A Pregnant Girl’s Chocolate Fix

Seven falls ago I was pregnant with my first child and thought pregnancy was the easiest thing in the world. So easy I thought I could do it all the time. I actually never felt pregnant. I never had morning sickness or any of the uncomfortable symptoms you hear about. But that was then; I was a younger, fitter pregnant girl (And I didn’t wobble!!).

Being pregnant at 27 is definitely different than being pregnant at 34.

I’ve been spared again from morning sickness but this time has brought with it kinks, weird cravings (I mean, really weird), tiredness and a bluesy mood. All I want to do lately is eat or cry.

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Quick Chicken and Vegetable Stew with Grits

It’s starting to look and feel like stew season in Orlando. The weather has only been slightly cooler but it’s been raining every day making it look darker and far more like fall than summer. Finally! I’m ready for a change of seasons. Summers are way too long here.

As soon as fall starts announcing itself, my passion for baking is reignited. Apple desserts, pumpkin cakes and lots of maple syrup concoctions fill my kitchen with warm aromas this time of year. But this year, it’s stew to launch the season. Not only that, but stew with grits. Yes, grits! This is huge for me, people.

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Grilled Manouri and Arugula Salad

I will start by explaining what manouri is. I’m not assuming you don’t know but am a little bit thinking that unless you are a foodie or come from an Eastern Mediterranean country, you probably don’t—I didn’t know what it was in my pre-blogging days.  Manouri and halloumi (a similar cheese) are Greek goat or sheep’s milk cheeses that taste a little bit like goat cheese but are firmer and perfect for grilling as they do char beautifully without melting.

 

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Multigrain Rotini with Turkey Bacon, Peas and Basil

This is a wonderful, easy, plentiful weeknight dinner, and for the family of three that we are, it lasts a couple of days, providing enough leftovers for another dinner or at least a couple of lunches. Few dishes beat a pasta on a busy day, especially when it has vegetables and protein combined.

My favorite pasta is Barilla Plus Multigrain because it’s made from multiple grains and legumes like barley, spelt, lentils, chickpeas, oats and flax, and doesn’t taste heavy like some healthy pastas do.

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Flaxseed Blueberry Muffins

I’m tempted to call these power muffins but I’d rather talk about how delicious they are. I like to think of food in terms of enjoyment and pleasure more than anything else. With that said, don’t get me wrong, I do make sure my food is worth its calories but when it comes to the “power” part of these muffins, no explanation is necessary; the ingredients speak for themselves. Flaxseeds, oats, blueberries. Enough said.

 

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My Tafernout Experiment

So it’s taken me a while… I know I promised I would give tafernout recipe a try and share it on the blog but I’ve been functioning on my pregnancy brain, which means that on top of being forgetful, foggy, clumsy and sleepy, I’ve also been slower at getting things done. Sigh…

Let’s rewind a little …. Tafernout is a Moroccan flatbread with gorgeous dents all over. The latter result from baking the bread on hot pebbles which act like a pizza stone in retaining and concentrating heat and give the bread a beautiful crust and golden brown dimples.

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Whole Fish Baked in Salt Crust

We’ve all either had or heard of fish baked in a salt crust; it’s one of the oldest techniques of cooking fish (as well as chicken, red meat and vegetables) that seals in the juices and yields moist, succulent fish that bursts with pure fish flavor, and only that!!

But how often do we bake fish that way? We’ve largely abandoned this method in favor of marinades (We love marinades, of course. They’re here to stay!) and have gotten accustomed to the flavorless convenience of foil. The last time for me dates to at least twenty years ago in my mom’s highly experimental kitchen, but I have never forgotten how good it was.
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How to Make Labneh

Labneh is Middle Eastern strained yogurt cheese. You can make it by simply straining yogurt overnight to rid it of whey and turn it into a thick, creamy spread or dip. You can strain it longer to make thicker fresh cheese that’s firm enough to shape into balls, patties or logs and dredge in herbs, nuts and spices of all kinds.

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Tafernout: Dented Moroccan Flatbread

In the villages right outside of Marrakesh in every direction that takes to the Berber mountains, you’ll find a fantastic bread called tafernout. It is a flat bread made from leavened or unleavened dough baked in a clay oven on a bed of pebbles or medium stones. I have never seen any flat bread like it.

When I lived in Morocco, tafernout was unheard of in cities or anywhere close by; it was reserved to remote villages where it had been secludedly baked for generations. Its popularity has crept up over the years that it is now available as soon as you drive a kilometer or two away from the city at rural joints and roadside restaurants everywhere in the South.
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Strawberry Flan

This is another dessert I have made more than twice in the last couple of weeks. The reason is when I make four servings I eat three of them and have only one left for John and Maya to fight over (baby’s fault, of course!). The first time, John got to it first; Maya pouted for days. I had to make it again so I can have my three servings (!!) and leave one for Maya. This time I made sure she got it. Seeing that everybody liked it I made it a third time.

You see, with desserts this easy and quick to make, you’re really tempted to bake more often.

This flan is very fruity and a tad less custardy than other flans—it has a light bite to it because of the ground almonds. It is puffed up like a soufflé when it comes out of the oven but quickly shrinks to about three thirds of its size as it cools down. The bubbling caramelized strawberry syrup that forms around the flan makes it soo irresistible.

I have no doubt that if you make this flan, you’ll want to make it again, and again.
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