Quinoa Mjaddarah (recipe included)

Mjaddarah is a very popular dish in the Middle East. It’s incredibly easy to make, inexpensive, and the perfect vegetarian/vegan option for folks. My mama made it often because it took very little effort to make and an hour in the kitchen generated enough food to feed 20 people for a week. That fact was a huge selling point for my mama. For me? Not so much. I didn’t enjoy eating the same thing five times a week, but boy do I appreciate leftovers now!

Mjaddarah is usually made with rice and lentils, but I don’t eat white rice much these days and I’m not a fan of brown rice. That being said, I have been without my (now) beloved Mjaddarah for quite awhile. It has become one of my favorite comfort foods over the years. Where once I turned my nose to this dish, demanding instead something terrible for me like a cheeseburger or boxed mac and cheese, now I crave Mjaddarah often.

quinoa mjaddarah

My dad came up with the genius idea of switching out the rice for quinoa. While I love quinoa, I was initially skeptical of the healthier substitution. I gotta say, the starchy yumminess of the  rice in this dish is what makes me feel so warm and cuddly when I indulge. I wasn’t sure quinoa would have the same effect. Rest assured, my dad’s recipe is just as comforting as my mama’s. And this one is better for you!

Ingredients
8 oz. (1/2 bag) brown lentils
1 1/3 cups dry quinoa
2 cups of water (plus more for cooking)
2 tablespoons of finely minced onion
1 tablespoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
A pinch of curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
1. Using a shallow pan or bowl, rinse out lentils to clean any excess dirt or unwanted debris.

2. Put quinoa in a very fine sieve and fill up a large bowl with mildly hot water and place the sieve inside the bowl. Change the water in the bowl every five minutes. Do this two or three times over a 15-minute period to get the quinoa cleaned. It is, more importantly, used as a method to par-cook the quinoa before mixing with the lentils.

3. Meanwhile, pour two cups of water into a medium pot and add the lentils. Cook on high heat until it starts to boil. Once boiling, switch to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Take the sieve with the quinoa out of water and let it drain before adding to the lentils. At this stage, add all other ingredients. Also, add either water (or reduced-sodium chicken broth for added flavor) until it just covers the lentil/quinoa mixture and turn up the heat until it boils.

5.Once boiled, turn to low-medium heat. Simmer for 12-15 minutes. Check at 10 minutes to see if water has absorbed. Turn off heat once absorbed and leave lid on until ready to eat. Serve with fried onion and cucumber-tomato salad.

You can find the traditional recipe for Mjaddarah, as well as recipes for the fried onions and cucumber-tomato salad,  here.

Comment below and let me know what you think of this healthier version! If you make the recipe, feel free to tag me on Instagram (@yallasweets) and share your food pics and thoughts!

 

Pistachio Macaroons (Recipe Included)

If you haven’t guessed by now, I REALLY adore the pistachio nut. It was one of my mama’s favorite flavors, so it was a major component in the cuisine I grew up eating. Thankfully, unlike many other foods that did not make the cut, pistachios scored big with my taste buds.

During one of my recent baking adventures, I decided to search around for cookie recipes that included pistachios. I happened upon one that was labeled as a Flourless Pistachio Cookie, but looked suspiciously like a variation on a traditional coconut macaroon to me. A happy discovery it was! Coconut and pistachios were a staple of my childhood and macaroons are one of my favorite treats.

I had never thought to make macaroons before this recipe came into my life. I know, like with everything else baking-related, there are hundreds of variations on this very simple concept; and we all know I like to keep things sweet (very!) and simple. The thing I like most about this particular recipe is that it allows the rich flavors of both the pistachio and the coconut to take center stage. There are only four ingredients in these little guys, and the other two make way for the bold flavors and textures of the star players.

The original recipe didn’t do much in the way of specifying the type of coconut or pistachios to use, so that’s where my preferences come into play. I opted to use roasted and salted pistachios because they have a greater depth of flavor. The salt gives a nice balance to the sweetness from the coconut and the powdered sugar. I probably would have added an extra tablespoon or so of egg white, but as is, this recipe is pretty solid. I also used a combo of dessicated (medium grate, unsweetened) coconut and shredded, sweetened coconut to help with texture and the level of sweetness. You can use whichever you desire, but I like things a bit on the sweeter side.

I’ve linked the original recipe above, and would be curious to hear feedback if you give them a try!

Pistachio MacaroonsPistachio Macaroons

* 1 cup of finely grated pistachio, aka pistachio powder. (I used salted, roasted pistachio nuts.)

* 3/4 cup powdered sugar (Plus about a tablespoon+ for making the pistachio powder)

* 1/2 cup dessicated coconut

* 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

* 1 egg white from a large egg, room temperature

Directions

Note: I haven’t been able to find finely grated pistachio in any of the supermarkets in my area, so I make my own. Simply take about a cup of shelled pistachios and place them in a food processor. Add about a tablespoon of powdered sugar to help prevent the pistachios from forming a paste. Pulse away until you achieve the desired consistency. This takes a minute or two. You want a fine powder, though it really is up to you how fine you want to grate them. I like a little crunch so I pulse to an ALMOST fine consistency.  Set aside. (This can be done in advance and kept in an airtight container in the freezer for months. Just use when needed!)

1. In a medium metal mixing bowl, pour in your coconut and pistachio powder and mix together by hand until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and combine well. Lastly, add the large egg white (whisk the egg white slightly in a cup or small bowl before adding) and mix gently by hand until the egg white is fully incorporated and sufficiently sticky. It might not seem like the egg white is enough, but somehow it manages to bind just right. If it doesn’t,  just add small amounts of slightly whisked egg white until everything comes together.  To test, you should be able to break off about a 1/2 tablespoon to tablespoon piece and roll into a cohesive ball. If that happens, you’re good to go.

2. Place mixture in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least two (2) hours.

3. Preheat your oven to 340F. I use a convection oven, so I baked them at 320F.

4. Using a large baking pan, place parchment paper down. (Don’t skip this step!)

5. Using your (clean) hands, take about 1/2 tablespoon to a full tablespoon (I wouldn’t go much larger than this) and roll them into balls. Place on baking sheet. You don’t have to worry about placing them too far apart as they don’t (shouldn’t) spread.

6. Place in the oven and bake for 7-9 minutes depending on your oven. Mine took 8-9 minutes. I like mine a little more baked, but watch for slight browning on top to know they’re good to go.

7. Take out of the oven, and let sit for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Wait until they have fully cooled before eating (they taste better this way, in my opinion).

Note: This makes roughly 15-16 macaroons, depending on how big/small you roll them out. As with most baked goods, store in an airtight container and enjoy for up to a week or so!

Sahtein!

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Apricot “Truffles” (Recipe Included)

Growing up, my family and I used to snack on a large, sticky sheet of something called Dried Apricot Paste (see photo below). We used to purchase it from a place named Droubi’s (a local Middle Eastern grocery store of sorts) and it has always been one of my favorite snacks. It’s essentially fruit leather, but much more substantial than those little strips you get for fifty cents from your local Whole Foods. This stuff is thick and chewy, tart and sweet, and just so addictive.

apricotThe other day, when I was chomping on square after square of this delightful paste, I started getting some ideas. Well, mostly I got the idea to look for recipes using apricots and pistachios. What did I find? About a bajillion recipes for something called an Apricot “Truffle.” I was intrigued, so I did some research and found that no two recipes for this concept were the same. Some used (a lot) of condensed milk, some used lemon, some used honey, some used different kinds of dried apricots and opted for pecans vs. pistachios. Some called for sweet vs. unsweetened coconut, while other just threw a bunch of stuff into a food processor and called it a day.

Now, I tend to get VERY overwhelmed when faced with too many options. If I can’t find one specific recipe that speaks to my sweet tooth, I find it’s best just to create my own based on the best bits and pieces I’ve found from ALL the recipes and make adjustments as I go along.

So, that is exactly what I’ve done with Apricot “Truffles.” These guys are essentially lovely little balls of apricot paste flavored with anything from lemon juice to sugar to nuts and brown sugar. I wanted my truffles to be healthier, so I kept things simple. I really like the final product this recipe yielded, but I still plan on making other variations and will be sure to post standout combinations here or on Instagram in the future! Please post a comment below or tag me on Instagram if you make them!

IMG_9900

Apricot “Truffles”

1 1/2 cups dried apricots, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of one small lemon

1 tablespoon honey (I used a local clover honey. This gave the truffles a significant undertone of sweet and floral flavors)

1/2 cup dessicated coconut (in other words, medium, finely shredded unsweetened coconut) – for rolling

2-3 Tablespoons finely chopped pistachios (we’re talking powder consistency almost) – for rolling

15-17 mini cupcake liners/cups/etc.

Directions

Chop up the dried apricots and put them into a food processor. Pulse until the apricots forms a thick, sticky paste.

Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and honey and pulse until combined.

Using your hands, take about a tablespoon-sized amount of the paste and roll into a ball. You can make these whatever size you want – bigger or smaller. It’s up to you!

Take the balls and roll them in either the coconut or the pistachio (or both if you’re feeling adventurous) and put them in your mini cupcake liners.

Place them in an airtight container and put them in the fridge for about an hour before serving. You can keep these at room temp, but I find they taste better cold.

Sahtein!

(*Note – This recipe yields a very tart “truffle”. If you want yours sweeter, I’d opt to cut about a 1/2 tablespoon of the lemon juice. You can replace it with a little more honey if so desired. You can also roll these guys in any nut or topping you choose. I think they’d be good with cashews, pecans, or macadamia nuts!)