Thursday, February 28, 2013

Salad in a Jar

Salad in a Jar is a terrific idea that I came across and wanted to share with everyone.  Lately I've found myself making up a few jars on Sunday night and eating them throughout the week.  I have found that they hold up really well in the fridge and last for 3-4 days. I look forward to lunch all week long when I know I have a fresh salad waiting for me each day.

Salad in a Jar  
Layer your favorite salad ingredients by placing the wettest ingredients toward the bottom of each jar and placing the lettuces on top.  It is best to use a wide mouth canning jar so you can easily get everything in and out.  When you are ready to eat just dump your salad onto a salad plate and top with your favorite dressing, an egg, croutons or Chow Mein noodles (like me) and enjoy.

Some of my favorite ingredients are:
Beans : kidney, pinto, or chick peas are my favorites
Green Onion or Red Onion
Red or Green Pepper
Hard boiled Eggs (Leave the egg whole and place it on top of the lettuces.)
Feta cheese ( Place on top of the lettuces)
Cold Grilled Chicken
There are no excuses when it comes to Salad in a Jar...even my kids can put them together with just a bit of supervision. As they like to say "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!"

Monday, February 25, 2013


We eat a lot of hummus at our house and I have made it many times and many different ways, but this method turned out the most wonderfully smooth hummus ever.  Peeling the chick peas is a bit time consuming but once the kids get involved it becomes a fun little job that keeps their hands busy for awhile.  I think they enjoy eating it even more when they know that they helped make it.

adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

1 15oz can chick peas
1/2 cup tahini
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 teaspoon salt

Cook the canned chickpeas over medium heat for 15 minutes or until they feel tender.  Drain, rinse, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.  Peel chick peas and discard peels.  Transfer peeled chick peas to a food processor adding tahini, garlic, salt and half of the lemon juice.   Process for a few minutes, adding water a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  I always find myself adding a bit more lemon juice.  Serve with a generous drizzle of good olive oil and toasted pita.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Meat Pies

Today I have another Middle Eastern favorite, a meat pie called Sfeeha, they are easy to make and they are assembled much like a pizza.  The dough is quick to make in a mixer with a dough hook and easy to work with.   The topping can be changed to your liking and we have successfully made versions with lamb, beef, chicken, and zatar (a spice mix made with sesame seeds and thyme.)

Meat Pies - Sfeeha

4 - 5 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 egg, beaten

In a stand mixer add the water, sugar, milk, and yeast.  Let set for 5 minutes and then add the egg, salt, oil, and butter.  Mix together and add 3 cups of flour and turn mixer on low and mix until flour is incorporated, scraping down bowl as needed.  Add additional flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough comes together and pulls away from the bowl, forming a ball around the dough hook.  The dough should not be sticky, add a little more flour if needed.  Mix for an additional 5-6 minutes.  Remove from mixer and place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Set in a warm place to rise, about 1 hour (if using rapid rise yeast).  Dough is ready when it has doubled in size.

1 pound ground beef or lamb
1 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1small can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts, toasted
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup parsley, minced (optional)

In a bowl mix the ground beef, minced onion, tomato, and spices.  Heat a skillet and saute meat until browned and no pink remains.  Remove from heat and mix in remaining ingredients.
Heat oven to 500 degrees and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.  Pull off an egg-sized piece of dough and flatten into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Place on sheet pan and repeat with remaining dough.  Top with meat mixture.  Bake for 10 minutes or until bread is puffed and brown on the edges.

If you happen to have extra dough you can top it with a mixture of olive oil and zatar or bake the remaining dough as is and serve with hummus.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chicken with Sumac and Onions

This dish is a take on the Middle Eastern chicken and sumac dish called Musakhan.  Traditionally the chicken is cooked in a pan lined with a thin flatbread and baked in the oven, here I leave the bread out and elect to serve toasted pita bread on the side.  The onions cook down and caramelize in the pan creating an amazing sauce that we scoop up with torn bits of warm pita.  This is a family favorite in our home.

Chicken with Sumac and Onions

1 whole chicken
2 large onions, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup ground sumac
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper

Begin by cutting the chicken apart.  I normally cut it into 10 pieces, wings, legs, thighs, and I quarter the breast portion.  (Save the backbone to make stock out of.)  In a casserole pan mix all ingredients and mix together by hand.  Make sure everything is coated in spices and thoroughly mixed.  Cover and marinate for a few hours or overnight in the fridge.  Bake at 350 degrees for an 1-1 1/2 hours or until onions are tender and chicken is cooked through.  (Sometimes I broil it at the end for a few minutes to brown if necessary.)  Serve with warm pita bread.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vegetable Minestrone

This minestrone soup is hearty and delicious.  It is chuck full of vegetables and keeps well for a quick meal anytime.  I have found that by storing the pasta separately it will keep it from absorbing extra liquid, making your soup taste fresher for longer.

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

2 T olive oil
1 T bacon fat (optional)
1 large onion, diced
2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
26 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 large zucchini, cubed
8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 can cannellini beans
2 cups elbow pasta, cooked
grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil (and bacon fat, if using) in a large pot or dutch oven and add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and thyme.  Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.  Using your hands, crush the tomatoes as you add them to the pot.  Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, a tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of pepper and simmer for 30-40 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and add the beans and zucchini.  Simmer an additional 10 minutes or until zucchini is cooked to your liking.  Taste and re-season, if necessary and remove bay leaf.  Add a large spoonful of pasta to the bottom of each bowl and ladle soup over as you serve it.  Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese (not pictured).

Sometimes I add a chunk of parmesan cheese rind with the broth and allow it to simmer with the vegetables.   I remove it at the same time as the bay leaf.  I find that it gives the soup an added layer of flavor.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sugar Cookies

We had a bit of house drama from mid-November thru New Year's which rendered our beautiful kitchen, not to mention our entire main level, uninhabitable.  After a few weeks of constant construction crews coming in and out of our house we were able to get it put back together during the month of January. The thing I was most sad about besides the incredible mess and huge amount of work, was missing out on so many holiday traditions that take place in our kitchen during November and December.  Making cut out cookies was among the the list of things we missed out on so I was determined to make them for the next holiday.  So thank you February for bringing us Valentine's Day because it is definitely a holiday that deserves a good sugar cookie decorated with pink frosting and a few sprinkles.

Sugar Cookies

3 1/2 cups flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon making soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain yogurt, (I used Mountain High brand)
1 teaspoon almond extract

Whisk 2 cups flour and remaining dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.  Cream sugar and butter in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Add yogurt and almond extract, mixing well.  Add flour mixture and mix until incorporated, scraping down bowl as needed.  Continue adding flour 1/4 cup at a time until dough reaches a thick consistency and is not too sticky.  It will be soft and it should take about 1 cup but not more than 1 1/2 cups.  Place on parchment paper and flatten into a disc.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.  Take 1/4 of the dough and roll out on a generously floured work surface.  Cut into shapes and transfer to pans.  Bake for about 6 1/2 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies depending on size of cut outs.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


Maftoul is a Middle Eastern pasta that is basically a very large version of couscous.  It can be eaten as a side, cooked and added to soups and stews, or made into a salad with lots of fresh vegetables.  Here I have cooked it with onions, spices, and chickpeas and served it with chicken for dinner.

1 1/2 cups maftoul
1 can chick peas
2 large onions, sliced thinly
olive oil
2 large chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper
parsley (optional)
plain yogurt (optional)

In a large pot add a tablespoon of olive oil and add the onions and a little salt.  Fry the onions over medium until tender and they begin to caramelize.  Remove and set aside.  Season chicken generously with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and a little pepper.  Add a touch more olive oil to the pot, if necessary, and add the cubed chicken and brown on all sides.  Return onions to pot, reserving 1/4 cup for later.  Add 3/4 of the chick peas and 1 1/2 cups of water.  Simmer until chicken is cooked through and then remove from heat.
In a medium saucepan add a bit more olive oil and the maftoul, remaining chick peas, and reserved onions.  Season with a teaspoon each of cinnamon and salt and enough pepper and nutmeg to taste.  Add enough water to cover the maftoul and bring up to a boil.   Lower heat and simmer 10-15 minutes or until maftoul is tender and then cover and turn off heat and let set 10 minutes more.  Serve maftoul with the chicken and sauce on top and garnish with parsley and a generous dollop of plain yogurt, if desired.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Roast Turkey

I always keep a stocked freezer filled with meats, veggies, breads, jams, and pesto.  I stock up on veggies, jam, fish, and pesto in the summer months when I can get the freshest in-season ingredients and work my way through them as needed.  At points through the year I will get a shipment of lamb, venison, or beef from family or friends and work through those as well.  After Thanksgiving I always buy a couple of turkeys and add them to the stockpile to make sure we have enough variety to keep things interesting.  I took one out the other day to roast it and it fed us for nearly an entire week.

Day One: Turkey, stuffing, brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and gravy
Day Two: Turkey Pot Pies
Day Three: Turkey Quesadillas
Day Four: Turkey a la King
Day Five: Turkey Sandwiches
Day Six:  Minestrone Soup with Turkey Broth

That's a lot of turkey, but since we ate it prepared in so many ways we hardly noticed we were eating the same protein day after day. ( Hint: Turkey meat can be stored in portions in the freezer and defrosted as needed.)

Roast Turkey
loosely based on "Accidental Turkey" from Ina Garten's new cookbook Foolproof

12-14 pound  turkey
kosher salt
1 large yellow onion, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 stick butter, melted
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Sprinkle the turkey all over, inside and out, with salt and pepper.  Place the the onion, lemon, and thyme in the cavity of the turkey  Brush the outside of the turkey with the melted butter and place in a large roasting pan with a rack.  Place the turkey in the hot oven and roast for 45 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 325 degrees and roast for 1 1/2 to 2 more hours, or until internal temperature reaches between 170 and 180 degrees.  Remove from oven and tent with foil for 20-30 minutes before serving.

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