Nothing smells like summer better than some perfectly ripe and sweet juicy peaches. The smell is just heavenly. The peaches are fantastic this summer. I sampled one at the store, was knocked off my feet with its peachy perfect scent and sweetness, so I bought a […]
This is not only extremely easy and fast to make, but the best recipe yet. I love a good marinara sauce because it is so basic and essential in so many recipes: spaghetti, linguine, lasagne, casserole, grilled vegetables, shrimp stir-fry, stuffed zucchini and peppers, eggplant […]
Cooking with lentils adds so much versatility to your diet and menu. There are many benefits to using lentils in your repertoire, mainly being that they are a nutrient rich legume full of protein and low in calories. Since I started cutting back on the carbs I consume and trying to replace rice in most dishes and entrees, I have turned to lentils quite a bit. And you will not really feel the loss because lentils offer such hearty and satisfying meals. There are endless recipes, but this is one basic one I love to use as substitute for rice or pasta sides. It pairs well with chicken, meat, seafood, and even as a filling meal on its own. Lentils are a fiber all-star, providing both soluble and insoluble. This means they are a great source for cleaning out your intestinal tract, improving digestion, and relieving constipation and other irritable bowel syndromes. They are also heart healthy legumes, rich in magnesium and folate which helps keep your arteries clear and improve the flow of oxygen throughout your body. These high fiber seeds are also excellent sources of slow-burning carbohydrates to provide you with long lasting energy. Because of this they are also excellent blood sugar stabilizers, so diabetic or pre-diabetic people will benefit greatly from consuming lentils in lieu of pasta or rice. Lentils are also high in iron which will improve energy levels, and coming without the fat, cholesterol, and high calories of red meat lentils make for a perfect meat substitute as well.
Well, I hope you are now convinced to eat a bowl of lentils every once in a while.
So here is my basic lentil pilaf. You can use a variety of root vegetables to add depth and flavor but onions are definitely always in the mix here. A tablespoon of garlic always tops that off. I like to add chopped fennel or celery if I have some and a few diced carrots. Season with cumin, salt, and pepper and simmer in either broth or water. Throw in a cup of fresh spinach at the top of your pot at the very end of cooking to add some extra greens, iron, and plenty of beneficial phytonutrients. I love spinach and lentils. Yum!
French lentils are a hardier, green lentil that holds its texture and shape better when cooked. So, if you are new to lentils which can get smushy if you do not cook it right, start with green lentils. You can boil them just like pasta, strain them, then toss with your sautéed vegetables.
Brown lentils are more typically used in Middle Eastern cuisine to make kushary, mjadra, and other dishes. These can get a little too soft if you do not watch the pot. They cook similarly to rice. 1 cup of lentils cooks in about 3.5 cups of water. The key is to let it boil for about 10-15 minutes first to get the cooking going, then turn it down to low.
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You should sort (for dirt or bad pieces) and wash the lentils well.
Sautee chopped onion, minced garlic, and add cumin and salt. When softened, add the lentils, water and simmer until cooked. If using green lentils which cook faster and keep their shape well, simply boil in water with half an onion then strain. Add the strained, cooked lentils to sautéed onions, carrots, and other vegetables.
Lentils are the perfect side to salmon! One of our favorite meals!
- 1 c brown lentils
- 4 c water (or 2 c water and 2 cups broth)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt (to taste)
- pinch of pepper
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 c chopped carrots
- 1/2 c chopped fennel or celery (optional)
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- Sautee the onions and garlic in the olive oil over high heat and add the spices.
- Add the lentils and water.
- Stir well and bring to a boil.
- Boil for about 10-15 minutes until the liquid is at level with the lentils.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
- In a separate pan, sauté the remaining vegetables until tender. Toss with the cooked lentils and serve.
- The other vegetables are not cooked in the same pot as lentils because of the long cook time lentils require. The vegetables will get overcooked and too soft if you do this.
- Another option would be to boil green lentils for about 15 minutes in water with half an onion. Strain and toss the cooked green lentils in a pan with the sautéed vegetables.
- Add fresh spinach to the pot at the very end of cook time to steam for about 1 minute.
This is fluffy, delicious, melts in your mouth, and perfectly vanilla! This makes enough frosting for about 3 dozen cupcakes (with generous and lofty peaks of frosting!) or a double layer 9 inch cake. This easy recipe involves slicing open a real vanilla bean pod, […]
With fresh garlic, ginger, and turmeric root blended in a sauce of lemon and tomato how could anyone resist this? My 100% authentic Indian girlfriend, Farheen, suggested which spices to use and taught me the importance of using fresh whole spices to toast and then grind before […]
This banana date smoothie is a sweet and energizing drink to replenish your body with essential vitamins and minerals, as well as a good dose of protein. For this reason, this drink is perfect for Ramadan fasts. My father concocted this delicious drink one Ramadan, long ago, before smoothies were even a fad, although the addition of frozen strawberries is my own.
It’s no secret in the Muslim world that dates are a superfood with numerous health benefits. It is no wonder that Muslims ritually start their fast and break their fasts with a date, as was the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) many centuries ago.
Once an oddly shaped dried fruit seeming that only my family and I would consume in our Egyptian and Islamic traditions, here in the Midwest, dates are quickly becoming common place in grocery stores, and for good reason.
Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, which grows in warm, dry regions such as the Middle East and parts of California. Dates are high in fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol, improves digestion, satiates the appetite, and fight heart disease and obesity. They are also high in Vitamin B, A, and K. B vitamins are the most prominent vitamin store in dates which include B6 and B9 (folic acid), which helps improve metabolism and produce new red blood cells. Dates are also very high in minerals including potassium, copper, calcium, iron, phosphate, magnesium, and manganese.
Although dates are such a sweet treat and thought to be high in sugars, they actually have a high nutritional ratio to the calories as well as a low glycemic index so they absorb into the body much more slowly giving steady releases of energy and several other sustained benefits. Thus, in moderation dates are an excellent sweetener to use in place of cane sugar or other sweet temptations. Whenever I try to cut out dessert and refined sugar from my weekly diet, I rely on these gems to satiate my cravings and give my body a sweet boost.
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This brings me to this deliciously satisfying and filling energy smoothie! This drink is a concoction of my father’s, which he whipped up one Ramadan long ago. During Ramadan, Muslims are fasting from sunrise to sundown, and dates are in high demand! The benefits of a smoothie are obvious as you can squeeze in a lot more nutrition and whole foods into a smooth drink and gulp it all down quickly in the wee hours before dawn when preparing for a day’s fast.
I use organic milk, however you could use coconut milk, oat milk, or almond milk as non-dairy substitutes that will still taste fantastic. Simply toss in 4-6 pitted dates, a whole ripe banana (or a frozen ripe banana), and a couple of frozen strawberries or ice cubes to make this shake that will keep your appetite satisfied and body well nourished for hours! I enjoy this after a workout or before I run out of the house for the day running errands.
- 3 cups cold milk
- 4-6 medjool dates, pits removed
- 1 ripe banana
- 4 frozen strawberries (optional) OR 1/2 cup ice cubes
- Remove the pit from the dates by slicing down the center, vertically along the length of the date.
- Combine all the ingredients into a blender and pulse to chop and distribute, then increase to the highest speed for 1 minute until smooth and frothy.
Green bean casserole is one of the best comfort foods out there. With the holidays around the corner, it is time to brush up on this delicious recipe and try making it from scratch as I do here. I use fresh, real mushrooms (sometimes […]
Creamy mushroom soup is really much easier than you think. It’s also nice to know exactly what is in this soup since you are making it in your own kitchen! Go take a look at your canned mushroom soup ingredients…cringe? Once you try this easy […]
This is another classic Egyptian dish. Oozing a creamy béchamel sauce, savory beef, and yummy cheesiness, this pasta casserole will be a huge hit with the whole family. There are many variations to make this casserole slightly healthier such as using vegetables instead of beef, whole grain pasta instead of regular, and even reducing the cream and cheese used. This recipe however is the original and is the PERFECT texture and flavor. I am using my mother in law’s recipe which she perfected over the years as it is her husband’s favorite meal! Everyone who knows her, knows she makes this dish the best; so I went to none other than the source herself for the secret!
The recipe is fairly easy and is excellent for making in large quantities and freezing extra pans for later quick meals. The trickiest part is stirring up a creamy velvety béchamel sauce. But I will take you through the steps below to help ensure the best sauce! Bechamel consists of flour and butter creamed into milk. You first need to melt the butter in a large pot over LOW HEAT. The temperature is very important. If you scorch the butter or flour, it will clump and not cook properly.
Once the butter melts, you will add some oil, and then the flour and stir consistently with a wooden spoon or a whisk into a golden paste.
Then you need to slowly add the milk, a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well in between each pour. It is best to use an immersion blender to stir in the milk and prevent any clumps.
The béchamel will thicken significantly when it sits, so you want to make it after you boil the pasta and cook the beef so that it does not sit for too long.
Once the sauce is cooked, you will add some shredded romano cheese, salt and pepper.
The pasta should be tossed in extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, some shredded cheese so that you’d actually want to just eat it like that! You will add a dollop of the béchamel to the cooked pasta and mix that all together. This mixture of pasta is part of the secret to achieving the perfectly delectable flavor in every bite you take. Once you have the sauce, pasta, and beef all ready, you can assemble the casserole.
Then Pasta again:
Finally, crown it with the béchamel:
Bake for 30-40 minute in 400 degrees until the top is bubbling.
Macarona Béchamel (ala Neveen)
- 1 1/2 lb penne pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the beef filling
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 c diced onion (one medium onion)
- 2-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, minced
- 1/4 c tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
For the Bechamél
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1/2 c flour + 2 tbsp
- 4 cups of milk
- 1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 c shredded romano cheese
- 1/4 c shredded mozzarella
- Cook the penne pasta in boiling water and 1 tbsp olive oil, just past al dente (it will cook more in the oven), and set aside to drain.
For the beef Filling:
- Brown the beef in a pot over medium heat, adding some oil if it is not a fatty beef.
- Add the onions and garlic and stir until you hear a sizzle and onions turn a yellow in color.
- Add the spices, salt, and pepper.
- Add the tomato sauce and 1/2 c water and stir.
- Add minced parsley leaves and stir. Cook until all excess water has evaporated.
For the Bechamél Sauce
- Make the béchamel sauce by first melting the butter over LOW heat and stirring in the olive oil.
- Maintaining the pot over low heat, slowly add the flour, stirring constantly into a golden paste. Slowly add the milk, bit by bit, stirring constantly. Use an immersion blender to completely blend smoothly.
- Stir in the broth and stir.
- Turn the heat up to medium. Keep stirring and once the mixture bubbles, turn the heat back down to low. Add 1/2 tsp of salt, pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup of the shredded romano cheese. Remove the sauce from heat.
- In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with 1 tbsp olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, 1/4 cup of romano cheese, and 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella. Add about 2 tbsp of the béchamel to the pasta and stir.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (f).
- Layer the casserole in a 9 inch rectangular dish in even layers in the following order: half of the pasta, all of the beef filling, the other half of the pasta, then pour all remaining béchamel sauce so that the penne is completely covered. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, uncovered.
- Allow the casserole to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Bil hana will shifaa!
Literally, maqlooba means upside down or flipped over. That is exactly what this dish is- a pot full of deliciousness, flipped over onto a plate for serving. The first time I had this was at my friend’s house for dinner, and yes she is Palestinian. […]