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Mom’s Favorite Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes

For as long as I can remember, every time my family and I went to IHOP, my mom always swapped out the plain old buttermilk pancakes for harvest grain and nut and topped them off with pecan syrup. That’s just the way it was. IHOP = Harvest Grain and Nut Pancakes. We don’t, however, go to IHOP regularly. Mostly because mom and I are usually on a diet or health kick, and walking into any IHOP means we’re definitely overeating. How can you not overeat when you can get a whole omelet with crispy hash browns and a side of pancakes?! It’s almost impossible. So we reserve IHOP for rare occasions.

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes

This year for Mother’s Day, I treated mom to my own version of her favorite pancakes, Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes. I’ve fully accepted that as the oldest with two brothers, I’m wholly responsible for coming up with the plan, and consequently executing said plan and allowing the boys to take some credit. I was pleasantly surprised when this year, T took it upon himself to pick up cards for both he and my other brother, oh yea, and the newest four-legged addition to our family, Leia.

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes

Every family has its own traditions. Ours happens to be reading cards. I’m not really sure when it all started. We kind of forewent the gifts, and decided that Hallmark says it best. We each generally pick out a card that represents our individual personalities. Hallmark’s gotten really good at figuring people out. How is it that one becomes a greeting-card writer anyway? Hmmm .. I guess that’s another discussion for another blog post.  In any case, we gather around the table and hand over our cards and, then the tearful reading of the cards begins. Year after year, I somehow find a way to pick the sappiest card. But this year, I didn’t want us to cry. I wanted us to just be happy and grateful for our amazing mother.

So as I started reading through the daughter-to-mother cards, I picked one up and straight up started crying in the middle of the store. Before I got to the end, I closed the card up, looked around to make sure no one saw my outburst, and put it right back on the shelf. I still ended up with a heart-felt card, just not a tear-jerker.

And so, we enjoyed our Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes with butter pecan syrup and ended breakfast with our traditional card readings.

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes

 

Mom’s Favorite Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes

Serving Size: 6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Oatmeal, ground in a food processor
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup Pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped
  • 4 medium bananas, sliced

Instructions

  1. Heat griddle or skillet over a medium-high heat
  2. Meanwhile place all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix until combined, then add wet ingredients and whisk until smooth
  3. Spray the griddle or skillet with cooking spray
  4. Pour batter onto the griddle/skillet and cook until the outer edges are dry and bubbles start to form. I use a ¼ cup measure to make the perfect size.
  5. Using a spatula, flip the pancake over and cook until golden brown ( 1-2 minutes)
  6. Remove from the heat and set aside
  7. Repeat until the batter is finished
  8. Top with sliced bananas and butter pecan syrup
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Candied Orange Semolina Cake

Candied Orange Semolina Cake

The last month has been an absolute whirlwind. I went from planning and celebrating my 30th birthday – which was amazing, by the way – to hoping on a plane straight to Dubai for a week then Amman for a second week. I was able to spend just enough time in my own kitchen to whip up a not-too-sweet Candied Orange Semolina Cake, before jetting off to Lyon for a work trip filled with meetings (and lots of chocolate croissants). Unfortunately for me, I came down with the flu for the entirety of the trip, so I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the food capitol for all it has to offer. For those who follow Measuring Cups Optional on Instagram, my stories offer a first look at all my food and travel adventures.

I successfully ate my weight in delicious food everywhere I went. In Dubai, there was barely time to sleep between site seeing, indulging in a lavish Turkish Bath, spending afternoons catching rays at the hotel pool. With little effort, I came back a few shades darker. Baking for a few hours in 102F temps has that effect on my pale skin. Mom and I spent an afternoon walking through the gold and spice souks… and the malls are–as imagined– bigger, better and 5 star. Of course, the tourist in us couldn’t resist the desert safari, where I rode an ATV and we went dune bashing in an air-conditioned SUV, stopping just in time to catch the sunset.

Candied Orange Semolina Cake

Amman was more laid back. I finally caught up on some sleep, discovered a handful of hipster restaurants/cafes and took in endless views of the city — and shopped, of course, for all the Arabic-inspired things I wanted to take home. Mom and I treated ourselves to a day at the Dead Sea, where we scheduled simultaneous salt scrubs, mud wraps and massages.  By the end of the trip, I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation. Especially since I knew I’d have hundreds of messages waiting for me in my work inbox. The inbox did not disappoint.

A week later … I was off to the food capitol of the world, Lyon. As much as I wanted to fit in restaurant hoping between work meetings, my body decided to give up on me. I came down with the flu and had to settle for chocolate croissants, baguette sandwiches and the occasional dinner out (when I could actually keep food down).

I’m finally back in my own bed, and in my own kitchen… for a while at least. And now that I’m the road to recovery (I’m still dealing with the remnants of a raspy voice), I’m so looking forward to sharing some new recipes over the next few weeks.

Candied Orange Semolina Cake

Saint Augustine said it best “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Until the next adventure …

Candied Orange Semolina Cake

Candied Orange Semolina Cake

Yield: Makes two 9" cakes

Ingredients

    For the Cake
  • 3 cups fine Semolina
  • 3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 cups Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • For the candied Oranges
  • 2 navel oranges cut to 1/8 inch slices
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • Extra sugar for sprinkling
  • For the Syrup
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • 1 cup syrup from candied oranges
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice

Instructions

    For the Cake
  1. Mix the semolina, the sugar and the butter in a large bowl. Use your hands to corporate the butter with the other ingredients until mixed well.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the yogurt and the baking soda
  3. Wait a few minutes until the yogurt doubles in size, about 5 minutes
  4. When the yogurt has doubled, pour the yogurt on top of the semolina mix
  5. Use your hands to work the yogurt in the with semolina
  6. Press the batter into 2 greased 9" cake pans
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until it's a light brown color, but not burnt
  8. Remove the cakes from the oven onto a cooling rack
  9. Pour the syrup over the cake while its hot so it can absorb all the way though.
  10. Cool for 1-2 hours before serving
  11. Top with candied oranges
  12. For the candied Oranges
  13. Wash and dry oranges, then slice into 1/8 inch slices
  14. In a medium skillet, stir together the water and sugar. Continue to stir until the sugar is no longer stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  15. bring to a boil over high heat.
  16. Once the water is boiling, carefully place the orange slices in an even layer and boil for 20 minutes over medium-high heat, making sure to flip the slices throughout the boiling process. You'll notice that the water will turn into a thick syrup.
  17. Remove from the syrup, and place on a cooling rack. Sprinkle both sides with granulated sugar to prevent sticking
  18. Cool the candied oranges for at least 1 hour before using or storing in an airtight container
  19. Repeat until you've candied all the orange slices.
  20. Reserve the syrup for the cake
  21. For the Syrup
  22. In a volume measuring cup (or medium pitcher), mix together 1 cup of the reserved syrup from the candied oranges with 2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice and 1 tablespoon orange blossom water. Combine well.
  23. Once you take the cake out of the oven, pour the syrup over the cake, making sure to cover the entire surface. The semolina cake will absorb the syrup.
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Triple Berry No Added Sugar Sorbet

Triple Berry No Added Sugar Sorbet

Happy Warm days of summer …. almost. Alright, Happy Warm days of Spring!

Let’s celebrate with Triple Berry No Added Sugar Sorbet. As much as I wanted to call the sorbet sugar-free, the truth is it isn’t. Fruit contains natural sugars, sugars I don’t have the capability or desire to process out. According to US Food and Drug Administration guidelines (FDA for short) , food has to have less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving to be labeled “sugar free.” Fresh and frozen fruit have well over 10g sugar per serving. But it’s all natural sugars. With that said, I did not use any additional processed sugars.

Triple Berry No Added Sugar Sorbet

I learned some valuable lessons making sorbet.

  1. Apparently when you use a blender, you generally need to use soft foods, or a substantive amount of liquid to be able to blend contents properly. I learned that real quick when I dumped frozen berries directly into the blender and expected it to work its magic. Pro Tip: if you’re working with frozen berries, defrost them or soften them up before putting them directly into the blender.
  2. You don’t need an ice cream machine to make sorbet. It just takes a little extra work. If you’re only making ice cream or sorbets a handful of times a year, and you don’t want to invest in in an ice cream maker, I have a solution for you. Actually, Taste of Home has a solution for you. It worked really well for me, even though I was making sorbet vs. ice cream. You’ll see in the instructions, you’ll need to stir up your sorbet vigorously every 30 or so minutes for a couple hours, just to keep it from icing over. If it does ice over, put the sorbet into the fridge and it’ll soften up.
  3. Red foods get EVERYWHERE. I should have already known this. I’m talking dishes, counters, hands, clothes, everywhere.
  4. Taking photos of sorbet takes an immense amount of patience. Sorbet melts, scoops don’t come out perfectly every time, and red gets everywhere (see #3), among other things. I was so lucky to have an audience when I took my photos. My brother had rushed through the house with a friend, and instructed his friend to hangout with me while I worked on my sorbet photo shoot. I instantly put the kid to work, and distinctly remember him making the comment, “I’ve never been to an ice cream photo shoot before.” Well, that made two of us. Having him around to help out got me to thinking that I need assistants more often during food photo shoots. His hard work did not go unnoticed. I rewarded him, and my brother with a couple scoops of my Triple Berry No Added Sugar Sorbet.

Triple Berry No Added Sugar Sorbet

Triple Berry No Added Sugar Sorbet

 

Triple Berry No Added Sugar Sorbet

Ingredients

  • 4 cups mixed berries (I used frozen and de-frosted them slightly. You can also use fresh, washed berries)
  • 2-3 tablespoon Lemon juice, from concentrate
  • 1 ripe banana

Instructions

  1. Place the mixed berries and ripe banana into a blender with lemon juice.
  2. Blend until very smooth
  3. Pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container
  4. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes, then stir by hand with a spatula or whisk and return to the freezer
  5. Continue to stir the sorbet every 30 minutes for about 4 hours.
  6. Store in a closed freezer-safe container until ready to serve.
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Tayta’s Pink Pickled Turnips

Pickled Turnips

Pickled Turnips, or Tayta’s Pink Pickled Turnips, as I like to call them, are a staple at our house. Usually, pickled turnips are served alongside olives and green pickles at the dinner table. They’re added to chicken and beef Shawarma sandwiches, falafel, and (like us) placed in a small dish at the table to be eaten with just about anything. If you haven’t had them, you are in for a serious treat!

After I took down rough notes of my Tayta’s recipe, I scoured the internet looking to see what other people have done. Some recipes call for garlic and bay leaves, another even suggested adding a chili pepper. But why change something that is so simple and so good? I may be a little biased, but my Tayta’s Pickled Turnips are the best pickled turnips.

Pickled Turnips

Measuring Cups Optional was created on the premise that great cooking in my family doesn’t depend on traditional, standard measurements. My mother learned to cook from the best cook in the world, my Tayta (Grandmother) and I have never gotten a recipe from Tayta that included standard measurements. I grew up watching her and my mom add handfuls and sprinkles of ingredients. So it was no surprise when I asked for her pickled turnips recipe and she gave me — you guessed it — non-traditional measurements. And I quote “1/2 coffee cup vinegar” to which I had to get clarification. Was she referring to an American Coffee mug? Or did she mean a Turkish coffee cup? Don’t mugs and Turkish coffee cups come in different sizes?! How am I supposed to quantify this to my readers? You can see my draft notes below, which include a mix of English and Arabic text, in addition to out-of-order instructions.

Pickled Turnips

Don’t worry, I did my best to quantify each measurement for the final recipe. A few notes from Tayta:

  • Boil the beets before placing them in with the turnips, so that they soften up with the turnips. If they’re not boiled ahead of time, they don’t ripen as fast as turnips do. Side note: This is the ONLY time I actually eat beets. I’m not a huge fan.
  • Use apple cider vinegar.
  • Measure out the amount of water you need by filling the jar up with water, and pouring it into a volume measuring cup/jug.
  • DO NOT, I repeat, do not open the jars before the 2 week wait period is over. Store the jars out of sight, set a calendar notice on your phone and forget about them until then.

Pickled Turnips

Pickled Turnips

Tayta’s Pink Pickled Turnips

Yield: Fills about 2 13oz Jars

Ingredients

  • 1 beet, peeled and washed
  • 2 Turnips
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 heaping tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

  1. Start by boiling the peeled and washed beet in 4 cups water. Boil for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat
  2. Meanwhile, peel, wash and cut the turnips into wedges or slices. I cut mine into slices (about the thickness of French fry)
  3. Remove the beet from the boiling water, but do not discard the water.
  4. Cut the beet the same way you cut the turnips. Then divide in half.
  5. Fill up your jars with turnips and beets, making sure to use about 1 turnip and 1/2 of a beet for each jar. Don't be shy about squeezing as many turnips in there as possible.
  6. Separately, mix the beet water with vinegar, salt and sugar and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
  7. Pour the mixture into the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch from the mouth of the jar.
  8. Close tightly and store at room temperature for 2 weeks. DO NOT OPEN THE JARS UNTIL THE TWO WEEKS ARE UP.
  9. After two weeks, place the jar in the fridge for consumption and storage.

Notes

I boil the beets so that they can be eaten with the turnips. If they're not boiled ahead of time, they don't ripen as fast as turnips do.

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Roast Veggie and Freekeh Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

Roast Veggies and Freekeh Salad

Let’s get Freekeh!

When I originally came up with the concept for a roast veggie salad, I imagined a roasted vegetable mix with farro or wheat berries. But then I realized that we had a whole box of freekeh that would pair perfectly with roast veggies and Pomegranate molasses vinaigrette.

What is freekeh (فريكة‎‎)? It’s a grain, more specifically a green wheat, that’s most popular in Middle Eastern foods. Generally, you can make freekeh on it’s own, with a side of roast chicken, or you can boil it in a soup. Freekeh has a smoky flavor, that—according to my research— is made naturally by burning the straw part (not the seeds) of the grain. The whole process of preparing freekeh is actually a lot more work than I imagined. But all worth it. You’ll only fully understand the intense flavor of freekeh when you’ve tried it.

I’m aware that it’s well past squash and root vegetable season, but I just couldn’t go without sharing this recipe. If you’d like, you can substitute the acorn and butternut squash for yellow and green zucchini, and some eggplant too. Don’t forget to use different colored carrots. They add lots of color and taste divine. 

Roast Veggies and Freekeh Salad

Roast Veggies and Freekeh Salad

Roast Veggie and Freekeh Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    For the Salad
  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
  • 1/2 acorn squash, cut into slices
  • 1 Russet Potato, cubed
  • 1 Sweet Potato, cubed
  • 1 parsnip, cubed
  • 1 cup multi-colored carrots, cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into large wedges
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Freekeh
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup Chicken Stock
  • !For the Vinaigrette
  • 1 tablespoon Pomegranate Molasses
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Apple cider vinegar

Instructions

    For the Salad
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the vegetables with 1/4 cup olive oil and salt until coated
  3. Spread the vegetables out in an even layer on a rimmed baking tray
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, until the veggies are charred then set aside
  5. Meanwhile, wash the freekeh very well until the water is clear
  6. Soak the freekeh for 5-10 minutes in lukewarm water, then drain
  7. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan
  8. Add the freekeh and sauté for 1-2 minutes
  9. Cover the freekeh with chicken stock and bring to a boil
  10. Once the water is boiling, turn down the heat the medium-low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the freekeh has absorbed all the stock
  11. In a large bowl, mix together the roasted veggies and cooked freekeh until combined
  12. Serve over a bed of spring mix lettuce and Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette
  13. For the Vinaigrette
  14. In a small bowl whisk together the Pomegranate Molasses, olive oil, salt, and apple cider vinegar. Pour over the salad.
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Middle Eastern Puff Pastry Meat Pies

Puff Pastry Meat Pie

I’m all about simplicity. Mainly simplicity when it comes to cooking. Because really, who wants to spend more time making delicious food, like let’s say middle eastern meat pies, when you can cut that time in half? This girl right here. That’s me! I have no patience. I openly admit it. It’s something I’ve been actively working on for 30 years. However, the truth is, patience does not come easily to me. I have a hard time waiting for just about anything. So it’s no surprise that bread making is a serious test of my patience. I have made various breads in the past. I tested out some sesame bread that didn’t make it onto the blog, as well as Zaatar Bread, and Irish Soda Bread

If you’re familiar with middle eastern meat pies, you know that traditionally, they’re made with a flat dough — usually homemade. That’s the time consuming part. And then topped with a minced meat mixture (either lamb or beef). A fair number of my friends actually make their dough from scratch–they must have a ton more patience than I do – and it’s absolutely delicious. If you’re simply impatient like me, or just don’t have the time to whip up some of your own dough, then puff pastry is the dough of your dreams.

Puff Pastry Meat Pie

I’m going to be honest, puff pastry is actually really great for large tarts, both savory and sweet, and can be used as a substitute for pizza dough too. Puff pastry is really fluffy once baked. The hardest part is trying to figure out when it has defrosted enough for you to pull the sheets open without breaking them apart.

Puff Pastry Meat Pie

Middle Eastern Puff Pastry Meat Pies

Yield: 18 pies

Ingredients

  • 1 package Puff Pastry
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons Seven spice
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts

Instructions

  1. Remove the puff pastry from the packaging and place on a lightly floured surface
  2. Allow the puff pastry to defrost (no more than 40 minutes), until the dough is easy to pull apart
  3. Flatten out the puff pastry dough and cut each sheet into 9 squares and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You can follow the creases already showing in the dough (you'll need two baking sheets)
  4. Heat the oven to 425 F
  5. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet
  6. Add the onions and sauté until translucent
  7. Add the ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until cooked about 3/4 way through
  8. Mix in the seven spice, cinnamon and salt
  9. Stir in the pomegranate molasses until the ground beef is coated
  10. Stir in the yogurt, then transfer to the food processor
  11. Pulse the meat mixture a few times until the ground beef is minced
  12. For the pine nuts, place the pine nuts in an even layer on a baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes, until very lightly browned
  13. Use a large spoon to make small indents in the middle of each puff pastry square -- think of it as the space you'll put your meat filling
  14. Spoon the meat mixture into the middle of each square and top with pine nuts
  15. Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and bake for 10 minutes
  16. Serve warm
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