I have this obsession with popcorn. This wasn’t always the case, but over the years, I’ve developed this serious obsession with light, crunchy, slightly salty (usually white cheddar flavored) popcorn. My mom used to make popcorn almost weekly. She’d mix some dry corn kernels with vegetable oil in a pot over the oven and I’d wait around the kitchen listening to the kernels popping against the sides of the pot. Sometimes, the popcorn would overflow onto the stove. She’d toss the popcorn with salt, and I’d run off to watch my favorite TV show with a bowl of mom’s simple stovetop popcorn.
Over the years, my mom stopped making stovetop popcorn. Mostly because it was a lot easier to just buy a bag of microwave popcorn. It wasn’t until a few years ago I discovered SkinnyPop popcorn. Aside from the fact that it’s low calorie — major selling point for me — it’s also made with simple ingredients. It tastes like my mom’s stovetop popcorn, without all the work. I was sold! Not to mention, it also comes in my favorite flavor … white cheddar. I could have cheddar popcorn every day and be the happiest person in the world. Some days, I even forego a nutritious lunch for a whole bag of low calorie cheddar popcorn. Don’t tell my mom …
Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn
- 4 cups freshly popped popcorn
- [Alternative: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, cover and leave on heat until most of the kernels have popped]
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Salt (citric acid)
- 2 tablespoons Sumac
- 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
- 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- In a large bowl, mix popped popcorn with olive oil until coated
- Add Sumac, Onion powder, Garlic powder and seven spice and continue stirring until completely coated
- Serve warm
Guys! It’s summer time, which means lots of free time, friends, family, BBQs and tons of summer fruit. This month, I’m super excited to announce that I’m collaborating with some fabulous food bloggers and food-stagramers to bring you recipes inspired by our favorite summer fruit, Peaches!
If you haven’t tried grilled peaches, you’re in for a real treat! They’re perfectly warm and sweet. Add a touch of sweet eshta cream and top with orange blossom syrup for sweet Middle Eastern inspired goodness. You can swap out the sweet eshta cream for your favorite ice cream (I recommend vanilla) and top with cinnamon and walnuts. I’ve used eshta before in a strawberry eshta cream tart. The trick to the thicker consistency, is heating it up with some corn starch, whisking and then refrigerating to harden a bit. If you don’t follow these steps, you’ll be left with a thinner liquid … which isn’t necessarily bad, depending on what you’re using eshta for.
So fire up the grill this summer, and add Grilled Peaches and Cream with Orange Blossom Syrup to your cookout menu. I promise this dessert will not disappoint.
Don’t forget to look at other peach recipes from these fabulous food bloggers, and check #summerlovespeaches on instagram.
Grilled Peaches and Cream with Orange Blossom Syrup
- 4 peaches, sliced in half and pitted
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1 can Eshta cream
- 1 teaspoon Corn Starch
- 2 teaspoons Orange Blossom Water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the Peaches
- Half the peaches, and remove the pit
- Brush the peaches with butter and place on the grill, cut side down
- Cook until charred and softened (about 4 to 5 minutes), flip the peaches over and grill on indirect heat for another 5 minutes
- Remove from heat and set aside
For the Cream
- In a small saucepan, mix together the eshta, orange blossom water and cornstarch until combined.
- Heat over low-medium heat and stir constantly until the eshta thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
- Remove from heat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
For the Syrup
- In a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water and lemon juice
- Bring to a boil over medium high heat
- Reduce heat to low, add 1 teaspoons orange blossom water and simmer for 10 minutes (until the syrup thickens. You can test this by dipping the end of a spoon. If it coats the end of the spoon, it's ready)
- Scoop the chilled cream into each half of the peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and chopped walnuts (optional), then drizzle with orange blossom syrup
I don’t have anything against mayo. I just really don’t like store bought potato salad. I think it’s more about the fact that despite potato salad being a savory food, the store bought kind is just too sweet. I just can’t understand it. I’m telling you, my taste buds get confused. Does anyone else find it odd that a lot of foods in America, as compared to Europe and the Middle East tend to be on the sweeter side. It’s like they add sugar to everything. Have you ever had store bought three-bean salad? It’s sweet! Completely mind-boggling to me. That’s why I prefer that homemade too. Europe and the Middle East do it right. They keep savory foods savory and completely separate from any sweetness. That’s the way I think it should be.
One of my favorite family BBQ is staples is Arabic Potato Salad. Yea, that’s what we call it. The recipe is something my Tayta taught my mom and it’s just kind of stuck. It’s a no-mayo alternative and has no sweetness included.
Summer Sundays were the best when I was in elementary and middle school. After an Arabic tutoring session with my aunt, we’d either have a huge Arabic-style brunch, or a family BBQ. Dad was master of the BBQ. Since then, my brothers have taken over. It was the best! Mom would prep the meats, usually marinated chicken, or steaks and some sides. Green salad, Arabic Potato Salad and corn on the cob. Everyone got together including my aunt and Tayta.
Side note: Another favorite fan favorite is the Brazilian Potato Salad.
- 6 russet potatoes
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- Salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 cup chopped Parsley
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Peel, wash and cut the potatoes into cubes
- Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with lightly salted water.
- Bring the water to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Check for tenderness by piercing a cube with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes and place into a large bowl
- Mix in the chopped parsley, garlic and green onions
- Mix well, then add olive oil, vinegar and salt
- Toss to coat
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving
It’s Ramadan and I’ve been beating the long days and boredom (especially on the weekends) by cooking. The first weekend, I may or may not have gone on a complete cooking spree and I just haven’t been able to stop myself since then. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m up to, follow along on my Instagram story. I’m always sharing photos and videos of my goodies. Currently, I’m waiting my Pink Pickled Turnips to set. Only about a week and a half or so left before they’re ready to be devoured.
I made Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes not once, but twice over the last week. The first time for a weeknight iftar at a friend’s, and the second to actually take photos (and feed my family). Here’s the deal with coring vegetables in general; first, you have to use a thin corer. Generally, you can find them at the Arabic store. Also, unless you’re a professional vegetable corer, it’s almost impossible to figure out if you’ve dug your holes too deep (that is, unless you poke through the other end of the vegetable). It’s part practice, part luck. After coring two bags of potatoes, I can proudly call myself a self-proclaimed professional potato corer.
I can offer some advice when it comes to making stuffed potatoes:
- The smaller potatoes are, surprisingly, easier to core than the large ones. I found that with the smaller ones, you have a better sense for how much to hollow out before hitting any of the sides. With the larger potatoes, it’s a little harder to figure out.
- When you fry the potatoes, make sure the oil is hot before you put the potatoes in. This way, it’ll only take a couple minutes on each side to get slightly browned.
- Cover the potatoes when they bake in the oven. This way, they don’t dry out.
Middle Eastern Stuffed Potatoes [Batata Mahshiyeh]
For the stuffing
- 1 lb gound beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Seven Spice
- 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons Pine Nuts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Potatoes
- 1 bag Yukon Gold or Butter Potatoes (about 12-15 potatoes)
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- Salt, to taste
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 3 cups tomato sauce + 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
- 1 cube Maggi
For the Stuffing
- In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sauté the onions until translucent
- Add the ground beef and cook until browned
- Season with seven spice, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg
- Remove from heat
- Heat one tablespoon oil and cook the pine nuts until lightly browned. Keep an eye on them! Pine nuts fry quickly. Remove from oil onto a blotter.
For the Potatoes
- Peel and wash the potatoes
- Using a thin vegetable corer, carve out the middle portion of the potatoes making sure not to puncture the potatoes
- Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
- Once hot, place the potatoes in the oil and fry on all sides until a light golden brown
- Remove and place on paper towels to absorb additional oil
- Once the potatoes have cooled, stuff the potatoes with the ground beef mixture leaving 1/8 inch space from the top
- Place in a single layer in a baking tray
- Use 1 tablespoon olive oil to saute garlic
- Add tomato sauce and water
- Bring to a boil, add in seven spice and Maggi, then turn heat off
- Pour the tomato sauce over the potatoes
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes on 375 F
I really love the idea of going to an orchard and picking your own fruits and vegetables. There’s an orchard out in Maryland that has pick your own fruits and veggies almost year-round. A few weekends ago, I went with a couple of friends, and one friend’s three kids to pick strawberries. It’s the perfect activity for kids. It’s outdoors, they can play in the dirt, and they really feel a sense of accomplishment when they pick out the perfect strawberry. While the kiddos filled up little blue cartons, I went ahead and picked enough strawberries to last at least 6 months. I may have gone a little overboard. All I could think about were all the strawberry desserts I was going to make with all these strawberries. Needless to say, I ended up freezing most of them before they started to go bad… but not without making Strawberry Eshta Cream Tarts.
Eshta is a sweet thick cream known to most middle eastern households. Lots of people use eshta in desserts such as qatayef, warbat, basboosa, and many others. While eshta is absolutely delicious in desserts, it’s a great compliment to honey. Sunday breakfasts at our house included lots of little dishes filled with labaneh, zaatar, foul (fava beans), and two mall dishes one with honey and one with eshta. I remember the excitement of dipping bread into the eshta first and then the honey. Honestly, I thought I could live off eshta and honey forever. That was … until dinnertime when I wanted nothing more than rice and stew.
So after spending the afternoon with my friends and the kiddos, I went straight home to wash and dry the strawberries, and test out my dessert of course!
The trick to these tarts was figuring out how I was going to thicken the eshta enough to hold strawberries on a slab of puff pastry. I admit, I had a couple failures. At first, I tried beating the eshta in my stand mixer, hoping it would magically fluff up. It didn’t. Then I got to thinking about how I thicken up milk for Muhallabiyeh. Idea! Why not add corn starch?! The genius in me added corn starch to cold eshta. That didn’t quite work out the way I had imagined. Then it dawned on me (oh yea, and I read the instructions on the corn starch package) that I needed to heat the eshta with the corn starch and stir to get the consistency I wanted. Ladies and gentlemen, it worked and I couldn’t have been happier! Now my dreams of making Strawberry Eshta Cream Tarts was coming true.
It just goes to show you that, even as a food blogger, I have my fair share of almost and complete fails. No one’s perfect, but I can definitely whip up a near-perfect dessert.
Strawberry Eshta Cream Tart
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- 2 lbs strawberries, stems cut off
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cup water
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 4 cans Eshta
- 2 tablespoons Corn Starch
- 2 tablespoons Rose Water
- 4 tablespoons crushes pistachios
- Honey for drizzling
- Thaw Puff Pastry
- Cut the puff pastry sheet into three smaller pieces
- Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 400 F
- Once cooled, cut each puff pastry piece in half length wise, making 6 tart shells. Set aside
- Wash and dry the strawberries. If using small strawberries, you can use them whole, otherwise, slice your strawberries
- Glaze the strawberries by combining the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium pan over medium-high heat
- Bring to a boil
- Once boiling, immerse the strawberries in the sugar and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the strawberries and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, sprayed with cooking spray
- In a small saucepan, mix together the eshta, rose water and cornstarch until combined. Heat over low-medium heat and stir constantly until the eshta thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Slice the puff pastry in half
- Spoon the eshta onto the puff pastry and use a spatula to make an even layer
- Then carefully arrange strawberries on top of the eshta, placing each piece as close as possible to the next without overcrowding
- Top with crushed pistachios and drizzle with honey.
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.
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.
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.
Mom’s Favorite Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes
- 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
- Heat griddle or skillet over a medium-high heat
- Meanwhile place all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix until combined, then add wet ingredients and whisk until smooth
- Spray the griddle or skillet with cooking spray
- 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.
- Using a spatula, flip the pancake over and cook until golden brown ( 1-2 minutes)
- Remove from the heat and set aside
- Repeat until the batter is finished
- Top with sliced bananas and butter pecan syrup