Tag Archives: family

Coconut Macaroons

22 Mar


Because my family had a very loving relationship with food, many of my first memories involve being in a kitchen. At an early age I quickly learned that dessert was my absolute favorite thing– Who am I kidding? It still is!

One day when I was 7 years old, my grandma took pity on me and let me assist in the kitchen. For most kids my age, this meant making something simple like rice krispy treats. But not me, I was going to make coconut macaroons.

I remember tossing the ingredients into the bowl and blending it with my hands. Being a messy kid, I found this step endlessly entertaining. Carefully shaping the mixture into tiny balls, I was surprised at how easy it was to make something so incredibly delicious. Watching the shiny orbs turn a caramelized, golden brown in the oven, I never could have imagined that they would taste like candied sunshine.

Coconut Macaroons


2 egg whites
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sweetened flake coconut

Mix together all ingredients until well combined (you can use a spoon or your hands!). Divide mixture into 8ths, and roll into well-packed rounds. Drop onto foiled baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 300 degrees.

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The Best Hanukkah Recipes – Mom’s Matzo Brie

12 Dec

In honor of Hanukkah, I asked my Mom to share her amazing recipe for Matzo Brie with the Cookbook Create community. It’s not technically a Hanukkah dish, but it became such a hit in our household that we requested it year-round.


Lighting the menorah with my family in Northern California, circa 1989.

Take it away, Mom!

Barbara Richter: This dish is traditionally eaten at Passover, but it’s so delicious, that my family loves to eat it at other holidays, as well. I usually make it for breakfast, making sure to have plenty of ingredients on hand, because everyone is sure to want seconds!  The recipe comes from a Jewish cookery book that I found in Vienna, Austria, back in the 70’s, when I was a student studying there at Academy of Music.

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#MeatlessMonday, Thanksgiving Edition: Sweet Potato Casserole

19 Nov

Keeping the Thanksgiving meal as traditional as possible is very important to me.  I mentioned in my other “#MeatlessMonday” post that this year I am going to try to incorporate one or two new dishes, but this casserole will remain on the menu and needs no tweaking. This recipe was passed down to my mom and then to me from my Grandma Ducky, a woman who epitomized all of the great qualities of a Southerner.  She was a lady who never met a stranger and always spoke her mind.  She was one of my favorite cooks and her dishes always featured some unexpected ingredient that made the meal unforgettable. Continue reading

#MeatlessMonday, Thanksgiving Edition: Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

19 Nov

If there is one word in my mind that is synonymous with Thanksgiving, it’s tradition. Being a creature of habit, the idea of not having the same exact menu I grew up with seemed blasphemous. Since moving to New York, I have always hosted Thanksgiving.  For the last seven years, I have been in charge of preparing the dishes that were served to my guests on this special holiday. Continue reading

Thanksgiving without the Turkey

14 Nov

Ready to try having a family Thanksgiving without a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed or sweet potatoes, corn, or green beans?  Forget about the lovely apple, pecan, or pumpkin pies.  Every family’s version of a Thanksgiving meal is different. Here’s our take on a a turkeyless Thanksgiving dinner. Continue reading

Why I add a hint of cumin to almost everything I make

28 Sep

When I was a little girl, cooking was always around me. As a Syrian Jew, I spent hours watching specialty Middle Eastern food being made. I always wanted to help make the complicated Syrian recipes like lachamajin, kibbe, and sambusak I watched my grandpa spend hours making. Each dish was made with such precision and love and yet at the same time when it came to quantities, the response was “a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and then taste until you get the exact flavor.” These responses both invigorated and discouraged me. I was excited that I may one day be able to nail that exact flavor, but fearful that maybe I didn’t get that gene and maybe I would never make the food like my grandpa did.

As I have started cooking, I have gotten a better sense of the recipes and flavors. I have also built more confidence in asking questions and tweaking recipes as I create my food. Food and cooking are still always around me and I still love them. Even though I know my fractions, I am still able to use cooking to learn other skills that are more practical for my adult life.

The recipes I include in my cookbook are those close to my heart, that me to my family and as a result, ethnicity and religion.

Photo by Sanjay Acharya (Own work) GFDL  or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jordana’s Venezuelan Arepas

24 Sep

Making arepas is an inexpensive way to put a quick yet filling sandwich together for yourself and your family, and it has now become a worldwide recipe and culinary sensation. This South American favorite, which is largely corn-based, is split in half and stuffed with various fillings, such as cheese, meat, shrimp, and vegetables. Arepas can be grilled, baked, boiled or fried, and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack as well.

Recently, I rolled up my sleeves and had the pleasure of getting an up close and personal look at making some handmade Venezuelan arepas with my friend Jordana.  I was amazed that such a simple dish could be so delicious and so easy to personalize.  I love that you can stuff arepas with your favorite fillings and change it up depending on your mood when you make them.  I’m always up for experimenting, but I usually stick with ham and cheese.

Arepas Recipe 

Makes about 12 small arepas and produces 5-6 servings.


2 cups 100% pre-cooked white corn meal
2 cups warm, filtered water
1 pinch salt
2 tsp. canola oil
2 cup warm filtered water, reserve for arepa making

Dough Preparation: 

Heat up 2 cups of water until warm to the touch.  You must be able to keep your fingers in it.  Dissolve a pinch of salt in the water.In a medium-big bowl, place the 2 cups of corn meal and slowly begin to pour in the 2 cups of warm water, while thoroughly mixing the corn meal by hand. Squeeze out any clumps so the mix is even. The mix should not be too wet or too dry. If it’s too dry, use some of the other warm water adding very little at a time and mixing evenly. Make sure to mix in the meal that gets stuck on the sides of the bowl.  Let the dough rest for 3 minutes.

Making the Arepas:

The extra cup of warm water will be used to wet fingers and dough while forming the arepas. This prevents the dough from drying, sticking to hands, and breaking.

Take enough dough to form a golf-sized ball and then carefully flatten the ball by hand until it’s 1/2 inch thick.  Wet fingers in the water and smooth out the edges and any rough spots so it’s disc-shaped (about 3 inches in diameter).

Place the arepas in the pan or on the grill, without letting them touch (they’ll stick together).  
Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side at medium heat, until a light brown hard shell forms on the outside.
  Once both sides have a light brown shell, turn the heat to low and cook for another 10 minutes on each side or until they’re slightly firm. When the arepas are cool, slice down the middle, leaving the shells as though they were an oyster; you don’t want to separate them completely.  Spread a little butter (or mayonnaise) inside each half and stuff with cheese, meat, or whatever you desire.  Some of my favorites are ham and cheese, pulled chicken, pulled pork, pulled beef, avocado with mayo, black beans and cheese, and scrambled eggs and cheese.

Eat while warm and enjoy!

Photo by William Neuheisel from DC, US (Arepas con Chorizo) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Rosh Hashanah

17 Sep

Rosh Hashanah Food Traditions

The Leek omlette, Swiss Chard omlette, Black-eyed peas, and Dates have two interpretations. First, all are eaten as foods that relate to the words they represent. For example, leeks are called Karsi, which is related to the word karet meaning to cut off or destroy. The blessing that goes with the leek omlette says, “[m]ay all your enemies be cut off.” They are pretty much the old food puns, like eating lettuce to say “lettuce” (“let us”) have a good new year. The second interpretation is that these are the foods the Gemorrah, a written Jewish text, recommended Jews eat on this holiday.


Pomegranate seeds symbolize merits. The blessing says “[m]ay your merits be many like the seeds of a pomengranate.”

Challah and sugar:

Challah is the bread that is always blessed on Jewish holidays. On Friday nights for Shabbat, challah is dipped in salt to remember the destruction of the second temple, but on Rosh Hashanah, challah is dipped in sugar for a sweet new year. The challah is also round, symbolizing the cyclical nature of the year and creation.

Fish or lambs head:

Sometimes Rosh Hashanah will feature a fish head on the table. This is to sybolize Rosh Hashanah as the head, or start, of the year. It is a fish because fish symbolizes fertility.

New fruit:

Every year you are supposed to try a new fruit, representing the new year. In the past few years, I’ve had quince, rambutan, and Chinese melon. It’s an excellent way to explore different types of ingredients and cultures.

Sweet Yeast Dough Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

10 Sep

Let’s face it—we all indulge in the occasional Cinnabon at the mall or airport.  We forget about how sticky our fingers will soon become because the smell is just too tempting, and as soon as we’re in what seems like a mile radius of the store, our mouths are already watering.  We inhale the cinnamon roll, and walk away, guilty, making excuses, with pieces of napkins stuck to our fingers.

But have you ever woken up to the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls in your own home, or in my case, in your grandma’s home?  That is a true treat.  There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty while eating a delicious homemade roll, and because of that, you’re able to enjoy it in more than 2 bites.  And go ahead, lick your fingers; you know you want to!  You’re in your own home, so why not? You’ll feel even less guilty when you make the rolls yourself, for the first time.  Baking with yeast can often sound like a daunting task, and if you’re nervous about it, as I was, making these cinnamon rolls is a perfect place to start.  When I discovered that I would have to face my fear of yeast in order to make these rolls, I was concerned.  But when the baking actually began, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I really had nothing to be nervous about.

My grandma—“Mimi,” as she is referred to by her grandkids—taught me how to make these cinnamon rolls during one of my trips to visit her in Tennessee, just as her own grandmother did when she visited her in North Dakota many years before.  Since Mimi’s grandmother lived so far away, she only got to visit her a few times.  But fortunately, she was able to spend some quality time with her while learning how to make this cinnamon rolls.  For her, they’re much more than a breakfast sweets; they’re “small ways to preserve the past.”  I’m thankful that although Mimi and I also live very far apart, we do get to see each other often.  And I can’t wait to someday teach my own grandkids how to make these cinnamon rolls using my great-great-grandmother’s recipe to continue preserving the past.

Sweet Yeast Dough Cinnamon Rolls Recipe


½ cup milk
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup shortening
1 ½ tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups sifted flour
½ cup warm potato water
2 packages dry yeast
2 tbsp cinnamon


Scald ½ cup milk.  Stir in ½ cup sugar, ½ cup shortening, and 1 ½ tsp salt.  Add 2 eggs—beaten, 3 cups sifted flour; beat until smooth.  Add 2 cups sifted flour and cool to lukewarm.

Measure into a small glass bowl:
½ cup warm potato water and add 2 packages of dry yeast.  Stir until dissolved.  Let this mixture sit for a few minutes to make sure the yeast is working or bubbling up.  Stir into lukewarm milk mixture.  Dough may be slightly sticky.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured board.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Place in greased bowl, brush the top with soft shortening.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk—about 1 hour.  Punch down and turn out on lightly floured board.  Roll half of the dough into rectangle about 9×14”.  Brush with melted butter or margarine.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture (2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 cup sugar).  Roll as for a jelly roll and slice in 1” pieces.  Place in a greased baking pan and let rise until double in bulk and bake at 350° oven for 35 minutes.  (Pan may also be prepared by placing melted butter and dusting lightly with brow sugar before putting the cut cinnamon rolls in).

Photo by Eric Petruno [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Birthday, Giada de Laurentiis!

22 Aug

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