Orange Coconut Cake

orange coconut cake

My maternal grandmother (Teta) made an incredible orange coconut cake. Sweet, moist, and fluffy, the old recipe sitting in my mother’s tattered red leather bound book, brought back nostalgic memories to my mothers eyes as she touched its pages. She read through the fading blue ink to make out the ingredients she must’ve frantically jotted down when she prepared to fly off to America with nothing but her mother’s recipes to awaken the Egyptian flavors she was leaving behind in Alexandria.

orange coconut cake

We recently came across this recipe as we were recreating the orange cake of my Egyptian aunts and grandmother for my last orange cranberry muffin recipe. I knew I had to remake this cake for my mother, who was very fondly reminiscing the flavors of her mothers’ orange coconut cake.  The hand-written recipe was quite washed-out, but we only had to perfect some measurements that became faded overtime. With my mother’s help, I revived and baked this cake for my family’s Thanksgiving gathering, and it was a very special treat to enjoy. I experimented with the recipe at least 10 times, and this one really delivers a fabulously sweet and citrusy orange cake with hints of coconut, topped with an orange caramel glaze!

fresh orange juice

orange zest

A fragrant zest is critical. Use the clean skin of an organic orange for best results. Zest the skin of the oranges with a sharp zester or grater, such as Microplane.

Fresh squeezed orange juice, fragrant orange zest, and finely shredded coconut flakes go into this cake along with coconut oil, olive oil, and milk for moisture. 

fresh out the oven bruschetta-orangecakesugarandgarlic2016-12 bruschetta-orangecakesugarandgarlic2016-20

It is really important to generously grease and flour the bundt pan, as the cake can easily get stuck. 

orange caramel orange caramel glaze

For the caramel, I start with a basic caramel by simmering sugar and water. I add orange zest, some butter, and powdered sugar to make it more like a glaze. The scent is so delectable, you will find it hard to resist licking the spoon before serving this up! To decorate the cake, I experimented both with simmering orange slices in the caramel, as well as browning the orange slices in butter or oil. Either way, be sure to top the cake with some lightly cooked oranges; its so beautiful, fragrant, and festive!

orange coconut cake with glaze

slice of cake orange cake slice

Orange Coconut Cake
From the archives of my Egyptian grandmother, this is a sweet and citrusy orange cake with hints of coconut, topped with an orange caramel glaze!!
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For the cake
  1. 2 .5 c flour
  2. 2 tbsp corn starch
  3. 1.5 tbsp baking powder
  4. 3 eggs
  5. 1 tsp vanilla
  6. 1.5 tbsp orange zest
  7. 1 3/4 c sugar
  8. 1/4 coconut oil
  9. 1/2 olive oil
  10. 1 c orange juice (fresh squeezed is best)
  11. 2 tbsp milk
  12. 1 c shredded coconut, unsweetened, plus more for garnish
  13. optional: Orange slices to garnish
For the orange caramel glaze
  1. 3/4 c sugar
  2. 1/4 c water
  3. 1 tbsp corn syrup
  4. 1/4 c brown sugar
  5. 1 tbsp orange zest
  6. 1 tbsp orange juice
  7. 1/4 c heavy cream
  8. 1 tbsp powdered sugar
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (f).
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and cornstarch.
  3. In another bowl, whip the eggs with vanilla extract and orange zest. Add the sugar, oils, and orange juice, and mix well.
  4. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Add the milk to soften, without overmixing.
  5. Fold in the coconut.
  6. Pour the batter into a well greased bundt pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes on a rack moved right above the center rack.
For the orange caramel glaze
  1. Over medium-high heat, simmer the sugar, corn syrup, and water until it begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium low, then add the orange zest and orange juice.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and heavy cream; simmer for another 2 minutes.
  3. Simmer a few of the orange slices in the glaze for a minute to flavor the sauce and gently soften the oranges, then remove them quickly before they overcook and break apart.
  4. Remove the pot from heat. Add the powdered sugar with a sifter. Stir until incorporated and thickened. If necessary, add another tablespoon of powdered sugar to thicken. Keep in mind, the glaze will thicken more as it cools.
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes at room temperature before pouring over the cake.
  6. After the cake has cooled enough, flip onto a serving platter. Place the orange slices around the cake, and pour the glaze all over.
Notes
  1. You may also brown the orange slices in some butter, as this browned appearance looks beautifully rustic and tastes delicious.
Adapted from My Grandmother
Adapted from My Grandmother
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Kunafah bil Kishtah (shredded phyllo with pastry cream)

kunafa bil kishta

Kunafah is a sweet Middle Eastern pastry, made of shredded pastry dough which is drenched in a simple syrup, and filled with a variety of delicious fillings ranging from crunchy cinnamon and sugar coated nuts, a sweet cheese, or a smooth filling of cream (kishta). Lately, there is a trend of filling kunafa with all kinds of delicious concoctions such as Nutella, a mangoes, coconut cream, cheesecake or whatever else you may fancy. I personally plan to try Nutella out next, following this same recipe but without the vanilla cream. The flexibility of this easy dessert makes it something worth trying out! This variation is my recipe for a vanilla infused kishta. Kishta is the Arabic word for heavy cream, usually a creamy and decadently smooth filling for pastries. My vanilla bean kishta is an adaption of a classic pastry cream filled kunafah as is made in Egypt.

kunafa with almonds kunafa bundt

Kunafa is a childhood favorite! Every Ramadan I crave it madly. The unique texture of the shredded phyllo is so delicious and crunchy, and I love the way it absorbs the sweet flavors like a sponge. I always thought this seemingly complicated dessert is only achieved from my mother’s kitchen, or Middle Eastern bakeries. 

zoom in kunafah

Lucky for us, this dessert is extremely easy to prepare and make, despite its uniquely complex appearance and textures. My mom always made it with a delicious mixture of nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar and twisted it into a beautiful design. This is a far less complicated version made simply by layering in a pan, filled with cream. I like using a bundt to give it a special shape. You can sprinkle pistachios or almonds on top.  I infuse the cream filling with real vanilla bean, and the creamy texture is reminiscent of my all time favorite dessert: creme brûlée. 

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You will need to purchase kunafah dough at a Middle Eastern market or online. I have no idea how it is made, or who makes it, but I will find out one day. Kataifi dough is almost always purchased in the store, as phyllo dough would be. It is called “kataifi shredded dough” in most cases.  In Chicago, I go to Sanabel Bakery on Kedzie, which is a wonderful haven to get all kinds of Middle Eastern aromatic spices, herbs, and groceries. The dough is almost always sold frozen. You need to plan to thaw this in the fridge 12-24 hours before you use it. So be sure to get the dough ahead of time. In a pinch, you may leave it on the counter to thaw more quickly and use it the same day, but it must be completely thawed out so that you may work the dough properly. Thawing in a microwave will not work. Do not try it. 

kataifi kunafa dough

The first thing to do is to make the simple syrup, known as sharbat in Arabic, so that it has plenty of time to cool. The sharbat is very easy to make; it is sugar mixed with water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Many people add rose water or orange blossom essence to sharbat, but I strongly dislike that overpowering flavor and suggest avoiding it so that you may enjoy the main flavor of the vanilla cream in the pastry. Once the water-sugar mixture begins to boil, add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and reduce the heat until it thickens. The syrup needs to cool so that when you pour it onto the hot, freshly baked kunafa, it absorbs quickly, or “drinks” the syrup. Thus the name sharbat which comes from the Arabic root word sharb, meaning drink. I always like to know the origin of commonly used culinary terms. 

Next, you will prepare the delicious cream filling. This is my FAVORITE part. Your kitchen will smell amazing. I often spend too much money on vanilla scented candles to achieve this effect. So I just LOVE this step. When using a vanilla bean, place it against a cutting board and carefully slice open the top along the length of the bean, without puncturing through the bottom. The scent is divine, and once you begin to simmer it, the aroma will waft through your home.  Simmer 2 cups of heavy cream over medium heat and add the vanilla bean. Scrape out all the glorious vanilla bean caviar from the pod until the cream is speckled with hundreds of beautiful aromatic vanilla bits. I also throw in the whole wooden pod to infuse more flavor, and the scent is just incredible! Alternatively, you could place the emptied wooden pod in a sugar container to have vanilla infused sugar for baking, or for tea and coffee. After simmering for about 5 minutes, you will need to remove the wooden pod and reduce the heat to prevent any scorching of the cream. In a separate bowl, stir 2 tbsp of corn starch with cold milk until dissolved, and then pour the corn starch mixture into the cream. Stir slowly until the cream thickens. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. 

scrape vanilla bean vanilla bean in cream

Now, for the kunafa dough. The thawed dough will most likely be rolled in a thick log of finely shredded pieces; you will need to separate all these pieces with you fingers and massage the shreds with butter in a large bowl or dish.

For this pastry, you need to use samnah, which is clarified butter otherwise known as ghee. Samnah is unsalted butter with all the salt and milk solids removed. It is easy to make. Simply melt unsalted butter and once it is melted, and begins to bubble, remove from the heat and skim off the top when cooled. The salt and solid matter left behind is a delicious treat to lick up with some bread by the way! Samnah could be stored in a container in the fridge and used in many, many other recipes. You could also just use ghee sold in jars in grocery stores, but the homemade clarified butter smells and tastes much better.

break apart the shredded dough pull apart the dough butter on kunafah

It is necessary to rub and separate the shredded dough with the butter as if you are massaging it and oiling every strand. This is a fun sensory activities for kids who want to help you bake! Once all of the shredded dough is separated, fluffed out, and massaged with butter, press half of the dough onto the bottom of a circular pan. Pour the cream in the middle and then cover the cream with the remaining buttered kunafa dough. Pour 1/4 c melted butter all over the kunafa and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until golden. Making this in a bundt pan can be trickier to keep the cream in, but it looks so pretty!

cream filling layered Kunafa

kunafa in pan 2016-10-25sugarandgarlic2016-6 pour the butter

As soon as the kunafa is removed from the oven, you need to pour the sharbat all over it to sweeten. After waiting a few minutes (2-3) for the syrup to drip to the bottom of the pan, flip it onto a serving dish, so that the now permanent bottom of the cake gets sweetened as well. Garnish with crushed pistachios or a mixture of nuts as is done traditionally and enjoy! This is often served with a cup of mint or clover tea. 

kunafa with ishta cream filling kunafa

 

Kunafa bil Kishta (Shredded pastry dough with vanilla cream)
This is a sweet and crunchy Middle Eastern pastry filled with a creamy vanilla filling and soaked in a sweet simple syrup.
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For the samnah/ghee/clarified butter
  1. 2 cups or 6 sticks of unsalted butter
For the syrup
  1. 2 c sugar
  2. 3 c water
  3. 1/4 fresh squeezed lemon juice
For the cream filling
  1. 2 tbsp corn starch
  2. 1/4 c cold milk
  3. 2 c heavy whipping cream
  4. 1 tbsp sugar
  5. 1 vanilla bean pod
For the pastry dough crust
  1. One box of kunafa shredded dough
  2. 3/4 cup clarified butter (soft, not melted)
  3. 3/4 cup melted ghee
Instructions
  1. Prepare by removing the frozen dough from the freezer and thawing in the refrigerator 24 hours before cooking.
For the samnah, ghee, clarified butter
  1. This is best if you make it in advance.
  2. Melt the butter in a pot.
  3. Once it boils, turn down the heat. Allow to cool. Scrape off the particles that come to the top and allow to cool until softened.
For the syrup
  1. In a large pot, stir the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, and the sugar has dissolved, add the lemon juice and reduce to medium-low heat. Allow to simmer until sightly thickened. This step could be done well in advance or even a day prior.
For the cream filling
  1. Pour the heavy cream into a small pot and simmer on medium-low heat.
  2. Slice open the vanilla bean, scrape all the beans out, and drop into the heavy cream. Add the empty pod into the cream. Allow to simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Remove the wooden pod.
  3. Meanwhile, dissolve the corn starch in the cold milk.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, and slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture into the cream. Be careful not to let the cream stick to the pot or scorch. Stir until thickened and remove from heat.
For the kunafa crust
  1. Loosen and fluff the kunafa dough in a large bowl. Massage the pastry dough with 1 cup of softened ghee or clarified butter. Rub all the dough until it is all well coated with butter and all loose.
Assembling the dessert
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F), and move the baking rack to the center.
  2. Using half the dough, press it into the bottom of a circular pan. Press firmly so that the dough goes up the sides slightly, and there are not any openings or cracks. This will eventually be the top of the kunafa when you flip it, so make sure it is evenly spread.
  3. Pour the vanilla cream all over the bottom layer.
  4. Carefully place the remainder of the buttered kunafa dough over the cream, making sure all the cream is covered all the way to the edges, without pressing the cream to ooze out. Make sure you gently pat down any of the shreds down so they are not sticking up, or they will scorch in the oven.
  5. Pour the melted butter evenly over the entire pan to soak it in butter.
  6. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden.
  7. As soon as the kunafa is removed from the oven, pour the cooled syrup all over, evenly. You might not need all of it. After about 20 minutes, flip the kunafa onto a serving platter. This is important to ensure the syrup goes to the bottom of pastry after flipping, so that is is not dry.
  8. Garnish with crushed pistachios.
Adapted from My Mother
Adapted from My Mother
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes

roasted sweet potatoes

These savory sweet potatoes are a quick and easy side for any meal. I served them up along my Thanksgivng turkey this year, and they were a big hit! The sweet potatoes wedges are tossed in my special mix of sultry and savory spices, and roasted to a delicious crisp. The cinnamon I use is a high quality organic ceylon cinnamon powder; it has a aromatic scent of spicy cinnamon and tastes superior to others I have tried. Ceylon cinnamon is also cleaner and safer, contrary to the cheaper cassia cinnamon on most local grocery store shelves. Cassia cinnamon may have a toxin within it that may effect the health of children and adults if consumed frequently. Read more about this here.  

peeling sweet potatoes

I have to mention this major tip I learned only recently because it is incredibly useful: use an actual potato peeler. It works like magic. If you have ever tried to peel or cut into a sweet potato, you know how tough it can be.  A $4 peeler is well worth it as the skin slides off like butter.

I combine cinnamon with savory onion powder, white pepper, salt, and black pepper which perfectly balances the sweet and spicy flavors of the cinnamon and the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are an ultra healthy root vegetable, with a high content in carotenoids (vitamin A), a wealth of antioxidants,  and other nutrients that reduce blood sugar levels. Additionally, the absorption of the nutrients is improved when sweet potatoes are consumed with a healthy amount of fat, such as olive oil.

chopped sweet potatoes

So eaten in moderation, this side dish is an excellent carbohydrate to add to your meals or snack repertoire and feel great about. Just be sure to use organic sweet potatoes because as a root vegetable, it would absorb a high concentration of toxins and chemicals from the soil, if it isn’t organic! 

roasted sweet potatoes
It is mandatory to roast these orange gems on a large flat dish-the more surface area the better because you get more of that roasted, browned, and slightly charred flavor. When the potatoes are layered upon each other, you will have less of that desirable crunchy and charred texture and more that is softened. Rest assured, either way it is delicious, but I would say that the crunchy, slightly charred and crispy pieces are everyone’s favorite part!

sweet potatoes

Laying out the sweet potato wedges or cubes in a larger baking sheet like this will yield crispier potatoes.

roasted sweet potatoes

peel the sweet potatoes

roasted sweet potatoes roasted sweet potatoes roasted sweet potatoes

Savory and Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4
A crunchy sweet and aromatic side of potatoes, this recipe is the perfect addition to any meal.
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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. 3-4 large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
  2. 3 tbsp of olive oil
  3. 2 tsp cinnamon
  4. 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  5. 1/2 tsp white pepper
  6. 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  7. 1 tsp onion powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degree fahrenheit.
  2. With a large knife, slice the potatoes into 1 inch cubes, or wedges that are about 3/4 inch wide. The thicker the potato chunks, the longer it will take to cook and get crunchy. So this size is about perfect. If it is too small or thin, it will burn and get dry.
  3. Mix the olive oil and all the spices in a bowl.
  4. Toss the chopped potatoes in the bowl until well coated. Add extra oil if necessary.
  5. Spread the potatoes evenly on a large, flat pan, avoiding any overlapping.
  6. Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender and golden.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, and remove from pan with a large spatula.
Notes
  1. Serve this along with your favorite steak, chicken, fish, or just as a delicious and healthy snack!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Orange Cranberry Muffins or cake

orange cranberryThis is a delicious citrus cake that is divinely moist, and bursting with tangy cranberries throughout! The recipe is so simple and quick, anybody can whip it up in no time. Orange cake is one of those nostalgic recipes that takes me back to my childhood visits to Egypt. My grandmother and my Tunte Zaineb often made this delicious cake, and we would simply eat it on the go, cut into simple little squares and stored in a plastic tupperware container. I used my grandmother’s and aunt’s recipes to recreate an orange cranberry muffin, which continues to be a favorite treat of mine at local cafes and bakeries. 

orange zest

Zest the skin of the oranges with a sharp zester or grater, such as Microplane.

fresh orange juice

The recipe uses fresh orange zest, which is so important for the orange flavor and scent. Along with some fresh squeezed orange juice, milk, and olive oil, this cake gets very citrusy and moist! Yes, olive oil.  In almost all my cakes I use olive oil. You would not know if you tasted it, the cake is still moist and fluffy, and there is no flavor from the oil. You could certainly use butter instead, if you like. Butter always lends a nice buttery taste, but for health reasons and simply because the cake comes out just as moist, I prefer to bake with olive oil.  

oranges and cranberries cranberries in batter

I also use fresh whole cranberries which are perfect because they are in season in the fall and winter, along with the deliciously juicy oranges. The festive pop of color, along with their tart and juicy flavor, goes so perfectly with this sweet orange cake! I try to buy the cranberries and keep them for a few days to make sure that they ripen and are not so tart in the cake. I found that if I use cranberries right away after I purchase them, they tend to be less sweet, which could definitely make this recipe go sour!

orange cranberry muffins orange cranberry muffin

Orange Cranberry Muffins
This is a supremely moist and citrusy orange cake bursting with juicy cranberries throughout! Make as muffins or in a bundt cake!
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 3/4 c olive oil or butter
  3. 2 tbsp orange zest
  4. 1 3/4 c sugar
  5. 1 c fresh squeezed orange juice
  6. 2 tbsp of milk
  7. 2.5 c flour
  8. 1.5 Tbsp of baking powder
  9. 3/4 c fresh cranberries, washed
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the orange zest.
  3. Stir in the sugar, oil, and orange juice with the eggs.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.
  5. Slowly stir in the flour mixture with the wet mixture. Add the milk. Do not over mix!
  6. Stir in the cranberries.
  7. Grease 2 muffin pans or place a liner in each cup, or grease a bundt pan. Fill the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
Notes
  1. If baking a cake, bake on the top rack so that the bottom does not get too browned, as you will need to flip it. Shake some powdered sugar on top of the cake with a sifter.
Adapted from My Grandmother Saadiya and Tunt Zaineb
Adapted from My Grandmother Saadiya and Tunt Zaineb
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Cinnamon Spice Banana Date Muffins

2016-09-30sugarandgarlic2016-9 chocolate and date banana muffin

These muffins are perfection when it comes to banana bread! Wonderfully moist and delicious, with ooey-gooey chocolate and dates throughout, this is most delicious comfort treat for rainy days like the autumn season! The cinnamon and spice paired with the sweetness of dates and bananas is a favorite treat for my family and friends. My favorite part is the bittersweet chocolate in these little cakes; they balance the sweet dates and cinnamon spice so nicely. I also love to serve this as a cake with a walnut streusel on top (if my nut-allergy husband isn’t around). These make for an excellent breakfast muffin or snack because they are so light and energizing with plenty of dates and less sugar and fat than most banana breads!

banana date muffins

I recently enjoyed one of the most perfect banana breads last winter courtesy of my father-in-law’s nurse, Karen. It was so delicious with dried cherries throughout. She has thus inspired me to bake A LOT of banana bread since then. I also learned an important trick from her recipe: to mix in the flour VERY last will prevent you from over-mixing the batter. Over-mixing banana bread batter is what makes it tough, or rubbery. Problem solved.

My version of banana bread is a bit lighter. I have completely omitted the butter and added coconut oil instead to make these muffins supremely moist with a hint of coconut. I have also cut the sugar in half and added gooey sweet dates instead. You may have read in my other posts about the plentiful health benefits of dates. They are a low glycemic sweetener and energizer, with a bounty of nutrients and minerals our bodies need. 

bananas and dates with muffin
dates, oil, nuts, bananas

Then, I add CHUNKS of bittersweet chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Here is my secret: use a high-quality bittersweet chocolate bar, and chop it. Thank me later.

chopped chocolate

Finally, and most importantly, I infuse some warmth and spice with my stash of high quality spices: a couple of heaping spoons of cinnamon, a pinch of himalayan pink salt, and a dash of ground cloves and cardamom. The sweet and spicey aroma is incredible and is the perfect flavor for this comfort treat. 

cinnamon and spice

I bake these in a muffin pan to make 12 jumbo bakery-style muffins, or I bake 6 muffins and pour the other half of the batter into a 9 inch round pan with a walnut streusel on the bottom. Simply toss chopped walnuts with a tablespoon of coconut oil and a spoon of cinnamon and sugar; spread along the bottom of the pan. The more cinnamon-sugar coated nuts, the merrier. The walnuts pair perfectly with this cake and dresses it up just enough to serve to guests. Just be sure to bake this on the top rack so that the bottom of the cake doesn’t brown too much, since you will end up flipping it to serve. 

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This recipe is very easy. You don’t even need a mixer. Mash up ripe bananas with the coconut oil. I like to soak my pitted dates in hot water to get them really juicy and gooey. I then mash the plump dates with the bananas. Add the sugar, eggs, spices, and mix-ins (chopped chocolate and  dates). Add the flour last and only stir gently until incorporated. DO NOT OVER MIX. Bake for about 30 minutes, and enjoy!

soak the dates mashed bananas with coconut oil banana bread batter chopped dates and chocolate

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Do it right, and enjoy these sweet gooey muffins or a slice of cake with a cup of tea. <3

banana muffins with teamuffins and teabanana date muffin2016-09-29sugarandgarlic2016-21

walnut banana cake cinnamon spice banana date muffins

Cinnamon Spice Banana Date Muffins
Serves 6
These moist banana date muffins are filled with gooey chocolate and a sweet, sultry spice aroma of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 ripe bananas
  2. 2/3 c coconut oil
  3. 1.5 c sugar
  4. 2 whole eggs
  5. 1 c Medjool dates, pitted and halved
  6. 1 c chopped bittersweet chocolate
  7. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 2 tsp cinnamon
  9. 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  10. 1/4 tsp cardamom
  11. 1/4 tsp himalayan pink salt
  12. 2 tsp baking soda
  13. 3 c flour
  14. chopped walnuts, plus extra coconut oil, cinnamon, and sugar for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (F) because you will be done mixing in no time.
  2. Soak 1/2 c of the dates in hot water so that they become plump and soft for about 5 minutes. Drain the water from the dates.
  3. Smash the peeled bananas, soaked dates, and coconut oil together.
  4. Mix in the sugar and spices.
  5. Add the eggs with the vanilla.
  6. Chop the remaining dates into smaller pieces and stir into the batter along with the chocolate.
  7. Add the baking soda and then the flour last. Stir until incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.
  8. Scoop the batter into a muffin pan or into two 9 inch round pans. If you want to dress up the round cake, prepare a walnut mixture on the bottom of the pan by mixing chopped nuts with coconut oil, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour the batter on top and bake on the top rack of your oven.
Notes
  1. You may also choose to spread the chopped nuts smothered in coconut oil, cinnamon, and sugar along the bottom of the muffin pans as well. The nuts pair very nicely with this cake!
  2. Bake on the middle to upper rack of the oven, and check after 30 minutes. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Wawa-Wee Syrups (Review)

I was recently sent a bottle of Wawa-Wee Syrup from the owner, Nadia. As if the fun name isn’t enough to spark your curiosity, this is an organic fruit syrup free of high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. This is something right up my alley! Clean, organic, and delicious. I was more than happy to try the product in a variety of applications. 

Of course, I had to start with breakfast. I made some fresh belgian waffles and drizzled some of the peach syrup over some fresh sliced summer peaches and blueberries.

wawa-wee syrup

It was divine! The syrup truly tastes like a summer peach and is surprisingly light. Its not overly sweet or heavy. The syrup is more fluid than most syrups, but any high quality syrup free of corn syrup and sugar as the main ingredient will be similar. The focus here is the flavor of the fruit puree. And it is perfectly executed. The taste is bursting with fresh peach and as a mom, I am happy to know its not from sugars and artificial flavors but from an actual peach. I love this product and its clean ingredient list.  I also add it to my plain greek yogurt, on top of frozen yogurt, or in my upside-down peach cake! I have two little ones who are quite picky eaters, and they absolutely loved this! I got them to eat greek yogurt every day this week, because a small tea spoon of this perfectly sweetens and balances the tart flavors of the yogurt. They are asking for it at dinner now too! 

waffles with peach syrup

Another wonderful thing about this syrup, aside from its true and delicious peach flavor, is its social purpose. Every bottle you buy helps support an orphan in need. Food with a social purpose is a new breed of super-foods. Super heroes, if you will. Thank you for being so health conscious and socially responsible, Wawa-wee. 

Chicken Pane (Egyptian breaded chicken)

chicken pane with onions

This dish is easily a favorite for all in our family, a comfort food that triggers nostalgia, and a delicious and easy recipe to include in every kitchen! The chicken is juicy and tender, with a crunchy and flavorful outer crust. 

Chicken pane is classic Egyptian recipe of breaded, fried chicken. The flavors are somehow juicier and zestier than what I have tried in the classic American fried chicken counterparts, although both are equally delicious in their own regard. This chicken is softer crunch, with a more flavorful bite. I also use this recipe on smaller strips of chicken tenderloins to make chicken strips or chicken nuggets for the kids, and this is a favorite for all! The name chicken pane, comes from the French word meaning bread crumbs. It turns out when Napolean came to Egypt, the French occupation left some flavorful influences. It is not uncommon to find French influence on Egyptian cuisine, language, and music. Because I love all things Parisian, I don’t mind throwing in this tidbit about my parents’ beautiful home country. 

chicken pane plated egg wash and salt

To make this dish, you need boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into two pieces, and filleted in half (sometimes into thirds, if it is especially thick). It is essential to marinate the chicken in onions, garlic, salt, and pepper overnight or for a couple of hours at the very least! This is what makes the chicken extra juicy and flavorful. 

marinate chicken onions

Once you have your marinated chicken breasts prepared, it is most efficient to set up of an assembly line of 3 bowls: one bowl of flour, one bowl of egg wash, and one bowl of bread crumbs. It is helpful to use a large, deep bowl for the breadcrumb mixture, so that you can easily toss and shake the chicken breast to coat it well. The final destination is a large pan with oil. I like to use a mediterranean oil blend I get at Costco that includes sunflower oil, grape seed oil, and olive oil. This oil combination definitely tastes better than vegetable oil and it won’t burn as easily, but any will work. If I am making smaller chicken strips or simply want a healthier dish, I lay these on a pan lined with foil and bake it. Check out this great demo for coating the chicken pane. 

breading chicken pane

The breads crumbs mixture is combined with some panko crumbs and a delicious combo of seasoning: salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, onion salt, and garlic powder. Sometimes I add minced parsley. 

The final step seems obvious: fry the chicken. However, I consider it mandatory to lay it on a plate lined with some paper towel as soon as you remove it from the pan. Maybe it’s the blot-the-oil-off-your-pizza high-schooler in me, but I find that this makes it lighter and tastier without the greasiness. But again, you could certainly bake this in the oven if you choose! Baking steers away from the traditional recipe and flavor, but it still works. I promise. Just brush the baking pan with some oil and turn the chicken over mid-way. This ensures a crispy golden crust. 

fried chicken pane chicken pane with salad

Chicken Pane
Serves 6
This is a juicy and flavorful breaded chicken with a crunchy and delicious crust.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Ingredients
  1. 3 lbs of chicken breast, filleted and cut in half
  2. 1.5 cups of bread crumbs
  3. 1.5 cups panko crumbs
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1 tbsp water
  6. 1 large onion, sliced or blended
  7. 4 garlic cloves minced
  8. 2 tbsp salt
  9. 1 tsp pepper
  10. 1/2 tsp paprika
  11. 1/2 tsp oregano
  12. 1 tsp onion salt
  13. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  14. 1/4 cup sunflower or grape seed oil (or any oil for frying)
  15. 1/2 cup flour
Instructions
  1. Cover the chicken breasts with the onion and minced garlic, 1 tbsp of salt, and 1 tsp of pepper and marinate over night.
  2. Crack the eggs in a bowl and whip with the water.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the breadcrumbs, panko crumbs, and remaining salt, pepper, and spices.
  4. Pour the flour in a third bowl.
  5. Add the oil to a pan and turn to medium-high heat. The oil does not need to fully cover the chicken, as you will be pan frying it on each side.
  6. Remove the pieces of chicken breast from the marination mixture one at a time and dip it into each bowl you have prepared. So first dust with the flour (shake off any excess flour), then dip into the egg wash so that it is coated on both sides, then dip into the bowl of breadcrumbs to coat completely. Shake off the excess and place it in the pan.
  7. Cook the chicken on one side in the pan until golden, and then flip it. This takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat for each piece of chicken, and add more oil if necessary.
  8. Remove the chicken after it is golden and place onto a plate lined with paper towel.
  9. Serve garnished with red onions, parsley, or other vegetables you prefer.
Notes
  1. You may bake the chicken in the oven at 375 degree F. Simply place the chicken on a pan brushed with oil and flip half way through the cook time. Cook 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness and size of the chicken.
Adapted from Mom
Adapted from Mom
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Peanut Butter Energy Bites

Peanut butter energy bites are a delicious and healthy snack packed with protein and healthy whole grains and seeds. This treat is 100% nut free because my dear husband has a tree-nut allergy. If you are wondering about the peanut butter, well it is a common misconception that they are nuts. Peanuts are a legume, a seed that grows underground. So my highly allergic-to-nuts husband often enjoys peanuts and peanut butter to most observers’ surprise. These peanut butter bites are deliciously sweetened with honey and dates, as well as chocolate chips and dried cranberries or cherries. Similar to my date truffles, these peanut butter bites are a healthy source of energy and protein, so they make a great snack in Ramadan when Muslims fast for long hours, or between meals in a very busy schedule. The recipe is a quick and easy no bake one that you could complete in under 15 minutes.

peanut butter balls

medjool dates

My kids always make these with me. In fact, my inspiration behind these come from my own childhood. Back in the 1980s when television was full of great, wholesome shows like Mr. Rogers, Fredd Penner, and Mr. Dress Up, we learned how to make a delicious and easy treat called “peanut butter balls” from Mr. Rogers. I don’t recall exactly what was in it, but it involved peanut butter, honey, and raisins to some extent. So this recipe is credited to Mr. Rogers, and it is one that conjures up nostalgic childhood memories for me. I further enhance the recipe with the use of dates, a superfood. Dates have numerous minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, to name a few. Their additional nutritional benefits include being a heart healthy, fiber rich fruit, and a source of healthy sugars or carbs to fuel you up. The natural sweetness of the date imparts a perfect caramel flavor to this recipe. I soak the pitted dates in hot water and smash (or blend) them into a paste to incorporate into the peanut butter. A touch of honey also gets whipped into the peanut butter until I have a nicely sweetened creamy base.

spoon of dripping honey

spoon of honey

I add some crunch with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, a sweet and tart bite with the cranberries and cherries, and some heart healthy fiber with oats. Additional flavors such as chocolate chips are optional, and you can also experiment with alternative additives like coconut, white chocolate, carob chips, raisins, dried blueberries, sesame seeds, or tree nuts.

oats, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter

 

 

I let my kids roll these into balls, because this is so fun for them! Besides, this was the way we learned to make peanut butter balls from Mr. Rogers. When I make these for friends or to store as a snack for a few weeks, I prefer to lay it into a rectangular pan and then cut them into bars. Either way, they are deliciously scrumptious! Here is a treat you don’t need to feel guilty about!

child rolling balls

peanut butter bars

peanut butter bars

peanut butter bar

Peanut butter bites
A healthy and delicious energy treat that is so easy to make!
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 3/4 cups peanut butter
  2. 1/2 cup raw honey
  3. 1 1/4 cups quick oats
  4. 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (peeled)
  5. 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  6. 1/2 cup of Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in hot water then blended or mashed
  7. 1/2 c chocolate chips
  8. 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter, honey, and dates together. Add all other ingredients and stir well.
  2. Roll into balls or spread in a pyrex pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes and serve. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Adapted from Mr. Rogers
Adapted from Mr. Rogers
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Green Bean Stew (Fasulya)

Green bean stew

Serve over rice or your favorite grain.

 

This is such a delicious and simple recipe, you will want to add it to your favorites and quick dinners repertoire. The recipe is a classic Egyptian stew eaten in most Middle Eastern homes throughout various countries in the region. There are sure to be variations, but the main ingredients along with the green beans are crushed tomatoes seasoned with onions, garlic, and crushed coriander seed. Some people cook this with lamb or beef stew, and others keep it entirely vegetarian. I prefer to prepare this flavorful stews as a vegetarian recipe whenever possible as I am trying to be a more conscious consumer and cut down on the amount of meat butchered in the world, both for environmental and health reasons. Besides, dishes like this fasulya, my Sipinagh (spinach stew), mulokhia, or stuffed zucchini and peppers are already so tasty and hearty without the meat; you really do not need it. 

You need green beans, of course. Because these are the main ingredient, and play the starring role, these guys need to be of superb quality. Some people use frozen cut green beans, which is fine. If you do use frozen, make sure it is cut only horizontally (not french cut).  French cut green beans are thinly sliced, or julienne, vertically which is too thin for this stew, and all the juicy little beans will leak out, making a stringy mess of a stew. You want a nice full green bean, simply cut in half to be shorter in length. 

fresh cut green beans

Cut the green beans in half, or in thirds if they are long.

Fasulya ingredients

Green beans, onions, garlic, and tomato sauce.

While using frozen may be faster and more convenient, you will really enjoy this dish with some freshly picked, crunchy summer green beans! Simply cut off the stemmy ends and cut in half, or in thirds if the bean is particularly long. This is really the most tedious part of the recipe (which isn’t all too tedious at all), so you may want to enlist some help from the kids to do this part (a plastic knife works fine). My kids love to help and are more likely to eat when they have “cooked” the meal; so try to include the children whenever possible.  

The stew is ready to be prepared once you have a crushed tomato sauce from either freshly blended tomatoes or a jar of crushed tomatoes. You will sauté the onions and garlic with the coriander, until fragrant. If meat is being used, you also add it in the beginning to brown it, before adding the tomatoes.  Once the onions and coriander have scented your kitchen and have sizzled golden, pour in the crushed tomatoes. In Egyptian kitchens, the infamous chicken bouillon cube called Maggi is often used. I have forbidden this mysterious and magical concoction of MSG and sodium from my kitchen for a variety of reasons, so I use good ole’ chicken broth instead. I use Saffron Road’s Artisan Roasted chicken broth which flavors the stew perfectly. Let it simmer until all the flavors have come together and add the cut green beans for the last 20-30 minutes of cook time. 

 

Serve with rice or your favorite grain, and enjoy!

Green Bean Stew (Fasulya)
A hearty and flavorful tomato broth stew with savory green beans, onions, and garlic.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1.5 pounds fresh green beans, stems cut off ends
  2. 1.5 cup crushed tomatoes
  3. 1 tbsp crushed coriander seed
  4. 1 large onion, diced (3/4 cup diced)
  5. 3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  6. 1 tsp fresh crushed garlic
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  9. 1 tbsp olive oil
  10. 1.5 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  11. 1 lb meat or lamb stew (optional) + 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper
  12. fresh cilantro leaves and stems for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Wash the green beans thoroughly, and cut in half to shorten the length. It may be necessary to cut some into thirds if they are long. Do not cut vertically.
  2. Sautee the onions in the olive oil, over medium-high heat until yellow. Slowly stir in the crushed coriander seed, until fragrant. Be careful not to scorch the spice.
  3. If you are cooking with stew meat, add it now with the salt and pepper and brown.
  4. Add the crushed and sliced garlic. Stir well as garlic browns quickly and may burn. Add the crushed tomatoes before the garlic burns.
  5. Add water if you are cooking meat. If no meat, simply add the broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.
  6. If you are cooking with meat, simmer for an hour. If you did not add meat, allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes before adding the green beans.
  7. Add the green beans and a few stems of cilantro for flavor and simmer on medium for 20-30 minutes until they are tender. Taste the sauce and season with more salt if needed. Remove the cilantro stems after cooking if you do not want to eat the stems.
  8. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.
Notes
  1. If you added meat, the cook time will increase. The sauce will need to be diluted with more water to allow enough liquid for the meat to cook well. Let the sauce simmer for at least an hour before adding the green beans.
Adapted from Mom and Neveen Aref
Adapted from Mom and Neveen Aref
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Roasted Sumac Chicken (Mediterranean Chicken)

Garnish with sumac sprinkled on top for an extra citrus kick.

Garnish with sumac sprinkled on top for an extra citrus kick.

I was in the mood for a delicious roasted chicken. I love the flavor of sumac with onions so I decided to rub a fresh whole roaster all over with some of these fantastic flavors. The result was a juicy, incredibly flavorful chicken! I surrounded the chicken with yellow potatoes and plenty of onion slices, which are very important for delivering that delicious citrusy sumac flavor. This dish is reminiscent of a popular chicken dish from the Levant, called Mm’sakhan (yes, pronounced with a mmmm in the beginning for good reason 😉 ). Mm’sakhan also involves some delicious toasted pita bread and pine nuts…but that is another post. This roasted sumac chicken is an incredibly easy dish to prepare with the same great flavors. It takes less than 10 minutes to dress the chicken, and then you just let the magic happen in the oven while you do a few other things.

Sumac is a gorgeous reddish-purple Middle Eastern spice that comes from crushed flowers. You can find sumac spice in an international or Middle Eastern store (obviously), as well as some specialty stores that carry international spices. I could not find it at the local Whole Foods, however. Sumac is also that special spice Arabs use in zaatar bread, spinach pies, and Arabic salad dressings such as Fattoush. It has a strong citrusy, tangy flavor that is perfect over chicken or fish. Every chef should include sumac in their culinary repertoire!

Sumac

First I dressed the chicken with a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and a lot of sumac and paprika. Then I also generously rubbed sumac and paprika ALL OVER the chicken. It is essential to rub underneath the skin, right onto the flesh. This gets the chicken’s flavors to really stand out and keeps it very juicy and delicious. Be sure to surround the chicken with plenty of sliced onions and sprinkle them as well with the seasoning.

 

Surround the chicken with potato wedges and sliced onions.

Surround the chicken with potato wedges and sliced onions.

Mix lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, sumac, crushed garlic, and olive oil to dress the chicken.

Mix lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, sumac, crushed garlic, and olive oil to dress the chicken.

roasted sumac chicken

Stuff the chicken with onions and the remaining lemon halves, to infuse the chicken as it roasts.

Cover the chicken with foil, and let it roast for 1-2 hours, depending on its size. Then remove the foil at the end and let it broil for about 10 more minutes to get a nice golden crust. Be careful not to scorch or dry out the chicken. I find it well worth it to purchase a meat thermometer, so that you could measure when you reach the desired internal temperature (160 F) and not overcook the chicken.

 

 

roasted sumac chicken roasted sumac chicken

 roasted sumac Chicken

Roasted Sumac Chicken
A delicious citrusy roasted chicken, surrounded by lemony potatoes and tangy onions.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
2 hr 15 min
Total Time
2 hr 25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
2 hr 15 min
Total Time
2 hr 25 min
Ingredients
  1. one whole roaster chicken (pasture raised is best), neck and insides removed
  2. 2 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1-2 lemons, juiced
  4. 3 tsp salt
  5. 1/2 tsp pepper
  6. 2 tsp paprika
  7. 3 tbsp sumac, plus garnish
  8. 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  9. 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  10. 1 lb yellow potatoes cut into medium wedges
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and place the rack in the center.
  2. Place the chicken in a large oven-safe dish, and surround it with the potatoes and onions. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over everything.
  3. In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, crushed garlic,1 tablespoon of sumac, 1 teaspoon of paprika, remaining salt and pepper, and the olive oil. Pour evenly all over the chicken, rubbing some underneath the skin.
  4. Use the remaining sumac and paprika and rub it directly onto the chicken skin, as well as underneath it. Sprinkle sumac on the potatoes and onions as well.
  5. Put the leftover lemon halves and some onions inside the cavity of the chicken, to infuse it as it roasts.
  6. Cover with foil and roast for 90 minutes-2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken. Internal temperature should be 160 degrees F. Once internal temperature is achieved, remove foil and broil under high for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is golden.
  7. Remove the chicken from the oven, and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  8. Sprinkle chicken pieces with sumac to garnish when serving.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/