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Karawya [Sweet Caraway Pudding]

Karawya

My coworker’s wife just had a baby. Everyone in the office had been counting down, waiting for their precious bundle of joy to arrive. A few months ago, we combined his birthday desk decorations with a guessing game of whether they’d be having a boy or a girl – complete with a chalkboard tally. When we found out they were having a girl, everyone had some advice to give. As a father, I can only imagine the excitement and some of the fear of having a daughter. As a mother, I’m positive his wife was ecstatic to have a mini-me. I have to say, she is the most adorable little nugget. Their lives changed overnight and in the most incredible way.

As a matter of Arab tradition, when a baby is born, the family holds a Mubraka where friends and family come over to visit the mother and new baby. I’ve seen very small gatherings, and very large gatherings. It’s a way to meet the new baby and wish well for the family. A special dessert is served called Karawya كراوية. The reason they serve karawya is pretty good, actually. Despite it being a dessert, it has nutrients and energy that are supposed to be good for a nursing mother.

I never liked Karawya, I admit it. I did, however, like to eat all the mixed nuts and sweetened shredded coconut off the top and give back the rest. So I’d go to these Mubarakas with my mom, they’d hand me my single-serving dish of Karawya, I’d eat off all the toppings and hand it back. I think when I was younger, it was a little more accepted. I remember one woman made a comment that it was alright that I didn’t like it because I was still young – I’m still trying to decipher that particular statement.

Of course, I couldn’t miss meeting the new baby. And being the traditionalist that I am, in some aspects, I took some Karawyawith me, my tayta’s recipe. Please note, the measurements are Tayta’s measurements. [Read Turkish coffee cups as: literally fill a Turkish coffee cup with the ingredient.]

 

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Karawya [Sweet Caraway Pudding]
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup Rice Flour
  2. 2 Turkish Coffee cups Ground Caraway
  3. 2 Turkish Coffee cups Granulated Sugar
  4. 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
  5. 6 cups Water
  6. Crushed Unsalted Pistachios
  7. Chopped Unsalted Walnuts
  8. Shredded Sweetened Coconut
  9. Slices Unsalted Almonds
  10. Raw Pine Nuts
Instructions
  1. Add water to a medium sized pot over high heat
  2. Add the rice flour, sugar, caraway, and cinnamon
  3. Begin stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon
  4. You must stir the mixture constantly until it boils, if you don't, the bottom of the pan will burn
  5. Continue stirring until the mixture is boiling
  6. You'll notice the consistency thickening
  7. Allow the mixture to boil for 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat, while continuing to stir
  8. Pour the Karawya into small glasses for individual servings, or one medium dish
  9. Allow the Karawya to cool, then cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours
  10. Top the Karawya with crushed pistachios, sliced almonds, shredded coconut, pine nuts and crushed walnuts before serving
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

Strawberry Greek Yogurt Pops

Strawberry Yogurt Pops

My new obsession is popsicles. It’s been so hot around here, I’ve been craving ice cream and frozen yogurt like crazy. But lately, I’ve been dreaming about making my own popsicles. There are so many flavors and variations from fruit and yogurt pops to lemonade-based pops to boozy pops. The possibilities are endless.

Last weekend I was out at Tysons Corner having dinner with a friend and, of course, took the opportunity to swing by one of my favorite stores, Williams Sonoma. They were having a special sale on popsicle molds. I’m telling you, there were so many so choose from including a brand called Zoku that makes these instant freeze popsicles. Although I wanted to buy all the molds – and essentially the entire store because the gadgets section is my absolute favorite (I mean, of course I need a tea bag squeezer. How did I survive all this time without one! Oh yea, I would wrap the teabag string around the spoon and pull)- ultimately, I ended up with the classic molds that hold about 8 pieces.

What kind of popsicles had I been craving? Something with yogurt and fruit. Like I said, the possibilities are pretty much endless.

 

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Strawberry Greek Yogurt Pops
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
  2. ½ cup Sliced Strawberries
  3. ¼ cup Honey, add more for additional sweetness
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt and honey until smooth
  2. Evenly distribute the strawberry slices in each popsicle mold
  3. Pour the greek yogurt-honey mix into each mold, making sure to use a spoon to push the mixture all the way into the bottom of the mold
  4. Insert the popsicle sticks and freeze overnight (at least 8 hours)
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

Buffalo Chicken Dip

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It’s been a while, I know. My last post was over two months ago and I appreciate my loyal followers who haven’t given up on me yet! Thank you, thank you.

What happens every once in a while is that I get so caught up with work and other things in my non-blogging life that I don’t take the time to work on new posts. It’s been an action-packed two months, with weddings and birthdays and some fun adventures including rock climbing, kayaking and a weekend trip to Vegas with a pit stop inside the Grand Canyon. I’m happy to report that I can now cross both those off my bucket list. I’ll also admit that since Memorial Day weekend, I’ve been spending my lazy weekends poolside working on my tan – slowly but surely.

I’m so excited Summer is finally here. For one, warmer weather means more pool time. I also love summer because unlike the rest of the year, everyone seems to work on a slower burn. More casual Fridays at work, more opportunities to do outdoor activities and really, a fun time to experiment with food. Because, if you know me on a personal level … I love to eat!

So don’t fret my fabulous followers, I’ll have a few new things up on the blog soon, I promise!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

 

Buffalo Chicken Dip
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Ingredients
  1. 1 Can Chicken
  2. 1 cup wing sauce
  3. 1 cup ranch dressing
  4. 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded, divided
  5. 1 package cream cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together except one cup of cheese
  3. Pour into a cast-iron skillet or large baking dish
  4. Top with remaining cheese
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, until bubbly
  6. Serve with celery, carrots or your favorite chips
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

Arayes

Arayes

We all know there are smells and sounds that take us back to a certain place or time. The minute a particular song makes it through your shuffle lineup, you’re transported back to a place, a person, an event. It’s either a good memory, or one you want to pretend never happened [in which case you next that song like it’s nobody’s business]. Or you’re walking through the mall, or outside and all of a sudden you catch the scent of perfume, or cigarette smoke, or even home cooking and someone, something, some place pops right into your mind.

The same can be said for foods. Some foods make me nostalgic for my childhood, or a place that I visited. I used to spend my summers in Amman and, of course, I ate my heart out when I was there. Among the many foods I miss, I especially miss  Arayes عرايس which is basically finely ground meat inside of thin pita bread and either baked or grilled to perfection. I love it. And it’s really good with pomegranate molasses drizzled on top.

So whenever I eat them, I’m taken back to outdoor cafes with shisha and tea or nescafe in the city or overlooking the dead sea late at night with the full moon shining off of the water, or chowing down at home with a glass of yogurt drink. It’s a place and a time that I want to freeze and hold on to.

Arayes
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Ingredients
  1. 2-2.5 lbs Ground Beef
  2. White Pita Bread
  3. 4-5 medium Tomatoes
  4. 2 large Onions
  5. 4 Garlic Cloves
  6. 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  7. 1 ¼ tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses
  8. 1 teaspoon Seven Spice
  9. 1 tablespoon Salt
  10. ½ cup Olive Oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Put all the vegetables and the meat in the food processor and process to a very fine consistency
  3. Add Pomegranate Molasses
  4. Add pepper, salt and seven spice and mix thoroughly
  5. Slit pita bread in half and spread the meat mixture in an even layer on one side of the bread
  6. Close the sandwich by pressing the top piece of bread down over the meat mixture
  7. Using a brush, generously brush both sides of the sandwiches with olive oil and place in a single layer on a baking tray
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes
  9. Broil for 5 minutes until browned
  10. Serve warm with plain yogurt
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

Ground Beef Skillet Hash

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I’ve been on a short hiatus from blogging. Not intentionally. Every once in a while I get caught up with other things in my life—namely, my day job, and other life events.

For those who follow me on Instagram and Snapchat, you know I’ve been busy on travel to Turkey and counting down to my birthday! Another year older and hopefully a little bit wiser.

Turkey was amazing. Aside from busy workdays, I got a few hours to myself to do some shopping and check out some of the sights. This is my second trip to Turkey. The last time was in 2011 and I spent a week in Istanbul – one of the most amazing Asian-European fusion cities I’ve been to. The views are breathtaking, the shopping is well worth the trip and the food is to die for! This time around, I spend a little less than a week in Antalya at a resort some ways away from the city. I also tried to document the delicious food I tried while on travel, which leads me to #MCOTravels and #MCOEats, two hashtags I started to document the adventures of MCO around the world and also delicious food consumption at the coolest, yummiest places – to include, but not limited to, restaurants, bars, food trucks and other people’s home cooking. So follow along on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat for the latest!

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Turkish Tea and Sweets

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Turkish Delight

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Adana Kabob

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Spices

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Turkish Bread and Ayran Yogurt Drink

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Touring the Ruins

 

In honor of Birthday Month, I first want to thank my family and friends for their texts, whatsapps, calls, Happy Birthday singing (very talented), Snaps, Instagram shout outs and Facebook messages. I’m so blessed to have you all in my life. I’ve made a few birthday resolutions that I will do my very best to adhere to. This year I resolve to:

Wash my makeup off before bed. I know! This has got to be the number one beauty rule. But something about getting water all over my hair while I remove remnants of my makeup just wasn’t appealing. Until now. I even bought these really cute headband towels so I can get excited about the evening makeup removal routine. 

Try not to procrastinate. This also happened to be my New Year’s Resolution. I was doing so well. At the 4-month mark, it’s time to focus again.

Make better life choices.  I don’t make bad choices per se. But this year, I’m going to focus on myself. I’m going to do what’s good for me, as opposed to what’s good for everyone else except me. And that gut feeling I usually ignore? I’m going to do a better job of listening to it… or at least try really hard to!

As we say in Arabic – عقبال مئة سنة Wishing you a full life to 100 years old!

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Ground Beef Skillet Hash
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb Ground Beef
  2. 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  3. 4-5 Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cubed
  4. 1 Onion, Chopped
  5. 4-6 Eggs
  6. I can sliced Mushrooms
  7. 1 tablespoon Worcester Sauce
  8. 1 teaspoon Paprika
  9. 1 tablespoon Garlic Salt
  10. Pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet, or oven-safe skillet, over medium-high heat
  3. Add vegetable oil and heat for 1 minute
  4. Add the onion and mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes
  5. Then add the ground beef and potatoes and cook until the meat is browned
  6. Add garlic salt, paprika and Worcester Sauce
  7. Cook on medium-low until the potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. About 15-20 minutes
  8. Make small holes around the pan (4-6 holes, depending on how many eggs you’re using)
  9. Crack the eggs into the holes and cook over low heat until the whites form
  10. Remove the skillet from the heat and place in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the yolks have hardened
  11. Serve warm with bread
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

DIY Birthday Box

DIY Birthday Box

If I love you, you’ll know it. I will have cooked for you, or crafted for your or both. One of my closest friends, and former coworker, moved abroad last year to start Grad School and join her fiancé in Paris. When she was still here in DC, she practically held my hand through two of the craziest years of my life, even when she had a million other things going on in her own life. And for that, I don’t think I can ever really thank her enough.

When she left to pursue her dreams, I was torn. Of course I wanted the best for her, I wanted her to become successful and stay happy, but I was also selfish. I didn’t want my close friend to leave because that would mean I wouldn’t be able to see her whenever I wanted, or go on our crazy adventures. So I sent her off with a Paris Survival Kit, complete with a Learn French on Your Commute CD pack, a photo of the two of us, some wine accessories and a really-long letter explaining what everything meant and why she needed them.

Now, a little less than a year later, it’s her birthday. And as much as I would have loved to get on the first flight to Paris, work and other obligations were standing in the way. Instead, I gathered a few things to send over in a birthday box.

The nice thing about birthday boxes, is that you can use your creativity to make them meaningful to the receiver. I usually always include cake in a jar, a card and birthday candles. Because, really what’s a birthday without cake? And it’s always nice to include something you know they’ll love … like coffee, for example.

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I started with a plain white box from Michaels. It took me a while to decide how I wanted to decorate the box, but I decided to go with simplicity. Michael’s has an entire aisle dedicated to scrapbooking stickers. It’s so great, because they have so many ready-to-use themes. I picked up a couple sticker packets and ended up using two to create a simple design on the lid.

Going back to our days in DC, I remember our Friday Dunkin Coffee treats. So, at the grocery store I found packages of ground Dunkin Coffee.

South Moon Under sells this adorable mug that I bought to include in the box, and of course bought myself a matching one to use.

 

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The card means the most to me. As a writer, I find that I can best express myself through the written word. It’s a challenge and an adventure to search the rows of birthday cards for something that says just the right thing, just the way that I want it to. A card that is a reflection of me as the giver and a reflection of the receiver. It’s an important and meaningful process. This card had to be special. Of course, I added my own note on the inside of the card as well. I always draft my thoughts out on a separate piece of paper before committing to writing on the card. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve added things in after writing my original draft. If you’re sending candles to go with the cake, it’s safest to tape them to the inside of the card. That way, they don’t break somewhere in the box.

 

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Last, but certainly not least, the cake. Since I was sending this box from DC to Paris, I didn’t want to run into any customs issues. I filled a pretty mason jar with funfetti cake mix and sprinkles. I layered the sprinkles between the cake mix – it didn’t quite arrive layered, but at least the cake mix wasn’t all over the box.

 

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Finally, packing it all up. I used colored tissue paper – and lots of it – to wrap up the jar and mug. I didn’t want it to get there in pieces. And I topped it all off with multi-colored confetti.

Birthday Boxes are meant to be special and tailored to the receiver. So use your own creativity to send someone best wishes on the most important day of the year to them.

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