Cake Pops have been the craze for quite a while. I love the simplicity of a bite-sized cake dipped in chocolate. What I don’t like is spending unnecessary hours in the kitchen making cake pops from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, one of my best friends, a master baker – we’ll call her Fiza – makes cake pops to die for. Fiza honestly makes the most deliciously delectable desserts. She puts her heart and soul into it and they always turn out great. She will be humble and tell you she’s not that good, but I promise you, once you taste Fiza’s baking you will never want store-bought again.
What I really love about these is once they’ve hardened in the fridge, they’re ready to go. They’ll be a hit and it’s also fun to decorate with sprinkles, nuts or other toppings.
No Bake Cake Pops Recipe
1 package (14oz) regular Oreo Cookies
1 package 1/3 Less Fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese
One ziplock Bag
Baking Chocolate (any color you want, or Semisweet chocolate chips)
Toppings [I used crushed peppermint, sprinkles and peanuts]
Place all the oreos in a large gallon-sized ziplock bag
Crush the oreos using a roller, or a meat tenderizer (the flat part)
Add the cream cheese and mix until fully coated
Using an ice cream scooper or a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture and form into a ball
Place the balls on a baking tray and refrigerate for 1 hour
Place your melting chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave 30 seconds at a time until melted
Using a toothpick or lollypop stick, dip each ball into the chocolate and coat, then dip into your favorite topping
Place the cake pops back on the baking tray, or Styrofoam and return to the refrigerator until the chocolate is hardened (at least 1 hour)
Servings: 1 cake pop [ Makes about 26 cake pops]
Nutrition Information: Cals 120. Carbs 16g. Fat 6g. Sugar 9g.
Thanksgiving at the Fayyad household is an occasion not to be missed. Excluding a couple years – I can count them on one hand – Thanksgiving has always been held at my parents’ house. Preparation begins around 6am, when my mom becomes one with the turkey and trimmings. She might as well block off the kitchen and put up a “DO NOT ENTER” sign.
Mom’s hard work is far from unappreciated. No one does thanksgiving like momma Debs. The “Thank you’s” begin when the food is set out and end when everyone leaves. We generally have so much food, we have to set it out buffet style, and have leftovers for days. It’s all about family – aunts, uncles, cousins and cousins’ kids. So you can just imagine that even though I’m way over 21, I’m still required to sit at “the kids table.”
Last year, my contribution was Browned Butter Sweet Potato Bake. If you’re looking for a sweet potato recipe to compete with your pumpkin pie, this is it. Don’t mind the calorie content. Remember, calories don’t count on Thanksgiving.
This year, I’m making more than one contribution; Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake, my famous Peach Cobbler and Parmesan Popovers.
The first time I had popovers was at BLT Steak in DC on 16th and I NW. They were the most amazing things I had ever tasted. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside – the perfect combination for a bread lover like myself. This year, we changed it up a little and instead of traditional rolls, I make a few batches of popovers. Mine can’t compete with BLT Steak’s but they come pretty close, in my personal opinion. And that’s because the restaurant is nice enough to give out their world-famous popover recipe.
Parmesan Popovers Recipe
4 cups 1% Milk, warmed
4 cups Flour
8 Large Eggs
1 ½ heaping tablespoons Salt
2 ¼ cups Parmesan Cheese, Shredded
Put your popover pan in the middle rack and preheat the oven to 350 F. The pan should heat up with the oven.
Meanwhile, warm the milk in a pan over medium heat.
In a bowl, wisk the eggs, then slowly add in the milk, and set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the salt.
Slowly add the dry mixture to the eggs and milk and combine until mostly clump-free.
Remove the popover pan from the oven and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Fill each cup ¾ of the way and top with the cheese.
Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan half a turn and continue baking for 35 minutes.
Nutrition Information: Cals 290. Carbs 6g. Fat 9g.
The leaves have turned, it’s gotten pretty chilly and not to mention we had some snow flurries over the weekend. It can only mean one thing; Thanksgiving is right around the corner.
While some only remember to be thankful around the winter Holidays, I’ve been keeping up with counting my blessings year-round. And this year, I have so much to be thankful for. In Arabic, we say Hamdellah [الحمد لله] which means Thank God, My list may be a bit long, but some of the major things I’m thankful for are:
- My Family, both immediate and extended – that means my Tayta, aunts, uncles, cousins and cousin’s kids. I don’t think I have any cousin’s kids’ kids old enough to read yet.
- My health. Fortunately, I’m young and should be running a few miles a day – we’ll deal with that post-holiday madness.
- My close friends, namely, the Taco Tuesday Crew (TTC)+1, and other good friends in the U.S. and overseas, who laugh, cry, sing, dance, rant, give advice, take advice and put up with my Arab Idol and Mohammed Assaf obsession; my snapchats, photos; long, 7am text and Whatsapp messages, and ridiculous instagram pictures.
- The success of my blog. Measuring Cups, Optional is very dear to my heart and it, along with me, has done some growing this year. I’m always surprised by how many followers I have who read and try out my recipes. Keep it up! And send me pictures!
- My job. I cannot be thankful enough for my day job. I love the opportunities I have to make a difference through communications and media relations. I manage a handful of employees and interns and still manage to keep calm and get things done. Added bonus, I get to travel to some pretty cool places.
Thanksgiving isn’t complete without pie. Pumpkin and Pecan, to be exact. So what better way to enjoy the goodness of both than to combine the two for a Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake.
I can’t take credit for coming up with this brilliant idea. The credit goes to The Cheesecake Factory, who rolled out with their limited edition fall cheesecakes back in October. I splurged, after my salad, on a slice of Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake heaven and told my mom I was going to try to recreate it myself. It isn’t perfect, but it’s amazing.
There are three parts to this recipe, so bear with me.
Adapted from Here
Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake Recipe
3 cups Granulated Sugar
½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 cup Water
2 cups Pecan Halves
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients, except the pecans.
Heat on medium low and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Drop the pecans in the syrupy mixture and remove with a skimmer
Place on wax paper to cool.
1 Graham Cracker Crust 10- inch Springform Pan.
3 Large Eggs
3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
½ cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Preheat oven 350 F
In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, melted butter, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla. Mix well.
Pour into your Springform pan.
Cover with the glazed pecans.
Bake for 20 minutes and remove from the oven.
2 ½ lbs Light Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1 cup Granulated Sugar
4 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
3 Egg Yolks, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 can (1 lb) Mashed Pumpkin
Preheat oven 425 F
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and yolks.
Add the flour, cinnamon, cloves and ginger.
Beat in the whipping cream and vanilla, then add the mashed pumpkin and beat until thoroughly combined.
Pour the mixture over the pecan layer and bake for 15 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 275 F and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool for at least 5 hours before serving.
Nutrition Information: Cals 636. Carbs 105. Fat 24g. Sugar 29.
Completely unrelated to cooking, I’ve gotten several questions from my friends and followers about how I get my hair to curl so well. I’d love to say I get it done at the salon everyday but that’s far from the truth. Honestly, once I figured out how to do my hair at home, I prefer doing it myself than having a salon touch it. My biggest frustration is when they concentrate on getting my bangs perfectly placed and I end up with over-hair sprayed strings hanging down the side of my face.
Let me also mention that because my hair is wavy and the individual strands are thin, lucky for me my curls only hold up 3/4 of the year, that is, in the spring, fall and winter. Once it rains or humidity kicks in – and humidity in the DC area is far from bearable – forget it. I rock the “beach wavy” look all summer long.
So what’s the trick? Hot rollers.
I prefer ones that have multiple size rollers. Like this Conair Ion Shine Instant Heat Hair Setter.
It’s so simple, why didn’t you think of it before?! The best part is, you can continue getting dressed, putting on your makeup and even having a light breakfast or snack – like, let’s say a fruit and yogurt parfait – while your hair sets.
Fruit and Yogurt Parfait Recipe
2 cups Non-Fat Vanilla Greek Yogurt
2 cups sliced Strawberries
2 cups Blueberries
½ cup Granola
Begin layering the parfait in tall glasses
Blueberries first, then yogurt, then strawberries then yogurt
You can use a spoon to make sure the yogurt covers the fruit evenly
Top with granola
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve
Nutrition Information: Cals 179. Carbs 32g. Fat 1g. Sugar 20g.
One of my favorite Arabic sweets is Ghraybeh [غريبة], with all of its sugary, buttery goodness. Honestly, the best ones I’ve tasted are the ones in Amman that come in a little “s” shape. I can devour an entire box in one sitting — they’re that good. Shatila comes in at a close second with their ghraybeh, except for the fact that each piece is massive, and they (sadly) post the calorie content of each piece, making it impossible to eat more than one without feeling guilty. Oh, the struggles of not being skinny.
Two years ago I tried making ghraybeh at home. It was a massive failure. Somehow, my round pieces turned into flat, crunchy sugar cookies that tasted nothing like the ghraybeh I know and love. So I used a little help from Manal Al Alem for this particular recipe. Side note; Don’t use Google Translate to get Arabic recipes in English. It’s honestly unintelligible and more work than just translating it yourself, seriously. Come to think of it, don’t use Google Translate for anything. It isn’t worth it.
1 cup melted Unsalted Butter
1 cup Powdered Sugar (Caster Sugar) or Baker’s Sugar
1 large Egg White
2 cups Flour
1 sprinkle of Salt
40 Slivered Almond pieces
Place the baking rack in the middle of the oven and Preheat oven to 350 F
In a large mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar, use an electric mixer to blend on a medium setting for 5 minutes, or until the color of the mixture is a light yellow
Add the egg white and blend on medium setting until the egg white dissolves
Add the flour and salt and blend on medium for another minute until the mixture becomes a dough
Allow the dough to rest for an hour
Form the dough by taking a walnut-sized piece and forming it into a smooth ball
Add an almond sliver in the center, and lightly press it into the dough
Then place on a rimless baking sheet
Repeat until you’ve formed all the dough and make sure to leave 1 inch between each cookie
Bake for 8-10 minutes — do not brown
Allow to cool at least 20 minutes before serving
Serve with coffee or tea.
Servings: 8 (about 5 pieces)
Nutrition Information: Cals 402. Carbs 46g. Fat 23g. Sugar 24g.
It’s pumpkin season. Not that it wasn’t already made obvious by the Halloween and pumpkin decorations all over the Metro DC area. I’ve finally given in, and treated myself to a pumpkin spice latte (tall, skinny). It’s insane how into pumpkins we are around here! And yet, October would not be complete without a trip to the pumpkin farm. I haven’t been out to the pumpkin farm since I was a kid … and let me tell you, you are never too old to enjoy the hay rides, the face paint, the slides and the hot apple cider. Even in my late 20s, I’m transformed into a small child the minute I get near the pumpkin farm — go figure!
Not only did I pick out my pumpkin, I carved it too. I had seen some carving tips on Pinterest, one of which was to use cookie cutters and a hammer to carve out perfect designs. I wasn’t feeling extremely creative, so I used the cookie cutters to carve out my name and a couple of stars, stuck some candles in it and put it out on the front porch.
Of course, pumpkin season would not be complete without some sort of pumpkin recipe. I intended to make pumpkin pie from scratch. However, after much research online I was disappointed to learn that the part you scoop out of your pumpkin when you carve can’t be used for pie. I moved on to plan B … toasted pumpkin seeds. They’re actually really easy to make, as long as you don’t burn them.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds from one pumpkin
2 tablespoons Sea Salt
1 tablespoon Paprika
2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
Preheat oven to 400 F
Separate the seeds from the pumpkin strings
In a medium pot, add the pumpkin seeds and water and bring to a boil
Add salt, paprika and garlic powder
Boil for 10 minutes
Drain the seeds
Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray
Spread the seeds evenly on the baking tray
Sprinkle more salt and garlic powder, to taste
Spray the seeds with a thin layer of cooking spray
Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly toasted
Nutrition Information: Cals 174. Carbs 4g. Fat 14g.