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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 experiences. 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!
Tahini
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Dip the falafels in tahini and enjoy! Bil hana wil shifaa!
Notes
  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 http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

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/

Pretend play snow!

play snow

Over winter break, I had the pleasure of being stuck at home with my two lovely girls, ages 2 and 5. I had to come up with fun activities daily and the games and toys became redundant quickly. First I considered those cool magic sand or play dough activities I see so often on Pinterest, but I really did not want to worry about that HUGE mess. Then I saw this awesome sensory play involving pretend snow that would actually help clean my tables and floors! So we went ahead and made some pretend snow, of course.

play snow hands

Mixing the shaving cream and baking soda!

Mixing the shaving cream and baking soda!

 

 

All you need is baking soda and shaving cream. I set the girls at their plastic play table, away from the rug and let them mix baking soda and shaving cream in a plastic bin with their hands. We didn’t even measure; we just added shaving cream to the baking soda until it had that fluffy, sticky texture of packing snow.  The kids LOVED it! And I loved how it cleaned their tables! I even enjoyed mopping up the mess off the floor too, because it was cleaning my floors! A win-win!

winter2015sugarandgarlic2016-12

Each girl had her own bin, to prevent spillage.

Each girl had her own bin, to prevent spillage.

Making snowballs!

Making snowballs!

I would say we used about 1 cup of baking soda and half a can of the cheap, white Barbasol shaving cream. I have a huge bag of baking soda I bought from Costco, which expired for cooking purposes. So naturally it is the ideal choice for play activities. Check out the economy bag at Costco next time you are there!

winter2015sugarandgarlic2016-15

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
Ingredients
  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
Instructions
  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.
Notes
  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 http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Salted Caramel Brownie Cookies

salted caramel brownie cookie

Mmmmmmm who doesn’t love those chewy, fudgey, decadent, edges of brownies lining the sides of  your brownie pan? So rich and chocolatey, and a nice chewy crisp make the texture of the infamous brownies on the edge beloved to many. What could be better?

How about 360 degrees of that perfect texture in a cookie? Oh and with some creamy salted caramel. Yes, caramel. I am always looking to see how I can take my desserts to the next level. Salted caramel brownie cookies. This is it folks.

a fudgey brownie cookie salted caramel brownie cookie brownie cookie

The recipe of this cookie is a modification of one by the talented Donna Hay and is quite easy. It requires a melted dark chocolate brew stirred with a minimal amount of flour. I use Ghirardhelli or Valrohna dark chocolate, because of their superb quality, and as the main ingredient, the flavor is important.

chocolate and butter

 

First, you will melt this delicious dark chocolate with the butter. You may simply do this in the microwave in 30 second intervals of stirring and checking. Or you may opt to do this in a double boiler; I simply place a pyrex bowl over a smaller pot of boiling water. Either way works well, and with either method you need to be careful not to scorch the chocolate. 

bittersweet chocolate

Now the eggs and sugar are whipped into a creamy meringue, which lends to the perfectly shiny, crackled top of the cookie that shatters in your hands and mouth. Do not skip this step! brownie cookie batter

After you have prepared the fluffy meringue of sugar and eggs, sift the dry ingredients. Sifting the flour helps ensure a smooth batter with no lumps. I use a mesh strainer to shake the flour and baking powder through; you do not need any fancy gadgets. Next, comes the coffee, the essential companion to chocolate. Using coffee or espresso in chocolate recipes enhances and deepens the flavors of the chocolate. Then you will add that velvety melted chocolate. Try not to eat half of it as you pour and scrape the sides. If you tend to do this (as I do), then melt more chocolate than needed! 🙂

For the caramel, I use Rolos candy. I like to chop them only once, in half, to maximize the amount of caramel in each stretch. These seriously ooze chocolate and caramel in every bite! How perfect 🙂

2015-01-07sugarandgarlic2015-4

Finally, it is absolutely necessary to refrigerate the batter for at least 10 minutes so that you could a) easily scoop the batter into round dollops and b) so that the cookies keep their shape as they bake. Once the cookie batter is dolloped onto a baking sheet (I recommend using silicone baking mats), sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake at 350 degrees and let the magic happen. 

2015-01-07sugarandgarlic2015-28

 

a fudgey brownie cookie 2015-01-07sugarandgarlic2015-17 brownie cookie

 

Grab a plate. And a cold glass of milk.

brownie cookie and milk

 

Salted Caramel Brownie Cookies
Yields 2
This is a delicious brownie cookie with creamy pops of salted caramel, and topped with a light sprinkle of sea salt to highlight the rich flavors of dark chocolate and caramel.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 500 grams of dark chocolate chunks (3 cups)
  2. 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  3. 2/3 c white sugar
  4. 2/3 c dark brown sugar
  5. 1/2 c flour
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 1 tbsp vanilla
  8. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  9. 1 cup chopped Rolos caramel candies
  10. 1 tsp instant coffee or ground espresso
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt 2 cups, or 400 grams, of the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler (one pyrex bowl placed over a pot of boiling water), or in a microwave while stirring every 30 secs. Do not overheat as this will ruin the chocolate's consistency. Set aside.
  3. Whip the eggs with the sugar for about 10 minutes until pale and creamy.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder.
  5. Add the flour gradually to the egg and sugar mixture.
  6. Add the espresso or coffee grounds.
  7. Stir in the melted chocolate until well incorporated.
  8. Add the remaining chocolate chunks, as well as the chopped caramel candies.
  9. Set in refrigerator for 10-20 minutes.
  10. Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture onto a baking sheet for each cookie, leaving 1-2 inches between each cookie as these will spread. Sprinkle each cookie with coarse salt.
  11. Place the cookie sheet in the middle rack on the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until the top of the cookie is cracked. Do not over bake! Check on the cookies by 8 minutes as cooking times vary, depending on your oven.
  12. You may choose to sprinkle a pinch more salt on top of each cookie after baking, if the salt appears to have dissolved while in the oven.
Notes
  1. From my experience, if you have a cookie sheet baking underneath another one, the bottom rack of cookies don't develop the beautiful crackled top layer.
  2. You may use chewy caramel candies, however these did not spread in the cookie as much as the Rolos.
Adapted from Donna Hay
Adapted from Donna Hay
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Upside-down Peach Cake

Nothing smells like summer better than some perfectly ripe and sweet juicy peaches. The smell is just heavenly.

fresh peach sliced peaches

The peaches are fantastic this summer. I sampled one at the store, was knocked off my feet with its peachy perfect scent and sweetness, so I bought a huge crate. Then when I was at home feeding my kids peach after peach, I was worried they would run out at the market, so I went back the next day and bought more. Then I had several large crates of big, juicy, golden peaches. I bit off more than I could chew, and thought I needed to start baking some delicious treats. This peach cake was hands down our favorite!

peach upside-down cake

I took the concept of a pineapple upside down cake and swapped the pineapple for some equally golden and gorgeous peaches. I used my basic yellow cake recipe and deepened the flavor with a caramel texture by subbing out the white sugar for some sweet dense brown sugar. I also added moisture with some sweet peach juice and pureed peaches! What a perfect match. The sweet caramelized topping of the peaches dripping over the moist peach infused cake is just divine. I really intended to eat this with some ice cream. But it seems we ate it all up before I made it to the grocery store to buy some! Oh and make sure you have some people around to help you eat when you bake this cake, because it is that good. Unless you have better self control than me.

peach cake slice

Serve it up with vanilla ice cream on the side!

The cake whips up very quickly and easily and you don’t even need a mixer. I use fresh juice from these ripe peaches in the batter, which was really no problem extracting since the juice was literally dripping all over while I peeled and sliced the peaches. Any peach that got a bit goofed up while slicing, just gets tossed into the blender to puree for the batter.  Some will ask, “Can I use canned peaches?” Yes, you can but that is not as flavorful, fresh, and clean as using delicious fresh tree ripe peaches. Preservative free and whole-some baking for me! Use firm, ripe peaches, not overly ripe peaches as they will be hard to slice and peel. I found it easiest to first slice the peaches with the skin on, then stripped off the peel off of each slice. Somehow, that thin skin actually holds together all that juicy flesh.

sliced peaches

fresh peach puree

Fresh peach puree- made some great baby food as well!

peach floral design

Fleur de peach

So back to this recipe.

I arranged the peach slices in a pretty round flower design on the bottom of my pan. Notice I used a spring form pan, thinking it will be easier to pop out the cake. Horrible idea. The butter from the caramel sauce dripped all over my oven. I don’t know what I was thinking. At least I realized this before I put it in the oven and set the pan on top of a larger baking sheet. What a mess that made! And I probably lost some of that oozy gooey carmel topping! Hey, it happens. Use a regular round cake pan, not a springform 😉

I mixed the sugar and eggs with some coconut oil and olive oil followed by the pureed peaches. Then combine the flour mixture, and some moisture with yogurt and milk, and you are set for a seriously deliciously moist cake!

pour batter over the peach slices peach upside down cake

This is a moist cake, so it will bake for 35-45 minutes. Mine took exactly 39 minutes.

 peach upside down cake peach upside down cake peach upside down cake

Upside-down Peach Cake
A deliciously moist peach cake, topped with caramelized fresh juicy peaches.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  3. 3/4 c brown sugar
  4. 1/2 c white sugar
  5. 1/2 c olive oil or 1/4 olive oil and 1/4 coconut oil
  6. 1/4 c vanilla or plain yogurt
  7. 2 c all purpose flour
  8. 4 tsp baking powder
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1 tsp cinnamon
  11. 1/2 c pureed fresh peaches
For the peach topping (at the bottom of the pan)
  1. 1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
  2. 1/2 c brown sugar
  3. 4-5 peaches, sliced and peeled
For the topping
  1. Pour the melted butter on the bottom of the pan. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter. Be sure to sift any lumps. Place the sliced peaches over the butter-sugar mixture evenly in a circular, floral design.
For the batter
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (f).
  2. Whisk the eggs, vanilla extract, and sugars until frothy.
  3. Add the oil and pureed peaches to the egg mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet egg and sugar mixture.
  6. Add the yogurt and stir; be careful not to over mix.
  7. Pour the batter carefully and evenly over the sliced peaches.
  8. Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes before flipping onto serving dish.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Garden Vegetable Linguine

This delicious linguine pasta dish features spinach, pea shoots, onion, and garlic, with some hearty portabella mushrooms and sweet red bell peppers. 

vegetable pasta

Pasta is such an essential go-to dish to create a flavorful and easy meal with a variety of vegetables and fresh ingredients. I love me a good farm-to- table meal; and these fresh chopped veggies from the farmer’s market are the perfect companions to pasta linguine. Even better, this a fast and easy quick meal, and even the busiest of us can whip up this gourmet dinner in no time!

sliced mushrooms and onions

Pasta has been getting the cold shoulder a lot lately with the ever increasing popularity of gluten free and low carb diets. Even I personally have been limiting my carbs lately and trying to eat a lot more whole and raw foods, but there will ALWAYS be a place for pasta in my life. The key is to utilize it as a vehicle for the fabulous fresh vegetables and sauces you create. My kids love to eat pasta, and I love to give it to them loaded with nutritious vegetables and ingredients.

Pasta is also an excellent dish when you need a carb loaded meal to give a boost of energy such as at the end of a long Ramadan day of fasting!

I love this recipe because it is fast, fresh, and easy. No sooner than you finish reading this post, you can whip up this quick gourmet meal.

sautee mushrooms in garlic oil

Sautee the mushrooms and peppers in the garlic oil.

add spinach and pea shoots

Add the spinach and pea shoots at the very end.

I simply use inspiration from the fresh produce available. At the farmer’s market I picked up some pea shoots for the first time (at the suggestion of my friend), fresh spinach leaves, portabella mushrooms, red bell peppers and tomatoes.  I made a quick marinara sauce with all the tomatoes I got, then used the remainder of the vegetables to make a delicious rainbow of textures and flavor. I always start by sautéing some onions or garlic, in some olive oil or in this case both. Then add in the mushrooms and peppers until they start to become tender, and add the leafy spinach and pea shoots at the end so that they do not get too soft and release water. I toss this fabulous mixture with the pasta and drizzle my delicious homemade marinara over it, and we have a gorgeous and colorful meal in no time!

toss in linguine

Like a classic Italian chef, toss the linguine in all the delicious ingredients.

Garnish with fresh basil or parsley. Bon a petit! 

 

 

garden vegetable pasta

Garden Vegetable Linguine
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Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
13 min
Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
13 min
Ingredients
  1. 6-8 portabella mushrooms (2 cups sliced)
  2. 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  3. 1/2 cup pea shoots, parsley, or scallions (optional)
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1/2 cup marinara sauce or sliced tomatoes
  6. 1/2 onion, sliced
  7. 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  8. 2 tbsp olive oil
  9. 1 lb linguine pasta
  10. salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp salt)
Instructions
  1. Boil the linguine pasta in water with olive oil until al dente (about 8 minutes), and drain.
  2. While the pasta boils, slice the mushrooms, pepper, onion, and garlic. The spinach only need a rough chop; it will decrease in size considerably over the heat.
  3. Sautee the onion and garlic slices in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and red pepper and toss for about 1 minute. If using fresh tomato slices instead of marinara, add the tomato slices. Add the spinach and pea shoots and toss gently. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Remove from heat and immediately toss in the linguine pasta. If using the marinara sauce, toss in the sauce at this point. Serve hot.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Avocado Pesto Pasta Salad

I love pesto. And I love avocados. This dish combines these two loves into a flavorful and fresh pasta salad! 

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I’m a proponent of creative cooking, and using ingredients you have on hand to create delicious meals. Its a survival skill that comes in handy when you are a busy mom just trying to feed hungry mouths. My daughter’s school was having a family luncheon pot luck, and I had signed up for some type of pasta salad. I am known to try new recipes for the first time on large groups. Brave I know, but it hasn’t back-fired so far. I knew I wanted to make pesto, but I never make it the traditional way (you may have read in my other posts about my husband’s deathly nut allergy). So I don’t use nuts and I usually improvise.  So here I had tons of parsley, avocados, and perfectly juicy and plump cherry tomatoes. 

Oh that avocado can whip into a beautiful green “butter” for my pasta salad! Who needs nuts? (omega-3 fats, CHECK)

Lulu do you want to pick some parsley leaves from the garden!?

My daughter nods enthusiastically.

And so it was created: avocado- pesto pasta salad. No nuts, but plenty of kick from garlic and earthy parsley, the creaminess of the avocado, and a tad of lemon juice and we were set for a delicious meal in no time! We used bow tie pasta because, well, they are my daughter’s favorite. What 3 year old girl wouldn’t love to eat bow ties?! Anything to make eating appealing and fun for kids, right?

Lemon or lime juice is absolutely necessary here to keep the avocado’s vibrant green color. Some salt, pepper, and crushed garlic season the “pesto” perfectly, and the fresh parsley leaves give this sauce the perfect texture and earthiness to replace the traditional basil. At the end I add sliced cherry tomatoes and I sprinkle on some freshly grated parmesan cheese. YUM. 

 

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This thick, creamy sauce is a simple combination of blended avocados, lemon juice, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, olive oil, and parsley.

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Avocado-Pesto Pasta Salad
A deliciously creamy and zesty pesto variation makes this the perfectly refreshing dish to serve to your family or friends!
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
8 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
8 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb pasta (bowties, penne, fusili)
  2. 2 ripe avocados
  3. 1 lemon or lime, juiced
  4. salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp)
  5. 3 cloves of garlic
  6. 1 tbsp olive oil
  7. 1 bunch of parsley (about 1/2 cup chopped)
  8. 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  9. 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in boiling water with some olive oil, according to directions, until "al dente"(about 8 minutes). Drain and set aside to cool in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Slice the avocado open, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh. Put it into a food processor or blender. Add the salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic cloves, parsley, and olive oil. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour the sauce over the cooled pasta. Add the cherry tomatoes and toss in the grated cheese.
  4. Place in a serving dish, and enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Baba Ghanouj (Eggplant Dip)

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

 

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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