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…
- 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
- In a standing mixer, beat together the butter and sweetened condensed milk until fluffy
- Add eggs, pudding mix and vanilla extract
- Beat until smooth
- Add flour, baking powder and salt and beat until smooth
- Stir in the white chocolate chips and chopped pistachios
- Spoon cookie mix onto a parchment lined baking sheet
- Bake for 12 minutes, it's okay if the bottom of the cookies are a little browned
- Remove from oven and allow to cool
Substitute 1 teaspoons rosewater for vanilla extract for a soft fragrant flavor
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.
- 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.
- Toast the pine nuts by placing on a sheet pan and broiling until lightly browned. Watch the oven carefully, as pine nuts toast quickly.
- Place parsley, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor.
- Process until smooth, or until desired consistency.
- Add parmesan cheese, salt and olive oil
- Process until smooth
- Serve on your favorite pasta, or garlicky toast
Toasting the nuts ahead of time adds some extra flavor. However, you can use raw pine nuts
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 …
Sweetened Condensed Milk Pound Cake
- 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
- In a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat butter, condensed milk, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts
- In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder
- Add the flour mix to the wet ingredients
- Beat until smooth
- Pour into a loaf pan
- Bake at 325 for 1 hour, 15 mins
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
- 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
- Heat the grape seed oil in a medium pot
- Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent
- Add the carrots, and stir in with the onion
- Add half of the cumin and some salt
- Cover and cook on medium-high heat until the carrots have softened (about 15 minutes)
- Add curry powder and the remaining cumin, stir into the vegetables
- Add the vegetable broth (or Maggi mix), stir and bring to a boil
- Once boiling, use an immersion blender to smooth the soup to your desired consistency
- Add Sriracha and simmer on low for 5 minutes
From personal experience, sometimes just eating someone else’s cooking is a lot easier than trying to recreate it yourself (even when you asked the auntie what she would do). So here’s my story.
Once upon an amazing work project ago, I helped set up a number of media interviews for a high-ranking general. As part of that whirlwind experience, I, along with a journalist and TV crew were invited over to the general’s home for a feature on his daily life, and lucky for us his wife was making dinner and made us try her home cooking. The spread was definitely something to write home about. But I distinctly remember trying something I’d never had before – Kubbeh Batata. Well, that’s not true. I’ve had Kubbeh Batata in the form of a casserole – Palestinian-style, if you will. But this was different. This was little balls of kubbeh with a potato dough stuffed with ground beef. It was amazing, and I’ve only had it a handful of times after that, when I’m treated to Iraqi take out.
A number of years later, I decide, out of the blue that I want to try to make Kubbeh Batata on my own. I will say, it was a very humbling experience.
I learned that sometimes on the first try, you don’t get it right. You make 30 or so little kubbeh balls, perfectly shaped and when you fry them and go to flip them over, they completely fall apart. At that point, I thought I might have to give up and just call my new creation Arabic-style hash browns. Hang tight, you might actually see that on the blog soon!
But I persevered through and I actually did it! I ended up with a decent amount of Kubbeh Batata.
Here are some things I would do differently to ensure they don’t fall apart when you fry:
- Cool the pre-fried balls in the fridge for an hour or so to keep the shape
- Be patient and wait until the bottom side is browned before CAREFULLY rolling the kubbeh ball to the other side.
In all, I give myself a B. I had a few testers who loved them and said that they turned out well. Next time … Kubbeh Batata Palestinian style (casserole). It’s much less time consuming, and so much easier on my nerves.
Kubbeh Batata [Potato Kubbeh]
- FOR THE DOUGH
- 5 russet potatoes, peeled
- 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice, cooked
- FOR THE STUFFING
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) of Seven Spice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Vegetable oil for frying
- FOR THE DOUGH
- Wash, peel and boil the potatoes in a large pot until soft
- Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of rice with turmeric and cardamom powder and allow to cool before using
- In a food processor, process together the rice and potatoes until smooth, but not liquid
- FOR THE STUFFING
- Sauté the chopped onion in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Add the ground beef and brown
- When about half-way browned, add salt and seven spice to taste
- Continue cooking until the beef is browned
- Add the chopped parsley and mix well
Baking is an exact science. It’s exact measurements with little room for experimentation. That’s not to say it can’t be done … there’s just a higher probability of making a mistake and essentially ruining your entire baked good. In conclusion –you guessed it—measuring cups are definitely NOT optional when it comes to baking.
It was a long process, mostly waiting. Waiting for the dry yeast to react, waiting for the dough to rise, waiting for the dough to rise again, and then waiting for the bread to bake. It’s a serious test of patience (I’m speaking from experience, here). I will say, though, that I learned some valuable things during this experience that I’m more than happy to share:
- First of all, if you’re working with dry active yeast (namely the kind in the jar where you can scoop out as much as you need), then you need to keep it refrigerated or in the freezer after opening. As my coworker mentioned, “it’s alive.”
- Second, when you mix your water and dry yeast, wait for it to bubble up. If it doesn’t bubble up, it means your dry yeast isn’t working, which means that your dough isn’t going to rise.
- Keeping your covered dough in a warm, draft-free spot basically means keep it in the oven (with it off), or in the microwave.
In terms of time commitment, prep, wait and baking time took about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I added some cushion time for accidents, needing to get ingredients out of the cupboards and snapping/oogling your creation. All things considered, it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment when the bread is out of the oven and ready to be devoured.
- 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons zaatar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (1 for bowl, 1 for dough)
- In the bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer, use a spoon to mix together water, sugar and dry yeast.
- Let stand for 10-15 minutes (it’ll get really bubbly)
- Attach the dough hook to the mixer
- Add 2 cups flour, zaatar, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix on low speed for about 5-7 minutes.
- Use a rubber spatula to bring the sides down, if they get stuck
- Add some more flour if the dough gets too sticky
- Coat your hands in four and shape into an oval.
- Place in a medium bowl coated with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm draft-free place (usually an un-warmed oven works) and wait 1 hour until the dough rises.
- Once the dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half, shaping into two ovals
- Place on a large, lightly olive oil-coated baking sheet
- Cover again with plastic wrap, put back in the cool oven and wait 45 minutes
- Preheat oven to 400
- Uncover the dough, brush with olive oil and bake on an upper middle rack for 18-20 minutes. It should be nicely browned, but not burnt.
- Remove and cool on a cooling rack before serving.