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.
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.
Middle Eastern Puff Pastry Meat Pies
- 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
- Remove the puff pastry from the packaging and place on a lightly floured surface
- Allow the puff pastry to defrost (no more than 40 minutes), until the dough is easy to pull apart
- 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)
- Heat the oven to 425 F
- Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet
- Add the onions and sauté until translucent
- Add the ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until cooked about 3/4 way through
- Mix in the seven spice, cinnamon and salt
- Stir in the pomegranate molasses until the ground beef is coated
- Stir in the yogurt, then transfer to the food processor
- Pulse the meat mixture a few times until the ground beef is minced
- 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
- 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
- Spoon the meat mixture into the middle of each square and top with pine nuts
- Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and bake for 10 minutes
- Serve warm
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).
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.
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.
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 Walnut Orange Blossom Muffins
- 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
- Preheat oven to 375 F
- Line your muffin pan with paper muffin cups
- In a small bowl, combine the chopped walnuts, cinnamon, white sugar and orange blossom water and set aside
- In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, brown sugar and salt, and set aside
- 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)
- Slowly add the dry ingredients, continue beating until combined, 1-2 minutes
- Stir in the cinnamon walnut mixture
- Spoon the batter into you muffin cups, filling about 1/3 to 3/4 way up
- Bake on the middle rack for 18-20 mins
- Cool on a wire rack and then serve
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
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.
For as long as I can remember, biscuits for breakfast were a common occurrence in our house. It was never unusual to see cookies served with coffee and tea, and sometimes, even a piece of cake. The cookies, or biscuits, were always referred to as قرشله pronounced “orshelleh.” Some look similar to biscotti, and others just look like rectangular pieces of hardened bread.
I’ve seen my dad and grandma dunk the قرشله into their tea – similar to how some of us like to dunk our cookies in cold milk. The thing about these biscuits is that usually they’re unsweetened. Some are flavored with anise seeds and sesame seeds and they’re really good on their own. I prefer them with Arabic coffee, myself. We don’t keep them around as often, but my grandma always keeps a stash in her pantry.
Adapted from Betty Crocker
- 1 cup Hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup Sugar
- ½ cup Salted Butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 2 Eggs
- 3 ½ cups Flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Place the hazelnuts in a baking pan and roast for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
- In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla extract with an electric mixer
- Add in the flour, baking powder and baking soda using the mixer
- Then add the hazelnuts and beat until the hazelnuts are distributed
- On a floured surface, knead the dough until it holds together tightly (about 2-3 minutes)
- Divide the dough into two halves and shape into long rectangles with rounded edges
- Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes (the middle should still be soft)
- Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into ½ inch slices
- Place the slices cut-side-down on the baking sheet and bake for an additional 15 minutes until browned and hardened
- Serve with coffee or tea
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
I’m not even 1% Irish, but I love anything worth celebrating. And hey, why not! The DC Metro area is currently covered in snow. Yes, Mid-March and spring doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight (minus the gorgeous 65F day we had on Saturday). Though the federal government is closed for the day, I threw on my favorite pair of jeans, a comfortable top and topped the festive look off with a green headband, then got to baking.
The last time I had great Irish Soda Bread was while I was getting my master’s degree up at Syracuse. Much like today, it was snowing. Which is not an unusual occurrence at Syracuse, as it snowed pretty much everyday from October through April – you know, with lake effect snow causing much inconvenience to anyone not from Central New York.
That year, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at an Irish Pub – I can’t remember the name, but I do remember they had a teeny leprechaun-sized phone booth, bench and even door to get into the pub.
It had to be the craziest, busiest day to go there, but it was so worth it. My best memory was the soda bread. Lucky for me, I found an easy recipe for Irish Soda Bread.
Adapted from here
- 3 tablespoons Unsalted butter, Softened and cut into 3 squares
- 2 ½ cups Flour
- 2 tablespoons Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¾ - 1 Cup Buttermilk
- Heat oven to 375F.
- In a large bowl add four, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt
- Add the butter and mix by criss-crossing two knives until it becomes fine crumbs
- Add buttermilk and stir until the mixture becomes dough
- Knead the dough into a large ball and place on a greased cookie sheet
- Cut at X shape through the dough
- Bake for 40 minutes
- Serve with butter.
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