Thursday, February 16, 2017

Syrian Beef Kabobs

To represent Syria in our 7 Countries Dinner, I made Syrian Beef Kabobs.  We've had similar kabobs before, when we had an Afghan food night once.  These Syrian kabobs paired beautifully with all of our other food, and we really enjoyed them.

Syrian Beef Kabobs
adapted from Food

2 lbs fatty ground beef, like chuck (I used half lean, half fatty)
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2⁄3 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons salt
1 lemon, juiced
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 dashes cayenne
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1⁄3 cup pine nuts
oil, to brush on grill rack
lemon wedges, for serving
pita, for serving, optional

1.  Combine all ingredients but oil, lemon wedges, pita and salad in a bowl, and knead very well into a paste. (I combined ingredients in my food processor- was easiest way to make it pasty.)

2.  Hold a flat metal skewer - not nonstick, and at least 12 inches long - point up in one hand. Dip other hand in a bowl of water, take a handful of meat mixture and form it around base of skewer in a small sausage shape with pointed ends. Repeat, working your way up the skewer. Each skewer should hold three or four kebabs. (You can also just form meat into large patties.)

3.  Lay finished skewers on a sheet pan, and smooth kebabs with fingers, making sure they are fairly smooth and secured on skewers. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

4.  Prepare charcoal grill, or turn gas grill to medium-low. Spray or brush oil on clean grill rack, and set within a few inches of the fire. Fire should not be too hot, and rack should be at least several inches from heat source.

5.  When rack is heated through, gently squeeze the kebabs to be sure they are secure on the skewers, and place skewers on grill. Meat should start sizzling gently; it should not spit and turn black. Cook undisturbed until deep brown, at least 7 minutes. When meat lifts easily from grill, slide a spatula under kebabs and turn over. Continue grilling until browned on both sides and juicy, but cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes total. Serve hot with lemon wedges and pita that has been warmed on the grill. 

**This post and photos are property of**

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sudanese Ful Medames

This is the second dish I'm featuring from our Seven Countries Dinner.  These fava beans (and fava beans, period) are very popular in other countries as well, especially Egypt and the Middle East.  I was able to find canned fava beans in my well-stocked local international store.  This is the Sudanese version.  We also read the book "Brothers in Hope" about the lost boys of Sudan, displaced because of the civil war.  It's a children's book, but it's great for everyone.

Sudanese Ful Medames
adapted from Simply Fresh Dinners

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 14 ounce can of fava beans
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small onion, diced
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
juice from 1 lemon-add to taste
salt to taste
¼ cup organic vegetable broth, optional (I didn't use)
1 tomato, chopped
olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
optional garnishes- mint, red pepper, onion, lemons, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cucumber, pitas, naan.

1.  Drain and rinse fava beans.  (You can save some liquid to use later, if you want.) Mash ½ of the beans with a fork. (mashing will give the dish a thicker consistency).

2.  Heat olive oil in medium sized skillet on medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until softened, approximately 5 minutes. Add beans, cumin, paprika, lemon and salt, mixing well and cook for 5 minutes on medium. During this time you might want to add the vegetable broth or more olive oil (or bean juice) if it is too dry. Add your choice of liquid slowly until reaching the desired consistency.

3.  Serve with chopped tomatoes (I accidentally cooked tomatoes with beans- it was still good) and parsley, drizzling olive oil on top. Top with optional garnishes, if desired. 
**This post and photos are property of**

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Libyan Chicken Soup with Thyme

Last Saturday, our family have a "Seven Countries Meal".  I found and made recipes from each of the countries on the new "immigration ban list"- Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. We took this opportunity to educate our kids on the good things about these countries, and we had books available about all of them.  One way to educate yourself on a country is through that country's food. Education is the antithesis of ignorance.  This is our little way to resist.  I'll be featuring the recipes here, and I'm starting with this one from Libya.  (All of the flavors and food went together so well- it was a very special experience. I found new foods I love, that I otherwise might have never been aware of.)
Our meal; from left bottom, going counter-clockwise; Libyan soup, Syrian beef kabobs, Iranian yogurt kip, Somali rice, Sudanese fava beans, Iraqi fudge, and Yemeni flatbread in the middle.

Libyan Chicken Soup with Thyme (Sharba Libiya bil Dajaj wa Alzatar)
adapted from Libyan Food

400g raw chicken legs* (a little less than a pound- doesn't have to be exact)
1 medium onion
1 medium tomato
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
7 cardamom pods, split open
7 cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp chili powder (spicy or not)
1 tsp tumeric
salt and pepper
fresh thyme as needed (you can use dried thyme instead )
1/3 cup orzo pasta
11/2 litre water (a little more than 6 cups)

1.  Heat oil in a pot, add chopped onion, drop in the cardamom (smash them with the bottom of a drinking glass to split), cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaf, stirring until the oil is infused. Add the chicken,* (author removes skin, but I left it on), tomato paste and stir. Add the chili powder, turmeric powder , fresh tomatoes, and parsley, a cup of water, cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Then add the remaining water and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes.

2.  Remove the chicken pieces, cinnamon sticks and bay leaf. De-bone the chicken pieces and cut into bite-sized chunks set aside. Add the remaining amount of parsley, and orzo, cook for another 10-15 minutes.

3. Turn of the heat, drop the chicken pieces back in, rub a handful of dried thyme between the palms of your hand straight into the pot, then give the soup a final stir.
**This post and photos are property of**

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Strawberry Banana Oat Smoothie

I made this smoothie recently when one of my kids was home sick.  He needed a healthy snack.  Of course, he barely ate anything since he never eats in the first place.  But at least I enjoyed my portion! I like using oats in smoothies, but I need to blend them up better next time.
Strawberry Banana Oat Smoothie
adapted from Cooking Classy

1 cup unsweetened almond milk or 1% milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 cups (9 oz) frozen strawberries
1 1/2 frozen bananas
1/2 cup quick oats or old fashioned oats
1/2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Add all ingredients to a blender, cover and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
**This post and photos are property of**

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Joy the Baker's Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I have a recipe I really love for Cream Cheese Pound cake, but I wanted to try this other recipe from Joy the Baker.  It is a tiny bit different and also makes just one loaf cake (instead of a huge bundt cake). I actually make this for Christmas Eve.  I covered the top with a white chocolate ganache, but I would have actually just preferred to eat this plain; I love pound cake so much.

PS: I only had salted butter; I used that and just reduced the salt a bit.

Joy the Baker's Cream Cheese Pound Cake
from Joy the Baker's Cookbook pg. 189

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (or Neufchatel), softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 325 F.  Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan and set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until soft.  Add butter and sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and stir until blended.  Add eggs one at a time, beating on medium for about a minute after each addition.  Scrape down bowl with a silicone spatula as necessary.

4.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.  Stop the mixture and finish folding the batter with a silicone spatula.

5.  Transfer batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, check on the cake, rotate it, and cover with foil or move to a higher rack if browning too quickly.  Bake another 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan 20 minutes; then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
**This post and photos are property of**

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Zucchini-Potato Soup

Back in November, our neighbors had us over for dinner and it was wonderful again.  They made this soup, and then salad, curry chicken and roast potatoes.  I brought them this Cranberry Cake and they LOVED it.  Anyway, we loved the soup, especially my 5-year old.  I asked how they made it and the answer was "just cook potatoes and zucchini in chicken broth, use the immersion blender, and then add some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese."  So a little while later, I made this soup at home.  It was easy and very flavorful.  One could add other flavors in, like garlic or onions, but I wanted to keep this simple, like my neighbor's version.  I was very happy with it.
Zucchini-Potato Soup

4-6 small to medium zucchini, chopped coarsely (dont' peel) (use to taste- no wrong amount)
1 large potato, peeled (I used a yellow-fleshed potato)
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
Grana or Parm-Reg cheese

1.  Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot, except cheese and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until veggies are tender.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  If it's too thick, add more broth.  Add the cheese, about 1/2 cup, and then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with croutons and extra grated cheese.
**This post and photos are property of **

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Roasted Carrots

You probably don't need a "recipe" for roasted carrots, but here it is anyway.  :)  I haven't made anything new in forever, and we're recovering from the holidays, so I need to get back into the swing of things and make some new dishes.  I actually made these months ago.  I made cabbage with the carrots, but we weren't fans of the cabbage as much, so I'll just stick with carrots for this post.  (You can see the cabbage in the pic.)  We actually had this with some Serbian sausages we brought back from Croatia back in October (so I guess it's been 3 months since I made these carrots!)

Happy New Year, BTW.

Roasted Carrots

1/2 - 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise into fourths
olive oil
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil.  Place cut carrots onto baking sheet and shake around to coat with oil, drizzling more on top if necessary.  Top with salt and pepper, and place in the oven to roast.  Roast for 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time. Check if they are tender enough. They should also be a little browned.  If they are not tender or browned enough, leave them in until they are.
**This post and photos are property of **