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Old Bay Shrimp Boil

Shrimp Boil

Writer’s block. You’d think being a Communications Specialist would mean that words come easy to me all the time. Yes, I can express myself so much better through writing—because there’s that added benefit of proofing and editing your work—But some days I hit a serious writer’s block. It’s the worst. Namely when I’m trying to post my latest and greatest new recipe and nothing comes to mind. Nothing.

The writer’s block was so bad, I even considered delving into the latest dramas of my personal life. However, when I started Measuring Cups, Optional, I promised myself I wouldn’t turn my food blog into my own personal diary. I do like to share little glimpses into my everyday non-food-related life, but I would hate to bore my loyal followers with all the other nonsense.

So because I wanted to post my Old Bay Shrimp Boil so badly I couldn’t wait, today’s post is about writer’s block.

Shrimp boil_2

Old Bay Shrimp Boil
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1-2 lbs Raw Shrimp, peeled
  2. ½ Medium Onion, chopped
  3. 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  4. 5-6 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
  5. 6 Corn Stalks, halved
  6. 2 Packages Smokes Sausage, cut into 1 inch slices
  7. 2 lbs Small Red Potatoes, halved
  8. 3 Lemons, halved
  9. 1 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
  10. Salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Add 5 quarts water to a large pot
  2. Mix in Old Bay, Cayenne pepper, onions, garlic and salt
  3. Bring the water to a boil
  4. Squeeze the lemon halves into the water and drop the rest of the lemons in, then bring back to a boil
  5. Add the corn and potatoes and bring back to a boil
  6. Add sausage and bring back to a boil for about 20 minutes
  7. Check the potatoes regularly to make sure they’re softening
  8. Add shrimp and boil for another 10 minutes
  9. Strain, season with additional Old Bay and serve warm
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

Pistachio Cake with Rosewater Buttercream Frosting

Pistachio Cake

Summer is birthday season. At least that’s the way it’s played out in our household. From April through the end of August, we knock out all the major birthdays and some. As much as I love to experiment with cakes and coming up with these extravgant decorating ideas, the follow-through doesn’t always live up to my expectations. Something about me frosting cakes just doesn’t add up. I was going for the Naked Cake look — that is, only frosting the top and layers in between. Well, you can see what really happened with that experiment. 

I considered getting raw pistachios and grinding them up then turning them into some sort of paste or powder for this cake recipe. But I’m not all about that life. I could be, if I had more time. But quiet frankly, sometimes when there are shortcuts when cooking, I’m all about taking them (within reason, obviously). So how did I get an intense pistachio flavor in my cake? Pistachio pudding mix. Yes, it exists and it’s pretty amazing.

As I was browsing the baking aisle, I found pistachio pudding mix. I picked up a box and almost walked away when I doubled back to get two more boxes – just incase I decided I wanted to experiment with more pistachio-flavored goodies. So be prepared, my loyal followers, for more pistachio recipes to come!

If you really want to be lazy, you could pick up a box of white cake mix, add the pudding mix and call it a day. But why wouldn’t you just make cake from scratch? It always tastes so much better. 

Pistachio Cake_2

Pistachio Cake with Rosewater Buttercream Frosting
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Ingredients
  1. FOR THE CAKE
  2. 1 box Pistachio Pudding Mix
  3. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  4. 2 cups granulated sugar
  5. 4 eggs, room temperature
  6. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. ¼ teaspoon salt
  9. 1 cup Milk
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  11. FOR THE FROSTING
  12. 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  13. 1 lb Confectioner’s sugar
  14. ¼ teaspoon Rose Water (found at your local middle eastern store – not to be confused with Orange blossom Water)
  15. Heavy Whipping Cream
  16. Food coloring, for the pink color
Instructions
  1. FOR THE CAKE
  2. Mix together flour, sugar, pudding mix, salt, baking powder and butter in a large bowl
  3. Add eggs, milk and vanilla extract, beat together until mixed well
  4. Pour the mixture into two greased baking pans
  5. Bake 40 mins on 350
  6. Allow to cool before frosting
  7. FOR THE FROSTING
  8. In a large bowl, cream the butter with a cup of confectioner’s sugar, add the rest of the sugar slowly
  9. Add heavy whipping cream and continue to beat until fluffy
  10. Add rose water and continue beating until the frosting is fluffy
Measuring Cups, Optional http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/

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.]

 

Karawya_2

 

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.

 

Strawberry Yogurt Pops_2

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

Buffalo Chicken Dip_2

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/

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