Cardamom Cookies

Cardamom Cookie

It’s been a lazy Sunday. So lazy, in fact, that I’m still in my PJs and rocking my top bun and glasses at approximately 3:48pm. It’s only a matter of minutes before the sun sets and I enter pre-Monday mode.

Pre-Monday is my least favorite time of the week. It’s the time after the sun sets before Monday morning when you realize you’ve wasted an entire day doing nothing. Or maybe you had a productive Sunday, or a fun Sunday filled with adventure. In any case, Pre-Monday is when you start thinking about everything you need to accomplish by the time your dreaded alarm rings and wakes you out of slumber.

I really did intend to leave the house. I planned shower, get dressed and spend the afternoon sipping Turkish coffee with my Tayta. Then I would hear the wind gusts against the sides of the house, and watch the trees sway back and forth with furry and change my mind.

It wasn’t a total waste, though. Besides watching Toy Story 2, Cat in the Hat and The Pacifier (all on TBS, in case you were wondering), I also baked a batch of Cardamom Cookies.

Cardamom Cookies

When I read spiced cookie recipes, I find that people aren’t very generous with the spices they add in. ½ teaspoon of anything really isn’t going to add the flavor your looking for. For these cardamom cookies, I altered my Ghraybeh recipe and added a lot more cardamom. I’m talking 1-2 teaspoons ground Cardamom. It might seem like a lot, but I promise you will thank me when the house smells great and your cookies taste perfectly spiced.

To the think about this cookie recipe is that the cookies only slightly expand. Leave enough room for the expansion, but know that generally the size and shape you place on the baking tray is what you’re going to get. Enjoy!

Cardamom Cookies

 

Cardamom Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 sprinkle of Salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons Ground Cardamom

Instructions

  1. Place the baking rack in the middle of the oven and Preheat oven to 300 F
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes (or until the color of the mixture is a light yellow)
  3. Add Salt
  4. Slowly add the flour and Cardamom and blend on medium speed until smooth
  5. Form the cookie dough into rounds (or your favorite shape)
  6. Place cookies on a baking sheet and bake on the top or middle rack for 20-25 minutes. Do Not Brown.
  7. Allow to cool before serving
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Labaneh Rounds

Labaneh Rounds If you haven’t had labaneh (لبنة) then you’re in for a savory treat! I grew up on labaneh, as did most Arab-American kids. It’s a staple in most Arab-American households. There’s always a container in the fridge. Breakfasts and brunches include some form of labaneh with olive oil and zaatar for dipping, usually alongside olives, freshly slices cucumbers and tomatoes, and in most cases boiled eggs.

When we were kids, my mom used to make us labaneh sandwiches on Arabic bread (that’s what we call pita bread at our house). It’s, hands-down, my favorite dairy product. I still make myself labaneh on toast in the mornings.

So what is labaneh? It’s savory cream cheese … of sorts. According to Wikipedia, labaneh is:

yogurt that has been strained to remove its whey, resulting in a thicker consistency than unstrained yogurt, while preserving yogurt’s distinctive, sour taste.”

That description doesn’t do labaneh justice! Comparing it to savory cream cheese is so much more appetizing. My favorite kind of labaneh is the rounds. Admittedly, I casually refer to them as labaneh balls. But that doesn’t sound as appealing. Maybe I should refer to them as labaneh truffles, just to give off that exotic vibe.

In all honesty, the labneh rounds and the dip taste just about the same. The process for straining yogurt into Arabic cream cheese is essentially the same. It’s how long you strain and what you do after the yogurt has been strained that really defines the difference between the two. I’m not really sure why I get so much more excited about the labaneh rounds. Maybe because they’re perfectly portioned? That would be a great reason if I didn’t eat four rounds … or more in one sitting.

Labaneh isn’t hard to make. It just takes time – idle time, mostly while the yogurt is being strained. Now, don’t go out and buy a strainer and some yogurt. That’s not exactly what I meant. The straining takes place over a 24-hour period using cheesecloth. I have vivid memories staying overnight at my Tayta’s and waking up to find a white, damp, bag hanging from the kitchen sink. That’s how she strained her yogurt—overnight, hanging from the kitchen sink. My Tayta seriously makes the best homemade labaneh. It’s tangy and savory and I know she adds a little extra salt, just the way we like it. Those nights, I’d go home with a Tupperware full of Tayta’s fresh labaneh.

 

Labaneh Rounds

 

Labaneh Rounds

Labaneh Rounds

Labaneh Rounds

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Plain Whole Greek Yogurt (I used Fage Total Plain)
  • 1 Cheesecloth
  • 2 cups Olive oil (maybe a little more depending on the size of your jar)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Salt
  • Herbs (dried or fresh mint, dill, rosemary, etc.), optional

Instructions

  1. Line a large strainer with cheesecloth, folded over once
  2. Set over a deep bowl
  3. In a separate bowl, stir the salt into the Greek yogurt until combined
  4. Spoon the yogurt into the middle of the cheesecloth
  5. Gather the cheesecloth around the sides to cover the yogurt and fasten (I used a rubber band)
  6. Suspend the cheesecloth from a stationary object, like the faucet of a sink, or a stick draped over the sink, and allow it to drip drain into a bowl underneath
  7. Keep the cheesecloth suspended 24 hours
  8. After 24 hours, fill a glass jar (with a secure lid) ¼ way with olive oil
  9. Rub your hands together with some olive oil and begin rolling small balls out of the labaneh and placing them into the jar
  10. Add optional herbs
  11. Once, you’ve filled the jar, pour olive oil into the jar until the balls are covered
  12. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 months.
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Salted Pistachio Cookies

salted-pistachio-cookies

Last week, I tried a 3-day juice cleanse. It was the hardest 8 hours of my life. I made it through the workday without coffee (because really, who drinks coffee without flavored creamer?) Half asleep for most of the day is not a way to live, or be productive. I downed 3 pre-packaged Blue Print juices before I couldn’t take it anymore. The green juice stank. It really made me mentally break down the process of inhaling before drinking out of a bottle because for the life of me I could not figure out how to drink it without wanting to vom. I still had the beet juice to look forward to [insert sick emoji here]. I made it through the entire workday before I got home and tore through the fridge and cupboards. Needless to say, that was the end of my juice cleansing days.

I partook in the juice cleanse on the premise that it would rid my body of toxins, fill me up on all the good-for-me stuff and help kick-start healthy living. Then I read the nutrition label and found that the green juice — the healthiest and stinkiest of the bunch — had 24 grams of sugar! Are you serious? Why wouldn’t I use those sugars on something much more worthy like … a Salted Pistachio Cookie. It would have been so much more fulfilling.

If you’re into juicing, I give you all the credit in the world. I’ve heard that juicing at home is more cost-effective and a little easier on the taste buds because you can pick and choose what you want in your green juice. Not all the Blue Print juices are bad. I will say that the Pineapple, Apple, Mint is my favorite and I’d happily drink that all day long. But that’s not really how it works.  

So about that much deserved Salted Pistachio Cookie…

Salted Pistachio Cookies

Salted Pistachio Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 box pistachio pudding mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. In a standing mixer, beat together the butter and sweetened condensed milk until fluffy
  2. Add eggs, pudding mix and vanilla extract
  3. Beat until smooth
  4. Add flour, baking powder and salt and beat until smooth
  5. Stir in the white chocolate chips and chopped pistachios
  6. Spoon cookie mix onto a parchment lined baking sheet
  7. Bake for 12 minutes, it's okay if the bottom of the cookies are a little browned
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool

Notes

Substitute 1 teaspoons rosewater for vanilla extract for a soft fragrant flavor

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Parsley Pesto

Parsley Pesto

I’ll be honest, when I think of pesto, I generally think of a basil-based chunky spread. But that’s because it’s the most popular flavor on grocery store shelves and at our favorite restaurants. What most people don’t realize is, there are so many variations of pesto, basil and parsley pesto being only two of them.

Last year, Bon Appetit showed us that that we can make pesto out of anything. Really, almost anything. Did you know that you can even use arugula?!  

According to Bon Appetit, you can pick from a number of greens, nuts, and cheeses then add in garlic, salt and lemon juice, if you so choose. So your probably wondering why I didn’t just go ahead and make traditional pesto with basil. If you haven’t noticed, buying basil in bulk is not easy around here. If you’re lucky, you can find a whole basil plant, use up all the leaves, attempt to grow it in your garden and then kill it with your lack of a green thumb. Or, if you’re a little less lucky, you can find those little plastic packets with 3 sprigs of basil for something like $3. It would probably take at least 10 packets to get enough for 3 cups. Parsley, on the other hand, is much easier to find in bulk, and also much cheaper. I mean they don’t really give you the option to buy anything less than a  portioned out bunch. Faced with this reality, I considered looking into growing my own herbs and vegetables– but that’s a consideration and discussion for another day. At that point, it was a no-brainer. I was experimenting with parsley pesto. 

 

Parsley Pesto

 

Parsley Pesto

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Parsley
  • 3-5 cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Pine Nuts
  • Salt, to taste.

Instructions

  1. Toast the pine nuts by placing on a sheet pan and broiling until lightly browned. Watch the oven carefully, as pine nuts toast quickly.
  2. Place parsley, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor.
  3. Process until smooth, or until desired consistency.
  4. Add parmesan cheese, salt and olive oil
  5. Process until smooth
  6. Serve on your favorite pasta, or garlicky toast

Notes

Toasting the nuts ahead of time adds some extra flavor. However, you can use raw pine nuts

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Sweetened Condensed Milk Pound Cake

Pound Cake_3

We’ve all noticed the latest feature Instagram rolled out with. In case you missed it, I’m talking about Stories. Stories make the Instagram experience more personable — for better or for worse. You can follow your favorite bloggers (or friends) and hear their voices, follow them around the world and experience a day in the life of … whoever. 

Many have expressed their love/hate/frustration with the new feature, stating that Instagram basically stole Snapchat’s thunder. I would have been okay with Snapchat, but for the blog it was missing one key feature that really deterred me from using it for the blog, or at least not as often as I would have liked to. And that is, the ability to seamlessly switch between accounts without having to log in and out. 

I like to keep my personal life separate from my blog life. That’s not to say I don’t share some of my personal experiences on the blog anyway. But there are things I share on my personal snap chat account that wouldn’t necessarily be interesting to my blog followers. That being said, there are also some things that are better shared on the blog account, and not so much on my personal account. For that, I am happy Instagram incorporated this feature. Although, there definitely need to be some updates/changes. For starters:

  • I need a way to filter out who I want to follow and who I don’t. It’s super overwhelming to go through all the stories without knowing who’s next. I’d still like to see their photos, just not necessarily their stories.
  • There has got to be a better way to see your views. I don’t always want my oldest story to show up. 
  • The Type A in me has to clear notifications…which means I have hundreds of stories to tap through. I’m talking a good 1-2 hour chunk of my day watching and clearing stories.

In conclusion — oh man, this is starting to sound like a term paper — I’m sticking with Instagram stories for MCO. I can’t completely break up with Snapchat. So, friends, you can still follow my random stories on there! 

See you on Instagram … 

Pound Cake_4

 

Pound Cake

 

Sweetened Condensed Milk Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 4 Eggs
  • 4 tablespoons Melted Butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt, pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat butter, condensed milk, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder
  3. Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients
  4. Beat until smooth
  5. Pour into a loaf pan
  6. Bake at 325 for 1 hour, 15 mins
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Carrot Curry Soup

Carrot Curry Soup

When you think soup, you think a steaming bowl in a cozy corner on a chilly day, right? That’s what I generally think when I conjure up an image of soup.

Now imagine it’s 97°F, the day after the hottest day of the year, you have the chills, you’ve lost your voice, and you’re battling a stuffy/runny nose along with a hacking cough. Pretty little picture I painted there, huh?

Unfortunately, that was the state of my misery last weekend. Lucky for me, it was also Sunday, which meant that the doctor’s office was closed. So I dragged myself out to CVS where they have this neat little service called Minute Clinic. You can reserve your place in line online, which saves you so much wait time. Take your insurance card, because it’s essentially like visiting the doctor, co-pay and all. Did I mention they’re open on Sundays?! Well, we figured out what was wrong — I had a virus [insert distraught emoji here]. So no magical antibiotic for me. Just lots of rest, nasal sprays, cough medicine and Tylenol. As frustrating as being sick is, it’s even more frustrating in the summertime.

And that’s how I ended up making a steaming bowl of soup in the middle of July. Despite the circumstances, the soup is an amazing soup (more suited for the months of September-February, but that’s beside the point). A couple things to note with this soup:

  • Notice that I used grape seed oil instead of olive oil or vegetable oil. We’ve been using grape seed oil a lot more for a number of reasons a few of which include: grape seed oil has a higher smoke point compared to other vegetable oils, it’s great for your hair and skin, good source of vitamin E, has zero trans fat and it’s virtually flavorless.
  • I didn’t have vegetable broth, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to change out of my PJs to get some. So I substituted some Maggi (mixed with hot water). Maggi is pretty awesome in that sense. It’s an easy chicken bouillon powder that’s super versatile.
  • I’m not big on spicy food, but I added some extra sriracha to give it at extra kick

 

Carrot Curry Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • 1 lb Carrots, chopped
  • 3-4 cups Vegetable broth, or Maggi cube dissolved in 3-4 cups water
  • 2-3 tablespoons Curry Powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons Cumin
  • Salt, to taste
  • Sriracha, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the grape seed oil in a medium pot
  2. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent
  3. Add the carrots, and stir in with the onion
  4. Add half of the cumin and some salt
  5. Cover and cook on medium-high heat until the carrots have softened (about 15 minutes)
  6. Add curry powder and the remaining cumin, stir into the vegetables
  7. Add the vegetable broth (or Maggi mix), stir and bring to a boil
  8. Once boiling, use an immersion blender to smooth the soup to your desired consistency
  9. Add Sriracha and simmer on low for 5 minutes
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