Fresh Stuffed Grape Leaves (Taze Yaprak Sarmasi) – Vegetarian Version

Tender fresh grape leaves stuffed with a flavorful vegetarian filling.

I will never forget the first time I tried stuff grape leaves. I cannot remember exactly how old I was but I was a small child. It was a new taste for me. The leave reminded me of an undercooked collard green but I thought the filling was quite tasty.

Flash forward a couple of decades and I would say I’ve eaten my fair share of stuffed grape leaves in many different countries, prepared a myriad of different ways. Although they do require some time to actually roll and stuff the leaves, they are well worth the effort. I love that they can be eaten hot, cold or at room temperature so there’s no need to fuss with this aspect. 

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Traditionally, they are prepared with meat, but I don’t miss the meat when I prepare them without it. I created this recipe because I did not have meat on hand and I used bulgur instead of rice simply because I really love bulgur. 

I think that everyone that has ever eaten a stuffed grape leaves, knows them immediately when they see them. And if they are like me, then seeing them will surely bring a smile to their face.

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Here’s the recipe:

Fresh Stuffed Grape Leaves (Taze Yaprak Sarmasi) – Vegetarian Version

  • 20-30 fresh grape leaves
  • 1/2 c dry fine bulgur
  • 1 small onion (finely diced; about 1 cup diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon (sliced)
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

To blanche the grape leaves: Clean the grape leaves thoroughly. Then prepare a large pot of boiling water. Working in batches, blanche the grape leaves for about 30-60 seconds. Then remove from the water and place into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the grape leaves and set aside.

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To prepare the filling: Prepare the bulgur by placing it in a bowl and adding one cup of boiling water. Stir and then cover with plastic wrap or a plate to allow it to steam for 10 minutes. 

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Then add the tomato paste and stir well, adding a little water as needed. 

Then mix the bulgur and the tomato paste mixture in a large bowl. Season with the oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh parsley just until it is incorporated.

In a large stock pot, line the bottom with about 4-5 grape leaves (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan).

To roll the grape leaves: One by one, place them on a flat surface. Starting at the wide bottom part of the grape leaf, place about half a tablespoon of the filling on the leaf and spread out into a thin line. Fold in the sides of the leaf and gently roll it until it is completely rolled. Continue until all of the grape leaves are rolled.

Place each of the stuffed grape leaves seam side down in the pot, side by side, very close together. Top with the lemon slices and enough water to fill the pot half way up (but do not submerge the grape leaves. Place a heavy ceramic plate of bowl on top of the grape leaves and cover with a lid. Allow the grape leaves to cook for about 45 minutes, adding more water as needed. 

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Once cooked, gently remove from the pot.

Serve and Enjoy with a lemon slice.

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Afiyet Olsun!

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Photo Credit: EE Winkler

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)

A flaky, thin, buttery crust filled with apples, cinnamon sugar and raisins! An Austrian delightful recipe!

I don’t know what there is not to love about apple strudel. It is so delicious and although the dough is an essential formula to this recipe, the dough does not steal the show away from the natural delciousness of the apples.

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Here’s the recipe:

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel) 

For the dough:

  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour (plus more for kneading)
  • 2 TBSP melted butter (or any neutral oil) + 1 tsp for oiling the bowl
  • 1/2 c warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 2-2.5 c sliced apples (I used Golden Delicious)
  • 1/3 c raisins
  • 1/3 c white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon’

For topping the strudel:

  • 2 TBSP melted butter

Preparation:

To prepare the dough: Mix together the egg, oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Then add the flour and the salt and stir well until the mixture forms a cohesive dough. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough for about 5-6 minutes until the dough is smooth. Grease a bowl with butter or oil and then place the ball of dough in the bowl, cover with a damp dish towel and allow the dough to rise for 1-2 hours.

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To roll out the dough: Cover a large countertop or table with a clean tablecloth. Dust with flour and roll out the dough into a very thin rectangular piece. The dough should be thin enough for you to see your hand through it and it will be very, very delicate.

To make the filling: Mix together the apples, raisins, cinnamon and sugar.

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To assemble the strudel: Pile the filling in a line along one of the shorter sides of the dough leaving about 2-3 inches of space from the edge of the dough.

Lift up the edge of the dough to partially cover the filling and then using the tablecloth, lift it up so that the strudel naturally rolls up.

Once rolled, tuck the ends under each side and brush liberally with the melted butter.

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Carefully lift the strudel on to a baking sheet lined with parchment and lightly greased.

Bake the strudel in a pre-heated oven on 375F until the strudel is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and brush with a little extra butter (if you choose; I did).

Serve and Enjoy warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Absolutely divine!

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Guten Appetit!

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Homemade Apple Sauce (Simple & Delicious)

Just apples, a hint of sugar and a few of my favorite spices and you’re on your way to making homemade apple sauce.

I love applesauce. It was one of those things as I kid that I used to love to have as a snack. It just tasted so good; and honestly, I still love it. For years I never knew that it was so simple to make. I just relied on the store-bought kind until I moved to countries that don’t sell apple sauce. Lol! That’s when I go to my kitchen laboratory and get to work creating.

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The recipe is so simple. I mean, really simple. If you can cook apples and then pop them in a food processor — well, you have apple sauce.

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Apple Sauce

  • 3 apples (I used Golden Delicious because they are sweet and delicious!)
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 2 T white sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cardomom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 c water

Preparation:

Peel, core and slice the apples.

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Place the apples in a large stock pot. Add the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves and water.

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Simmer for about 20 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until the apples are tender.

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Remove the cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom pods.

Transfer the apples to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve and Enjoy warm or pop it in the fridge for later. (It is really good cold, especially on a hot summer day! Simply refreshing!) 

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Guten Appetit!

Italian Homemade Lasagna with Ground Beef

Layers of delicate noodles, tender ground beef, rich ricotta cheese and savory marinara sauce make this lasagna a flavorful dish for any night of the week.

I grew up eating a lot of Italian food and I’ve found that it has shaped and impacted my cooking in such a positive way. Lasagna was definitely a meal that we prepared at our home and I remember always wanting to eat it right out of the oven, but we always let it set for 15-20 minutes in order to ensure that the lasagna doesn’t fall apart as you cut it.

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This recipe is my variation of Mom’s classic recipe. I make it with homemade ricotta cheese and it really adds such a nice flavor to the dish.

Here’s the recipe:

Lasagna

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 48 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 12 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 c shredded mozzerella cheese
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 T dried oregano
  • 2 T dried basil
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

To make the marinara sauce: sauté the onions with olive oil until tender. Then add the crushed tomatoes and stir well. Season with half of the dried oregano, dried basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat.

To make the ground beef: place the ground beef  in a large pan and sauté until it is browned. Then add the garlic and the rest of the dried oregano, dried basil, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

To make the lasagna: Place about 1 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Then layer the noodles.

Then add more marinara sauce, ground beef and top with another layer of noodles.

Add some more marinara sauce on top of the noodles and then add the ricotta cheese.

Layer with another layer of noodles and add some marinara sauce the remaining ground beef.

Add another layer of noodles and cover with the marinara sauce and mozzerella cheese.

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Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese on top is melted.

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

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Note: This can be prepared ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator to bake later.

 

 

 

Lemon & Dill Tuna Salad

Protein packed, simple and delicious –this is a healthier twist on the classic tuna salad recipe. All the flavor you crave but without as many calories.

I love making salads. But not just traditional green salads, but rather salads that I can make ahead of time, pop them in the fridge and that last for several days. They are also perfect for if you work late or need a quick lunch to bring to work because they are available when you need them.

This recipe, is a creation that I made for this purpose. To make sure that we have a healthy and delicious meal on hand in a pinch, whether it be for a packed lunch or a dinner meal. It’s simple, quick and easy.

Here’s the recipe:

Lemon & Dill Tuna Salad

  • 1 c light tuna (in water, drained & rinsed)
  • 2 T fresh dill (chopped)
  • 3 scallions (chopped)
  • 1/2 lemon(juiced)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

Drain and rinse the tuna and place it in a bowl.

Add the chopped dill and scallions.

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Drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper and stir well.

Serve & Enjoy!

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Guten Appetit!

How to Make a Bechamel Sauce

Creamy and silky smooth, a delicious bechamel sauce is the perfect base to many culinary creations, especially a really quick and yummy stove top macaroni and cheese.

Bechamel Sauce. From the moment I heard the name of this sauce as a kid, it sounded so fancy. It was something that I saw French chefs talking about on television.

But when I finally made bechamel sauce myself, I was relieved to discover that I already knew how to make it. If you can make gravy, then you can make bechamel sauce and as a kid I learned early on from my mom who to make a really good, yet quick gravy.

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So here’s the recipe:

Bechamel Sauce

  • 3 T butter
  • 2 T all purpose flour
  • 2-3 cups of milk
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan.

Bechamel STEP 1 Melted Butter

Then sprinkle the flour on top and whisk thoroughly. Keep whisking until the mixture is smooth and lightly toasted (Note: it will become a little fragrant and you will smell especially the butter).

Bechamel STEP 2 Flour

Bechamel STEP 3 Whisk

Then slowly add in the milk as you keep whisking until the mixture becomes smooth.

Bechamel STEP 5 Add Milk

Bechamel STEP 6 Whisk Milk

Bring back up to a light boil, whisking frequently, until it is thickened.

Bechamel STEP 7 Final Whisk

Then immediately remove from the heat, unless you’re making Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese, then you’ll want to keep it on the heat but reduce it considerably.

Enjoy!

Homemade Baked Pita Chips

Crunchy, flavorful and so good. These homemade pita chips are super simple and super delicious.

I love pita bread but sometimes I find it difficult to consume it all before it spoils. So, these pita chips are the perfect solution. Once they are baked I toss them in a sealed plastic bag and they stay fresh (although most times they don’t last for more than a few days).

Plus, these pita chips are super affordable. For the price of one bag of chips I can make at least 3 bags. Another bonus, no artificial ingredients. When you make your food at home, you get to decide what goes in and what stays out.

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Baked Pita Chips

  • 8 pieces of pita bread
  • 4 T olive oil
  • salt (to taste)

Preparation:

Preheat your oven to 375 F (approx. 160 C) & line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

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Cut the pita bread into triangle pieces (or whatever shape you like. You can be creative here because they will taste great regardless of their shape).

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Divide the two layers of the pita bread to create single layer thin chips.\

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Place a handful of the pre-baked pita chips on the baking sheet.

Drizzle with half a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Toss until well combined and spread out to form an even layer.

Bake for 7-8 minutes (may vary depending on your oven).

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Place on a serving platter & enjoy!

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Guten Appetit!