• Leyla Hur, as featured in Munaty Cooking

    Leyla Hur, as featured in Munaty Cooking

    "In Hong Kong, everything revolves around food, and it was not different in my family. In my family, each meal was truly an event and that is something I still hold close. Right after we finished one meal, Dad would discuss with us what we would have for our next meal..."

  • About Leyla

    About Leyla

    "Even from my earliest years, I liked to feed people and share my food with others. I have been privileged enough to grow up in Hong Kong, live in Malaysia, Australia, Canada, and now the United States; and I have travelled extensively throughout the world, sampling the delicacies of..."

  • Asian Beef Lettuce Cups (with Vegetarian Alternative)

    Asian Beef Lettuce Cups (with Vegetarian Alternative)

    "In Hong Kong, this is very famous and usually comes when you order Peking Duck. The restaurant will then make three dishes from the duck. You will usually get the skin (Peking Duck) which is served with..."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Win A Bottle of Bee-Free Honee!!!


You've read my review and I am STILL raving about it, Bee-Free Honee, it is simply delicious and while it's great as a honey substitute in cooking, there is nothing like a slice of toast with Bee-Free Honee slathered across it. DEEEEE-licious!

It is really great for vegans and non-vegans alike. For those with allergies to bee honey, this is a fabulous substitute and is also perfect for children under the age of 2 years old without fear or risk of Botulism.

So, I love it SO much, I spoke with Katie Sanchez, the owner of Bee-Free Honee and she has been kind enough to give a free bottle away to one lucky person! 

OK, so this is how you can enter for a chance to win a free bottle of Bee-Free Honee, 

Make sure you join my Facebook page as well as my Twitter page to get regular updates about new recipes, product reviews, restaurant reviews, and give-aways.  

There are three seperate ways you can enter the competition:

(1) Just leave a comment below telling me what your favorite way to use/eat honey is and how you would use Bee-Free Honee!
(For your comment to be counted as an entry, you must be following Cooking With Leyla on Facebook, Twitter and/or Google Friend Connect!)

(2)  Share my blog with your Twitter friends. Just @ reply "CookingWLeyla" and tell your friends to enter this contest give-away.

(3) Update your Facebook status and be sure to tag Cooking With Leyla; of course, share my blog and social profiles with your friends and tell them about this contest. 

There is no limit to the number of times you can enter this give-away.  

This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents and starts tomorrow, Wednesday August 24th 2011 and will end Friday, September 9th at Midnight (PST). The winner will be chosen randomly and there is no purchase necessary to enter. The winner will be announced here on the blog on September 12th. 

Good Luck!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Bee-Free Honee" Review

A couple of weeks ago, my attention was brought to a bee-free honey. Just a few days prior, my husband was asking me if there was such a thing. At the time, I had never heard of it and told him that I felt it might be something he'd have to learn to do without. As vegans, we do not eat honey or use anything that comes from honey or bees. That is not for health reasons, but for ethical reasons, environmental reasons, and the idea of ingesting something that has been vomited up kind of rubs us the wrong way.

Some people balk at this idea, shake their heads, and even laugh at us because we choose to not eat honey, but let me explain further. To truly understand why we don't eat honey, I also have to explain that veganism is not just a fad diet or simply done for health reasons, veganism is a complete way of life. It is, a lifestyle.

"Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. Even the most careful keeper cannot help but squash or otherwise kill many of the bees in the process. During unproductive months, some beekeepers may starve their bees to death or burn the hive to avoid complex maintenance." ~ Jo Stepaniak.

"Like other factory-farmed animals, honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation ... Profiting from honey requires the manipulation and exploitation of the insects' desire to live and protect their hive." ~ PETA

For us, honey is simply not an option. And sadly, for many of us, we grew up eating and loving the taste of honey. Until two weeks ago, I had resigned myself to the fact that there was probably no substitute for honey and it may well be something that we would be without for the rest of our lives. For us, this "sacrifice" in order for taste, was worth it.

Enter Katie Sanchez, owner of RAES Foods Inc., and creator of Bee-Free Honee.

I first contacted Katie when I first learned about the honee and asked where I could find it and if there was a chance that my local Whole Foods Market was carrying it. I told her that I wanted to give it a try and then write a review about my experience with it. I was super surprised when she wrote back and sent me a bottle to try and review.

Eagerly I checked the mailbox each day anticipating receiving the bottle. My anticipation even traversed into my dreams and I dreamed about the amber liquid on toast. How was it going to taste? Was it going to be like honey... really? I was as excited as a kid waiting anxiously for Christmas morning. If she had truly created a product that would replace traditional bees honey, with the same textures, and multiple uses, both my husband and I would be in heaven. And, I promised myself that I would do all that I could to help promote the honey and get word out there about it.

So while I waited, I learned more about Katie and how the bee-free honee had come into being...

Like me, Katie's love of cooking started when she was very young. For her 10th birthday, she asked that as a gift, she'd like to cook dinner for the family. Like me, cooking inched its way into her blood stream, and passion began to take hold.  She grew up in Mound, MN, where her family had an apple orchard in their front yard and her father (ironically) was a bee keeper.

With that passion for cooking etched deeply within her soul, Katie went on to cooking school in Louisiana where she worked on a line in order to get her foot in the door of a pastry department, as making pastries was her preference.

Eventually, she found an opportunity at D'Amico Cucina, in Minneapolis where she worked as the assistant to Pastry Chef Leah Henderson and under Chef Jay Sparks.  After 3 years, she left D'Amico Cucina and went to work at an all natural bakehouse in St. Paul.  It was in this bakehouse that Katie began working with vegan products and learned about the all-natural-food world.

In her work at the bake house, Katie often wished she could use honey in some of the vegan items since the vegan sweeteners were very strong and they often masked the subtle flavors of vanilla or hints of lemon. However, being vegan items, this was not a possibility.

Then in 1999, a miracle for vegans everywhere took place. While trying to make a less sweet version of apple jelly and being a novice with jelly, Katie accidentally created something that was definitely not jelly.  Not wanting to be wasteful, she 'canned' it only to discover in the morning, that what she had was honee!

Like most of us, she heard about the decline of the bee population in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the scary scientific estimation that bees will be extinct in the US by 2035.  Knowing that bees are vital to our plant life and food chain, she asked herself two questions, could she reproduce her honee and was there a market for it?

She went back to the kitchen and after much trial and error she was able to say that she had a solid recipe.

Bee-Free Honee is made with only three ingredients; apples, vegan quality pure cane sugar, and lemon juice. There is only enough sugar in the honee to achieve the thickness and stickiness of traditional honey.

Bee-Free Honee is safe for children under 2-years of age to ingest as there is no fear of the disease Botulism, which is a concern with bee-honey. It is also safe to ingest for those who have an allergy to traditional honey. Plus, it is all natural and vegan - YAAY for vegans like my husband and me who were beginning to really start missing the amber goodness.

When Katie began her journey, she was told that she would need to thicken the honee with chemicals or gum, as the process that she was using was too time consuming and it was not considered "manufacture friendly". With other factors in the mix, and learning that she would have to change the way she processed the honee altogether, so that manufacturers would find it profitable, Katie decided to not proceed. Instead, she found a local winery in Minnesota who were intrigued with her product and idea for manufacturing the honee, and decided to help her out.

The winery guided Katie through every process of manufacturing the honee on a large scale and she also learned about the industry as a whole. She has developed a great relationship with the winery, and is involved in the production of each batch of her honee.

Finally, the day arrived when my much anticipated package arrived. It was all that I could do to not run into the house tearing open the package. Yes! I was excited and anticipation was growing with each step into the house. Plus, I'd not had lunch yet, so possibly it was hunger that was fueling me forward.

Toast made, Bee-Free Honey in hand, I sat down to give it the all-important taste test. Days of anticipation building, waiting, imagination running in circles around my head for this very moment, were finally satiated in that first bite.

It was not exactly like traditional bee-honey, but it was as close as I can ever see anyone coming to it. It is absolutely delicious. There is even that delightful little sensational "burn" that honey creates in the very back of my throat as I am swallowing. My anticipation of this package was so well worth it and so well deserved of the build-up that I had given it. I have to say, I am in love! It is scrumptious.

I have used it in a few things that I have made, and have yet to create the recipe that Katie gave me for a fabulous ginger lemonade, but that is next on my agenda.

Katie has done a fabulous job and I urge you to go immediately to Amazon.com and purchase a bottle to try. If you are in Minnesota, Bee-Free Honee is for sale in 40 Cooperatives and grocery stores, as well it is available in Whole Foods Market in Minnesota and Chicago.

Because I loved it SO much, I spoke with Katie about having a give-away, to which she was really delighted to take part in. So tomorrow, I will post the details of the give-away. Make sure you have this page bookmarked (or Follow me with Google Friend Connect) and you "Like" Cooking With Leyla on Facebook, and/or follow me on Twitter @CookingWLeyla.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recipe Review - Seitan Corned Beef

As I am experimenting my way through the different uses for seitan, I came across a video for Seitan Corned Beef, and it really excited me. For one, I am trying to experiment with textures to create something that is really similar to meat; and two, I am looking at expanding my range.

I am also working on a recipe book as well as a possible cooking show, so I am doing a lot of experimenting.

When in experimental stages, I usually do a Google search and then browse through recipes, watch cooking demonstrations, and then device my own version of the ideas I have seen. Sometimes, I browse recipes and videos to gain inspiration to create something completely different.

In this instance, I followed a recipe I had seen on You Tube, and I was really excited. Corned beef sandwiches with a side of potato salad spoke to my stomach, who answered back to me in a deep grumble.

So here is the recipe I followed;

1 gallon water (to boil loaf)

Dry Ingredients
2 cups vital wheat gluten flour
2 Tbs. granulated onion
2 Tbs. paprika
2 Tbs. whole fennel seed (coarsely ground)
2 Tbs. whole caraway seed (coarsely ground)
1 Tbs. salt
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Wet Ingredients
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. molasses
1 Tbs. vinegar

It is mixed well together and then formed into a loaf and wrapped in cheese cloth, then boiled. Simple right? I love that there was no kneading in this whatsoever.

Simply whisk the dry ingredients together well, then whisk the wet ingredients, then pour them together (make sure the vegetable broth is at room temp if not cool. Any heat to it, will begin to "cook" the vital wheat gluten and make it hard to mix well together.

Mix the wet into the dry, and stir with a wooden spoon until it 'comes together'. Form it into a flat type loaf - as regular corned beef would look like - and place onto a doubled-over cheese cloth (or aluminium foil). Tie the ends of the cheese cloth so that it looks like a candy (do the same with the aluminium foil, just fold the ends under).

Pop into a large pot of simmering water, then cover and let simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from water, let drain in a colander, and sit for about 10 minutes. Remove to a cutting board, remove the cheese cloth (or aluminium foil), and let sit a further 10 minutes (or refrigerate until cooled completely then use for sandwiches), before slicing.

OK, so here I went wrong... I did not have caraway seeds. So I did a search on an alternative to caraway seeds. I can up with cardamon, but use half the amount as what is called for caraway seeds because of how strong it is flavoured.

Well, even half the amount was too much for this recipe. So I have caraway seeds on the top of my shopping list for the next trip to the grocery store.

Besides the caraway/cardamon seed "issue", I found that 1 TBSP of salt was too much. Plus, I had used a vegetable bouillon cube, which added further to the saltiness. While it was not to the point of not being able to eat it, it was still too salty for my liking, as I don't like to use a lot of salt.

I didn't have cheese cloth, not for lack of trying, I went to a couple of different supermarkets and stores, and could not locate it anywhere. I'd seen if for sale last year at the 99 Cent store, which I didn't grab at the time because I didn't need it; but now, they don't carry it anymore. So instead, I wrapped it in aluminium foil, which many recipes have said to do with seitan. No problem.

While it was not "bad", I am definitely going to experiment further, adding my own little twists. The texture was awesome and great on a sandwich with Vegenaise, lettuce, tomato, sliced cucumber, and thin sliced onion.

Once I get the "perfect" mix that I am happy with, I'll post that recipe also.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

1-1/2 Quart Cuisinart Ice Cream, Sorbet & Frozen Yogurt Maker Giveaway

My dear friend, Lauren (from Lauren's Latest) is giving away one [1] 1-1/2 Quart Cuisinart Ice Cream, Sorbet & Frozen Yogurt Maker. 
If you want to enter the contest before it’s over, you should head over to Lauren’s foodie blog right now!
Leave her a comment and tell her that "Leyla" sent you over. 
What’s YOUR favorite ice cream?!! 
(Leave a comment below…)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why Going Vegan Is Good For You And The Planet... Plus You Get To Eat Cupcakes Too!

As I approached my birthday and the idea of getting "older" started to weigh in, my mind began turning to healthier alternatives in my cooking and eating habits.

I have never really taken my health into too much consideration, even after I was diagnosed with severe diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Even after having two heart attacks in 2004, I took note, but did not make too many changes to my eating life-style. I cut many things down to moderation, but drastic change, not-so-much.

Maybe it is laziness, or maybe its the old 'bury your head in the sand' idea that I had when I was much younger, and seemed "invincible"; whatever it was, I really didn't put too much effort into creating that kind of change.

When I was younger, I used to be able to think about losing weight, cut down on my portions, and the numbers on the scale dropped down easily and without too much effort. Not-so-much since I hit my mid-thirties. Now it seems everything is taking a lot more effort. And it seems my health is waring more on my body and screaming at me to start paying attention.

So as my birthday loomed large, I began to take note clearly of what was going in to my body as well as start looking at other factors of what I was ingesting.

A couple of my vegan friends began to talk to me about veganism, another friend began to implement it in to her diet. Even Oprah and her entire staff did a one week vegan only stint. I even stumbled upon a bakery here in the Valley that makes vegan cupcakes. Was this some Divine sign that I was supposed to start looking more at this lifestyle?

So, I began to do some research into veganism, and learned that it is not only a much healthier life-style, but it is also healthier for our environment and our planet. What I learned was really eye-opening.

Remove the whole PETA stance and animal rights, etc. (and yes, the idea of killing an animal for my culinary enjoyment does bear a bit of a burden on me, as I am such an animal lover), but instead I looked at the costs to the environment that animal agriculture causes. It was really not something that I had given much thought to previously.

This is what I learned...:

1) Animal agriculture takes a devastating toll on the earth. It is an inefficient way of producing food, since feed for farm animals requires land, water, fertilizer, and other resources that could otherwise have been used directly for producing human food.

2) Animal agriculture's dependence on higher yields accelerates topsoil erosion on our farmlands, rendering land less productive for crop cultivation, and forcing the conversion of wilderness to grazing and farm lands.

3) Animal waste from massive feedlots and factory farms is a leading cause of pollution in our groundwater and rivers.

4) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has linked animal agriculture to a number of other environmental problems, including: contamination of aquatic ecosystems, soil, and drinking water by manure, pesticides, and fertilizers; acid rain from ammonia emissions; greenhouse gas production; and depletion of aquifers for irrigation.

5) In a time when population pressures have become an increasing stress on the environment, there are additional arguments for a vegan diet. The United Nations has reported that a vegan diet can feed many more people than an animal-based diet. For instance, projections have estimated that the 1992 food supply could have fed about 6.3 billion people on a purely vegetarian diet, 4.2 billion people on a 85% vegetarian diet, or 3.2 billion people on a 75% vegetarian diet. [Source]

Ever since watching An Inconvenient Truth a few years ago, I have been even more keen and aware of the environment, as well as doing my part in reusing, recycling, using alternative products in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases. I even changed every light bulb in my house to energy efficient ones, which has actually reduced my electric bill each year.

So when I began my research in to this lifestyle, I was impressed to take the cost to the environment that meat producing agriculture presents.

Turning to my health, I think drinking the glass of milk I did the other night, and the reaction my body had to it (it has long been suspected that I was lactose intolerant), kind of put another peg on the positive side to veganism.

My husband and I discussed the options, and while there are times where I crave meat, for the most part, I can easily do without. We have decided to implement a vegan-ISH diet into our lives. We're starting slowly, we're seeing how it works out.

One of my friends suggested replacing one meal a day with something vegan. When he first suggested this, my thoughts went straight to my bowels and gas-filled intestines from all the beans we'd be eating. But the more I began to ask questions, the more I was told that most things can easily be replaced with a vegan alternative; including *gasp* ice-cream and... cup cakes! Which I tried for the first time this past week when I treated myself to a vegan cup-cake from Cruelty Free Cupcakes located at Joe's Farm Grill in Gilbert Arizona.

I was not quite sure what I expected with the cup-cakes, initial thoughts of something dry and more than likely taste-less or possibly, too sweet. I've tried unleavened cakes at Passover time before, and was expecting something quite... "sandy" in texture and flavour.

So, while I was excited to give it a try, I wanted to make sure I was "ready" for this, cup of milk in hand "just in case". I was so tremendously surprised. Any misconceived notion of "sand", "dried out, tasteless, falling to pieces" cake flew out the window. It was incredibly moist. The Chocolate Espresso frosting was heavenly. I have to say, it was one of the best cupcakes I have ever tried.

The only problem with this new craving, is the fact that all weekend I have been craving more! I would definitely say that they are addicting after only one bite. The fact that they are vegan would surprise even the most discerning of animal product aficionado.

As I watched videos online on "how-to" recipes, I began to see how easy it truly was to replace daily items with vegan alternatives. Gardein makes a whole range of products that are meat substitutes. I have yet to make it over to Whole Foods and check out their selections, but I am pretty excited to give them a try.

I have been using TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) for several years, and have had great success with it.

So I guess the question arises, am I foregoing meat and all meat product for a complete 100% vegan lifestyle? That is hard to say where I am sitting right now. I have a husband who adores meat with a crazed obsession, and so this experimentation of replacing a couple of meals a week with a vegan alternative, is going to be interesting.

He focuses very much on textures as well as flavours; to date, we've not had much success with tofu which is something I grew up with and love. But in looking at some variations in cooking methods, I think I am getting a better understanding in the versatility that tofu has, and will definitely be getting in to the kitchen to experiment and then see how my husband likes what I've created. And yes, it mainly will consist of "fooling" his taste buds in to believing that he isn't actually missing out on flavour or texture.

As it stands, we're replacing a couple of meals a week with a vegan alternative, in hopes that we'll eventually be eating meat-based products a couple of times a week, and eventually not-at-all.

I'll definitely keep you posted on our new adventure and journey.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


Links for more information:

Vegetarian/Vegan Starter Kit
"Eating for Life"
"57 Health Benefits of Going Vegan"
Vegan Outreach
Accidentally Vegan
Eating Vegan for the Environment
The Vegan Society 
Vegan vs. Vegetarian - What Kind of Diet is Best For The Environment

The Vegan Club

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oven-Baked Lemon Cod

Last week my husband went over to the discount supermarket and picked up two whole cod fillets for $10 and change.

These cod fillets were huge! In fact, it was pretty much an entire fish, sans head and bones!

For anyone who is on a budget, especially in the current economic state, I highly suggest you seek out discount supermarkets in your area. Last month, my husband and I bought almost $300 worth of groceries for less than $90! That included luxuries such as steaks, fish, fresh blueberries, strawberries, artichokes, etc!

On this last trip, my husband came home with steaks and fish, next time he has his eye on buying lobster tails!

Many of these stores have restaurant packaging so you could easily buy a huge packet of French fries for $1 or $2! When my husband and I went last month, eggs were on sale for 50cents a dozen... we bought 8 dozen!

It truly is well-worth your checking out, some stores are not as well laid out as others, but keeping an open mind and keeping a look-out for great deals and a recipe progressing in your head as you browse through the shop, will enable you to make some amazing buys.

This weekend, I decided to make the fish. Since the fillets were in one bag and I did not want to re-freeze the other fillet once it was defrosted, this meal gave us two dinners. (Note: Re-freezing meats and fish that have been thawed can lead to the meat or fish going bad. Once defrosted, use the meat or fish within one day.)

With just a little butter, a little salt and pepper, and some thinly sliced vegetables and lemon, these fish fillets are so easy to make, fast to make, delicious and incredibly healthy. You can serve them with boiled potatoes, steamed brown rice, barley "risotto", or oven-baked potatoes (like I did... I'd been craving baked potatoes for about a week!).

You can also serve it with a lovely crisp salad.

I can't wait to go back again this week and get more fish and may even splurge for a couple of lobster tails! Stay tuned to this page for more wild and wacky recipes coming up!

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


Cod fillets
1/4 stick of butter, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced very thinly
2 zucchinis, sliced very thinly
1 carrot, julienned
1 red pepper, julienned
1 lemon, sliced very thinly seeds removed
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400*F

1. On a large piece of aluminium foil (long enough to fit around the fish and roll to create a "parcel"), lay the butter slices down. Place the vegetables over top in layers and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
2. Lay fish fillet over top of vegetables, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, place sliced lemon over top of fillets. Depending how large the fillets are, using a half-side of fish, lay 3-5 lemon slices over top.
3. Pull the aluminium foil up and meet the edges together and fold over, continue to fold over until just above the fish, leaving a little room for the parcel to expand and steam the fish and vegetables. Fold over the sides and make sure the entire parcel is sealed well. Place on a cookie sheet and put into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes.

Serve with oven roasted potatoes, baked potato, steamed brown (or red) rice, or barley risotto.

TIP: These fish parcels can be cooked on the BBQ as well. Make sure you use a heavy-duty aluminium foil if you do. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter's Coming, There's Nothing Like Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

A few days ago, one of my neighbour's gave me some scented candle oils, so last night I decided I was going to give them a whirl. I mixed  Butter Pecan Pie with Vanilla Pearl oil and then sat back to relax. As the candle warmer melted the base candle, and the oils released their delicious scent into the air, "something" happened to me. My stomach began communicating with my palate and the next thing I knew I had a major desire to bake.

I next found myself in the kitchen whipping up a batch of easy yeast dough, readying it to rise overnight in the fridge in preparation to make Cinnamon Rolls.

Maybe these candle oils are not such a good thing. Although I think my husband and neighbours are very happy as my baking means everyone gets treats.

Proofing takes 2 - 3 hrs. These are ready
for the oven
This recipe is very easy, it is just time consuming in that the rising and proofing takes time, standing and mixing, rolling, and cutting takes no time at all. The results are absolutely divine.

With Easter coming up this weekend, fresh, warm, homemade cinnamon rolls make a great alternative to other sweet buns, or maybe even in addition to them.

Many people like a thick, buttery frosting with their cinnamon rolls, for me personally, I much prefer a regular thin glaze which is not as heavy. I will put both recipes following the cinnamon roll recipe for you to decide, or do half the batch with glaze and half with frosting.

You can freeze the dough and get it out Saturday night to cook them early on Sunday morning for Easter Brunch.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


1 cup water
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (unsalted)
3/4 cup sugar (I ran out of white sugar so I substituted with packed brown sugar)
2 tsp salt

1 cup cold water

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 (0.25oz) package yeast
1/2 cup warm water (NOT hot)

7 1/2 cups plain white flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon
2 cups raisins (optional)
2 cups chopped and toasted nuts; hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts (optional)

1. In a large pot, bring 1 cup of water to boil. Add the 1 cup of butter, sugar, and salt; stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the 1 cup of cold water, set aside until mixture is lukewarm.

2. Crack and beat the eggs lightly. Add a little of the lukewarm liquid mix into the eggs, beating all the time, to "coddle" the eggs, then add the egg mix to the sugar and butter mixture, stir well.

3. In a separate bowl, add the packets of yeast to the 1/2 cup warm water and stir making sure the yeast is dissolved. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy.

4. Add the yeast to the mixture and stir well.

5. In a large bowl, add the flour and add the liquid mixture to the flour. Mix very well. Cover bowl with a lid and place into the fridge overnight. (You can slightly grease the lid to ensure that the risen dough will not stick to the lid)

6. When ready to roll out the dough, divide into thirds or quarters (I divided into quarters).

7. Lightly flour your surface and very light work the dough - it does not need much or hard kneading, but a just a little light working to get the dough more pliable. Roll the dough out into a 12x16 inch rectangle, and about 1/2 and inch thick.

These look good already!
8. Spread each rectangle with 1/4 of the softened stick of butter (if you've divided the dough into quarters or 1/3 stick of butter if you've divided it into 1/3s).

9. In another bowl, combine the brown sugar and the cinnamon until very well combined.

10. If you are using the raisins and toasted nuts, make sure you have these prepared in a separate bowl and within reach.

11. Sprinkle 1/4 of the brown sugar and cinnamon mix over each rectangle. Make sure the mix reaches to the edges of the dough.

12. Sprinkle 1/4 of the nut and raisin mix over top of the cinnamon mix and make sure that it reaches the edges of the dough.

13. Roll the dough up very carefully like you would a jelly roll.

14. Cut into 1 - 1 1/2 inch slices and place close (but not too close) into a large greased baking pan. You can bake these in four separate baking sheet, or use one large turkey roaster pan.

15. Let cinnamon rolls rise (proof) for 2 - 3 hours or until double from original size.

Out of the oven, ready for glaze and
our tummies
16. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes (if using smaller separate pans) or for 35-40 minutes if using a large turkey roaster baking pan, or until lightly browned.

17. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then drizzle glaze over top of the warm rolls, or spread the rolls with frosting.

Makes approximately 3 - 4 dozen cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon Roll Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
4 TBSP plus 1 tsp, milk
2 tsp vanilla (you can use maple syrup flavouring in substitute)

1. Mix everything well together until you have a smooth and runny glaze, drizzle over cinnamon rolls. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes, then add next glaze.

Second Glaze

3 cups powdered sugar
4 TBSP milk
2 tsp vanilla (you can use maple syrup flavouring in substitute)

1. Mix everything very well together to create a smooth glaze. Pour over the cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon Roll Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 TBSP milk
1 tsp vanilla (you can use maple syrup flavouring in substitute)

1. Cream all ingredients together. Spread over warm cinnamon rolls.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Slow-Cooked Oven Roast Citrus Chicken

It is citrus season in Arizona! The lemons are heavy and dropping from the tree in such number its hard to keep up with.

Today's weather was really cool in the Valley of the Sun, and our heater decided that today (of all days) it was going to be "testy", and act up. Trying to keep the house warm, I made a peach crisp in the oven, and then very slow-baked this dish. The results were marvelous.

I had a packet of chicken legs in the freezer, a head of cabbage in the fridge, and I was itching to try the red rice I had recently percured.

BTW red rice is very healthy for you. It's known to invigorate the body, aids digestion, removes blood blockages in the body, and is often used to lower cholesterol.

Red rice is a good source of thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), fibre, iron and calcium. The flavor of cooked red cargo rice is generally more sweet and nutty, and the rice is more chewy than standard white polished rice. It does take longer to cook, but it is definitely worth it.

Tonights dinner was absolutely delicious, with a hint of citrus that just gave it a "clean" and "fresh" taste. The red rice was awesome, and I think I've found my new fave grain.

You're definitely going to want to give this a try!

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


6 chicken legs
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp Middle Eastern 7-Spices
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 head of cabbage, leaves kept whole
1/4 tsp chicken powder

3 cups hot water
1 TBSP butter
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups red rice

1. In an oven proof bowl, use the cabbage to line the bowl. Add the red onion over top, sprinkle with chicken powder.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the chicken legs with pepper, salt, 7-Spices and lemon juice. Place the chicken over top of the cabbage and onions.
3. Bake at 300*F for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 250* for a further 30 minutes while rice is cooking.

4. In a cooking pot, add hot water butter and salt and bring to a boil, add red rice.
5. Bring the water to a boil again, reduce heat to very low and let simmer (stirring occasionally) for 30-40 minutes (or to desired texture of rice).
6. Drain any remaining liquid from rice before serving.

NB: You can substitute the chicken legs with a whole chicken

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Easiest Biscuits Ever

I have tried for several years to make biscuits from scratch, and have failed each time. I have made scones for years, so why was I simply not "getting" it when it came to biscuits?

Each time, I was reduced to having to turn to a ready-made packet mix or one of those, open the packets and bake-type biscuits. While a great option in a bind, its quite disappointing when that is the only option to turn to, when you really, really want to do something homemade.

I must admit that I had come this close to giving up, but then I came tried this easy, no fail recipe. I am delighted to report that I had complete success and we munched on the largest, lightest, most fluffy and delicious biscuits with a Beef and Vegetable "Gravy" for dinner.

If you have ever had trouble making biscuits, try this recipe. The key is to NOT knead it too much. Just be light with the dough. When cutting in the butter, use a fork again keeping your hands out of it as much as possible.

And if you've never had trouble making biscuits, give this one a try anyway, they really are delicious!

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


2 (level) cups Self-rising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (alt. you can use vegetable shortening)
1 cup milk

1. Mix the flour with the salt. Add the butter and using a fork, "cut in the butter" until the butter is mixed in well.
2. Add milk, a little at a time. You might not need to use all the milk, just enough to moisten all the flour mix until the dough is somewhat sticky but comes together well.
3. Turn the dough on to a floured surface (use a generous amount of PLAIN flour for kneading), and flour your hands well.
4. Turn the dough into the flour and then knead very lightly for about 1 minute. Pat the dough out (lightly) and using a round cookie cutter (I used the top of a drinking glass) that has been floured, cut the dough out. Pull the dough back together and pat out again and cut more biscuits until all the dough has been used.
5. Place the biscuits on a well greased baking sheet (or cookie sheet) and brush the tops of the biscuits with a little melted butter (optional).

Bake in a 400*F oven for 15 minutes.

Beef and Vegetable "Gravy"

This dish was originally introduced to me by my husband and carries a rather rude name "S**t on Shingles" (otherwise known as "Stew on Shingles" or "Chipped Beef"). It was something that his father had learned to cook while in the military and had passed it down to my husband.

"Chipped beef on toast (or creamed chipped beef on toast) is a culinary dish comprising a white sauce and rehydrated slivers of dried beef, served on toasted bread. Hormel recommends flavoring the dish with Worcestershire sauce and dried parsley. In military slang it is commonly referred to by the dysphemism "Shit On a Shingle" (SOS)—or more politely, "Stew On a Shingle" or "Same Old Stuff". Chipped beef is also often served on English muffins, biscuits, home fries, and in casseroles.

Wentworth and Flexner cite no origin, but note that "shingle" for slice of toast has had "some use since 1935" in the U. S. Army, mostly in the expression "shit on a shingle," and that the latter had "wide World War II Army use." [Source]

My husband usually makes it with potatoes, and without too many vegetable ingredients in the gravy itself, so tonight I decided to make a version of this dish only "a la Leyla".

Served with homemade biscuits and this is a very hearty and filling meal.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


1/4 lb lean ground beef, fried dry (without fat)
1/4 large onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, diced finely
1 green pepper, diced finely
1/4 tsp chicken powder
2 TBSP plain white flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup water

1. Fry the beef until cooked through. Add onions, garlic, and green peppers. Fry for about 2 minutes.
2. Add flour, chicken powder, salt, and pepper. Stir well to coat everything.
3. Add water and stir very well to prevent clumps. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, stir occasionally to prevent burning and clumping.

Serve with hot biscuits.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beef Pommes Anna

I learned about this dish the other day, and when I saw it being cooked, I was mesmerized. My mouth salivating, and I knew I had to replicate it as fast as possible.

But, as you know me by now, I always put a little twist on what is "conventional", and Pommes Anna was no different.

As I got out my mandolin, and figured out how to use it, as it really was the first time I'd ever done so, usually preferring to use a good ol' knife technique, I tried to think what I was going to do. I did not have any cheese to put between the layers, so what to do...?

I had planned to make meat balls and thought "why not just combine it all together?" So, I did. Served with fried eggs, this was a delicious dinner, but would make an amazing breakfast also, replacing regular hashed browns with Pommes Anna. You could also substitute the beef filling with corned beef, mixed with some finely diced onions. I think I will try that version for Sunday morning brunch!

And, as per usual, this is really easy to make, and it does not take long either.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


8 medium-size potatoes, sliced very thinly using a mandolin
1/4 lb lean ground beef
Garlic salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Leyla's House Steak Rub*
Oil (to grease pan)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

1. Grease the bottom and sides of an oven-proof round pan.
2. Lay the first layer of potatoes in a circular pattern starting in the center of the pan and working your way out. Brush lightly with butter and a little salt and pepper (you will repeat the butter brushing, salt and pepper on each layer of potatoes). Place layers of sliced potatoes until half the potatoes are used.
3. Place ground beef mix and spread it thinly as a layer.
4. Add another layer of potatoes, butter brush, salt, and pepper, over top of the beef, and continue with the layers until all the potatoes have been used.
5. Place pan over high heat and fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown. If you are using a frying pan, drain some of the oil off and "flip" the potato cake over using the lid as an aid. If you are using a deeper pot and can not do this, omit this step.
6. Place pan into a hot (450*F, 230*C or Gas mark 8) for 25 - 30 minutes.
7. With the help of a lid, drain off as much of the fat as possible. Place a plate over the pan, and over the sink, and in one motion, flip the pan upside down onto the plate. The Beef Pommes Anna will flip right out. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before cutting it and serving it.

* Leyla House Steak Rub

In a bowl, mix together:
White pepper
Garlic powder
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Fennel seeds
Chili powder
Ground Angelica

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lean Cuisine Recall, Here's a Safe, Healthy Alternative

A couple of days ago, Nestle Prepared Foods began receiving complaints from consumers in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, that they had found hard plastic in the Lean Cuisine frozen spaghetti and meatball dishes. As a result more than 10,000 pounds of Lean Cuisine frozen spaghetti and meatball dishes have been recalled.

This recall really got me thinking, and it really hit home to me that we have become a race of people where many rely on frozen dinners, and other microwavable convenient dishes as opposed to days-gone-by where women created meals from scratch consistently.

In my thinking about this, I remembered the time in Hong Kong when we got our very first microwave oven. For quite some time, we had heard people raving about the microwave and how convenient it truly was. So finally, my parents broke down and bought us one.

We tried it to heat left overs up, and it was amazing! Soon, Mum decided she was going to take this microwave to a whole new level and cook a meal in it!

My Dad and older sister were out of town on business, and so that meant that Mum and I were home alone for dinner.

She grabbed two chicken legs and seasoned them nicely, and then popped them on the glass plate (without anything underneath!). She put it on to cook for 15, then 25, then 35 minutes, and still this chicken was not cooking. After a combined time (opening and closing it at each time point) of almost two hours and Mum complaining that it is much faster cooking the "old fashioned way" compared to "this", we suddenly smelled a ghastly stench - there really is no other word to describe it! And began to see the microwave "cavity" filling up with a putrid smoke.

Mum rushed to stop the cooking process and opened the door to the microwave, which only let out the incredible stench that flooded into the kitchen, amongst smoke. And there, laying on the glass plate were our uncooked chicken legs, with a black tar oozing out of them.

They had cooked so long that the bones and surrounding meat had dissolved into a black tar that stuck to the glass plate like a super glue, never to be removed again. While the outside was still as raw as when Mum took them out of the fridge.

That was the end of that microwave, and Mum and I bundled ourselves in to a taxi headed for the closest restaurant.

It took Mum several more years before she would use a microwave again, in earnest. To this day, when she has something in the microwave, she never moves too far away from it "just in case" and keeps an eagle eye on the "process" inside the microwave cavity. And no item  is ever placed directly on to the glass plate without something under it... ever!

After that "disaster", we returned back to the way we had always done things, frozen meats were taken out in advance and placed on the counter on a plate to thaw slowly. Foods were cooked from scratch, and microwaveable dinners never even considered.

So, when I learned of the recall of the Lean Cuisine Spaghetti and Meatballs, it did not really phase me because it did not affect me. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about what I would do in substitute if what I had enjoyed eating, that was part of a diet plan, would be removed from me? And so I came up with this recipe for a light alternative that can be used over pasta according to your diet plan.

Happy Cooking, Happy Eating!


1/2 lb ground turkey meat
1 large egg white, beaten slightly with 1 tsp water
1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 TBSP fresh basil, chopped finely
1 TBSP fresh oregano, chopped finely
1/2 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 slice whole wheat bread, ground to coarse crumbs
Pinch of chicken powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying

1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
6 button mushrooms, diced coarsely
2 TBSP fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking

Choose whole wheat spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, optional

1. In a bowl, mix together the turkey meat, egg, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, bread crumbs, chicken powder, salt and pepper and mix together very well. Form into 2" balls and cook in a hot oiled (olive oil) frying pan, until browned on all sides. Remove from heat.

2. In a cooking pot, pour a small amount (approx 1/2 tsp) olive oil and bring to heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent.Add the garlic and cook until the aroma of the garlic wafts through the air.

3. Add the canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, carrots, celery and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for 20 minutes (covered - ensure liquid remains).

4. Add the turkey balls to the sauce and cover and cook an additional 10 minutes (stirring occasionally).

5. Add salt and pepper for taste and add the mushrooms. Cook for 3-5 minutes, then add the coriander for last minute of cooking, stirring the pot to incorporate it through.

Serve over whole wheat spaghetti and 1/4 - 1/2 tsp fresh Parmesan sprinkled over top.

Serves: 4 smaller portions