Indian Chai Cupcakes {small batch}

Let me tell you I have been in a cupcake making mood this week. I really have wanted to incorporate some of the things that my family and I enjoy into a cupcake form instead of the usual everyday flavors. I have made a few successful batches and plan to make more lucky for me my husband even surprised me with a fabulous new cupcake pan. I have been making small batch sizes because that just suits my small family better and I can experiment with more taste instead of having massive amounts of cupcakes everywhere. I incorporated the main spices of the famous Indian chai into this cupcake for a perfect, flavorful and moist sweet treat. And please do not forget the most important rule of baking cupcakes and that is placing a pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven while they bake. 2 tablespoons buttermilk I large egg yolk 2 tablespoons butter, softened 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 ta 1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1/8 teaspoon allspice Frosting: 1 cup cream cheese (I use Kiri cheese) 1 tablespoon butter, softened 1/4 cup powdered sugar 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl add butter and sugar, with a hand mixer beat until fluffy. Add egg, mix. Add vanilla, flour, baking soda, sugar, buttermilk, cardamom, cinnamon, close and allspice, mix well. 2. Place baking cups into 6 cupcake tins. Place 1 tablespoon of batter evenly into cupcake tins. Bake for 14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. 3. Meanwhile, make frosting. In a large mixing bowl add cheese, cardamom, cloves and butter, with a hand mixer beat until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and combine. Place in refrigerator until needed. 4. When cupcakes are cool pipe frosting on top and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Yields: 6

Saleeq Dajaj

I first published this recipe a few years ago but I made a few updates and decided to re-post it. Running right behind kabsa saleeq is Saudis most popular dish. As you may have guessed it, dajaj means chicken in Arabic. My husband and son will not drink milk but yet they love this dish so I try to make it when I can. As you may have noticed Arabic cuisine incorporates a lot of dairy into recipes. You will find two versions of saleeq around, the lamb and the chicken. When making saleeq you want the extra juice in the dish so do not think you did it wrong! Saleeq should not be dry what so ever. You can easily double this recipe for larger families. 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces or 6 skinless, chicken breast 1 cinnamon stick 4 cloves 1 teaspoon black pepper 4 cardamom pods, bruised 1 bay leaf 1 fresh cilantro sprig 1 onion, diced 1/2 tablespoon salt 1-1/2 cup milk 1-1/2 cup basmati rice, rinsed and soaked 2 tablespoons butter (optional) 1. In an 8-quart saucepan on high heat, add chicken pieces and enough water to cover chicken. Add cinnamon, cloves, pepper, cardamom, bay leaf, cilantro and onion. After full boil, reduce heat to low, cook covered for 45 minutes. 2. Remove cooked chicken from pan, sit aside. Pour half of chicken broth out (reserve for later usage) and reserve the other half in the same pan. Add salt and rice. Raise heat to high and allow a full boil, reduce heat to low, add milk and cover pot. Allow to cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, shred chicken from bone. 3. Add chicken and cook on low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Place on serving dish and drizzle melted butter on top. Yields: 3 servings

Happy Birthday Saudi

{cupcakes from Cupcake in Riyadh}
{why does this always happen to your favorite one}
Today is Saudi Arabia's 81st birthday and man do Saudis love to celebrate. Just think of the traffic at the White house in DC on the 4th (yes, I have been in it woo fun) yet that kind of traffic every inch of almost every city in the country. If you’re brave enough to venture out then you will be stuck for hours. My family and I had to go out this evening to look for something’s and thought we could beat traffic but yea right we were stuck for hours and it was pretty horrible. We finally made it a short distance in hours and it was only around 9pm which for Saudi is early. People do not get out until around 9 here and usually stay out all night. The city gets crazy around this time every year with traffic, guys dancing in the street and LOTS of flags and green. On the way home we passed a new little store called "Cupcake" and of course we had to stop. Cupcake stores are pretty popular back home but here they are just starting open. This one is the first one I have saw and a few more are about to open any day now. The store had regular sized or mini cupcakes and quite a few selections to choose from. Of course all the patriotic ones were popular today. Cupcakes always seem to make me smile, what about you?

Glazed Doughnuts

These glazed doughnuts are awesome and taste just like Dunkin Doughnuts. They will rock your world when they are hot and fresh so be careful. I was telling my grandma back home today about this recipe and how the secret ingredient was a potato. She was not surprised what so ever and told me that is how she always made hers as well. Man, the things I am finding out as I get older! My son helped me mix, roll and cut these out and he defiantly ate them. We made plenty of doughnut holes with the leftover dough and sprinkled them with powdered sugar. If you have sprinkles add some on top as soon as you glaze them. Remember not to get the milk to hot or it will kill the yeast and to cold will not allow it to grow. If you own a candy thermometer that will work great. Myself I have personally never used one. I just let it heat it and test it with a small piece of dough, when it floats the oil is perfect.

Sunflower oil
1 small potato
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm milk

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
drop of vanilla extract

1. Pierce potato with fork and place into microwave for approximately 5 minutes. Warm milk about 45 seconds, it should not get hot.

2. In a small bowl add yeast, a pinch of the sugar and 1/4 cup from the milk. Allow to sit until frothy, about 5 minutes.

3. In a large mixing bowl add potato and milk, with a hand mixer beat until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons oil, salt, flour and yeast mixture, mix until well combined.

4. In a cast iron skillet on medium heat add enough oil to fry doughnuts, about 1-1/2 inches. Allow oil to heat up approximately 375F.

5. On a non-stick baking mat roll dough out until 1/2 inch thick. Cut doughnuts with a glass and middle with a small round object(I used a medicine cup). When oil is hot carefully place doughnuts and fry until golden, flip and do the same. Drain on a paper towel.

6. In a small bowl add powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk, add another if needed and vanilla. Mix well. Carefully place half of doughnut into glaze and serve.

Yields: 9

Fall Spice Cookies

The Fall flavored spices and smooth buttermilk in these cookies offers a sweet and gentle kick. These little babies are crispy on the outside and soft in the inside perfect alongside your favorite hot drink. 6 tablespoons butter, softened 2/3 cup sugar 2/3 cup buttermilk 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. In a large mixing bowl add butter and sugar. With a hand mixer cream together. 2. Beat in buttermilk. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. Mix well. 3. Drop rounded tablespoon full onto a nonstick baking mat on a baking sheet. Bake until golden 10-15 minutes. Let cool. Yields: 20 cookies

Baked Ziti

I always substitute ground beef for lamb in all my recipes. Lamb is much lighter and does not have the zinc taste that beef seems to have for me personally. Baked Ziti is a great Italian comfort food that is easy to make and also freezes well. You can use any small pasta that you have on hand for this dish as well. 1/2 pound lean ground beef or lamb 1 medium onion, chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1-3/4 cups spaghetti sauce 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste 6 tablespoons water 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley 1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, divided 8 ounces ziti or small tube pasta 1 cup ricotta cheese 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided 1 egg, lightly beaten 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1. In a large saucepan, cook lamb and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Drain. 2. Stir in the spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, tomato paste, water, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, basil and 1/2 teaspoon oregano. Cover and simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. 3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper. 4. Spread 1 cup meat sauce into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Layer with half of the pasta, a third of the meat sauce and half of the cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and oregano. Cover and bake at 350° for 1 hour or until heated through. Yields: 6 servings

Rainbow Cake Balls

Last year I made my first cake balls and they came out perfect, they were the talk of my family. And for a while now I have wanted to create something with rainbow cake. The thought of rainbow cake balls came to me after I was already starting to bake my cake so I went with it. My son had so much fun helping me make these and everyone loved the outcome. I mean cake balls are just awesome in every way. All of the cake balls I have seen have been frosted so I decided to try something different with these. Honestly they are already sweet enough without dipping them into more frosting. This is one of those recipes that work and taste better cold. So make sure to let it chill for a bit before forming into balls or eating. I like to make mine at night and let them chill overnight. I just love the way they look when you bite into them. 1 box white cake mix 1 can white cake frosting Food dye Cake sprinkles 1. Pre-heat oven to 350F and grease two 9-inch cake pans. In a large mixing bowl mix cake per package directions. Divide batter evenly into 4 bowls. Put a drop of coloring into each bowl and mix. Pour batter evenly into two cake pans. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes. 2. In a large mixing bowl add cakes into bowl, crush. Add frosting and mix well. Place into refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 3. Roll mixture into small balls then roll into sprinkles. Carefully place on a cake stand or large serving platter. Refrigerate. Yields: 3 dozen

Chocolate Mug Cake

For awhile now I have wanted to try out the cake in a mug recipe for myself. I told my son about it and he was just as excited to try it as I was. My mission was to see how fast and good it actually was and to only use things I had on hand. I whipped up the mix with my Cusinart hand blender (nothing I hate more than lumpy mix). Use the largest mug that you have on hand. And remember that when your cake is cooking in the microwave it will rise up high, do not worry about it that's normal and it will go down. I placed a dollop of nutella with some sprinkles on top and we enjoyed a nice little late night treat. My overall opinion of the cake is that is has an almost brownie like consistency but its great for a craving to whip up fast. I plan to tinker with this recipe and get some really great outcomes here soon. 4 tablespoons all purpose flour 4 tablespoons sugar 3 tablespoons cocoa 1 egg 3 tablespoons milk 3 tablespoons sunflower oil 1/4 teaspoon vanilla 1. In a mixing bowl add flour, sugar, cocoa, egg, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla. Mix well until no lumps appear. 2. Pour into a large mug. Cook in microwave for 3 minutes. Yields: 1 small cake

Spiced Apple Cider

I always loved Fall growing up. The cool crisp air, smell of leaves burning, pumpkins growing everywhere and in my town hot spiced apple cider for sale. Living in Saudi Arabia one thing I terribly miss is the changing of the seasons, its still miserably hot here but I like to pretend hence this hot favorite drink of mine. You can also place this in the crock pot on low for 5 hours, it makes a great treat to take with you. 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar 1/8 teaspoon whole allspice 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves 1 small cinnamon stick 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/4 pinch ground allspice 1/4 large orange, quartered with peel 2 cups apple cider 1. Place filter in coffee basket, and fill with brown sugar, allspice, cloves, cinnamon stick, salt, nutmeg, and orange wedges. Pour apple cider into coffee pot where the water usually goes. Brew, and serve hot. Serves 4

Becoming a Successful Food Blogger

Success is defined differently within each person. We should all try to succeed to our own limits not someone else’s. When I first started my blog I really did not have a good idea of what a good food blog would be, I had not researched or looked around what so ever. I just knew that I was tired of not being able to find all the recipes that I was looking for and I wanted to change that. Who knows maybe they’re was someone else out there like me looking for all the same recipes in one place. I first started Ya Salam Cooking back in 2007 a few months after my son was born. When I had first started out I had the old Blogger sand scribe template, do you all remember that one and how ugly it was? I had no idea you could design a template yourself or hire someone else to do so. Honestly I did not even think the blog design, food picture or writing was important. I just thought the recipe was the only thing that mattered. Boy, was I ever wrong? My blog was a total mess. Although I had good ideas and recipes everything else was just bad. Around that time I happened to come across another food blog that had a Blogher ad on it. Interested I immediately went to the Blogher website to check it out. It was an ad agency for female Bloggers only. I went through the entire process to sign Ya Salam Cooking up and they accepted me. They must have saw the same hope in my Blog that I had because I am telling you my Blog was bad back in the day. I started looking through food blogs that I found inspiring and would take note of how they set their blog up and all of the things they had on their blog. I added some of those things to my own blog. I think it was a year later that I had a semi decent design and that really helped but I was still holding back my blogs full potential. Through the years I realized that every little detail on a blog matters. I became a better writer, I had a good blog design and I tried to take better pictures. I think pictures really are one of the most important things a good food blog has. I was able to get a professional SLR in January of this year (2011) and it has truly helped my blog and the vision that I have had for it. As I said another key element is writing. Try your hardest not to have any spelling or grammar mistakes. Give a little information or history about your dish and the ingredients. Type out the recipe so that it is easy to duplicate in steps and never place name brands in the recipe (ex: Nestle Chocolate). Always remember to write just chocolate and sure in your introduction you can write what brands you use personally. If you use someone else’s recipe give them credit (ex: adapted from Ya Salam Cooking). I am constantly finding other Bloggers who use my recipes and do not give me credit. It’s frustrating because I put a lot of effort into my recipes. The foodie rule of thumb is that if you change three or more of the ingredients or steps then you can call it as your own. Do not forget the rest of your blog though like the about me section. People love knowing more about the Blogger and feeling a connection with them. If a visitor does not feel that personal connection they probably will not stay very long or become a frequent visitor. Another mistake I see food Bloggers constantly making is that they just start a blog and think people will come flooding in. It just does not work that way. If people do not know about your blog how will they come? You have to market your blog so that people can find it. Some ways that you can do that is Blogher, Foodie Blogroll, Baking is Hot, Food Gawker and Foodbuzz. A few of these have ads and I am constantly getting asked why I choose Blogher over the rest. My reason is that I have just been with them for so long and they have really got to know me on a personal level and I respect that. I like being able to ask someone a question if I have one. If you find a company that treats you and your blog that way they stick with them. All of the work I have put into Ya Salam Cooking has made me feel successful at what I do. I have several visitors per day, I get tons of emails of people showing me pictures or telling me stories of my food that they have made, I am lucky enough to have been asked to write for some very successful papers and magazines. If I can do this surely any of you can as well. A few years into my blog I purchased the book “The Recipe Writers Handbook” and this past year I purchased “Will Write for Food”. These two books are a defiant must for a Food Blogger. I was taught how to write well just from reading those two books alone along with some of the tips that I have provided you with in this article. In the end, you should really measure your Blog on if it is something that makes you happy, if not change it. You should continue studying writing, food, photography and design throughout your Blogging career. Times and style are constantly changing and a good Food blogger is expected to change with them. Write what you know about for me I love all different types of food that has to do with mixed cultures that I have in my life. You do not have to stick to one genre if you do not want to, do what you want and always have FUN. And one last thing, if your a blog reader please always let the Blog you follow know how much you appreciate all the work they put into the blog. You would not believe the work it takes to run a food blog. We write, photograph, design cook, we do it ALL. I will leave you with some links that will further help you and your Food Blogging career, they did me anyway. The Pioneer Woman (what can she not help you with? She’s a great photographer, writer and the design of her blog is top notch) Taste Spotting Kevin and Amanda Simply Recipes (besides being amazing at it all she has a great list provided for you as well) Link And of course you can check out my own personal blog Little Pink Strawberries where I offer tons of tutorials.

Potato Candy

I always loved when my grandmother would make potato candy. My grandfather and I would always gobble it right up. Back in those days I never once stepped in the kitchen unless it was time to eat so I had no idea about the process of anything we ate. One day I asked my grandma “Why do they call it potato candy for?” She exclaimed “Because it has potatoes in it”. I honestly had no idea and well I never looked at it the same again. I mean come on a candy with potatoes? Now that I am older and know more about food I understand that the potato is just a base for starch and control. Actually a lot of sweets have a bit of potatoes in them and I have even heard that is the secret of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I thought I would try my old family recipe out since it has been so long that I have had it. And what can I say I am in love all over again with this classic Southern candy. These sweet tastes pretty much exactly like peanut butter fudge. 1 small potato 2-3 cups powdered sugar Peanut butter 1. In a small saucepan on medium heat add potato. Cook until soft. Peel and slice. Beat until mashed. 2. Add 1/2 of sugar and mix well. Carefully add sugar in a bit at a time until dough like consistency forms. 3. Line a counter top with a sheet of waxed paper or non-stick baking mat dusted with powdered sugar. Roll into 1/4 of an inch. With a butter knife spread peanut butter and roll the longest side up like a pinwheel. 4. Carefully slice and serve.