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Tea bag cookie

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A baby is brewing! These personalized tea bag cookies were the perfect treats and favors for our afternoon tea themed baby shower. These cookies were so delicious and really added to the theme. I set them inside each tea cup or on the saucer, beside the tea cup. The tea bag label said the last name of the parent’s to be and the date, with the expected baby’s initials on the other side. These are so easy and fast to make and perfect to have with tea. The details and personalizing are what take some time and attention. The most time consuming part was cutting out the tea bag labels which I designed on the computer in MS Word, and threading the labels onto string and into the cookie.

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I used this great recipe for shortbread by Ina Garten. The key to getting a perfect dough is to use softened room temperature butter and to beat it until it is fluffy. If you do so and then slowly stir in the flour mixture, you will not have any issues with the mixture being too crumbly or dry. Another problem reviewers may have had is not measuring the flour properly. Flour should not be packed into the measuring cup, but scooped loosely by a spoon and into a cup for accurate measurement. If you have too much flour, the cookie will  be dry. I refrigerated the dough for about 30 minutes so that it is easier to work with and cut into the shape. 

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Be sure to cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating…

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You could cut the cookie into the tea bag shape by using a rectangular cookie cutter and cutting off the top 2 corners. 

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Sprinkle with some sugar…

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I used a large straw to poke out a hole at the top of each cookie, which you need to do BEFORE baking if you plan on getting a tea bag label through your cookie 😉 

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The cookies were still fairly soft after baking so I was able to cut the edges smaller and straighter if necessary to achieve the shape I wanted and to poke the straws through the hole again to define the opening (the dough puffs out and expands while baking). But this must be done while the cookie is still hot and malleable. Once the cookie cools, you cannot cut it without cracking the whole cookie. My husband and I had no problems dealing with all those scrap edges! Yum!

Once the cookie cooled, I melted some delicious dark chocolate in a double boiler ( a pyrex bowl sitting over a pot of simmering water does the trick) and dipped each cookie in and laid it on parchment paper to cool and harden overnight. The next day I threaded each cookie with its label.

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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/

Harissa aka Basboosa (Semolina Cake)

sugarandgarlicsugarandgarlic2013-46This is a typical Middle Eastern dessert very popular in Egypt. I love my mom’s recipe because it is so light and not overly sweet like many Middle Eastern desserts may be. The homemade syrup that soaks into most Middle Eastern desserts is usually quite heavy and has rose water or orange blossom water added to it. This syrup is simple and light and instead uses a dash of lemon juice. If you actually like the rose water ( I don’t!) you can add it in lieu of the lemon. 

sugarandgarlicsugarandgarlic2013-40Harissa is made with semolina flour, which you can find in any Middle Eastern market, Italian specialty shops, or other specialty grocery stories. If you cannot find it, a good substitute you may use is the Cream of Wheat cereal mix. Just make sure it is not the instant variation as that grain is too fine. 

For the syrup you simply dissolve sugar in water and boil it until it becomes thick, then add some butter. You want to be sure not to overheat as we are not making caramel here!

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sugarandgarlicsugarandgarlic2013-39The batter is so incredibly easy you will want to get up and make this as soon as you read it! All you need is semolina flour, baking powder, yogurt, butter, coconut, sugar and sour cream. No eggs! You mix all of these together into a nice thick and creamy batter and spread into a 9 inch rectangular pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. In no time, you will have gorgeous little semolina squares to enjoy for dessert!

sugarandgarlicsugarandgarlic2013-41Harissa is baked with an almond on top of each slice and cut into squares or diamonds. This sweet semolina cake  pairs perfectly with coffee or tea.

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Harissa aka Basboosa
A perfectly sweet and delicious Middle Eastern dessert perfect for tea time!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
For the cake
  1. 2 c semolina
  2. 1 c sugar
  3. 1 stick or 1/2 c butter
  4. 1 c finely shredded coconut
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. 1 c yogurt
  7. 2 tbsp sour cream
For the syrup
  1. 1 1/2 c sugar
  2. 2 c water
  3. 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  4. 1/2 stick or 1/4 c butter
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  2. First make the syrup as it needs to cool and thicken before pouring onto the baked cake. Pour the sugar and water into a pot and bring to a boil. Allow to boil until the mixture thickens. Do not carmelize. Squeeze a couple of drops of lemon into the boiling mixture.
  3. When the liquid has reduced a bit, add the butter and vanilla and stir well. Remove from heat once the butter has melted and allow to cool.
  4. For the cake, mix all the ingredients together in bowl until well combined. Cover with a towel and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Spread into a 9" baking pan and place a halved or slivered almond on top where you will slice each square. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden.
  6. Once you remove the pan from the oven, pour the syrup over the entire cake, evenly, while the cake is still warm. Allow it to absorb; you might not need to use all of the syrup. Slice into squares or diamonds and enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Blueberry Orange Oatmeal Muffins

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These muffins are full of fiber and bursting with orange and blueberry juiciness. I love to bake with seasonal produce. I have a bowl of zesty juicy oranges sitting on my counter and they were perfect for these muffins . This recipe originates from my aunt’s yummy orange cake. I adapted it to add the blueberries and oats and swapped out some of the flour and oil for healthier alternatives. I used whole grain flour and olive oil in lieu of the all purpose white flour and GMO corn oil.

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The recipe is incredibly easy. Just mix the wet ingredients together, add the flour and baking powder, combine with the oats and berries, and bake. You don’t even need a mixer. Along with the olive oil I used to moisten the cake, I added some  juice by throwing the orange I zested into my blender to make some pure whole fiber orange juice. My family drank the extra  juice and loved it; it’s pulpy and has all the fiber as opposed to  juice you get from an extractor. That is the beauty of using produce in season. You get the best flavors with no additives or artificial flavoring. The blueberries are just starting to phase out for the fall, but you may still be able to snag some sweet juicy ones! This recipe works well with lemon if that is your preference; just swap the juice and zest for lemon! 

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Blueberry Orange Oatmeal Muffins
Yields 16
refreshing orange, juicy blueberries, and whole grain fiber make this a delicious treat you don't have to feel guilty about!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 c all purpose flour
  2. 1 c whole grain flour
  3. 4 eggs
  4. 1 c sugar
  5. 1/2 c honey
  6. 1 tbsp orange zest
  7. 1/2 c olive oil
  8. 3/4 c orange juice
  9. 1 tbsp baking powder
  10. 1/2 c rolled oats
  11. 1 c fresh blueberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree and grease a muffin tin.
  2. Combine the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  3. In a larger bowl combine the eggs, zest, sugar, honey, oil and orange juice. Mix well.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture.
  5. Add the oats and blueberries and stir with a large spoon until incorporated.
  6. Pour into a muffin tin, filling 2/3 of the cavity, and bake for about 20 minutes.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/