Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tip of the day...Easy Beezy Caramel sauce

I hate it when a recipe calls for caramel sauce and I don't have any on hand. Therefore, I try (whenever I have time) to make a batch and keep it in the fridge for Ice cream, coffee or any recipe that requires this great sauce. Making caramel can be quite intimidating for many people, so I figured I want to share with you an easy way as my tip of the day.
Easy beezy Caramel Sauce
1 stick of butter (100g)
1 cup of brown sugar (you can use light or dark)
4 table spoons of milk or cream
½ tea spoon vanilla
In a small pan, melt butter over low heat so it won’t burn. As it begins to melt, add sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until butter is completely melted and sugar is dissolved. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Carefully add your milk or cream and stir. Add vanilla and remove off heat. Let it cool or use it hot on top of vanilla ice cream as a delicious Caramel Sunday.

Tip of the day...Preparing chives butter

I always try to think of ways to save myself sometime and money when ever I can. I had some chives (from my garden) which were going to go bad if I don't rescue them. So I decided to cut them off, wash and dry then chop finely. I mixed them with room tempreture butter and some salt, rolled them in wax paper and kept them in my fridge. Now, when ever we need flavored butter for baked potatoes or to spread on hot bread or even to use on garlic bread, I have it ready for me. (you can freeze this and use it whenever you want)
*Chives is one of the green herbs that have a taste between a green onion and garlic. They are delicious and mild in taste.

Pizza taste in a way

What would you do if you feel like pizza and it is too late to order or you are too lazy to make one? Yet, the urge is irresistible and it is all what is on your mind. Melting cheese oozing out and satisfying your hunger!!Well, don’t get frustrated as I have this easy treat for you…Pita Pizza Sandwich! A sandwich suggested one time by my husband and became a classic in our house. Forgive my pictures as my camera is broken and am taking photos from my mobile.

Pita Pizza Sandwich
(no ratios here, just use the amount you like depending on how many sandwiches you want to make)
Green onion, chopped
Ketchup or pizza sauce if you have some on hand
Olive oil and Za’atar mix (Arabic oregano mix) to make a thick paste
Tomato, chopped
Black olives, chopped
(you can use salami or pepperoni chopped)
Mix of mozzarella cheese and cheddar
Pita bread (classic Arabic flat bread)

Mix all ingredients except cheese. Stuff the pita with the mix and sprinkle generously with cheese. Put in the oven or on an electric grill till the cheese melt. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tip of the Day...Checking cake doness

When baking cake, I don't open the oven to check the doness of the cake until I can smell it. When I do, I know that it is safe to take a peek and check with a tooth pick if it is done or not...Happy Cooking!!!

New desserts...

February is almost here and I just looked at my try to make recipes list for January and couldn’t help but to feel that I didn’t quite stick to it. Oh well!!! Am not planning to beat myself up over that as I did try other new recipes that were not on my list including a great peanut butter trifle which I will be adding to my menu when am back in business inshalla. I also made a fantastic new recipe “Sinful brownies” full of chocolate (milk, white and cocoa) in addition to caramel sauce; do I need to say more!!! These are sinful …so ladies am planning to add them to my cooking classes list inshalla when I get back. As for this great cake; which am sharing with you today, its for all the ladies who want to make a great cake, don’t have time and love to Dr. their cake mix…this one is for you…(I had my friends over yesterday and they loved it)

Lemon Orange Cake
1 package yellow or white cake mix
1 package instant lemon pudding mix
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter

Grease and flour a tube cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175-180 degrees C).

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in 3/4 cup orange juice, oil, eggs and lemon extract. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven until it passes the cake test and a tooth pick would come out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook 1/3 cup orange juice, sugar and butter for two minutes. Drizzle over cake.

Peanut Butter Trifle

                            Triple Chocolate Sinful Brownies                     

Comfort Food

With this cold weather I find myself looking around my recipes for comfort food. Something that will warm my heart and soul and fill my “these days always hungry” tummy! I thought of making soup but then I didn’t have much time on my hands to think of a main dish as well so “Hearty Beef Stew” was the best option for me (something between a soup and a main course as well). I knew that I needed to serve it with something else…hmmmm…then a light bulb went off…Bread. I miss the smell of freshly baked bread so I made a wonderful recipe for dinner rolls which I found on It was a lovely lunch, very hearty and we all enjoyed it… I still have leftovers if anyone is interested ;)

Basic Beef Stew
1kg beef stew meat (I used steak and cut it into chunks)
½  cup flour
3 table spoons olive oil
2 large onions, diced
1 container tomato paste
½ tea spoon dried rosemary, ground
3 large potatoes, cut into big cubes (similar to the size of your meat pieces)
2 cups carrots, cut into cubes
4 cups beef broth ( I used boiled water and a beef stock cube)
Salt, Pepper to taste
½ tea spoons mixed Arabic spices (I decided to give it an eastern twist)
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas (don’t need to defrost)
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add meat chunks and brown on all sides till no longer red. Add onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add flour and stir for another 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, Arabic spices and tomato paste. Stir for another minute then add hot stock  and bay leaf. Let it come to a boil then reduce the heat to low and leave it to simmer with a lid on it for around 2 hours (make sure to check on it every 10 minutes and to stir it so it won’t burn down, add water if you feel that it is too thick for your taste. Once meat is cooked add potatoes and carrots, cook till tender then add peas and cook for another 10 minutes. Check salt and pepper and adjust it to your taste. Serve hot with rice or fresh baked bread.

Dinner Rolls

3 3/4 cups flour, divided
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup shortening or margrine
1 teaspoon salt
1 table spoon rapid rise yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups flour, sugar, shortening, salt and yeast. Add water, milk and egg. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place in greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Dough is ready if indention remains when touched.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half; cut each half into 24 pieces. Form the pieces into rounds. Place the rolls close together in lightly greased pan or baking dish. Brush with melted butter. Cover and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until doubled. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. I did brush them with more butter when they came out of the oven...yumm...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another recipe on the list bites the dust

Another cold day here in Amman…I am not sure if I will be going outside despite the sunny sky. I can think of tons of things to get done around the house especially tackling my closet that seems to be full of clothes that don’t fit me anymore as am hitting the 20th week in my pregnancy. No complaint though…I can only dream of getting back in shape once my bambino is here inshalla!!!
Today was the time to try another new recipe on my list…BBQ chicken Enchiladas…it was so good that we devoured the whole pan…If you like a lighter version of Enchiladas, then this is the recipe for you…enjoy!!

BBQ Chicken Enchiladas

12 white flour tortillas
4 chicken thighs, boiled, skinned and shredded

1 amount of red enchilada sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
1 medium onion, sliced
Salt, Pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese or Colby Jack cheese


Preheat oven to 180c or 350F.

Mix enchilada sauce into a bowl and add in the BBQ sauce until combined.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on low-medium. Add sliced onions with a pinch of salt, and let caramelize until soft and golden – about 7-8 minutes.

Add shredded chicken to onions with a pinch of pepper. Mix thoroughly. Pour in about a half of a cup of enchilada/BBQ sauce mixture, and add 1 cup cheddar cheese and. Stir until mixture comes together and turn off heat.

Pour a drizzle of enchilada/BBQ sauce mix in the bottom of a baking dish. Take each tortilla and fill it with chicken mixture. Roll each up and set it in the baking dish. Pour remaining enchilada/BBQ sauce on top of tortillas and add remaining cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes till bubbly and cheese has melted completely.

Red Enchilada Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ a small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 small pack of tomato paste
2 cups water

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add oregano, chili powder, basil, ground black pepper, salt, cumin, parsley, salsa and tomato sauce.

Mix together and then stir in the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Honoring the Greek Cusine

It has been a few days since my last post as I have been running around trying to keep the kids busy in this cold weather. It was not bad at all!! We made few crafts…magazine’s anyone…lol…it’s my new discovery material. I shall be posting my accomplishments with directions soon…it is so much fun to do with children and almost zero cost.
As for my very much ambitious to try recipes list for January…well…it seems that am falling behind especially with our plan to take a family vacation next week; no complaints here!! Nonetheless, I have tackled my old books and found 3 Greek recipes (not on the list) that I decided to try all at once for lunch and dessert. I made Potato and Lamb Kufta or meatballs(Rissoles in Greece), Spinach with rice and served it with a cucumber and yogurt mint salad. Dessert was  a lemony coconut semolina cake; something very close to “Harisa” (the Arabic semolina dessert but with a lemony twist). We enjoyed it and it was truly easy to put a whole meal together...enjoy!
Potato and Lamb Kufta (Rissoles)
1 large potato, peeled and grated
1 large onion, grated
500g minced lamb meat
1 table spoon red vinegar
1 table spoon tomato paste
1 egg, whisked
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tea spoon dried oregano
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
½ tea spoon black pepper
Salt to taste
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup olive oil
In a large bowl mix together potato, onion, meat, vinegar, tomato paste, egg, bread crumbs, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix it well together. Chill covered in the fridge for one hour.
Shape meat into the shape you like, I made them into fingers.
Put olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat making sure not to overheat. Dredge each piece of meat in flour and fry on both sides till cooked through. Keep all done ones in a warm oven till you are done with the rest.
Spinach Rice Pilaf
90g butter
2 cups short or long grain rice (I used short); soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
2 cups of chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
2 table spoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
500g of fresh spinach leaves, well washed and chopped
2 green onions chopped
In a pan, put olive oil and add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes till they are translucent. Add spinach and sprinkle with some salt and pepper, cover and let it cook down before you add the green onions.
In the mean time prepare rice by melting butter in a pan, add rice, salt and chicken stock. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and cover till it is cooked all the way through (about 15-20 minutes)
When both rice and spinach are done, use a fork to separate rice grains and mix well with spinach. Serve hot.

Lemony Coconut Semolina cake
250g butter
1 cup icing sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tea spoon vanilla powder
1 cup fine semolina
¾ cup grated unsweetened coconut
11/4 cup self rising flour
Lemon syrup
¾ cup sugar
1 cup water
One lemon thinly sliced
Prepare the lemon sugar syrup by mixing sugar and water in a pan till sugar dissolves. Bring it to a boil and add the lemon slices and let it simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Let it cool.
Preheat oven to 180 c or 350 F. Grease a round pan (23 cm in diameter) with butter and flour.
Beat butter with sugar for around 5 minutes till light and fluffy. Add eggs gradually and beat well. Add vanilla, semolina and beat for another 2 minutes. Add coconut and flour and mix in a wooden spoon till combined and smooth. The mix will be thick. Spoon in the greased pan and bake for around 35-40 minutes till a tooth pick come out clean.
Let it rest for a minute in the pan, run a knife around it and take out from the pan on a cooling rack.
Pour cold sugar syrup over the hot cake and let it cool completely. Garnish with lemon slices.
(Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to take a photo of this delicious and super easy cake but I took a picture from the book…it was very much similar but without the flowers)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cold but delicious morning

It’s a cold morning here in Amman and I have been up since 5:30 a.m. I do enjoy this time while everyone is asleep and am having fun with my computer and sipping a hot cup of Java. As time passed by, I felt really hungry and started craving “Manaeesh” (savory Arabic pastries). The thought of going out to buy some did cross my mind but as I looked outside the window, it was very windy and the temperature around 4 degrees…brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! So I decided to make my own and in no time (excluding the time that took the dough to rise) I made five steaming hot yummy loaves topped with five different toppings. I woke everyone up and we enjoyed a lovely breakfast with a hot cup of freshly brewed mint tea. Good morning everyone…

 Manaeesh dough
2 cups luck warm water
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon olive oil

Place yeast in warm water along with sugar and cover till its foamy (around 5 minutes). Put mixture in the stand up mixer; add flour, salt and one table spoon of olive oil. Mix and knead for around 7-8 minutes. If you are doing this by hand, you will need to knead the dough for around 10 minutes. Brush a clean bowl with the other table spoon of olive oil, place the dough and cover. Let it rise for around ½ hour to 1 hour till it doubles in size.  
Punch the dough down and divide into as many pieces as you want. I wanted medium size loafs that could be divided into 4 pieces later, so I cut the dough into 5 pieces, shaped into balls and covered while working on one piece.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a circle, place on a lightly oiled oven pan and top with the topping of your choice. I used the following toppings:

  • Za’atar (Middle Eastern Thyme Blend with Sumaq and sesame seeds) mixed with enough olive oil to get a runny but thick paste like mixture.
  • Za’atar and white cheese
  • White cheese and Mozzarella 
  • White cheese with Izha seeds (black sesame seeds)
  • White cheese and parsley
Have your oven hot and ready (200 degrees) and bake for around 10-15 minutes till its light golden brown and the dough is cooked through.

Note: Make sure when you crumble your white cheese to squeeze any extra water so it won’t affect the texture of your dough when baked.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Magazine Waste Basket

I have been taking it easy in the past two days as my doctor recommended. I hope all my tests turn ok and my baby will be in great health. So I didn't do much standing up or moving around the house yet am not the type who can sit around and do nothing. So i got crafty while taking my rest. Kids have been off from school for winter break, so that got them involved as well. We decided to try making a basket by recycling old magazines that we have. It was so much fun but took lots of time and patience from all of us. We spent few hours cutting, folding and gluing pieces together to come out as the picture below. If you like to try this yourself, check out the great tutorial (I included the video from YouTube).  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

1st recipe on my list down...Taco Pasta

Can you tell how excited I am to try new recipes!! Well, it didn't take more than few hours from my morning post till I tried my first one; Taco Pasta. It is a very simple and quick dish that my family enjoyed today along with lentil soup and Spinach Tabooleh. I got the recipe from a blog which I love,  I made few simple adaptations to it. Here it is
Taco Pasta
Adapted from the-girl-who-ate-everything

300 g ground beef or lamb
1 1/2 packages medium pasta shells or other small dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 small can crushed tomatoes
1 packet (4 tablespoons) taco seasoning ( I make my own; I shall post the recipe for you later)
1/2 package 227 g cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream (It is too expensive here so I use very thick yogurt; Zabadi)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the meat is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the meat is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the green peppers and cooke for another 2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the cream cheese, sour cream (Zabadi) and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Add in the drained pasta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit if it is still too thin.

Toss in the cilantro right before serving for some fresh color and flavor. Serve with a your favourite salad.

I had lots of spinach on hand and I didn't want it to go to we had a lentil soup with spinach ..yum on such a cold day (I might have some later for dinner :) ) and Spinach Tabooleh!!

2012 New Year Resolutions

At the beginning of every New Year, people tend to have New Year resolutions like losing weight, eating healthier, save money…etc. One of my 2012 resolutions; and considering the free time I have on my hands these days, is to tackle many projects which have been pending in my head for a while and I had no time to spare. One of these is to test new recipes in my kitchen. I am aiming for at least 10 recipes a month (knowing myself, I will test moreJ).  

So my plan for January is set. I am aiming to test the following attempting recipes:

Glazed donuts
Burger buns and a new mushroom burger recipe
Beef stew (very hearty and suitable for this cold weather)
Taco pasta
A new version of chili (I have tried many recipes and all are great but am always attempted to try a new one)
Enchiladas (a new recipe)
Curry puffs
Cheese sticks
Country Fried Drumsticks
A new steak recipe, and
At least a new salad and new soup recipes

So wish me luck !!!