Author: Noha

Pozole Verde: A Green Mexican Corn Soup

Pozole Verde: A Green Mexican Corn Soup

This pozole is such a flavorful soup that will satisfy all. Pozole verde is a green Mexican corn soup made with the plump and meaty white corn, known as hominy. The richly flavored broth is layered with the tang of tomatillos, the spice of cumin […]

Kissir Turkish Bulgur Salad

Kissir Turkish Bulgur Salad

This delicious salad is filling, full of aromatic green herbs and SO easy to make! Kissir is a Turkish bulgur salad that has spread from the Anatolian region and is very popular all over Turkey. This basic recipe can be modified with your favorite add-ins. […]

Date Truffles

Date Truffles

Jump to Recipe

These are the perfect excuse to indulge in a rich fudgy treat; packed with nutritional carbohydrates, minimal fat, no added sugars, and 7 natural whole ingredients this is the perfect snack to pop in for an energy boost! Try these before starting your Ramadan fast to have some lasting energy:) Or if you are like me and about to start an exhausting day running errands with two screaming kids with no time to eat; then these are perfect for that too!

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I love it when dessert can also be good for you. This recipe offers one delectably sweet treat, but it is oh so full of goodness and nutrition. These are also naturally vegan and gluten free so can be enjoyed by a variety of diets. These cute little truffles are delicious, fudgy, energy bites consisting of pureed dates, a dash of almond butter, vanilla extract, crushed nuts, coconut, or dried cherries (your choice!) and dark chocolate. I add some oats and flax meal for extra nutrition. Flax seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber and have been shown to decrease inflammation, reduce risks for cancer, and modestly decrease blood sugar levels in diabetics. Whole flax seeds however, usually pass through your body undigested, so it is necessary to consume it ground.

For the month of Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally and ritually consume dates before starting and after breaking the fast, these make an excellent variation to just plain dates. Muslims start the day before fasting with a date or two in suhoor , so these come in handy with the added fiber and flavor. The sustained energy release, numerous nutrients, and outstanding health benefits of dates are all a reason to pop one (or a few!) of these into your mouth when you are running low on fuel! Check out my post on the date smoothie to try another energy boosting and natural treat and to read more about the health benefits of dates. But just to give you an idea, dates are a superfood rich in B vitamins which help you metabolize food and develop new blood cells. They are also rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Dates are packed with fiber, mostly insoluble fiber, which sticks to that nasty cholesterol and fat in your body and escorts it OUT of your body (by obvious means). Of course, as you may tell from its ultra sweet flavor, dates are also high in natural sugars, making them the perfect natural sweetener in desserts and smoothies and an excellent source of natural carbohydrates because they have a low glycemic index.

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I made some of these topped with crushed peanuts and no almond butter because my husband is allergic to all tree nuts and we have a tree-nut free household. BORING, I know. He is really missing out, I often tell him. Oh, and in case you are wondering, NO, peanuts are NOT a nut. They are a legume, or little seeds that grow in the ground. So although peanuts are a common allergy, they are not the same as a tree-nut allergy. (We often have to explain this to waiters who are very hesitant to give us desserts or foods with peanut ingredients when we warn them about the severe nut allergy). Anyway, I would LOVE to make these with crushed walnuts or pecans! Try it out, you will love it!

My favorite flavor is the coconut. Just add some coconut to the mixture and then roll the truffles in some shredded coconut.

To get the dates into a workable paste, you will need to remove the pit, slice in half, then soak the dates in warm water to soften them up. This is as technical as this recipe will get! Easy, right? Then you are ready to blend! Blend the dates with liquid vanilla extract and a spoon of almond butter to break up the dates into a paste.  Then add the cocoa, cinnamon, and other ingredients until incorporated. When cocoa is one of your main ingredients, it really needs to be the good stuff. Buy a fresh batch of high quality cocoa like Valrhona or Ghirardhelli. I use my Vitamix, which works great, but a powerful food processor should do the trick as well. I added oats and flax meal to the batch, and dried cherries, crushed nuts, or shredded coconut to divided parts of the mixture to make some different flavors. Then, after rolling into a ball, roll the truffle into some shredded coconut, crushed nuts, or some cocoa powder! The possibilities are endless!

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Date Truffles

5 from 5 votes

Ingredients
  

  • 10 Medjool dates pit removed, sliced in half, about 1 cup
  • 1/4 c oats
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon optional
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder I use Valrhona or Ghirardhelli
  • 1 tsp flax meal whole seeds do not get absorbed by the body as readily
  • 1/4 c shredded coconut (plus some extra to roll the truffles in)
  • 1/4 c crushed nuts, or chopped dried cherries optional

Instructions
 

  • Soak the chopped dates in hot water for about 5 minutes until softened. Drain and place slices into a blender or food processor.
  • Add the vanilla and almond butter, and cinnamon, if using. Pulse until the dates are pureed into a thick paste.
  • Add the cocoa powder and flax meal and pulse until you achieve a rich, fudgy mixture.
  • Add the oats, chopped nuts, coconut, or cherries you want to mix in. If you choose to have a variety of flavors, divide the chocolate puree into portions and add different ingredients to each batch.
  • Roll the mixture into balls, then roll the truffles in coconut, cocoa powder, or crushed nuts.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Notes

You can substitute the almond butter with peanut butter, but the peanut butter will tend to dominate the chocolate flavor. You may also completely omit the nut butter for a really thick and fudgy mixture (but you really need a powerful processor to break up the dates into a paste!)
Staub Giveaway!

Staub Giveaway!

Enter the giveaway by commenting below. Mega bonus entries on Instagram! This giveaway has closed. Stay tuned for the next one! I want to thank all of my amazing followers and readers with one of my most loved and used kitchen items- Staub La Coccotte! […]

Vanilla Rose Petit Four Cookies or Betefor

Vanilla Rose Petit Four Cookies or Betefor

These petit four cookies have been a family tradition around the holidays for as long as I can remember. Betefor, as it has been called in our home is a sweet butter cookie sandwich. My mother would glue together chocolate and vanilla cookies with some […]

Stuffed Grape leaves – mahshy

Stuffed Grape leaves – mahshy

mahshy
Jump to Recipe

This recipe is so dear to my heart. Hands down, my favorite dish, the one thing I can relish at any given time, and never grow tired of, is a plate of hot, juicy, lemony vine leaves filled with a flavorful, herbed, rice mixture. This recipe is completely vegetarian, and a wonderful plant based meal to add to the menu. An aromatic rice seasoned with several green herbs, tomato paste, garlic and onions is stuffed carefully into a flavorful lemony brined grape leaf. Stuffed grape leaves have a myriad of titles depending on the country they are made in: dolma, sarma, waraq ‘enab, yabraq, dolmades, and our simple Egyptian title- mahshy.

Mahshy in Arabic literally means stuffed, and while we make many varieties of stuffed vegetables, the main ones being peppers, eggplants, baby zucchini, and grape leaves, the simple mahshy refers to the quintessential grape leaf rolled up tight with a juicy filling of aromatic rice tucked gently inside.

What’s inside?

As many names there are for this dish, there are also endless recipes and fillings influenced not only by their region of origin but by the grandmas and generations of home chefs who lovingly rolled these and served them up. The Egyptian recipe is usually a vegetarian filling and does not use any meat, although many people now add minced meat as is done in the Levant regions. Sometimes I add meat too, but I rarely do because this dish is perfectly delicious without any meat (not to mention healthier and easier to make). The combination of short grain rice with fresh parsley, dill, cilantro and dried mint is seasoned with cumin, minced garlic and onions, tomato paste, and olive oil. The perfect amount of filling is very carefully tucked into the leaf and then rolled tightly to ensure a juicy result once cooked. I find that rolling these leaves small and tight is half the success of this recipe. If they are loose or large, you do not achieve the juicy stuffing. The cooking liquid is also very important as this marinates the leaves and infuses the entire pot with flavor. I use lots of lemon juice, tomato paste, some spices, chicken broth or lamb broth and let them cook nice and slow.

stuffing

How to cook stuffed grape leaves

Every recipe involves some method of stacking the rolled leaves in a pot and covering with a flavorful broth. I have experimented so much with broths, meat on the bottom, potatoes on the bottom, vines on the bottom, pressure cooking, simmering with a weight on top, and baking in the oven. Being an avid mahshy eater, from a variety of homes and regions, I can assure you I have a fairly good summary for impeccable results. They are all simply delicious methods, but here is my favorite method and combination of strategies:

  1. While the Egyptian grape leaves are filled with a vegan mixture, we do cook it in some broth. I either pour on chicken broth into the sauce, or to get extra fancy and to my children’s delight, line the bottom of the pot with lamb chops. The bone is important- it releases flavorful broth in the cooking liquid in lieu of chicken broth. I prefer any cut of beef with bone to lamb, but my kids love lamb. Lamb in the pot is also traditional to the Syrian and Lebanese recipes I grew up enjoying and absolutely LOVE.
  2. Always line the bottom of the pot with thickly sliced potatoes. Always. These are a favorite for all. They soak up all that tangy sauce flavor, and protect your precious hand rolled grape leaves from scorching. Throw in some tomato slices too for lovely color and extra flavor. The cuts of meat, if using, can go in between the potato slices or underneath them.
  3. Use lots of garlic. I layer the bottom of the pot with potatoes and meat on top of olive oil that was simmering on low with sliced or minced garlic. Also sprinkle sliced garlic between the layers of grape leaves.
  4. Simmer the pot of leaves on the stove top (in an oven proof pot such as an enameled cast iron Staub) for a good 30 minutes to get them tender. Then transfer the pot to the oven at 400 degrees (f) for 20 minutes to get everything nicely charred and crispy. Everyone who has tried these absolutely love it. The smoky flavor, the crispy charred leaves, and other vegetables get so perfectly cooked this way.
  5. I always throw in rolled onions and stuffed zucchinis into the same pot of grape leaves. This started by mistake because I would always have extra rice- but I find that these help hold the grape leaves in place and they don’t unravel! I don’t need to use a weight. The rolled onions also lend to the flavorful broth, of course. Iraqi dolma is amazing and almost always features rolled onions. You can find my method for stuffing zucchinis and other veggies here.

Where do I find grape leaves?

You’ll be surprised to find that grape leaves are readily available on vines for the pocking. Where I grew up in Michigan, they were growing plentiful behind our school, and we would pick some to cook at home. I would be with some friends in the car, and the lady who drove us home would pull over on the road when she spotted a vine to pick some leaves! headed to a vineyard? Ask if you can collect some leaves! I quickly learned how to identify the leaves (see my picture below). You can also simply plant a grape plant in your yard- and it will take off proliferously before you know it! Just pick a plant with a small, smooth leaf. If you aren’t interested in picking your leaves (which you really ought to do at least once in your life!) you can conveniently find a jar of brined grape leaves at an International market or Middle Eastern grocer. Simply rinse and drain them before using.

How do I roll the grape leaves?

If you use leaves from a jar, simply rinse well and let them drain. I used to simmer and blanch, but I find this step to be unnecessary. When using fresh leaves, simply wash, and you may opt to blanch them in boiling salted water with a tablespoon of vinegar. When I say blanch, I mean do not leave them in for more than 2 minutes! If the leaves get too soft, you wont be able to roll them. This blanching of fresh leaves will make the leaves a little bit more flexible and infuse the leaves with the delicious brined flavor.

To roll the leaves, you simply lay the smooth side down on a plate, with the rough vines facing upward. Cut off any thick stems- they are undesirable in the mouth when eating mahshy. Set a small teaspoon of stuffing in the center in a narrow line. The size of this stuffing is generally how large the rolled grape leaf will be. Fold up the sides, then roll up, carefully tucking in the sides as you rollup the wider part of the leaf. If the leaf is particularly huge, cut it in half. All the rolled leaves should come out about the same size. Stack them into the pot (on top of all those potato slices of course!) in a circular fashion until you’ve made a complete layer. Wedge in some garlic slices between a few grape leaves and continue to the next layer. This is a 1 hour long (or more!) project that entails sitting back, turning on your favorite film or soap opera or an afternoon with friends and family rolling and chatting together! I find it therapeutic to sit back and watch my shows while rolling away. It’s the most productive way to binge watch TV 😀

grape leaf
Set smooth side down, with rough vines facing upward. Be sure to cut off the thick stem from the center!
Arrange the stuffing along the center, in a line.
Fold up, and begin to roll up, holding the rolled part tightly together. Thank you to my seven-year old photo hand model!
There you have it. Nicely tucked together, set the seam side down in the pot so it doesn’t unravel.
The brighter green leaves are fresh picked leaves, and the darker ones are from a jar. Both taste delicious and all look the same once cooked! You can certainly taste the freshness!

Stuffed Grape Leaves (Mahshy)

A delicious plant based meal made with aromatic herbed rice stuffed into a juicy and tangy brined grape leaf.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine egyptian, Middle Eastern

Equipment

  • Use of a large cast iron pot is recommended

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs grape leaves rinsed and drained

Bottom of the pot

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced
  • 1 lb bone in lamb chops or beef loin OMIT FOR VEGAN RECIPE
  • 3 medium potatoes, sliced 3/4 inch thick
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced 1 inch thick

For the stuffing

  • 2 cups short grain rice, washed and soaked for 20 minutes I use Egyptian rice, sushi rice works well too
  • 1 bunch parsley, minced stems removed
  • 1 bunch dill, minced stems removed
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
  • 1 tbsp dry mint
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

For the cooking sauce

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 c chicken broth if not using meat pieces USE VEGETABLE BROTH FOR VEGAN RECIPE
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 fresh lemons, juiced 1/2-1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Wash the grape leaves and rinse them clean. Set aside to drain. If using fresh picked leaves, blanch in boiling, salted water with a tablespoon of vinegar for 1-2 minutes. Allow to cool before handling.
  • In a large pot, add the oil and garlic slices over very low heat. Allow the garlic to infuse the oil, then gently lay down the meat pieces, if using. Layer the potatoes evenly along the bottom as well.
  • Turn up the heat and sear the meat and potatoes on one side. Turn over each piece, and turn off the heat. Place the tomato slices if using.
  • Combine all the stuffing ingredients in a medium bowl.
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  • Take one leaf at a time, smooth side down, and fill the leaf with about 1 tsp of stuffing in a line along the bottom where the stem was removed.
  • Fold up the bottom sides and slowly roll upward, keeping a tight roll and folding up the sides as you go. Place the rolled leaf in the pot, with the seam side down. Continue with all the grape leaves, creating an even layer of rolled leaves before starting a second layer. Wedge the garlic slices for the cooking sauce in between rolled leaves, and between layers. If using stuffed zucchinis or onions, wedge these in between leaves in the top and bottom layers, as it holds all the stuffed grape leaves in place.
  • Once all the stuffing is complete, combine all the cooking sauce ingredients except the olive oil and mix well. Pour evenly all over the pot, covering all the mahshy. Drizzle the olive oil evenly on top.
  • Set the pot on the stove on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Be sure to add water, if it dries up or the mahshy will burn on the bottom. Preheat the oven to 400 as this cooks.
  • Once the mahshy has simmered for 20-30 minutes, set the pot into the oven, on the middle rack, uncovered. Be sure you can see enough sauce from the top, or it will burn and dry out. Drizzle more olive oil on top, and set some lemon slices as garnish. The lemons look gorgeous once roasted!
  • Remove the pot after 15-20 minutes, ensuring it never dries out of liquid. Enjoy hot with yogurt sauce and pita bread!

Notes

If using zucchini, eggplants, or onions, simply wash and cut off the tops.
For zucchini and eggplant scoop out the core with a long coring tool, or a butter knife. 
For the onion, slice it along the length from the root head to the stem head, half way through and stop. Do not slice it all the way open. This allows the onion to open up as it boils into easy to grab layers. Set the onion in boiling water for 10-15 minutes until the layers look like they are separating and opening. Allow to cool and pull the layers apart; they easily hold a tablespoon of stuffing and roll shut. Set these on the top of the pot, as they taste delicious when charred in the oven!
Keyword dolma, grape leaves, mahshy, waraq enab

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Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

This pasta is everything: a hearty, creamy, cheesy, flavorful bowl of autumn comfort! Flavored with shallots, garlic, and thyme, the creamy and sweet butternut squash is pureed with a dash of cream into a rich velvety sauce. A sprinkling of pecorino romano cheese balances out […]

Blueberry Lavender Muffins

Blueberry Lavender Muffins

These muffins are moist, fluffy, lemon infused cakes bursting with juicy summer blueberries accented with the delicate scent of lavender. The moist cake is based on one of my favorite citrus cakes from my aunt. You will love the fresh and summery vibe of these […]

Best Pantry and Kitchen Staples

Best Pantry and Kitchen Staples

Stock your kitchen for success, easy meal prep, and healthy choices

I often get asked how I manage so many healthy meals and snacks, or whip up yummy smoothies on the spot for the family.

Why is it so easy for you? How do you do it?

Well, it’s not easy or effortless, but it takes planning. I need to ensure that I stock up on fresh weekly produce and that my pantry has all that I need for delicious and easy cooking. Once you check this list of best pantry items and kitchen staples, clean and healthy home cooking will be within your reach, too! Below you will find my tips for organizing, free printable pantry labels, and how to get bargain priced items at bulk from Thrive Market.

lentil tabbouli

It’s not magic. I need to be 100% transparent and say healthy and clean eating has been a journey for me. So start by taking simple steps you know that you can manage. Do not simply buy everything on this list and expect a magical shift in your lifestyle. Slowly start incorporating a few of these items at a time and use them. Then expand from there.

First I started to eliminate canned foods from my grocery shopping and cooking. Instead I would cook beans fresh from their dried version in my Instant Pot. The taste has been completely worth it alone, let aside the health benefits. Then I started buying tomatoes in a jar or box instead of cans. Eventually, I started making my own tomato sauces from scratch!

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black eyed peas

I also shifted to buying my pantry items in bulk, without the packaging of plastic, bags, and cardboard. Not only does this cut down on environmental waste, which one should feel great about, but the ingredients are usually more fresh and better tasting too. A huge bonus is that you also save money buying items in bulk, without the packaging.

I highly recommend storage containers because cardboard boxes from the grocery store often carry feces or insect eggs that you do not want to set into your pantry. I know this because I had an unfortunate infestation in my cupboards one day and learned from pest control about this common problem. GROSS!

You’ll need to set yourself up with some glass or plastic canisters. I save plenty of large glass jars and repurpose them. I also buy some air tight containers for my grains and more perishable items. I love the Oxo containers below available on Amazon. I absolutely love these containers because I can add more as I need them and they ALL stack over one another. I get the short and wide containers for all my cereal, granola, and oatmeal toppings like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other small nuts or grains.

If you are looking to invest in some timeless quality storage, check out the extensive line on Tupperware.com. I especially love these large containers for cereals, oats, flours, and brown sugar. I find that these are truly superior at keeping food fresh and air tight.

Finally you can label all of your lovely jars with these labels that I created. They are available for you to download and print for free. I simply printed the labels onto clear sticker sheets by Silhouette from Amazon.

kushary set up

So what do I buy? These are items I recommend you start stocking up in your pantry so that fresh, flavorful cooking, meal prep, and snacks are always easily at your fingertips! Many pantry items such as the grains, nuts, and seeds are automatically shipped to me at a bargain price from ThriveMarket.com. You can save 25% when you shop using my link here.

chocolate peanut butter protein shake
  1. Seeds, nuts, dried fruit for cereal, hot cereal, smoothie, and even salad toppings. Examples of what we always like to keep include:
    • pumpkin and sunflower seeds
    • almonds
    • pistachios
    • dried cranberries or raisins
    • chia seeds
    • hemp seeds.
  2. Super food ingredients to keep on hand to sprinkle into cereals, salads, baked goodies, or smoothies such as:
    • cacao nibs
    • maca powder
    • camu camu powder
    • Acai powder
    • chia seeds
    • hemp seeds
    • spirulina
    • ground flax seed
  3. Grains and flours for baking and meal prep needs such as:
    • quick oats
    • steel cut oats
    • rolled oats (I use these for baking muffins for the kids)
    • barley
    • brown rice (a healthier option to go along veggie dishes and stews)
    • long grain or basmati rice (my go to for vermicelli rice alongside many stews)
    • Egyptian rice (small grain rice mostly used for stuffing veggies or my fish rice recipe)
    • bulgur wheat (used often in place of rice and cooks in 5 minutes)
    • semolina flour (many Middle Eastern desserts)
    • all purpose flour
    • pastry flour (my go to for cookies, muffins, and brownies)
    • almond flour
    • Cassava flour (delicious gluten free option)
  4. Beans and legumes
    • green or brown lentils
    • red lentils (my kids’ absolute favorite!)
    • black beans
    • chickpeas ( I use them in almost any dish or salad)
    • fava beans
    • black eyed peas
  5. Butters and oils for meals and baking
    • pure olive oil for high temperature cooking (it has a higher smoke point than extra virgin)
    • Sunflower oil or canola oil (for high temp cooking)
    • extra virgin olive oil for salads and sauces
    • coconut oil (unrefined and cold pressed)
    • Kerrygold or Organic Valley Pasture raised butter (best flavor!)
    • peanut butter for snacks and lunch
    • almond butter for snacks and lunch
  6. Spices and flavor: I love my spices to be kept fresh (under 6 months old) and purchased from a high quality source. I rely on Penzey spices or my local spice shop for the best quality.
  • Essential spices and vinegars I use for flavoring include:
    • balsamic vinegar for delicious pasta sauces and vinaigrettes
    • white vinegar for many recipes (and cleaning!)
    • Himalayan pink salt or kosher salt
    • black peppercorns and a grinder (fresher taste)
    • cumin powder or seeds with a grinder
    • ground coriander
    • cinnamon
    • ground cardamom and cardamom pods
    • cloves
    • allspice
    • ginger
    • cayenne pepper
    • chili powder
    • garlic powder
    • sumac powder
    • bay leaves
    • anise seed
    • vanilla paste or powder (Nielssen Massey is my go to)
  • Produce and fresh ingredients vary based on the season. I will suggest to always keep the following items on hand for fresh Mediterranean meals always on the menu. These are also items I strive to grow in my own home garden. I cannot go without:
    • bell peppers
    • tomatoes
    • cucumbers
    • olives
    • either eggplant, mushrooms, squashes, or cauliflower weekly
    • parsley
    • dill
    • mint
    • cilantro
    • yellow and red onions
    • garlic (of course!)
    • ginger root (peel this and keep it in your freezer)
    • turmeric root (peel and mince this and keep in freezer)
    • lemon (a LOT)
    • lime
Cinnamon Spice Banana Date Muffins

Cinnamon Spice Banana Date Muffins

These muffins are perfection when it comes to banana bread! Wonderfully moist and delicious, with ooey-gooey chocolate and dates throughout, this is a most delicious comfort treat for the cold season! The cinnamon and spice paired with the sweetness of dates and bananas is a […]