Kubbeh Batata [Potato Kubbeh]

Kubbeh Batata (1)

From personal experience, sometimes just eating someone else’s cooking is a lot easier than trying to recreate it yourself (even when you asked the auntie what she would do). So here’s my story.

Once upon an amazing work project ago, I helped set up a number of media interviews for a high-ranking general. As part of that whirlwind experience, I, along with a journalist and TV crew were invited over to the general’s home for a feature on his daily life, and lucky for us his wife was making dinner and made us try her home cooking. The spread was definitely something to write home about. But I distinctly remember trying something I’d never had before – Kubbeh Batata. Well, that’s not true. I’ve had Kubbeh Batata in the form of a casserole – Palestinian-style, if you will. But this was different. This was little balls of kubbeh with a potato dough stuffed with ground beef. It was amazing, and I’ve only had it a handful of times after that, when I’m treated to Iraqi take out.

A number of years later, I decide, out of the blue that I want to try to make Kubbeh Batata on my own. I will say, it was a very humbling experience.

I learned that sometimes on the first try, you don’t get it right. You make 30 or so little kubbeh balls, perfectly shaped and when you fry them and go to flip them over, they completely fall apart. At that point, I thought I might have to give up and just call my new creation Arabic-style hash browns. Hang tight, you might actually see that on the blog soon!

But I persevered through and I actually did it! I ended up with a decent amount of Kubbeh Batata.

Here are some things I would do differently to ensure they don’t fall apart when you fry:

  • Cool the pre-fried balls in the fridge for an hour or so to keep the shape
  • Be patient and wait until the bottom side is browned before CAREFULLY rolling the kubbeh ball to the other side.

In all, I give myself a B. I had a few testers who loved them and said that they turned out well. Next time … Kubbeh Batata Palestinian style (casserole). It’s much less time consuming, and so much easier on my nerves.

Kubbeh batata_4

Kubbeh Batata [Potato Kubbeh]

Ingredients

  • FOR THE DOUGH
  • 5 russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice, cooked
  • FOR THE STUFFING
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) of Seven Spice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. FOR THE DOUGH
  2. Wash, peel and boil the potatoes in a large pot until soft
  3. Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of rice with turmeric and cardamom powder and allow to cool before using
  4. In a food processor, process together the rice and potatoes until smooth, but not liquid
  5. FOR THE STUFFING
  6. Sauté the chopped onion in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  7. Add the ground beef and brown
  8. When about half-way browned, add salt and seven spice to taste
  9. Continue cooking until the beef is browned
  10. Add the chopped parsley and mix well
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Olive Oil Zaatar Bread

Zaatar Bread

Baking is an exact science. It’s exact measurements with little room for experimentation. That’s not to say it can’t be done … there’s just a higher probability of making a mistake and essentially ruining your entire baked good. In conclusion –you guessed it—measuring cups are definitely NOT optional when it comes to baking.

It was a long process, mostly waiting. Waiting for the dry yeast to react, waiting for the dough to rise, waiting for the dough to rise again, and then waiting for the bread to bake. It’s a serious test of patience (I’m speaking from experience, here). I will say, though, that I learned some valuable things during this experience that I’m more than happy to share:

  • First of all, if you’re working with dry active yeast (namely the kind in the jar where you can scoop out as much as you need), then you need to keep it refrigerated or in the freezer after opening. As my coworker mentioned, “it’s alive.”
  • Second, when you mix your water and dry yeast, wait for it to bubble up. If it doesn’t bubble up, it means your dry yeast isn’t working, which means that your dough isn’t going to rise.
  • Keeping your covered dough in a warm, draft-free spot basically means keep it in the oven (with it off), or in the microwave.

In terms of time commitment, prep, wait and baking time took about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I added some cushion time for accidents, needing to get ingredients out of the cupboards and snapping/oogling your creation. All things considered, it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment when the bread is out of the oven and ready to be devoured.

Zaatar Bread_4

 

Olive Oil Zaatar Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons zaatar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (1 for bowl, 1 for dough)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer, use a spoon to mix together water, sugar and dry yeast.
  2. Let stand for 10-15 minutes (it’ll get really bubbly)
  3. Attach the dough hook to the mixer
  4. Add 2 cups flour, zaatar, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix on low speed for about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Use a rubber spatula to bring the sides down, if they get stuck
  6. Add some more flour if the dough gets too sticky
  7. Coat your hands in four and shape into an oval.
  8. Place in a medium bowl coated with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm draft-free place (usually an un-warmed oven works) and wait 1 hour until the dough rises.
  9. Once the dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half, shaping into two ovals
  10. Place on a large, lightly olive oil-coated baking sheet
  11. Cover again with plastic wrap, put back in the cool oven and wait 45 minutes
  12. Preheat oven to 400
  13. Uncover the dough, brush with olive oil and bake on an upper middle rack for 18-20 minutes. It should be nicely browned, but not burnt.
  14. Remove and cool on a cooling rack before serving.
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Cashew Butter

Cahew Butter

Move over almond butter, there’s a new kid on the block. Like all things, fashion and food alike, we go through phases of fascination – or fads. We went through the carb-free Atkins phase, the “I must be allergic to gluten” phase, the cupcakes are the new dessert phase; we’re still in the gourmet donut phase, Pho everything phase, and don’t forget about the Nutella and Biscoff phases. Like all great food phases, we indulge until there’s something better.

We’ve sufficiently moved past peanut butter into an all nut butters phase. I’m sure you’ve at least heard of, if not tasted, almond butter. It’s delicious by the way. But be careful! Make sure to read the ingredients on your jar of almond butter. The best (and healthiest) almond butters are made with almonds (duh), and only almonds. If your jar indicates other ingredients, it had better be because you’ve picked up the jar with an added flavor – like chocolate. Otherwise, ingredients should read “almonds.” Believe it or not, the best almond butter is Costco’s Kirkland brand. Yes! You read that right; Costco.

My full intention when I walked into Costco on a random Tuesday afternoon was to get almonds to make homemade almond butter. I left with beach towels, cashews, Ziploc bags, salad stuff, snacks … oh yea, and almonds. As usual, I overspent and over bought, but I didn’t forget the almonds! Then when I got home, I decided I didn’t want to make almond butter anymore. Side note, I realized we still had a jar of Kirkland almond butter in the fridge. So I dusted off the food processor and experimented with cashews.

It works. Just stick the cashews in the food processor and let the machine work its magic. However, it takes patience (something I’m lacking). I watched the food processor crush the cashews and swirl them around and then … nothing. It honestly felt like the food processor wasn’t doing anything. I was ready to file this one under “failed kitchen experiments,” which would have sucked because I had already posted it to my Snap Story.  Just when I had run out of patience, I looked inside to see creamy cashew goodness being formed!

I’m just relieved this didn’t turn into a fail.

 

Cashew Butter

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Unsalted Cashews
  • Food Processor

Instructions

  1. Add one cup of cashews to the food processor and process until crushed (7 seconds, max)
  2. Add another cup and repeat, continue until you’ve added all 3 cups of cashews
  3. Turn the food processor on and let it work its magic – it will feel like nothing is happening. Be patient
  4. Once the contents start to become creamy, use a plastic spatula to scrape down the edges
  5. Continue to process and scrape the sides down until completely creamy
  6. Don't forget to refrigerate!
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Pistachio Skillet Cake

Pistachio Skillet Cake

Every so often I get so distracted by everything else going on in my life, that I completely slack off and procrastinate posting on the blog… and for that I’m sorry! That’s not to say I haven’t been busy cooking/baking and working on numerous DIY projects. I just haven’t had the discipline to sit down and write about them.

If you want to keep up, please follow the blog on Instagram I promise I post all my experiments on there.

There really has been a lot going on over the last two months. Lots of work, tons of social time with friends and family, and, most notably, I celebrated my birthday (my last year before the big 3-0)! Let me share a few fun things that have happened over the last two months (I’ll work my way back from April):

I find Birthdays to be the best time of year! It’s not about your birth DAY, per se. It’s about celebrating the few days before and the few days after with the people you love the most.

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Did a little DIY—two months in the making, because the roses had to dry, and mostly because of procrastination.

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I went to Philly for a couple days, and basically ate my weight in food. Philly cheese steaks, cannoli’s, rose-shaped crepes … the list goes on. But I sprinkled in some tourist attractions.

 

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I baked some mad dulce de leche cupcakes stuffed with caramel for a friend’s birthday. They were incredible. There was a little DIY sprinkled in there. 

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Brunch season was upon us. And I started off this year’s season with a waffle bar brunch and these adorable pineapple fruit bowls.

 

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DC at Cherry Blossom Season. That is all. Well, let me just say that the last time I braved the crowds was about two years ago with Nonzi. 

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I experimented with salad. Probably one of the best salads I’ve made. Roasted Cauliflower and crunchy chickpea salad over mixed greens with tahini dressing.

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Adventure is almost my middle name. Okay fine, adventure within the limitations of comfort (I support glamping). Not that this was very adventurous, but I spent a couple days up in Baltimore where I indulged in brunch and visited the aquarium. I haven’t been to the Baltimore aquarium since I was probably 10 years old. It’s still amazing.

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February 14 is not special because it’s Valentine’s Day. It’s special because it’s my Tayta’s birthday. And this year, the love of my life celebrated another year with us… and it was as fabulous as ever!

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And this brings us back to where I abruptly left off…

 

Pistachio Skillet Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 box Pistachio Pudding Mix
  • ½ tsp Almond Extract
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • Chopped Pistachios

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Grease a 9” cast iron skillet or baking pan
  3. Cream together sugar and butter
  4. Add pistachio pudding mix and beat
  5. Add eggs one at a time and continue beating
  6. Add salt, vanilla and almond extracts, beat
  7. Add sugar and flour
  8. Beat until smooth (it’ll be really thick and hard to spread, but that’s okay)
  9. Spoon into your greased pan and use a rubber spatula to flatten the cake
  10. Sprinkle with pistachios
  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes
  12. Allow to cool – top with powdered sugar or rose petals
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Crockpot BBQ Beef

BBQ Beef 3

I’ve wanted to make BBQ something for a while now. At first, I thought I’d take a stab at BBQ Beef Ribs and invite the girls over. That didn’t happen – mostly because weekday work schedules are largely unpredictable and when the weekend rolls around, I’d much rather have someone else prepare food for me (RE: eat out).

A friend graciously invited our friend group over for a Super Bowl party, giving me the perfect excuse to try out BBQ Beef in the crockpot. I mean, sure, it’s the middle of winter, but BBQ and Super Bowl pretty much go hand-in-hand, kind of like Super Bowl and wings. I will admit, I’m not a huge sports fan. However, any excuse for a social gathering that involves food and shisha, you can count me in.

The following meme basically sums up my feelings about the Super Bowl. I know I’m not the only one!

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BBQ Beef 1

 

Crockpot BBQ Beef

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs Chuck Roast Beef
  • 1 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp Worchester Sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder (or more, depending on your taste)
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Stick everything in the crockpot
  2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours (the longer the better), or high for 4-6 hours
  3. Carefully take the beef out and place on a cutting board
  4. Shred the beef with two forks and return to the crockpot so it soaks up the sauce
  5. Serve with your favorite bread
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S’mores Bark

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A little less than a month ago – it was October – I had this really great plan to have the girls over for a fire pit night. The weather was great for a random October night, and we have a fire pit at home. The boys (and by boys I’m referring to my brothers) usually take full advantage, inviting their friends over to sit around and hang out. I was really excited about the whole thing, I bought the wood and even picked up s’mores ingredients so we could roast marshmallows and sip mint tea. Unfortunately, the plans unraveled and we ended up at a coffee shop somewhere.

The s’mores ingredients – graham crackers, Hershey’s Chocolate, and marshmallows – didn’t go anywhere. I tucked them into the back of my pantry hoping we’d get another chance to get them out soon. Then, Saturday morning rolled around and I woke up with my usually Saturday morning cooking energy. I’m not really sure why or how I came up with the idea to make bark with all the s’mores ingredients I had hidden away.

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S’mores Bark

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mixed dark chocolate and Hershey’s chocolate
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 4 graham crackers, crushed

Instructions

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate 30 seconds at a time, stirring between heating. You really only need about a minute, so be careful not to burn the chocolate
  2. Stir the chocolate until smooth
  3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the chocolate in an even layer on the foil
  4. Sprinkle the crushed graham crackers all over
  5. And then drop the marshmallows on the chocolate
  6. Broil for 3 minutes, or less. Watch carefully to make sure the marshmallows brown lightly
  7. Allow the chocolate to cool, then refrigerate for t least an hour before serving
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