Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles [Zoodles] with Kafta Meatballs

 

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles with Kafta Meatballs

I saw a meme once that said something along the lines of, every girl’s dream is not to find the perfect man, it’s to eat whatever she wants without getting fat. 

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles with Kafta Meatballs

So. Much. Truth. Unfortunately, that requires going to the gym more than once a month and not eating all the things I love — bread, pasta, cheese, salt and vinegar chips, crispy chicken, etc. I know I’m not the only one struggling here! Although I do love pasta, there have been some pretty solid vegetable substitutes. I won’t lie to you and tell you zoodles or spaghetti squash taste anything like actual spaghetti. But it’ll do the job when you’re really trying to cut the carbs. Carbbsss … I’m still thinking about my Rosemary Green and Black Olive Bread.

But we’ll save that for a cheat day. Until then, I’ll be upping the spaghetti squash intake and trying my hardest to replace carbs with veggies.

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles with Kafta Meatballs

I still haven’t found a suitable bread replacement. Will share once I get my hands on something delicious.

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles with Kafta Meatballs

Spicy Tomato Zucchini Noodles [Zoodles] with Kafta Meatballs

Yield: About 25 meatballs

Ingredients

    For the Zoodles
  • 4 Zucchinis
  • For the Meatballs:
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 packed cup Parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
  • Salt to taste
  • For the Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • For the Sauce:
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce (or cooked/pureed tomatoes)
  • 2 tsp Seven Spice
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tbs White Vinegar
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Prepare your zoodles by cutting the ends off each zucchini.
  2. Using a zoodler (or spiralizer), spiralizer your zucchini and set aside.
  3. Once the tomato sauce is simmering, add zoodles to a deep skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until softened.
  4. Remove from heat
  5. Pour the tomato sauce over the zoodles and add meatballs
  6. For the Meatballs
  7. Preheat oven to 400 F
  8. Place the ground beef into a large bowl
  9. In the bowl of a food processor, process red onion, parsley and spices until minced
  10. Add the minced onion and parsley to the ground beef and mix well
  11. Using your hands, form golf ball sized balls and set aside (you can use a melon baller or ice cream scoop for more even balls)
  12. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat
  13. Place the meatballs into the skillet and fry until browned all over
  14. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray
  15. Place the meatballs on the pan in a single layer
  16. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes
  17. For the Spicy Tomato Sauce
  18. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat
  19. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  20. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes
  21. Add the tomato sauce, Seven Spice, salt and pepper to taste, chili flakes and vinegar.
  22. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low
  23. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened
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Iraqi Breakfast: Bagila bil Dihin [Fried Eggs over Broad Beans]

Bagila Bil Dihin Fried Eggs Over Broad Beans

Who loves breakfast? I love breakfast! As a matter of fact, I love it so much I look forward to huge weekend breakfasts – Brunch, if you may. Usually because by the time I wake up, make coffee and get started in the kitchen, we don’t eat until somewhere around Noon or 1pm.

I’m trying something new and completely out of my zone: Iraqi breakfast. Yes, it’s a little different. Iraqis have a couple dishes that aren’t quite like the Palestinian ones I’m used to [see below for my faves]. One of which is Bagila bil Dihin. It sounds like a heart attack, since the translation is “beans with fat.” In reality, it’s just Fried Eggs over Broad Beans over soaked pita bread and topped with hot oil. Bagila is the Iraqi word for beans, broad beans or lava beans to be exact. Aside from Bagila bil Dihin, they also have a sweet dish Kahi and Geymar. What is it exactly? It’s layers of flaky pastry drowned in a sweet syrup topped with clotted cream. I used the recipe from Sara over at Add A Little Lemon. It’s delicious and super easy to follow. Trust me, you’ll love it with some freshly brewed tea.

Bagila Bil Dihin Fried Eggs Over Broad Beans

My favorite kind of breakfast is Palestinian breakfast. I’m talking mana’eesh, foul, hard boiled eggs, falafel, labaneh, honey and eshta, olives, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and lots of pita bread. The bigger the table, the better.

I have vivid memories of childhood Sundays filled with Arabic lessons and tables full of my favorite goodies afterwards. I usually woke up way too early and put all my Arabic books and homework together before my aunt came over to deliver a couple hours of rigorous Arabic tutoring. We essentially did a week’s worth of tutoring in a few hours. Thanks Amto! It totally paid off. The best part, though, was breakfast! It was a little hard to focus when I could smell a delicious mix of onions, zaatar and falafel, but I pulled through.

Bagila Bil Dihin Fried Eggs Over Broad Beans

Iraqi Breakfast: Bagila bil Dihin [Fried Eggs over Broad Beans]

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ lb Dried Broad Beans
  • Lemon Juice from one lemon
  • Dash of Salt
  • 2 large Pita Breads, cut into large cubes
  • ½ cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Onion, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tablespoons Parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 Eggs

Instructions

  1. Soak the broad beans in water overnight then drain.
  2. In a medium pot, bring the beans to a boil with a dash of salt and lemon juice. Boil until softened (about 20 minutes), then remove the beans from the water, and set aside. Keep the water boiling over low heat, it is essential for the next step.
  3. To prepare the bread, place the bread cubes in the boiling bean water and remove immediately (just dip once and remove), then place on your platter
  4. Pour the broad beans over the bread
  5. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over low heat, add the onions and fry until caramelized
  6. Beat the eggs and pour on top of the onions without stirring
  7. Once the eggs have cooked through, place the fried eggs over the beans and pour any extra oil over the whole platter
  8. Top with chopped parsley
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Sautéed Dandelion Greens [Elet]

Dandelion Greens

Last week, during my weekly visit to see my Tayta, she pulled out some sautéed greens, Elet (علت) and a few pita rounds. I hadn’t had Elet in a very long time and was really excited to share a plate with her. As we were sopping up the greens with pita bread, I asked for her recipe and diligently took notes (in my notes app), but I had one problem. I had to figure out what Elet was in English. After sending a couple WhatsApp messages to my cousins in Amman, I found that those delicious sautéed greens were actually dandelion greens. Sounds weird, right?

When I think Dandelions, I think those yellow flowers that grow between the grass and weeds. The ones I used to pick out to make makeshift flower bouquets for my mom.

Dandelion Greens

That’s not what I’m talking about here. Dandelion greens actually look a lot more like flat-leaf kale or Swiss chard. Each leaf has a sturdy spine that gives way to soft green leaves. Surprisingly, dandelion greens are sold at Wegmans and Whole Foods, so they’re not hard to find.

Does anyone else find it fascinating that Arabic food includes numerous veggies that don’t seem mainstream here in the U.S.? I still have a hard time explaining Mloukhiya to non Arabs. I now go with, it looks like creamed spinach, but not.

Dandelion Greens

 

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches Dandelion Greens
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 3 onions, two cut into long slices and the over chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemon)
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash the dandelion greens very well (they tend to have a lot of dirt)
  2. Cut the stems off the greens and chop into large squares
  3. In a large pot, bring the dandelion greens to a boil, and boil on medium-high heat until soft (about 10-15 minutes)
  4. Drain the greens and squeeze out the excess moisture, then set aside
  5. In a large skillet, heat ¼ cup vegetable oil and fry the sliced onions until caramelized, but not burnt, remove from pan and set aside.
  6. Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil and add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent
  7. Add the garlic and stir in the dandelion greens until combined and soft
  8. Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and stir
  9. Serve with the caramelized onions on top, and with a side of warm pita bread
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Dreamy Date Coconut Smoothie

Dreamy Date Coconut Smoothie_2

Back in April, I was in Amman and had the very fortunate luck to try out Seed Healthy, a health food shop specializing in juices, smoothies, and organic food. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t luck. I had been following Seed Healthy on Instagram for a while and just had to check it out. I’m so happy I did because I tried the most delicious date smoothie, and took one to go for my mom.

Dreamy Date Coconut Smoothie

I had totally forgotten about the smoothie, until this Ramadan. Ramadan is really the only time of year I actively eat dates. Mostly because I break my fast on dates. It’s no surprise then, that the first week of Ramadan, I decided I was going to whip up my own version of a date smoothie. Every afternoon I’d think about it, make sure I had all the ingredients I needed, and every evening I’d get so distracted by the actual meal that I wouldn’t get around to making the smoothie I was craving just a few hours earlier.

Dreamy Date Coconut Smoothie_2

I finally committed. I made the Dreamy Date Coconut Smoothie (conveniently, many months after Ramadan) and it was everything I had dreamed of!

Dreamy Date Coconut Smoothie

Dreamy Date Coconut Smoothie

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 Dates, pitted
  • 2 Bananas
  • 2-3 cups Milk
  • 1/2 cup Ice
  • 1/4 cup Shredded Coconut
  • ¼ cup raw Almonds, chopped or 2 tablespoons Almond Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Cocoa Powder

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.
  2. For a thinner consistency, add more milk
  3. Best if made fresh and used within 2 days
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Rosemary Green and Black Olive Bread

Rosemary Green and Black Olive bread

I love olives.

As a matter of fact, I find it downright offensive that restaurants want to charge you upwards of $5 for a small bowl (bowl is a generous description, it’s more like a soy sauce-sized bowl) of olives. Crazy right? I mean olives are such a staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets. We have at least two massive jars full of green and black olives. And I frequent Wegman’s olive bar at least once a month. They have these green olives stuffed with all sorts of things. I’m talking cheese, garlic, almonds (those are my fave).

Rosemary Green and Black Olive bread

So my neighbor, Mr. A, who is this amazing older gentleman who basically owns our neighborhood, moved out a few years ago and held a yard sale of sorts with all the things he wouldn’t be able to take with him to his new, smaller, home. Mr. A’s wife was an amazing cook (god rest her soul) and a lot of the things Mr. A was getting rid of were Mrs. A’s kitchen gadgets and appliances. My mom got her hands on their 1960s Dutch oven and it’s gotta be one of the best things we’ve gotten (Etsy is currently selling the “vintage” model for a lot more than we got ours for).

Super convenient because I woke up one day thinking “I have to make Rosemary Green and Black Olive Bread, ” oh yea! And I want it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. After much research, I found that crispy bread can be accomplished with lots of wait time and baking it in the Dutch oven. You’ll notice that you have to wait at least 10 hours for the dough to rise. This is essential. Literally every Dutch oven recipe out there makes you wait. Which is fine … I’m sure you have plenty of other things to do. The wait is well worth it, because this Rosemary Green and Black Olive Bread is to-die-for. Perfect with some Labaneh or dipped in olive oil.

Rosemary Green and Black Olive bread

Rosemary Green and Black Olive Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (room temperature) water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped black Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cups chopped green olives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Rosemary, Chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, use a spoon to mix together water and dry yeast. Cover and let stand for 10-15 minutes (it’ll get really bubbly)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt
  3. Add the water and yeast mixture to the flour mixture
  4. Using a wooden spoon, mix until well incorporated (or you can use the knead attachment on your stand mixer to knead on low until a shaggy dough forms. See notes.)
  5. Coat your hands in flour and shape into an oval
  6. Place in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm draft-free place (usually an un-warmed oven works) and wait 10-18 hours (or overnight) until the dough rises.
  7. In a medium bowl, toss together the olives and rosemary
  8. Heat oven to 450 F. Place your Dutch oven in the oven uncovered and heat for 30 minutes (see notes)
  9. Meanwhile, place the dough on a floured surface and press the dough flat. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the mixture, and fold the sides over the dough to hide the mixture, press again to flatten, add another 1/3 and fold the sides over again. Do this until you've used all the mixture. Then continue to knead until the olives are incorporated, add more flour to your hands if needed.
  10. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes, until doubled
  11. Place the dough in the heated Dutch oven and cover with the lid
  12. Bake for 30 minutes
  13. Remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes until browned
  14. Remove from Dutch oven and place on a cooling rack
  15. Cool completely before slicing

Notes

*Shaggy Dough is when the dough is formed, but still very floured and looks a little bit like a shaggy dog (that's where the name comes from) **If you don't have a Dutch Oven, you can use a deep oven-proof skillet or an oven-proof soup pot

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Spiced Cardamom Cake

Cardamom Cake

I just can’t believe summer has come to an end already! It seems like it just wasn’t long enough this year. I mean, really … where did summer go? We’ve just crossed the Labor Day Weekend threshold (the Official End of Summer, at least that’s when all the swimming pools close), and my tan game slowly degraded as summer went on. In my defense, that’s because I was busing filling my weekends up with adventures of the non-culinary type. I had my fair share of BBQs, laying by the pool, and sitting outdoors basking the summer evenings, shisha in hand.

So for summer to end so abruptly (and yes, I will say abruptly since even Labor Day Weekend was rainy and cooled off so much it was almost too cold to swim) was such a disappointment.

To transition, albeit with difficulty, to pre-fall I baked up mini Spiced Cardamom cakes in my With a Spin cake molds. I learned some valuable lessons about silicone cake molds, most importantly that you have to wait until the cakes completely cool before taking them out of the molds, otherwise you’ll end up with a crumbled mess. Not to worry! I used those Spiced Cardamom Cake scraps to make Spiced Cardamom Cake pops covered in pink, white and semi-sweet chocolate. So in reality, they didn’t go to complete waste.

Spiced Cardamom Cake is best enjoyed with a steaming cup of coffee (or tea).

Cardamom Cake

Incase you were interested in my fun-packed summer, here’s a recap of some of the summer adventures:

Strawberry Picking
I kicked off the summer strawberry picking with my close friend, lulu and her kiddos. We picked enough strawberries to feed a small town. The best part? Using some of the strawberries for my Strawberry Eshta Cream Tarts.
Biking Sunset
I signed up for a new gym… that I went to for like 3 weeks, and then that kind of fell off, as most of my attempts to go to the gym do. But I went on this gorgeous bike ride up the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into National Harbor where I stopped just in time to catch a few photos at sunset. These photos just don’t do it justice.
Harpers Ferry Tubing
One weekend, we made the trek up to Harper’s Ferry, where we packed a cooler with ice cold diet coke (I’m not much a beer drinker) and all sorts of snacks, and strapped it into a tube for white water tubing down the Potomac river. It was a gorgeous day, and aside from missing our get-off point and having to be towed by a kayak back on the first run, and then tumbling into the water on the second run, it was a fabulous experience.

 

Artechouse
While we had plenty of sunny days, D.C. does not disappoint when it comes to summer rain. We were forced to do indoor activities. So we decided to check out the latest ArTecHouse. We also hit up the National Building Museum which houses different exhibits throughout the year.
Beach Day
My favorite part of summer is spending the day on the beach. Soaking up the sun, getting beaten down by Atlantic waves and leaving sufficiently burnt with traces of sand everywhere and completely wiped out. I added a little adventure by doing end-of-day parasailing at 800 ft! It was awesome!
Painting
You know when you try to take on a new activity, something creative meant to be fun and relaxing? You know, like painting? Yea … me either. Painting had to be one of the most stressful experiences of my life. I probably should have gone with the sip option, but I was already stuffed from a bachelorette brunch (not mine, obviously). The 2 hour session resulted in a gorgeous painting. How? I have no idea.
Eclipse 2017
I got to experience one of the coolest scientific phenomenons, and partial solar eclipse. Unfortunately, since the eclipse took place on a Monday, I wasn’t able to plan a weekend getaway to one of the areas with a total eclipse. But it was pretty cool nonetheless. Yes, I pulled an elementary school science fair project stunt and made a little peep hole through which to see the eclipse. I met with a couple friends and some really nice people let us use their eclipse glasses to sneak a peak of the real deal.
Zip Lining
I didn’t think I was that outdoorsy, until I started doing outdoor activities. You’ll still never find me willingly sleeping outside. That’s just way too outdoorsy for me. But The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring was one of the most fun experiences of the summer. It really tests your ability to problem solve (how am I going to get across this to the other side despite these obstacles?) and your ability to balance, be flexible and catch yourself from falling. The cool thing is that you feel like a monkey climbing and zip lining through trees.
Roller Coaster
I finally wrapped up the summer with a day at Kings Dominion where, despite it being a little chilly, I rode almost every ride in the water park .. and I rode some rollercoasters too!

 

Cardamom Cake

Spiced Cardamom Cake

Yield: About 24 cupcake-sized cakes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup White Granulated Sugar
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon powder
  • 2 tablespoons Cardamom powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 4 large Eggs
  • 1 cup Buttermilk

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl mix together flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom until combined
  2. Add in the eggs, butter and buttermilk
  3. Whisk using a hand mixer on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until the lumps in the mixture dissolve
  4. Grease 2 cupcake pans and pour the batter about 3/4 full
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, to check use the toothpick test (insert a toothpick into the middle and remove. If batter doesn't stick to the cupcakes, the cakes are done).
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