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Today is the first day of Kwanzaa and like most holidays food plays a huge part in the celebration.

The first principle of Kwanzaa is Umoja which means unity.  Cooking together with friends and family is a great way to get started.

Here are some recipes to help get you started in celebrating Kwanzaa this year.

Benne Cakes

Benne cakes are a food from West Africa. Benne means sesame seeds. The sesame seeds are eaten for good luck. This treat is still eaten in some parts of the American South.


You will need: oil to grease a cookie sheet

1 cup finely packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup toasted sesame seeds


Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly oil a cookie sheet. Mix together the brown sugar and butter, and beat until they are creamy. Stir in the egg, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and sesame seeds. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are browned. Enjoy!

North African Lamb Kebobs


1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless leg or shoulder of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes with some of the fat attached

6 warm pita breads, for serving

Yogurt Dipping Sauce, recipe follows


In a large bowl, combine the onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, cilantro, mint, salt, cumin, paprika, pepper, and olive oil. Add the lamb to the marinade and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

Soak 8 to 10 bamboo skewers in warm water for about 1 hour before assembling the kabobs.

Preheat the grill to high, and lightly oil the grill grates to prevent sticking. Thread the lamb onto the soaked skewers and place on the grill, turning to evenly cook, about 12 to 14 minutes.

Drizzle the pitas with sauce, then wrap the pita around the meat on the skewer, fold over and twist the skewer off the meat. Serve.

For more recipes click here.

To find out more about Kwanzaa go to