Insomniac

Night falls, I lay my head to sleep

Then the sedating silence is broken 

As thoughts begin to creep

Guilt calls, saying “It’s been a while

That we haven’t gone over failures,

Or the memories you had as a child”

Sleep’s gone, and so has the peace

If only our thought patterns had a switch

I’d turn off the anxieties

I’d rest my head on that pillow

And dive into a sea of tranquility

And while this body is weary

I can’t meet its simple needs

Because the heart is roaming freely

And the mind’s agenda impedes

Sleep is a necessity

Only when there’s nothing to miss 

When there’s no inspiration to guide you

Through a world of writing bliss

Sometimes I envy the oblivious

Who are not shaken or stirred

Their hearts are void of anguish

Their heads are void of words

That they must unload like baggage

Too heavy to carry around

If only I were just as unaware

If only the world just passed me by

Without a trace, without a sound

I am more

That day you provoked my demons

You didn’t know

I was more to what you were seeing

When you shot your arrow

You were aiming at my heart

But you missed it by far

You may have broken my wing

But you failed to see my claws

And just because I don’t roar 

Doesn’t mean I have no voice

And just because I don’t pounce

Doesn’t mean I had no choice

That day you called on your angels

Believing you were a saint

Was the day I decided I’ll never be afraid

I’ll never tremble under the pressure

To be what you want me to be

I’ll only seek my own pleasure

And fight for my own beliefs

My happiness waits for no one

Especially you 

Your doubts won’t shake me

I will pull through

I believe in the power of my dreams

And all the things only I can see

Someday, believe it or not, 

They’ll become a reality

No day is ever guaranteed

Good morning, Sunday!

I’m filled with gratitude to be alive on this beautiful yet rainy day. The rain instills a sense of comfort within my soul, somehow. It’s the fact that I’m living on this very day that I’d like to talk about. The fact that no day is ever guaranteed to us humankind, and yet we take each and every one for granted. Every breath, every ray of light that hits our retina as we sleepily open our eyes and snap out of our drowsy  daze. They are not ours for the taking, yet generously given away by the Creator of life; To test us, perhaps, to examine our gratitude further with daily pressures and mishaps; to remind us that, despite the illusion of control we feed with organizers, checklists and strict schedules, things can and will go off track, not necessarily to our disadvantage. It is our attitude that shouldn’t change with every endlessly changing day. The faith to accept the unseen. The gratitude to embrace each moment, painstricken or painsfree, and take the day with a smiling heart. 

Today is Sunday, make it worthwhile; spend it wisely, playfully, freely, generously, spend it with family, kids, friends, colleagues. Don’t let any gloomy weather discourage you from spotting colorful rainbows. 
Have a great day, everyone

~ Zeina

Balluza: A dessert and a memory

Today I decided to try out a recipe that I’ve been meaning to make for over 6 years since I discovered it in one of mom’s Arabic cookbooks. I wonder why I waited that long to finally give in to a sugar and dairy craving. This rarely happens, but I guess I was intimidated by the number of dirty pots and pans that will be piled up when the masterpiece is done. One would hardly call a pudding a masterpiece, but who wouldn’t admire the contrast of white creaminess and bright orange “syrupiness” layered beautifully in an elegant glass serving cup?
  
The Balluza is a classic mhalabiyé (mahalabiyah, sweet milk pudding) dessert with an additional layer of orange juice thickened with cornstarch over heat. I’ve read that this sweet has Syrian roots but I remember my grandmother (who was purely Lebanese) and aunt making it for many years. I also remember my grandma’s open fridge (and cupboard and drawer) policy and how comforting her food was. I wanted to revive some of my childhood and adolescence memories of grandma today through this walk down culinary Memory Lane. I must admit that I will never come close to her talent. She, like many women of her time, was illiterate and couldn’t decipher a single letter of any cookbook you might hand her, yet her skill was matchless. Her love for the kitchen could be felt in every bite and sip. 

Grandma was the barakah (blessing) of the family, the soul that united us all, first and second and third generations, every Saturday over breakfast and every Eid (holiday) feast. When we lost her 12 years ago, little did we know that we had lost more than just a remarkable pious kind old woman. We had lost the very heart of the family. I’ve missed her wisdom, serenity and patience. I’ve missed her touching bedtime stories, her humor and giggles. I’ve missed her delicious extra-large kibbé (fried meat and bulgur balls stuffed with minced meat), the largest I’ve ever seen yet. I’ve missed the way she used to call my name and how she would take my side when mom and I quarrel. She loved her grandchildren very dearly and took pride in their achievements. She died a happy woman, I’m sure. She had all of her daughters and son by her side when she took her last breath. In days like these, you’re very lucky if you’re Lebanese and all your children live in this country with their children. It’s very unlikely that I’ll live to 87 like granny, but I do wish to die her peaceful death having lived a fulfilling peaceful life, such as hers. 

  
Going back to the balluza recipe, you might want to give it a try too. You could start off with a regular rice pudding instead of a milk pudding. It’s totally up to your preference. I garnished my set pudding with ground pistachios and sliced almonds. 
Here are the ingredients: 
For the mhalabiyé (milk pudding):

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4 cups whole milk

3 TBSP cornstarch

1 cup sugar

1 tsp orange blossom water

1 tsp rose water

For the orange layer:

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3 cups orange juice

3 TBSP cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

Method:

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Mix 1 cup milk with 3 TBSP cornstarch, add to rest of milk and bring pot to boil over medium-low. Add sugar. Continue to whisk throughout cooking time. When milk thickens, add rose and orange blossom waters. Pour pudding into serving bowls or glasses, filling only half-way through. 

2- As the milk pudding cools, prepare the orange syrup by adding 3 TBSP of cornstarch to 3 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice. Add sugar and whisk thoroughly until mixture thickens as it comes to a boil. 

3- Pour orange syrup over mhalabiyé and place all bowls in fridge till they set.

4- Serve garnished with ground pistachios or chopped almonds, if you prefer. 

I hope you make this comforting, tangy/creamy dessert soon. Let me know if you do and if you have any pudding recipes you’d like to share in the comments below. 
Have a warm evening, everyone!
~Zeina