Gulf Cupcakes with Cardamom Buttercream

Cupcakes are the new booming business all over the Gulf region. Here in Riyadh we have just had two open around the same time in the past month and another few about to open up, yea were a little slow here. One thing that I cannot believe is that none of these shops have made a cupcake especially for the Gulf. Actually, I have never seen one anywhere! I really wanted to make a cupcake just for the Gulf that showcases all its beautiful and traditional flavors. My outcome was perfection with this cupcake. The batter was as light and fluffy as the frosting, which alone makes me happy. Instead of the usual vanilla extract that bakers tend to use I switched it out with rose water that has fresh orange saffron soaked into it. I added freshly ground cardamom and plump sukary dates into the mixture and topped it with a sweet and fluffy buttercream that was made using rosewater and cardamom. I wanted to eat the frosting alone it is quiet delectable. Please do not forget to go and vote for Ya Salam Cooking for the top halal food blog, I just need the top 10 and I am okay. Thank you! 2/3 cup all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons heavy cream 2 tablespoons milk 1/2 teaspoon rose water pinch saffron 5 tablespoons butter, softened 1 egg 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 4 dates, chopped Cardamom Buttercream Frosting: 1/2 stick butter, softened 1 teaspoon rose water 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 1-1/4 cups powdered sugar 1 tablespoon milk (maybe a bit more) 1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a small bowl add rose water and saffron, allow to soak. In a large mixing bowl add sugar and butter, with a hand mixer beat until fluffy. Add egg, mix well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, cream, and milk , combine well being careful to not over mix. Fold in dates and rosewater/saffron mix. 2. Place 8 cupcake liners into a pan and fill each cup with 1 heaping tablespoon of batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. 3. Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl add butter and rose water, lightly beat until fluffy. Add cardamom and sugar. Add 1 tablespoon milk and mix until light and fluffy. When finished pipe on using your favorite tip onto cooled cupcakes. Yields: 8 cupcakes


Koulourakia is a traditional Greek cookie served throughout the holidays. All over Greece you will find these popular cookies also made into other various shapes but the most popular is the twist. Like many desserts in Greece the Arabs also have a version of this cookie which is made practically the same way. Arabs refer to this cookie as kaak malih. You can also use sesame seeds for the topping or not. I like to do half and half. Koulourakias are defiantly one of my favorite cookies, when I was studying in Chicago I would go to the Greek fair yearly and I always could not wait to get my hands on these. These buttery cookies are perfect along side a cup of strong coffee. 2/3 cup butter, softened 1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar 3 eggs 1 tablespoon orange juice 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1-1/3 cup all purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda sesame seeds, optional 1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add 2 eggs; beat well. Beat in orange juice and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle. 2. Roll dough into 1-1/4-in. balls. Shape each into a 6-in. rope; fold in half and twist twice. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. 3. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a bit of water; brush over dough. Sprinkle cookies with sesame seeds. Bake at 350° for 7-12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool. Yields: about 3 dozen

Shrimp and Basil Pasta

I love pasta especially delicate ones like this that are fresh and healthy without all the extra sauces. Extra virgin olive oil mixed with lemon juice and fresh garlic makes a beautiful sauce for pasta as well as salads. Throw in some fresh herbs like basil and cilantro and wow what a flavor for your palate. Please remember that shrimp take only a minute or two to cook anything left in the pan longer than that just taste tough and rubbery everything a shrimp should not be. 1/4 cup olive oil, divided 1 (8 ounce) package angel hair or spaghetti pasta 1 teaspoon chopped garlic 1 pound large shrimp - peeled and deveined 2 large tomatoes, diced 1/4 cup chopped cilantro 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil juice of 1 lemon 1 teaspoon paprika 3 cloves garlic, smashed 1 scallion, sliced 1/2 teaspoon salt 1. Cook paste per package directions. In a large bowl add shrimp, garlic, half of olive oil, cilantro, basil, salt, paprika and lemon juice. Mix well and allow to marinate at least 15 minutes. 2. In a large saucepan on medium heat add 1 ladle of pasta water. Add remaining olive oil, scallions and tomatoes. Cook until tender about 5 minutes. Add shrimp allowing to cook until pink. 3. Add pasta into pan and combine, serve. Yields: 4 servings

Homemade Chili's Salsa

I love good salsa and I am pretty picky when it comes to the ones I eat. I have to have fresh vegetables, a bit of a chunk but not too much and some heat. No doubt about it Chili’s restaurant has some good salsa, we all know that. Luckily for all of us this salsa is easy to make at home and for a much better price. You can make cut up some corn tortillas and dry them for fresh chips or use your favorite nacho chips from the store. 2 (15 ounce) cans tomatoes and green chilies (reserve juice of 1 can) 4 teaspoons diced jalapenos 1/4 cup diced onions 3 cloves fresh garlic 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon sugar squirt of lime juice 1. In a small food processor add both cans, juice from 1 can, jalapenos, onions, garlic, cumin and sugar. Gently pulse being careful not to puree. Place salsa into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. When your about to serve salsa squeeze the juice of lime onto top.


There is something about the Fall that season that makes me crave comfort foods from my own families recipes. Chili has always been one of my favorite dishes; you just cannot go wrong with this meal. You can add cheese, sour cream or chips to it. You can substitute your favorite ground meat in it. Back in the states I liked to use ground turkey here I prefer lamb. I love the flavor that Mexican chili powder and fresh cilantro adds to this dish and a squeeze of fresh lime juice never hurt either. In Tennessee we pair this hearty stew with a pan of fresh golden cornbread and always a tall glass of cold milk. 1 pound lean ground beef or lamb 1 (15 oz) can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed 1 (15 oz) can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed 1 (15 oz) can of tomato sauce 3 medium tomatoes, chopped 1 large white onion, diced 1 yellow bell pepper, diced 4 garlic cloves. crushed 2 tablespoons Mexican chili powder 1 teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 1 green chili, seeded and diced 2 teaspoons sugar 2 cups water 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro 1 teaspoon butter 1 tablespoon flour 1. In a 9-inch non-stick skillet on medium heat add onions, bell pepper and garlic. Add ground beef and cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain grease. 2. In an 8-quart pot add water, tomato sauce, tomatoes, kidney beans, pinto beans, cilantro, meat mixture, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, chili, sugar and butter. Mix well, stir in flour mixing well. 3. Reduce heat to low and allow chili to simmer for 30 minutes. Yields: 4 servings for a main course or 8 servings for a side dish.

Chocolate Mini Loaves

Today is a very special day for Ya Salam Cooking and can you guess why? Well, today my little blog is 4 years old. I feel immense happiness that I started something 4 years and I love it even more today than I did back then. I cannot even believe that I am pushing 600 recipes here, wow who would have thought? I am really appreciative to the amazing readers that I have and friends that I have made over the years through this blog so thank you all. You have stuck with me when I was moving all over the states and even as I have traveled around the world. Today’s recipe is these perfect little chocolate mini loaves. These are perfect when you get a sweet attack since they are easy to make and not overly sweet. I drizzled a bit of my leftover chocolate ganache over the top that I had left over from last week’s cupcakes and paired them with fresh plump blackberries. Chocolate and blackberries are the most perfect union as if they were meant to be together. I usually do my baking at night when I have more time and my son always helps me, he loves to bake. I had to leave a note for my husband that said ‘do not eat’ but somehow he made me feel guilty and I gave him one and my son did the same thing. No one understands food bloggers trials except another one lol. I hope you enjoy these sweet little treats. Also, I was noticing yesterday that I was getting a lot of traffic from one in particular site so when I went to the link I saw that it was a contest for the best halal site. Someone had nominated me, I wish I would have known sooner to let everyone know. I would really appreciate if you would vote for Ya Salam Cooking. It looks as if the contest is running up until the end of the year and you can vote daily, so please hook me up. Go ahead and vote here. 2/3 cups all purpose flour 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 4 tablespoons butter, softened 1/2 cup sugar 1 egg 1/2 cup buttermilk 1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl add sugar, butter and egg. With a hand mixer mix until fluffy. Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and buttermilk. Mix again until combined being careful to not over mix. 2. Grease and flour 4 tins of a mini loaf pan. Evenly divide batter into tins. Bake about 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Yields: 4 mini loaves

Areeka and Sweet Sabeeb

{sweet sabeeb}
Growing up in the South we eat a lot of simple foods like meat (that we usually catch), vegetable’s (that we grow), breads (that we bake) and soups. It was never a problem for me to adapt to the way Saudis eat because a lot of it is pretty close to the things we eat back home. Honey is also a huge product found in Saudi dishes because of its relevance in Islam. We even had bees and my grandfather would make our own honey, so honey has always been a personal favorite of mine. When I first tried sweet sabeeb (an old Najdi and Southern recipe) I was in love. Sweet sabeeb is village brown bread topped with honey. In Southern Saudi all the bread is wheat unlike here in central Saudi where it’s usually white. Last week when we were out having breakfast with all of our family at a traditional restaurant I had the pleasure of trying another Southern favorite called areeka. Oh how I fell in love! Hands down this one of the best dishes that I have had here and the perfect flavors that I love combined. Wheat bread is baked, chopped and then fresh honey is drizzled with a beautiful golden honeycomb in the middle with big brown luscious dates. These are both breakfast foods in Saudi but you can also make them for a sweet snack that goes perfect alongside a cup of hot Saudi coffee balancing out sweetness. Here is the Saudis recipe for areeka. bread: 3 cups wheat flour 1/4 cup sunflower oil 1 cup water 1/4 teaspoon salt 1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. In a large mixing bowl add flour, salt and oil. Add water a little at a time until a dough consistency forms. Knead and cover for 30 miuntes in a warm place to rise. 2. On a greased cookie sheet spread dough until 1 cm thickness. Bake until bread is golden. 10-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Areeka: 1/2 cup melted butter or ghee 1 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/2 cup honey 5 dates honeycomb, optional 1. Chop bread into small pieces or grind. Add into a medium sized bowl, add butter and mix well. 2. Add cardamom and honey, mix well. Add dates and place in prepared plate and serve. * You can also add 1/4 sugar instead of the honey. You can add roasted nuts as well.

Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache

These rich, dark, decadent chocolate cupcakes covered in a glorious dark chocolate ganache will be the belle of the ball at any event. This recipe makes six perfect cupcakes. The frosting should be made the previous night so that you can whip and spread it easily. And YES these babies deserve to be served on a silver platter. 2/3 cup all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons cream 2 tablespoons milk 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 5 tablespoons butter, softened 1/3 cup sugar 1 egg 1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing add butter and sugar and cream with a hand mixer. Add flour, salt, cream, milk, coco powder, vanilla, sugar and egg. Mix well with a spoon. 2. Scoop 1 tablespoon of batter evenly into 6 cupcake wraps placed in a muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Yields: 6 Ganache Frosting: 1-1/2 cups dark chocolate 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon honey 1/2 cup heavy cream 1. Place chocolate, butter and honey in a large mixing bowl. On medium heat in a 1-2/2 quart saucepan add cream, stirring constantly until cream comes to a boil. Carefully pour cream on top of chocolate mixture and allow to sit for 5 minutes. 2. Whisk the ingredients together, the mixture should be liquidy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap allowing plastic to touch top of ganache. Place in refrigerator and allow to sit over night. If mixture is hard place in the microwave for a few seconds, whip then spread. Yields: 1 cup

Tomato Soup

There is not much that is more comforting than fresh homemade tomato soup with a hot grilled cheese sandwich. I am not much of a lunch person since I have to cook breakfast and lunch for my son (he’s a picky one) and then dinner for the entire family. When it comes to my breakfast and lunch I usually just skip it (and all that cleaning) and go for a coffee or some other caffeine filled drink. However, today I was bold and actually made lunch for myself. I made this bright red soup with ripe summer tomatoes that I had frozen and basil that I dried myself. 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 cup chopped onion 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup chopped carrot 1/4 cup chopped celery 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes 3-1/2 cups vegetable broth 1/2 teaspoon dried basil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper dollop yogurt, topping optional 1. Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until onion is tender. 2. Add carrot and celery; cook 7 to 9 minutes until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes, broth, salt, thyme, pepper and basil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently. 3. Add a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of basil on top. Yields: 6 servings

Indonesian Tea Punch

When my family and I were in Indonesia they had the most amazing yet simple ice tea that we have tried. The original recipe calls for green tea but if you have black that will work as well, they both taste great and pretty much the same. Fresh oranges, mint and ginger added to the tea is the secret to this year around refreshing ice cold drink. 2 cups boiling water 6 regular sized tea bags 3/4 cup white sugar 6 cups cold water 12 sprigs fresh mint 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger 1 orange, sliced 1/2 lemon, sliced 1. In a 2-quart saucepan boil 2 cups water and ginger. 2. Meanwhile add cold water in a tea pitcher with mint, orange and lemon slices. 3. Remove pan from heat and place teabags. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Throw tea bags in trash and add sugar, stir until dissolved. 4. Pour tea mixture into cold water in pitcher and mix well. Refrigerate.

Smoked Laban

My husbands grandmother is in town as of now and like most older people she is very set in her own ways of what she likes to eat. She lives in the Southern region of Saudi Arabia where they eat very simple foods such as fruits, aseeda, dates and drinks like laban. We went to a local Yemeni restaurant that has the same old traditional foods that she likes and bought her a few things. One drink that we bought for her was smoked laban. A southern favorite here in Saudi. The smoked laban was amazing so smooth with the perfect smokiness. I fell in love right away with the drink and asked my mother in law how to make it, the how to was quite easy so I knew I had to share it. The laban is smoked using an Arabic coal that is used for bukhoor or the shisha. This is the same coal used in smoking food as I have previously showed you. I prefer to buy the smokeless coals. You can order these online or visit a Middle Eastern store to buy a box. They are pretty cheap. You can use as much as you would like to make in the below recipes its really up to you. You need to have everything ready to make the smoked laban because you will need to work fast. Laban (also called butter and sour milk) 1 coal 1 teaspoon flour 1 jar 1. Place flour on top of the hot coal. Hold jar upside down over jar and fill with smoke and quickly place the lid on top. Pour laban very quickly into jar and place lid on top again. Allow to sit for a few hours at least. *udpate: I left it in the fridge for two days. I was curious if it really would taste smokey since only a but of smoke was in the jar. Amazingly it was the exact replica of the stuff we bought and was super smooth and smokey.

Pumpkin Tarts

I wanted to try something a bit different than the usual pumpkin pie and also something that did not require me making a crust. Crushed cookies and butter make an easy and great alternative so tea biscuits were the answer. You can easily substitute cookies such as vanilla wafers, graham crackers or ginger snaps. Cream cheese taste so smooth and creamy when added to pumpkin and get your tart that little something extra. I used a large tart pan and was able to bake the entire batch at once. My pan was non-stick and high quality so I also did not have to worry about greasing and the tarts slid out easily. 2/3 cup crushed tea biscuits 2 tablespoons butter, melted 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened 1 cup Pure Pumpkin 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground mace 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 large eggs whip cream, topping optional ground cinnamon, topping optional 1. Pre-heat oven to 325F. Grease a non-stick muffin or tart pan. 2. Combine cookie crumbs and butter in small bowl. Press scant tablespoon onto bottom of each of prepared muffin cups. Bake for 5 minutes. 3. Beat cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until blended. Add eggs; beat well. Pour into muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. 4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack. Remove tarts from pan; refrigerate. Garnish with Yields: 20 small tarts

Pumpkin Spice Latte and Syrup

Oh how I miss Fall! Hayrides, football (Go Vols), hot apple cider, horseback riding through the colorful mountains, roasted nuts, The Apple Barn, Fall festivals, fairs and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I have never really been a huge Starbucks fan (you can get much better coffee at other places) but their pumpkin spice lattes just have me. Every year I patiently wait for them to come out and when they do I am all over them like white on rice. I wish the Starbucks here carried this perfect pumpkin drink but sadly they do not and I have always wanted to make one myself. Canned pumpkin is extremely pricey here since it’s imported but I had to buy it anyway. I need some pumpkin in my life I am telling you. I topped my latte off with some store bought maple syrup made especially for coffees. Perfection I am telling you, now I can start every day off great even if it’s only Fall in my head.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup:
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a 1-1/2 quart saucepan on high heat add water and bring to a full boil.Reduce heat to medium. Add pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, made, cloves and ginger. Stir continually until sugar is thick. Remove from heat, cool and refrigerate in glass jars.

 Yields: 3 cups

 Pumpkin Spice Lattes:
1 cup strong coffee or espresso
1/2 cup hot milk
 pumpkin spice syrup, to taste
whip cream, for topping
maple syrup, for topping
ground cinnamon, for topping

1. Add coffee into a large mug. With a stick blender froth milk until foamy. Add pumpkin spice syrup into coffee, stir and add frothed milk. Add whip cream, maple syrup and cinnamon on top.

Yields: 1 large mug

Homemade Grenadine Syrup

When I was a young my mother and stepfather took me out to eat with them at a nice restaurant and told me that I could order a mixed drink from the kids menu. I ordered a Shirley temple and loved it, since that day I have been drinking them religiously and my own son as well. This week my mother in law sent over a bag of plump and ripe pomegranates and the first thing I thought of was grenadine syrup. I have found grenadine here in Saudi but since its imported its ridiculously expensive. Homemade is always better anyway, right?

If your unsure how to cut a pomegranate its extremely easy. Have a large bowl ready half way filled with cold water. Cut the fruit in half them emerge into the water. With your hands under water pull the seeds out of the membrane. The seeds will sink while the membrane floats and you can easily discard.

2 large pomegranates, seeds only

1. In a 4 quart saucepan add seeds and cover seeds with water. Bring heat to a full boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for 5-10 minutes. With a stick mixer pulse. until seeds have opened.

2. Place strainer over a large bowl and pour juice into bowl. Take a large coffee coffee cup and mash seeds and pulp until all seeds have busted and pulp goes into bowl. All that should be remaining is seed covers, discard.

3. Measure reserved pomegranate juice. In a 4-quart saucepan on high heat add juice and add the same exact amount of white sugar. Bring to a full boil then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow syrup to cool then add in a jar.

*Now go make a Shirley temple with sprite and some fresh grenadine syrup.

Chai Karak

Chai Karak is becoming the khaleegi regions drink of choice. You will easily find this hot spicy drink all over UAE and Qatar. This now popular drink called kadak chai was introduced from Asian workers and translates to strong tea but now no one seems to know how it was re-introduced with the name Chai Karak. Nevertheless, its smooth and creamy taste has won everyone over. This tea has not only adapted a new name but a new taste as well from the regions popular taste. Taste such as cardamom, ginger and saffron. Chai Karak is defiantly a tea that you can make to suit your own fancy so to speak. For example sometimes when I make it I use cardamom infused condensed milk rather than regular milk. You can add your favorite spices such as fresh ginger, crushed cardamom pods or saffron. Also some prefer to steep the tea in all milk while others water.

1 teaspoon black tea, loose
4 cardamom pods, crushed
fresh ginger, small piece
milk, to taste (about 1/4 cup)
sugar, to taste

1. In a 1-1/2 quart saucepan on high heat add water, cardamom, ginger and tea. Allow to come to a full boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes.

2. Place pan back onto stove onto medium heat. Add sugar and milk, heat thoroughly and remove from heat. Pour tea through strainer into cup.

Yields: 1 cup

Reese Cupcakes {small batch}

Reese Cups are one my favorite candies and I thought it was would be rather delicious to combine that love into a cupcake. I really did not want to use any chocolate other than the candies in the batter so that the flavor would not be over powering and as common as all the other chocolate cakes we see. A bit of Nutella mixed in with the frosting makes the perfect combination that taste just like the famous candies. I was deliciously surprised that the cupcakes came out tasting identical to the cups. If my eyes were closed I would have never guessed these were cupcakes. 2 tablespoons buttermilk 2 tablespoons sunflower oil I large egg yolk 1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 Reese Cups, softened 1/8 teaspoon baking soda 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup sugar Frosting: 1 cup smooth peanut butter 1/4 cup nutella 1/4 cup powdered sugar 1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl add oil and sugar. Add egg, mix. Add flour, baking soda, sugar, buttermilk, and reese cups, 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 peanut butter, nutella, and powdered sugar, with a hand mixer beat until fluffy. Place in refrigerator until needed. 4. When cupcakes are cool pipe frosting on top. Yields: 6