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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.

Pulled Beef Tacos

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I’ve always heard about the wonders of the crock pot. I’ve seen countless Pinterest Pins about easy crock pot meals. I’ve even heard stories about how great it is to just throw all the ingredients in there, turn it on for the day, go to work and have basically a ready meal once you get home. But I’ve never actually used a crock pot before in my life! Shocking, I know.

It’s not that I never wanted to, I guess I was always a little anxious. “What if I do it wrong?” “What if it doesn’t turn out?” “Is it really going to taste good if I just throw the ingredients in there and walk away?” That’s the internal dialogue I’ve had with myself in the past about using the crock pot.

It wasn’t until I was feeling a little adventurous that I invited the Taco Tuesday Crew (TTC for short) over for TT at my house, that I seriously considered toying with this foreign contraption. The TTC was formed about two years ago. It started off with just four girls who wanted to get together for some Mexican. And ever since then, it’s become a weekly tradition. It’s girl time, it’s where we catch up and vent and share major life events, and opinions without judgment. It’s more than just tacos on a Tuesday night. We spent a little over a year going to Café Rio because we’re obsessed with their roast beef. That’s where I got the idea to try it out myself. I think I could seriously compete with Rio – if I do say so myself!

Note to self: use the crockpot more often. It’s like magic.

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Pulled Beef Tacos
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Ingredients
  1. 2-3 lbs Boneless Chuck Roast Beef
  2. 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  3. 1 ½ teaspoons Smoked Paprika
  4. 1 tablespoon Chili Powder
  5. 1 tablespoon Cumin
  6. 1 medium Onion, chopped
  7. 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  8. 1 cup Low Sodium Beef Broth
  9. 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
  10. 1 Chipotle Pepper in Adobo Sauce
  11. Salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, smoked paprika and cumin
  2. Rub the roast with the spices, covering the surface
  3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sear the roast on all sides (about 2-3 minutes each)
  4. Carefully remove from the skillet and place in the crockpot
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon tomato paste with 1 cup beef broth
  6. Add the garlic, onions, Chipotle pepper, remaining tablespoon of olive oil, beef broth mixture and salt to the crock pot
  7. Cook on low for 7-9 hours, until the beef is tender
  8. Once it’s done, use two forks to shred the meat
  9. Serve with your favorite taco trimmings
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

Nutella Cinnamon Rolls

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Last weekend – ironically on Valentine’s Day – the founder of the Ferrero company, Mr. Michele Ferrero died at age 89. Known as “the Father of Nutella” and “real life Willy Wonka,” Ferrero’s company introduced Nutella, Kinder Eggs and Ferrero Rocher, making the world a sweeter, happier place.

I have to say, I was into Nutella before it became a thing here in the U.S. over the last few years. Nutella on toast for breakfast wasn’t unheard of during my childhood and was pretty much our substitute for peanut butter; that’s not to say we didn’t stock peanut butter jars in our pantry. But let’s just say, I was sneaking spoonfuls of Nutella in the middle of the night long before the food bloggers picked it up as the latest and greatest.

In honor of this legendary man and the chocolate legacy he’s left behind, I whipped up a batch of easy Nutella Cinnamon Rolls. They’re easy because I didn’t make my own dough. Let’s be real, I used Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough and pulled together my own filling.

  Nutella Cinnamon Rolls

Nutella Cinnamon Rolls
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Ingredients
  1. 1 can Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  2. 4 tablespoons Nutella
  3. 1 tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
  4. Dental Floss, for cutting the rounds
  5. Cooking Spray
  6. Muffin Pan
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F
  2. On a flat surface, unroll the dough into one large sheet
  3. Spread the nutella over the dough in an even layer, careful not to tear it. I found using a knife, as opposed to a spoon works best.
  4. Sprinkle the nutella with cinnamon
  5. Roll the dough horizontally, staring on the longest end
  6. Once you’ve rolled the dough, use the dental floss to cut the dough into 1 inch pieces. To do so, slide the floss under the roll, pull up each side of the floss, cross and pull in opposite directions. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  7. Spray your muffin pan with cooking spray and place each roll in the pan, swirl-side up
  8. Bake for 13-15 minutes
  9. Serve warm
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

Turkey Bacon Hearts

Turkey Bacon Hearts

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. And while everyone focuses on their significant others (boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives), Valentine’s Day is extra special in our family because it’s Tayta’s Birthday.

I’m happy to announce that Tayta, yes … halfway through her 90s, still loves celebrating her birthday. The flowers, the roses, the chocolates, the presents, the cakes, they’re all for her, and she expects it and that’s what makes Valentine’s Day so special. She’s pretty much the glue that holds all her kids and grandkids and grand-grand kids together.

So this year, we celebrated at her home. The local cousins made their rounds throughout the day, showering her with gifts. As for the other—I lost count how many –cousins, they called in from all over the world – literally from California to Australia [think, globe going east].

 

Adapted From here

 

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Turkey Bacon Hearts
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Ingredients
  1. Turkey Bacon
  2. Aluminum Foil
  3. Rimmed Baking Tray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Line the rimmed baking tray with aluminum foil
  3. Cut each slice of bacon horizontally, to make two long, thinner slices
  4. Then cut each vertically
  5. Assemble the bacon into heart shapes
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through, but not burned
  7. Scoop up with a spatula
  8. Serve warm
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

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