Chicken, Wild Rice & Kale Casserole

I love it when I can whip up a dinner with pantry staples that are neither planned for nor fancy. Okay, to be honest, I like fancypants ingredients but most of the time I like to simply open the pantry, grab what I find and cook it into something palatable. That’s what I do almost everyday and things haven’t been turning too shabby.

Take for example this casserole. I already had onions, garlic, rice and leftover kale. I made a short trip to the store and bought some chicken. Things came about quite naturally as I sauteed the onion, garlic, kale and chicken, combined them with rice and broth, and popped the pan into a hot oven! It was (almost) effortless and our hearty dinner may well become a weeknight go-to quickie.

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Baked Chebakia

Chebbakia is a delicious Moroccan treat made with toasted sesame seeds and flavored with saffron, orange blossom water, olive oil and cinnamon. It’s a cookie so fragrant it fills your kitchen with a most heavenly smell as it cooks and tastes even better when ready! Chebbakia is traditionally fried but I do love this baked version, and I think you will like it too. When the chebbakias are cooked, they’re bathed in a pot of warm honey for a little while until they’re shiny and sticky, then they’re sprinkled with sesame seeds. A true delicacy!

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Stuffed Eggplants

Of all summer vegetables, I get super excited about eggplants. Like tomatoes, they are botanically a fruit (although in my world I consider them a vegetable, use them as a vegetable, and refuse to call them anything but a vegetable). The eggplant was called mala insana, “bad/mad apple” when first discovered. The Italians were the first to adopt it, giving it the name melanzana. Thankfully, the rest of the world followed. We have certainly come a long way in our appreciation of that once unpalatable edible. It may taste insanely hideous when raw but cooked, it becomes silky and simply succulent.

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Hello, dear friends. I’ve been away and I’ve missed you. I’ve taken a couple of back-to-back trips, and haven’t really had a chance to say hello. The longest of my trips was to Morocco to see my mom, and the truth is I wanted to spend time with her, talk to her, give her all my attention without having to divide it among a million things. I’m hoping I got to do that. I’m hoping I was able to make up a bit for breaking her heart when I left twelve years ago .

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Cucumber Yogurt Soup with Raisins & Pistachios

It’s hard to believe it’s already June. The days and months go by fast when you’re caring for a baby. Even more amazing is when that baby is already sitting up, eating fruits and vegetables, babbling, squealing, laughing out loud, and starting to look more like a little boy than a baby. Astounding what nature can do in six months.

This year seems to me like it has transitioned from November directly to June. The months in between were swallowed up somehow, and time came to a halt as I lived, really lived, slowly, quietly, contentedly, for the first time in many years.

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Orange Salad with Celery & Raisins

I simply can’t get enough of oranges when they’re at their peak. When I was a child, my father used to drive us to his friend’s orange grove and we would come back with large crates filled with the best navels, clementines and mandarins I’ve had in my life. Moroccan citrus is among the best; if you ever get a chance to visit, you ought to taste some.

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Healthy Homemade Chocolate Spread + Giveaway

I’ve eaten so many different brands of chocolate spread in my life, I can hardly remember the names. A few that I still recall from growing up in another country are Nusticao and Nocilla (pronounced noceeya). The half dark half white chocolate kind was always in our pantry, and as a kid I faithfully went for the white because it was sweeter. Now even the dark is too sweet for me. How times have changed.

This recipe is for all the Nutella lovers out there who would rather have a healthier, less cloying version. It is such an easy treat and made with quality ingredients. The only trouble you’ll have is keeping away from it.

P.S. I took the pictures while the chocolate was still warm but it does thicken into a rich, perfectly spreadable pâte à tartiner after a few hours.


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Angel Food Muffins

Central Florida is flat except for a few areas. A couple dozen miles west of Orlando you start seeing some elevation, and it is such a refreshing sight it makes you slow down your car to admire the contrasting scenery. On top of one beautiful hill near Clermont lies the only winery in the vicinity. A charming estate named Lakeridge that produces different varieties of Muscadine grapes and presses mostly sweet and semi-dry wines.

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Rosemary Strawberry Lemonade

I was never interested in gardening until recently. I am now obsessed with it. I’ve planted basil, rosemary, thyme, mint, dill, tomatoes, scallions, strawberries and a lemon tree. My garden keeps on expanding, and I’ve already developed a few gardening rituals: biweekly weeding, every other day watering, and of course, daily talking and TLC.

I can’t wait to be able to make lemonade from homegrown lemons but my lemon tree is still in the baby stage. The herbs, however, are already thriving. The mint has expanded from a few tiny sprigs to a bushy shrub that almost fills an entire extra large pot. The rosemary and basil are so fragrant, I can’t pass by without stopping to take a whiff.

I snipped a few sprigs of rosemary to make lemonade. The rosemary flavor was gorgeous but subtle enough that it left room for the strawberries to shine. It was so refreshing.

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Moroccan Potato Fritters (Maakouda)

These potato fritters are a super popular Moroccan street food. They are zesty. Quite zesty. I used plenty of cayenne pepper to season them, and I think you’ll love me for that. I fried them until crunchy and served them with a generous squeeze of lime juice. They’re also wonderful with a side of yogurt sauce.

Do give them a go.


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