Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ich, Each, or Eych? Or Ghada Bulgar Salad? You decide.

I noticed recently that all my recipes are main courses. I happen to have some very delicious appetizers in my repertoire, so I decided to share one with you. This is a top secret super delicious Halabi recipe called "Ich". ( Pronounced EECH in Arabic.) Or, for a more normal sounding name, lets call it Bulgar Salad. This is one of my favorite salads, and it's great to make the night before for a party. I got this gem of a recipe from my mom, so we shall call it Ghada Bulgar Salad.

In Halab, there is a dish much served and loved. It is called Kibbe Nayyih, or as we in the more developed world like to call it, E-Coli on a plate. Its basically raw meat ground up with bulgar and spices. It's delicious, but you alway eat it with a risk of ending up with failing kidneys. SO eat at your own risk! This recipe stems from the same method you use to make Kibbe, minus the meat and E-coli part. Try it guys, you will  LOVE it and then thank me for it by sending me presents.

1) One cup of fine bulgar, size 1. Make sure you use most ground up one they have at the store, not the big bulky size 3 kind.
2) 6 tomatoes
3) 1/4th a cup of Pomengrate syrup " Dibs Ruman". You can find this at your local Arabic store. It is delicious and is used it a wide variety of middle eastern recipes.
4) Half a tablespoon of hot pepper paste " Dibs Flafla". This is also found at the arabic store. Don't use any other kind, unless you want it spicy. The one at the arabic store is more sweet, so it gives it a delicious flavor.
5) 3 stems of green onions.
6) One and a half white onions.
7) Half a bunch of parsley
8) Salt
9) One cup of olive oil ( Only olive oil, not vegetable oil or anything else!)

First things first. Put your bulgar in a large mixing bowl.

Take 5 of your tomatoes and dice them up and throw them in the food processor. Pulse them up until they become a liquid puree. I forgot to take a picture of this step, because Ibby decided to have a meltdown at this point.  Afterwards, take the puree and pour it on top of your bulgar, and let it soak for at least an hour. Make sure you have enough tomato puree to cover all the bulgar, if you don't, puree some more!  It should look like this:

Finely chop one of the onions, the remaining tomato, green onions, and parsley. Divide them in half. Leave one half in a bowl, and the other half in a pot with the olive oil:

Once the bulgar is done soaking, put it back in the food processor with the half onion and the red pepper paste. Pulse it. You won't see a difference in how the bulgar looks, but trust me, it makes a huge difference in the texture.

Take the pot and put it on medium low heat. Cook the veggies on the low heat until they cook down a little bit, but not completely cooked. You just want to get them soft:

After they are soft, take them off the stove and let it cool off for a minute or two. Add the bulgar, the pomegranate syrup, salt, and the other half of the veggies you chopped. Mix it all together, and Voila, your done. I like to top mine with some chopped walnuts. Refrigerate before serving, because it's meant to be eaten cold. The longer its in the fridge, the yummier it gets because it allows the bulgar to soak up all the yummy flavor.

Take it to parties and let everyone think you spent hours making this and that your the next Ina Garten minus all the butter. And then thank me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cooking with Kids

No, this post is not about how to have fun with your little one in the kitchen. I prefer to keep little ones out of the kitchen. No, this is about how to make a decent meal when you have a screaming baby in the background. I used to post recipes and pictures as I was cooking, but those days are gone. I cook so quickly that a camera can't even catch what I'm doing. Instead, I'm going to give you some tips on how to cook when you have a baby.

1) Cook fast. Really fast.

I do everything super fast now, because most of it gets done during Ibby's nap time. I can clean a bathroom in under 12 minutes. I actually timed myself. The kitchen completely wiped down and clean in under 20. Seriously. I will probably be featured in the Guinness book of records, so keep an eye out for that.

2) Clear the kitchen before cooking.

Guys, don't start cooking with a full dishwasher and a sink full of dirty dishes. Make sure you are ready to go! The dishwasher is empty, the sink is ready for all your dishes, and the counters are clear. It makes cooking a whole lot easier when you can just stick stuff in the dishwasher and you have space to work with.

3) You are not Ina Garten anymore.

I used to have tons of fun in the kitchen. I'd experiment with recipes, make super difficult stuff, and spend hours researching new ingredients and techniques. Those days are gone. During the week I make super easy food and occasionally make something more challenging on the weekend since the hubby can take over baby duty.

4) Embrace the crock pot, stews, and Campbell's mushroom soup.

Make everything easier on yourself. Buy pre-made sauces. Make stew like there is no tomorrow. It's ok! The fact you have a home cooked meal is awesome, so who cares what you used to make it? I used to be a food snob and I'd avoid stuff like that like the plague. Now were best friends.

5) Freeze.

Cook batches of food and freeze it. Whenever you need some food and don't have time to cook and have pad thai takeout coming out of your nose, frozen food is like finding a gift in your freezer.

6) Cook in increments.

Chop stuff the night before. Prep during baby's first nap and then cook during the next. It makes life a whole lot easier.

7) Make the mother of all grocery lists.

Buy for the whole week. I live in an apartment, and my parking garage is approximately 5 miles away (It really isn't but it feels like that). The last thing I want to do is lug groceries from my car throughout the week. Buy in bulk as much as possible. Freeze meat. Sell out costco. Stock your pantry as if their is a nuclear apocalypse on the way to town.

Now, I shall leave you with a recipe I recently made that was super easy and reallly delicious. Thanks Create TV! =)

Cooks Country Lemon Chicken:
1 whole chicken (3 1/2- to 4-pounds), backbone removed and butterflied 
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest plus 1/3 cup juice from 3 lemons
1 teaspoon sugar 
Salt and pepper 
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water 
1 teaspoon cornstarch 
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley 


· 1. SEASON Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine lemon zest, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Following step-by-step, rub 2 tablespoons zest mixture under skin of chicken. Season chicken with salt and pepper and transfer to roasting pan. (Seasoned chicken can be refrigerated for 2 hours)

· 2. ROAST Whisk broth, 1 cup water, lemon juice, and remaining zest mixture in 4-cup liquid measuring cup, then pour into roasting pan. (Liquid should just reach skin of thighs. If it does not, add enough water to reach skin of thighs.) Roast until skin is golden brown and thigh meat registers 170 to 175 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let rest 20 minutes. 

· 3. MAKE SAUCE Pour liquid from pan, along with any accumulated chicken juices, into saucepan (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). Skim fat, then cook over medium-high until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Whisk cornstarch with remaining water in small bowl until no lumps remain, then whisk into saucepan. Simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter and parley and season with salt and pepper. Carve chicken and serve, passing sauce at table. 


More Lemon Flavor in Less Time Butterflying the chicken may be unfamiliar, but this surprisingly simple process makes it easier to flavor the chicken with lemon—and it speeds roasting, too.

1. Use kitchen shears to cut out the backbone. Flip the bird over and press to flatten the breastbone.

2. Carefully loosen the skin, then rub zest mixture into the breast, thigh, and leg meat.

3. Roast the flattened chicken in the lemony sauce so that its flavor can permeate the meat.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Mommy Must Haves for her Sanity List

Having a baby means more stuff. I have talked about that before. A lot of my friends asked me what stuff was necessary and what was a waste of money. I decided to make a list of all the things that helped me survive the past 6 months. Every baby is different, but I think there are a few key things everyone should have.  Enjoy!! =)

First of all, I'd like to thank my Ipad. If it wasn't for my Ipad, I would of fallen asleep and smothered my poor baby those first few months of nursing him all night. It kept me awake and entertained me. It has become my BFF. Me and the Ipad are like this. The Kindle on the Ipad has saved some of my brain cells because the rest of them have been killed my sleep deprivation and the music that baby einstein toys play.

I LOVE my stroller. Nowadays, strollers are totally a status symbol. I researched what stroller to get more then anything I have ever researched in my life. I tried the cool ones. The Orbitz Baby felt like I was pushing around an office chair, and it weighed 300 pounds. The Uppababy was soo freaking wide and heavy. In the end, I decided on my peg-perego. It is light weight, very sturdy, and not wide, so it can go through a lot of narrow places. I also make 40 million stops everytime I go out, and its easy and light to get in and out of the trunk. I Love it. Go buy it, now.
All the mamma's to be, I need to let you in on a secret. Breastfeeding really sucks the first few weeks. I know, everyone says your bounding with your child, its magical, blah blah blah. But it hurts like no other. and Your nipples pay for it. I tried the lansinoh cream the hospital gave me and ended up with Mastitis. I switched over to this stuff instead. It is AMAZING. It worked after the first application and made breast feeding more bearable. AND its organic, so your baby isn't eating chemicals.

Swaddling is recommended for newborns and young infants. Why? Because they startle themselves awake. If you swaddle them, it lessens the reflex and helps keep them asleep. Now, the aden and anais swaddle blankets are cute, but seriously, when your up in the middle of the night with a screaming baby, reswaddling him can be a tad bit hard. Thats why you should buy these premade swaddles. Just stick him in it and wrap him up. Its a snap.
A lady at a store told me to get this toy for Ibby. She told me it was amazing and kept her baby entertained for hours. Of course I bought it because I believe anything a sales clerk tells me ( much to the dismay of my husband.) BUT it actually works! I hung it on Ibby's car seat in the car, and he would just stare at it. I think the primary colors just speak to them. Now he plays with it all the time and it is one of his favorite toys.
This is a must. Its somewhere to put the baby during the day when he's awake, and you can occasionally rock the baby to sleep in it.  I love mine, and Ibby still sits in his. It has three settings, and can also be used as a rocking chair for toddlers.

Apparently babies either love or hate their bumbo seat. Ibby loves his. He plays in it all the time and reads his books like fluffy chick in it. After his 4 month appt, our ped pointed out that his head was starting to flatten and recommended we sit him up more. After he said that I made it my mission to prevent flat head, and this is one of the items that helped.
I tried the moby wrap. People swear by it. It just wasn't for me. I couldn't get it on right, and I was always afraid my baby was going to fall out. So I got this instead. Since my parking garage is 20 miles away from my apartment, this is extremely useful when I'm bringing in stuff from the car. It's also useful to put your baby in when he just wants to be held and you have 45 things to do. Try it out, you will love it just as much as I do.
I spent a lot of time planning Ibby's nursery. He's barely slept in it though. Instead, he's spent the first 6 months of his life in this pack n play, next to my bed. It's awesome. It is comfortable and best of all, it folds up really small so its easy to transport. It has gone everywhere with us and has withstood the elements.
This is by far Ibby's favorite toy. He loves it. From a young age he could grab it, the colors are appealing, and it makes a sound when you shake it. He's actually playing with it right now as I neglect him to write on my blog.

Love this swing. Only way he will nap. I know, your not supposed to let them rock to sleep, but I'm desperate. Also, the weight limit on it is 30 lbs, as opposed to most swings that are 25.

This shall do for now. I hope all these companies send me free stuff for endorsing them. =) Gluck mommies!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sleep Training

A few months ago, I posted that Ibby was sleeping through the night. For two magical months, I would get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It was amazing. Then, when we hit the 5 month mark, sleep regression attacked us with no mercy. He started getting up every 2 hours. My life is miserable again. I have lost touch with my friends, my house is falling apart, and I've gone days without brushing my hair. It's not fun ya'll.  This is how I act now b/c of sleep deprivation:

I'm not even asking for a full nights sleep. All I want is a 5-6 hour stretch. Begger's can't be picky. Now, after 2 months of not sleeping, I decided it was time to start sleep training him. I have read every single book on the subject. Basically, its either let him cry until he passes out asleep, or keep comforting him less and less every night until he learns to fall asleep. That is a summary of 3 books that I wasted my money on. They basically keep repeating themselves. Fail. One author suggested I give him a "lovey", something to snuggle with. He literally flung it in my face. Do 6 month olds fling things in your face? Is that normal?

Dear sleep training authors, you need to write a book specifically for Arab babies. They are the most stubborn creatures in the universe. Ibby doesn't cry until he passes out. No he cries until he throws up, takes a breather, and then starts a new round. Comforting him? patting him on the stomach only made him angrier. I feel like making a huge bonfire with all my sleep training manuals.  As I shuffle between the rooms up to 5 times a night, I've come to an epiphany. The sleeping bear will not tolerate any training.  I moved him into his own room last week, and I thought that would help. Instead, he still doesn't sleep, and I get to go back and forth between the rooms, until I eventually pass out on this:

Not only am I not sleeping, now I get to not sleep on a futon. So what is the solution?  I don't know. I tried sleep training for the past month and a half. Yesterday we had SLIGHT progress, so I'm hoping it pays off. Yes, Arab babies are the most stubborn babies on the face of this earth, but so are their moms. I keep telling myself, he has to eventually sleep, and hopefully all this training will pay off. Dr. Sears, I deserve a medal for all the sleep training I have done. I'm thinking of writing my own book that combines all the methods and works specifically for crazy babies. Pray for my sanity ya'll!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Birth Story Part 2 and First Few Weeks Home

Before I went into labor, I thought the hardest part would be the labor, and the hospital stay would be a breeze.


Turns out labor is the easy part. Why? There are a few reasons:

A) Ibby was a little tiny baby and I felt like if I held him wrong I would break him.
B) I hated my room and the nurse that was attending to me. She was mean. And she wore a steelers jersey. Enough said.
C) Breastfeeding is hard.

When they roll you from labor and delivery to your room, it feels like your walking down the red carpet at some award show. Everyone looks at you and admires your baby. Now when I think of it, Ibrahim looked pretty much like every other baby at that hospital, so maybe those nurses exxagerated a bit, but it made me feel like I had the cutest baby in the world mA. ( And as a matter a fact, I do, so maybe those nurses were on to something.)

I got to my room around 8 AM. When I say room, I mean a tiny little box that barely fit my bed and a chair. I could barely fit in the bathroom. They dropped me off with the baby and left. The hubby had to leave to go get my family from the airport.

Ibby just slept most of the day, but when he was awake, it was the ultimate latching battle. Getting a newborn to latch on correctly to nurse is super hard. It was for me anyways. I had to feed him every 2.5 hours, and by the time I'd finally feed him, it was almost time to feed him again. I spent most of the time trying to keep him awake. The mean nurse kept telling me to strip him down to his diaper, but I was worried he'd get too cold.

After that, my mom came with my bro and sis. It was a relief to finally have my mom there. I wanted to just leave the hospital and go home. That night, after everyone had left, I was getting ready to settle for the night when the nurse comes in and informs us we had to change rooms. I got really annoyed and didn't feel like packing everything up and going, but they had to do construction on the floor above us. So we moved to a different floor on the hospital.

THANK god they moved us! The room was twice as big, and the nurses were sooo nice and helpful. The next day was alot better because I had help from the nurses.

Around midnight on the 2nd night, I decided to change Ibbys diaper. I took off his diaper and he greeted me with a spray of liquid. And he peed, and peed and peed. It would NOT stop. I kept trying to cover it with a diaper and he ended up spraying me and his bed. Frantically, I pulled the emergency cord. The nurse came running in.

"Whats wrong?"

I started crying, " He PEED EVERYWHERE!"

 I had mini nervous breakdown, and the nurse calmly cleaned him up and his bed. She told me it wasn't a big deal. Little did I know that Ibby would continue to spray me occasionally when I change his diaper, but now I'm prepared with a battle plan. I'm probably the quickest diaper changer in the world now.

When I finally got home, It was a relief. It felt nice to be home around all my things and cute baby stuff I had spent hours organizing and folding and washing. Within hours all organization ceased and I was frantically throwing things around, trying to find onsies, towels, and other things I needed buried in things that I'd probably never use. He spent all day sleeping, and I'd wake him up every 2.5 hours to feed him. That night, we had some kabobs for dinner, and some of them were spicy. I didn't think it was a big deal, and I ate some.

big mistake.

Ibby didn't sleep a wink that night. To top off our already difficult nursing sessions, the spicy food gave him INSANE gas. He cried non stop till 4 AM. When He FINALLLY fell asleep I had to wake up him an hour later to feed him. Lesson learned.  To this day I do not touch spicy food.

A few nights later, I started having chills. I thought it was nothing, I was just tired. Then, I woke up with a full blown fever and I felt like someone had hit me with a truck. I diagnosed myself with the flu. I refused to take the flu shot when I was pregnant, and spent all of flu season avoiding people and drowning my hands in hand sanitizer. Right after I had the baby I got the flu shot, but much to my dismay I caught it. I wore surgery masks the rest of the day whenever I nursed him and handed him off to my mom or hubby to change and burp. I was incapable of doing anything else. The fever, exhaustion, and achiness knocked me out. Breastfeeding had turned into a nightmare. Nursing became excruciatingly painful. I called my doctor and she diagnosed me with Mastitis, which is a breast infection you get if your baby doesn't latch on correctly. I spent 4 days in a haze, and took as much tylenol and motrin as possible in order to be able to nurse him. I finally felt better after a few days.

At the hospital, Ibby had a semi high bilirubin level, but it wasn't anything worrisome. He become even more jaundiced when we got home, and we had to get his levels checked out. Thankfully, they weren't that high, but the jaundice made him sleepy for about two . So the first two weeks, he literally just ate and slept. It was pretty easy. After my mom left, he decided hey, I need to make up for all the crying I missed out on those two weeks.

The week I spent alone without my mom was extremely hard. I had no idea what to do with him. I wanted to call 911 everytime he coughed. The idea of bathing him terrified me. And he decided that he didn't want to sleep anymore at night. I analyzed his poop color millions of times to see if maybe he was just lactose intolerant,and that was why he suddenly became so fussy. I probably cried more that week then he did. Thankfully, my mother in law came, and helped me. If it wasn't for her Ibby would have a bald mom right now.

After my MIL left we seemed to get the hang of things. True, he didn't sleep that much at night, but we were in a comfortable routine, and I was able to function during the day alone with him.

Pure Michigan Ad Ain't got Nothing on This

This is what used to pop into my head before I got married about Michigan:

We all know Dearborn. The flocks of Arabs that migrate to Dearborn every year to buy groceries, eat mezza at Ajami and buy boxes and boxes of dessert from Shatila to give their neighbors and to gorge on during the late nights of Ramadan. Dearborn is the Arab foodies paradise. Enough said.

Abandoned buildings. Detroit is full of these. The dying city of the Midwest.

Fun weddings. Look at how much fun that groom is having. Detroit has a huge wedding industry thanks to all the Arabs. Belly dancers, huge halls, arab djs, the works. Plus theirs like 50,000 Arabs living there, so you will have tons of people you barely know at your wedding doing dabke like there is no tomorrow.

Obviously, I didn't know much about Michigan. When my husband told me we were going to go on a two day trip to northern Michigan, I thought to myself, what the freak is there to do up there? Did they convert an abandoned building to a hotel? Are we going to get robbed? Or better yet, am I just going to wander around state parks looking at trees and stay at some motel on the side of the highway? ( I am not a nature nor motel person.)

Turned out I was wrong! There's lots of things to do in Michigan, or Pure Michigan as the ads like to tell us.
There is a beautiful park called Sleeping Bear. It has these amazing sand dunes on the lake. It was really nice to walk around and look at the sites and all the people trying to climb up the sand dunes.
We had a sleeping bear in our car.
Theres an Island called Mackinaw Island where old people ride bikes like these.
There's an old fort where people dress up like soldiers. They probably think they are soldiers.
Michigan also has creepy exhibits about vaccines.
All in all, I had a ton of fun. Northern Michigan is beautiful, and Traverse City has the best Chai Latte I've ever had in my life. Go there. But not in the winter, because everything will be covered in 10 feet of snow.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Never Say Never

When I was pregnant, I came up with a list of things I would never do as a mother.  I was going to be different, not take the easy way out, and have an exceptional child. Hopefully Ibby will still be exceptional, but I've pretty much done everything I said I wouldn't do.

1) I won't clutter my life with baby stuff.

When I first moved into my apartment, I spent DAYS meticulously decorating it. I loved my loft, and I still do. I wanted to go for a modern/ shabby chic feel. I browsed online for hours getting ideas. I picked out a color palette that I had throughout the apartment. I was impressed when I was finally done. When I found out I was pregnant, I vowed I wouldn't ruin my decor. I would have the bare minimum of baby stuff. 6 months after Ibby's arrival:

This is only about 25% of my clutter. I have every baby gadget on the market. Amazon prime has been the downfall of me. Those sleepless nights of desperately trying to put him to sleep has ended up with me buying a lot of things I don't really need, even though the 5 star rating and the 100 comments about how I can't live without this item convinced me I did. I could probably start a daycare with all the baby stuff I have.

2) I will not have a clingy baby.

I used to see babies that would scream their heads off when their moms would leave the room. "I'm never going to be like that, my baby is going to be independent." How independent can you make your baby when you spend every waking hour with them? When you find the answer to that, please let me know. If I leave Ibby's line of vision, he releases sirens louder then any ambulance I've ever heard. It was cute in the beginning, but now its embarrassing when I'm visiting the in laws and he has a melt down when I leave the room.

3) My baby will sleep alone in his own room.

This one went out the window day 1. It's bad enough nursing him 50,000 times a night, but to have to get out of bed and go into another room was out of the question. Ibrahim has a lovely crib, but hes yet to use it. That's our project we're working on right now, getting Ibrahim to sleep in his own room. I would love to be able to read a book before bed or have a conversation with the hubby. Instead we tiptoe around and are scared to roll over in bed in fear of awakening the sleeping bear ( that's his new nickname.)

5) I will not use a swing to put my baby  to sleep.

Refer to the picture above, and you will notice not 1 but 2 swings. I also have a bouncy chair. Ibby refuses to nap unless he swings to sleep, and I have learned to live with that. Thank you Graco for making my life a little bit easier.

Well, the sleeping bear has arisen, and I must go tend to him. All the future mommies out there. don't make lists and set yourself up for disappointments!! =)