Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sweet and Sour Chicken for One

Chinese take-out is an American classic. Everyone has their own favorite dish whether it be fried rice or kung pao chicken. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the take-out you get is subpar. Chinese restaurants are a hit or miss, depending on the amount of Chinese immigrants you actually have living in your area. We had some great Chinese restaurants in Atlanta, but Tennessee and Ohio have proved to be full of substandard Chinese fare. Plus, normally Chinese food is loaded with sodium and calories. You can amp up the healthy factor and the taste with my rendition of sweet and sour chicken.

Sweet and Sour Chicken for One (6)

Sweet and Sour Chicken for One
adapted from this recipe by Life in the Lofthouse
2 chicken tenders, cubed
¼ cup cornstarch
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tbsp canola oil
1 ½ tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
4-5 frozen broccoli florets
cooked rice, to serve

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Toss the chicken in the cornstarch until it completely coated. Then dip it into the egg yolks. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook the chicken for 30 seconds, flip and cook for another 30 seconds. (You just want to brown it, not cook it through.) Whisk together the ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic. Mix it with the chicken and pour into a baking ramekin. Bake for 50 minutes, removing the ramekin from the oven and stirring the chicken and sauce back together every 12 minutes. After 25 minutes, add the broccoli and proceed in cooking. Serve over rice.

Sweet and Sour Chicken for One (12)
The sauce is really what makes this dish. It takes plain old chicken and broccoli and makes them delicious. Cancel the take-out order for tonight. There will be no going back after your first bite of this sweet and sour chicken!

Saturday, November 29, 2014


It is actually Christmas time! Nobody can deny it now. The cornucopia and pumpkins have been put away to make room for tinsel and ornaments. I just love Christmas! It was nice to take a little break during Thanksgiving to spend time with my family. We did quite a bit of traveling (which is not too fun with a 2 year old), and were able to visit with some good friends and both sides of the family. I was stuffed with delicious food, got to catch up with a year's worth of family happenings, and managed to crank out a 12 page paper and 2 scarves. It has been quite a week.

Here is a gift card holder/ card combination. There is a pocket to slip in a gift card, and pulling on the ribbon.....
....pulls out a little card for the message. I chose a mistletoe theme for this one, and have not chosen who the well loved recipient will be.
26 more days until Christmas!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Sorry for the long absence of posts. I came home on Friday night/ Saturday morning for Thanksgiving break. We left on Friday at 12:30 pm, and I didn't get home until after 1 am. Sydney had surgery on her finger today. Tomorrow we are leaving for Georgia. Needless to say, it's been an eventful few days.


Do you know how Brussels sprouts grow? They grow on this super cool stalk that I had never seen before. I read about roasting an entire stalk of sprouts the other day, but had no clue where to buy one. My mom spotted one at the store the other day, and we just had to buy it. I roasted it up, and found the results to be quite tasty. Whether you love them or hate them, this is a recipe you have to try just because it is so cool.  My mom said that your like or dislike of Brussels sprouts is genetic. I obviously got my sprout loving genes from my dad because she cannot stand them!


Roasted Brussels Sprouts Stalk
1 Brussels sprout stalk, washed and dried
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put the whole stalk of Brussels sprouts on a baking pan, drizzle with oil, and season to taste. Bake for about 45 minutes. To remove the Brussels sprouts from the stalk, cut them with a knife.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Three Dish Dinner

The Southern African country of Malawi is mostly Christian, very poor, and the population is expected to triple by 2050. (That's some incredible growth!) About 12% of the people have HIV/AIDS, and 70% of hospital beds are filled with HIV/AIDS patients. A low life expectancy of 50 years adds to the widespread health crisis in the country. Malawi has been a republic since 1966, two years after their independence from the UK. The majority of the people are Chewas, a Bantu group.

 Meals in Malawi is based off three major components: a carbohydrate, a vegetable stew/ dish, and some sort of protein. The Malawians have some very high quality tea, and it is their second largesrt export crop. The staple cornmeal carbohydrate called nsima is a must if you are trying Malawian food, and fish is also pretty common. My menu for tonight was curried chambo fish, nsima, and futali, a peanut buttery vegetable mash.
Chambo fish are a favorite of the Malawians. Since chambo fish are native to Lake Malawi, a lake I have no hopes of getting to to go fishing in, tilapia was the best substitute I could find. It is another African fish from the same family as chambos.
Curried Chambo
serves 4
4- 4 ounce tilapia fillets (traditionally 4 whole chambo fish; cleaned, gutted, and descaled)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground piri piri
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup water
4 tbsp oil
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a pan. Add the fish and brown each side for a minute or two. Pour on the lemon juice.  Remove the fish to a baking dish and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil back over medium heat. Cook the onions and seasonings until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the carrot and water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Pour the onion mixture over the fish and bake for 8 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily.
I made a more porridge like form of nsima when I cooked Malawi for breakfast, and I absolutely adored it. The Malawians serve this stuff for three meals a day, so don't be surprised that it popped back up for dinner. To eat like a real Malawian, you need to pinch off little pieces of the mtanda (nsima patties) and eat it with your hands alongside meat and stews.
serves 4
1 cup white cornmeal
3 cups water
Heat the water in a small pot with a lid on over high heat. Stir in half of the cornmeal just before it starts to boil, whisking it so that there are no lumps. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium. Continue to stir constantly until the cornmeal mixture has become very thick. (It should just about form a ball.) Run a little cold water over a wooden spatula and scoop about ¼ a cup of the nsima out. Slap it onto your plate in the shape of a hamburger patty. Each individual serving of nsima is called a mtanda. Repeat with the remaining nsima.
Futali can be made with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cassava, or plantains. They are boiled down into a mash and then peanut flour is whisked in.
serves 4
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
1 cup peanut flour
2 cups water
Bring the water and sweet potatoes to a boil over high heat in a pot covered with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Mash the sweet potatoes and water together with a fork and thoroughly stir in the peanut flour, making sure not to leave any lumps. You may need to add more water at this point. Remove the pot from the heat and serve.
My only complaint about Malawi is that I am not much of a fish fan. Other than that, the meal was great. The curried chambo was nice and spicy, the futali was creamy and peanut buttery, and the nsima was a good side to take some of the heat out of the fish. Everything African continues to shine throughout this project. I cannot wait to try more!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stuffed Peppers!

My roommate requested that I make a salsa chicken recipe that she found for one of her dinners this week. I read the recipe and did what I always do to recipes: Make them my own! The way-too-simple salsa chicken recipe shares only the common ingredients of chicken and salsa. The rest was put under my imaginative construction.

This is my first stuffed pepper recipe on my blog. It was incredibly simple, so look forward to more! Quinoa was a great addition for an extra protein and fiber boost. The chicken and salsa were a perfect pair. And everything is better with cheese! Rachel loved them!
Mexican Chicken- Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
serves 2
2 bell peppers, seeded with the tops cut off
1/2 a bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup salsa
2 chicken tenders, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 tbsp. oil
3-4 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil over medium heat in a pan and cook the garlic, chicken, and chopped bell peppers until the chicken is cooked through. Add the salsa, quinoa, and taco seasoning. Mix well and remove from the heat. Pour a few tablespoons of water into a small deep baking dish and place the hollowed out peppers side by side inside of it. Fill the peppers with the chicken mixture, cover the baking dish with tin foil, and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the tin foil, cover the tops of the peppers with cheese, and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese melts.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Flavorful Dressing!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only a week away? I can't! I'm looking forward to turkey, dressing, roasted veggies, and all that good stuff that goes along with the most thankful day of the year. As you can see, my holiday appetite got ahead of me and I decided to make this delicious dressing ahead of time. Now you can enjoy it at your Thanksgiving feast.

A side note on the dressing:

I like to make my dressing outside of the turkey to prevent the turkey from not cooking properly and the avoid the risk of raw meat contamination. (I'm weird about my raw meat.) I found the addition of mushrooms and apples to an adapted version of my favorite dressing recipe to be delicious. And as for the name, it's dressing. Stuffing is for pillows and Teddy bears.

Mushroom Cornbread Dressing
For the corn muffins:
2 cups cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
¼ cup oil
2 eggs

For the dressing:
6 slices sandwich bread
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried thyme
2- 14.5 oz containers chicken broth
2 eggs
12 ounces white mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped
5 green onions, tops and bottoms removed and thinly sliced

To make the corn muffins, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a 12 hole muffin pan. Mix together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the wet. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Divide the batter between the muffin holes and bake for 18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool and then cut up into cubes.

To toast the breads, lay the sliced bread and corn muffins out on a baking pan and toast until nice and crispy, about 12 minutes. Flip it over halfway through the baking time to evenly toast. Allow the toasted bread to cool and then crumble it all in a large bowl.

Heat a skillet over medium heat with a little oil in the bottom. Sauté the onions until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the ovens from the skillet to the bowl with the bread and cornbread crumbs. Wash and dry the mushrooms and add them to the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat until they are tender and lightly brown.

Add the sliced green onions, thyme, sage, mushrooms, apples, and eggs to the bread crumb mixture. Mix thoroughly and then spread out onto a deep 9”x13” baking dish. Pour the broth evenly over the top. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pop Out Slider Cards

I made this pop out slider card using the instructions found on this very nicely formatted card making blog. There are tons of ideas, free tutorials, and videos that you can use. I love getting ideas from other crafters, and this is one of the better made blogs I have

Using Dawn's example and instructions, this is the Christmas card I made. You pull on the ribbon to make the picture of the reindeer and tree fold up and reveal the message inside.

Next week is Thanksgiving, and then only a few more weeks until Christmas. It's time to get crafting!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Baked Oats

I know, I know, you're sick of all the pumpkin recipes everywhere. Or maybe you're not. I don't care because fall is almost over, and I'll soon be posting about Christmas and the New Year. Let me revel in my last autumn-y recipes before it's too late. Tonight is a healthy and filling breakfast recipe for peanut butter and pumpkin baked oatmeal. Peanut butter and pumpkin are a beautiful pair, and they yield a delicious dish for a cold winter morning.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Baked Oats
serves 2
1 cup quick or old fashioned oats
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp honey
2 egg yolks or 1 egg
¼ cup peanut butter
¾ cup pumpkin puree

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and oil a ramekin. Mix the oats, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder together. Whisk the pumpkin together with the milk, eggs, peanut butter, honey, and oil. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until well mixed. Pour the batter into the ramekin. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Broil for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sweet Potato-Gruyere Pasta

I love thick, creamy, cheesy pasta sauces. They just warm you up and make you feel all good inside. Pasta is definitely one of the best comfort foods. This particular pasta dish makes an extra thick sauce that uses a fall favorite- sweet potatoes! They are a perfect complement to a healthy amount of gruyere cheese and basil.

Sweet Potato-Gruyere Pasta
serves 4-6
12 oz pasta, cooked according to the instructions on the package
¼ cup reserved pasta water
1 large sweet potato
8 ounces shredded gruyere cheese
3 cups milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
dried basil, to top
Pierce the sweet potato with a fork, place in a microwave dish with a little water, and microwave for 8-20 minutes, or until tender. Peel the sweet potato once it is cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a pot over medium heat until melted. Whisk in the flour for one minute, and then slowly pour in the milk, mixing until there are no more lumps of flour. Stir in the cheese until it is melted and the mixture is thick and bubbly. Allow it to cool slightly before blending with the sweet potato and reserved pasta water until creamy. Mix in the pasta and top with the dried basil.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Blend of Cuisines

Guyana is not to be confused with Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, the French Guinea, or Guinea Bissau, although all five of these countries have very similar names. A former colony of the Netherlands and England, Guyana is the only South American country whose native language is English. Most of the people speak the English based Guyanese Creole. 90% of the people live along a thin strip of coast at the north of Guyana. There are rich rainforests not accessible by humans and a savannah towards the south, making coastal living the best choice for building cities and industry.


You might be a little shocked that tonight's meal comes from South America. There are were tortillas, beans, or cheese made in any of tonight's four dishes. I can explain the strangely Caribbean, Indian, and Chinese flair that Guyanese cuisine tends to have. Even though it is technically connected to mainland South America, Guyana is considered part of the Caribbean because of it's Dutch and British roots. It did not have the Latin influence of other South American countries like Brazil and Argentina. About 43% of the population is Indian, making them the largest ethnic group. They are descendents from the indentured servants who came over from India in the mid 1800s. Lastly, Chinese food is very popular in Guyana. They even have their own type of chow mein and low mein noodles. This ethnic mixture influenced tonight's table. The main Chow Mein dish was served alongside Roti and an Indian eggplant dip called Baigan Choka. To accompany the meal I made a very smoothie-ish drink called Peanut Punch.


I cannot believe I made chow mein for a country in the Western Hemisphere. The more I researched, the more I learned that chow mein is a common dinner across Guyana. It is a little spicier than the Chinese variation thanks to the hot wari wari pepper. Chicken is commonly added. I think

Chow Mein
serves 4
12 oz Guyanese chow mein or spaghetti noodles, cooked according to the instructions on the package
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into strips
6 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
½ tsp ground ginger
1 each yellow, green, and orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
1 ½ cups green beans
1 wari wari pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp oil

Mix together the Chinese 5 spice powder, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, ginger, and chicken. Allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Cook the chicken for a couple of minutes on each side until it is done. In a large wok, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Sautee the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the sweet peppers, hot pepper, and beans. Cook for another 3-4 minutes before adding the cabbage and carrot. Once the cabbage wilts slightly (a couple of minutes), add the chicken, soy sauce, and noodles. Toss until everything is combined and heated through.


Here is an updated version of roti from the one I made when I cooked Guyana for breakfast. This flaky flatbread folded in layers of oil is perfect to go along with any meal.

makes 2
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup hot water
½ tsp oil, plus more as needed

Mix together the flour and baking powder. Stir in the water and ½ tsp of oil until everything is combined. Knead for about 8 minutes until a pliable dough has formed. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough sit for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into two balls, and roll them out into thin disks. Brush the tops with oil, cut a slit halfway down the middle, and roll them up like a cone. Cover again with the towel and let rest for 15 more minutes. Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Roll the dough balls out into large disks 1/8” thick. Cook them one at a time on the pan, flipping after the bottom is golden brown. Brush the top with oil, and flip when the other side is brown. Brush this side with oil as well. Quickly remove the bread from the skilled and clap out any air bubbles. Serve hot.


Spread this warm eggplant dip onto your roti for a true Indo- Caribbean side dish. Baigan means eggplant, and it is very similar to an eggplant dish served in India called Baingan Bharta.
Baigan Choka
1 eggplant
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ cup thinly sliced onion
1 tsp oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degree. Pierce the eggplant with a knife and slip the garlic in the holes. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the oil over medium heat until slightly golden but crispy. Peel and mash the eggplant together with the garlic and onion. Season to taste.


Peanut punch is a popular cold blended beverage that is found throughout the Caribbean. You can even find it in packaged variations. This smoothie-like drink was probably my favorite part of the meal.
Peanut Punch
serves 4
3 cups milk
6 tbsp peanut butter
6-8 ice cubes
sugar, to taste

Toss everything into the blender and blend until creamy.

Overall, I was not too thrilled with Guyana. I probably should have stuck to making dishes from on of the ethnic groups instead of creating a mixture that did not really go together. I did not hate it, but it all didn't really settle well together.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chicken Gyros

Gyros are the ultimate Greek junk food. They are like the Mediterranean twist of the standard American burger. I am a big fan of gyros (pronounced yeer-oh), but I didn't think that I could ever make that at home. You see, they are traditionally cooked on this enormous rotating spit. They are then shaved off and served atop pita bread with tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce. A side accompaniment is often the Greek version of fries (just like burgers!) A mixture of lamb and beef is usually the meat of choice for gyros here in the US, but in Greece chicken and pork are used.

As you can see, I went the Grecian route by making my gyros out of chicken. That's where the authenticity ends, though, since I used ground chicken, baked mine in the oven, and used oats and egg to kind of bind the mead together. It was a delicious twist off a worldwide favorite.
Oh, and just as a side note, tonight's recipe is not part of my Meals Around the World project. I just wanted to experiment with this recipe that I found for ground turkey gyro meat. Stay tuned for when I actually cook Greece. It is sure to be good and hopefully more authentic.
Chicken Gyros
inspired by this recipe
1/2 pound ground chicken
4 tbsp quick oats
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dehydrated oregano
1/2 tsp dehydrated parsley
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of cumin
2 tbsp. oil
pita bread
tzatziki sauce
crumbled feta
chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking pan with tin foil. Combine the chicken, oats, egg yolk, and seasonings. Mix until everything is incorporated. Spread the mixture out onto the tin foil to make a 9"x13" rectangle, about a quarter inch thick. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the cooked meat to cool slightly before cutting into thin strips. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat and fry the strips of meat for a few minutes until golden and crispy. Serve wrapped in the pita and topped with the tzatziki, feta, and veggies.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pumpkin Risotto

I've got more pumpkin madness heading your way! This time it is in the form of creamy, savory risotto!

My dad would quote Tom Colicchio off of Top Chef in saying to never make risotto. (Whenever someone on the cooking game show makes a risotto, they always seem to get out.) I would argue that this dish might win the whole competition. It's like a bowl of fall comfort food. Maybe it's not five star material, but it's good enough for me!
And if you're not the biggest pumpkin fan or are uneasy about using it in a savory dish (with cheese!), don't worry. The flavor has subtle, but delicious hints of pumpkin. Just try it.


Pumpkin Risotto
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 cup Arborio or brown rice
1 ½ cup chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic, sautéing until the onion is tender. Meanwhile, microwave the broth in a microwave safe container until it starts to boil. Add the rice to the sauce pan and stir constantly for a minute or two until it is lightly toasted. Pour in about ¼ to ½ cup of the broth and reduce the heat to medium. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the broth has been absorbed, add in a little bit more. Continue this process until all the broth has been absorbed and the rice is cooked, about 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the whipping cream, cheese, and pumpkin and simmer for a minute. Remove the pan from the heat and season to taste.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ribbon Christmas Tree

I just wanted to share this cute Christmas tree. I made it by cutting a tree out onto cardstock paper and hot gluing seasonal ribbon to the frame. I don't know if I will use it on a card or as an ornament, but I just thought I would share.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Feast of the Levant

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy located in the Levant region of the Middle East. The cuisine of Jordan is similar to other Levantine cuisines. A mezze of many different appetizer dishes is often served before the main meal. Food is a central social event to Jordanians, and they can spend hours snacking on mezze platters before enjoying an extensive, drawn-out meal. I know why. With food this good, I would want to eat all the time too!

For Jordan I made a mezze plate of Labneh (strained yogurt cheese), Moutabel (a spicy eggplant dip), feta cheese, and Manaqish (za’atar spiced flatbread). Alongside this I made a thick lentil soup called Shorbat Adas. The main event happened to be Jordan’s national dish, Mansaf. Layers of flatbread, rice, a creamy yogurt sauce, and then lamb or chicken are topped with fried pine nuts and almonds. Drooling yet? Let me share the recipes.

Moutabel is baba ganoush's spicier cousin. Baked eggplant is blended together with spicy chili peppers, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. Basil and mint are also sometimes added. It's all topped off with more herbs and olive oil. Be warned, though. It is spicy. If you are sensitive to heat, tone down the chili pepper a bit, especially the first time you make this.
1 eggplant
1 clove garlic (I microwaved mine for 30 seconds to give it a better flavor.)
½ tsp dried basil, plus more for topping
1 tbsp tahini
½ - 1 hot green chili pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with tin foil. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, place skin side up on the baking sheet, and roast for 30 minutes, or until tender. Allow the eggplant to cool. Meanwhile, use a food processor to process the chili pepper, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and dried basil together. Add the eggplant and process until it is still slightly chunky. Season to taste and serve topped with more dried basil and the olive oil.


Manaqish is a popular Middle Eastern flatbread pizza-like thing topped with za'atar seasoning. It is often served as a mezze dish, and can have many different toppings. Za'atar is the most common flavor, but cheese, ground lamb (which changes the name to sfiha), and spinach can be used. I actually made the Bahraini version of this for breakfast back in 2012.

makes 4
1 cup wheat flour
½ tsp sugar
½ cup warm water (100 degrees)
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp za’atar spice blend
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp lemon juice

Mix together the yeast, sugar, and water. Let it sit until the yeast starts to froth, about ten minutes. Mix in the salt and flour. Knead for 10 minutes until a pliable ball has formed. Cover with a damp towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size. Preheat your oven to 435 degrees, and mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, and za’atar. Divide the dough into 4 balls, and roll them out into about ¼” thick spheres. Spread the za’atar mixture on top, and bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.



This delicious soup could be a meal in itself. I loved the flavor and thickness of it. You could easily make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth to create a wonderful meat free meal. This soup is even mentioned in the Bible. Jacob buys Esau's birthright by giving him a bowl of lentil soup and bread when Esau comes back hungry from starving. It must have been some pretty good soup to trade your entire inheritance for plus the position of being the oldest son.
Genesis 25: 29-34
29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.[d])
31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.
32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.

Shorbat Adas
1 cup red lentils
6 cups chicken broth
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp oil
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally and season to taste.



Jordan's national dish is a plate piled high with delicious goodness. Mansaf literally means large tray or dish. It's a Friday night or special occasion family meal for obvious reasons. (The cooking process would not make it in Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals category.) You can make it with lamb or chicken. Lamb is more traditional, but a little too expensive for my budget. I was happy when I read that chicken is often used as well. The thick yogurt sauce is made from jamid, a fermented and dried yogurt. Thick Greek yogurt is a good substitute.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or lamb, cubed
½ an onion, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp allspice
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups Greek yogurt
1 egg white
1 cup reserved boiling water
1 tbsp corn starch
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup blanched and slivered almonds
olive oil, as needed
1 cup dry basmati rice, cooked according to the directions on the package
khubz, or other flat Middle Eastern bread

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add your meat of choice and brown each side for about a minute. Remove the meat to a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion in a little oil over medium heat until translucent, but not browned. Add the onion and cinnamon stick to the simmering chicken once it has been cooking for 30 minutes. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Add extra water if needed, and reserve 1 cup of the broth at the end.

To make the yogurt sauce, whisk the yogurt, reserved broth, spices, egg white, and cornstarch together. Bring this to a boil, stirring constantly. (I read that you are only supposed to stir to the left to prevent the yogurt from curling. I don’t know if this is legit or an old wives’ tale, but I did it anyway.) Boil for one minute, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue to stir until the sauce has thickened up. Add the meat and cook for 2 more minutes.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat and fry the almonds and pine nuts until golden brown. Remove them from the pan immediately to prevent burning.

Place the bread on a plate, top with the rice, and then drizzle on some sauce. Next layer on the meat and sprinkle the nuts over everything. Serve from the platter family style with no utensils for an authentic Jordanian experience.

Wow, Jordan blew me away! Absolutely delicious. The worst part was waiting for it all to cook. I definitely will be making the lentil soup again. It was delicious! I cannot complain about anything else, either. My roommate is applying for an internship in Jordan this summer, and I just may have to join her.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

More homemade cereal!

Crunchy, filling delicious, and cheap, homemade cold cereal is the way to go. The store bought kind is so over rated. The good types cost a fortune, and the cheap no name boxes taste like cardboard. Making your own cereal is pretty easy, tastes better, is cheaper, and there is not a huge list of unrecognizable ingredients. My peanut butter cereal recipe yields four bowlfuls of rich protein packed spoonfuls with the perfect crunch. It's like eating a bowl of peanut butter- but better!

pb cereal (1)
Peanut Butter Cereal
serves 4
¾ cup peanut flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp baking powder
1/3 cup applesauce
1 cup milk
2 egg whites

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Blend the oats in a high speed blender until they become a flour. Stir together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients until they are well mixed. Roll the mixture out between 2 pieces of baking parchment paper. Evenly roll out the dough to make a 9”x13” rectangle. Bake on a large pan between the two sheets of parchment paper for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and turn down the temperature to 275 degrees. Using a pizza cutter, cut the enormous cereal rectangle into small squares. Spread out onto 1 or 2 baking sheets. Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until crisp.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Couscous for Everyone!

It's Wednesday night again and that means that it's time to cook another country! I was excited to cook tonight's feast from Algeria. This African country located in the Maghreb region between Morocco and Libya. 90% of Algeria is covered with desert. Most Algerians are of Berber decent and are devout followers of Islam. It's a pretty lost country that desperately needs Christ. I will be sure to pray for Algeria as I reflect on my yummy meal and someday hope that these wonderful cooks can learn the wonders of eternal salvation.


The cuisine of Algeria is and African- Mediterranean- Middle Eastern mix that is simply divine. There are also some hints of French and Jewish influence as you will see with my side dish for tonight. The Algerians like to use lots of carbs be it the small balls of pasta called couscous or a delicious hunk of fresh semolina bread. There is hardly any pork, though, since over 98% of the country follows Islam. Chicken and lamb are the meats of choice instead, either served over couscous, with bread, or with both!

Couscous, or kesksou, is Algeria's national dish. There are countless variations topped with vegetables, lamb, beef, chicken, or raisins and mint for a sweet dessert. Traditionally the meal is made in a large tagine. The vegetables or meat are cooked in a broth in the bottom section and the couscous is steam cooked from the moisture rising to the top. I wish I had a tagine to make it traditionally, but my veggie couscous dish turned out great with my westernized improvisations.

serves 4
2 zucchini, cut into 1” strips
2 squash, cut into 1” strips
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1” strips
3 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp oil
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
½ cup chicken broth
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dehydrated cilantro
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups dry couscous
1 ½ cups boiling water
pat of butter (optional)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is golden brown. Add the zucchini, squash, and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the chicken broth, spices, and chickpeas. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes and then cook uncovered for an additional five minutes. Meanwhile, combine the couscous and boiling water together. Cover, and allow the couscous to sit for 5 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Stir in a pat of butter if desired. Serve the couscous topped with the veggie mixture.


When I think of Algerian food, I generally don't picture spinach or gruyere cheese, but this recipe for slk fel kousha was on several Algerian food blogs. I guess it makes since with Algeria's previous status as a French colony. They must have brought some fancy cheese over with them to share with this couscous loving culture.

Slk Fel Kousha
serves 4
1 onion, chopped
2- 12 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed
1 tbsp oil
½ cup ground chicken or beef
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ounce shredded gruyere cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and heat a skillet with the oil over medium heat. Cook the onion until translucent. Add the ground meat and cook until browned. Meanwhile, squeeze out any excess moisture from the spinach and add it to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes and season to taste. Divide the mixture between four baking ramekins and top with the shredded cheese. Bake for 10 minutes and then broil for 1-2 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.

Bread is an Algerian staple served at every meal. Kesra is a very popular semolina flatbread cooked in a tagine over a flame. Bread has a very significant value to the Algerian culture, and is seen as life's sustenance. I made my kesra into miniature loaves in a small skillet, but feel free to make one large bread in a bigger tagine. It would be more traditional.

Kesra Matlou
serves 4
2 cups semolina flour
¼ tsp sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp oil
¾ to 1 cup warm water (100 degrees), as needed

Mix together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Drizzle in the oil and then slowly add the water until a nice soft dough has formed. Knead for about 10 minutes. Cover your dough ball with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise for about 90 minutes. Divide the dough into 4 even balls, cover with plastic wrap, and allow them to rest for another hour. Heat a buttered pan over medium heat. Flatten each dough ball into a sphere about ½” thick and prick with a fork. Cook them individually on the pan, flipping to cook each side until golden brown.
All week I have been dreaming of cooking this meal. I love the North African and Mediterranean flavors, and I was excited about the Algerian recipes I had found. My verdict? I love Algeria! The kesra was a delicious experience as I had never tried a semolina based bread before. Wow. The flavor is amazing- so much better than wheat bread! The couscous and vegetables were perfectly spiced with a bit of heat coming from the cayenne pepper. Yum! And my seemingly out of place spinach dish was heavenly. Pack me up for the next plane to Algeria. I could eat this stuff for the rest of my life. (If only I had a tagine....)