Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts


The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy 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 cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt. This series continues with the country of Libya.

Food in Libya is a very important part of family life. A well-known Libyan saying is “one must eat well”. Libyan cuisine is based on the traditions of the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Berber cuisines. Tripoli is Libya’s capital, and the cuisine in this city is especially influenced by the Italian cuisine. Pasta is common, as are many seafood dishes. Fruits, most often served, include figs, dates, oranges, apricots, and olives.

The sand in Libya gets so hot in the summer that walking on it with bare feet becomes unbearable. As a result, the Tuareg way of baking bread is to bury it in the hot sand, which is as effective as baking in an oven. The technique can also be used to bake potatoes and eggs by burying them whole in the sand and leaving them there for several hours.

Olive oil is the main ingredient of nearly all Libyan dishes. Its use in North Africa goes back thousands of years, and its life-prolonging properties were well-known to the ancient Libyans and Egyptians.

There are four main ingredients in the traditional Libyan cuisine: olives (and olive oil), palm dates, grains, and milk. These are very ancient foods and they have been in the Libyan cuisine since Neolithic times when humans first began to make use of their natural surroundings. Grains are roasted, ground, sieved and used for making bread, cakes, soups, Bazin, and other dough-based dishes. Dates are harvested, dried and stored for the rest of the year. They can be eaten as they are, made into syrup, fried or eaten with milk for breakfast.

Garlic is also one of the most important Libyan foods, as it is usually added to most dishes that involve sauces or stews, especially those served with couscous and pasta.

One of the most important social occasions in Libya is getting together for tea drinking. This activity brings families together, to chat, laugh, discuss and gossip about the highlights of the day and about life in general. Talking in Libya is a very important social activity and it firmly bonds the family. Libyan tea is a very strong, thick, syrup-like black tea. After boiling water in a traditional teapot, a handful of red tea leaves are added, and the leaves are boiled for a long time (about twenty minutes).


Bazin is the most well-known Libyan dish. It is made by boiling barley flour in salted water to make a hard dough and then forming it into a rounded, smooth dome that is placed in the middle of a serving dish. The sauce around the dough is made by frying chopped onions with ground lamb, turmeric, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fenugreek, sweet paprika and tomato paste. Potatoes may also be added. Hard-boiled eggs are arranged around the dome. The dish is then served with lemon and fresh or pickled chili peppers, known as amsyar. Batata mubattana (filled potato) is another popular dish that consists of fried potato pieces filled with spiced ground meat and covered with egg and breadcrumbs.

Make A Libyan-style Dinner In Your Kitchen

Recipes adapted from

Lentil Soup With Fried Onions


2 cups lentils
5 cups water
2 garlic cloves
1 medium carrot
1 onion
1 large tomato
1/2 -1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon salt

Fried Onions
2 medium onions
Oil for frying

For the Topping
Extra cumin
Toasted bread, cut into cubes or triangles


Wash and drain the lentils; wash and cut the carrot; chop the tomatoes and onion. Put the onion, tomatoes, carrot, lentils, garlic cloves, salt and cumin in a soup pot.
Add 5 cups of boiling water. Cook, until the lentils, become mushy. Let cool, puree, and add more boiling water if a thinner soup is desired, stir well.

For the topping: Cut the 2 onions into thin slices and fry in a little olive oil stirring constantly until dark brown.

To serve: Place a handful of toasted bread in the soup bowl before ladling on the soup. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of cumin to each bowl. Top with a tablespoon of fried onions.

Libyan Couscous with Fish

Serves 4-6


Steamed Couscous
500g couscous (ready-cooked variety can also be steamed)
1 cup of hot water + 3 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 fish heads (washed, gills removed)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon black pepper, ground cumin
Salt, to taste
1 1/2-2 liter boiling water

Vegetable Sauce
1 medium onion
1 medium size potato
1 medium size aubergine (eggplant)
1 medium size squash
1 medium-size red bell pepper
1 cup cooked/canned chickpeas (or fresh/frozen peas)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 chili peppers
3-4 garlic cloves

For the Fish and Marinade
4-6 portions of firm-fleshed fish, grouper is the Libyan favorite
4 large cloves garlic
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 chili pepper chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
Olive oil to brush the fish before grilling


In Libya, steamed dishes are cooked in a kaskas, but any pot with a steamer insert is fine. When steaming couscous you can place a square of cheese-cloth between the pot and steamer if its holes are larger than the couscous.

Put all the ingredients for the stock in the steamer pot. Bring to boil then reduce the heat and cook over medium heat.

Pour 1 cup of hot water and the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the couscous, mix well. Put the couscous in the steamer, then place it above the stock pot. Lightly rake over the top layer only with a spatula a few times during the first steaming, so it gets steamed properly.

After 45 minutes, remove the steamer and put the couscous in a deep plat; pour about 5 ladles of hot stock onto the couscous.

Mix well, then return the couscous to the steamer for another 45 minutes. Stir lightly but thoroughly 2-3 times during the second steaming to break up lumps.

Put all the ingredients for the fish marinade in the food processor, then use this paste to coat the fish on both sides. Cover the fish with cling film (plastic wrap) and set aside.

Cut the onion, eggplant, potato and bell pepper into thick slices.

Prepare the vegetable sauce by putting olive oil, chopped onion, chopped chili and whole garlic cloves in a pot, then stir until they have softened. Add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes, cover and cook on low heat. Add the peas or cooked chickpeas and about 3 ladles of strained fish stock, so the liquid is just about covering the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes more.

Brush the cut vegetables generously with olive oil and grill until almost cooked. Remove the vegetables from the grill and cut them into cubes. Add the grilled vegetables to the sauce pot.

Grill the fish and keep warm to serve with the couscous.

Remove the couscous from the steamer and place in a serving dish, arrange the vegetables from the sauce on the couscous, spoon some of the remaining sauce around the vegetables. Serve with the grilled fish and lemon wedges.

Date Filled Semolina Cookies


3 cups semolina
1 cup flour
1 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon orange blossom water added to a ½ liter of warm water

750g date paste
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

4 cups boiling water
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lemon slice
2 tablespoons orange blossom water

1/2 cup sesame seeds (lightly toasted)


Prepare the syrup by simmering all the ingredients except the orange blossom water over moderate heat for 30 minutes or until a syrupy consistency is reached. Add the 2 tablespoons of orange blossom water and set aside to cool. For a richer taste, add 1 tablespoon of honey while the syrup is still warm. Set aside.

For the dough: Mix the semolina, flour, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix. Cover and let rest for at least one hour.

For the filling: Cut the date paste into small pieces and knead. Add some olive oil if the paste is not soft enough to be kneaded. Add cinnamon, grated nutmeg, sesame seeds and knead them in. Roll out the sesame date paste with your palm into 4 long ropes or sticks.

Divide the dough into 4 portions, take one portion of the dough and add the orange blossom flavored warm water a little at a time. Knead well until the dough becomes smooth and easy to shape. The dough will also become lighter in color. Form the dough into a furrow or trench shape and place one of the date rolls in the dough. Pinch closed and smooth the dough over the date roll.

Cut the roll into small pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Place in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F/220°C until golden, for about 12 minutes. Place the cookies in a single layer in a deep dish. Pour the sugar syrup over the warm cookies.

Turn the cookies every 15 minutes, so they soak in the syrup on all sides. Remove the cookies from the syrup and place in a sieve to remove the excess syrup. Place the drained cookies on a platter and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Let rest overnight before serving.


I was lucky enough to receive a beautiful bunch of Swiss chard from my friend, who is a gardener and grows wonderful vegetables and beautiful flowers. The freshly picked Swiss chard made a wonderful tasting tart.

You may use a store-bought refrigerated pie crust dough in this recipe. However, the whole wheat pastry is easy to make and the whole wheat flavor compliments the Swiss chard filling.


Single pie crust dough

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons ice water

Tart Filling

1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 bunch large Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, leaves cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Sea salt and black pepper
Crispy Prosciutto Crisps, optional, see recipe below


Whole Wheat Pastry Dough

Combine the ice water and vinegar in a small bowl.

Pulse flour and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.

Drizzle with the vinegar and ice water, pulsing just a few times until the dough comes together. Place the dough on a bread board and pat into a disk.

Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours. Dough can be made 2 days ahead.

Tart Filling

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Season the ricotta cheese with kosher salt and pepper and, then, add the Parmesan cheese; set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic and shallots, stirring, until softened, about 60 seconds.

Add half of the chard and cook, tossing, until slightly wilted. Add the remaining chard and season with sea salt and pepper.

Cook, tossing occasionally, until completely wilted, about 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped chives, parsley and lemon zest; set aside.

To prepare the pastry:

Roll out the dough on a floured sheet of parchment into a 12” round about ⅛” thick. Add flour on top and bottom as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the paper or rolling-pin.

Transfer the rolled out dough while on the parchment to a baking sheet. Spread half of the ricotta over the dough, leaving a 1” border.

Top with the sautéed chard and spread the remaining ricotta over the chard.

Crimp the edges of the dough up around the filling as you might do with a pie; brush the dough and ricotta topping with the egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is firm in the center.

Slide the tart (still on the parchment) onto a wire rack and sprinkle with the prosciutto crisps, if using; cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

Serve warm or at room temperature. (Leftovers are good cold or reheated on a baking sheet at 375°F for about 10 minutes.)

Prosciutto Crisps

While the tart is baking: Place 4 slices of very thin prosciutto flat on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake about 12-15 minutes, or until fairly crisp. Remove the pan from the oven and let the prosciutto cool slightly.

The prosciutto will get even more crispy – like bacon – as it cools.

Break the prosciutto up into pieces and set aside.

Chocolate Covered Peanuts

Coconut oil works well with chocolate because it will prevent the candy from softening, as butter or oil would do.

Makes about 18 clusters


2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening
3 tablespoons powdered sugar or powdered sugar-free sweetener


Combine the chocolate, coconut oil and sugar in a microwaveable glass bowl or in a double boiler.

Melt the chocolate mixture in a microwave at half power, for 1 minute, stir and then heat for another minute or until melted, stirring several times.

You can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot water.

Stir in the peanuts, completely covering them in chocolate. Using a 1 inch scoop or tablespoon drop the mixture into wax paper. Cool completely before serving

One-Layer Heart-Shaped Carrot Cake

For the Cake:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large room-temperature eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts

For the Frosting:

4 ounces room-temperature cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream

To Make the Cake

Heat oven to 325 F. Cut parchment to fit heart pan (or 8 inch round cake pan) and coat with cooking spray. Set aside.

Measure flour and add to an electric mixer bowl along with the sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, oil, eggs and vanilla.

Blend for 1 minute on low-speed.

Stir carrots and nuts into the batter. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove from the pan to a serving plate.

For the frosting:

Place all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. With a hand mixer beat the ingredients until the cream forms stiff peaks.

Frost the top of the cake and refrigerate the cake until serving time.

Easy Frozen Chocolate Mousse


1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream, well chilled
8 oz good quality chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate sprinkles, garnish


In a double boiler or in a bowl set over a saucepan, melt chocolate over simmering water. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.

Pour the cream and vanilla into a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium speed until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds.

Add sweetener to taste if you want. I did not because I think the chocolate makes it sweet enough

Continue beating on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.

To test, turn off the mixer and lift the beaters. If the cream makes soft little peaks that flop over slightly, it is ready.

Add the warm chocolate to the cream and mix in slowly until incorporated.

Spoon into 4 dessert dishes. Chill in the refrigerator to serve as mousse or place in the freezer overnight to serve as frozen mousse.

Garnish with chocolate sprinkles before serving.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries


8 large strawberries with tops
6 oz good quality chocolate, chopped


Gently rinse strawberries and dry on paper towels (berries must be completely dry). Line cookie sheet with waxed paper or set out muffin paper cups.

In 1-quart saucepan, melt chocolate chips and shortening over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. You may also microwave the mixture.

Dip the lower half of each strawberry into the chocolate mixture; allow excess to drip back into the saucepan.

Place on  the prepared cookie sheet or muffin paper cups.

Refrigerate uncovered about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is firm, or until ready to serve.

Store covered in refrigerator.

I am sharing with you some of my most favorite and popular party foods. They will quickly disappear. Try some of them for your next get-together.

Mixed Olives, Sliced Cheese and Breadsticks

Serve with your favorite cheese, cut into slices, and breadsticks.


1 cup mixed Italian olives
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, (flat-leaf parsley, basil, oregano)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

To prepare the olives:

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Deviled Eggs and Smoked Salmon


6 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 oz smoked salmon slices
2 tablespoons chopped chives


Place the eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold the six eggs. Cover with cold water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.

Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and add some ice cubes and cold water to cover the cooked eggs.

Let them cool until you can handle the eggs without burning your fingers.

Gently tap the eggs in several places and remove the shells. Place the peeled eggs on paper towels to dry.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.

With a spoon fill each egg where the yolk had been with some of the mixture.

Place the eggs on a platter and chill.

To serve:

Arrange the eggs and salmon on a serving platter. Sprinkle chives over both and serve.

Asian Meatballs

To make this ahead: cook the meatballs and prepare the sauce separately. Refrigerate separately until serving time. Then reheat the sauce, add the meatballs and cook until the meatballs are hot. Pour into a serving bowl.

For the Meatballs

1 lb organic ground pork
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup almond flour
1 egg
Peanut oil

For the Sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil
6 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
4 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon Gochujang (red chili paste)
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions

To make the meatballs:

Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.

Using a cookie scoop form into 21-22 one inch balls and saute in peanut oil over medium heat until cooked through and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

To make the sauce:

Combine the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauces, chili paste, water, sugar and arrowroot in a small saucepan. Reserve the scallions.

Whisk until combined and bring to a boil.

Simmer for five minutes until thickened.

To serve:

Add the cooked meatballs and scallions to the thickened sauce and stir to coat. Heat for a few minutes. Pour into a shallow serving dish.

Tuna Dip

Serve with fresh celery and carrot sticks and thinly cut radish rounds.

Makes 8 servings.

8-ounces canned tuna
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup chopped red onion
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, washed and drained
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt


Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, parsley, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Place the tuna in a food processor and pulse to break it up.

Turn the speed to low-speed and add the olive oil mixture, a little at a time, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth.

Pour into a small serving bowl and chill. Serve with fresh-cut vegetables and crackers on the side.

Mediterranean Bruschetta


1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the bread
1 clove minced garlic
2 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped oil cured Italian olives
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 baguette, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch-thick slices


Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl; except the bread slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lightly grill the bread slices and then brush them with olive oil. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the tomato mixture onto each bread slice and arrange on a serving plate.



3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon cold leftover brewed coffee
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda


Position rack in the lower third of the oven and heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Use an 8 by 8 silicone baking pan or line a similar sized metal or glass baking dish with foil or parchment paper so it hangs over the edges by about 1 inch. Spray the prepared pan completely with cooking spray.

Put the butter, oil and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 75 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir and microwave again until completely melted, about 2 minutes more. (Alternatively put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, not touching, the water, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth.)

Stir the brown and white sugars, vanilla and salt into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and coffee and beat vigorously by hand until fully incorporated and the batter is thick and glossy. Add the cocoa, flour and baking soda and stir just until it disappears.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the top is crispy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if not using a silicone pan).

Cool the brownies in the pan on the counter. Lift brownies out of the pan by the foil, if needed. Peel off the foil and cut into 16-2-inch squares.

Store extra brownies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

A low-carb diet is a diet that restricts carbohydrates, such as those found in sugary foods, pasta and bread. It is high in protein, fat and healthy vegetables. A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Some people who eliminate gluten from their diet end up following a low-carbohydrate diet, but not always. Many people who follow a low-carb lifestyle do eliminate gluten because they choose to keep their carbohydrates low. However, they are not the same. A gluten-free diet does not ensure one is on the right plan to lose body fat. A low-carb lifestyle does not ensure one is avoiding gluten. However, with a little label reading, the two can work well together in managing health and long-term weight management.

These recipes are made to fit a gluten-free/low carb diet. They are made with nut or gluten-free flours . In order to keep the recipes low carb you must eliminate regular sugar and use a sugar substitute. If you only want a gluten-free recipe, then you can use regular sugar. Either way, I can tell you that they all taste very good.

Lemon Ginger Scones

Makes 8 scones

Dry Ingredients

2 ½ cups almond flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute or sugar substitute blend, divided
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Lemon zest from 2 lemons, divided

Wet Ingredients

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with sides with parchment paper.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of sugar substitute with half of the lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the almond flour, ¼ cup sugar substitute, the ginger, salt, baking soda and the remaining lemon zest.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, eggs, ¼ cup cream and vanilla.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Turn the mixture out onto a cutting board dusted with almond flour. Pat into a half-inch thick round.

Brush the top of the dough with the 1 tablespoon cream and sprinkle the dough evenly with the sugar/lemon zest mixture. Cut the dough into 8 equal triangles.

Carefully place them on the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. These scones freeze well.

Coffee Nut Muffins

Makes 12


1 cup pecan flour (meal), divided
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup soy flour
1/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute or sugar substitute blend
1/4 cup whey protein powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules


1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar or brown sugar substitute


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or coat with cooking spray.

Stir together the brown sugar substitute and chopped pecans. Set aside.

Dissolve the coffee granules in the brewed coffee and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the pecan flour, almond flour, soy flour, sugar substitute, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat with a hand mixer the sour cream with the butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs. Then beat in the coffee mixture.

With a wide spatula, fold the coffee mixture into the nut flour mixture. thoroughly combine.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups and sprinkle each with the topping.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until set and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the muffins cool in the pan for ten minutes and then remove them to a wire rack.

Low Carb Gluten Free Brownies


1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar-free milk chocolate squares (I use Lily brand)
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar-free dark chocolate chips (I use Lily brand)
2/3 cup (5 ¼ oz) butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar or sugar substitute or sugar substitute blend
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Pinch of salt


Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line the bottom of an 8×8 or 7×11 baking dish with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray.

Put the chocolate and chocolate chips in a saucepan with the butter and melt them together. Add the vanilla. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly.

With a hand mixer beat the sugar substitute and eggs (about 2-3 minutes until the mixture is creamy). Add the chocolate mixture and stir.

Gradually stir in the almond flour, salt and baking powder.

Fold the nuts into the mixture and pour into the prepared pan. Spread the mixture evenly in the pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes until the mixture is no longer wiggly and beginning to crack in the middle. Remove the pan from the oven to a wire rack to cool.

When cool, cut into small squares.


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, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco 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 cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. This series continues with the country of Israel.

The Israeli cuisine has many influences and the traditional food, as with most parts of the Mediterranean, is based on plenty of vegetables and legumes. Tahini (chickpea- tahini dip), falafel (chickpea patties), eggplant dips and a variety of salads are always present on the table. Meat is often the main course but the servings are small and fruit is always served for dessert along with some phyllo based sweets.

Israeli cuisine has adopted, and continues to adapt, elements of various styles of Jewish cuisine, particularly the Mizrahi, Sephardic and Ashkenazi styles of cooking. It incorporates many foods traditionally eaten in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries, such as falafel, hummus, couscous and za’atar. Other influences are the availability of foods common to the Mediterranean region, especially fruits and vegetables, dairy products and fish.

Geography has a large influence on the Israeli cuisine and foods common in the Mediterranean region, such as olives, wheat, chickpeas, dairy products, fish, fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini are prominent in Israeli cuisine. There are various climatic areas in Israel. Citrus trees such as orange, lemon and grapefruit thrive on the coastal plain. Figs, pomegranates and olives grow in the cooler hill areas. The subtropical climate near the Sea of Galilee and in the Jordan River Valley is suitable for mangoes, kiwis and bananas, while the temperate climate of the mountains of the Galilee and the Golan is suitable for grapes, apples and cherries.

Israeli eating customs also conform to the wider Mediterranean region, with lunch, rather than dinner, being the focal meal of a regular workday. “Kibbutz foods” have been adopted by many Israelis for their light evening meals as well as breakfasts, and may consist of various types of cheeses, both soft and hard, yogurt, labneh and sour cream, vegetables and salads, olives, hard-boiled eggs, omelets, pickled and smoked herring, a variety of breads and fresh orange juice and coffee.

In addition, Jewish holidays influence the cuisine, with the preparation of traditional foods at holiday times, such as various types of challah (braided bread) for Shabbat and Festivals, jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot) for Hanukkah, the hamantaschen pastry (oznei haman) for Purim, charoset, a type of fruit paste, for Passover and dairy foods for Shavuot. The Shabbat dinner, eaten on Friday, and to a lesser extent the Shabbat lunch, is a significant meal in Israeli homes, together with holiday meals.

Vegetable salads are eaten with most meals, including breakfast, which will usually include eggs, bread and dairy products such as yogurt or cottage cheese. For lunch and dinner, salad may be served as a side dish. Israeli salad is typically made with finely chopped tomatoes and cucumbers dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Variations include the addition of diced red or green bell peppers, grated carrot, finely shredded cabbage or lettuce, sliced radish, fennel, spring onions and chives, chopped parsley, or other herbs and spices such as mint, za’atar and sumac. Tabbouleh (sometimes considered a salad) is traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur and onion and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Some Israeli variations of the salad use pomegranate seeds instead of tomatoes.
Sabich salad may include eggplant, boiled eggs, tahini, potato and parsley.

Chili-based hot sauces are prominent in Israeli food and are made from green or red chili peppers. They are served with appetizers, falafel, casseroles and grilled meats and are often blended with hummus and tahini. Although originating primarily from North Africa and Yemenite immigrants, these hot sauces are now widely consumed in Israel.

Couscous, a type of pasta, was brought to Israel by Jews from North Africa. Couscous is used in salads, main courses and even some desserts. As a main course, chicken or lamb are served over couscous and braised vegetables flavored with saffron or turmeric are served on steamed couscous.

Fresh fish is readily available, caught off Israel’s coastal areas of the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Sea of Galilee or raised in ponds on fish farms in Israel. Fresh fish is served whole, in the Mediterranean style, grilled or fried, dressed only with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Chicken is the most widely eaten meat in Israel, followed by turkey. Chicken is prepared in a multitude of ways, from simple oven-roasted chicken to elaborate casseroles with rich sauces, such as date syrup, tomato sauce, etc. Examples include chicken casserole with couscous, inspired by Moroccan Jewish cooking, chicken with olives, a Mediterranean classic and chicken albondigas (meatballs) in tomato sauce, from Jerusalem Sephardic cuisine.

Israel is one of the world’s leading fresh citrus producers and exporters and more than forty types of fruit are grown in Israel, including oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and pomelit, a hybrid of a grapefruit and a pomelo, developed in Israel. Additional fruits grown in Israel include avocados, bananas, apples, cherries, plums, lychees, nectarines, grapes, dates, strawberries, prickly pear (tzabbar), persimmon, loquat (shesek) and pomegranates.

Pita bread is a double-layered flat or pocket bread traditional in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. It is baked plain, or with a topping of sesame or nigella seeds or za’atar, and is used in multiple ways. They are often stuffed with falafel, salads or various meats as a snack or fast food meal. Baklava is a nut-filled phyllo pastry sweetened with syrup and served at celebrations in Jewish communities. It is also often served in restaurants as dessert, along with small cups of Turkish coffee. Kadaif is a pastry made from long thin noodle threads filled with walnuts or pistachios and sweetened with syrup; it is served alongside baklava. Halva is a sweet, made from tahini and sugar, and is popular in Israel.

Israeli Cuisine

Israeli Falafel Balls

Makes about 40 falafel balls


1 lb chickpeas (dried, not cooked)
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
2 bunches of cilantro
1-2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
Canola or corn oil for frying


Soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Drain.

Grind the chickpeas, onions, garlic and cilantro in a meat grinder. Add the chili, cumin, paprika, coriander, ginger, salt, flour and baking soda and mix well.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a frying pan to a medium heat.

Form 1” round balls using a special falafel tool (or simply using a spoon or wet hands) and fry until the falafel are golden brown and are cooked through.

Serve in a pita bread with tahini sauce and Israeli salad.

Israeli Salad


2 Kirby or 3 Persian cucumbers, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, veins removed, diced
10 grape tomatoes, quartered, or 1 beefsteak tomato, diced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh cilantro or additional parsley, for garnish (optional)


Combine cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, lemon juice, oil, parsley, salt and pepper in medium-sized salad bowl and mix well.

Chill for 1 hour.

Just before serving, garnish salad with fresh cilantro or parsley.

Braised Chicken and Vegetables


3 carrots
½ butternut squash
2 zucchini
1 large onion
2 celery stalks
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken drumsticks
2-3 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons tomato paste


Peel and roughly chop the vegetables.

Sauté the vegetables in the oil for a few minutes and then add the chicken, tomato paste and spices.

Add water until the chicken and vegetables are just covered.

Cover the pan and simmer for 1½ hours. Serve over couscous.

Israeli Tahini Cookies


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup tahini


Preheat oven to 355 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder together in a large bowl; add butter and tahini and mix until dough is crumbly.

Roll dough into small balls and press each ball into a flattened cookie shape using your palms. Arrange cookies in the prepared baking sheet and press with a fork.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake until cookies are golden, about 10 minutes.

Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Christmas baking has begun and I start with cookies. What are your favorite cookies to make for the holidays? Here are some of mine.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies


1 cup sugar
2 cups butter ( 4 sticks)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups flour
Powdered sugar icing (see below) and red and green colored sprinkles for decoration


In a large electric mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and smooth.

Separate 3 of the eggs; Beat the 3 egg yolks and the remaining whole egg into the butter-sugar mixture.

Set aside the eggs whites and use for another recipe, such as the Pignoli cookies below.

Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the flour and mix well. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into four equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one-fourth of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with floured cookie cutters.

Transfer cookies to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and re-roll scraps until all the dough is used.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Cool.

Frost the cookies lightly with the icing and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.

Store in tightly covered containers for up to one month in a cool place, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Powdered Sugar Icing


1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk


Mix together to make a thin icing.

Italian Pine-nut (Pignoli) Cookies

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Makes 2 dozen. I usually double the recipe.


8-ounces almond paste, cut in small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites, from 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
Pine nuts (pignoli)


Heat the oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In mixer bowl beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and almond extract with an electric mixer until smooth. Drop a heaping teaspoonful of dough 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 20 minutes or until the tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature.

(Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks, or they can be frozen.)

Chocolate Chip Biscotti


6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans


Place the first 4 ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high-speed for 2 minutes until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in chips and pecans (dough will be sticky). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. With floured hands, shape the dough into a 9 x 4 inch log; pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the log on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the log from the pan and cool 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack.

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