Sfouf bi Debes (Carob Molasses Cake)

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Sfouf is the most popular recipe on my blog: it’s a semolina anise seed tea cake that’s fluffy, moist, incredibly flavorful and vegan. The baking time is actually longer than the time it takes to mix all the ingredients together; it’s no wonder why it is the most viewed page on this site!

This version of sfouf is made with carob molasses (also known as debes el kharrub in Arabic) instead of refined white sugar. It’s a healthy and popular alternative to regular turmeric sfouf especially during Easter lent.

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Since the carob tree is native to the Mediterranean region, carob molasses is widely consumed in Lebanon. The pods of the carob fruit are mashed with water to release their sugar, then strained and boiled down until a dark thick syrup is formed. In fact it is very common in these regions to make syrups from fruits and there’s an incredible variety ranging from pomegranates, dates, grapes, to mulberry, prickly pears, and figs.

Carob molasses has a very distinctive earthy flavor that’s almost reminiscent of cocoa. That’s why it’s a great alternative to chocolate in many recipes, especially when you taste it in its raw form (I think it looses the rich cocoa taste when baked). So there you have it: an even healthier vegan sfouf cake that’s naturally sweetened. Feel free to experiment with other types of molasses if you can’t find carob at your local food market.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp tahini paste
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp anise seed
2 cups fine semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup carob molasses
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup toasted white sesame seeds for decoration (you can also substitute with pine nuts or halved blanched almonds)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (355ºF) and grease a 11″ (28cm) round tin pan with the tbsp of tahini.
2. Seep anise seeds in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain and set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, toast the white sesame seeds in a non stick pan on medium high heat until fragrant and barely golden. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large bowl, mix the fine semolina, flour, baking powder, and ground anise seeds until homogeneous.
5. Slowly add the anise tea, carob molasses, and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix until no lumps remain. The batter will be slightly thick.
6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.

7. Bake for 30-35 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

9. Let cool in the pan completely before inverting onto a wire rack.
10. Cut into square or diamond shapes, and store in an airtight container (cake can be frozen up to 3 months).

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Flourless Butternut Squash Loaf

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I roll out of bed each day thinking about food. I love starting my day with cooked cinnamon banana steel cut oatmeal, boiled egg on avocado toast, any of Nature Path’s gluten free cereal with Califia almond milk, and of course organic decaffeinated green tea. Ever since I started eating and living a healthier lifestyle, I’ve been interested in incorporating what I learn about “green food” in baking: such as looking for recipes that are naturally sweetened, gluten free, and focused on vegetables or fruits as main ingredients instead of butter, sugar, and dairy.

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People always ask me if I’m vegan or on a constant “diet” but the truth is I don’t follow a specific lifestyle because I love eating healthy whole foods and enjoy everything in moderation. Nothing gets me more excited than plant-based recipes like wholesome salads made with seasonal ingredients, fish or lean meats, beans, and nuts. Eating this way gives me a better body image and makes me feel great inside out. Don’t get me wrong, I still love eating cakes, cookies, and ice cream in small quantities but I’m more mindful about the quality of food that I put in my body everyday.

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This butternut squash loaf is a new favorite and totally guilt-less. It’s made with pureed squash, honey, ground almonds, oat flour, eggs, and cinnamon– basically everything that’s good for you! I love eating a slice in the morning or as an afternoon snack with a tiny sliver of butter or jam.

Ingredients:
120g (1 cup) ground almonds (grind in food processor until a meal forms)
60g (2/3 cups) oat flour (you can also grind rolled oats in a food processor)
113g (1/3 cup) honey
180g (2/3 cup) puréed butternut squash*
2 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
1½ ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
Extra rolled oats/chopped walnuts/sliced almonds/pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

*Can be replaced with sweet potatoes

Directions:

For the butternut squash purée: (can be made 5 days in advance)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Cut a medium squash in half and remove the seeds.
2. Place the squash facing up on a lined baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes until the flesh is fork-tender.
3. Take out of the oven and let it cool down for 15 minutes.
3. Scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor, then purée until smooth.

For the cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease a 3.5×7.5 in (9×19 cm) loaf pan with vegetable oil and line with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together until homogeneous.
3. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and add your preferred garnish.
4. Bake for 40 minutes until the cake is browned and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Mango Sorbet

Mango Sorbet | Brownie Box Blog
What I usually do when my fridge is abundant with ripe mangoes (which is rarely the case) is whip up this fast and easy fruit sorbet. You see, a close family friend recently sent me a big box of fresh mangoes that he grows in his own back garden in Florida (is it just me or is anyone else extremely jealous here?!). Naturally my first instinct is to create a very simple dessert that enhances the wonderful and refreshing taste of mangoes.

Mango Sorbet | Brownie Box Blog
Sorbets are a combination of fresh fruit juice and sugar syrup. The latter sweetens the fruit juice and affects the sorbet’s texture– you don’t want it too icy or slushy but creamy and smooth instead. To reach that consistency, the ratio of fruit to syrup has to be just right; I read a great tip on The Kitchn that involves floating a large egg – yes and egg! – in the sorbet mixture before churning it in the ice cream maker. If the egg sinks below the surface then you need to add more sugar and if the egg is completely afloat, then you need to desaturate the mixture with either fruit juice or water. The sugar levels are balanced when you see a 1 inch (2.5 cm) size of an egg shell on the surface. Obviously this method might not work on all fruit sorbets since some fruit juices can be too thick, but it’s a good tip to keep in mind.

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I want to point out that every fruit is different and every sorbet mixture needs more or less sugar (less sugar for very sweet pineapples, for instance). Also, thicker fruit juices might need to be diluted with water to get a silkier structure. It’s all about understanding the science and process of creating sorbets from scratch (here’s another great read!).

Did you ever try making homemade sorbet? I’d love to hear about your trial and errors!

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Ingredients
5 cups of sliced/diced mangoes (about 4 small/medium mangoes)
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Freeze ice cream maker at least 24 hours before making the sorbet.
  2. Dice the mangoes into bite-sized pieces ∼ around 5 cups.
  3. Make the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, and stir a few times until the sugar is completely dissolved in the water (2-4 minutes). Remove from heat and cool.
  4. Combine the mangoes and ¼ cup of the simple syrup in a blender or food processor and blend until the fruit is liquified.
  5. Strain the mix if the mangoes are too fibrous to remove any solids (you can use a cheese cloth or towel paper). Gently stir with a spoon as you strain.
  6. Test the sugar levels with the egg-float test that I described earlier and make the necessary adjustments. If the egg completely sinks then add more sugar syrup, and if the mixture is too thick then add more water.
  7. Stir the lemon juice.
  8. Cover the sorbet base and refrigerate until very cold, at least 1 hour or overnight preferably.
  9. Pour the chilled base into the ice cream maker and churn to get a consistency of a thick smoothie (15-20 minutes).
  10. Transfer the sorbet to a freezable container and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours, until the sorbet has hardened. Can be stored up to a month.
  11. Let the sorbet soften for 10-15 minutes in room temperature before serving.

Homemade Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is good… Homemade peanut butter is delicious!

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I recently found out that peanut butter is simply ground peanuts. It never crossed my mind to make my own because I always thought that thick peanut butter contained ingredients that are not available in my pantry. Surprisingly, you only need roasted peanuts, peanut oil, and honey (to add a touch of sweetness). Since I love making things from scratch, I had to try it out.

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But first, I decided to do some research about peanut butter: where did it originate? why is it called peanut “butter”?

I found out that peanuts are actually legumes! Yup, I was surprised too. Unlike walnuts or almonds that grow on trees, peanuts grow underground and they provide the best source of concentrated protein. Its origin goes back to the Aztecs who used to crush roasted peanuts into a paste. It wasn’t until 1908 that it came to the U.S. market. It’s called peanut “butter” simply because its consistency resembles softened butter.

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What I love about this recipe is that I can enjoy eating peanut butter without worrying about the amount of sugar, salt, or additives in my food. I usually buy high quality freshly roasted peanuts from the local roastery, but you should always check the ingredients for any harmful additives since the peanuts are the main ingredient.

I noticed on foodgawker and a few other blogs that the color of  homemade peanut butter differs from one person to another. That’s because the color depends on the type of the peanuts used for processing. So it can turn out darker or lighter than the store brought version.

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I love eating peanut butter with toast, bananas, or apples! I usually slice an apple into rings, spread some peanut butter, and top it off with homemade granola. Yum! You’ll get the healthy fiber, fats, and whole grain servings with this nutritious and filling snack.

It’s really fun to make your own peanut butter 🙂 Let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

200 grams, about 1+1/3 cups, lightly salted roasted peanuts (you can also roast your own peanuts)
2 Tablespoons peanut oil (or walnut, canola, but not olive oil)
1 Tablespoon raw honey

Directions:

1. Put the peanuts in the food processor.
2. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Add the oil and honey, then process until smooth (about 3-4 minutes), or until you reach the desired consistency. (be careful the machine could overheat)
4. Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate up to 2 months.

Note: For crunchy peanut butter, stir in 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts after processing is complete.