Fattoush Salad – A Favorite In Our House!

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

Fattoush Salad, a popular salad in the Middle East, is one of the tastiest and most requested salads in our house! As my kids have gotten older, their tastebuds have evolved and cooking for them is a pleasure.

Fattoush is an easy salad that is forgiving in both the quantity and variety of ingredients. If you went to ten people’s homes, you’d find ten versions of this salad! There are so many ways to make fattoush. People refer to it as a peasant salad in that people used whatever leftover vegetables they had on hand to make this dish. I’ve even seen it made using only purslane, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which is very different from the recipe I’m sharing below.

With Ramadan entering its second week, this salad is a staple found at many Iftar meals. Iftar is the evening meal that breaks the fast for Muslims around the world. I thought it would be a good time to share the recipe my mom has taught me for making fattoush.

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

There are a few things that distinguish the typical fattoush salad from a green salad. The simple green salad has lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Fattoush adds onions, sumac, green peppers, mint, parsley, pita chips, and a dressing of oil and lemon with the option of adding pomegranate molasses. My mom doesn’t use pomegranate molasses, but many restaurants use it for a tangy taste.

(A note about sumac: look for this tart, reddish spice in the spice section of ethnic grocery stores, or order it online. In the photo below, I used homemade sumac, made by my dad’s cousin, and store-bought sumac. The redder sumac is store-bought and crushed using machines, hence the redder look.)

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

Here’s how I make Fattoush Salad

Fattoush Salad

Ingredients for the Salad:
1 head romain lettuce, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1-2 mini cucumbers, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/4-1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/4-1/2 cup coarsely chopped mint
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 T sumac
1/2 of a large pita, toasted and broken into pieces

Ingredients for the Dressing:
1 1/2 T lemon juice
2 1/2 T olive oil

Method:

  • Place the chopped onions in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the salt on top of the onions, and then add the sumac
  • Place the lettuce and all of the other vegetables on top of the onions and let the salad sit for a bit before mixing or adding the dressing. This lets the onions sweat and absorb the salt and sumac, giving fattoush its distinctive taste
  • Add the pita just before you add the dressing
  • Toss and serve
Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

To toast the pita, place in the oven and watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Or, place in a toaster oven and toast it. Break up the pieces by hand. You can also fry pieces of pita in oil or brush pita pieces with oil and toast in the oven.

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

As I mentioned, fattoush is versatile and open to much interpretation. I’ve seen sliced radishes and green onions added and I’ve seen za’atar and dried mint sprinkled in. You can also throw in a handful of pomegranates. And I’ve seen garlic in the dressing. No matter how you make it, I’m sure you’ll find it a delicious addition to your salad repertoire!

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

Have you made fattoush? What variations have you made?

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‘Go Swimming’: A Mural In The Heart Of Toronto’s Forest Hill Village

'Go Swimming' Mural By James C Jennings In Toronto's Forest Hill Village
‘Go Swimming’ Mural By James C Jennings In Toronto’s Forest Hill Village

(A version of this post first appeared in the August 2017 issue of The Neighbours Of Forest Hill Magazine.)

Have you ever walked or driven by street art and wondered how it all came to be? Well, in Toronto, we’re lucky to be surrounded by lots of intentional, thoughtful street art – and each installation comes with a story.

The Forest Hill Village is the home to ‘Go Swimming’, a 6 by 40 foot black and white mural behind the building at the southwest corner of Montclair and Spadina in Toronto.

James C. Jennings Next To His 'Go Swimming' Mural In Toronto's Forest Hill Village
James C. Jennings Next To His ‘Go Swimming’ Mural In Toronto’s Forest Hill Village

The self-taught artist, James C. Jennings, and his friend were in the Village last fall, admiring the building. The owner, Lorne Rose, overheard them and the they soon began discussing how to turn the blank garage wall into a piece of art for neighbours and passersby to enjoy. The request was simple: a positive, whimsical, cartoonish piece that would make people stop, engage, and smile. And, it does just that!

Ultimately, this mural represents three things: community art, created with humour and meaning, about the world we live in today.

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The Gift Of Being Around Other Mothers

(This article was first published in Issue 04 of Flourish Motherhood, a quarterly and motherly publication sowing seeds of love and faith.)

When I was blessed to become a mother, it didn’t take long to appreciate the built-in community that comes with motherhood.

The first place I met other mothers was at my local library where our public health nurse taught us how to care for our newborns and where I heard how other mothers were coping. These mothers made me feel normal and not alone.

Then, when I took my toddlers to parent-child programs and eventually nursery school, I met more mothers and formed friendships. Grade school, high school, camp, our local playground, and athletic events – all of these places provided me with classmates in motherhood. Continue reading

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How To Assemble A Stunning Cookie Box !

New Year's Cookie Box
New Year’s Cookie Box

As much as I love to bake, I also love the creative process of packaging said baked goods — and, nothing does it better than a cookie box!

Cookie boxes have been around for a long time, including old-fashioned tin boxes, cardboard bakery boxes, holiday-themed boxes, and basically any container you can get your hands on.

But, have you ever assembled a cookie box that contains separate compartments for cookies and other treats? They’re so easy and fun to put together, and the presentation can be quite spectacular. You just have to check Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration!

New Year's Eve Cookie Box
New Year’s Eve Cookie Box

Here are my tips for assembling a stunning cookie box:

  • have a theme. It’s so much easier to know how to compartmentalize and what to include when you start with a theme
  • keep a large shoe box or other large shipping box on hand for special occasions. You can even use in-season packaging, like a wooden clementine crate, or an old cookie tin to which you add compartments or smaller boxes
  • wrap a plain box with kraft or wrapping paper. You can also paint a wooden box, or use a deep dish baking pan. If the plain box is sturdy and elegant, like the one I used here, then there’s no need to adorn it
  • collect smaller boxes and containers from around the house, such as: cardboard jewelry boxes, tins, jars, old drinking glasses, bowls, etc
  • choose boxes that are different shapes and sizes
  • use tissue paper to add color and height to the box and treats
  • wrap cookies in bakar’s string or place in clear cello bags
  • use a combination of store-bought and homemade goodies, as well as in-season fruits
  • if you’re transporting or shipping the box, make sure you have a lid or safe way to cover the cookies
  • wrap with twine for a rustic look, or use ribbons

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5 Simple Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas

Wrapping Christmas Gifts
Wrapping Christmas Gifts

I don’t know about you, but I love wrapping gifts! I’ve loved the process of figuring out how much paper to use and in which direction to cut it since I was a kid. I love finding matching ribbons and twirling them with scissors. And, I love finding the perfect topper for each gift. When gift bags were invented, it was not a trend I liked at all!

My love for wrapping gifts started the Christmas I was in 3rd Grade, when I was asked to help wrap about 300 Snoopy stuffed animals that would be given to kids visiting Santa, in the American compound in Saudi Arabia where I grew up. I think there were about five of us and we had so much fun doing it. Every time I wrap a Christmas gift, I think of wrapping those Snoopy dolls.

I’m always impressed with how much effort goes into wrapping a gift by many people. Magazines are full of fancy and simple and creative ideas. The final pieces are works of art and so beautiful. One day, when I have a lot more time on my hands, I would like to wrap a gift like they do in magazines! In the mean time, though, I’m totally old school and use old-fashioned printed wrapping paper and ribbon.

Here are 5 super easy ways to finish wrapping a Christmas gift using different gift toppers. I went for the paper that comes on long rolls and all I did was look around the house for items to adorn the gifts. There are so many things you can add to a gift to make it special. Here are some suggestions based on what I did this year:

Use holiday candy

Wrapping Christmas Gifts
Wrapping Christmas Gifts

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3 Last Minute Chocolate Christmas Treats – No Baking Required!

Easy No-Bake Christmas Desserts
Easy No-Bake Christmas Desserts

If you’re looking for some last-minute Christmas treats, here are three colourful ideas, all no-bake, made with chocolate. These sweets are so simple…you don’t even need a recipe to make them!

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows
You may have seen chocolate dipped marshmallows in stores – they are usually made with jumbo marshmallows. They’re dipped in chocolate and embellished with crushed candy canes, sprinkles, and any other candy you can think of. And, they come wrapped in clear cellophane and tied with a ribbon.

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows
Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows

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3 Easy Tricks To Turn Chocolate Chip Cookies Into Christmas Cookies!

Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies
Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies

(This post is sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. You can read the original post that first appeared on November 21, 2018, directly on their website, here; all opinions are my own.)

Every year, I get a head start on my Christmas baking by taking my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe and changing the mix-ins to create a variety of holiday cookies. It’s an easy way to make festive treats out of a basic recipe!

Before getting started, I make sure to have fresh baking soda and vanilla on hand. I also check the state of my baking pans and mixing bowls and replace any that need upgrading. I love the Wilton pans, spatulas, and glass bowls that I picked up at Kitchen Stuff Plus recently.

Visit your local bulk food store to purchase some fun mix-ins available during the holiday season. I’ve included the recipe I use for making chocolate chip cookies at the end of this post.

Christmas Candy & Mix-Ins
Christmas Candy & Mix-Ins

Trick 1: Use Red And Green Candies

Substitute some of the chocolate chips for red and green chocolate-coated candies or for red, white, and green chocolate chips. Use half of the chocolate chips that the recipe calls for and then put the colourful candies on top of the cookies to get the full effect of the green and red colours. I put the coloured candy in this red and white host tray and bowl set, just to make it easier to reach for the toppings. Continue reading

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My 8 Best Holiday Shopping Tips!

Holiday Shopping Tips
Holiday Shopping Tips

As the holidays approach, we are all looking for ways to shop smarter, and this year is no exception for me.

Although I’m quite organized about my Christmas shopping, each year I try to be even more efficient. Admittedly, I shop for the holidays all year round. It just makes sense to buy that perfect gift for someone on your list, anytime you see it. Most of us have gift closets for that very reason!

But, have you ever sat down and planned out how you’re going to shop better and differently? Well, I did that recently, and wanted to share my smart holiday shopping tips with you!

Tip #1: Make a list of people, including the gift you want to get them
I know this is the most obvious tip, but let’s be more detailed about it. Of course, you’re going to write down your family and friends as well as your doctor or kids’ teachers, and then you’re going to write the gift you want to buy for each of them.

Make sure you include a bunch of ‘extra’ gifts to have as backup. These include generic gifts like boxes of chocolate, a pretty diary, Starbucks gift cards, and bottles of wine. These are for when you’re invited last minute or when you’ve forgotten to add someone to your list.

Consult online guides for ideas and consider asking the recipient what they want. Although it’s fun to get a few surprises, I find it more practical to ask people what they would like as a gift. It makes life a lot easier and less wasteful for everyone.

Tip #2: Consult that gift closet or stash before you head out the door
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7 Stocking Stuffer Ideas For The Foodie In Your Life

7 Stocking Stuffer Ideas For The Foodie In Your Life

Foodie Stocking Stuffer Ideas
Foodie Stocking Stuffer Ideas

(This post is sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. You can read the original post that first appeared on November 21, 2018, directly on their website, here; all opinions are my own.)

As a food and lifestyle blogger, I love receiving gifts that are themed around entertaining and spending time in my kitchen. And, I think people who like to be around food always appreciate getting something new to use. Here are 7 practical stocking stuffer ideas, for the foodie, cook, baker, and general kitchen enthusiast in your life!

Foodie Oven Mitts

Foodie Oven Mitts (Cotton With Printed Silicone)
Foodie Oven Mitts (Cotton With Printed Silicone)

When I was looking through the many household items at Kitchen Stuff Plus, I was delighted by these cotton-silicone mitts with the word ‘foodie’ repeated all over them! How fun are they? They’re 100% cotton with 100% silicone printing, which provides additional grip. I think they’re perfect for someone who creates and entertains in the kitchen. Continue reading

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5 Tips For Hosting a Casual Hanukkah Party Plus A Latke Recipe

5 Tips For Hosting a Casual Hanukkah Party Plus A Latke Recipe

Hanukkah Party Table
Hanukkah Party Table

(This post is sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. You can read the original post that first appeared on November 21, 2018, directly on their website, here; all opinions are my own.)

As we approach the darkest days of the year, celebrating Hanukkah is one of the most anticipated events in the Jewish calendar.

Hanukkah is an 8-day holiday observed in November or December, depending on the Hebrew lunar calendar. This year it begins on the evening of December 2nd.

Often referred to as the ‘festival of lights’, Hanukkah refers to the rededication of the Holy Temple after the Maccabees defeated their Greek-Syrian oppressors. When the Jews went to light the menorah, or candelabra, oil that should’ve lasted for one day burned for eight.

Hanukkah is celebrated in as many ways as there are family traditions, but almost all Hanukkah party celebrations include lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, singing songs, opening gifts; and, eating latkes, gelt, and sufganiyot.

I only started making latkes when my kids came home from school one day raving about the latkes a mom had made in their classroom. Since then, my family looks forward to the one or two days when I go all out making latkes: they like to invite friends over to enjoy the party!

Here are 5 tips for hosting a casual Hanukkah party:

Tip 1: Use any variation of blue, white, grey, silver, and gold linens and platters that you have.

Hanukkah Table
Hanukkah Table

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