Category: Snacks

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn_

I have this obsession with popcorn. This wasn’t always the case, but over the years, I’ve developed this serious obsession with light, crunchy, slightly salty (usually white cheddar flavored) popcorn. My mom used to make popcorn almost weekly. She’d mix some dry corn kernels with vegetable oil  in a pot over the oven and I’d wait around the kitchen listening to the kernels popping against the sides of the pot. Sometimes, the popcorn would overflow onto the stove. She’d toss the popcorn with salt, and I’d run off to watch my favorite TV show with a bowl of mom’s simple stovetop popcorn.

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn_

Over the years, my mom stopped making stovetop popcorn. Mostly because it was a lot easier to just buy a bag of microwave popcorn. It wasn’t until a few years ago I discovered SkinnyPop popcorn. Aside from the fact that  it’s low calorie — major selling point for me — it’s also made with simple ingredients. It tastes like my mom’s stovetop popcorn, without all the work. I was sold! Not to mention, it also comes in my favorite flavor … white cheddar. I could have cheddar popcorn every day and be the happiest person in the world. Some days, I even forego a nutritious lunch for a whole bag of low calorie cheddar popcorn. Don’t tell my mom …

 

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn_

 

Lemon Spiced Middle Eastern Style Popcorn

Yield: About 4

Ingredients

  • 4 cups freshly popped popcorn
  • [Alternative: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, cover and leave on heat until most of the kernels have popped]
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Salt (citric acid)
  • 2 tablespoons Sumac
  • 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Seven Spice
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix popped popcorn with olive oil until coated
  2. Add Sumac, Onion powder, Garlic powder and seven spice and continue stirring until completely coated
  3. Serve warm
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Tayta’s Pink Pickled Turnips

Pickled Turnips

Pickled Turnips, or Tayta’s Pink Pickled Turnips, as I like to call them, are a staple at our house. Usually, pickled turnips are served alongside olives and green pickles at the dinner table. They’re added to chicken and beef Shawarma sandwiches, falafel, and (like us) placed in a small dish at the table to be eaten with just about anything. If you haven’t had them, you are in for a serious treat!

After I took down rough notes of my Tayta’s recipe, I scoured the internet looking to see what other people have done. Some recipes call for garlic and bay leaves, another even suggested adding a chili pepper. But why change something that is so simple and so good? I may be a little biased, but my Tayta’s Pickled Turnips are the best pickled turnips.

Pickled Turnips

Measuring Cups Optional was created on the premise that great cooking in my family doesn’t depend on traditional, standard measurements. My mother learned to cook from the best cook in the world, my Tayta (Grandmother) and I have never gotten a recipe from Tayta that included standard measurements. I grew up watching her and my mom add handfuls and sprinkles of ingredients. So it was no surprise when I asked for her pickled turnips recipe and she gave me — you guessed it — non-traditional measurements. And I quote “1/2 coffee cup vinegar” to which I had to get clarification. Was she referring to an American Coffee mug? Or did she mean a Turkish coffee cup? Don’t mugs and Turkish coffee cups come in different sizes?! How am I supposed to quantify this to my readers? You can see my draft notes below, which include a mix of English and Arabic text, in addition to out-of-order instructions.

Pickled Turnips

Don’t worry, I did my best to quantify each measurement for the final recipe. A few notes from Tayta:

  • Boil the beets before placing them in with the turnips, so that they soften up with the turnips. If they’re not boiled ahead of time, they don’t ripen as fast as turnips do. Side note: This is the ONLY time I actually eat beets. I’m not a huge fan.
  • Use apple cider vinegar.
  • Measure out the amount of water you need by filling the jar up with water, and pouring it into a volume measuring cup/jug.
  • DO NOT, I repeat, do not open the jars before the 2 week wait period is over. Store the jars out of sight, set a calendar notice on your phone and forget about them until then.

Pickled Turnips

Pickled Turnips

Tayta’s Pink Pickled Turnips

Yield: Fills about 2 13oz Jars

Ingredients

  • 1 beet, peeled and washed
  • 2 Turnips
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 heaping tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

  1. Start by boiling the peeled and washed beet in 4 cups water. Boil for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat
  2. Meanwhile, peel, wash and cut the turnips into wedges or slices. I cut mine into slices (about the thickness of French fry)
  3. Remove the beet from the boiling water, but do not discard the water.
  4. Cut the beet the same way you cut the turnips. Then divide in half.
  5. Fill up your jars with turnips and beets, making sure to use about 1 turnip and 1/2 of a beet for each jar. Don't be shy about squeezing as many turnips in there as possible.
  6. Separately, mix the beet water with vinegar, salt and sugar and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
  7. Pour the mixture into the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch from the mouth of the jar.
  8. Close tightly and store at room temperature for 2 weeks. DO NOT OPEN THE JARS UNTIL THE TWO WEEKS ARE UP.
  9. After two weeks, place the jar in the fridge for consumption and storage.

Notes

I boil the beets so that they can be eaten with the turnips. If they're not boiled ahead of time, they don't ripen as fast as turnips do.

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Creamy Artichoke Spread

Creamy Artichoke Spread

Remember that week I spent in Rome I’m still eating my way through all the goodies I brought back.

While in Rome, I stopped at the local grocery store The Coop. It was perfect because that’s where I bought my 25oz bottle of extra virgin olive oil, that I’m still using. I also made my way to the spreads section of the store. There, I found black olive tapenade, capers in chunky salt and it’s also there I discovered Artichoke Pate. While the jar and ingredients were in Italian, I managed to google translate my way through. I wish I had brought a jar back home with me. Since I wasn’t able to, I decided to make my own artichoke spread with fresh ingredients.

Creamy Artichoke Spread

Don’t get me started on the fresh Italian ingredients in Rome. At one of the restaurants we went to, they served whole fried artichoke. It wasn’t covered in batter or anything. Not the way you think of fried vegetables, at least.  The artichoke was served whole and the leaves were browned and crispy. A perfect combination with a plate of bread and cheese. I just can’t wait for the farmer’s markets to open up in May. I’ll be eating fresh fruits and vegetables all summer long.

So what the heck would you use Artichoke Spread for, right? That’s probably one of the first questions you asked yourself when you got to this recipe. Well, Artichoke Spread is actually pretty versatile. If you love sandwiches, use Creamy Artichoke Spread instead of mayo or mustard, then pop in the panini grill. Use it as an appetizer for dipping bread, or add a small bowl of Artichoke Spread to your charcuterie board. I even challenge you to be creative and use it as a light pasta sauce in lieu of pesto. It’s amazing what you can do with a little bit of Artichoke Spread. 

Creamy Artichoke Spread

Creamy Artichoke Spread

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Artichoke Hearts
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves Garlic

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, place the artichoke hearts, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil and pulse until smooth.
  2. Depending on the consistency, add the second tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
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Italian Inspired Garlic Olive Oil Bruschetta

Italian bruschetta

I just got back from a four day trip to Rome, Italy where I ate, walked, ate, visited some historic sites, ate, shopped, did tons of work for my real job, and ate some more. I enjoyed every minute of Rome. For a full recap of my week in Rome with photos, videos and my own commentary, check out last week’s This Week on Instagram post.

Italians know how to live, and most importantly, they know how to eat. At restaurants, you never feel rushed. The waiters don’t stop by your table every five minutes to take your plates away and offer you the check. In Italy, mealtime is a laid back time with flowing table wine, a starter, main course, dessert and dessert drinks (at the very least). The waiters give you space to enjoy your meal and conversation. They check up on how your dish– likely one they recommended– tastes. They definitely don’t rush the check. Most of the time in Rome, we had to explicitly ask for the check. I loved the food in Rome. I ate my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato, and drank wine like it was water. I’m almost positive the wine was cheaper than water.

Italian bruschetta

At most of my sit-down meals, I ordered a bruschetta starter. Bruschetta, pronounced broo-ske-tta, is made up of thick slices of grilled Italian bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt. Popular to contrary belief, classic bruschetta doesn’t actually come with tomatoes. Tomatoes are an add-on. Other toppings could include veggies, cured meat or cheese. Another notable difference between our “Americanized” version of bruschetta and true Italian bruschetta is the use of grilled, thick, Italian bread, as opposed to small French bread rounds or even hardened baguette rounds.

Italian bruschetta

Every single bruschetta I had in Rome was delectable. I always ordered mine with tomatoes — except that one time a group of us went to dinner and ordered “bruschetta classico.” After waiting 10 minutes or so for the missing tomatoes, our waiter explained that we had ordered “classico.” Classico does not include tomatoes, it’s basically grilled garlic bread with olive oil. Luckily for us, he was very kind, and brought us new Roma tomato-topped bruschetta. The tomatoes! The Roma Tomatoes! They’re the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever had. Packed with flavor, and not too hard or too soft, they were so perfect. Since leaving Rome, I’ve been dreaming about those ripe tomatoes over grilled garlic bread. I had to make some at home. Of course, I don’t have access to the same Roma tomatoes like I did abroad, but I made due with Roma tomatoes from Wegmans . Pro tip: the bread tastes so much better if you can grill it on an outdoor grill. 

Italian Bruschetta

Italian Bruschetta

 

Italian Inspired Garlic Olive Oil Bruschetta

Yield: 6 Bruschettas

Ingredients

  • 6 Roma Tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil + 2 tablespoons for brushing
  • 2-3 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6 Slices Pane Italian Bread, sliced
  • 1 whole Garlic clove, for rubbing the bread
  • 1/2 cup Baby Arugula

Instructions

  1. Prepare the tomatoes by cutting a small slit at one end of each tomato
  2. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil
  3. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl with ice water for blanching
  4. Once the water boils, carefully place the whole tomatoes in the water. Cover and boil on high for 2 minutes then turn heat off.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the tomatoes and place them in the ice water. Wait about 2 minutes, before removing the tomatoes from the ice water onto a paper-towel lined plate.
  6. You'll notice that the skin has started to peel. Peel the tomatoes, then cut into small cubes
  7. In a medium bowl, mix together minced garlic, olive oil and red wine vinegar then set aside
  8. Place a grill pan over high heat (or use an outdoor grill)
  9. Cut the Pane bread into 1 1/2 inch slices
  10. Place Italian bread slices on the grill, cooking each side for 5-7 minutes (until slightly charred), then flipping over to grill the other side for another 3-5 minutes. Watch the bread carefully, especially if using an outdoor grill.
  11. Remove bread from heat. While still warm, use the whole garlic clove to rub one side of each piece of bread, then brush liberally with olive oil.
  12. Top each bread slice with the tomatoes and baby arugula
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Pecan Coconut Cranberry Granola

Pecan Coconut Cranberry Granola

I’ve been obsessed with granola lately. No really, I have. I’ve been taking it to work with fruit, chia, flax and honey. I’ve been adding it to yogurt. I’ve even added it to my favorite raisin bran cereal, and aside from that, I’ve been eating it in handfuls — straight from the bag. If you saw my mini fruit and granola bowl tutorial on Instagram last week, then you know I was already running low on granola. I’ve managed to finish off the entire bag, and in my typical procrastinating way, haven’t gotten out to the store to get any more. So what’s a granola-obsessed girl to do?! Make my own, duh!

Making granola at home is super easy.

I actually found this great infographic by BodyMindSou that breaks down all the different ways you can make your own granola. It’s amenable to all the dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and good-for-you additions you love. This batch of granola was completely dictated by the contents of my pantry… pecans, coconut, cranberries, and the inclination not to add 3 kinds of chocolate chips to the mix. We’re being healthy, am I right? Right.

Pecan Coconut Cranberry Granola

 

Speaking of healthy, please tell me I’m not the only person who doesn’t think about the amount of sugar in pre-packaged foods (yes, even granola), only to be completely shocked when I make it homemade and it’s half as sweet because I haven’t added 10 lbs of sugar. As a matter of fact, the same could be said for salt.

Pecan Coconut Cranberry Granola

I’m not the only one in my family completely obsessed with granola. Both my parents are too. So much so, that I had to hide the granola in an undisclosed location until I got a chance to take photos. I will say, though, that they’re usually really good about knowing that food must be photographed before it can be consumed in our household. Thanks for your support mom and dad!

Pecan Coconut Cranberry Granola

 

Pecan Coconut Cranberry Granola

Yield: 2 cups Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned oatmeal, or instant oatmeal
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • ½ cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • ½ cup cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, heat the honey and coconut oil 15 seconds at a time until melted. Stir to combine
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: oatmeal, pecans, cranberries, coconut, salt and cinnamon
  4. Pour in the honey and coconut oil.
  5. Using a large wooden spoon or spatula, stir all the ingredients until combined and coated
  6. Pour the granola onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread evenly
  7. Bake for 15 minutes
  8. Remove from the oven, stir
  9. Return to the oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the granola to cool before storing.
  11. Note: the granola will still be soft coming out of the oven. Once it cools, it will harden.
  12. Store in an airtight container
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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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