Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Holy Ham!  Literally.  The Easter ham dinner was delicious, but my word...what to do with all the leftovers?  Well, this chick is not the most creative one of the bunch, so here's a recipe for a soup that truly received all the leftover goodness .  It's a pretty basic ham and bean soup that was scrumptious on it's own, but then I threw the leftover funeral potatoes and BAM!  Outta sight!  Hope you enjoy!

Ham and White Bean soup
adapted from For the Love of Cooking
2 celery stalks, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups ham, chopped
3 cans white beans, drained and rinsed (Great Northern or Navy works)
1 can diced tomatoes
4 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used a homemade ham stock, but chicken works great.)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper, to taste
*Totally optional, but I put in about 1 1/2 cup of leftover funeral potatoes


Prep your veggies.  Try to make your dices on all the veggies uniform.

    Spray a large pot with non-stick cooking spray and begin to heat over medium high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery.  Saute until tender.  

Add garlic, ham and tomatoes. Cook for another minute or so, then add stock, 2 cans of beans, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf.  

 Cook over medium low heat for 1 1/2-2 hours.  Remove bay leaf.  Blend soup with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender, or heck, just use a hand held mixer.  Add remaining beans and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.  You can also add any other "leftovers" at this time.  
Serve this bad boy up with some leftover rolls or a good crusty bread that can sop up all the last little bits.  Mmmm...

Eat well my friends, even if it is leftovers!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicken Shawarma...a pocket full of love.

So as I previously mentioned, I spent part of my childhood growing up in Saudi Arabia.  Some of my earliest memories are of walking the streets of Khobar with my family, having an ancient Arab man, with skin like leather, wanting to touch wisps of my flaxen blond hair.  And the toothless shriveled woman relentlessly insisting that my parents buy a beautiful beaded necklace for each of their 5 daughters.  And the smells...even twenty plus years later, (please, don't do the math!) I can remember the musty, spice infused air.

When we moved bask to the USA my family continued to embrace the Arab culture and cuisine.  It was part of our family...our roots.  Even though I was a very finicky eater growing up, there was something about Arabic food that I loved.  I remember asking my mom to make sambuseks and baklava for special occasions.  Such exquisite memories...I feel kind bad to digress and show this hilarious video, buuuut it just fit too well with the Arab food theme I'm going for.

Hope you get a laugh from the video and enjoy the recipe for Chicken Shawarmas, which is, BY FAR, my most favorite meal ever. 

Chicken Shawarma


1 T ground coriander
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground cardamom
1 T chili powder
1 T. grill seasoning, Montreal recommended
1 tsp. smoked paprika
juice of 1 lemon
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (yes I use the canned...so sue me!)

pita bread
tzatziki sauce, recipe as follows


   Preheat outdoor or indoor grill to high.

In bowl, combined all of the spices.  Take a moment and just breath that aroma in.  It is intoxicating!  Add lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.  Stir until paste like.  You can add a little bit of water if necessary.

Take you mixture and slather all over the chicken until it is well coated.

Transfer chicken to the grill and cook on each side 6-7 minutes, 
until it is cooked through.

Remove chicken from grill and let the chicken rest before thinly slicing.

For bell pepper mixture, heat a large skillet pan over medium-high heat.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray or use a little olive oil.  Once pan is heated up, add peppers and onions.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.

Once veggies begin to wilt, add tomatoes and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Place pita bread on grill to warm them and give them a nice light char.  To assemble, place chicken on pita, top with pepper and onion mixture, and then add hummus and tzatziki sauce.

  Oh my, eat well my friends!!

**On a side note, I have also made kabobs out out this recipe and works out great too.  Just omit cooking the veggies and skewer them along with chicken.  Dee-lish!!

Tzatziki Sauce

6 oz Greek style yogurt
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp dill
1 T mayo
1-2 T lemon juice, depending on how much *zing* you want
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up and serve with anything.  Makes a great low fat, high protein veggie dip.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Safura's Mediterranean Cuisine

Have you ever found a pair of shoes that just screams YOU!?  The perfect style, perfect color...everything about them makes you want to like them...maybe even love them.  But alas, there's just one fatal flaw...they don't fit and no matter how hard you try to force your pretty lil' foot in there, it's just not going to happen.  That's, unfortunately how I felt when I dined at Safura's in Lacey, WA this past weekend.  There were so many things to like about this Mediterranean restaurant.  The staff was warm and genuine, the prices were very reasonable, and there was a variety of entrees to choose from.  The fatal flaw...the food just wasn't that good. 

The restaurant itself is clean and inviting.  I loved the Arab teapots and other authentic Middle Eastern pieces that decorated the walls.  Our waitress was extremely kind and was quick to take our orders.  The prices generally ranged around $7-$10 per plate.  Kid's meals were also a good price at $3-$4.

For our appetizers we ordered the dolmas, which are grape leaves stuffed with rice, parsley and other herbs and spices.   The dolmas had a nice bright flavor to them, but they were served on a plate swimming in a pool of some unknown congealed substance.  It was very off putting to say the least.  We also ordered some hummus and pita bread.  The hummus had a super creamy consistency, but I could have used a little bit more lemon juice to liven up the flavor.  My husband loved the quart of olive oil they poured on top, but I thought it was a bit too much.  The pita bread delicious.  Warm and tender and yes, you'll need to order extra.

For our main courses we decided to go with a Gyro combo (pronounced yee-roh) and a Chicken Shawarma platter.  I'll just let my 7 year old do the critiquing of the gyro....

"Mom, this gyro meat tastes like beef jerky.  And mom, my mouth is starting to hurt."

Although the gyro meat flavors were delicious, especially when combined with their cool, creamy tzatziki sauce, the texture of the meat was unforgivable.  At least the french fries served on the side were a little bit more "jaw friendly".  The Chicken Shawarma platter had a really good display of flavors.  The grilled spiced chicken was mixed with chopped bell peppers and onions and served with an overwhelming side of rice.  Again though, the dish had all the inspirational Mediterranean flavors but lacked the succulent, juicy meat.  I seriously had to slather each bite in hummus or tzatziki sauce so I wouldn't choke trying to get it down.

I have a personal love and strong connection to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food because I spent part of my childhood in Saudi Arabia.  Every time I eat it, I feel like I know where my roots started to grow. When I saw that Safura's offered potentially great authentic Mediterranean food I, just like with the shoes, wanted to love this place.  But when it all came down to it, the fit just wasn't right for me.  Maybe it will be good for someone else, but I'm not going to force it.  That would just be painful...EAT WELL MY FRIENDS!
Safura's Mediterranean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Checkered tablecloth is on it's way!!

It's Spring time!  Time for grilling, BBQs, and frolicking in the sun...oh wait, I live in WA.  That won't happen for another 3 months.  Well, even though the weather in WA doesn't seem to want to cooperate with me, I'm going to lure the sun out with the idea of a big family picnic.  Imagine tables lined with red checked table cloths, filled with tantalizing BBQ beef, crisp veggies, chips, dip and an assortment of salads, ranging from the infamous Jell-o salad to a refreshing spinach and strawberry salad.  Kids running through the sprinklers with squeals of laughter.  Ahh, I have seen the light!  Spring is on it's way to WA whether it likes it or not!  Here's a great recipe to get us started on the path to fun in the sun!

BBQ Beef

3 lbs beef or pork roast
1 cup ketchup
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cut the roast in half and place in slow cooker.  Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl.  Pour over the roast.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Remove roast from the sauce, cool slightly.  Trim off fat (no one wants wiggly meat!) Shred meat with two forks.  Pour sauce into separate bowl.  Add shredded meat back into slow cooker.  Slowly coat with sauce until it's as "wet" as you like it.  Cover and cook on high for another 15-30 minutes.  Serve it up on a heavy duty bun with a serving of cool and creamy coleslaw and a side of Spring time lovin'!

Eat well my friends!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Famous Dave's

I'mm baaack!  Geez after this past week of Spring Break madness it's amazing that I still have my head on.  It's not on straight, but at least it is on.  Kuddos for me.  So as I said, this past week was Spring Break so there was a lot of "kid choices" when it came to dining out, but come on, even Chuck E. Cheese tastes pretty good if you don't have to cook it or clean up.  But, alas, towards the end of the week I put my foot down and said, "It's BBQ time!"

Seeing how I haven't found a good BBQ place here in Lacey or Olympia WA (I'll take suggestions, please!) we decided to hit up one of our favorite BBQ places in Tacoma...Famous Dave's.  Okay call me a corporate junkie, but I love Famous Dave's.  They have consistently good food and a great atmosphere.  On our last lunch visit, we were greeted by a lovely hostess.  She was quick to smile and engage in some friendly chit chat with the kiddos.  We were seated and given a few minutes to peruse the menu.  They have some decent lunch specials that have smaller portions, but still all the lip smackin' flavor.  A one meat combo plate was $8.99 and a two meat combo was  $9.99.  A little spendy for lunch, it's worth it to save your pennies up. After we ordered our waitress brought us a bowl of homemade potato chips for dipping and explained what all the different sauces they offered were. There was the Rich & Sassy that has a great blend a tang and sweet.  The Georgia Mustard is obviously a mustard based sauce that gets your mouth watering.  The Texas Pit is great for chicken or brisket.  The Sweet and Zesty has a "right out of the pit" flavor.  And my personal favorite, Devil's Spit has just the right amount of heat.

Yeah it's a lil' sloppy, but hey, it's BBQ!

I decided to go with the Georgia chopped pork with a side of baked beans.  Hubby went with St. Louis style ribs and the brisket with a side of potato salad.  Each meal also came with perfect corn on the cob and a cornbread muffin that was to die for.  They were deliciously moist and you could see the honey baked into them.  Kid meals were your typical chicken fingers, corn dogs, mac and cheese, but my oldest was pretty stoked that they had a Rib meal.  He's a carnivore.  My chopped pork was delicious.  Fork tender and full of flavor.  I doused it with just the right amount of Devil's Spit and was in heaven...hmmm, maybe not with the "Devil's Spit".  Hee hee.  My baked beans were really loaded with chopped pork, brisket, and jalapenos.  I probably could have eaten just those, but I think the fam would have been pretty upset with me.  The ribs my hubby ordered were ultra tender and had a great bark to them.  The meat literally fell right off the bone and may I say, there was a lot of meat to those puppies.  His brisket was a bit dry and lacked in the flavor department. Unfortunately was not on my favorite list. Some how he ended up with an order of wings too.  They were meaty and juicy, but definitely not your tear jerking heat.  I like to glisten when I eat my wings.  (That's a nice way of saying sweat!) Since potato salad and I have a mutual hatred, I can only tell you that the hubby said it was rich and creamy.  Just like Mom use to make.

Great meal and to top it all off, we ordered a bread pudding to share.  Even with the five us eating, it was a huge portion a of mushy goodness slathered with a decadent pecan praline sauce.  Hello sticky fingers!

So I usually try to search out local venues and support them, but even though Famous Dave's in a "chain restaurant" I really enjoy their family friendly atmosphere and consistently good food.  Sometimes that's the benefit of going to a corporate chain.  You always know what you are going to get.
Famous Dave's on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 4, 2011

Food Stories

I love how food tells a story. I believe that's what recipes are...food stories. The sloppy PB and J I made my 2 year old the other day told the story of how absurdly busy the day had been, while the stuffed pork loin I attempted to make last night was the story of culinary inspiration and stepping outside of my cooking comfort zone. Whatever the food is, it always has a story behind it. This past weekend I was able to reflect on my own food heritage as I poured through some old cookbooks. I found my first Disney cookbook, with the page for "Sleeping Beauty's Spinning Wheels" still dog-eared. I pulled out my favorite cookbook devoted only to chocolate (can we say chocoholic?), and then I pulled out the smallest cookbook I have. While it's worn edges tell the story of frequent use and the fact that it automatically falls open to one recipe shows that I have utilized this book for one recipe and one recipe only.

This recipe, or food story, has been past down for generations, as it is a treasured pioneer recipe. I love the fact that the pioneer dishes had to be simple, yet substantial. I can just imagine these rockin' pioneer women making these beauties up after an strenuous day of walking, running, pulling, chasing, etc.  The last thing they probably wanted to do after setting up camp was to make dinner, but they did it, and they did it with love. I'm sure the chorus of appreciation was sung numerous times for those strong pioneer women. Those gals knew how to cook!

Now don't get freaked out by the name of the recipe. No porcupines were harmed in making this dish! I've made a few changes to the original recipe to reduce some calories and fat. Serve it up with a big green salad and you have a great balanced meal!

Porcupine Meatballs

  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
    • 2 lbs lean ground meat (you can use turkey)
    • 2 T flour
    • 1 tsp. crushed rosemary
    • 1 tsp. chopped onion
    • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
    • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 egg, slightly beaten

    Combine all ingredients for sauce in large pot.  Cover and place over low heat to simmer.
    Combine all ingredients for meatballs and form into balls about the size of walnuts.  Spray non-stick spray into pan and brown meatballs evenly.  As they brown, drop them into sauce...try not to splatter sauce everywhere.  I'm totally not speaking from experience.
    Cover tightly and simmer away for about 40 minutes.

    *If you are using ground turkey, be VERY careful when browning.  They tend to fall apart more easily.  Still tastes good though :)

    So now friends, go make you own food stories and eat well in the process!!