Category: Recipes

Banana Walnut Orange Blossom Muffins

Banana Muffins

Rise and Shine! It’s breakfast time. Get a hold of these Banana Walnut Orange Blossom Muffins to start your day. You won’t be disappointed. The muffins are loaded with bananas, walnuts and Orange blossom Water (my not-so-secret ingredient).

Banana Muffins

My best recipes come to me when I see an ingredient in dire need of being used. I’ve shared with you before a recipe for Banana Bread. It’s a total hit in our house. I really wanted to come up with something better than just your average banana bread. That seems pretty standard, right? Bad bananas means bake banana bread. Then I got to thinking about my favorite Middle Eastern sweets and decided to fuse the two together. If you’ve ever made qatayef with walnuts (قطايف), you know that the pancake stuffing consists of walnuts, white sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom water. Add to banana muffins and you have a one-of-a-kind sweet breakfast treat.

Banana Muffins

Speaking of Qatayef … isn’t Ramadan right around the corner? There will be plenty of walnut and cheese filled sweets to go around for 30 days and 30 nights. Okay, if we’re lucky, 29 days.

Tell me I’m not the only person this happens to. I buy bananas green and then all of a sudden they become dark brown before I get the chance to use them up. Well, my mom’s been really good about using up the bananas. She makes whole grain Belgian waffles and tops them with banana slices. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Banana Muffins

This last batch of bananas was pretty strange. I bought them when they were green. I swear to you they never turned that bright yellow color. They just went straight from green to brown, almost overnight.

Banana Muffins

 

 

Banana Walnut Orange Blossom Muffins

Yield: About 18 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons White Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons Orange Blossom Water
  • 4 Medium Bananas
  • 1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
  • ¼ cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ cup Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 large Egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F
  2. Line your muffin pan with paper muffin cups
  3. In a small bowl, combine the chopped walnuts, cinnamon, white sugar and orange blossom water and set aside
  4. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, brown sugar and salt, and set aside
  5. In the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large bowl, add the mashed bananas, egg, and butter. Beat until thickened (you can use a hand-held beater as well)
  6. Slowly add the dry ingredients, continue beating until combined, 1-2 minutes
  7. Stir in the cinnamon walnut mixture
  8. Spoon the batter into you muffin cups, filling about 1/3 to 3/4 way up
  9. Bake on the middle rack for 18-20 mins
  10. Cool on a wire rack and then serve
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Roasted Cauliflower and Green Pea Soup

Cauliflower Pea Soup

So one day, the day I was prepping for my dinner party and Ultimate Charcuterie, I was at none other than my favorite grocery store, wegmans. I was stocking up on all the cheeses, meats and goodies I wanted to feature on my board. And at the very last second I picked up what I thought was chunks of parmesan cheese. It wasn’t until I started putting the Charcuterie board together that I realized I had actually picked up parmesan rinds. Parmesan rinds are hard and practically inedible. Devastated, I just threw them into the fridge thinking I’d figure out what to do with them later.

Cauliflower Pea Soup

It wasn’t until I was on a work trip to Rome, that I had mentioned the unfortunate incident to a fellow colleague while talking about the buffet of cheeses at our conference. She had suggested freezing the rinks and throwing them into a soup. Brilliant! I’m not sure why I hasn’t thought of that before. As soon as I got home, I threw the rinds into a freezer-safe ziplock bag. 

It’s been the warmest February in DC on record. The Washington Post even says it was warmer than the average March! That’s good news for me, she who does not like snow. But it’s bad news for the me who loves cozy soups in the cold months. I cannot let all of winter and early spring go by without at least one more soup recipe – Roasted Cauliflower and Green Pea Soup. And lucky for me, the weather took a turn for the cold when overnight we hit 20 some degrees Fahrenheit.

Cauliflower Pea Soup

Roasted Cauliflower and Green Pea Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil + 1 tablespoon
  • Salt, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped
  • 4 cups Chicken Stock
  • 12oz Frozen Green Peas, thawed
  • 1 Parmesan Rind

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Wash and cut the cauliflower head into medium-sized (1 1/2-inch) florets
  3. Place the florets in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, cumin, cinnamon and ginger, until coated
  4. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, toss and return to oven for another 10 minutes
  5. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat
  6. Add the onions and sauté until translucent
  7. Add the Parmesan Rind
  8. Add the peas, stir for 1 minute
  9. Then finally add the roasted cauliflower florets
  10. Pour in the vegetable stock, stir then bring to a boil
  11. Once boiling, use an immersion blender to smooth the soup to your desired consistency. NOTE: You can also blend the soup using a standing blender. Have another empty pot available. Using a ladle, spoon the soup into the blender and blend until smooth. Then return to the pot. Use the additional pot if you have too much liquid for the standing blender.
  12. Simmer on low for 5 minutes
  13. Most of the time the Parmesan rind dissolves in the soup. If it hasn't dissolved, scoop it out with a slotted spoon before serving.
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One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetables is one of my favorite comfort foods. Comfort food by definition is, ” food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.” For most, that means lots of carbs and lots of sugar. For me, comfort food really does fit the Merriam Webster definition, that is, a traditional dish that brings back childhood memories. So what is it about One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake that makes me nostalgic? I have so many childhood memories of being at my Tayta’s around dinner time. She’d whip up her chicken and vegetable bake. She always had a way of making even the hardest dish seem easy to pull together. It must be all her years of cooking for 8 children. Yes, eight. The apartment always smelled amazing. It was wafting with aromas from a mix of garlic, onion and Arabic spices that made me practically drool as I waited not-so-patiently in the family room watching TV.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

My mom learned to cook Arabic dishes from my Tayta. And I’m so happy she did. I grew up eating vegetables, stews, beef, chicken and lamb. You name it, I grew up eating it. I’m pretty sure my baby food consisted of full Arabic meals smoothed out in the blender and served in plastic Barbie bowls. And for that I’m thankful. There is no other comfort to me than cooking with Arabic spices, lots of garlic, lots of onions and lots of olive oil. I know I’ve done something right when my dishes look and smell like my mom and Tayta’s dishes.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

A note on “thirds of an oven.” You may have read in some of my recipes, or in other recipes a reference to cooking something in the top or bottom third of an oven. If you’ve baked sweets, you’ve definitely read baking in the middle rack. So here’s the deal with thirds of the oven. Different recipes require direct, medium or indirect heat. Most sweets are safe in the middle rack, where you’re ensured that the bottom won’t burn. While, other recipes, such as roasted vegetables, may require more direct heat to get that roasted and charred flavor.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Open up you oven and take a look. Visually divide your oven into thirds. You’ll see there is a Top third, Middle, and Bottom Third. Keep that in mind when reading recipes. For the One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake, I mention baking in the bottom third of the oven. When I refer to the bottom third, it means place your rack in the lower half of your oven, closer to the heat.

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

 

One Pan Middle Eastern Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Bake

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 4 Chicken Thighs, skin on
  • 2 tablespoons Seven Spice (found at your local Arabic store)
  • 2 tablespoons Sumac
  • Salt, to taste (I used about 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Yellow Onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup Carrots, chopped
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup Chicken Stock

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Prepare the chicken and vegetables
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the seven spice, salt, sumac and garlic
  4. Using your hands, rub the chicken generously, back and front and all over, with the spice mixture, then set aside
  5. Next, toss the potatoes in the spice mixture and set aside
  6. Heat a large cast-iron skillet (or oven safe skillet) over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the chicken skin-side down in an even layer, and the potatoes
  8. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes, until the skin is crispy, then remove and set aside
  9. Cook the potatoes until crispy on the outside, about 2-3 minutes on each side
  10. While the chicken and potatoes are being sautéed, toss together the carrots and onions with the spice mixture.
  11. Remove the potatoes from the pan and add the carrots and onions, cooking for about 5 mins (or until slightly charred)
  12. Turn the heat off
  13. Using tongs or a spatula, arrange the vegetables in your large oven-safe skillet (or in an oven-safe baking dish), then nestle in the chicken, skin-side up.
  14. Pour in 1/4 cup chicken stock
  15. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the bottom third of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the carrots are tender and can be poked easy with a fork
  16. Serve warm

Notes

Your oven is divided into thirds. Visually imagine the thirds as: Top third, Middle and Bottom third. When I refer to the bottom third, it means place your rack in the lower half of your oven, closer to the heat.

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Italian Inspired Garlic Olive Oil Bruschetta

Italian bruschetta

I just got back from a four day trip to Rome, Italy where I ate, walked, ate, visited some historic sites, ate, shopped, did tons of work for my real job, and ate some more. I enjoyed every minute of Rome. For a full recap of my week in Rome with photos, videos and my own commentary, check out last week’s This Week on Instagram post.

Italians know how to live, and most importantly, they know how to eat. At restaurants, you never feel rushed. The waiters don’t stop by your table every five minutes to take your plates away and offer you the check. In Italy, mealtime is a laid back time with flowing table wine, a starter, main course, dessert and dessert drinks (at the very least). The waiters give you space to enjoy your meal and conversation. They check up on how your dish– likely one they recommended– tastes. They definitely don’t rush the check. Most of the time in Rome, we had to explicitly ask for the check. I loved the food in Rome. I ate my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato, and drank wine like it was water. I’m almost positive the wine was cheaper than water.

Italian bruschetta

At most of my sit-down meals, I ordered a bruschetta starter. Bruschetta, pronounced broo-ske-tta, is made up of thick slices of grilled Italian bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt. Popular to contrary belief, classic bruschetta doesn’t actually come with tomatoes. Tomatoes are an add-on. Other toppings could include veggies, cured meat or cheese. Another notable difference between our “Americanized” version of bruschetta and true Italian bruschetta is the use of grilled, thick, Italian bread, as opposed to small French bread rounds or even hardened baguette rounds.

Italian bruschetta

Every single bruschetta I had in Rome was delectable. I always ordered mine with tomatoes — except that one time a group of us went to dinner and ordered “bruschetta classico.” After waiting 10 minutes or so for the missing tomatoes, our waiter explained that we had ordered “classico.” Classico does not include tomatoes, it’s basically grilled garlic bread with olive oil. Luckily for us, he was very kind, and brought us new Roma tomato-topped bruschetta. The tomatoes! The Roma Tomatoes! They’re the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever had. Packed with flavor, and not too hard or too soft, they were so perfect. Since leaving Rome, I’ve been dreaming about those ripe tomatoes over grilled garlic bread. I had to make some at home. Of course, I don’t have access to the same Roma tomatoes like I did abroad, but I made due with Roma tomatoes from Wegmans . Pro tip: the bread tastes so much better if you can grill it on an outdoor grill. 

Italian Bruschetta

Italian Bruschetta

 

Italian Inspired Garlic Olive Oil Bruschetta

Yield: 6 Bruschettas

Ingredients

  • 6 Roma Tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil + 2 tablespoons for brushing
  • 2-3 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6 Slices Pane Italian Bread, sliced
  • 1 whole Garlic clove, for rubbing the bread
  • 1/2 cup Baby Arugula

Instructions

  1. Prepare the tomatoes by cutting a small slit at one end of each tomato
  2. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil
  3. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl with ice water for blanching
  4. Once the water boils, carefully place the whole tomatoes in the water. Cover and boil on high for 2 minutes then turn heat off.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the tomatoes and place them in the ice water. Wait about 2 minutes, before removing the tomatoes from the ice water onto a paper-towel lined plate.
  6. You'll notice that the skin has started to peel. Peel the tomatoes, then cut into small cubes
  7. In a medium bowl, mix together minced garlic, olive oil and red wine vinegar then set aside
  8. Place a grill pan over high heat (or use an outdoor grill)
  9. Cut the Pane bread into 1 1/2 inch slices
  10. Place Italian bread slices on the grill, cooking each side for 5-7 minutes (until slightly charred), then flipping over to grill the other side for another 3-5 minutes. Watch the bread carefully, especially if using an outdoor grill.
  11. Remove bread from heat. While still warm, use the whole garlic clove to rub one side of each piece of bread, then brush liberally with olive oil.
  12. Top each bread slice with the tomatoes and baby arugula
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Turkish Coffee Cake

Turkish Coffee Cake

I remember the first time I ever tried Turkish coffee. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember being in the living room of our old townhouse. Both my parents were drinking Turkish coffee on a sunny afternoon and I wanted to get in on the action. After much begging, my mom let me have a sip. I’m pretty sure she regretted it instantly because it was so awful to my immature taste buds that I spit it out all over her and the couch. Many, many years later, I gave Turkish coffee another chance.  My tastes must have matured because now I enjoy medium Turkish coffee with a side of something sweet.

My favorite afternoons are Saturday and Sunday afternoons sipping sweet Turkish coffee while watching the latest Turkish soap operas with my Tayta. As she gets older, I realize that time is fleeting and I have to savor these moments with her. It’s a weekly tradition to stop by and spend some time with her. I’m so lucky that I live close enough to make it a weekly visit.

Turkish Coffee Cake

 

The beauty of Turkish coffee is in its bitter flavor, the way it’s boiled, and its ability to tell you about your future.

Tayta taught me a no-fail recipe for Turkish coffee which includes spoonfuls of sugar and ground coffee in silverware-sized tablespoons, boiling the coffee, stirring, then boiling again to create a thick film on top. She warned me never to walk away from a pot of Turkish coffee on the stove because it will boil over the second you take your eyes off it– side note, it’s also a nightmare to wipe up off the stovetop. When serving, each coffee cup gets a little bit of film. Once done with your cup, it’s customary to swirl around the remaining coffee grounds, cover with the saucer then flip upside down.

This is where the fortune-telling comes in. It’s my favorite part. While there really are fortune tellers who are gifted with being able to read the coffee grounds plastered to the inside of your cup, I think for the most part my Tayta used to humor me by reading mine. There was always a long road, a bird with news from someone far away, a long stretch of white space (that’s a good thing) and a “celebration” (read as: wedding) in the near future. It didn’t matter to me whether or not she really could see the future in my cup, the important thing was that I got to spend that time with her, listening, laughing, and asking about her life.

That’s the beauty of Turkish coffee.

Turkish Coffee Cake

 

Turkish Coffee Cake

Turkish Coffee Cake

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
  • Additional Butter to grease pan
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
  • 2 Tablespoons Turkish coffee powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9” cast iron skillet, or baking pan.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar and butter until creamed
  4. Add in eggs one at a time
  5. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl 30 seconds at a time (for a total of 1 minute), stir until smooth
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, Turkish coffee, cardamom, flour, and salt
  7. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients
  8. Continue beating until combined
  9. Add the melted chocolate
  10. Beat until combined
  11. Pour into a greased cast iron skillet or baking pan
  12. The batter will be sticky and may not pour evenly, use a rubber spatula to smooth out into an even layer
  13. Bake for 25-30 minutes
  14. Flip upside down onto a serving plate and top with powdered sugar
  15. Serve warm

Notes

Pro Tip: For day-old cake, heat in the microwave for 15 seconds and serve warm.

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How to Build the Ultimate Charcuterie

Ultimate Charcuterie

As you all know, I’ve been recipe testing and planning my dinner party menu for over a month. Partially because I’m an over-planner and partially because I was really looking forward to wowing my friends with my culinary abilities. I’ll admit, I kind of wowed myself with my main dish – Seafood Paella.  Dinner party planning takes a lot of thought, and I learned so many things from my mom and all her dinner parties. She sets timers on her phone the day of to keep her on a timeline for food prep. That’s dedication. I’m not quite at the mom-level of dinner party planning and execution, but I’m sure in time I’ll get there. I did inherit some of her organization skills.

Here’s what my dinner party timeline looked like:

  • 1 month-1 week before: Plan and set menu
  • 1-2 days before: Grocery shopping
  • Night before: Prepare any make-ahead desserts or marinades
  • Morning of: Set the table, get out serving dishes, serveware and centerpieces
  • Afternoon of: Cook! Clean up, repeat as needed until you’ve made everything. Save warm dishes for setting out once guests arrive.  
  • Right before guests arrive: Set out the cold items, Turn on the lights, Burn bokhoor بخور (incense)
  • Enjoy the dinner!

The two things I was most looking forward to was making seafood paella, and setting out a GORGEOUS charcuterie board. I have been drooling over charcuterie boards on Pinterest and Instagram for months. I’m not even kidding. There are so many ways to go about it. You can stick with just cheeses, or make it a meats board, you can tailor it by season (summer, winter, etc.), make it big, make it small, keep it simple, go all-out … it’s totally up to you.  

I decided I wanted an over-the-top display with a mix of meats, cheeses, breads, spreads, veggies and nuts. Other than those broad categories, I did not have a game plan. So when I went on my shopping trip Friday night, I ended up spending two hours at Wegmans. I love Wegmans, by the way, I bought all my dinner party ingredients from there.  Generally speaking, my grocery shopping trips are a get in-get what I need-get out kind of deal. While I had my grocery list in hand (on my iphone), I still managed to spend 75% of my time in the cheese and meat sections of the store. They have an impressive meat and cheese selection.

Ultimate Charcuterie

How to Build the Ultimate Charcuterie

The ultimate charcuterie includes a selection of cheese, meat, spreads/dips, nuts, dried fruit, veggies, bread/crackers, and some (optional) extras. 

 

Cheese

If you’re going to have cheese here are a couple pro tips:

– Mix up the texture. You want to offer a mix of soft  (semi soft), (firm) and hard cheese

– Add color. While white cheeses are more prevalent, don’t be afraid to add in some yellow cheese, like cheddar cubes

– Go for different sources. Cow cheese is great, but offer up sheep cheese and goat cheese too.

Cheeses I used: Manchego, Cheddar Cheese cubes, Blue Cheese, Brie, Bucheron.

Meat

So here’s the deal with my meat selection, I was constrained by non-pork options. Really, that didn’t stop me from offering up a fun assortment. Same idea with the meats as the cheese, you want to offer a variety of tastes and textures. I featured roasted turkey slices, bresaola, beef salami and turkey pepperoni. I added in the turkey slices for color, and because everything else was beef-based. You’ll want to mix up smoky, spicy and simple flavors.

Spreads and Dips

I only had two dips on my charcuterie. I featured a sweet fig jam and plain hummus. With dips, you don’t want to go too crazy. Stick with 1-2 (3 max) and vary up sweet and savory. Great additions include tapenade, pate, apricot preserves or honey.

Nuts and Dried Fruits

For added crunch, go with smoked almonds and raw cashews. The world is your oyster with nuts (pecans, walnuts, pistachio), just be sure to check for nut allergies ahead of time! Fruit should be a mix of fresh and dried. Add cranberries, dried apricots, dates, and mix in some fresh fruit like grapes, apples or figs.

Veggies

I think vegetables really round out the charcuterie. For presentation (see presentation section below), veggies give you some color. Celery, carrots and tomatoes make for a no-fuss addition. 

Bread and Crackers

Keep the bread simple. You want to offer useful options. Sliced baguette, fresh or toasted, is always a win because its conducive to easy spreading. I added breadsticks and crackers for a crunchy option with soft cheese and spreads.

Extras

For a Mediterranean vibe, I set out small pickles as well as green and black olives fresh from Wegmans’ olive bar. Get the almond-stuffed green olives, they’re generally a hit. Don’t be afraid to get varying pickles. Pickled turnips, onions, and peppers bring texture and flavor to your charcuterie.

Presentation

Presentation is everything. Let me repeat: Presentation is everything. They say, you eat with your eyes before your stomach. It’s the truth.

You want to offer up a visually appealing board. For me, that means mixing colors and textures, as well as filling in every inch of the board. If you have a small board, add some fun trays to hold the bread and crackers. Use small jars, or unusual looking containers for spreads. Spread out meats and cheeses, but don’t be afraid to place items extremely close to other things on the board.

Now, go forth and build your ultimate charcuterie.   

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