
– Salt

Method

1. Wash the burghul and soak it in lukewarm water while you fry the onions and boil the lentils.

2. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions until they’re translucent or even half burned. Set aside.

3. Put the lentils in a pot and add the water. Bring to boil and let the lentils cook, the same way you’d cook pasta (minus the salt).

4. When the lentils are cooked, add the burghul (that you have drained), add salt and add the cooked onions that you’ve saved aside. Check the water, it should cover the ingredients by 2.5 cm. If it doesn’t, add water. Bring to boil, lower the heat to the minimum possible, cover and let the burghul slowly cook. It should take around 25 to 30 minutes. The burghul should absorb all the water and you’ll see that it has almost doubled in size.

5. Turn off the heat when you see that there is no more water at the bottom of the pot. Give it a gentle mix with a wooden spoon and serve warm. My favorite thing to eat with it is yogurt, but a green salad should also be a great companion.

Bon appetit!

Penne al Pomodoro – VEGAN

The reason for this vegan recipe: my sister’s dietary restrictions. My sister who is four years younger than me has chosen to become a vegan. Since she is a busy designer with a very busy schedule, I thought I’d post every now and then a recipe that she could easily prepare.

Beware, this pasta is much much more delicious than it might sound to some, so eat it secretly. Believe me, you will not want to share!

Penne al Pomodoro

Ingredients (for 2)

- 2 cups penne
–  1 can of peeled and chopped tomatoes
– 1 tsp butter
– 1 cup of white mushrooms
– Black pepper

Method

1. Cook the penne according to packet instructions, make sure that the water is as salty as the Mediterranean!

2. Cut the mushrooms in four then fry them in the butter for a few minutes. They should start oozing their aromatic juices and will darken in color. Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to boil, then cover and simmer until the sauce thickens but doesn’t dry up.

3. When the sauce is ready, drop the cooked penne and on low heat, mix and stir the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper, and if you’re not a vegan, grate Parmesan cheese on top :)

Short Grain Rice with Vermicelli

This is the classical recipe for short grain rice cooked vermicelli to be served alongside any Lebanese stew (more or less).

Ingredients (for 2):

- 1 cup short grain rice
– 2 Tbsp vermicelli
– 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 and 1/2 cup water
– 1/2 tsp salt

Method:

1. Wash the rice well under running water. Place in a colander and set aside.

2. In a deep saucepan, heat the oil and fry the vermicelli till they become golden. Be careful not to burn them.

3. Add the rice to the vermicelli. Give it a gentle stir.

4. Add the salt and the water, bring to boil and then cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the water and has doubled in size. The rice should be fluffy.

Serve alongside any stew.

Meatless Okra Strew in Chili Tomato Broth

“Okra [bemieh in Arabic] is a flowering plant of the mallow family with edible green fruit. It is a vegetable one either hates or loves. In Lebanon, okra is cooked with beef or lamb in a stew served with rice or simply in a tomato-based stew seasoned with plenty of onion and garlic.” – from the book Mouneh by Barbara Massaad

What I chose the do with the okra tonight is cook it with a tomato-based broth with onions, garlic and green coriander. I always prefer meatless stews, I find that the vegetables always taste fresher and the tomato sauce stays light.

Okra Stew

Meatless Okra Stew in Chili Tomato Broth (for 2)

Ingredients

- 375g green okra
– 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 onion, cut into 4
– 2 garlic cloves, crushed
– 2 Tbsp green coriander, chopped
– 2 dried chili peppers
–  1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
– 2 cups water
– 1 Tbsp tomato paste
– A squeeze of lemon
– Salt, cinnamon, pepper

Method

1. Wash the okra well and then cut off the pointy head. If there are long okras, cut them in half.

Green Okra

2. Heat the oil in a pot and fry the onions, garlic, green coriander and chili pepper until the onion becomes translucent and the garlic starts spreading its aromas.

3. Add the okras and stir every now and then. At this stage we just want the okra to soften a little.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, the water, tomato paste and the squeeze of lemon juice, add salt and then cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.

Lemon juice will minimize the viscosity of the okra.

lemon fruit

5. When the sauce has thickened the okras are well cooked, season with cinnamon and pepper and check if you need to add more salt.

6. Turn off the heat and serve hot.

Stews are usually served with short grain rice cooked with vermicelli.

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting

This cream cheese frosting is perfect for cupcakes, party cakes and any basic sponge cake.

- 225 (8 oz.) g cream cheese
– 1/4 cup powdered sugar
– 2 Tbsp butter

Whisk the three ingredients together into a creamy mixture.

You can an additional ingredient to get a flavored frosting.

Suggestions for flavors:

- Orange zest

- Lemon zest

- Coconut

- Vanilla

- 2Tbsp pineapple juice

- 50g Nutella

 

Coconut Cupcakes

I have made Coconut-Pineapple Cake and Lemon-Coconut Cupcakes before, I enjoy baking with coconut, so I made these light and fluffy cupcakes for a sweet snack with my endless weekend cups of coffee!

 

For 10 cute cupcakes:

- 1 cup flour
– 1 cup shredded coconut
– 1 Tbsp baking powder
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup sugar
– 3/4 cup olive oil
– 1/4 cup milk

Method

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, add the sugar, whisk, add oil, whisk some more.

Gradually add the dry ingredients and then finish with the milk until you have a proper batter.

Divide the batter into the paper cups (fill only 3/4 of the cups) and pop your tray into the oven for 20 minutes.

The cupcakes will turn golden  around the edges and will smell like sweet coconut.

Cool before enjoying with your cup of coffee!

Omelet with Cream and Mozzarella

I am sure you’ve already noticed from my recent Ijje recipe and Egg Salad recipe that I am a fan of eggs! I love eggs whether boiled, scrambled or poached. I remember when we were very young, we used to buy fresh eggs from an old lady who had a little farm in the city, very charming! I remember she used to put the eggs for me in a small basket (little red riding hood style!), very cute!

Today recipe is neither 100% omelet nor a pure quiche filling, it’s a cross between the two. I think the combination of mozzarella and cream with the eggs gave it a very quiche-y taste, something I hold dear to my heart! When we were in Paris last winter, our Parisian hosts wanted to prepare dinner on our last night at their house and asked what we wanted, and of course my answer was Quiche Lorraine! I love quiche in all its form and fillings, just like I love fresh French butter croissants. Yum yum!

For one hearty omelet, you need:

- 2 eggs
– 1/4 cup cream
– 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
– Salt, black pepper and white pepper
– 1 tsp butter

Method

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Melt the butter in a pan. Pour the whisked egg mixture over the melted butter and when the bottom becomes a little thick, turn down the heat and cover. Check after5 minutes or so, when it has almost solidified but the top is still not well cooked, flip the omelet over (you can use the cover lid of the pan to flip it onto and then return it to the pan) and cook until the has become golden on both sides.

Serve hot with freshly cracked black pepper on top. A simple rucola salad would go well on the side.