Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fo Sho

Let me tell you a little story of a restaurant far far away: Bahama Breeze. I enjoyed some of my favorite memories from my high school days at this sizable chain restaurant by the bay. Its shabby-chic environment made for some great special occasions overlooking the water. We used to go there a lot for a fun girls' dinner or anything really. We even went to Bahama Breeze for dinner decked out in ball gowns before the junior prom. My dress was blue and my date was Kia; he used to say things like "FO SHO!".

My favorite Bahama Breeze story is the great six-way date of 2002.

Back Story:
I went to a small high school so there was a lot of what I like to refer to as "relationship recycling". This simply meant that it was perfectly acceptable for two best friends to end up dating the same person over the course of a year simply due to limited resources. I will say that the while the quantity of eligible bachelors at my school lacked, the quality standard was high. Not to call anybody out, but two young ladies in my social circle that come to mind include Anna and Becky (Yes, that Becky) who each dated the same guy (at different times of course).

Anyway, at one point all of the boys my friends were dating at the time secretly got together to plan one huge date. Each boy would pick up his girlfriend and take her to a "surprise destination". It didn't take long for us girls to compare notes and figure out we were all being given a surprise on the same day at the same time. We just did not know what and where. My date was very late picking me up. As we raced in his car towards the bay, I knew where we were headed. Bahama Breeze is off to the side and sort of tough to spot when you are driving by along the bridge. Judging by the speed of the car and the subtlety of the restaurant sign, I knew he would miss it since he had never been there. In anticipation I casually said, "Oh I love that place, Bahama-Breeze-right-over-there-you-see-it-don't-you?" His eyes lit up as he made a sharp right which brought us to the restaurant just under 45 minutes late.

We joined the group of five other high school couples (a waiter's nightmare). Good thing I knew what to order without even looking at the menu: Jerk Chicken Pasta (without the Jerk). This was essentially chicken fettuccine Alfredo. All I knew was Jerk was spicy, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

We finished the evening off with a boom box on the dock overlooking the bay, slow dancing to Unchained Melody . All I want is to have the chance to walk by a group of six high school couples slow dancing on a dock to Unchained Melody just to see how funny it looks.

There is one surviving couple from that evening's group: Amandike. Mikey and Amanda will be celebrating their 9th anniversary in about a month or so. Applause.

Back to Tasty:
The jerk chicken pasta (minus the jerk) sure was tasty, but you know hat would have made it even tastier? Jerk. I have always been afraid of spicy food up until recently. I still try to avoid burning my taste buds off, but I am trying to be more adventurous by trying new flavors. Jerk is a Jamaican spice and is traditionally very hot. These jerk chicken skewers were bursting with taste and light on calories. I would consider them more flavorful than spicy. More importantly, they were easy and even fun to make.

Easy Bahama Breezy Jerk Chicken Skewers...Fo Sho.

(marinade recipe from The Spice House and kabob recipe from Betty Crocker)

Makes 8 skewers for 4 servings

4 boneless chicken breasts (cut into about 1 1/2 inch cubes, kabob size)
1/2 cup Jamaican Jerk Spice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup mango nectar (original recipe calls for orange juice)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

8 skewers (if you are using bamboo skewers, do not forget to soak them in water for 2 hours beforehand)
2 purple onions, chopped in 1 1/2 inch squares (should make about 12 wedges)
2 red bell peppers, chopped in 1 inch squares (should make about 12 wedges)
1 can of pineapple rings, each ring should be cut into 4ths

For marinade, mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl and then pour 2/3rds of the mixture into a ziploc plastic bag with the chicken chunks (reserve the rest for later). Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours (I left it overnight), turning at least once.

Heat a charcoal or gas grill.

Load up the skewers by alternating the onion pieces, red pepper chunks, pineapple and chicken, making sure not to crowd the ingredient too tightly. Drizzle the remaining marinade mixture over the skewers to lightly coat the vegetables.

Grill the skewers over medium/high heat until the chicken is cooked all the way through and vegetables are tender (about 12 minutes).

Serve over rice or with some fried plantains (recipe coming soon).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Official

I never thought I would see the day I made a whole roasted chicken.

I am pretty sure this makes me an official cook. This is right out of an episode of Mad Men this roasted chicken. I imagine myself as Betty Draper or June Cleaver for those of you who have not yet caught on to the award winning show (shame on you). Although the two characters are very different, I imagine they both can whip up a mind-blowing roasted chicken.

The idea came to me in the form of a gift. The gift was a huge cast iron skillet. The idea was more like suggestion for its use by none other than Zach's mom.
You can roast a whole chicken in there.

And that is what I did. I researched recipes and techniques. I put together the elements of each recipe I thought had the most promise, and promise this bird had. This is not to say this process was all candy and television and everything wonderful. It took some gut wrenching to bake this bird... literally. Zach became official gut wrencher, taking full responsibility when it came to fishing out the chicken's heart, gizzard, lungs, liver and kidneys (at least that what they looked liked). I had no problem dissecting cats in 12th grade anatomy, but when I am expected to eat the thing afterward, I have to draw the line somewhere. I went about removing the skin and seasoning the thing, tossing lemon rinds, rosemary and garlic into the body cavity which seemed just plain rude to me. According to Emeril Lagasse, who's recipe I ended up taking the most from, this chicken should roast for about 50 minutes (I did an hour because I added potatoes).

Roasted Chicken for the Official Cook's Soul

(Recipe liberally adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

3 carrots, chopped diagonally into 1 inch thick pieces
3 onions, peeled and chopped (thick pieces)
1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry (I removed the skin from mine)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 lemon, quartered
4 sprigs fresh rosemary (chopped)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 lb small potatoes (I used the small red ones)- I cut them into thirds, but if they are small enough you can just half them.
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the carrots and onions into a large cast iron skillet (or a 9 x 13 roasting pan), creating a layer of vegetables for the chicken to rest on top of. Drizzle the vegetables with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and some rosemary.

Squeeze the lemon quarters over the chicken and place the rinds inside the cavity. Rub the garlic cloves all over the outside of the chicken and then place them inside the cavity as well. Season the chicken both inside and out with the rosemary, kosher salt and black pepper. Rub the chicken both inside and out with a little bit of olive oil, and place it right on top of the vegetables in the skillet.

Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and kosher salt, and place them around the chicken in the skillet. Pour the chicken broth into the skillet (Do not pour it over the chicken because you will wash away the seasoning; just pour it slowly through an opening between some of the vegetables).

Place the pan in the oven and roast the chicken for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the juices run clear. The internal temperature should be 160 degrees F at the thickest part.

Remove the chicken from the oven, and place it on a serving platter surrounded by the vegetables. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Place the skillet on the stove top and heat the remaining liquid including the chicken broth and fat (scarping the bits from the bottom of the pan) on high heat for 2 minutes. Pour the juices over the chicken on the serving platter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Little Something For the Homies - a guest blog

Sometimes I like what other people make. For this reason, I have decided to incorporate guest blogs. I will try to have a guest blogger about once a month if possible. I think this will also work well to give you a little break from boring ole' me!

Please allow me to introduce my coworker and friend, Alyssa. Alyssa works for the only literary agent at my place of business. She is charming, witty and a fantastic baker. She is my friend, not only for her cupcakes but for her great ideas which include a monthly dinner club at work and sharing good conversation over a plate of beignets at the Grad Lux Cafe in LA. I like her, and I think you will too. If you do, you can visit her more often at her own blog:

A Little Something For the Homies - a guest blog by Alyssa

Contrary to what you may have heard, working in an office in the Entertainment industry is not as glamorous as it sounds. It's filled with the same tedious, mundane tasks and crazy people like any other office job. Which is why all assistants live for holidays because holidays mean days off which mean shorter work weeks. Where I work it also means HALF DAY FRIDAYS which are almost as good as the holidays themselves but not quite. For not only can we dress even more casual (in honor of Casual Friday of course) but there is something about leaving at one that is just so freeing to an office automaton like me; sort of akin to ditching school, only you get paid and there's no fear of reprimand. Of course days like these are not without their downside, most notably the lack of bosses. Basically because they have a higher pay grade and a better title they get to skip the entire day while we slave away in our deadly quiet office.

Determined to remedy this slight on such a joyous occasion, I started bringing in treats for my workmates. It began with store bought donuts and quickly moved to confections of my own baking prowess. From Tres Leches cake to Rice Krispie treats, holidays (and my fellow assistants) get the sweet treatment; and the Friday before Labor Day was no different. I had already made cupcakes for my office twice before but this time I wanted to do something special for the long weekend. "Something Special" turned out to be Brownie Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.

Note: I have a very long commute to and from work so being able to make things quickly is imperative which is why I used box recipe brownies instead of making them from scratch (which I've also done). Either way works wonderfully, as my satisfied coworkers can attest.

Half Day Friday Cupcakes

Makes about 15 cupcakes

1 Box of Betty Crocker Chocolate Chunk Brownie Mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

1 package of cupcake liners

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Place liners in cupcake trays
Mix brownie mix according to the instructions on the box
Pour mixture into cupcake liners until they are about 2/3 full
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick can be pulled out clean

While the brownie cupcakes are baking, cream unsalted butter in a large bowl until smooth (you can do it by hand, but I prefer to use my handy dandy mixer)
Add the powdered sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy

Remove brownie cupcakes from oven and let cool
Once they are no longer warm to the touch, frost them to your heart's content
Add sprinkles (unless of course you're dead inside or a terrorist in which case you don't believe in fun things like sprinkles...kidding, they're optional)

Serve with an all office email and a smile

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh Oh Oh It's Magic

It always seems like people who take a particular interest in magic are weird. As soon as the first secret to a card trick is revealed, the magic is gone and you learn it is all an illusion. Magic tricks become a way for people to annoy each other by performing them and not saying how they are done. Even though both parties know it is not really magic at all, the magician pretends that it is.

This is not to say I do not enjoy watching people perform magic tricks; I just prefer to know how it is done afterward. I think most of us can share some fond memories about performing card tricks with friends as children. It is always fun to watch the illusion, but I was always the kid pleading with friends to reveal their secrets long after they were finished. I remember getting angry at the television when those long magic specials would air on NBC once a year.

This could be linked to my aversion to surprises.

There are some types of magic I am partial to: the Orlando Magic and real magic. What is real magic you ask? Real magic is when you discover what a slow cooker is capable of for the first time.

I have used my crock pot to make some of the best meals I have ever put together with the least amount of effort. I love to spend time making an involved meal with several ingredients and cooking styles, but the only day of the week I have the time to do something like that is for a Sunday night dinner. During the week, the crock pot is the best way to go. I can usually throw all the ingredients together in the morning (usually within 5 - 10 minutes) and turn it on a low setting to cook all day long. When I walk in the door at night, the whole apartment smells of goodness.

It has been a little over a year since I used my crock pot for the first time. Zach's parents bought it for us when they were visiting town last summer. This recipe was the first one I tried and has become one of my favorites. It is from my Better Homes Cookbook that my sister-in-law's mother, affectionately known as Mama Jake, gave to me for college graduation. The book calls it "paella" even though I am sure the Spaniards would beg to differ. It is more of a thick chicken and sausage stew. Either way, you will not be disappointed.

Magic Trick Secret Revealed: Crock Pot Chicken and Sausage Paella

Makes 6 servings (recipe from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook)

2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken pieces (breast, thigh, drumstick) skinned
1 tbsp cooking oil
8 oz cooked, smoked turkey sausage (halved lengthwise and sliced)
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried crushed thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp thread saffron or 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 14oz can reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 C water
2 C chopped tomatoes
2 medium yellow or green sweet peppers, sliced
1 C frozen peas
1 C frozen yellow corn (optional - not included in the original recipe...I just like it)

In a large skillet, brown the chicken pieces in the hot oil. This seals the juices inside the chicken to retain the moisture during the slow cooking process. To be honest, I usually skip this step. Oops!

Place chicken in a 4 quart slow cooker and add sausage, onion and garlic. Sprinkle with thyme (if using dry thyme only), black pepper and saffron (or turmeric). Pour chicken broth and water over all.

Cook on low heat for 7 to 8 hours or on high heat for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. I always cook on low heat, and I usually have to leave the cooker on for about 11 hours since that is how long I am out of the apartment. Oops again!

Add the tomatoes, peppers, peas, corn and fresh thyme (if using). Cover and let sit with the vegetable for about 5 minutes. The meat will just fall off the bone as your scoop it out of the pot.

Serve over saffron rice. Or for a healthier option, eat it without rice...it just fine on its own. It is also just as good or even better the next day. This is true of many slow cooker dishes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When Life Hands You Lemons

A couple weeks ago when Zach's family was in town, they stayed at an adorable vacation rental with a lemon tree in the backyard. When they left to go back to Florida, we were left with a few bright yellow lemons. While of course lemonade is tasty, it is not really my favorite. So when life handed me lemons, I was forced to come up with another idea.

I eat salad almost everyday, sometimes twice. I try to eat a healthy salad (because we all know just because something is a salad does not mean it is healthy) as a meal in itself for either lunch or dinner, or at least I add one to a meal to replace potential bad-for-me side dishes. This habit is likely a result of the way my dad would make a salad to accompany any meal in our house growing up. Even if we were eating pizza or any other type of take out food, we would always have a salad to go with it. Until recently, I never thought twice about the fact that my dad would make his own homemade dressing every time. His salads always had a very distinct flavor that i will forever associate with the comfort of being at my parents' home in Florida. I would describe it as a lemon / garlic Greek style dressing. I am pretty sure there was never a recipe. I imagine my dad was just out of dressing one day and decided he thought these ingredients would go well together. Either way, those lemons reminded me of my dad's good ole' salad dressing so I gave him a ring for the benefit of us all.

Pop's Instead of Lemonade Dressing:

1/2 C high quality olive oil
1/2 C lemon juice
2 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 C plain yogurt or labne (This is optional. My dad never added this, but it makes for a creamier, but still healthy, alternative)

Mix all ingredients with a wire whisk until blended thoroughly.

Mix all ingredients with a wire whisk until blended throughly.
Suggested salad toppings for this dressing include any or all of the following: tomatoes, green olives, fresh white onion, feta cheese, fresh bell peppers, and pine nuts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brunch Club September: "Oh, and Bring Your Appetites"

The Brunch Club was back for its September round last weekend. BreAnna hosted this week at LeAnna's apartment near downtown. Shortly before the day in question, an email from 1/2 of the hosting team (the Brian half) was sent to the "Brunch?" email listserv that read:

Hey everyone,
I just wanted to give you all our address for tomorrow.

(insert detailed description of address and surroundings along with parking information)

Oh, and bring your appetites tomorrow!


I am pretty sure what Brian mean to say was, "Please refrain from eating for the next 24 hours, and prepare yourself to find more food per capita than you have ever encountered at any food-related activity or event in your lives. Sincerely, Brian"

I mean this was just unimaginable. Brian and LeAnna provided enough food alone to feed everyone that was there thrice. On top of that, each person brought a dish. My only complaint is that there was no cereal.

The result: gluttony...in great company of course.


This was one of my favorite foods this month. It was so light and fluffy and had just the right amount of sweetness (not too much). It made me realize how much better homemade whipped cream is than the store-bought stuff.


This was another favorite this month. Apparently it was the deluxe version of the recipe which tuned out just perfect. Delicious.


Classics are always crowd pleasers, especially in gargantuan quantities.


Very classy stuff for a classy bunch.


I have to say this is just a great idea. These were filled with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese I think.

I don't know that I have ever had scones before. Now I have, and now I like them. They were slightly sweet and a lovely texture. I thought I got a picture, but I cannot find it anywhere.

ASSORTED FRUITS AND DIPS - by BreAnna and Linzachary

We brought the bowl of fruit halves: pears, white nectarines and yellow nectarines. They are all very juicy this time of year. BreAnna provided all the rest, including the yogurt chocolate dip.


I honestly did not even get a chance to try these. By the time I saw them, I was already finished with round three, and there was no room left. They sure are pretty though.


I had these once a long time ago. They are just a mix of everything that is right about breakfast into a compact little ball. They are one of the easiest things I have ever made, and people seemed to like them. I know they are sometimes associated with the holidays for a Christmas morning breakfast, and that sounds about right to me.

Bring Your Appetite Sausage Biscuit Balls

makes about 24

1 1/2 C Bisquick mix
1 lb breakfast sausage (I used Jimmy Dean)
3 C sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Brown the sausage meat in a frying pan.
Mix sausage, cheese and Bisquick mix with your hands until well blended.
Roll into ping-pong sized balls and place on a baking sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes

I invite any fellow brunchers to post their recipes in the comments section.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pointing Big Fat Fingers

The United States is known for its larger than life attitude. Clichés like “the bigger the better” and “can’t have too much of a good thing” come to mind when considering the stereotypical American way, especially when it comes to food.

Food portions are on the way up due to our out of control distortions of what one portion of food looks like. My mom is always harping about how one serving size of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards. The only time, I eat a potion of meat as small as a deck of cards is if it is the pepperoni on top of my pizza. A can of soda is 12 ounces, but the original bottle of Coca-Cola was only 6 ounces. The amount of food we serve at home and in restaurants is increasing because our idea of what a serving size looks like is seriously fuzzy. For instance, a serving size of ice cream is generally ½ cup; this should be about the size of a baseball. I imagine that when most of us choose to indulge in a bowl of ice cream, it is more like the size of the pitcher’s mound. The following excerpt is from an article that details the increases in portion sizes in the US since the 1970’s for specific foods:

Between 1977 and 1996, portion sizes increased for salty snacks, desserts, soft drinks, fruit drinks, French fries, hamburgers, cheeseburgers and Mexican food. Such increases were large. The quantity of salty snacks increased by 93 calories or 0.6 ounces, soft drinks by 49 calories or 6.8 ounces, hamburgers by 97 calories or 1.3 ounces, French fries by 68 calories or 0.5 ounces and Mexican food by 133 calories, or 1.7 ounces.

This may sound like I am scolding the American people. You may be expecting me to post a recipe for some kind of petite little finger food. But I have another cliché for you: "if you can't beat'em, join'em". That, my friends, is why I mention the portion issue to excuse myself of any responsibility having to do with the out-of-control sizes of my enchiladas. I cannot apologize as my portion distortion is simply a result of the environment in which I grew up.

Not My Fault Fat Bottomed Chicken Enchiladas:

10 flour tortillas (about 10-inches in diameter each)
1 extra large can of red enchilada sauce (or 2 small cans - you will need about 25 ounces)
4 chicken breasts (boneless and skinless)
1 tbsp chili powder
1 small white onion (chopped)
3 C shredded Mexican mixed cheeses (or white or yellow cheddar)
1/2 C sour cream
2 large tomatoes (or 4 small) chopped (you can also use some salsa here by replacing a cup of the fresh tomatoes with 3/4 C of salsa)
olive oil

Cut up raw chicken breasts into strips and coat with chili powder.
Pan-fry the chicken strips until cooked thoroughly, stirring in the chopped onion for the last 5 minutes (the whole process should take about 10 minutes). Once the chicken is cooked and the onion is tender, remove from heat, and set aside.

While chicken is cooling, in a large bowl combine 1 1/2 C shredded cheese, tomatoes, and sour cream.
Chop or shred chicken into small bite-sized pieces and combine with cheese and tomato mixture.
Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
Set up a round dish with the enchilada sauce and set aside

Heat just a few drops of olive oil in a frying pan on high heat (just enough to coat the pan lightly)
lightly toast each side of a flour tortilla.

Place the hot tortilla into the enchilada sauce dish, coating completely.

Set out coated tortillas in a 9"x13" glass casserole dish.

Scoop a generous portion of the chicken mixture into each tortilla (2 heaping wooden spoonfuls which is somewhere between 1/4 C and 1/2 C...to be precise, you can separate the chicken mixture into 10 equal parts to fill each tortilla equally).

Roll each tortilla around the chicken mixture, and tuck in the ends.
Place each enchilada with the seam side facing the bottom of the dish.
Repeat this with about two to three tortillas at a time.
To fit all the enchiladas in the dish, don't be afraid to crowd and squish them together (as pictured).
Once they are all lined up in the dish, pour all the extra enchilada sauce on top, spreading around evenly.

Generously sprinkle the other 1 1/2 C of the shredded cheese evenly over the top.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes.
Remove foil and continue baking for another 5 minutes (20 minutes total).

These enchiladas seem to get bigger and bigger every time I make them. I guess I am just trying to keep up with the times. This is not a quick recipe, but it is not too difficult. You can freeze the leftovers for about a month or two if you have a good way to store them. I try not to eat more than one with a side of black beans, and maybe some tortilla chips or rice. Zach eats two with sour cream on top. You can follow this basic recipe and stuff anything you want really inside of them like ground beef, steak, chorizo, or grilled veggies with cheese for a vegetarian option.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Birthday Wishes

Today and tomorrow are the birthdays of two special men in my life. Today is my dad's birthday, and tomorrow is my uncle John's Birthday. In honor of their special days, I am making yet another Lebanese recipe that reminds me of time spent together as a family during the holidays growing up.

I visited Beirut for the first (and so far only) time when I was 13 years old. I was in the eighth grade, and it was spring break. I went with my two uncles, my aunt, and my baby cousin. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life meeting most of my dad's side of the family for the first time. I have a big family, and they were all genuinely happy to have us there. They were even happier to offer up any and every type of food I could ever imagine, exceedingly more than my stomach could handle. The family seemed to spend so much time together, and much of it seemed centered around food (which was of course fine by me). I seem to remember doing a whole lot for just having visited for about 10 days. I saw the house where my dad was born, we had a big snowball fight in this woodsy area among the famous cedars of Lebanon, we visited ruins, I shopped in a jewelry market, we drove along the coast where I got to see what was described to me as "suicide rock", and I even got to visit a bakery where I was allowed to try my hand at baking manaeesh which became a favorite of mine. We also visited a huge bakery called Sea Sweet, which was full of French pastries. It honestly surprises me that I remember the name of that bakery, but I guess it really left an impression.

Something else that left a strong impression was seeing many of the women in my family sitting around a large table in a small apartment making hundreds of Easter cookies. I know when you think of Easter cookies, you think of colorful sprinkles, jelly beans, or even those weird, almost chalky, sugar cookies with super sweet, thick and firm icing that you buy at the grocery store in the bakery section. These cookies are not like that. They are shaped like small, thin doughnuts and are stuffed with a date mixture. The cookie part is crumbly and not to sweet because the dates are. I really cannot think of anything to which they are similar. They are not pretty, and I even admit that you really need to have a taste for them. The cookies are incredibly traditional, and I have a soft spot in my memory and in my stomach for them. They are so distinct that even as I started making them, the smell of the dough made me nostalgic. I literally brought Zach over to my baking table and had him to smell it. I felt like that smell could almost let him experience a part of my past in a way that cannot be accomplished through hearing stories and seeing pictures. Even now, as I write this, the cookies are baking. The smell is so strong in my small apartment, and it reminds me of times sharing these cookies with the people I love every Christmas when my aunt would make them. So that is what I am going to do, share them with the people I love.... specifically my dad and uncle for their birthdays. Two tins of these cookies will be shipped out on Tuesday morning, one to Tampa and the other to Denver. Happy Birthday! Since this is my first time making these cookies, I think I will call them:

First Date Cookies

(This recipe comes from a great Lebanese cooking blog called, Taste of Beirut)

1 lb. of semolina
1 lb. of farina or cream of wheat
4 sticks of unsalted butter (softened or melted down to form a creamy texture)
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup of rose water
1/4 cup of orange blossom water
1 teaspoon of mahlab, (optional, but I used it)
1 lb date paste (also called baking dates)

I found all of these ingredients easily at an Armenian grocery store, but I am fairly confident you will find everything listed here besides the mahlab at any major grocery store.

Mix semolina, farina (or cream of wheat), mahlab and sugar to blend.
Mix in the butter until consistent throughout.
Add the milk, rose water and orange blossom water and mix well.
Let sit for a few hours in the refrigerator

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Lay out some wax paper to work on.
Take a large handful of the dough and role it into a long log or snake shape.
Use your finger to flatten the dough log, creating a spot down the middle for the date paste
roll some date paste out to a thin log shape and place it down the middle of your dough.

Close the dough around the date
At this point, you should have a long, fairly thick log of dough with the dates running through the middle.

Tear off a section of the dough filled with dates (about a 2 inch section).
Roll out the section with your fingers to smooth out the dough and secure it around the dates. This will extend the length of the 2-inch section to about 4 inches.

Seal the two ends together to make the 4 inch section into a circle.

Repeat this process with all of your dough and date paste. You should be able to make about 50 cookies.

Bake at 325 degrees F on a large baking sheet until the tops of the cookies begin to turn into a light golden color (this will take about 40 minutes).

Enjoy these cookies for breakfast with coffee or as a dessert with milk of course.

These cookies will keep very well for a about two weeks if stored properly in a tin or Tupperware container. You can also freeze them for a month or two.