Before getting to today’s recipe, please allow me to thank you …

After last week’s post I received so many  comments, messages and emails and I am truly at a loss for words. The kindness, concern and compassion that you have all showed was heartwarming and I deeply appreciate it. I am fine. I know so many of you were concerned that I sounded depressed or worse yet, desperate but I really wasn’t. I was just venting and I really appreciate the fact that you listened. Thank you.

What do you pack when you’re an expat at the end of your vacation back home and you’re getting ready for another year away from your family and friends?

How do you capture the precious warmth and joy that you feel in their company? what can you take to help you get through the months of nostalgia?

Whenever we go back home for a visit, my mum prepares a love package for me and the kids, there are always new books and DVDs for the kids,a few props for my blog, her signature cookies, maamoul, Zaatar, nabulsi cheese and this apricot jam. My son loves jam but in his book, no store-bought could ever come close to his teta’s homemade apricot jam (teta is Arabic for grandma).

For the first few months after the vacation, I am fine, I miss everyone, but I manage to keep busy and keep my mind off it. But as the year rolls by and we get to the last couple of months before the summer break I struggle with longing and little details like opening a jar of my mum’s jam, tracing her handwriting on the lovely notes she sticks to the lids can drive me to tears.

Apricot jam by chef in disguise

We are obviously not in Autumn, so why am I posting apple recipes?
Well, I love apples! and this apple pie spice mix was one of the recipes on my homemade herb and spice blends  challenge. But those are not the main reasons why I am posting the recipe now.

Spice blends remind me of the trips I used to take with my dad to down town Amman. There was a time when you could only buy your spices and spice mixes at the old parts of the city. Sure, it is more convenient to have a supermarket or a mall around every corner where you can buy everything that you need (and don’t need) but I always found it enchanting to watch the process of making a spice blend.

After writing my post about the things I could not have prepared for when I moved the UAE a while back a major sandstorm hit the whole Gulf area. Heat and humidity can be annoying but a sandstorm is a completely different ball game!

For the month of May, it was my pleasure to host the Daring Cooks challenge

A year ago I hosted my first challenge, at the time, I chose cheese making because it is a wonderful skill to add to your repertoire. This time around I wanted to choose a challenge that represents my own heritage. Something Palestinian, something fun and tasty, something challenging but worth the trouble.

sourdough muffins with beautiful high domes

My relationship with sweet muffins can mostly be filed under the heading “disasters”. For years, I have  been looking for a muffin recipe that produced those beautiful domed muffins you usually buy at the bakery.  The results are usually either flat cup-cake like things or mini volcanos that spell oven the pan and the oven and result in hours of scrubbing and occasional cursing.

That chapter in my baking adventure finally came to an end this month with the sourdough surprises challenge.