Matzo Baklava

Matzo BaklavaThis dessert just gets better with time. I would always plan on serving it the next day, or even the day after that, as the longer it sits, the longer the matzo has a chance to soak up the sweet lemony syrup. This recipe will make 9 to 16 squares (depends how small you slice it).

Ingredients:

6 sheets matzo

For syrup:
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

For assembly:
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup shelled raw unsalted natural pistachios, chopped
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine or butter, melted

Directions:

Briefly pass each sheet of matzo under cold running water until wet on all sides. Layer sheets between damp paper towels and let stand until somewhat pliable but not soggy or falling apart, about 2 hours. While matzo is softening, make syrup.

In small saucepan over moderately high heat, stir together the water and sugar. Bring to boil, then lower heat to moderate and cook, uncovered, until syrupy and thick, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and honey and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool, then chill until ready to use.

To Assemble the Dessert:

Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir together walnuts, pistachios, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Separate out ⅙ of nut mixture and reserve for topping cooked baklava.

Transfer 1 sheet of the prepared matzo to the counter. Press a rolling pin once over the sheet from one end to other to flatten. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat. Using a pastry brush, grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with the melted butter/margarine. Lay one sheet of flattened matzo on the bottom of the pan, and then spread with more melted butter/margarine. Sprinkle the matzo with ⅕ of unreserved nut mixture. Roll out second sheet of matzo and transfer to pan. Brush with margarine and sprinkle with nut mixture. Repeat with remaining matzo sheets and remaining nut mixture, ending with matzo sheet brushed with margarine on top.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Keeping the baklava in the pan, place the pan on a cooling rack so that it can cool all around, and immediately pour the chilled syrup over. It may seem like a lot of syrup, but the matzo will absorb it all. Sprinkle with reserved nut mixture. Let cool, then cover and let stand at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. (Do not chill.) Cut into small squares or diamonds and serve.

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Rava Laddu

Rava LadduRava Laddu is a traditional sweet found in Western India. Authentic Rava Laddu is made using Rava (hence the name) which is a wheat husk product. This recipe calls for the use of semolina, as it is more commonly available in North America. This is a popular laddu prepared almost in every household for all the festivals. Rava laddu is a simple and easy recipe but still exotic. This recipe will make about 14 laddus.

Ingredients:

1 cup semolina/rava
⅓ cup coconut powder ᶲ
¼ cup clarified butter or ghee*
¾ cup fine sugar
2 tablespoons crushed cashews ᶲ
1 tablespoon raisins
¼ teaspoon crushed cardamom ᶲ
approx. ¼ cup milk, boiling hot*

Directions:

Heat one tablespoon of clarified butter in a small pan over medium low heat; roast the cashews for about 2 minutes until they are light golden brown. Add raisins and roast for another minute, raisins will be puffed. Turn off the heat and transfer them in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat the remaining clarified butter in a frying pan over low medium heat; add the semolina and roast until it changes the color lightly this should take 6-7 minutes. It is important to stir continuously making sure the semolina roasts evenly. Add the coconut and roast, stirring continually for about 2 more minutes. Add nuts, cardamom, and sugar stir until everything is mixed well. Turn off the heat.

Add about 2 tablespoons of hot milk to the dry ingredients. Mix it well to combine. The mix should be moist add more milk as needed. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.

To form the laddus, press about 1 ½ tablespoons of the mixture between your palms. Add little more milk if you are unable to hold the mixture. Press and squeeze to form a round golf-ball like shape. Let them sit for at least one hour before serving. Laddus can be stored in air tight container for about 10 days.

ᶲ If you can’t find coconut powder, crushed cashews or crushed cardamon, simply grind them in a coffee grinder or food processor. For the coconut, I would suggest using unsweetened coconut flakes.
* To make this recipe non-dairy, simply substitute margarine for the butter/ghee and use soy/almond milk instead of cow milk.

Chai-Spiced Shortbread Cookies

Chai ShortbreadAlthough the flavors here are rich and complex, the recipe is very easy to make. This recipe makes about 45 cookies.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds*
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Leaves from 1 English Breakfast tea bag
1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a large bowl with a mixer until smooth. In another bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cardamom, and tea. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture and beat on low speed until blended. Stir in chocolate chips by hand.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or if you don’t have parchment paper, lightly grease the pans. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball and space them about 1 inch apart on sheets, and then flatten slightly with a floured bottom of a glass. Bake until cookies are light golden on the undersides, about 15 to 18 minutes, switching pan positions halfway through baking. Once you have removed the cookies from the oven, transfer them to racks to cool.

*Grind in a clean coffee grinder or in a mortar. For tips on cleaning your coffee grinder, click here.

Moroccan Mains: Chicken & Couscous

tumeric chicken

Moroccan Chicken

Serves 8
Ingredients:

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon salt
olive oil
2 onions, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, sliced ¼” rounds
4 stalks celery, sliced ¼” rounds
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained
2 zucchini, sliced ½” rounds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat adding a little olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown in the saucepan until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in same pan. When tender, stir in ginger, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and turmeric; stir fry for about 1 minute, then mix in broth and tomatoes. Return chicken to pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and zucchini to pan and bring to a simmer once again; cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is cooked through and tender. Stir in lemon juice and serve over the rice, plain couscous or the delicious couscous recipe below.

CouscousMoroccan Couscous

Ingredients:

1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise and cut into ¾” pieces
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
grated zest of one orange
1 540ml can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ cups couscous
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint*

Directions:

Place a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, ginger, cloves, cayenne, cardamom, coriander, and allspice; gently toast until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in oil and onion, cook until softened. Stir in the bell pepper, and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins, salt, zest, and garbanzos. Pour in the chicken broth and orange juice; turn heat to high and bring to a boil. When the mixture is boiling, stir in the couscous and remove from heat; cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and fold in chopped mint.

*To learn how to inspect fresh mint, click here.

Creamy Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Ingredients:

3 ¾ cups milk
½ cup Arborio rice
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

In a medium size pot, add all of the ingredients, save the vanilla, and bring to a boil. Once the mixture has reached temperature, reduce to low and cover the pot. Stir the mixture every few minutes, so that the rice does not burn. Once the rice is tender and the mixture is thick, about 15-20 minutes, remove from the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or cool, as is or with a sprinkling of cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Stress Relief Needed?

Stressed

So did you know that stressed spelled backwards is desserts? Ergo, to solve stress, one must eat dessert! I’m sure my logic is faulty somewhere in there, but right now, I’m thinking of the warm, creamy rice pudding that I have as today’s recipe. It is filled with great fall flavours, like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and cardamom. These warm flavours actually do physically warm you up! Here are some of the health benefits that the spices in today’s recipe promote:

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is a member of the Lauraceae (Laurel) Family. It helps dry dampness in the body and warms people that are always cold and suffering from poor circulation. Cinnamon is antiseptic and an excellent digestive tonic. Chewing cinnamon flavoured gum or just smelling the sweet spice has been found to improve brain activity. Cinnamon enhances cognitive processing and was found to improve test subjects scores related to attention, memory and visual-motor speed when working at a computer.

Nutmeg (Myristica Fragrans) is a member of the Myristicaceae Family. During ancient times, Roman and Greek civilizations used nutmeg as a type of brain tonic. This is because nutmeg can effectively stimulate your brain. As a result, it can help eliminate fatigue and stress. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, nutmeg may also be a good remedy. Nutmeg can also improve your concentration so you can become more efficient and focused at work or at school.

Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia) is a member of the  Orchidaceae (Orchid) Family. Vanilla is rich in antioxidants which prevent and reverse skin damage caused by free radicals. It helps to slow down signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. Certain neurological studies have proved that vanilla extract can have a positive effect on those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), a member of the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) Family, is an expectorant, thus helping to open the respiratory passages. Cardamom oils can be added to baths as a form of aromatherapy that fights depression and reduces stress. Ground Cardamom seeds can be made into a tea for similar benefits.

So there you have it, straight from the doctors, you NEED to eat rice pudding! It’s for your health!