Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chili Mac

Have any of y'all had hamburger helper? I think you either love it or hate it. Me, I love it. That delicious fake cheese sauce and god knows what else with a pound of hamburger is yummmmyyyyy. My mom never made it for us, but my dad made it a few times when my mom couldn't cook or was out of town. I loved it.

But I've decided to ban all preservatives from my diet, so hamburger helper is probably one of the worst processed foods you can ever eat. It's high in sodium and trans fat. I decided to attempt my own version of hamburger helper, minus the trans fat And sodium.


1 box of elbow macaroni
1 pound of ground beef
1 8 oz can of rotelle diced tomatoes ( the garlic and green peppers one.)
1/2 a packet of taco seasoning
1 medium red onion
1 one diced bell pepper
1 8 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 cloves smashed garlic
1 teaspoon of cumin.
1 12 oz package of shredded taco cheese or Mexican cheese
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of butter
2 cups of milk
Salt and pepper

Boil your pasta, make it al dente and drain it.
In a large skillet, add a little bit of olive oil and heat it up. Add your chopped onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Sauté over medium heat until soft.
Add the ground beef. Cook throughly.
Add the can of diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes on medium heat.
Add the half packet of taco seasoning.
Turn the temperature down to medium low heat, and let the sauce simmer a little bit for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once it's done cooking, taste it and see if it needs salt.
Take another pot, and melt the butter on medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and then keep wisking into it forms into a paste and all the flour is slightly golden. ( your making a roux.)
Wisk in the milk, and turn the heat up to medium high. Let it come to a boil, and whisk it the entire time. ( this will take about 10 minutes.) once it becomes thick like a béchamel sauce, take it off the heat and put in about 8 oz of cheese. Stir it unti the cheese melts.
Combine the finished meat sauce, cheese sauce and pasta in a greased casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes on 375, until the cheese starts to get golden and bubbly.

Enjoy!!!! :)

Lard Rant

There is a bakery in town that has delicious bread. I buy it sometimes, such as their basil pesto bread, or sun dried tomato bread. I've been going there since I've moved here. Lately, me and the hubby have been discussing the dangers of preservatives. Have you ever looked at your package of bread from the grocery store? It contains very little yeast, flour, and water. Instead it is a list of chemicals and stuff I can't pronounce. So I decided, hey let me pay a little more and I'll buy some fresh bread from the bakery. Today I headed to the bakery, and decided to ask what exactly their ingredients were in their bread.

" hmmm, I'm not really sure. Yeast, flour, sugar, water.." She pauses for a minute.

Me: " Oh that's it? That's great! I'll start buying bread here weekly."

" Oh yeah, we also put lard."

LARD?!?!? That was the first time I've ever heard of Italian bread having lard. My jaw literally dropped. I've read ALOT of bread recipes, and I've rarely encountered lard. Shortening sure. But lard?!? The only other bread I know that sometimes uses lard are tortillas.

I informed them that an ingredient like that is something one should mention, because many people do not eat pork. And a lot of people don't eat lard for medical reasons, such as hmmmm heart attacks. Needless to say, I was mad.

Oh well. I will move on from this tragedy. People! Before you buy bread at a bakery ask them for their ingredients.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lentil Yumminess

So I recently joined a book club here in town. Minor problem, every book they've done so far I've already read. SO I haven't been even going to the book club meetings. I just got the email for next months club, and its a book that I've already read. It's called White Tiger, and it's a very gripping novel. I think I will have to suggest August's book club choice, so it'll be something I haven't read yet.

So today I will share with you my go to recipe when I can't think of anything to cook, and I always have the ingredients in my house. I call it, Mujadara. Desi's call it Kichri. Masri's call it Kuchari. Mujadara is an easy dish, but its all about getting your liquid measurements right.


- 1 cup of rice ( I only cook with Jasmine rice, unless I'm stuffing something.)
- 1 cup of green lentils
- 6 cups of chicken broth
- 1 large vidalia onion
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of butter

That's it! =)

- First, take your rice and soak it as your preparing everything else.
-Now, slice the onion, and take about a quarter of the onions and a little bit of olive oil and saute them in a pot. Let them get soft, and then add the chicken broth and the lentils.
- Bring the lentils to a boil, and then let them simmer. You have to check the lentils by tasting them. You want them to be halfway done, so somewhat soft but still have a bite to them. For me, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get them to this stage. If they get completely cooked, then your Mujadara will be mushy. 
- Now, strain the lentils and onions out, and save 3 and a half cups of cooking liquid.
- Combine the 3 and a half cups of broth and lentils and onions in the pot. Bring to boil, strain the rice, add some salt, and dump it in. Bring it to a boil again. Once it boils, but it on LOW heat, and cover. Cook for exactly 16 minutes.
- In the last 5 minutes of cooking the rice, take a frying pan and melt the butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add the rest of the sliced onions. Saute them on medium high heat until they start to brown and become crispy. This takes about 10 minutes or more. Be sure your constantly stirring it, because it burns easily.
- Once the rice is done cooking remove it from the heat, add the contents of the frying pan ( onions and the butter and olive oil) into the rice. Stir it so that it is absorbed into the rice. Cover it and let it sit for 5 minutes.

And its done! I usually serve this with a cucumber, garlic, and mint yogurt sauce. = )

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why Can't We All Get Along?

I know my blog is entitled my life through meals and books, but today I'm going to talk about a Movie I just watched.

I live in a city that has a huge orthodox Jew population. Their is an entire part of the city that is dominated by temples, kosher delis, and Jewish bookstores. This part of town also has a restaurant that serves kimchi fried rice (delicious), so I frequent this part of town often. Growing up, I've always been taught at my mosque, at home, at my Islamic school, to respect all religions. I have had friends from all different faiths.

When I first went to this area, I saw a lot of Jewish women with head coverings, and I thought that was really cool, almost bonding us in this secret society that the outside world doesn't take a part of. I started smiling at other women as I saw them on the street. Sometimes I receive puzzled looks. I found this confusing.

I think the problem I'm facing here is that everyone is divided in their neighborhoods and groups that some people are not exposed to each other in a positive manner. Therefore, for some people, a friendly smile from a Muslim person might be weird. They probably think Muslims are supposed to hate all other religions (which is totally against our religion.) Unfortunately, due to propaganda, so called "Muslims" who misinterpret Islam and ruin it for the rest of us, many people believe that Muslims are taught to hate all other religions.

Why this long rant? Because it ties into the awesome movie I just watched called "Arranged".

The movie is about a Muslim woman and an Orthodox Jewish woman working together in an elementary school in Brooklyn. It explores their expectations from their families and the friendship they develop from sharing many of the same values. This movie was great. Why?Because the Muslims were not terrorists and beating their wives. The Jews weren't miserly and loud mouthed. Instead, it portrayed Muslims and orthodox Jews accurately and as human beings. It was authentic and heart warming, and most importantly, shows us how we can all bridge the gaps we have between people of different faiths and societies. I think everyone should watch this movie so we can understand each others cultures. More importantly, it'll encourage us to reach out with a friendly smile to people different then us and open up the doors of understanding and break down all the barriers we have built.

Go watch it!! It's on netflix. And make your friends watch it too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Comfort Food

So I just finished reading this book, and its called Lucky Girl. I must say, it was very interesting. The book is about this young Taiwanese girl who was adopted by an American family at the age of 8 months. She later goes back to get to know her Taiwanese family, and discovers her heritage. Now usually, books like this are sappy and she uncovers some deep dark family secret. But this book is a true story, and it really goes through the emotions and perils of adoption. It's very well written, entertaining, and my favorite part, brutally honest. Definitely worth reading. Heres a link to the book:

Lucky Girl: A Memoir

Now, my post is entitled: Comfort Food. All of you know, everytime I post a recipe, I tell you its my favorite food. But, those of you close to me know that I absolutely love anything cooked with yogurt. Yogurt pasta, Kiba fi labaniya, Mahshi Ajoor, shish barak etc, etc. So now I shall share with you my favorite yogurt recipe, ( #2 being my greek yogurt pasta.)


The name alone sounds comforting. Shukur means to give thanks, and Shakriya almost sounds like it is thanking you for eating it.  Everytime I eat this meal, I feel like all is well in the world, and I want to personally thank the delightful combination of meat, yogurt, and rice in my plate.And I do, by enjoying every last bite of it. I think I'm a fat person living in a thin person's body, desperately and slowly coming out.

So heres the recipe, enjoy! =)

1) 2 pounds of stew meat OR if your feeling particular rich that day, two pounds of cut up ribeye ( without the bone.)
2) 1 Large onion sliced
3) 2 tablespoons of allspice ( Or arabic pepper, that brown powder.) 
4) 12 cups of water
5) 2 large containers of GREEK yogurt ( you cannot use any other kind of yogurt, only  greek. You can find this @ publix, trader joes, most organic food stores.)

and thats it for the ingredients! How simple is that?

Now to prepare the food.

Take a large pot and melt a teeny bit of butter and some olive oil, and add the stew meat and onions and a sprinkle of salt. Brown the stew meat a little bit and then add the water and allspice.
Bring it to a boil, and then turn the heat down and let it simmer for one hour.
After one hour, check the stew meat. It should be done and tender. If you cook it on high for an hour, its going to get very chewy and hard. The key is to cook it on medium to low heat, just so that its simmering, so that it slowly cooks and becomes tender.
Near the end of cooking your meat, take out another large pot, and put it on medium low heat. Take the greek yogurt and dump it into the pot. You have to constantly wisk it until it becomes liquidy and warm. Once its warm and more liquid like, turn the heat off. You cannot let it boil. If it boils, the yogurt will fall apart. If it does fall apart, just put it in a blender, or use a handmixer like I do.
Slowly start to add the stew meat water. I usually do a cup at a time and wisk it in. You need about 9 to 10 cups, depending on how watery you want it. If you want it thicker, then add less water. Once your done, keep wisking it. Again, if the yogurt falls apart ( and it should'nt if you are wisking) use blender or hand mixer.
Strain the meat and onions out and add it to the yogurt mixture. At this point you can taste it and add salt if you want or more allspice, but I usually let whoever is eating to add it to their own plate.  enjoy!

For a side, I usually cook the rice in the stew meat water, its yummy and a beef broth. I also saute some vermicilli noodles in the pot before I add the water and rice.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We're Back!! =)

So I haven't posted in a while! I've been busy. First I visited my family and then visited the in-laws, so May was a fun month Alh. Now I'm back in Pittsburgh and ready to share a recipe with you iA!

First, lets start with the recipe. The other day I had a HUGE craving for some green beans, so I decided to make some fasooliya, which is a green bean stew. This is probably one of my favorite dishes ( Don't I say that about everything though?) . Theres two variations, so I'm going to give you both, one with stew meat and one with ground beef. Lets start with the stew meat one.

For the stew meat, get some beef stew and cube it. Saute it with some onions and then boil it on a simmer for about 20 minutes ( It's not supposed to be fully cooked). Turn it off and proceed to make the green bean recipe.

1) one pound to a pound and a half of fresh green beans ( This is important, make sure they are really fresh and yummy, they should snap easily if you bend it.) If you MUST use frozen and your too busy, then make sure you get reallly yummy frozen green beans.
2) 2 freshly chopped tomatos
3) 1 chopped red pepper
4) 1 chopped green pepper
4) 1 sliced onion
2) 2 tablespoons of ground coriander ( NOT fresh, it has to be ground.)
3) 1 and a half tablespoon of minced fresh garlic ( don 't use the jarred stuff its gross).
4) 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
5) 1 eight ounce can of puree tomato.
6) One chicken or vegtable bouillon cube.
7) 1 lb of ground beef or beef stew ( whichever you decide to use.)

- Take the green beans and wash them. After that, what I do is just snap off the ends with my thumb and then just break them in half.
- If you decide to use ground beef, add it at this point. Add some olive oil to the pot. Combine the ground beef, all the vegtables, garlic, coriander and stir fry it together until the meat starts to brown. If your using stew meat, then add all the other ingredients except for the ground beef.
- After the beef starts to brown, add enough water until its about an inch or two above the green beans. If your using the stew meat recipe, add the water that you used to boil the stew meat with.Usually around 5 to 6 cups.
- Add the tomato paste, puree and vegtable bouillon, and bring it to a boil.
- If your using the stew meat, add it at this point. 
- Bring to boil, and then simmer for an hour and a half, until the green beans are done and the sauce is consistent and is thicker.

And your done! I usually serve this with plain white rice. Its sooo delicious. Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: I mentioned in a previous post that my green bean stew wasn't that great, WELL I've worked on it a lot, and realized that its all about the green beans that you use. If you use ones that aren't fresh it ruines the entire dish.