Homemade Mini Manakeesh & Mini Pizzas!    

Mini pizzas and mini manakeesh
Mini pizzas and mini manakeesh

Are you a fan of homemade manakeesh and pizza? Are you picky about your toppings? Would you like to make your own mini manakeesh and pizzas at home?

Enter these mini pizzas, a recipe from my friend’s mom, Aunty Basima. She is one amazing cook and, as kids and young adults growing up in Saudi Arabia, we all loved being invited over for any meal she created. Aunty Basima is an expert in Middle Eastern food, especially Palestinian food. She ran a successful catering business for many years, and you had to book her way ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

When we visited my friend in LA a few years ago, she made her mom’s manakeesh recipe for us as a snack. They were soft, doughy, light, and delicious. So, I got her mom’s recipe, and now I’m sharing it. I’ve made these pizza and manakeesh combinations at least 30 times since, and they’re a hit every time.

BTW, manakeesh is the plural of the word manoushe, a Lebanese grab and go snack that you can find in many bakeries around Lebanon. Piping hot is how you want to eat them. They’re like a thin crust pizza, topped with zaatar, which is an herb mix of dried, crushed thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac. You add oil and spread the mixture on the dough.  Then you top it with labneh, tomatoes, olives, mint. Yummm.

There are many reasons we love mini pizzas and manakeesh at our house. For one, everyone makes their own pizza and adds their own toppings; no complaints about what to include/exclude. Secondly, this recipe makes anywhere from 4-5 dozen pizzas. Thirdly, they freeze really well and make for great snacks, appetizers, and lunches.

I haven’t tried making this recipe with gluten-free ingredients or without dairy, but I’m sure you can experiment and try.

Mini pizzas and mini manakeesh
Mini pizzas and mini manakeesh

In terms of toppings, here’s what we made this weekend, from left to right:

  • Pizzas topped with peppers, mushrooms, olives, cheese, and some with salami pieces
  • Manakeesh topped with zaatar, peppers, mushrooms, olives, and cheese
  • Manakeesh with sugar, sesame seeds, ground anise, and olive oil
  • Manakeesh with zaatar
Here’s the recipe for the dough.
Mini Pizza and Mini Manakeesh Dough
Ingredients:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp margarine
1 T sugar
2 T milk
1 1/2 c warm water
2 tsps instant yeast (8 gram package)
Method:
  • In a glass measuring cup, add the yeast to the warm water and dissolve
  • Place flour, salt, oil, margarine, sugar, and milk into a large bowl
  • Mix together
  • Start adding the warm water and yeast to the flour mixture
  • Knead the mixture until the texture looks soft and well-mixed
  • Add water if the dough is too dry and flour if it’s too wet
  • Cover and let rise for at least 1 1/2 hours (I put it in my microwave)
  • Divide the dough into quarters
  • PInch off 12-15 pieces from each quarter and roll into balls
  • Place on parchment lined pans and flatten with your fingers
  • Let rise for about 15 minutes; flatten again
  • Cover with your choice of topping
  • Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, or longer, depending on how thin or thick the pizzas are, and how much topping each pizza is carrying
Manakeesh with zaatar topping:  add oil to zaatar until the mixture is spreadable. You don’t want it too thick or the topping will be dry. If it’s too runny, it will spill off of the dough
Manakeesh with sugar topping:  1/4 c sugar, 2 T sesame seeds, 1 T ground anise, and olive oil (makes enough for about 18 manakeesh). For these, you want the consistency to be a bit thicker, so you can taste the sugar and anise!
Mini pizzas and mini manakeesh
Mini pizzas and mini manakeesh
Enjoy!!
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Extra Chocolatey Fudge Brownie Cake – For A 90th Birthday!

90th Birthday Cake - Fudge Brownies
90th Birthday Cake – Fudge Brownies

This month my dad turned 90! What a milestone birthday. With Covid going on, I couldn’t make my annual March trip to visit and celebrate with my family in Lebanon. But, I did get to make this brownie cake.

I’m calling it a brownie cake only because I decorated it like a cake and it photographed like a cake for my Instagram feed. I used the brownie recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home cookbook. It was my first time using it, and it is absolutely delicious. The brownies had a nice crusty surface and were incredibly moist and fudge-like on the inside.

I made 2 changes to the Moosewood Restaurant recipe: I used 7 tablespoons of pasteurized egg whites instead of the 2 eggs they called for, and I added 1/2 a cup of mini chocolate chips. Using mini chocolate chips ensures that the chocolate chips don’t sink to the bottom of the batter.

For the icing, I used a cream cheese frosting because I wanted to elevate the icing on the brownies, and I wanted to have a white background for the decorated cake. I colored some of the icing a teal blue and I used green M&Ms to make the number 90. To give the cake a festive look, I added sprinkles on the side of the brownie, and curled ribbons around the cake. It’s that simple.

Here’s the recipe for the brownies and the cream cheese frosting. The frosting is enough to ice two brownie pans, so if you feel  like making half of the frosting recipe, go ahead. I have not made that small of a batch of frosting, but you decide.

Tips:

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Bruschetta With Tomatoes & Beans

Bruschetta With Tomatoes & Beans
Bruschetta With Tomatoes & Beans

Bruschetta technically refers to grilled bread that is brushed with olive oil, garlic, and salt…but, in North America, we refer to it as the combination of the bread topped with fresh chopped tomatoes and basil! It’s an appetizer that tastes best with in-season tomatoes and fresh basil.

Recently, I decided to add some beans to the chopped tomato mixture, because I wanted to add protein, and it was delicious. As part of a blogger collaboration on recipes featuring beans, I’m sharing my Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Beans. It’s TOOTally simple and fresh! And, our theme is #ispilledthebeans. Starting January 26th, you can look for that hashtag and my post on Instagram, where you’ll be able to see the other fun recipes my blogger friends are sharing. Follow this link to the 10 easy & delicious bean recipes. Continue reading

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The Cutest Cut-Up Snowman Cake

Snowman Cake
Snowman Cake

Let’s face it, we can all use a quick, fun, and festive Christmas cake in our repertoire, and this cut-up snowman cake is the perfect one!

Do you remember cut-up cakes from your childhood? You know, before people started making amazing two and three-tiered cakes that are works of art? I may be dating myself, but I loved those old school cakes at birthday parties!

As far as cut-up cakes go, there is nothing cuter or easier than making this snowman cake. Mine is 5 by 11 inches, but you could definitely make it bigger by using two, larger, round-shaped pans. And, to make this simple, use a boxed chocolate cake and store-bought icing if you don’t have time to make a from-scratch chocolate cake.

When I make my Chocolate Orange Cake, I use two 8-inch round pans and have enough batter to make a rectangular loaf cake. The loaf cake is perfect because you can snack on it right away if you’re saving the bigger cake for a party. Or, you can use the loaf cake to make a snowman cake!

Here’s how to make a snowman cake: Continue reading

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Three of the Best One-Stop Shopping Destinations for Holiday Gifts!

One-Stop Shopping Finds From Shopper's Drug Mart
One-Stop Shopping Finds From Shopper’s Drug Mart

As my youngest daughter always says, we all know that the holidays are coming, but not all of us are great at planning ahead for them!

This year, the holidays are different due to the pandemic. It’s just not the same, thinking about a virtual Christmas Eve mass and a virtual gift opening with local and distant family members.

Shopping for gifts isn’t the same, either. Some of us are in lockdown and are shopping virtually or doing curb-side pickup. Some of us are ordering online. And, some of us just want to be able to see and touch what we’re getting. That’s why I’m writing this blog post with places that are one-stop shopping experiences, and that are likely open for in-person shopping in your area.

For me, drugstores, specialty food stores, and hardware stores are the perfect places to find something for almost everyone on your list. This way, you can minimize outings and maximize your time.

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The 1-1-1 Quick & Delicious Smoothie !

The 1-1-1 Quick & Delicious Smoothie
The 1-1-1 Quick & Delicious Smoothie

The 1-1-1 Quick & Delicious Smoothie !

One of the fastest, healthiest, and most filling snacks my daughter and I make is the 1-1-1 smoothie. We make it for breakfast, and for mid-morning or late-afternoon snack times. It’s so easy and delicious.

Here’s why it’s called a 1-1-1 smoothie: we use 1 cup of high-protein milk, 1 frozen banana, and 1 cup of fruit.

The reason this smoothie is filling is because we use high protein milk. We love the Fairlife brand of milk. High protein milk is cold-filtered and results in milk that is 50% more protein and 50% less sugar than regular milk. It’s also lactose-free.

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Oat Bran Cereal & Fruit Bars – Absolutely Delicious (With Vegan & GF Options)!

Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars

If you’re looking for a snack that is high in fiber, tasty, and portable, then you’re going to love my Oat Bran Cereal & Fruit Bars! BTW, I have been meaning to share these for years now. You can probably tell that from the style of photos taken during my early blogging days. And, bonus, you can make these in gluten-free and vegan versions by checking the variations at the end of this post.

These Oat Bran Cereal & Fruit Bars are delicious. They’re sweet and a slightly heartier version of rice cereal treats with the added fruits and nuts. The base is made with marshmallows and your choice of butter, including vegan butter. Add any high-in-fiber oat bran cereal (I use Nature’s Path Multigrain Oat Bran Flakes) and 2 cups of other mix-ins, including your choice of dried fruits, almonds, coconut flakes, and pumpkin seeds/pepitas.

Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars

I’ve made these bars with all kinds of bran cereal, including using combinations of bran buds and oat bran flakes. This recipe is a great way to use up the last bit of cereal in a box and the last of any dried fruits on hand. Think of these bars as a ‘clean out the closet’ dessert option. Continue reading

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Reviews Of My Summer 2020 Reads

Summer Reading 2020
Summer Reading 2020

I love to read all year round, but especially in the summertime ! There is nothing more peaceful for me than reading outside on a sunny, warm day or evening. It’s how I self-care, and it’s how I relax.

Here are my quick reviews of some of the books I read this summer.

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Salt Houses hit close to home as it is set in the Middle East. It follows four generations of the Yacoub  family as they are forced out of Palestine and into neighboring countries such as Kuwait and Lebanon. We follow the family’s experience during defining moments of Arab history starting in the 1960s. And, as happens in many Arab families, various members end up living all over the world, including Paris and Boston.

Each generation faces challenges, including political and religious leanings, as well as family and relationship struggles.

I loved this book because I could identify with the emotions of having to leave one’s home and country and having to find one’s way in the world while still struggling with growing up, day-to-day issues, and living within cultural expectations. Continue reading

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No-Bake Cheesecake – A Perfect Summer Dessert

No-Bake Cheesecake
No-Bake Cheesecake

No-bake cheesecakes are a perfect summer dessert: they use ingredients you regularly have at home, don’t require an oven, and are easy to decorate with in-season summer fruits!

This recipe has been around for a long time. I remember it from when I was a kid, and I see it all the time on the Internet. It’s got a graham cracker crust that is topped with a cream cheese, condensed milk, and lemon/lime juice and zest. That’s it. Place it in the freezer or fridge to set, and top with whatever berries you have on hand. You can also top with cherry pie filling.

I make this no-bake cheesecake in a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. It’s easier and more presentable if you use a springform pan, but you can use a regular pie plate or dish. You can even buy a ready-made crust from the store.

No-Bake Cheesecake
No-Bake Cheesecake

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How To Make & Gift A Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake !

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

If you find yourself craving those large, decorated chocolate chip cookie cakes you can get at the mall, then you’ll love this post about making one for a celebratory occasion or as a gift for someone special.

I love classic-sized chocolate chip cookies as much as anyone else, but making a huge chocolate chip as a cookie cake is truly something fun and different. I can thank the Covid-19 pandemic for inspiring me to make chocolate chip cookie cakes as gifts. My daughter and I have made them for Canada Day, as graduation gifts, and as hostess gifts. You can check out my last post (click here) on making graduation day memorable with lots of desserts, including this cookie cake.

There are many recipes online for making a chocolate chip cookie cake. I like this recipe from Garnish and Glaze, which I’ve also included at the bottom of this page.

The point of this post, however, is to share my tips for making and gifting this chocolate chip cookie cake!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

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