Date Smoothie

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It’s no secret in the Muslim world that dates are a superfood with numerous health benefits. It is no wonder that Muslims ritually start their fast and break their fasts with a date, as was the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) many centuries ago.  

But you do not need to be Muslim to know about the countless benefits of eating dates. Any nutritionist could attest to the nutritional value of this superfood. Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, which grows in warm, dry regions such as the Middle East and parts of California. Dates are high in fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol, improves digestion, satiates the appetite, and fight heart disease and obesity. They are also high in Vitamin B, A, and K. B vitamins are the most prominent vitamin store in dates which include B6 and B9 (folic acid), which helps improve metabolism and produce new red blood cells. Dates are also very high in minerals including potassium, copper, calcium, iron, phosphate, magnesium, and manganese. Although dates are such a sweet treat and thought to be high in sugars, they actually have a high nutritional ratio to the calories as well as a low glycemic index so they absorb into the body much more slowly giving steady releases of energy and several other sustained benefits. Thus, in moderation dates are an excellent sweetener to use in place of cane sugar or other sweet desires. 

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This brings me to this deliciously satisfying and filling energy smoothie! This drink is a concoction of my father’s, which he whipped up one Ramadan long ago. During Ramadan, Muslims are fasting from sunrise to sundown, and dates are in high demand! The benefits of a smoothie are obvious as you can puree a lot more nutrition and whole foods into a fine consistency which makes it easy to consume a lot more in the easy and convenient gulp of a milkshake. I use organic milk, usually whole because I believe in all the benefits of drinking wholesome vitamin D milk in its natural state. However you could use coconut milk, almond milk, or some ice and water if you have other dietary preferences. 4-6 pitted dates, a whole ripe banana, and a couple of frozen strawberries or ice cubes make this a nice refreshing shake that will keep your appetite satisfied and body well nourished for hours! If you have a powerful blender like the Vitamix or Blendtec you will have no issues throwing the dates in whole. No need to soften or puree them first. I enjoy this after a workout or before I run out of the house for the day running errands. You other moms out there know what a hassle it is to find time to sit down and eat when running around with kids and carseats/strollers all day! 

Enjoy!

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Date Smoothie
Serves 2
A refreshing and energy boosting milkshake that will keep you full and energized thorough your day!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups cold milk
  2. 4-6 medjool dates, pits removed
  3. 1 ripe banana
  4. 4 frozen strawberries (optional) OR 1/2 cup ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Remove the pit from the dates by slicing down the center, vertically along the length of the date.
  2. Combine all the ingredients into a blender and pulse to chop and distribute, then increase to the highest speed for 1 minute until smooth and frothy.
  3. Enjoy!
Adapted from My father :)
Adapted from My father :)
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Pad Thai

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This is easily one of our favorite dinners in my home. It is my husband’s favorite dish I cook, and he only gets it when he’s REALLY good ;). This dish is perfect because it is so versatile with what vegetables you can add in, as well as the protein you could use which could be shrimp, chicken, tofu, or beef- or you could simply load it with fresh vegetables for a vegan/vegetarian take. I prefer to make my pad thai with chicken or shrimp, and I like to add in some tofu for extra protein because the kids don’t even notice it. Traditionally in Thailand, pad thai is made with shrimp. The typical ingredients you should use include the tamarind paste and fish sauce (which you can find in the international food aisle in most grocery stores such as Whole Foods), shallots, fresh bean sprouts, scallions or garlic chives, lime, and rice noodles. The rest of the ingredients are pretty delicious, but you could play around and use substitutions to best suit your preferences. I started loading up my pad thai with a variety of fresh vegetables because, as I mentioned, this dish is a favorite in my home so I can easily get everyone to consume some extra vegetables. Pad thai’s zesty sweet-sour flavor pairs perfectly with the fresh crunch of vegetables; I toss in red and green cabbage, shredded carrots, red bell pepper, and as always some scallions! 😛

 

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I prepare my sauce in advance by combining fish sauce, tamarind paste, fresh squeezed lime juice, brown sugar, crushed red pepper, and cayenne pepper. Beware, the crushed red pepper and cayenne make this dish very spicy, so I tend to limit this or omit it if I know the little ones will be eating it. I make the sauce in advance because getting your pad thai right is highly dependent on cooking the rice noodles just right-not too smushy and not undercooked. So once you are tossing all of these ingredients (it is a long list after all!) you really should have the sauce prepared and ready to pour.  The sauce recipe produces a large quantity, enough for 2-3 batches of pad thai. It stores well in the fridge.

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The rice noodles do not need to be blanched or boiled,  instead just soak in hot water for 8-10 minutes. To ensure your noodles are perfect, do not over soak. They should be just pliable, and not too soft. They should be al dente but flexible. Remember, they will cook more once in the pan. Once in the pan, constantly move your noodles around and quickly add all the ingredients so that the noodles do not stick to the pan or clump, or get too soft. In order to do this successfully, you should have all ingredients prepared and ready to go. From the moment you sauté the scallions and garlic, the entire dish cooks within 5-10 minutes. 

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When cooking the pad thai, want to keep the noodles loose and nice. To ensure this, you want to make sure you have a nice wide pan for cooking. If you use a wok or something with a small base diameter, the ingredients will pile on top of each other and noodles will likely get sticky and clumpy ( I speak from experience). I use a 14inch diameter pan that I cook paella in and my results have improved dramatically than when I used to cook in my regular 10-12 inch omelet pans! Again, once the noodles are added to the pan, you need to keep them moving around so have all of your additional vegetables and tofu chopped and ready to go!

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There is so much flavor in this dish from wonderful natural whole food infusers such as ginger, garlic, shallots, and the tamarind and lime in the sauce. The dish is also loaded with protein: eggs, tofu, and chicken or shrimp. Combined with the plentiful crunchy vegetables, this is a great healthy and filling meal! I only use 2 tablespoons of olive oil to sauté the meat then vegetables and noodles in, so fat is very minimal in the dish.

I start by sautéing the garlic, ginger, and shallots in olive oil. I then sizzle the meat in the infused oil for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Then, I add the eggs and scramble them, toss in the noodles and the sauce, toss in the tofu, and finally the fresh vegetables and bean sprouts. It all cooks and comes together pretty quickly, so remember the key is to have everything washed and chopped before you begin sautéing!

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I hope you and your family enjoy!

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Pad Thai
Serves 4
Sweet, sour, zesty, and full of fresh vegetables this complete meal will satisfy a big appetite!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
For the Sauce
  1. 1/2 c fish sauce
  2. 1/2 c tamarind paste
  3. juice of one-two limes (1/4 cup)
  4. pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  5. pinch of crushed red peppers (optional)
  6. 2 tbsp brown sugar
For the pad thai
  1. 1 lb raw deveined and peeled shrimp or thinly sliced chicken breast strips
  2. 1/2 c diced extra firm tofu
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 package of rice noodles
  5. 1 c fresh bean sprouts
  6. 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped (optional)
  7. 1/2 c red cabbage, shredded (optional)
  8. 3/4 c green cabbage, shredded (optional)
  9. 1/2 c chopped scallion or garlic chives
  10. 1/2 c shredded carrots (optional)
  11. half a red pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
  12. 1 shallot, diced
  13. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  14. 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  15. 1/2 c pad thai sauce (see above recipe)
  16. salt and pepper to taste
  17. 2 tbsp soy sauce (optional)
  18. 2 tbsp of olive oil
  19. lime wedges for garnish
  20. crushed peanuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Marinate the sliced chicken or raw shrimp in the soy sauce for about 15 minutes.
  2. Soak the rice noodles in hot water for 8-10 minutes (or boil according to directions on box) until al dente- still firm but flexible enough to wrap around your finger. Drain and wash with cold water to prevent sticking.
  3. In a large pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and sautee the shallots, ginger, and garlic briefly until golden and fragrant. Add the chicken or shrimp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind the pad thai sauce is salty. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until the shrimp is pink (or chicken turns opaque white/golden).
  4. Once the chicken or shrimp is turned and cooked on the other side, reduce heat to medium-low and scramble the eggs in.
  5. Add the remaining oil, toss the noodles in, and pour the sauce over the noodles. Stir and lift noodles gently with tongs, being sure to keep the noodles moving so that they do not stick or get overcooked.
  6. Add the tofu if using, the sliced red pepper, half of the scallions, 3/4 of the bean sprouts, half of the carrots, half of the cilantro, and half of the cabbages. Toss gently. Remove from heat after 1 minute.
  7. Spoon onto individual plates, adding remaining sprouts, scallions, and cilantro on top and the cabbage and carrots on the sides as garnish. Place lime wedges on the plate and squeeze fresh lime juice over before eating.
  8. If you like crushed peanuts over yours, sprinkle on top along with the cilantro and scallions.
Notes
  1. To make this vegan or vegetarian, you can use soy sauce in place of the fish sauce, and omit meat and eggs.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Best ever Pancakes (with Spinach!)

 

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Your other baker friends will be green with envy when they see and taste how fluffy and gorgeous these pancakes turn out! Not only because they are delicious, but because they are packed with spinach! The lovely green hue does little to the taste because the spinach is ground so fine in the Vitamix blender. All you are really getting is the healthy benefits, but the spinach itself is tasteless. Spinach is packed with more than the required daily value of vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, and folate and plenty of iron, anti-oxidants, and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. If you are struggling to get your kids to eat healthy spinach as I have been, then you will just LOVE this recipe. Not only is it full of spinach but it is made with whole wheat flour, less than 2 tbsp of sugar, and healthy vitamin D milk and eggs. I have little to protest in this recipe. You could use only 1 tbsp of sugar in the recipe if you plan to use syrup, but because I only topped it with fresh fruits and pureed raspberries, I added an extra dose of sugar. 

The green color is very vibrant and fun, and there are a TON of excuses to eat a fun green pancake! Use any of these reasons to get your kids excited about breakfast and a spinach packed pancake (tip: you don’t HAVE to tell them there is spinach): St. Patricks day, those MSU game fans (I’ll take BLUE thanks), Halloween, conjuring Incredible Hulk powers, make a “Very Hungry Caterpillar, or just a green monster kind of morning!

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This recipe yields one of the best pancakes I have ever tasted and it is adapted from allrecipes.com; find it here. I substituted the white flour for whole wheat flour and pureed the spinach with the milk to make a nice bright green spinach milk. I was thinking about how we add spinach to all of our smoothies because its flavor is so discrete, so I thought it would be a great addition to pancakes as it would not really alter the recipe. For the topping, simply puree fresh or frozen and thawed raspberries and add sliced bananas. It is the perfect balance of sweet and tart! So here it is! Enjoy!

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Best Ever Pancakes (with spinach!)
Serves 2
Healthy, fluffy, and delicious, this is the PERFECT pancake to feed your family!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  2. 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1 tsp salt
  4. 2 tbsp sugar
  5. 1 1/4 c milk
  6. 2 c fresh baby spinach
  7. 1 egg (at room temperature)
  8. 3 tbsp melted butter
  9. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  10. 1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed raspberries
Instructions
  1. Puree the baby spinach with milk in a blender until fine and milk is green and smooth.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a larger bowl, whisk the egg with 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Add the milk and melted butter.
  4. Gradually add in the flour mixture and whisk until well incorporated.
  5. Spray a griddle with butter and turn the heat to medium high. Drop a ladle full of batter on the pan to form circles. Allow it to cook until you see small bubbles form (about 1 minute). Flip the pancakes and cook for about another minute on the other side.
  6. Puree the raspberries until liquid.
  7. Serve with the pureed raspberries, your favorite syrup, or other fruit toppings.
Notes
  1. Omit the spinach to have regular colored and a classic fantastic tasting pancake!
Adapted from Dakota Kelly (allrecipes.com)
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Hummus

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This Middle Eastern staple has made its way all around the world and is a huge hit! This perfectly flavored chickpea puree provides fiber, protein, and healthy omega 3 fats that are filling, satisfying, and perfectly low in calories. Chickpeas are quite high in fiber, protein, folic acid, magnesium , and zinc and are great for reducing cholesterol and blood sugar.  Hummus makes an excellent spread in sandwiches or a dip for veggies, which makes it a filling snack but lower in fat than mayo, ranch dressings, and other less healthy options.  No wonder this dip is so popular! I love my hummus extra lemony and garlicky, and that’s the beauty of making this easy dish at home- you can add as much or as little flavor as you want. You can vary the flavor, color, and texture by including preferred vegetables such as parsley, beets, roasted red peppers, carrots, or my favorite:  cilantro with jalapeño! Hummus is traditionally prepared with tahini paste, which is basically sesame seed butter. 

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As with all of my recipes, I do not use any canned products here, and try to keep everything as natural and homemade as possible. Nothing is more satisfying than enjoying something perfectly concocted in your kitchen and knowing exactly everything that is inside.

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I start with 1/2 cup of dried garbanzo beans or chickpeas. These should be sorted for stones or dirt and washed. Many people need to soak the beans overnight before boiling the next day, but if you use a pressure cooker like I do, no need for that hassle! Simple toss the chickpeas into your pressure cooker, cover with water, add a quarter of an onion, and cook on high pressure for 1 hour. Do not add salt in the pressure cooker as it inhibits cooking. Once the peas are cooked, its as simple as pureeing the little gems with tahini paste in your blender with your favorite spices and flavors! The basics that I must include are salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Its important to reserve some of the water the chickpeas cooked in or have fresh water on hand to thin out the hummus as needed. I forgot about the water at first and had a very THICK dip to start with (it happens!). But no worries,  this is something you can vary depending on how thick or thin your prefer your hummus to be. This dish is really fool proof! When in doubt, start with a little and add more as needed 🙂 I make my hummus in a flash with my trusty Vitamix blender, which does require at least 1/4 cup of water in order to pull all the ingredients downward into its funnel of fury shredding every ingredient into a silky smooth dip!

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Hummus
Serves 4
A delicious and healthy chickpea puree dip with sesame paste, lemon and garlic
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 c dried chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans)
  2. 3/4 c water
  3. 1 small onion, quartered
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1/4 tsp pepper
  6. 1/4 tsp cumin
  7. 1/4 tsp paprika
  8. Juice of 2 lemons
  9. 4-6 cloves of garlic
  10. 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp for drizzling
  11. 2 tbsp of tahini paste (sesame seed butter)
  12. parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Sort the chick peas for dirt, stones, or old pieces and wash well. Place chickpeas into pressure cooker and cover with water, about 1 inch above the peas. Add 1 quarter of an onion and cook over high pressure for 1 hour. Do not add salt until after the beans cook. Once done cooking, allow the pressure to release naturally.
  2. Strain the chickpeas and reserve some of the liquid for thinning out the puree (or you could use fresh water).
  3. Pour 1/4 c water or cooking liquid from the chickpeas to a Vitamix blender or food processor. Reserve some whole chickpeas for garnish and add the rest into the blender.
  4. Add Tahini paste, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and garlic cloves. Pulse to combine all ingredients, then puree on high until the mixture is smooth. If using a Vitamix, it is helpful to use the patented push stick to move everything downward into the blades. Add more water if needed to thin it out. Add the olive oil at the end and pulse again until well combined. Taste and add more lemon or garlic to your preference. I usually have at least 6 garlic cloves in mine because we love the taste!
  5. Spoon the hummus onto a serving platter, carve lines into the top with a fork or butter knife and drizzle olive oil on top. The oil will settle into the lines. Sprinkle paprika, chopped parsley, and arrange the reserved whole chickpeas in the center to garnish.
  6. Serve with cucumbers, or any favorite veggies, pita bread, crackers, or spread onto sandwiches!
Notes
  1. While the chickpeas are cooking, roast a red pepper in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and add to the blender to make roasted red pepper hummus. Or you could add 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and half a jalapeño pepper to make a zesty, spicy green hummus!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)

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This dip is SO flavorful, zesty, and delicious! Roasted eggplant, fresh garlic, lemon juice and a dash of tahini sauce are what make up this delicious spread. Traditionally the eggplant is charred or grilled first to impart a smoky flavor, and some people use some of the roasted and charred skin to infuse more smokiness to this dip. But I do not prefer the smoky flavor so completely omitted the charring step. If this is something you like, you could easily do this step first by charring on a grill or resting over the flame of a gas range. Baba Ghanouj is usually mashed, with some texture to it. I love mine smooth and velvety and how my Vitamix completely incinerates the seeds (which have healthful enzymes!),  but you could reserve some of the eggplant flesh and mash it into the puree at the end to leave some texture, if you prefer. Drizzle with olive oil and paprika powder and serve with pita bread.

 

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Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)
A healthy and flavorful combination of roasted eggplant, garlic, lemon, and special spices make this the perfect dip or spread on sandwiches!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large eggplant
  2. 1 lemon, juiced
  3. 1 1/2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. pinch of pepper
  6. 1/4 tsp cumin
  7. 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  8. pinch of cayenne (optional)
  9. 4 large cloves of garlic (or more!)
Instructions
  1. Wash the eggplant, cut a slit down the side, and place on a pan to roast in the oven. Place in middle rack of the oven at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Eggplant will begin to collapse and shrivel. Remove once a knife easily slides into the flesh and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  2. With a large spoon, scrape out all the flesh and scoop into a blender or processor. Add the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and optional cayenne pepper.
  3. Pulse to incorporate all ingredients, then puree for about 45 seconds on high (this way you do not encounter any seeds). If you prefer a chunkier texture, first puree the garlic, seasoning and tahini until smooth then pulse in the eggplant to desired consistency.
  4. Spoon onto a serving platter, smoothing the top. Use a butter knife to draw a line down the center or in a circular swirl, depending on desired pattern and shape of the serving dish. Drizzle olive oil on top and it will settle where you "carved" a line into the dip. Sprinkle some paprika, and garnish with parsley.
  5. Serve with pita bread and enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/
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