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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Bread

You may have family or friends visiting for the holidays who follow special diets. If you plan ahead and with just a few ingredients changes, many of the Thanksgiving recipes can be adapted to meet the needs of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and low carb diets. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Everyone.

Vegan Gravy (or Regular or Gluten-Free)

Kitchen Bouquet is a browning sauce that you can find in the grocery store next to the A1 and Worcestershire Sauce. It helps to add a brown color to the gravy. There are several brands of browning sauce available, but I use this one. Since 2006 this vegan sauce has been gluten-free. It is made from a base of carrots, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, celery and onion.

You can use this same recipe for everyone by make a second batch and using chicken broth in the second batch for regular diets. To make this gravy Gluten-Free, use gluten-free cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Gluten-free gravy also works for low carb dieters.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
2 heaping tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet, optional

Directions

Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cook until the mushrooms are soft and brown, and most of their liquid is evaporated.

Stir in the flour with a whisk and reduce heat to low. Cook for another minute or two.

Slowly add the vegetable broth while whisking to reduce clumps. Then add in the salt, pepper and thyme and whisk again.

Stir in the Kitchen Bouquet, if using.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to stir until it reaches the desired thickness, about 5-10 minutes.

Thanksgiving Sausage Stuffing

To make this recipe gluten-free use cornbread instead of Italian bread in the recipe. The gluten-free cornbread recipe is below.

Ingredients

8 cups Italian bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, diced
2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried poultry seasoning
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and the sausage.

Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula, until light brown, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl of cubed bread.

In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and peppers, cook 1 minute and, then, add the mixture to the cubed bread.

Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

Place the stuffing in a large baking dish and bake in the oven for the last hour that the turkey cooks.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

This can be made several days ahead.

Ingredients

2 cups (264 g) coarsely ground yellow cornmeal (gluten-free)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
4 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square or round pan, and set it aside.

In a large bowl, place the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and whisk to combine well.

In separate bowl, mix the egg, butter, buttermilk and honey, and whisk to combine well.

Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top, golden brown around the edges, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely and cut up into cubes.

Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing

Ingredients

3 cups sourdough wheat bread (made without dairy or eggs) cut into cubes
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 leek white part only, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large rib celery finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Add chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until all moisture has evaporated, about 8 minutes.

Add sage and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are well browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Add leek, celery, garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add parsley, and chopped pecans.

Add stock to the bread cubes and fold in the cooked vegetables until evenly mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Transfer mixture to a greased baking dish cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake with the turkey until hot throughout, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and crisp on top, about 10 minutes longer.

Vegan Stuffed Squash

Serve this dish instead of turkey for your vegan or vegetarian dinners.

To make this recipe for non-vegans, add a ½ cup of cooked lean ground pork to the stuffing.

Directions for preparing the squash:

Cut a thin slice off from the top & bottom of one acorn squash (just enough to leave a flat edge, so the squash can stand up on both ends).

Cut the squash in half, horizontally, so you have two bowl shapes. Scoop out the membranes and seeds and discard.

Place the squash in a baking dish cut-side up. Brush the inside with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Roast the squash for about 30 minutes.

Filling

Combine the following:

2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons diced celery
1/4 cup diced, peeled pear
1/4 cup diced, peeled apple
2 tablespoons fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup cooked brown rice

 

 

Place the filling mixture in the partially cooked squash halves. Place the filled squash in the oven and bake 20 minutes.

Easy Vegan or Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin filling can be used for either pie.

Ingredients

Pat-in-the-Pan Vegan Crust

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Vegan Pie Filling Directions

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan and up the sides.

A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top.

Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pat-in-the-Pan Gluten-Free Crust

1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil (or alternative oil)
5 tablespoons cold milk (or cold plant milk)

Gluten-Free Pie Crust Directions

Mix together the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Blend oil and milk together in a separate bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine.

Place dough into a 9 inch pie plate and press the dough firmly onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.

Place the pie crust in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Filling Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all the pie filling ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Pour the filling into the chilled pie crust and bake for about 60 minutes.

The crust should be golden brown and the filling should still be set.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set overnight.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

Crust

2¼ cups almond flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar substitute (1:1 with sugar)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten

Filling

2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup 1:1 sugar substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs at room temperature, beaten

Directions

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the crust ingredients until a dough forms.

Press the dough into 9-inch pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Whisk together the beaten eggs, pumpkin puree, vanilla, spices and sweetener. Mix well.

Add the heavy cream until fully combined.

Pour into pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick (or knife) inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely.

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The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Syria. This series continues with the country of Lebanon.

Stretching along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon’s length is almost three times its width. As it stretches from north to south, the width of its terrain becomes narrower. Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate characterized by a long, semi-hot, and dry summer, and a cold, rainy and snowy winter.

The country’s role in the region was shaped by trade. Lebanon is named “the pearl of the middle east.” It serves as a link between the Mediterranean world and India and East Asia. The merchants of the region exported oil, grain, textiles, metalwork, and pottery through the port cities to Western markets.

Lebanon was heavily forested in ancient and medieval times, and its timber, especially cedar, was exported for building and shipbuilding. Although Lebanon’s diverse and abundant plant and animal life suffered a heavy toll during the country’s lengthy civil war, the post-civil war period was marked by the rise of fledgling environmental groups and movements that worked toward the creation of protected areas and parks in Lebanon’s ecological areas.

Lebanon has a heterogeneous society composed of numerous ethnic and religious groups. Ethnically, the Lebanese compose a mixture Phoenicians, Greeks, Armenians and Arabs.

Meat kebab, falafel, baba ghanoush, muhammara, hummus, sambusak, rice, tahini, kibbeh ,pita. Halal food. Lebanese cuisine.

The cuisine of Lebanon is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. It includes an abundance of grains, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten, it is usually lamb.

Many dishes in the Lebanese cuisine can be traced back thousands of years to eras of Roman and Phoenician rule. More recently, Lebanese cuisine was influenced by the different foreign civilizations that held power. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staples in the Lebanese diet, such as cooking with lamb. After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (1914–1918), France took control of Lebanon until 1943, when the country achieved its independence. The French introduced foods such as flan, a caramel custard dessert dating back to the 16th century AD, and croissants.

Most often foods are grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil and vegetables are often eaten raw, pickled, or cooked. Herbs and spices are used in large quantities. Like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons and what is available. In Lebanon, very rarely are drinks served without being accompanied by food. Similar to the tapas of Spain and aperitivo of Italy, mezze is an array of small dishes placed before the guests. Mezze may be as simple as raw or pickled vegetables, hummus, baba ghanouj and bread, or it may become an entire meal consisting of grilled marinated seafood, skewered meats, a variety of cooked and raw salads and an arrangement of desserts.

Salads may include tabbouleh, fattoush and kebbeh. Patties such as the Sambusac and stuffed grape leaves are often included. Family cuisine offers also a range of dishes, such as stews, which can be cooked in many forms depending on the ingredients used and are usually served with meat and rice vermicelli. Lebanese flat bread, called pita, is a staple at every Lebanese meal and can be used in place of a fork. Although simple fresh fruits are often served towards the end of a Lebanese meal, there are also desserts, such as baklava. Although baklava is the most internationally known dessert, there is a great variety of Lebanese desserts.

Lebanese Dishes To Make At Home

Pita Bread

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading/forming
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 cup and 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1⁄2 cup of warm water. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve the salt in 1 cup of warm water. Add the flour and turn the mixer on.

Slowly add the yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix until the dough combines (it will be sticky), about 2 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball and place on a lightly greased sheet pan. Coat lightly with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and knead for 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 (5 oz.) pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Cover the balls with plastic wrap, being careful not to let the plastic wrap stick to the balls (you can do this by placing coffee mugs or short glasses on the sheet pan). Let the balls proof for 15 minutes.

Lightly dust one piece of dough at a time on both sides with flour.

Push the dough out with your fingers in a circular motion to create a disk that is approximately 5″ in diameter and 1⁄2″ thick.

Using a lightly floured rolling-pin, roll the dough in a clockwise motion to get it to 7″ in diameter and 1⁄8″ thick.

Transfer the dough to an inverted lightly floured sheet pan. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 3 minutes.

Flip the bread over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven, transfer to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the bread and cover with a damp towel. Let the bread sit for 10 minutes, or until cooled.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

When ready to serve, lightly brush the pitas with the remaining olive oil and grill for 1-1 1⁄2 minutes on each side.

It should be warm but still pliable. Cut the bread into wedges and serve.

Labaneh

Thick, tart, and creamy yogurt-like cheese, is eaten with olive oil, pita bread and za’atar.

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 cups whole milk
1 cup plain yogurt
Kosher salt, to taste
Olive oil, for serving

Directions

Bring milk to a boil in a 4-quart nonreactive saucepan fitted with a deep-fry thermometer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool until the thermometer reads 118°F.

Transfer 1 cup of the milk to a bowl; whisk in yogurt until combined.

Add yogurt mixture to the saucepan and whisk until smooth; cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (ideally 70°F-75°F) until thickened, 6-8 hours.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth; set over a bowl. Transfer yogurt to the strainer; let drain at least 8 hours or overnight.

Transfer to a serving dish. Season with salt and drizzle with oil. Add olives and za’atar, if desired.

Spiced Chicken And Tomato Kebabs

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup plain yogurt
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons crushed saffron
1 teaspoon ground coriander
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 plum tomatoes, cored
Ground sumac, to garnish
2 limes, halved
Pita, for serving

Directions

Stir together the yogurt, juice, oil, zest, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron, coriander, garlic and onions in a large bowl; add chicken and toss to coat.

Chill for 4 hours.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, heat a gas grill to medium-high or a heat broiler to high.

Skewer chicken on 4 metal skewers and skewer tomatoes lengthwise on another skewer.

Grill chicken and tomatoes, turning often, until the tomatoes are soft and charred, about 7 minutes, and the chicken is cooked through and slightly charred, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle skewers with sumac; serve with limes and pita.

Garlicky Lentil Salad

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

1 cup green lentils, rinsed
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring lentils and 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan.

Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in an 8” skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until soft, 7–8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining oil, lemon juice, cumin and allspice. Pour the garlic mixture over the lentils.

Add parsley. mint and season the lentils with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve lentils at room temperature.


With winter just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to warm up with recipes made with November’s seasonal ingredients. check the charts above for what is in season. You will find several recipes below that incorporate seasonal produce. Fruit choices start to diminish but November’s offerings of quince, pomegranate, pears and apples work in both sweet and savory dishes.

Low Carb Pumpkin Bread

This bread is also gluten-free.

I have a bread pan that measures 12 x 6.5 inches and I prefer to use this pan when baking quick breads. Baking quick breads can be tricky because they don’t always cook right in the middle and sometimes they come out too dry. This pan spreads the dough out more and makes good-looking serving slices.

Ingredients

3 cups finely ground almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 cup sugar or 1:1 sugar substitute
6 large eggs
15 oz can pureed pumpkin
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a second bowl, mix the melted butter, sugar, eggs and pumpkin until smooth. Stir wet ingredients into dry.

Spray a 12×6.5 inch or a 9×5 inch or two 8×4 inch bread pans with cooking spray.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pan and sprinkle the top with the chopped nuts.

Use a rubber spatula to lightly press the nuts into the dough.

Bake the 12 inch pan for 45 minutes and the other pans for about an hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the bread for ten minutes. Remove the bread to a rack to finish cooling.

Chicken Pot Roast

Serve this dish with noodles or mashed potatoes.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 small onion, diced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small carrot, diced
3-4 lb organic chicken
Salt and pepper
Chicken stock

Directions
Heat the oven to 325°F. Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat.

Add the garlic and vegetables and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the thyme and bay leaf.

Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the pan (breast-side up) and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add enough stock to a reach a depth of 1 inch.

Cover the pan tightly with foil or a lid, then place the pot in the oven and roast for 1 ½ hours, basting occasionally with the pan juices.

Increase the oven temperature to 350°F, remove the lid and continue to bake for 20 minutes more, to allow the chicken to brown.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board. Remove the bay leaf.

With a hand-held immersion blender, puree the sauce and vegetables in the pot to create a sauce.

Adjust the seasoning and reheat the sauce. Slice the chicken and serve with the sauce.

Cauliflower Puree

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
2 ounces Italian fontina cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean and trim the cauliflower, breaking it into medium-sized pieces.

Place in a microwave safe bowl with the cream and butter.

Microwave, uncovered, on high for six minutes.

Stir to coat the cauliflower with the cream/butter mixture. Microwave for another six minutes on high.

Remove from the microwave and put into a high-speed blender or food processor along with the cheese. Puree until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the cream and butter to your preference. Reheat just before serving.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops

4 Servings

Ingredients

Pork Chops
4 boneless pork chops (about 1 ¼ lbs; 1/2-inch thick each)
4 slices bacon (not thick cut)
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper

Apple Cider Vinegar Sauce
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Directions

Let the pork chops come to temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.

Trim the fat off of the pork chops and wrap a piece of bacon around each one, securing it with several toothpicks.

Rub each chop with a 1/2 teaspoon of oil over both sides and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a deep skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.

Add the pork chops on the side with the bacon, placing them right next to each other to keep them upright.

Cook for 1 minute per side until all the bacon is brown.

Place the pork chops flat in the pan to cook the top and bottom surfaces, 3-5 minutes per side depending on the thickness.

Remove the pork to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute for 1-2 minutes or until they begin to soften.

Add the chicken broth and thyme to the pan and stir.

Add the vinegar to the pan and stir, scraping up any browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the sauce by half and add the butter and brown sugar. Cook and stir until they are incorporated into the sauce.

Place the pork back in the back in the pan and heat for a few minutes, turning the pork over after a minute or two, so they can be coated in the sauce.

Seasoned Baked Rutabaga Fries

Ingredients

1 rutabaga, peeled and sliced into very thin “fries”
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Use a metal sheet pan and place it in the oven while the oven preheats.

In a large Ziploc bag, mix the cornstarch with the garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper and shake to combine.

Place the rutabaga fries in the bag and shake to evenly coat them. Add the oil and shake again.

Arrange the fries on the hot sheet pan so they are not touching.

Bake 15 minutes and turn the fries over. Bake another 10 minutes or until the fries are brown and crispy.

If the fries are getting too dark too fast, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.)


For me, holiday baking doesn’t just include what would be served on the holiday itself, but it also includes breakfast breads and desserts for the days surrounding the holidays. That is because I usually have family or house guests visiting for several days over a holiday. So I plan ahead and bake several breakfast items that can be heated and served and have at least one or two desserts on hand. Here are recipes for a few favorites that are all easy to make.

Lemony Ricotta Pie

Ricotta pie or cheesecake are very popular in our family.

Crust
2 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish
Candied lemon and orange peel

Directions

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the crust ingredients and press into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until a light golden brown. Remove from the oven.

For the filling:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar and honey and whisk. Add the ricotta, salt and lemon flavoring.

Whisk until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the pie pan over the baked crust.

Return the pie to the oven and bake for about 60 minutes until the filling is completely set.

Remove the pie from the oven and set on a cooling rack.

Decorate the top of the pie with pieces of candied lemon and orange peel.

When cooled to room temperature, refrigerate until serving time.

Easy Pecan Sticky Buns

Ingredients

Sticky Syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup large pecan halves

Dough
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup heavy cream

Cinnamon Filling
4 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Lightly grease a glass 9″ round cake pan or pie pan.

To make the syrup:

Melt the butter in the glass pan in the microwave. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup.

Stir well and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place the pecan halves over the syrup in a single layer.

To make the dough:

Stir together the flour and cream to make a smooth dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Gently roll the dough into a 12″ x 8″ rectangle.

To make the cinnamon filling:

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans in a small mixing bowl.

Spread the softened butter over the entire surface of the dough.

Roll the dough into a log. Position it so the seam is facing down.

Slice the log into 10 pieces, and place them in the prepared pan.

Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, until they’re bubbly and lightly browned on top.

Remove the buns from the oven, and immediately turn them out onto a serving plate.

Scrape any leftover syrup from the pan onto the buns.

To serve later, cool completely, then wrap well and store at room temperature for up to a couple of days.

Reheat in a 325 degree oven. Freeze for longer storage.

Adapted from a King Arthur recipe.

Jumbo Blueberry Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour (lightly scoop, don’t pack down)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Chopped walnuts and coarse sugar for sprinkling on top

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Spray a jumbo 6-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined. Add the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and whisk.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix together with a spatula. Avoid over mixing. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Top with a sprinkle of walnuts and coarse sugar.

Bake at 425 F degrees for 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F degrees and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are lightly golden and a cake tester comes out clean when placed into the center of the muffins.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool.

Store muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 3 months.


Mediterranean Syria

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. This series continues with the country of Syria.

Burj Safita (AKA Chastel Blanc), a landmark in the town of Safita

Think Mediterranean diet and Italian and Greek food comes to mind. But the Mediterranean coastline spans thousands more miles throughout the Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel. The Middle Eastern Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and red wine. However, it also offers delicious and different flavors not found in southern European food, such as unique spices, tangy fruits and healthy seeds, some of which include pomegranate juice, mint, sesame and yogurt.

Beach in Latakia

Syrian cuisine mainly uses eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, meat (mostly from lamb, mutton and poultry), dairy products, bulgur, sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, wheat flour, pine nuts, fava beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, grape leaves, pickled turnips or cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mint, a spice mixture called “baharat mushakkaleh” (Arabic: بهارات مشكّلة‎‎), hazelnuts, pistachios, honey and fruits.

One of the many highlights of Syrian food is mezza, the tapas of the Middle East. Mezza refers to a generous spread of small dishes, mostly eaten without cutlery, using flat bread, lettuce or grape leaves to scoop up dips or to wrap portions of salad. Baba ghanouj and hummus, both well-known in the West, are key elements of a traditional mezza. Another favorite in Syria is muhammara, a spicy pepper and walnut dip made with pomegranate molasses. Salads include tabbouleh, a parsley and bulgur mix; fattoush, a crunchy cucumber, radish, tomato and herb salad topped with toasted pita; and fateh, a salad with chickpeas, yogurt, tahini and garlic. Other finger foods include baked pastries filled with meat and spices called sambusic or spinach and baked lamb pies called sfeeha. Kibbeh is the national dish and comes in many varieties with the core element being cracked wheat and fresh ground lamb or beef that is seasoned with spices.

For Syrians, presentation is everything. Making the food look appetizing and setting the table appropriately are very important. Everything, even the simplest dishes, are garnished with fresh herbs.

Syrian Recipes To Make At Home

Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Adapted from a recipe from Mary Sanom

Ingredients

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
1 lb. long grain white rice, uncooked
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 small green pepper (finely diced)
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz of tomato paste
10 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
Grape leaves (16 oz jar hold about 60 leaves)
1 lemon

Directions

Place the rice in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover it and let soak for 1 hour.Drain well.

Mix ground meat, soaked rice, onion, green pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and tomato sauce in large bowl.

Place enough grape leaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot.

This will keep the filled grape leaves from sticking to the pot and burning.

To fill the grape leaves:

Lay out a grape leaf with the vein side up.

Place a small amount of the meat and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat and to roll up like a cigar.

Continue rolling the grape leaves and laying them in the bottom row in the prepared pot,

When the first layer of grape leaves has lined the bottom of the pot, start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves.

Keep rolling up all the leaves and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves/or no more filling/or the pot is ¾ full.

Place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the rolls from floating during cooking and coming unrolled.

Mix together the tomato paste and water. Pour the tomato/water mixture over leaves until they are just covered.

If the leaves are not covered, add additional water until they are covered.

Add a teaspoon of salt and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot

Cover the pot with a lid and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 30 – 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked and the leaves are tender.

Take out a roll from the top of the pot and test it. Place the grape leaves on a platter to serve.

Retain some of the cooking liquid to reheat the leftover rolls.

Aubergine Fetteh (Fetteh Beitinjaan)

Layering food on toasted bread with a yogurt sauce is a Syrian speciality.

Ingredients

3 aubergines(eggplant)
Olive oil, for roasting and drizzling
Salt
2 flatbreads or pitas
500g plain yogurt
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds
50g pine nuts, toasted
Salt, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Cut the eggplants into quarters lengthwise, slice them into 1 inch chunks and place in a baking pan.

Pour over a generous helping of olive oil and a sprinkle with salt.

Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.

Brush the bread with olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until crispy. Then break it up into pieces.

In a bowl combine the yogurt, garlic and lemon juice.

Take the eggplant out of the oven and allow to cool. Place them in a shallow bowl then pour the yogurt mix on top.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with the crispy bread, parsley, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts.

Spiced Fish (Samaka Harra)

Serves 2

Ingredients

6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup/40g walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole fish, such as sea bream or snapper
1 bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, including the stems
1 lemon, plus ½ lemon, sliced

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, chilies, cumin, walnuts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Stuff the fish with this mixture, reserving two tablespoons for later, then add a handful of coriander, saving some to garnish.

Squeeze the whole lemon over both fish, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the fish in a large baking pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of stuffing on top and a couple of slices of lemon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Milk Pudding (Muhallabiyeh)

This is a very light dessert that is simple and can be prepared far in advance. Syrians say the name of this pudding comes from the Umayyad Prince of Damascus, Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra. One day, the bored potentate ordered his servants to make him something different, a special pudding, and this is what they came up with using the only ingredients they had available – milk, sugar, starch and mastic. The pudding then became known as the ‘milk of the princes’, but commoners soon caught onto how simple it was to prepare and it became known amongst them as the ‘milk of the commons’. Today, people flavor the milk with a variety of spices, depending on each individual’s taste. This pudding has a smooth texture, with the nuts on top adding a crunch, which Syrians love.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 quart/litre milk
1 cup/​200g sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch/cornflour, mixed with water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rose-water or orange blossom water
2 tablespoons/20g pistachios, crushed
Rose petals, to decorate (optional)

Directions
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and sugar over low heat, stirring regularly.

Just before it boils, add the cornstarch mix and stir constantly until it thickens, then add the vanilla and rose or orange blossom water.

Once it reaches a thick consistency, pour the mix into individual bowls or trifle glasses and let cool.

Once cool, put them in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the tops of the pudding with the crushed pistachios and for extra color, rose petals.

Source: Syria: Recipes From Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi. Published by Trapeze.


Making a BBQ dinner for friends is a great way to entertain, especially if the weather cooperates. I enjoy having guests for dinner and I usually plan my menu with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. That way I am able to spend time with friends rather than doing a lot of food preparations while they are visiting.

You may have noticed that more and more of your friends are following different diets. Some are only eating low carb foods, others are on a Paleo diet, some are diabetic, others vegetarian and some vegan. It is a good idea to check with your friends to see what they can eat. I am always open to planning variations of what I am making to accommodate their diets. In this case a few friends are following a vegan diet, so instead of 8 beef burgers, four are beef and four are made from oats and beans. These vegan burgers are great on the grill, hold up perfectly and do not fall apart. Just be sure your grill is well oiled.  The rest of the menu works for everyone.

Beef Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

20 oz (1 ¼ lbs grass-fed organic ground steak for burgers
Steak seasoning (I like Penzey’s Chicago seasoning)
1 large sweet onion, cut into 4 ½ inch thick slices
Olive oil cooking spray
4 wheat burger buns

Directions

Shape the meat into four equal patties, about 5 oz each.

Sprinkle the steak seasoning on both sides of the patties and spray each with olive oil cooking spray.

Coat the onion slices on both sides with cooking spray

Heat an outdoor grill on high. Oil the grill grates. Place the burgers on the grill, cover, cook turning once, for a total of 8 minutes.

Place the onion slices on the grill and cook until grill marks form on the bottom, turn them over with a wide spatula and cook the second side for a total of about 4 minutes.

Toast the rolls at the same time. Place the burgers on the bottom half of the rolls and top with a grilled onion slice.

Serve with ketchup and your favorite burger condiments.

Vegan Bean and Oat Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 sweet onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup dry pinto beans
1/4 cup dry red or black beans
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for grilling

For Serving
Grilled Onion slices
4 wheat burger buns
Ketchup or other condiments

Directions

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover and cook the next day for 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place the oats in the bowl of the processor and process until finely ground.

Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Remove the mixture from the processor and shape into four patties. Cover with plastic wrap.

Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before grilling.

Brush the patties with olive oil and place on an oiled grill.

Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place on toasted buns and add a grilled onion slice. Serve with ketchup or other condiments.

Whole-Wheat Burger Buns

6 buns

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flours, yeast, salt, wheat gluten and baking soda.

Add the warm water, honey and oil. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together around the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low until the dough is smooth but slightly sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat all over with oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has risen.

Punch down the dough and divide into 6 smooth balls

Place the buns on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet, a few inches apart or in a greased burger baking pan.

Flatten the tops slightly with your fingers, and let the buns rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the buns in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove to a rack and allow the buns to cool.

Zucchini Fennel Salad

Ingredients

Salad
1 large zucchini, sliced very thin
Half red onion, sliced very thin
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
12 Italian green olives, pitted and chopped

Dressing
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

In a large serving bowl, combine the zucchini, onion, olives and fennel.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well.

Pour over the zucchini mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours until chilled before serving.

Peach Crisp

Ingredients

Filling
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 8 medium peaches)
2-3 tablespoons agave nectar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches

Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 – 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the fruit and the agave nectar. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8×8-inch baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Stir the oil into the topping mix with a fork until you get a crumbly mixture forms.

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the fruit in the baking pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden.

 


Eating a healthy lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources. Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters, if you leave out the processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.
When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. When you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.

Falafel Sandwich with Tomato Gazpacho

Patties
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed or 2 cups homemade dried beans
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup parsley leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
Olive oil for the pan
Olive oil cooking spray

Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup pure tahini paste (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons warm water, plus more if necessary
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Large pinch cumin
Large pinch cayenne pepper

Sandwich
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
4 whole-wheat pita pocket breads, sliced open

Directions

Combine all falafel patty ingredients, except the parsley, in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 10 seconds.

Stop motor and scrape down sides of bowl, then pulse for another 10 seconds, until all ingredients are well incorporated but the mixture is slightly coarse. Stir in the chopped parsley

Refrigerate the mixture in a covered bowl for a few hours before making the patties.

For the tahini sauce:

Whisk all of the tahini sauce ingredients together until smooth in a serving bowl. Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pour a little olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and spread it to cover the pan. Place the pan in the oven while the oven is preheating.

Form mixture into 8 or 9 balls and flatten into patties.

Place the patties on the hot pan and spray the tops with a little olive oil cooking spray.

Bake the patties for 10 minutes, turn the patties over and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until they are crisp and browned.

Wrap the pita breads in foil and heat them in the oven for 5 minutes while the patties are baking.

Fill each pita with some of the lettuce, falafel patties and tahini sauce.

Tomato Gazpacho

2 servings

Ingredients

3 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeds removed
2 scallions, trimmed
1 celery stalk, trimmed
Half a green bell pepper, seeds removed
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon agave syrup
Celery and cucumber sticks for garnish

Directions

Chop all the vegetables and place in a processor or blender and process until smooth.

Pour into a covered container and chill. Serve in 8 oz glasses and garnish with stalks of celery and cucumber.

Asparagus Quiche with Heirloom Tomato Salad

8 servings

Ingredients

1 refrigerated pie crust for a 9 inch pie, at room temperature
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 bunch scallions (green onions). trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 eggs
1/2 cup half & half (milk/cream)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Line a baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spread the asparagus and scallions on the baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Roast until the vegetables until tender, about 12 minutes. Cool and cut into one-inch pieces.

Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.

Place the pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Place the pie pan on a clean baking sheet.

Arrange the roasted asparagus and scallions over the bottom of the crust.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chives, Dijon mustard, eggs, half & half, a large pinch salt and a large pinch black pepper.

Whisk together until well combined.

Pour over the vegetables and top with the cheese.

Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Heirloom Tomato Salad 

Ingredients

1 pint miniature heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, grated
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
2-3 tablespoons Italian Vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, vinaigrette, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Serve over butter lettuce, if desired.

Mediterranean Style Pasta Salad

Ingredients

1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
6 scallions, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 cup finely diced feta cheese
½ lb small cooked shrimp, optional
Salt and pepper
1 lb short pasta

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the shrimp, pasta and the salt in a large bowl. Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Carefully scoop the pasta out of the pot with a large spider or slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the vegetables.

Add the shrimp, if using, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

If made ahead, refrigerate covered overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

 



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