The Quickest Fruit Compote Isn’t Just For Dessert

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If you’re anything like me, you buy a whole bag of apples with the intention of providing healthy snacks for yourself and your family all week long. The problem in my case is that I try to convince myself that two people in a household can finish them before they lose their crunch.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

And sometimes husbands request an apple dessert, not just an apple. How quickly the suggestions for applie pie and apple tart came forth from mine. He even offered to buy the crust.

I wasn’t in the mood for tarts and pies and I surely didn’t want a store-bought crust (unless it was the Trader Joe’s brand, which is the closest to homemade I’ve ever had). In fact, I was just too tired to bake.

I decided to come up with this quick fruit compote that would be a versatile dish, not just for dessert, but also a snack with yogurt or a topping on tomorrow’s breakfast oatmeal. I hope you’ll enjoy it using your own local, freshest combination of fruits.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

8 small Michigan Golden Delicious apples, cored and seeded, but not peeled. Cut into quarter pieces
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/8 cup of sugar, or more to taste
3 TB. real lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.
2. Butter the bottom of a large, oval or round Pyrex baking dish.
3. Place apples and blueberries in dish. Sprinkle with sugar and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
4. Add lemon juice. Cut butter into small pieces and put in different places around and under fruit.
5. Bake for approximately 1/2 hour or until apple skins have browned well.
6. Remove from oven and use a spoon to turn fruit to mix. With the back of spoon, mash up the apple pieces and combine with blueberries, but don’t over mix (unless you want applesauce!). Remove apple skins if you desire.

Serve warm as-is or on top of ice cream. You can also add to oatmeal or farina at breakfast. Or, top the compote with creme fraiche, whipped cream or real heavy cream for a delicious and elegant dessert.

Bon Appetit!

Published in: on February 21, 2009 at 9:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Olives Plus Oranges Equals…Brownies?

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Last October I visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill just outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. I never knew this region could cultivate olives until I heard about the mill from a relative who lives nearby. After doing a bit of research on the place, I just had to see it before heading back to the Midwest. We sure can’t grow olives in Chicago!

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

I’ve always been interested to know how any type of Mediterranean food grows. I suppose I feel the need to learn so that one day I might be able to grow any number of them myself: olives, pomegranetes, lemons, dates, apricots, almonds. I’d probably need an orchard first, though. Right?

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

I really feel bad that for the number of times I’ve visited Sicily, I’ve never really gone to the olive groves to learn more about from where some of the best olive oil in the world really comes. I enjoyed eating- a lot– in Sicily, yet never really bothered to venture further than the wonderful jovedi (large Thursday market) where I could delight in the colorful produce and fresh, exotic Mediterranean seafood. There, things like olives and cheeses were very expensive, yet tempting enough to buy just a handful and be comforted to know that this land of olives would forever supply us with them.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Needless to say, upon hearing about the Queen Creek Olive Mill, I was instantly interested in going there to see first-hand just how and when olives are hand picked and perfectly pressed to make the purest olive oil one can find in the U.S. Who would have known that in this little Arizona town one could grow olives when conventional thinking would lead you to believe that California is the only American place cultivating these precious trees?


Upon arrival, we decided to take the $5 tour of the mill where we would learn all about the process of olive cultivation, picking and pressing. We were first escorted out onto the terrace where a young employee of the company explained to us the very basics of how the Queen Creek Olive Mill was started and about the unique temperature here that makes it possible for these olives trees to flourish.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

The business of producing olive oil for sale started just over five years ago here at the base of the San Tan Mountains, an area known for its fertile soil. In this micro-climate, the olive trees will amazingly not experience any mold or fermentation.

Harvesting goes from mid-October to mid-December, so our visit was just two weeks shy of the olive picking season. During the season, olives are harvested at this pesticide-free grove daily by raking and combing them off the trees. Fallen olives are never used because they are considered to be either over-ripe or invaded by pests.

Each olive tree will give anywhere between 50-200 lbs. of olives. One ton of olives will go on to produce 55 gallons of the extra virgin olive oil. Queen Creek’s trees include a variety of Italian, Spanish and Greek ones such as the Mission, Manzanillo, Sevillano, Pendolino, Grappolo, Lucca, Frantoio and the Kalamata.

Olive Fruit on the Tree

Olive Fruit on the Tree

During the harvesting season Queen Creek bottles their olive oil every three weeks and blends their oils every three to five weeks. Their base oil produced from these trees is made of a Tuscan style blend, from which they make some very interesting flavored and cold pressed oils (Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange were two of my favorites), all of which you can taste yourself before purchasing at the store.

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Back in the mill we learned more about the technicalities of the oil extraction process and the machines that make that happen. For example, the motors on the machines are all from Italy and preventative maintenance is done on them before and after the harvesting season. The owner even goes to Italy every summer to continue educating himself about olive cultivation and the oil-making process.

Before you can dip your tasty bread into a dish of golden olive oil, these tiny fruits must go through quite an ordeal for you. A defoliator will remove the stems and leaves and the olives will then get a two-stage bath. Afterwords, they must be put through the three main parts of the mill: 1) the mill itself, which pulverizes the meat, pit and seed into a paste; 2) the malixer, which without it there would be no oil; and 3) the centrifuge, where as the paste enters all the solids and water in the olives is extracted.

After learning the delicate process of growing and pressing the olives into oil, who would want to spoil this healthy food? We were given additional tips on selecting the best oils and storing them properly that I’d like to pass on to you:

*There is no such thing as black olives- they are lye-cured and chemically-altered to turn black. Choose only naturally-cured olives (brine-cured)
*Never let your oil smoke
*Every oil has a regional flavor. For example, Tuscan oil is spicy; Spanish oil is fruity; and Greek oil is heavy.
*If you go away for a period of time, you can store your oil in the fridge for 2-3 months
*The shelf life is about one year, but olive oil prefers an ambient temperature- it can be safely kept at anywhere from 80-95 degrees farenheit

I learned many interesting things during my visit to Queen Creek, but the one thing I know will help me the most was this: you cannot change the nutritional value of oils. As a result, you must select your product wisely and in order to do that, you must know what all of the labels mean. The owner of Queen Creek explained the following:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil– means the oil is extracted without heat (all extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed, otherwise, it cannot be called ‘extra virgin’); 100% natural
Pomace Oil– 100% refined, with heat and solvents; made of olive pits and flesh after pressing; could be moldy
Extra Light Olive Oil– made with 95% Pomace oil and 5% Extra Virgin Olive Oil

So you may be wondering when I’ll get to the brownies- and what in the world is a blood orange? Well, you’ll be relieved to know there isn’t any blood in a blood orange, it simply refers to the noticeable red color that runs through this citrus fruit.

As far as where the blood orange comes into play in the brownie recipe, I was really surprised and impressed to see that someone came up with the idea of mixing chocolate with this unique citrus fruit in the form of a flavored oil.

I’ve known about blood oranges since I was a child because of my Sicilian heritage, as this is a popular fruit on the Mediterranean island, but it is virtually unknown in the typical American diet. I actually found the recipe at the Queen Creek Olive Mill store where they give away for free many recipes utilizing their olive oil products.

Blood oranges contain a high amount of vitamin C, potassium, carotene and dietary fiber. Use them in salads, to make juice or cut up as a snack like you would eat any other type of orange. They are a releatively recent crop for U.S. growers in Florida, California and Texas, so look for them in your grocery store. (

Blood Orange (Stock.xchng Photo)

Blood Orange (Stock.xchng Photo)

In this particular recipe, you will not need to buy any blood oranges becauase the oil is already so aromatically flavored. Below are the ingredients and the instructions for the Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies. Please see the resource list at the end of this post to find the special ingredients in this recipe.

You can also find the recipe online at

I have, however, made a few changes to the recipe by adding my personal suggestions for ingredients and instructions based on my experience making them. Feel free to take a look at this one and the original to see which works best for you. Buon Appetito!

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (try 60-70% dark, organic chocolate)
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (mine were orange-flavored, but yours definitely don’t have to be)
1 cup all-purpose flour, unbleached (I recommend King Arthur Flour brand products)
1 tsp. baking powder (try to find it without aluminum, as many baking ingredients contain it. I use the Hodgson Mill brand)
3/4 tsp. salt (if you are using sea salt or kosher salt, be sure it is finely ground before baking)
1-2 cups raw cane sugar (amount depends on how sweet you like your desserts & how sweet your chocolate is)
1/2 cup butter (measured before melted)
1/2 cup Queen Creek Olive Mill Blood Orange Olive Oil (you can also use grapeseed or sunflower oil, but do not use a very heavy extra virgin olive oil as the flavor will overpower the entire dessert)
4 medium eggs, preferably free-range
1 TB. vanilla (be sure to use either imitation extract or 1 real vanilla bean. Pure extract is normally obtained by soaking the vanilla beans in vodka)
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then measure all ingredients before beginning. It’s best if you have a digital food scale to measure accurately, especially for the chocolate. In baking, accuracy is a must!

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

2. Spray or grease a 9 x 12 baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (can be found at such stores as Wal-Mart, restaurant supply stores or gourmet food shops). This helps prevent the batter from sticking when done.

3. In a small saucepan, melt all of the chocolate over low heat. Stir constantly. When completely melted, set aside to cool.

4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar to this mixture.

5. Melt butter. In a large mixing bowl, pour the melted butter, then add the Blood Orange Olive Oil or your oil substitute. Add one egg at a time to this mix, incorporating each one fully.

Copyright 2008-2008 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2008-2008 My Halal Kitchen

6. Add the vanilla (extract or bean) to the cooled chocolate mixture and combine well. Add this mixture to the butter and olive oil mixture in step 5. Then, fold all of the dry ingredients plus the walnuts into your large mixing bowl with all of the previously mixed ingredients. Combine everything well, but don’t over mix the batter.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

7. Pour the entire mix into baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until brownies pull away from the side of the pan.

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2008-2009 My Halal Kitchen

Buon Appetito!

Queen Creek Olive Mill
Viovi Organic Blood Orange Juice
Hodgson Mill– for all natural baking ingredients.
King Arthur Flour– for baking tools, ingredients and products.

A Sundae to Ease into Sunday

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Copyright My Halal Kitchen 2009

Copyright My Halal Kitchen 2009

On a cold winter day, what excuse can we give ourselves that a homemade sundae isn’t a great idea?

I don’t want to think about it.

They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and we needed this.

Ok, we didn’t need it but we wanted something to accompany our Saturday evening movie night and the thought that tomorrow would seem like it’s really Monday.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s products, so need I say more about where I got the ice cream for our sundaes? (No, they do not pay me to write about their products– but hey, if somebody out there from TJ’s wants to hire me to do that, I’ll give it some thought).

Ok, back to serious business: ‘Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream- Super Premium’ was the main ingredient. And, since I’m not trying to be over-complicated or wasteful here, I only used two other ingredients lurking in my cabinet and fridge: Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and Salerno Butter Cookies.

All three ingredients were layered in a plastic, hand-me-down parfait cup and on top a finale of the chocolate syrup was drizzled. If I had any more whipped cream left over from last month’s pumpkin pie fest, you bet I would’ve topped it with that, too.

I think the chic-flick I made my husband watch tonight was a bit easier for him to get through…

Where to find these products:

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream-Super Premium:

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup– any retail grocer should have it, but if you happen to be in a remote location or somewhere outside of the U.S. (or on another planet), you can go to the Hershey’s website and they will ship it to you:

Salerno Butter Cookies: These cookies aren’t just for adults with a sweet tooth, like us. They are particularly good for teething babies. I buy mine at Jerry’s Fruit and Garden in Niles, IL (located at 7901 N. Milwaukee Avenue. 847-967-1440) for 99 cents a box! They’re hard to find for a decent price online, but you could try to contact the company that manufactures them: Archway and Mother’s Cookie Company, PO Box 762, Battle Creek, MI 49016, United States, (269) 962-6205, (269)962-8149 fax,

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are entirely based on my own personal tastes, which may obviously be different for others who try the same product(s). The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from the restaurant or food product company for writing this review.

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen. All rights reserved. The information contained in this blog may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of My Halal Kitchen.

Free Sun-Maid Recipe Booklet!

If you read your Sunday coupons carefully, you might have found the ad for a free recipe book on the Sun-Maid Raisins or Dried-Fruit Packages coupon ($1.00 off two). If not, the information below will show you the variety of recipe books they offer. One per household only. Enjoy! And please, share with us if you make any of the recipes from your free booklet.


Sun Maid Fruit and Sunshine: Naturally Healthy Raisin Recipes

This 17-page booklet is available to download for free at:

You can also order it by writing to:

Sun Maid Fruit and Sunshine Recipe Booklet:

P.O. Box 8272

St. Cloud, MN 56398-8272

Include your name, phone number, address, city, state and zip code.


New Taste of Tradition Recipe Booklet (45 recipes)

P.O. Box 9290

St. Cloud, MN 56398-9290

Include your name, phone number, address, city, state and zip code, or call toll free at 877-414-3397 between 7am-5pm (CST)

Follow this link to take a look for yourself:


Sun Maid Recipes for Healthier Eating

Available by mail at the same address or phone number above.  Follow the link below for full details:


Gooseberry Patch Fall Favorites Recipe Booklet

Order by mail at:

Sun Maid Fall Favorites

P.O. Box 190

Delaware, OH 43015

Include name, phone number, address, city, state and zip code

To see the information, click on the following link:

A selection of recipes are available on this site.


Gooseberry Patch Family Favorite Recipe Booklet

Sun Maid Family Favorites

P.O. Box 190

Delaware, OH 43015

Include name, phone number, address, city, state/province and zip/postal code

To see the information, click on the following link:

A selection of recipes are available on this site.





Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 4:23 pm  Comments (3)  
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Making Homemade Yogurt Has Never Been Easier

I was attracted to the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mirielle Guiliano, not because I wanted to diet (no thanks!), but because I sincerely wanted to re-affirm what I already felt to be true about healthy eating. In it, she describes the benefits of eating yogurt and how to make it both the old-fashioned way and with an electronic yogurt maker. (p. 148-153)

(As an important side note, I need to mention the fact that Ms. Guiliano advocates drinking wine, which is absolutely not halal, therefore I do not advocate nor condone that part of the book)  

It was my belief that not only French, but most European, Asian, South Asian, and more–don’t get fat, at least not like we do here. I have been in Europe, North Africa, Mexico and Central America and have never seen the severe obesity problem we have in this country. However, I fear that with the export of processed foods, fast food chains and chemically-treated and preserved foods, we are severely-and perhaps permanently-damaging the dietary habits of other global culinary traditons. Needless to say, that’s another topic in itself to discuss on my spinoff blog at

Today’s post is to demonstrate how easy it is to make yogurt at home. I have tried it the old-fashioned way by boiling milk and adding the yogurt culture and letting it sit for hours and hours in my own pots. Sometimes it would work, other times it wouldn’t. I felt very horrible “expirementing” with perfectly good milk when the yogurt would not turn out right; and elated and surprised when it (rarely) did turn out to be yogurt.

As an economical and much less-wasteful solution, I decided to make the investment in an electronic yogurt maker- a Donvier brand, as suggested by Mirielle Guiliano in her book. A variety of yogurt makers are available online at for between $30-60 plus shipping. Just type in “yogurt makers”.

Let’s get to the process so you can see how easy it is to do yourself. Please refer to the photos below:


1. Get yourself any electronic yogurt maker!  (

2. Boil the milk for at least 20 minutes, or until you see the bubbly foam at the top. Immediately turn off heat and remove any film collected at the top.

3. Use a thermometer to continuously check the temperature of the milk. It should be between 110-115 degrees F when you add the yogurt culture. At this point, if you are using a Donvier or similar type of yogurt maker, you will need 1 TB. of plain yogurt (at room temperature). I like to use whole milk plain yogurt only because the result is smooth, thick and creamy. The best yogurt for starter (in my opinion) is Stonyfield Farm Yogurt ( It is organic and certified Kosher, as well. Mix the 1 TB. of yogurt with one plastic container of milk (this should come with your yogurt maker). Pour this mixture back into your pot of boiled milk.

4.  Stir this mixture very well so that there are no clumps of yogurt throughout the boiled milk.

5. Next, pour this mixture into each of the plastic glasses that comes with your yogurt maker and use the caps to cover. My Donvier comes with 8 plastic glasses and caps.

6. Set the electric time for 10 hours. The red light (of a Donvier) should indicate that it is “on”. Do not open any of the glasses during this entire time, as it may tamper with the delicate process of cultivating the yogurt.

7. At the 10 hour mark, your yogurt maker should indicate with a beep that it is ready to be shut off. Do not keep the yogurt on longer than this. Each glass should be immediately stored in the refrigerator.

The great thing about this is that you can enjoy the yogurt plain or add fruit, nuts and/or honey to your liking– all without any preservatives or unhealthy elements like high fructose corn syrup (yes, some commercial brands DO contain it!).

Bon Apetit!

P.S. I’d love to hear your comments about this post.

Published in: on October 11, 2008 at 5:25 am  Comments (4)  
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Iftaar Menu Ideas

As a Muslim I really look forward to the Holy Month of Ramadan where we fast the whole month from just before sunrise until the sun sets. No food or water is ingested throughout the whole day, so we must have a healthy suhoor (pre-fasting meal) and our iftaar (meal at the time of breaking the fast) must be light enough so that we can continue our prayers and worship through the night.

Here is one menu idea for an iftaar that I would like to share with you:

At the time of breaking the fast:

  • Water
  • Saudi dates
  • peach smoothie

After the maghrib salah (sunset prayer):

  • Yellow lentil soup  (I always serve soups since they warm and ease the stomach out of the fast and into eating again)
  • Super-moist turkey meatloaf
  • Creamed mashed potatoes
  • Green salad with red onions, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and salt


  • Assorted fruit
  • light yogurt cake

This is simply one menu idea you can use to expound on, Insh’allah more to come. Remember, in Ramadan the point is not to eat to your fill but to eat to have enough energy to perform the daily salah, the extra ibadat and to simply give you the energy for all the other things you have to do in your day and evening.

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 6:44 pm  Comments (10)