Mango Black Bean Salad

mango and black bean salad

This mango black bean salad is a delicious and refreshing side to add to any Southwest or Mexican themed meal. The sweet and juicy mangoes paired with the lime and cilantro add a burst of flavor to the black beans and corn. I also add peppers, red onions, and tomatoes to complete the dish and this is quite filling. Top it off with tortilla strips and enjoy with your favorite fish or chicken, or serve it up along with tacos or fajitas!

salad ingredients

Add all the ingredients over a bed of greens. I like to use the spring greens mix. Use whatever you prefer. For the corn, the absolutel BEST way to do it, is to roast the corn on the grill or over a flame. Then slice the kernels off the cob. YUM! I can devour a whole bowl of this salad in one sitting. It is very filling!

mango black bean salad ingredients

The easy dressing of lime, cumin, cayenne pepper and avocado oil couldn’t get any easier. I love eating this salad along side my mahi mahi. 

mango black bean salad

Mango Black Bean Salad
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  1. 1 mango, peeled and chopped into cubes
  2. 1-2 tomatoes diced
  3. 1/2 c diced poblano pepper
  4. 1/2 c sliced red bell pepper
  5. 1 c cooked and drained black beans
  6. 1/2 c diced red onion
  7. 1 c sweet corn
  8. 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped finely
  9. 1/2 c lime juice
  10. 2 tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
  11. 1 tsp salt
  12. 1/4 tsp pepper
  13. 1/4 tsp cumin
  14. 1/4 tsp hot chili pepper or cayenne pepper
  15. 8 oz of lettuce, field greens, or spinach
  1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together.
  2. For extra flavor, roast corn on the cob on the barbecue or over a flame. Slice the corn kernels off the cob and add to the salad. This is my preferred method of preparing corn, which I do in the summer over a grill.
  3. Enjoy as a main dish, with burgers, chicken, fish, tacos, fajitas, or anything else!
  1. For variation try adding avocado, or tortilla strips on top.
Sugar & Garlic

Brussels Sprout and Farro Salad

If you have been following along, I have been preparing, eating, and posting a lot of salads lately. I am loving our shift to a more plant based diet, but I just cannot do leafy salads everyday! I need salads with texture, crunch, flavors, protein, color, and variety. I think I have been doing fairly well creating and compiling a good collection of resources. Here is one of my absolutely best and favorite salads! Who has been OBSESSED with yummy, caramelized, roasted brussels sprouts?! Me! Me! Me! I die for it. If its on a menu, I order it. Always. 

roasted brussels sprouts

This hearty salad incorporates roasted brussels sprouts, crunchy and chewy farro, sweet apples and raisins, toasted pepitas, and zesty lemon juice with shallots. What a flavor bomb! 

brussels sprouts and farro salad

This salad is so easy to prepare, with the most tedious step being washing and preparing the brussels sprouts. Sometimes you can find them already trimmed and washed, which is convenient. I always prefer to trim and carefully wash brussels sprouts myself. Once they’re all prepared, lay them flat on a large, flat pan, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees (F) and voila! Be sure to save these to roast and then add onto the salad right before serving, because they are so delicious crunchy. If you toss them in the salad and let it sit, they will get soft. 

cut the brussels sprouts

After trimming and cleaning the brussels sprouts, cut in half.

roast the brussels sprouts

Lay the prepared brussels sprouts in a large pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

For the farro, I have started cooking it the way renown chefs do at SoHo’s Charlie Bird Restaurant. Cooking the farro with 1 cup of apple cider and bay leaves, makes it perfectly scented and flavored to toss with the rest of my aromatic autumnal ingredients: apples, pepitas, and raisins. 

Brussels Sprouts and Farro Salad
This hearty salad incorporates roasted brussels sprouts, crunchy and chewy farro, sweet apples and raisins, toasted pepitas, and zesty lemon juice with shallots.
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  1. 1 cup farro
  2. 1 cup cider
  3. 2-3 bay leaves
  4. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  5. 1 medium apple, diced
  6. 1/2 c red onion, diced
  7. 1/2 c golden raisins
  8. 1 lb brussels sprouts (about 2 cups)
  9. 2 tbsp minced garlic
  10. 1 large lemon
  11. 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  12. 1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
  13. 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  14. 2 tbsp minced shallot
  15. 1/4 c pepitas
  16. chopped parsley for garnish, optional
  1. Cook the farro in the cider, with 1.5 cups of water, the bay leaves and cinnamon. Once it boils, turn the heat to low, and cover. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Allow farro to cool before adding to the salad. Refrigeration for at least 1 hour is recommended.
  2. Prepare the brussels sprouts by washing, peeling the outer leaves, trimming the stem on the bottom, and cutting in half. Lay the brussels in a large flat pan, and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of the olive oil, some salt and pepper, and the minced garlic. Set aside to roast right before serving the salad.
  3. Toss the farro with the apples, raisins, and red onions.
  4. Zest the lemon peel with a zester, and then juice the lemon. Stir the lemon juice with the shallots, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with the farro salad mixture.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roast the brussels sprouts for about 25 minutes, until golden and crispy. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and add to the salad immediately before serving.
  6. Toast the pepitas in a pan over medium heat, until aromatic. Toss the pepitas on top of the salad.
  7. Enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic

Orange Fennel Salad

orange fennel salad

This orange fennel salad is different than our typical Middle Eastern flavors, but you won’t have to look far to find some Mediterranean influence . I combine the citrus flavors of oranges and lemons with crunchy carrots and fennel, and toss it all with fresh mint and honey for a really surprisingly delicious winter salad. Since we have started to shift to an 85% vegan lifestyle (the other 15% is gooey yummy dessert I just can’t depart from), I have explored a wide variety of fresh and raw fruit and vegetable combinations. This salad has been consistently a hit and relished by all I have fed it to. Throughout the cold winter months, there is a colorful variety of delicious citrus, and I use any combination in this salad. My kids really enjoy this because of the artful appearance, and also because they love the sweet and juicy flavors. The crunchy sweet fennel complements the citrus, and makes a nice contrast of flavor on top of a bed of field greens. 

orange and fennel


Start with a fresh bowl of field greens or arugula. 

field greens

Use a vegetable peeler to peel ribbons of colorful crunchy carrots. I also like to use the peeler to slice thin slivers of the fennel. Because the flavor of fennel can be strong, its better to have delicate little pieces throughout.

carrot slices

The citrus honey vinaigrette is the perfect dressing for this salad, and it happens to be my family’s favorite one yet! The citrusy tang is balanced with some sweet orang clover honey and a fresh burst of mint! I hope you enjoy this fresh and delicious salad as much as we do.

citrus honey vinaigrette

orange fennel salad

Orange Fennel Salad
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  1. 2 oranges, any type you prefer
  2. 1/2 c sliced fennel
  3. 1/2 c chopped mint leaves
  4. 1/2 diced shallot
  5. 8 oz spring mix field greens
  6. 1 carrot
For the citrus honey vinaigrette
  1. 1 tbsp minced mint leaves
  2. 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  3. 1/4 c fresh orange juice
  4. 1 tbsp orange zest
  5. 1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
  6. 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  7. 1/4 c olive oil
  8. 2 tbsp orange clover honey
  9. 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Wash the oranges and zest the peel. Set the zest aside to be used for the dressing later.
  2. Peel one orange with a sharp knife, including the white pith, so that the juicy flesh of the orange is exposed. Make two cuts into each section of the orange, just shy of the segment dividers. Set these segments aside to place on top of the salad.
  3. Use the other orange for fresh squeezed juice. Cut the orange in half, juice only half of it, and then slice the other half into circles to place on top of the salad for decor.
  4. Wash and rinse the greens. Place the drained greens into a large bowl.
  5. Toss in the chopped mint leaves, shallots, and sliced fennel.
  6. Wash and peel the carrot. With a vegetable peeler, slice thin ribbons of carrot and arrange artfully on top of the salad. You may do the same with the fennel, to slice thin pieces.
  7. Arrange the orange segments and slices on top of the salad.
  8. In a small bowl or cup, combine all the ingredients for the citrus dressing, and whisk. Pour on the dressing as you serve and enjoy!
  1. Extra dressing may be stored in the refrigerator and used on many other salads! Try tossing in cooked farro or quinoa with this salad as well.
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Egyptian Falafel, the best recipe out there (t’aamiya)

falafel with greens It has been a frequent complaint when we go out to eat at Middle Eastern restaurants: “they just don’t make falafel like they do back in Egypt.” We have tried countless places, and although it still may taste good, it doesn’t ever taste the same. Oh, how I miss my Egyptian falafel. The memory of waking up in our Alexandria vacation home and finding my cheery grandfather walk into the dining room with some hot and fresh falafels wrapped in a greasy newspaper, along with some hot-out-of-the-oven pita bread is one of my best childhood memories. I can almost smell it. 

2017-01-13sugarandgarlic2017-9 falafel towerHere, in the U.S., it is easy to find falafel everywhere. It is even in our local grocery stores. Falafel is such a loved favorite by all because it is a healthy, flavorful, vegetarian and vegan protein based dish. In metro-Detroit where I grew up, and in Chicago where I currently reside, it is even easier to find a wide variety of falafel dishes in endless cafes, restaurants, and diners. But why can’t I still enjoy that same nostalgic scent and flavor of falafels in Alexandria?

I finally figured out what is different. The falafel so well known here is that which hails from the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine) and it is primarily made with chickpeas. Now don’t get me wrong, these chickpea based falafel recipes are still delicious with all their variations and spices from each chef. But that is why it always tasted so different to us.

Egyptian falafel is not made with chickpeas, it is made with fava beans! Ah hah! Here is the key difference and why it has never tasted the same to me. We also load it up with greens for flavor such as cilantro, parsley, and leeks. So there you have it; it wasn’t a special oil, a pan, or even certain contaminants from the Egyptian cooking environment as we have often joked :D. The Egyptian falafel is greener, crispier, and flakier. In Cairo they call it T’aamiya, but if you are in Alexandria they still call it falafel. My dad and his family is from Cairo, and my mother’s side is from Alexandria so we use both names, interchangably. That is the beauty of blending cultures; you have a richer experience and vocabulary 🙂 And this here, is the best falafel recipe out there, demystified.

To make falafel, we do not use the brown fava beans as used in my ful mudammas recipe. Instead, you need peeled, large fava beans. These are sometimes labeled habas beans. I was lucky to find some in the bulk section at Whole Foods. Bob’s Red Mill also sells the correct larger, peeled bean. They should look like this: 

habas beans

Peeled fava beans, also knows as habas beans.

The beans need to soak in water for at least half a day, preferably overnight. The beans do not get cooked soft, but only pulsed in a food processor before frying or baking. So the soaking is very important. The soaking also helps remove some of the unwanted by-product in the beans that our bodies do not digest well and may cause bloating. So, step 1: soak the beans!

falafel ingredientsThe greens used in the recipe give this falafel a really fresh and flavorful bite. It is crispier and lighter than the chickpea variation. Because there is a lot of liquid from the onion and fresh herbs, you need some type of flour to bind the falafel together. I love using garbanzo bean flour, which is really just ground chickpeas. The flavors combine perfectly, and keeps the recipe gluten-free. You can also find ground chickpea flour from Bob’s. Some chopped white onion, cilantro (with stems), parsley, and leek go into this falafel dough for a fresh and green patty. It is fine to add the cilantro and parsley leaves along with garlic into the food processor with the beans, but it is better to finely chop the onion and leek so that the mixture does not get too much water.

leek and garlic

The leek…

chopped leekWhen blending the ingredients slowly pulse the beans until they are like a grainy texture, with no large chunks. Be careful not to puree it into a paste. It won’t hold together into a patty if you do. Once everything is blended, you may begin to combine all ingredients for the dough. Add the spices: cumin, coriander, paprika, salt and pepper. Cayenne is a great addition if you want some kick, but I keep the heat down for my kids.

falafel spices falafel doughOnce all the ingredients are combined (except for the baking soda), you may either pack away the falafel “dough” into freezer bags for later use, or if you are ready to fry them, prepare for shaping the patties.

Do not put the baking soda in while storing the dough. Only add baking soda when ready to fry.

Do not put the baking soda in while storing the dough. Only add baking soda when ready to fry.

When the falafel will be shaped into patties to fry, you need to add 1 tsp of baking soda per 1 cup of dough. Use about 2 teaspoons of dough to roll into a ball and then flatten into a patty. Roll in sesame on both sides and set onto a plate until ready to fry. I fry mine in a combination of sunflower, grapeseed, and olive oil, but you could use any frying oil you like.

falafel patties falafel patties sesame on falafel frying falafelIt is basically compulsory to eat falafel with tahini. The sauce smothers the falafel with the right amount of juicy zest, and makes any sandwich better. Tahini to falafel is like ketchup to potato fries. My cilantro tahini is perfect for falafel. Simply whisk the lime juice into the tahini. Add the minced garlic and cilantro, and whisk in the water until the tahini is the desired consistency. For some reason blending the tahini makes it get hard. So only use a whisk. Drizzle over your falafel sandwich, or simply dip the falafels in and enjoy. :p

falafels falafel sandwich falafel with tahini

Egyptian Falafel
A flavorful and crunchy homemade falafel recipe full of greens and spices!
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
5 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
5 min
For the falafel
  1. 3 cups habas beans (peeled and soaked overnight)
  2. 1/2 white onion, finely chopped (1.5 cups)
  3. 1 bunch of cilantro leaves and stems
  4. 1 bunch of parsley leaves
  5. 4 large cloves of garlic (or more to taste)
  6. 1 leek
  7. 2 tsp salt (more to taste)
  8. 1/4 tsp black pepper
  9. 1 tsp ground coriander
  10. 1/4 tsp cumin
  11. 1/4 tsp white pepper
  12. 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
  13. 1.5 cups chickpea flour
  14. 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  15. 1/2 tsp of baking soda (for frying only)
  16. 3 cups of sunflower or canola oil (or any oil you prefer for frying)
  17. sumac for garnish
  18. pita bread to serve
For the tahini
  1. 1/2 tahini paste
  2. 1/4 c lime juice
  3. 1/4 c water
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 2 tbsp minced cilantro
For the falafel
  1. After soaking overnight, rinse the fava/habas beans with cold water and drain well.
  2. Thoroughly wash the parsley and cilantro. Remove the parsley leaves from the stems, and discard the stems.
  3. Trim off the bottoms of the cilantro stems and discard, but keep the tops of the stems near the leaves.
  4. In a food processor, combine the beans with the parsley, cilantro, and garlic cloves.
  5. Peel the outer leaves of the leek and wash well. Roughly chop the leek and add to the bean mixture. Pulse in a food processor until the bean and herb mixture is grainy like sand. You will likely need to pulse in a few batches to fit it all, so that you do not process parts of the beans too much. Be careful not to puree to a paste.
  6. Stir in the spices and chopped onions.
  7. Slowly stir in the chickpea flour so that you have a moldable dough with no excess water. If it is too watery, add more chickpea flour.
  8. Separate the dough into baggies to refrigerate or freeze for later, or you may fry it all at once to yield several dozens.
  9. Only use the baking soda right before cooking the dough, not for storage. Stir in 1/2 tsp of baking soda for every cup of falafel dough you will cook. Roll into balls, then flatten lightly. Roll the patty in a plate of sesame seeds and set aside on a platter until ready to fry.
  10. Heat the oil in a medium pot on medium-high heat. The oil is ready when you drop a crumb of dough into it, and it sizzles and turns golden quickly. Once hot, turn the heat down to medium and place about 6-8 falafels into the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and set onto a towel to drain. Serve hot and eat immediately!
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Dip the falafels in tahini and enjoy! Bil hana wil shifaa!
  1. Like potato fries, falafel tastes best served immediately. It is best to only fry a small amount that will be consumed immediately, and store the rest in the fridge or freezer. Store in the fridge for 3 days maximum.
  2. When using a frozen bag of falafel dough, allow it to thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.
  3. Serve the falafel with the tahini sauce, sliced tomatoes, green onions, and cucumbers, and of course, with some pita bread.
  4. Bil Hana!
Sugar & Garlic

Easy Bruschetta (tomato basil)


Bruschetta has lately become one of my favorite appetizers and sides to share for dinner parties or casual gatherings. It is easy, healthy, delicious, and serves beautifully as an hors d’oeuvre (or an appetizer if you want to keep it ‘cas’). I make my bruschetta with three main ingredients: sweet and juicy tomatoes, fresh and fragrant basil, and of course, garlic. I serve my bruschetta atop some freshly toasted slices of baguettes, topped with fresh mozzarella and freshly ground pepper. 

My secret ingredient is roasted garlic. I use plenty of garlic in this recipe, and I roast 3-4 cloves in the oven to impart a surprisingly sweet and rustic flavor to this dip. I simply wrap a few large, plump garlic cloves in foil and set them in the oven at 400 degrees (F) for about 10-15 minutes.  I use almost equal amounts of basil as tomatoes, and drizzle on some good balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

roasted garlic juicy tomatoes and garlic

I can eat a whole bowl of this as a salad, guilt-free. This dish is so perfect in the summer when I can use my garden fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and freshly picked basil. Our summer tomatoes that start as measly little stems from the farmer’s market for $3, flourish into jungle-like vines of endless, plump, juicy tomatoes that we don’t know what the heck to do with! Hence, this timely salad. Although not timely with my blog publication in the winter, this recipe is still amazing any time of the year. I promise, this appetizer is equally delicious throughout the winter, and I have been making it more often because of all the holiday and family gatherings. I finely dice the tomatoes into cubes, as I would for tabbouli, or I if using cherry tomatoes, I cut them into quarters. It is important to separate the extra juice and seeds from the tomatoes; this prevents an overly soppy bruschetta. Scooping the juicy seeds to the side and slurping later, works perfectly fine for us!

tomatoes and basil marinated tomatoes

The tomatoes get marinated with balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt & pepper, onion powder, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. The basil is not merely a topping, but is an essential partner to mingle with the tomatoes. The fresh flavors are just WOW. 

bruschetta bruschetta on bread

I don’t feel the need to toast bread in oil, but instead set them onto my panini grill and press them for a a couple of minutes until golden and toasted. Any method works fine!



A juicy, zesty, and deliciously savory blend of tomatoes, basil, and garlic served over crunchy baguette slices or crackers.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
  1. 4-5 firm, but ripe tomatoes (2 cups chopped)
  2. 1.5 cup of basil leaves (about 1 bunch)
  3. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  4. 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. freshly ground pepper, to taste
  8. 1/2 tsp onion powder
  9. 1/2 tsp oregano
  10. optional: fresh mozzarella sliced into rounds
  11. 1-2 fresh baguettes, sliced diagonally into rounds
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (f).
  2. Wrap 3 of the garlic cloves loosely in foil and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  3. Dice the tomatoes into small cubes, separating the juicy parts and seeds to the side.
  4. Separate the basil leaves, and layer several basil leaves into a single stack. Roll, and slice thinly into long strips. Chop strips into smaller pieces if they are too long. Repeat until all the basil is thinly sliced.
  5. Remove the roasted garlic from the oven and smash it in the bottom of a medium sized bowl.
  6. Add the tomatoes. Mince the remaining fresh garlic cloves and toss them with the tomatoes in the bowl.
  7. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spices, and stir well. Add the basil. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes before serving.
  8. On a grill pan or regular pan add olive oil, and toast the slices of baguette until golden.
  9. Spoon a dollop of bruschetta onto the toasted bread, add a piece of mozzarella, and top with freshly ground pepper.
Sugar & Garlic

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
  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
  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.
  1. Serve this along with your favorite steak, chicken, fish, or just as a delicious and healthy snack!
Sugar & Garlic

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
  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
  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.
  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

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
  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
  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.
  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

Creamy lentil soup (shorbat ads)

Shorba means soup in Arabic. Ads means lentils, so shorbat ads translates literally into soup of lentils.

shorbat ads with lemon and pita

This popular soup is a Ramadan staple and will be found at Iftar (the daily meal of breaking the fast during Ramadan) tables quite frequently in the Arab world. It is a beautiful, creamy, yellow soup that is both hearty and healthy. It is naturally vegetarian and vegan, has virtually no fat, and is full of heart healthy fiber and vegetables. So almost every diet will love incorporating this dish.

Red or orange lentils

Shorbat Ads or yellow lentil soup

Garnish with cilantro and paprika; serve with pita chips and lemon.

yellow lentil soup


The velvety texture might surprise you because there is no fat, milk, or cream added. The orange lentils, along with the aromatic root vegetables of carrot, onion, and garlic are what scent and flavor this delicious soup. I’ve already discussed what a fantastic legume lentils are for your diet in my recipe for lentil  pilaf, and you can read more health benefits here. This creamy lentil soup is often found in many Middle Eastern restaurants nowadays, and while the flavors can vary, this is surely going to be the best recipe. The recipe comes straight from my Egyptian grandmother’s kitchen (Teta), God rest her soul. While turmeric is used in many modern recipes today, it is actually not a part of this authentic recipe. I presume it is used to boost the yellow color, and it certainly does not hurt to add it. I use it because I have it, but it will dye your wooden spoons yellow 😀 Chopped tomatoes are added to the recipe to boost the flavor and the secret ingredient I incorporate is chicken or vegetable stock. Water is perfectly fine, but I find the broth gives an extra boost of flavor. I don’t use any Maggie cubes or other MSG catch all seasoning with who-knows-what in it, so I definitely prefer the flavors added by the tomato, broth, and root vegetables. 

Root vegetables: carrot, onion, garlic, tomato

The flavor companions clockwise: yellow onion, carrots, garlic, tomato.

root vegetables and tomato

The delicious base of this soup’s fantastic flavor starts by simply tossing the vegetables in some olive oil over medium heat, just until fragrant. Pour in the broth or water, the lentils, and spices and you’re pretty much done. 

shredded carrots 2014-06-30sugarandgarlic2014-9 2014-06-30sugarandgarlic2014-10

sauteed vegetables

Lightly sauté in a teaspoon of olive oil until fragrant.

let it simmer...

Let it simmer…


 This soup quickly simmers until the lentils break down into a creamy consistency, which takes all but 20 minutes. The orange shelled lentils cook soft very quickly,  unlike their brown shelled counterparts. So be sure to use the correct lentils.

washing and sorting lentils

Be sure to sort and wash the lentils carefully.

Soup simmering.

Simmer on low, until thickened.

Puree the soup.

Puree with an immersion blender.

I then puree the entire mixture once it is cooked soft, into a thick and velvety consistency. The soup thickens significantly when sitting so be sure to stir in some extra water over low heat before serving if this happens. Like many grandmothers love to do, my Teta went the extra mile and added another step to make this soup REALLY lip smacking good. In another pot, she would brown some delicious tiny vermicelli noodles (sha3reya in Arabic) in butter, then pour the pureed soup over it and simmer until the noodles are cooked. This tastes really great and adds a nice texture.  However, I typically omit this step because I am trying to keep the soup healthy and paleo- and mostly because I don’t want to wash another pot! But I will usually do this for guests because it makes the soup extra special 😀

I serve with pita chips on the side, which is optional.

yellow lentil soup. Dip a pita chip. Dip a pita chip.

Fresh squeezed lemon juice is a must, if you ask me!

Lemon on soup.

Squeeze some lemon juice.

Lemon on soup.

Enjoy! Bil Hana wil Shifaa (Arabic for with health and healing)

Creamy Lentil Soup- Shorbat Ads
Serves 4
A creamy lentil soup full of flavor and healthy vegetables is hearty and filling!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 2 cups of red lentils (they are actually orange, but called red:)
  2. 3 cups of broth (or water)
  3. 4 cups of water, plus more to thin later
  4. 1 tsp cumin
  5. 1/2- 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  6. pinch of pepper
  7. pinch of turmeric (optional)
  8. 2 large carrots, shredded
  9. 1 tomato, diced
  10. 1 yellow onion, diced
  11. 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  12. 1 tsp olive oil
  1. First sort the lentils for any stones, grains, or sand. Wash thoroughly and drain.
  2. In a large pot, over high heat, add the olive oil and vegetables and toss lightly until fragrant. Do not brown it.
  3. Immediately add the lentils, broth, water, and spices. Stir well.
  4. Once the soup begins to boil, reduce to medium-low heat. Allow it to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, uncovered.
  5. Once the lentils are softened and cooked, puree with a blender, and remove from heat. If the soup looks too thick to you, you can add more water over low hear and stir until homogenous.
  6. Serve immediately with lemon wedges, and optionally pita chips.
  1. Soup will thicken when it sits or when refrigerated. Simply add some water when reheating, and stir.
Adapted from Teta and Mom
Adapted from Teta and Mom
Sugar & Garlic

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (Malfoof or Mahshy Krom-b)

stuffed cabbage, or malfoof

 One of the best dishes to originate from Middle Eastern cuisine, this delicious and savory blend of rice, fresh herbs and tomatoes wrapped in a juicy cabbage leaf will leave everyone begging for more! This healthy dish is easily an all time favorite and comfort food for many people. While making it is no simple feat, once you get through peeling and prepping the cabbage leaves the rest of this recipe is one of the easiest! Really. 

In Egypt, we call this dish “Mahshy Kromb”[Mah-shee Ko-romB], which literally means “stuffed cabbage”. In most else of the Arab world, particularly the Levant region, this dish is called “malfoof”, which literally means “rolled” or “wrapped”. Another important difference in this dish prepared in Egypt versus the rest of the Arab world, is that we make it completely vegetarian and full of aromatic herbs. However, in Palestine and Syria for example, it is usually prepared with meat. I of course, combine the best of both worlds. Although I must say I actually prefer the flavor of the vegetarian version; the singular focus on herbs is more flavorful and fragrant than its meat counterpart. In this I combine dill, parsley, and cilantro with rice sautéed in tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cumin with some lean ground beef. This is one delectable dish everyone MUST try!

cabbage and vegetables

fresh ingredients

 The first step is to prepare the stuffing mixture. If you are adding beef, you want to leave enough time for the rice mixture to completely cool off before adding the raw meat so that it doesn’t begin to partially cook in the warm temperature of the rice. If you aren’t adding beef, you still want this mixture to cool off so that you can stuff the cabbage leaves easily and not scorch your fingers. Sauté the onions, garlic, and tomatoes in olive oil until they are soft, fragrant, and begin to yellow a bit. Toss in the rice and tomato paste so that it is all well coated. You then add all the chopped fresh herbs. At this point it will smell incredible; try to refrain from eating all the stuffing mixture. Remember we still need to stuff the cabbage leaves before you enjoy this 😉 Set aside to cool.

Sautee the onions and garlic in olive oil.

Sautee the onions and garlic in olive oil.

...add tomatoes

…add tomatoes

Stir in the rice and tomato paste.

Stir in the rice and tomato paste.

Add the rice, herbs, and tomato paste. Yum! It smells amazing at this point.

Add the  herbs, and tomato paste. Yum! It smells amazing at this point.

Now you need to prepare your cabbage leaves. The trick to success here is picking the right cabbage and separating the leaves. Finding a “good” cabbage with tender leaves seems to be all luck, at least in Chicago. Reportedly, there are much better cabbages to use in the Middle East and it is very hard to come by them here in the US. The leaves of the cabbages grown here are larger, thicker, and coarser. Nonetheless, you can find a good cabbage by picking a young green one, with what looks like softer, smaller leaves. But again, its all luck-for me and many I know anyway. If you have a good source for picking or buying the right cabbage, please do share it below! I happen to find the best cabbages at a Middle Eastern market or Mexican grocery store, so if you have any in your neighborhood definitely check those out.  As for separating the leaves, I have a very simple way to do so. You need a large enough pot to submerge the cabbage in water, a knife, a fork, and tongs. I first core out the rough center of the cabbage with a knife and pull it out. After washing thoroughly, and pulling off the rough outer leaves, I boil the cabbage for about 3 minutes. Then using tongs and a fork, I start to pull away the leaves and placing them in a colander to drain. You do not want to cook down the leaves in this step! We are simply blanching them to facilitate the separation of the leaves and to slightly soften them. 

how to core a cabbage

Cut around the core on the bottom, and push the knife in deeper each time you circle around.

How to core a cabbage

Then pull the core out, by wiggling it out with the knife and your fingers.

green cabbage

Pull off the outer leaves.

Boil the cabbage for only 3 minutes.

Boil the cabbage for only 3 minutes.



Begin to pull the leaves off with tongs and a fork.

Begin to pull the leaves off with tongs and a fork. 

Allow the leaves to cool and drain for a few minutes.

Allow the leaves to cool and drain for a few minutes.

Prepare the leaf by cutting off or shaving down the thick stem of the leaf.

Prepare the leaf by cutting off or shaving down the thick stem of the leaf.

If it is a large leaf, just cut it into two pieces and remove the thick stalk in the center.

If it is a large leaf, just cut it into two pieces and remove the thick stalk in the center.

 Once you have the leaves prepared, it’s smooth sailing from here. Kids can help with the rest; it’s that easy. Place a spoon of the rice mixture in the center, and roll the leaves up like a tight cigar or burrito. Line the bottom of the pot with several thick slices of potatoes to protect the cabbage from scorching, and begin to stack the rolled cabbage leaves, filling up one layer at a time. 

fill the cabbage leaf

rolling cabbage leaves 2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-46 2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-47 2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-52 2014-12-08sugarandgarlic2014-53 stack the cabbage leaves into a pot

Finally, pour the cooking liquid (tomato sauce, water, and seasoning) over the rolled leaves and cook to perfection. After the pot comes to a boil, simmer on low for about 35 minutes. Cooking time varies so watch the liquid so that you do not burn your delicate cabbage rolls! 

Cover the leaves with a plate while it boils to keep everything in place.

Cover the leaves with a plate while it boils to keep everything in place.

Remove the plate once you turn down the heat, and cover with a lid.

Remove the plate once you turn down the heat, and cover with a lid.

The cooked product, after about 35 minutes. Cooking time varies so watch the liquid so that you do not burn your delicate cabbage rolls!

The cooked product, after about 35 minutes. Cooking time varies so watch the liquid so that you do not burn your delicate cabbage rolls!

Congratulations! You have made one of the most delicious dishes ever invented.  


Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (malfoof)
Serves 4
A flavorful and delectable treat enjoyed through out the Middle East, featuring an herb savory rice filling wrapped in sweet cabbage leaves.
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Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
2 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
  1. 1-2 green cabbages
  2. 2 c medium grain rice
  3. 2 bunch of dill (1 c chopped)
  4. 1-2 bunch of parsley (1 c chopped)
  5. 1 bunch of cilantro (1/2 c chopped)
  6. 1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh, not canned)
  7. 3 tbsp tomato paste
  8. 1 tsp cumin, plus 1/2 tsp for cooking liquid
  9. 1 tsp coriander
  10. 2 tsp salt, plus 1 tsp extra if adding meat
  11. 1 tsp black pepper, plus 1 tsp extra if adding meat
  12. 1 tbsp fresh minced garlic
  13. 1-2 onions, diced
  14. 1 lb lean ground beef (optional)
  15. 3 tbsp olive oil
  16. 3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
  1. In a large pot, over medium heat, sauté the chopped onions in 2 tbsp of olive oil until soft. Add the garlic once the onions begins to soften. Add the diced tomatoes, rice, and spices (cumin, coriander, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp of black pepper). Stir well until well coated.
  2. Add 2 tbsp of tomato paste to the mixture and stir well. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Add all of the chopped parsley, dill, and cilantro to the rice mixture.
  4. If adding beef, add it to the rice mixture only after it has completely cooled so that you do not partially cook the meat in the heat of the rice (this will make an unfavorable smell and texture). Add the extra salt and pepper to the beef. If you want to make some cabbage without meat, skip the meat for now, and add it later.
  5. In a large stock pot, boil enough water to cover the entire cabbage when immersed.
  6. Cut out the core of the cabbage and remove any thick outer leaves. Wash it very well.
  7. Immerse the cabbage into the pot of water and allow it to boil for only about 2-3 minutes. Then begin to pull off leaves using a fork and tongs. Place each leaf you pull off into a colander to drain. Continue doing this until you have removed all the leaves. Rinse off with cold water and set aside to drain.
  8. Take one leaf at a time to prepare for rolling. Shave off the thick stalk of the cabbage leaf (see picture), or you may completely cut out the stem with a knife, leaving a v-shaped opening in the leaf. Simply overlap the two sides of the leaf to close this gap. If the leaf is large enough, you could even cut it into two smaller leaves.
  9. Place the leaf on a plate, with the vines of the leaf against the plate. Place a tablespoon of the rice mixture onto the leaf, and roll up like a burrito or cigar. There is no need to fold in the sides as the leaves are thick and will hold shape. However, I like to fold in the sides halfway through my roll, just to keep them all neat and nice 🙂
  10. Place each rolled leaf into a wide and deep pot, lined with potato slices on the bottom to prevent the leaves from scorching and sticking.
  11. After you have stacked all the cabbage leaves in the pot, prepare the cooking liquid. Combine 2 cups of water with 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp of cumin, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and 1 tbsp of tomato paste.
  12. Cover the cabbage leaves with a weighted plate, so that they do not float and move around and become undone when you pour the liquid over. Slowly pour the liquid over the plate until it sifts through down to the cabbage leaves and covers them.
  13. Turn the heat on to medium-high and allow the pot to come to a boil. Once it boils, turn it down to low and remove the plate carefully with tongs (its hot!). Cover with a lid and cook for about 30-45 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  14. Allow the cabbage rolls to cool for about 15 minutes, then serve warm.
  15. Bil hana wil Shifaa! (With health and healing!)
Adapted from Mom
Adapted from Mom
Sugar & Garlic